Friday, October 8, 2010

Use your weekend well: read!

(via Flickr: jj_pappas423)
It's going to be a long weekend for some as they enjoy the Columbus Day holiday on Monday, so there will be plenty of time to get into these:

"Citizen Journalists? Spreading Like a Cold" (Miami Herald): At the risk of being impolitic -- or a dinosaur -- I got a chuckle out of this column by Leonard Pitts Jr. Written ostensibly to criticize the latest "sting" shenanigans of James O'Keefe III, he of pimp, prostitute and ACORN scandal fame, it just went off on the idea that anyone with access to the Web should be considered a journalist:

If some guy had a wrench, would that make him a citizen mechanic? If some woman flashed a toy badge, would you call her a citizen police officer? Would you trust your health to a citizen doctor just because he produced a syringe? Of course not. But every Tom, Dick and Harriet with a blog is a "citizen journalist."
The column earned a slap on Twitter from media critic Jay Rosen ("Just got off the phone with the museum of curmudgeon studies. They won't take this, even as a donation"), and grimaces from others over this analogy:  "...citizen journalism is to journalism as pornography is to a Martin Scorsese film: while they may employ similar tools -- i.e., camera, lighting -- they aspire to different results."

"Reform the Media? How 2009." (Xark): Dan Conover says it's easy to look at an analysis of what went wrong when Sam Zell took over Tribune Co. and put the blame on money-grubbing egomaniacs. But, he posits, "The truth of the matter is that the biggest obstacles to meaningful reform include many of the most well-meaning 'good-guys' in the New Media game."

So Conover, a newspaper veteran, outlines what he sees as the "simple truths" of today's media landscape before concluding: "It's time to stop talking about saving the news media, reforming the news media, or even politely waiting for these old companies to die a dignified death." Instead, it's time to blow them up.

Musical interlude No. 1.

Here's a three-fer on local news startups:

  1. "New Voices: What Works" (J-Lab): Jan Schaffer, who runs J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., reports on five years' worth of lessons learned from the four dozen community news projects launched since 2005 with financial help from a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant administered by her group. Her list of "takeaways" includes several interesting points: that citizen journalists are a high-churn way to get content; that the sites aren't replacing local coverage lost as legacy media have contracted; that the projects haven't yet grown into self-sustaining businesses.
  2. "Community News Sites Are Not a Business Yet" (Reflections of a Newsosaur): Alan Mutter picks up on that last "takeaway" in a post on his blog that praises Schaffer for the research in her New Voices report but laments that none of the sites has found the "magic bullet for saving journalism." On the plus side, some of the sites have survived longer than the typical new small businesses, Mutter says.
  3. "Local Startups Seek 'Future of Journalism'" (NetNewsCheck): One weakness of local news startups, mentioned before by Mutter and picked up here, is that while laid-off journalists may have the essential news-gathering skills to launch local sites, they often lack the business savvy needed to sustain them. Or, as one former journalist who now studies startups noted, the journalist-turned-publisher is "pathologically unable to talk about money."
Musical interlude No. 2: I often tune out the pre-flight safety rundown offered by the airlines (especially if I'm on multiple takeoffs and landings in the same day), but I'm sure I would have paid attention to these.

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