Did WRAL anchor cross a line with comment?

Posted: September 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , | View Comments

Blogs are abuzz with a new moniker for Carolina. But is it fair?

The N.C. State sports blog StateFans Nation pointed out an interesting post by the controversial CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel this morning — one that seems to reveal the opinion of one of the Triangle’s most popular anchors.

From: Bill Leslie, WRAL, Raleigh

I’m a journalist like you — and I am offended by your reckless article on UNC football. They are doing their best to clean things up. It’s the first black eye in recent history. You should cut them a little slack.

Doyel filed Leslie’s response among his “hate mail” sent in response to two recent columns on the ongoing NCAA investigation into the UNC-Chapel Hill football program. The investigation has since expanded to allegations of academic misconduct.

To understand why Leslie’s note would be particularly controversial in the Triangle of North Carolina, you have to understand not only the heated rivalry between UNC-CH and NCSU (my alma mater), but the widespread perception among State fans that the local news is in the tank for the Tar Heels. Read the rest of this entry »

A new model for funding local journalism

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

All right. I’ve complained enough about a lack of ingenuity on the part of news executives.

Now it’s time to do something about it.

I just submitted an application for the Knight News Challenge, a grant program that awards start-up money to organizations with new ideas on community journalism.

I’ve posted that application below. This is an open application period, which means anyone can view and comment on the idea, and I can make changes based on those comments until Oct. 15. Feel free to comment here or on our application’s page on the Knight Web site. I would sincerely appreciate any feedback. Read the rest of this entry »

Site gives readers their very own journalist

Posted: June 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

Hear what MyReporter.com is all about (4:44)

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It's dangerous to go alone! Take this. | Photo by Rob Fisher

It's dangerous to go alone! Take this. Photo illustration by Rob Fisher

Vaughn Hagerty is not out to save newspapers.

As the Web development manager for the Star-News in Wilmington, Hagerty hasn’t spent his days proselytizing about the impending death of print or lamenting the vampirism of sites like Google.

What interests Hagerty are good ideas. And he thinks he’s got one.

In mid May, the staff at the Star-News launched MyReporter.com, a site that solicits questions from regular readers and answers them using traditional reporting.

The underlying concept, Hagerty says, is a simple one.

“I think all newspapers are trying to find our place in this new world. ‘What are the jobs that we’re doing?’ is sort of a central theme,” Hagerty said. “One of the things that came up was this help desk concept, like how could we provide this sort of information.”

That initial concept, which stemmed from a formal conversation among the newsroom staff, led to a Q&A format facilitated not by experts, but by journalists whose task it is to answer the question as completely as they would in a traditional news story. Read the rest of this entry »

For journalism, there's no place like home

Posted: May 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

Photo by Ali A under Creative Commons license

I’m going to follow up Wednesday’s gushing over Greensboro News & Record Editor John Robinson with a little more gushing.

The News & Record was one of the few papers in the country that decided not run Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court on the front page.

That was for a few reasons. First, the story broke as most people were fishing their papers out of the puddles in their front lawns Tuesday (seriously, it was rainy that day). By the time the N&R staff began, it was old news. Second, the staff had no unique angle — Robinson’s conclusion was that his paper had nothing to add.

That decision was an admirable one — a refusal to replicate what’s being said over and over again in most papers and cable news channels and a conscious choice to use that valuable real estate for unique local stories no one else had.

But recognizing the controversy, Robinson asked via Twitter whether his decision was the right one, then published the resulting conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

Who's really devaluing journalism?

Posted: May 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , | View Comments

I came across a really interesting article today in The Christian Science Monitor about why journalists deserve low pay.

In it, media economics Professor Robert Picard makes a really compelling argument about why I should have never left engineering.

To create economic value, journalists and news organizations historically relied on the exclusivity of their access to information and sources, and their ability to provide immediacy in conveying information. The value of those elements has been stripped away by contemporary communication developments. Today, ordinary adults can observe and report news, gather expert knowledge, determine significance, add audio, photography, and video components, and publish this content far and wide (or at least to their social network) with ease. And much of this is done for no pay.

But as grim as this all sounds, Picard’s greater point seems to be that there are ways for journalists to become valuable and to create content that is worth more than Monopoly money (dibs on Baltic Avenue!).

Photo by SqueakyMarmot under Creative Commons license

For example, he suggests getting away from the echo chamber of wire reports and instead focusing on “uniqueness.”

I take this as yet another argument for hyperlocal coverage — at this point, it’s starting to look like a better and better business decision. If your resources are limited, refocus coverage on a more limited area and go deeper to provide more enterprise stories that no one else can produce.

That makes sense, but can you imagine a world where news organizations said “no” to coverage simply because they couldn’t figure out a unique angle?

That’s blasphemy. Read the rest of this entry »

Does personality have a role in journalism?

Posted: April 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments

transparencyOne of the things I love about Twitter is how easily it allows users to quickly create a dialogue with the community. For journalists, it’s a casual way to solicit opinions, sources, feedback — anything of value, really, from the community they cover.

Twitter, even more than blogs, has been extremely effective at breaking down the wall that has existed for so long between the readers and the news gatherers, and I think it strengthens the community’s sense of trust in whoever it is they are following. That’s because the audience begins to realize that the journalist is, in fact, a person and a member of their own community (hopefully).

But Twitter creates a problem many old-school journalism professors warn students about — it lets personality show through writing. The old ideal — the concept of “fly-on-the-wall journalism” — dictates that journalists should be a bit like monks, declining to react to what they observe.

This, at times, leads to disastrous results.

It’s an effort to maintain objectivity, a commitment to working toward finding a practical truth (Notice the italics: Calm down philosophy majors).

Over at TechCruch, Brian Solis mused over the weekend about how the “statusphere” might save journalism. Some of the best journalists, he says, have taken to delivering their content directly to their audience in addition to interacting with them. His central thesis is this:

Personality + Insight + Promotion + Interaction = Visibility and Community

I think I agree with that. I’ve never been one who believes journalists should pretend they aren’t part of their community.

But I guess I haven’t always felt like that. I recently stumbled on something I wrote for the N.C. State Alumni Magazine back in 2006.

At the Technician, I’m just a byline. I’m the name my readers skip over as they move on to the photos, stories and, way more often than I’d like, the crossword puzzle. In fact, if I’m lucky, my readers won’t talk about me or my writing at all. If I’ve done my job, it’s the issue they’ll discuss, and the emotions and comments that follow will relate not to the way I write my story or the competence of the Technician‘s editors, but to how this information affects their lives.

That attitude seems like the right one — at least in my gut. It’s a bit unrealistic, but it seems like the thing to work toward.

But I think the danger is that readers may sometimes interpret that monk-like disinterest, even when it’s done well, as uninterest. That can make a reader feel disconnected, and that disconnect has translated into major problems from the news industry.

What do you think? Should we continue to persue stone-cold objectivity? Or should we strive to connect on some level with our readers? Is there a way to balance both?

Thriving on a community

Posted: March 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , | View Comments

Image courtesy XKCD

When I worked as the editor of the student newspaper of N.C. State, my adviser once asked a question of my colleagues and I in a survey. It was something along the lines of, “Do you feel it’s the job of the paper to foster school spirit?”

While I don’t remember the question exactly, I do remember wrestling over the answer. The obvious reply, as a member of the independent press, is no. The newspaper is not a cheerleader and is not responsible for promoting the university.

But the Technician was the very definition of a community newspaper — one intensely focused on the group of students, faculty and staff of the university. As a community newspaper, it has a responsibility to help make that community better by equipping its members with the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about the university’s future.

That meant exposing corruption, making public the debate about tuition and fee increases and criticizing highly paid coaches for failing to perform.

That same idea can be carried over to community news organizations. What’s more, that passion for local coverage has led to amazing success for some community news sites, even amid a recession.

But you wouldn’t know it from reading the work of former editor and technology blogger Mike Elgan.

Read the rest of this entry »