Posts from May 31, 2005

Podcast open the doors

Podcast open the doors

: Ernie Miller asks a great question: Why isn’t Congress podcasting itself? Every committee and debate should be available for us to hear.

I’ll take it down a few levels and suggest that every town board and school board should be podcast. I’ve long wanted to see local services enable citizens to video these meetings because, ironically, the very reason I care most about what happens in them — I have kids — is the reason I can’t attend them. But I’d watch them, I used to say.

Well, who needs to watch them? They just sit and drone. Listening would work well — especially when podcasts can be searched and indexed.

We should all storm our town halls and demand podcasts (and then politely explain what podcasts and iPods and the internet are).

Grow up

Grow up

: I’ve come to believe that newspapers and network news are barking up the wrong tree trying to attract young people, holding their conferences and issuing reports and fretting about what they want so we can give it to them.

The problem is that such a strategy is inherently condescending and pandering and that’s why I don’t think it will work.

As a wise colleague of mine, Joan Feeney — my editorial partner at the founding of Entertainment Weekly — once wisely said, if you build a new product based on a demographic, you will lose. If you build a new product based on a great idea with passion behind it, you just might win.

Time Inc. — where Joan and I worked at the time — had tried for years to create magazines for women and consistently failed, because it was men who were trying to figure out what they — women — wanted. Freud couldn’t have successfully edited some of the tripe the regimes then published. As another colleague of ours famously said, the men at Time Inc. saw women “only from neck to knees.” It took Time Inc. years to learn that magazines aimed at women would fail, but magazines women like will succeed (witness People, InStyle, and others).

The problem with the youth strategy is that it treats young people as if they are alien beings. But they’re just people, like you or even white-bearded me. They’re not “they.” They’re “us.”

You don’t have to be young to use RSS or an iPod or mobile digital networks or wi-fi. You don’t have to be young to appreciate the conversation the internet enables. You don’t have to be young to question authority or distrust the press.

When we hear research about how young people treat news differently it could just be that they are the generation freed to think differently, unencumbered by our old-fart habits. If we old farts would free ourselves, we’d think differently, too.

So what’s the right strategy?

Serve news to anytime anywhere because anyone should want that. Join in a conversation because no one wants to be lectured to. Be honest and transparent because no one has to trust you.

It’s not about age. It’s about change.

J-

J-

: We’re suddenly hearing much debate about about the future of journalism schools — following (though perhaps it should be leading) — the debate about the future of journalism.

But the discussion I’ve heard so far has focused exclusively on journalism students and professional journalists and has left out a vital constituency: the public.

Just as the definition of news is expanding, so should the definitions of journalist and journalism … and journalism education.

As citizens practice journalism, they need to be let into the cathedral before they come and tear it down.

Big, old, professional, traditional, mainstream news media should support — rather than exclude — these citizens with content, promotion, training, and revenue. They must do this to support the practice, the expansion (yes, expansion), and the business of journalism.

And, so, journalism schools should help support these citizen journalists, or they risk being left out of the future of journalism.

Journalism schools can train citizens in tricks of the trade (and remember: it is just a trade): How to get access and information, how to write and package, how to use tools, how to research, how to vet and verify.

But journalism schools must also learn from the citizens: How the people view the press, what information they need (rather than what we say they need), new standards of trust.

Journalism schools should not issue ethical codes but collaborate with the public journalism serves to debate ethical issues in the press.

Journalism schools can study the changes in the press brought on by the internet and citizen’s media, can help big media adapt and survive, and help citizens practice this craft well.

All of which leads, no surprise, to a plug for my own hobbyhorse:

: A CITIZENS’ MEDIA CENTER: About a year ago, I plugged the notion of a Citizens’ Media Center that would bring together journalism students, citizen journalists, big-media journalists, and newsmakers. I was going to start to raise funding for a planning grant but then got tied up in some of the knots of the foundation and university worlds (alien earths to me). But this is an opportune moment to plug it again. Here is a short version of the proposal I wrote (which I’d change a bit knowing what I know now). Take a look.

: ON JOURNALISM SCHOOLS: Much of this discussion is coming out now because of the new Carnegie-Knight initiative to improve journalism education. Here are a few of many links on the topic:

At Broadcasting & Cable’s blog, Joel Meyer contemplates the future of j-schools on the occasion of his own graduation from one with good links to Greg Lindsay’s j-screed and David Halberstam’s commencement speech at Columbia and Howard Finberg’s report on the new Carnegie-Knight initiative on improving journalism education.

Lindsay:

Do you side with the establishment in hopes that you will someday inherit it; or do you subvert the status quo by creating something new in hopes of winning a place at the table down the road?

In case you haven’t already figured it out: By enrolling in j-school, you (perhaps unwittingly) picked the establishment. Any guesses as to what’s on the other side? Bloggers, for one. The debate about whether bloggers are journalists ultimately boils down to a struggle about whether the former should be granted the privileges and pay packages of the latter. Bloggers are outsiders seeking status the only way outsiders know how: by prying it away from those who currently have it.

Finberg:

Journalism professors are often torn between the needs of the practical -ñ turning out well-trained journalists -ñ and the desire for the scholarly, which provides more job opportunities.

Some journalism educators who hope to adjust curriculum to reflect the digital age find themselves hampered by accreditation policies….

The future of journalism training is not an academic debate. It is tied closely to the larger issue of training for professional journalists.

The media industry has spent little on ñ- and paid little attention to — the continuing education of its professionals….

Tim Porter:

The question, of course, is one that confronts all institutions trying to change: Can the priesthood reinvent itself or will good intentions – even those with a $6 million underwriting – be swallowed by tradition and intransigence?

One indication that the temple guards – to continue the metaphor – are still going to control the acolytes is the emphasis the new initiative places on investigative reporting….

Investigative reporting is a critical differentiator for professional journalism from the media noise we live in, but should it be a core element – an emphasis – of journalism education over other components? I’m not so sure.

I would substitute and start with community journalism (which I know does not exclude investigative reporting). Most journalists coming out of school are confronted either with small town newspapers or suburban news bureau in their first jobs, where investigative reporting is about as popular — or wanted — as first-person essays.

Andew Cline with a most insightful view of journalistic arrogance::

The plain fact of the matter is that most journalism is practiced at the local level for modest news organizations. That’s where most of our students will go to work. And I think we do our students, and the citizens of the communities in which they practice, a disservice by encouraging (even) our (best) students to believe that good journalism must be practiced at big-time news organizations.

The only size that matters in journalism is community assessment of its quality (does it help do what must be done?) and not its bigness in terms of national influence or circulation….

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that national is better than local.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that the audience is “general.”

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to elevate investigative reporting over solid day-to-day reporting.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to value winning prizes for their work.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we fail to teach them what language really is, how it really works, and how people really use it.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that journalists have more First Amendment rights than citizens.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that journalists are responsible for making democracy work.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to ignore the fact that they are players in civic affairs.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them the nonsense of the philosophical ideal of objectivity rather than the objective process of good reporting.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we fail to teach them that the public always knows more than they do.

Donica Mensing on the role schools could play:

Journalism educators clearly have a stake in the outcome of restoring trust in the media, and they could play a unique role in generating truly innovative journalism that connects with and serves various publics. Whether universities can break free of some of the institutional patterns that tend to trap them in passing along the approved canon instead of innovating and changing journalism, is an open question. Regardless, this experiment in collaboration will be an interesting one to watch.

See also Paul Conley and Bob Stepno on the schools left out.

: It’s a good and healthy discussion and I’m eager to hear Jay Rosen pipe in.