March 10, 2008

Don't listen, just review?

Ouch! An apology is out there. But I wonder how many times people review without listening first

It seems more possible every time I read the same phrase in a review at multiple locations.

In this day of the Internet, why would you risk doing that?

March 9, 2008

Forget soup! Get me some fries in my newspaper!

Ready to use food again to look at what's wrong in today's news world?

The nerdy guy from Kansas (now in Washington DC) fondly remembers a restaurant "back "home" that always sneaks a bit of broccoli on the plate with your order of steak and fries.

Rob Curley suggests newspapers think like that chef, willing to put a good-size portion of potatoes, a hunk of red meat and small bunches of broccoli on the same plate:

... "it seems to me that the problem with a lot of newspaper editors is they’d much rather feed you broccoli for every meal, without the steak and potatoes.

And when they do try to serve up something a little more palatable, it sure tastes a lot like broccoli. It’s like they’re trying to impress the other chefs instead of trying to please the folks in the restaurant who actually pay their salaries."

Curley reminds us this fits right in with his familiar theme that news organizations need to "produce both “Big-J” and “little-j” journalism."

Think election guides and high school proms; restaurant inspections and wedding announcements; how government spends your money and Little League scores.

For me, this past year it would be overseeing Google maps of demolished houses and blogging LaKisha Jones travels on American Idol or creating a place for 24/7 online updates and adding photos to open houses.

Curley says there's room for both types of journalism.

Another journalist isn't sure how you get people doing the little-j work forever.

Will Bunch asks in his Nieman Report "Will journalists ‘cover local news for life, with no chance of parole?’".

Bunch, who also has been reading a lot and out at conferences, has heard the battle cry that suggests leaving the big stories to a few products while the rest specialize in he here,

"With the Internet in play, a small group of players — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC — will dominate the big stories on the world stage and in our nation’s capital.

"For the rest of us, journalism will die if it does not become more local, or even something called “hyperlocal.”

Bunch says he can see why that might happen, but most journalists don't want to cover the small-town meetings forever.

"On an emotional level, I’m going on 49 years old, and I have a lot of friends around my age who have survived the surge in newsroom layoffs and are still working in an ink-stained newsroom somewhere.

"Not one of us wanted to be covering local news at our age (or, for that matter, at any age.) But we’ve been there, done that.

"To be brutally honest: For an ambitious journalist, the only way to get through a four-hour suburban school board meeting—even at age 22—is to keep repeating the mantra “this, too, shall pass.” In other words, treat this day’s assignment as just a boring but necessary pit stop on the road to Moscow or Beirut.

But I disagree. I think there are some who are happy to spend years covering the Kiwanis, Lions and Main Street business openings and closings.

I think we can have different goals, ambitions as journalists - and we can have different goals at different times.

Some of us are willing to work long hours - paid and unpaid - to dig deep into something we think is wrong.

Some of us only want to work 9-5 and go home without bringing work home. Some of us only want to work part time

Plus consider how we may want to change the pace of our careers to match what else is happening in our lives. Can we dial down the Type A personality when family calls and be allowed to ratchet it back up when the kids are off to first grade without harming our long-term chances of success.

The challenge for news organizations is recognizing and then matching the skills and interests of staff with the needs of the newspapers.

Supervisors may interpret interest in covering a community that way as a lack of ambition. They want every staff member able to write every type of journalism, regardless of desire or talent.

It's a challenge to manage. It's a challenge to figure out how to pay fairly.

Listen to Bunch:
"I’d say that for the local journalism movement to succeed within the existing newsroom, there’s going to need to be a very different system of the dreams of Beltway punditry or a glamorous foreign beat.

"In fact, the rewards of the more pointed kind of journalism that blogging allows—the ability to develop a voice and a personality and to connect daily with readers—are considerable.

"Another route: convince the Pulitzer Prize committee to double the categories for local journalism."

So, how do I convince Bunch not everyone needs a blog or Pulitzer Prize to know they succeeded.

How do you persuade leaders of news organizations that the flexibility to manage staff members of varying skill levels and ambitions is the same flexibility needed to allow community members the freedom to comment on every story and blog post, to add items to the community calendar without censorship and to publish their unedited announcements.

It's the flexibility needed to get the Big J and little j journalism back in the news organization.