May 17, 2007

ONA Seminar III: Preparing Reporters And Students For A Changing Media Landscape

We're returning to the seminar now, with a five-speaker panel on preparing for the advent of all the forms of New Media.

Scott Anderson of CNN talks about being the last generation trained for traditional journalism. Now, he says, he's playing three-dimensional chess. It's challenging news producers on priorities and on resources. Audience attention span has narrowed, too, so that makes another consideration for allocation.

Adrian Holovaty of the Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive group, notes that wire services have worked under the moment-to-moment model all along. Online journalism has just caught up with the AP model, and people should look to the wire services for the best models. However, Holovaty also says that the wire services have a weak reputation for in-depth reporting; how to keep that while using the wire-service model? It's a tough culture change for publications like newspapers and especially news magazines, which publishes normally on a weekly basis.

Liz Brixley teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism, and she notes that students today are much more tech savvy, sometimes more so than the faculty. What they do not know is how to provide the content. "Everyone needs a good dose of humility," she advises, so that they can learn what they don't know in order to get a grasp of the New Media paradigms.

Anna Nicole Smith comes up as an example of how multimedia may not add all that much to a story. I'd say it needed to be a story at all before anyone could "add" to it.

Students need to learn how to gather accurate data before they try to report it. That makes a lot of sense, and I think J-schools attempt to do that. That's why wire-service reporters, who generally tend to be younger and less experienced, do a pretty good job of the five Ws. It's when they move onto other positions that those skills seem to be less valued at certain publications.

So far, as the moderator points out, the panelists have talked about the same skill sets that she learned 20 years ago. Adrian Holovaty says there should be social training so that reporters 'don't do the same old s**t", and that students need to provide "newness" and look to change the industry. Yikes. How about just reporting the facts? Or is that too old-fashioned?

Scott makes a point about journalism being a business. If they want to cover big stories with lots of resources, that will distinguish them from the grassroots media. However, they need to have the cash flow to pay for that -- and that means maintaining ratings and ad revenue. It forces producers to consider why they're spending money on certain stories, which is why the smaller stories do not break out. My reaction: that's why the grassroots media exists. He also said that he didn't take business courses in college, but today he would -- he feels that business management skills are essential in modern journalism.

Now we're talking about the Politico's reporting on Edwards' reaction to his wife's illness. Politico ran a story 15 minutes ahead of the presser that Edwards would withdraw, which turned into a Dewey Beats Truman moment for the on-line publication. Scott reported on their report, and the meme flew through the information hierarchy ... until Edwards announced that he would stay in the race. Ben Smith is here -- in fact, he's on my panel next -- and he wants to comment on it, but it looks like he won't get the chance.

UPDATE: Ben did get a chance to address this. He accepted responsibility for inaccurately promoting the story through the headline chosen. The actual story, he said, reported that a single source close to the campaign said Edwards would suspend his campaign. The headline, however, just stated that Edwards would suspend, a small but significant difference. The story itself, Ben insists, was accurate -- a source had reported that. I'm not sure I buy that. If The Politico published that story, they should know that they are reporting the substance and not the nature of the source.

UPDATE II, 6/4/07: Adrian Holovaty is the one who suggested social training for journalists, not Mike Westling. I got the two mixed up, and I apologize for the error. Thanks to Mike himself, who noted the error in the comments, and then correctly skewered me for following it with a question as to why the facts are not sufficient. Mea maxima culpa!


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Comments (7)

Posted by Carol Herman | May 17, 2007 2:05 PM

Bottom line: How do you attract "an" audience; in a world full of people that the marketeers have divided by group?

Sometimes, what you don't see, is just off. Behind the scenes. (Like a probability I'd make, if the donks hit the lottery in November 2008, is a return of the DRAFT. Submitted by Rangel, no less. Into the congressional churning mill.) Just in case you think you can label the donks as "retreaters." They've got James Baker's Iraqi Surrender Group Report; and lots of the shinanigans that went unnoticed, putting both Bush, and how the Iraqis are now feeling about our military "interventions" ... into a hidden agenda. So far? Seen no light of day.

But that's what's so interesting. Given that the old media pumps and old agenda. It's like going back and remembering when you could fill the tank of your car for twinty-five cents a gallon.

Did you know that FDR's theme song was "Happy Days." Played in 4 of his election cycles. 1932, 1936, 1940. And, 1944. In other words? If FDR was taking the stage that's the song you heard. Played at first at the height of the Great Depression. And, again, in the uptick to WW2. And, while we had what? A million men fighting?

So, sometimes, if you look for patterns, you need to look at what wins.

Today, on the Net there was a discussion of why ABC News, with Gibson, has out-flanked both NBC and C-BS. With a few conclusions drawn:

ONE: Even ABC is only catering to a small segment of the market share. Those 60-years and older; who grew up with the nightly news as part of the ways they took in current events.

TWO: You can't make a living, really, by appealing just to the old timers. And, today's youth never climbed on board the old-fashioned media's train. Would they even know references to FDR, I wonder?

Anyway, the Internet is here to stay. Unless something happens and all the computers get turned OFF, like the Russians just did to the Eastonians. (Can happen?)

Well, ya know what? Google anticipated a breakdown in the "spine" awhile back. And, if there's a "shut down" due to electronic manipulation of how the Web disperses information, I think Google will have it's own "spine" in place. While Drudge, on his Sunday shows, keeps wondering how Google "just a database," he says, can be worth so much money by Wall Street's wise guys.

Again, that's the BIG, BIG question!

And, one of the first to hit a homerun out of the park, in this election cycle, was Fred Thompson. By spending just a hundred dollars. Frugal man.

Reminds me how Nancy used to complain; her husband's suits were SO OLD. He just couldn't throw them out. Nothing new hung in his closet!

As to what's ahead?

Besides the Net. What's ahead with a 3rd Party run? Bloomberg "threatened it." So we could have watched him throw a billion dollars out the window.

But aren't others there, too?

And, what will the Conventions, ahead, look like? Because I think "scripted events" would be a disaster. But if we're going to see balloting taking place; where no one has the total to get the nomination on the first shot? What will that look like?

And, don't cha think people would turn to the Net to watch?

I know I do. I even follow the debates, without tuning them in, just by coming HERE. Okay. And, Insta-Pundit. And, there I just follow the links.

That's a real market! And, without an instruction manual, Fred Thompson entered, and scored a homerun. With Guiliani picking up points for his angry discharge of Ron Paul's foolish comments. Ah. Which, on the Net, are getting all sorts of rebuttal testimonies coming forward.

IF the networks were once known, not only for the news, but also for finishing off the topic in short order; the Net INCREASES VISIBILITY for things that need to register.

And, they need to register across a wide section of the People.

Once, for the Republican Party, this was Lincoln. Who knew that the debates with Douglas made national headlines. (And, yes, there were two sets of papers at that time. Negative and positive. Republican. And, Democratic. That's how Lincoln, at his own expense put the debates under cover, for re-sale.)

To know and understand politics isn't a "thing" for cameras only. It has to do with ambition. And, with the ability to take punches. And, with the ability to convince a cross section of Americans, first to watch.

And, then? To see that things are fairer than Dan Rather knew.

Posted by RBMN | May 17, 2007 2:48 PM

Reporting something as fact (e.g. suspension of the Edwards campaign,) that can change on the whim of one person, seems a foolish act in any case.

Posted by Carol Herman | May 17, 2007 4:31 PM

John Edwards, ahead, can use the Clairol commercial for his spot: ONLY HIS HAIRDRESSER KNOWS FOR SURE.

Since the news did break that his wife's cancer returned. While he milked this "news" for all it was worth. Exactly what else does he stand for?

Me? I can't think of a thing.

As to what's ahead? Here, I'm not so sure it's all that much fun to campaign. It's possible that going to the golf course is much more fun. Waking up at home, with your kids around. And, participating in the life of a family, is also something to treasure.

While FDR commented (even though he was in a wheel chair), because of politics "he hardly saw his kids as they were growing up." And, yes, it's something he said he regretted.

But politics takes a total commitment.

With FDR, the ideas flowed. Whatever came down the pike, he had a plan, man.

When England was nearly broke; and about to lose to hitler because she was going bankrupt; it was FDR, himself, who came up with lend lease.

As lend lease was explained, it's the same as lending your neighbor your fire hose, when his is broken. And, his house is being threatened by flames. Do you expect to get your hose back? Well, if it survives the fire, yes. But if it doesn't? You expect your neighbor at some point to replace the borrowed hose, just the same. BUT YOU DO NOT SELL THE HOSE! Keep this in mind.

While also notice that FDR ran his own show. He wasn't at the mercy of "advisers."

I also think the media is in the dark. Don't know why, though. Why, also, do all the networks sound the same? How come there's no differences to behold?

And, now that so many people left them flat; from withdrawn subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. To the wholesale flight of individuals from tuning in the nightly news ...

Exactly how are you going to repair this?

I think the Internet is noticed for its business.

In other words, it's become the "GO TO" medium. Yes. With lots of choices. But nifty in that all your favorite places gets lots of traffic.

Oh, and no credentials are needed, here. No one went to journalism school to get ripped off. If you can write ... It's like in Lincoln's day. You took four years to learn the ropes. And, then you were safely on your own.

By the way, if there was a betting pool going? At what point would you expect Edwards to "fall out" of the race?

Posted by Neera Goitein | May 17, 2007 11:09 PM

Apropos journalism in this new online era - what would be the consequences of a demand that no anonymous sources be cited - none at all. That if someone wants to put his information out there, he must identify himself/herself to the reader, not just the writer.

Posted by Neera Goitein | May 17, 2007 11:09 PM

Apropos journalism in this new online era - what would be the consequences of a demand that no anonymous sources be cited - none at all. That if someone wants to put his information out there, he must identify himself/herself to the reader, not just the writer.

Posted by Adjoran | May 18, 2007 12:21 AM

Re: Politico/Edwards fiasco: Frankly, his explanation sounds about like what we'd expect from Old Media.

Posted by Mike Westling | June 4, 2007 10:41 AM

Just a little fact correction... the quote attributed to me actually came from Adrian Holovaty.

Kindof funny that it's followed by this

"How about just reporting the facts? Or is that too old-fashioned?"