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Archive for February, 2007

QOTD: … sacrifice what we are for what we could become

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
— Charles DuBois

An addendum I just came across:

“Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
— Sir James M. Barrie.

News-paper is just an option

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Amy Gahran’s piece, Startling New News Technology, at Poynter reminded me of something. The basic gist of the column is her making fun of the idea that people still read something as old fashioned as the news paper.

On one of the job interviews I went on, I had a lunch with three reporters. One was a mojo, one was business and one was general assignment. One of the topics of conversation that came up was how/where they got their news.

  • Mojo, a year out of college: read lots of blogs and watched cable news.
  • Business, upper 20-something: newspaper/magazine Web sites mostly.
  • General assignment, had children almost my age: the paper mostly, but some local TV news.

It was an interesting conversation. Something I’ve discussed with my college peers frequently, but seeing how several working journalists consume news in such different ways was interesting. Why this struck me was the business reporter’s comment, “I don’t even get the newspaper anymore. I just read it online.” And the G.A.’s subsequent surprise and outrage at the sacrilege.

Last week, I wrote one of those cute, every day stories that I turned around in about an hour. Hardly hard-hitting A1 material. My editor asked me that afternoon if I thought I could get art for it and if it would work for the communities page for Monday. He then proceded to kind of defend the decision to put it on the communities page, as if I cared where it ran in the paper.

I wanted to tell him, I usually don’t even look at the newspaper to know where my stories run. Run it Web exclusive. I probably won’t know. I pick up the actual paper probably twice a week. Not to see my own stories, but because I don’t like reading stories with lots of break outs/links to related stories online. (It’s disjointing and annoying to me. But that’s just me.)

Granted, if I know he’s planning my story for an A1 package, I’ll take that into consideration in how I write it and give it more time than a quick hit story like this one. But in general, I give everything my best effort without regard for when or where it’ll run. I also realize, only three stories are going to land on A1 or the front of local each day. (Our paper is a weird size called Berliner. A bit bigger than a tabloid, but significantly smaller than a broadsheet. So, we get fewer stories on section fronts.) There are a lot more reporters than that. Not everything I write will end up on front. That’s perfectly OK. Not everything should or deserves to be.

Still, I thought that Gahran’s post was slightly condescending. She was obviously trying to be sarcastic. But, *shrug*, as much as I don’t read the paper in print as often as I’d like to, I still do know how. My nephews still know how, and the youngest is barely 8. I’m only 21, and I still enjoy reading the paper in print. When I was at Kent State, I read four newspapers on newsprint every day. I’d probably still read at least two of them in print if I was anywhere near the circulation area.

The point is, for each his own. Just as each of the reporters I had lunch with gets his or her news in a different way, so does the rest of the world. A newspaper is merely another platform on which to publish the news. Some people prefer it. And as old-fashioned as it might seem, those people deserve to have that paper delivery just as much as that punk texting during Modern History has a right to news updates via SMS. People want options. The printed newspaper is just one option.

Think of the ice harvesters, but be a refrigerator

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

I love quotes, and I own a number of quote books. One of the books I’ve received is called “What Now?” and it’s basically advice for after graduation.

I was skimming this book tonight when I came across a graduation speech made by Guy Kwasaki. I don’t know who he is or where or when this speech was given. (A bit of Googling turned this up: “Hindsight” Commencement Speech, Palo Alto High School, California, June 11, 1995.) But there was something in it worth sharing. He presents his speech in a top 10 list of things he realizes now but didn’t when he was a new graduate.

This is item eight: “Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.”

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and resist the unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown.

Let me tell you a short story about ice. In the late 1800s there was a thriving ice industry in the Northeast. Companies would cut blocks of ice from frozen lakes and ponds and sell them around the world. The largest single shipment was 200 tons that was shipped to India. 100 tons got there unmelted, but this was enough to make a profit.

These ice harvesters, however, were put out of business by companies that invented mechanical ice makers. It was no longer necessary to cut and ship ice because companies could make it in any city during any season.

These ice makers, however, were put out of business by refrigerator companies. If it was convenient to make ice at a manufacturing plant, imagine how much better it was to make ice and create cold storage in everyone’s home.

You would think that the ice harvesters would see the advantages of ice making and adopt this technology. However, all they could think about was the known: better saws, better storage, better transportation.

Then you would think that the ice makers would see the advantages of refrigerators and adopt this technology. The truth is that the ice harvesters couldn’t embrace the unknown and jump their curve to the next curve.

Challenge the known and embrace the unknown, or you’ll be like the ice harvester and ice makers.

All right, so what’s the point?

Well, I want to be ahead of the curve. So many journalists are stuck in the ice harvesting phase. I find stories, report them and ship the finished story off to you to consume.

A lot of papers are in the ice maker phase. Ok, well, how about if we utilize you guys. We’re looking at property taxes or towing fines or whatever the topic of the day is. What’s your experience? Why don’t you leave a comment on our story? Enter our forum?

But that’s not going to last forever. We’re moving into the refrigerator stage pretty quickly: People can make their own ice. And just as they learned to do that, they’ll learn to produce their own news. They already are, on sites like YouTube, NowPublic, hell, even Blogger. And they’re learning to organize it and disseminate it in news feeds.

So, uh, my point is don’t think about what the best method is today, or what’s the quickest or coolest way to achieve your result. Don’t think about Soundslides or Story Chats or databases as the future. Don’t even think about the future, what’s the saying, “The future is now.” What’s the craziest idea you have for a story or a video or a package or anything? What do you want to do or seen done? What type of innovative new way to the tell story hasn’t even been created let alone adopted yet? Go do that.

QOTD: The most difficult thing is the decision to act…

Monday, February 26th, 2007

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”
— Amelia Earhart

QOTD: There will come a time when you believe everything is finished…

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”
— Louis L’Amour

if it’s not a splog… what’s the point?

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

I remember my online professor telling me about splogs some time last year. It was one of those hallway conversations we frequently had. “Hi, how you doing? How’s the job/internship search going? How’s your mom? I saw your dad last week, he said ‘Hello.'” To which I’d answer each in succession and follow up with some novel idea I had or cool thing I’d come across. He’d show off the latest project he was working on for the JMC Web site or the latest “really cool” tool he’d managed to get the school to buy. This conversation was no different. I said I was starting a blog, and somehow we started talking about splogs.

He said they were a threat to journalism, to legitimate content creation and advertising. They just take a bunch of stories you’ve written and use a computer to mash up headlines that will drive people searching for say Colts merchandise or Kent State University to that site instead of a legitimate source. Add in a sprinkle of Google text ads and maybe a few banner ads, and even if only one in 100 visitors clicks anything, you could still make some money for the nominal hosting fee you pay. While the practice itself is annoying at best and downright harmful, as Fred would argue, I could see the point.

Today, in my “lafayette, indiana” Google alert, this link popped up. I don’t get the point of the site.

The paragraph in that post almost makes sense, as if someone was writing quickly in stream of consciousness and made a few typos. In fact, it kind of is an interesting thought. But I was intrigued by it being named “Just” so I clicked on it and found that it was just a bunch of really random posts about, well, nothing.

I took out the subdomain. It’s just a bunch of directories with words like “making,” “power” and “getting.” Each is a blog using the same default WordPress template. Each with no real point or content.

I could at least understand the reason for existence if the blogs had ads on them. Or maybe if these posts had links in them to some other site or company or anywhere. They don’t.

At first I thought, well maybe it’s someone setting up a domain to become a splog later on or something. But, these posts go back six months or more. It’s not something that was just created.

It’s just the gibberish blogs with keyword heavy headlines. A few dozen of them on this single domain.

What’s the point?! Can someone explain this to me?

student journalists strike … for not being paid?

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Not that I think people shouldn’t be paid for their work, but isn’t not being paid or being paid crap part of the bargain when you sign on for student media?

I just saw this on the Innovations in College Media blog. I don’t know the full story and am actually having a hard time wrapping my head around what little is there in a piece from the Tallahassee Democrat and from the paper’s own editorial.

The basic gist as I understand it is a number of people at Florida A&M haven’t been yet this semester… including the newspaper staffers. Seems to me it’s an error. Hardly worthy of a “strike.” It’s not that the university is refusing to pay, it’s just that somehow the paperwork got messed up.

Hmm. I know of several cases where people’s paychecks were screwed up at Kent State/The Stater. The checks were sent to wrong offices or pushed back until the next month because of an oversight. But then, we only got paid once a month. (They actually switched this semester to bimonthly payments.) It happened. We dealt with it, and we and the world moved on. The thing was, it didn’t really matter. Even as editor, my salary was hardly anything to write home about. It was about enough to keep my gas tank full, food in my stomach, my cell phone connected and to cover a few nights out with friends each month. And I was by far the best compensated person on staff (though not on a per-hour basis at all… I refuse to work out the math on how much I was paid per hour because I’m afraid it will start with a $1… and end with not much else).

I didn’t really look at my work in student media, at the newspaper or any of the magazines, as a job. The purpose was to gain exposure and sample the different positions/media. I wanted experience, not the paycheck. (Though, when I became the managing editor the first time was when I quit my other job, but it was for lack of time not because of the pay. I made more working at the bowling alley.)

The first semester I was hired at the newspaper I didn’t even know I was going to be paid at all. I remember, when the editor mentioned student appointment forms during our all-staff session, I had to ask the copy desk chief (I started on the copy desk at the paper) if I actually needed one. I was only doing it for the experience. I think most students would say the same thing. I can think of only one exception of someone who I worked with who was doing it for the money. And, he no longer works in student media. So there you have it.