about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Archive for February 27th, 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.