Category Archives: journalism

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.

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?

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.

Keeping up journalistically

It is critical that journalists be aware of the world — not just their world — around them. That’s called media literacy, which is one of the five major themes of this blog (more on that to come).

On March 5, the Pew Research Center released a report, “Local News in a Digital Age.” For a shorthand version, see “5 key takeaways about local news media ‘ecosystems‘.”


Jenna Wortham

Other recent items of note: