Early returns mostly positive for Journalism 2.0
Pardon the shameless plug here, but I’ve been asked by several people if there’s been any reaction to the book’s release and, if any, what’s it been like. I’m flattered to say that feedback has been mostly positive.
Mindy McAdams linked to the PDF before giving it a read, letting her blog readers provide the analysis. Not surprisingly, most found the book too basic for their purposes. This isn’t really surprising, since anyone who reads Mindy’s excellent Teaching Online Journalism blog has already gone digital with their lives, their work or their teaching. Journalism 2.0 is for those who are curious but haven’t taken the time yet to get started. It’s a broad overview that’s not very deep in any one subject area. And that’s by design. If you have been too intimidated to teach yourself about online concepts, a comprehensive tomb that is several hundred pages in length is not likely to get you going. But a quick read of a 132-page handbook? That is a lower barrier to entry that hopefully even the not-so-curious will give it a try.
Here’s a sample of other I comments I have found through Technorati or seen on email lists:
“Mindy recommended this for students, and it would be a great classroom resource. I’m going to recommend it next month, when I start doing some newsroom training for those who aren’t jumping into the multimedia waters – which is just about everyone. The guys out there pushing 50, like me, really can benefit from this.”
- Ron Sylvester, Multimedia Reporter
“(The) new book, ‘Journalism 2.0’ is fabulous. You can’t beat the $10 price and it has really simple instructions on how to be part of online. He
does a great job of quickly explaining how it all works in the big picture, but also giving you step-by-step instructions. We’re giving copies to everyone on the copy desk today.”
- Julie Shirley, Executive Editor
“For those new to the field and for journalists who want to make the jump, this report (shall we call it a book, rather?) should be an excellent starting point. The same goes for those who’d like to record their first podcasts or videocasts. But since the book covers such a wide array of topics, there’s also a few nuggets in there for the more experienced. Great stuff!”
- Peter Bihr, web strategy consultant, author of The Waving Cat
“‘Journalism 2.0,’ … was written for and would be most useful for new media novices, with a great deal of value as a reference for intermediates like myself, who know something of the new tools and techniques but need practice, confidence and examples of their uses.
“In short be subversive in how you use this manual and the techniques it describes. My observation after 15 years in newspapering is that there’s nothing more difficult to do than to bring a new idea into a newsroom. These are important new ideas and new tools that will challenge our notions of how to put out the news, and require professionals with varying degrees of experience to either learn or unlearn habits. That is a huge hurdle.”
- Tom Abate, MiniMediaGuy
“Students heading into journalism school this autumn should get their hands on a new textbook … “Journalism 2.0.″ … Given that it is available gratis, there is no excuse for students not to have this on their reading list.”
- Alfred Hermida, Reporter.net
“My first ‘recommended’ text for the fall semester has arrived, without killing a single tree, and for free: Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive, subtitled A digital literacy guide for the information age.”
- Bob Stepno, Other Journalism Weblog
Wired magazine’s strategy for the print and digital world
Chris Anderson, famous for writing the game-changing book “The Long Tail” and serving as the editor of Wired magazine, is a good source for those of us straddling two worlds: the analog world of print, and the digital world of online publishing.
Recently he outlined how this dual strategy is handled at Wired: the “Three Cs”: Catalyze and Curate Conversations. It’s an informative post for anyone working today at an organization with a foot in both the print and digital world.
Inside look at multimedia training
If you want a peek at some top-shelf multimedia training, including tips and examples, check out the group blog being produced this week by the Freedom Forum’s Diversity Institute. A week-long online reporting and multimedia seminar is putting 20 young journalists through the paces and the results are impressive.
You say you want a revolution?
At another point in the discussion with the group of young journalists, I was talking about an example of how my newspaper allowed its investigative reporter to take an unorthodox approach in covering the identity theft of his friend – for the newspaper. Backstory here.
A couple of young journalists were clearly troubled by the presence of the reporter in the story and his use of first-person. One said, “but in journalism school, we were taught that it is wrong to use first person.”
“Does that make it right?” I countered, pointing out that it was fair, accurate (we asked another reporter to check the facts), and transparent.
Somewhat flustered, she said, “But you’re asking us to revolutionize journalism?”
Great magazines like Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and the New York Times Sunday Magazine routinely allow writers to use first person and insert themselves in the stories they report. Why should newspapers act differently?
Someone asked if any of our readers expressed dismay at this practice. We heard from lots of readers about the series but, to my knowledge, not one took issue with the fact that the reporter wrote about himself in the story or used first-person. I had a couple readers actually ask me how come the rest of the news articles weren’t written like this, in a conversational style that isn’t so … well, boring.
I don’t know. Probably because that’s what they taught us in journalism school.
That doesn’t make it right, of course. We’re fighting for readers now. Not good grades.
Really simple doesn’t mean really popular
I had pleasure of speaking to a group of bright young journalists in Nashville this week. All former interns of the Freedom Forum’s diversity program, they were reporters, photographers and editors from newspapers of all sizes from all over the country.
It always amazes me that the younger generation, the one thought of as the MySpace or YouTube generation, isn’t incredibly technically savvy. I asked the 20 young journalists how many use RSS feeds on a daily basis and zero hands went up. Weekly? Two hands. Monthly? A few more. (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.)
A majority of these young journalists, who I called “merchants of information” by trade, do not use RSS feeds. If this is not alarming to you, then you probably don’t use them either. And that is too bad. Because if you are interested in any kind of information (and isn’t everyone interested in something?), then you are wasting time and seriously hindering your ability to be informed if you do not have the RSS habit.
A reporter with a beat to cover should check their RSS feeds as often as they check email. Maybe more often. By taking the time to set up feeds of Google News alerts into your RSS reader, you can effectively run dozens of searches in seconds. It takes the same time to visit 100 web sites and blogs in your Google reader or Netvibes page as it does to visit one web site.
Who wouldn’t want to save time and become more efficient?
Please – set up some RSS feeds today. Do one web site, one blog and one Google news search. Then add a couple each day and in no time at all you’ll be covering your beat (or area of interest) without breaking a sweat (or taking all day).
For information on how to set up a feed, check out the first chapter of my book.
Mercury News opens up to reinvent
Most (hopefully all) newspapers are talking internally about how to evolve. The San Jose Mercury News, a recent round of job cuts in the newsroom, is going public with its process for reinvention.
Launched on Tuesday, the reTHINK Mercury News blog will detail the progress and discuss ideas of how the newspaper can “grow — or even keep” its audience. Yesterday, some 100 newspaper staffers appeared at a kick-off meeting and volunteered to be part of one very big committee.
Google News about to get a lot more human
When Google News launched a few years back, editors around the globe groaned at the idea that computers could synthesize thousands of news stories and automatically compile a relevant, useful news site. Nowadays, the only complaints I hear about the service come from reporters whose stories aren’t appearing high enough in the index or on a search. I usually shrug my shoulders and say something like, “It’s just a bunch of robots putting the site together. No one knows how.”
The service is about to get a lot more human. Yesterday, Google announced a heavily moderated and very manual new process for commenting on the news stories it’s indexing. Comments will not appear instantly, like on most news sites (and news aggregator sites), but sent for review to Google staffers who will post comments only from those who can make a case that they are somehow involved directly in the news story.
This is quite an ambitious plan. I don’t see it working, since real online conversation only happens when everyone has a chance to participate.
Cool site for cleaning up text
If you’re in any way related to the web operation at a news company, you’ve probably been sent an email and asked to “get this up on the web site” - as soon as possible. When you open the email, you find it’s full of extra line breaks that you have to manually remove in order to make it presentable on the site.
A colleague of mine found a better way: Text Fixer. This site has a handy tool for removing those pesky line breaks in milliseconds. It can also do other tricks, like removing tabs or replacing line break with HTML paragraph tags.
I highly recommend it.
News consumers practicing ‘brand promiscuity’
Are you “playing the field” when it comes to news consumption? A report released this month by McKinsey & Co. thinks so, finding that the average news consumer has a relationship with some 16 different brands. Based on online surveys with 2,100 respondents, the report found that consumers are also not platform-specific and rely on all five (TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, magazine). That would imply news companies that continue to be so general as to be everything to all people are fighting a losing battle.
The report also implies that newspapers’ reluctance to sacrifice quality for speed and convenience is not as good a business strategy as it used to be. “When asked to explain which sources of news were most useful,” the report states, “respondents expressed a preference for those offering convenience, comprehensiveness or timeliness rather than quality.”
That’s not to say that you can serve low-quality information quickly to capture market share. But it probably means that making speed a higher priority will pay off in attracting new audiences.
You can read the full report if you’re willing to register on the site. Its title is a bit misleading (“What consumers want from online news”) since it mostly breaks down how consumers currently get their news. But it is interesting data to ponder as this evolution continues to play out before us.