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Posts Tagged ‘Jay Rosen’

Journalism isn’t narcissism, as Hamilton Nolan noted correctly in his Gawker headline. But as Nolan elaborated, I heard an old theme that I think has misguided lots of journalists. Journalism also isn’t machinery. Journalism is practiced by humans, and journalists and journalism professors who deny their humanity diminish their journalism.

Nolan found fault with a New York Times piece by Susan Shapiro, an author and journalism professor he dismissed as “teaching a gimmick: the confessional as attention-grabber.”

Shapiro encourages her feature-writing students to “shed vanity and pretension and relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked.” Nolan counters that journalism students instead need to be taught to write other people’s stories:

Your friends, and neighbors, and community members, and people across town, and across your country, and across the world far and wide are all brimming with stories to tell. Stories of love, and war, and crime, and peril, and redemption. The average inmate at your local jail probably has a far more interesting life story than Susan Shapiro or you or I do, no matter how many of our ex-boyfriends and girlfriends we call for comment. All of the compelling stories you could ever hope to be offered are already freely available. All you have to do is to look outside of yourself, and listen, and write them down.

I believe both journalists are right. Journalists need to tell the important untold stories of their communities. Most journalism should be outward-looking. But personal insight can and often should be part of the process of listening and writing down other people’s stories. (more…)

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“I’m not seeing the value in Twitter,” a journalist told me in a recent workshop.

I took up the challenge to show this journalist why Twitter is valuable. I have said often that Twitter is the most useful tool developed for journalists in my 41-year career, with the possible exception of the cellphone (which you can use to tweet and read tweets, so they add to each other’s value).

I don’t think the journalist was asking as a curmudgeon (though in some ways this post is a continuation of my Dear Newsroom Curmudgeon post last spring, an effort to help journalists who haven’t been changing as swiftly as the news business). It does say something about your openmindedness if in 2012 you have ignored all the news stories the last several years where Twitter was an essential source of news. But the journalist’s tone was not defiant, more the tone of someone asking for help. And I like to provide help, even if the request is overdue. The journalist admitted to writing a column a while back essentially “flipping the bird to social media.” Despite that, he’s learning Facebook now, but he just doesn’t get Twitter. He’s a busy journalist and doesn’t see why Twitter is valuable enough to squeeze into his day. He was busy enough that day that he had to leave my workshop to cover a story, so I didn’t have much time to respond in person.

My job now is to help this skeptic see the value I’ve seen for years. Most of my persuasion with this journalist will be in private correspondence (I sent him a couple emails Friday that I hope will be helpful), but I’ll start with this blog post. When he sees the value and acknowledges it to me, I will do a follow-up blog post, naming him if that’s OK with him or keeping our relationship confidential (beyond those in the conference room where I pledged to help him see the value).

Here are 10 ways that Twitter is valuable to journalists: (more…)

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Friday’s letter to newsroom curmudgeons resulted in my busiest day ever on this blog, 4,882 views, smashing my previous record by 58 percent. After less than 72 hours online, the post is already my fourth most-viewed post in three-plus years blogging here. With more than 80 comments, I presume it already is my most-discussed post, though I should note that probably a third or more of those are me responding to comments.

Few things I have written have received as much praise or as much criticism (the two often go together), certainly not in their first day or two after publication. I try to make a common theme of this blog discussions of digital journalism and lessons we can learn about what works and what doesn’t. This post worked and failed in notable ways, so I should try to learn (or relearn) something from the experience:

Pronouns matter. I made some of the same points about curmudgeons in a post last fall. That post answered a question from someone asking how to “convert” curmudgeons to using Twitter. So I responded in the third person, essentially discussing curmudgeons behind their backs as him and her. That post got some attention, one of my top 40 in page views, but it only got half as much traffic as Friday’s post got on its first day. It made a difference, I’m sure, to address my post to curmudgeons, inviting people to email the link to a curmudgeon or to print it out for one to read. In another post a couple years ago, I wrote in the first person about how I redirected and rejuvenated my career. It offered sincere advice to others, and advice that stems from personal experience can be the most valuable advice. But unless you are sharing the lessons from your mistakes, advice offered in the first person always has a boastful tone, however helpful you’re trying to be. “I” is not an engaging pronoun. “You” is one of the most engaging words in our language, and it worked in this post. (more…)

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Update: Wall Street Journal reporter David Enrich has responded. I have added his response below.

Jay Rosen is absolutely right to call out the Wall Street Journal on its inexcusable use of unnamed sources in the Goldman Sachs story.

Who is the first of the 5 W’s, one of journalism’s fundamentals. You need a compelling reason to withhold a source’s identity, and the Wall Street Journal had no such reason to withhold names in reporting the Goldman Sachs response to a New York Times op-ed piece about the ethics and culture of Goldman Sachs by Greg Smith.

Here’s one of the passages in question:

“We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business,” a Goldman spokeswoman said. “In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves.” (more…)

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For the last few months, I have taken a few turns leading the #ASNEchat on Twitter for the American Society of News Editors. Starting today, we are going to alternate live-chat formats. We’ll still do a Twitter chat every other week. But on the alternating weeks, including today, we’ll do the live chat using CoverItLive at ASNE.org.

Today’s chat will discuss the role of newsroom ombudsmen with four panelists with interesting perspectives on the topic:

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I bow to no one in my love for the good old days of journalism. But everyone trying to take journalism back to the good old days should understand some basic truths:

  • You won’t find the future by retreating to the past.
  • Whatever comes next in journalism can’t and shouldn’t be built to replace either the best or worst of current or historic journalism. You build the future on the technology and opportunities of the future in the context of the future.
  • Watchdog reporting performed by professional journalists is absolutely part of journalism’s future, and I don’t know anyone discussing the future of journalism who doesn’t plan and hope for a successful future for professional watchdog reporting.
  • Journalism of the past doesn’t look as strong on closer examination as it does through your nostalgic filter.

I worked at the Des Moines Register in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Time magazine named it one of the 10 best newspapers in the United States. I was there when Jim Risser won his second Pulitzer Prize and when Tom Knudson wrote the series that won his first Pulitzer. I was there when our coverage of the 1980 and 1984 Iowa caucuses made us an important player in national political coverage. If someone had a magic wand to turn back the clock to the early 1980s, I would be sorely tempted to wave that wand and throw over my current career with Digital First Media. It all looks so rosy through the glasses of nostalgia.

But if I waved that wand, I would have to relive the death of the Des Moines Tribune, the afternoon newspaper our company folded in 1982. And I would relive the disappointment and embarrassment that the journalists of that day did not shine the light brightly enough to prevent the savings and loan crisis that rocked the economy and cost the taxpayers more than $100 billion.

Nostalgia is fun and it’s warm, and for journalists today, it’s seductive and dangerous. (more…)

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This is a trivial and self-indulgent blog post about my blog. I’ll share some facts and observations about the busiest month ever on my blog, 17,635 page views, passing my previous record of 16,119, set in June:

  • Joining Journal Register Co. has significantly boosted traffic to my blog. Five of my seven busiest months, including the four busiest, in terms of traffic have been since I went to work for JRC in June.
  • Posts about social media, especially Twitter, have always attracted good traffic on this blog. My live-tweeting post (Sept.6) drew the most traffic for the month, 2,171. Second was my Sept. 17 post on persuading curmudgeons to use Twitter, 1,437. Fourth was my Sept. 8 post listing social media resources for journalists, 1,138. Even my Aug. 19 Twitter tips for journalists continued to do well in September, 733. And my Aug. 25 post on engaging through newsroom Twitter accounts got 331 September views. My Sept. 1 post, encouraging sports staffs to promote and curate Friday Night Tweets, didn’t do as well, just 241. Various other new and old Twitter-related posts combined for more than 1,000 views. Altogether, that’s more than one-third of my traffic coming to posts relating to Twitter. (more…)

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