Social networking and the NYT – be careful what you sign-up for

February 3, 2009

Thanks to Poynter Online for posting the New York Times guidelines for reporters using social networking sites as a journalistic tool.

The first guideline is about politics or controversial groups and flagging your own political beliefs

If you have or are getting a Facebook page, leave blank the section that asks about your political views, in accordance with the Ethical Journalism admonition to do nothing that might cast doubt on your or The Times’s political impartiality in reporting the news. Remember that although you might get useful leads by joining a group on one of these sites, it will appear on your page, connoting that you “joined” it — potentially complicated if it is a political group, or a controversial group.

This kind of defeats the purpose of being on Facebook. Surely one of the benefits is being able to “meet” with like-minded people and to share your views. Also, if you don’t join a group, how are you going to find out what its members are thinking and doing?

I think this could lead to problems of another ethical variety — reporters using an alias to join controversial groups and not disclosing that they are working for a news organisation and then using material in the paper or in their journalistic work.

The constraints that the Times puts around its staff use of social networking seem a little overbearing. At the sme time they don’t seem to take into account the real journalistic abuses of Facebook and the other sites.

Read the rest of this entry »


When is a newspaper no longer a newspaper?

February 2, 2009

There’s been some movement over the last year of newspapers dropping their print edition and becoming online-only. Which raises an interesting philosphical question: When does a newspaper stop being a newspaper?

For example, the Christian Science Monitor will stop publishing a daily print edition in April 2009 while offering a weekly subscription print product and a continuously updated online version (edition? publication?).

Does the CSM then stop being a newspaper? More importantly is this how newspapers will “die”?

While discounting for the inevitable puffery of self-reporting, this is how the CSM described its shift in an October 2008 online editorial:

While the Monitor’s print circulation, which is primarily delivered by US mail, has trended downward for nearly 40 years, “looking forward, the Monitor’s Web readership clearly shows promise,” said Judy Wolff, chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society. “We plan to take advantage of the Internet in order to deliver the Monitor’s journalism more quickly, to improve the Monitor’s timeliness and relevance, and to increase revenue and reduce costs. We can do this by changing the way the Monitor reaches its readers.” [Monitor shifts from print to web-based strategy]

Three things about this:

“improving timeliness and relevance”; “increase revenue” and “reduce costs”.

The first is not really questionable. Of course continuous editorial updates are timely and relevant. But how is the Monitor going to increase revenue? Obviously by reducing costs – newsprint, delivery, etc – but this does not equate to an increase in online advertising necessarily.

It seems that the jury’s still out on that whole issue. According to an analysis piece in the LA Times, the CSM strategy is risky because online advertising revenue is not guaranteed and the paper takes an immediate hit in subscription income.

But the change will present considerable risks. Unlike most daily newspapers, the five-day-a-week Monitor receives the bulk of its revenue from subscriptions, not advertising.

The Monitor plans a new weekly magazine to maintain its print presence, but that is expected to bring in only a fraction of the $9.7-million circulation revenue it receives annually. To compensate, the publication will have to increase online advertising dramatically. [Monitor to discontinue daily print edition]

The whole shift also raises another question. If it’s no longer a newspaper, what does the newsroom look like? Read the rest of this entry »


Newsy.com launch – A Kiwi in “Mizzourah”

January 22, 2009

While I was in Columbia, Missouri last September I met Charlotte Bellis, a young woman from Christchurch who’s doing a Masters degree in the Missouri School of Journalism.

Mizzou has an impressive set-up including state-of-the-art media labs.  Of course it helps to have deep pockets and wealthy benefactors. The Reynolds Journalism Institute was launched while I was there and I want one.

I also visited a start-up new media organisation with a difference, Newsy.com.

Charlotte has been hired as the “face” of Newsy which promotes itself as “The News With More Views”. The central idea is to provide short video packages on the major news stories of the day, with some analysis built in.

Read the rest of this entry »


A last little bit of England

January 12, 2009

I’ve been back from the UK for about three weeks and I’ve just finished marking the project work my City University students completed last (UK) semester.

I’m actually quite proud of them. We had about 11 weeks to get our heads around a totally new (to them) topic and to learn the rudimentaries of journalistic writing in a web environment.

The paper they did is called “WEEM” – Writing and Editing for Electronic Media. So not only did they have to read up on convergence and new media journalism, they had to learn to write in an online environment and then to rustle up some half-decent HTML so that their projects could sit on the web.

Like all student work, this is a bit eneven. Some bits are better than others. But, overall I think they’ve done a very good job.

Some interesting topics were covered and I think it’s worth sharing.

Convergence Culture.UK.ORG

There’s no way for you to leave comments on the project pages unfortunately; it’s all rather static. However, feel free to comment here on the work as a whole, or on individual projects. I have let the class know that this link is here and that they should come back now and again to see who’s commented.

I would appreciate if you keep the commentary positive. All dribblejaws comments will be swiftly deleted, so don’t bother.


Fourth estate won’t bow to digital age – Business – Business – smh.com.au

August 10, 2007

Fourth estate won’t bow to digital age – Business – Business – smh.com.au

So are newspapers dying or not? Are they a little bit sick, or is it terminal?

According to News Limited CEO John Hartigan, newspapers need to aggressively market themselves as interpreters of the news, not just providers. In a speech this week to the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association (PANPA), Hartigan also called for more “crusading and campaigning journalism”.

This is actually a scary thought – most of News Limited’s papers, which dominate the Australian market, are conservative and more prone to spreading moral panic than crusading analytical journalism.

Look out for more tabloid-style crusades from the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Australian. No paedophile, drug-addicted single mum or drunken Aborigine will be safe from the News Limited rain of terror.

Is there really though a new virtual public sphere — a ‘fourth estate’ of the internet? I’m not yet convinced as I told my students the other day. The interent is rapidly being suborned by the very same large old-media companies who currently dominate the print and broadcast media. In this climate there’s no greater freedom available to journalists of either the professional, or the ‘citizen’ type.


The latest digital table – more practical than an iPhone?

July 2, 2007

Would you like one of these new digital devices?
This is a great little advert for the new “digital table”, see how practical, functional and cheap it is!

I think this is the original ad that’s been ripped:

Still not convinced? Here’s the Microsoft version, starring Bill Gates.


We think we’ve got problems with outsourcing

May 12, 2007

Local newsgathering outsourced to India

I’ve written before on APN’s outsourcing of sub-editing, but what about out-sourcing an entire newsroom?
Radical hey?

The California-based Pasedena Now website is advertising for a freelance journalist based in Bangalore to report on local council issues and other daily event coverage in Pasedena.
The website editor thinks he can justify this because the council meetings are broadcast over the web anyway. Here’s a taste of AP copy on the story:

James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the two-year-old Web site pasadenanow.com, acknowledged it sounds strange to have journalists in India cover news in this wealthy city just outside Los Angeles.

But he said it can be done from afar now that weekly Pasadena City Council meetings can be watched over the Internet. And he said the idea makes business sense because of India’s lower labor costs.

“I think it could be a significant way to increase the quality of journalism on the local level without the expense that is a major problem for local publications,” said the 51-year-old Pasadena native. “Whether you’re at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you’re still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview.”