Yesterday morning, I had breakfast with Katharina “Lyssa” Borchert, blogger and internet editor for the WAZ Mediengruppe, a large chain of regional papers in Germany and, boy, was I impressed. I vowed to stop talking about people who “get it” and don’t but she is the queen of getting it. She’s about to come out with a major rebuilding of her company’s online services and strategies and I can’t wait to see it. I’ll write more about it at that time. But we hit kismet on so many fronts: the value of collaborative community journalism, the distributed architecture of news, the value of reporting vs. commodity news, the future of newsrooms and how to get them there, the growth of video from papers — and unlike me, she’s not just talking about it, she’s doing it. I love seeing people who are making progress bringing newspapers into the future.
Then today Howard Weaver emailed me proudly a link to a blog post by one of his company’s editors, Kathleen McCoy, assistant managing editor for interactivity at the paper in Anchorage. Get a load of this post on her blog about building a high-school sports site:
Why am I doing it? Because I believe that community news organizations like the one I work for will soon (now, even) include a blend of us and them. Them is the people who live and work in the communities we report on. Us is, well, the fewer and fewer of us left in American print newsrooms. We need them to build connection in our pages, the glue of community. They need us to hold powerful people’s feet to the fire: government officials, school administrators, business people. We work for the readers. So if they can contribute some of the content that binds a community – names, faces, achievements, good work – then the newspaper’s reporters can focus on their role, getting at the hard and complicated truth, facts people need to know.
OK, I’m getting of my soapbox now.
I read an interesting post today at Mediashift about all the jobs shifting from print to online. I felt like I was the poster child for the structural adjustment newspapers are making. I went away for a year, read tons on the shifting world of journalism, took a multimedia fellowship at Berkeley to dip my toes in the water, and now I am back in the work world — making the adjustment. I haven’t written or edited a single story since I came back. Instead, I’ve been building Web pages, learning why they scream ERROR instead of nicely displaying what I built, and editing little videos for our Web site. Now, I want to consume Final Cut Pro and Soundslides and html and Dreamweaver tutorials in one fell swoop. I want all those skills, yesterday. Then line me up with some database management software. It’s a different world, not necessarily a bad one.