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If you can’t beat them, Join them.

September 11, 2012 1 comment

In Emily Nussbaum‘s article, The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady, she follows the almost down fall of the New York Times and the changes to move toward the digital age of journalism.

While the article focused on the large scale newspaper, I believe it’s important to remember there are smaller papers all over the country (and world) who are dealing with or who have dealt with some of the same issues faced by the New York Times.  There’s the mix of the young programmers who haven’t been out of college more than 5 years with the veteran journalists and editors who will often tell you what things were like “back in their day.”

Just when people began to turn their backs to the Times, these young programmers turned the paper into something that said, “Don’t pull the plug on me, yet.  There’s still life left in here.”

David Carr, a blogger for the Times sums up many of the feelings felt by papers going digital: “This notion of ‘Let’s give it a whirl’—that’s not how we act in our analog iteration. In our digital iteration, there’s a willingness to make big bets and shoot them down if they don’t work. And yet it’s all very deadly serious. Other print websites can innovate because nobody’s watching. Here, everybody’s watching.”  Yes, everybody was watching the Times, but more people are beginning to peg a closer eye on other newspapers, whether large scale or small town.

Aron Pilhofer, one of the first team members that helped turn the Times around, says at the end of the article he hopes the Times can excite “online readers about the value of reportage, engaging them deeply in the Times’ specific brand of journalism—perhaps even so much that they might want to pay for it.”  And pay for it, they do.  The Times now offers various levels of digital subscriptions.

The team that turned the Times around definitely did something right.  However, not all newspapers have been so fortunate, and there are plenty out there who are still facing this uphill struggle.  There are also those who keep resisting the changes of going digital.  I hope those who are trying continue to try and, in time, embrace moving to the digital age of journalism and not resist the changes.  Look to the Times as an example.  And for those papers out there who are struggling more than ever and are continuing to resist the movement, well, all I can say is if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

-MM

Look at Blogs!

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I have to be honest, I’m not sure where to start after reading Look at Me! by Maureen Tkacik (also known as Moe Tkacik).

Let’s start with Jezebel.  I don’t know if any of you actively read Jezebel, but I’ve followed off and on since it launched in 2007.  (I mean, come on.  With a tag line of “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women” how could you not follow the site?)  Anyways, I had never put much thought into the origins of the site, other than I knew it was related to Gizmodo (which is another good site).  I found Tkacik’s article very interesting because of the her ties to Jezebel.

One point that especially stood out to me was this bit from Tkacik on the subject of her blogs at Jezebel: “But the real revelation, to me at least, was that the readers who came for Faith Hill returned for posts about the Iranian insurgency, the foreclosure crisis, military contracting, campaign finance, corporate malfeasance, the global food crisis—essentially whatever I found outrageous or absurd or interesting on a given day.”

Tkacik goes on to say, “This enabled me to more honestly confront feminist pieties and hypocrisies, write more vividly and confidently, and perhaps even challenge the stereotypes about ‘women who write about shit that happened to them.'”

Andrew Sullivan (Tkacik even mentions Sullivan in her article) also gives an insight to blogging in his article, Why I Blog.  With tomorrow (or today depending on when I get this submitted) being September 11, it’s interesting to look at what Sullivan wrote regarding 9/11.  He says, “On my blog, my readers and I experienced 9/11 together, in real time. I can look back and see not just how I responded to the event, but how I responded to it at 3:47 that afternoon. And at 9:46 that night. There is a vividness to this immediacy that cannot be rivaled by print.”

Blogs offer so many different avenues than traditional print media.  No, not all blogs are journalistic in nature, but there are a lot that are journalistic.  Sullivan points out one of the greatest things about blogs is that the readers are instantly a part of the conversation with the author.  How many times have you picked up a newspaper and had immediate access to the reporter after reading the story?  I’d guess never.  And if you do want to “comment” you have to write a letter to the editor where it will be edited before publication.  Blogs aren’t like that.  You get to say what you want when you want.  It becomes personal (Sullivan likens the relationship between blogger and readers to a friendship).

More personal is more humanizing.  Tkacik makes an excellent point in regard to making journalism personal.  She says, “By humanizing journalism, we maybe can begin to develop a mutual trust between reader and writer that would benefit both.”

Tkacik was able to write about things close to her and form a “brand” without giving up too much of who she really was.  She saw the darker side of journalism where reporters cater to the advertisers and parent companies and let themselves become too absorbed in that world.  I agree with her statement about training journalists to use their own experiences to help share the news.  When we share news with friends and family, don’t we always incorporate some little personal tid bit?

Tkacik also admits the incorporation of experience and storytelling is “a lot easier to do with the creative liberties afforded by a blog…”

Blogs aren’t going anywhere.  They’re here to stay.  They’re here to skirt the line of pure information and opinion.  They’re here to engage conversation.  Sure, journalism still isn’t quite sure how to handle blogs, but I believe it’s getting a better idea of how they fit into the overall journalistic picture.

-MM

It’s Alive!! Or is it?

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment

In a 2008 article from the The New Yorker titled Out of Print: The death and life of the American newspaper, Eric Alterman brings up several points regarding journalism that are still relevant today.

One point Alderman brings up is “the nature of ‘news’ itself.”  He says, “The American newspaper (and the nightly newscast) is designed to appeal to a broad audience, with conflicting values and opinions, by virtue of its commitment to the goal of objectivity.”  Since the news has become so broad, are we really getting news or just extended headlines where if we want more information, we have to seek it out ourselves?

He also brings up the fact that many newspaper policies forbid reporters or staff to “voice their opinions publicly, march in demonstrations, volunteer in political campaigns, wear political buttons, or attach bumper stickers to their cars.”  Check out the Chattanooga Times Free Press ethics policy for an example of such restrictions.  Since this article has been written, a more recent issue probably added to ethics policies (in careers other than journalism, too) is social media profiles and posts.

Alderman also says many journalists “discount the notion that their beliefs could interfere with their ability to report a story with perfect balance.”  Objectivity seems to be a topic of constant debate within journalism.  Are they left?  Are they right?  What are they really trying to say?  No journalist is 100% objective–it’s simply impossible.  However, I believe there are journalists who are definitely better at it than others.  Objectivity also leads into questions of trust.  Can we trust where we get our news?  Alterman’s article claims most American don’t trust the news.  And cases like these don’t help the trust issues.  Do cases like those distort the image of how many journalists fabricate or copy things?–Much like does constant reporting on violent crimes lead to a distorted image of how often violent crimes actually happen?

I do not own this image. It is a stock photo, and you can get it here.

And finally, the topic of the Huffington Post was interesting.  Huffington Post is a site I use to get a large percentage of my news, but I had never really taken note of its early stages.  When Alterman’s article was written, it seemed HuffPost was still trying to find its niche on the Internet.  Was it going to be news?  Gossip?  Blogs?  Contributions?  It appears since this article’s 2008 release, the HuffPost has become much more news-oriented (even winning a Pulitzer in 2012).  Yes, the site still offers an extremely wide variety of blogs and contributions, it has definitely taken a more newsworthy shape in the last four years and appears to have made major growth in employees and reporters.  Although a lot of people still visit the site for the blogs, some people (like me) visit for the news, and I believe it was a smart move on the HuffPost to begin catering to a more “newsy” site rather than all blogs.

So with all the changes and advances in the last decade, is the newspaper dead?  I don’t believe so.  No, it may not always be the newspaper as we know it now–printed on the thick paper with the ink that turns your fingers black, but that’s because it’s evolving–going through it’s own form of Darwinism.  Who knows?  Maybe the newspaper will join the dinosaurs and become extinct, or maybe it will continue to evolve.

-MM

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