Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday night live

JOW students have been blogging away — all links at right. Check out these new or newish posts:
  • Evan Brunell moves toward unveiling his redesigned sports Web site.
  • Thomas Chen can't resist rubbing Game Six in our faces 20 years later.
  • Chris Estrada chomps down on some birthday cake to celebrate the iPod.
  • Rajashree Joshi attends a talk on how Google News is put together.
  • Jane Mackay plugs an FCC public hearing being held in Oakland, Calif.
  • Adam Marschilok scratches his head over real blogs by fictional characters.
  • Lisa Panora ponders the advent of virtual journalists reporting on virtual reality.
  • Chelsea Petersen calls our attention videos more serious than the usual YouTube fare.
  • Celia Soudry wonders about the reality behind those happy military homecomings.
  • Glenn Yoder's not wild about Rupert Murdoch, but respects his smarts.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Web-powered downsizing

This past Monday, Slate media columnist Jack Shafer wrote a provocative piece arguing that cuts in the newspaper business are not quite the disaster for democracy that they're often portrayed as. Last night he wrote a follow-up in response to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times, both of whom had taken umbrage.

What caught my eye was Shafer's contention that the Web has made journalists far more efficient than they used to be — so much so, he thinks, that it's ridiculous to believe newsrooms need to be as richly staffed as they were a generation ago. Shafer writes:
A middle-school student sitting at a Web terminal has more raw reportorial power at his fingertips than the best reporter working at the New York Times had in, say, 1975. The teenager can't command an undersecretary of defense to return his phone call as the Times guy can, but thanks to Google he can harvest news stories and background information that would take the 1975 model journalist days to collect.

The young amateur can also tap hundreds of free databases serving up scientific, legislative, regulatory, and business information in an afternoon that a team of 1975 reporters couldn't assemble in a week. Give him access to JSTOR, PubMed, Edgar, Nexis, Factiva, and other important sites and he'll write three stories in the time the '70s veteran reports one. Naturally, the kid might not have as good an idea of what to do with the information he's collected, but you get my point: Technology has made today's reporter more productive and more accurate than his forebears. So, if the Los Angeles Times peaked at 1,200 reporters and it's down to about 940 now and Tribune wants to cut it further, it's hardly proof that the corporate meanies are defunding the newsroom.
I want to disagree with Shafer, but at the moment I have to confess that I'm not sure on what grounds. Maybe he's right if his reference point is 1975. But his argument doesn't hold up so well if you look at how much richer many newspapers were in 1999, or 2002.

Still, his basic point is sound. If the Web has made journalists more efficient than they were a generation ago, then it only makes sense that news executives will conclude that they don't need as many of them.

Shafer also makes an observation that we've discussed in class — that not every midsize metro needs a large national and international staff when the New York Times and the Washington Post are just a click away.

On point with Casey Parks

We recently took a look at Casey Parks, the University of Missouri graduate journalism student who won a trip with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to cover Africa for two weeks.

Earlier this week, Parks — and, briefly, Kristof — was interviewed for an hour on the WBUR/NPR program "On Point." You can listen to the stream in Real or WMP; there's a podcast option as well.

Worthwhile listening.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Live from the Peabody Barnes & Noble

It's time for the Friday night blog roundup, a recurring feature of Journalism of the Web. Links are listed on your right, so I won't repeat them here. Your guide to recent posts:
  • Adam Marschilok shows how ESPN combines convergence journalism, bowling and Monday-night football.
  • Celia Soudry wonders whether federal agents might have had something better to do than to pull an eighth-grader out of class because of her MySpace page.
  • Chelsea Petersen reports that Apple has found an innovative way of tweaking Microsoft: using iPods to transmit a Windows-crashing virus.
  • Chris Estrada ponders former Des Moines Register editor Geneva Overholser's just-released manifesto on the future of journalism.
  • Evan Brunell shares the difficulties of digital entrepreneurship in an update on the redesign of his sports Web site.
  • Glenn Yoder says the NBA's latest online venture is characterized mainly by contempt for hometown fans.
  • Jane Mackay checks in from New York, where a new mashup can help you when you really need to go, and from Boston, where the Net is tracking a boozy debate.
  • Lisa Panora writes about the virtual reporter Reuters has assigned to the online simulation game Second Life, whose appeal escapes me entirely.
  • Mike Naughton is smitten by the interactive, customizable political map that's available at Check out the view by population.
  • Rajashree Joshi's reaction to Second Life is exactly the same as mine: "[W]ho would want to do something like this?"
  • Thomas Chen has thought about George W. Bush's MySpace page and decided that the president probably doesn't eat kittens. That's a relief.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Kirtz on new media

Northeastern University journalism professor Bill Kirtz covered a new media conference last weekend at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, at Harvard's Kennedy School. The theme was how old media is adapting to the emerging technological landscape.

The key quote is from Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations at the New York Times Co.: "Technology is [just] a tool. It's the content, stupid. We use technology to create content in new ways."

As Kimberly Atkins told us yesterday, technology is becoming increasingly easy to use. What really matters are reporting and writing skills (and, increasingly, the ability to juggle audio and video as well).

Trouble is, as we all know, news organizations can do a great job with their Web sites and still have a hard time making enough money to support journalism. The Wall Street Journal today has a piece on the Boston Globe that's a little dispiriting: despite its skyrocketing online presence, it's on track to suffering its first unprofitable year in a very long time.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Watch those links

I've been spending the last 45 minutes reading your blogs. There's a lot of terrific stuff, and, increasingly, I'm pilfering some of your posts for Media Nation. (Thanks!)

Watch your links — I'm finding a few malformed links every time I visit your blogs. If you copy and paste from the address window, you should be fine.

Let me leave you with a trio of visual items that you should take a look at:
  • From Lisa Panora: the Google Image Labeler, an online contest in which you're paired with another user to provide 90 seconds' worth of free labor for Google. I tried it and didn't get too far — I guess I'm just not quick enough.
  • From Thomas Chen: An interactive graphic on illustrating a Boston Globe story on population growth.
  • From Rachel Slajda: "The Nietzsche Family Circus." Thus sprach Billy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Newspaper innovation, U.K.-style

The American Journalism Review has a terrific essay on the greater willingness of British newspaper moguls to experiment in comparison to their American counterparts. I urge all of you to read it.

The writer, Frances Stead Sellers, takes a look at two papers, The Independent and The Guardian. By far the more interesting of her case studies is The Guardian, which has embraced a number of Web 2.0 innovations — blogging, user content and the like — in order to establish itself as a go-to site across the English-speaking world. The Independent, by contrast, has reinvented itself as a "viewspaper," a European-style journal of opinion.

One thing that struck me was how the Brits are focusing their experimentation efforts on customers who actually care about news. By contrast, a report put out last week by the Newspaper Next project comes across as timid.

The report, "Blueprint for Transformation" — which, as of this writing, is not yet online, although I've got a copy — devotes most of its time to looking at ways that newspaper companies might make money from non-readers and non-advertisers without necessarily removing the "non-."

According to the report, newspaper publishers should concentrate on developing a "portfolio" of products ranging from online resources for working mothers to specialized advertising programs for tiny neighborhood businesses. The ideas are not unworthy, but they're certainly not sexy.

You can request a copy of "Blueprint for Transformation" here. And here's a fairly brutal takedown of the report by media consultant Vin Crosbie.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Midterm story guidelines

I've posted an MS Word document explaining the midterm-story assignment on our class Web site. Please download it and give it a close look.