For those not in the know, this is satirizing the great “should journalists learn to code” debate of October 2013. (I note the date because it seems to recur every year or so.)
I believe local journalism, local government and local economies are the linchpins of a vibrant, healthy nation. For decades, as conglomerates swallowed up independent news outlets across the nation (our own local paper, Bay News, is owned by News Corp. – the same company that owns Fox News and the New York Post, for example), local coverage was watered down because community reporting is expensive, and stockholders want dividends. And because corporations can view employees as easily replaceable cogs, one reporter who lives in the community and has covered it for decades is just as valuable as one straight out of journalism school three states over.
But community reporting requires more than cogs. It requires more than an academic familiarity of those it covers. What meaningful local reporting requires is a personal investment. If the reporter doesn’t stand to benefit from a healthy community, his coverage will serve to dramatize and exacerbate problems rather than solve them.
When Sheepshead Bites ventures to cover the community, we do it because we’re neighbors. Our writers live here. Our business is based here. And we endeavor to support and uplift our neighbors for all of our benefit.
Our reporting sees results. When we complain about garbage, it gets cleaned up. When we question politicians, they endeavor to meet our concerns. When we cry to the city that Sheepshead deserves more – well, we’re still waiting to see about that one. This alone makes the site a worthwhile exercise, because, to me, the significance of one’s aspirations is only measurable by how much it helps others. Not to get preachy, but a preacher’s quote is especially applicable here: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” (That’d be Martin Luther King, Jr., by the way.)
“The launch of the Data Journalism Handbook next week is the result of a unique journalistic collaboration…The book’s contributors are a who’s who of data journalism. There are pieces by data journalists from the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, the Financial Times, Propublica and the New York Times. And that’s besides contributions from three of us at the Guardian.”
I should say, I re-caught the bug.
I teamed up with Paolo Black, Melissa Pracht, Scott Lituchy and MediaStorm Producer Bob Sacha to tell a story about two young men who have made a career out of street entertainment. My role was to transcribe all the audio that was collected during shows and interviews.
I got to sit in on training sessions and lectures, and watch the MediaStorm team work their magic. And it was absolutely magical.
Talking the story over with the team showed me exactly how powerful a story like this can be and how we can learn from each other during its production. We all had our strengths and points of view, which contributed to a stronger piece than any of us could have produced individually.
I got home each day ranting about some new insight: interviewing techniques that get the subject to respond in complete sentences or the beauty of the extreme close-up. I looked at other MediaStorm projects, watching for the details we had talked about.
When I saw that my name was going in the credits for the project, and that I made a cameo in the Behind the Scenes production (at about 8:08) the grin on my face was big enough to fit an XL pizza.
There are parts of the experience I don’t want to remember. The ringing in my ears and the ache in my neck after transcribing for hours at a time. The frustration I felt as I watched the other members of the team working with high-end gear I can’t even dream of having. That doesn’t mean I won’t volunteer again. But next time, I’m taking a bottle of Aleve with me. And a point-and-shoot.
I started taking photos and shooting amateur videos long before I fell in love with journalism. In college, I took photography classes, including a study abroad trip to Berlin. I also did some independent study and in-class work with videography. Not to mention my work with both mediums at The Independent Florida Alligator, as I struggled to get reporters to get video and create audio slideshows along with their text articles.
So I caught the multimedia bug long ago. But once I lost access to the SLR and HD cameras, it got harder to be interested. I’d see a cool photo opportunity, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t afford to buy my own gear.
During this time, I turned to programming. I became more interested in data and applications and code than I had been with framing and sequences and lighting. Programming is a cheaper pursuit, and I’ve always been geeky enough to find the resources and teach myself.
Now, though, I catch myself walking around and seeing everything through a camera lens again. I wish I could afford even some low-end gear, because I know that otherwise, my interest will wane again. I will miss out on an aspect of storytelling every bit as important as programming or writing.
And although all the industry advice, including what I learned at MediaStorm, pushes specialization, I still want to know how to do it all.
Anna Rodrigues, a journalism professor at Durham College in Oshawa, Canada, has spent the last year developing a project that will at once serve as a global community for journalism students and as a teaching tool in her classroom.
Global Student Journalists is a social media network where student journalists from around the world can connect. The network allows students from any journalism program in the world to become a member and upload their work – video, audio, images etc – to the site for other students to look at and give feedback.
This site will also be used in my classroom as a teaching tool in online community management. I had been struggling with a way to teach students how to manage comments and members in a newsroom context so this became a way to do that.
If you’re not registered, there isn’t much to see. Rodrigues says the site was built to provide students with a private community. Once logged in, students can show their work and comment on other work that has been posted. Comments and membership will be moderated by Roderigues’ students, in an effort to teach them about online community management.
I live in the West Bronx area of New York City. The neighborhoods in this area are diverse, the history is complicated, and the stigma of the Bronx is strong.
There is no metro paper that covers these neighborhoods. The New York Times, Daily News, New York Post and Gothamist occasionally cover political and crime issues in the area, but no major paper is giving this group of communities a voice.
Instead, residents are given a voice in the small local papers that are part of the Bronx News Network. Rather than focusing on breaking news items and fighting over scoops, these papers work together. The Bronx News Network is a nonprofit organization founded by Mosholu Preservation Corporation and the Norwood News.
None of these papers are dailies. They publish anywhere from every two weeks to once a month. But they still provide an important source of news and opinion to an under-served community. They have unimpressive websites and tiny offices. And they are surviving in a time when the news industry is in trouble. They will continue to survive, and not just because they are the only ones providing this service to this area.
Small community newspapers will be able to provide targeted advertising, the bane of the major metro.
They can react quickly to the changes in technology and society.
They live in the areas they write about.
I don’t want to say that tiny papers are the future of journalism, because the future for journalism will not be any one thing. The future will depend on each community, and how the community interacts with the producers of journalism.
I am saying that this model seems to be working really well for this particular community. And it’s important to look at what is working where, and see what can be applied in other areas.
This is a response to May’s Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists May topic:
This is a blog ring for young journalists around the world. Each month, we will debate a set topic by posting here and on our own blogs.
This month, the journalism job market will be flooded with new, eager journalists. It’s a nervous time for all. Many graduates from last year haven’t yet settled into journalism, and yet now they have to contend with a couple more thousand rivals.
Tips, knowledge and experience are essential â€” but how do you get them? Where do you look?
New graduates: What are your worries? Your questions? Your confusions? Put them to the other journalists in this ring â€” we may just have the perfect answer.
Other young journalists: You were here once. What did you do? How did you land that first important job? What got the ball rolling?
A year ago I started the adventure they call life after college. I had the rest of my life (a.k.a. the next 6 months) planned out with confidence: a two-week photography class in Berlin, Germany was to be followed by an internship at The Miami Herald.
Things went swimmingly, until I realized that the end date of my internship was nearing and somehow I didn’t have anything else lined up. Job applications and interviews had gone nowhere, and I had done with being picky.
One thing led to another, and a fellow JWJ (Journalist Without a Job) and I decided that New York City would be the perfect place for two multi-talented news addicts to find work. You can read about that adventure in “Sink, Florida, Sink.”
Here I am, nine months in New York. I’ve had two non-news internships, both terminated early due to the economic crisis. I started freelancing a few months ago, taking on any job I thought I could do: web design and development, video production, news writing.
Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my head above water.
Dave Lee recently wrote, in “J-students must stick around and clear up the mess”
Just spend your day being a journalist. Get shifts, even if it’s one day a week. Apply for anything that’s remotely near to a newsroom. Work on the reception if you have to.
You need to make sure you’re in the industry when it’s back on the way up.
This is the motivation behind almost everything I’ve done since I moved to New York.
After cold-calling and e-mailing every publisher in the city failed to produce a bill-paying income, I took two unrelated internships and spent all my free time wriggling into every gap I could find.
I found the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative through some searches on local news papers. I contacted the program leaders asking if I could help, in any way, shape or form. They asked me to help them with a website, which led to talking to students about online journalism, which led to freelancing for the Norwood News. Word is, I might also be asked to teach the newsroom some web skills.
PBS MediaShift blog host Mark Glaser asked me to write a series on innovative journalism projects. I can’t even count how many new contacts I made while researching and interviewing journalists all over the country. And while it hasn’t directly led to any new gigs yet, I follow every one of those people on Facebook and Twitter. They are a valuable addition to my network.
I’m barely keeping my toes immersed in the dwindling pool that is journalism. But I take every opportunity to mention to everyone I meet: I want to do journalism.
But you don’t really care about my story. You just want to know how to keep your own head up.
Meet everyone you can. Go to every conference, search for every possible resource that could help you.
Read these articles collected by Tracy Boyne: 85 Resources to Pass the Time During Your Next Furlough.
Getting started is hard. How do you start pitching stories? How do you meet editors who can help you? How do you find out about opportunities?
Stay plugged in. Follow every journalist on Twitter and Facebook, pay attention to what they say. Follow the news, and just start e-mailing story ideas to editors. It’s hard, and it’s scary, but eventually it pays off.
Find a way to pay the bills, and then find a way to stay involved.
Thinking more about programming in journalism (not computer programming, the one we associate more with radio and television) I realized there are a few things news organizations are doing that are really similar to the concept of packaging news with an identity: blogs.
At most organizations, news blogs aren’t structured around an identity. Instead they are topical. Which could be better, in some ways, what I really hate about TV news is all the self-promoting, self-congratulatory anchors and show hosts. Sometimes, identity is a bad thing.
So I was poking around several news Web sites looking for good blogs, when I stumbled upon USA Today’s “communities.” The Community Center blog (keeping you apprised of conversations and opportunities on the site where readers are getting involved with USATODAY’s daily journalism) is a hub for the other blogs on the site, which look suspiciously like beatblogs to me.
Each blog has a designated author (or small group of authors) and appear to be updated several times a day.
But something bothers me. Which of these things is at all like the other?
I really like the Interactivity blog – just wish it looked as nice as some of the others.
A few days ago Mindy McAdams wrote a post about how she uses her iPhone and what that could mean for journalism.
Her questions for journalism:
- If someone has all the videos and quality radio news she could ever find time to listen to (or watch) right in her pocket, how can anything even remotely like the newspaper compete with that? The newspaper as it was, in the heyday of the 30 percent profit margins, had something for everyone. Now the Internet-enabled phone provides that.
- Will the traditional print news organization come up with programming, instead of random and disconnected stories? I don’t mean it has to be audio and video, but it would be something with an identity, like a show or a series. The closest thing I can think of that’s not radio is David Pogue â€” a brand unto himself.
- Breaking news is a commodity â€” you’ll never pay the bills with that. Hard news is not always breaking news, but how should it be packaged or bundled â€” to adapt to the phone?
I’m not sure mobile phones have quite reached the level of “world in my pocket,” (speed, coverage, screen/keyboard sizes are still issues) but that’s not the point. If we [media organizations] sat around until the right phones were created, we’d be in even deeper poo than we already are. Realize right now that everyone will soon have an Internet-enabled phone (or similar pocket device) and the technology will keep pace with the demand.
Will the traditional print news organization come up with programming…?
Do traditional print news orgs still exist? Don’t they all have Web sites now? Aren’t they all scrabbling to save themselves online?
We’re not at the beginning of the news revolution anymore. We’re in the middle, and the organizations that have made it this far are very different from what they were 10 years ago. The ones that make it through will be the ones who drop this “traditional print news organization” concept and think about what people are reading, watching, hearing, buying, doing, playing…
Hard news is not always breaking news, but how should it be packaged or bundled â€” to adapt to the phone?
Mindy suggests that a packaged identities can be a part of this and I agree. After all, isn’t that what we’re doing by building personal brands and using social media? Isn’t that why you follow someone on Twitter or Facebook? Why you subscribe to a blogger’s RSS feed?
I hadn’t thought of this before, because I’ve been thinking more technically about how information can be packaged for multiple mediums.
But what if we break the media company identity down into a series of smaller, bite-sized packages?
Company branding is already being broken down to the individual level. Personal branding is all the rage. Will news packages be branded to the individual? Or be yet another subset of the company branding? Or will the individual brand dominate the other two?