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Archive for April, 2013

This post starts a series for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms. Some of the advice might be good for veteran editors, too, and for editors in other companies. 

Listening should be one of an editor’s most important skills and priorities.

Editors needed to be good listeners when I started in the news business more than 40 years ago, when we were still melting lead to set type. Listening was essential when I first became editor of the Minot Daily News in 1992, when the digital revolution for newsrooms was just around the next bend. And it was even more important when I became editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 2008, as social media was causing a second (or third; I think I’m losing track) digital revolution for newsrooms. It still remains one of an editor’s most important jobs, but we have some great listening tools that weren’t available before.

A good editor listens to the staff and to the community. You don’t necessarily follow all the advice you hear or act on all the complaints you hear (or bask in the praise), but you need to hear what the community and the staff are saying. You need to know what your staff thinks about your leadership and your decisions. You need to know what the community thinks of your content. You need to know what your staff is proud of and embarrassed of and concerned about. You need to know what your community is laughing at and angry about.

You don’t just need to know what the community is saying about you and your news products, though. You need to know what people are saying about the news and community affairs. Has a story that’s hot in the coffee shops and Facebook discussions escaped your staff’s notice because it doesn’t fit in your beat structure (or because someone is not covering a beat well)? Is your community confused about an issue you are reporting or should be reporting? Has the community grown tired of an issue? You should know. (more…)

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I am no less tired of paywall arguments than I was when I sort of swore off them for a while in December. But I agreed to be on a paywall panel tomorrow at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. So maybe it’s time to update my observations about paywalls.

My basic view about paywalls hasn’t changed since I wrote any of the pieces I cite at the end of this post. All those pieces and this one come down to this: The potential revenue paywalls will yield isn’t worth the damage they cause. And they cause twofold damage:

  1. They divert energy and investment from development of forward-looking revenue streams with far greater potential.
  2. They limit your audience, especially among the young adults on which any business of the future must be based.

My update is simply to share some new information that underscores (again) those points. But I’ll add this point in the international context: I don’t pretend to understand the market dynamics or cultural factors that might influence the success of paywalls in other nations. My views apply strongly to the U.S. market and culture and to a large extent as well to the Canadian market and culture. My experience and expertise beyond those countries is minimal.

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I will be discussing ethical aggregation today at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.

Many of the points I make will be from my earlier blog posts on aggregation and curation. Here are the slides (with Italian translations from Google). I will later add some tweets from the discussion. You can follow this and other festival sessions on the #ijf13 hashtag.

Update: I’m told Google doesn’t translate “bad rap” well. At least I prefaced my translated slides by saying that they probably would have a funny translation or two.

If you want the slides just in English, here are the slides I used for a similar discussion at the ACES conference in St. Louis earlier this month:

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Jill Abramson, photo linked from New York Times

Because I was attending the International Journalism Festival when Dylan Byers published his click-bait piece “Jill Abramson loses the newsroom” on Politico, I initially intended to respond just with disapproving tweets.

Then Emily Bell slammed the piece for its sexist tone better than I could have. And I initially thought I’d respond just with approving tweets.

After all, I don’t know Jill Abramson. And she doesn’t need me to defend her (great response from her, cited in Huffington Post). I had no idea whether the story was true or not, though I had serious doubts because it relied heavily on unnamed and unaccountable sources. But as I considered it, I thought that a male voice, a former editor who might have supposedly “lost” a newsroom, might have some value and I started pondering a post.

Then I heard Aron Pilhofer tell an Abramson story at the festival and I decided I’d better blog about this.

Most of the editors I’ve worked for have been men. That’s probably true of most people in the news business because the vast majority of editors are men. While women have made strides, men still dominate in newsroom leadership.

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john e mcintyreJohn E. McIntyre has long been a source of wisdom for journalists, particularly colleagues at the Baltimore Sun and fellow copy editors.

He is a founding member (and two-time former president) of the American Copy Editors Society. I knew of him long before I met him, when he led a discussion for a seminar I was planning for news editors and copy desk chiefs at an American Press Institute workshop, probably in 2006 or so.

He’s a guardian of the language who enforces the rules that matter and debunks the ones that don’t. He may be an Old Editor, but he’s also a prolific blogger and podcaster, a witty tweep and he was the first person to point out that I was violating Facebook etiquette early in my social media days by syncing my Twitter and Facebook accounts so that nearly all my tweets posted to Facebook (way too often to post on FB, but an acceptable pace for Twitter).

I’m pleased to see that John has compiled some of his wisdom into a book: The Old Editor Says: Maxims for Writing and Editing.

John does not pretend that all the maxims are original. In the preface he handles attribution deftly:

Some you may find familiar, such as the Chicago News Bureau’s, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” some are adapted from the remarks of my own editors, some are from the general lore, and some – many , actually – are my own.”

I should add that I didn’t know the maxim about Mom (which I’ve used a time or two on my blog) had a known origin. It figures that John would know. Even the familiar and adapted maxims are delivered and explained in John’s authoritative voice and with his dry wit. This is very much his book, even if you’ve heard and read some of the wisdom before. (more…)

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I have long meant to add to my #twutorial series an updated list of resources by others that offer advice for using Twitter, along the lines of the advice I offer in the series.

That will come someday, but I’ll start with today’s excellent post from Slate’s Jeremy Stahl: Thou Shalt Not Stoop to Political Point-Scoring: A Journalist’s guide to tweeting during a crisis. I think the main head and subhead should have been reversed because the post isn’t about point-scoring. That’s just one (very valid) point in the guide on crisis tweeting.

A couple other key points:

  • “Media outlets need to turn off their automated Twitter feeds to ensure that frivolous and/or off-topic items don’t get sent out by mistake.”
  • “Use first-person eyewitness accounts and official sources like the Boston Police department’s Twitter account or official press conferences.”

Read the whole post. The advice on what not to do is as important as the advice on what to do, including this one: “Do not pass on speculation.”

I may compile more such advice someday (updating this 2011 list of social media resources), or I may just curate others as people post them.

Earlier #twutorial posts

#twutorial post: How to embed tweets and follow conversations

Step one for using Twitter as a reporter: Master advanced search

Use lists, TweetDeck, HootSuite, saved searches, alerts to organize Twitter’s chaos

Denver Post staffers’ #theatershooting coverage demonstrates Twitter breaking news techniques

Hashtags help journalists find relevant tweets and reach more people

Advice and examples on how and what journalists should tweet

9 ways to find helpful people and organizations to follow on Twitter

To build Twitter followers: Join the conversation, tweet often, be yourself

10 ways Twitter is valuable for journalists

Updated Twitter time management tips

Don’t be selfish on Twitter; tweeting useful information is good business

What’s the best way to view Twitter’s users? 16 percent or 30 million

Twitter data shows journos’ ‘burstiness’ boosts followers

#Twutorial guest post from Alexis Grant: A simple Twitter strategy that will dramatically grow your network

#Twutorial guest post from Deanna Utroske: Tips for twinterviewing

#Twutorial guest post by Menachem Wecker: How to use Twitter to find the best sources

#Twutorial guest post by Jaclyn Schiff: How using Storify can help you find great sources

Getting started on Twitter: #twutorial advice for a friend

Should a journalist livetweet a funeral? If so, how?

Use Twitter for conversation about an event, not just promotion

How to verify information from tweets: check it out

In addition, these two posts that predate the #twutorial series cover some of the points I’ll make in the workshop:

Suggestions for livetweeting

Updated and expanded Twitter tips for journalists

 

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Reporters Without Borders map of Freedom of the Press

Americans pay lip service to freedom of the press, but we don’t adequately appreciate or protect one of our most precious freedoms.

I spent the past three days in Lyon, France, at a conference on New Media in Russia, discussing media issues with journalists from Russia, the United States and at least four other European countries. The map above appeared at least twice on slides or videos, Russia standing out in red, not symbolizing the communism of days gone by, but the lack of progress since the fall of the Soviet Union — even the reversal of progress under the regime of President Vladimir Putin.

Red does not stand for the most repressive regimes. China, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and a few other nations earned a black rating. Note that the United States is yellow, rather than white, the “good situation” designation.

Listening to the Russian journalists and professors speak about the restrictions and challenges they face and listening to American attorney Dick Winfield discuss the legal situation in Russia, I realized (again) that American journalists and citizens too often take our freedom for granted. We could learn a lot from the courage of our Russian colleagues.

Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko

Among our speakers Friday was Grigory Pasko, who was imprisoned three years for reporting about nuclear waste.

After visiting Siberia in 2009, I reported about the pride in journalists and publishers there as they celebrated 20 years of independent press. Then and now, I am humbled by the courage and determination of my Russian colleagues to tell the stories of their country and hold the powerful accountable, risking prison and death in the process.

American journalists and media organizations lament the collapse of newspaper advertising, low digital advertising rates and our inability to develop successful business models to sustain large digital media organizations. The Russian journalists talked about how digital publishing has made it easier for journalists in their country to tell important stories that might otherwise be censored. Pasko’s panel discussed training programs for Russian bloggers.

Winfield, a co-founder of the International Senior Lawyers Project, which provides pro bono legal counsel in media freedom and other human rights cases around the world, told our conference that Russian courts punish thousands of journalists every year, mostly for defamation. Punishments can include fines and imprisonment.

As the map shows, our situation is not nearly that dire. But it is nonetheless shameful. The nation that first enshrined freedom of press in its laws should not be yellow on that map.

Reporters in the United States are jailed (most often for protecting confidential sources) often enough that the First Amendment Center has a historical timeline of such cases. Despite promises of transparency, the Obama administration has protected secrecy in government as aggressively as any administration.

Even at the local level, governments around the country are suppressing information and fighting media efforts to hold them accountable. Just this week, my Digital First Media colleague Rick Mills, editor of the Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., wrote of  a prosecutor and a magistrate illegally suppressing public court records in a murder case.

At the local level, the state level and the federal level — in courts, legislatures and executive offices — journalists need to shine lights in the places where the powerful operate in the dark.

In the Reporters Without Borders rankings of press freedom around the world, shown on the map above, the United States ranks 32nd, behind Suriname and just ahead of Lithuania. Think about that the next time someone tells you that terrorists hate us for our freedom. No one hates Suriname for its freedom. Or Ghana. Or Poland. Or Namibia. Or any of the other 31 nations that defend freedom of the press more vigorously than we do.

If people hate us, they hate us for our power. If we defended our freedom as vigorously as we defend our power, we’d be more likable.

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