Saturday, February 25, 2006

Blogging, anyone?

More missives from the Rethinking Journalism Education conference...

If he had two candidates who were equally well qualified, and one of them blogged, Howard Owens said he'd hire the blogger. Why?

"It indicates a passion about the web," said Owens, who is VP/Interactive for The Bakersfield Californian.

Bill Gannon, editorial director and managing editor of Yahoo! News said, "The great thing about blogging is that is reveals talent and passion."

Here are the kinds of candidates Chris Jennewein says he doesn't hire: "It's as if they have a vision of the way things were, not the way they can be."

What he wants is people who are risk-takers, says Jennewein, director of internet operations at the Union-Tribune Publishing Co., San Diego. He reminded educators at the Morro Bay conference that new types of media mean new opportunities for their students.

"Your students have got a great future," Gannon said. "I want you to be as encouraged about the future as we are. I think that the future is indeed incredibly bright."

Friday, February 24, 2006

What Media Employers Want

The Rethinking Journalism Education conference opened with a panel of media executives who told us what they look for in new hires. Here are the panelists and what they had to say:
Jennewein said he's looking for a "converged student" with demonstrated skills in the web medium, with strong writing and video skills, who knows how to tell stories, knows AP style.

Sandra Duerr wants entry-level reporters who can think visually and graphically, who understand how to deliver information, and understand business/economics.

Bill Gannon says critical thinking ability is most important. He notes all applicants to Yahoo's news division must take a copy editing test and a writing test, and be prepared to work in a time-shifting world.

Howard Owens says new journalists need to know how to interview people, gather documents, and structure a story. They need to be smart, honest, resourceful, and have good judgment. They also need to respect citizen journalism and see journalism as a conversation. He emphasizes they also need to respect ethics, because there's no room for dishonesty.

All agreed students need more than one internship to get the experience they need to hit the ground running at their first real media job.

When Dona Nichols of JMC asked what we're not teaching, what qualifications are missing for many entry-level media job candidates. Jennewein said he's looking for candidates who are versatile, risk-taking, and open to the possibilities out there in the media environment.

Owens added, "If students don't have the passion, the qualifications for journalism, encourage them to find another profession."

Salaries for entry-level reporters

Jennewein: multimedia specialists start from upper $20s to low $40s
Duerr: entry-level reporters start at $34,000-35,000
Gannon: news hires start in $40s to $50s..."depends on how bad I want them." Yahoo also offers stock options.
Owens: entry-level programmers and content producers (advertorial) start at $35-40,000 (that's more than entry-level reporters get in the newsroom)

Major Irony Factor

Here we are at Morro Bay for the "Rethinking Journalism Education" conference, focusing on how to prepare journalism students for a world of new media and new technology…and we can't access the web.

I'm told they're going to "turn it on" later in the conference. Apparently there is no free lunch…or free web access.

(Okay, now we're live)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Saving newspapers...or the news?

You've heard it before…continuing declines in newspaper readership and big drops in advertising revenues are prompting questions about the future of journalism and mass media.

Former Knight Ridder news executive Jerry Ceppos opened a series of discussion forums with JMC students this week by reciting some of those sorry stats. Then he asked students for their ideas on how best to save the nation's newspapers.

Halfway through the session, one JMC student got to the crux of the problem:
Is our goal here to save the newspaper, or news in general?
"Let's…say we want to save the news, and make good journalism available to people," said Ceppos, who is on campus this week as JMC's editor in residence, speaking in classes and holding discussion sessions on the future of newspapers and the mass media.

A worthy goal. Here are some ideas from the Tuesday morning session:
  • Move 50 percent of news staff to the web, and reorient the newsroom culture to the web
  • Make it more convenient to get the news
  • Ask subscribers about their interests, and give them ways to tailor news content to their interests
  • Add "cheese" to the spinach, to make "good for you" news more palatable to readers

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Note of Optimism

If you're tired of hearing doom and gloom reports about the future of journalism in the digital age, take heart. Maybe it's not as bad as the some of the old fogeys fear.

That's the message of a recent
Hartford Courant article (sorry, it's archived and pay per view) which noted that, in spite of recent newspaper cutbacks and layoffs, j-school applications are up. Indeed, most journalism students seem undaunted by the worries besetting their news industry elders.

In the story, reporter
Joann Klimkiewicz wrote:
Whereas some news folks see the Internet as a foe, the emerging group of journalists see it as a friend. It means they can get the news out quicker than a printing press allows, that their stories will reach wider audiences and, hopefully, have greater impact.
Although the job market can be tough, there are always openings for talented people and there will always be a demand for news stories. What may change, Klimkiewicz said, is how people prefer to get that information. She continued:
And so the tack many [j-school] programs are taking is to get their students proficient across all media. Good journalism is good journalism, no matter the vehicle.

"The most important thing we can teach our students is to be platform-agnostic," says Rich Hanley, graduate program director for Quinnipiac's school of communications. "The more you can learn, the more you can market yourself.

"A story is a story. At heart, you're still a reporter," Hanley says. "Despite the changes in distribution mechanisms, the skills of a reporter are timeless: Report the facts, report the information objectively, and write clearly."
Sounds like good advice.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Controversial Images

In my newswriting class this week, we talked about the international uproar over the publication of some controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Some students questioned why a newspaper would publish images that so many people would find offensive, comparing it to crying "fire" in a crowded theater. Others defended their publication on the grounds of freedom of speech.

I find it hard to imagine how cartoons, no matter how crude or offensive, could provoke riots and death threats. But then, I never understood how anyone could call for Salman Rushdie's death for writing the Satanic Verses either. Then again, I'm a Unitarian -- even Garrison Keiller makes jokes about us. But can you imagine me putting out a fatwa on him?

When I try to think of similar situations here in the States, the only thing that comes close is the anger over Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ." A recent article, "Piss Christ vs. Cartoon Jihad," compares the Christian response to Serrano's photograph to the Muslim response to the cartoons published in the Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper. And in Peaktalk, blogger Pieter Dorsman also compares the two situations. He writes:
...The ability to apply criticism and ridicule are the basic rights of anyone living in a western democracy. As a society we should expect citizens and artists alike to apply a measure of good taste. It is very hard to argue that the Jyllands-Posten's cartoons were offensive, but a case could be made that Serrano's "Piss Christ" was testing the limits of that somewhat arbitrary 'taste measure'. But we didn't kill Serrano, we didn't destroy his career, we didn't ask him for damages and a rectification, no, we debated it and we are still debating it today, twenty years on. That's freedom, that's democracy.

If you'd like to see more of the cartoons for yourself, follow this link or this one.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Photoshop Follies?

I love it when my students get creative about spotting errors for the "Copy Edit the World" assignment. For example, take a close look at this graphic sent to me by photojournalist and fellow blogger Daniel Sato from my 61A class.

As a writer, I tend to think in terms of typos and AP style errors for this assignment, but, as Sato notes, "designers must also keep a sharp eye out for errors as well!" As evidence, he sent this graphic which seems to show Windows 98 running on a (pre-Intel) Mac.

Looks like somebody went a little Photoshop-happy on this one...and nobody caught it before it went out the door.

Reminds me of a livestock insurance ad I once worked on. The illustration showed a rider on a hunter-jumper (that's a type of horse, for you non-equine-oriented folks) clearing a fence...but the saddle had no girth. Any horse-savvy potential client would have noticed that omission right away, and our client would have lost all credibility. Good thing I caught it first.