Journalism Next

Spent the last 36 hours in and around Arlington, TX, home of the JerryDome and University of Texas at Arlington, Stiles’ alma mater. We talked about journalism nonstop for hours; I’ve never considered or discussed journalism with that length or breadth since maybe college, and back then I wasn’t in class that often so maybe I’ve topped myself.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with the staff of UTA’s student paper,  The Shorthorn, giving a short talk and then training (Stiles on computer assisted-reporting, me on multimedia/video). This morning we took part in back-to-back panels at a Society of Professional Journalists Career Conference for students and young professionals, where we talked convergence journalism (one of my fave topics, as you know). Apologies to the students who had to see us twice. Goodgod.

The Hu-Stiles traveling roadshow often starts with this piece from CBS’ Jeff Greenfield, which is a great introductory explanation of what convergence is, and what it means. (So much for CBS understanding the sea change though, they still don’t allow their videos to be embedded elsewhere so I had to link you instead of show you the story on this page.)

The bottom line is, distinctions between print reporters, TV reporters, radio reporters and others are quickly melting away. We’re all hybrid, multi-platform journalists now – or should prepare ourselves to be – and students should embrace it or be left behind. “It’s the cost of admission these days,” said our fellow panelist, CBS11 web editor Kent Chapline.

Here’s a sample slide… and the full audio from one of our panels is available thanks to a forward-thinking future journalist named Brooks, who is also a Plano Senior High grad. (Go Wildcats.)

My favorite part of Stiles’ slide is “don’t be evil”. He can better explain it, but this is something we both feel very strongly about as journalists. Being evil, to us, means hoarding information because you can. Not connecting audiences to the best resources because you only want them to be on your website. Not telling certain stories because it’s difficult or not sexy or doesn’t tie to revenue goals. That’s evil. Not allowing your video to be embedded other places is evil. Not linking out to other blogs and helpful sites is evil. Not using open source and free journalism tools like Google Docs and Flickr or Audacity because you only want to use your own stuff is silly, and if it’s keeping good info from viewers and readers, it’s evil. Using social media solely to push your own stuff and not have a conversation is not quite evil, but it’s a poor use of social networks.

We, as journalists, are information sharers. In a time when information is everywhere all the time, we oughta be information finders and sorters and filters – people who help provide greater context, explanation, digging – to help news make better sense to people or help it better connect to their worlds. We can’t do it if we believe other finders and sorters and diggers out there aren’t worthy of linking to or promoting or teaming up with. Don’t be evil.

7 thoughts on “Journalism Next

  1. I like what you have to say. This is very informative and refreshing to read. Journalism can be a very cut-throat profession, but our main goal is to get the word and information out to the world. If we keep certain things to ourselves due to trying to make a name for ourselves, we not only fail our readers and viewers, we fail ourselves and the profession.

  2. Elise, we haven’t met, but I know Matt well having worked closely with him at the Chronicle. It would be hard to disagree with your point that information — or news, a term I prefer to distinguish meaningful, useful stuff from noise — should be shared as widely as possible across all available platforms. But even as someone who has spent most of my career avoiding thinking about the financial side of journalism — that’s for the bean-counters, right? — it’s hard to avoid mentioning that when news orgs aren’t as open-source in their approach as we would like, it’s because they want the clicks to be on their Web site and accrue to their financial benefit, right? As opposed to simply wanting to hide information? Perhaps this line of thinking is misguided — this stuff remains largely a mystery to me — but I assume that’s what motivates it. Hard to characterize that as “evil.” Would love to hear you put me in my place on this.

  3. Why spend weeks building a proprietary photo gallery to capture page views when you can just embed a slide show from Flickr now? Why use only Yahoo! Maps, an inferior product, because the advertising department has a deal to place the company’s ugly text ads on content? Why use an expensive video platform like Brightcove when you can push your content for free to You Tube or Vimeo? Why require readers to paginate across multiple pages to read one story just to get page views? All these things are not literally “evil,” of course, but they aren’t serving the needs of readers.

  4. @Mike – Thanks for the thoughtful comment. When it comes to the financial gain issue, the question, I think, is whether the juice is worth the squeeze. How much financial gain is really accrued by keeping content proprietary? We all know the pitfalls of online advertising revenue (there’s too much cyberspace to make substantial dollars through it), so why not make the product better by being more open, thereby giving yourself a brand that’s identified with openness and information sharing, about putting journalism first?

    I have to keep believing in strong content. Calling the proprietary-type tactics “evil” is hyperbolic, to be sure. But it makes the kind of point I think is important. We have got to move as rapidly if not faster than our audiences to the new frontier. That frontier means sharing information openly and giving readers the best content/information, even if our news organization didn’t make it up or discover it or find it first. If it takes calling evil the previous ways of hoarding information in order to get folks to embrace change, I’m okay with it.

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