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!