Posts Tagged ‘ journalism ’

Jeff Jarvis on the Future of Journalism

Technology journalists Jeff Jarvis and Michael Arrington discuss the future of news reporting.

Jarvis makes an interesting point about the how journalism outlets must evolve. Jarvis predicts a widespread shift from large, mainstream multimedia outlets to small, “hyper-local” communities of news gatherers. Interestingly, someone needs to come up with a new model, and it won’t be the old traditional media gurus. The future of the journalism business has transformed into something entrepreneurial, not so much institutional. The journalism industry’s traditional outlets have had 15 years since the start of the commercial Web and we’ve seen how far they can come, which is not very far at all. They have done little to adapt to the ever-growing world of internet journalism. What the industry needs now are innovators, such as entrepreneurial journalism students. These youngsters will the ones invent new forms, structures, efficiencies and business models for news. They are the future — we are the future.

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Wiki what? WikiLeaks.

According to Time Magazine, websites like WikiLeaks and WikiNews “could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

The beauty of wikis in general is that multiple editors and contributors can collaborate on a web page. The most famous  wiki, of course, is Wikipedia. In 2004, Wikipedia decided to apply the concept of Wikipedia to news, and created what was called WikiNews. The goal was to promote the idea of the citizen journalist – the idea that anyone, anywhere, can be a journalist.

Of course, just because someone posts something on a wiki, does not make it true. Mutual trust and cooperation are the key ‘checks and balances’ that help make WikiNews legitimate. WikiNews has a policy that must be followed by users when referring to points of fact. The policy states, all sources used for information must be cited, and they must be verifiable by someone else. In the case of original reporting, field notes must be presented on the article’s discussion. By having these checks in balances in place, WikiNews can remain accurate.

Although WikiNews seems like a good idea, there are cases where other wikis have gotten out of hand.

Photo Credit - WikiLeaks.org

A website called WikiLeaks started off as an organization that publishes anonymous submissions and “leaks” of otherwise unavailable documents while preserving the anonymity of sources. At first, WikiLeaks was promising to the journalism industry. Being able to access otherwise confidential documents instantaneously rather than going through the long process of an FOI request (Freedom of Information) seemed like an amazing thing. But it’s true that too much of a good thing, is not good.

In late July, WikiLeaks was thrown into the spotlight when it posted a huge trove of secret U.S. military documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to ABC News, the U.S. Defense Department has warned “it could have blood on its hands for publishing documents that name Afghan sources.” This brings us to the question – has journalism gone too far?

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said he supported tools like WikiLeaks that expose wrongdoing, but he also noted that journalists must practice integrity and responsibility to censor unrelated information that could put people in danger.

As technology and information evolve, it becomes easier to access information. However, a journalist needs to be careful when dealing with new tools like WikiLeaks. Although technology is evolving, the ethical codes of journalism must still apply.

There’s An App For That

There seems to be an app for everything these days. In light of a recent survey, perhaps news organizations should start thinking about mobile apps.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Internet and Nielson, studied cellphone users’ app habits. They found that about 43 percent of cellphone users have an app on their device, but only about 29 percent actually use them. However, this may change. The ever-growing market for smart phones is sure to increase app usage. So, journalists…jump on the bandwagon!

Photo Credit - thefrisky.com

It’s simply a fact..young people like apps. According to the survey, about 47 percent of 18 to 29 year old said they’ve downloaded an app, compared to 39 percent of 30 to 49 years. The 50-plus group brings in a measly 14 percent. For news organizations looking to reach out to young customers, apps are perfect. The survey also found something very interesting – young people have taken to giving mobile donations. For nonprofit news organizations like ProPublica, this is the perfect combination. Young people plus apps equals money!
Another interesting fact about apps is people who use them tend to get their news online. According to the survey, 90 percent of app users consume news online, compared to 75 percent of non-app users. That is a HUGE percentage! Apps will not only draw in money, but will draw in an audience. By having a mobile application, a news organization can keep constant contact with their audience.
Some news organizations already have apps. For instance, CNN and USA Today both have applications. Unfortunately, news apps aren’t nearly as popular as game apps, but they are managing to make it onto the scene. The most popular apps, such as Facebook take a whopping 42 percent of users. If you look a little further down on the popularity scale, news apps start appearing – nine percent of users said they used the CNN app in the past month, 8 percent USA Today and 7 percent New York Times. For being fairly new to the app scene, these number aren’t too bad!
Apps need to be quick and concise. The survey found that people who use their apps daily only do so for less than 30 minutes. This is where journalists’ skills to catch an audience’s attention will come in very hand. With people only spending so little time on an app, a good headline or lead is extremely important to draw them in.

And the Award Goes to…

It seems like congratulations are in order for ProPublica. Back in April 2010, ProPublica won the Pultizer Prize for Investigative Journalism.

Photo Credit - dailypostal.com

ProPublica’s winning story chronicled the crucial decisions of an overwhelmed, overexhausted staff at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina. The story was produced by Sheri Fink and co-published by the New York Times.

According to the BBC News, ProPublica’s win marks the first time that the award has been given to an online news agency. The win also marks another first for its collaboration between such an agency and a traditional news outlet like the New York Times. Sig Gissler, the Pulitzer Prize administrator, mentioned that the journalism industry should “expect to see more of these collaborations in the years ahead as organizations face tougher financial situations.”

The majority of the Pulitzers went to mainstream newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. However, ProPublica definitely stood out as the most notable winner despite being dominated by traditional news outlets.

ProPublica’s success marks the rise of future online news outlets. ProPublica’s win is a positive indicator that a non-profit online business model can sustain the cost of investigative journalism. This gives hope to other organizations such as the Texas Tribune who also use a non-profit model to support investigative reporting. Although these organizations have yet to win a Pulitzer, their entrance into the spotlight may be sooner than we think.

According to the Guardian, the Pulitzer Prizes represent the”gold standard for American journalism.” However, they also point us toward the future, giving readers an idea of what types of journalism they should expect to see more of. Recently, the Pulitzer Prize updated its criteria to allow entries from non-print newsrooms as long as they were “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing events.”  They also accept entries form any Internet-only publication as long as it is published at least weekly.

It looks as if online journalism is becoming a more professional, more credible and more respected form of journalism. With Pulitzer Prizes going to places like ProPublica, the legitimacy of digital journalism is increasing. Well, if it’s good enough for Pulitzer, it’s good enough for me.

ProPublica: How Do They Afford It?

ProPublica is proud to be an independent, non-profit newsroom, but how do they manage to stay afloat?

According to the New York Times, the traditional model of journalism is changing.  Newspaper advertising revenue declines and technology are drastically changing the public’s relationship with news organizations.

In 2009, ad revenue was down 30 percent for some newspapers. The Times says that it is searching for new streams of money and opening itself to new ideas. In the old model, editors decided what news is, assign their own reporters and pay the expenses using ad revenue. Now, with ad revenue down, media outlets like The Times are trying to form a variety of partnerships and arrangements to fund stories.

This is exactly how ProPublica manages to stay in business.

In 2009, ProPublica published 138 news stories with 38 different partners. One of these was actually awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

When ProPublica publishes a story, the story does not just appear on the website.  ProPublica actually offers its stories offered to traditional news organizations, free of charge, for publication or for broadcast.

ProPublica also partners with major news organizations to produce stories. For instance, ProPublica partnered with CBS to do a report on questionable federal stimulus spending on airports. They worked hard to deliver a story free of any political bias.

But it doesn’t end there. ProPublica supports each story that it publishes with an active and aggressive follow up. This includes regularly contacting reporters, editors and bloggers, encouraging them to follow-up on ProPublica’s reporting, and to link to ProPublica’s work.

Interestingly, ProPublica does not just promote it’s own reporters’ stories. The ProPublica website site also features investigative reporting produced by others. ProPublica wants their website to only be a destination, but a tool for promoting good work in the journalism field.

But where is ProPublica getting the funds to do this type of reporting? Obviously, the Sandler Foundation has made a major, multi-year commitment to fund ProPublica. However, they don’t do it alone. ProPublica is trying to build a more sustainable business model and reduce its reliance on the Sandlers. Currently, ProPublica has a large group of supporters and philanthropic contributors such as the MacArthur Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

ProPublica has managed to perfect the art of securing donations. Their stories have to be sufficiently compelling to convince editors and producers to accord them space or time. By consistently delivering compelling stories, donors will be confident that professional standards are being met and maintained, and that important work is being done. Thus, they will be more willing to donate to ProPublica’s cause.

So, is this a model that could be implemented across the board?  Instead of desperately trying to save and adapt the current business model, is it time for a new one altogether?

It’s obvious that news outlets need to change and develop, in terms of what they cover, how they cover it, and how they reach their audience. It’s no secret that the Internet has revolutionized the way people follow the news, and it will undoubtedly continue to play a role in journalism practices. The idea of implementing payment for online news is an option, but has yet to show much success. For now, if newspapers and other media organizations want to function effectively, whether in print or online, they need to be creative in finding new ways to maintain sufficient staff and resources. Thankfully, an organization like ProPublica found a way to provide the American public with quality news stories despite these hard economic times. Let’s hope the rest of the journalism world can follow in its footsteps.

Meet the Faces of Pro Publica

Some people believe all you need to succeed is an idea and a dream. In ProPublica’s case, all you need is a dream and some friends with a whole lot of money.

In Fall 2006, Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, got a phone call from Herbert and Marion Sandler about a business venture. Steiger said he knew little about the Sandlers, except that they were former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation – one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans.

With money to spare, the Sandlers wanted to invest in something big. They told Steiger to come up with a proposal for a nonprofit news organization that focused on investigative journalism. After seeing Steiger’s plan, the Sandlers were instantly sold. They told Steiger that they would finance the organization, but only if he would run it. After some thought, Steiger agreed.

The Sandlers committed a chunk of their personal fortune – $10 million a year to the project to be exact. And so, ProPublica was born.

Photo Credit - ProPublica.com

Today, ProPublica has become one of the few success stories for online journalism. But behind every great success, is a great leader, or in this case a team of great leaders.

ProPublica’s current editor-in-chief, president and chief executive is Paul Steiger, but Steiger is not alone. He has the help of two other experienced media gurus. The first is managing editor Stephen Engelberg – a former managing editor of The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon and former investigative editor for the The New York Times. The second is general manger Richard Tofel – the former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

With a strong backbone, ProPublica came onto the scene in October 2007, commenced operations  in January 2008, and began publishing in June 2008. And thus, an online journalism powerhouse was born. But it’s not just the leaders that make this news outlet what is it, it’s the employees.

Staffed by army of 32 working journalists, all dedicated to investigative reporting on stories with significant impact, ProPublica is taking on the world of investigative journalism by storm.

For an aspiring journalist like myself, ProPublica is the place to be if I want to learn the ropes of professional online journalism. Their staff seems to be an extremely well-versed and experienced group of individuals – people I could definitely learn a lot from. Simply having the opportunity to work with established journalism honchos such as Steiger, Engelberg and Tofel would be like having years of journalism experience at my fingertips.

Steiger, Engelberg, Tofel and other ProPublica staffers have all made their marks in the history of journalism in a variety of mediums. Interestingly, they have also all managed to make a successful the transition from print and other news outlets to the Internet – an impossible task according to some journalists. To me, this says that anything is possible if you are willing to make it happen. Maybe all you really need is an idea and a dream after all.

Out With the Old, In With the New

The old-model of journalism and its supporters are starting to look a lot like Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” But, the ‘sky’ is not falling, it is transforming.

In the United States, there is one thing that is certain in the world of journalism – there will be fewer professional journalists working in fewer outlets with fewer resources for reporting. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism 2010 State of the News Media report: “We estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent. That leaves an estimated $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves we predict more cuts in 2010.”

Although newspapers are hurting the worst, there is no good news from any types of news outlet. Both revenue and viewership are way down. The Pew State of the Media Report revealed some interesting, yet scary, statistics. Local television ad revenue fell 24 percent in 2009, radio was down 18 percent, magazine ad pages dropped 19 percent, and network television down 7 percent. Unfortunately, things may only get worse.

It is no secret that journalists are getting hit hard. According to a report by UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., there was a 22 percent increase in the journalism jobs lost from September 2008 through August 2009, compared with a general job loss rate of 8 percent.

So, what does a journalist do in the face of catastrophe? It’s simple – start looking outside the box.

Recently, there have been many groups experimenting with ways to organize and support journalists. Some of these experiments include grant-funded news operations such as Pro Publica, citizen journalism collaborations with professional newsrooms, and other various web projects.

In the rapidly changing world of online media development and technology, journalism is perfectly positioned to use such tools to their advantage. By embracing technology, journalism can stop dwelling on the past and build a newer, more sustainable model for connecting with audiences. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

In an interview with the Pew Project For Excellence In Journalism, Larry Jinks, former editor and publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, gives aspiring journalists some hope – “I think the answer may come from places staffed by young people who understand the new technology and its potential and who have a passion for journalism.”

As a young aspiring journalist, I’ll take Larry’s word for it.

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