Posts about norg

Pro-am news

Georgina Henry, editor of Comment is Free, asked commenters for help with a panel on rising amateurism and one said this:

We ‘Ams’ are on here for intelligent discourse,to be informed, and a good argument. Pure intellectualism. The ‘Pros’ are here, on the other hand, to promote some agenda or other, or for filthy lucre, or personal gripes with colleagues. That isn’t intellectualism, it’s dubious.

Here there is a mixture of both. That is pretty radical, look at the plaudits such a brave move has garnered. A pro-am newspaper must be more intellectual and less dubious than a crusty old professional one surely?

I like that: the pro-am newspaper. That’s what they all should be.

The next commenter responded:

The comments here in many ways form your answer to the difference between amateurs and professionals. Amateurs often have more heart, but professionals have more head (no jokes). True artistry combines both- professionals get stale or bored, or rest on their laurels, but their knowledge and skill is not easily replaced; amateurs may have edge and hunger, but often little judgement and experience. Some professions (e.g. journalism, politics) are much the better for a steady injection of amateurs’ passion (hence the success of cif), but if you lose a critical mass of people with experience and judgement things will fall apart pretty quickly.

It’s the job of amateurs to think they’d do the job much better than the professionals, and occasionally it’s true- but only occasionally. It’s the job of professionals not to believe them for a minute, but to protect the craft (i.e. the professionalism) of the guild.

To which one commenter notes:

I just wonder how many amateurs here, if the Guardian said “We’d like to pay you for your words of wisdomw,” would say no.

That kind of blurs the lines.

And another replies:

Let’s start a poll here. I’d say no.

: LATER: Tim Worstall adds:

My own take on it is that the difference is quite simply those who get paid to pontificate and those who don’t. Yes, glaringly obvious, but that leads to a further point, that those who are getting paid aren’t necessarily the experts on the specific subject under discussion.

It’s pretty much a truism (well, it is if I’m allowed to mention Hayek here) that the 60 odd million people of the UK know more on any and every specific subject than the 500 or so who work for The Guardian. That within those 60 million there are experts on each and every subject who have more and deeper knowledge than the staff reporters.

It used to be that the job of a reporter was to go and find those people, extract a view or a quote and then write it up. What all this participatory media allows is that those experts can write it up directly themselves: no longer is there a need for a 100 million investment in a set of printing presses.

This doesn’t, I think, mean the death of the editorial team. Prose can still be polished, facts checked perhaps, choices made about what is important to present and so on. But in the longer term I think that the “winners” (in the sense of the brands like The Guardian, NY Times and so on) will be those who realise that the value of the brand lies in those editorial functions, not so much in the actual production of the material. Whoever works out how to tap into that expertise out there in the general population and use it (as freelancers perhaps) is going to beat those who try to produce everything in house.

Just saw this, too:

* Georgina Henry: In the event you return to read this, I wonder if I might make a suggestion: There are a number of exceedingly articulate and well-informed contributors to CIF. Why not elevate them from the fray, blurring the am/pro divisision further, and let them have their own columns. The initial selections could be made by professional columnists and then the top bloggers could compete in an online “hack idol” and get voted into a full-time position at the Guardian by other bloggers….

Philly news

The Times says that three bidders stuck up their hands to get the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News: NY Daily News owner and apparente masochist Mort Zuckerman, efficient newspaper mogul Dean Singleton, and local building and PR moguls. The story says that McClatchy, the seller, is likely to get $600,000 or less in the sale. Typo? Probably not. When Tribune Company sold the NY Daily News to Robert Maxwell (for whom I ended up working… remind me to tell you my Maxwell stories over beer) they paid him $60 million to take the thing off their hands because the shutdown liability was even greater. And some say that blogs have bad economics. I can name a few that would sell for more than $600K.

UPDATE AND APPARENT CORRECTION: Well, the Inquirer says $600 million. The truth lies between the two….

You tell us

The Wall Street Journal online asked its readers to tell it what the next 10 years should bring. Here‘s what they said.

The vision from Europe

Continuing a string of visionary statements from European media bosses (see the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger here, Reuters’ Tom Glocer here and here, the BBC’s Mark Thompson here, and Burda’s Hubert Burda here), now add this interview with Gruner + Jahr boss Bernd Kundrun. It’s in German in the Frankfurter Allegemeine Sonntagszeitung (sadly and ironically not free) and I’ll try to translate and paraphrase the good bits (please do correct me):

The journalistic skill in the future wil be the moderation of ‘user-generated content,’ exactly like earlier information and data bases in the internet….

Note that he didn’t say that they’d be a gatekeeper. They’d moderate. I think that’s nearly right: Journalists point you to the good stuff as part of their job (along with reporting).

I believe that journalism must find a new definition. But we are standing just at the beginning. I can’t conclusively describe the job description of journalists today…

Imagine his own journalists reading that. And compare that with American editors still trying to circle their wagons around thier newsrooms.

The journalist stays on the ball, he observes… He will be an approachable partner for the reader, he carries a responsibility to perhaps moderate the discussion that follows. It’s in this context that the merger of the online and print newsrooms is occurring…. That is still a frightening vision for many colleagues. We at Gruner + Jahr are trying to get our journalists excited about this, that this opportunity is a challenge.

He talks about the relationship of blogs and big media and says that “the revolutionary attitude of the first bloggers… is understandable but is not a mass phenomenon.” He doesn’t attack blogs, as others do, but he does say that just as magazines have to get readers to give them their trust, so do new online brands — and blogs — need to earn trust. So he says his company has an “expand your brand” program to reach out into all the trends we know, which he says are not really about technology but sociology: blogs, MySpace, Wikipedia, and so on. He says they should not dread them but find possibilities in them.

The interviewer asks whether a big journalism award (a Pulitzer, of sorts, I think) will be awarded to a blogger. “Not yet, but I wouldn’t exclude that in the future.” He says the prize should reward the essence of journalism. By implication, that can include blogs.

All the European media bosses linked above talk the good game but they all have great challenges still to change the cultures of their empires and find new business success. But at least they’re playing.

The transparent meeting

I went to the only regularly blogged editorial meeting at a news organization that I know of: the morning confab at The Guardian.

It’s not quite like the newspaper editorial meetings I attended for too many years. They all want to be like The New York Times. And here‘s how Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger describes Times meetings:

It is a paper of great authority and if you ever go to the New York Times editorial meeting, it’s a bit like a religious ceremony. They meet for 45 minutes in the evening and great thought goes into what’s the lead story; what’s the second story; what’s the third story; what’s the relative typography of these. It is very serious men and women saying, This is our expert opinion and that of the hundreds of journalists that we employ who have thought about this deeply, they know what they’re talking about. ‘Believe us’ is the message. If it’s on the front page of the New York Times, it’s there because it’s important. It may be about things that you don’t think you’re interested in, you may not want to read it but this is our opinion and this is the model that’s existed again for hundreds of years.

And so now I crashed Rusbridger’s meeting. As it begins, a wall between his office and the newsroom is moved and the table is extended into a small area next door. The meeting is thus open to the newsroom and people crowd around; I’ve not seen even that level of openness in U.S. newsrooms.

It begins with Rusbridger taking a quick lap around that morning’s paper: a casual overview of what works (and, I’m sure, some days, what doesn’t). Then it turns to the essential business of the day: each editor reciting what his or her department is planning for the next day’s paper.

Then Rusbridger turned to the chief editorial writer, an impressive (and impressively young) man, to ask about the state of Blair’s tenure with local elections this week that are not boding well for Labour and with fresh political and sexual scandals whirring around them. There ensues a fascinating discussion about the current regime’s efforts to portray itself as a government of competence over ideology in the face of incompetence (over the release of foreign prisoners who should have been deported but instead stayed in the country and committed crimes). If the elections turn disastrous for Labour, they ask the now-perennial question: Will this be the last of Tony? They wonder what it would take to oust him from his own party and they say the precedent for this is Thatcher’s cabinet telling her it was time to go.

But I don’t need to summarize the meeting because Ed Pilkington, a veteran Guardian, editor, blogged it. Apart from not writing about unverified stories or scoops, I see no reason why news meetings everywhere cannot be opened up and blogged.


David Shribman, editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, tells his fellow newspapers editors to quit whining.

: Later: John Robinson, the now famously forward-thinking editor in Greensboro, says Shribman expains why he skipped the editors’ convention.

But from my reading of the reports that have come out of the convention, it was more of the same….

But it’s not what I need. About every presentation described in the daily ASNE reports, I already felt I knew.

As an editor who wants journalism to endure, I need to learn about participatory journalism, about breaking out of silos and about passing along authority and control. I need to listen to futurists, to specialists and to readers talk about what I’m missing — in their habits, in their communication, in their lives. I need to hear about teenagers and college students discuss connection — to their friends, to their communities and to their interests — and why newspapers aren’t a part of it.

How about a conversation about exploding the newsroom, realigning beats behind community priorities, and being the community? (Thanks, Tim.) Maybe a session on all the newest technological innovations. I know that hundreds of sites are dedicated to just that, but for a techno-idiot, it’s hard for me to separate the hype from the reality, the 8-track from the cassette. What about the methods of casting off the moorings of traditional commodity content, and how to manage the repercussions?

Perhaps that happened in Seattle, and it didn’t make the daily reports. Perhaps it happened in the hallways and the bars. If so, I’m sorry I missed it.

Because that’s what I need.

What Robinson calls for next is the unconference. Yes, we need a national Norgs meeting, a session whose mission is to reform news. Shall we?

Press in peace

The Philadelphia Inquirer — which finds itself publishing at Ground Zero for change in the newspaper business — runs an op-ed package today about whether we need newspapers. The conclusion is obvious and I state the obvious (nonregistration copy here):

Do we need newspapers? No. Do we need news and journalism and an informed democracy? Of course we do. But paper? Why? Too often, I hear editors pleading to save newspapers and newsrooms as their status quo is threatened by plummeting circulation, imploding advertising, impatient shareholders, multimedia youth and the Internet. Everyone is to blame for newspapers’ pickle, it seems, but the newspapers themselves.

Yet perhaps the era of newspapers as we now know them is simply over. Especially since broadcast killed competitive newspapers, they have become one-size-fits-all vehicles that cannot possibly be all things to all people; they may be convenient, but they are also inefficient and shallow compared with the depth of the Internet. Newspapers are inevitably stale next to broadcast and online. They are inefficient advertising vehicles for highly targeted sales – classifieds and very local retail. Newspapers are terribly expensive to produce and distribute in a marketplace where your competition is free.

If you are a publishing executive or journalist, your reaction to that harsh reality may be to hold on for dear life to the old ways, which is what I have seen some newspaper people do, until now – until it could be too late for them. Or your reaction can be to see this as an opportunity to gather and share news in entirely new and often better ways thanks to new technologies that reduce the cost of distribution, speed up production, allow relevant targeting of both content and advertising, and, most important, allow the people we used to call the audience – you – to join in and help inform your neighbors.

I go on to tell the story of the norgs meeting in Philadelphia, where journalists and bloggers got together to try to reinvent the news organization of the very near future.

Richard Stengel, head of the National Constitution Center, argues the obvious — that we need journalism, especially locally, to watch government — but still concludes:

Newspapers are no longer just on paper. They are virtual. The distinction between what people read on paper and what they read on a screen is an increasingly irrelevant one. Newspaper companies must realize that. Does it matter whether you read a great columnist online, or on your BlackBerry, or on paper? It is about the information, the reporting, and the writing – not the medium in which it is delivered.

Hugh Hewitt praises paperless news and blogs and doesn’t do much for the old echo-chamber argument, pushing the notion that liberals are the ones holding onto the old press (huh?) and recommending only his conservative friends. His piece would have been stronger if he hadn’t tried to make paper liberal and online conservative.

Each morning, we awake to new mountains of information. Bloggers are the new Sherpas, leading their readers through those various ranges. Newspaper reporters and editors are the old Sherpas. Lots of folks – especially liberals and elites – still like the old Sherpas. The mainstream media – MSM – are populated overwhelmingly by left- and hard-left-leaning writers and editors, and few people even bother to argue the point anymore. American newspapers are not unlike American car companies: Market dominance made them lazy and uninterested in their customer base, and a lot of that base slowly melted away, even before the new media arrived. When blogs and talk radio and cable arrived and offered a choice to news consumers long disgusted with biased product, remaining center-right readers began to bolt.

I picture Philly-guy Atrios opening up his morning Inquirer and doing a spit-take.

The internet’s big enough for everyone, Hugh.

And then there is the apparently obligatory blog-bashing piece by Jonathan Last.

Nothing new in any of this… expcept that a newspaper is willing to print the first draft of its own obituary.

Fred and Barney meet

Two groups of media’s moneymen held their confabs this week and they each spent some time self-flaggellating, as well they should.

The Times reports from the American Association of Advertising Agencies:

“I think our industry would be better if agencies were as comfortable with change as we like to tell clients they should be,” said Ron Berger, chief executive and chief creative officer for the New York and San Francisco offices of Euro RSCG Worldwide, part of Havas.

“I think our industry would be better if all of the people who speak at industry functions and say ‘It’s all about big ideas’ actually had a few” …

And Jon Fine reports in Business Week on the meeting of the Newspaper Association of America:

This year’s opening event was at the magnificent Field Museum, on a large open floor bookended by two massive dinosaur skeletons. Many attendees joked about this. To the executive to whom I said such an obvious metaphor would never, ever, appear in this column: I lied….

At the podium, Jay R. Smith, Cox Newspapers’ president and outgoing NAA chairman, gives a valedictory with the broad theme of “stop whining.” It begins with and repeatedly uses the phrase, “It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.” He also says: “The world changed a lot. Newspapers changed a little.” …

And Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham tells the group when discussing newspaper strategy that “the only honest answer is we don’t know how our future will work out.”

OK, let the flaggellating end. Let the overdue strategizing finally begin. The time for mourning the past is long over. The time for shrugging at the future is over, too. You no longer get points for admitting that you’re in a mess. You only get points for taking brave action to get out of it.