Above is a screen capture from Journalism Daily on Dec. 13, 2007. This list changes every day. The site uses an algorithm called Social Rank to calculate “the hottest stories and bloggers every day” in a variety of categories (which are listed at the Social Rank site). It’s not equivalent to what Paul was doing, which was adding up RSS feed subscriptions for the various blogs.
Another way to survey the top journalism blogs is via Technorati’s authority rankings. You’ll see more than 5,000 blogs in the list, with a top authority score of about 3,500. The sort doesn’t always work perfectly, so if it seems kind of random when you try it, bookmark it and go back another day. Many of these blogs might not qualify as journalism blogs in your mind (many don’t in mine).
Lastly, I tried looking up some numbers for popular blogs about journalism in Alexa, which delivers traffic rankings “based on the usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users over a rolling 3 month period” ( “a combined measure of reach and pageviews”). But that was not very useful:
Jay Rosen’s PressThink: Can’t break it out from parent site nyu.edu
MediaShift: Can’t break it out from parent site PBS.org
Romenesko: Can’t break it out from parent site Poynter.org
It just goes to show that measuring Web site traffic is still a fuzzy process. I think Paul’s method of totaling RSS subscribers for each blog is a pretty fair way to compare blogs to blogs, but it won’t necessarily work well for other kinds of content.
I sense that there is an unspoken philosophy at the Times that guides and informs everything. It’s an old idea (Jefferson, DeToqueville) that a democracy — which I would suggest we barely have now — can only run with at least semi-informed citizens. Without information a citizen can’t make intelligent choices or vote in any kind of rational way.
*swoon* Byrne wrote that. Journalism: Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Haggling over the front page might seem anachronistic; soon readers might be customizing their own front pages or an algorithm might do it for them. I would argue that, as in a lot of fields (like music), a filter is more valuable than sheer information. In fact, a filter is information, in the strict sense. And a front page — whether material or virtual — is a filter that tells us what news the paper has decided we should be aware of at a glance.
Some interesting numbers from a survey conducted in June/July 2007 in Britain and Ireland by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), reported at Journalism.co.uk last week:
63 per cent of respondents were not working increased hours and nearly three quarters of journalist[s] were working the same shift patterns as before.
Of those working longer hours, under half (46 per cent) were being compensated with extra money or time off in lieu.
The full report from NUJ is online. Chapter 6: The Future provides a general overview with nothing you haven’t heard before — mobile, personalization, widgets, and the only business model we know is advertising. Other chapters, however, give us a peek inside British newsrooms, which is quite interesting. The union provides recommendations at the end of most of the chapters.
Detailed interviews were held at 15 workplaces. Interviews were conducted variously with union representatives, with senior staff responsible for new media and/or with editorial managers. (Source)
A questionnaire was sent out as well, but I couldn’t find numbers for how many were distributed and how many were returned.
Idsvoog wrote about curriculum and a luscious new journalism building at Kent State, stuffed to the gills with technology and tools — but it’s this anecdote that sent me to my keyboard:
At a recent planning meeting, one of our brighter and more talented students listed a few potential stories, then asked the student from the school newspaper what she would put on the front page. He then posed the same question to the student representative from the TV station; how would she lead her newscast? He was demonstrating the ways in which newspapers and broadcast media approach the telling of news differently. But nobody raised any questions about how to cover these stories for a multimedia Web site. Each saw coverage only from inside of his or her own silo.
Reading this felt like déjà vu from almost every meeting I have attended where “convergence” or “cross-platform journalism” was the topic of dicusssion. The TV and radio news people talk about putting their existing content on a Web site and teaching the kids to write “briefs” for the Web. The print people talk about writing and linking. The online people (always outnumbered, always out-gunned) try to talk about reporting in new ways — but no one ever seems to hear what we are saying.
If the journalism schools could break out of this trap and “think different,” we could provide a great service to this field we all love. Idsvoog wrote:
Amid the downsizing of newsrooms now going on, even veteran journalists are finding it essential to learn new skills. And some are returning to school to do so. Kent State’s graduate coordinator, Von Whitmore, recognizes that “graduate programs will have to adapt to this new demand by developing alternative ways for working professionals to take classes [that] must teach students about multiple platform content from the very first course in the curriculum.”
The first requirement is that the faculty in the graduate program must change the curriculum to address the changes in the field. I would strongly caution anyone who is applying to grad school for journalism to take a super-close look at the graduate curriculum at the selected school(s) — and also take a close look at the faculty bios. Do they match? It seems to me that some schools are offering a shiny new curriculum without clearly showing who will be doing the teaching.
My own department approved a new professional master’s program in journalism, contingent on hiring one new faculty member with suitable professional experience. Then a hiring freeze went into effect, so the whole process screeched to a halt. We recognize that we can’t move ahead without adding that person. We are on stand-by, indefinitely.
“It’s the trifecta of money, time and personnel,” says Whitmore. “[But] foundation money for journalism programs is shrinking while federal and state support for higher education has all but vanished.”
Without universities willing to bring in faculty members with the skills and experience necessary to prepare students to meet the rapidly changing demands by getting rid of some academic barriers — such as requiring faculty members to have a PhD — journalism schools will remain on the precipice of becoming irrelevant to the profession.
Idsvoog has identified an important part of why j-schools are not keeping up with the times — there’s no money, little time to retrain, and a shortage of people skilled in the new ways of journalism.
I think Idsvoog goes astray, however, when he criticizes university job ads that say “Ph.D. required.”
A university is not a trade school, and the role of the university in society is not what many people assume it to be — teaching skills. Newspapers in many European countries offer their own master’s degree — a one-year skills-oriented program that is sometimes conducted in classrooms in the same building as the newsroom. In some European countries, the state-sponsored journalism school is, in fact, a trade school — so much so that journalists with a degree from such a school cannot be admitted to a U.S. master’s program, because the degree is not deemed equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
Idsvoog thinks it is possible to change the system from within. I certainly agree with him that journalism education is vitally important. I’d like to see it remain in the university. But you can’t turn a university department into a trade school. Not in today’s academic world, especially.
Back to blowing up the silos — in another essay in the same issue of Nieman Reports, the dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill noted:
… core skills taught in broadcast and print sequences are not replaced by visual communication alone. Students still need to learn to develop quality story packages for television and to study writing, reporting and editing. They need specialized information to master areas such as business journalism.
At the same time, she adds:
… we are thinking about what happens if we require students to take additional credits as part of their study at this school (we now require 28 credits): Would such a requirement shortchange their liberal arts education — a vital part of the education journalists need? Would this curtail their opportunity to take business courses, which are increasingly important for journalists?
We have to beware of overly simple answers. Changes are necessary in most j-schools today — fundamental changes in what we teach and how we teach it. But all these baby steps — and renaming courses but keeping essentially the same content in them — will not tear down the silos separating broadcast from print and marginalizing online.
Until we do that, most of this is merely talk, pasting new labels on old courses, and keeping heads firmly buried in the sand.
I’m late in posting about The New York Times’s excellent multimedia package about wrongful convictions, so a lot of you have probably already admired it. Let’s consider a few key points about it:
Made with Flash by one of the more adept Flash journalists, Tom Jackson. Not a guy who learned Flash last month. In fact, he learned it at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a grad student.
Reporting began with a list (of 206 exonerated prisoners) from The Innocence Project. A newspaper can jump-start a large project by building on the work of an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The package is driven by stories. Individual, life-changing stories of men who served years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
The package is not driven by video — or by any images. Audio is the star here. SHORT audio clips, with emotional (not fact-laden) content.
The package really, truly encourages browsing by the person looking at it. Be sure to check out the drop-down menu at the top (Choose a Category for Comparison).
The Methodology/Credits screen concisely explains the reporting behind the package. This kind of transparency does a lot toward building credibility with the public.
All the names, dates, facts and audio are generated out of a database. This means the Flash developer does not sit there pasting text into boxes, but rather, he programs one box to accept structured text data, to replicate into as many boxes as needed, and then focuses his effort on the design and functionality of the package. Reporters and researchers fill in the text.
There’s a lot to think about here, in terms of how we approach a big journalism project, how we choose to tell stories, and not burying the reader/viewer in tons and tons of stuff.
Nit to pick: I really, really wish I could pause or mute the audio. If there’s a way to do it, I haven’t found it!
After a reasonably short, arresting intro video, the package proper opens with a sliding aerial photo of the entire length of the 35W bridge after its collapse into the Mississippi River. Each vehicle in the photo is identified with a number inside a circle (black ones mean there was a death). Click the number and, in most cases, you’ll see a video of the person or people who were in that vehicle. Even when there is no video, there is a brief text story.
You can easily scroll the bridge photo to view all of it.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Strib is rearranging things on their Web servers, and the link inviting people to share their (additional) stories is broken. There are also a couple of broken links on the credits page, which weirdly opens in a new window.
Local readers are quite impressed by the package and have been posting compliments on a blog set up for feedback. That’s a very nice add-on, working well. (I don’t mind that the comments blog opens in a new window. To me, that seems logical, whereas separating package credits from package does not.) It also serves as a fine counter-argument to all the critics who say readers post too much trash-talk when comments are allowed.