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Archive for the ‘Digital First Media’ Category

If reports are correct, my former company, Digital First Media, is going to sell to Apollo Global Management for about $400 million.

I’m not going to pretend I can analyze what that means for DFM, my many former colleagues there or for the news business. I hope for the sake of my many friends remaining in the company’s newsrooms across the country that the Apollo’s management will find a path to prosperity that doesn’t involve endlessly cutting staff. I hope the company will genuinely pursue the kind of digital creativity that the future demands and will have the staying power to let good ideas flourish.

Since seeing initial reports about the pending deal, I’ve wondered about the meaning of the $400 million sale price, reached in a long “auction” process that sought the best deal(s) to sell the company as a whole or in pieces.

The reported price tag is a breathtaking fall from what newspapers used to be worth, even in the past few years. I hope this means Apollo’s strategy isn’t to keep cutting staff to maintain profits. DFM doesn’t have much left to cut, and values have dropped as newspapers have been cutting. The best way to maximize this $400 million investment will be to build value by developing new revenue streams.

Comparisons of sales prices of media companies can be misleading. One sale might include more real estate, while another might include more debt or pension obligations. Successful subsidiaries can add value to a company. In a sale such as the DFM deal, which is essentially between two private equity companies, full terms may never be disclosed. You might not be comparing apples and oranges, but apples and lawn mowers.

I was not involved in the sale at all, other than losing my job last year as the company was preparing for the sale. But I understood DFM enough to know this was an extraordinarily complicated deal, with an array of factors that make it unique: (more…)

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Thanks to Katy Culver and the EducationShift blog for inviting my guest post on the importance of teaching accuracy checklists.

The post is an updated, shortened version of my 2011 post responding to Craig Silverman’s call for journalists to develop their own accuracy checklists. The 2011 post elaborates on the items in my checklist. I hope you’ll read (or reread) both posts and start using a checklist if you’re a journalist and teaching checklists if you’re a journalism professor.

I hope I didn’t screw anything up on either post. If I did, please point out to me. I may have to improve my checklist or use it more diligently. And, of course, I’ll correct.

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I don’t post a lot of lists of don’ts on my blog. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a list just of what not to do (please correct me if you remember one), though suppose I’ve probably tempered some tips posts with advice on what not to do.

Christoph Trappe, linked from Twitter avatar

Christoph Trappe, linked from Twitter avatar

I certainly could compile a list of journalism or social-media practices I don’t recommend, but I often think that someone smarter than me — or perhaps someone with different goals — could use those practices successfully. They may use the practice in a way that I couldn’t foresee or in a unique situation that turns the potential annoyance some people feel from that practice around, giving it appeal (or using the annoyance in a creative, positive way).

Christoph Trappe, a friend from Iowa, probably falls into both of the categories above — someone smarter than me, with different goals. I highly recommend his Authentic Storytelling Project and think it could benefit people in various fields of communication.

In a tweet last night, Christoph referenced a post from October about his Twitter pet peeves.*

I couldn’t exactly see what prompted his calling attention to an old blog post, but I’ve done it before (today, in fact), so I read with interest a post that slipped past me the first time.

I commend the post to your attention without endorsing all his peeves. I share Christoph’s annoyance at most of the practices he listed. For instance, I, too, am peeved when people send automated direct messages thanking me for following them (I welcome personal messages, though) or post only teasers and links. (more…)

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The leading theme on the blog this year was Project Unbolt, which occupied most of my attention the first half of the year. I worked with four Digital First Media newsrooms on their efforts to “unbolt” from their print workflow and culture and produced more than 30 related posts on this blog and more for the INMA Culture Change blog.

The project’s posts drew good traffic, but nowhere near my best traffic of the year. My post introducing Project Unbolt drew more than 3,000 views, and my “manual” linking to all the Project Unbolt posts and my post on how an unbolted newsroom works each drew more than 2,000.

Other notable posts of the year dealt with my professional transition: the closing of Thunderdome by DFM (nearly 4,000 views, my third most-read 2014 post), noting the response on Twitter (more than 2K), taking a new job with LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication (1,100+) and sharing job-hunting tips (1K+). My farewell to my DFM colleagues was meaningful to me (and to some of them, I hope), but drew fewer than 300 views. A post on preparing for your next job hunt while you’re still working drew just over 400 views.

As in previous years, Twitter was a recurring theme on the blog and one that drew attention. I received nearly 3,000 views for a post noting that editors who aren’t active on Twitter undercut their pleas that their staffs need to innovate. I mentioned Dean Baquet as such an editor and invited him to respond. He was kind enough to respond, warning that social media use could become another bogus “priesthood” for journalism. That post drew more than 7,000 views, my second-most-viewed 2014 post. And it resulted in the busiest day ever for visitors to the blog. A third post on the matter (noting that Lexi Mainland, an editor on the Times interactive desk, had agreed that it’s important to have a top editor active on Twitter) generated another 600 views.

I blogged a fair amount about the New York Times last year, and some of those posts attracted pretty good traffic. An embarrassing Times correction (later named correction of the year) prompted a post about why journalists should link (nearly 2,500 views); a follow-up post about links being a matter of ethics, not just convenience (just over 300); and a later post applauding Patrick LaForge for exhorting his Times colleagues to make better use of links (not even 300). (more…)

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I love competition, so I enjoy a newspaper war (even if it was just an overhyped skirmish). And I mourn the death of any newspaper, even if it was really just a zoned edition.

So I’ll salute the Long Beach Register at its demise. I admit I thought it had already died, but it cut back in June from six days a week to one. And now it’s finished.

My heart in this “war,” though, was with the other Long Beach daily, the Press-Telegram, colleagues for nearly three years in my days with Digital First Media.

Journalists love to write about each other, and Aaron Kushner’s bold (if foolhardy) adventures in Southern California drew attention from when he first bought the Orange County Register and proclaimed his strategy to double down on print, digital revolution be damned.

I was skeptical from the first and might have said so on social media, and did say so privately, but I refrained from blogging about Kushner. I didn’t want to blog phony optimism, but I was hoping Kushner would succeed, for the sake of all the journalists he was hiring (including friends of mine). Others hailed Kushner’s strategy as bold, showing embarrassingly little skepticism, as Clay Shirky noted this year in a withering commentary.

But it was a foolish strategy. Newspapers haven’t figured out the right digital strategy yet, but pretending that print isn’t dying isn’t going to work. And Kushner compounded his blunder by buying the Riverside Press-Enterprise and then launching daily “Registers” for Long Beach and Los Angeles (the LA Register launched after Long Beach but crashed earlier). (more…)

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Yesterday’s post about my lymphoma diagnosis has brought a lot of messages by email and social media, assuring me that I am in people’s prayers.

The response reminds me of the first time I had cancer, in 1999, when I was religion editor at the Des Moines Register. That job, of course, entailed working with a lot of religious people. Add the fact that I’m a son of two clergy, brother of two more and other kind of kin to still more and related to many lay people of faith. Then and now, I’ve been surrounded and uplifted by people’s prayers.

I didn’t have a blog then, but I wrote a weekly column. This is my column from the Saturday after my surgery to remove colon cancer in 1999:

Before I knew I had cancer, people were praying for my recovery.

I was on the road the day we would get my biopsy results. We didn’t expect bad news, so I didn’t change plans. My wife, Mimi, got the news over the phone while she was at work: The polyp in my colon was malignant. I would need surgery to remove it and part of my colon.

Stunned, she told friends in her office at Creighton University, and the prayer campaign on my behalf began. A while later, I called her and got the shocking news.

As we told family, friends and colleagues, the word spread and more and more pleas went heavenward on my behalf, many from people I barely know, if at all.

Prayer chains at churches in at least five states took up my case. So did Jesuits at Creighton, monks at the abbey where my youngest son goes to school and teachers, staff and students at Holy Trinity School in Des Moines, where my sister-in-law is the media specialist. As I canceled interviews and changed plans, pastors, bishops and other sources said they would pray as well. Jaded journalists who, I figured, invoked the Lord’s name only in vain assured me sincerely that I was in their prayers.

I’ll be honest. When it comes to the physical healing power of prayer, I fall somewhere between enthusiast and skeptic. I’ve prayed for relatives and friends who recovered and prayed just as hard for others who died.

Keep the prayers coming, I figured, but just in case, I’d get a good doctor and get this thing sliced out.

After all, cancer killed my father and Mimi’s mother, and no one prayed more fervently than those two people. They had more people storming the heavens on their behalf than I could ever hope to muster.

I know of people who claim miraculous healing and credit it all to prayer. I also know people who tell of miraculous recoveries and don’t mention prayer at all. (When you have cancer, you hear a lot of cancer stories.)

If a cancer does or doesn’t spread, does or doesn’t return, we don’t truly know how much credit, if any, prayer should share with surgical skill, powerful chemicals, radiation, diet, quackery and other measures we invoke against this frightening disease. Heck, I gladly accepted a four-leaf clover Mimi found at a picnic.

In the past few weeks, though, I’ve learned something about the power of prayer. Regardless of what happens inside your body, prayer is a wonderful gift. A gift with healing power.

It’s too soon to say whether prayer or anything else will heal my colon, though we’re hopeful. As you read this, I’m home, recovering from surgery on Monday. The surgery was successful, and tests showed the cancer was contained to the colon.

But the cancer invaded more than my colon. It attacked my enthusiasm, my vigor, my sense of humor, my sense of hope. Fear, anger and doubt tried to shout down every encouraging word I wanted to utter, every wisecrack, each expression of hope.

For fear, anger and doubt, I can attest, prayer has miraculous healing power. Each assurance that someone was praying for me lifted my spirits, restoring a bit of hope or humor. Did the healing come from some divine power? Or was it just the soothing effect of sympathy? I don’t know. And I don’t much care.

Each prayer is a personal gift. In intimate conversations with their Lord, people are offering my burden as their own.

And with each prayer, the burden grows a little lighter.

The details are different now. But I’m as grateful now as I was then.

After posting yesterday about cancer, I was uplifted by reverent assurances of prayer, irreverent cheering that I’d kick cancer’s ass and a vulgar but touching anti-cancer hashtag (thanks, @jeffjarvis!). In phone calls and in person, in public and personal messages on Facebook and Twitter (see the sampling of tweets below), comments on my blog, comments on Caring Bridge, text messages, emails and even a couple LinkedIn messages, friends, family and strangers have provided balm that I am sure is as powerful in its own way as the chemotherapy will be.

Thank you!












Final note: Yeah, I know I said I’d do my cancer updates on my Caring Bridge page, and I will. But I’ve posted and updated old stories here quite a bit, so I decided to do this one here, too.

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Here are some links and slides for my guest lecture today in Lance Porter‘s Digital Brands class. I was discussing aggregation and curation:

Aggregation guidelines: Link, attribute, add value

Expanding on my aggregation points

Curation techniques, types and tips

@statesman: A case study in using Twitter on breaking news

Brain Pickings

Huffington Post

Drudge Report

Jim Romenesko

Here are my slides for the class:

Aggregation and Curation

 

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