Friday, September 24, 2010

Reading for the weekend

(via Flickr: jj_pappas423)
For your mind's enjoyment this weekend:

"AOL, Journalism Schools Team Up to Offer Students Credit for Patch Work" (USAToday): I thought we had turned the corner in the debate over whether interns should be paid. But now, come to find out, a handful of journalism schools has signed on with Patch, the hyperlocal news initiative owned by AOL that is setting up shop in towns and cities across the country. And these worker bees will be working for college credit, it seems, not pay. Which kind of flies in the face of AOL's big brag that it's going to be the "largest net hirer of journalists in the world" -- when the common definition of hire assumes that pay is involved.

"The Second Great Migration to New Media" (Salon): Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University and new-media thinker, puts together an interesting piece linking the recent moves to online organizations by some well-regarded print journalists. His conclusion: They no longer want to be antiseptic in their reporting, but to add some voice. (Coincidentally, that also turned out to be the reason cited this week by a new-media hire, poached by Yahoo, in returning to his old employer, Gawker.)

Video interlude No. 1: If you've never seen Steven Johnson draw and narrate a graphic: enjoy! You also can watch his talk at TED on "Where Good Ideas Come From" here.

"You Are What You Tweet: Balancing Journalism with Social Media" (Journalism 2.0): I haven't yet gotten through the whole Ustream presentation contained here of the panel discussion in Seattle organized by the Online News Association. But its topic is related to the issue raised in Salon by Dan Gillmor: If journalists are being encouraged to engage readers on social media, how personal vs. professional should they (and can they) be.

Bonus music video.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feel better? Great Recession has ended

Way back when, in a more innocent time, "The Dating Game" was one of the oh-so-nearly-risqué game shows produced for network television by Chuck Barris.

And every time I hear mention of the National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee, I think of the show, because of the clever "Dating Game" treatment Fortune magazine gave the group -- complete with iconic daisy graphics -- in a 2001 story explaining its complex work.

So the show's peppy theme song came to mind this week when the news broke that the committee finally had put an end date on the Great Recession: June 2009.

Yes, it took the panel more than a year to assess when the economy began to rebound, just as it took until late 2008 for the group to set the start of the recession at December 2007. Why the lag? A Q&A explains. (And if you really want to make your eyes bleed, click on the Excel spreadsheet on the committee's main page to read all the numeric details.)

But that doesn't mean we're back to boom times.

Coincidentally on the same day the Great Recession was put to bed, the New York Times ran another story in its excellent series "The New Poor," through which it has been detailing the downturn's personal toll. Remember that among the country's 14.9 million unemployed are more than 6.2 million who have been out of work longer than six months. And at the current average of just 82,000 new jobs created monthly, it will take awhile to get all of them (us) back to work.

Yet things are beginning to feel different now than they did during the dark days of 2009: more listings on job boards, the promise of more holiday temp hiring, a decline in "mass" layoffs (50 workers or more).

And I was lucky this week in landing two preliminary job interviews, after what seemed like many months of near misses. (I couldn't even finagle a ticket into an invitation-only journalism job fair.) Fingers crossed, I might soon be able to put an end date on my own personal downturn.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Readings for the weekend

(via Flickr: jj_pappas423)
It's the weekend. Time to kick back for some good reads.

"Book Excerpt: Can Videogames Be Journalism?" (The Atlantic): I was a skeptic before, but now I'm thinking that maybe videogames do have a role in journalism's future. This piece on the soon-to-be-published Newsgames: Journalism at Play, written by a trio of academics involved in videogame research at the Georgia Institute of Technology, talks about the various forms games can take that make sense for journalism: infographic newsgames; documentary newsgames; puzzle newsgames. As the authors note, "it's worth remembering that games have been a part of the news for almost a century, since the first 'word-cross' puzzles appeared in the New York Sunday World in 1913." Perhaps I should go back to school, quick, to get a gamers' degree so I'll be ready.

"Good Journalism Will Thrive, Whatever the Format" (The Observer): Here's the argument that old platforms may die and be replaced by new ones, but journalism will go on forever. Despite Chicken Little cries that the sky is falling, "any intelligent discussion about the future needs to make the distinction between a particular format (print) and the function (journalism) that society needs to nurture. And it's the function that really matters."

Video interlude No. 1.

"After the Collapse: Rebuilding News in Denver" (Save the News): This is an uplifting, attaboy postscript to the loss of The Rocky Mountain News in early 2009 -- one of most wrenching modern-day closings of a metro daily newspaper. From its ashes, though, has come a new effort to keep investigative journalism alive, a nonprofit news collaborative funded by foundation grants. Here, executive director Laura Frank talks about the founding and reach of the I-News Network.

"Reinventing How to Cover a Press Conference" (LostRemote): Big press announcement planned, but the newsmaker hasn't organized a live feed of it? Be a fly on the wall and do it yourself, using various social and other tools available: laptop, webcam, Twitter, blog. And in a new-age twist, viewers (who grew in numbers as the event -- the "new" Twitter reveal -- went on) were able to submit questions that then could be posed at the presser.

And speaking of new Twitter:

"Twitter as Broadcast: What #newtwitter Might Mean for Networked Journalism" (Nieman Journalism Lab): I was just blown away by this almost-instant analysis of the new, revved-up Twitter and what it signifies: "The sameness of tweets’ structures, and the resulting leveling of narrative authority, has played a big part in Twitter’s evolution into the medium we know today: throngs of users, relatively unconcerned with presentation, relatively un-self-conscious, reporting and sharing and producing the buzzing, evolving resource we call 'news.' Freed of the need to present information 'journalistically,' they have instead presented it organically. Liberation by way of limitation." Wow.

Bonus video to introduce bonus reads offered in classic point-counterpoint fashion (or, in this day and age, Old Media vs. New Media):

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The recession, as captured by The Donald

The cast of "The Apprentice," Season 10.
(NBC photo)

Somehow I missed the casting call for unemployed professionals for the new season of "The Apprentice," which premiers tonight on NBC. Darn!

Lawyers, an engineer, an accountant, Realtors, master's program graduates -- no laid-off journalists, though -- the country's near-fall into a second Great Depression will be told through its effect on their lives. "About a year and a half ago, I was laid off," says one cast member, breaking down in a promo clip for the show. "Oh my God," says another, "what am I going to do now?" Adds a third, "I'm a victim of the economy, basically."

Yes, but "nothing is more American than a second chance," intones the announcer on the clip, informing us "The Apprentice" has changed its stripes this season, leaving behind the celebrity contenders of the past couple of years to return to the original formula: go-getters eager to prove themselves for the chance to work with The Donald.

Indeed, Trump himself seems excited about the format shift, telling Entertainment Weekly "It's as good as Season 1," which he maintains was "the biggest show on television." But playing off people's bad economic luck?

"Today, the economy -- you have a 17 percent unemployment, real unemployment of 17 percent," Trump says in the interview. "We almost went through Great Depression No. 2, and in a lot of cases, you could say we did go through it. So the world is a different place, and we want to show the current world as opposed to a fantasy."

The stakes are high for the show's 16 contenders, he says. "We have one young man who has five children and a wife and no job." (That's about as close to real as these cast members may get.)

But Trump has a big heart: Even as he's leveling his famous "You're fired!" in the boardroom, he's helping this season's contenders get their careers back on track. "We’re setting these people up with great executives at great companies, beyond 'The Apprentice.' That, we’ve never done before," he tells EW. " ... we’re hooking them up with great job opportunities, like at Phillips-Van Heusen and Macy’s and some of our great sponsors on the show."

Isn't that just grand?

"America goes back to work on 'The Apprentice'," TV Guide said in a headline. If only that were true for the 14.9 million others who currently are unemployed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What David Carr said

New York Times media columnist David Carr delivered the keynote yesterday at the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism, a half-day program presented at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. (agenda)

It was a bit of a rambling talk (beginning at about 57:00 above), but here are some sound bytes:

* On the technology available to backpack journalists: "I think there's more power in here," gesturing to his own backpack, "than there was in the whole newsrooms [of yore] ... Reporters get more and more powerful every single day."

* On discussions on the failed business model for news and its effect on the quality of journalism: "What people are missing is how much deeper and richer journalism on the fly has become." In future content analyses, "They're going to see the quality of journalism not going down but going up because it's got all this information [databases and other research] built into it."

* On the power of branding, illustrated by his turning to the new hyperlocal D.C. news site to find out about the standoff at Discovery Channel, rather than the Washington Post: "It's a freaky age that we live in, in that way, where brands can pop up and become really, really meaningful."

* On the tech-savvy of younger journalists: "Multi-tasking [is] baked into them"; for them, consuming and producing news "are not separate acts."

* On new media vs. mainstream media: "What's happened is the insurgency and the mainstream media are creeping toward each other, where some of the voicings of mainstream media are changing and some of the best practices of mainstream media are beginning to affect [new media], and ... you're going to end up with another hybrid form that will not necessarily be distinguishable in terms of what you're looking at."

* On the realization by content-hungry operations like Demand Media that quality, human-produced copy matters: "Algorithms won't get you everything. Algorithms will not make phone calls."

* On an uptick in ad revenue this year: "This toboggan ride to hell that we've been on [is] finally slowing down."

* On misinformation on the Web: "I look at the Web as a big self-cleaning oven where stuff will live for a day or two and then the high mind will take over."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In the nick of time: An end-of-weekend read

(via Flickr: jj_pappas423)
Some heavy-lift reading just as the weekend ends:

"Investigative Shortfall" (American Journalism Review): This long read on the state of investigative journalism is worth the time, but I've got to tell you that it left me lamenting the loss of talent and institutional memory in so many newsrooms. Yes, new enterprises devoted to investigations are exciting, but seems that too many experienced journalists have had to give up the profession as they were kicked to the curb.

"The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation" (Jay Rosen: Public Notebook): New York University professor Jay Rosen is one of journalism's present-day pundits, the one who taunted the media with the line "the people formerly known as the audience" to describe the shift in power away from MSM (mainstream media). This lecture to an incoming class of students at a journalism school in Paris continues the pattern: If the media no longer is mass, then a journalist is ... well, many things. You have to wade through his long, long history lesson before getting to his bulleted points of advice. I took solace with Nos. 7 and 8: that the new news landscape can accommodate professional journalists because they still can deliver information not widely available -- the stuff that recipients don't yet know they want and need.

"Laid off? What are you going to do about it?" (Adam Westbrook): Coming full circle on this "Now what?" theme is a short piece by Adam Westbrook in which he draws attention to a new study on the state of journalism in the U.K. -- where the estimate is that up to 40 percent fewer jobs in journalism exist today than in 2001. (Click on the link to the study that Westbrook provides to see some heart-wrenching comments by those deemed "redundant.") Be sure to read to the end of his short piece for his cynical kicker close.

Here's a video reward for your attentiveness.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day weekend reading

(via Flickr: jj_pappas423)
It's a three-day weekend, so there's more time for reading. Here, with a Labor Day theme, are some gems:

"Most 'Re-employed' Workers Say They're Overqualified for Their New Job" (Pew Research Center): The folks at Pew have come up with some interesting statistics in this national survey, conducted in May and released on Thursday:
  • A quarter of the U.S. labor force -- or 36 million of the 139 million currently employed -- faced unemployment at least once during the recession that began in December 2007.
  • A third of those cut loose from jobs during the recession received a pink slip more than once; 16 percent found themselves out of work three or more times.
  • Only 4 in 10 of those who found a new job say they're earning more now than in their former position; just 28 percent say their current benefits are better.
  • More than half of the newly re-employed say their household is worse off financially than before the recession; 35 percent say they've had to make "major changes" in lifestyle.
  • A quarter of the re-employed went from full-time jobs to part-time ones.
  • While out of work, 6 in 10 of the re-employed thought about switching fields; 4 in 10 considered relocating to an area where jobs seemed more plentiful.
The survey's release preceded by a day the government's report on the U.S. labor picture for August, which showed a slight uptick in the jobless rate, to 9.6 percent. The number of long-term unemployed (six months or more) declined in August, to 6.2 million from 6.5 million, or about 42 percent of the jobless, vs. almost 45 percent in July. The median time unemployed also dropped, to just under 20 weeks, from nearly 23 weeks in July. (Incidentally, the payroll category that includes print journalists -- so-called publishing/except Internet -- saw a slight gain in jobs: to 761,600 in August from 761,300 the month before.)

"Warning: Why Cheaper Money Won't Mean More Jobs" (Talking Points Memo): The political blog featured a post by Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's labor secretary, that throws cold water on the idea that getting money into the hands of consumers and small businesses will grease the wheels of the economy. Neither is in a position to borrow, no matter how cheap the money may be, Reich says. Only large companies would benefit if the Fed made money cheaper, and "they're already sitting on mountains of money." As a result, he says,

If Bernanke and company make it even cheaper to borrow, they'll be subsidizing a third corporate strategy for creating more profits but fewer jobs -- mergers and acquisitions.
And we all know that M&As usually seek economies of scale that endanger jobs.

Labor Day video interlude No. 1.

"What the Spot.Us Community Thinks of Objectivity" (MediaShift IdeaLab): There seems to be a lot of discussion of late as to whether reporters ought to routinely include a kind of confessional sidebar to the stories they write, to alert readers to viewpoints and experiences that might color their work. (Honestly, though, the talk isn't all that new.) Spot.Us, the website that allows reporters to pitch story ideas for funding, surveyed its "community" -- supporters and funders -- to see where they stood on objectivity in journalism.

Nearly 45 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that "objectivity is possible but difficult," but almost 28 percent said they believed "transparency is the new objectivity." Said one respondent about the latter, "... reporters ought to reveal their biases in each story as part of the narrative so as to partially disarm whatever criticism of bias they may receive. Doing so will provide a better service to the public and will create better journalism."

Be sure to read the smattering of comments from respondents at the end. They're pretty interesting.

"A Journalist Laughs at the Thought that his Layoff Anniversary Is Worth a Story, But..." (Poynter Online): Broadcaster Michael Goldfarb interviews himself about his layoff five years ago from public radio station WBUR in Boston and the slow rebuilding of his professional life as a freelance journalist and author. His conclusion: "I commit as much journalism today as I ever did" -- but he now earns 50 percent less doing it.

Labor Day video interlude No. 2.

"All the Men That's Fit to Print" (The NYTPicker): In case you missed it, a discussion of gender inequality in the obituary pages of the New York Times, by the internal blog that keeps a critical eye on the paper. Interestingly, a Google search turned up a posting to an online version of a Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying (2003) article, "Gender Discrimination after Death," by Robin D. Moremen, that cites numerous academic studies, dating from 1977, that looked at newspaper obituary pages to determine whether men received "greater public recognition after death than women." The answer, not surprisingly, was yes: more obituaries, longer obituaries and obituaries usually accompanied by a photograph.