Archive for September, 2012

I am late in noting here that I had a guest post at Nieman Lab about why and how student media should move swiftly to become digital-first.

I elaborated on the points I made earlier this year about student media after doing some consulting for Texas Christian University and the University of Oregon and after teaching some digital-first workshops for TCU and the University of Texas at Arlington.

I also should note that University of Tampa journalism professor Dan Reimold wrote a detailed response to my Nieman Lab post.

It’s a thoughtful response that Jim Romenesko framed as a debate between Dan and me. After I commented on Dan’s blog, he responded that he “truly loved” my Nieman piece and that we are “pretty much in lock-step.” (more…)

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Update Sunday: I have added some further comments and videos of the panel at the end of this post.

Update: I embedded some tweets since originally posting this.

Walking to the Online News Association Friday morning in San Francisco, I tuned in using Twitter to the Associated Press Media Editors conference in Nashville. The contrast was striking.

At ONA, I attended an enlightening presentation Thursday night on best practices for journalists, based on hard data analysis. Friday morning I read a tweet from an Associated Press executive that reflected ignorance and generational stereotypes.

I’m sure the tweet that sucked me in wasn’t representative of APME, but it did highlight a disturbing divide that persists in journalism today.

My friend Joe Hight of The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com tweeted:

I was pleased to read in other tweets that some at APME and other editors disagreed with Sidoti, AP’s political editor (political editor!):

Before commenting, I need to note that I wasn’t in the room and didn’t hear the statement or the context. But tweets from other APME members reported the same point from Sidoti, including a lament that these young slacker journalists were using social media in favor of “shoe-leather” reporting.

My response from San Francisco: What valuable journalism tool isn’t a time suck? Cellphones, data, documents, interviews, writing, thinking, verification of facts, shoe-leather reporting. Every damn one of them is a time suck. And good journalists manage their time well to do those things because they are essential to good journalism.


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As I noted in yesterday’s post on a couple of social media workshops, Twitter data has confirmed that I am teaching best practices for journalists in using Twitter.

On the opening night of the Online News Association 2012 conference Thursday, Mark Luckie of Twitter released results of a study of journalists’ use of Twitter and engagement with those journalists’ tweets. I found one small surprise in the data, but mostly it confirmed specific points that I have made in several workshops and blog posts for journalists, including just the day before.

So I’m firing off another #twutorial post, straight from #TwitterHQ.

Let’s start with how the study defined engagement:


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I led two workshops yesterday for Bay Area News Group journalists.

At the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., I discussed ways for journalists who have started using Twitter to get better use of it. We discussed several topics I have addressed in recent #twutorial posts: search, hashtags, organizing the chaos, time management, building followers, how and what to tweet. (Time ran out before we talked about livetweeting in much depth, but that’s on the slides and I wanted to include the link since we did discuss it briefly.) Here are the slides I used:


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Perspective and context can entirely change how people view numbers. Which number seems larger: 16 percent or 30 million? Without perspective and context, it’s hard to say. In this case, they actually are the same number.

A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 16 percent of adult Internet users use Twitter (that works out to 13 percent of all adults, doing the math from the survey’s sample of all adults). If that strikes you as a small number, then consider 30 million instead. That’s the number you get if you apply that 13 percent to the nation’s adult population. For comparison, daily newspaper circulation in the United States is 44 million. (Readership is higher.)

Why should journalists or newsrooms care about a service that six out of seven adults don’t even use? That’s where perspective and context come in.

The Pew study also found that 20 percent of the adult Internet users use LinkedIn, substantially more than use Twitter. But what the study didn’t show is how much the people use each service. The question asked was:

Please answer these next questions by thinking about all the ways you use the internet with computers, laptops, mobile phones, and other devices. Please tell me if you ever use the internet or an app with any of those devices to use (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) (more…)

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Sometimes you don’t need a new story idea. You just use a good idea that has worked before. Newsrooms around the country provided extensive coverage last year of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, much of it focused on sharing people’s memories of that unforgettable day.

That doesn’t mean the same technique wouldn’t work again this year. Monica Drake, community engagement editor at the Oakland Press, sent along this message about this year’s community-memory project.

I figured that most people remember exactly where they were when they first heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center. On the front page of The Oakland Press last week, we asked readers to submit their stories of where they were when they heard the news. I also set up a Google voice account where people could leave voicemails of their responses — and made a video with these. (more…)

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I was a guest via Google+ Hangout for Dan Pacheco’s class at Syracuse University this morning. They livestreamed on YouTube:

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Bitterness is an understandable emotion. But it always hurts you more than your targets.

I think I have had a lot in common with the journalists, some of them clearly former Journal Register employees, who lashed out at our company or our CEO in comments recently about the company’s Chapter 11 filing. You can read a sampling at the end of my blog post on the bankruptcy or on Jim Romenesko’s or Josh Benton’s or Matt DeRienzo’s.

I’m not going to debate here the merits of the financial move or the criticisms we received. I already had my say about the bankruptcy filing and I’m happy to give critics their say (I haven’t withheld approval of any comments on my blog post and just checked 14 pages of spam messages to make sure no critical comments got diverted by the spam filter). And I’ll grant that critics, even bitter ones, raise some valid points and questions.

What I do want to say here is that I’ve battled bitter feelings on many occasions in my career. The details aren’t important here, but I’ve been fired and have endured the deaths of two afternoon newspapers. I’ve been caught in the middle of a legal dispute. A publisher’s wife tried to get me fired. An editor forgot I had applied for a columnist’s position I dearly wanted. I learned from the bulletin board about someone being promoted into a position I was in line for. I’ve been passed over for other jobs when I was sure I was better than the people who got them. Twice in a row I changed jobs and moved my family for exciting new opportunities only to have the top executives change directions. I consulted a lawyer about an instance of age discrimination. I’ve been demoted and had my pay cut (five days before Christmas; thank you, Mr. Scrooge). I’ve seen more colleagues lose their jobs than I can count. And I had to deliver that unpleasant news to some colleagues after losing a fight to save their jobs (I was gone myself within a year).

Every one of those incidents felt like a profound injustice at the time and I’m sure each of the offending bosses felt they were sound business decisions. But you know (and deep down I know) that life isn’t that simple. Some of them were injustices. But some of them were sound business decisions. And dammit, some were both. And an honest appraisal would note that responsibility for those unhappy moves ranged from 100 percent the employer’s to heavy responsibility for me (since I didn’t make the decisions, I can’t say it was ever 100 percent on me). (more…)

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Today is my day for blogging about other people’s blogs. This time I’m recommending that you read Clay Shirky’s post about why we should save Homicide Watch. If you need more of a nudge, read my TBD post last year about Homicide Watch and an earlier crowdfunding effort.

If you need more of a nudge, check out Homicide Watch. It’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of a local journalism startup. I want it to survive and I hope you’ll contribute to its Kickstarter campaign (I have) to keep it going while founder Laura Norton Amico is at Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship. She needs almost $14,000 more in the next week to reach the $40,000 goal.

I want to see quality journalism thrive. I want to see Laura’s vision, enterprise and innovation rewarded. I want to see crowdfunding grow as a revenue source for quality journalism. Let’s make this work.





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Mathew Ingram

Mathew Ingram might be the digital-media commentator I agree with most often.

On the rare times that I beat him to blogging about a timely issue, I tend to read his post later and conclude that he said what I was trying to say, but he nailed it. And I can’t count how many times he has blogged about something I was meaning to blog about, and I just decided he said it better than I could, so I just tweeted a link to it with an approving comment and checked that off my list of stuff to blog about.

As Twitter has started being more controlling and less flexible with external developers, I have been struggling to find something to say. I know I should say something. I’ve been such a regular commentator about Twitter and an advocate that journalists should use Twitter that my silence on this Twitter business strategy has felt uncomfortable.

But I am embarrassingly ignorant about matters of development. That’s all really magic and mystery to me. When you say API, I still think of American Press Institute, not application programming interface (and I’m not 100 percent sure what that means). I’m reluctant to comment where I’m ignorant (though I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be a first).

For all my encouragement for journalists to use Twitter, I also have criticized Twitter for lousy customer service and wildly inaccurate location bugs (haven’t seen that problem for a while). Early in my days as a Twitter advocate, people often smugly or hopefully told me Twitter would be gone in by the next year (I first started hearing that about four years ago). And I told them that they might be right, but I would learn faster from Twitter about whatever pushes it aside than they would learn on whatever their primary news source is.

I have known that Twitter was going to make some changes to boost its revenue. That has been obvious for years. I anticipated some valuable services for businesses using Twitter and/or some premium features for individuals (I would pay for the ability to edit tweets, for better archival search and some other features). I saw some value in promoted tweets, but I knew those would be as annoying as they have been. Twitter seems to be seeking instead to take more control of the external development that has driven much of its growth.

External development has developed virtually all the features and products that have made Twitter so useful. sI suspect this move is going to backfire for Twitter. But I’m not smart enough in this area to say why or what they should do instead (I suspect and hope they will change course rather than going down in flames).


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I don’t pretend to understand corporate finance. So I won’t have a lot to say about today’s announcement that Journal Register Company filed for Chapter 11 and is for sale.

Here’s what I know: JRC is making great strides in developing a healthy new business model for the digital marketplace. (So are Digital First Media and MediaNews Group, which are all intertwined but not identical; it’s just JRC that is involved in today’s filing). I don’t expect the financial measures announced today to change that beyond giving us the ability to renegotiate some debts, pensions and leases.


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A journalism student asked me a question last night that reflects a common concern among professional journalists and media managers:

I wasn’t exactly pleased with my reply (as tirelessly as I encourage journalists to use  Twitter, can I still blame the 140-character limit?):

Then this morning I got around to blogging about some analysis Matt DeRienzo did recent of Digital First Media’s branded Twitter accounts in Connecticut, and I realized Matt had a better answer: Serving your Twitter audience effectively drives traffic to your website better than trying to drive traffic. (more…)

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