June 25, 2009

Is any sabbatical ever long enough? Can we overstudy this journalism thing?

How long do you think I can stretch a buyout-funded sabbatical?

At times, I am sure that I am back in high school, overwhelmed by the possibilities of the real world and ashamed of the he said/she said blame games that can fill hours. (Or is that Facebook?)

Another journalist admits defeat while publishers in New York make their case for paid content. The founders of Journalism Online predict 10 percent of all web readers will pay for news. Can 10 percent be enough?

At times, I'm in college, pleased that I've found professors who inspire, encourage and demand the best. I've found those who left newsrooms and survived and people who still carry the optimism of power to the people.

Seeing more clearly

The Newsosaur tells American Journalism Review that ViewPass, which aims to increase revenue via an advertising solution, could be as common as Visa one day. It's a vision worth exploring while over on his own blog, folks jump in on why the Gannett blog failed and why it is or is not an example of why citizen journalism will fail.

A Knight Foundation-funded venture, Printcasting, takes on its first media partner and says it ready to expand just one week after another set of projects gets Knight funding.

  1. printcasting
    printcasting And best of all, we're doing final testing of ad payment and revshare, so you can make $ from your content & magazines. Stay tuned.
  2. Dan Pacheco
    pachecod After this week we'll be able to target @printcasting to ANY city in the U.S. We seek local marketing partners who also share our passion.
-- this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

I had to drop (beta-testing) Printcasting, just as it was getting interesting. Still, its success feels like I earned an A.

A computer in my pocket

Schools require computers these days. We have seven in the house of four at the moment.

I depend on what the Apple bar geniuses call an antique, a first-generation iPhone. Email, texting, web access, and even the ability to make a phone call keep (kept?) me in touch on the road, at the hospital, in home and, did I mention, the road?

I get Ray Richmond, an entertainment writer since 1984, most recently for Hollywood Reporter, and why he says a 99-cent iPhone application killed print.
"I can actually gauge the precise moment when I knew it was all over for print journalism, when all the speculation and escalating dread crystallized into an inescapable, wrenching reality."

Read his post to learn which application eliminated his need for paid print descriptions and why he now says this:

"The pined-for print rebound that journalistic professionals and purists continue to screech about ain't going to be coming around the bend anytime soon. Not in this economy. Not with the cost of paper and distribution. Not when everyone is increasingly accustomed to free information the same way Young America sees free music not as a systemic flaw but a birthright. Not when you can get whatever you want, whenever you want, for 99 cents."

Right tool+right content=future

Sometimes, I feel like I'm living the nightmare explored in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. This is not new, right?

The Hollywood Reporter reports that the argument that the right tools and right content will attract paying customers came up at the PricewaterhouseCoopers event for the "Media and Entertainment Outlook 2009-2013" report.

Google's lust for newspaper's blood gets highlighted in many reports on the event as well as the Dow Jones' work on a product to foster the sale of digital sales for its own offerings and other parties.

For Steven Brill, it is no longer a question of "'whether' but 'how.'" At least that's the quote in Editor and Publisher's report on Brill's Journalism Online.

The publisher's Swiss Army knife

The trade magazine says Journalism Online will offer tools that allow:
  • micropayments,
  • sampling,
  • turning off the system at will,
  • converting users from micropayments to a subscription model,
  • bundling print and online subscriptions,
  • commissions for referrals to other content
  • the ability to return a micropayment,
  • access to all entry points whether the content is read online, on a smart phone or a digital reader, and
  • one account with one password for multiple places.
You can follow how the business is developing with its online collection of news articles. No class fee, yet.

Make advertising work

Allan Mutter of Reflections of a Newosaur shares more on how OneView works, a discussion started in Chicago, on a targeted advertising venture.

I fell behind on that Chicago meeting, where OneView came up as publishers and others met in a not-so-secret meeting. Cliff Notes of the must-read list are provoided by the Neiman Journalism Lab.

Did college kill our newspapers?

David Sullivan, who once worked at The Flint Journal and now at a Philadelphia newspaper, goes all out to prove the title of his blog, "That's the Press, Baby." in a series of posts that takes us through the changes of journalists and the contrasting definitions of "the little guy" as attempts to explain the downfall of newspapers.

It was Mario (Garcia) looks at the world that got Sullivan started proving newspapers lost by trading crusaders for missionaries.

The three-post series explains why and when ads and political party designations such as Republican dropped off front pages. The series is faster then any college survey class of journalism through the years. I kept nodding my head and it wasn't for a lack of sleep.

Too big for our britches?

My first newspaper job was writing about my neighbors on my street for my newspaper. Even as a fourth grader, I knew that folks would pay for quality content. I wanted the right to ask what was new.

In Sullivan's Missionary Position, there's a jab at the disappearing neighborhood news because what college graduate sees that as something to cover when bigger stories await.

I'd add that equally bad is the idea that it is OK to convert the news of the people to ads. Charging people to share information about weddings, engagements, and graduations only blurs the lines of what is news and what is not.

Choosing to be small

The rockiness of a year as top editor of the (Michigan) State News - think walkouts, a presidential election, budgets woes, my first readership sudy and change - made getting my first job after graduation easy. Enough of administrating - I wanted back in the newsroom, talking to people and uncovering their news, taking pictures. Big city options were available. I chose a struggling weekly in search of a "professionally trained journalist."

It was here that I first thought about formula writing, a fill-in-the-blanks form for engagements, weddings and other everyday stories that fill pages of a weekly. It was here, though, that I learned how asking the right question reveals stories neither the subject or reporter expect to uncover.

Us vs them

In The Missionary's Dilemma. Sullivan explains the conflict of what people want and what journalists want to do. Journalists
"had a heroic vision of journalism, particularly of newspapers and their role -- not just as the tribune of the people, but as helping guide people, and the nation, to a better place. The truth shall set us all free, and we are trained to see the truth."
But, the folks who came to be known as audience did not, do not see journalists as knights in shining armor or professional gentlemen to be trusted.
"Newspapermen were still seen in the popular mind as layabouts, oddballs, idlers, drunks, malcontents who couldn't quite fit into society."
Journalists try on branding campaign

That's why the rush to professionalism started, Sullivan says.
"Through ethics codes, training, awards, journalism would make clearer than ever before what it stood for."
So out with the bottles of Scotch in the desk drawers and screaming headlines best reserved for tabloids. Bring in the rule books that demand how to clearly separate the ads from articles and issue a memo on what groups a journalist can join.

Sucking you in

The attraction of working with other professional journalists, the promise of a bigger budget and time to investigate got me out of the weekly and into daily newspaper in my town.

A plan to stay one year, five at the most, dissolved one promotion, one special project at a time.

Kicking you out

Nearly 30 years later, an unbelievable buyout yanked me out of the safety of news nest.

It was a scary move, but the right move. The buyout rescued me from living in the midst of dismantling daily newspapers into three times a week products. (What AP contest category will reporters compete in now?)

A year with time to chase the non-news experts about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Drupal and more reveals only how much more there is to learn.

Being outside the audience of journalists reveals more distinctly that the competitor for each newspaper is not another newspaper, not the TV station or even radio. It's the Mp3s, the late-night TV host, the Mafia wars, and the 25 Things You Don't Know About Me that steal time once used to study a paper filled with news.

I'm in search of a new hat. I need more time on the sabbatical.


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