Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Next Newsroom: Wrap-up

I spent Thursday and Friday at the NextNewsroom Conference at Duke University. Thanks to Chris O’Brien for coordinating a great discussion and helping college students attend.

My interest in the conference stemmed from a previous interest in exploring the idea of a “virtual newsroom.” I wrote a little about this before.

Due to some initial crazyness at the Gainesville airport, I was late to the show, so here are some links documenting what I missed:

Greg Linch posted the highlights of Chris O’Brien’s opening words and collected some excellent quotes from Saf Fahim’s keynote speech. I’ve been following Greg on Twitter and his blog for a while now, and it was awesome to finally meet him. We even collaborated on live-streaming and recording sessions on the second day. More about that later.

Byran Murley used Cover It Live to keep up on speeches the first day and sessions the second. Cover It Live looks like a sweet live-blogging tool.

I did make it in time for Randy Covington’s speech on “New Roles in the New Newsroom.” I posted my notes earlier, but the quick takeaway was that the current structure of the newsroom is an impediment to convergence and integration between mediums. As examples of alternative structures he pointed to London’s Daily Telegraph and the Tampa Bay Tribune.

Next there was a panel discussion with Robertson Barret, Sharon Behl Brooks, Christian Oliver, Rusty Coats and Keith Hanadel as moderator. The discussion was a little disappointing, I felt like they kept drifting into different arguments instead of responding to the questions and comments posed via Twitter.

There’s video from all this at Ustream.tv.

On Friday, the second day, Greg and I joined forces (and equipment) to live-stream video from the sessions we attended. We had some technical difficulties, but it was really fun!

Session 1: We went to a discussion facilitated by Brett Erikson, Kathy Stofer and Sharon Brooks on operating a converged newsroom in the context of student media. Check out the video.

Session 2: How can the newsroom management structure be reorganized? Led by Bryan Murley. Takeaway: The Web editor needs to be high up on that ladder. I’m gonna point you to Greg again, as his notes are better than mine for this session.

Session 3: How to change from old news culture to new – led by John North, Knoxville News Sentinel. If we had come up with any answers to this problem, we could make a looot of money.

Session 4: Balancing work and class, learning and innovation in college media, led by Kathleen Sullivan. Ustream was crashing no matter what I did, so I switched to Yahoo Live. Unfortunately, it doesn’t save video, just broadcasts it. :(

The best thing about this conference was that after breaking out for different sessions we all gathered back together to share what had been discussed in each group. I’ve never done this at a conference and I thought it was a great way to walk out with as much to think about as possible.

So, what is the next newsroom going to be like? We don’t really know. There are so many aspects to consider, from roles and structure to physical space to technology. I’m still trying to remember names, Web sites, and ideas, gathering all my notes off of napkins, stray paper and boarding passes.

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Nextnewsroom: college media innovation

Facilitated by Kathleen Sullivan

How do we build in opportunities for trying new things?

How do student journalists balance work and classes?

How do we manage more (with only so much staff)? Where can you scale back, where can you do more?

Different deadline realities, diff sources for content, what can be delegated and what can’t?

Teamwork for stories instead of individual ownership?

The story doesn’t end when it goes to print. You can have all sorts of discussions online.

Build in-house wiki(s) to avoid starting over with new staff

Google 20% project time

Additional platforms = additional people, so ppl get territorial. How do you solve that problem?

Aside: Livestreaming is so cool!

Get interdisciplinary staff, not just j-students.

What can you make into a product (low-hanging fruit)?

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Convergence and Newsroom Structure

So for the first session of the day, I ended up at a discussion on operating a converged student media newsroom. I can’t really relate; The Independent Florida Alligator, being separate from the university, can’t take advantage of all the available tools and skills at UF. But the ideas from the converged model applied to our print and web publications could make things work much more smoothly and allow us to go farther.

Greg Linch and I got video, using UStream.tv

Now I’m at a discussion of newsroom structure, facilitated by Bryan Murley. We’ve been talking about who takes responsibility for what and how work is distributed through roles in the newsroom.

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Today’s Next Newsroom Unconference

The sessions for this morning:

Session 1
1. What are the keys to successfully operating a converged newsroom, especially for student media?
Facilitators: Brett Erickson, Kathy Stofer, Sharon Brooks
2. How can design of space promote innovation in the newsroom?
Facilitator: John Keefe
3. What productivity tools can transform the newsroom?
Facilitator: Christian Oliver
4. What is the role of social networking in the newsroom?
Facilitator: Kara Andrade

I want to go to all of them!

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Even a match is better than whistling in the dark

A lot of people tell me I’m really good at this Web stuff. Yea, I’m a geek. I love to program and play and diddle around with technology, especially if it can be made useful.

But I’ve really only had 2 years of this. I fell in love with journalism late in my sophomore year. I’m the managing editor for the Web site of a student-run paper and I’m making it all up as I go along.

OK, I spend hours every day scanning blogs, newspapers, Twitter and other Web sites learning as much as I can about this thing called online journalism. For me, there is no ivory.

But rarely do I get a chance to sit down with someone more experienced than I and discuss what I’m doing and how I should be doing it differently. (Maybe that’s a new direction to take this blog in?)

Last week, the Journalism Advisory Council sat down for lunch with us budding journos. It was a really cool experience.

I talked to one member about data potential for B2B magazines.

Another responded to my questions about the Web site by listing the things they do and then shoving me into a conversation with someone else.

I discussed eye-tracking studies and the difference between print and Web design, fairly eloquently for someone who can’t…well, I can design my way out of a paper bag, but it’s not one of my strengths.

Another member wanted to look at The Independent Florida Alligator’s Web site. My baby. No sooner had the site loaded than suggestions for improvements were being made.

Yes, we need to label our multimedia so that readers know what’s what. Yes, we should be publishing online as soon as we know something. Yes, I need to make Opinions, Sports and Avenue headlines as Web-friendly as the News heds have become. Yep, that event on the calendar shouldn’t be labeled TBA, it’s an all day event. Must fix the PHP.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

As soon as school is back in session, I’m going to find some unofficial guidance. The print managing editor and the editor go over the paper with one of the professors once a week. The Web site needs similar help. (Mindy, Dave, you up for this?) And I’m going to make sure the guidance continues, because one simple conversation can change so much.

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Applied Interactive Newspapers

The online capstone course, Applied Interactive Newspapers, is built to work like an internship.

There are 6 students in the class this semester. Each of us is responsible for pulling in 7 stories each week, from The New York Times or AP wire.

These stories are published on Newszine, the Interactive Media Lab’s news Web site.

Recently, in addition to the 7 stories, we were assigned a multimedia requirement. Each week, 2 Soundslides and 2 videos will be published to the site along with our stories, with labor divided among the staff.

It was my turn to do a video this week. I chose to do a video tutorial for using Soundslides. I wrote out my script and talked to my partner, Matt Gonzalez, about the shots. We set the camera up and also set the editing computer up for screen-casting.

Then I did my thing. I’m not particularly pleased with the outcome. I get massive stage fright as soon as the camera’s watching, even though I’m only on the screen for a few seconds.

But I learned a lot from this. I should have run through my actions a few times before I did it for the camera. It also could have done with a little more editing.

In any case, I’m learning a lot about video and editing, so by the time I graduate I should be pretty good at this.

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Ducks go quack, quack, cows go moo

I don’t remember the rest of the song. But that’s what was playing in my head while I read Steve Klein’s “Revenge of the ‘Web People.'” He’s writing about definitions and how “print people” and “Web people” need to be just “journalists.”

Klein argues against the concept that “Web people” are somehow inferior to “print people.”

Online journalists must have all the skills of print and broadcast journalists, as well as digital production skills. They need a far more diverse skill set than journalists who work in vertical disciplines. They must have horizontal skill sets that they then practice on an online platform.
So, any hint that an online journalist is less capable or less qualified than a print or broadcast journalist is just plain wrong and unfair. It really ruffles my feathers (do ducks have feathers?)!

I recently found out that my position at The Alligator was created after a series of editors tried to do away with the Web site completely (in the early to mid-1990s). It apparently diverted important resources from the “real paper.” Think where we’d be now if they had taken the Web seriously!

Back to my point. One of the things that pisses me off the most about the gulf between print and online is how one-sided it seems to be. I read the paper. In both mediums. I care about the paper. In both mediums. I can write and edit just as well as I can create a Google map, edit audio, or design a Web site. I just happen to work in the online department because of the linear structure of the newsroom.

Don’t pigeonhole me just because I can do some things you don’t understand. I enjoy all of the aspects of being a journalist – from finding and reporting a story to producing a Web package. Let me learn all that I can, I’ll bet you learn a few things too.

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Less talk, more work

There’s a new trend in online journalism these days: Stop talking, and do it.

Stop trying to convert, stop making lists, stop fighting the print bias with words. Start doing things that will make the difference.


David Cohn
wrote:

I think the time for evangelizing is over. At this point if you are in a mainstream news organization and you don’t see the need for change, the battle is lost and I’m not going to spend time trying to convince you to change the culture in your newsroom. I will simply shake your hand, wish you an honest good luck and move on…If you want to see real change – don’t tell news room editors what to do – DO IT YOURSELF.

And Zac Echola, writing about Wired Journalists, wrote:

Something happened early this year in the media blogging world. We suddenly stopped talking about what we should be doing and started talking about what we are doing. We started talking about being the change we wish to see. It was at the same time a jarring change in tone and an exhilarating one.
Now is the time to be that catalyst for change in your news organization. No more talking about it. We’re doing it. And we want you to do it too.

Wired Journalists is a social networking site set up by Ryan Sholin, Howard Owens and Zac Echola after Owen’s post on getting wired.
In a very short amount of time, the site has gained over 300 members. It opens up discussions, not on why online journalism is important, but how to start doing it. Members are both newbies and established “wired” journalists.

I realized today that consciously or not, the “just do it” trend is affecting me, too. I spent a lot of time at The Independent Florida Alligator last semester trying to win over some very print-oriented editors. I spent a lot of time making lists of projects I wanted to start. Not that I didn’t get anything done; we made a lot of progress on getting our content management system working the way WE wanted it to work.

But this semester I’ve spent more time actually ticking projects off that list. I finally got the Gainesville Explorer project running. A multimedia stringer made a map of apartment complexes in Gainesville. Yea, that’s right, I have stringers. (I think we need to change this lingo, minion is a much cooler word.) I met with some of the business staff regarding the missing alumni page. I’ve gotten the editor and managing editor for print writing blog posts. All in just three weeks.

This is a hell of a lot more fun than fighting print bias and trying to get reporters to see the light.

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Things to learn at The Alligator

I’ve been working at The Independent Florida Alligator since the beginning of the summer. And I’ve learned a lot about the Web, news, multimedia, design, and programming.

Perhaps the most important area in which I’ve grown is how I deal with others on a day-to-day basis.

I have a pretty short fuse. I get frustrated easily, I have a big mouth, I love to complain. I curse at the computer regularly and will talk to anyone for hours about how much I despise our content management system. I spend way to much time in front of a computer, so I can be a little socially handicapped.

That’s no excuse. Coming from a manager, the people I work with don’t take all this as just blowing steam. It makes them more reluctant to work online. It keeps them from suggesting new projects because they don’t know how far we can push the limitations of the CMS.

So I’m learning, slowly, about diplomacy and silence and waiting until I’m alone to scream and tear my hair out. It’s really hard. But worth the effort. The less I kvetch, the more people wander past my desk and ask what I’m doing for such-and-such an article.

It’s important for online journalists to be visible and positive about what they do.