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Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Comments on the NY Times Front Page?

Posted by Jacqueline on October 13, 2007

Several very observant bloggers (or maybe their tipsters) have noticed that the New York Times had temporarily placed reader comments on the main page with a few of their articles (at the time of posting, the general opinion seems to be that it is a test, as the comments are not currently up).   It’s very “web 2.0” of them to allow user generated content to accompany the work of their journalists; however, the general opinion of the blogosphere seems to be divided about the decision.

Many are lauding the Times for being progressive and opening the conversation between readers and journalists (and it is true that sometimes citizen journalism is the best coverage, because it comes from people who are actually on the scene or witnessed the event), but this move has also garnered some criticism.

Josh Catone of Read Write Web took a moderate view – praising the Times for allowing the comments, but questioning the judgment of placing them in such a prominent position.

“However, giving reader comments such a prominent position is dangerous. Readers of news sites (and blogs) go to those specific destinations to read news in the voice they expect — not to see a public argument from commenters.

I would applaud an expansion of New York Times comments beyond blogs to general news stories — I think commenting is great; it gives readers an outlet for instant response and keeps writers honest. But publishing comments on the main page, especially so prominently under the main story, seems like a bad idea. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below (we won’t publish them on the main page, though!).”

I tend to agree with him – partly because if I’m reading a news article on the Times (or any other newspaper, for that matter), I’m looking for the who, the what, the where, the when, the why, and the how – just the facts, please.  Obviously, op-eds and such are different in regard to factual reporting, but perhaps the Times commenters shouldn’t be given such a major platform (although I’d assume that the comments that do appear are filtered). 

Several commenters on the various blog posts about this move by the Times have mentioned that reader comments shouldn’t have a more visible place than retractions and corrections, which definitely makes sense.  After all, others’ reactions are not as important as the actual facts of the piece, generally, and most newspapers tend to bury corrections, even online, where it seems that it would be fairly easy to add them on to the original article.  On the Silicon Alley Insider, commenter Brian says:

“When they start giving corrections the same placement and prominence as the story that contained the error, then they will be transparent and conversational. They are still burying corrections at the bottom of the story, in the archive, a day or two after it was originally published. They have a long way to go before they have fully embraced the ethos of the blogosphere.”

Perhaps the people who make such decisions at the Times and other papers are reading all these blog posts, and hopefully learning something from them – and at least they are trying to embrace the new media – even if you believe they are making a mistake with the reader comments, mistakes do happen on the way to innovation.

As always, if you have ideas related to digital media, community journalism, and how the web can improve media and the news delivery system, check out the Knight News Challenge.  You’ve only got a few days left to win funding for your ideas!

Posted in Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, New Media, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Custom-Blended News

Posted by Jacqueline on October 11, 2007

It’s no surprise that people want to customize their news – after all, things like Netvibes and RSS exist for essentially that purpose.  Steve Boriss of The Future of News has an interesting post up discussing how the web might finally make it possible for us to get exactly the information/news we want, nothing more and nothing less.

“By giving everyone both a communications and delivery platform, might the Internet break-up mass media into fragmented media, finally giving us only the news that we, as individuals, want — news that reflects our worldviews, our interests, our parochial concerns, our preferences, and our tastes?”

Read more…. 

Have an idea or working on a project related to the future customization of news?  Check out the Knight News Challenge and you could win funding (up to $500,000) for your innovative ideas.  It’s worth a shot – it only takes a few minutes to write up a proposal and anyone – of any age, from anywhere in the world – can win.

Posted in Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, New Media, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Journalism Has A Very Bright Future…”

Posted by Jacqueline on October 9, 2007

 “…it’s just a different one than it’s had.”

Doc Searls quoted Drew Clark today, saying that newspapers as we know them are over – I’m an optimist… The newspaper will not be around in twenty years. Let’s say ‘taps’ and move on.

We’ve all read tons of articles and blog posts decrying the way the web has affected journalism and claiming the internet and related technology will cause the death of traditional media, but really, is the situation that dire?  Yes, journalism is in a state of flux, but the changes aren’t necessarily for the worse, even if print newspapers become a distant memory (all the inky newsprint isn’t exactly evironmentally friendly anyways). 

I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself – the future belongs to the people who can adapt to the changes and forge ahead, not the ones who struggle to make technology fit the old molds.  That’s at least part of the reason why startups and independent news sites have gained so much popularity on the web – they don’t have that albatross of tradition hanging around their necks. 

As always, if you’ve got plans or projects that involve the ever-changing world of digital technology and journalism, check out the Knight News Challenge – you could win funding, support, and make your ideas a reality. 

Posted in Blogging, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Moment Is Here: News Is Portable

Posted by Jacqueline on October 8, 2007

Jeff Jarvis says that newspapers have reached their “ipod moment” – the moment where something shifts and new technology reaches a critical mass, changing the way that everything works (like ipods changed how people consume music). 

As we all know, the mobile web is becoming increasingly important – and with iphones (and similar devices, including, perhaps, a google phone), we’re no longer chained to a computer.  Instead, we’re connected to the internet all the time and we get our news on the go – and everything you can do on your computer, you can do on your iphone.  The fact that it’s also a cell phone is practically a second thought when you consider all of its web capabilities. 

However, for this to be a real industry-altering ipod moment, media companies have to take advantage of it.  Right now, it appears that old media is much too focused on making the web adapt to their interests, rather than figuring out how to innovate.  And I quote:

“For decades, I’ve watched newspaper industry thinktanks – the too few that exist – try to invent the next medium for news. This usually takes the mythical form of e-paper, thin as a sheet and just as portable, able to display newspapers like newspapers, very Harry Potter. I have also seen too many newspapers and magazines attempting to use painful PDF technology to display their publications on screens exactly as they appear on paper. Why? Ego, I think, and comfort and fear of change. The New York Times recently did a deal with Microsoft to use its new reader, which looks as attractive, if grey, as the Times itself and enables familiar activities like turning pages, but which loses some of the rich linking and interactivity of the web.

I think that’s all driving the wrong way: backwards. These are attempts to mold technology to old media. What we should be doing instead, of course, is molding media to new technology. We should be asking what new we can do on this new iPhone.”

That last paragraph could also be an explanation for why independent bloggers and new media companies have managed to pick up such a large share of the market online – they are working with the technology and embracing the new, instead of fighting change and maintaining the status quo.  Like Jeff says, they should be asking themselves “how do we use this wonderful device to give people the news and links whenever, wherever, and however they want it? How do we do that with incredible efficiency? How do we make it local and relevant? How do we take advantage of the two-way relationship we now have, enabling people with these gadgets to share what they know?

Of course, if you have ideas or projects related to digital technology and journalism, you know what to do.  There’s one week left to enter and hey, you could be the one who rocks the media world.

Posted in Digital Media, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Reports of Journalism’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted by Jacqueline on October 5, 2007

Every couple months or so, it seems that the whole “journalism is dead!  People only want sensationalized gossip and entertainment” story gets trotted out, both online and in traditional.  Maybe it’s a good filler for a slow news week, or the writer had just plain gotten sick of seeing Paris Hilton’s or Lindsay Lohan’s faces everywhere.

However, despite the massive proliferation of tabloid news, there is plenty more “serious journalism” happening too.  For instance, the situation in Burma, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s stateside vist, and of course the events in Iraq are all recent leading stories.  Still, though, there seems to be consistent fear of a widespread journalistic attempt to the throw in the heavyweight news towel against the onslaught of celebrity fluff, according to William Powers at the National Journal.  This is not a new fear:

“Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1995, under the headline “The Simpson Legacy,” the late David Shaw rued what O.J. seemed to have done to the news business: “When the tabloids clasped the Simpson story to their heaving journalistic bosoms, the mainstream media suddenly found themselves panting alongside.” “

But is it really that bad?  William investigated the extent of celeb-fotainment himself.  The morning after Britney lost custody of her sons (don’t you sort of hate that is considering breaking news?), he checked out a whole bunch of news sources.  And with the exception of the tabloids (who are supposed to cover celeb dirt anyways), it wasn’t really that bad. 

“One day this week, the morning after Britney Spears had lost custody of her children in court, I went through the newspapers to see who was playing up that story at the expense of serious news. Not The New York Times (page A20). Not The Washington Post (Style section). USA Today had a Britney teaser and photo on the front page in the left column, pointing to inside coverage, but its biggest headline was “Report on Blackwater: U.S. Did Little to Restrict Guards.”

In fact, he says, if you were away from the net, the only place to find out about Britney’s kids were the actual tabloids.  Even on the web, international stories and election 2008 coverage outweighed the fluff on the big blogs and news sites.  His conclusion?  It’s all about where you look for your news. 

“I asked Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, if it’s true that serious news is alive and well. He said it’s all about where you look: “The infotainment and tabloid culture still exists in 2007…. But the reality is, stories like Britney, Anna Nicole, and even to some extent O.J. are cable and morning news fascinations much more than the media overall.”

Yes, journalism is currently in a state of flux, but that doesn’t mean that it has died, or even is no longer relevant.  The web might make things look different, and it has definitely altered our news delivery systems, but actual, non-fluffy and sensationalistic news still has an important place in the world, and in our lives.

Have an idea that might help keep the news real and not celeb-tastic?  Know how to get people the information that they actually need and want to hear?  Check out the Knight News Challenge and you could win funding for your ideas and projects.

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The Old System Can’t Last Forever: The New Media

Posted by Jacqueline on October 1, 2007

You can’t visit a journalism-related website lately without reading about how traditional media is suffering from money woes thanks to the web, or how bloggers and other forms of online news are forcing the “real journalists” out of their jobs.  And you’ve probably heard how advertisers and marketers are flocking to the net in growing numbers.

So what’s the old media to do?  Obviously newspapers and magazines are not going to pack it in and say “game over, you win” to the web, but clearly something has to change if they want to stick around.  Today, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine wrote about how reporters were calling for government support and funding from foundations or wealthy business moguls.  Basically, they need a steady influx of cash to replace advertisers and customers lost to the internet, or as Jeff says, “fairy godmothers who will swoop in from government or foundations or rich families to provide magic money that lets them continue to do business as they have.”  To put it succinctly, they are aiming for self-preservation, not innovation.

But the old ways of doing business can’t last forever, and trying to maintain a status quo that is tinged with nostalgia of the days before the web could be the end of many newspapers.  An artificial financial boost is not the cure for the illness that is ailing old media right now – learning to adapt to the web, working to innovate and striving to move forward and reinvent journalism as it works within all the amazing technological developments that have occurred in the recent past (and of course, looking to the future as well) – this is what needs to happen, instead of companies just burying their heads in the sand, ostrich style.

While support from the government could possible bail a struggling paper out, this seems very dangerous.  How will freedom of the press be affected when the government is funding it?  It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which a certain level of objectivity isn’t sacrificed, and the ability of journalists to criticize the government and to hold politicians accountable for their actions has always been essential for democracy.  Or do they plan to just leave the freedom of the press to bloggers?  And how do they plan to maintain the trust of the general public when they are bankrolled by the very organizations they criticize and discuss in their pages?

What about funding from foundations?  Clearly, this blog supports the Knight Foundation and their news challenge, but that encourages change and innovation.  It’s about changing things for the better, not sticking with the status quo.  Yes, sometimes foundation funding can mask a media outlet’s actual problems (because tossing money at an industry that can be hopelessly behind the times is a little like putting a band-aid on a bullet would), but if a foundation truly wants to foster innovation and growth, they can.  However, relying on outside sources for cash is also risky, because it’s a quick fix for a bigger, more fundamental problem. 

To conclude, I can’t say it better than Jeff:

“So rather than trying to find money to support the old ways artificially, we need resources to invent the new ways, the ones we don’t know yet. We need to take advantage of all the opportunities we have to gather and share news in new ways while preserving the best and most valuable of the old (and sloughing off the waste of the old). We need to explore new products and new business models and new relationships and we need to show that they are good investments, not charity cases.”

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

RSS Woes: Many Top News Sites Aren’t Taking Full Advantage of Feeds

Posted by Jacqueline on September 30, 2007

From Yahoo News:

 A new study from the International Center for Media and Public Agenda, looking at 19 top news sites, released today concludes that RSS feeds work very poorly for anyone who uses news for more than infotainment.

Cited as among the best users of RSS: The Los Angeles Times, ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, BBC World Service and Fox News.

Among the worst: Al Jazeera, The Guardian and The New York Times.

This is interesting because while these major news sources have plenty of readers, they are not taking full advantage of technology like RSS (or really simple syndication), a way of syndicating content that allows an individual to subscribe to a particular section or blog and read new posts/articles in a feed reader, also known as an aggregator.  By using RSS instead of pointing your browser at each individual website or page, the news comes to you.  Clearly, it is a very efficient method of staying informed on all sorts of topics. 

The problem that the aforementioned sites are having with RSS?  They don’t want to deliver all their content with feeds – they want readers to visit their actual site.  Why?  Well, according to the Yahoo article,

“One reason may be that such stories, such as those by AP or Reuters, don’t carry the ‘brand’ of the news organization. But without those stories, many RSS feeds are not truly delivering news 24/7 and, in addition, lack the breadth of news their home sites deliver.”

Why is this such a problem?  Because an increasing number of people are using RSS to keep themselves updated on news ranging from local happenings to international events; in addition, without going to the actual website that is the source of the feed (and really, part of the point of using an aggregator is that you don’t have to go a bunch of different places for your info), RSS users are not even aware that they may not be getting the whole picture. 

So what could be a possible solution to this problem?  Should news outlets have to (and/or other websites) publish all their content with RSS whether they want to or not?  If so, how could that be enforced, if it is possible at all?  Should there be some kind of standardized system, and again, is that even possible on the web?  Do we want such a system anyways, or should people just have to sift through the various news sources and locate the feeds that best suit their purposes?  How does this relate to smaller news outlets or community sites, or bloggers, photographers, and videographers who function as citizen journalists?

Of course, if you have an idea or a website that purports to solve the problems that traditional media have with publishing their content with RSS, especially if it has to do with a specific community and how they receive their news, you should check out the Knight News Challenge.  It may be possible to implement your plan sooner than you think.

Posted in Digital Media, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Post-Media Journalism? In the Information Age, We Are All Journalists

Posted by Jacqueline on September 27, 2007

Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis (of Buzz Machine) wrote about a new term used to describe the current media climate: post-media journalism.  Instead of the over-used phrase “social media” (which has really grown meaningless, thanks to the fact that it is used to describe everything from Flickr to blogging), post-media journalism does do a fairly decent job of encapsulating the fact that the current state of the media is definitely in flux.

However, does the use of the word “post” also imply the end of traditional journalism?  Clearly, traditional media is not going roll over and die any time soon, if ever, but no one can deny that both the online and print media spheres are struggling to establish how they can interact with each other, and with the rest of the world.   Thanks to the net, the line between reader and producer is irrevocably blurred; and of course, it is becoming easier to create your own content, your own channel, your own lifestream every day.  Due to the growth of the web and the advent of the Information Age, every person with an internet connection and something to say can be a journalist.

In this new climate, “the media doesn’t matter now.  The conversation does.  The connections do”, says Jeff.  And it is true – if a blogger or an amateur photographer has something important to say, or writes something that resonates with people, their work is going to get page-views and just make an impact regardless of their credentials.  Just look at my previous post about the situation in Myanmar – I’m pretty sure none of those people work for an accredited media source, but I don’t think anyone is discounting their efforts.  It’s the people on the front lines of the news, with their ears to the ground and their cameras poised to capture history, that are the real breaking news. 

Perhaps the reason the phrase post-media journalism works here is the media is no longer the arbiter of the news.  Instead of sitting passively and digesting the news that big journalism feeds to us in the form of newspapers, television, and radio, we’re going online and looking for the information we want (yes, people could write letters to the editor and such, but it has never been so easy to comment and respond to stories).  We can even tailor the type and flow of information we receive with RSS. 

The future belongs to the people and companies who can figure out how to combine the positive aspects of traditional journalism with the citizen reporting and anything-goes atmosphere on the web.  When someone builds a community (and therefore an audience) for their ideas, a place where people can interact and find the information they want easily (important word there – yes, we all know that whatever info we’re seeking is out there, but it’s definitely not always simple to locate or packaged nicely), that is the new media. 

The information is out there – journalists (the old school media types and the citizen bloggers armed with video cameras and laptops) are the ones who need to get it in front of our eyeballs by whatever means they have available.  And of course, if you happen to have an idea that relates to how journalists of all stripes can share and package their work, you should be checking out the Knight News Challenge.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Welcome to the Knight News Challenge

Posted by Jacqueline on September 26, 2007

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?  Do you have a groundbreaking idea that could change the way that web journalism works?  Does this idea foster community in a specific region, or is it be limited to one locale?  Are a lack of funding and support the only things that are preventing your goals from reaching fruition?

 knight-banner.gif

If the above paragraph feels like it applies to you, check out the Knight News Challenge.  The Knight Foundation is looking for cutting edge ideas from anyone, anywhere in the world, and their motto is “you invent it, we fund it!”.  With $5 million dollars earmarked for this year’s winners (individual entrants can get up to $500,000 each), it is music to entrepreneurial ears.  And if you have an idea that can inform, inspire, and engage a group of people, the Knight Foundation wants to hear from you.  One caveat – stick to one geographic region (you can always scale up later).  Although the web is indeed making the world smaller, the news challenge is focused on helping people who already live in the same community interact with each other.

At the most basic level, the goal of the Knight News Challenge is to bring people together in the real world through the use of digital technology (computers, cell phones, PDAs, and all those myriad other gadgets that we have).  By holding this contest (it’s a yearly thing, this year there is $5 million earmarked for the winning entries), they hope to give people with big, innovative ideas enough funding and support to make those ideas a reality. 

Unlike many contests and grants that are restricted to U.S. citizens, this contest is open to anyone, anywhere in the world – all you need is an amazing idea and an internet connection to send a proposal in with – there is even an under twenty-five category for all you wunderkinds out there; if you’re under eighteen, the award will be designated to an intermediary, but you can still enter (by the way, wouldn’t a winning entry look great on a college application?)

So what kinds of projects qualify?

It should go without saying that it needs to be groundbreaking and use digital technology, and your idea also needs to involve giving people access to breaking news or vital information in a timely manner.  It also needs to be local in the sense that helps foster community in a specific geographic area – so while you may have an idea that could scale nationally, but concentrate on your immediate surroundings for the moment.  The focus is on open-source creations that might not have enough profit potential for the venture capitalists, but are still exciting and can make a significant positive social impact.

Does all this sound like you or someone you know?  Go to www.newschallenge.org and apply.  You have nothing to lose by taking a shot- they even ask that you submit a short description of your idea before you compose a long proposal, so there’s not even a risk of sinking tons of time into something that might not pay off.

Best of luck to anyone who enters!

Posted in Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »