Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
- Bob Netherton on Why I’m rooting for Vance Albitz
- seagazer101 on ‘Lede’ vs. ‘Lead’
- Pamela Lagahid on IFRA launches second vertical search engine for media
- kapiyo on My new Nikon F4
- bradleyplunk on Chris Tolles brings some stats to the anonymous vs. registration debate
TagsAdvertising Audience Growth blogging blogs Books Business comments Community disruption ethics film Gadgets GateHouse Media history Home Towns Innovation Journalism local news Media Movies MP3 of the Day Music news news business newspapers Paid Content participation Patch Personal Appearances photography point-and-shoot publish2 Reinventing Journalism reporting Site Design Society Sports Strategy Tech topix Video Web-First Publishing web2.0 web navigation Writing
Daily Archives: March 10, 2007
Interesting note from Scott Karp:
- CBS has a â€œteam of lawyersâ€? who issues daily takedown notices to YouTube for pirated videos â€” Betsy Morgan emphasized that every pirated video taken down is replaced by a legitimate copy, so as not to be hostile to consumers by depriving them of content they want.
Is that really the best use of CBS’s resources? How many reporters (I’m just saying) could CBS hire instead of that “team of lawyers”? It’s great and all that they’re not “hostile to consumers” (that is, if you fail to see that keeping your best customers from sharing your stuff is hostile), but why not just embrace Creative Commons and let your fans spread your best stuff around? Even if it doesn’t help generate revenue (and I believe in the long run it will), it certainly is a lot cheaper. Continue reading
Melissa Worden uncovers an interesting series of videos on YouTube of Ira Glass on storytelling. She quotes at length Glass on how practice is the only way to get better, and it sometimes takes years to get from not-so-good to good.
Here’s the four videos:
Even if you think you know storytelling, the pieces are worth reviewing. Videos #2 and #4 especially contain some interesting stuff. Two on entropy and #4 on using your own voice to tell a story. Continue reading
When I was a reporter with the now defunct Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif., I had a couple of occasions to dig deep into our archives. I looked at many editions of the paper from the 30s through the 70s. It was a very different paper from the one I worked at.
I was proud of the paper I worked for. We had a great staff. We filled the paper every day with important news, or so we thought. We worked hard to be enterprising and hard hitting. We worked hard to get good clips that would impress future employers and win contests.
Those old papers were full of stories about people in the community doing ordinary things — running their businesses, giving and receiving awards, going off to serve in the military, getting married, etc. There was some hard news, mostly from wire services. The local political coverage — I specifically read some stories about the 1934 governor’s race — was chatty and informal and laden with opinion.
It wasn’t what we would call professional journalism.
In the midst of all my hard news reporting, I got an assignment to visit a lady’s home in Spring Valley. We had just been through a major rain storm and the hill behind her house was slowly sliding into her dining room. Very slowly. She was a Vietnamese immigrant, recently divorced, with three small children and her only asset was this house. I wrote the story.
It was the first story people ever stopped me in the street to ask me about. They wanted to know how the lady was doing, if the hill was still sliding, was anybody helping. The story generated phone calls. My sources from other beats asked about the lady. This simple story of a woman and her sliding hill was probably the best read thing I ever wrote.
So I did follow ups. Many of them. For two weeks, I wrote about the lady, her hill, and her attempts to get help from her insurance company. It was, as one reader put it, “better than watching a soap opera.” It was real life. It was about a neighbor.
The stories didn’t win me any awards (though I submitted them to a couple of contests), but it was a winner with readers.
I’m reminded of that story because of this post from Steve Yelvington about small town newspapers.
Mary Lou Montgomery, who edits the Morris-owned Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post, had an insight last year: In a misguided attempt to be “professional,” newspapers were losing touch with the kind of neighborhood news that people wanted. She wrote then:
We donâ€™t do dead deer.
We donâ€™t use Polaroid pictures
We donâ€™t print long lists of names, such as those attending a reunion.
There’s more to Mary Lou’s list of things we don’t do …
So Steve asked how her experiment in getting less professional and more local was going.
“Have you seen Jack lately?” she asked, referring to publisher Jack Whitaker. “He’s just a walkin’ grin!”
Circulation is up. Complaints are down. Relationships with people in the community are the best they’ve ever been. “A local gasoline distributor told me the newspaper is more fun to read now. A retired secretary said she feels like she has her paper back. When the weather was still warm, people were literally chasing me down the street to offer story ideas and to tell me they liked what we were doing.”
I told my story about what I learned from old newspaper archives to an API conference a few years ago and I put it like this: “We can do this stuff. We know how to cover our communities and connect with our readers. It’s in our DNA.”
Mary Lou Montgomery is proving it. Continue reading
Nice post from Mark Glaser about the growing number of newsroom programmers. I’ll respond to this quote:
â€œA huge number of journalism students select that major because they are math-phobic and they think they will get away from numbers,â€? Bentley said. â€œYou donâ€™t have to be a mathematician to program, but you canâ€™t be afraid of math.â€?
Some might dispute that I was ever a programmer, but I learned a thing or two along those lines, wrote some worthwhile applications, etc.
For years, I avoided programming and only got into it out of economic necessity. For several years, it’s how I made my living, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The thing that kept me from programming in my younger years was the math thing. Numbers and I are not friends. You could say I’m afraid of math.
When I got into programming, though, I found numbers (unless you were writing an app specifically to calculate something) had nothing to do with it.
Programming is more about grammar and punctuation than math formulas. It’s also about logic, and the disciplined mind that is usually the math mind helps, but logic is also something that can be learned.
Great programmers, I’ve learned, are great at math. I wasn’t a great programmer.
But I was good enough for a newsroom.
Most of what is needed in newsrooms is pretty basic at this stage. What’s needed for most newspaper business apps is pretty basic. This isn’t rocket science.
The point here is that if you’re a journalist and have an opportunity to make a contribution to your career, your company or to our industry through programming, don’t let the math thing scare you. You can do it. Eighty percent of programming (if my math is right) is easy. If I can do it, you can. Continue reading
I’ve never written about Josh Wolf previously, but every time I see his name, my blood boils a bit.
There’s no reason this guy should be in jail.
There shouldn’t even be a debate over whether he’s a journalist.
There’s no license to be a journalist. You don’t need the government’s approval to be a journalist. You don’t need a paycheck to be a journalist. You just need the consitituion and a means to report what you know.
When the Josh Wolfs of the world can be jailed for exercising his or her constitutional rights, we’re all in trouble, especially those of us who, as paid professionals, believe in the public right to know.
I just wanted to say that. Continue reading
I’m sorry to say it, but my buddies in Ventura should be nervous. Scripps will stay in the newspaper business, but sell off some properties, according to this report.
The problem for the Ventura County Star is that it is in a slow-growth market, with a high cost of living (higher staff costs) and it is fairly isolated from other Scripp’s assets.
While I was there, I was an advocate of using some land Scripps owned there to build employee housing, which would have made a lot of economic sense. I believe that land has now been sold off.
But hey, they do have (or are soon getting — I’m not up to speed on this lately — a great new office building with a video studio. Continue reading