Should rookie reporters face an Internet ban?

Posted: December 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments


When the head of one of North Carolina’s largest and most tech-savvy news organizations speaks up about the role of the Internet in the newsroom, people tend to notice.

While taking one of his scarce breaks during the final week of publication for the semester, Daily Tar Heel Editor in Chief Andrew Dunn shot off a reflective tweet to his more than 1,500 followers:

andrew_dunn: I’m going to put something out there: I think new reporters should be forbidden from using the Internet for research.

It was a bold statement. It’s also influential, considering the fact that Dunn is one of hundreds of college newsroom managers responsible for some of the first and best training American journalists receive.

You can debate the pros, cons and more cons of journalism school all day long, but at the end of the day, you’re writing, shooting or editing for one person — a professor. In the college newsroom — whether it’s print, radio, or television — you’re writing for thousands.

The value there is clear. And Dunn seems to agree. Read the rest of this entry »

Will pay walls make news orgs irrelevant?

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

box_kittensAs a follow up to Tuesday’s post, I contacted John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record, to get his thoughts on the fact that 75 percent of the N.C. Press Association‘s newsroom leaders are at least thinking about charging for online content.

Robinson has fully embraced social media. He sports about 800 followers on Twitter and frequently uses the microblogging service to create a dialogue with his community as well as fellow journalists. I figured that makes his opinions particularly salient, since I feel like its social media that will be impacted by a news organization’s decision to placed their content behind a pay wall.

Robinson agreed to answer a few questions via e-mail about his perception of pay walls and the future of online content for the News & Record. 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 »

Why don't news orgs trust their journalists?

Posted: May 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , | View Comments

I don’t know why, but news people seem to be largely afraid of change.

You sort of expect it at larger news organizations, where experienced newsroom leaders are set in their ways and a lot of money has been invested in the infrastructure of the existing business model. But I also saw it occasionally in college newspapers, where young staffers were often reluctant to do things differently.

An anomaly though it is, especially at a time when news organizations need to be bold to stay alive, you see perfect case studies whenever new technology enters the mix.

Most recently, of course, it’s Twitter, that oh-so-trendy microblogging service with an exponential growth rate, an usually high bounce rate and enough hype to pique the interest of Oprah herself (and apparently the cute puppy in her profile picture).

After being mostly scorned at first by management, individual journalists began realizing the true potential that Twitter could provide for their work, and they began to pick it up.

Then came the rules. 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?