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Archive for October, 2012

Bob Steele

As journalists discuss the need for some new guiding principles, I want to salute Bob Steele for the guiding principles that have served journalism well for a couple of decades.

Bob told me in an email exchange this week (see our Q&A at the end of this post) that he wrote the Guiding Principles for the Journalist in the early 1990s. I used them extensively in the ethics seminars I presented for the American Press Institute.

I have noted the need to update the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (I’m not aware of any plans to do so). And I was pleased to be part of last week’s discussion about updating Bob’s guiding principles, which have considerable overlap with the SPJ Code. I blogged some suggestions for what the new principles should say. But I also want to salute Bob for how well these principles have served journalism.

Bob’s principles follow with my comments: (more…)

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This was originally published Feb. 12, 2008, on the Training Tracks blog I wrote for the American Press Institute. I repost it today as a supplement to a separate post about Bob Steele’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist. I removed outdated links and added a couple of updates.

Bob Steele

I hesitate to write about Bob Steele‘s accomplishments, because I don’t want this to sound like a eulogy. He’s not dead and he’s not retiring. He’s not even fully leaving Poynter.

But Bob’s contributions to journalism — specifically to the teaching and thinking about journalism ethics — have been monumental and his semi-departure from Poynter seems like a time to take note of those accomplishments.

Journalism is one of the most ethical pursuits in the world. Not only do we hold ourselves to high standards, but we enforce those standards with great transparency and public verbal floggings of offenders. Still, we don’t think enough about our ethical standards and how to make good ethical decisions. We think about those things a lot more — and a lot more clearly — though, than we did before Bob began teaching and writing about ethics for the Poynter Institute in 1989. (more…)

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As I blogged last week, I was involved in a discussion of new guiding principles for journalism.

I’m glad that Poynter and craigconnects are leading this effort. I think that we need some new guiding principles to cover the challenges of digital journalism and recent ethical controversies. I also think Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist are a good place to start (I blogged separately about those principles).

I would encourage retaining two of the primary section headings of the current guiding principles: “Seek Truth and Report It As Fully As Possible” and “Minimize Harm.” I would revise the other one, “Act Independently,” to read: Act Transparently and Independently.

I like Craig Silverman’s blog post, Journalism ethics are rooted in humanity, not technology. The principles he lists at the end there might be better headings than I propose, but I think most or all of my suggestions would fit under those headings.

I like the brevity of the points in the Guiding Principles. In some of my proposals here, I try to achieve similar brevity. At other times, I elaborate more than the principles probably should. While I hope our discussion of these issues is extensive (and some of my extended comments are part of that discussion), we want to keep the principles themselves clear and simple wherever possible.

In a preamble to the three main sections, I propose saying something like this: (more…)

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I have Storified some of the coverage of Hurricane Sandy on the websites and social media of more than two dozen Digital First newsrooms. The Storify did not publish here, but you can read it at the link above.

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Digital First Media newsrooms across the Northeast are covering Hurricane Sandy today (and have been covering the preparation and approach all weekend. The New Haven Register’s home page (screenshot above) shows how our news sites are giving this approaching disaster the huge-story coverage it merits.

Our national Thunderdome newsroom is providing coverage to all of our sites through a Hurricane Sandy News blog.

Coverage by Digital First newsrooms has included: (more…)

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This post was published originally on the old Newspaper Next site on the N2 Blog, Aug. 30, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I blogged last week about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated the links. Thanks to Elaine Clisham for reminding me of my contributions to the N2 Blog.  

At a recent reception, a colleague scorned efforts by the newspaper industry in the mid-1990s to appeal to young adults.

I could join that colleague (a former newspaper editor) in criticism of many things newspapers have tried in pursuit of young readers, but he was way off in one point that he made: He said newspapers were crazy to pursue nonconsumers. Who, he asked, ever succeeded by trying to sell to nonconsumers?

“Can you imagine the automobile industry targeting people who don’t drive?” he asked.

In a social setting where I didn’t feel like arguing, I let the comment pass. But it’s a point of view that inhibits innovation.

Let’s flip that editor’s question around: What business ever grew without winning over some nonconsumers?

(more…)

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The Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney for president, a decision that has angered quite a few people I know.

To understand how critically important the Register’s endorsement is to Iowans, you should ask Presidents John Kerry, Walter Mondale, Bill Bradley or Hillary Clinton. They all got Register endorsements for Iowa caucuses or the general election but did not win in Iowa or nationally.

This is the first time since endorsing Richard Nixon in 1972 (not a particularly good call) that the Register has endorsed a Republican for president.

But here’s something you should know about the Des Moines Register’s endorsements in presidential races: A coin flip is about as good an indicator of how Iowans will vote. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the old Newspaper Next site on the N2 Blog, Aug. 13, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports.

I have updated or removed outdated links (or used links from the Internet Archive, where I found the post). I have not checked to see that the links that remain active still show the features I described. I have not bothered to provide updates on the people mentioned here, though I know some are in different jobs. Thanks to Elaine Clisham for reminding me of my contributions to the N2 Blog. This was the precursor to a more detailed database report I produced for N2.

Databases are an important tool for media companies to use in doing more jobs for our communities.

The primary job newspapers have done for generations has been to tell the news of the community, the nation and the world. News remains an important job, but as we seek to build larger audiences we need to do more jobs. Steve Gray, managing director of Newspaper Next, expresses one of those key jobs as “Help me get answers about this place.”

One of the most encouraging signs that media companies understand the expanded role they need to play is the growing use of databases to provide answers about communities.

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Data Center provides a wide range of answers about the community: sex offenderssmoking complaintsodds of winning at Ohio River casinoscrime statisticshome prices. Databases also help you do better at your core job of telling the news. For instance, the featured database at the DataCenter now shows Northern Kentucky bridges with structural problems. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, May 31, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

The colleague’s lament is familiar:

“Our staff here has been dramatically slashed (we’re down to two news reporters on day shift). It’s quite a change for our paper, which has gained some measure of acclaim for the time, staff we devote to special projects work (which now appears to be a bygone era).

“Unfortunately, smaller staff size is the new reality. One of the things I’m preparing to pitch to upper management is a radical review of what we cover, how we cover it, etc. I know I will face resistance because, well, some people think the approach to community news coverage is a static endeavor. But honestly, with two reporters we can’t be everywhere. And if we try to be everywhere just to please people, rather than focus on what’s really needed, the entire product will suffer.

“Do you have any examples of papers facing the same situation, staff size, which adapted and prospered? Or, do you have any advice?” (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, April 20, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

Visiting Bryce Canyon in 2007

I’ve done some exciting and inspiring travel in the past month.

I visited Bryce Canyon, where centuries of sedimentation followed by tectonic upheaval followed by wind and frost erosion left the earth in fascinating, massive columns of sandstone called hoodoos.

I visited Mainz, Germany, where in a darkened room of the Gutenberg Museum I looked at the first editions of the Bible printed with movable type and even older and more ornate Bibles crafted by hand.

I thought about the modern newspaper in both of these places where nature and man displayed these ancient treasures. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Sept. 27, 2006, after the release of the Newspaper Next report, a collaborative project between API and Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

I get really annoyed when I look for a place to plug in my laptop computer at an airport.

I look around the lounge for an electrical outlet. Often no seats are within reach of an outlet. Sometimes you could reach an outlet by stretching the cord across a busy area where people are likely to walk. The few outlets around often are occupied by travelers charging computers, cell phones and other electronic devices between flights. Sometimes the travelers are sitting on the floor, because the only outlet they could find was not near any seats. This is true even at huge hub airports that get lots of passengers waiting between connecting flights. Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare are two of the worst.

As my exasperation over these airports’ failure to modernize grows, I look around the lounge and invariably see a large bank of pay telephones. Rarely do I see any of them in use. But I see lots of passengers on cell phones.

Airports are taxpayer-supported, with hardly any competition. Airlines choose which airports they will use based on other factors than passenger convenience. Passengers don’t often pick which airports they will use. They choose by fare and destination, sometimes by frequent flier plan. And they put up with whatever airports that means. So airports don’t have to innovate or even update. I’m sure that wiring a major airport for the 21st Century (or even the late 20th) would be a massively expensive undertaking. So they don’t and passengers sit on the floor to charge our computers between flights.

At a recent state association conference, I spoke following a panel of state political party chairs. In the question-and-answer session, a publisher noted that the parties, and their candidates, don’t hesitate to ask newspapers for free publicity when they are making announcements or staging events. Why, he asked, were they spending nearly all of their advertising dollars elsewhere? (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site in my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 10, 2006, after the two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

Newspaper people learn early to trust our “gut feeling.”

Your gut often proves right in covering a news story or operating a newspaper in the traditional market. Your gut, of course, is just the voice of experience.

When it comes to innovation, your gut will steer you wrong, we learned Thursday on the final day of the Newspaper Next Symposium.

“Whatever is your first answer is the wrong answer,” said Scott Anthony, managing director of Innosight, API’s partner in the Newspaper Next project to transform the newspaper industry. (more…)

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