Editor 2.0

Connect these dots to create the job description of the 21st century editor:

* The Guardian is hiring a tag editor — a keyword manager, they call it:

Guardian Unlimited requires a keyword manager to look after the labelling of our content online to ensure that it is consistent with the needs of the reader and the editorial values of the Guardian and Observer. The role requires attention to the demands both of a considerable content archive and of a fast-moving news operation, and involves work across media; from text to cartoons, video to podcasts. It would suit either a journalist with a particular interest in archiving, or someone with a background in information science who possesses a keen editorial sense.

And I hope the person understands the value of the metadata added by the audience. Sitting on his or her desk on the first day should be a copy of David Weinberger’s Everything’s Miscellaneous.

* The Times of London has hired a search editor.

The Times’ Search Editor is to explain to the editorial staff how the search structure of the Web functions, work on indexed pages and improve the rankings of their newspaper articles in Google, Yahoo! and other search engines.

The Times of New York has had About.com SEO god Marshall Simmonds making it more searchable and it has been paying off.

* See Jay Rosen’s coordinates for a news site and note the new job qualifications therein: organizing community effort, presenting data, aggregation. I’d add others to that, including the idea of curating.

* Listen to the talk at the Networked Journalism Summit at CUNY and you’ll hear a lot about journalists as managers and from me you’ll hear talk about journalists as entrepreneurs and innovators and I’ve been arguing that journalists must become curators and community organizers.

* See Michael Rosenblum coming to teach our students at CUNY his method for making compelling video stories without the trucks. Everybody can make TV now.

I say that’s all exciting: new frontiers, new things to learn and create.

Now try to connect these dots from the other side of the old/new divide:

* Alan Mutter posted earlier this month on the brain drain afflicting journalism; it’s a self-inflicted ailment:

But the young net natives, for the most part, rank too low in the organizations that employ them to be invited to the pivotal discussions determining the stratgeic initiatives that could help their employers sustain their franchises.

“In most organizations, the people with the most online experience have the least political capital,” said one mid-level online editor at a newspaper. “It seems like the pace of change inside media is slowing, tied up in politics and lack of expertise in managing technical projects – while the pace of change is continuing apace outside our windows.”

Members of the wired generation say the process, bureaucracy and caution common to most media companies steals spontaneity and edginess away from ideas that could be appealing to their peers. . . .

“I don’t understand or like the media,” said the online newspaper editor who’s planning his exit. “Blogging has shown me that I don’t really need the guys that own the presses anymore. I’ll probably stay in journalism, but I can’t wait to get out of the media.”

* I found this whiny, territorial, ass-covering, protecting-the-priesthood, preservation-instead-of-innovation faux report from the UK’s National Union of Journalists to be particularly disturbing as they complained about things that are not done their way in various unnamed journalistic institutions trying to go online:

- A chapel at a Newsquest title in north of England told the commission that “stories are going online unsubbed” directly from a newsdesk.
- In some publications, “there are no experienced journalists working on the websites and copy is handled by web technicians”.
- The ease of copying and pasting leads to journalists under time pressure to “simply lump text across without proper consideration of its quality or reliability”. . . .
- Single-journalist video reporting has clear drawbacks, the report says. “To have to seek out information and people to interview, then interview and photograph or film them, then have to write and voice the script, is an inefficient way of working and can never produce such good results as a team.”
The report stresses the need for proper video training. “Untrained or semi-trained writers or photographers have been turning in such poor video material and taking so long to do it that even the meanest employers appear to be taking notice,” the report says. Several publications reported having to ease up on enthusiasm for video as reality caught up with quality expectations. However the report also acknowledges that “in centres where video training has be thorough, and the journalists are given proper support, work of high quality is being done.”
- Members from a regional daily told the commission: “There is real concern over lack of policy/guidelines and lines of responsibility between papers and web … things would be better if there was a dedicated video unit subject to the web team so decisions about what to cover and how could be integrated into the day’s news plan”.
- “The practice of reporters taking photographs is becoming widespread, to the detriment of the quality of images.”

Oh, ferchrissakes. Bring back wooden type. How many of those kvetchers are going to be qualified to act as search or tagging editor … or survive on their own when they’re laid off?

I was ready to pull my hair out when I saw Mindy McAdams pointing to this post by a just-out-of-school journalists in a newsroom who — unlike the old days when young people had to spend decades working their way up to being heard — is included in planning for the future. This gave me hope.

I have to admit, I have sat in on more than one conversation where people discussed an idea that there is no way in hell would float with my peers. How do I know? Because like those peers, *I* am attached to my iPod, digital camera and cell phone on a 24/7 basis. (OK except in the shower or bed, but within reach of both should the need to text a friend or hear my favorite song strike me.) *I* am more comfortable going without food than the Internet, because I know skipping a meal won’t kill me, missing up-to-the-date information seems like it might. *I* barely remember a time before Google was a verb and IM was an acceptable form of conversation even with my parents. *I* have never subscribed to a print newspaper or paid for cable news, and yet *I* am never the last to know, because I have breaking news and Google alerts, RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook newsfeed, among other things, keeping me in the loop both with what’s happening across the globe and also among my closest buds.

But here’s the thing: *I* was invited to those conversations. . . .

s the best use of my talents at this point as a reporter covering school assemblies and school board meetings with a few in-depth enterprise packages thrown in each week? Or am I squandering — or allowing to be squandered — the best years of my life, when I really should be able to experiment, take chances and occasionally even screw up, just because I have to pay my dues to get to the point where I can do those things?

No. 1 qualification for journalist today: accepting change.

  • http://www.voxford.blogspot.com John Kelly

    I never understand the foaming-at-the-mouth responses to relatively benign documents such as the NUJ report you excerpt. I don’t know the backstory–perhaps the NUJ has come out against computers, or something–but much of what you quote seems eminently reasonable. Does it serve readers to post articles that haven’t been read by a copy editor? Doesn’t it make sense for employers to provide “proper video training”? Wouldn’t guidelines help employees do their jobs? Or is it heresy even to use the word “guidelines,” since it smacks of Orwellian control? (“‘Guidelines’? Dude, you’re bringing me down.”)

    As I say, I haven’t read the whole NUJ report. It may contain dispiriting circle-the-wagons bleatings. And I agree with you that incredible change is afoot. It is an exciting time to be a journalist. I love shooting and editing my own video. I love being in constant contact with readers. I love letting them be part of the conversation. But though the future is binary–zeroes and ones–I try not to be. I don’t embrace the new just because it’s new or dismiss the old just because it’s old. I think readers value that sort of skepticism.

  • http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com David Cushman

    Brilliant Jeff.
    I often get asked ‘what role is left for professional journalists?’ ‘what role for editors?’. Accepting change is vital of course. Accepting a new position as serving communities rather than broadcasting what we see fit to an audience, is critical too.
    I see a new role for media brands (which I expand on in a white paper: http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/08/white-paper-wiki-power-of-network.html )

    “A media brand is a platform for a community with shared interests.
    “Focused on the interests of this global niche community, we should provide the tools to allow the co-creation and aggregation of content, products and services.”

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  • Veteran journo

    I hear a lot of blah blah blah about SEO and what it can do for you, but I would really like to see three concrete examples of SEO in action from a news organization.

    Because there are a lot of SEO people whose bottom line seems to be if you build good content they will come.

  • http://www.engadget.com/ Conrad Quilty-Harper

    Glad I wasn’t the only one to be a little bit outraged at The Journalist’s stuck-in-the-past attitude towards the internet! This email pretty much sums up my attitude to the NUJ right now anyway: http://www.flickr.com/photos/coneee/1649780609/

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  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Jeff: Didn’t you say it with a trumpet a few months ago, that you were done slapping curmudegeons around for being the web-ignorant, protect-the-priesthood, clowning creatures they are? Yes, you did, after Michael Skube published his curmudgeonly account of blogs he had never read, and I criticized him you wrote: “I prefer to just walk away from this game of Wack-a-mole now. I’ll consider Jay’s piece the definitive response to the professional curmudgeons and urge the rest of us to just move on and do something constructive.”

    There’s no doubt that the NUJ report and its publication in The Journalist are curmudgeon literature in its classic form (read Shane Richmond on it ) and here you are articulating your frustration with that “whiny, territorial, ass-covering, protecting-the-priesthood, preservation-instead-of-innovation faux report,” exactly as you said you wouldn’t do.

    Because a curmudgeon’s command performance gets to you. Oh, ferchrissakes. Bring back wooden type. How many of those kvetchers are going to be qualified to act as search or tagging editor … or survive on their own when they’re laid off?

    Clearly, you can’t keep to your pledge about walking away from the curmudgeon class when it speaks in full newsroom reactionary mode. “”The problem with Web 2.0 is …how it’s seen as replacing traditional media.” That what’s what I mean by performance. Ideas like: “you’re not my replacement,” get acted out with great flourish.

    I’m glad you broke your pledge not to articulate at Buzzmachine your frustration with newsroom kvetchers and their rear view mirror ways. I thought it was a dumb pledge.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Jeff: Didn’t you say it with a trumpet a few months ago, that you were done slapping curmudegeons around for being the web-ignorant, protect-the-priesthood, clowning creatures they are?

    Yes, you did, after Michael Skube published his curmudgeonly account of blogs he had never read, and I criticized him you wrote: “I prefer to just walk away from this game of Wack-a-mole now. I’ll consider Jay’s piece the definitive response to the professional curmudgeons and urge the rest of us to just move on and do something constructive.”

    There’s no doubt that the NUJ report and its publication in The Journalist are curmudgeon literature in its classic form, and here you are articulating your frustration with that “whiny, territorial, ass-covering, protecting-the-priesthood, preservation-instead-of-innovation faux report,” exactly as you said you wouldn’t do.

    Because a curmudgeon’s command performance gets to you. Oh, ferchrissakes. Bring back wooden type. How many of those kvetchers are going to be qualified to act as search or tagging editor … or survive on their own when they’re laid off?

    Hard to walk away from the curmudgeon class when it speaks in full newsroom reactionary mode, isn’t it? “”The problem with Web 2.0 is …how it’s seen as replacing traditional media.” That what’s what I mean by performance. Ideas like: “you’re not my replacement,” get acted out with great flourish.

    I’m glad you broke your pledge not to articulate at Buzzmachine more frustration with newsroom kvetchers and their rear view mirror ways. I thought it was a dumb pledge to begin with.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Jeff: There’s a comment by me caught in your spam filter. You must have it set so that anyone who puts two links in a comment is considered to be spamming your blog.

  • http://www.thewayoftheweb.blogspot.com/ Badger Gravling

    I can see why that report gives the impression that it’s anti-change, but at the same time, when you look at some of the individual points raised, it’s about the way online is integrated, rather than the fact it’s happening…

    If you’re able to give someone a video camera, mobile phone with a decent camera, and a laptop PC and give them the time to experiment, they’ll embrace the chance…

    If you tell someone who is working flat out to produce a print product that they now also have to shoot video, write the web copy, sub it themselves, publish it, meta tag it etc for no extra incentive, and with no recognition, it’s unsurprising that they won’t engage and find the best ways to do it…

    I don’t think anyone can argue that copy should simply be copy and pasted across and work adequately online, which is why I’ve just spent a morning subbing, SEO’ing and meta tagging such work. But to do that effectively and efficiently requires knowledge, and often training… particularly around the legal aspects of publishing.

    Incidentally for the veteran journo…SEO has led to a huge jump in traffic figures for various sites with which I’m involved. None of it has been radically inventive, and all of it has been common sense and fairly simple to implement. Just treat it with the same importance that you place on making sure your product is visibly on display in shops and you’ll be fine…

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  • http://donnachadelongblogspot.com Donnacha DeLong

    “Oh, ferchrissakes. Bring back wooden type. How many of those kvetchers are going to be qualified to act as search or tagging editor … or survive on their own when they’re laid off?”

    Let’s see, the Commission includes – two journalists from Guardian Unlimited, one from BBC Online, one senior website editor – yup, I think we’d all be qualified. You might want to have a look at my previous piece on these issues, published in the Press Gazette – http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=37813, if you’re interested in facts rather than general ranting.

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  • Colin Kerr

    Journalists who do not have online skills or are unwilling to learn these skills do not have a long-term future in the industry.

    Print will continue to be our core medium for years to come but we cannot ignore the growth of online media.

    Many companies are investing online and training their journalists to learn new skills.

    This will continue to happen with or without the NUJ.

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  • http://couriermail.com.au John Grey

    / No. 1 qualification for journalist today: accepting change.

    Thank you, thank you.

    My email signature currently contains this Darwin quote, which Darwin almost certainly never said, but what the hell:

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

    Now, if only I could that that to sink in on the newsroom floor…

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