Tag Archives: international symposium for online journalism

Lessons learned at ISOJ

28 Apr

Since this post is a little late in coming, I’m just going to touch on a few ideas and panels that stuck out to me at the International Symposium on Online Journalism on Saturday.

International journalism initiatives

I truly enjoyed hearing about initiatives in other countries on the panel “International innovative experiences in online journalism.” I know I have a tendency to get wrapped up in what’s happening with U.S. media, so it was refreshing to get different perspectives.

  • Harry Dugmore, a professor at Rhodes University in South Africa, had some interesting insight on South Africa and their use of mobile phones to get news. It reminds me a lot of the challenges that NOWCastSA went through to figure out a way to have people send in news and photos. I can’t wait to see the content management system they are developing for mobile so citizen journalists can post straight from their phones.
  • Juan Anonio Zertouche, the international editor for the Mexican news site Reporte Indigo, touched on the organization’s strong multimedia emphasis. They use lots of flash graphics and design to present news and information. Since I’m starting to lean the way of HTML5 and web standards (yes, I think Flash will eventually die – I’ll post about this eventually), I want to keep an eye on this site to see what they do in terms of interactive graphics. The site promotes a mix of free and paid content, but since it is only three months old, they don’t have much stats in regard to who is paying for content.

Civic volunteerism and new ways of funding stories

The panel, “Participatory Journalism: How the old passive audience of mass media is becoming the new active communities of online media,” featured some real journalism rock stars that have developed and implemented new models for content creation.

  • Jan Schaffer, the head of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, shared perspectives on her organization’s program called New Voices, which provides grants to news startups. She said about half of the recipients of the grant over the past five years are still alive and well. Schaffer pointed out that the most successful startups had full-time management and were not overly reliant on training citizen journalists to provide content. She also made an excellent point about considering “citizen journalism” to be more like civic volunteerism. Citizen journos are providing a useful service because they know a topic well, have an audience and are willing to provide it to community news sites like the ones New Voices funds at no cost.
  • David Cohn, who is the man behind spot.us, talked about the site’s approach to funding stories and in-depth reporting. Basically, the organization “commission and participate with journalists to do reporting on important and perhaps overlooked topics,” according to their About Us page. Contributors can fund stories they want published. Cohn said this allows people to choose what they want to published and takes out the media gatekeepers who “tell” the audience what they should read. He expounded on this idea by comparing it to ordering the food you like in a restaurant versus the waiter telling you what you should eat. This video from the ISOJ team gives more insight from Cohn about the idea.

Intense ideas from Evan Smith

The panel “Non-Profit Journalism: Models of non-commercial journalism online and their sustainability challenge,” was one of my favorite panels, mostly because it was my first time hearing Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune talk about his organization and their business model.

One of Smith’s comments on how for-profit organization are unable to monetize serious content got a lot of criticism on Twitter, particularly from Jeff Javis, who retweeted my post quoting Smith. I can see both sides and I would argue that it is difficult to monetize “serious content” because some news sites fail to market a story well or place it in a spot that makes sense on a site, but it isn’t impossible.

Smith said the overall mission for the Texas Tribune as a nonprofit organization is to answer to the public and no one else when it comes to the content they provide.

Final thoughts

I’m really glad I had the opportunity to attend the symposium, even if it was just for part of it. I learned a lot just like last year and I can’t wait for the next one. It is a great gathering that I am happy to see is available for online journalists.

Journalists afraid to take on multiple forms of storytelling, we’re ready to take your spot

23 Apr

I may not make many friends with this post, but I’ll risk it anyway.

Today, the 11th annual International Symposium on Online Journalism began and will run through Saturday. Since I was unable to attend today (gotta work to pay the bills), I observed tweets from the symposium and took part in some of the conversation.

One tweet in particular by San Antonio Express-News reporter Eva Ruth Moravec caught my attention, which you can see here. John Paton, the CEO of the Journal Register Company, said media organizations need to downsize their staff so that three people can do 10 jobs versus the current model where 10 people are doing one of those 10 jobs. The #scary hashtag in that tweet really got me thinking about what media organizations are doing.

Journalists shouldn’t consider this a scary thing. They should embrace it and take advantage of it. Paton has a great vision for his company and I am hoping it succeeds. While it is sad to see anyone lose jobs, if journalists are not embracing technology and learning different ways to tell a story, then they aren’t doing their job. It’s only hurting the product they produce and the audience they serve. To that end, I say you probably will be laid off and rightfully so.

I think this old-school mentality is hurting newsrooms and it frustrates me. I see so many talented, young journalists graduating from college, but they’re working as freelancers or in related fields when they should be working for a media organization. Truthfully, I feel I am one of those people. I graduated with my master’s degree in mass communication-new media from Texas State University-San Marcos and worked very hard to try to get a job at a media organization. I managed to get a journalism job after graduation, but the situation didn’t work out and I felt like I didn’t give myself the chance to weigh other options. Now I’m doing some freelance web and writing work, which I do enjoy, but the full-time journalist position eludes me for the time being. I guess I just want to make sure getting my master’s (and bachelor’s) degree wasn’t in vain. I really love journalism and realize what a passion I have for it.

Nonetheless, I, like many of my fellow recent journalism school grads, will continue to toil away on our blogs, sharpen our social media skills, and learn more about video editing or creating our portfolio sites while we send resume after resume out. We don’t do it because we feel we have to. We do it because we love it.

The truth is, you aren’t just a journalist anymore. You are a multimedia producer. That means you need to be able to write a good story, shoot photos, put together a great character-driven narrative video, and maybe know a little graphic design and HTML. If you really love this industry, you’ll stick around to learn different modes of storytelling. Otherwise, move out of the way. The 20-somethings are eager to take your spot.