Too many reporters still think they’re referees, when really, they’re in the game.
Profit. That’s where the experimentation and funding for long-term projects came from.
As the near monopoly on the distribution of information that powered the advertising business that kept newsrooms well-stocked has faded, so too has the profitability of the companies that back them. And it has coincided with tightened budgets and, therefore, fewer commercially viable journalism products.
It’s a common boast of proudly-overwhelmed reporters: how many emails do you have in your inbox? The answer, of course, is supposed to be as big as possible, at least numbering in the thousands.
For me, that’s always essentially sounded like malpractice, like a surgeon boasting she hasn’t calibrated some critical tool. Journalists are in the business of information gathering and disseminating, so one must control her primary tool of the modern trade, and that is surely still email.
Your inbox is your temple. That temple is your work station, so you must keep it clean — put things away in your filing cabinet.
So though I’ve taken email seriously for years from the earliest corners of my professional career, preaching Inbox Zero and obsessing over contact tracking (even back as an undergraduate), I’ve recently been sharing a leaner process to on-board reporters to this way o thinking and wanted to share here.
I’m a fan of the Online News Association‘s annual conference. I’ve been before and went again in September to Denver, getting the chance to speak again too.
My favorite part of the conference is the chance to catch up with peers and meet new friends, largely to check in on whether I think my organization is still sharp. As a local chapter organizer for ONA, I got the added treat this year of networking with other local organizers too. But helpfully I do often find a handful of traditional conference sessions on topics I’m thinking about and learn some things, particularly tactical tips and tricks. I wanted to share some of what I learned.
Transparency is a modern virtue.
Its pursuit is among the more commonly inalienable constants of news media. But like a child who needs to be exposed to germs to develop resistance, we can benefit from some level of privacy among leaders. Transparency of power can lead to polarization. Some conversations need to be worked out in private.
Of course that doesn’t sit quite right with many newsrooms — or among many civic minded people. A symbolic scourge of journalism is the back room conversation — dealmaking without public discourse.
But it’s so much more complicated.
Journalism is a strategy, not an industry.
Newsrooms should rethink their competition. Journalism organizations are in dozens of different businesses. What we share in common (journalism DNA) makes us more partners than adversaries. The many businesses that are competing for the revenue and not providing other community value, like service journalism, are the real competition.
This was the focus of a lightning pitch I gave this weekend at the national Online News Association annual conference in Denver. Below find my slides, audio and some tweet reactions I received.
Because the modern concept of journalism was developed inside newspaper newsrooms, we’ve stayed stuck on the idea that journalism only looks one way: written words with a feature lede and nut graf.
Maybe a photo essay. Or an editorial cartoon. Or nonfiction book. Radio and TV reports too can cut the pass. But we know what form comes to mind first when journalism is invoked: writing and editing long, multi-source feature stories, likely to put into some print publication. That has to adapt.
I say this fully admitting I’m an active, proud and lively member of the Pen and Pencil Club, a private journalist’s association and bar in my hometown Philadelphia.
Journalists, especially community and beat reporters, should spend a lot more time with their communities than with other in news media. For sure, you can get great professional development and important understanding from meeting with your colleagues. But count up the number of hours you spend with other reporters and compare it with your community in person: which one is the bigger number?
This was among my clearest points from a talk I gave at the third annual Entrepreneurial Journalism Educators Summit organized by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Below are my slides and some notes.
If you can’t describe what you do to a child, you don’t actually know what you do.
Sure, in an era of disruption and distraction, we are changing and evolving roles and organizations and missions rapidly enough that to kids and even other adults outside our industries, the details can get fuzzy. But the idea here is that your core purpose has almost surely been seen before.
So can you describe what you do at its simplest form?
I got this challenge when I agreed to do a Career Day this month at Adaire, a public K-8 school in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia in which I live. (The school has a fun history dating to the 1890s, including the above-depicted first building and a more conventional one used today)
Sometimes when a word is really powerful, it gets over-used enough that its power dwindles. This happens in cycles, like how “collaboration” was sorely stretched in recent years as institutions got hip to open source culture, and now as “innovation” is being slid into the name of any new effort from any organization aiming to look forward-thinking.
That over-use doesn’t mean the word isn’t effective. It is. But it should mean it requires defense. So when I was asked to submit to business marketing magazine SmartCEO my own definition of the word and my process for employing it, I tried to do just that.