The best and brightest of journalism’s future not exactly wired

So this bit on Romenesko caught my eye today:

SPJ’s Neil Ralston says: “I encourage media executives who are looking for the next wave of high-quality journalists to pay attention to the winners. …These young men and women represent some of the best that journalism programs have to offer.”

Being a media executive, I was curious — do these students represent the future of the news business?

The best way to find out is to Google them — what can Google tell us about their online life? Do they have their own web sites? Their own blogs?

Any active online person is going to own his or her own name on Google … and if you’re not active online under your real name, you’re not living up to the journalistic ideals of transparency and honesty.

So, I Googled these winners.

Here’s what I found:

  • Meaghan Peters — Several Meaghan Peters in Google. Not clear if any of them are the journalist Meaghan Peters.
  • Camden Swita — Shows up as a blogger on Washington.edu. Has a MySpace page (warning — auto play music). Also, several bylines on various sites.
  • Claire St. Amant — May have her own web site, but hard to tell. There’s nothing there. Lots of online bylines, but little evidence of blogging. Demerit points should be given for letting the best SEO for your own name go to a Frat Boy News blog (site not work safe in some environments).
  • Ryan Kost — Some bylines in Google, but no personal blog I could find. He did blog — if you can call it that (the writing being stiff, traditional reportorial writing) while an intern (that’s a guess) for the Oregonian. If that’s the same Ryan Kost. UPDATE: See note from Ryan at the bottom of the post.
  • Jessica Sondgeroth — Again, some bylines. She has what we would think would be a unique name, but I’m not sure the Jessica Sondgeroth on Facebook, who is from Arizona, is the same Jessica Sondgeroth.
  • Katherine Harmon — Fairly common name. Not much here for this Katherine Harmon.
  • Jeremy Herb — This might be a Jeremy Herb blog. And Jeremy is apparently involved with this news blog.
  • Alex Stawinski — Some bylines in Google.
  • Sarah Neff –This looks like her blog, and it’s a good one.
  • Jared Fields — Not much in Google to tie any thing this Jared Fields.
  • CJ Moore — Common name. No evidence of this CJ Moore.
  • Mark Viera — Ditto
  • Bill Oram — Ditto
  • Aaron Zundel — Is at least on LinkedIn. Plenty of online bylines, but no evidence of blogging.
  • Petra Hendrickson — Lots of Google hits. Apparently, no blog.
  • Phil Hands — Nothing obvious here. Oops. Big mistake on my part. Here’s his site. See his comments below.
  • Samuel Ayres — Hire this guy. He owns his name.
  • Philip Cannon — Ummmm …
  • Jenna Lo Castro — Folks, we have a blogger. First Google result, too. There are not many entries, but, hey, look at the competition.
  • Imani Jackson — One byline on the first page of results.
  • T.J. Tranchell — This is good, an entirely personal blog. We’ll forgive the fascination with crappy ’80s metal. Lots of hits on his byline, too.
  • Brandon Scheller — Is this Brandon? We’re not sure.
  • Mark Dent — College byline first hit, then not much.
  • Dylan Farmer — This might be Dylan on FB.

I’ll let somebody use Google the non-newspaper writers. Frankly, I’ve grown too discouraged to continue.

So, who do we blame, the students or the journalism programs?

Any students interested in getting it together online, check out Wired Journalists.

UPDATE: Shortly after my blog was hacked and the site went down for several weeks, Ryan Kost sent along this note:

I came across your blog while I was searching for the SPJ press release about the national awards. I haven’t been able to read your entry on the SPJ winners other than the google snippet and the headline. For some reason your site isn’t loading at the moment. In any case, I definitely wouldn’t consider myself super wired, but if you’re interested in editing your blog, I do have a small Web presence. My senior thesis was an online discussion of change (it includes video, soundslides, audio and text) that I created with another student journalist. You can see it here: www,definingchange.net. We haven’t been able to make it too google-able because we created it using only Flash. Still, we’ve been trying to get the word out about it, and any little bit helps! Also, for what it’s worth, I had a Web site up (ryankost.com), but I really hated the layout, so I took down while I’m designing another.

So, Ryan gets extra points for ego surfing and reaching out to demonstrate further what he’s been doing online. I also heard from T.J. Tranchell.  And note the previous correction on Phil Hands.

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  • http://www.greglinch.com Greg Linch

    The search results are a little better for the online winners and finalists.

  • http://www.lowtechmagazine.com Kris

    I just wanted to tell you that when I click on this post in my RSS-reader, I arrive on a spam site…

    Great website, by the way

  • http://www.townonline.com/somerville/ Kat Powers

    Hmm. I just Googled my most recent interns, and I had to narrow the search to what I know they’re doing now — one shares a name with a judge, one shares part of her name with the band “Iron Maiden,” so you can imagine what popped up in search. I work in a mostly-online environment, and I’d hire anyone of these kids who shot video, blogged and wrote on a web deadline as naturally as they breathed air.

    The only intern who popped up quickly in search was the one with very pretty, prominent photos of herself on her facebook page. While I’d hire her in a minute, I don’t think that’s the criteria I’m looking for.

  • http://www.howardowens.com/ Howard Owens

    Kris, I’ve heard that before, but I can’t duplicate the results. Through every RSS reader I try my feed it, it works as it should.

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com Pat Thornton

    @Kat Powers,

    I disagree. The future of journalism is not in good hands if the “best and brightest” don’t take the Web that seriously. And taking the Web seriously means having an online presence without being prodded. Our “best” can’t even be bothered to make a personal Web site or blog? Please.

    Yes, I’d hire them too if they demonstrated strong skills, but the future of journalism requires more than that. These students would make good underlings, but how many of them would really be helpful in transforming journalism? Not many.

    The future of journalism will require enterprising journalists to create new forms of journalism and platforms. What these awards have demonstrated is that many journalism students know how to work for an existing media entity, but they don’t know how to break out of the corporate mold.

    Unfortunately, it’s not The New York Times that will be transforming journalism into what it needs to be. It will be enterprising journalists. These awards just show that many journalism students still aspire to work for major metros, many of which won’t be around in 10 years.

    What Howard wants to see is journalism students who are willing to take risks and innovate on their own. That’s why having a personal Web presence is so important.

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com Pat Thornton

    I also arrived at a spam site when I went through Google Reader. Maybe a virus?

    Here is the link I got: http://www.search-enterprise.net/search.php?q=tramadol

  • Matt

    These students did some serious journalism, did it well, and were recognized for it with the SPJ awards. As fellow journalists, we should congratulate them.

    Journalism is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn to do well. On the other hand, any middle-schooler can create a blog or a myspace profile. Judging someone by whether or not he or she “owns” his or her name online seems pretty frivolous. I don’t “own” my name online and I don’t see how that impacts my ability to do my job in any way.

    If I were doing the hiring, I’d hire someone who wanted to work hard and turn out great news stories. What they do in their spare time, whether it’s facebooking or scrapbooking, is none of my business.

  • http://www.howardowens.com/ Howard Owens

    @ Matt, being an online native, which includes blogging and owning your identity online is not a hobby. It’s an essential journalism activity. Failure to embrace online is like saying “I don’t care if journalism survives.” These days no editor or publisher should be hiring anybody who isn’t demonstratively a good blogger.

  • http://www.philtoons.com Phil Hands

    This is Phil Hands and I have to take issue the comments on your blog. I googled myself (I know how conceited), and the first several entries were my personal website, followed by my profile on the AAEC website. Maybe we’re using different googles.

  • http://www.howardowens.com/ Howard Owens

    @Phil. Sorry for the mistake. Post corrected and error noted.

  • Dylan Farmer

    I’m the Dylan Farmer mentioned in the original post (not the one from the facebook page cited above, incidentally). My newspaper’s adviser passed along this link to me, and suggested I read it. I will say I enjoyed the insight into how current professional journalists view the up-and-coming, but at least in my own defense (and perhaps in defense of a few others you’ve named in this post), I thought I should add my two cents.

    First of all, this post makes certain assumptions about each of the SPJ winners that may or may not be true. For example, it assumes (although this may be the fault of SPJ) that every one of us is in a journalism program, which is false. I’m not in a journalism program. Rice doesn’t even have a journalism program. Our paper was started by students when the school was founded, and it’s still entirely student-run today. We have a media adviser we can ask about certain topics or protocols we’re having trouble with, but the content, writing, editing, business operations and everything else are entirely the responsibility of students who generally have no formal journalistic training. Electrical engineers, sport management majors, math majors, history majors — these are the people who work for my paper, and they’ve never taken a journalism class or seminar or anything.

    This post also makes the incorrect assumption that we all want to be journalists when we enter the job market. I can’t speak for everyone listed above, but I don’t want to be a journalist. I work for my university paper because I like the people and I have fun doing it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve chosen it for a profession. I suppose you might ask why anyone not wanting to be a journalist would apply for an SPJ award in the first place, but I would respond by saying that it’s nice to get recognition for one’s work anywhere, and an SPJ award is quite an honor even if I’m not planning on becoming a member any time soon.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is not that I disagree with your main point (I understand that my future in journalism is dimmed because I lack the required interest and experience in blogging and internet use). What I do want to get across is that I think it is overly harsh of you to criticize journalism’s future and current educational standards because of the assumptions I listed above and the fact that you couldn’t find sizable hit counts for some of our names on Google. Instead, I would prefer that you don’t put me on the same list as everyone else who actually wants to pursue a career in journalism, in order that my obvious lack of qualifications might not negatively impact the resumé of journalism’s true future generation.

  • http://www.clairestamant.com claire

    I came across your blog while googling myself, or “ego-surfing” as you call it. My site was in a bit of a holding pattern, but your critique spurred me on to further development—see http://www.clairestamant.com I’ve also started a technorati account in hopes of generating traffic. Thanks for the shout-out and constructive criticism. Glad to see you’re back online, too. Oh, and I share your disdain for the “Frat Boys News” byline. Any advice on how I could get that moved down and/or off would be greatly appreciated.

  • http://www.howardowens.com/2008/journalists-who-want-to-own-their-names-in-google-need-follow-a-few-simple-steps/ Journalists who want to own their names in Google need follo

    [...] My post critiquing the online activity of SPJ’s Mark of Excellence caused a stir. Predictably, not everybody liked it. But it also seemed to do some good. A few of the students mentioned came to the site with positive responses. [...]

  • http://jeremyherb.wordpress.com jeremy

    Like some of the others, I found this “ego surfing,” though you will be happy to know I was checking to see if my name was available to create a personal Web site.

    Yes, the “Jeremy Herb” blog above is my unkempt blog. You inspired me to revive it that as well.

    As far as students being behind the times on the Web, I think the biggest reason is a lot of journalists haven’t yet had the time to learn how to do Web stuff, like making Web pages. I’ve been writing for three years, and going to school while working 30-40 hours a week as editor of my student paper didn’t leave me a whole lot of time to create my own personal blog. Or learn how to make my own site.

    During that time, I was creating a Web presence — for the student paper. Now that I’ve graduated and am entering the professional world, I plan to create a Web site showcasing my work. I’m attending Columbia in the fall, and there I will pick up a lot of the multimedia skills that weren’t offered at my school.

    That said, I think your point is valid. But I also think those who are going into journalism know they need to be on the Web, even if they aren’t already. I plan on a career in print, but I know that will involve me doing video, audio, blogging, etc.

    And to be fair, nearly half of the listing above had a blog, even if it was a shell like mine. And you didn’t do the online or radio winners, which are FAR more likely to be into Web stuff.

  • http://jeremyherb.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/july-in-indianapolis/ July in Indianapolis « Dispatches from the Middle East, the

    [...] July in Indianapolis Jump to Comments I was inspired by this to revive my blog: http://www.howardowens.com/2008/the-best-and-brightest-of-journalisms-future-not-exactly-wired/ [...]