Friday, May 29, 2009

Journalism News Roundup

It's the end of the week, so I decided instead of focusing on one journalism topic, I'd do a roundup of interesting stories that have piled up in my Google Reader.

First up is this article in the Wall Street Journal on five magazines that are pushing the boundaries of print to engage and interact with their readers. I really liked the story of T-Post, a Swedish "magazine" that every six weeks gives subscribers a tshirt with stories on the inside and an interesting illustration for the story on the front.

The Chicago Tribune, which has been working hard to expand its social media footprint, has unveiled the Chicago Now web site. The site is a series of blogs on all things Chicago, including: sports, the police beat, the social scene, gardening and dating, among other things. The official launch is in July, but they're adding blogs every day. I'm not sure how it's making money, but it's nice to see a newspaper thinking outside the box. My friend and social media guru Leah Jones offers her thoughts on the venture here.

The May 26 post on Poynter Online discusses Scribd, a web site that allows journalists and other writers to publish their work -- and get paid for it. With Scribd, writers get to keep 80% of the revenue when their material is sold. Unless you spend 24 hours a day promoting your work, you probably won't make enough to pay your rent, but these days, every penny counts.

As publications continue to struggle on how to get readers to pay for online content, we're seeing a lot of experimentation out there. This post at talks about a new joint venture between
the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and a group of media entrepreneurs. Under the effort, the JV -- CircLabs -- will offer online news and social media packaged together and sold under a multi-tiered payment system, wrote PaidContent.

I'll end this with a post from PBS's Media Shift blog. Writer Mark Glasser posts about his struggle to adjust after cancelling his print subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle. He offers up the pros and cons of getting rid of his newspaper, and gives some food for thought.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nieman Journalism Lab Looks at 5 Newsrooms of the Future

With all the massive changes going on in the profession of journalism, I feel that part of my job duties these days are to read different blogs and web sites that cover what is happening. One of my favorite sites these days is the Nieman Journalism Lab blog. The site was specifically created to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age.

The blog's May 22 post was entitled "Inside five newsrooms that H.L. Mencken wouldn’t recognize." It offers video tours of five media outlets: Talking Points Memo; Gawker; the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph; the Spokesman Review; and the Valley Independent Sentinel.

The first newsroom I worked in was an open style, with desks facing each other. It was noisy, with electric typewriters always going and a television playing CNN. My current newsroom is similar, minus the typewriters.

My favorite by far was the Daily Telegraph, which has brought its web and print products together on one floor into what it calls a media group. The key word for the operation is integration. The narrator notes that it's one newsroom for all platforms and everyone key to the operation is on the same floor.

I earned my B.A. in broadcast journalism from American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C. The school is currently spending $20 million to upgrade the classic McKinley Building on campus to create the next generation of journalism learning space, including a converged newsroom that will handle print video, audio, online and multimedia storytelling covering journalism, film and public relations.

And NABJ is also stepping up to the plate for its membership as it prepares to move into its new space this fall at the University of Maryland-College Park. The new offices will include classrooms, news labs, professional training centers, a theater, a resource center, a multimedia lab and space for meetings, among other things.

With so many NABJ members out of work, having access to these resources to improve skills and become more competitive in the work place is more important than ever.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Journalism and Social Media

In my current job, I not only write for our print and online publications, I oversee the social media aspects of what my team is doing. I'm also one of the founders of an ad hoc group at my company of reporters/editors that have Web 2.0/social media duties. We formed the group to offer tips to newbies and help create guidelines for the company.

So it was with great interest that I read on the Mashable blog that the New York Times has hired a Social Media Editor. Jennifer Preston, previously editor of the Times' Regional Section, has been charged with... well I'm not exactly sure. You can read the memo, which is on the Nieman Journalism Lab web site, here.

It seems that publications and media outlets are hiring people to oversee their social media efforts and the titles -- and duties -- vary widely. My official title is Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation. Other titles I've seen are community manager; social media manager (Social Media Explorer has a great post on that position here); and my colleague Shirley Brady over at BusinessWeek is the magazine's first community editor.

What I see here is opportunity. My company told us three and a half years ago that digital is our future. So I saw my opportunity to get those skills and leverage that expertise. As companies continue to mull their new media options, those that have these skills are putting themselves in a position that makes them less likely (but not immune) to layoffs/buyouts.

I was happy to see that this year's NABJ Annual Conference has plenty of workshops and seminars for people to beef up their skills. I encourage you to attend my workshop -- Becoming a Multimedia Journalist -- at this year's conference. I have digital media guru Mario Armstrong and Washington Post journalist Theola Labbe-DeBose talking about how new media has changed their game and tips and tools of the trade.

I'm heartened by the regional conferences held in Philadelphia and New York that are focusing on this, along with the efforts of the Media Institute. But NABJ needs to do more. There needs to be more training and more mentoring for those who want to consider this as a career. Multimedia journalism has become a passion for me and will be a major focus if I am elected as Region II Director for the NABJ board.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Refresh, Reinvent, Recharge: Lisa Campbell

Editor's note: I am starting a series of interviews with NABJ members who have done 1, 2 or all three of this year's conference theme. I "met" Lisa Campbell via Facebook when she was doing work for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and I was still covering the airport beat. We continued to keep in touch, and I have been inspired by her personal and professional wisdom. Below is my interview with her on career change.

Why did you originally decide to become a journalist?

I was actually studying Psychology in college (Southern University BR) and went to the local radio station with a friend who'd won an "album" (remember those?). The staff there struck up a conversation with us and the Program Director commented to me that "we're looking for a News Person and you have a great voice".
I went to my apartment that night, watched Peter Jennings broadcast and recorded it on a cassette player (remember those?). I re-wrote the newscast, recorded it on a cassette (lol) and took it to the radio station the next morning. I was given the Morning News Anchor/Co-Host gig almost on the spot, switched my major to Mass Communications with a minor in PR, and the rest, as they say is herstory.

Give me a 1-2 graf summary of your journalism career.

Wow. It's a long a storied one. Started in radio and have done almost EVERYTHING ELSE in the business. I've reported (radio/tv), anchored (radio/tv), been a News Director, Executive Producer for Television, Assignment Editor (both). I've worked in network news (CNN/WCNN, Alanta), ABC, NBC - owned my own Public Relations Agency. All from picking up Gabrielle's album in 1982 at WXOK. Who knew!!

What project/product are you most proud of in your journalism career?

Oh, there are many! I will tell you that the ones that left the largest impressions were my coverage of 9/11 (market: Atlanta), the Space Shuttle explosion (market: BR, LA), and the Bombing at Centennial Olympic Park (market: Atlanta). These were BIG stories that made an indelible mark in my memory. Many of them have.
I'll never forget where I was when I heard about the bombing during the Olympics (1996). I'd had dinner with a friend and we were lingering after Olympic pin trading at Sean Combs (Puffy's) restaurant Justins on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. At around midnight, I noticed above the revelry in the place that an emergency situation had occurred at the park. I asked the bartender to turn up the sound, and then the entire restaurant began to watch in horror. I jolted out to run to our station and began all night broadcasting of the events that followed. The entire staff intuitively followed suit. We were an INCREDIBLE team at WSB. Excellence in broadcasting is not a superlative.

When and why did you decide to leave the business?

I decided to leave traditional media in 2007. I've always been an entrepreneur at heart, but for my entire 24 year career have worked non-stop in radio/tv. I'd longed for many years to run my own Media Consulting agency -- and so one morning nearly two years ago, finally got the courage to resign and "Just Do It". Haven't looked back.

What are you doing now?

I am a docuMEDIA film producer, Media Consultant and Marketing Technologist. I consult businesses and individuals on unique 21st Century ways to market and expose themselves, their businesses and services.
I also own a Personal Development Consortium called The Create Yourself Company that helps people find their "purpose and passion" to re:Create their lives. It's working for many! Very proud of it. (And you can check her out here.)

What do you find satisfying about your current career direction?
That I am helping and inspiring people to live authentic lives. MOST folks 'dream' of working for themselves but never do it because of perceived 'job security'. As we've learned lately in corporate environments, no such animal exists. Security only exists when you work for yourSELF. Think about it. When you sign a contract with an employer, you will never make any more than THAT number. When you work for yourself, the is no limit, other than those that you put on yourself.

What advice would you give for those considering what you've done?
Make a decision on what it is that makes your HEART sing, and do that! All of us have an inherent purpose for being alive. Decide what yours is - and do THAT. Nobody can do it better than you.

How do you think NABJ could help people who have chosen your career path?

Well, I found that many people considering getting into "journalism and broadcasting" saw it as a glamour career. Big mistake.
I would prepare those entering the business for the "truth". Listenership and Viewership is down greatly in Radio and TV and big time in the Newspaper industry because of this new 2-ton gorilla in the room, the INTERNET. We now get News, information, and weather on our cellphones and laptops. Instantly. Don't have to wait for the 6 O'Clock news. I'd encourage people to look at the vast landscape of the "new information age" and find and define your authentic place.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Will Social Media Save The Newspaper Industry, Asks Social Media Explorer?

I began my print journalism career in August 1985, after earning my B.A. degree in broadcast journalism from American University. The reason I chose print over broadcast is for another post on another day.

About 3 years ago, management at my current employer told the editorial team told us that we had to begin developing our digital media skills, as this was the direction our publications were going. I created the Towers and Tarmacs blog. I created a Flickr account that now has more than 4,000 photos. I went to Podcamp Philly and learned how to record, edit and produce my own podcasts. I created a fan page for airports and airport security on Facebook. And I have a work-based Twitter account (@bizavweekly) that covers the airline and business aviation industries that I use to promote our company's publications.

It was with interest that I read a post on the Social Media Explorer blog entitled: Will Social Media Save The Newspaper Industry? In it, writer David Finch opines that it will take more than just social media to save the industry. He noted the unveiling of the newest version of the electronic book Kindle that is being touted as a potential savior for newspapers. It was a topic I blogged about here on April 17.

I get brownie points for for Tweeting about my company's stories and blog posts, but Finch says newspapers have to recreate the user experience to make the newspaper the talk of the town again. "Perhaps, the newspaper as we know it must die, not because its content isn’t relevant, or its attempts to use social media has failed, but because the consumer no longer identifies with it," writes Finch. "In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time, but until then I can guarantee you can find me every weekend with a cup of coffee, the New York Times, and my favorite jazz artists in the background."

We have all heard what the problem is, as eloquently outlined in this article by New York Times columnist Frank Rich. But what about the solution? In a poll of 351 members of the Associated Press Managing Editors, only 17% said they believed the industry would go extinct.

The May 12 post on the Recovering Journalist blog is blunt --
There is No Magic Bullet. Mark Potts says newspapers can't:

  • Charge for online content;
  • Implement micropayments;
  • Rely on the Kindle; or
  • Punish Google

I am heartened by some of the efforts that journalists out there are doing to adapt in an ever-changing landscape. America Online has been rolling out a series of blogs that are similar to
newsweekly magazines and daily papers, including, to fill the news gap, reports The editor is Melinda Henneberger, a former reporter from the New York Times, and has hired 21 journalists from publications including the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, NPR, Politico and US News & World Report, said PaidContent.

Forty former Star-Ledger reporters who took a buyout have launched their own Web-based news site -- -- reports Editor & Publisher. So far, it looks like the ad revenue is coming just from Google Ad Sense, but the site looks like it's covering all the news worth covering in the Garden State.

It shows that there's still hope for innovation and growth in journalism, despite the current doom and gloom. I'm hoping that the new NABJ board -- including me as Region II Director -- will study all the opportunities out there across all media platforms and work with them to ensure jobs for its members.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tapping Social Media Tools To Land That Next Job

I am a regular listener of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. Half of the April 29 show was dedicated to what job seekers need to do to find employment in the Job Market 2.0 we all live in now.

I have always been of the mind to have a current resume on my computer and a jump drive at all times, even though I am very happy to be working where I am right now and have no plans to leave. I say this, because you never know what opportunities are out there for you.

But a paper resume is not enough.
These days, people tend to look for you online. I have a profile on LinkedIn and I have a Facebook page that I try to keep professional. I know some people -- like Andrew Humphrey of NABJ's Digital Task Force and candidate for NABJ Vice President-broadcast -- has his own branded web site that he uses for things like his bio, his resume, his videos, his weather blog and his NABJ campaign. When you Google his name, his site is the first thing that comes up.

One of the people interviewed on Talk of the Nation was Julie Weber, Sr. Director of People for Southwest Airlines. She talked about how Southwest was using social networks like LinkedIn to look for potential employees.

Fortunately, I haven't had to actually apply for a job since 1992, because networking has been an invaluable tool for me. And being on LinkedIn and Facebook have allowed me to cast the net even further.

NABJ has always been good about networking at the annual conference. But with the state that journalism is in these days, NABJ members have to step up to the plate and add these tools to help them stand out in a very competitive market. As Region II Director, I would work with board members and local chapters to offer members more information -- and tools -- to continue networking year round.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wash. Post's Howard Kurtz Asks: The Death of Print?

Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz wrote a column today -- and held a live chat -- asking this question. And he's not the only one. I just listened to an April 27 podcast from NPR's Planet Money on the prospects for print journalism.

When Kurtz -- a self-described industry fervent optimist -- says his belief is shaken in the newspaper business, you know things are bad, as if we didn't already know it. He cites the numerous newspapers that have cut jobs -- including my hometown Baltimore Sun -- and notes that those jobs are never coming back.

If I hear the words "platform agnostic" again, I will scream. According to Kurtz, it's become the excuse du jour for newspapers firing all these journalists, but he asks an interesting question: "How can papers with far smaller staffs and reduced ambitions stem circulation declines?"

Both Kurtz and Planet Money covered the plans of Steve Brill's new Journalism Online LLC (my post on that is here). In a nutshell. Brill proposes
to offer tools to publishers that will allow them to charge for online content. And Reuters is reporting that the Wall Street Journal plans to unveil micropayments for articles and premium content.

But in the end, Kurtz asks the million dollar question -- but for the reading public: "Does it want to pony up for news, whatever the media that prevail? It's all a matter of priorities. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in America, make no mistake that in the end we will get what we pay for."

I know I focus on print, because that's what pays my mortgage. But broadcast is having its own troubles. Yesterday's New York Times has an article about how television stations are facing their own advertising dollar squeeze. Guess how some are trying to stem the flow of red ink? Working with newspapers. That's a nice visual.

The Tribune Company, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has merged its TV stations and daily newspapers in Miami and Hartford, and it already produces a lighthearted morning show in south Florida with the help of the newspaper’s columnists, reports the Times.

As the bad news continues, it's up to the National Association of Black Journalists board, representing its membership, to watch these trends and work with companies as the journalism industry continues to change -- rapidly. NABJ needs a board -- and active members -- to make sure that journalists of color have a seat at the table as the industry continues to transform. I want to be a part of that as Region II Director.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Journalism News Roundup

Instead of just waxing poetic on on theme, I'd end the week with a roundup of news stories affecting our chosen trade.

The SFIst blog is reporting that more job cuts are coming at the San Francisco Chronicle. Among those gone are the environmental reporter, the computers/technology reporter and the 2 people responsible for Chronicle Watch, which covers the city's neighborhoods - closely.

Speaking of layoffs, one day after buying the San Diego Union-Tribune, new owner Platinum Equity laid off 182 employees -- including 50 in the newsroom -- or 18% of its workforce, according to "[T]he ultimate goal here is to make only those cuts necessary to stabilize the business, and then to focus on growing revenue," Platinum Equity partner Louis Samson told the Union-Tribune in an interview last week.

The Poynter Online blog reports that while the Star-Ledger has not resorted to layoffs, it did implement a program where yearly bonuses will now be included in base pay and that pay will be cut. "The first $40,000 of your new combined annualized income will be cut by 5%. If you make more than $40,000, your next $40,000 in income up to $80,000 will be cut by 10%. Any annualized income over $80,000 will be cut by 15%," said a memo to employees. The paper is also requiring employees to pay more for health care insurance. Management blamed continued deteriorating ad revenues for the move.

We all have followed the negotiations between the New York Times Co. and the Newspaper Guild at the Boston Globe. A deal was made at the 11th hour, but the Guardian's Dan Kennedy asks how long will the Globe be safe? It's the same question I asked when I heard the deal had been struck.

I have become an avid reader of the Baltimore Brew blog. Among other things, it is covering what I see as the slow dismantling of the newspaper that used to be my hometown Baltimore Sun. The May 3 post on the Brew announced that the Sun would no longer publish Letters to the Editor, since the person overseeing that had been cut in the latest round of layoffs. But on May 6, the Brew reported that the Letters section is back.

Let's file this last one under "what are they thinking?" The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has spent $1 million on a new year-long ad campaign to encourage customers to take a digital break and actually read the print edition of the Sunday newspaper, reports The paper has cut 30% of its staff.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maybe Sam Zell Should Have Spoken With Warren Buffett

As I continue to mull the magnitude of Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell's statement that his acquisition of the newspaper chain was a "mistake," Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett said that newspapers face possible “unending losses” and that the company would not buy most U.S. newspaper “at any price,” according to MarketWatch and the Wall Street Journal, reports

Buffet also said that newspapers had been essential to readers and advertisers, but not any more. The Omaha-based company has holdings in several newspapers, including the Washington Post. While Buffett lauded the Post on what he called its "attractive businesses" -- including cable -- he admitted in that the Post “does not have answers to the problems of the newspaper business.”

If Buffett is not so high on the Washington Post, one of the crown jewels in the newspaper business, this can't bode well for publications that are lower on the food chain. Buffett's business partner Charlie Munger responded to a question from FOX Business News's Liz Claman, calling called what's happening to the newspaper business "a national tragedy." He added that as newspapers go away, "what replaces them won’t be as desirable as what we’re losing."

If you read my May 1 post on what's happening at my hometown Baltimore Sun, it illustrates Munger's point beautifully. So what can we do? The simple answer is to find a viable financial model that lets newspapers survive -- in some form -- and the industry continues its rapid change.

And the National Association of Black Journalists has to have a seat at the table as these changes happen. With a large part of its membership in print journalism, the board needs to work with industry players to ensure that journalists of color continue to be represented in the new media model.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Some Interesting Journalism News & Notes

I enjoy reading about all the things going on in my chosen profession of journalism. I feel that with all the changes going on, it's good for me -- for all of us -- to keep up. Below are some of the stories I've been gathering in my folder for potential blog material that never quite reached full posting status.

The Huffington Post
has come out with its own set of Citizen Journalism Publishing standards. Among the standards: Never plagiarize - it is the hallmark of a lazy journalist. Always attribute material when using material from newspapers, Websites, TV, radio, books or other outlets; Make the greatest possible effort to get your sources to go "on the record" - which means that you can use their quotes. But if they don't want to be quoted, respect their right not to be named; and As we emphasized before, make sure to fact-check your sources, many of whom may be prone to exaggeration or have an agenda when talking to a reporter. Sounds just like what I do!

In what can be said as the understatement of the year, Tribune owner Sam Zell said in an interview on
Bloomberg Television that his acquisition of the newspaper chain back in 2007 was
"a mistake" in that he did not anticipate the steep decline in the newspaper business. What? We've all been hearing about the decline of tradition print media as far back as the early 2000s. Where was Zell when this was happening?

This isn't the first time we've heard all these rumblings about the demise of newspapers. Online magazine
Slate points us back to 1918, when Atlantic Monthly's Oswald Garrison Villard wrote about the demise of newspapers using words that were similar to those used to mark the passing of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News. "The leading cause of newspaper death then as now was "the enormously increased costs of maintaining great dailies" and limited advertising," wrote Slate's Jack Shafer.

I read with great interest a recent
blog post by Steven Roll, president of the American Society of Business Publication Editors on what the next phase of journalism will look like. He quotes a speech by my colleague John Byrne, editor of, who said: "the next phase of journalism will require editors and writers to get readers involved with every step of the process, from generating story ideas to filling in the missing details of a published story. Part of being an editor or writer today is learning how to create and build communities and then how to serve them."

Knight Digital Media Center blog had a fascinating post it called essential reading for journalists caught in the meltdown. The post includes links to four articles that "anyone concerned about the future of journalism should read."

I am a big fan of National Public Radio's Planet Money. The
blog recently asked the question those of us in the news business would like to have answered - Who'll Play for News -- And How? The blog cited a story in The Wrap that allegedly had the publisher of the Los Angeles Times defending putting advertising on the front page. Planet Money cited Web portals with paid memberships, micropayments charged to readers for each article viewed, and convincing deep-pocketed patrons to endow major news organizations as not-for-profit institutions as possible future funding models.

The Techdirt blog notes that when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went to an online-only format, its web traffic dropped 20%. But when the blog looked beneath the numbers, here's what it found: the newspaper cut 80% of its reporters but still held onto 80% of its traffic. Techdirt sees that as good news and wonders why these numbers are seen as a failure. Good question.

As our industry continues to change, it's important that the NABJ board - and more importantly its members - need to keep up with the changes in the industry so we can all prosper and continue to practice the profession we love.
And this is yet another reason why I'm running for Region II director. I want to help be a part of the solution.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What's Happened To The Baltimore Sun-And What We Can Learn From It

About two weeks ago, I read a post on local blog The Baltimore Brew, which featured an interview with the editor of my hometown newspaper, the Baltimore Sun. The Sun, like many other newspapers, has been decimated by layoffs of veteran reporters, editors, photographers and designers. The latest layoffs came April 29, with 61 newsroom staffers gone, according to the Sun.

Which makes Editor Monty Cook's remarks in a speech at Johns Hopkins University -- that the paper was not in "decline," but in "transition" -- an interesting take on what has happened to a newspaper that had been well respected in the industry. The speech was organized by the university's Institute for Policy Studies entitled “Content and News: Protecting What Matters Most.”

What does the future look like for the Sun under Cook, who took over in January? We'll see more blogs and more use of Twitter. He also cited the UK newspaper the Guardian's move to a "platform-neutral" news room (which merges the traditional and online news rooms), and more of an emphasis on mobile content.

What won't be seen in the Sun? Longer stories that take weeks or months of research and reporting. “The days of the six-part series are gone,” Cook said in his remarks, arguing that there are other vehicles for good journalism. “Watergate was beat reporting.”

So what's the future of the Baltimore Sun? “We stop being a newspaper company. Right now. The end," said Cook. “We’ll think of content first and platform second.” He admitted that the newspaper will be smaller after the transition.

The Sun is not the only newspaper struggling to make the transition in a rapidly changing industry. We can all bemoan the demise of the traditional print newspaper, but that's not going to bring it back.

What we can do is make sure we're getting the tools and skills that will help us make the transition to fit into structures like what the Sun is becoming. Making the transition should be one of the top priorities for NABJ to make sure that journalists of color are represented in the new world order of journalism.