Monthly Archives: April 2007

Your digital bulletin board

" "Ultra-local is definitely the way to go. If you promise ultra-local, you’ve got
to be able to deliver it. The number of journalists we have [60] is huge
compared with many other regional papers – but, even with that many, we can’t
deliver ultra-local news all the time. To do it, we’re going to need another 500
reporters – we can’t take them on, they’re going to need to be citizen
journalists. They want to get this information out there; we need to say ‘yes,
we’ll be your electronic parish noticeboard, come give it to us and it will be
in the Express & Star’ – whereas, if you just set it up on your own, you’re
only going to have a limited audience. "  — That’s Keith Harrison, deputy editor of the UK’s second biggest regional
newspaper, the Wolverhampton Express & Star

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Filed under Hyper-local, User-generated content

Overheard

Why doesn’t every campus — or every newsroom — have a website as good as Overheard at McGill?
It’s all user-generated content. It’s easy to navigate. The search is clean. Students send in snippets of dialogue. The only incentive seems to be
the pride of making a contribution and the possibility of sharing in the
sales if your post is made into a T-shirt. It builds community. Could a daily paper in a college town make this work? Or a major metro with a youth-oriented entertainment tab?

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An editor’s view

Another view of "The Paper," from the current editor of The Collegian:

"This film was a mirror for many of us, albeit a two-year-old view.

What
I saw reflected in this film more than anything else was a struggle to
achieve objectivity when the subjects of a story differ somehow from
the “average” Penn State student.

In one part of the film,
then-editor in chief Jimmy Young clearly states that diversity training
is not an endeavor the Collegian is willing to undertake.

I saw a collective cringe go through the room when he said that.

And so, The Paper is video evidence of why we have to take that step.

We’ve got some work to do, and I intend to get us started."

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“The Paper,” in perspective

Polite, positive reception from an inquisitive crowd at the screening of "The Paper." Aaron Matthews took some questions, and I asked about online initiatives. A faculty adviser said that The Collegian is doing a lot more this year. I did find this, from the Collegian Online interview with Aaron:

"The film might come down to three or four stories that illustrate in broader strokes what our media is dealing with, what our media is about today, and what our young journalism students are learning and going through," Matthews said.

"You get a lot of these ‘aha’ moments where students are having to deal with objectivity, with access, with issues of negotiating. It’s been really interesting seeing young people struggling with these questions… I think you learn more about the journalistic process and about our media system by looking at in this way, looking at the roots of our system."

I think Aaron achieved his goal. Are today’s student journalists mastering the tools they will need to help the profession meet new challenges? I haven’t seen anyone make that movie, yet.

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“The Paper” by Aaron Matthews

Last time I was at Penn State, I spoke with some of the staff at The Collegian. Aaron Matthews was making a documentary about the work of the student journalists. Today, at 2:30, Aaron has invited me to see "The Paper," playing at the National Constitution Center as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival. The promo for the film says, in part: "One person particularly challenged by university bureaucracy is the Collegian‘s female sports editor, who is forced to think outside the box in order to gain access to the school’s star football players, who are constantly surrounded by wranglers. Other stories involve racial relations, GLBT rights and issues of interest to neighboring Pennsylvania residents. Over the span of the film, emotions run high, but to most of the staff the rewards are worth it." The question I had at The Collegian, which puzzles me as I visit many other college papers (left rail at OnCampus): why are student journalists doing less online work than many professional newsrooms? Maybe the film will shine a light on some answers. I know from my own experience in Chicago that students work very hard juggling journalism, classes and the rest of life. Are there college papers working to blaze a trail, not just to emulate the pros? Of course, exceptions abound. The Daily Pennsylvanian, for instance, makes it easy to upload a listing, plus it runs "most viewed" story lists (left rail) and promotes four blogs.

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Filed under Business models, Film

Stories as seeds of information

Journalism does not have to produce what we think of as stories. Using the same values and the same discipline, a newsroom can provide information in more granular form and the newsroom can produce it in a way that allows users to decide how much information on each topic they want. It can be done as a social media, using a system that encourages readers to add to the conversation. Those are some of the assumptions Hop Studios started with when they built an experiment — Flickring the News. It’s a proposal for a news site built for sharing, not telling. A key passage from the proposall:   "Users should be able to annotate stories by
highlighting and linking from relevant passages, as well as by
commenting on them as a whole. This functionality challenges the idea
of the news story as a finished product, frozen in time. We see stories
instead as seeds of information planted in a knowing community." The Hop Studios comment board is open.

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Filed under Business models, Crowd sourcing, Web/Tech

Framing the debate

What does a newsroom do? Is Sam Zell asking that question? Here’s a great answer from Davd Zeek, executive editor of The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., who is also president of ASNE. Here’s a part of his president’s address to the annual convention:
“Well, here’s a news flash, my friends: We’re losing our case in the court of public opinion. The gasbags are winning and we’re sitting on the sidelines.

So here’s what I propose. Quit making excuses and vow to write a letter from your newsroom to your readers once a week. Then publish it in the paper. Argue your case. Admit your flaws. Tell them what you believe. Explain the difference between the journalism of assertion and the journalism of verification.

Here’s what I tell my readers: I tell them I don’t believe that pure objectivity is possible. I tell them I do believe in fairness, in the journalism of verification, and in bringing intellectual honesty to our coverage.

But I also tell them we’re not objective about two things: open government and the First Amendment. We can report fairly and with intellectual honesty about both. But threats to either are likely to end up on Page 1. If we’re going to be a crusading paper, it will be for those two values.”

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