Archive for the ‘Research Questions’ Category

The Credit Economy?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

I just gave the students in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class their first quiz. Overall, not bad. But I have to report this piece of breaking news:

Only 1 out of 16 students said that it was UNethical to “download a photo from the Web server of a blogger, upload it to your server, using it on your site along with credit to the original creator.”

I’m dying to talk with them about this on Thursday to hear more about their rationale. Maybe it says something about how they see bloggers. Maybe it says something about the way they see ownership of content.

What do you think?

Fertile Failure: Live Blogging Class Discussion

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Updated: 2:51 p.m. ET

Fail fast, fail cheap. Isn’t that what they say? Well, today I did it. My first attempt to live blog a class discussion didn’t work out. But neither did my first attempt to … well, do just about anything…

No matter. Here’s what I learned… (more…)

A Lab for ‘The Reconstruction of American Journalism’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This week is the first of a new semester in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class — a journalism class in which the students must work 30 hours with a community partner over the course of the semester. Our goal this semester — expose the students to all of the journalism models that Len Downie and Michael Schudson outline as potential replacements for a decline in public affairs reporting at newspapers.

This semester, the 18 students in the class will be divided among four partners:

  • the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a non-profit funded largely by foundation money and private donations;
  • OrangePolitics.org, a liberal blog about local politics run part-time by a single “citizen jouranlist”;
  • N.C. DataNet, a newsletter of from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program on Public Life, edited by a former News & Observer reporter and opinion editor;
  • a public broadcast outlet here in North Carolina.

If any of these sources will be part of the reconstruction of American journalism, the students in the class will help determine how it’s reconstructed. At the very least, the students will be able to report back to the rest of us more details about what they find in these laboratories of post-newspaper news.

Stay tuned… and add your suggested reading for the class via the Delicious bookmark tag JOMC491-examples-s10.

Rerun Posts: Who Drives the Vision? Who Takes the Risk?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The question that keeps coming up in recent discussions about experimentation and fertile failure is this: Who will drive the vision and who will take the risk that journalism needs to get over this hump?

As a preamble, I’m re-running two blog posts (…hmm, I wonder if “the long tail” is going to make the word re-run go the way of the turntable…anyway…) that highlight the challenge and two potential answers:

After the jump, I’m looking for where we might be most likely to find the fertile failures and experimentors that journalism needs.

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J-Schools: Breeding Ground for Fertile Failure

Monday, June 15th, 2009

For a lot of very good reasons the word “failure” is not welcome in newsrooms. The aversion probably begins in  j-schools when we give automatic Fs to students who write news stories about “Thornberg” or “Thornburgh” instead of “Thornburg,” it continues with 2 a.m. panic attacks about transposing quotes, and probably calcifies completely with the fear of being sued for libel. In short, journalists don’t get paid for making mistakes. Good. They shouldn’t.

But a failure is not always a mistake, especially in the context of an experiment that fails to prove a widely held belief. Experiments that fail often lead to entirely new lines of inquiry and new understanding about the world. To enjoy this kind of fertile failure that yields innovation, you have to pursue success in the right way. Fertile failure is most likely when you tackle a very specific, very big question with small experiments that are conducted as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Universities, where failure leads both to the creation of new ideas as well as the ability to shed old ideas, should be ideal partners for risk-averse news organizations. Here are a few ideas about how journalism schools can be breeding grounds for fertile failure.

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Innovation Isn’t Enough

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The role of innovation in news has come up in several conversations I’ve had with folks over the last few weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of innovation may be fun as all get out, but on its own it does not do enough to move the industry forward. What we need instead of innovation is experimentation.

What’s the difference between innovation and experimentation? Innovation only values success. Experimentation also values failure.

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Does the WSJ’s Online Business Strategy Work for Local News?

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Be niche. Have very high standards. And find some subscribers to buy it

Good advice for future journalists from Alan Murray, the editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Web site, who gave the Park Lecture at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Thursday night. His approach to online journalism certainly sounded right to me, but what I didn’t hear was any hard evidence that would help support my gut instinct.

The biggest question I still have: Is there any business model for high quality local public affairs journalism?

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Corrected: How Many Online Journalists in the U.S.?

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Correction: March 16, 10:10 a.m. ET

Update: March 6, 10:44 a.m. ET

Following the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is likely to go online-only if it stops printing sometime after March 10, Ken Doctor wrote on his blog, Content Bridges, uses some loose estimates to wonder if newspaper newsrooms are about to go from employing 44,000 journalists to 6,600.

A recent scan of newspaper mastheads and some loose estimates of my own put the number of online journalists currently working in the U.S. at between four and five thousand.

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Stuck in the Middle With News: When Professors Report and Technologists Aggregate, What’s Left for Journalists?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Two opinion pieces that were published yesterday have been getting a good ride in the discussion about how to save newspapers. Jonathan Zimmerman’s opinion piece on The Christian Science Monitor proposes that professors play a role in creating free content, an idea that’s getting panned even though it’s already happening. David Carr’s piece on The New York Times puts a nefarious sounding twist on his proposal for media co-opetition that’s going to happen naturally.

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When Everyone’s a Publisher, Who Will ‘Convene’ The Public?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Last week, Richard Hart of MDC, Inc., kindly came to speak to my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class. He led us through an illuminating conversation about the nonprofit’s recently released report on the Triangle’s “Disconnected Youth.” (PDF)

At the end, I raised this question: If government is already publishing a lot of raw data online, and if organizations like MDC are already put together in-depth, relatively objective analyses of public policy issues like this, then what does he — as a former journalist and the nonprofit’s communication director — think is the role for journalists? How do we fit in to his overall communication strategy for this report, I wondered.

That was a good question, Hart said. He noted that his primary focus now, after an initial and relatively small media hit, was convening small groups of influential and interested area leaders from various sectors to discuss how to implement some of MDC’s recommendations.

That made me wonder: Should journalists be doing that? Presuming we think that the subject of high school dropouts is an issue that is relevant and important for our audience, how much effort should news organizations be putting in to creating conversation around content that is created elsewhere? Should journalists be conveners?

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