Archive for September, 2009

WWGD? – the PowerPoint

For class tomorrow …

Reading: “What Would Google Do?” (part 1)

We’re preparing to jump into Innovation Week: Next Tuesday I’ll outline the details of the Knight News Challenge project, and we’ll take some time to toss around some initial ideas; then Thursday we’ll delve more fully into the principles and practices of news innovators (and, I hope, hear from one of them in class).

3125936268_715b3ac5d3To get you thinking like an innovator, an entrepreneur, like one who can recognize the new rules and opportunities of the digitized media field, let’s learn from one of the best: Google. Jeff Jarvis’ book “What Would Google Do?” attempts to reverse-engineer the company to unpack the elements of its success. As we read this book over the next couple of weeks (beginning with pages 1-69 for Tuesday), I want you to approach this with an eye toward your own project—the one you’re thinking of pitching to the News Challenge. How can this book help you? How might it change your thinking? Which of these principles (these “Google rules”) are important for your pitch?

I have one other piece I’d like to read. It comes from MediaShift, and describes the need for journalism students to have business and entrepreneurial skills—in addition to the core journalistic skills that are the foundation.

As usual, post your comments for discussion in our next class. Have a great weekend!

p.s. For outside observers: I should note that we’re not reading WWGD just because Jeff Jarvis gave this course a glowing endorsement last week. Seriously, we were planning this long ago. Honest!

I’ll take that endorsement!

Thanks, Jeff Jarvis. Via Twitter a few days ago. (My retweet, as well as related responses.)

Picture 1

Networks and the news process

As the nature of news-making changes in the digital era—becoming more of a dynamic process than creating a static product, more fluid than fixed—we need to get a grasp on what all of this means for the two key players here: the journalists, and the people formerly known as the audience (TPFKATA). As the models for creating and funding journalism change, new roles and responsibilities are emerging for both groups.

In class today, we discussed TPFKATA, primarily in terms of citizen journalism and crowdsourcing. Thursday, we try to see things from the perspective of the journalist. By that I mean something particular: We’re going to look at how journalists need to recast their role in the context of networks. Social networks. Information networks. Digital networks.

The Web, of course, is one big network; it’s a horizontal, non-linear form of communication, as opposed to the vertical, linear, hierarchical production process of the 20th century mass media model. And so to do journalism on the Web implies thinking about journalism in a fundamentally different way. Put another way, to replicate the one-way flow of journalism via a medium that, by nature, is a multi-way mode of communication … well, that is to invite all sorts of incongruities and awkwardness—which, in fact, we see with many online news sites today.

So, Thursday’s topic begins with networked journalism (related resources here, here and here). Let’s learn the basics of this concept: What is it, and why is it “new” to journalism? How does it propose to make the process of journalism better, more adaptive, better suited for the digital age? Looking ahead, can this kind of journalism work financially? How would it get funded? Give us your take on this new mode of newswork in the comments section (by classtime Thursday), and come prepared to discuss it.

Please read the Intro and chapters 1-2 of “SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World,” by Charlie Beckett. You can find PDFs for each of those chapters under “Table of Contents.”

Consulting, Part II: Analyzing news models

OK, class: Last weekend you were “hired” by Big Media Company to craft a quick-hit report on the state of newspapers—their past sins, present struggles, and future challenges/opportunities. This weekend, it’s Part II of your consulting project: You are to write another report (again, roughly 750 words), but this time focused on evaluating the various models for news in the future.

By “models,” I’m referring both to business models as well as reporting models, as we discussed in class today. In either case, our concern is with creating value—journalism worth having (for democracy), and journalism worth funding.

As with the last report, Big Media Company has a few questions they’d like answered, such as:

—There are so many models for news, with buzzword-ish kind of names. Generally speaking, what do they have in common? Where do they differ? How can we make sense of them all?

—Which kinds of models are most likely to work? (And which are most likely to fail?)

—What are the key trends in finding new ways to “make” the news and new ways to fund it? Which seem to matter most, in your opinion?

—Finally, what kind of model for news most interests you, and why? (This is to get you thinking about how it might be a springboard for your Knight News Challenge proposal next month.)

As before, I don’t expect a thesis. I just want to see that you can (a) find good information, (b) synthesize it clearly, and (c) reference it appropriately through the use of links.

Some starting points: A good place to begin is a nice overview piece, and here are two—one from Michael Massing, and this chapter from the Project for Excellence in Journalism‘s State of the News Media 2009 report. Those are must-reads. You’ll also find lots of material from my saved links on Delicious here. … Another key stop on this tour is NewsInnovation.com. Poke around the site for ideas. Then see Jeff Jarvis’ “What crisis?” post, and related posts on new business models (more here). Moving on: Paul Bradshaw’s insights on media economics here, and his take on the Jarvis CUNY project here … also, Bradshaw’s 21st century “news diamond” model is important for understanding how the process of newsmaking is changing in the digital environment (and a precursor to “networked journalism” that we’ll discuss next Thursday). As Jay Rosen suggests, there might not be a business model for news, at least not as we’ve come to know news; find out why. … We’ve talked a lot about news “packaging”—that there’s value in the packaging, and that the value has come unbundled on the Net. Ryan Sholin has some thoughts on this; use that as a starting point to learn about link journalism and the link economy. … Also, there’s some fresh material from Steve Outing on a save-the-news event in Denver; see his PDF handout, as well as a recent column on the future-of-journalism gathering in Aspen last month.

Write your report on WordPress: Yes, this is the second purpose of this assignment—to get you up to speed with wordpress.com, in case you’re not already there. This will be crucial for our group blog project later in the semester; we need to make sure everyone understands how the basics work here. To that end, I’d like you to assemble your consulting report as a blog post, complete with links, at least one embedded video, a photo or two (and caption!), and so forth. Add a few widgets (e.g., a Links list for a blogroll, some HTML text, an RSS feed, etc.). Obviously, that means starting with your own blog, which we set up at the end of class today. Just pick a URL that works for you, for now. Then, when you’re finished, come back to the class blog and post a comment to this post, telling us the URL of your blog and a very quick overview of your experience with WordPress.

Any questions? Just let me know. Have a great weekend!

p.s. Please finish all of this—report/blog/everything—by 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Future models for news

If today’s class focused primarily on the past—especially the sins (original sins?) of newspaper companies in the digital era—then Thursday’s meeting will focus mainly on the future: Where are we going? How are we going to get there?

The key here is to imagine what kind of models for news are most likely to succeed in the future. While there’s some considerable guesswork around that question—as Clay Shirky rightly noted: “We’re collectively living through 1500, when it’s easier to see what’s broken than what will replace it”—we nevertheless need to give it our best effort, to dig around the field of journalism to look for flowering startups and initiatives with promise.

Part 2 of your “consulting project” (which begins this weekend) will take up that very question: Which models for news hold the greatest potential, and why?

There will be no right answer, of course; I’m looking more for your ability to weave together logic, evidence, and sound judgment. To spur you’re thinking in this area, a couple links that I’d like you to tackle for Thursday:

—Clay Shirky’s 30,000-foot view of the need for a revised news model (that is, more than just a reboot of the business model)

—Jeff Jarvis’ proposals for new biz models for news (here and here), although it’s important to point out that both imply significant “cultural” changes to news production as well (additionally, you might want to peruse his New Business Models for News site).

Don’t get too bogged down in the details; just focus on the big-picture takeaways. And I’m giving this to you a little late, so you have until Thursday morning to respond on the blog.

Media work and digital culture

For Thursday, you’re going to read the introductory chapter to Mark Deuze’s book “Media Work” (see the PDF on the Blackboard site). I encourage you to visit his blog, read this interview, and watch a clip of Deuze discussing his research:

The critical contribution that Deuze provides is helping us answer the question: What is it like to work in the media?

It’s the right time to consider this question now as we shift from looking at media convergence and participatory culture from a macro perspective, to examining the particular challenges facing journalism and media work in the digital age.

Deuze introduces us to some postmodern theorizing on digital life, and lays out the emerging landscape for what it means to live, work, and play in our mediated milieu. He’s operating at a high level, mostly in the conceptual realm, but this chapter provides some interesting clues for the future—for the changing nature of journalism and the day-to-day work you’ll do in the media.

As he writes in the preface: “The aim of the book is not only to prepare media students to become competent media practitioners, but to also enable students to become competent citizens in a media-saturated ‘hyper-reality,’ where meaningful distinctions between public and private life, work time and non-work time, local and global, or lived and mediated reality are fading.”

In other words, knowing how to function in this digital culture is going to be essential going forward—whether or not you plan to work in the media industries. The key takeaway here is that we need to understand what it means to have “cultural competency” in this digital culture. Do news organizations have that kind of cultural capital? Why or why not?

A few additional questions to get you thinking, on both readings:

—What is convergence culture? What is digital culture? Are we talking about the same thing, or not?

—What does it mean to develop relationships with media? Where does the “real” end and the virtual begin?

—What is the emerging “workstyle” for the digital media worker, and how do you feel about it?

—What does it mean to be connected and have a sense of community in today’s media experience?

All in all, think of how digital media and culture are changing (or not) your own life and the future of our field. I look forward to your responses for Thursday (remember, by Wednesday at 8 p.m.)

[By the way, you might like his take on tailoring education for (your) digital generation, here and here.]


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