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Archive for October, 2011

I have been meaning to post more of my old workshop handouts from No Train, No Gain to this blog. Unfortunately, I was prompted to post this one and another, about cheating, by a plagiarism incident at the Middletown Press. I encourage all of my Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group colleagues to read this. Attribution is one of journalism’s most serious issues. Plagiarism is inexcusable.

Attribution is the difference between research and plagiarism. Attribution gives stories credibility and perspective. It tells readers how we know what we know. It also slows stories down. Effective use of attribution is a matter both of journalism ethics and of strong writing.

How do you know that? Attribution is a key ingredient in any story’s credibility. Readers are entitled to know where we got our information. If we are citing official statistics gathered by a government agency, that tells the readers something. If we are citing the contentions of an interest group or a political partisan, that tells the readers something else. If we don’t attribute our information, readers rightly wonder how we know that.

When should we attribute? Attribute any time that attribution strengthens the credibility of a story. Attribute any time you are using someone else’s words. Attribute when you are reporting information gathered by other journalists. Attribute when you are not certain of facts. Attribute statements of opinion. When you wonder whether you should attribute, you probably should attribute in some fashion. (more…)

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I have been meaning to post more of my old workshop handouts from No Train, No Gain to this blog. Unfortunately, I was prompted to post this one and another, about attribution, by a plagiarism incident at the Middletown Press. I encourage all of my Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group colleagues to read this. Attribution is one of journalism’s most serious issues. Plagiarism is inexcusable.

Scandals in newsrooms large and small have forced news organizations to apply the same skepticism to some staff members that they do to the institutions they cover. Journalists and newsrooms can no longer presume that every journalist understands that you don’t steal and you don’t make things up. A 2005 study by the Center for Academic Integrity found that 70 percent of college students admitted to cheating and 77 percent did not consider “cut and paste” plagiarism from the Internet a serious issue. Newspapers have to recognize that some of these students find jobs in newsrooms and need to learn standards of the field that should (but can’t) go without saying. (more…)

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Thanks to Justin Ellis of Nieman Lab for a thoughtful two-part analysis of Newspaper Next. He went into much more detail, with greater detachment, than I did in my look back five years later at N2.

What I would like to see now is an analysis of the innovative projects inspired by Newspaper Next.

In the first part of Ellis’ N2 analysis, he addressed whether N2 succeeded in transforming newspapers:

So did Newspaper Next succeed in its mission to reshape the industry? Not exactly.

We’re still in the thick of uncertain times in the news business, but invention has crept into certain corners. Newspaper companies are experimenting with apps, testing new platforms, and publishing niche products (online and in print) to reach audiences outside the daily newspaper. That’s all straight out of the Newspaper Next playbook — but it’s doubtful newspaper execs would have sat by idly if a report five years ago hadn’t told them to try to develop new products. Publishers, editors, executives, and other journalists involved in Newspaper Next say the project deserves credit for encouraging experimentation inside newspapers. But with all its reach and ambition, the project was stifled by economic factors, including the industry’s near extinction-level event in 2008 that saw massive losses in jobs and revenue. As much as Newspaper Next set out to give news companies the tools to transform, survival may have been a bigger and better motivator.

In the second part of Ellis’ analysis, he followed up on the seven demonstration projects covered in the first Newspaper Next report. The direct lasting results were not impressive: (more…)

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Twitter has succeeded in spite of itself.

As a concept, Twitter is brilliant, revolutionizing communication worldwide with its simple concept of sharing short messages. As a company, it continues to disappoint me with its mediocre technology and its poor customer service.

Readers of this blog know that I am an enthusiastic and tireless advocate for Twitter as a journalism tool. The Twitter category on my blog has more than 100 entries, the second most-used category on this blog.

Early in my days using Twitter (early 2008), the company had trouble keeping up with the growth of its service. The “fail whale” was a regular feature and a running joke among the tweeps.

We were patient, though, because we liked the service. You don’t see the whale as often, but I regularly get messages apologizing because tweets can’t load at that moment. They still fail; they just don’t show the whale. (more…)

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As I was live-tweeting an interview of Foursquare General Manager Evan Cohen Tuesday, Joey Kulkin asked a good question:

I promised an answer:

So here goes. Why do I “check in” every time I eat at a restaurant or attend an event (or even at each train stop as I roll home from New York tonight as I write this)? (more…)

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Thanks to Buffy Andrews for the invitation to write a guest post for her blog. I blogged with my advice that journalists should train themselves. I’m a big believer in the value of training for a news organization, and I am pleased that the Journal Register Co. is placing high importance on training as we pursue a Digital First strategy. But I say journalists should also train themselves, regardless of whether our bosses are providing training opportunities:

The benefits of teaching yourself go beyond the skill you just learned: You underscore your own responsibility for your professional growth; you are less intimidated the next time you encounter a new tool or technique you know you should learn; lessons stick better when you learn by doing.

You can read the rest over at Buffy’s World, but I’ll make one more point here: I was pleased to see Buffy reach out to start working with me before our bosses work out details of our new relationship. Buffy is an editor and social media coordinator at the York Daily Record, a news organization owned by MediaNews Group. Last month JRC and MediaNews reached agreement for a new JRC subsidiary, Digital First Media, to manage MediaNews. Bosses are working out exactly what that means, but Buffy could see that it meant that we’re colleagues now. She didn’t need to see the new org chart to send me a Twitter direct message, inviting me to write a guest post.

I admired the initiative and look forward to working with her and other MediaNews colleagues.

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An editor I have prodded to start engaging on Twitter is finding it fun and useful, “almost addicting.” But he said he said his local followers “remain disappointingly low.”

I don’t get hung up on the actual number of followers, but you are going to get better engagement if you can connect with local people who are interested in their community. That number makes a difference. The more local engaged followers you have, the more successful your efforts at crowdsourcing, content distribution and local conversation. My suggestions to the editor, edited slightly: (more…)

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