Students in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class this spring worked with four community partners — WUNC radio, N.C. Center for Voter Educaiton, OrangePolitics.org and N.C. Data — to see what the future of news might look like in a world outlined by Leonard Downie and Michael Schudson in their “Reconstruction of American Journalism” post.
Among several good final memos from students, was this one by Ashley Lopez, who astutely notes that solutions that may work for the preservation of public affairs reporting at the national level might not scale down to the state and local levels where relevant and reliable reporting on government and public life is most needed.
I just gave the students in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class their first quiz. Overall, not bad. But I have to report this piece of breaking news:
Only 1 out of 16 students said that it was UNethical to “download a photo from the Web server of a blogger, upload it to your server, using it on your site along with credit to the original creator.”
I’m dying to talk with them about this on Thursday to hear more about their rationale. Maybe it says something about how they see bloggers. Maybe it says something about the way they see ownership of content.
What do you think?
Updated: 2:51 p.m. ET
Fail fast, fail cheap. Isn’t that what they say? Well, today I did it. My first attempt to live blog a class discussion didn’t work out. But neither did my first attempt to … well, do just about anything…
No matter. Here’s what I learned… Continue reading “Fertile Failure: Live Blogging Class Discussion”
This week is the first of a new semester in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class — a journalism class in which the students must work 30 hours with a community partner over the course of the semester. Our goal this semester — expose the students to all of the journalism models that Len Downie and Michael Schudson outline as potential replacements for a decline in public affairs reporting at newspapers.
This semester, the 18 students in the class will be divided among four partners:
- the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a non-profit funded largely by foundation money and private donations;
- OrangePolitics.org, a liberal blog about local politics run part-time by a single “citizen jouranlist”;
- N.C. DataNet, a newsletter of from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program on Public Life, edited by a former News & Observer reporter and opinion editor;
- a public broadcast outlet here in North Carolina.
If any of these sources will be part of the reconstruction of American journalism, the students in the class will help determine how it’s reconstructed. At the very least, the students will be able to report back to the rest of us more details about what they find in these laboratories of post-newspaper news.
Stay tuned… and add your suggested reading for the class via the Delicious bookmark tag JOMC491-examples-s10.
The question that keeps coming up in recent discussions about experimentation and fertile failure is this: Who will drive the vision and who will take the risk that journalism needs to get over this hump?
As a preamble, I’m re-running two blog posts (…hmm, I wonder if “the long tail” is going to make the word re-run go the way of the turntable…anyway…) that highlight the challenge and two potential answers:
After the jump, I’m looking for where we might be most likely to find the fertile failures and experimentors that journalism needs.
Continue reading “Rerun Posts: Who Drives the Vision? Who Takes the Risk?”
For a lot of very good reasons the word “failure” is not welcome in newsrooms. The aversion probably begins in j-schools when we give automatic Fs to students who write news stories about “Thornberg” or “Thornburgh” instead of “Thornburg,” it continues with 2 a.m. panic attacks about transposing quotes, and probably calcifies completely with the fear of being sued for libel. In short, journalists don’t get paid for making mistakes. Good. They shouldn’t.
But a failure is not always a mistake, especially in the context of an experiment that fails to prove a widely held belief. Experiments that fail often lead to entirely new lines of inquiry and new understanding about the world. To enjoy this kind of fertile failure that yields innovation, you have to pursue success in the right way. Fertile failure is most likely when you tackle a very specific, very big question with small experiments that are conducted as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Universities, where failure leads both to the creation of new ideas as well as the ability to shed old ideas, should be ideal partners for risk-averse news organizations. Here are a few ideas about how journalism schools can be breeding grounds for fertile failure.
Continue reading “J-Schools: Breeding Ground for Fertile Failure”
The role of innovation in news has come up in several conversations I’ve had with folks over the last few weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of innovation may be fun as all get out, but on its own it does not do enough to move the industry forward. What we need instead of innovation is experimentation.
What’s the difference between innovation and experimentation? Innovation only values success. Experimentation also values failure.
Continue reading “Innovation Isn’t Enough”
Be niche. Have very high standards. And find some subscribers to buy it
Good advice for future journalists from Alan Murray, the editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Web site, who gave the Park Lecture at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Thursday night. His approach to online journalism certainly sounded right to me, but what I didn’t hear was any hard evidence that would help support my gut instinct.
The biggest question I still have: Is there any business model for high quality local public affairs journalism?
Continue reading “Does the WSJ’s Online Business Strategy Work for Local News?”
Correction: March 16, 10:10 a.m. ET
Update: March 6, 10:44 a.m. ET
Following the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is likely to go online-only if it stops printing sometime after March 10, Ken Doctor wrote on his blog, Content Bridges, uses some loose estimates to wonder if newspaper newsrooms are about to go from employing 44,000 journalists to 6,600.
A recent scan of newspaper mastheads and some loose estimates of my own put the number of online journalists currently working in the U.S. at between four and five thousand.
Continue reading “Corrected: How Many Online Journalists in the U.S.?”
Two opinion pieces that were published yesterday have been getting a good ride in the discussion about how to save newspapers. Jonathan Zimmerman’s opinion piece on The Christian Science Monitor proposes that professors play a role in creating free content, an idea that’s getting panned even though it’s already happening. David Carr’s piece on The New York Times puts a nefarious sounding twist on his proposal for media co-opetition that’s going to happen naturally.
Continue reading “Stuck in the Middle With News: When Professors Report and Technologists Aggregate, What’s Left for Journalists?”