Archive for June, 2010

Power and eagerness should be huge factors in deciding whether and when to grant confidentiality to sources.

My blog post yesterday about confidential sources represents my views on dealing with whistleblowers and prominent people such as government and military officials. But those aren’t the only people journalists write about. While my starting point remains on-the-record-spell-your-name-please, some stories present more complicated situations and demand more nuanced positions.

The powerful owe society and taxpayers a degree of openness and accountability. The powerful generally benefit enormously from media attention and deserve to take some heat when they don’t benefit. The powerful manipulate the media enough when they are being visible. To let them manipulate without any level of accountability is hardly ever justified. (more…)


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While news organizations are reassessing our business model, perhaps journalists need to reassess the journalism model.

As the media reaction to the Rolling Stone story on Gen. Stanley McChrystal has shown, journalists have become too cozy with the people they are supposed to cover. The prowlers have taught the watchdogs to roll over. (more…)

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I’ve written plenty about how foolish newspapers are to think that paywalls are any solution to their problems. I won’t repeat that argument (much) here, but I do want to note how disingenuous the recent announcements of paywalls have been.

For much of my career, one of the most consistent complaints of newspaper editors has been about writers who didn’t get to the point. But three paywall announcements by Gannett newspapers, the Tallahassee Democrat, Greenville News and St. George Spectrum, buried their leads so deep that readers didn’t get to the news until the second screen of the online version. All three announcements waited several paragraphs to get to the point: Starting July 1, online readers will have to pay to read their news. All three announcements spun the news with headlines that were misleading at best: (more…)

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I like it when a training program stimulates questions that continue after the program ended.

Wednesday’s Leading a Mobile-First Newsroom webinar for the American Society of News Editors was such a program. So I’ll continue the discussion with a few questions (which came as we were running out of time or in follow-up emails) and answers (acknowledging up front that I don’t have all the answers):

Q: What steps should we take to adapt websites to be more mobile friendly? (more…)

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I have to weigh in on yesterday’s ethics outrage at the Washington Post.

No, I’m not talking about Dave Weigel. I don’t have much to say about his “resignation” from the Post.

The real ethical outrage was that this respected news organization allowed itself to be used by gutless, unprincipled military officials to smear the name of Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings. (more…)

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Today’s blog post is not here but on TBD. I looked at this week’s coverage by the TBD Community Network, nearly 40 member blogs and sites, producing more than 300 posts this week.

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I traveled to lots of newspapers and press association conferences in the three years I worked for the American Press Institute. I heard lots of editors, publishers, journalists and newspaper leaders talk about blogging and other aspects of digital journalism and innovation. So I say with great confidence that disdain for bloggers is widespread (though certainly not universal) in the newspaper business.

I even saw it in a trip to Siberia last year. When Russian speakers were discussing journalism issues at a conference I attended in Barnaul, I relied heavily on interpreters softly providing simultaneous translation. But when one speaker spat out the word “blogger,” I recognized without translation. The scorn leaped across the language barrier, sounding identical to American newspaper publishers using the same word.

A favorite myth newspaper people keep repeating about bloggers is that they would have nothing to write about without newspapers. The respected Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism even produced a biased, flawed study, providing statistics for newspapers to cite (and, interestingly, some more critical numbers that didn’t get nearly as much attention from newspapers, whose leaders often like to preach about objectivity). (more…)

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A common lament about efforts to develop new business models for news is that digital journalism can’t generate the revenue that newspapers used to.

Let’s set aside that digital journalism doesn’t have the production and distribution costs of newspapers. Let’s set aside that news media companies have barely started to explore the revenue possibilities of direct sales, local search and other possibilities I explored in explaining the revenue approach of my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

In advertising alone, opportunities loom as promising as the revenue streams that historically supported newspapers. (more…)

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I’ve written a lot about my views on mobile opportunities for news organizations. Today I want to share some other people’s thoughts on the topic.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt declared in February that “mobile first” would be the new mantra of his company (I wrote in November that news organizations should pursue a mobile-first strategy). Schmidt repeated that point in April as the keynote speaker at the American Society of News Editors convention:


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Phil Corbett, the Standards Editor of the New York Times, has acknowledged in his After Deadline blog the attention his criticism of Times staffers’ use of the word tweet has received. (I blogged about it over the weekend, and he linked to my recent post as an example of the negative response.)

Interestingly, Corbett doesn’t really address the substance of the negative response, just repeats his memo to the staff (apparently that was a preview of his blog post) and his insistence that he didn’t “ban” the word. (more…)

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The Federal Trade Commission meets today to discuss whether and how the federal government should subsidize and otherwise support journalism.

I’ve already blogged (critically) about the FTC’s involvement in this issue and about two specific proposals for government subsidies, and I won’t repeat those arguments here. But I do want to call attention to some other good writing on the issue: (more…)

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In pursuing innovation, organization can distract from action.

Changing your org chart makes executives think they are making big changes. Changing what you do shows your staff and your community that you are truly making meaningful change.

I am pleased to see that John Paton is leading innovation at Journal Register Co. by changing what the company does. He has changed some people’s titles and shuffled some leaders, but those changes merit only brief passing mention in Paton’s blog. The focus of his attention and the company’s energy is on action. The Ben Franklin Project is entirely about doing things differently. The ideaLab is focused on turning good ideas into action. (more…)

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