Many news organizations have bonus plans for newsroom personnel called MBOs (MBA speak for Manage by Objective). The idea is to reward people for doing work that helps advance the company’s strategic goals.
Is there any higher strategic need for news organizations today than becoming more digital savvy?
I suspect there are still too many non-wired journalists in most US newsrooms. Either out of fear, indifference or hubris, too many reporters and editors resist using the Internet for anything beyond the occasional Google search (and heaven forbid they ever click a search result link to Wikipedia) and a daily dose of Romenesko (and heaven forbid if you call him what he is, a blogger).
That just isn’t acceptable.
So to help newsroom managers advance the digital literacy of their organizations, I offer the following MBO plan. I recommend readers pass this along to the top editors at their newspapers. And for non-wired journalists ambitious enough to pursue their own MBO paths, I’ll offer a reward myself (strict rules and details at the bottom of this post).
- Become a blogger. Start with a favorite topic. For example, if you’re a baseball fan, start with baseball. Find all of the baseball-related blogs you can and become a regular reader of five or six of the best of these blogs. Participate — leave comments; follow links. After three months of blog reading, start your own blog on that topic. Try to post daily for at least six months. For blog topics, avoid anything related to your beat or politics. First, you need to blog about something you are passionate about; second, there are too many political bloggers already (accept maybe for local politics, if you see that need in your community and it won’t conflict with your day job).
- Buy a small digital camera that can take both stills and video. Open an account with a photo sharing site such as Flickr or Buzznet. Take photos and post them. If necessary, use some online tutorials for digital photography. (NOTE: If company will buy you this camera, great, but if not, remember you have a responsibility to invest in your own career.)
- With the same camera, make at least three videos. Use the free video editing software that comes with your computer and edit those videos. Post them to YouTube and at least one other video sharing site. There are plenty of online tutorials for shooting and editing video. Your goal here isn’t to make great video, just to learn what is involved in making video so you have the capability in your online journalism tool bag.
- Related to video, spend at least two hours a week for six weeks on YouTube. Search for topics that interest you and then follow the trails where they lead. Pay attention to the daily most popular and see what other people are watching. Be sure to watch both amateur and professional video.
- Join a social networking site. Every professional should have a profile on LinkedIn, so make sure you do, also. Facebook has been hot in 2007, but I think you’ll get more out of MySpace, which still remains popular with your future readers. You will get more DIY (the backbone of modern media) experience with MySpace, if you take full advantage of the site features (which, admittedly, I have not). Do Facebook, too, but don’t neglect MySpace.
- Use social bookmarking. Set up del.icio.us for yourself and use it every day. Learn about tags. Check out Digg and Mixx and similar sites. If you can, get into Scott Karp’s Publish2 beta.
- Start using RSS. Use RSS to keep up with the news of the day and the blogs you are now reading every day. Make sure your blog has an RSS feed. Here’s Marc Glaser’s guide to RSS.
- If your current mobile phone doesn’t handle SMS (text messaging), get one that does. SMS works best when you have friends who text, so figure out who those friends are (by now, you have them). For neophytes and gray hairs, a phone with a QWERTY keyboard (Treo, or iPhone) works best. Blackberrys aren’t great SMS handhelds because they mix SMS and e-mail together.
- Learn to twitter. I’m not a big Twitter user myself, but Ryan Sholin and Jack Lail swear by it. I think there is something to be said for learning how this technology may change information dissemination.
- Create a Google Map mashup. If you don’t know what those are, google it. If you don’t know what to do or where to start, google it (hint: or you can search this site). There are plenty of tutorials available. It’s easy. All you need is a spreadsheet with appropriate data and enough smarts to follow step-by-step directions.
- After you’ve done these ten things, document what you’ve learned — write something, such as an essay to your editor or a blog post. Discuss how technology has changed media, and follow the string of where that change might lead. What will your job be like in 10 years? What will media be like in five? How will news reach young readers in a generation? Tomorrow?
For those of you who work for a newsroom that doesn’t offer an MBO, or you’re not being included in the MBO program this year (maybe because your editor perceives you as too stuck in the past), I’m here to help.
I will give a $100 Amazon gift certificate to one journalist who completes all of the objectives. Here’s the rules:
- You must today be a non-wired journalist (which probably means a well meaning friend passed the link to this post along to you, because you, yourself, don’t normally read blogs). As a non-wired journalist, you only use the Internet for e-mail and a little web surfing, but not much else. You have yet to do anything along the lines outlined above.
- To be eligible, you must first send me an e-mail (howardowens at gmail dot com) and tell me about your current level of non-wiredness. To help confirm your position, you will need to CC your immediate supervisor at his or her work address (for this exercise to be meaningful, it probably helps if you have your boss’s support, anyway).
- You must be the first among the eligible participants to complete all of the objectives, and they must be completed in 2008.
- Part of being online is to be public and transparent about who you are and what you’re doing, so when you nominate yourself to participate, expect me to post your name and news affiliation in a blog post. Our readers should be able to follow your progress. Of course, there’s some advantages for you — it’s a great career move to be known as a learner; and the people who read this blog are the kind of people who would be happy to help you as needed; and when you have your own blog, you’ll be grateful for the links. And there’s no shame in admitting it’s time for you to go digital — you’re not alone.
For supervisors who use this post to fashion an in-house MBO program, it would be great to hear from you, especially as the program progresses, so we can all learn from the experience.
This is a useful, practical and wise list.
Let’s all give Howard Owens a rousing year-end round of applause for this and other posts,and for keeping faith with newspapers! Too many Howards have thrown in the towel and moved on to more rewarding pastures.
What an awesome list. I’m printing this out for all The Alligator’snon-wired writers. One thing, though: I tried really hard to get into Myspace, but poor design and “spam friends” annoyed me too much. Also, Digg used to be an awesome source for good news, but now more celeb news gets voted up. Important to know, but not all that cool.
Nice job Howard!
I will disseminate (by fax if necessary ;-) to a few of the challenged folks out there.
Good on you, and keep on keeping on.
As for Twitter, I agree with your friends who find it essential. Check out today’s feed on Bhutto at Twitters such as this: http://twitter.com/BreakingNewsOn
Thanks for the kind feedback.
Good list. I have a few friends who keep saying they want to learn this stuff but haven’t figured out where to start, so I think I’ll send it off to them. Don’t think I’m eligible myself since a) I’m already doing all of that and b) I don’t have an employer (I’m a freelancer).
I have to agree with Megan on MySpace. Hurts my eyes to look at it, and Facebook has done far more for me personally and professionally, which might be because it has a somewhat tighter audience.
Oops. I made the eligible pool slightly smaller. I started slower, first got a bunch blogging, then a session on bloglines and help on Yahoo Alerts and Google searches.
Expanded that by asking folks to start using FaceBook (CEO requested they friend him as proof, but called that off after
Wish I had this list long ago. Thanks for the ideas.
Howard, I disagree with you about the BlackBerry. As a BB owner myself, it’s been extremely valuable for me as a journalist and much more useful than the text messaging.
Google offers a great deal of applications for the BB, the best of which is Gmail. I don’t even have to set up my BB account’s email. I can just download the Gmail app, login and presto! — all my mail on a phone. Best of all, it’s got a search function built in.
Plus, you can avoid having to pay SMS fees to use Twitter on the BB by downloading the TwitterBerry application, which is free.
That isn’t fair. I’m unaffiliated with a news organization and started working on wiring myself a few months ago, therefore I’m ineligible. But, in getting ready for my career, so far I’ve started a blog, started posting videos on YouTube, joined LinkedIn and got back into Facebook, and started subscribing blogs and news organization to my RSS feed. In August, I had no idea what an RSS feed was, thanks to my anachronistic Jschool. But, I’m working on it and am also working on building a Web site and learning HTML and CSS.
Howard, it’s a great start for those who truly need help. But Wendy, Kiyoshi, et al have good points too and understanding their perspective is key to becoming a good wired journalist *after* a non-wired journalist makes that initial leap.
I’ve always seen technology like any beat one would cover — it’s not that it’s necessary to know all the answers, just the right questions to ask. Not everyone has the time or the interest in using all of this stuff (A Facebook addiction alone can waste hours of your day), but a good journalist should know how to access, contribute and assess the value of the information it delivers.
Howard, wouldn’t a better challenge be this: Encourage journalists to do more reporting. Dig. Learn how to use public records. Develop new information. That is the key to our future — not trying to turn every journalist into a producer of Google maps.
Fear, indifference and hubris are causes? It’s shortsighted and a touch sanctimonious to ignore the 300-lb. gorilla root issue – the crushing workload the daily newspaper reporter has to deal with anymore. I had 287 bylines in my last year and spend far too many hours off the clock working already. I don’t say that in a ‘woe is me,’ but to make a point that blaming reporters for not having the technology abilities they should when their bosses are running them into the ground with increased demands (do more with less, cover the same stuff we used to cover when our staff was a third larger, do web versions of your stories now now now) is to blame the victim.
Great idea! Is there a bonus for reading a book? How about doing anything well?
“spend at least two hours a week for six weeks on YouTube(?)” How about chewing gum for three afternoons? Why does this whole thing sound like an ad?
Finally – “a daily dose of Romenesko (and heaven forbid if you call him what he is, a blogger)” – ten to one this is where most of your respondents will find this attempt at humor.
Laudable, but you should set your target higher. Offer the award to an unwired EIC, managing editor or other executive-level editor. They are more apt to be unwired anyway. Get one of those techno-savvy and you help a whole newsroom.
Bradley — true, but that can be dicey as well. I would instead ask the upper management person explain how the concepts at hand can help a newsroom.
I personally thought it was disconcerting that a CEO asked his employees to connect via Facebook. That indicated to me that the CEO either 1)might not have understood that there is a distinct difference between Facebook and LinkedIn or 2)understood the difference and didn’t want his staffers connecting with him on the more professional platform.
The two sites are like the mullet: Business in the front and party in the back… so while one be connected to another on both Facebook and LI, one wouldn’t regularly make Facebook their first choice for business exchanges. Facebook Apps can be flaky and even tech savvy people wind up with junk on their page they’d rather not have. And really, do you as a CEO — or an employee trying to impress your CEO — want the other to see that you were given a holiday spank by a transvestite monkey?
We have some young journalists that will benefit from trying to do everything on this list. Thanks!
Good challenge, Howard. I think it can — and should — go further. I just explained how & why at E-Media Tidbits
So why limit this challenge to journalists employed by news orgs? Why not independents? Seems to me that traditional news orgs are a crumbling business, and we need to look beyond the kind of jobs we used to do in order to keep journalism alive in a way that doesn’t depend on them to give us full-time jobs.
– Amy Gahran
Aren’t bonuses usually given just managers?
So good am stealing the whole concept, adapting it and offering the MBO to my whole staff. P.S. to Fikes: There are as many techno-phobes among the young ones as among us dinos. At almost six decades, I find I gotta explain RSS, heck even Outlook calendar, to way too many youngsters…. :-)
Shoot, already done all of those things. Guess no $100 for me! Great list, anyway.
This is the perfect introduction to the wired world — do tons of work and get paid jack for it.
Reminds me of an MBO plan I had 10 years ago with a huge list of tasks with a maximum $250 bonus. Too much work for too little reward, and thus a quintessential newspaper-industry incentive plan.
Howard, I like the idea. Please keep us updated on how this goes. Newsrooms need to take this idea and offer it to their employees.
I am also going to jump on the MySpace hating train. MySpace sucks. It really does.
MySpace is a technological backwater. The pages look terrible, are poorly laid out, hard to read, music starts playing on a lot of pages as soon as you go there and photos start popping up. Plus, all the spam, companies and fake friends. MySpace is complete and utter junk.
Facebook is in every way, shape and form a superior product. It’s user interface, features and power are in another league. Plus, Facebook is heavily favored by today’s young and educated.
Ah, I love the cynicism of newspaper people.
Hey, sorry I can’t afford more than that.
However, should you really be doing this for the money? Should you be doing ANYTHING in journalism for the money?
The flip-side, of course, is don’t do these things, if you don’t INVEST in your own career, then all I can say is, enjoy your second career at Wal-Mart. It will be tough finding and keeping a journalism job when you don’t have the requisition skills, knowledge and experience, not to mention the learning mindset required to succeed in modern journalism. I don’t care how many Pulitzer nominations you have for your print work. You need to get this stuff.
@ Buddy Brad, while it is certainly open to an EIC … hell, I’ll extend the offer to publishers, too … but in my travels around the industry, I’m hard pressed to find top executives who are still technophobes. That may have been the case five or six years ago, but I don’t believe it’s the case today. Most of the resistance to change remains at the sub-editor and reporter level (and age has nothing to do with it).
@ Amy, I hear ya, but my passion and my profession is in the newspaper business. That’s where I’m laying my bets for now. That’s where I want to make a difference.
@ Linda, I’m thrilled you’re going to adopt this in Rockford.
To quote Abe above: “Encourage journalists to do more reporting. Dig. Learn how to use public records. Develop new information. That is the key to our future — not trying to turn every journalist into a producer of Google maps.”
Bingo. If Twitter, MySpace, mashups, etc. will be helpful in your beat(s), fine. Otherwise, learning to use them is like learning to use Morse Code or Esperanto – cool, but not a necessary route to doing anything useful for other people.
“Most of the resistance to change remains at the sub-editor and reporter level (and age has nothing to do with it).”
Both true and completely strange to me. I can’t find the post, but I recall someone on Mindy McAdams’ blog saying they got into this industry because of the glamor of black-and-white movies on ye good olde newspapering dayes. The poster in question didn’t want to learn to play this game online, fresh out of journalism school. Hell, one of my co-workers, our photographer, says he would never want to learn to shoot video (I, lowly writer, am learning it in my spare time). He’s my age; I’m 25.
I just really can’t imagine what motivates people to say, ‘No, I don’t want to learn how to use technology to better do my job.’ But I guess that’s what I get for getting into this field in part because I read too much of Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan.
PS – Howard, good stuff. I’m only on twitter and Facebook right now, but really, I need to start editing video and putting it online ASAP. I wouldn’t say this list is my motivation to get networked – I want to do that because I want to have a job in journalism in another five years – but this is very good to see. Kudos!
@ Dave and Abe: Being a good reporter is not enough. In fact, the assumption here is that the non-wired reporter is a GOOD journalist. This is about getting a depth of knowledge, a nuance of understanding, that is IMPOSSIBLE to acquire without actually doing the tasks. Online journalism is not print journalism, and until you actually dig in and do these tasks, you’ll never understand the difference. To take the Abe/Dave path is to remain clueless and ultimately not very useful to your news organizations.
So, everyone understands that it’s really not about the products (unless your pocketbook is pinched because you shelled out the cash for a Blackberry instead of your newspaper). It’s really not about having a Facebook account unless you really want one.
Right? Everyone gets that it is about understanding the ways people communicate, making efficient use of it and not becoming too attached to it because it will inevitably evolve or fade away… right?
If the answer is in any way “no”, then use the $100 for a small offsite for your employees — pizza, a laptop and projector, and a tour of the various sites. Show why Don Graham has a LinkedIn profile but not a MySpace or Facebook page… but also show how you can find great interview subjects on these sites. Talk about why Rosie O’Donnell no longer does interviews but responds directly on her website… and the implications of how the media redistributes (and sometimes, manipulates) what she posts. Discuss the “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” aspects of blogging.
And if you want to comfort those who mourn the supposed loss of shoe-leather journalism, tell them it’s coming soon to a VR near you. ;)
Thanks for sharing this. I’m gonna forward it to a bunch of dinossaurs that work in my newspaper.
Interesting list. I guess I’m not eligible either, though. I quit my newspaper job in August after nearly 14 years and am taking a year to work on a master’s degree in graphic design, with a focus on Web and multimedia design. So, I think I may do all the things on your list by the end of the year, and then some.
Coulda used the hundred bucks, though. All this digital equipment is getting pretty darn expensive.
Why does this silliness persist?
This campaign is like saying that in order to be good at delivering pizzas with your car, you have to be, oh, an avid NASCAR fan.
Honestly, sometimes it seems like it’s the arrogant techno-evangelists who least understand the significance of the technologies they’re raving about. … A bunch of regular tunnel-visionaries, I tells ya.
People do not want to do extra work. Period. In any industry. And there is nothing wrong with that. Reporters and editors want to do their jobs, go home, and spend time with their families and friends.
Most reporters and editors (including me) I know know all this stuff already. Of course we do. Most of us these days are young people who go on YouTube, read blogs, and use MySpace when we can in our free time. We are perfectly happy to do that during work, but our time is taken up filling up the space of boring weekly papers for our 80 year-old readers. Once our company tells us we don’t have to do that anymore, we could make the switch to online journalism within a day.
Until then, as much as we care about journalism, we believe we have as much a right to a 40 hour work week and a reasonable salary as anyone else.
Stop trying to make us feel like dinosaurs for believing that.
Mark, if you’re not making online your priority as part of you job, that’s on you. If the paper is boring and only appeals to 80-year-olds, that’s on you.
Howard, you’re blaming the problems newspapers are having on the lowest level people in an organization and then you wonder why you’re getting so much resistance. If I made online my priority and the few people left in my understaffed newsroom made online a priority, the print editions of our newspapers simply would cease to exist and then we would get fired.
Your cheerleading (and that of people like you) is not helping moral, it is hurting it.
Get a new job.
If you and all the other technically-inclined reporters at your paper left, maybe your editors would get the hint. Don’t waste your life and skills working for people who don’t deserve you.
You’re better than that.
My purpose here isn’t to raise morale. It’s to promote change.
Without change, we die. Without change, good journalism dies.
Either you join in the fight, or you’re welcome to work for Wal=Mart.
This isn’t about my company or your company, my job or your job, it’s about saving quality journalism. Either you have the heart for the fight, or you don’t. But we need people with the heart for the fight.
LOVE the idea! I’ve been trying to do this on my own (very slowly). However, most news organizations have policies about reporters blogging or posting video to YouTube. There’s also the issue of getting approval to join a lot of these things as a journalist. I signed up for Twitter last week and am still trying to figure out exactly what the heck it does and how to stop it from beeping my phone every minute and a half. I have to pay for text messages over 500 a month and it seems that twitter could kill that in a day! I don’t have time to read every update and the site isn’t very informative about how exactly to make the best use of it.
Main point – get the newspapers to sign on – Media General, Knight-Ridder, Jones – it has to be approved from the top. Most don’t want reporters posting without a legal eye looking at and with blogs and video – that’s a lot. Love the concept and will do it either way – although will doing a personal blog etc. not linked to the newspaper qualify me? And – more importantly, will doing that as a personal blog be allowed under my current job? Those are the questions most of us need answered.
Becky, a lot of news organizations are changing their out-dated, backward policies.
Of course, a little bottom-aggitation for change makes some sense … you could always pass this post along to the bosses …
It’s one thing when the newspaper industry got lapped in the information distribution realm. Painful, newspapers are scrambling and whether or not it’ll survive is a toss up.
It’s quite another thing to realize that the newspaper industry is about to be lapped by its own audience. Consumers of information are becoming increasingly adept at virtual eavesdropping, rubbernecking and peeking through keyholes.
And I think that’s what Howard is trying to say here– you have to have at least the same skills as your audience. If my 60-something neighbor looks up Benazir Bhutto’s son’s Facebook page because she read about it on Time.com, it means whoever covers that beat better have already done that.
accidently posted before finishing…
If my 60-something neighbor looks up Benazir Bhutto’s son’s Facebook page because she read about it on Time.com, it means whoever covers that beat better have already done that, and:
– tried to connect with him on Facebook, and;
– looked to see if he had any other social networking accounts, and;
– knows the places he regularly posts, and;
– understands who else is watching him through these same avenues and is figuring out the connecting thread to them in case he needs to get in touch with them.
Tracy, good comment.
I’ve never thought about it in terms as being at least digitally literate as your audience. That’s a good insight and absolutely right.
Thanks for the list and the reasoning. I’ll be using your post in my grad class on online media (at Cronkite/ASU): validation that it’s not “academic” to add these skills to journalists’ capabilities. In fact, the list correlates well with the course’s assignments. I hope lots of journalists take you up on your offer.
OK, Howard, you inspired us in Greensboro. We’re in. Made a change or three in the list, but the core is there. Have a great new year! Our list here.
About the Ceo & facebook…The point wasn’t to just link to the boss. It was to find the right one, see what he has done with Facebook, follow some practices.
Unfotunately, I found that I had to connect dots for people. Why should sales reps get on Facebook? To see the new types of advertising. What are they responding to? Why?
Why should the content people be there? To see how people are getting and using information. To make connections, to learn.
Never did I expect people to spend workhours uploading pictures of their kids, poking each other and fighting zombies.
When you are ‘playing’ for work, I want you to think: How can I use this to do my job better? How will the people who buy what I sell – be that words, images,ads or concepts- use this? What do I need to know
Facebook is one example. There are so many things available is looking and using them any different from reading the competition? Did someone once have to suggest to a newspaper person to pick up and read that other newspaper in town?
Ok. I know I am preaching to the wrong folks
Great post. I think the thing to stress here is that managers as well as individual journalists should a)promote this and b) try it themesleves.
I would print this out and give it to every employee with the title ‘play time’ and a time and date when they could sit at their desk uninterrupted to try it.
I know everyone needs to invest in their own learning but a little support never goes a miss. :)
I don’t need to be converted to a webcentric way of thinking and working after making the switch to online news work three years ago following more than 20 years as a print head. (And feeling as though I had been given a second life in this profession.)
But I also don’t need this “without change, we die. without change, good journalism dies” nonsense either.
The good practical advice suggested in the original post was undermined by techno-evangelistic preachiness that just turns people off. I’ve already done most of the things on your list, and folks, there really isn’t anything to fear.
But even those of us who work the web full-time are overwhelmed by what we have to do just to keep up. I want to soak up more of this, Howard, but there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Hectoring the worker bees is easy. But we’re not the ones determining how to allocate resources, designing training programs and setting other newsroom priorities.
Perhaps you should send your list to those who do, if you haven’t already.
Wendy, perhaps you missed the part where I say, “So to help newsroom managers advance the digital literacy of their organizations, I offer the following MBO plan.”
This list was first and foremost aimed at bosses who set standards and goals. A couple of them that I know of have already taken up the call.
But I must also say that I’m not one to set back and accept excuses such as, “I don’t have time,” or “we don’t have the resources.” B.S.
Good journalists always have resources. You can’t be a good journalist without being resourceful. You’re also responsible for your own career, not your editor nor your publisher. If the bosses won’t support your growth, then you must do it for yourself. No matter what it takes. No excuses.
If those of use who see the writing on the wall don’t raise alarm bells and rattle some cages, then who will? Who else will wake the sleeping giant that is the American newsroom?
I’m fortunate enough to have been working online for over 6 years for a major publisher, and blogged everything I’ve discovered, made great connections, and been offered new positions because of it.
I work with a mix of people, some who embrace the change, and some who resist it. I understand the fact it can be hard to change the attitude of managers, and that time is a precious resource.
But the simple fact is that if you don’t make the time, others will. Journalism has never been a 9-5.30pm job, and never will be. And since joining online media, I’ve accepted that I may get a phone call at 2am with a breaking story which has to be published within minutes – but the payoff is the joy of breaking a story before anyone else, and getting the respect and rewards for doing the best job possible.
In an era when things are rapidly changing, and there are no ‘safe’ career jobs, developing your skills and networks has to be an ongoing thing to ensure you develop.
And by doing so, you may find that blog you start, or those videos you shoot, can make you enough money that you no longer need to work for a major publisher for a regular wage.
It always takes an effort to change, and to be a leader rather than a sheep. But maybe, there’s a worthwhile payoff in being known and respected for leading?
After all, I’ve been responsible for hiring staff, and this year has marked the tipping point where the time and effort in hiring someone who isn’t already using blogs, networks and social tools and then training them, means that those applications will be straight to the bottom of the pile.
The main site I work on gets more traffic from a social aggregation site than most of the big portals or service providers. If someone in publishing, whether it’s journalism, marketing, or publishing, isn’t driven enough to promote themselves by those tools, then why would they be driven enough to do a great job for my company or product?
It does need managers etc to support such a drive for it to become widespread. But knowing, and being, a manager, when it does turn, it’ll be overnight, and management will suddenly look to hire people with the right skills, not spend another six months waiting for their staff to catch up…
This is a great post. I already passed it on to a friend and blogged it.
Here’s a really great list of objectives if you want to get better at writing, and built up your reputation as an expert in a certain field.
As an analyst, all of these skills, that you will develop by following my friend Howard’s recommendations, will help you no matter what you decide to do.
Readers who follow this post will get better at writing, photography, and video and they will make connections with people via blogs and social media sites.
It’s really the new way for making relationships online.
BTW, I studied MBO in college with George Ordiorne, inventor if MBO, after that class I was a proctor the next semester teaching others. I Love MBO.
This is a wonderful and succinct list. Anyone who wants to understand what is happening right now has to get their hands dirty. Saying “I don’t have enough time” simply doesn’t cut it. Find the time. Find spare time. Do this on your weekend. Invest in yourself.
If anything, this is just a start. There is much to learn – for all of us. If we don’t like it, there is a whole generation of young reporters coming up who will happily take our jobs. Not only will they do the work – they expect to, and they’re stunned when they enter 21st century newsrooms with 20th century (or worse) ideas.
I will do what I can to spread this list. Thank you for taking the time to put it together and giving so much thought to it.
Good article. Everyone has the time; they just have to reallocate it. Think about the time most people spend parked in front of the TV. Spending it parked in front of the computer may not be any more physically active, but it is mentally more stimulating and profitable IMHO. Blogging has sharpened my writing skills and given me feedback (good and bad) I’d never get otherwise.
Before this list was passed along to me at work, I’d seen it on a social networking site. That sort of leads me to my question for you: What do you recommend for the already-wired journalist? I’ve done nine out of 10 things on your list, and would have done the 10th if I actually did have free digital editing software on my Mac at home. (I’ll just have to buy it, I guess.)
Sorry, Howard, but I think you missed my point.
I have been “investing” in my career for the past three years and remain bullish on the possibilities of web journalism. But my frustrations are best summed up as follows from Steve Outing’s excellent piece in E & P. I wish I had written this:
“My wish: That you could fix the incredibly dysfunctional culture in the newsroom,” wrote an editor from one of the large metro newspapers in the U.S., who asked not to be named. In the past year, that paper’s top management decided to put the web first in all ways and went into major restructuing mode. The paper’s website, this editor reports, went over the last half decade from a small group of people to “the total focus of our news gathering efforts.”
“But the big problem is that the newsroom culture hasn’t changed enough to support the kind of innovation that the paper’s leaders are trying to implement, the editor says. “Somehow the people who do the work always get overlooked in the ‘fixing.’ We are ignored. We are shifted around like widgets. Our experience is disregarded. Our ideas are received with indulgent pats on the head. … I get the need for young voices and fresh approaches. But the environment, the existing culture, has to allow and encourage innovation. All the ‘process mapping’ in the world won’t fix that. ‘Culture’ is much harder to fix than ‘process.'”
Great list, Howard! Can you suggest several affordable options for digital cameras that do both still and video well? Thanks!
From a fully wired journalist who is starting to think I missed the giant gulp of Kool-Aid here: While the entire newsroom is out documenting their last trip to the bathroom on Twitter, who is sitting through the last five minutes of the city council meeting where elected officials just gave away the store to some well-connected developer? What stories in the past year generated the most online page views at my newspaper? Classic follow-the-money journalism done by professionals with killer sources and the ability to gather mountains of (gasp!) paper files no one wants the public to see.
Howard, this is a great post with some good points but I can wager that if any reporter in the UK – and I mean reporter not a person outwith the reporting chain like my friend Neil McIntosh at The Guardian – asked to do an MBA, they would be ridiculed by staff and management alike.
At best, this article and its subsequent responses and cross-examinations are horribly misguided. At worst, it’s a colossal waste of time, filled with whining and finger-pointing by the 98 percent of pseudojournalists who won’t ever resolve any problems or challenge any of the industry’s numerous half-wits.
The fastest way for this industry to improve, if it has any hope left of doing so, is to cast aside the design-based approach and to take on the lazy, gutless MEs and the non-editing city editors. Until that Axis of Evil is attacked relentlessly and daily, the problems will continue. Again: Target the worthless AMEs of presentation, the gutless MEs who cower in their office and the do-nothing CEs.
Now go forward and make us proud (at least the 2 percent of you who have some guts and some brains; the other 98 percent should feel free to go back to cowering under their desks, reading SND manuals and pretending to be the next Royko).
This list is phenomenal. I’m a young magazine editor/blogger who is slightly more optimistic than some of the other people in our newsroom.
There are far too many journalists who are ridiculously skeptical of the ways we can use the internet to help journalism progress (these skeptics include many of the people who are commenting). Wading through 500 sheets of city government budget is just as difficult as reading it on a computer screen. One doesn’t make you a “harder working reporter” over the other. Either way, we should all be committed to our jobs (informing the public!) and stop shaking our heads in denial that paper is the true (and only) medium of information dissemination.
Uh, Michelle. Sometimes this stuff doesn’t come via computer.
I agree with the person who said the best way for journalists to adapt and grow in a changing environment is focus on fundamentals that are essential regardless of medium (i.e. doing more reporting). Journalists young, old, white, black, male, female, etc., should focus on asking questions, getting information, interviewing, and solid, clean, accurate reporting and let everything else follow from there.
Are these digital tools important? Absolutely. But they’re no substitute for old-fashioned digging for news. When I hire a reporter, I’m more interested in their interviewing skills, ability to recognize news and go out and get it, and their writing ability than whether or not they use del.icio.us, Myspace, or are up on the latest technology buzzwords.
Technology always changes, but the fundamentals of the business stay the same.
Nathan, you haven’t spent a lot of time studying the history of the news business, have you?
Technology never changes journalism.
Society changes the news business.
The fundamentals of journalism, going back to the 1830s, have changed EVERY TIME society has changed.
Society has changed. Journalism hasn’t. That’s why our business is dying.
Learn the tools, so you can learn how society has changed.
If you’re only hiring according to a skill set suitable only to a society that no longer exists, good luck staying in business.
Thanks for your comments and the opportunity to discuss this.
I think you’re painting with too broad a brush if you’re suggesting that a non Web-centric society “doesn’t exist.”
Example: My newspaper is located in a rural community. According to our demographics, the majority of our readership (and in fact, our population) is elderly. I still get letters submitted on typewriters, for heaven’s sake. These people don’t use Facebook, and they really don’t see themselves as behind the times for NOT using Facebook.
If I’m supposed to be serving my readership, and my readership has expressed to me that they simply aren’t interested in a fancy bells-and-whistles website with podcasts, YouTube videos, and blogs upon blogs, but a well-written print edition with good stories that are well-researched, lengthy, and well-written, isn’t it a little presumptuous to tell my readers that they “aren’t keeping up on the culture” and that their “society no longer exists”? Are my readers on the cutting edge of technology and pop culture? No, but they read newspapers and pay for their subscription.
To me it’s about your individual market. Not everyone works in a tech-savvy or tech-interested environment. Do we need to keep up with the online media world in order to attract new readers? Of course we do, and I agree 100 percent that online is the wave of the future. But the attitude I’m starting to see from some web journalists is that print editions and no-frills, nuts and bolts quality reporting is as useful as a Betamax player, and I’m here to tell you that at least in my experience, it ain’t dead yet.
Nathan, you’re still talking about technology, not societal changes.
I’m not explaining myself very well.
You’re suggesting that society has changed. I’m sayin that it hasn’t changed as much as it may seem, at least not everywhere. There are still parts of the world, and even the United States, where the culture isn’t as technology-driven as in other places. So why cut them out of the loop?
I’m so glad to have stumbled across your site! These are great suggestions – I graduated 6 years ago without really having paid much attention to technical matters, beyond using email. I’m keen to use the potential of my blog better to reach a wider audience with my writing. Thanks for the inspiration.
It is with some trepidation I key in my comment with so many professional writers present. Yet, I’ll hope to be a honest man writing and beg forgiveness.
Howard, your list is a joke. It makes me laugh because it is exactly what education bloggers–edubloggers–encourage school teachers and administrators to do.
You are simply encouraging people in journalism to communicate and collaborate using the Read/Write Web (a.k.a. Web 2.0). It is important, but the same criticisms leveled at Journalists 2.0 are those that might go for Teachers 2.0.
The criticism is, shouldn’t we be focusing on the heart of the matter rather than worrying about the fluff, the technology aspect? Learning happens without technology. Journalism, teaching, learning…all happen irregardless of technology.
Let’s learn the fundamentals FIRST and then, in time, teach them how the fundamentals play out with the blogs, wikis and podcasts. Shouldn’t we teach budding journalists the craft before the technology? Put technic before the tech?
Be warned I’ll use your words to argue your perspective among educators.
Looking forward to your response!
With appreciation for your efforts among journalists,
Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net
Miguel, I’ve got three or four recent posts that address your points. You might want to read those.
My apologies, I’m just finding out about your blog.
Very useful list. I’ve done a condensed translation into Portuguese to publish it in my blog, and also shared it with my colleagues of profession. Thanks a lot.
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