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April 13 2012

14:00

Top 5 Tech Ideas for Creating Better Explanatory Journalism

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How can technology help journalists make sense of complex issues and explain them to the public in a clear, understandable manner?

Last year, Jay Rosen's journalism students spent an entire semester researching and making explanations in partnership with ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom which focuses on investigative journalism. The class did amazing work to highlight notable examples and develop their own "explainers," essential background knowledge to help people follow events and trends in the news. One of my favorite examples is this project from 2011, where students redesigned the same ProPublica background article as a video, a podcast, and an FAQ.

NYU's Explainer class focused especially on two things: presentation and conversation. They talked to cognitive psychologists like George Lakoff to learn how audiences take in what we read. They highlighted numerous presentation examples -- videos, timelines, infographics, mini-sites, aggregators, podcasts, interactive guides, flowcharts, and even a picture book by Google! The class at NYU also pointed out that explaining is often a conversation. In their journalist's guide to developing FAQs, the class suggests techniques for discovering what people need to know. I loved their advice on listening to readers.

Where can we innovate?

This term, I'm taking Ethan Zuckerman's Participatory News class from the point of view of a technology designer who wants to build tools to support great journalism. As we write stories and review other people's work, we're keeping our eyes open for parts of the process which technology can improve. As a startup guy, I also keep an eye open for alternative business models. Here are my top tech recommendations for supporting better explainers:

1. Peer Production

Jay points out in his "National Explainer" essay that it's OK to start with the clueless journalist. When learning how to explain something, our initial ignorance helps us appreciate where our audiences are coming from. This approach assumes that a professional journalist is doing the work; where else might we find uninformed, capable people to develop explainers?

I think we should take inspiration from Wikipedia to develop strategies for peer production of explanatory journalism, especially for issues that journalists can't or don't cover. Online communities like Metafilter have proven their ability to cooperate on investigations on occasion. How can we extend that to explanations? We could also draw inspiration from Instructables and CommonCraft, online communities of people who share video instructions and explanations.

Building online communities is hard. Instead of developing an "explainer" community, I would build a toolkit which existing communities can use when they feel the need to investigate and explain an issue.

2. Finding Voices

Many of the explainers in Jay's class involve narrative. "The Giant Pool of Money" succeeded because This American Life found the right cast of characters to illustrate a complex issue. But finding the right people is really hard, especially if you're not a mainstream media organization. Source databases such as The Public Insight Network can help, but it's a closed system unavailable outside of newsrooms. Social media networks through groups like Global Voices get us part of the way, but only as far as the people who might know those we're looking for.

I'm not sure the crowd can help here. In many cases, the people you want to interview might not be outspoken online. Instead, I would develop tools and research practices for individuals or small teams to find representative voices. Perhaps the tool could offer encouragement and ideas for following the trail from an effect to an individual.

We could support one workflow in particular. Given a set of articles which are already about a topic, we could automatically extract the names of the organizations and individuals who are quoted and referred to, creating a quick map of the issue in the media. A canny storyteller might be able to spot gaps in the story or simply remix existing material into an explainer.

3. Organizing Research

Explainers are by definition hard to organize and research. They're the messy, complicated issues that don't appear to make much sense. Often the story arc isn't apparent until partway through the project. It can become easy to get lost in the forest of information. As the pile of research grows, it can be difficult to follow the structure of a complex system or pull together the information you need for that next interview.

The most widely used writing tools are terrible at helping people organize and understand their information. I have written elsewhere about my use of software like Eastgate's Tinderbox to organize research around a complex issue. I think we need more of that kind of software (James Fallows' article on "Mac Programs that Come with Thinking Caps On" is a great place to start).

4. Rhetorical Forms

All storytelling on computers is in its early stages; we haven't agreed on very many common literary forms. Beyond the FAQ, the Timeline, and the illustrated lecture, most explainers require a custom rhetorical form. That's bad for anyone who wants to put a deadline on a project.

That's why I love The Explainer Awards that Jay and his students held. Awards are a great way to create norms and highlight innovation -- they have been an effective model as far back as 5th century Athens. But we need to take this further. An effective awards program would bring together finalists in each category to discuss common challenges and build technologies to solve those problems.

5. Conversation

Why not re-imagine explaining as a social movement rather than content production? Some of the best explaining comes from a two-way conversation, not a piece of content. We could start a service called Meet the News, a geolocated service which invites anyone to have coffee with someone affected by a news story. Participants could pay for the coffee and might be expected to contribute back to the community with a few paragraphs about the conversation, just like couch-surfing reviews. It could be a human library for the news.

Do you have more tech ideas for explanatory journalism? Let us know in the comments!

A version of this post first appeared on MIT Civic Media Center's blog.

May 27 2011

22:15

Scienceline: A Case Study in Teaching Specialty Journalism

I learned how to be a journalist at my college paper. I didn't go to journalism school. But I teach at one, and from the time that I became an adjunct at New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) in 2002, I would periodically think about how to recreate the experience of working at a college paper for a small group of graduate students learning how to do specialized journalism.

More and more outlets are looking for reporters and editors with expertise, whether it's so they can hit the ground running when they're hired, or curate more effectively. That's certainly true at the magazines, websites, and broadcast outlets where SHERP graduates want to work, and at my own, a specialized health wire service.

So when SHERP Director Dan Fagin, who also learned how to be a journalist at his college paper, and I realized in 2005 that we were thinking along the same lines, we did some brainstorming. How could we create a site that gave students the opportunity to run a specialized news organization? We wanted a versatile, adaptable platform that would let students jump in and enjoy the rewards -- and headaches -- of online publishing.

We settled on WordPress, and hired a great designer. We included students from the beginning, letting them decide everything from content categories to color palette. And they came up with the name, too: Scienceline.

Since 2006, Scienceline has been the online magazine of science that's written, edited and produced entirely by SHERP students, who call themselves "SHERPies." They have published hard-hitting news, features, blogs, videos and podcasts, and encouraged interactivity through comments and polls. Students typically post new stories three times per week, in addition to blogs. Here's a recent video on Scienceline about e-cigarettes:

E-Cigarettes in New York City from Scienceline on Vimeo.

A specialized sandbox

The site's content is divided into four categories. In Physical Science, visitors find stories on everything from the fates of universes to how scientists helped resolve a dispute over a massive telescope. In Health, they'll read about whether a walk in the park can replace a psychiatrist, and about research into using parasites to treat diseases.

In Environment, visitors can learn how a proposed road in the Serengeti is dividing people as it divides land, and about a scientist who, somewhat reluctantly, dropped everything to study the BP oil spill. And Life Science pieces explore what language says about the way we think, and how the state of Hawai'i used a natural predator to fight an invasive species, among other subjects.

All of those categories offer a rich selection of blogs, as well as audio, video and graphics.

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The Scienceline staff -- which is made up of SHERP students, usually 15 per year -- plans every piece of content on the site, from pitching to editing to copyediting and posting. (I'm the faculty adviser, and Fagin is the publisher, but it's the SHERPies who run Scienceline.) Some stories are written for class, while others go directly to Scienceline. They have rigorous standards for copy, including multiple layers of editing and a transparent corrections policy. They hold weekly meetings, and publish throughout the year, even during the summer.

Scienceline content is highly regarded, and is frequently republished in leading science journalism outlets including Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science and LiveScience. It's on Scienceline itself, however, that students do what many news organizations are hoping to do: orchestrate a conversation around their content, whether it's text, audio or video. Visitors can even ask questions that the staff answers with reporting, in the Ever Wondered column. Readers apparently like what they find on Scienceline, since on a typical day about 3,000 of them stop by for a visit. There have been 4 million visits since the site launched in mid-2006.

The pros like it too: Scienceline is a three-time Region 1 finalist in the Society of Professional Journalists' Mark of Excellence Awards. Perhaps more importantly, students have tons of clips, which are attractively archived on the site, with each current and former student with his or her own author URL. Employers are impressed.

And so are Fagin and I. The site has been everything we imagined and more, allowing students to create rich, specialized content that shines. We learn something with every new Scienceline experiment, as the site changes with each class of SHERPies. It has recently been redesigned to improve the user experience and add various content types. And the students are even creating an iPad app.

We never know what's next for Scienceline, but we do know it's making SHERPies better prepared for an evolving job market -- and that's a big task.

Ivan Oransky, MD, is the executive editor of Reuters Health. He teaches medical journalism at New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program, is the treasurer of the Association of Health Care Journalists, and blogs at Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch. He has also served as managing editor, online, of Scientific American, deputy editor of The Scientist, and editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Praxis Post. For three years, he taught in the health and medicine track at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Ivan earned his bachelor's at Harvard, where he was executive editor of The Harvard Crimson, and his MD at the New York University of School of Medicine, where he holds an appointment as clinical assistant professor of medicine.

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February 01 2011

20:41

NY Times Defends WikiLeaks Collaboration, Metered Pay Wall

"All the News That's Fit to Print" is both the slogan of the New York Times and the title of the most recent installment of the Kalb Report, a monthly media discussion put on by George Washington University in D.C. Given its title, the overflow audience at last night's discussion between Marvin Kalb and Times executive editor Bill Keller and Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet might have expected to hear more about the paper's long history in the printed word.

But in spite of the moderator's repeated attempts to talk up the front page, the "wild web," as Kalb described it, kept creeping in. Keller and Baquet explained how the Internet has -- and will continue to -- change America's newspaper of record.

Changing Strategy

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To begin with, Keller said its famous motto, which has been printed on the front page of every edition since October 25, 1896, is no longer entirely accurate.

"The slogan," as he called it, "harkens back to a day when the aim of the newspaper was to be comprehensive." Now it is simply "an aspiration, or a mindset."

Keller pointed out that, for many years after it was founded on September 18, 1851, the Times would print items as seemingly mundane as the comings and goings of ships in New York Harbor. Information like that is now relegated to trade newsletters or specialist websites.

All of these publications are now to some extent competition for the Times. While Keller sees the Wall Street Journal as his primary competitor, he is also keeping his eye on websites that have a niche focus. Last night, he specifically mentioned both the politics-centric reporting at Politico and the opinion-driven coverage at the Daily Beast.

The race is "not just for the stories," according to Keller. "The Huffington Post and places like that are competing with us for talent," he said, alluding to the recent defections of a Times' business editor and economic correspondent to the progressive news and aggregation site.

"They're competing with us a lot in the field of innovation," Keller added. "I don't regard the Huffington Post as an extremely aggressive competitor in national reporting, but the way they do social media is pretty instructive."

Rise of Metered Pay Wall

While the Times is taking user engagement cues from the Huffington Post, it is taking a page from the Financial Times when it comes to business models.

Like HuffPost, NYTimes.com attracts hundreds of millions of readers. Keller said the Times has made a "tidy sum" from advertisers trying to reach its 50 million unique visitors each month. But with a much larger news team -- Keller put the current headcount somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 -- the Times' digital ad revenues are not enough to offset losses from declining print ads and circulation, which has fallen to about a million subscribers per day.

To make up this difference, the Times is planning to end unlimited access to its website. Like the Financial Times, Keller said that "later this year" NYTimes.com will implement a metered pay wall. That would allow casual users to read articles on the site, but charge frequent visitors if they are not already subscribers to the print newspaper.

"People who use the New York Times website as their newspaper," he said, "should pay a little something for it."

Keller's statement seems simple enough, but it is a profound departure from the way newspaper companies have viewed their websites in the recent past. And, because of the Times' size and stature in the American media landscape, its change of heart will likely have a profound effect on the web strategies of other newspapers around the country.

Working with WikiLeaks

Kalb's pointed questioning seemed to suggest the view that the Times' decision to collaborate with WikiLeaks has degraded the definition of, and standards for, journalism organizations. Keller and Baquet, the DC bureau chief, both pushed back hard against this notion.

Baquet.jpg"The New York Times became the enabler of WikiLeaks by publishing a lot of stories based on the cables WikiLeaks provided. And when I use the word 'enabler,'" Kalb emphasized, "I'm not using that in a positive way."

WikilLeaks is not a journalism organization, according to Keller. "They are an advocacy group," he said. "You can call them a vigilante group," he added.

And, Keller pointed out, they didn't need the support of the Times to throw American diplomacy into disarray. "They would have published it to a website available to anybody who wanted to look at it and the information would have circulated through the blogosphere in a day."

Baquet was more forceful in his defense of the controversial collaboration. "There is no question that WikiLeaks added tremendously to the understanding" of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, he said.

Baquet said questions about if the Times was "behaving in an arrogant way, flaunting its ability to publish this stuff, enabling WikiLeaks," missed the point.

"To me the most unimaginable and arrogant thing the New York Times could have done," Baquet said, "was to have this stuff, look at it and say, 'This is interesting. Let's have an ethical debate. Let's put it back in the computer. And let's go have lunch.'"

Regardless of their objections with the source -- and Keller, as he's done before, again expressed his distaste for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange by association -- the Times felt obligated to share information it had received.

New Opportunities

The web has not only upended the Times' motto and business model and forced it into unusual sourcing arrangements, it has also enabled new editorial experiments and collaborations.

"It's a particular malady of the journalist that we jump right to the negative," Baquet said, "but the reality is that the rise of the Internet and newspapers is the greatest thing that has hit us since sliced bread."

For those outlets that can still afford to do it, the web has opened new opportunities in international reporting. Keller was eager to talk about the paper's thorough reporting of the ongoing protests in Egypt.

Keller also highlighted an innovative series from 2008, Kremlin Rules. The stories were translated into Russian and posted on one of the country's most popular blogs to elicit comments, which were then translated back into English before each article was published in the Times.

"The Russian readership enriched our stories about Russia," Keller explained.

In addition to collaborations with Russian bloggers, the Times has worked with NYU and non-profit newsrooms like ProPublica. During the question and answer session after the discussion, I asked Keller if readers and media watchers should expect more projects and partnerships from the Times in the future.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "These days we're in an era of experimentation and -- as long as we can be persuaded that we can undertake an experiment without putting the credibility of the paper at risk -- we're game to try it."

Corbin Hiar is the DC-based associate editor at MediaShift and climate blogger for UN Dispatch and the Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to More Intelligent Life, an online arts and culture publication of the Economist Group, and has also written about environmental issues on Economist.com and the website of The New Republic. Before Corbin moved to the Capital to join the Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program at Mother Jones, he worked a web internship at The Nation in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @CorbinHiar.

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December 01 2010

12:30

ProPublica and Jay Rosen’s Studio 20 class at NYU team up to build — and share — “a better explainer”

NYU media guru Jay Rosen is announcing a new partnership between his Studio 20 graduate students and ProPublica. Their goal is to research the most effective ways to unravel complex problems for an online audience, and then build new kinds of explainers to illuminate ProPublica’s research into issues like the foreclosure crisis, finance, healthcare, and the BP oil spill.

It’s an ambitious project, and one that fits Rosen’s goal of transforming journalism schools into the R&D labs of the media industry. As part of the project, the students have launched a website, Explainer.net, that will grow into a database of the best and worst “explainer” techniques from within the news business and beyond. (One of their research projects, for example, was to analyze which media outlets explained the WikiLeaks cable story in the most helpful and compelling ways.)

I sat in on a Studio 20 class on Monday and talked with several of the 16 first-semester graduate students involved in the project. The metaphor they all used, drawn from Rosen’s SXSW panel speech on “the future of context,” was that reading daily news articles can often feel like receiving updates to software that you haven’t actually downloaded to your computer. Without some basic understanding of the larger, ongoing story, the “news” doesn’t actually make much sense. As NYU and ProPublica put it in today’s press release:

Bringing clarity to complex systems so that non-specialists can understand them is the “art” of the explainer. For instance, an explainer for the Irish debt crisis would make clear why a weakness in one country’s banks could threaten the European financial system and possibly the global recovery. A different kind of explainer might show how Medicare billing is designed to work and where the opportunities for fraud lie.

Rosen has been calling for a rigorous rethinking of how media outlets provide context since 2008, and, as Megan has noted previously here at the Lab, ProPublica has put itself at the forefront of explanatory, public-interest reporting. This summer, they redesigned their website with the goal of making it easier for users with different amounts of knowledge about a subject area to teach themselves more about a topic. (They’ve also created a broadway song about complex financial instruments.) Rosen, who brought several students to pitch the project to ProPublica in late September, said the investigative outfit was immediately enthusiastic about the partnership, which will run through the rest of this academic year.

The Explainer project will approach the problem of understanding complex systems both from the perspective of users trying to gain context on an issue, and that of journalists who need new mediums for telling background stories and sharing data that might not fit into an article format.

For that, the students will divide into three groups tasked with exploring different elements of explanation. One group is interviewing the members of ProPublica’s news team, from reporters to news app builders to the managing editor, in order to understand the organization’s workflow, what it does with the data it collects, and how its reporters explain what they’re learning to themselves as they report a story.

Journalists “love starting from zero and gaining mastery,” Rosen said. “What they disgorge by way of story is quite inadequate to what they learned. Creating containers, formats, genres, tricks, tools to make that knowledge available is part of the project.”

Another group is building Explainer.net’s WordPress website, which sometimes means teaching themselves and each other skills on an ad hoc basis. (Studio 20 is designed to be a learn-as-you-go program, in which a group of students with different specialties share their skills and pick up new ones.)

A third group  is researching the different “explainer” genres. They’re starting with examples of good and bad explanatory journalism, from maps and timelines to more specific visualizations like The National Post’s chilling illustration of how a stoning is carried out in Iran. But they’ll also be reaching far outside the media world to research techniques used in many different fields. Rosen suggested that they focus on situations where people “can’t afford to fail,” like people fixing combat aircraft, or NFL teams explaining complicated plays. The students are also looking at the “For Dummies” book franchise and the language-learning software Rosetta Stone.

When I spoke with Rachel Slaff, who’s leading the research group, she said they have found many more examples of failed explainers than background reporting that’s actually working well. It’s not just that some videos are boring, or that a timeline is clunky or a graphic too text-heavy. “The overwhelming theme is: This isn’t actually explaining anything to me. I watched this video or I looked at this chart and I left more confused than I came in,” she said. The major exception has been the BBC, which she said produces consistently effective explainers. The other group favorite has been the RSA Animate video series, in which a hand cheekily illustrates a topic as it’s being explained.

Part of the reason the project is going public so early is to connect with journalists interested in explainer or “future of context” issues. The Studio 20 group will be producing a periodic newsletter with updates on their progress, as well as building a Twitter feed — all ways to broaden the reach of the project, as well as give the graduate students practice in using social media tools.

The “build a better explainer” project is just a first step in figuring out how context-focused reporting will evolve online, Rosen said.  Google’s Living Stories and newspaper topic pages are all aimed at a larger, more complicated problem: “Where does the news accumulate as understanding?”

You can think about the accumulation of understanding in terms of a body of text, a URL where different stories are gathered together, or the way that knowledge builds in a single user, Rosen told me. Whatever the potential model, the next question is, “how do we join to the stream-of-updates part of the news system, a second part of the news system, which gives people a sense of mastery over a big story?”

In other words: Once you’ve built a better explainer, the next challenge is building it a place to live.

October 21 2010

20:30

September 17 2010

14:00

This Week in Review: J-schools as R&D labs, a big news consumption shift, and what becomes of RSS

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

Entrepreneurship and old-school skills in j-school: We found out in February that New York University and the New York Times would be collaborating on a news site focused on Manhattan’s East Village, and this week the site went live. Journalism.co.uk has some of the details of the project: Most of its content will be produced by NYU students in a hyperlocal journalism class, though their goal is to have half of it eventually produced by community members. NYU professor Jay Rosen, an adviser on the project, got into a few more of the site’s particulars, describing its Virtual Assignment Desk, which allows local residents to pitch stories via a new WordPress editing plugin.

Rosen’s caution that “it is going to take a while for The Local East Village to find any kind of stride” notwithstanding, the site got a few early reviews. The Village Voice’s Foster Kamer started by calling the site the Times’ “hyperlocal slave labor experiment” and concluded by officially “declaring war” on it. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram, on the other hand, was encouraged by NYU’s effort to give students serious entrepreneurial skills, as opposed to just churning out “typists and videographers.”

NYU’s project was part of the discussion about the role of journalism schools this week, though. PBS’ MediaShift wrapped up an 11-post series on j-school, which included an interview with Rosen about the journalism as R&D lab and a post comparing and contrasting the tacks being taken by NYU, Jeff Jarvis’ program at the City University of New York and Columbia University. (Unlike the other two, Columbia is taking a decidedly research-oriented route.) Meanwhile, Tony Rogers, a Philadelphia-area j-prof, wrote two articles (one of them a couple of weeks ago) at About.com quoting several professors wondering whether journalism schools have moved too far toward technological skills at the expense of meat-and-potatoes journalism skills.

They weren’t the only ones: Both Teresa Schmedding of the American Copy Editors Society and Iowa State j-school director Michael Bugeja also criticized what they called a move away from the core of journalism in the country’s j-schools. “I expect to teach new hires InDesign, Quark or Twitter, MySpace, FB and how to use whatever the app of the week is, but I don’t expect to teach you what who, what, where, when, why and how means,” Schmedding wrote. TBD’s Steve Buttry countered those arguments with a post asserting that journalists need to know more about disruptive technology and what it’s doing to their future industry. “Far too many journalists and journalism school graduates know next to nothing about the business of journalism and that status quo is indefensible,” said Buttry.

A turning point in news consumption: Like most every Pew survey, the biennial study released this week by the Pew Center for the People & the Press is a veritable cornucopia of information on how people are consuming news. Tom Rosenstiel of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has some fascinating musings of the study’s headline finding: People aren’t necessarily ditching old platforms for news, but are augmenting them with new uses of emerging technology. Rosenstiel sees this as a turning point in news consumption, brought about by more tech-savvy news orgs, faster Internet connections, and increasing new media literacy. Several others — Mathew Ingram of GigaOM, Joe Pompeo of Business Insider, Chas Edwards of Digg — agreed that this development is a welcome one.

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and paidContent’s Staci Kramer have quick summaries of the study’s key statistics, and DailyFinance’s Jeff Bercovici pointed out one particularly portentous milestone: For the first time, the web has eclipsed newspapers as a news source. (But, as Collective Talent noted, we still love our TV news.) Lost Remote’s Cory Bergman took a closer look at news consumption via social media, and j-prof W. Joseph Campbell examined the other side of the coin — the people who are going without news.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project also released an interesting study this week looking at “apps culture,” which essentially didn’t exist two years ago. Beyond the Book interviewed the project’s director, Lee Rainie, about the study, and the Lab gave us five applications for news orgs from the study: Turns out news apps are popular, people will pay for apps, and they consume apps in small doses.

Did social media kill RSS and press releases?: Ask.com announced last Friday that it would shut down Bloglines, the RSS reader it bought in 2005, citing a slowdown in RSS usage as Twitter and Facebook increase their domination of real-time information flow. “The writing is on the wall,” wrote Ask’s president, Doug Leeds. PaidContent’s Joseph Tarkatoff used the news as a peg for the assertion that the RSS reader is dead, noting that traffic is down for Bloglines and Google Reader, and that Google Reader, the web’s most popular RSS reader, is being positioned as more of a social sharing site.

Tech writer Jeff Nolan agreed, arguing that RSS has value as a back-end application but not as a primary news-consumption tool: “RSS has diminishing importance because of what it doesn’t enable for the people who create content… any monetization of content, brand control, traffic funneling, and audience acquisition,” he wrote. Business Insider Henry Blodget joined in declaring RSS readers toast, blaming Twitter and Facebook for their demise. Numerous people jumped in to defend RSS, led by Dave Winer, who helped invent the tool about a decade ago. Winer argued that RSS “forms the pipes through which news flows” and suggested reinventing the technology as a real-time feed with a centralized, non-commercial subscription service.

Tech writer Robert Scoble responded that while the RSS technology might be central to the web, RSS reading behavior is dying. The future is in Twitter and Facebook, he said. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and media consultant Terry Heaton also defended RSS, with Ingram articulating its place alongside Twitter’s real-time flow and Heaton arguing that media companies just need to realize its value as its utility spreads across the web.

RSS wasn’t the only media element declared dead this week; Advertising Age’s Simon Dumenco also announced the expiration of the press release, replaced by the “real-time spin of Facebook and Twitter. PR blogger Jeremy Pepper and j-prof Kathy Gill pushed back with cases for the press release’s continued use.

Twitter’s media-company move: Lots of interesting social media stuff this week; I’ll start with Twitter. The company began rolling out its new main-page design, which gives it a lot of the functions that its independently developed clients have. Twitter execs said the move indicated Twitter’s status as a more consumptive platform, where the bulk of the value comes from reading, rather than writing — something All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka tagged as a fundamental shift for the company: “Twitter is a media company: It gives you cool stuff to look at, you pay attention to what it shows you, and it rents out some of your attention to advertisers.”

GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and venture capitalist David Pakman agreed, with Pakman noting that while Google, Facebook and Twitter all operate platform, users deal overwhelmingly with the company itself — something that’s very valuable for advertisers. The Lab’s Megan Garber also wrote a smart post on the effect of Twitter’s makeover on journalism and information. The new Twitter, Garber writes, moves tweets closer to news articles and inches its own status from news platform closer to a broadcast news platform. Ex-Twitter employee Alex Payne and Ingram (who must have had a busy week) took the opportunity to argue that Twitter as a platform needs to decentralize.

On to Facebook: The New Yorker released a lengthy profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and while not everyone was crazy about it (The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal thought it was boring and unrevealing), it gave the opportunity for one of the people quoted in it — Expert Labs director Anil Dash — to deliver his own thoughtful take on the whole Facebook/privacy debate. Dash isn’t that interested in privacy; what he is worried about is “this company advocating for a pretty radical social change to be inflicted on half a billion people without those people’s engagement, and often, effectively, without their consent.”

Elsewhere around social media and news: Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik wrote a fantastic overview of what news organizations are beginning to do with social media, and we got closer looks at PBS NewsHour, DCist and TBD in particular.

Reading roundup: Plenty of stuff worth reading this week. Let’s get to it.

— Last week’s discussion on online traffic and metrics spilled over into this week, as the Lab’s Nikki Usher and C.W. Anderson discussed the effects of journalists’ use of web metrics and the American Journalism Review’s Paul Farhi looked at the same issue (from a more skeptical perspective). The Columbia Journalism Review’s Dean Starkman had the read of the week on the topic (or any topic, really), talking about what the constant churn of news in search of new eyeballs is doing to journalism. All of these pieces are really worth your time.

— The San Jose Mercury News reported that Apple is developing a plan for newspaper subscriptions through its App Store that would allow the company to take a 30 percent cut of all the newspaper subscriptions it sells and 40 percent of their advertising revenue. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum was skeptical of the report, but Ken Doctor had nine good questions on the issue while we find out whether there’s anything to it.

— Another British Rupert Murdoch paper, News of the World, is going behind a paywall in October. PaidContent was skeptical, but Paul Bradshaw said it’ll do better than Murdoch’s other newly paywalled British paper, The Times.

— The Atlantic published a very cool excerpt from a book on video games as journalism by three Georgia Tech academics. I’m guessing you’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the next couple of years.

— Rafat Ali, who founded paidContent gave a kind of depressing interview to Poynter on his exit from the news-about-the-news industry. “I think there’s just too much talk about it, and to some extent it is just an echo chamber, people talking to each other. There’s more talk about the talk than actual action.” Well, shoot, I’d better find a different hobby. (Seriously, though, he’s right — demos, not memos.)

— Finally, a wonderful web literacy tool from Scott Rosenberg: A step-by-step guide to gauge the credibility of anything on the web. Read it, save it, use it.

September 13 2010

19:16

NYC J-Schools Take Divergent Paths on Training, Hyper-Local

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Universities around the country have had to shift the approach of their journalism programs to accommodate a quickly changing media landscape. New York City's journalism schools, in particular, are working to rethink their offerings and adapt to the new world.

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"The challenge inherent to journalism programs today is like taking a bowling ball and trying to hit a fast-moving target," said Adam Penenberg, NYU faculty member and longtime online journalist. Penenberg is teaching a new undergraduate course for NYU this fall about the essentials of entrepreneurial journalism, with topics like managing analytics and using a Twitter account. "It's very difficult for curriculum to change quickly," he said.

As Jay Rosen told MediaShift editor Mark Glaser in the latest 4 Minute Roundup podcast, journalism schools had traditionally been very platform-specific, with students majoring in "broadcast" or "print."

Schools are trying though. The hacker-journalist and journo-entrepreneur are finding homes in programs like Columbia's Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism or in CUNY's forthcoming entrepreneurial journalism graduate program. These cross-disciplinary degrees equip journalists with more than a background in a particular medium.

"Every student needs to grasp the entire puzzle of innovation," said Rosen. "Everything from business models and the nature of the web to involving the community and using multimedia."

Increasingly, universities are looking to project-based curriculum to teach students not only how journalism works now, but how it might survive in the future.

This year both the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute launched collaborations with the New York Times on two of its "The Local" hyper-local sites to explore the questions our news media must answer as it seeks to reboot itself and as journalism schools struggle to expose their students to the full puzzle of innovation. CUNY took over operation of The Local - Fort Greene in January and NYU's start-up The Local - East Village (LEV) goes live today.

NYU

"What I want students to do is look at the web as an opportunity to learn about journalism today by participating in it," said Rosen, who heads the Studio 20 program at NYU that has been planning the LEV for the last year. The model for the LEV site focuses on giving the community opportunities to contribute content to the site. Called the Virtual Assignment Desk, the site will have a feature that allows community members, such as NYU students and local residents, to pitch and contribute to story assignments.

"The idea is that anyone can cover the community," said Assignment Desk plug-in developer Daniel Bachhuber, a digital media manager at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

One of the challenges these types of partnerships in journalism face is ensuring that the student-produced media remains consistent with the standards of the participating news organization. That's where Rich Jones, editor of the LEV, comes in. "We'll obviously bring professional level standards to the treatment of those issues, being under the Times banner brings certain responsibilities," said Jones, a former New York Times writer. "We just want to give students the skills they were need to have a really successful career."

Another challenge NYU faces is making sure that the site remains consistent over the entire year, not just the school year. During the school year, NYU students in the Reporting New York graduate subject concentration will be responsible for the day-to-day content; during the summer the site will be run by a combination of undergraduate summer students and graduate interns in editorial leadership roles as part of the NYU Hyperlocal Newsroom Summer Academy.

"We wanted to make it available to students across the country," said Brooke Kroeger, director of the NYU Journalism Institute.

Undergraduates will be able to enroll in either of two six-week sessions; graduate students are eligible for paid editorial internships assisting with the professional staff of the LEV. "The summer program is integral to the ecosystem that supports the project," she said.

NYU also must deal with inherent conflicts in coverage of the East Village, given that the university is the neighborhood's largest land-owner. Community liaison Kim Davis will be coordinating outreach to the East Village blogosphere and will arrange any coverage pertaining to NYU itself.

"We're willing to work with anybody," said Jones. "We want to promote a real neighborhood-wide conversation, a forum for folks to write stories about themselves."

CUNY

The CUNY collaboration on The Local: Fort Greene is different from its NYU counterpart for a number of reasons. NYU is the largest land-owner in the area that the LEV is covering; CUNY is in a different borough than Fort Greene altogether. CUNY's graduate school of journalism is also relatively small, with approximately 100 students in its ranks. For these reasons, it makes sense that CUNY has taken a different tack with the overall direction for its Local.

"Our goal is to move beyond the idea that we create all the content for The Local," said Jarvis. "What we are concentrating heavily on is the encouragement of the ecosystem itself."

CUNY is taking its partnership with the NYT on The Local as an opportunity to let faculty leadership and student journalists experiment with not only different ways of telling stories, but different ways to pay for those stories, too. Through partnerships with companies like GrowthSpur Jarvis hopes that the site will encourage citizen salespeople to monetize their own start-ups.

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CUNY's Jarvis is also leading the creation of a four-semester entrepreneurial journalism graduate program that he hopes will see its students invent the future of journalism.

Through a focused entrepreneurial curriculum, research into alternative business models for news, and an incubator/investment fund for new business models for news, the program hopes to give students an option to start their own media company, according to Stephen Shepard, dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. "We feel we have to take some responsibility for the future of quality journalism," said Shepard.

"Students' most important job in journalism school is to learn journalism," said Jarvis, "but the benefit here is that they can test out their idea and get advice and help."

Columbia

Not everyone agrees with CUNY's approach, though. "There's a pretty clear finding on where universities can best contribute in a sector that is or should be going through an innovative period," said Nicolas Lemann, dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. Research is where universities can really add value, said Lemann.

Last fall, the Graduate School of Journalism released a report titled the The Reconstruction of American Journalism. Watchdog publication The Columbia Journalism Review is also run by, though editorially separate from, the school.

"We're not best positioned to be a business incubator, and though we could do that, it's not where we we can make our best contribution," said Lemann.

Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism has partly responded to the changing media environment by launching its Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism, and it also offers courses like a social media seminar taught by an all-star class of professional new media journalists, such as Vadim Lavrusik of Mashable, Zach Seward of the Wall Street Journal, and Jennifer Preston of the New York Times.

Columbia also encourages journalism students to contribute to class websites. "These sites don't last very long though, and therefore don't build very significant audiences," said Lemann. "One of the things I'd like to do next is build a site that lasts year-round."

Leman's number one goal is to have a contextual curriculum that prepares students to go out and do a story. "There's endless stuff going on at the school," he said. "The aggregate is that this has been a time of real opportunity for journalism schools in general and ours in particular."

Davis Shaver is MediaShift's editorial intern. He is also the founder and publisher of Onward State, an online news organization at Penn State. He studies history and the intersection of science, technology, and society.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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16:39

New York Times and NYU launch new East Village hyperlocal blog

The New York Times and New York University have jointly launched a new hyperlocal blog today covering the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan.

According to a release from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism, the site is aiming for 50 per cent of its content to be produced by members of the East Village community. Readers will be able to submit content to the site through its Virtual Assignment Desk, which allows readers to send in stories, photographs, multimedia, and news tips.

Some content will be paid for, says NYU professor Jay Rosen, who is acting as an advisor to the project, but the site will also rely on voluntary contributions.



Most of the site’s content will be provided by students on The Hyperlocal Newsroom, a new course in NYU’s Reporting New York program.

Editor of The Local:East Village is Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute professor and former Times reporter Richard G. Jones, who calls the site “a significant step forward in pro-am journalism collaborations”. He will work alongside Times deputy metro editor Mary Ann Giordano.

The Times launched ‘The Local’ project last year with two New York hyperlocal blogs covering Brooklyn and New Jersey, both run in conjunction with City University of New York (CUNY). In July this year the newspaper passed control of the New Jersey site to Barstanet.com.

More from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at this link.

More on the The Local: East Village and NYU’s Hyperlocal Newsroom Summer School in the video below.

Similar Posts:



September 10 2010

23:35

4 Minute Roundup: NYU's Jay Rosen on Rethinking J-Schools

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In this week's 4MR podcast I do another special report for our "Beyond J-School" series, this time an in-depth discussion with NYU's Jay Rosen, who has been taking a new approach to journalism education. Rosen told me more about his Studio20 program, using an arts metaphor, and its work in helping to launch the new hyper-local site for the East Village in conjunction with the New York Times.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio91010.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Jay Rosen, touching on student expectations, and the mistake of news organizations in not using J-schools as R&D labs in the past:

jayrosen final.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Special Series - Beyond J-School at MediaShift

Studio20 on Tumblr

The New York Times' Latest Hyperlocal Site Will Launch On Sept. 13 at the Business Insider

Times Comes to Town, Sweating in Its Gown at Capital New York

The Local - East Village

The New York Times, NYU's Carter Journalism Institute to Launch News Site to Cover East Village at NYU

After helping ruin the East Village, NYU turns its attention to covering it at EV Grieve

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you think about the new Ping social network:




What do you think about the Ping social network in iTunes?customer surveys

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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August 31 2010

16:00

For extra revenue, and to shore up content, j-schools to turn to summer programs for high school students

Journalism schools are ripe for experimentation. They’ve got students excited about the future of the industry, professors free from the profit pressures of a newsroom, and all the resources of a university.

But at the same time, there are two obvious problems with running an online news project out of a j-school: the cost (nothing’s free, even if you don’t need to turn a profit) and the doldrums of summer (universities might go dark, but the Internet doesn’t.) A few journalism programs are taking on these problems with a surprising semi-solution: high school students.

New York University’s new hyperlocal news site, The Local East Village, run in partnership with The New York Times, is starting a summer 2011 program that will both shore up content and generate income for the young project. The students will pay tuition — around $4,000 a course when you look at cost-per-unit — to participate. If their work is good enough, it’ll appear on the site and help the void that comes from summertime on the academic calendar. Publication isn’t guaranteed.

“We have a lot of ambition for the site and it’s not free,” Brooke Kroeger, the director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, told me. “It’s not costless…What I find exciting about [the East Village site], rather than creating a center or a separate little institute, or something that is apart from what we do, this has been fully integrated into our curriculum — even the summer, which isn’t always the case,” Kroeger said.

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University is also experimenting with a summer high school program. This summer they launched a two-week program for high schoolers interested in learning the craft of investigative reporting.

“It certainly fit our mission,” said Joe Bergantino, the director of the center, explaining that they are expected to not only produce investigative work for news outlets, but train the next generation of investigative journalists. “It’s an obvious thing to do and an important thing to do.”

This year 39 high school students participated, paying $900 per weeklong session. In the first week, students learned database reporting and other investigative techniques. In the optional second week, most students continued working on a story they selected, or did research work for the reporters at the Center. “That tuition is used to fund our work at the Center,” Bergantino said.

High school journalism programs aren’t new, although using profits from them to support news outlets is a twist. At Northwestern, Medill has long had a program called the National High School Institute that attracts top-tier high schoolers likely to pursue journalism in college. But the money raised from the program goes back to supporting it, rather than other Medill projects, according to Roger Boye, director of the program. The return comes in recruitment: Last year, 22 of the 83 participants, known as “Cherubs,” went on to enroll at Northwestern University after graduating high school.

“If the school benefits, that’s how they’re benefiting,” Boye said.

March 05 2010

16:00

This Week in Review: Surveying the online news scene, web-first mags, and Facebook patents its feed

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

The online news landscape defined: Much of the discussion about journalism this week revolved around two survey-based studies. I’ll give you an overview on both and the conversation that surrounded them.

The first was a behemoth of a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism. (Here’s Pew’s overview and the full report.) The report, called “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer,” is a treasure trove of fascinating statistics and thought-provoking nuggets on a variety of aspects of the world of online news. It breaks down into five basic parts: 1) The news environment in America; 2) How people use and feel about news; 3) news and the Internet; 4) Wireless news access; and 5) Personal, social and participatory news.

I’d suggest taking some time to browse a few of those sections to see what tidbits interest you, but to whet your appetite, the Lab’s Laura McGann has a few that jumped out at her — few people exclusively rely on the Internet for news, only half prefer “objective” news, and so on.

Several of the sections spurred their own discussions, led by the one focusing on the social nature of online news. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram has a good summary of the study’s social-news findings, and Micah Sifry of techPresident highlights the sociological angle of news participation. Tech startup guy Dave Pell calls us “Curation Nation” and notes that for all our sharing, we don’t do much of the things going on in our own backyards. And Steve Yelvington has a short but smart take, noting that the sociality of news online is actually a return to normalcy, and the broadcast age was the weird intermission: “The one-way flow that is characteristic of print and electronic broadcasting is at odds with our nature. The Internet ends that directional tyranny.”

The other section of the study to get significant attention was the one on mobile news. PBS’ Idea Lab has the summary, and Poynter’s Mobile Media blog notes that an FCC study found similar results not long ago. Finally, Jason Fry has some hints for news organizations based on the study (people love weather news, and curation and social media have some value), and Ed Cafasso has some implications for marketing and PR folks.

A web-first philosophy for magazine sites: The Columbia Journalism Review also released another comprehensive, if not quite so sprawling, study on magazines and the web. (Here’s the full report and the CJR feature based on it.) The feature is a great overview of the study’s findings on such subjects on magazines’ missions on the web, their decision-making, their business models, editing, and use of social media and blogs. It’s a long read, but quite engaging for an article on an academic survey.

One of the more surprising (and encouraging) findings of the study is that magazine execs have a truly web-centric view of their online operation. Instead of just using the Internet as an extension of their print product, many execs are seeing the web as a valuable arena in itself. As one respondent put it, “We migrated from a print publication supplemented with online articles to an online publication supplemented with print editions.” That’s a seriously seismic shift in philosophy.

CJR also put up another brief post highlighting the finding that magazine websites on which the print editor makes most of the decisions tend to be less profitable. The New York Times’ report on the study centers on the far lower editing standards that magazines exercise online, and the editing-and-corrections guru Craig Silverman gives a few thoughts on the study’s editing and fact-checking findings.

Facebook patents the news feed: One significant story left over from last week: Facebook was granted a patent for its news feed. All Facebook broke the news, and included the key parts of Facebook’s description of what about the feed it’s patenting. As the tech blog ReadWriteWeb notes, this news could be huge — the news feed is a central concept within the social web and particularly Twitter, which is a news feed. But both blogs came to the tentative conclusion that the patent covers a stream of user activity updates within a social network, not status updates, leaving Twitter unaffected. (ReadWriteWeb’s summary is the best description of the situation.)

The patent still wasn’t popular. NYU news entrepreneur Cody Brown cautioned that patents like this could move innovation overseas, and New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson called the patent “lunacy,” making the case that software patents almost always reward derivative work. Facebook, Wilson says, dominates the world of social news feeds “because they out executed everyone else. But not because they invented the idea.” Meanwhile, The Big Money’s Caitlin McDevitt points out an interesting fact: When Facebook rolled out its news feed in 2006, it was ripped by its users. Now, the feed is a big part of the foundation of the social web.

What’s j-schools’ role in local news?Last week’s conversation about the newly announced local news partnership between The New York Times and New York University spilled over into a broader discussion about j-schools’ role in preserving local journalism. NYU professor Jay Rosen chatted with the Lab’s Seth Lewis about what the project might mean for other j-schools, and made an interesting connection between journalism education and pragmatism, arguing that “our knowledge develops not when we have the most magnificent theory or the best data but when we have a really, really good problem,” which is where j-schools should start.

An Inside Higher Ed article outlines several of the issues in play in j-school local news partnerships like this one, and Memphis j-prof Carrie Brown-Smith pushes back against the idea that j-schools are exploiting students by keeping enrollment high while the industry contracts. She argues that the skills picked up in a journalism education — thinking critically about information, checking its accuracy, communicating ideas clearly, and so on — are applicable to a wide variety of fields, as well as good old active citizenship itself. News business expert Alan Mutter comes from a similar perspective on the exploitation question, saying that hands-on experience through projects like NYU’s new one is the best thing j-schools can do for their students.

This week in iPad tidbits: Not a heck of a lot happened in the world of the iPad this week, but there’ll be enough regular developments and opinions that I should probably include a short update every week to keep you up to speed. This week, the Associated Press announced plans to create a paid service on the iPad, and the book publisher Penguin gave us a sneak peek at their iPad app and strategy.

Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson and tech writer James Kendrick both opined on whether the iPad will save magazines: Anderson said yes, and Kendrick said no. John Battelle, one of Wired’s founders, told us why he doesn’t like the iPad: “It’s an old school, locked in distribution channel that doesn’t want to play by the new rules of search+social.”

Reading roundup: I’ve got an abnormally large amount of miscellaneous journalism reading for you this week. Let’s start with two conversations to keep an eye on: First, in the last month or so, we’ve been seeing a lot of discussion on science journalism, sparked in part by a couple of major science conferences. This is a robust conversation that’s been ongoing, and it’s worth diving into for anyone at the intersection of those two issues. NYU professor Ivan Oransky made his own splash last week by launching a blog about embargoes in science journalism.

Second, the Lab’s resident nonprofit guru Jim Barnett published a set of criteria for determining whether a nonprofit journalism outfit is legitimate. Jay Rosen objected to the professionalism requirement and created his own list. Some great nuts-and-bolts-of-journalism talk here.

Also at the Lab, Martin Langeveld came out with the second part of his analysis on newspapers’ quarterly filings, with info on the Washington Post Co., Scripps, Belo, and Journal Communications. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum drills a bit deeper into the question of how much of online advertising comes from print “upsells.”

The Online Journalism Review’s Robert Niles has a provocative post contending that the distinction between creation and aggregation of news content is a false one — all journalism is aggregation, he says. I don’t necessarily agree with the assertion, but it’s a valid challenge to the anti-aggregation mentality of many newspaper execs. And I can certainly get behind Niles’ larger point, that news organization can learn a lot from online news aggregation.

Finally, two great guides to Twitter: One, a comprehensive list of Twitter resources for journalists from former newspaper exec Steve Buttry, and two, some great tips on using Twitter effectively even if you have nothing to say, courtesy of The New York Times. Enjoy.

February 26 2010

15:00

This Week in Review: The Times’ blogs behind the wall, paid news on the iPad, and a new local news co-op

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

A meter for the Times’ blogs: Plenty of stuff happened at the intersection of journalism and new media this week, and for whatever reason, a lot of it had something to do with The New York Times. We’ll start with the most in-depth piece of information from the Times itself: A 35-minute Q&A session with the three executives most responsible for the Times’ coming paywall (or, more specifically and as they prefer to call it, a metered model) at last Friday’s paidContent 2010 conference. No bombshells were dropped — paidContent has a short summary to go with the video — but it did provide the best glimpse yet into the Times’ thinking behind and approach to their paywall plans.

The Times execs said they believe the paper can maintain its reach despite the meter while adding another valuable source of revenue. Meghan Keane of Econsultancy was skeptical about those plans, saying that the metered model could turn the Times into a niche newspaper.

Reuters’ Felix Salmon started one of the more perplexing exchanges of the session (starting at about 18:10 on the video) when he asked whether the Times would put blogs behind its paywall. The initial response, from publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., was “stay tuned,” followed shortly, from digital chief Martin Nisenholtz, by “our intention is to keep blogs behind the wall.” A Times spokeswoman clarified the statements later (yes, blogs would be part of the metered model), and Salmon blogged about his concern with the Times’ execs’ response. He was not the only one who thought this might not be a good idea.

My take: Salmon has some valid concerns, and, piggybacking off of the ideas he wrote after the paywall’s initial announcement, even the Times’ most regular online readers will be quite hesitant to use their limited meter counts on, say, two-paragraph blog posts on the economics of valet parking. Times blogs like Freakonomics and Bits are a huge part of their cachet on the web, and including them in the meter could do them significant damage.

The iPad and paid content: We also saw another aspect of the Times’ paid-content plans at a conference in Australia, where Marc Frons, the paper’s chief technology officer, talked about the Times’ in-progress iPad app. Frederic Filloux, another one of the conference’s speakers, provided a useful summary of publishers’ attitudes and concerns about creating apps for the iPad, including their expectation that Apple will provide some sort of news store built on the iTunes framework.

Two media vets offered a word of caution to news organizations excited about the iPad’s possibilities for gaining revenue for news: Kara Swisher of The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital blog said that “with their hands on none of the key technology and innovation levers online … media giants continue to be without even a pair sticks to rub together to make digital fire.” And citizen journalism pioneer Dan Gillmor wondered whether news orgs “should get in bed with a company that makes unilateral and non-transparent decisions” like the ones Apple’s been making for years.

For those following the future of paid news content, we have a few other new data points to consider: The stats-heavy sports publication The Sporting News will begin charging for its daily digital edition, and a small daily newspaper in Washington State says the first year of their paywall has been a tentative success, with less effect on traffic than expected. Also, Alistair Bruce of Microsoft has a thorough breakdown of who’s charging for what online in a slideshow posted last week. It’s a wonderful resource you’ll want to keep for future reference.

NYT, NYU team up on local journalism: The Times also had one of the week’s big future-of-journalism announcements — a partnership with New York University to create and run a news site devoted to New York’s East Village, where NYU has several buildings. NYU professor Jay Rosen has all the details you’ll need, including who’s providing what. (NYT: publishing platform, editorial oversight, data sources, inspiration. NYU: editor’s salary, student and faculty labor, offices.)

The partnership raised a few media-critic eyebrows, mostly over the issue of the Times using free (to them, at least) student labor after buying out and laying off 100 paid reporters. The Awl, BNETThe New York Observer, and Econsultancy all have short but acerbic reactions making just that point, with The Awl making a quick note about the professionalization of journalism and BNET speculating about the profit margins the Times will make off of this project.

Innocence, objectivity and reality in journalism: Jay Rosen kicked off some conversation in another corner of the future-of-journalism discussion this week, bringing his influential PressThink blog out of a 10-month hiatus with a post on a theme he’s been pushing hard on Twitter over the past year: Political journalists’ efforts to appear innocent in their reporting at the expense of the truth.

Rosen seizes on a line in a lengthy Times Tea Party feature on “a narrative of impending tyranny” and wonders why the Times wouldn’t tell us whether that narrative was grounded in reality. Journalistic behavior like this, Rosen says, is grounded in the desire to appear innocent, “meaning a determination not to be implicated, enlisted, or seen by the public as involved.” That drive for innocence leads savviness to supplant reality in political journalism, Rosen said.

The argument’s been made before, by Rosen and others such as James Fallows, and Joey Baker sums it up well in a post building off of Rosen’s. But Rosen’s post drew a bit of criticism — in his comments, from the left (Mother Jones), from the libertarian right (Reason), and from tech blogger Stephen Baker. The general strain running through these responses was the idea that the Times’ readers are smart enough to determine the veracity of the claims being made in the article. (Rosen calls that a dodge.) The whole discussion is a fresh, thoughtful iteration of the long-running debate over objectivity in news coverage.

Where do reporting and aggregation fit?: We got some particularly valuable data and discussion on one of journalism’s central conversations right now — how reporting will work in a new ecosystem of news. Here at the Lab, Jonathan Stray examined how that new landscape looked in one story about charges of Chinese schools’ connections to hacks into Google. He has a fairly thorough summary of the results, headlined by the finding that just 13 of the 121 versions of the story on Google News involved original reporting. “When I think of how much human effort when into re-writing those hundred other unique stories that contained no original reporting, I cringe,” Stray writes. “That’s a huge amount of journalistic effort that could have gone into reporting other deserving stories. Why are we doing this?”

Also at the Lab, CUNY professor C.W. Anderson spun off of Stray’s study with his own musings on the definition and meaning of original reporting and aggregation. He concludes that aggregation/curation/filtering isn’t quite original reporting, but it does provide journalistic value that should be taken into consideration.

Two other interesting pieces on the related subjects of citizen journalism and hyperlocal journalism: PR/tech blogger Darren Barefoot raises concerns about citizen journalism’s ability to do investigative journalism, and J-Lab’s Jan Schaffer makes a strong case for the importance of entrepreneurs and citizen journalists in the new system of news.

Reading roundup: I’ve got two news developments and two thoughtful pieces for you. First, BusinessWeek reported on AOL’s efforts to build “the newsroom of the future,” a model largely driven by traffic and advertising data, not unlike the controversial Demand Media model, only with full-time journalists.

Editors Weblog raises some questions about such an openly traffic-driven setup, and media/tech watcher Tom Foremski says AOL should be focusing on creating smart news analysis. Social media guru Chris Brogan likes the arrangement, noting that there’s a difference between journalism and publishing.

The second news item is ABC News’ announcement that they’re looking to cut 300 to 400 of its 1,400 positions and move toward a more streamlined operation built around “one-man band” digital journalists. The best examinations of what this means for ABC and TV journalism are at the Los Angeles Times and the Poynter Institute.

The first thoughtful piece is theoretical: CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis’ overview of the evolution of the media’s “spheres of discovery,” from brands to algorithms to human links to predictive creation. It’s a good big-picture look at where new media stand and where they might be going.

The second is more practical: In a Q&A, Howard Owens of the award-winning upstate New York hyperlocal startup The Batavian gives an illuminating glimpse into life in hyperlocal journalism. He touches on everything from advertising to work hours to digital equipment. Building off of Owens’ comments of the personal nature of online news, Jason Fry muses about the uphill battle that news faces to win our attention online. But if that battle is won, Fry says, the loyalty and engagement is so much greater online: “I chose this. I’m investing in it. This doesn’t work and wastes my investment — next. This does work and rewards my investment — I’m staying.”

February 23 2010

16:34

US Digest: NYT launches hyperlocal, HuffPost chases students, Shatner plays Twitterer, and more

Starting this week, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.


NYT explore new avenues with another hyperlocal blog

Starting off small today, with news that the New York Times is launching another hyperlocal blog. this time in conjunction with students from New York University (NYU).

The new blog, which will report on New York’s East Village, will come under the Times’ URL but be developed and launched by students from the NYU Studio 20 Journalism Masters programme.

Two NY hyperlocals were launched by the paper last year under a channel called ‘The Local’. One covers Clinton Hill and Fort Greene in Brooklyn, the other Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange in New Jersey. Those blogs featured student contributions from the start, but were helmed by Times staff (although the former was recently turned over to students from CUNY). The new East Village blog is edited by a Times staffer but will be largely overseen, from inception to launch, by NYU students.

Jessica Roy, blogger at NYULocal and member of the East Village project said:

While the site will function in a similar way to the hyperlocal sites the Times already has running in Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill and Maplewood, this will be the first time journalism students will be heavily involved in the site’s content and design process before the launch.

It will be interesting to see how this ties in with the reported NYT plans to hide their blogs away behind a paywall. Can the Freakonomics blog, Paul Krugman, and other NYT blog big-hitters tempt readers to pay? Can a bunch of students from NYU?

Arianna Huffington admits spending “a lot of time” on college campuses

The NYT are not the only ones hanging around campuses and jumping in bed with students, “I’ve spent a lot of time on campuses lately” admits Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post.

But Arianna is not, apparently, just trying to recapture a youth she threw away on “promise, passion, intellectual curiosity, and vitality”. She is referring to the launch of HuffPost College, a new section of the Huffington Post devoted to the promising, passionate, intellectually curious, and vital students out there, and presumably to the billions of normal students too.

Edited by Jose Antonio Vargas, our Tech and Innovations editor, with the help of Leah Finnegan, a recent graduate of the University of Texas and the former editor of the Daily Texan, HuffPost College is designed to be a virtual hub for college life, bringing you original and cross-posted material from a growing list of college newspapers.

“Announcing HuffPost College: No SAT scores or admission essays needed” reads Arianna’s headline.

Just an internet connection then, which everyone in America must have by now, right? Hmmm…. Published yesterday, the results of an FCC study into internet use in America show that a third of the population don’t have broadband internet access – some 93 million –  and the majority of those don’t have any access whatsoever.

Here is John Horrigan, who oversaw the survey for the FCC, making the findings sound impressively grotesque:

Overall internet penetration has been steady in the mid-70 to upper 70 per cent range over the last five years. Now we’re at a point where, if you want broadband adoption to go up by any significant measure, you really have to start to eat into the segment of non-internet-users.

Fortunately for Arianna Huffington, those remaining blissfully un-penetrated (albeit in danger of being eaten into by hungry internet providers) are “disproportionately older and more likely to live in rural areas”, and not the vigourous youth, who are probably desperate to spend their time out of college at home reading about college.

Shatner to play Twitterer

One elderly American well in tune with all things online is Justin Halpern’s dad. Even if he doesn’t quite get why. Justin Halpern’s dad is the man behind Justin Halpern’s Twitter account, “Shit My Dad Says.” Although this is slightly old story already, news that William Shatner will be playing an curmudgeonly, 74 year-old man whose live-in 29 year-old son tweets “shit that he says” is too ridiculous to pass up. If CBS are in luck, the account’s 1,187,371 followers, and many more, will tune in to hear William Shatner say this:

A parent’s only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed.

And many, many other 140-character pearls of wisdom far to rude for the very mild-mannered Journalism.co.uk. I for one prefer Justin Halpern’s dad’s personal choice of James Earl Jones, and appalud his straight talking response to suggestions that colour is an issue.

He wanted James Earl Jones to play him. I was like, ‘But you’re white.’ He was like, ‘Well, we don’t have to be! Who gives a [censored]? You asked me who I thought, and that’s who I think.’

Who could possibly resist the powerful combination of Halpern Snr’s coarse tweets and Darth Vader’s husky voice?

Largest YouTube content provider reaches 1 billion views

One million followers is an impressive landmark in the Twitterverse, it puts you up there in the Twittersphere with such luminaries as Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher. It’s about 28,000 times as many as I have. Demand Media went a thousand times better than that though in YouTube terms yesterday, with its billionth view.

According to its site, the company, which has about 500 staff and is based in Santa Monica, provides “social media solutions that consumers really want”. Demand is the largest content supplier to YouTube, owning around 170,000 videos available on the site.

Co-founder of Demand Shawn Colo discusses the YouTube platform and the company’s media strategy, courtesy of Beet.TV.

Rampant cutbacks trumped by loaded shotgun

Finally, from Editor & Publisher, the happy news that redundancy is no longer the most frightening thing in the newsroom.

Employees at the Grand Forks Herald, Chicago, were more than a little surprised to find a loaded shotgun in a closet at the paper’s head offices.

“No notes, no threats, no nothing – just a loaded shotgun in a case in a closet in a common area, five rounds in it,” Grand Forks Police Lt. Grant Schiller said.

For those staffers who may not have already jumped to this conclusion, Herald editor Mike Jacobs made it clear that: “Carrying a loaded gun into the building is a dismissible offense.”

Newspaper journalists, in an age when your profession is almost a dismissable offence in itself, please, leave your loaded shotguns at home.

Image of East Village by Joe Madonna

Image of weapons ban sign by Dan4th

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