The future of journalism is not its past II

The future of journalism is not its past (continued)

: Tim Porter suggests his fixes for what ails news (see the post below). I’ll pull up to higher altitude (and lower oxygen) and suggest these steps:

1. Set a strategic imperative for change. From both the top down and the bottom up, there has to be an agreement — an urgent passion — for change: for updating, improving, finding new ways.

2. Listen to the public. Don’t just go to another focus group about the paper. Go listen to the people who don’t read the paper but want news. Learn how they’re getting it now: They no longer have the patience to wait for the news; the news waits for them to search for it, click on it, have it recommended. Ask them about trust and brace yourself. Read Merrill Brown’s Carnegie report.

3. Perform a business reality check. Read Tim’s post: The solution is still presumed to be adding more bodies. But when revenue is declining, that’s obviously not realistic. Classified and retail are in decline; there are new inexpensive and free competitors; audience is declining. So new business models must be invented.

4. Catalogue the opportunities for delivering news. No longer constrained to a printing press and truck route, list all the wonderful new ways that you can deliver news. If you want the public to get its news from you then you’d better give it to them wherever and however they want.

5. Catalogue the opportunities for gathering news. Insert hyperlocal citizens’ media spiel here. The public knows more than we ever can. How do we enable them to share that with others — with content, promotion, training, trust, money?

6. Reinvent the product. After doing that homework, after dynamiting old assumptions, after starting a conversation with the public — a converstion that should never end — now, it’s time to reinvent the product and the business and the industry of news.

7. Reinvent the relationship with the public. Now you can change the way the public views news. Hugh McLeod said, and I often quote it, that we need to stop thinking of newspapers (and their sites) as things but rather as places where help bring people together.

  • It is particularly the case in China.

  • 8. Don’t hire graduates of Columbia U and NYU journalism schools. (See next post.)

  • I’d advise against hiring graduates of any journalism school, at least not for reporting positions. Hire Scientists (people with Bachelors will do fine) for the Science reporting; hire Business, Economics, and Finance graduates for the business reporting. Hire the journalism kids as copy editors, associate editors, page designers, etc.
    Sure, the Science, Business, Econ and Finance folks will generally have more lucrative options, so at first you’ll only be able to get either the ones who for some reason love writing or who aren’t the cream of the crop: but that’s okay! They’ll at least know something, anything, about the material. As the product and quality gets better, revenue will increase, and you’ll be able to hire better and better folks.
    I’m sorry, but a monkey can be trained to write inverted pyramid. I learned more in four years working here while getting an Econ degree than I ever would’ve learned from the Journalism school. I think the quality of reporting would increase ten-fold if most journalists had any clue about the material they cover. Yes, there are some very good ones with a broad base of knowledge, but in my experience Journalism schools breed a sort of 101 understanding of the world [especially with respect to Science and Economics], a presumption of competence, and a tendency to look for the next big scandal rather than to just tell the truth.

  • sbw

    Please, Jeff. This is hyperbolic.

  • Yeah, the root of the problem is in the universities and colleges. Even in my little backwoods community college, the journalism instructor didn’t teach basics like “reporting facts” and “not lying”… it’s all about “changing the world”. Finding the “angle” of the story, further, is nothing more than a pleasant way of saying “pick and choose and crowbar information to support your preconceived notions”.