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Archive for the 'Fun' Category

A ‘circa long, long ago’ video about journalism jobs

Monday, March 10th, 2008

A major thank you to David Cohn for finding this gem of a video on jobs in journalism circa — I don’t know a long, long time ago.

Seriously. Is this how journalism used to be?

I remember a “Reading Rainbow” episode when I was growing up about how a newspaper was published, and even then, elementary school, I remember thinking it seemed dated. But I still loved that show.

I’m going next week to give a presentation on journalism as a career to middle school students. Perhaps I should show this video and then maybe the EPIC video, if only to give them a glimpse of how much things have changed and how rapidly they are changing.

Instead, my plan is to walk them through a story, a “typical” day, a bit about what types of jobs exist and where, plus how that’s changing and how to set themselves up to actually break into the biz. Then scare most of them away with a discussion of necessary education and internships, hours and pay. Just kidding. (Sort of.)

But seriously, “Women find it difficult to compete with men in general reporting jobs…” lol. And hot type? I’m glad to be in this biz today.

For happy journalists only

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

I wrote about angryjournalists.com a couple times.

Now, here’s something more up my alley: HappyJournalist.com.

I can dig that. (Actually, I even mentioned that someone should create a site to ask the question “Why are you happy today?” in my original Angry Journalists post. I’m just sayin’.) So thanks to Joe Murphy of the Denver Post for fulfilling my wish.

I just posted an item. Not much up yet, but there will be, surely. At least I hope. The more I read aj.com the more depressing I realized it was that so many people hated their jobs and this industry. I mean, we all need to vent, but surely if you hate it that much you should consider switching jobs.

Here’s one big difference between happy and angry journalists: Happy journalists leave names. Obviously, it’s not a forced id system, but so far I’m recognizing many of these people.

Here’s my post:

Meranda 4:58 pm on March 3, 2008 | #
I’m happy today because my package on A1 tomorrow is among my favorite I’ve written in the last year. It was fun to report, too, and an interesting topic. Plus, there’s a photo page and soundslides online. So it should be a fun story for the readers, too. Gotta love that.

The story, by the way, is about the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy. I spent last Thursday down there (it’s a National Guard run “quasi-military” school to help at-risk teens — basically those who’ve dropped out of school) with a photographer kind of shadowing some local kids being touched by it. Plus, I did a sidebar about a local cadet who graduated in the inaugural class. (The academies are in about half the U.S. states, but the one in Indiana just opened in summer 2007.)

I don’t know if it was being away from the office, being in a brand new very different setting or just that I know beyond a doubt we’ve never written this story before, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed it. It made me happy. And the story is something I’m actually proud of and will most definitely add to my clips.

(P.S. When the story is posted Tuesday, I’ll come back and update with a link.)

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the main story about the academy, the sider about the recent graduate returning, and the soundslides the photographer put together.

So, why are you happy today?

A by-the-numbers approach to what journalists are angry about

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

By now, you’ve probably checked out AngryJournalist.com.

I blogged about it a few days ago when it had fewer than 200 posts. (I daresay I was the first to compare it to PostSecret? At least the first I saw.) I predict by the time most of you read this, it will be fast approaching 1,000. Right now it’s at 867.

Curious as I usually am to quantify trends, I decided to use some imprecise methods (mainly the find feature in Firefox) to calculate what it is getting journalists so riled up.

You should know, these numbers were compiled when it was at 829, so the last 50 or so aren’t included in the calculation. Also note there may be other terms that appear more frequently, but these were ones that popped out at me or I wanted to search. (My apologizes to those following me on Twitter who already saw these numbers as I live-blogged my research while considering this post earlier.)

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at how frequently each of these terms was referenced in posts by angry journalists.

About the companies we work for:

“Gannett” had hits in 8 different entries — more than any other media company I could find on there.
“Corporate” alone gets 17 hits, though several combined w/Gannett.
• Even the professors and j-school students were getting into it, 37 hits came back referring to j-school (I took out non-j-school related hits with “school”) and 21 on “student” alone.

On what we cover and how we do it:

“Community” appears 20 times.
“Politic” came in with 17 hits, all across the board from politicians to political correctness, campaigns, events, interests, beliefs, etc.
• Speaking of politics, I wouldn’t put much stock in these poll results, but Hillary “Clinton” was mentioned only 2 times. “Obama” on the other hand should look elsewhere for support, at least from the 5 angry posters who called him out.
“Britney” (that would be Spears) annoyed at least 8 journalists enough to cite her as a source of anger.
• The word “web” popped up 77 times, though several posts used the word many times.
• And “blog” alone garnered mention 32 times.
• There are 8 references to “inch” that had to do with story lengths — from both sides, some that they don’t get to write long enough and others that they’re demanded to write longer.
• And 4 journalists complained about “overtime”, or lack thereof (at least the payment for).

You can’t say that in the newspaper:

• An even 100 uses of “fuck” in those 829 posts.
• Slightly lagging the f-bomb, “shit” was evoked 82 times.
• Mostly in reference to co-workers and bosses, 25 distinct references to “idiot”

And the winner, the thing which most journalists seem to be angry enough to vent about?

• Coming in an unsurprising third? “Pay” topped out with 64 uses.
• But even more than “job,” which made 159 appearances, …
• It’s our bosses (“boss” by the way had 42 hits) we love to hate: “editor” popped up 183 times. (Some were in editorial, but that was probably fewer than a dozen.)

Anyway, as I said before, this was mostly an experiment based on my curiosity. It’s imperfect at best. But it does give you pause. Or at least crack a smile.

Like PostSecret for journalists

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Who hasn’t wanted to scream about some ridiculous rule or moronic mantra at their organization? Or to tell their bosses what they are asking is inconsistent or, maybe even, impossible? Or just vent about the idiot who makes more money for half the work? You get the idea.

Now you can let it all out. And no, it’s not by creating a blog. (Because if your purpose behind creating a blog is to vent about your co-workers, you likely won’t have much to vent about for long. … I’m just sayin’.)

Meet your new homepage: AngryJournalist.com.

Think of it like PostSecret for journalists. You can drop your own anonymous confession or just listen in on others, even respond with your own nod of agreement if you want.

Even if you have nothing to complain about now, you can still muse over the agony or shared misery of some of your journalistic compatriots as they vent. In much the same way Twitter asks “What are you doing?” This site asks, “Why are you angry today?” (Actually, bonus, you can even follow the updates on Twitter.)

Here are 10 of my favs so far. (FYI: I may or may not agree with the sentiments.)

  • Angry Journalist #11:
    There’s too many boring things to cover to even get to the more interesting stories, and I think I lost my wallet.

  • Angry Journalist #26:
    Editors thinking they can do too much with not enough resources.

  • Angry Journalist #35:
    Living with, working with, and beings friends with only journalists in a city to which you are not native and having to talk about journalism all day and fearing that it’s become your only way to relate (and not relate) to people.

  • Angry Journalist #63:
    I have to reference the fact that the world is round.

  • Angry Journalist #76:
    because my job makes the world worse… Thats not what I was aiming for when I started ten year ago..

  • Angry Journalist #109:
    not having time to do everything.

  • Angry Journalist #126:
    I’m angry that my journalism department at a mid-level public university is staffed with tenured, unmovable dinosaur professors who haven’t sniffed a newsroom or written an article on deadline in more than 15 years. They don’t surf the Web for news, don’t know what an RSS feed is, have never handled a video camera and aren’t prepared to teach youngsters what they need to enter the very tight job market competitively. How can this change? Should j-schools move to more instructors and guest lecturers (local professionals in news who’d teach at night)? Should more money and focus be pored into the school’s student newspaper, where the real learning happens?

  • Angry Journalist #132:
    I’m angry because 80% of my newsroom is occupied by lazy, fat-asses that depend on faxed or emailed press-releases rather than actually leaving the office to get a story. The only productive thing they do is bring in cookies and other crap so I can get a sugar high that will keep me going since I had to miss lunch for the third day in a row.

  • Angry Journalist #134:
    I’m angry that incompetence is tolerated for no other reason than the editors are afraid to admit they made a mistake.

  • Angry Journalist #149:
    I’m angry that my staff wants me to hold their hand for everything and I am tired.

    There also seem to be a lot of journalists angry about Britney Spears being (not) newsworthy and yet everywhere, case in point:

  • Angry Journalist #85:
    I am angry at America. I am angry that we have become so comfortably numb, that we only care about what Britney’s doing, whatever soundbite made on CNN. I hate that we are so introspective, and that our media has become so self-reflective.
    The world exists, goddamnit.
    The world exists.

    And these kind of sum it up:

  • Angry Journalist #48:
    I’m angry that this many journalists are just bitter.

  • Angry Journalist #94:
    I hate that all we do is sit and whine about what we hate and that we don’t have the balls to stand up and try to change what we hate.

  • Angry Journalist #142:
    I’m angry because the only other viable option is apathy.

    Yes I read them all, only a few hundred, mostly short, so far. You can see them all in one page here.

    Thanks to Julie for pointing out this fabulous site via Twitter yesterday and to Kiyoshi Martinez for creating it — genius.

    Final thought, however… and this may just be the optimist in me as I know it’s “cool” to hate your job and complain about the industry and all … but perhaps we should create a counter site to this? Ask, “Why are you happy today?” I can think of a few entries for that one as easily as the other. I can’t be alone.

  • Not just “another weather story”

    Friday, January 18th, 2008

    Raise your hand if you hate writing weather stories.

    I don’t know what it’s like in other regions, but in the Midwest, at least the parts I’ve lived in, it’s hot in the summer, which is about July-September, and it’s cold, well, the rest of the year. I hate the cold as much as the next guy. (I do like wearing sweaters though.) I also hate the summer heat. (Dude, I live on the second floor of an old house lacking a/c.) Sometimes I think, can’t we have a mix of overcast and sunny, high near 72 all year, kthnx.

    But, then, I do like variety, which we definitely get. We get spring showers (and floods) and winter blizzards (and freezing rain) and summer days topping 100 degrees on occasion. Because I was raised in this climate, however, it’s normal for me to wake up freezing and go to bed burning up or vice versa. I don’t find it that weird to see snow and t-shirts in the same week. It hasn’t even gotten cold enough for me yet to pull out my wool winter coat.

    That makes writing about the weather seem all the worse. It’s like writing about traffic lights changing colors. Everyone knows it’s going to happen, and they can kind of figure out for themselves what comes next.

    But it seems like every time you’re set to expect anything more than a dusting or a drizzle, it’s time for a weather story. And when a snow storm hits or the heat bests the average, it’s time to dust off those coping tips and talk to someone about snow shoveling pitfalls or hit up the local pool. Or the photogs favorite: Weather photo galleries and feature art.

    Just today, when talking over my assignments for Sunday morning, the frigid weather was mentioned as something to watch. Cue an internal eye roll.

    So here’s my next question, this one’s for the readers. How many of you hate reading weather stories?

    I don’t think there’s a solution. I mean, weather is the old standby universal experience. When there’s nothing in common to discuss, you can always talk about the weather.

    That said, I’ve decided I’m going to temper my eye roll over this necessary evil and instead resolve to take a cue from today’s IndyStar, where I just stumbled upon this entertaining topper to an otherwise routine weather story:

    Call the Indiana battle between seasonably cool and downright cold the meteorological version of a legendary George Foreman-Muhammad Ali fight.

    The cool air is like Foreman, slugging away until exhausted. The cold air is like Ali, playing the rope-a-dope until it’s time to score the knockout.

    This weekend should give the decisive weather boxing victory to the cold. The National Weather Service predicts Saturday night’s lows around 3 degrees below zero, the coldest in Indianapolis since minus-6 on Feb. 16, 2007.

    There will be purists who will say it’s showing off and doesn’t help tell the story better or get to the point until the third graph. Yeah I noticed that, too.

    Yet, I applaud the writer for taking the time not to roll his eyes and then write “another weather story.”

    But I’m still not writing anything more than a “what to expect today” web update about the weekend weather unless it causes some type of havoc. I have some pride.

    Midday media traffic spike?

    Saturday, January 5th, 2008

    The NYTimes has a story today about how media outlets are dealing with a new trend: People “video snacking” at their desks at lunch.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon I haven’t heard of before. Though, apparently several newspapers and TV stations, as well as big online ventures like Yahoo/AOL, are responding to this increased noontime demand for fresh video.

    The midday spike in Web traffic is not a new phenomenon, but media companies have started responding in a meaningful way over the last year. They are creating new shows, timing the posts to coincide with hunger pangs. And they are rejiggering the way they sell advertising online, recognizing that noontime programs can command a premium.

    In 2007, a growing number of local television stations, including WNCN in Raleigh, N.C., and WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, began producing noon programming exclusively for the Web. Among newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and The Ventura County Star in California started posting videos at lunchtime that have young journalists as hosts and are meant to appeal to 18- to 34-year-old audiences.

    The trend has swept across large as well as small independent sites. Yahoo’s daily best-of-the-Web segment, called The 9 and sponsored by Pepsi, is produced every morning in time for lunch. At MyDamnChannel.com, a showcase for offbeat videos, programmers have been instructed to promote new videos around noon, right when the two-hour traffic spike starts.

    I was unaware of this jump. Granted, reporters/newsroom staff here are only sent the basic stats report e-mail for each day. So I don’t know the exact numbers for each hour. But our traffic very clearly seems to spike around 8/9 and then again at the end of the work day. I’ll have to look back through a few days when I’m at work again to see if this midday trend holds true here. If it does though, it begs the question of whether we should and how we should cater to that demand? And if it doesn’t, it still leaves open the question of whether we could compete for this attention, and of course, how.

    The first reporter at my paper starts posting around 6 a.m. daily (8 a.m. weekends — but both shifts seem ungodly early when you’re the one on them), and throughout the day local and state, and sometimes big national, stories are posted. On bigger news, the No. 1 slot or the No. 5 slot (that is the top slot w/a photo or the top slot sans photo) will get swapped out or updated and timestamped breaking news. Often, those stories are among the most read. After the 4 o’clock meeting each night, they post a PM Update with four or five teasers for the top stories in tomorrow’s paper. That is also usually well read.

    But if there’s a group of people or even a growing appetite for a noontime video/news bite, it’s worth considering what type of demand that is (seems from the NYTimes story that lighter fare is popular) and then how to cater to it. (Wow, so many food cliches.) Here’s some very preliminary ideas I have off the top of my head, or as Carl (former prof/Stater adviser) used to say: I’m thinking out loud here…

    • A noontime round up of odd news off the wire. These are generally short, and pulling out three or so each day would probably be a cinch. People like weird stories. If you want this to be video, grab one of your more camera friendly staffers and get him or her to quickly tell the stories. Throw in a few stock photos/screen grabs/whatever for effect if you want.

    • A midday news synopsis with very brief (think news tickerish) bits about the stories we’re working on or even the biggest national stories — with links to more details for any stories that are already posted, of course, even if it’s a link to CNN. This could easily be paired with a noon-time 2-minute newscast. I don’t think you need glitzy here, down and dirty headlines could suffice.
    • Maybe like our PM Update a Midday Update. Promote the top stories, video, galleries, forums, whatever on your site to let other people know what their peers are reading. Kind of, “Here’s what’s generating the biggest buzz on (your site).”
    • Get an employee who’s always finding cool stuff online (there has to be at least one) to do a round-up of stories, videos, Web sites, whatever people are talking about online today. Maybe it’s just a quick round-up of the top stories on other sites, like YouTube’s most popular item or whatever is out there on Digg or just whatever cool or crazy news/fun item he or she stumbles on that day. This would probably work best as a blog that you promote or cross-post at noon each day. I’m thinking kind of an “in case you missed it” blog. Something along the lines of Clicked over at MSNBC, with a dash of USA Today’s On Deadline or a more focused version of Pop URLs. I could spend hours following all those links. The benefit of doing this locally (instead of Clicked, etc.) would be it would focus the local audience on the same items. Fostering that communal experience, “Did you see…?”, and community conversation on the comments.

    I’m sure there are plenty of other more innovative and effective ways to capture that noontime media consumer. Those are just some initial thoughts. I’ll have to look around to see if anyone out there has come up with some cool ideas. If you know of one, pass it my way.

    Skepticism aside, Twitter FTW

    Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

    Everywhere I turn I see Twitter-this or Twitter-that. I even read a post today about how Twitter will come of age in 2008. (I would link to it, but I can’t find it again. Sorry guys.)

    I for one am intrigued by the possibilities. Even though last week, a few reporters and I went out after work and somehow we ended up talking about Twitter and they all made merciless fun of me. They don’t get it. I can’t blame them. It wasn’t that long ago I was skeptical, too.

    I was off today, and I have been exploring some of the possibilities everyone is talking about.

    Recently, I started importing the feed from Meranda Writes and from stumblED. (The latter is my education tumble log, remember that?) I also started following hashtags. Though I’ve only used it once so far to post my #resolutions. I also keep my Facebook mates up to date on my whereabouts by feeding my twitter updates to my Facebook status. None of this makes me a better journalist, per se, but knowing how the technology works is the first step, I guess to commanding it for my craft not just for fun. But even just for fun, me gusta.

    Today, I set up a Twitter account, more for my own amusement and use than anything else, that imports RSS feeds off jconline. Of course, I’ll have to see how the powers that be feel about it. But either way, it’s useful for me. It could be useful to other people in the community who use Twitter (including a few who are following me, one of whom I’d never met and happened to run into at a coffee shop this weekend!). I also foresee, if we could establish a sizable userbase, it could be a good crowdsourcing medium or great way to break news quicker/as we get it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was just playing with Twitterfeed.

    If only I could figure out how to get just a feed of my bylines. (Funny enough, that teacher memories call-out posted now is mine.) But I am not so sophisticated or intelligent enough to get it to feed just my stories for you all (OK, just my mom and maybe a professor or two curious what I’m up to and wondering just how much I’m producing out here). I’m working on it. So far, the best archive for my recent stories is actually Newstin. Check that, I just scanned the page — apparently I can get Newstin as an RSS feed. Wish granted. I love the Internet. My Twitter followers are now in for a treat: an ongoing log of the stories I write. Yay?

    Meanwhile, on the JC Twitter account, I can’t figure out a smart way to avoid pulling in stories that are out on multiple feeds. For example, a story on the Purdue feed and on the sports feed about the Big Ten. In fact, I am not pulling in the breaking news/top stories feed because it’s nearly always just the same as the news feed, except for some reason it also pulls in content off our Moms site and occasionally, off the WLHS microsite. Part of the problem is that our RSS feeds (like many newspaper feeds) are wonky. I don’t think anyone actually sits down to think about which 10 stories get pushed out each morning, and only items posted as breaking news AND news during the day get put out on RSS, not the “breaking news” at the top of jconline. (That probably doesn’t make sense to you, but it’s part of the classification you have to choose in the CMS.) So my RSS feed/Twitter idea is only as helpful as those stories it chooses. I wish we had an Opinions RSS feed, because those are popular here, too.

    Anyway, to get back to my point, I’m not sure, still, when or if Twitter will “come of age.” But there are certainly lots of cool things going on with it. Here’s a few:

    • ReporTwitters (Using the medium to be a better reporter. Sounds like an interesting proposal.)

    • Tweet Scan (Search for your own interests, like Apple, or when breaking news happens for fire & California. You get the idea.)
    • Hashtags (Tag your twitter posts.)
    • Twitterfeed (Import your RSS feeds, or even the RSS feeds of blogs you regularly read, a la ojaggregator. It’s the filter/editor and choosing the best blogs to follow, so I don’t have to.)

    That’s just to name a few I use. There are hundreds more and new ones coming each day.

    Anyone else know something cool I missed or could use?