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Posts Tagged ‘Jay Rosen’

Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen has a thoughtful take on “Good Old Fashioned Shoe Leather Reporting,” the “single source of virtue” in American journalism.

It feels like hyperbole when Jay writes about shoe-leather: “There can never be enough of it. Only good derives from it. Anything that eclipses it is bad. Anything that eludes it is suspect. Anything that permits more of it is holy.” But Jay documented the veneration of shoe-leather reporting with quotes from Tom Friedman and others. And I have to agree, too many in media have exaggerated or forgotten the role shoe leather used to play and should play in journalism.

I wore out many pairs of shoes in my reporting days, 10 years for the Omaha World-Herald, more than two years for the Des Moines Register, several months for the Kansas City Star and a few years (scattered around and during my college education) for the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel. And I’ve peppered in a little reporting here are there since then, including on this blog and others.

I spent at least as much time as an editor, and told many a reporter (long before the Internet was available) to get his or her ass out of the newsroom and go to the scene of the news we were covering or go knock on a door and ask someone the question we needed answered.

Nearly all the best stories of my career came in whole or part because I was out of the office, interviewing people face-to-face, digging through courthouse records, seeing disaster damage myself, showing empathy in a way that persuaded people to trust me with their intimate stories, seeing important details in the setting where the story took place.

I believe in the importance of shoe leather.

But I also know that shoe leather is just one of many paths to a good story. Smart, hard-working reporters also use: (more…)

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Today more than two dozen veteran journalists share a lot of advice on interviewing, especially about dealing with nerves.

It turns out the journalism student who started the conversation has a lot of company. Even veteran journalists get nervous when they interview, sometimes extremely so. But lots of us learn to overcome our nerves and invite people to tell their stories, and we’ve enjoyed careers even though the nerves never go completely away.

The conversation started this week in a private Facebook group, where a journalism professor sought aid from some former colleagues, asking for advice on helping a student who “is really struggling when he has to interview people in his intro to reporting class. He gets very nervous and just can’t do it.”

Veteran journalists in the group offered great advice. I updated an old handout on interviewing and sought still more advice. Some of the advice overlaps, but I regard that as reinforcement, not repetition.

The responses here (lightly edited, often at the writers’ request) come from the original conversation on Facebook and comments on yesterday’s blog post from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email (comments and photos used with permission):

Advice for the student

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne Beasley

Yvonne, city life reporter and Reno Rebirth digital project manager at the Reno Gazette-Journal, gave this tip:

A wise, introverted photog once told me “you can put on another personality. You’re acting. Be a great actress.” Another thing is: That uncomfortable feeling goes away with age.

(more…)

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Jon Stewart cut his old friend Brian Williams a break, making some really big media news to overshadow the story about the possible death blow to Williams’ career.

A suspension of the leading anchor of the old Big Three television networks for embellishing stories is a big deal. But the departure of the king of fake news is huge. Whom will we turn to now to learn what the news really means? Well, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore and whoever replaces Stewart on The Daily Show, but more on that later.

The dual career moves — a suspension following an apology that only made things worse, contrasting with lavish praise following an announcement of a voluntary departure at some vague point later this year — were loaded in contrast and irony that tell us so much about television news and entertainment today:
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Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen

I commend to your attention Jay Rosen’s blog post suggesting that news companies take the “full stack” approach to a media niche and Ken Doctor’s post examining newspapers’ chances of finally starting to grow revenue just enough to keep pace with inflation.

The posts don’t seem related. Jay looks primarily at digital startups, using legacy media mostly for contrast. He starts out talking about a “complete, end-to-end product or service that bypasses existing companies,” citing a post by Chris Dixon about the software industry.

But mostly Jay focuses on a single point of the full stack, suggesting that news organizations need “a full stack intellectually speaking.” I’d love to see Jay expand on that full intellectual stack, but he zeroes in further, on the very identity of news organizations: “That means defining the beat the way no one else defines it, and coming up with a mission that differs from the industry standard.”

It’s a thoughtful post and I recommend reading it. I’m going to take it in a different direction.

Ken Doctor

Ken Doctor

But first, a quick overview of Ken’s piece, which I also recommend. No one is taking a more detailed look at upheaval in the news business, particularly the newspaper business, than Ken is. This piece asks when (and whether) the newspaper industry can level out after being in a revenue free fall since 2007. Ken’s idea of leveling out is not just to stop losing revenue, but to keep pace with inflation, which Ken projects at 1 percent for 2015 (after a 2.5 percent loss for 2013; 2014 numbers aren’t out yet).

Ken speculates about the chances for growth in 2014 and 2015 in three areas: reader revenue, digital advertising and the “third stream,” an eclectic grouping of revenue sources such as commercial printing, events and marketing services (spoiler alert: He’s not optimistic).

So here’s where I stretch to relate (I hope) Jay’s full-stack thinking to Ken’s analysis of the newspaper industry’s chances to grow.

Let’s start with the point that newspapers were never a full-stack operation. We were at the mercy of newsprint companies, which many times in my career threw budgets into havoc with huge price increases. (I was always puzzled why we never developed a futures market in newsprint, letting companies lock in low prices and/or hedge against price increases.)

On the other end, we didn’t control delivery, turning that over to boys and girls (for the first part of my career) and adults (more later in my career) who were independent contractors. I remember feeling guilty when we would go to court to fight (successfully) against worker comp claims filed by teen-agers injured delivering our papers. When I was at the Kansas City Star and Times, we actually went to the Supreme Court in a battle with our carriers over who controlled our routes, then (after we lost) paid them millions of dollars to buy the routes back. And then we hired the carriers back as independent contractors. We wanted to own the routes, but we still didn’t want to deliver the papers.

I never was thinking about the full-stack metephor until reading Jay’s post, but much of my career, especially the past decade, I have been calling for newspapers to pursue a full-stack approach. In the 1980s (it might have been 1990), I unsuccessfully urged colleagues at the Kansas City Star and Times to follow the lead of cable TV companies and sell modems to customers of the StarText program we were testing, which offered stories to subscribers the night before they would appear in the newspaper. In those days before the World Wide Web, most computer owners (including me) didn’t have modems, and I thought we would have a much bigger audience by offering to sell and install modems for customers, rolling the cost into the subscription price, rather than just selling our service to those with modems. I don’t know whether my approach would have made StarText successful (it wasn’t), but it was my start of thinking about a bigger stack than newspaper executives were thinking of.

From 2005 to 2008, working on the American Press Institute’s Newspaper Next project, which might not have been the full stack, but it called newspapers to think bigger about how they did business. N2 drew a lot of interest and several companies tried different recommendations of N2, but no one implemented the full stack of N2 recommendations.

In 2009, I published my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection, which was as full a stack of business ideas for a newspaper (or other community news organization) as I’ve seen from anyone. Again, the idea generated interest, but no one tried to implement it.

If that stack wasn’t quite full, I added to it later in 2009 with my suggestion for mobile-first strategy, in 2010 with my call  commissioned obituaries and other life stories and in 2011 with a long list of revenue ideas for newspaper companies.

In two recent jobs, I argued unsuccessfully that we needed stronger technology development operations, both to develop better tools for executing on a full-stack approach and because I was convinced that technology solutions for media companies following our paths would be another revenue important revenue source.

I’m not saying my ideas would have saved newspapers or would have been the path to prosperity for digital startups. I’m sure some of them would have failed.

What I am saying is that Ken’s discussion of potential revenue streams for newspapers is nowhere near the full stack that Jay is advocating or that news companies need to consider.

I may have been unduly pessimistic about the potential for revenue from subscriptions or paywalls. But I was exactly right in 2013 when I said new revenue streams hold more promise for newspapers than paywalls. Ken, who used to be a paywall optimist, now warns: “Don’t expect much growth in circulation revenue for full-year 2014″ (he and the Newspaper Association of America both lump digital subscription revenue with print subscriptions). The private numbers I have seen on paywall revenue agree with his outlook.

Ken is more optimistic (but still kind of gloomy) about that “third stream,” which I was blogging about in 2013: “Growth in marketing services should be real, and ramping up, but it’s unlikely to throw off the big dollars needed for the up turnaround. The other new revenue sources are good, but won’t grow a lot.”

Doctor (and NAA, whose numbers he’s using) have a narrow view of that third stream. A full-stack company should pursue such revenue streams as transactions, events, commissioned content, technology solutions and far more. Ken’s right that the current third-stream efforts of newspaper companies won’t grow a lot. But you need a full stack of revenue sources beyond advertising and subscriptions. The sideline efforts we’ve seen so far aren’t nearly enough, but a full stack has great potential.

Ken is right in being pessimistic about newspaper companies’ chances of growing digital advertising revenue: “The industry may be lucky just to stay even in digital ads in 2014.”

Newspaper companies have done a lousy job of selling digital ads, as Ken notes: Only $3.42 billion in 2013, most of it bundled with print ads. Newspapers’ digital ads grew only 1.5 percent in 2013 and Ken doesn’t expect them to do much better (or even as good) in 2014 or 2015.

But digital advertising represents a huge opportunity for a full-stack media company: projected at $52.8 billion this year and growing at 13 percent annually, Doctor says. A full-stack company can pursue digital advertising more aggressively and more successfully than the abject failure of newspaper companies.

It may be too late for newspapers. I don’t anticipate anyone investing what it would take to pursue a full-stack strategy. But I think a full-stack strategy, correctly identifying your niche and mission, as Jay suggests, can be the path to success for digital startups or for legacy media willing to adapt to survive.

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I get a little attention now and then in blogs, columns, stories and other discussions of media issues. Here were some of my 2014 mentions:

New York Times

I was “one reader” in a New York Times blog post (but was really pleased that the Times, after my urging, is calling for better linking by staff members). It is accurate. I am a Times reader.

On the other hand, I did get a mention and a second quote, attributed to Digital First Media, my company at the time, in the New York Times Innovation Report (mention on P. 87, blind quote on Page 15).

Other Times mentions included a quote about verification of video images in Margaret Sullivan’s Public Editor blog, and a quote in Ravi Somaiya’s story on the demise of Thunderdome.

Dean Baquet response

The Times made no notice of Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s response to my criticism of him and other top editors who don’t use Twitter. But the exchange was noted by the Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Fishbowl, Tim McGuire, Michael Conniff, Alexander Howard, Mathew IngramJeff Jarvis, Staci Kramer, Richard Prince and Dave Winer. It certainly drew more attention than anything else I did on the blog this year. (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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Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen may have overstated when he told journalists to quit their jobs if they can’t understand their organization’s business model. But Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan way overstated in telling journalists not to listen to Rosen.

I highly recommend reading both pieces. Rosen’s post is full of good advice for understanding the path your business is taking and contributing to making progress along the path. Nolan’s post is fascinating, the kind of scornful dismissal of Rosen’s visionary digital thinking that I normally expect from those clinging to legacy media, not one of the digital upstarts that the troglodytes are so scornful of.

Jay made 15 points that I recommend reading. I’m going to address seven points, somewhat repeating and overlapping with his:

  1. Journalists should absolutely try to understand your organization’s business: how you deliver value and how the company plans to make money from that value.
  2. Business models change, sometimes with little warning, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. You won’t always be informed immediately of the changes.
  3. Colleagues need to understand and believe in the value you provide.
  4. We can protect our integrity and still discuss and understand the business.
  5. Learn the language; you always have.
  6. Leaders are critical to the success of a changing organization.
  7. Business model issues are worth changing jobs over, but I recommend trying to change the organization before quitting it (and finding another job first, too).

I’ll elaborate shortly, but first I’ll defend Rosen against Nolan’s anti-intellectualist insult. Noting the New York University professor’s brief career at the Buffalo Courier-Express before joining academia, Nolan said Rosen “makes money by producing proclamations about journalism rather than by producing actual journalism.” (more…)

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