Wanted: Journalists

I often get asked about the life and death of newspapers and journalism. Here is what I say:

  • This is the most exciting time in the history of journalism to be a journalist.
  • No matter how much the associated technology changes, journalism history demonstrates that platforms require content.
  • journalismThat content is produced by journalists.
  • In the second decade of the 21st century, anyone can be a publisher (Look: I am publishing!). However, not everyone is a journalist. That’s why teaching journalism — and not only to journalists —  is so important.
  • Journalism teaches you to write for life across multiple platforms.
  • Know your audience. Write and produce for your audience.
  • Good writing is rewriting: Reread, revise, rewrite, proofread. Then do it again. And again …

That has been my elevator speech since I started teaching in 1986, and I’m sticking with it!

Given that approach and philosophy, I was pleased to read the first article by new Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan, who has also been the ombudsman for the New York Times. In the opinion piece, she writes:

I’m especially drawn to the need for journalism that is transparent, honest, aggressive and deep, using all the new tools and with a great sense of openness on how to present the work to an ever-more-digital audience.

Well said. I look forward to Sullivan’s upcoming work.

And BTW, the picture is of Al Neuharth reading the first copy of USA Today off the presses in 1982. Imagine that: It was only 34 years ago that USA Today began. And it was wasn’t much later that the question I began with about journalism increased in its frequency.

So, what’s the fuss all about, anyway?

I haven’t seen the Broadway play “Hamilton,” and I don’t expect to see it anytime soon.

The cost of tickets to see Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s revolutionary musical on Broadway is prohibitive. And though the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C., plans to stage the touring company’s version of the play — no cast announced as yet — that won’t be  until June of 2018. In order to assure yourself of a chance for tickets to what will be a limited run, the Kennedy Center recommends buying season tickets for the 2016-17 season, then renewing for 2017-18. That in itself is an expensive alternative.

So, what is the fuss all about? Here’s a clip from the 2016 Grammy’s that well worth watching just to get a taste of why this show has been called remarkable and revolutionary by theater critics.


Back at the WJMC!

I’m always excited about speaking with students interested in journalism, not just students who are studying journalism. That’s because journalism IS for the rest of us, a concept I will share and discuss at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference tonight at 7 at George Mason University’s Johnson Center (third floor).

Is writing dead?

grantland rice, sports, media, journalism
By the end of this month
, we are going to see a change in the way content may be (will be?) exclusively presented in the future.
And not surprisingly, we are first seeing the future of media through sports coverage.
The  bigger story was inadvertently buried in a report by the Detroit News’ Tony Paul that Fox Sports Detroit would be cutting is entire staff for editorial content on June 30. That would be bad news for Detroit sports fans like me who both know and have followed outstanding reporters such as Keith Gave, Tom Gage, Dave Dye and Dana Wakiji well back to their days writing for Detroit newspapers.
Like many print journalists, they migrated to the online television, radio and independent websites that wanted to add some prestige and legitimacy to their reporting. Some chose to retire. Others left for buyouts in lieu of being fired. For these pros, it was a rebirth of sorts, a window into the multiple platform future their own print publications were far too slow to adopt back in the early days of web browsers in the mid-1990s.
But now, in case there was any doubt, it appears that their original platform, print, is even dying in its repurposed online form.
As FSD explains: “We’re shifting our digital strategy away from traditional editorial to focus more on producing short-form video content.”
Welcome to the future, when the old print formats of advances, game stories, features and analysis move from written form to absolute video.
The question has finally shifted from “Are newspapers dead?” to “Is writing dead?” Is this the triumph of Periscope and Meerkat over Grantland Rice and even Bill Simmons‘ online site Grantland?
Anyone can stand in front of a camera, including their own camera, and talk. Not everyone can report.
Anyone can practice journalism, but not everyone who attempts to practice it is a journalist.
For too long, we have worried about the death of a platform — newspapers — and not concerned ourselves with losing the very journalists who put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) after doing the necessary reporting that made their writing worth reading.
If we are truly seeing the future in this change by FSD, I don’t like it.
Do you?

Mixing ‘Star Wars’ with Jon Stewart

star warsGot your attention?
Figured that headline would do it!
Here are a couple stories you’ll find interesting:

I saw the original “Star Wars” trilogy with my sons — we were all younger then! — in the 1980s. I trust I will see the new “Star Wars” films with my oldest son, Adam.

Millenials don’t do it, either


Just a few of the many things that caught my eye recently:

I read the Wall Street Journal and Sunday New York Times in print and the Monday-through-Saturday NYTimes online.
The Sunday Times is an old habit (is that redundant?) dating back to  being born in Connecticut’s Fairfield County and having lived on the East Coast half my life.
I particularly like the WSJ’s Arena section on Friday, and the Review and Off Duty sections on Saturday.
Sometimes, however, I wonder whether those sections, among others, have had my demographic in mind for, well, for decades.
Turns out I’m not alone — and not just in my age group.
Seems like both papers’ coverage of  out-of-reach lifestyles might be alienating young readers, too, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
Millennials, you see, carry record amounts of student loan debt and, equally important, are members of the first generation likely to not make more than their parents. So stories about $14 million condos in New York City and $3,000 scarfs are far from relevant. In fact, they might just be turning off readers more than attracting them.
Stories about affluent lifestyles can be aspirational and provoke a curiosity about how the 1 percent live. But journalism professor and researcher Nikki Usher argues that many of these young readers are likely more interested in things like how they’re going to afford their first home, meet their next loan payment and how to be a good Wegmans shopper.

Somewhat related: The Pew Research Center reports that 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly.” Oh — and social media is dominated by girls. But you knew that already, right?

It’s an evolution: Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron on journalism’s transition from print to digital: “Start by discarding the lingering notion that paper will remain for long a big part of what we do. It will not.”
Matthew Ingram’s response: “The forces of change that have been disrupting and transforming the media industry for the past decade or so aren’t something that can be argued with, or reasoned with, or held at bay through the powers of persuasion.”
I would add: Why do I always want to call Baron Marty? Why exactly are we still talking about this? It’s always been a NEWSpaper, not a newsPAPER, so idling on the platform — paper — was never a place to linger once we all started playing with Marc Andresson‘s Netscape browser in 1993. NewsPAPERS made it hard on themselves, however, by forgetting what they were really about: the news. And the news, as we know, keeps happening. As for just how long “the forces of change” (sounds like something from a “Star Wars” movie) have been changing things, well, Johannes Gutenberg wasn’t born yesterday, y’know?

New York Times lists ‘journalese’

journaleseIt’s the bain of every journalist.
Journalese: words and phrases often used in media reports but rarely used by real people having real conversations.
Here are some favorites, including a take by the New York Times.

Not journalism’s proudest moment

rolling stone

A “journalistic failure.”

That’s how a review by the Columbia Journalism School summed up Rolling Stone‘s rape story, now retracted, about an alleged fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia. The review reported that the magazine failed to follow “basic, even routine journalistic practice” and that the story may have also “spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.”

Jay Rosen has an excellent review, with additional links, on his PressThink blog.

How millennials get their news

Millennials, this latest generation of American adults is anything but “newsless,” passive or civically uninterested, according to a study released March millennials, media16 by a Media Insight Project partnership with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The study looks closely at how young people learn about the world on different devices and platforms.

Surprisingly, the findings contradict conventional wisdom.

How millennial are you? Take this Pew Research Center quiz!

And some additional links: Poynter, Nieman, Associated Press.

It’s Apple watch day (but the !!! is up to you)

I’m a pretty devoted Apple computer user. I started with the first Mac Mini in 2007, struggling with the wiring to a TV monitor with mixed results. The mini is still live and active, hooked up to a 42-inch Sony Bravia flatscreen that continues to defy age (knock on wood!).

I started with the first Mac Mini in 2007, struggling with the wiring to a TV monitor with mixed results. The mini is still live and active, hooked up to a 42-inch Sony Bravia flatscreen that continues to defy age (knock on wood!).

apple, iwatch

Getting ready for the iWatch.

I also own a 2009 iMac, a 2010 MacAir, a 2011 MacBook (my second), an iPad Air (my third) and an iPhone6 Plus (I’ve lost count, but I’ve updated every year).

Some might say that makes me an Apple Fanboy.

I went full-throttle/cold-turkey Apple on August 17, 2007 when I decided that Microsoft was a virus, not software, and I got tired of PC hard drive crashes. I’ve never regretted it.

Today, Apple will unveil the iWatch when CEO Tim Cook will reveal details about their new wearable device at 1 p.m. EST. Here’s what to expect and how to watch the live event.

Don’t expect to find me in line at the local Apple Store for mine. I’m not ready for a computer on my wrist or the cost to put one there. Yet. I can always be convinced, but right now, my iPhone is about as close to my body as Apple is going to get.