We are re-directing newsroom staff and resources to our highest priority journalism in print and on the Web. In form, our priorities include original reporting, scoops, analysis, investigations and criticism. In content, they include politics, government accountability, economic policy and what our readers need to know about the world — plus local government, schools, transportation, public safety, development, immigrant communities, health care, sports, arts and entertainment.
That’s Len Downie, executive editor of The Washington Post. E&P has the memo.
Many journalists may wring their hands and fret about this. But it’s smart. A strategic — not merely reactionary — reorganization of resources would surely help most newspapers. Much of that reorganization absolutely must be targeted at the media people are actually using today — NOT the printed newspaper.
Look at this — it’s brilliant, and desperately overdue:
We will make more progress in presenting our coverage more effectively in news sections. We will take a new approach to story length, which remains an important challenge, despite the progress already made in some parts of the paper. We will soon publish story length guidelines for the staff, along with ways to adhere to them. Our goal is for the newspaper to be filled with stories of different sizes and forms — and to provide both reporters and editors the tools to better edit for length. Our philosophy will be that every story must earn its length, so readers will want to read and finish more stories.
That made me want to jump out of my chair and applaud. Len is no dummy. Far from it.
Sometime last night, this blog experienced visit No. 20,000, according to Site Meter. Thanks to all the readers old and new.
I started this blog on Dec. 20, 2005. I put the Site Meter counter on this blog on April 03, 2006. At that time, I was very happy anytime I got more than 50 visitors in one day. Lately the number of daily visitors is about 200.
I mention this not to brag, of course — there are blogs out there with 10,000 visitors a day! — but rather to encourage those, like my students, who have a new and toddling little blog. It can be disheartening to see how few people come to your site, but building an audience takes time.
In Dave Sifry’s State of the Blogosphere report for October 2006, Sifry explained how blogs gain authority over time. It’s valuable food for thought for anyone who wants to start a blog, or who has started one and is wondering whether to keep going.
First, Technorati measures a blog’s authority by how many other blogs link to it (which splogs, or spam blogs, worked hard to exploit, but Technorati’s programmers are fighting that battle pretty effectively now). This is sort like Google’s PageRank system.
The chart above shows four clusters of authority, from lowest to highest, in the Technorati system. One interesting point is that blogs with greater authority have been online longer (the yellow column) — however, the length of time online is very similar for the two lowest groupings. We’re talking 228-260 days, or roughly eight months, for the two lower clusters.
So if your blog is younger than eight months, don’t expect it to have much authority yet!
Blogs in the second cluster have an average age of 455 days, and blogs in the cluster with the highest authority average 530 days in age.
The other very interesting finding: Blogs with higher authority tend to have a higher frequency of posting. That is, blogs in the highest authority cluster having an average of close to two posts per day, or 53 per month. The second group: Half that often. Posting frequency declines to 18 per month in the third group and 12 per month in the fourth.
What this says about blogs that attract more attention is that such blogs are: (a) well-established; that is, have existed for more than one year; and (b) are updated often with new posts — more than once a day, on average.
Well, I feel uneasy about this package. Like most folks who love multimedia journalism, I consider Joe Weiss an inspiration. I’m a big fan of his work — including the U.S. Open golf course graphic he designed for The News & Observer in 2005. It was so good, it won a rare Gold Award in the SNDies Multimedia Competition. It’s one of those packages — I remember the first time I saw it. I thought: “Wowie! Joe’s back! And how!”
The production and the video in the AJC package are very good. Some of their panoramas could be stitched better, but so it goes. The Flash functionality is excellent.
Look for yourself, and see how you feel about the newer package after you compare it with Joe’s. Maybe I’m just over-sensitive or something.
Given the big discussion going on here (since Nov. 13), it seems these questions need to be explored:
Should print reporters shoot video?
Can journalists accept the low video quality produced by ultra-cheap ($129) video cameras?
Should the video be edited, or posted “raw”?
Does the popularity of YouTube video (most of it very low quality) indicate that the content is more important than the poor image and sound quality?
Does the popularity of YouTube video indicate anything at all about journalistic online video?
What should be the content of reporter-shot video? E.g., is a talking head okay?
Is doing it, and doing lots of it, more important right now? That is, will we learn more about what works best if we produce a large quantity of video (vs. tinkering away to make it sound and look better)?
The students know there will be a quiz on what they viewed, so they are pretty good about looking hard at the examples.
Then in class (after the quiz), we discuss what they think about the packages — especially in terms of comparisons. What we’re trying to discover is — what works well? What doesn’t work? What makes a good story?
I do not claim that these examples are the best or the worst. I do claim that if you pick three and examine them, you will see three different ways to handle a story.
Teamwork makes journalism happen — this is doubly, triply true for online journalism. In the 24-7 world of continual updates, you don’t just pass stories on down the chain until they land on the press as ink applied to paper, or go to air.
Journalists with different skill sets must work together to produce great online journalism. Sure, there are some people who can do it all. But even those who can usually don’t. Even Kevin Sites had two experienced producers behind him while he hopped from one Hot Zone to another.
One person to do the word reporting (writing and audio).
One to do visual reporting (photos and video).
One to do design, infographics and programming — not only presentation, mind you, but also the graphic reporting.
It’s not exactly clear who would do the audio and video editing if there really were only three people. Maybe the audio gatherer would edit the audio, and the video shooter would edit the video.
At the Newsplex in South Carolina, they advocate training for four key newsroom roles:
The news-flow editor determines platforms on which stories will appear and coordinates the work.
The storybuilder works across media platforms on a story and envisions which assets will be needed to complete the story.
The multiskilled journalist produces video, photographs, audio and/or written copy; functions as a backpack journalist.
The news resourcer is an information specialist who participates in storybuilding and searches out material to be used in stories, as well as external resources to be linked.
The news resourcer position seems like a good idea, if the news operation is big enough to support it. It’s cool if this person can do graphics research — always necessary for bigger packages.
The plan for a mojo (mobile journalist) to be responsible for all reporting in all media has met with some criticism. I also think this scheme doesn’t do justice to the importance of information design and information graphics in online media.
The key here is recognizing that one person alone is not going to start the story — or finish it. To get from the reporting to the Web site calls for at least two people in probably 90 percent of cases where the story is anything beyond plain text. That story will be better and stronger if two or more journalists make sure the story gets to reach its digital, online, multimedia potential.
And somebody in the mix has got to understand design!
Howard Owens suggests that you buy every reporter a 6-megapixel compact digital camera that can also record video and save yourself a heap o’ money on multimedia training. Says he is “not a big fan of audio slide shows” — he would rather watch video. (He likes the Lumix DMC-FX01W; I would recommend the Canon PowerShot SD700.)