Web Publishist

Icon

The news and online journalism industry through the eyes of a young Web publishist.

Know your community bloggers

Blogging is pretty widespread. While I wouldn’t quite call it ubiquitous, it’s getting there. Despite that it’s fair to say that most every community in the US likely has a blogger or two sitting in homes clacking away about what’s happening with them in their community.

In the age of Web-first and community involvement, these kinds of people are extremely valuable. Titles need to know who the bloggers are in their communities. If the blogger is good, offer them a platform to write on a specific subject. Money is tight, but I believe that many would be happy to have the platform and to be recognized as an authoritative voice in their community on a specific subject.

It’s often as easy as keyword searching locations and landmarks in your coverage area into Google’s blog searcher. This will give you an index of instances where these locations have been mentioned in blogs. Half the work is already done for you.

If there’s a college in your area that has a journalism program, you should be walking into those classrooms and asking for applicants who consider themselves good bloggers. These students are looking for ways to add experiences to their portfolios and the students looking to get ahead will see this as a prime opportunity.

Community and hyper-local journalism is going to need to return to the community to rebuild its reputation and standing. This is a perfect opportunity to involve the community, learn more about your readers and increase the amount of content you’re putting online.

Filed under: newspaper websites, social media, student journalism, , , , ,

J-school & Web development: A perfect match

An interesting article was floating around Twitter a few days ago. It appeared in Editor & Publisher and was written by Seth Porges, who is currently an editor at Popular Mechanics magazine.

The subject he addressed was whether j-schools are adequately preparing students for the real world – and in it suggesting they’ve misstepped.

His thesis statement is that j-schools are too quick to adopt new media standards, such as basic Web coding, and are in the process throwing out pre-existing elements of core curriculum that should remain.

In this blog post I take chunks of what Mr Porges said, and give my thoughts and opinions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: design, newspaper websites, social media, student journalism, , , , ,

Thoughts from the “Practices in Online Journalism” roundtable

Earlier today City University London hosted a roundtable discussion on its campus titled “Practices in Online Journalism”. Throughout the roundtable I was Tweeting updates using the hashtag #pioj. Here are some of the Tweets, followed by more in-depth thoughts on the subjects. You’ll notice that most of these are just statements unattributed to a single speaker. I’m more interested in what was said than who said it, in this instance.

Gather as wide range of skills as you can so you can show you’re competant across different platforms“.

This subject came up a few different times throughout the session. It’s the idea that students in journalism school today should not be tied to a singular medium. It’s time to face facts that simply being a good reporter won’t cut it in this era of journalism. Fifteen years ago you’d be OK. Probably even as recently as 10 years ago. But not in 2009.

Discussion turned to business models for online journalism. The industry is trying to figure out not only how to be sustainable, but to be profitable, too. But you’ve got to learn to walk before you run, so I suspect the online journalism industry is a good while away from being profitable. I suspect that doesn’t come as much consolation to the 6,169+ who’ve so far lost their jobs in the U.S.

But what if it isn’t the journalism that needs to make money, but the method in which the journalism is distributed? Here’s a note from Matteo Berlucci, CEO of Livestation.

For entrepreneurism in journalism, the money is in the service, not the content

He followed this up by explaining why he prefers to use iTunes to get music over the peer-to-peer networks. It’s because he can get the songs quickly, and transfer them to his Mp3 player in a matter of seconds after purchasing. Matteo suggested that this may be a model for news outlets.

We’ve heard about the iTunes model for news and we know it’s mostly rubbish. But that’s not what Matteo is referring to. He’s suggesting that news outlets, whether their newspapers, magazines, or strictly on the Web, need to deliver the news to their readers in their preferred format and to be able to constantly evolve as their readers’ habits evolve.

The rise in popularity of news on the Web has meant that consumers have more options than ever to stay informed in whichever way suits them. This was another subject addressed.

“People can now comparison shop for news.”

It’s unlikely that someone will have just one place they like to go for news, just as it’s unlikely that you’re only going to go to one coffee shop every day. People’s moods change, their beliefs change and their interests change. Personally I visit about 10 different news sites regularly. But each day I’m exposed to new ones. The ones I like, I’ll bookmark and revisit. It’s not possible for a news outlet to be everything to everyone. Brand loyalty in the news is a thing of the past.

And one final note from the roundtable, this time about prospects for student journalists:

“There’s a window of opportunity for people leaving jschool who know how to do multimedia.”

There’s a now-widely read post from Nieman Labs discussing why young journalists need to get beyond their institutional mindsets. Toward the end it notes that many newspaper editors who have young journalists in their newsrooms are finding that these young people aren’t fitting the stereotype that they should be full of angst, ready to change the industry.

I’m going to suggest that the people who are set to change it, the young people, that is, are still in school. In the next 2-3 years, as they begin to filter through their respective programs and into newsrooms, they’ll be the ones who more fully understand social media, who know how to shoot and edit video, and who want to change things.

Filed under: newspaper websites, social media, student journalism, , , ,

Crowdsourcing my dissertation subject decision

This is a bit of a break from what I typically write about, but I thought if anyone could help me reach a decision on this, it’s the industry professionals who read this blog.

Many of you already know that I’m currently pursuing an MA in Electronic Publishing at City University London. I came to do this degree because I wanted to gain an edge in the ways of new media, both through shooting and editing A/V, and Web development.

For my dissertation I have two options: I can write a full academic dissertation; or do a project and write a shorter “dissertation” to accompany it. I’ve been thinking about this dissertation for a while. My first ideas were pretty far-fetched and (most likely) involved more travel than I can afford. But I have a new plan. It’s a project that I’m very interested in doing. But I do have reservations.

The project

In February 2008 I had something of an epiphany about my hometown newspaper, The Oakland Press. I realized how badly they needed to launch a Web-based youth-focused news magazine. I know this because I’ve been a resident of Oakland County nearly my entire life. But before going to the paper with this idea, I decided to do a bit of research to see if my theories about the county’s population were at all as I believed they were: young, educated and affluent. Here’s a excerpt from the proposal I eventually sent to the paper:

Today’s Oakland County resident is dynamic, well-educated, Internet-savvy, and young. According to a recent American Community Survey, the 18 to 24 segment of the population grew almost 8 percent between 2002 and 2005, to 91,228. In that same survey, it found that the 25 to 44 age segment represented over 28 percent of the population, totaling 339,210 in 2005. It also found that children in Oakland County made up almost 25 percent if the total population and numbered 297,331 in 2005.1 These same young people are also affluent. According to a recent study by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Oakland County has the third-highest per capita income in the nation, at $52,274. That is up 7 percent from 2003.2 A population that is affluent, dynamic, Internet-savvy, young, and well-educated is unlikely to get their news from a standard newspaper.

I saw this as a great opportunity that needed exploring. Unfortunately this proposal came in March 2008, when the industry was beginning to enter its current free-fall. It didn’t help that the company The Journal-Register Company, who own The Oakland Press, was essentially bankrupt at the time. So new spending in an atmosphere of consistent staff layoffs made getting this project off the ground increasingly unlikely. The paper expressed interest, but not in the idea of me producing it for them. They asked me, in effect, to freelance for my own idea. Obviously I couldn’t accept that.

In the time since I sent my proposal, local media coverage in Oakland County has essentially evaporated. With The Oakland Press experiencing an identity crisis, The Detroit Free Press canceling their regional publications, and a major monthly glossy magazine going belly-up, there exists a vacuum.

With my dissertation project, I’d like to fill that vacuum. My idea, however, is smaller than the original proposal I sent out, of a county-wide Web-based publication. Instead I’d like to go hyperlocal, focusing only on the goings-on of my home communities of Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham.

This would be a one-man operation: me. I’ll write the code, write the stories and shoot the multimedia. I’d do this from the middle of May to the end of September. At the same time I’ll be writing the accompanying “dissertation” about the project. I feel confident about being able to develop this because of my background in journalism and, by then, my background in launching online-only news magazines. My second one will launch either by the end of this month or the very beginning of next.

My concerns

It’s important to face facts: The journalism industry is currently in a death spiral. Here in the U.K. the impact is being felt, however the situation is not nearly as bad as it is in the U.S. In the limited amount of time that I’ve been living in London, I’ve been able to afford myself a number of quite lucrative opportunities in the industry and have met very intelligent, well-connected people. Because London is increasingly becoming the global capital once again, the potential opportunities here are more plentiful than they are at home.

There’s also the question of what I do after the project is finished in September. In spite of what the president believes will be the eventual turn-around of the U.S. and world economies, I suspect the trickle-down effect on an individual state basis will take a considerable amount of time. Michigan’s economy is worse off than most other states, so the likelihood that my publication would be bought by a preexisting organization is unlikely, at least in the short term. If the publication is sustainable, I could run it myself. The problem with that is, even running it as a one-man operation, it’s unlikely that I’d be able to make enough money to even be able to begin repaying my student loans.

Another possibility is being hired by a preexisting media organization following the completion of the project, to work on their Web side. I see that as being the most likely outcome if I did return home to complete this project. But is that what I want? Put all the time and effort into creating a publication, making connections, establishing a rapport, just to leave it?

There’s something to be said for picking the industry up by its bootstraps and “being the change” that the industry needs. What I don’t know is if it’s the right thing for me to do.

What do you think?

Filed under: community journalism, newspaper websites, student journalism, , ,

J-school’s new media deficit

Last night I joined in the weekly Twitter chat #Collegejourn, the college media’s equivalent of the Monday night @Journchat. Most of the topics you’d think would come up in fact did. One point I brought up was the new media deficit in many j-schools.

Most of the lecturers I had in my undergraduate journalism courses were established journalists, with many accolades and well-regarded reputations. Those are the kinds of people you want to be learning journalism from.

The only problem is that most were established, well-regarded print journalists. Most were either clueless to the advancing new media storm, or were outright hostile towards it. As the industry changed at a rapid pace, those journalism lecturers so entrenched in the ways of print continued to teach the same way they had been for years.

This is a problem.

For j-schools this presents a potential crisis of self. They need established, well-regarded faculty to keep your program’s reputation afloat. Often these faculty have PhDs and have published many research papers in a specific area. They are the standard-bearer of what the program stands for.

But what happens when what your faculty is not teaching students everything they need to be successful journalists? What happens when those who have the skills and knowledge to teach them how to succeed in the new media environment may only have an MA, or in some cases less than that?

The solution is simple and, for some universities, hard to swallow: Hire younger people, PhD or not. If someone is coming out of graduate school with a master’s in new media, don’t dismiss them out of hand. Sit them down and listen to what they feel they could bring to your program to help it remain competitive.

Another option is to begin scouting the Web staff from local newspapers for potential adjunct positions. They’re working professionals in the field of online journalism. They’re exactly what you need.

It’s time to abandon the dogmas that so many j-schools have latched onto and begin to face facts — even if it means fewer PhDs walking the halls.

Filed under: student journalism, , , ,

Need video? Short on cash? Go to the journalism department

Recently I was having a chat with a formet co-worker about the publication we worked togther at. They still work there, whereas I’ve moved on. They asked me what suggestions I had for helping increase the site’s visibility. I thought for a moment about it, then realized I’d approached the editors about this very issue a few months prior, when I was still working there.

This paper was lacking a lot, but the one point that stuck out was its extremely limited use of multimedia.

In 2008 many newspapers worldwide began experimenting with video on their Web sites. Some saw great success, while others made great efforts but returned mediocre products, and lost money in the process.

Then there’s the third category, of papers too scared to do anything with video because they’re afraid of the prospect of it not being instantly profitable. They were unwilling to take a chance on something that was “unproven.”

Fair enough.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Newspapers worldwide utilize freelancers. Recently their use has become increased due to reductions in full-time staffing. Often those freelancers are writers and photographers. What I’m suggesting is the freelance realm be expanded to videographers. Specifically, college videographers and those who’ve just graduated.

I noted in a previous post that interns and freelancers want to prove themselves to editors. They want their meddle tested. Photojournalism students are being taught the ways of videography in their degree programs, so why not use their skills? Pay them like a standard freelancer, and pay only for a product that you will run.

There’s the argument that the video won’t be good enough quality, them being still in college. If I were a college photojournalist, I’d be thoroughly insulted by that. Just because they’re in college, learning a craft, does not mean they’re not able to perform. As the editor you’re able to pick who you think would work best for you, and then offer those people the opportunity to prove you right or wrong.

Newspapers should be in constant contact with their local journalism departments, learning about who’s talented in their programs, and who they should be reaching out to for freelance videography jobs. You’ll have to pay them, sure, but it won’t be a lot. And in return the paper has a lot of multimedia content to choose from.

Whether it’s audio, video or soundslides you’re looking for, the best place to go for it is your local journalism department. You’ve got the best and the brightest there, and they all want the chance to show you what they know.

Filed under: newspaper websites, student journalism, , , ,

Writing for your college paper is not enough

Before I started writing for my alma mater’s student newspaper, Central Michigan Life, I started a newsletter in my dorm called The Kessler Chronicle, which borrowed its name from the hall’s name, Kesseler Hall. It wasn’t all that successful, but I did have a writing staff and we did put out a consistent product.

I also did the occasional piece for a publication that one of my professors ran, a monthly news-magazine based in Canada that dealt primarily with the goings-on of the African communities in North America.

Eventually I made my way into the newspaper’s office. I’m glad I did because I had some fantastic experiences there. I’m really proud of a lot of the work I did, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help me get some of the jobs I’ve had.

But after two years I reached a point where either I needed to make a greater commitment to the paper or forge ahead on my own and see what opportunities I could find on a freelance level. I decided to go it alone.

It was a difficult decision because I had a lot of friends at the paper. Not being around meant I was no longer part of “the club.” But I quickly found that my decision was the right one.

Not long after I quit the paper, I started my first magazine. And while I was developing the magazine, I took a job as a beat reporter covering Mount Pleasant Public Schools for the city paper,  The Morning Sun. Also I was filing occasional stories for Reuters’ Detroit bureau, which I had started working for during the previous summer.

As the semesters passed, I found myself writing for more and more professional publications. By the time I graduated my by-line had appeared in nine different newspapers and magazines across Michigan, in addition to work I’d done for news wires and radio. I’d also completed four internships.

Many of my classmates had a very lackadaisical approach to their journalism degree. They treated it as though they were getting a degree in a heavily-academic field: go to class, do well, get job.

And that’s so incredibly wrongheaded.

The time when you’re a student is when you should do as much freelancing as you can. Get your name in as many publications as possible. Don’t worry about not getting paid for it — if journalism is your passion, you need clips more than you need money. I’ve gotten paid writing jobs by cold-e-mailing publications offering to write for them for free. And don’t be afraid of being told no — it happens. Come back to them in a month or two and see if anything has changed.

It’s important to appear that you’re passionate about journalism and that you want to prove yourself. In those four (ok, or five) years of college, you’ve got a chance to network and build up a great portfolio — outside of the classroom.

Filed under: student journalism, , , ,

Newspapers need interns now more than ever

By Ben LaMothe

When I was working on my undergrad in journalism, I became aware of this special window of time each year known as Internship Season. It begins in October with application deadlines and ends in March and April, when papers made their decisions about who they’d like to take on as an intern.

During this time all of my fellow classmates were operating at maximum stress levels because they were, in effect, planning for their summer. It’s a precarious situation because often newspaper internships were unpaid. However there were paid ones out there and if you were fortunate enough to get one, it meant you had steady income during the summer months.

So you send in your CV, do an interview or two, and find out that, despite your obvious talents, they couldn’t take you on as an intern.

Been there, done that.

This was a few years ago, back when the industry was shaken, but not as badly as it is now. Thinking about it again, it makes me wonder why the papers couldn’t take on a greater number of the talented people they came across. Even if the internship was paid, it was usually a few hundred dollars a week for essentially 40 hours of work. You’re getting the output of a professional journalist at a fraction of the price — but, no, only take a handful.

Things have changed. The industry has changed. Newspapers, if they want to survive, need to take more interns. There’s a sea of talented students in j-schools across the country who bend over backwards for the opporutnity to show what they’re made up and to get some experience. There’s no reason not to hire more.

And I hear the argument that no one is spending money right now, etc. If your paper can’t afford to hire an intern and pay them a few hundred dollars a week to work full time, then you probably shouldn’t be in business.

Interns will come into your newsroom — the good ones — and want to prove what they’re made of. They will want to leave an impression. Sure, there’s a learning curve — but with the better interns, it’s not very big. And before you know it, they’re teaching you. Especially now, when the industry is trying to figure out how the Web works. Hire some young people who grew up in the Internet age, but who also happen to be journalists.

In newsrooms across the U.S., 2009 should be known as The Year of the Intern. Because they’re young, Web-savvy, inexpensive, dedicated, and hungry for a chance to prove themselves.

How can any editor turn that down?

Filed under: student journalism, , , ,

About Me

My Tweets

Top Clicks

  • None

Blog Stats

  • 6,972 hits
April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930