Tag Archives: new media

Online journalists: Lose the smugness, win a few converts

This will be an unusually confrontational post for me.

That said, Yoni Greenbaum was right on yesterday in pointing out a significant problem in some of the journalists fighting the good fight online:

But, and this might just be because of whom I read, the loudest are the bloggers who complain the most about the industry. These are typically young journalists with a short amount of time at any one job. Their blogs are places for them to publicly whine and throw tantrums in an effort to receive attention and obtain validation for their viewpoints. All too often their posts leave me shaking my head and wanting to grab the authors, give them a smack or two and tell them to wake up and, especially, grow up. But that’s not what this blog is about.

It was a perfect wake-up call to remind myself of my original vow to never become one of those people. I won’t name names, but I’ve often felt exactly the same way reading some journalism bloggers out there.

And I’d add that it’s not just about how the online torch carriers are blogging. I can’t help but think how much I’d hate being a colleague of some of those people, even though I agree 100 percent with what they’re saying. There’s no way that the message, if it’s presented in the “What the hell is wrong with everybody except me?” tone I often read, could be received by anyone who doesn’t already believe it.

Taking a conciliatory approach is a big focus of mine in my own newsroom as I try to share my Web skills with whoever wants to learn. I’ve led newsroom sessions on using Facebook, might soon lead sessions on using RSS and blogging style, reporters often ask for my help searching for profiles on MySpace, and I’ll often have philosophical discussions about things like liveblogging big events and why it’s worthwhile to be worrying about this Internet thing in the first place.

As a snot-nosed 23-year-old, the youngest person in the newsroom, there’s no way any of that would be received well if I was yelling at the people with whom I was trying to share my perspective. If I put them on the defensive every time they talk to me, they’re not going to talk to me very often.

Shouldn’t people with those skills be focused on finding the best way to share them, instead of caustically demanding that others catch up?

What happens when newspaper reporters with no training try to shoot video

This does.

So our photographer wouldn’t have to try to juggle his still and video cameras, I volunteered to shoot some video. I didn’t say I’d be good at it, I just said I’d try it. I clearly had no idea what I was doing.

My favorite moment came when a friendly videographer there said to me: “You know your tripod goes down another foot-and-a-half, right?” Uhhh, yeah…I knew that.

I’d love to hear any feedback — since I already know it stinks, there’s nothing that could be said that would offend me. I’m just hoping that with enough practice, and much more reading before the next time I shoot video, I’ll eventually learn to stink less. Might as well be trying, at least.

And before you say anything about the lack of audio, I would have offered a voice-over had I known it was going to be put online immediately. I’ll offer to add one on Monday.

(Also — if you want to play a game, go to the front page of Pennlive and try to find the video. Let me know if you make it, and if so, how long it took you.)

Why I’m beatblogging: It helps the print product, too

As one of the 13 reporters in Jay Rosen and David Cohn‘s beatblogging.org project, I’ve read a lot of response to the concept.

The Journalism Iconoclast is behind the concept, calling you an idiot if you’re a sports reporter who isn’t on the train.

In a comment on one of Cohn’s posts on Wired Journalists, Maurreen Skowran wrote: “The beats that aren’t local or regional have potential, but they are the minority.”

I strongly disagree. I set up a social network — the Hershey Home — based on a small, local beat. And frankly, I don’t see why any small-town reporter who possesses the necessary computer skills wouldn’t do that same, no matter how many stories you have to write per week.

Here’s the point most often missed: Successful beatblogging saves, not costs, reporters their time. In a fraction of the time and effort, it accomplishes all these goals that any reporter would share:

  • It can drastically increase your quantity of sources
  • It can drastically increase the diversity of your sources
  • It can positively develop your relationship with sources
  • It allows you to stay in constant contact with those sources without picking up the phone and calling them individually
  • It encourages those sources to share story ideas or current happenings
  • It can lead you into background or context to your stories you wouldn’t otherwise know about

Along with these additional benefits that the new-media types love:

  • It encourages a sense of community
  • It gets information to people in the form that they choose
  • It allows for a depth that the print product can’t achieve
  • It makes the news a conversation instead of a declaration

Now if that all were to come at the expense of the print product, we could have a cost/benefit discussion. But it simply doesn’t. A reporter can spend 15-20 minutes per day leading the discussion, then sit back and let the community do everything else for you. They’re happy to be participating, you’re happy to hear from them.

I had 30 residents sign up for my network within two weeks. It’s had its difficulties, which David Cohn is dutifully reporting on beatblogging.org, but it’s also early.

There are many different methods to beatblogging, and I’ll have plenty more to say about it. But I strongly believe this project will make my print product better — to me, the new media benefits are actually secondary.

I’m not dead yet. I don’t want to go on the cart.

grimreaper.gifIn a significant portion of the journalism blogging community, I’ve witnessed the following themes emerge:

  • We’re all going to die. We’re all going to freaking die.
  • There are two types of reporters: Those who “get it,” and those who “just don’t get it.” If you don’t know what you’re getting, then you clearly don’t get it.
  • Those who “just don’t get it” need to hurry up and “get it,” or we’re all going to die.

And then there are all of those journalists who aren’t blogging, but are complaining just as loudly about how the Internet is messing everything up.

It’s more of a spectrum than a dichotomy, of course, but no matter where you fall there’s a lot of negativity. We’re awfully short on working together, though, and it’s getting pretty nasty out there.

So I’m hoping to join the many blogs I’ve read that are somewhere between the bunkers.

I’m totally down with new media skills — I use Facebook and MySpace as reporting tools on a consistent basis (example here), and I’ll write plenty about my Hershey Home site that I set up as part of Jay Rosen and David Cohn‘s beatblogging.org project. I fully understand how a loaded RSS reader is essential in keeping me on top of my community and the larger culture. I’m trying to improve my audio and video skills.

But I don’t look down upon reporters who didn’t understand a word in that last paragraph, yet could report and write me under the table. There’s a place for them, too.

I would never claim to have any grand visions about how we can cure newspapers’ economic woes, how to pull life-sustaining profits from our Web sites or otherwise save this struggling industry.

My focus is smaller: The simple ways that any reporter can make journalism better, including but not limited to Internet skills.