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« Online veteran describes next newsroom key points | Main | Building the Next Newsroom -- the conversation begins »

July 29, 2007


Anne Stadler

1. What is journalism? Journalism is storytelling that serves the well-being of ALL (healthy journalists serving healthy communities).
2. The function of journalism in a community is to be the learning engine of the community--therefore, the NewsRoom itself must be a fractal of the community: a learning community, as it fulfills its learning function for the whole community.
3. Gaining the support of the community: if the NewRoom provides value as the whole community's learning engine, support will be there. If not, no amount of investment will overcome the perceived lack of relevance and value.

Steve Yelvington

(Crossposted from Facebook)

Bill, I'd love to attend the DC conference, but we're under a nonessential travel ban here, as a result of the economic shortfalls that all newspaper companies are suffering.

I really enjoyed the Memphis conference, even though I had to duck out early.

At any rate, here are some thoughts:

1) How does a community support journalism at a time when traditional newspaper-generated revenue is drying up?

I'm less concerned about journalism at the community level right now than I am about journalism at the national/global level.

AP's in trouble. Its members are either cutting back on AP services or seriously contemplating doing so, as they refocus their newspapers on local journalism.

CNN has gone straight to journalism hell, handing over its airwaves to people like Lou "Buy My Book About the Mexican Peril" Dobbs and Glen "Liberals are Like Hitler" Beck. I have at least five alleged 24-hour news channels on my cable system, yet I have trouble finding any actual news on any of them at any given moment.

NBC seems to be specializing in infotainment about sex perverts. CBS is a wounded duck.

The Internet has made everything just one click away, so we all have equal access to the Economist, NYT, the Guardian, and other resources. But the roster of newsgathering organizations that have the resources and a commitment to quality coverage of global events is rapidly shrinking.

Enough about the global problems.

At the local level, I'm actually optimistic, even though Wal-Mart and other forces are decimating the ranks of local advertisers who support local news. I think there's going to be a blooming of Internet-based locally focused operations that meld news and community conversation effectively.

2) How does journalism survive when digital devices have made centralized printing presses and TV stations all but obsolete?

I think the important thing to recognize is that printing and broadcasting are the "how" and not the "what."

See my blog item from earlier this year:


I don't suggest that the role of the professional newsgatherer is obsolete, but it's not the only way to get some of that work done.

3) What is journalism, anyway, in a time when citizens with a cell phone and laptop can tell stories, take photos and be journalists for a day anytime they want?

I respect a definition of journalism that embraces social responsibility, ethical behavior and professional standards of quality including accuracy and completeness.

But we can't draw a bright line between Journalism and journalism and conversation and activism. It is a continuum. (And regarding activism, a few moments of contemplation about the history of American journalism will drive home that point.)

As professionals we have to earn our way every day by creating value that people -- readers, consumers, whatever -- respect. What we now have to do is learn to create that value in an environment in which anyone can, at any moment, step up and play an active role.


Lawrence, Maine

"Colin Powell" (Lawrence, Maine) wrote
on Jul 29, 2007 at 3:29 PM
It's interesting to have this debate, and it must be done. But as a resident of a "rural" part of Maine, I feel there are a lot of flaws to these three points.

The first one I can't really speak to. I'm only a cub reporter for a very small weekly and don't really understand the details of financing a newspaper. From what I have heard, though, it seems as though newspapers as boundless cash-generating machines were a flawed concept from the start. For the life of the paper I work for--so my editor tells me--it's never made his wildest fiscal dreams come true, rather it's a community service business with an economic bonus. That's how he sees it anyway. (Even ads can be construed as helping the community).

The second point--this is a doozy--I contest because America is a big country. I once heard a joke about how the redneck accent is everywhere. You don't expect the New York accent outside of NYC, but the redneck accent can be from Bozeman, MT, Bakersfield, CA, Juneau, AK. Anywhere. The truth behind that is that the US is by-and-large a rural country. The metro-area folks may have a hard time understanding this, but cities (or a least the culture that we percieve cities to have) does not pervade American culture completely. The upshot here is that there is a HUGE market for community weeklies and really benign "news." Now the big media newspapers may get buried, but lets not start reading the printing press' last rites just yet. Big media may be worried about the "digital revolution," but community news is just searching for a unique way to use the tools it provides to help the community.

For the third one, read The Elements of Journalism. There is more to being a journalist than being at the right place at the right time. Many people have ten minutes to read about what happend last night at the town meeting or school board meeting, but couldn't take two hours out to actually go down there. This new breed of citizen journalists will not sit through town meetings. Unless, of course, the matters up for discussion are controversial. This is really just an echo of Sam's point, above.

Wow, who put that soapbox there? I guess I'm sensitive to the "journalism is dying" slant I've been seeing everywhere. Journalism cannot die, it simply changes forms.

Michael Caputo

Post #6Michael Caputo (Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN) wrote
on Jul 31, 2007 at 12:14 PM
I'm going to take on the last of the three essentials first. As the Lawrence alum said, journalism isn't in peril... it just must adapt. So how does it do that?

First, we need to embrace the idea of journalism as a collaborative endeavor. And that means journalists in a newsroom must learn to communicate far more effectively so that it becomes more of a team approach. It also means seeing the audience not as receivers, but as team members. We know that their role is primarily to get information... but there must be a willingness to finally shed the "preach from the pulpit" idea from those working in newsrooms. That's going to take leadership in newsrooms - people willing to transform... not just manage.

To the initial essential - gaining community support. I will sound a bit old-school here. That's because the non-profit model has seemingly been able to walk down a path that allows room for something important - public service. As the commercial outlets worry, they have jettisoned the notions of that public service. I'm not saying there are pressures at non-profit institutions - but they show the best promise for keeping the old traditions of journalism alive. I would hope that the conversation about building a new newsroom model would include some aspects of that.


Also, about the revenue, the advertising department could expand, such as by designing and hosting Web pages or sites for area businesees, for a fee, of course.


It looks like my comments are not showing up. I'll try again.

1. A. Sharing ownership, revenue, costs with community members.
1. B. Making Web site the ultimate source for information about and connections within the community.

2. I think "all but obsolete" is an overstatement. I also think it's important to remember those who are less digitally connected, mainly because of income.

3. The "Elements of Journalism" does a good job of defining journalism. Just because many people can put something online doesn't mean any of them are actually practicing journalism.

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