News Leadership 3.0

June 05, 2008

Link: Streamlining mobile journalism

Zac Echola lists online services
to organize mobile workflow

Zac Echola has an impressive post on tools for streamlining mobile news gathering and newsroom work flow. The tools—mostly free programs such as Google Calendar and Reader (both of which I recommend highly, especially the sharing feature), Ning and—can help reporters, photographers and editors keep track of their work and each other on the run. Today’s post is the first of two parts.

Echola says:

“In order to truly become a mobile newsroom, internal communication becomes much, much more important. The first post in this series deals with how to build an internal communication infrastructure. It will help reporters stay on top of their sources and help editors stay on top of what their reporters and other editors are working on. The second post will deal with how to radically transform your news gathering process, generate more traffic and discussion on your sites and build better, more relevant top-tier products.’‘

May 19, 2008

Editors blogging: ‘Doing is learning’

Online editor at The Star-Ledger
builds a network link by link
Do you blog? How do you connect online?

Today I’m happy to feature a guest post from John Hassell, Deputy Managing Editor of The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. John, who attended KDMC’s Leadership Conference last year, blogs at the exploding newsroom, often posting interesting updates on his newsroom’s journey to digital. I asked John to write about why he blogs, and why other editors might want to try it. Here’s John:

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
—G.K. Chesterton

First, a confession: I’m a lousy blogger. I don’t write often enough, and what I do write is rarely developed as fully as I would like. Caught up in the pull and tug of the newsroom, I too often neglect my blog.

I have great admiration for people like Howard Owens and John Robinson, who make time in their busy schedules to cast a wider net, to think aloud, to leave comments and trackbacks on other blogs. They’re the real deal, and they’re constantly teaching me things.

For me, though, this is one of those times when G.K. Chesterton had it right. Because blogging is worth doing—even if you do it badly, even if it means having to find the odd pre-dawn hour to post something once or twice a week.


Before I started blogging…

...I thought I understood the nature of the link. But until people linked to something I wrote, until I saw the way these links raised my blog’s profile in Google and Technorati searches (okay, not very much in my case, but…), I didn’t really get it. I quickly began to appreciate and return links, and to make unexpected friends. A link can be a nod, a handshake, a pat on the back, an insult. Whatever it is, it’s personal. It’s the glue that builds community online.

...I agreed with the goal of transparency in the news business. But until I began to see first-hand how closely openness and trust are associated on the web, I didn’t grasp how crucial this is. You build credibility online by reporting the news as it happens, sharing your work and engaging readers along the way. You build it one link at a time. The web is not just a place to publish “finished” stories, if there even is such a thing.

...I talked about news as a conversation. But until I started reading more blogs and getting involved in social media, I didn’t understand how quickly news gets shared, expanded, commented on, filtered and repurposed across the web. This is not a trivial thing. People once relied on the news to inform conversation. Now they are relying on the conversation to inform them about the news. If something’s important, they figure they’ll hear about it.

...I considered myself an early adopter. But until I saw how the best bloggers used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Seesmic and FriendFeed as reporting resources and channels for distributing content (the beauty of community, after all, is that it allows you to gather and share information more efficiently), I didn’t realize how far behind we really were in harnessing the power of these new tools.

To expand on that last point a bit, when I started work on this piece I posted a short question on Twitter:

“Hey, journobloggers: I’m writing a post for the Knight Center about why newspaper editors should blog. I’ve got my reasons; what are yours?”

Like a tiny stone tossed into a pond, it started producing ripples.

First came the responses from people I’ve befriended on Twitter, each of which helped me think about this piece. Here are three of them:

Damon Kiesow of the Nashua (NH) Telegraph: “My #1 reason - they need to understand their audience. Doing is learning.”

Laura Oliver of “For transparency of editorial operations like @marcreeves’ blog lets users see behind-the-scenes and air their views on editorial operations.”

Zach Echola of Forum Communications Company: “Regular interaction with real people forces you to think less about media + audience and more about conversation + community.”

Next, because replies on Twitter are public, a few friends of Damon, Laura and Zach discovered and began following me—which means my network of sources will be even greater next time I’m looking for help.

This goes both ways. With any luck, some of you reading this will click through the links to Damon, Laura and Zach and begin following their work.

Each of those links, in turn, increases the chances that Laura, Damon, Zach or others might read this and share it with others. They might share it through their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, social bookmarking sites or ... well, you get the idea.

This is the social, distributed web.

It’s powerful stuff, and it rewards those who get engaged.

Even if you do it badly.




May 14, 2008

NAA: The march to video

Newspaper Web sites
jump into online video
What’s your video strategy?

The Newspaper Association of America‘s new survey of newspaper Web site’s production of local video provides one of the best snapshot’s I’ve seen lately of newsrooms in transition, and the transition may be significant. A year ago, many of the newsroom leaders at Knight Digital Media Center’s annual Leadership Conference saw aggressive pursuit of local video as a priority for 2007. Like many of their peers, they saw the value of video in enriching news coverage, increasing traffic and possibly creating a new advertising revenue stream. They were searching for tools and strategies.
The new NAA report suggests many traditional news organizations have leapt into video—or at least have a toe in the water. It also suggests there is more work to be done.

Here are a few highlights of the NAA survey, entitled “Newspapers’ Online Video:”
- News (breaking), features sports and entertainment dominate online local video content. Interestingly, the report notes, while people frequently go to a news site for weather information, only about a third of the sites surveyed feature weather or traffic video.
- Most site visitors watch video in the morning (32 percent from 6 to 10 a.m.) or in the middle of the day (27 percent 10 am. to 2 p.m.). Nearly a third of those responding didn’t know the most popular times for visiting their Web sites. (It’s also important to keep in mind, as Rick Hirsch at the Miami Herald and others have noted, that readers of different topics may be hitting the site at different times.)
- Photographers are most often shooting video (86 percent) but reporters are not far behind (74 percent).
- Most newsrooms provide video training (58 to 80 percent provide it, depending on size).
- Pre-roll is the dominant format for online video advertising. About half of the newspapers surveyed feature pre-roll. At smaller newspapers, 43 percent reported selling pre-roll advertising. At larger newspapers, 78 percent feature pre-roll advertising. Banner adds and sponsorships also are popular. Fewer than 10 percent feature post-roll advertising or ads that run across the bottom of the screen.

The NAA survey is based on 213 responses out of 1,117 solicitations that went to newspapers. That’s a decent response rate (19 percent) and newspapers of all sizes are represented. But NAA notes that “it is possible the conclusions may not fully represent the entire U.S. newspaper industry.” My own guess is that those who were more engaged with video were more likely to respond, so the survey may be a snapshot of early adopters rather than the industry as a whole. Still it’s encouraging.

How does your news organization compare with organizations in the NAA study? What tips can you offer other editors seeking to improve their online video offerings?

May 04, 2008

Inventing a new ecology for news

News Tools 2008 highlights rise
of the journalism entrepreneur

News Tools 2008 is now history. As Joe Grimm explains here, it was an unconference that eschewed expert panels and speakers and instead relied on participants to shape the agenda and convene sessions.

I saw abundant bursts of energy and creativity, rather than the carefully crafted storyline more traditional conferences seek to create.

That may also be an apt description for an emerging ecosystem for news collection and distribution in the digital age: Increasingly individuals and smaller collections of people will create significant amounts of news content and make it available to the public online.

Key to this new ecosystem is entrepreneurship. Journalists - many from downsizing newsrooms - are exploring ways to get paid directly by the public or by community foundations or even private investors.

How would this work? Here are a few experiments:

—Small payments or subscriptions that pay for journalists to cover specific stories or issues. Would parents in a local community, for example, be willing to pay small amounts for more detailed coverage of their children’s schools than the local metro newspaper is providing? Journalist David Cohn is working on online tools to help journalists monetize their efforts.

—In a similar vein, the just-launched ReelChanges Web site will allow people to make tax-deductible contributions to support production of documentary journalism.

—Could a community hire a journalist to provide local coverage? Journalism professor Len Witt has a grant to try that idea out in Northfield, Minn., where a “representative journalist” will be hired to add professional reporting to an existing community site.
These experiments are fraught with potential and with risks. The journalists will need to take care to protect their journalistic independence as they step into the world of fund raising.

All the same, experimentation and risk-taking may pave the way for future journalism that can supplement and enrich what traditional news organizations provide.

Dan Gillmor, who heads the new Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, says it’s a great environment for young journalists.  “What I’m telling students is that they chances that they would get on career ladder that people of my age got on are shrinking rapidly… That is not a problem because there’s never been a better time in journalism to invent their own jobs This is an incredible time of opportunity for young journalists”

These efforts may provide little solace to traditional news organizations coping with a digital tsunami and a diminishing bottom line.

Still, they may suggest opportunity. How will traditional news organizations interact with an increasingly diverse and potentially chaotic news universe? Do these developments suggest an emerging role for large traditional news organizations? As news system atomizes and diversifies, who is better equipped to synthesize as a more coherent whole?

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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