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Archive for March, 2012

Since I wrote yesterday about overcoming obstacles, I thought this would be a good time to republish this post from my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute. I think it’s the first time where I discussed this in writing, though I know I have repeated the point in writing and speaking many time. It’s one of the principles of journalism practice that I believe most strongly.

I edited lightly to update, adding a few links, but have not checked the links I published at the time to see if they are still active, though I think I should leave them in either way. This was published originally Aug. 16, 2005. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed with the writing; I tried to tie two points together and probably should have addressed them separately. But this is an archival post, not a rewrite.

The post refers to some other posts about computer-assisted reporting. I will republish those posts soon. The post refers to a comment by Iqbal Tamimi on one of those posts. Because the original post is no longer online, I can no longer find the full comment.

I figured I was done writing about journalists and computers for a while after three posts on the subject in a month’s time. But then I heard Sree Sreenivasan. And then Iqbal Tamimi wrote me. So I’m addressing the topic one more time.

I’ve read Sree’s “Web Tips” columns for a few years now. He wrote once about the “No Train, No Gain” web site that I help Dolf Els run along with some other newsroom trainers. After Sree interviewed me for that column, we’ve kept in occasional touch by e-mail and we finally met in June, when I spoke at a conference of the South Asian Journalists Association, of which Sree is a founder. I finally heard Sree train journalists last week at API’s seminar for news editors and copy desk chiefs. (more…)

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I asked my tweeps yesterday for examples of news-based games. They responded, so I Storified their responses. (I initially published the whole thing to this blog from Storify, but the coding was garbled somehow, so I deleted it. The embed code doesn’t work on wordpress.com, so it’s best to read from the link above.

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Obstacles to Digital First successA survey of Digital First Media editorial leaders identified impediments our newsrooms face in pursuing digital success.

The results, illustrated above, weren’t surprising: Many of our newsrooms have outdated equipment (updating it has been a high priority, but it takes time). Newsroom staffs have shrunk the past few years in our companies, as they have in other companies relying on declining print revenues. Training is a high priority as well.

As our CEO John Paton wrote in publishing this word cloud, “Still much to do.”

The survey underscored the urgency of our existing priorities. It reminded me that I probably need to blog and train more on the issue of time management (if only I could find the time).

I agree that all the huge words above are significant obstacles for Digital First journalists. But I tell the newsroom leaders who cited them (and the staff members who certainly would echo them) that these can’t be excuses for not achieving digital success. (I was pleased by the first comment on John’s blog post, from Tom Skoch, editor of the Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio: “Obstacles fuel our imagination and breed innovation.”)

Here’s what I know: Our success will rest not in our ability to remove obstacles, but in our ability to overcome them. (more…)

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I will be leading workshops this week for The Gazette in Montreal. Here are links and slides I will be using in workshops:

We will discuss leading a digital-first newsroom. Here are slides for that workshop:

We will discuss the thinking and values of digital-first journalists. Here are slides for that workshop: (more…)

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Seeking photos from the public is easier when you ask for photos people are already shooting. This is why weather photos, holiday photos and travel photos often work well for community engagement.

I like a project by the Oakland Press, collecting photographs people have taken of their children with a statue of a boy at the Rochester Hills Public Library. The statue, part of a memorial to Andrew Moore, who died as a young man, virtually invites children to pose with the boy. So the Press wasn’t asking people to shoot photos, it was just inviting them to share photos they already had.

The community photos made an engaging package with a story, video and photos by community intern Susan Fine, reporter Krystle Anderson and photographer Vaughn Gurganian.

Update from Oakland Press Community Engagement Editor Karen Workman:

  • Since it was uploaded Friday afternoon, the video for this story is currently the seventh top video for our website with 167 views. Though this may seem low on views, it is actually quite good for a feature story video.
  • The story also did pretty well in terms of pageviews. For both story files (the first one archived, so I had to re-upload to get it back on the front this morning), the current number of views is exactly 1,000 — again, quite good for a positive feature story.

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I recently reposted blog posts on linking and confidential sources from my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute, since those are no longer available at API’s website. That prompted me to repost more from the Training Tracks, just to have the archive available. I will select those that are most relevant to repost first. This advice, sadly, still applies today. I have not checked the links to see whether they remain active, but I think I should leave them in either way. This was originally published May 31, 2007:

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?”

Prospering doesn’t describe what is happening in the newspaper business. And adapting may not be enough. That sounds like making a change here and a tweak there. Newspapers have to transform in order to have a chance at prosperity. (more…)

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I did not expect to write a second follow-up to the tragic story of a death on the Amtrak tracks. But this is an amazing story about a lost dog that should not get lost in a comment.

Some background: I was riding home from New York on Amtrak the morning of Feb. 24, when our train was stopped a little past midnight. We ended up waiting nearly three hours in northern Maryland while police and emergency crews investigated the death of a trespasser on the tracks. I, of course, live-tweeted the experience, then Storified it.

On March 2, I updated, noting that Amtrak Police had identified the woman struck by the train. I thought that was the sad end of the story. But a commenter identified as Aimee left a link on that blog post, telling another bizarre chapter in the story. I encourage you to read the full story by Lisa Broadt in the Cecil Whig, about a stolen dog finally finding his way home. (If you hit a paywall on that link — I didn’t, but a friend did — you can read the story here.)

Amazing. Good story.

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Because I wrote today about unnamed sources, I thought this might be a good time to republish a blog post from my old Training Tracks blog for the American Press Institute. This was originally published Dec. 19, 2005. I have not checked to see whether the links are still good, but I think I should leave them in even if they aren’t:

The New York Times story on domestic spying by the Bush administration provides a bit of a comeback for the legitimate use of confidential sources.

That story presented lots to argue about: Should the Times have yielded to administration pressure and waited a year to publish the story (especially if that “year” was really a year-plus and meant they waited until after the 2004 elections)? Should the Times have published the story at all?

This much is clear, though: You can’t question the credibility of the story because the reporters, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, did not name their sources. President Bush confirmed the story the next day. (more…)

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Annual advertising revenue figures from the Newspaper Association of America underscore why the Digital First approach is important and urgent.

I won’t bother to analyze the figures in depth. Alan Mutter and Rick Edmonds did a thorough job of that.

Here’s what I did: I used the CPI Inflation Calculator to convert the annual print ad revenue figures from 2005 through 2011 into 2012 dollars. After adjusting for inflation, ad spending fell by 62 percent in six years: from $55 billion in 2005 ($47 billion before adjusting) to $21 billion last year. (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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Thanks to Lisa Fernandez of the San Jose Mercury News for sending along this example of an update and a tweet by editor Mike Frankel giving an extra boost to a story (lightly edited from Lisa’s email):

We’re all trying here at BANG (the Bay Area News Group) to figure out how to extend the life of a story. And then, voila. Something happened by happenstance today, that made a story dropping in clicks turn into the No. 1 “most read” story today.

On Monday, we wrote about a PayPal executive who was killed after he was struck by a train. Turns out he was suffering from bipolar II, and we had gotten a statement from his family. Colleague Mike Rosenberg wrote the first version, which ran online Monday evening and in the paper on Tuesday. (more…)

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I will be leading two discussions at the America East conference in Hershey, Pa., today:

For a group of AP digital managers, I will talk about thinking and working Digital First.

For the America East conference, we will discuss some of the techniques covered in my blog post, What does community engagement mean?

Here are the slides for the second presentation:

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