Monthly Archives: February 2009

A Bailout for Print Relics

Minnesota may be getting it right.

According to a article, two Minnesota newspaper staffs will receive state money for multiplatform storytelling training. The money will come from state funds usually used for training industrial workers.

This is a groundbreaking concept, treating newspapers like any other struggling business as opposed to the enemy. My first reaction is to say, “It’s about time.”

But what implications might this kind of assistance have for the relationship between government and newspapers in the future? My hope is that newspapers will not feel obligated to be overly gracious in the form of burying corruption stories or details about other government fiascos. 

I’m really interested to see how this new training strategy will actually affect the newsrooms. Will these reporters take the learned skills back to the newsroom to improve their storytelling abilities, or is this just a feel-good facade geared toward pacifying who believe newspapers are going the way of the dinosaurs?

I’m eager to see what type of training will be offered to these journalists and in what form the training will manifest itself (visiting professors in the newsroom, external training, etc.). Will journalists simply learn that multiplatform techniques are available or will they actually be trained in using programs like FinalCutPro and Audacity?

We shall see…


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Teaching “Online Journalism”

Last week, Joe Grimm answered an excellent question on his “Ask the Recruiter” blog, here,  that I think many young journalists are pondering: What online skills should a print reporter have?

The questioner very intuitively put her finger on the pulse of the problem: What is “online journalism?”

Because we’re still trying to catch up with the ever-changing world of new media, colleges are often at a loss when it comes to answering this question. The answers they give are typically very vague.

Last semester, I proposed a syllabus for a class that I would love to see taught at every journalism school in the country. It consists of reverse publishing (writing for the Web, then for print), blogging, slide shows, Web videos, and working with content management systems (CMS). With each of those skills under their belts, students would have a unique portfolio that would attract any newspaper manager.

Luckily, at the University of Florida professor Mindy McAdams is a step ahead of the curb. Her course asks students to maintain blogs and create story packages that use technology and print as partners, not competitors.

Any journalist who wants a job after graduation should take her course. It is no longer optional — it’s essential.

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A Batter’s Slump

“Newspapers (and magazines) must band together to create an industry-wide standard for paid content, even in aggregation form.” – Paul, a comment poster on a NYT blog

Poynter Online’s  Maurreen Skowran offered a useful synopsis of comments in her column today. The New York Times asked readers (via the Battle Plan for Newspapers blog) what they think should be done to help newspapers survive.

Although there were a variety of comments, the majority centered on the need to have readers pay for viewing newspapers online.

Swing and a miss!

Newspapers have tried this. While this idea seems obvious and practical, it just hasn’t worked.

Those commenting on the blog offered some vague promises that they would pay for the articles they are currently getting for free. Unfortunately, several newspapers have put this promise to the test only to discover that it is hollow.

I agree with the commenter cited above, to some extent. Yes, readers would pay for online newspapers if that was the only option. But would all of the current online readers get on board? Not a chance.

As I mentioned before, bloggers would be all-to-pleased to play the spoilers. Offering up information pulled from an online newspaper article that non-subscribers cannot read would only enhance their viewership.

Additionally, these bloggers, who undoubtably would interject their own opinions in their posts, would color the news. Without the standard of objectivity newspapers strive to achieve, readers would begin spouting uninformed opinions based on incomplete information.

I wish I could say that I have the answer. But I do think we need to head back to the batting cages and remember to keep our eye on the ball.

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“Put simply, journalism is not music.” —

Micro Economics: Why Steve Jobs and micropayments won’t save the media,” Sherman points out several problems with the idea. But, in my opinion, the most salient is this: articles are not music.

Think about your iPod. How often do you listen to the same song? (If you’re like me, hundreds of times.)

Now, how often do you read a newspaper article.

There is probably a stark contrast there.

Newspapers have experimented and failed with paid online subscriptions. It’s not the answer, because 1) Not everybody is doing it, and 2) Bloggers will leak all of the important information inside for free.

I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board on this one.

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