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Pogue’s slippery slope

David Pogue of the New York Times

David Pogue of the New York Times

Earlier today, Dr. Alex raised the musical question Is David Pogue a journalist?

The short answer is yes, despite what Pogue says. But the real question is deeper.

Pogue says he never claimed to be a reporter and that he didn’t go to journalism school. My undergraduate degree is in political science, but I’ve worked as a journalist for nearly 30 years.

But the fact that Pogue is a columnist and not a reporter also isn’t the point. The New York Times, like most other large newspapers, has an ethics policy that spells out the kind of freelance work Pogue and other employees are allowed to do under the terms of their employment. The policy clearly states that “Staff members must ensure that their freelance work does not interfere with their normal responsibilities.”
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Media vigilantes

If I were to guess, I’d say Dr. Alex Bruns has never worked in the field of journalism. If he did, he must have been disgruntled or he’d never have written about the profession in such an uninformed fashion.

“Wikinews: The Next Generation of Alternative Online News?” is just one more shot across the bow of the beleaguered news industry. It’s riddled with false assumptions about the state of journalism, the self-importance of “user-driven online news Websites and blogs,” and faulty ideas about news gathering and editing.

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What’s next?

I was interested to read Old TV News Guy’s post about the new study “Life Beyond Print,” which surveyed 3,800 journalists in an attempt to gauge their eagerness to make the transition to digital.

Today’s newspaper journalists have no trouble envisioning a career where news is delivered primarily online and to mobile devices instead of in print, according to a new report by the Media Management Center. In fact, almost half think their newsroom’s transition from print to digital is moving too slowly.

Though I wasn’t surveyed, I’m one of those print folks that has moved to multimedia duties and I couldn’t be happier about it. But there’s no doubt I also feel my organization is moving too slowly towards an all-online model. I came to the realization long ago that the only way for the newspaper newsroom to survive is to realize that we’re a news organization and not just a newspaper. We can do the same thing online as we do in print each day and do it better by utilizing more tools that aren’t available to us in print. But we have to adapt to a different news cycle, staff the newsroom differently and get a better handle on how we present the news online.

The folks who own and run and the company aren’t prepared to embrace that view. While they’re more willing to pay attention now that things have changed, they’re still hoping an economic rebound will bring their advertisers back, which I guess would put them in the “Turn Back the Clock” group.

I don’t know if newspapers will go away entirely, but I do have a feeling we’ve just stepped through the looking glass in terms of a business model. As NYU professor Clay Shirky said earlier this week, “the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place.”

Let’s hope that changes soon.

Deciding who is a journalist

It’s interesting that we’re entering this module at a time when Congress has been working on a “shield law” for journalists. As part of the process, some definitions are being tossed around in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A post today on the Neiman Journalism Lab‘s site says:

Previously, the Senate was working with a version of the shield law (S. 448) that defined a journalist in broad terms, focusing on the process and craft of newsgathering. That stood in contrast to the House version (H.R. 985), which passed in March and defines a journalist as someone who gathers news and information “for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain.”

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Multimedia knowledge base

Final Project abstract:

I want to build a site that would serve as a knowledge base for anyone interested in using interactive tools. The guide would be designed primarily for use by journalists — professional or citizen — but would be useful for anyone interested in using multimedia in communications vehicles. The site would be built by soliciting content from experts in various fields, asking them to share their best tips, tricks and instructional material, with links to their original material or Web sites. While lots of great information and instruction is available on the Internet now, it generally resides on niche sites. This site would be designed as a sort of “best of” collection.

Site lines

I was expecting this to be the toughest part of this week’s assignments, but I think I may have come up with at least a couple of ideas that I’d like to spend time pursuing. Here are some thoughts: Read the rest of this entry »

A note on Nieman

nieman

A blog I’ve been following for a while (mostly through its Facebook and Twitter posts) is the Nieman Journalism Lab‘s blog, which is a product of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. On its “about” page, it says:

The Nieman Journalism Lab is an attempt to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age.

and, as I mentioned in the first post, I’m all about that. Along with industry-specific observations, there are posts and links to stories about interactive media in general. It’s become a daily read.

A post today called “Micropayments and the power of free” is especially interesting because it references Chris Anderson’s book “Free,” which I’ve been listening to, in connection with a pricing experiment for an iPhone app, which I’m hoping will be on the drawing board for my publication sooner than later.

Q as in Quinnipiac (or maybe Quixote)

My relationship with newspapers began at an early age. As a class exercise in elementary school in Berea, Ohio, where I grew up, we were assigned to write a letter to the editor. When my rebuttal to an opinion by an adult calling for toy guns to be outlawed was published, my parents received several letters suggesting that they were doing a terrible job of raising me. I still have them somewhere.

A few years later, I was old enough to begin delivering the local weekly newspaper. I later began delivering the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which paid much better. But my father eventually urged me to quit. In those days, they dropped the newspapers at the end of the driveway at about 4 a.m. and it frequently woke him up. I argued that it was the only job I could get since I didn’t have a car. It didn’t take long before I got a well-used AMC Hornet (with a flat tire and water in the trunk).

I studied journalism at Ohio State, but left before graduation to work on a weekly newspaper in a small town outside Columbus. After about a year, I got a job on a little daily paper, where I worked as a reporter, sports editor, Sunday editor and city editor over the course of about eight years. Along the way, I eventually finished college with a degree in political science from Capital University, a small liberal arts college in Columbus. Another long stint as a reporter and editor at a small business and legal publication in Columbus followed and then eight years as a copy editor on the business desk at the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s Greatest Home Daily Newspaper (it says so on our sign).

Two years ago, I became a member of the growing Web team at the paper, which had been my goal for a while. As a web producer, I work on Dispatch.com and various niche Web sites. In addition to posting breaking news, photos and videos on the site, I’m the primary audio guy and produce several podcasts, including one I co-host on video games.

You’ve probably heard that newspapers across the country are in trouble. In most cases, circulation has been declining for some time and advertising dollars are increasingly being spent online. When the economy dipped over the last year, it accelerated that decline at many papers, forcing some to close or adopt online-only models. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the last two years, including 25 percent of the editorial staff of my paper this spring.

One of my motivations for returning to school is to improve my skills and make myself more marketable should the Dispatch be forced to make deeper cuts or worse. But I also am approaching this program not only with an eye toward improving Dispatch.com but with the idea of helping advance the cause of journalism in the digital age.

While my editors will tell you that it’s important for newspapers to endure, I think the delivery platform is less important than the process. Most papers are exploring options for charging online customers, but I tend to think there will come a day when newspapers will just be too expensive to print and Kindle-like readers will be the main platform for delivering news. (I’m anxious to see if Apple really releases the rumored tablet device along the lines of a giant iPod touch.) Whether it’s in printed or pixel form, good journalism needs to survive.

I could go on and on (just ask my wife), but there will be plenty of time for that. For now, I’m happy to be part of this program and I’m anxious to get rolling.

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