The gatekeeper days of journalism were fun. But they’re over. And they weren’t as good as we remember them.
In a Facebook discussion today, Arkansas State journalism professor Jack Zibluk wrote, “By abandoning the gatekeeper role, I believe you are abandoning the profession.”
I replied: “Jack, no one abandoned the gatekeeper role. It became irrelevant when the fences blew away.”
Jack asked me to elaborate:
If journalism and journalists are no longer gatekeepers, then what ARE we? Nobody I know of has made a cohesive explanation of what our role is any more in society.
I initially begged off, saying I might blog about gatekeepers in a week or two. But another gatekeeper discussion on Jack’s Facebook wall and an exchange of private Facebook messages prompted me to blog now.
I used to be a gatekeeper, the person who decided which of the many potential stories my reporters at the Des Moines Register and Kansas City Star and Times could do would become news back in the 1980s and early 1990s. As editor of the Minot Daily News, I had the final say on every news story for our North Dakota town (and let’s be honest: beyond breaking news, a newspaper editor largely is the gatekeeper for local TV stations, too). Keeping the gate was a serious responsibility: We got to decide what was news and what wasn’t, what was front-page news, what was an inside brief and what wasn’t worth our readers’ time at all. We had to decide when a story was vetted and verified enough to make it through the gate. (more…)
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One of a news organization’s most important jobs is helping voters make informed decisions before they go to the polls. We try to do that with lots of coverage during the election campaign: stories about stump speeches, horse-race stories, issue coverage.
But the fact is that lots of voters aren’t paying attention, particularly in the down-ballot races. They might be following the presidential campaign or races for Senate or governor. But a congressional race usually doesn’t command as much voter attention. Sometimes, especially with House races and local races, voters just want some help right before election. Historically we have tried to meet that need with voter guides readers could scan through, getting a quick look at candidates’ bios and their stands on key issues.
The York Daily Record offered readers a helpful tool in deciding how to vote in Tuesday’s primary races to choose the fall candidates to replace incumbent Todd Platts in the 4th Congressional District. With seven Republicans and three Democrats, voters had lots of candidates to follow, and a poll showed that two-thirds of registered voters were undecided as the primary approached.
The Record offered a quiz, asking voters’ opinions on issues, then showing them which candidate most closely reflected their views and priorities. The quiz, powered by GoToQuiz, asked what kind of experience voters valued, whether it mattered where a candidate lived, and about views on positions such as tax cuts, health care reform, climate change and the war in Afghanistan. You choose which statement most matches your position and the quiz awards points to the candidate whose position you chose. (more…)
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“I need to find the joy and excitement I once experienced as a journalist,” an editor told me in a recent comment on my blog. “I just don’t feel it right now. I pray it will return.”
This editor, Emily Olson, managing editor of the Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn., is not one of the curmudgeons I addressed recently, resisting change in newsrooms. She is leading change in her newsroom. She was described by her publisher at the time (and now her group editor), Matt DeRienzo as an “unsung hero” of the Journal Register Co. turnaround. In the video below, Emily discusses the Register Citizen’s Newsroom Café , recognized by the Associated Press Media Editors as Innovator of the Year for 2011.
So why and how has someone who shared in the innovation of the year lost her joy and excitement for journalism? And how can she regain it? Let’s start by reading Emily’s comment:
It’s been more than 15 years since I decided to leave my job delivering flowers and planting trees at a nursery, go back to school and become a newspaper reporter. Since then (1997) I have built a career as a writer and editor and watched the world change and move under my feet – first with digital cameras and jpgs, which replaced film and contact sheets, then digital layout, web postings once a week, and in the last three years have observed and taken part in – to some extent – the skyrocketing changes that our industry has embraced. I have a title that has the word “managing” and “editor” in it, but they don’t go hand in hand right now because in spite of the massive changes and rolling waves that crash on our desks, we still have to read email, copy and paste, process in photoshop, built unending queues of pages and try, in the midst of it all, to become a ninja.
Well, I pray that my bosses over the years are doing OK. Most of them have moved on, some of them stayed behind, and some of them, like me, are trying to keep up. Am I a curmudgeon? Probably, and that’s pretty sad, to be labeled as such, but I also believe that what I am doing is often so contrary to what is happening around me that I feel like giving up.
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I will be leading a digital storytelling workshop for Heritage Media staff and bloggers, with a special emphasis on liveblogging.
As a demonstration, we’ll feed tweets with the #dfmliveblog hashtag into a liveblog.
Here are some storytelling examples I might use:
In the afternoon, I’ll be discussing thinking and working Digital First with another Heritage Media newsroom.
Here are my slides for the digital storytelling workshop:
I don’t use slides for the workshop on thinking and working Digital First, but here are some slides I used to use with that workshop:
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Sports coverage is a great match for community engagement because engagement is about conversation and sports fans love to talk. We boast when our teams are winning, whine when they are losing and trash-talk with fans of rival teams. We analyze statistics and strategy and fantasize in games that involve both.
I’ll be discussing community engagement in sports coverage at a meeting of the Great Lakes Region of the Associated Press Sports Editors today. Here are tips I’ll be sharing:
Talk with fans. Twitter and Facebook are great tools for monitoring and joining the fans’ conversation. Follow the popular hashtags for the local sports teams and follow individual fans as well. Pose questions to fans on your Facebook page (individually or a branded page). Join the conversation on fan groups or fan pages on Facebook.
Live-tweet and liveblog games. Fans expect live coverage of all events at all levels now. Whether you live-tweet or use CoverItLive or ScribbleLive to liveblog, you should provide live coverage of every event you staff. (And if you live-tweet, you should feed those tweets into your site using CIL, Scribble or a widget.) If high school or small-college writers need to keep their own stats, they won’t be able to tweet or update as frequently, but they still should post major developments live. (And they should explore ways to get schools to provide reliable, timely stats, so they can liveblog more aggressively.) The approach may vary depending on whether a game is televised. If fans are likely to be watching TV while they read your live coverage, don’t bother with play-by-play. Do more analysis, color and commentary. Same if most of your readers are likely to be in the stands or reading after they’ve watched the game. But if the game is not televised, especially if it’s a road game, be sure you’re reporting what’s happening, even if you don’t do actual play-by-play. (more…)
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Front page tease to "Finding Their Way Out" package in York Daily Record.
For most of my career, I’d need to wait until Sunday to read and write about a big newspaper enterprise project. But I read the York Daily Record and Sunday News’ “Finding Their Way Out” on Friday afternoon.
It’s an outstanding package by reporter Bill Landauer and photojournalist Jason Plotkin, designed by Samantha K. Dellinger. They examine the lasting impact of a local act of school violence. It underscores some old-school principles of journalism:
- Reporters and photojournalists need to knock on some doors and develop good relationships to get many of the best stories.
- Reporters and photojournalists should work together on big stories.
- Editors should give reporters and photojournalists time to work on major enterprise stories.
- Professional journalists bring genuine value to their best work.
The project also underscores some principles of digital journalism:
- Digital journalism is first and foremost about doing good journalism.
- We no longer wait until Sunday (when web traffic is slow) to publish our best work. Publishing the story online Friday and in print Sunday fits our company’s Digital First approach.
- We build on strong reporting and photojournalism with strong interactive elements.
- We promote and explain our work on social media and blogs.
I asked the York team some questions by email. Sunday Editor Scott Blanchard, lead editor on the project, answered, along with Editor Jim McClure and Assistant Managing Editor/Visuals Brad Jennings: (more…)
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