Monday, September 22, 2008

The Missouri Centennial

By far the biggest buzz at at the University of Missouri School of Journalism's centennial were DayLife, the aggregator, and SpinSpotter, the new software that highlights words in news stories that hold the potential of spin.

Otherwise worthy was Scripps Howard Networks new real estate site. In short, Missouri highlighted some interesting new ideas.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The passion and the promise

Some random thoughts on non-profit media:

No matter how you frame it, it's tough to monetize journalism for a mass audience. People will pay for information about their passions - like California wine, Japanese anime, or tennis. Or pay for what information will promise an enhancement in their life, such as investor news, travel guides or sports websites.

Clearly, we need to push for public literacy, an educated public that appreciates a free and vigorous press. But we need to work on the media's side of the equation, and that is linking the a free press to free enterprise.

Ted Glasser says there's a difference between serving a market and serving a community. Most for-profit newspaesrs serve a market, which likely does not include the entire community.
New Money, New Media, New Hope?

More from the NewsTools2008 session in Sunnyvale, CA. where journalists from the Bay Area and beyond are mulling this question: What kind of journalism does our democracy demand?

The journalism business model has not been reader-focused, instead it’s been one where journalism organization sells the loyalty of its local readers to businesses who want to sell goods, services, or even points of view to them.

So, if journalism is important to democratic institutions, then why not have the public fund the collection and analysis of information? Is there a model, used by National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting.

David Talbot started Salon in 1995, hooking up with progressive Silicon Valley investors to produce forward-thinking journalism. He’s now at the San Francisco Free Press, a nonprofit online journalism model. He feels that “wiki” journalism isn’t viable because you do need to pay people a living wage at some point.

And of course, talking about living wages, leads us to think of how journalists are categorized as professionals. Should journalists be credentialed in order to receive public funds?

There’s a lot of conversation about giving citizens want they SAY they want and what they REALLY BUY. It’s the journalism conundrum. When they answer a survey, or talk to a journalists, are they saying what they SHOULD say, rather than what they want. If you follow the money, then the top selling newspaper is USAToday, and top circulation magazines include Better Homes & Gardens and National Geographic.

Can journalists really become entrepreneurial without looking like sell-outs? It’s poison for journalists who uphold independence, fairness and objectivity, to then have to jump over the money wall to get paid for what they do. We don’t want to pander to writing for hire, yet smaller organizations must do that to stay alive and to fund the journalism that has no “advertising niche.”

And how about grants, specifically foundations that want journalists to do certain types of coverage, include seemingly general topics like poverty or education? Ten years ago, some in mainstream media didn’t want to accept funds from the Pew Center to fund civic journalism. Now there’s a lot of conversation about mainstream media accepting funds. Now, it’s true that radio and TV have long been audience-funded media. So, are there new rules about who we, as journalism organizations, accept money from now? Or is this just another ethical slippery slope? First, we accept one grant, then it’s easier to accept a more restricted grant.

In my class at the University of Missouri, we talk a lot about public funding, even tax support for media. How can we get government funding without the taint or reality of government control? Are there models for this? How can the models evolve?

Teaching Students the Journalism Biz

How to help students create the journalism of the future.

Dinosaurs are teaching the next generation of journalists. How do we adapt what we know to help facilitate the next generation of journalism, and best train the next generation of journalists. We need to understand that stories are being told in a different way now ---abandon the linear storytelling form in favor of a non-linear approach, which means each element must tell a mini-story. Learn to use the tools yourself to increase your credibility with students, and to better help them achieve a better outcome.

What are the skills/values that should be passed on:

• Encourage curiosity
• Encourage skepticism
• Push them to put down their computers and cell phones to get up close and personal with sources
• Develop critical thinking skills – by teaching them to deconstruct and debate
• Teach them about truth, accuracy and fairness.
• Emphasize the importance of diversity of viewpoint in their stories
• Tell them to make up nothing
• Embrace multi-tasking and use their computer skills to teach computer assisted reporting
• And discuss how to use these tools to tell stories
• Talk about the impact of journalism and help them see the impact of their stories to develop passion.
• Talk about the role of journalism in a democratic society and explain how they will fulfill this role, and the watchdog role, in the future --- alongside citizen journalists and bloggers.


Mike Williams
Nancy Benson
Vikki Porter
Ed Cray
Michelle Fizhugh-Craig
Larry Pryor
Mary Fallon
Marty Steffens

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What is ……
breakthrough journalism?

Linda Fantin Brant Houston Sharon Waxman Chris Barr Teresa Puente Vera Chan Dennis Burgierman Stephen Silha Olga Loma Marty Steffens

Exploring Public Insight Reporting, which brings citizens into the newsgathering process tapping their expertise, comments and insights to find better stories. How do you harness the intelligence of your audience to do better journalism?

How do we define breakthrough journalism? How do we use technology to enrich and enhance journalism?

Some thoughts:

• It’s creating new knowledge. The context helps us shape our understanding and THAT’s how it turns into knowledge. Why is it meaningful?

• How is connecting the dots (or an Aha! Moments) – the New York Times story on Pentagon Pundits is an good example of an Aha! Moments, in legacy media.
• Lesson moment: Giving us the back story…

• Unique methods of reaching the audience.

• Jules Verne more than a century ago felt there was a way for citizens to ask questions directly of newsmakers, taking off the journalist filter. One might ask, doesn’t the internet do this now? In a way, yes, and we’re seeing legacy media do this, with response to stories. Do these responses to stories lead us to a new paradigm for a stronger conversation?

• On these responses, we want to ask bloggers and responders: How do you know that? What is your credibility?

Questions to ponder:
Has journalism really changed? Or has just the packaging changed? What are we breaking through?
Is conversation really journalism?
Is crowd-sourcing and other methods being pushed by declining newsrooms?
How do we get democracy to serve journalism? How do we make citizens part of the news process where we just aren’t asking for opinions?

How do we preserve the sense-making role of journalism? How do we have a constantly updated nutgraf?

How do we ensure great stories get wide distribution? A new way to disseminate information to allow for impact and prioritization of news would be breakthrough journalism.

If the Center for Public Integrity produces great journalism, but no one hears it, is it great journalism? There is INTEREST vs. RELEVANCE, and CURIOSITY vs ESSENTIALITY

We used to call things that were relevant, NEWS YOU CAN USE.

How can you take the “Britney Spears” user – and use that audience to do more useful journalism? That would be breakthrough.

There are part of communities that no journalism serves – those communities aren’t served because of lack of advertising support. There was no connection of relevance.
If we build bridge, we can reach these island communities.

In the age of the Internet, there’s no excuse for fragmentation.

We need to create a business model for community based news organizations. Create a space where citizens can create their own news. There are not enough reporters to follow every tip. (One example of who’s doing this is Northwest Voice (the Bakersfield Californian at

The New York Times is perceived as monolithic, it represents the elite and liberal. WE DECIDE, we might ask you, but we decide. This type of arrogance leads us down paths where some stories unfairly dominate, such as Jeremiah Wright, Monica Lewinsky, etc.

We can put information out there, but is it our job to make people act on it? We’re trying to move from a priesthood to a partnership. WE TRY TO CONNECT THE DOTS, SEE THE TRENDS.
How do we go from being priesthood model. How do we have a checklist? Make a built-in accountability for citizens to act on things of public interest? Can you create a tool for that?

Meaningful tools: Hand people voice recorders/video recorders. Match journalists with citizens. Are there media who give citizens a partial byline?

The good thing about sources is that you know their biases and background. Journalists do have value as experts in spotting expertise and bias. Columbia College (Chicago) students are partnering with community members to find stories. FINDING real stories has been lost.

Talking heads doesn’t give you meaningful journalism. That’s a great idea, but what do you mean by that? Would that be creating an unmanageable time suck for journalists? How can we make sure comments from knowledgeable people?

Struggling with niche vs. mass audience? Are things relevant on a personal level? Meida is still sitting the agenda by ASKING the questions? What isn’t breakthrough journalism is REACTIONARY journalism. In the blogosphere, you’re just reacting. It’s NOT helping me have a more meaningful lives?

Chicken and egg: Did we lose audiences because we lost relevance? Or did the lost audiences cut our staffs and we became less relevant? Or did the audience just go elsewhere, like to our website?

How can we find stories instead of sources?

By finding the Be-spot: The intersection of Knowledge, Relevance and Audience