My move to Journal Register Co. and Digital First Media and my work for my new companies dominated my writing this year on this blog. I’ve reviewed my blogging each of the past two years, so I’ll do it again in a post that clearly is self-indulgent. Still, I think it’s good to look back on a year’s work, and as long as I’m doing that, I might as well blog it.
The most notable posts of the year were a series I wrote the week before Christmas, explaining aspects of Digital First journalism. The piece on the workflow of a Digital First journalist became my second most-read blog post ever in just a week. While it’s more than 3,000 views behind my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, I’m sure it will eventually become my most-read blog post. It took the C3 blueprint nine months to reach 5,000 views. The Digital First workflow topped that in just over a week. Three other posts in the series topped 1,000 views quickly.
My work for JRC and DFM contributed to the blog in lots of other ways. I explained what community engagement means. More than a dozen blog posts offer tips, links and slides for workshops I did in visits to Digital First newsrooms. I also blogged frequently about how Digital First Media colleagues are using social media and engaging the community:
- Romeo and Juliet on Facebook, directed by Maryanne Kocsis Macleod of the Macomb Daily.
- Breaking news coverage by Larry Altman of the Daily Breeze of a school closing caused by a threatening YouTube video.
- Landslide coverage by Donna Littlejohn of the Daily Breeze.
- Various newsrooms publishing daily news budgets.
- Denver Post staff’s hustle to get great photos of a mountain lion and a Maine coon cat.
- Open newsrooms.
- Hurricane Irene coverage by several newsrooms.
Other primary themes of the blog this year:
Twitter. Twitter’s been a frequent topic of this blog from the first. This year I updated and expanded my Twitter tips for journalists (originally published in 2009). The original is my eighth most-read post, but the new one surged past it to sixth. I also blogged suggestions for live-tweeting, with separate posts on live-tweeting high school sports, trials and meetings. I blogged about why editors should be active on Twitter, why retweets aren’t endorsements, winning over curmudgeons, how to engage from newsroom accounts and about being more conversational on Twitter. I updated my list of Twitter (and other social media) resources for journalists. I expressed my disappointment in Twitter for Newsrooms, a resource Twitter developed for journalists. (I just checked and it’s been improved some, but I remain disappointed. In a guest post, Mimi faulted Bill Keller for his misguided views about social media.
Branding. When Gene Weingarten, columnist for the Washington Post Magazine, ripped the increasing discussion of branding by journalists, I noted that Gene is an expert at branding, but that the curmudgeon aspect of his brand doesn’t allow him to acknowledge what he does as branding. Leslie Trew Magraw, the Northwestern University graduate student whose inquiry prompted Gene’s column (he suggested that she use a hot iron to place a “nice, meaty sizzle” on the buttocks of the professor who have her the assignment), let me post her research paper, which included an email exchange with Gene. The resulting social-media discussion was lively enough that I Storified the tweets for another blog post. The fourth of my branding posts offered my advice for branding, based mostly on what’s worked for me.
Career advice. The whole branding series was heavily about career advice, but I wrote two other notable pieces offering advice to fellow journalists: job-hunting in digital journalism (for a workshop I led for Georgetown University) and how the crowd can saved your career (responding to JRC CEO John Paton’s post, How the Crowd Saved Our Company).
TBD. The decline of TBD and the scattering of our brilliant staff prompted several blog posts this year. While I was still at TBD, and not really free to say everything I felt, I mostly just curated commentary (much of it, sadly, way off-base) about the decision by Allbritton Communications to pretty much dismantle TBD just six months after we launched. However, I did respond to a faulty analysis that said we didn’t understand our communities. I also bid farewell to Mandy Jenkins, Jeff Sonderman, Daniel Victor, Lisa Rowan, Nathasha Lim, Eliot Kort and Erik Wemple as they left for other pursuits. After I left TBD in May, I blogged about lessons from the TBD experience in August, a year after we launched. A few weeks later, prompted by a discussion on Twitter, I added another TBD lesson, about transparency.
Business. I didn’t blog as heavily about business models for news as I have in the past (only a couple of posts about paywalls, both of them about the New York Times), but I did blog about the 5 W’s of business and about the many revenue sources newspaper companies can and should try. The final piece of my Digital First series curated several posts by John Paton and others about the business of digital journalism. I noted the fifth anniversary of Newspaper Next and responded to a Nieman Lab piece on the anniversary, expressing my disappointment that the news business did not embrace what we were teaching.
Ethics. I have continued to write about journalism ethics. My accuracy checklist, inspired by Craig Silverman, was one of my 10 most-read posts of the year. Not far behind was my post criticizing the Poynter Institute for using the word plagiarism in a controversial post about Jim Romenesko. For an accuracy workshop with Craig for Georgetown, I compiled links to accuracy and verification resources for journalists. I joined Jay Rosen in criticizing he-said-she-said stories. My Digital First series included a post about digital journalism values. I updated handouts on attribution and plagiarism and fabrication from my series of ethics seminars a few years ago for the American Press Institute. I wrote about Rules of the Road, a J-Lab publication examining ethical issues in local journalism. I published the personal code of ethics of the late Phil Record, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram editor and Texas Christian University journalism ethics teacher. I blogged about the American Society of News Editors’ social media “best practices” and offered my own best practices. I wrote about the social media guidelines of the Associated Press and Washington Post and Mathew Ingram’s suggestions for social media guidelines. I answered the question about whether it’s better to be first or to get your facts right. I noted that the biases of baseball writers continue to keep Roger Maris out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. (I was pleased, by the way, to Ron Santo, nowhere near as great or as famous as Maris, but a worthy selection nonetheless. I was annoyed, though, that the idiots handling Hall of Fame elections waited until he died. No one would have enjoyed a Cooperstown induction more than the exuberant Santo.)
Writing. Two developments prompted me to publish several posts of writing tips. Journal Register editors created an informal network to provide coaching on writing skills to staff members, so I updated several of my old writing handouts from my years as a writing coach. I also was invited to Canada for a series of writing workshop for the music staff of CBC.ca. Between the two prods, I blogged this year about writing leads, tightening copy, writing for the web, blogging and grammar. I also blogged about the writing of one of my best stories from my reporting days and about a story that was never published, as well as my view that storytelling needs to keep evolving.
No Train, No Gain. I noted that I had learned that archives of the No Train, No Gain website were available online. So I started reposting old blog posts from my Training Track blog when I wrote about newsroom training. I updated my post about Roy Peter Clark and his Writing Tools.
Digital journalism tools. I blogged frequently about digital tools for journalists. I noted the great use Joey Kulkin of the Trentonian made of Google+ in its first weeks of availability. I wrote about Google maps, Visual.ly and Foursquare. I plan to blog regularly about digital tools in 2012.
Storify. I have enjoyed using Storify to curate social media conversations for several blog posts about a writing workshop, Weingarten, live-tweeting court coverage and breaking news and editors’ use of Twitter. Thanks to Burt Herman and his Storify colleagues for developing (and improving) this outstanding tool for journalists. Some of my Storify use didn’t go on the blog, including a curation about curation and coverage of the celebration in Lafayette Park after the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
Changing journalism. Other topics I addressed about how journalism is changing: whether news judgment still has value, flaws in the Navigating News Online study, Warren Buffett buying the Omaha World-Herald and lame media coverage of Sam Brownback’s overreaction to a student’s tweet, making money from a blog, tips for search-engine optimization, a columnist’s role and writing historic headlines. I responded to concerns about the future of investigative journalism, then praised Clay Shirky’s more thoughtful response.
Personal. I occasionally stray from my topic of journalism (or write a personal reflection on journalism). I wrote about my niece Kat, who was undergoing a stem cell transplant. I’m pleased to update that I visited Kat and her family in October. She’s doing great and participated in a track meet in December. I wrote again about a sunset (hey, I like sunsets; that’s why I put it in my blog header). I reflected on my 40th anniversary in the news business. I wrote about an epic commute. At Amy Gahran’s suggestion, I wrote some disclosures about the personal experiences and involvements that may affect my writing. I don’t do my holiday letter to friends and family as a blog post, but I post it at Scribd. If you want to know more about how 2011 was for Mimi and me personally and if I didn’t already send you the link, feel welcome to read it at the link above.
This was far and away the busiest year for my blog in terms of traffic. I set page-view records in May, June, September, October, November and December. The first Weingarten piece set my all-time record for views in a single day, but the Romenesko piece broke that record and the first post in my Digital First series broke that again.
I’m sure one reason for my heavy traffic this year was because many of my new Digital First colleagues started reading the blog (or reading it more often). Another reason is that I’m sure that I have been more prolific on the blog this year (more than 170 posts in 2011).
I enjoy writing this blog and I especially enjoy the ensuing conversation in the comments, on social media, in other blogs on Weingarten’s live chats and as I’ve met blog readers in my various travels. I plan to keep writing a lot in 2012. What are some topics you’d like me to address in the coming year?
Please be patient if I am slow in approving and replying to comments. Mimi and I head to the Blue Ridge Mountains today to greet the New Year unplugged in a cabin with no cell signal and no Internet access. I’ll plug back in (and resume blogging) in 2012.