There is no other exciting time to be in journalism, from a technology standpoint, than now. (Although the fear of layoffs does not sit well.). To witness newsrooms transition to mobile, social media and digital-first platforms, and be there on the frontlines of it all, is exactly where agents of change need to be. We are part of history. Not looking in from the outside. Not being critical of the news media 24-7, although I do this quite regularly. But in it. Making decisions that stick or fail. I get goose bumps just thinking about this.
Amy Zerba, amyzerba.com. Difference Between Tenure-Track Professor and a Journalist.
She just left her job teaching to join the Times. Sounds like she can justify that decision.
Journals aren’t going to stop giving us stories, because stories are the main attraction. But lists are the service. They are also the frontier, because journals on the whole suck at lists. That’s what we’ve been learning over and over and over again, every time something Too Big happens. (Sandy, Katrina, the Arab Spring, the financial meltdown, yada yada.) We get plenty of stories, but not enough lists. Or, not the lists we need if we’re affected by the event.
Doc Searls, Doc Searls Weblog. Journalism is Outlining.
Scholar Doc Searls, continuing Jeff Jarvis’ recent sentiment that reporters didn’t give us enough useable information during and immediately after Hurricane Sandy, considers the difference between telling stories and compiling information.
Human interest pieces on those who lost their homes are important for society. But so are lists of what subway lines are down and what countries closed their schools, as both Searls and Jarvis point out.
I wanted lists of what streets were closed. I wanted lists of what streets the power company was finally working on. Oh, the utility, JCP&L, gave my town, Bernards Township, lists of streets, but they were bald-faced lies (I know because my street was on that list but their crews weren’t on my street). The town and our local media outlets only passed on these lists as fact without verifying. I wanted journalists to add value to those lists, going out to verify whether there were crews working on those streets. In a word: report.
Doc, who liveblogged the storm from Cambridge, MA, kept the Weather Channel on for much of the evening. Looking back on his work that night as well as that of other journalists, Doc that the one-man-band movement can work here. He considers the two approaches to coverage — storytelling and information gathering — too much for a single journalist to do well.
In the appendum to his piece, Doc explains his position further:
Giving somebody a story when they need a list is a bit like giving somebody who’s fallen overboard a meal rather than a life preserver. It’s best to give both, at the right time and place. One of my points above is that no one journal, or journalist, should have to do it all. A related point I didn’t make is that pulling together lists, and linking lists together, is less thankful work than writing stories.
So they don’t hate stories! They just want stories and information. They, and all of us, want to know how to get to work after a storm like Sandy comes through. We all want to be informed.
Built into the Web’s DNA, however, is a simple call to be useful. That too is a call of journalism. It is a more essential calling than the one to be interesting, or provocative, or award-worthy, or any of the other qualities we like to see in stories. A dictionary is poor literature, but a highly useful document. It is also a list. A bookshelf with several dictionaries on it is an outline. So is a library.
When I got that journalism degree back in 1974 newspapers were heading toward near-monopoly status and network news divisions thought of themselves as public trusts more than businesses. For the individual editor and reporter, the profession was a calling and finding the scoop was all that mattered. Today’s students seem to be realists. They get that journalism is a business. They understand that the who, what, when, where and why of their careers is as much about an entrepreneurial, innovative spirit as it is about the story. Industry veterans, far too many still stuck in an old mindset, would do well to spend a little time in the classroom.
The future of content on the web – content that gets discovered, creates value, and builds audiences – is not cheap text cranked out by content farms. It’s high quality, editorial and entertainment created by experienced journalists and passionate bloggers. The future is a social media world, where humans are the arbiters of quality, and search algorithms reward sharing and human readability.
The Internet means publishers should no longer be confined to the limits of in-office staff, nor should they be forced to burn fuel to put reporters on the ground around the world. Creative talent lives everywhere; it can and should work from wherever it lives. And any quality publisher should have access to it. Though we may live far apart, the web can bring freelancers together into a community whose value far exceeds the sum of its members. This is the freelance revolution.
The delineation between “media company” and any other enterprise is no longer relevant; we embrace the notion that any entity – brand, nonprofit, news organization, or individual – can be a quality publisher. We believe the business model that “saves journalism” is myriad: Commerce, sponsorship, paid content, and philanthropy will sustain the craft and maintain journalistic integrity, so long as motives and authors are transparent.