A personal journalism quote

I’m working on a presentation I’m going to give next week. I wanted a quote for a slide to summarize where personal journalism is headed. None of my previous writing on the topic seems to contain an adequate quote, so I came up with this:

As digital devices make communication more direct, relevant and personal, media becomes an individual noun. In order to capture the interest of people, producers and publishers who deliver content in a personal voice will connect with a growing audience. In this media environment, people will find definitive-voice journalism less interesting and less trustworthy.

Continue reading

More thoughts on personal journalism

Not much reaction to my earlier post on personal journalism. Either it’s a dumb take on things, too much like other things I’ve said previously, too obvious (though I kind of like the term “personal journalism,” but maybe it’s the wrong term.

I was away from the computer for most of the day. I half expected to come home and find my mailbox full of slams from critics. I can think of several reasons to question the whole notion, or at least mainly the underlying premise.

For example — personal expression in media isn’t something that is new or even disappeared for any length of time. I thought of that today while reading some Charles Bukowski and listening to Johnny Cash, two mean who I think would have been fantastic bloggers. You can probably think of other artists from music and books who specialized in deeply personal expressions.

Though what I’m talking about isn’t really about personal expression. It’s more about personal connection. In fact, personal expression probably runs counter to operating within solid journalistic standards. A good personal journalist doesn’t hide behind the institution, is more exposed as a person, but isn’t writing about himself or his personal experience. He isn’t trying to lose himself in an inverted pyramid, but remains dedicated to sense of community and civic obligation.

Also, so far, I’ve been short of workable examples of what I mean. Tish Grier offers up Orato as a possible example, and while it’s a pretty neat citizen journalism site, I’m not sure it quite gets at what I mean. First, it’s citizen journalism, and I’m trying to define a new genre of professional journalism (if such distinctions will even mean anything in a decade or less). The other thing is the site specializes in first-person reporting, and I’m not sure personal journalism equates with first-person accounts, though I imagine the words “I,” “me” and “we” would crop up often enough in personal journalism.

I’m pretty sure media is getting more personal, more personally connected, more conversational, but whether that equals personal journalism overtaking public journalism is a matter of debate. Given more time to think about it, personal journalism is, if it is real, just another genre of journalism, like narrative journalism or enterprise reporting. Continue reading

Personal Journalism

Over the past few days, I keep flashing back on a blog post by Pete Townshend titled “Open letter to David Lister.” I’ve referenced it in conversations with colleagues, and I was thinking of it when I wrote this post on video and personal communication.


I think rock music is about to throw off some of its testosterone-driven defiance. I may be wrong, but wherever I look today I see younger musicians demanding a new level of intimacy from their audience. ‘Unplugged’ rock is not exactly what is happening. It is more a return to the traditions of Bert Jansch, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Ewan McColl, Dave Van Ronk, Big Bill Broonzy, Joan Baez and even early Bob Dylan. This is not entirely about Protest, rather about music performed gently that expresses a single idea along the single pathway of the conscience of an individual musician daring to speak up about something they might uniquely believe. Even anger is delivered gently.

Every where I turn today, I see media that is more intimate and more immediate taking root and growing strong. It’s not just music, though I see it in Paste Magazine and hear it on XM Cafe. I read it in blogs, watch it in the best YouTube videos, vlogs and independent films. I view it in photo sharing sites. It’s what drives social networking. People are reaching out to touch other people, not be impressed by concepts or ideologies, wowed by trends or gather just one more factoid. They want the human spirit and the human soul.

I tried to express this before: The personal computer, a mobile phone, an iPod, a DVR, etc. are all intimately personal devices. The radios and televisions we grew up with were shared experiences. They captured a transitory signal, and if we happened to tune in at the right moment, we knew what was seen and heard was being simultaneously seen and heard by others. When the signal was gone, the moment was gone. We could only recapture it in a personal way when we gathered around the water cooler.

A cassette or VHS tape made media somewhat more personal and shareable, but we still lacked a certain level of control.

Digital technology changes everything. Now, what we download, we own. When it arrives on our computer screen, it is ours to keep, if we want.

Once we own something, it changes our relationship with it. We want it to mean something to us. We want to interact with it, mix it or answer it.

For that segment of the web audience who has tuned into the power of blogs, I think this is what has energized their passion for blogging. The best bloggers write in individual voices. We know they’re real people. We feel like we can engage in a conversation and get an answer.

I’m coming to the conclusion that the new journalism is Personal Journalism.

Personal Journalism is just as ethical as old-school public journalism. It still values facts, fairness, truth telling and good reporting. It’s just that personal journalism is written differently. It is written from one person, a person we can identify and identify with, for one person. The byline is more than a name under a headline in Personal Journalism. It is the persona and the personality. Personal journalists do more than report the story. They let us see at least a little about who they are, what they believe, what drives them and what they find important. If a personal journalist has a bias, we know it. That is part of the truth-telling tradition all journalists should endorse, but only personal journalists make it a practice.

Personal Journalism is shareable because people like to share what has touched them in a direct, intimate way, be it a song, a video or a good story.

Personal Journalists let other people help with the fact gathering or putting the facts in context, because Personal Journalism is part of a conversation, not a proprietary, walled garden.

Personal journalists can be writers, recorders or picture takers, but for the sake of clarity, I’ve written the definition from a writer’s point of view.

In the future, all journalists will be personal journalists. Within five to ten years, if you’re not a personal journalist, you will be out of work, and if your news organization hasn’t embraced personal journalism, it will be out of business. Well, that may be going a bit too far, because I’m not sure personal journalism is required of those who report for print or broadcast, but it is required of online journalists. So long as print survives, even in newsletters for the elderly and the elite, public journalism will survive. In the online world, personal journalism will be the only journalism people consistently seek.

In the past, I’ve struggled for the right words to describe where I see journalism going. I think with the term Personal Journalism and my proposed definition, I might be on to something.

UPDATE: Having slept on it a night, I think — maybe this isn’t something we adopt or impose, maybe it is just how we evolve. Maybe it’s inevitable. But then I think, but if this is where the audience is going, and it’s what our disruptors do (such as blogs), then if we don’t consciously make the switch, can we survive? Continue reading

The best and brightest of journalism’s future not exactly wired

So this bit on Romenesko caught my eye today:

SPJ’s Neil Ralston says: “I encourage media executives who are looking for the next wave of high-quality journalists to pay attention to the winners. …These young men and women represent some of the best that journalism programs have to offer.”

Being a media executive, I was curious — do these students represent the future of the news business?

The best way to find out is to Google them — what can Google tell us about their online life? Do they have their own web sites? Their own blogs?

Any active online person is going to own his or her own name on Google … and if you’re not active online under your real name, you’re not living up to the journalistic ideals of transparency and honesty.

So, I Googled these winners.

Here’s what I found:

  • Meaghan Peters — Several Meaghan Peters in Google. Not clear if any of them are the journalist Meaghan Peters.
  • Camden Swita — Shows up as a blogger on Washington.edu. Has a MySpace page (warning — auto play music). Also, several bylines on various sites.
  • Claire St. Amant — May have her own web site, but hard to tell. There’s nothing there. Lots of online bylines, but little evidence of blogging. Demerit points should be given for letting the best SEO for your own name go to a Frat Boy News blog (site not work safe in some environments).
  • Ryan Kost — Some bylines in Google, but no personal blog I could find. He did blog — if you can call it that (the writing being stiff, traditional reportorial writing) while an intern (that’s a guess) for the Oregonian. If that’s the same Ryan Kost. UPDATE: See note from Ryan at the bottom of the post.
  • Jessica Sondgeroth — Again, some bylines. She has what we would think would be a unique name, but I’m not sure the Jessica Sondgeroth on Facebook, who is from Arizona, is the same Jessica Sondgeroth.
  • Katherine Harmon — Fairly common name. Not much here for this Katherine Harmon.
  • Jeremy Herb — This might be a Jeremy Herb blog. And Jeremy is apparently involved with this news blog.
  • Alex Stawinski — Some bylines in Google.
  • Sarah Neff —This looks like her blog, and it’s a good one.
  • Jared Fields — Not much in Google to tie any thing this Jared Fields.
  • CJ Moore — Common name. No evidence of this CJ Moore.
  • Mark Viera — Ditto
  • Bill Oram — Ditto
  • Aaron Zundel — Is at least on LinkedIn. Plenty of online bylines, but no evidence of blogging.
  • Petra Hendrickson — Lots of Google hits. Apparently, no blog.
  • Phil Hands — Nothing obvious here. Oops. Big mistake on my part. Here’s his site. See his comments below.
  • Samuel Ayres — Hire this guy. He owns his name.
  • Philip Cannon — Ummmm …
  • Jenna Lo Castro — Folks, we have a blogger. First Google result, too. There are not many entries, but, hey, look at the competition.
  • Imani Jackson — One byline on the first page of results.
  • T.J. Tranchell — This is good, an entirely personal blog. We’ll forgive the fascination with crappy ’80s metal. Lots of hits on his byline, too.
  • Brandon Scheller — Is this Brandon? We’re not sure.
  • Mark Dent — College byline first hit, then not much.
  • Dylan Farmer — This might be Dylan on FB.

I’ll let somebody use Google the non-newspaper writers. Frankly, I’ve grown too discouraged to continue.

So, who do we blame, the students or the journalism programs?

Any students interested in getting it together online, check out Wired Journalists.

UPDATE: Shortly after my blog was hacked and the site went down for several weeks, Ryan Kost sent along this note:

I came across your blog while I was searching for the SPJ press release about the national awards. I haven’t been able to read your entry on the SPJ winners other than the google snippet and the headline. For some reason your site isn’t loading at the moment. In any case, I definitely wouldn’t consider myself super wired, but if you’re interested in editing your blog, I do have a small Web presence. My senior thesis was an online discussion of change (it includes video, soundslides, audio and text) that I created with another student journalist. You can see it here: www,definingchange.net. We haven’t been able to make it too google-able because we created it using only Flash. Still, we’ve been trying to get the word out about it, and any little bit helps! Also, for what it’s worth, I had a Web site up (ryankost.com), but I really hated the layout, so I took down while I’m designing another.

So, Ryan gets extra points for ego surfing and reaching out to demonstrate further what he’s been doing online. I also heard from T.J. Tranchell.  And note the previous correction on Phil Hands. Continue reading

The modern journalism role includes guiding constructive conversations

Here’s another plea for news sites to require registration and some expectation of real identity from site participants.

But if news is moving from being a lecture to a conversation with readers, then readers must be as transparent and play by the same ethical rules as the media. Certainly, unfettered, ugly, racist, personal and similar sorts of rants do not contribute to civic discourse, but rather undermine it.

If we believe that professional journalism, however it might evolve, has value in the modern media world, then we need to accept a role that goes beyond merely posting the news.

We need to:

  • Start conversations — conversation starters includes our journalism, the things we relate and report, but we should also be offering context and questions that help guide conversations;
  • Participate in the conversation — be active in the conversations we start, adding context, information and clarifications as necessary;
  • Set standards — We make the rules, we enforce them, we offer guidance (including providing some ethical context) for civil, constructive participation, and we set the example for participation.

If we do these things, pre-screening comments becomes largely unnecessary. Healthy moderator participation — and I’ve had a lot of experience doing this — squelches most uncivil participation.

Technical solutions also play a role:

  • “Require” real identity (100 percent enforcement impossible, but the effort will go a long way toward keeping people civil;
  • Use reputation tools, such as thumbs up/down on posts and hiding unpopular posts;
  • Tie participation to socially networked profiles, which brings about greater transparency on identity and persona;
  • Make first-time participants go through moderation and e-mail validation;
  • Let banned users post, but hide their comments from everybody but themselves.

Part of the new responsibility of the modern journalist, of the wired news organization, is to foster a locally focus online community. It is our job, the way I see it, that we should be hosting all of the most important discussions in our communities. This isn’t just an audience growth strategy (though it will do that), it is part of our charter. In a way, it always has been.

The people in our communities know stuff. They’re smart. They have insights. They often have a greater institutional knowledge than many of the people on a newspaper staff. They can help other members of the community — including the paid journalists — grow, learn and understand. They can help us all make better decisions, whether it’s about who to vote for or which charity to support.

The whole community can become smarter through the conversations we host.

Isn’t it appropriate that a journalistic organization, which I’ve always believed has an obligation to illuminate and inform, should be the hub of community conversation?

If we look at online conversation from this higher-responsibility prism, then don’t we have an obligation to not only host the conversation, but to ensure we do our level best to keep the conversation civil and constructive.

If that is the case, then we need to do everything we can to keep the bad actors, the disruptors and the trolls out of our conversations.

This is why I support real identity for participation. And this is why I believe that every journalist has an obligation to be digitally literate. Real identity is necessary to a journalisticly sound conversation (it’s a matter of ethics and transparency), and only digitally literate journalists can be master conversation guides, leaders and participants.

And being a participant should be henceforth written into every reporter and editors job description.

UPDATE: I forgot to include appropriate credit — link via Martin Stabe. Continue reading

Tolles sees a journalism future of more work, less pay

In the recent issue of PressTime, Topix CEO Chris Tolles talks about the future of journalism and says,

“I don’t think you’re going to have the same kind of stories that you’d have in traditional papers. Your site should have 100 stories a day, not six. Journalists are going to have to work longer, harder and for less money. Think about blogs – you’re going to have to write 12 stories a day at $25 a pop.”

Lucas Grindley has done a great series of posts on the PressTime article, he responded specifically to this quote, and not necessarily favorable to Chris’s POV.

In my world, most journalists already work long hours. They work hard, and they’re not getting rich. The idea that Tolles would implement worse work-life conditions is baffling. Even worse is Tolles suggestion for how to accomplish this feat of 12 stories per day, per reporter.

I dropped Tolles an e-mail and noted my lack of surprise at the reaction. With his permission, I’m posting his response:

That wasn’t meant as a prescription, as much as a prediction.

I’m looking at Gawker and the like as the stalking horse for whatever the newspaper business is likely to become. Nick is currently paying $12 a post, but modeling out a pay-per-view scenario according to my friends over there.

I’m sure most journalists work hard and don’t get paid much – but the issue here is that newspapers mismanage what they have, and the reporters, eventually, pay by losing their jobs from what I can tell.

Part of my schtick, obviously, is to gore some sacred cow here – but, seriously, reporters need to start caring about how many people read and care about what they write, and measuring themselves in ways that eventually align with the business of gaining audience.

Everybody in journalsim land wants to get the same paper they had with all those monopoly profits, but on the web. I think the paper of the future is going to look a lot more like gawker or curbed, or a topix forum, and a lot less like the NY Times, and the sooner they start building it, the better off we’ll all be for it.

Personally, as a reader of the SF Chronicle, I live in constant fear of my newspaper just disappearing one day, or getting replaced by some clear channelized piece of crap – so not a little bit of this is a wakeup call.

If you cast this whole new media thing as the Reformation, it all makes sense. I’m just trying to point out that it’s in process, and humpty dumpty can’t put back what was lost once those monopoly profits go away.

But you know what they say about the messenger. :-)

Note that Chris left a shorter, similar comment on Lucas’s post, and Lucas responds in the comments. Continue reading

Twelve things journalists can do to save journalism

Begin with this premise: Newspaper journalism is structured around the packaged goods nature of news on print.

We have developed “news judgement” (how important a story is) based on our need to order news within the confines of a certain package size and design.

We developed inverted pyramids both to fit wire service needs and because the nature of the print package sometimes required stories to jump, so we wanted to get the news up top.

We developed certain professional standards related to the content of the story because with mass production, we essentially had only one chance to get the story right. We had to put a premium on accuracy and fair mindedness.

Because we had to reproduce the same package every day at a specific time, we developed highly structured organizations full of rules and rulers.

Because our product was write once, read everywhere, it was essential for us to acquire mass appeal, meaning we had to determine what the news was with little input from individual readers. Editors made decisions based on training and experience with the goal of producing a package that appealed to as many people as possible at one time.
Digital, distributed media, of course, changes all that. The new rules of the game are:

  • The user is in control. They decided what, when, why, where and how to consume media.
  • Users aren’t interested in our deadlines and desire to make sure we have the full story before publishing what we know. They want to know what we know when we know it. They want their news now.
  • People want to participate. They want to talk back. They want to add to our stories, correct us and just spout off as need be with their own opinions.

We have decades and decades invested in doing things based on old rules. Now, the rules have changed, and newsrooms need to change as well. We need new attitudes and new cultures. This will only happen if individual journalists put forward the effort to change their minds about what their jobs are and how they do them

Here are twelve things journalist can do to help us recreate journalism for the 21st Century.

  • Become a blogger. By this, I don’t necessarily mean “start a blog,” but that is never a bad idea. More importantly, become an avid blog reader. Blogs should be a daily routine for every dedicated journalist. They should read every blog related to their beats. They should read blogs about their own interests and hobbies. They should read blogs about their profession. To get blogging is to get how things have changed.
  • Become a producer. Pick up a digital recorder, a point-and-shoot camera or a video camera and start producing content beyond text. Do this as part of your job, fine, or do it on your personal time. The goal is to understand DIY. Post stuff on YouTube, Flickr or any number of other UGC sites.
  • Participate. As you read blogs, leave comments. If your newspaper.com has comments on stories, read the comments and add your own. Become known as somebody who converses on the Internet.
  • Build a web site. It will greatly expand your mind about how the web works if you go a bit beyond just setting up an account on Blogger or WordPress. Learn a little HTML. Better yet, learn some PHP, Cold Fusion, JavaScript or other web development language. You should own your own domain, anyway.
  • Become web literate. You should know what Flash is, and how it differs from AJAX. You should know the meaning of things like HTML, RSS, XML, IP, HTTP and FTP. You should understand at least how people use applications and tools to build web sites. You should know the potential and the limitations of each.
  • Use RSS. You need an RSS reader and lots of RSS feeds to consume. This will help you better grok distributed media.
  • Shop online. Part of your goal is to become immersed in the digital lifestyle. You will learn stuff about the digital life if you shop on Amazon, Ebay and other ecommerce sites. As you do, think about how these sites work and why they’re set up as they are.
  • Buy mobile devices. Get a video iPod. Get a smart phone (an iPhone, Treo, Helio Ocean or Nokia N-series are all good places to start). Learn about distributed, take-it with-you-anywhere content. Buy a laptop and tap into some free wi-fi while you’re out and about. Learn what digital life is like when you’re not shackled to a desktop machine.
  • Become an avid consumer of digital content. Watch videos on YouTube. Download video and audio podcasts (take them with you on your iPod). Visit the best newspaper sites in the world and watch what they’re doing. Turn on your TV less and your computer more.
  • Be a learner. Technology and culture is changing fast. You can’t keep up unless you’re dedicated to learning. I love this quote from Eric Hoffer because it is so appropriate to what our industry is going through now: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
  • Talk about what you’re learning with your co-workers. Be a change agent. Get other journalists excited about the new digital communication/media tools.
  • Finally, read Journalism 2.0 (PDF) by Mark Briggs. You’ll learn about the stuff covered above and how it is changing modern journalism. Brigg’s book is the best primer on the topic you will find.

Quality journalism, and the news organizations that finance it, needs individual journalists to become personally responsible for their own role in changing newsroom cultures and practices. The smartest publishers with the greatest strategic plans (even if they had bottomless buckets of cash to execute on all the best ideas) can’t save news organizations without the concerted support of individual journalists.

One last bit of advice: Don’t wait for a boss to tell you to become a learner and an explorer. Your job is just where you collect your paycheck. You career is what you do. Your boss isn’t responsible for your career. You are. Solely. Don’t wait on others to make changes. Start making changes now for your own benefit. It’s great if your employer benefits from your growth, but you will benefit more. Continue reading

GUEST POST: Rockford editor on Myers-Briggs in the newsroom and the future of journalism

One of the things I love about working at GateHouse Media is how many great, smart, talented, driven, passionate people I meet. There are a lot of such people with GateHouse.

Last week, I was sitting in office of Linda Grist Cunningham, our editor at the Rockford Register Star, talking about all of the work we have ahead of us and the transformations hitting our industry. The subject of Myers-Briggs came up and Linda made an interesting observation about the personality types you typically find in newsrooms and the kind of personality types best suited to our more turbulent media environment. They’re very different people.

As we talked, I thought, “This would be a great topic for a blog post.” But it was clear that Linda knew both more about Myers-Briggs than I do, and had far greater insight into the topic than I could muster.

So I asked Linda to write a guest post, and happily she agreed.

Here is her post:

Here’s what we’ve got: Thorough, exacting journalists who are systematic, hardworking, careful with detail; who want things to be grounded in fact and analyzed logically. Journalists who can thrive in chaos — as long as most of the things around them is structured and well-organized, preferably with deadlines. Journalists who can gather information steadily, then reach an assumption quickly. They’re prone to being comfortable with one (or, maybe) two interpretations of an idea or event, and “two sides to a story” is a religion. They work best with others who are realistic and focused on facts and results.

Here’s what we need: Journalists who are innovative, strategic, versatile, analytical and entrepreneurial. Journalists who enjoy working with others in start-up activities that require ingenuity and unusual resourcefulness; who create innovative, logical, organized and decisive strategic plans around valid concepts — and who can get them done. Journalists who can see a dozen possibilities when others can see only “two sides of a story.” Journalists who delight in a “slippery slope” just for the rush of the slide, and who then figure a way to bring it all together and get it done.

With apologies for a taking liberties with the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators, which I pretty much lifted verbatim above, the men and women whose styles and personalities have been the strong foundations of our print newsrooms struggle to meet the expectations of the “cyber-fiber” integrated newsroom.

I once heard the statistic that 80 percent of our newsrooms were ISTJs (that’s Myers-Briggs shorthand for a version of the “what we’ve got” above.) I can’t cite the stat, but after almost four decades in newsrooms, I happily accept it as true. The ISTJs fiercely uphold the First Amendment, get things spelled right, get the facts, send the bad guys to jail, get the press started on time, and don’t screw up grandma’s obit. They keep their own counsel and aren’t particularly inclined to be openly enthusiastic.

(Think I’m kidding? Ever watched a roomful of journalists listening to a particularly rousing speaker? Nary a one nods, and heaven forbid that they applaud. I have watched 900 editors at an American Society of Newspaper Editors convention sit without a single clap of hands, not even a polite one, at the conclusion of a presidential — that’s U.S. president — speech. When those same editors gave Richard Nixon a standing ovation — years after he “retired” — I was sure I was at a publishers meeting.)

That’s who we are, and that made us a formidable force when we were exclusively about the two-dimensional print newspaper. That’s not going to get us into the new media world. We need — again apologies to Myers-Briggs — a whole bunch of ENTJs and ENTPs (see description above.) Since we can’t and shouldn’t replace the ISTJs, which would be not only insane, but impossible, and since personality styles are non-transferable (we’re born that way, folks), how do we go about building the newsroom staff we need?

Lobotomies are out. So, we do three things:

  1. Capitalize on the strengths of those exacting, fact-driven “traditional” journalists’ brains.
  2. Hire the innovative brains when the openings occur so we move toward a diverse mix of thinking styles and personalities.
  3. Teach new tricks.

*Capitalize: Just because they aren’t the first ones to grab the wireless laptop and video camera doesn’t mean our journalists can’t or won’t transform themselves into the new-fangled models. They will, and they’ll do it well. But, we can’t dump it all on them at once. Customize the explanation and the training; detail the facts and show the logic behind what we want them to do; explain the whys and the pros-and-cons. Develop realistic time lines and implementation plans. Create order and structure around the disruptions to the things they’ve been doing for years. Give them plenty of time to ponder and mull, read and research, ask questions, absorb and analyze. Challenge them to suggest other methods and solutions to arrive at similar goals. Give them plenty of time and room to let go of the past. They’ll get to the same place as the innovators; it just takes longer.

* Hire: We shouldn’t have to spend much time on this one since we’ve said it for decades. Let’s just do it: Instead of filling positions with the same kinds of people and job descriptions as the ones who vacated them, decide what you need to get the new jobs done, and hire for that position, not the one that’s open. None of us are going to get a bunch of additional bodies, so we have to hire smartly, and that may mean no more ISTJs for a while.

* Teach: Your “early adopters” and even your “early adapters” are going to be jazzed by the possibilities multiple platforms bring to “doing news.” They’ll be your leaders and drivers. But, give the ISTJ-type folks a chance. Grab a handful of the undesignated newsroom leaders — those reporters, photographers and copy editors who toil over the traditional print newspaper and to whom everyone listens no matter what. Hold them close. Bring them into the first brainstorming sessions. Give them the cool, new, expensive equipment. Challenge them to try it. Tell them that you need them to help lead the newsroom into the future. Instead of lamenting their lack of enthusiasm, make it important that they be among the leaders — and give them the opportunities to do some serious journalism with some nifty technology. It will work. And, once they find out that they can have fun and do serious stuff at the same time, they’ll tell the rest of the newsroom. Think of it as “Mikey likes it….”

If you haven’t taken Myers-Briggs before, I recommend it. It can be pretty insightful. It’s best if you take it through a professional environment where experts can help you understand better what it means and how to apply what you learn. That said, you might be able to find a free Myers-Briggs test through Google, which can still give you a basic idea of your personality type.

FWIW: I’m an ENTP. Continue reading

The best web video is personal

This WaPo story on how presidential candidates are using YouTube is interesting for what it says about online video.

Several times a week, Kotecki, a self-described “political geek” turned YouTube celebrity, advises presidential candidates on their campaign videos — from his dorm room at Georgetown University. Equipped with a three-year-old laptop, a $60 Web camera and a $30 microphone — and a small, dusty desk lamp as a light source — the 21-year-old dishes out free, unsolicited suggestions (and the occasional compliment) to the candidates.

Kotecki has one recurring message to the candidates and their expensive media advisers: “The Web isn’t TV.” As in, Web viewers don’t expect to be spoken to, they expect to be spoken with. It’s a passive experience vs. an interactive one.

Other students of the genre have similar advice.

“Look at how the candidates are talking in their videos. With a few exceptions, they’re mostly looking sideways, not talking directly to the camera,” said Jeff Jarvis, who heads the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and started PrezVid.com, a blog dedicated to watching the campaign through YouTube. “The important thing about this medium is it’s very human and intimate. A voter comes across and clicks on you. You should talk to that voter and look at him in the eye.”

Micah Sifry, co-founder of TechPresident.com, another blog that looks at how the candidates are campaigning on the Web, also makes a distinction between video online and ads on television. “There’s something fundamentally different about video online,” he said. “Viewers are looking for that rare, unscripted, revealing moment, to get a little sense of who these candidates really are.”

All of this goes right along with what I’ve said many times about the digital media being more personal. Content producers, whether they’re entertainers or news producers, should approach the medium as one-to-one communication, with a voice and a mindset that is direct, casual and has a sense of “I want to have a conversation with you.” That word “unscripted” is important.

Everybody loves OnBeing and most of it’s fans on the professional side talk glowingly about its production values (which are fantastic). But what makes it great isn’t the technology. What makes it compelling and engaging is the personal voice, the unscripted nature, the way it’s edited to enhance the spontaneous feel. The interactive navigation helps underscore the personal, interactive nature of the project. It isn’t just slick. It’s purposeful.

Web video isn’t about the equipment or even the storytelling (stories are great, but not the key point). What matters is the voice. Continue reading

New term: Definitive-voice journalism

While at Connections, I spoke with a few people about personal journalism, both where I opened the conversation and with a couple of people who approached me. It seems to be a term and definition of interest.

Here’s the opposite of personal journalism: Definitive-voice journalism.

Definitive-voice journalism is the journalism of big media, of packaged-good media. It is the way journalism has been practiced for some time. It is the journalism that the traditionalists defend. It is the journalism that says, “the news is what I say the news is.” I’m not predicting the demise of definitive-voice journalism, but personal journalism will become the dominant journalism within a matter of years. Continue reading

To save journalism, think differently about journalism

Yes, Virginia, there may be a Santa Claus, but Lucas Grindley begs to differ:

The moral of the story is always: Invest in good journalism and magic just happens.

It’s like Santa Claus. Be good and you’ll get presents. Be bad and you get coal, or layoffs. Editors who listen to this story are taught it’s heroic to cocoon into their newsrooms and block out the influences of declining revenue and circulation numbers. Report more or edit cleaner and then, magically, world peace.

To a large degree, I agree with Lucas. My impression is that most of the newsroom advocates who decry cuts, beg for money and believe that cutting profit margins to protect current staffing levels can save newspapers are those who believe that Big-J journalism has big mo-jo with readers.

If that were true, how do you explain the Los Angeles Times? Here’s a paper that consistently wins Pulitzers and just as consistently watches its circulation decline (in a growth market, no less). If great journalism sells papers, it ain’t seling the Times. Meanwhile, the tabloids in New York, which serious journalists scorn, were among the only papers in the most recent Fas-Fax reporting circulation increases.

The spend-on-journalism evangelists miss a key point, as Grindley alludes: There is more ailing print journalism than just the quality of the news coverage.

Newspaper readership has been declining since the 1930s, accelerating in 1970s, and again recently. Each new generation of Americans read newspapers less than the previous generation, and they never stop reading less, from 18 to 80. This isn’t really a chicken-or-egg argument, because it’s clear that circulation declines did not begin with staff reductions. Circulation declines begin with people finding newspapers less useful and less relevant and less convenient.

Sure, we need to do better journalism, but that isn’t necessarily your grizzled city editor’s journalism. It is journalism that fits better into people’s lives, either because of topic, delivery or presentation. It is journalism that includes conversation, makes no pretense to omniscience and exudes personality. There is still a place for traditional enterprise reporting, but we also need to reinvent journalism for the 21st Century. We need to think differently about how we do our jobs, how we prioritize our time and what we consider important.

Until we think differently about journalism, all of the money on Wall Street won’t save newspapers. Once print journalists stop thinking like print journalists, then we can better discuss how best to invest in the new journalism.

UPDATE: Related, Andrew Grant-Adamson takes on a CJR editorial calling on billionaires to take over big newspapers. He notes that rich owners want to make money, too, and are just as likely to make staff cuts as publicly traded companies. He also suggests that newspapers have fallen out of favor with Wall Street because of flat revenue, but I think the lack of confidence has more to do with the inability of newspaper companies to articular a clear vision of the future. We have been clinging to a dying business model (including how we report and present news). Related to that thought is Alan Mutter on newspaper valuation. Continue reading