Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lehrer to journalists: Calm down

Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, had some choice words for the growing "woe-is-me" journalist population out there.

"Calm down," he said at a recent talk at the University of Oklahoma.

Lehrer said that the rise of independent blogs, podcasts, cable television/radio shouting matches, and the like only makes traditional journalism - real, sound reporting - and the role of the editorial gatekeeper MORE important, and he predicts the industry will make a big comeback, according to the Huffington Post.

Again per the HuffPost: "People are busy, they want some professional, unbiased, un-agenda assistance in sorting through it all to help determine what is important before they go off to the editorial page or the commentators, or to be shouted at or entertained about it."

You know, in a lot of ways he's right. But the problem remains on how the news business can make money, especially as ink costs go up, advertisers pull back, and circulation continues to decline. Perhaps a non-profit/trust or new type of business model will become the best way to go when all is said and done. Time will tell.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twitter truly opens up new doors

I've been getting more and more intrigued with Twitter lately and the role it may play in the future of news.

Twitter is a largely public tool. And applications like TweetDeck document the most popular words being said at any given time. For example, in the last few minutes, the most popular words have been "Berlin" and "thunder." I looked through the "tweets" with these words and learned a fire had broken out at the airport in Berlin and there was a major thunderstorm going on in Brisbane, Australia - I even saw photos of the storm!

Here's some of the tweets on the Australia storm too:

KatJohnston : #bnestorm now hailing in newmarket.. hope it doesn't hurt the car.
Posted at 02:42

JonoH : 420 Queen ST is getting smashed!!! people can not walk.. Wind too strong!! #bnestorm
Posted at 02:42

WauloK : #bnestorm at Corinda sitting at the open front door watching the storm. Wild!
Posted at 02:39

JonoH : Currently 785 Strikes a minute for the lightning in SE QLD! incredible! #bnestorm
Posted at 02:38

So, in essence, it can be used as a news service. It chronicles news as it happens. It also documents buzzwords, the most popular talk at any given time.

So what role does it play in the future of newsgathering and news in general? I've been thinking about it...there has to be one.

In one sense, it's niche at its best because you can target specific audience and communicate with specific people who have the same interests as you. Newspaper personalities like ColonelTribune and WeatherBird utilize Twitter really well, getting their stories out while also interacting with their readers.

Editors can also toss words around on Twitter, do some interacting, and see what's hot and what's not. What's popular and what's lost into cyberspace. They can also do this by monitoring all the most recent tweets. And base stories on that. Really.

I think Twitter will continue to grow and be a big part of the future of the Web, and it'll be interesting to see what else comes of it. Other than that, who knows what form it'll take in the next few years. To be continued...

Update: I found this wonderful slideshow on the basics of Twitter and how it can be used for PR, journalism, live reporting, and more.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

How Twitter can deliver news

You don't need to be a journalist to be a part of the news gathering and news dissemination process on Twitter.

In the past 30 minutes alone, the Web site Hashtags.org has recorded dozens of Twitter posts with "#lafire" on them. Basically, Hashtags.org chronicles the most popular topics being discussed on Twitter by analyzing these user-provided tags. #lafire took off in popularity as a tag within the last 24 hours. It of course refers to fires around Los Angeles.

In the last few minutes, here's what members of the LA community have been bouncing back and forth on Twitter:

"Want to help if you aren't close? Donate to Red Cross who assists fire victims with shelter, food, necessities. http://tiny.cc/cN2ho"
"RT: rachellechong: #LAFIRE Animals may be taken to Pierce College or Hansen Dam during fire emergency"
"Watching the fires break out all around L.A.. Mess. Major. Chaos. Sky is red. #LAFIRE if you're into disaster theater."
"on 91 freeway, people turning around and exiting on onramp to get off fwy. #lafire anaheim hills"
"Three major fires surround LA at this time #lafire Anaheim Hills, Sylmar, Yorba Linda"

They're almost like mini stories. And more are popping up every second. Both by people trying to get information out, public officials for instance, and everyday citizens just posting their thoughts, opinions, and observations.

Thus, Twitter becomes a powerful tool in times of crisis or major news. Users quickly catch on to the popular Hashtag being used, and they put it in their tweets to be part of the conversation.

While there is no gate-keeping and there's obvious issues with the potential for rumors or misinformation being distributed, it's still a powerful device if used correctly, and the journalism industry as a whole could learn a lot from monitoring the takeoff of one of these popular hashtags, such as the one that's growing in popularity as I write this: #lafire. Talk about a whole new meaning to "breaking news"...something like this keeps breaking and updating every few minutes - in some cases, like when the VP Debate between Palin and Biden took place, every few seconds.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

National Press Club discusses journalism's future

Former broadcast anchor Dan Rather, Associated Press President/CEO Tom Curley, New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson, and NYU professor Jay Rosen were all present for the event in New York City, and it can be seen here at the C-Span Web site.

Some interesting thoughts:

Rather said that he thinks doomsday talk for TV, radio, magazines and newspapers is premature. He says two things are lacking right now: "optimism" for what's to come - and he added he's an optimist "by nature and experience" - and "idealism," striving to provide the best coverage possible and lessen the bleeding of "entertainment values overrunning news values." Rather added, "the center of gravity is shifting to new media."

Curley: "Don't dismay. There's a tremendous opportunity out there for covering the news, and it's never been better."

Rosen: "The tools of media production ... have now been distributed to the people out there. That is a social fact. People have blogs, they have cameras, they have video, they can edit, they can create their own report, they can upload it and they can distribute it to the world."

When those who were formerly the media's audience take up the craft, that is "citizen journalism," Rosen says.

But that same context amounts to exciting opportunities ahead for young journalists and students of journalism, who stay optimistic and push forward, he says. "The tribe of professional journalists are in a situation of forced migration, meaning they can't live anymore on the land they colonized and developed so successfully for the last 100 years. The land gave out." "If they're going to have a future for their people, for their tribe, they're going to have to migrate across the digital divide and rebuild."

"The AP is making the journey over, the New York Times has made the journey over, and what they're discovering is there is a new land there and we can thrive there."

"It's like a frontier, it's like the Wild West, that hasn't been colonized yet, it hasn't been civilized yet. It's still wild in a lot of ways. That's what's fun about it, that's what's cool about it, that's what makes me optimistic."

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Friday, November 7, 2008

CSM continues to lead

Christian Science Monitor continues to take the lead in the future of journalism, particularly on the Web. It held a live webcast this evening, appropriately entitled, "The Future of Journalism."

I wasn't able to attend the webcast, I was at class, but thanks to Twitter, I was able to learn some things that were said.

Particularly interesting "tweets" from social media expert Doug Haslam, who was broadcasting bits and pieces from the CSM webcast:

Mark Jurkowitz: new media models rushing to fill the void left by shrinking print reporting staff
Can anyone but NYT& WaPo afford to break the big stories? Jurkowitz
Ellen Hume of MIT: New journalism means the old media aren't the only ones w/ reporting power.
Hume: if journalist is popular there's something wrong.
Douglas K. Smith: median age of ABC News is 61. Enterprise model still works but shrinking.
Jurkowitz: broadcast tv still has a significant role. it's changing but still big
Q: will newspapers go away? Jurkowitz: print will change become more niche. remeber gulf war 1 as end of paper 1st
Ellen Hume is big on participatory journalism.
Ellen Hume: face to face is irreplaceable. use tech but continue to be a journalist
Jurkowitz: dangers of people sticking with news that fits their world view

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Day musings

I was part of the action on Nov. 4, as I went around polling places in Chicago to interview voters for the Associated Press. A bit of my reporting was actually picked up by media outlets. Quotes from Miranda Young, an 18-year-old St. Louis native who left a local hospital to cast a ballot for Barack Obama, appeared in the Boston Herald, Gainesville Sun, and WBBM 780 in Chicago. Quotes from Julius Taylor, a 37-year-old Chicago truckdriver, were in the Rockford Register Star. Very cool.

Then I attended the rally at Grant Park. Put together a video of highlights from my vantage point at the rally, including when CNN announced Obama had won the presidency, and uploaded it on YouTube...can be found here. That's already received more than 1,700 views now; the power of the Internet to reach people and connect with others is simply amazing. In fact, a search of "Obama rally Grant Park" on YouTube turns up my video second! Have had overwhelming feedback on that and many comments. It was fun little enterprise and I'm glad people have enjoyed it. I believe that night was so historic and one we should all share in.

I also have to give a shoutout here to my old campus newspaper, the Cardinal Courier. They posted updates THROUGH ELECTION NIGHT and did some great original reporting on the fly! They had a special Election Edition come out today and word on the street is it's amazing looking. Can't wait to see for myself. Props to the Courier.

Just three types of journalistic projects, all of which utilizing the Internet, that went on Tuesday, among the MANY, MANY more. Looks like online and journalism are a good marriage after all.

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