Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fighting weight

My news organization is looking at right-sizing the newsprint paper for the staff it has to produce it, weighed against the hungry demands of the web, an additional effort. I think this is wise. My impulse is to simply say: "Give us the car, let us drive it, we'll adjust as we go." That means that I see this smaller newspaper as a prototype that we will change as we see what works, what doesn't. I took design thinking at Stanford and their problem-solving principles are relevant to the state newspapers are in. There is no guaranteed success. There IS the challenge to try, listen and then adjust. So the commitment that goes into thinking about the new version must be there after it is launched, to listen and adjust and remake the prototype. Fail early and often is what they used to say in that class when encouraging us to throw together rough prototypes and get feedback on them so the next version would be that much better. So, newspapers, how about it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Just another day, and then your mind get's blown

That sounds so....1960ish.
Here's how my mind got blown today.
First, a small piece of background, just a moment, really, in a normal newsroom meeting. A colleague who has been away is back, and we're talking about how to cover the final three weeks of the prep football playoffs. One thing we know readers like is the ability to post their own game photos on our site, in galleries. But instead of galleries by school, they want galleries by game.

At our meeting about the playoffs, we talk about organizing photos by game. I suggest our professional shots and our reader-submitted shots could both go in the same game gallery. I hit a nerve with my colleague, who referred to reader-generated photos as crap that would not be combined with professional staff work.

I get the point. And I think it's wrong. I was still mulling this over when I came home and read the Poynter site about a professor working to create a process for multi-thread storytelling using multimedia. This interests me right away, because I don't see multi-thread storytelling happening at my paper. I see linear storytelling, using the bells and whistles of multimedia. We are still selecting the entry point for readers.

A comment on the professor's blog directs readers to some new technology that hyperlinks photographs by content. The link is to a short talk at the TED conference. Suddenly, the world's photos -- professional and amateur alike -- come together to create a new fuller view of the world. Suddenly, the relationship between pro and am is not one of superiority and inferiority, but of collaboration. Watch for the composite of Notre Dame cathedral about 2/3rds in.

video

Saturday, September 22, 2007

McClatchy's Howard Weaver on home turf

This Alaska panel on media gave me a flashback to Stanford in May, when McClatchy's Gary Pruit joined NYTimes Bill Keller and Harry Chandler, a former owner of the LA Times, and a young woman VP from Google, on a stage to discuss how the newspaper business was going to survive.

This time, McClatchy's Weaver, who was in the Stanford audience with other McClatchy-ites, was solo in his hometown of Anchorage, talking about the situation in which newspapers find themselves. He was joined by a local TV anchor, a radio producer, and a young woman who works in marketing for Clear Channel radio. Much like the woman from Google in May, other panelists looked at Clear Channel's Corinna Delgado as a spokesperson for anyone classified as young.

Weaver, known for inspiring news staffs, inspired his audience to consider the opportunity presented by the "phase transition" (think liquid boiling into steam) that the news business is undergoing. He talked about the opportunity, the scary but amazing opportunity, this era presents to news editors who make the right choices and help readers by sorting, routing, personalizing and adding value to information. He labeled the new morning newspaper as a "printed summary and orientation to the day" for the already news-saturated reader.

He encourages media participants not to buy into conventional wisdom that print is dead. Though a declining audience, it is still the largest. Half of all adults read a newspaper yesterday, he says. But he's also platform agnostic, subscribing to a point Delgado made -- deliver news when and how the consumer wants it.

One question the panel tackled briefly was young news consumers. Delgado confessed she's worried about the narrow information habits of young readers -- if it isn't pop culture, they don't care. This morning, I saw an announcement that may or may not counter her view. MTV is re-launching thinkMTV. They describe it on their site this way:
Think MTV has undergone a makeover. We have built a brand new community site where you can get informed, get heard and take action on the issues that matter to you most.

Register, and then you can sign up for news updates like these:
MTV News Daily Update
Never Miss A Top Story. Get the Latest Headlines Each Day, Plus Breaking News As Warranted.
And
think MTV
Stay in touch with the issues that concern you with this bi-weekly newsletter from think MTV. We'll update you on Sexual Health, Discrimination, Education, Environment, and Global issues around you.

All this brought up my own newspaper's staff of teen writers on Perfect World. As the digital natives, they may serve to guide us on news appetites in terms of content and delivery. The idea that young people don't care about news doesn't seem right. MTV seems to have an inkling. Social networking, a new way to make community, may be the ticket in.

MTV is soliciting teens as reporters for the 2008 presidential campaign. Now that's a heck of an opportunity for a kid to get involved.

And the Knight Foundation wants to deliver up to half a million dollars to anyone who can "figure out how to push journalism into the digital age."

Here's their pitch to kid innovators:
Believe it or not, people used to read newspapers! But now of course, we're all online and on mobile, logged onto our individual gadgets and disconnected from our community. So how can we use new technology to transmit news and actually bring people together? We've got some ideas, but we bet you've got some amazing ideas!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The messy public













I'm a fan of comments at the end of stories, anonymous, not even registered on the newspaper site. I'm a fan of engagement.

So it's disappointing to find out that the half dozen folks commenting at the end of a story are sniping at each other like unhappy siblings, or speculating about the sex lives of the subjects in the story. Tiresome hardly begins to capture the disappointment.

Where is the civic discourse? And how long will it be before my newspaper will adopt slashdot community self-policing of comments? I don't think newspaper editors are meant to be the only adult in the playroom, clicking off comments, cluck-clucking their distaste for the rabble.

So, tonight I watched the Jim Lehrer News Hour, and paid close attention to the interview with Andrew Keen, author of "The cult of the amateur." You can read the full interview here.

One taste:
ANDREW KEEN: The key argument is that the so-called "democratization" of the Internet is actually undermining reliable information and high-quality entertainment. By replacing mainstream media content, high-quality radio, television, newspapers, publishing, music, with user-generated content, we're actually doing away with information, high-quality information, high-quality entertainment, and replacing it with user-generated content, which is unreliable, inane, and often rather corrupt.


Well, Andrew Keen would be describing the forums on my newspaper. One of the main worries is that thoughtful people will be so turned off by the lowbrow nature of existing commentary that they'll bypass this opportunity to engage. I'm still thinking about all this. I have a great faith in the group to throw up a glint of genius, a profoundness that speaks to us all. Yet, I have seen plenty of evidence that the group fails to produce.

Still, I have faith. All true things are complicated, and the good mingles close by the bad. We need to talk about it and think about it and write about it before we understand.

So, even though I've been disappointed, I don't want to turn off public comments. I put my two bits on the cyber community to say out loud so as to be heard by all: We're talking seriously here. If you aren't, find someplace else to talk.

Here's Andrew Keen on a panel discussing the democratization of media. Think about it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Quick observations before the week begins

See that white up high on the mountains? That's not a cloud up there. That's snow. Time is passing, the season is changing.

(Note to readers: Frankly, I think every blog post needs an image, and today this is mine for you.)

Here's a few observations from this week.
  • Print has authority.
  1. My newspaper invites readers to send in their "nice catch" fish photos. This is Alaska and we get a ton and post them online in a gallery that gets lots and lots of hits. We use these reader-submitted photos with the print solicitation to send in more fish pictures. Now, all the people sending images into the web are asking: "When will my photo run in the newspaper?"
  2. I was out at a local high school talking to some students who want to start a publication. There's already a student newspaper, but in their estimation, it covers only fluff. They want the freedom to report on issues that go beyond football, prom, homecoming. They want to write about their community. Because they are digital natives, I wondered if they wanted to create a Website for their stories. NO! came the answer. Why? I asked. "Because if it is in print, it has much more authority."
  • Multimedia has power.
  1. Alaska is in the midst of a political corruption scandal with many revelations emanating from courtroom proceedings. We've been working to obtain the court exhibits (which include undercover video and audio recordings) to get as much of that up on our Web site as we can. It's fascinating to hear a 70-year-old Bill Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribery, tell a courtroom which legislators he has bribed, and why. His testimony is slow and stilted, he suffered from an accident about five years ago that impaired his speech. The man sounds broken. Short of being in the courtroom and hearing him in cross-examination, listening to these audio recordings reveals a layer of tragedy worthy of a book. No entity but my newspaper is making the effort to listen to hours and hours of transcripts and prepare them to go online at our Web site. This is a huge public service. So, print may have power, but multimedia -- audio and video, seeing it and hearing it with your own eyes and ears, that is POWERFUL.
  • The two in combination? Look out.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Overdue update

So, you know your blog is hot when the only comment you have is from a guy named Adam who's promoting his abs exercise site. That's humbling.

To be honest, this site is like trying to learn to play the piano. You have to practice, even when no one is listening. So I can definitely take this. It's the practice.

Anyway, I've been carrying a potential good post around in my head for a couple of days. I think this item would work well here, a piece of philosophy from a Silicon Valley famous person named Guy Kawasaki. In one of my classes, entrepreneurial journalism, the professor required us to read Kawasaki's book, "The Art of the Start." In it, he suggests that a start up doesn't need a mission statement, it needs a mantra.

I liked the sound of that. The only mission statement I'd been a part of was pretty bad -- filled with dead words and 5th-grade earnestness. So I believed a mantra could be better than a mission statement.

Let me cut to the chase here....I liked Kawasaki, and then I found a podcast of his, speaking somewhere at Stanford. And what he said to young entrepreneurs seemed quite applicable to the times we journalists find ourselves in. We are at sea, a dark and stormy sea, and we hope for a break in the clouds to get a good reading on the sextant. Kawasaki offers one.

He says,

Don't work to make money.

Work to make meaning.



There are three ways to make meaning.

Improve the quality of life.
Right a wrong.
Prevent the end of something good.

Nothing I've heard recently sounded more like a mantra for journalists than that. Here is the very short YouTube link. See what you think.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Comments from readers


Here's a little Online Journalism Review diatribe against the LA Times for shutting off comments on stories, and recently editorializing that reader comments are as dangerous as Osama bin Laden. Hmmm.

This is a debate in my own newsroom. I weigh in on the side of allowing comments and inviting the community of commentators to police their arena. Flag inappropriate comments, talk directly to those folks about the climate and tone of discourse you want. The journalist is not expected to be the only parent in the room. To cut off the commentary is too much of a missed opportunity.

This is my job, really

That's me, in the blue coat in the background. It's a sunny August day, I'm out of the office, chatting up moms and dads, coaches, quarterbacks, tight ends and cheerleaders. I'm swimming in middle-America, which today includes defensive linemen with amazingly long and vowel-studded Samoan last names.

I'm building hyperlocal, as in a sudden, new wing of our web site devoted strictly to some 30 schools statewide with football and eight with flag football teams. I want those user-generated mom-and-dad-produced photos on every single team page. I want the kids to chat online about their team and the one that whupped them. I want the coaches to argue with our two pick'em sports reporters who select the top 5 games every weekend and predict winners.

Suddenly, I wish that I had made that third effort to have coffee with Dan Gillmor down in Palo Alto. Author of "We the media," journalist Gillmor is a guru of hyperlocal and how delicate this new audience is to cultivate. I've got email lists for booster parents and harried coaches. I write thank you emails to folks who send in images. I argue with our web editor about the prep site: It HAS to be easier to use! Let's celebrate reader participation by displaying their photos BIG, with lotsa credit.

Why am I doing it? Because I believe that community news organizations like the one I work for will soon (now, even) include a blend of us and them. Them is the people who live and work in the communities we report on. Us is, well, the fewer and fewer of us left in American print newsrooms. We need them to build connection in our pages, the glue of community. They need us to hold powerful people's feet to the fire: government officials, school administrators, business people. We work for the readers. So if they can contribute some of the content that binds a community - names, faces, achievements, good work - then the newspaper's reporters can focus on their role, getting at the hard and complicated truth, facts people need to know.

OK, I'm getting off my soapbox now.

I read an interesting post today at Mediashift about all the jobs shifting from print to online. I felt like I was the poster child for the structural adjustment newspapers are making. I went away for a year, read tons on the shifting world of journalism, took a multimedia fellowship at Berkeley to dip my toes in the water, and now I am back in the work world -- making the adjustment. I haven't written or edited a single story since I came back. Instead, I've been building Web pages, learning why they scream
ERROR instead of nicely displaying what I built, and editing little videos for our Web site. Now, I want to consume Final Cut Pro and Soundslides and html and Dreamweaver tutorials in one fell swoop. I want all those skills, yesterday. Then line me up with some database management software. It's a different world, not necessarily a bad one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A new post! Back on the team.

I am back at work at my old newspaper. I started July 5, and here it is, almost the end of August. My new job is AME for Interactivity. Translation: growing audience use of our Web site.

I came back with so much energy I gave people headaches. I also very much want to keep learning -- web usability, mostly. So I'm jumpy and eager...(feel a headache coming on?) While I learn to dispense my enthusiasm in manageable doses, I also have regrets, like why didn't I make many more videos while I was away so it would be even easier now...

What I most want to know is how to make our site as user-friendly as it can be. I was thrilled to see that the Fresno Bee site won notice in the Bivings Report as one of the 10 best newspaper websites the other day, so I've been studying them. We have a good site, don't get me wrong. I just want to contribute to making it as user-friendly and rewarding a visit as I can.

I started some prep sports efforts, hence the preps image above. As long as I have been at a newspaper, the sports staff has been answering questions about why they can't do more. It seems obvious that an easy way to expand that coverage is to invite the folks participating in it to send in their photos. So, we made little business cards with our Web address for the prep football and flag teams, sent them off to distant schools and walked them around to the nearby schools. Thirty-some schools in all, or at least web pages, if you count girls and boys individual team pages.

The girls have never had much attention for their flag games, so they are thrilled. Kids are sending in photos, not just parents. The big Anchorage football schools, 8 of them, are used to the paper paying close attention to them, so coaches have been nice but not that helpful. Distant schools don't get much attention, so they've been more interested in sending in photos, just to get noticed. A Kodiak booster parent took mugshots of the entire team and sent them in on CD.

A big hit is a pre-weekend video where our sports reporter and another local radio sports reporter go on the record, in a 2-minute video, picking their top 5 games of the weekend and naming the winners. The coaches are paying close attention.

Both reporters say everywhere they go they hear about it. This is a true up-from-the-bootstraps effort. Our prep writer has never done radio or TV, so it was his first time in front of a camera. By week 3, he was noticeably more relaxed. Because production time is an issue at a small paper, we are doing the video right in our photo studio; we'll take it out to the ballfield for the playoffs. We break up the talking heads with some of our great still photos of the players that the two reporters are talking up. I have to give a lot of credit to our sports staff -- they've embraced these new ideas and leapt right in. They have a prep sports blog that 5 of them contribute to. And our photo staff has probably shot more football than ever before, just to make sure we have lots of visual excitement on the prep site.

I have been spending my Friday nights and Saturdays at prep football games, stalking the bleachers for parents with video and still cameras. When I tell them what I want,
they smile and say "Sure." And in three weeks we got about 150 photos, and growing. There's no part of this job that I don't do.
From stalking the games to shooting images to seed the web site, to hanging the banner displayed here at the city's little football stadium. It feels a lot like marketing; there was a point last week where I needed to listen to an early Rob Curley podcast about giving the readers what they want, in spades, that helped with that.


It's great fun being out of the office and hanging with the sports reporters on the sidelines, meeting principals, coaches, parents, kids.

The challenge for me is making this new part of our Web site friendly to readers. It's frustrating to succeed at getting people to send in content, but maddening that it isn't easy for them to find it on our site. That requires that I know more web management than I know, and the people who know it better than me are so busy managing our site that they can't teach me. So, it's a slower process than I'd like, but I have every confidence I'll get there. I want the user experience on the site to be intuitive and rewarding -- after all, these readers are doing work for us, about something they care about.

It's a pretty feel-good situation, although there is the downside of other prep sports not getting this same attention. We hope to grow it -- to basketball (girls and boys) and maybe hockey.

Other new ideas include video letters to the editor, snagged from the KC Star. Our state fair is on right now, and the letters editor, who is very interested in learning new skills, grabbed one of our two little hand-held video cameras and headed to the fair Friday, inviting folks to give us 30-seconds of what's on their mind. We'll find out Monday how it went. Next up in editorial is a letters blog, so writers can comment on today's print letters TODAY on the Web. I have visions of a cyber-editorial board, but about that time I could see I was causing headaches. So I retreated for awhile, to be visited again soon.

Something else our editorial staff did that got a lot of notice was running the full audio of Senator Ted Stevens most recent visit with the editorial board. It was 54 minutes long, I think. The editorial writers excerpted and transcribed some key points on the printed page, but then included the entire audio on our Web site for those interested. And people were interested. TV News picked it up, and made our use of audio the news --- the fact that we'd done this. It was fun because newspapers are frequently discussed as the old media, the old form, the "yesterday" version. But not that night, not at all. We had a many-minute TV segment that talked up how the new tools were changing the way news consumers get information. And it was tied tightly to our newspaper and its website.

Well, it's Sunday night and tomorrow starts another big week. I promise not to write so much next time. And a word to the wise: It's berry-time in Alaska.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Stormy weather aboard the Alaska ferry

Hello. When I posted this hastily one night in Juneau, at the Silverbow Inn, I didn't have time to add any detail, just throw up the pictures of a stormy trip. I was on my way back to Anchorage, Alaska after a year at Stanford reveling in a John S. Knight midcareer fellowship. All wonderful things do end. I remember one of my teachers saying: one day more, and the fellowship wouldn't be as great as it was. So, the 20 of us are all journeying back to where we came from.

As you can see below, we were plagued by stormy weather out of Bellingham, Washington. We were on the graceful old Columbia, a 35-year-old, very comfy vessel. We camped on the back deck under the solarium roof, which included some toasty heat lamps. We had a three-night journey up to Juneau. Lucky for us, we weren't tent-camping out on the backdeck of the ferry, which looked more like this:


After the storm, the weather improved dramatically!



And I made it home, safe and sound, reunited with my dog Clare who'd been staying with a friend and her dog for the year.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Caging journalism to protect it


May 3 was World Press Freedom Day. It slipped by me until this morning, when I saw this post at digital deliverance, a site that monitors new media. My year away from my newsroom included the chance to meet many international journalists.
Last night I met Omar, 28, a staffer for the Washington Post in Baghdad, now getting formal journalism at UC Berkeley's j-school, paid for by the Washington Post. Because he gathered news for the Post in the war zone, and because his name was at the bottom of stories he contributed to, his safety is compromised. He is officially not here, but in another country, according to family and friends.

Two of the Knight Fellows I studied with this year have similar safety concerns when they return home. One, from the Caucasus, has had an office closed by the government while she was away. The other, covering the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border, has lost colleagues, and colleagues have lost fathers and brothers, as retaliation for their journalism in the hot zone.

Digital deliverance gives a round up of journalists who've paid the ultimate price in the past year for their work.
Last year, 49 journalists were killed in the Middle East, 27 in Asia, 5 in Africa, 4 in Europe and Central Asia, and 25 in the Americas. Worldwide, 134 journalists were in prison last year.
It's worth paying attention to; their commitment is inspiring, even sacred.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Unusual site, good information

Looking at the Webby winners was useful, a good place to see what's appreciated most about the hottest web sites -- the most seductive food sites, most reliable news sites, the best personal sites. It's an amazing trip through a creative landscape. Here's one that caught me: Adobe's Design Center, and in particular, its Think Tank, with an article dated March 21, 2007 called "Just the facts: how technology is changing the news." Basically, it talks about how our news consumption habits are changing with the availability of new tools and ways to get news.

Rather than bring readers into a lab to study how they read, they went into their homes and watched their first-in-the-morning news consumption behaviors, and followed them on their morning commute to work. Researcher Liz Danzico tells us:

While the way we access news is still very much in flux, an important pattern seems to be emerging. Whereas once readers would rely on one or two major news sources for their information, they’re now relying on a synthesis—they’re relying on aggregators, RSS, e-mail alerts, and Digg to inform them. No matter what the channel, one trait is consistent: readers are aggregating their own news, requiring news and information when, where, and how they want it.


Here's a (too tiny, sorry) chart showing priorities for readers they studied. The cutline under the chart explains: "An early version of how we determined the attributes that are important to readers as they consume news. Results of our observations were charted to determine what the patterns were across people in our target audience."



Finally, her current assessment of what's important to news consumers:

* Transparency
While the distribution of content is widespread, more than ever before, people are demanding transparency. While they don’t care much about where they read their news—whether they’re getting it on the elevator billboard on the way to work or from their favorite blogger—they want to know that the source is trustworthy and the content credible. The only way to judge that is through referencing sources. Those sources can be made credible via a recognizable brand name, such as Business Week, or public ratings, like those on Digg, but transparency about where the news is generated is essential.
* Constructability
Neatly packaged stories from a single source are not what people want; people are demanding tools to bring together different sources, perspectives, worldviews, and fidelities of news. One of our research subjects, for example, cuts and pastes news headline that appear on her Yahoo! homepage into her browser search field. She’s constructed an experience that may be awkward, but it works for her.
* Timeliness and Timelessness
The freshness of data was critical to each person we observed. Checking the timestamp on stories, especially in news aggregators where people have a number of sources to choose from, was routine for many of the people we talked with. The fresher the story, the more reliable it seemed.

What we didn’t expect to find was that stories retained their relevance over time. More than a few people e-mail articles to themselves, print articles out, or convert articles to PDF so they can keep the story for reference. The arc of a news story, therefore, presents a sort of “dromedary effect”. News from the wire is perceived as important because of its newness; news that is old is perceived as important because of its reference-ability; but news somewhere in the middle (and this timeframe shifts with one’s consumption frequency) isn’t perceived as useful.
* Perspective
Twenty-nine percent of all online news readers say they get their news online because they can access a wider range of viewpoints. Half of them say they prefer getting news from sources that do not have a particular political point of view. [3] Following on the transparency trait, it’s crucial for people to understand a source’s point of view, their editorial perspective. Not only does that inform how people are constructing their news sources (they put together a fair, or left-leaning, or right-leaning news portfolio, for example), it helps them judge a single story from a suite of different perspectives.
* Engaged Action
Not surprisingly, the so-called Web 2.0 tools are often mentioned in our research. These tools aid and encourage users to assemble their own news source out of various components.
* Secondism
Many of the people we spent time with gather news from multiple locales. Although they live in New York, their mother lives in London, and their team works in India. They want to aggregate updates and perspectives from both their primary and secondary locations—as well as having instant access to global headlines.


Last note: Danzico was doing the work for a start-up news site called Daylife.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Living on the edge (read note below first)

That's what they say we do in Alaska. But today's blog entry is all about flipping sailboats, something I'm learning how to do in spring sailing. So for a break from my usual discussions of new media and how it's scaring old media, here is a You Tube video that spoke to me. I saw it posted on the good ol' Alaska Sailing Club blog; I belong to that club and learned to sail there two summers ago at Big Lake. I'd been writing a few posts there about my boat-flipping experiences at Stanford. I am a very green (as in new, not as in seasick) sailor. During this very windy spring, I am trying to increase my sailing knowledge. I see from watching this video, I will improve my flipped-boat skills by learning how to step over and onto the centerboard without getting a drop of water on me!

So this post is just for fun. On the other hand, the metaphors probably still hold for journalism: If your boat flips, jump on the centerboard and right it. Then go for a helluva ride!

Monday, April 30, 2007

What's missing from local news?

Ina, a fellow student in my new media entrepreneurship class, found this site -- called Topix: Your town. Your news. Your take. That handy "About Us" section on the site explains that Topix "links news from 50,000 sources to 360,000 lively user-generated forums. Topix also works with the nation's major media companies to grow and engage their online audiences through forums, classifieds, publishing platforms and RSS feeds." A few of the logos for partnering companies appear below; the site shows 20, and that's not the whole list.

A quick glance at the news release archive indicates the company got a start in 2002 by aggregating news and blog sources. But, as their April 2 press release indicates,
Even with 50,000 news sources, there just wasn't enough local news - and what news there was, couldn't be tuned finely enough with algorithms alone.

So, in April 2007, we decided to open up our site, and give anyone the power to discuss, edit and share the news that matters to them.

How do they do that?
Anyone can now submit local news for any U.S. zip code to Topix through an easy web form on the web site or from their cell phone. Participants can also become citizen editors, improving the news content on the pages they edit.

Finally, here is their embedded video, asking a variety of people what's missing from their local news:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tip sheet for the multimedia journalist

Thanks to rhernandez at MultimediaShooter for this handy cheatsheet on audio and video gathering. Click on the sheet to make it nice and big and readable.

Another cool student site to check out is Columbia University's multimedia page, host to student work and called NYC24. Find it here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A smart wiki, and an unofficial and popular blog


Just about two minutes ago I got an email for something new at Stanford. It is the "Stanford Wiki." If you go, watch the little mini-intro movie, which will give you how-tos, and why a student would use this wiki.

Earlier this year, students created an "Unofficial Stanford Blog." Take a look at both. The blog is a general interest posting post -- I see calendar items, new student-generated businesses, and I saw close-to-immediate posts on Virginia Tech, well before the student daily could get it into its pages. The photo at left was posted yesterday because temperatures were very high and students jumped into a fountain in front of the book story. Immediacy, if not significance, is also an element of blogging.

Both of these examples illustrate how newspapers have to change. Both represent tools and information to share in the hands of the users/creators. Notice how quickly audience finds what it wants and uses it. If the need can be identified, users validate with use.

This makes me think of all our discussions in New Media Entrepreneurship. The audience model for newspapers (mass media) conflicts with the long tail notion of small, diverse but interested audiences. How about if a newspaper created a wiki site for its community members, and let them give it life? This could be a non-journalistic (in the sense that the newspaper would not stake its reputation on the accuracy of information delivered in these wiki pages) community information source. The interested parties would create the content. And of course the newspaper could monitor the wikis for stories that could benefit from a reporter. I can think of a million ways a newspaper could use this concept. It works to make your newspaper a "place" instead of only a one-way information product.

Listen. Listen. Listen.


If you are frustrated that your media organization isn't training you, please read this post from MultimediaShooter on "The Question of Training." I think creator rhernandez has it dead on.

(Funny Larson cartoon, courtesy of MediaShooter. Anything to bring a smile to your face!)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My New Media Entrepreneurship class



So I'm in a class charged with launching a Web site in 7 weeks, serving the Stanford community. Most of our proposals were versions of Web sites that could host a central multimedia story, surrounded by an excellent calendar for this very decentralized campus (including where to graze for free food at conferences, seminars, and other academic sessions), blogs, and a portal into local student films that don't get wide venues, an overlooked but very contemporary niche.

The class took an odd twist, though. In our second meeting, the journalism grad students started calling instead for a marketing site for the journalism program that would ensure them a job. Not just any job, but a call from the Washington Post, wishing to hire them all. The concept of serving an audience went out the window.

I can see that an excellent site really serving readers could turn editors' heads. But a site with no readers filled with new media gadgetry? You lost me there.

The class seems to have stalled out. Or maybe this is just the way you work through entrepreneurship. I will say that students seem constrained. Our class blog is much less active than in winter quarter, and in my own work pod, kids are scratching their heads. In this group, the idea surfaced to narrow the audience to just grad students, since they feel more distant and disconnected from the campus, even though their population is fully half the student body (6,000 undergrads, 6,0000 grads,more or less)

We are reading "The Long Tail" (and serving just the grad students strikes me as following the long tail theory -- go for a smaller niche, forget about being all things to all audiences; pick an audience and s-a-t-i-s-f-y them as deeply as you can. Our other text is Guy Kawasaki (think Silicon Valley major success, venture capitalist etc etc)--his book is "The Art of the Start."

Now here was an odd harmonic convergence between entrepreneurship and good old-fashioned long-form storytelling:

I am sure many saw Gene Weingarten's "Pearls Before Breakfast" long form feature with video added? Did I say this story is l-o-n-g, and rich in philosophical and literary threads. It tells of Gene Weingarten's plot to post a truly world-class violinist, Josh Bell, in a D.C. transit station busking during rush hour. Would he stop crowds, or would people rush by without even noticing him?

Some in the class commented that no one would read anything that long; some said they surprised themselves by being drawn all the way through.

Now leap forward (or back to) entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki. The story caught him so much that it made his personal blog, How to Change the World, including an invite to readers to vote on whether they thought commuters noticed or didn't. Kawasaki got almost 1,000 people to vote (93 percent said no one would stop....)

He also quipped that he had happy visions of Steve Jobs selling iPods in South Dakota .

But then he got serious, and said this:
"The lessons that I gleaned from this story are:

Don’t let the absence of trappings and popularity make you believe something is bad.

Don’t let the presence of trappings and popularity make you believe something is good.

Don’t pass by life much less let life pass you by.
He never mentioned the length of Weingarten's piece. That's the power of story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One of my heroes


I stand in awe and wonder at our luck at having the First Amendment and its subsequent body of law to protect free speech and, as partner to that, a free press. And I stand in awe and wonder at the teacher I had this semester. Professor Kathleen Black, center, welcomed a fistful of Knight Fellows into her constitutional law class, and held us gently accountable for the actions of our news organizations. It was a wonderful opportunity for a signficant overview of First Amendment law from one who knows it well, and at a time when many long-standing and comfortable accommodations of press freedom are in question.

My Knight buddies in the photo are John Briggs,Yahoo; Eric Schmitt, New York Times; Prof. Sullivan, Stanford Law School; me; and lawyer Liz Schalet, a Knight affiliate whose partner is a radio reporter in NYC.

It was a great class, and a great opportunity to learn/refresh the finer shadings.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Will work for (red) T-shirt

Today I spent about three hours at "Media X: Research, Collaboration, Innovation," a conference at Stanford on the direction of new media. It was made up of 20-minute presentations from all over the media map, from a doctor showing advancements in virtual surgeries (See a mummy in 3-D!! See a missed polyp in a virtual colonoscopy!!) to why Second Life is beating out the game of Everquest. (Answer: Because you own everything you create in Second Life. Instead of signing the Terms of Agreement for Everquest -- you know, the small print you don't read -- which indicates that anything you create in Everquest is owned by....Everquest.) Citizen journalism and multimedia training Web sites duly were noted. Two unexpected things:

1) A discussion on how e-mail is damaging your closest relationships. B.J. Fogg, a professor at Stanford, spent a year interviewing 112 women living in Sonoma County about their relationships and e-mail. He chose women, he says, because they care about relationships, nurture them, and are articulate about them. Plus, he lives in Sonoma County, so it made it easy for him to get the interviewing done over such a long stretch.

After six months, he realized what the women were telling him: E-mail is no good for close personal relationships. It isn't intimate enough. For those you really care about, get back on the phone, send letters, meet up for coffee.

He even says your close working relationships are too important to handle by e-mail. This realization led him to create a new way to communicate with your voice via computer, a widget you can load onto any Web page that will allow instant voice chat, called YackPack.

2.) A fun talk by Paul Saffo, on sabbatical from the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto. Saffo explained that Silicon Valley is built on failure, not success. Interactive TV failed so big in Silicon Valley "you could see the crater from the moon." All those talented people were sitting around when the 20-year-old Internet came along and they decided, What the heck, let's give that a shot. Look what happened: a giant success built on the previous failure.
So he encouraged the audience to "cherish failure," because the next big breakthrough will come from something that has been failing for about 20 years and is about to break open to success. His forecast: robots. Why? Because of how people are reacting to something as simple as the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Two/thirds of owners name their Roomba, and one/third take theirs on vacation.

People, he says, want to have a new relationship with technology.
Oh, and the red shirt? I volunteered at the conference, and got a red T-shirt!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Classes this quarter


Here's one worth mentioning. My digital journalism class from winter quarter is back, but has morphed into "new media entrepreneurship." The class is taught by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ann Grimes, who covered Silicon Valley in all its entrepreneurship glory. The entrepreneurial here refers more to the commitment of the team -- everybody is invested in the success of the enterprise -- than figuring out a business model or funding. That may come later, however, as business school students are considering taking on the financing as a project. In the meantime, Stanford will fund it.

The aim is to create a news Website out of a site the communication graduate students formerly used to post their stories assigned out of various classes. It got little readership outside the communications department. It correctly has been identified as a missed opportunity, and now a handful of students, in 10 weeks, hope to transform it. The first class session left students divided: should it become an excellent aggregator of calendar and Stanford news and local blogs (valuable because this place is very decentralized; nothing is aggregated), or should it become host to a new media journalism site by the grad students. The obvious answer is it needs to be both. Be useful (with aggregation) and be surprising (with good journalism).

The reason I like the class is it's another heavy dose of the world of new media. So weekly we take tutorials in Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Flash etc. Plus, Stanford hired one of UC Berkeley's multimedia professors to come over for this quarter. I'm grateful for another dose. We've been introduced to a subscription site called www.lynda.com that has good tutorials. More as I learn more here. I am finding that some of the tutorials require no sign up; I am guessing the better ones will require the $25/month subscription. But if you made it your mission, you could learn a lot in a month. There may even be group-use discounts, for a newsroom, for example.

Another class that is interesting to me is out of the GSB, graduate school of business. It's called high-performance leadership, and it is introducing a new model. Gone is the "heroic leader" (sort of like Mom or Dad on the job, the one you expect to have all the answers). So is the participative leader, who gets lots of input from staff but makes the final decision. The new form of leadership is "shared responsibility." Here's the description from the course catalog:
Although many leadership approaches will achieve good performance, it is the premise of this course that the assumptions underlying traditional approaches to leadership frequently block excellence. This course will present a new approach that sees leadership as a joint responsibility of members and the leader. Implementing this new definition requires strong teams, shared vision and mutual influence relationships. Class time will be spent describing this approach and exploring how both leaders and members can build such teams, make vision real and relevant and develop mutual influence relationships.
The main role of the leader is not to think up the answers, but to create an environment that draws out the best from everyone, because survival in a competitive environment depends on it. Another tenet of this approach is that leadership comes from everywhere in the organization, if the ecology is healthy. That's the path to survival in the complicated times we live in, or so the MBAs at Stanford are learning. Sounds true in the news biz.

I'm also taking Islam and the West, taught by a fascinating professor, Abbas Milani from Iran, a true scholar who puts today's Middle Eastern awkwardness (that's putting it too mildly) into context historically. In two class sessions I've learned more about why the West and the Orient look askance at one another than I have gotten reading all the news accounts of the war.

I was unceremoniously bounced out of a class today; even Knight Fellows have limits. It was US Global Decisionmaking; the prof, a very famous guy here, decided no auditors. The class is small, there's no hiding from him, so I guess I'm out.

But it's not all books. I'm back in sailing this quarter, taking racing; I hope I can stay in the boat! And wine tasting 2. More of those good California wines.

Oh, one more item in a full day. At lunch I caught half a session on Creative Commons, a form of licensing that allows photographers, writers, musicians to share their work for non-commercial use, while retaining control over the material for commercial use. It's a big global movement, because the creative tools are in so many hands now. You can search the Internet for creative commons licensed-material, which you can use free for noncommercial purposes. Read about it here .

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Sam Zell at Stanford: Trib buy, Google


Curiosity brought me to the law school today for a talk by Sam Zell, the business dealmaker who is hoping to clinch his latest -- the purchase of Tribune. The title of his talk was "Make me an offer," and he was here to discuss the $39 billion buyout of Equity Office Properties.

But the first question out of the box came from my Knight colleague, Kevin Fagan of the SF Chronicle, asking Zell to talk about the Tribune buy. Zell deferred, saying the deal was not finalized yet. But questions persisted from around the room.

Finally, he said he bought Tribune because he thought running that company would be a "fantastic challenge," especially since he doesn't see that others have succeeded. Under his tutelage, he would not allow the kind of infighting that happened between the Chandler family and the Tribune company, which he said has hurt Tribune for the past 2-3 years. He said the LA Times buy didn't look like a bad idea, but it turned out that way.

Asked whether it might have been smarter if he could have purchased a media company like Google, Zell said:
"What would happen to Google if the content they get from newspapers was no longer available? They'd have nothing. The content on Google is being paid for by newspapers, and stolen by Google. The boys at Google get this. You're going to see new deals and formulas..."
Perhaps not unlike the new coordination between McClatchy's foreign bureaus and Yahoo announced recently.

Zell ragged on Stanford Law School for not admitting him as a young man. He confessed to hating law school, but finished it and passed the bar. Despite the pain, he said he's glad he did. "Law school shapes how you think. Everything today is legal. You've got to understand it."

Meanwhile, he was so bored in academia, he said, that as a senior in law school he made $150,000 running his own real estate company on the side. Law students sitting in front of me shook their heads in disbelief.

He railed against Sarbanes Oxley (Public Company Accounting Act of 2002), then invited the audience to his Web site where he archives his annual "holiday message" to the world. This year's was devoted to his disdain for "SarBox." Even he is into multimedia.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Not your father's TV

I was noodling around a site with multimedia tutorials and blogs, a place where new creators learn from each other, thinking it would be a good resource for transitioning journalists who want to follow new storytelling paths. The site is MultimediaShooter, billing its role as "keeping track of multimedia so you don't have to."


In its tutorials section, you can link to Current TV's own production training page with sections on storytelling (what makes a good pod), journalism (case studies to learn from), to gathering and editing video. MultimediaShooter gives Current TV's video-editing section high marks. Current TV is an Al Gore effort in which one/third of what is aired comes from viewers. They call this VC2, or "viewer created content." Hence, the training modules to bring in work from The People. Up since August 1, 2005, "Current is the first TV network created by, for and with young adults."

Monday, April 2, 2007

Buck up


These journalism times are indeed unsettling, with shrinking newsrooms and all. So learning why one newspaper editor is optimistic is worth your time and trouble. John Robinson of the Greensboro News & Record has three reasons why he's optimistic now. Go read them yourself here, but the first one surely will make you sit up straight and feel good, so I'll tease with it.
1. The reporters are better. I'm speaking of reporters like this who are paid for their work and reporters like this who aren't. The professionals are smarter and quicker, and more fluid and more diverse than any in the 30+ years I've been in the business. They are innovative and open to change. We're in good hands. The widespread entry of non-pros is a splendid development, bring new eyes to old and new topics. When I was editorial page editor, it was a daunting challenge to write on complicated issues day after day, knowing that there were dozens of people in the community who knew the topic better than I. Now they have access to a megaphone to inform those of us who care. How can that be anything be a valuable complement to democracy?
The tip for this came from Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine blog, where he cites his own optimism and that of a few others. On a Monday, that's worth reading.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Consider reading this

"This" is a report from the Center for Citizen Media about how news organizations can forge tighter relationships with their community of readers. Download it here and give it a read. More after I read it.

The blogging-as-journalism debate

I found a post on the Cairns Blog that I thought others would find thought-provoking. Should bloggers get first amendment protection? The blog writer asks Kevin Blangston, a staff attorney for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, who responded:
“Yes. A blogger is a journalist if they are doing journalism.”

The writer notes that this shifts the inquiry away from who is a journalist to what is journalism. And he quotes Stanford University journalism professor Ted Glasser in support of this idea:
“We shouldn’t have a two-tiered First Amendment that gives more protections to some individuals than others,” he said. “We are much better off defining the act of journalism rather than who is a journalist.”

Read blogger Anthony Sanchez' full account here.

A bit of multimedia that Al's Morning Report highlighted recently. It is a Sarasota, Fl. Herald Tribune report on 150 teachers still in state school districts despite serious issues with their behavior around students. It's called "Broken Trust." Al likes the idea that readers don't have to scroll down the page to continue reading; they get to flip a page. Check it out for navigation ideas.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nimble, a lovely word


The time sure feels ripe for training journalists. In one item below, a new study shows that editors world-wide want it for the reporters in their newsrooms. And per the next item, a different study, we learn that journalists have been yearning for training for up to five years.

First, the World Editors Forum, in conjunction with Reuters and another group, asked 435 editors around the world what they'd do to improve journalism.
Among other questions, they were asked "If you had to invest in editorial quality, what would you do first within the newsroom?".

Thirty-seven per cent said they would train journalists in new media skills, 23 per cent would recruit more journalists, 19 per cent would re-train in traditional skills, 10 per cent would add more opinion analysis writers, six per cent would replace staff with younger journalists, and 5 per cent would take another, unspecified, approach.

Second, a new book came out today that illustrates the path. Called "News Improved", it tells the stories of forward-moving newsrooms. A Knight Foundation-funded Newsroom Training Initiative over the last four years has infused $10 million into newsroom projects. The results are explored in this book, written with Knight money by Michele McClellan and Tim Porter. Among its points, journalists really want more training. Per one account of the new book's contents:
In 2002, a Knight survey of nearly 2,000 journalists found that eight in 10 newsroom staffers wanted more training than they were getting. An update to that study, "Investing in the Future of News," which was released today in the "News, Improved" book, reports that the number has increased to nine in 10.

Here's an assist to the working journalist. Take a short, 10-question survey on training in your own newsroom, and you can get a free copy of the book for your time and trouble, here.

Now about that word, nimble. I've always thought mid-sized newspapers were in a better position than big-city dailies. Their smaller size made them more flexible, able to adjust more quickly. It turns out that can be an important asset. Here's the guy who wrote the intro to "News Improved", Eric Newton, talking:

"Media evolution doesn't favor the big or strong," he writes. "It favors the nimble.

"Be nimble."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

From "Sacred Facts"

I keep finding inspiration, or maybe it is even consolation, in reading BBC-head Richard Sambrook's blog, title in quotes above. In general, I'm against whining about these uncertain times. Hold on tight while the spasm of a revolution passes through your work world. Frankly, all you can do, and MUST do, is the very best you can. But I refer you to this comment, called "Modern Work," from a recent Sambrook post:


In a discussion about managing constant change two interesting observations were made.

1: "Most jobs are increasingly a series of projects". This is certainly true of mine and seemed to ring a bell with all the other senior managers gathered. So when did that happen and why? And while we're all diverted on projects, who's running things?

2: When discussing "change" with teams, it sounds like an admonition (as in "Changor Die!"). Is there a less pejorative word? Progress? Improvement? Future? Forward? They all sound like doublespeak.


A word on his blog title, this from his blog's "About" section. My guess is you will find it as inspiring as I do. He quotes from C.P. Scott:


Comment is free, but facts are sacred. "Propaganda", so called, by this means is hateful. The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard. Comment also is justly subject to a self-imposed restraint. It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair. This is an ideal. Achievement in such matters is hardly given to man. We can but try, ask pardon for shortcomings, and there leave the matter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tipster for our times


Meet Mindy McAdams and her Website. She a professor and Knight Chair for Journalism at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. She's got a book out called "Flash Journalism: How to create multimedia news packages," which I've added to my toolkit list below. And her Website is host to lots of multimedia reporting information, from where the free tutorials are stashed, to ways of thinking about telling a multimedia story. Go there, browse, click and read. This is good stuff to learn, and she is generous with information. You could make a study of her "Online Journalism Examples and Tips." Go there. Do it.

Tension around the "customer"

My apologies for being absent lately. A bike accident (I hit a pedestrian while pumping home late one night) and the flu (down and out for half a week) left me scrambling to catch up. Nearing the end of the winter quarter, papers and projects are due.

One of my recent assignments delivered an entrepreneurial-minded quote that I thought was important to modern news organizations. It came from Shai Agassi, head of software development for SAP, the third largest software company in the world, based out of Germany. He's the Palo Alto office, and likely the future head of SAP worldwide. So in Silicon Valley, he's hot stuff.

Agassi emphasizes the customer's experience. If SAP can make the "end-user's" experience wonderful, that's a good, competitive thing to accomplish.

Here's the quote:
Sandhill.com: Do you have advice to share with other software executives?

Agassi: It is important to think "out-of-the-box" as much as possible. By that I mean, software executives need to always bring in the perspective of the customer and remember that our business is about what the customer wants to consume, not what we are trying to build. You need to picture what the customer sees when he opens the box - not what you put into it. Think about what you can do to simplify consumption of your product - that is the best thing you can do for your customers.

Creating a good customer experience is pivotal. The competitive climate demands it. Newspapers can benefit from some of this entrepreneurial thinking, by seeing themselves as their customers see them. Do your customers find you useful, necessary, compelling? Or boring, static and not enough? What are they telling you about their user experience?

For sure, newspaper Websites have to be user-friendly, fast-loading, intuitive to navigate, the very best in the business. But what those pages contain is more critical than just an excellent user interface.

News organizations have to find a way to give their customers what they don't know they want. Or even think they don't want, like eat-your-peas public policy reporting. It's a sophisticated and strategic calling.

Watching the Frontline's News War is sobering. I'm thinking here of the interview with the head of ABC News as he defends the kinds of titillating stories Dateline has turned to -- moms and their teen daughters learning to pole dance, or the hunt for sexual predators. Lowest common denominators, for sure; information evaluated as entertainment. If customers get to define news, does it mean 24/7 of Anna Nicole Smith, as cable recently delivered?

Of course there's a higher calling to news; we've always known that. It takes leadership and commitment to get there, and in this ultra-entrepreneurial era, commercial success.

I just got a copy of "News Values: Ideas for an information age" by Jack Fuller. It was written in 1996, and we're still asking the questions he posed in his introduction:
How much should newspapers reflect the beliefs of the communities they serve? How much should they provide moral leadership? What is the proper relationship between journalism and marketing? Journalism and profit-making?

Like our software entrepreneur, Fuller's pragmatically paying attention to the customer:
For the most part I have tried to locate the news values in the desires and interests of the American audience.

But he sees a big difference, a big danger.
It is often said that a society gets the press it deserves. I am not sure about that. But I know that in the end it gets a press no better than it wants. ... If the public is led to accept shoddy or dangerous goods, the public will prevail. So it is up to the newspapers to make news values compelling enough that people will see in them their deeper interests.

"Shoddy and dangerous goods." That's a scary and disturbing description, a catalyst to keep pushing for quality in these uncertain times.
The danger is that newspapers will patronize their customers, or assume their classic and now outdated role of information "gatekeeper." Here's where the concept of a new partnership with the customer might take hold -- a joint definition of needs.
I'm gonna keep reading Fuller's book, and promise to share what I learn there. I hope he has convincing guidance on where to go from here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Meet the creator of this viral video

Bear with me. First, here is the hypertext video that has been posted everywhere. My point in showing it here is just in case you missed it, but also, to then link to an interview with its creator, a cultural anthropologist talking about what it means.

Now, here is an intriguing interview with the maker, Michael Wesch from Kansas State University. He was interviewed by John Battelle on Searchblog: Thoughts on the intersection of search, media, technology and more.
A taste of Wesch's thinking:
For me, cultural anthropology is a continuous exercise in expanding my mind and my empathy, building primarily from one simple principle: everything is connected. ... As I tried to illustrate in the video, this means that a change in one area (such as the way we communicate) can have a profound effect on everything else, including family, love, and our sense of being itself.

And:
For me, the ultimate promise of digital technology is that it might enable us to truly see one another once again and all the ways we are interconnected. It might help us create a truly global view that can spark the kind of empathy we need to create a better world for all of humankind. I’m not being overly utopian and naively saying that the Web will make this happen. In fact, if we don’t understand our digital technology and its effects, it can actually make humans and human needs even more invisible than ever before. But the technology also creates a remarkable opportunity for us to make a profound difference in the world.

The good professor has had some commentary at his Web site, and you can comment too. He expects to keep working on this. As of 2.21.2007, it had some 1,310,565 views on YouTube. He's obviously speaking to us.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The "ouch" factor

This, from the Los Angeles Times media columnist Tim Rutten, is sobering. He calls journalists to church with a plea for motive self-examination based on embarrassing revelations about their peers in the Scooter Libby trial (Judith Miller, Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper):
The picture that emerges here is of a stratum of the Washington press corps less interested in the sort of journalistic privilege that serves the public interest than in the kind of privileged access that ensures prominent bylines and good airplay.

And in the baseball doping BALCO case (SF Chronicle's Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who accepted leaked grand jury testimony from defense attorney Troy Ellerman; Ellerman then went out and argued that the ensuing publicity would deny his client a fair trial):
To assert any form of journalistic privilege in a situation like that is something far worse than moral obtuseness. Conspiring with somebody you know is actively perverting the administration of justice to your mutual advantage is a betrayal of the public interest whose protection is the only basis on which journalistic privilege of any sort has a right to assert itself.

If it isn't yet clear:
Journalists consumed with a self-interest so strong that it makes them the willing dupes of manipulative sources report what they're meant to report and not the information the public has a right to know.
...both the Libby trial and BALCO case can be seen as the indictment of the kind of journalism that asserts the right to protect its sources, to protect the public interest, but to conceal its own self-interested shortcomings.

So now you want me to take video?

So goes the lament from the mainline print reporter. Let me do what I'm good at...writing. Don't make me take pictures, too. Shoot video, no less.

I point out this piece, "You Must be Streaming," from New York Magazine because it addresses just this moment in journalistic history. And in the writer's view, any journalist brings tools to the table that no amateur can match, regardless of how rough the beginnings. Writer Kurt Andersen:
Whereas the YouTube paradigm is amateurs doing interesting things with cameras, the newspapers’ Web videos are professional journalists operating like amateurs in the best old-fashioned sense.

Calling this a "flux moment," writer Andersen notes how differently The New York Times and the Washington Post are handling their video effort and packaging. At NYT, the two newsrooms are merged; at Washpost, still separated. Times highlights its daily offerings, Post buries under a hard-to-find button, Andersen argues.

The article looks at an emerging video journalist from each newspaper, the Times' David Carr (with Carpetbagger blog and video, shown tripping over red carpets as he does his reporting), and WP's Travis Fox, the globetrotting one-man-band who never appears in his own videos. Two worth watching as the new medium, Web video by newspapers, emerges.

Anderson's point is to highlight this very moment, when it is all up for grabs.
The passionate, improvised, innovative reinventings, as opposed to the final, fully professionalized reinventions, are often the coolest moments in cultural history. Think of movies in 1920, TV in 1955, or public radio in 1980. ... And this very moment, before anyone professes to know much more than anyone else, is probably the beginning of the new medium’s great golden age. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thanks to Sacred Facts for the tip to this piece.

Monday, February 19, 2007

An excuse to put my dog in my blog




Meet Clare, our dog who stayed behind in Anchorage and lives with dog buddy Rudy (see white paws in one pic, white dog in other -- that is Rudy). Clare is wearing a green T-shirt because she had a few stitches on her shoulder after a run-in with a tree. My only justification for putting my dog in my blog came from reading a passage in a book about meditation. Stick with me here, this won't take long.
Have you ever looked at a dog and really seen it in its total "dogness"? A dog is quite miraculous when you really see it. What is it? Where did it come from? What is it doing here? What are its feelings?
Children tend to think about things this way. Their vision is fresh. They see things as if for the first time every time. Sometimes our seeing gets tired. We just see a dog. "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." Our thoughts act as a kind of veil preventing us from seeing things with fresh eyes.

So my point? Look at journalism through fresh eyes. See the post below, too, where a very successful newspaper publisher in Norway is doing well online. One link to his success, say analysts, is he brought in some 'fresh eyes.' I hope we can be our own fresh eyes in American journalism.

News from Norway: online success

A newspaper publisher in Norway is finding financial success online, according to this business report from The New York Times. The company is Schibsted in Oslo. Noting how well things are going for this newspaper company, a Harvard business professor is making a case study of it. Says the professor:
“There’s no question they managed this transition earlier than a lot of newspaper companies, and they’re in a better position as a result.”

Besides investing aggressively in online for a decade, the publisher brought in non-newspaper managers from a business consulting firm who were willing to sacrifice sacred cows if that was necessary. Said one:
“The main thing they have done is to recognize that the consumer is king.”

Of course there are special circumstances in Norway. Schibsted dominates the online market and includes a successful classified site in its arsenal. And Norway has the highest newspaper readership in the world, so readers trusted the brand when it went online.

The Harvard professor, Bharat N. Anand, wonders: Can this success be exported?
“The big question is, ‘Is this a repeatable success, or is it a very good 10-year run?’ And how far can it travel outside Scandinavia?”

Friday, February 16, 2007

A little hope, pass it around

I get excited by new ideas. Never fails. I'm on the mailing list for HBR. That would be Harvard Business Review. And they've just compiled their list of bright ideas for 2007.

Skimming the list, the word "hope" leaped out at me. It's number five on a list of 20. The authors, Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry, argue that hope is a key element in surviving tough situations: prison camps, war, accidents. How about old media/new media upheavals?

My guess is the authors would say yes:
Our contribution has been to outline the elements of hope—possibility, agency, worth, openness, and connection—in a way that guides efforts to nurture it in the workplace.

The first two are central to the definition of hope: People must see that change is possible and how they can engage personally in that change. The remaining elements have to do with how hope is cultivated in organizations: Hopeful work groups are most often composed of individuals whose worth to the organization has been affirmed, who perceive an openness on the part of management, and who enjoy an authentic sense of connection with their colleagues and with the organization’s mission. Even so briefly described, these elements suggest why hope can be an energetic force for positive change to a degree that, say, optimism alone could never be.

No love lost

My post is a little late for Valentine's Day. But a pissing match between the British papers Guardian and Telegraph caught my eye. The fight is about when is a blog not really a blog. I saw it mentioned on Sacred Facts and followed the links to see what the fuss was all about.

The Telegraph says the Guardian's site (new from 2006), called Comment is free, is NOT A BLOG, dammit!

The Guardian, in the voice of its Web leader Neil McIntosh writing on his personal Web site Complete Tosh, suggests that CiF is too a blog, a group blog. Whatever you wanna call it, it is much better than the dead blogs over at the Telegraph, maintains the Guardian. (A dead blog is one in which the blogger isn't contributing much, and neither are commentators. How many of THOSE have you seen out there on the Web.)

Aside from enjoying them go at each other, I think the Guardian has an idea that would be useful for any newspaper to consider. I like a site that is a "place" for readers to weigh in on lots of stuff, including issues they choose to initiate, not just one blogger's perspective. It has a "marketplace of ideas" feel to it.

Here is how CiF describes itself:

It is a collective group blog, bringing together regular columnists from the Guardian and Observer newspapers with other writers and commentators representing a wide range of experience and interests. The aim is to host an open-ended space for debate, dispute, argument and agreement and to invite users to comment on everything they read.

Here is Neil McIntosh, head of Guardian Unlimited (the Guardian's Web site) describing how they got to this working model:

The key difference was we took the focus off individuals and redistributed attention between authors, commenters, and the aggregate discussion. Breaking views and strong user debate are the key influences on CiF's front page, not the article of faith that is the newest-post-first traditional blog form. We think it improves the user experience.

It was a format based on years of blog experimentation, and frustration, at Guardian Unlimited. In particular, the massively group nature of the blog was deliberate; we built in acceptance of the reality that many interesting people simply don't have time to contribute very regularly. It's a reality the Telegraph and pretty much every other blogging newspaper continues to ignore.

Other features of the site: a political cartoon, a photo-blog by a Guardian photog, and an editors' blog, where Guardian editors talk about that day's newspaper and putting it together.

You can search A-Z through CiF's contributor list and through CiF's subject matter. And you can even see number of posts per subject matter item.

This is an upgrade to the traditional blogging site because it expands who gets to talk. Makes me think of Bruno Guissani's argument that news Web sites need to become places people go to discuss and debate. I think it makes the single-speaker blog site look primitive, or more kindly, like a columnist with limited feedback opportunity.

It could allow the site to invite high-profile bloggers for limited commentary.