Archive for March, 2009

Introducing our class blogs

After a two-week “soft launch,” here they are—this semester’s crop of group blogs, all oriented around local themes. The 17 students in my Writing for Online Publication course have set up several group blogs that deal with virtually all things Austin: enjoying its music, savoring its food, and accomplishing that and more on a tight wallet. The blogs are:

Austin Dischord, which had some nice coverage of the SXSW scene over the weekend and is dedicated to offering fresh perspectives on local music. As they say: “How do you keep up with a city that has one of the most vibrant musical landscapes in the world? You blog the living daylights out of it, that’s how! Austin Dischord is committed to keeping you up to date on all the music happenings in our fair city.

Digesting Austin, which takes as its goal to “help the city’s twenty-somethings find the best meals and culinary experiences in town. But this is more than just a restaurant review blog. Digesting Austin offers information and profiles on restaurants and their owners, investigates different food influences, searches for the city’s best  happy hours,  advises on supermarket deals, and offers recipe ideas for the time poor.”


Keeping Austin Cheap, which is geared to helping you navigate this city on mere dollars a day. “We want to provide a go-to guide for everything from food to fun to functional. We will help you get more for less while experiencing the best.” (see the authors)

So, check ’em out!

A flying seminar on the future of news

Discussion about the future of news (and the future of any newspaper, in particular) has intensified, it seems, with each succeeding week of our semester. In fact, there have been many times when I’ve felt that this course’s syllabus needs to be rewritten in real-time to keep pace with the accelerating change all around us—both events on the ground (e.g., newspaper shutdowns, shrinking staffs, the general economic reordering) and the thoughtful interpretations and analyses emerging online.

In fact, just in the past week or so, while we were enjoying spring break, several key articles, ideas, polemics, screeds, and obituaries about journalism have pulsed through the blogosphere, and they deserve our attention in Tuesday’s class.

I liked Jay Rosen‘s idea of a “flying seminar,” in which he’s culled the essential “reading list” on the future of news, with several pieces from recent days. I’m pasting his Twitter posts below. Please read at least most of these items and then, in the comments section, teach us something: Raise some questions, look for themes, give us your synthesized take on the future of news.

In the future of new flying seminar these are the recent urls you need to have mastered to…uh, pass the course! (1/3)

(2/3) Future of news flying seminar: key links, cont. Starr: Benkler Johnson and

(3/3) Future of news flying seminar: key links, cont. Conover: Eaves: Winer:

Future of news flying seminar, key links: Bonus round: Young Morford Watson: (4/4)

There really isn’t any future of news flying seminar; just my Twitter feed 🙂 Two more? @vincrosbie and

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Creative Commons and blogging

Here are the slides from tonight’s lecture (and if you have trouble following the links, just download the file here):

Online journalism, in PowerPoint form

Paul Bradshaw, mentioned in the previous post, has a very active blog that you ought to get familiar with, even if its occasionally UK-specific focus might throw you now and again. So, read it. Dig into the archives. Lots of great stuf in there.

(And, by the way, he’s looking for virtual interns, in case you’re interested.)

Paul has been making available his PowerPoint slides for the online journalism course he’s teaching, and they’re just too good not to share here. (In fact, their bold design, let alone the nifty content, puts my slides to shame, I’m afraid…) Here are two for you:

We’re blogging. Ready? Go!

In today’s class, we sorted into our three blogging teams, all focused on a different aspect of Austin life, and we’re set to begin posting starting Monday. Great!

Between now and then, please read each of the following handy tips for newbie bloggers. More than anything, they’ll help you answer the constant question, “What do I blog about?” 

First, from Paul Bradshaw: Starting a blog? 12 ideas for blog posts

(While you’re there, I suggest you check out his classic post on the “news diamond,” his new model for news in the digital age, as well as this bit on how to be a journalism student.)

Second, see these posts by Mindy McAdams: her entry on blog basics, part of a larger series on Web journalism essentials, and her 5 Tips for Blog Beginners. From the latter comes this kicker:

Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. Word. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web, if you really apply yourself to blogging. I speak from personal experience on this.

So, have some fun. Pick up some more WordPress knowledge (frequent the helpful FAQ section as needed). And we’ll see you again Tuesday.

Whither the newspaper?

Watching the implosion of the U.S. newspaper industry is like watching an impending car wreck in slow motion: You can see it coming, hear the tires squealing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.


Perhaps that’s an ill-fitting analogy, or at least overdramatic (indeed, some would say the death of print has been exaggerated), but the point is nonetheless the same: The demise of metropolitan dailies, which has been building at least since 2004, has suddenly accelerated in the past few months and now especially just in the past few days. Columbia Journalism Review nicely summed up the relevant lowlights and links from the week that was:

The Rocky Mountain News published its final editionRIP.

The San Francisco Chronicle might well be next.

So might the Philadelphia Daily News.

And could an online site replace Chicago’s dailies? (And how much are blogs actually worth, anyway?) While Newsday announced it’s going to start charging for Web content (making the blogosphere snicker), and Google News lost its advertising virginity (making the journosphere quake in fear), big media outlets dipped their toes into outsourcing to localnews sites. And the Times dipped its toe into local citizen journalism. Connecticut outletswrestled over local ownership. And Minnesota papers got a $238,000 grant to retrain their journalists.

Should the Times monetize its platform by sharing it with other outlets? Could kitemarksoffer an answer to the monetization problem? Does it all come down to supply and demand?

Everyone was all a-Twitter about microblogging. We talked about how we’re sick of talking about it. And then we talked about it some more. And then we got advice from it. BriWimocked it. Mark McKinnon felt betrayed by it. And a new twerncalular is emerging. But don’t use those twerms too often: using Twitter probably means you’re narcissistic. Or insecure. Or both.

Oh, and the Grey Lady was embarrassed by a blog.


Or, if you prefer this real-time narrative of newspapers’ demise in story form, Howard Kurtz provides a good recap.

Meanwhile, to dig a little deeper into the structural issues of newspaper journalism’s problems, this sometimes raw but utterly insightful post by Whet Moser is a must-read. The essence is captured in this sentence: “This is what happens when journalists stop being polite, and start being real.”

Indeed, let’s get real.

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