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On the Fourth of July, I feel compelled to note that big government plays a glorious role in our country’s rich history.

I don’t venture into politics often here, because my focus is on journalism and media issues. But this is an area where our media’s practiced neutrality — which Jay Rosen calls the View from Nowhere — ill serves our readers and our country.

For all of my adult life, I have heard conservative politicians who wrap themselves in the flag rail against our government, ignorant or ignoring the fact that the flag itself stands for a system of big government. (more…)

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Did I miss that trend story about the National Hockey League suddenly being on top of the sports world?

Maybe a sports league that’s drawing huge TV ratings and selling out arenas across North America could afford to disrespect bloggers, but I don’t think that’s the NHL. As our TBD Community Network partner On Frozen Blog recounted yesterday, the NHL has decided to deny bloggers access to visiting locker rooms. OFB noted: (more…)

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Welcome to Washington. I hope you soak up some American heritage while you’re here.

If you’ve come to the nation’s capital for today’s “Restoring Honor” rally, I hope you take some time to see the magnificent sights here.

Since you’ll be right there at the Lincoln Memorial, climb the steps and read some of the words of that great American: “With malice toward none; with charity for all.” (more…)

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One of my favorites in my collection historic newspapers is the one that tells of the death of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Jan. 23, 1973.

It’s not that I celebrated LBJ’s demise, but I’m interested that the tragedy obscured the most significant news of the previous day: the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion and influenced politics and culture in the United States for the 36 years since.

In the same way, the recent news of the death of yet another newspaper, the Ann Arbor News, might have obscured the more important news of a significant web-focused community news organization, AnnArbor.com. (more…)

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Just a quick post to share three links on the future and past of newspapers:

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Here are liveblogging examples I used in my April 21 webinar for the American Society of News Editors:

Liveblogging unfolding news stories

Virginia Tech massacre on Collegiate Times

Northern Illinois campus shootings at rrstar.com

Liveblogs using Twitter (more…)

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I will be leading a webinar on liveblogging this Tuesday, April 21, for the American Society of News Editors. I have compiled these tips as a handout for the webinar. I welcome experienced livebloggers to add their tips in the comments here or to answer the questions I raised Friday. If you are an experienced liveblogger or an editor whose staff liveblogs, please email me. I would like you to  join us in a live chat Tuesday afternoon about liveblogging.

Please plan on joining the live chat about liveblogging Tuesday between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Central time:

ASNE live chat about liveblogging

Newspapers originally responded to the opportunities of the web by posting print stories online after they appeared in print. Then we recognized the need to post news immediately to the web and started posting bulletins when news broke, often followed after the newspaper deadline (or even after newspaper publication) by newspaper-like stories. Liveblogging is a story form for digital platforms, a blend of the styles and techniques of traditional newspaper-style reporting, radio play-by-play and the interactivity of blogging. (more…)

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Here is the link to follow Twitter advice offered by panelists during my Twitter for Dummies workshop today for Edge Business Magazine.

Twitter for Dummies

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I wish I had planned this timing.

I wrote my Death and taxes post thinking that my time peg was that it would run in The Gazette on Monday, April 13, just two days before the April 15 deadline for filing income tax forms. What I didn’t realize (but just learned) was that today is Tax Freedom Day, the day that the Tax Foundation and other anti-tax people highlight every year to emphasize how much of our income goes to paying taxes.

Actually, with the federal stimulus package cutting some taxes and with income falling along with the economy, Tax Freedom Day comes eight days earlier this year than it did last year and two weeks earlier than in 2007.

I remember when this day came in early May. Now you’re supposedly free of taxes before you even pay them (if you’re a procrastinator).

Amusing (to me anyway) update: Just 10 minutes after I tweeted a link to this post, using the phrase “Tax Freedom Day,” the Tax Foundation started following me. Boy, are they going to  be disappointed.

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I’m sitting in this morning on a session led by George Stanley, managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as part of the American Press Institute’s seminar, “The New Newsroom,” at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Since I had a glitch on the liveblog in CoverItLive, I will just update this frequently.

George is talking about the value of breaking news online, taking back from broadcast the advantage of immediacy that they used to have. Each participant has a large sheet of paper from an easel pad and some markers. He’s taking a flood story (Wisconsin had bad floods the same week as Cedar Rapids last year) and asking how their organization would cover it today.

Here’s the news scenario: It’s 6:31 a.m. Flood has been building for several days. Dam breaks and lake floods main highway into town. First scanner reports say cops are heading to highway to see what’s going on. Questions for participants: How would you learn about the story, how would you gather information, how would you report it?

About 6:50 a.m., state announces it’s closing the highway. Stanley asks participants how they would respond (if they would know about the story yet).

It’s flood day at API. I’ll talk briefly about the Cedar Rapids flood experience in my afternoon presentation and George is using the Journal Sentinel’s flood experience in his exercise. Meanwhile, Fargo’s trying to hold back the Red River.

Back to the exercise: About 15 minutes later, state announces detour on Interstate highway, adding two hours to a normal trip. Lake has emptied into the river. Three houses were washed away. No known injuries or fatalities yet. Car has been found swamped near the highway. No people visible in the car, but a dog is in the car.

Now photos start coming in. Amateur videographer has video of house being washed downstream.

Now a state transportation official says the flood caused major structural damage to the highway and no one is sure how long it will be closed. Stanley asks with each development what your organization would do, how this would change your workflow.

Reporter has found a database on dams in the state. Would need help from another reporter to find important information in it today. How would this change workflow? Stanley asks people to think about the morning news meeting, how that would work.

Here’s the Journal Sentinel’s gallery of photos and videos from the flood. Pretty dramatic stuff. Stanley is showing some of these clips and shots on the screen.

While looking for the flood visuals, I found this directory to the Journal Sentinel’s special projects. Stanley says they have undertaken these investigations even while cutting the staff, and they are hearing more appreciation from the community than at any time in his career. Here’s the point: Investigative journalism matters. It makes a difference and we can still do quality investigative journalism even in difficult times. And we have to.

People have spent about 15 minutes in teams, discussing how they would cover this flood. They’re about ready to debrief, so I’ll be writing some more.

One group is talking about using ad reps to field all the media calls and providing room for visiting media working the story. (Sounds familiar: We got lots of media calls during our flood, but with power outage, we didn’t have anyone wanting to use our facilities.) George is talking about the value of interacting with the national media, so they can drive traffic to your site.

Alright! This group talks about connecting with the audience through Twitter and Facebook to contact sources. These are invaluable crowdsourcing tools. Cory Powell of Star Tribune notes that going to Twitter and Facebook is not yet an “instinctive move” in his organization. They would be on the story, though, because they have a reporter starting at 5 a.m. and another at 7.

Powell says commute is bad in Twin Cities by 7, so this would be a huge story that they would be all over. (Of course, highway disaster stories aren’t hypothetical for Twin Cities. Remember “13 Seconds in August.”

Now people are talking about getting access to helicopter or airplane for shooting aerials. I’m guessing most companies don’t have their CEO fly the plane, as we did.

Another participant notes that his site couldn’t handle the web traffic.

John Dye of Green Bay says you do say “Web first,” but still think primarily about the next day’s paper. You need to ask, “Are you really focusing on the here and the now?”

Stanley says flow charts look very different. “Editor has to push it and set up the environment. There’s no way you can come up with all the ideas.” That is so true. Newsroom leader’s biggest job is enabling the creativity and talent of the staff.

Now we’re talking about posting directly online. Stanley talks about how important it is to make sure staff understand law and ethics if they are posting directly online. Now a participant is noting that when journalists know they aren’t being edited, they take more responsibility for their copy.

Stanley says 15-16 months ago, when staff was 25 percent bigger than today, “we couldn’t have done this story worth a damn.” They would have done a great job for morning paper, but would have learned about the story on the radio on their way to work.

Stanley notes how radio and TV are tied to their broadcast schedules and larger, swift news staff working online and thinking online can lead the way and “be of greater service to our community.”

With all the competition we have today, “we have to earn our customers,” Stanley says. “We have to be useful. We have to be relevant to their lives.”

Task force helped reshape how the Journal Sentinel newsroom worked. “It wasn’t all coming from the editor or the managing editor. It was coming from the people in the newsroom.”

As the Journal Sentinel changed the way it worked, “the metabolism of the whole newsroom sped up,” Stanley says. Use of the task force, rather than working hierarchically, just “blows away any office politics … You can bust through those walls.”

Stanley explaining how “breaking news hub” works in Journal Sentinel newsroom.

They don’t report directly from scanner, but confirm quickly. They immediately send out tweets and seek people with direct knowledge of breaking event. Asking for photos, video, what people want to know about event. Reporter also scans Twitter for tweets about the flooding.

Stanley: “As soon as the state posted its detour, we realized it was a ridiculous detour.” It was set up for interstate truckers and added 2 hours to commute. So J-S crowdsourced the task of suggesting better detours. “Talk about becoming the place they’re going  to go to … They’re going to love you for it.”

By the time rush hour hit peak, Stanley says, Journal Sentinel was blowing all the competition out of the water. Then shifting to enterprise (databases, interactive maps, etc.).

In current Journal Sentinel newsroom, they can’t afford to spend as many resources as they used to dedicate to preparing the print edition. People have to be generalists now.

Stanley handouts include Jill Geisler’s Poynter piece about task force and breaking news hub.

We’re breaking for lunch now. And I’m the afternoon discussion leader, so I won’t be liveblogging that.

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I’ll liveblogged briefly today from API’s seminar, “The New Newsroom” from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I encountered a glitch and stopped after a while. I will post a single account of the second morning session, led by George Stanley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here’s what I did live from Mary Glick’s opening session, if you’re interested:

API New Newsroom Seminar

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