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Posts Tagged ‘Clay Shirky’

With help from Dean Baquet and Clay Shirky, I set an all-time traffic record on my blog this month.

Posts relating to Twitter use by Baquet and his Times colleagues contributed more than 10,000 of the more than 40,000 views on the blog this month. My curation of Clay Shirky’s “tweet rant” about people who see new digital platforms as “the next Facebook” contributed another 3,000-plus. Together the topics contributed nearly one-third of my traffic for the month.

Leading the way was Baquet’s guest post questioning whether I and others were creating a “new priesthood” with “new rules for entry,” regarding who is a journalist.

It was an overstatement at best and an inaccurate metaphor. But it drew a lot of interest: more than 6,700 views in the month, including nearly 4,900 the first day, when I set a single-day record for views on the blog.

My initial post, saying that Baquet and other editors who attempt to lead their staffs in innovation undercut their efforts when they aren’t even active on Twitter, also got a good ride (though not even half the views of the response), with 2,800 views. Two other posts relating to the matter combined for another 1,000+ views:

Baquet’s guest post and my curations of tweets by Shirky and Lexi Mainland of the Times totaled more than 10,000 views. Perhaps I need to just post other people’s writing to the blog.

The October traffic exceeded the record I set in February, when I had 36,179 posts. And I passed the record by Oct. 28, so the longer month didn’t play a role in setting the record, just in pushing the total past 40,000, which I topped last night. I should end today a little over 41K.

Though the Baquet guest post was the giant of the month (if anything on a blog this small is a giant), I had two other days over 2,000 views and 16 more days of 1,000 or more.

Other observations about the month’s traffic:

I also set personal records for traffic and unique visitors on my much smaller blog, Hated Yankees. Though the Yankees, the usual topic of that blog, haven’t done anything in October, my second-favorite team, the Kansas City Royals, had a pretty good month, and I turned my attention to the Royals last month.

The month started with a guest post from my youngest son, Tom, a diehard Royals fan from when we lived there in his childhood. He shared his thoughts and emotions about the Royals’ incredible come-from-behind playoff victory over the Oakland A’s. That was the third most-read post of the month, with 122 views.

Hated Yankees had never topped 1,000 views in a month before, and it topped 2,600 views in October. My post on keeping my 29-year-old promise to take my oldest son, Mike, to a game in the Royals’ next World Series got more than 700 views and gave me the single-day traffic record on that blog, 510 views. And my post about going to this year’s Game Two got more than 100 views.

Part of this month’s big Hated Yankees’ traffic, though, was a 2010 post debunking the myth that strategy is more difficult in the National League. Somehow that has become the No. 1 Google result for “strategy National League.” Maybe the World Series prompts some searches relating to strategy and the designated-hitter rule. Anyway, a post that never topped 100 views in a month got over 600 views in October. Maybe someone linked to the post (though I didn’t get a pingback). At any rate, that post became the most-read Hated Yankees post, passing a 2009 post about Graig Nettles.

I also had a post on the International News Media Association’s Culture Change blog this month as well as a couple on the Social Media News Challenge blog.

I don’t know what November will bring, but I presume this will be one of the least-read posts of the month. My post about September’s traffic topped out at 79. But I try to practice transparency and I think you should study what’s working and what’s not, so I post this bit of navel-gazing now and then. I’ll probably update the numbers on the weekend, after the month is over.

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Clay Shirky went on what he admitted up front was a “tweet rant” last night. It illustrates why I’m glad I’m on Twitter and why I think editors should be on Twitter. More on that later, but first, here’s Clay’s rant:

Did you know about Meatspace, Ello and ~Club? Are you using them? I had heard of one of them (Meatspace), but really didn’t know anything about any of them. And I’m not using them. I don’t know whether any of them is important to the future of media, or whether they are all destined-to-fail startups that reached their peak of fame in getting mentioned by Clay Shirky on Twitter. Only one of the three, Ello, has merited a mention in the New York Times that I can find.

Since I criticized Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet for not being active on Twitter and he responded, warning against creating a new “priesthood” for journalism, some have raised questions on social media, other blogs or in comments on my blog about how important it is to be active on Twitter and why.

Well, here’s a reason: Twitter is eight years old. I’m not saying it’s the cutting edge of digital media. It was eight years ago. If you’re active on Twitter, you may still be catching up. I don’t’ use Twitter to be on the cutting edge, just to keep from falling behind. But I want to be aware of the cutting edge and exploring the value of new tools. And you’re more likely to learn about those new tools on Twitter than in old media.

So now I need to go fiddle around with Meatspace. Or Ello. Or ~Club. Maybe all three.

Update: I’m no the waiting lists to get into Ello and ~Club. Meatspace looks kind of odd and probably not for me. But I thought the same thing about Twitter, too. First impressions aren’t a very good guide about the value of social media.

 

 

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My distracting laptop

My distracting laptop

I’ve updated this post after discussing the issue with my class. 

I can think of no journalism professors I admire more than Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen. But I (so far) disagree with them on the subject of whether to allow students to use laptops and mobile devices during class.

Clay has explained in a blog post why he bans computers from his classroom. Jay chimed in his agreement:

They both have notably more classroom experience than I do, and they might be right. I encourage you to read Clay’s full explanation and won’t try to summarize it here, but he cites research about how multitasking can interfere with learning.

My limited experience is different. I was very glad yesterday that a student had her laptop and multitasked in class. (more…)

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One of the most important questions news organizations and journalists need to decide now and in the years ahead is: What should we stop doing?

This was the question that lingered with me most after reading Post-Industrial Journalism, the outstanding report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism by C.W. AndersonEmily Bell and Clay Shirky.

When the report came out, my first reaction was to drop everything, read it right away and comment in detail to its many points. But I found I couldn’t do that. The report came out just as I was trying to get back up to speed after an extended distraction from work as I helped my brother’s family deal with the death of my nephew Brandon. Work tasks beckoned urgently, so I couldn’t drop everything again. And when I found some time to read PIJ, I found my concentration weak, partly due to fatigue, partly because the next work task was always beckoning.

Meanwhile other people weighed in with more insightful things than I had to say yet (but often along the same lines, which would have made my points redundant):  Josh Benton of the Nieman LabJeff Sonderman of Poynter and Mathew Ingram of GigaOm.

Besides, what I wanted to say on about every page was, “Right on!” It’s much easier (and feels more urgent) to blog about something you disagree with (see my posts about recent CJR posts by Dean Starkman and Ryan Chittum or my response to an earlier Columbia report by Len Downie and Michael Schudson, calling for government subsidies for journalism). But I agreed a lot with PIJ. (I did blog about two disagreements with a particular passage, about whether journalism is in decline and whether smaller communities will feel this decline more acutely).

Post-Industrial Journalism makes a lot of important points journalists and news organizations should consider — about the importance of data literacy in journalism, about the importance of solving mysteries (rather than just learning secrets), about the importance of journalists developing computer coding skills, about the importance of sharing lessons from startup news organizations, about shifting our work away from finished news products and toward the continuous flow of a news stream, about developing more flexible “hackable” content management systems. I encourage reading the whole report if you haven’t yet. Journalists should especially read the section targeted at individual journalists.

When I finally finished the report on my fourth or fifth or sixth sitting, one point stuck out, and it wasn’t something they said, but my reaction to what they said: What should we stop doing? (more…)

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I can hardly believe I’m ready to write a second blog post about a single paragraph in a 122-page report. But I question the notion that the quality of news coverage in the United States has been declining and will get worse before it gets better.

Here’s passage in question, from the Post-Industrial Journalism report by the Tow Center for Digital Media:

The effect of the current changes in the news ecosystem has already been a reduction in the quality of news in the United States. On present evidence, we are convinced that journalism in this country will get worse before it gets better, and, in some places (principally midsize and small cities with no daily paper) it will get markedly worse.

I blogged Monday about the community-size issue. Now I want to address the issue of whether news coverage has been declining and will get worse before it gets better.

I absolutely disagreed with the contention that community size is the primary factor affecting the quality of a community’s journalism. I’m less certain of the question of declining quality, past and present. I’m not going to say they’re wrong, but I can’t agree with their statement of the reduction in quality as a fact and with their conviction that journalism is going to get worse. (more…)

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I encourage you to read Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present, released Tuesday by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

I started reading it last night and I’m far enough in to say that it’s good and should stimulate some conversation and thought among journalists, and hopefully lead to some change. But I may not have time to finish it and blog about it for a few days. Josh Benton of the Nieman Lab and Jeff Sonderman of Poynter have already blogged some thoughts on it. Update: So has Mathew Ingram.

Emily Bell, who wrote the report with Clay Shirky and C.W. Anderson, interviewed me in the process of working on the report.

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I was privileged to participate today in the symposium Journalistic Ethics in the Digital Age at the Paley Center for Media in New York, presented by the Poynter Institute and craigconnects.

The symposium was part of an effort to update the Guiding Principles for the Journalist, developed 25 years ago, when Bob Steele was Poynter’s ethics leader. After I argued unsuccessfully that the Society of Professional Journalists should update its Code of Ethics, I was pleased to join Poynter’s effort to update the guiding principles (which overlap closely with the SPJ code). (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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I love the immediacy of online interaction. Someone says something brilliant and people react and retweet right away. Someone says something stupid and the mockery starts instantly.

But sometimes reflection is the better path.

In the November-December issue of Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman launched a lengthy, rambling rant about what he derided as the “future-of-news (FON) consensus.” Essentially (and I overstate only slightly), Starkman proposes a future of returning somehow to the days of Ida Tarbell.

Only mildly miffed that he didn’t include me along with the five people he named as most prominent in leading the quest for a digital future for news, I replied immediately with what I thought was a strong response. I concentrated mostly on making the dual points that investigative journalism most certainly is part of the future the FON gang is working to build and that nostalgists such as Starkman always make the past seem rosier than it was. (Yeah, Ida Tarbell was a great muckraker, but the old business model also supported a lot of bad and mediocre journalism, too.) I dropped what I was doing and cranked out my response Nov. 8, the same day Starkman’s piece was posted online (or at least the day I learned of it).

Looking back on the piece I wrote, I’m still pleased with it, and I made some good points. But Emily Bell (who definitely should have been on Starkman’s FON list) took a day to respond and her piece was more thoughtful and reflective than mine. I encourage you to read it at the link above, but a few highlights: (more…)

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I bow to no one in my love for the good old days of journalism. But everyone trying to take journalism back to the good old days should understand some basic truths:

  • You won’t find the future by retreating to the past.
  • Whatever comes next in journalism can’t and shouldn’t be built to replace either the best or worst of current or historic journalism. You build the future on the technology and opportunities of the future in the context of the future.
  • Watchdog reporting performed by professional journalists is absolutely part of journalism’s future, and I don’t know anyone discussing the future of journalism who doesn’t plan and hope for a successful future for professional watchdog reporting.
  • Journalism of the past doesn’t look as strong on closer examination as it does through your nostalgic filter.

I worked at the Des Moines Register in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Time magazine named it one of the 10 best newspapers in the United States. I was there when Jim Risser won his second Pulitzer Prize and when Tom Knudson wrote the series that won his first Pulitzer. I was there when our coverage of the 1980 and 1984 Iowa caucuses made us an important player in national political coverage. If someone had a magic wand to turn back the clock to the early 1980s, I would be sorely tempted to wave that wand and throw over my current career with Digital First Media. It all looks so rosy through the glasses of nostalgia.

But if I waved that wand, I would have to relive the death of the Des Moines Tribune, the afternoon newspaper our company folded in 1982. And I would relive the disappointment and embarrassment that the journalists of that day did not shine the light brightly enough to prevent the savings and loan crisis that rocked the economy and cost the taxpayers more than $100 billion.

Nostalgia is fun and it’s warm, and for journalists today, it’s seductive and dangerous. (more…)

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I posed by my initial at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, in April 2007.

I posed by my initial at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, in April 2007.

This will be my Monday column in The Gazette:

 

I can be a little smug when I receive e-mails from conservatives who attribute the decline of newspapers to our supposed liberal leanings.

I understand the shifting media landscape so much better than these people, I tell myself. Aren’t they aware that conservative newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Orange County Register are facing the same upheaval?

That smugness reared up in another place last week when I was reading a message from an academic who wanted to know more about the “experiment” we’re undertaking at Gazette Communications. I mulled how to tell the professor this is no experiment. We’re undergoing a no-turning-back transformation here.

Then I read Clay Shirky’s blog post “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.” I realized I’m just beginning to understand the shifting media landscape. I can see that even a no-turning-back transformation is truly an experiment.

For nearly two years now, my closing shtick at presentations for newspaper industry gatherings has revolved around Johannes Gutenberg, whose development of movable type and a printing press transformed the world in the 15th Century.

I told of visiting the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, in 2007. For a journalist in his fourth decade working for newspapers, it was an emotional experience to see the history of printing in its birthplace and to see three ancient, original Gutenberg Bibles. In the same room where the Bibles were displayed, I also saw several older Bibles, beautiful works of art handcrafted by monks in the centuries before Gutenberg.

In closing my presentations about innovation in the news business, I likened those monks to today’s newspaper industry. If the monks’ product was a beautiful handmade book to be passed down through the generations as a treasure, its days were numbered when Gutenberg developed the printing press. But, I added, if their product was a message that they believed in their souls was the word of God, this new technology would help spread that message to countless millions who would never be able to have one of those precious handmade Bibles.

Similarly, I said, our product today is not ink on paper, delivered to your home daily with an account of yesterday’s news. We’re pleased that so many people count on their newspaper and we certainly have been hearing from them the past week after we made some changes to The Gazette. But that newspaper you love or hate is just a delivery system, not the actual product. Our true product is news, information, meaning, context, connection to the community and connection to the marketplace. If we can use today’s revolutionary technology to advance that product and deliver it in different ways to new audiences, we can thrive in this revolution the way the Bible thrived in the printing revolution.

It’s a good shtick and I deliver it with a fervor that would make my preaching parents proud. But when I read Shirky, I realized I didn’t fully understand the Gutenberg revolution and its meaning for today’s newspaper industry.

Citing Elizabeth Eisenstein‘s book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (I’ve already ordered it and may write more about it in the future), Shirky cited lessons from the Gutenberg revolution that snuck right past me: “That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.”

Shirky couldn’t predict, and neither can I, where this revolution will lead: “No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the reporting we need.”

After reading Shirky, I had to admit that we are experimenting, even if we aren’t turning back. The Gazette Co. remains by far Eastern Iowa’s leading news source. We need to experiment now from this strong base, even if the local and national economy and the newspaper industry are in turmoil.

We face an opportunity as profound as Gutenberg’s. We need to be bold enough and visionary enough to seize that opportunity and contribute to this revolution.

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