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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Shafer’

If you asked me when is the best time for me to post on my blog, I’d say about 8 or 9 a.m. That’s when journalists in the Eastern and Central time zones are starting their workdays and most likely to read my posts, comment, share them in social media and so on.

I came to work yesterday intending to blog about Jack Shafer’s post and Iris Chyi’s research on newspapers’ digital strategy. But a class and other matters demanded my attention in the morning and I couldn’t start writing the post until mid-afternoon. By the time I’d finished, it was after 4 p.m. The normal workday (not that journalism has such a thing) was ending on the East Coast. I briefly pondered waiting until the morning to post. But I was already late in joining the conversation (the last half of my post curated some of the social media conversation Jack’s post had already generated).

I knew I should jump into the conversation right away. I was already late, and if it didn’t get much attention, that was too bad. So I posted at about 4:20 p.m.

And people noticed. Forty-three people retweeted me and at least that many more tweeted new links to the post. Still more shared, liked or commented on it on Facebook. By almost 8:30 a.m. this morning, when I might have been publishing if I had waited till morning, 2,300 people had read the post, with Twitter accounting for more than 1,000 hits on my blog yesterday and Facebook 500, even though we were just barely entering the primary workday in the Eastern and Central time zones.

That’s not a ton of traffic, but my blog usually runs a little under 1,000 views a day (I haven’t been blogging as much the past few months).

The overnight attention underscored a lesson I’ve learned and relearned many times: The perfect time to join a digital conversation is right now.

 

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shafer-columnI hesitate to give more attention to a study and Politico Magazine column that comforted newspaper nostalgists, but I must: Both are BS.

“What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake?” asks the Politico headline, echoed in Jack Shafer‘s breathless lead: “What if almost the entire newspaper industry got it wrong?”

Well, the industry did get it wrong and did make a colossal mistake, but not the one that Shafer and University of Texas scholars Hsiang Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim think it made.

Summarizing Chyi’s and Tenenboim’s Reality Check research article in Journalism Practice, Shafer asks:

What if, in the mad dash two decades ago to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the Web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars? What if the industry should have stuck with its strengths—the print editions where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue come from—instead of chasing the online chimera?

In their research, which prompted Shafer’s column, Chyi and Tenenboim wrote that in the past 20 years “US newspapers, especially national and metro dailies, became more determined than ever to complete their transition from print to online. … ‘Digital first’ has become a mantra, a trend, and a strategy leading to the future.”

Shafer, Chyi and Tenenboim correctly chronicle the weak performance of American metro newspapers in the digital marketplace. But they wrongly conclude, as Shafer wrote, that “The key to the newspaper future might reside in its past and not in smartphones, iPads and VR. ‘Digital first,’ the authors claim, has been a losing proposition for most newspapers.”

Well, I used to work for a company called Digital First Media and at a newspaper-industry think tank, and I’ve visited more than 100 newsrooms and spoken at more than 100 newspaper-industry conferences and seminars, and I can flatly say that the industry never, ever adopted anything close to a digital-first strategy. (Update: Kurt Greenbaum responded on Facebook: “You’re being too kind. Not only did they never adopt such a strategy, they actively resisted tolerance of digital technology, much less acceptance of it.”)

The colossal mistake that the newspaper industry made was responding to digital challenges and opportunities with defensive measures intended to protect newspapers, and timid experiments with posting print-first content online, rather than truly exploring and pursuing digital possibilities.

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As LSU’s Director of Student Media, I occasionally fire off messages to student editors and station managers with suggestions that I usually expect them to ignore. They are independent and they are rightly in charge of their newsrooms, and I didn’t follow a lot of faculty advice when I was their age either.

I sent this message to the editorial board of our newspaper, the Daily Reveille, on Oct. 1:

Message to students

I just checked. I didn’t carbon anyone from the New York Times on the message. But the Times ran a front-page editorial this morning, calling for an end to “the Gun Epidemic in America.”

My students sort of followed my advice (or moved that direction on their own), running some opinions on the front page but more frequently than I suggested. That’s OK, too: The Reveille’s front page and editorials should reflect their judgment, not mine. I’m proud of their work, which has included excellent opinion pieces by columnists and the editorial board on page-one this semester, about such topics as mental health and racial discrimination at bars near campus.

As Kristen Hare’s Poynter piece that I shared with the student editors indicated, newspapers are increasingly responding to important issues by stating opinions on newsprint once reserved for “straight news”: the front page. The New York Times is following this trend, not leading it (nor am I, obviously). Hare’s piece was prompted by this Chicago Sun-Times cover: (more…)

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I’m going to repeat myself here, but journalists, not sources, are responsible for the accuracy of our stories.

Jack Shafer has a great post on “anonymous sources,”* prompted by the New York Times walking back from two stories it had based on unnamed sources (stories you probably read or heard about that apparently falsely disparaged golfer Phil Mickelson and former prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl). I encourage reading Shafer’s piece and won’t go into detail on it here.

But remember this is the newspaper that reported false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then published reporter Judith Miller’s explanation, “If your sources are wrong, you are wrong.”

That was the weakest explanation of journalistic malpractice of anything I’ve heard, and that includes reporters who blame plagiarism or malpractice on being busy or rushed or on careless note-taking.

The Times apparently didn’t learn or has forgotten the important and difficult lessons it learned in the Miller case.

It’s kind of incredible to me that any journalists don’t understand this, but your sources are nearly always wrong. Not about everything, but usually about something. Verification is your job, not the source’s.

Sources can be wrong for a variety of reasons, innocent as well as malicious (some of these reasons apply to on-the-record sources, but I’m focusing on unnamed sources here): (more…)

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For the last few months, I have taken a few turns leading the #ASNEchat on Twitter for the American Society of News Editors. Starting today, we are going to alternate live-chat formats. We’ll still do a Twitter chat every other week. But on the alternating weeks, including today, we’ll do the live chat using CoverItLive at ASNE.org.

Today’s chat will discuss the role of newsroom ombudsmen with four panelists with interesting perspectives on the topic:

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I really don’t have time to write a full blog post today. I’m wrapping up one job and getting ready to launch another, and I don’t have time for the thought, writing and rewriting that an original blog post requires.

So I think I’ll lift most of my material from others or recycle from things I’ve written before. This is all OK, because my topic is plagiarism.

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