News Takes a Holiday

The cool thing about the “new journalism” appears to be…the hours don’t suck.

If you spend any time using, watching, or participating in “news” you are aware of the ongoing discussion of “the future of news”. Here in the lovely Twin Cities of Minnesota (Sunny and -6 as of this writing) the topic has even lead to more than our fair share of conferences addressing it. One hosted by Minnesota Public Radio and one of a more independent nature (that I regrettably had to miss at the last minute) organized by many and spear-headed by David Brauer of MinnPost.

The topics addressed by these gatherings and discussions include the death of newspapers, the state of broadcast news, credibility of citizen journalists, monetization and overall interest by news consumers. From blogs to video, online to mobile, the proliferation of “new” ways of covering current events is the centerpiece of the “future of news.”

One thing not discussed about this new form of news, at least that I’m aware of, is that the hours seem to be pretty sweet for those that produce it.

Today, December 29th, 2009, the middle of the infamous “holiday break” during which much slows to a crawl, I took a quick check of some of my favorite “new journalism” sites. Judging by them you would have to assume that news is taking time off as well.

On MinnPost I was greeted with a note at the top of the page. “Happy Holidays from! We’ll be posting limited new content (including several end-of-year lists and Jim Klobuchar) until Jan. 4.” The most recent content, other than a story about the Vikings-Bears game appears to be from December 23rd.

Over at the UpTake, though there was no formal note, I found streaming video from past UpTake radio shows and events. In addition, there were plenty of links to their incredible coverage of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen…but nothing posted with today’s date.

Before I go any further, this is not meant to be merely a critique of these two sites and endeavors. In my eyes they have both been pioneers in new journalism. In fact, both clearly state, once you dig into the “about” sections of their site, that their scope is not necessarily daily news. MInnPost notes Monday-Friday coverage and the Uptake stressing a more broad scope emphasizing the training of citizen journalists. I know and have huge respect for many of the people involved at both. I also understand the concept of throwing stones. Hey, I’m not exactly Mr. Consistent Content myself.

But, I’m surprised. Perhaps I’m thinking old school, but my expectations weren’t met. I chose to look to these “new journalism” outlets for information and found less than timely, if not downright old news. Consider my expectations adjusted. But it does provide appoint of discussion doesn’t it?

I learned early on, and was reminded repeatedly, during my career in broadcast that news is a 24/7/365 deal. As much as I wanted to tell my staff that they could call it quits each weekend or on a holiday (during which real people got time off) that just wasn’t the gig. No doubt there is a slow down in many areas of our life over the holidays but does that mean journalists and news itself gets to slow down too?

The way we get news is changing. How we make it success in the future should include delivering it at least as often and as well as traditional outlets. Don’t you think that if the new journalism is to succeed, in all those areas that we discuss so intently, then these sites need to be there…all the time. Or is it just me?

Public Radio Goes to Camp

A unique collaboration to benefit public radio, MPR and maybe all of media for that matter took place at the studios of the Minnesota Public Radio on Saturday July 12th.

The PublicRadioCamp was organized by Dan Grigsby and those behind Minnebar and Minnedemo here in the Twin Cities along with MPR. The “camp” was positioned as “a new community event” and the purpose was to examine “the tons of really interesting content, data, audio, meta-data and feeds.” and to spend the time “collaboratively remixing and mashing up these goodies.”

The designers, bloggers, journalists, internet types, and plenty of MPR representatives (about one for every non-MPR attendee), assembled in the deluxe UBS Forum. The space had been lined with work areas complete with large whiteboards indicating there wouldn’t be much observing and plenty of brainstorming. Within minutes the group divided into what resulted in four groups; Data Access, User Generated Content, News Visualization, and Nuevo Radio. My time was spent in the Nuevo Radio group, a name I gave it as a spicier take on radio. Besides nouveau seems so snooty. The results of it and the other collaborations are briefly reviewed below.

Data Access API-One glance at this group and you knew the developers were hard at work with plenty of tech talk and activity. As described on the Public Radio Camp wiki this group felt it would be really useful for users, developers, media and MPR itself if there were one universally accessible source (API) for searching all MPR content by location, time, keyword and article. It appears they are already hard at work to bring this to fruition.

User-generated Content-This group addressed helping people build news stories and their content, possibly to be used by MPR through the use of a how-to guide that could be posted online. They looked carefully at the process of developing a story and where collaboration could occur. They indentified ways the public could address everything from interviewing to writing, editing and producing. The real potential for such an idea is following up those stories that have a shorter on-air shelf life.

Nuevo Radio-The group sought ways to keep relevant to its listeners. User-generation was a focal point as well. Where the group described above focused on an online play, this group built on the idea of a “civic journalism center” or even coffee shop concept. A location where people that are inclined to be more participatory could gather as well as have access to the necessary tools and resources to build content. The idea of merging this plan with public libraries was also discussed. Other ideas included shuffling the on-air programming schedule on a regular basis to showcase the offering available online to be heard at the listener’s convenience and using HD channels to provide raw interviews and video to accompany on-air content.


(Photo Courtesy of Bob Collins)

News Visualization-This group looked to give visual life to the content of news stories produced and heard. Similar to a category cloud familiar to many who read or produce blogs regularly, the result of running an RSS feed through Wordle was “art” that would highlight the topics and words that dominated within the stories. (Example at left.) Of course this would change throughout the day. As noted by MPR’s Bob Collins, someone commented that this is a new version of the “weather ball.”

Clearly the afternoon will bear fruit for MPR as they continue to enlist the talents of this, as MPR’s Julia Schrenkler noted, “enthusiastic” group. Hopefully it will lead to not only allowing those in this group to derive satisfaction and perhaps compensation for these ideas but that radio broadcasters beyond MPR will act on what is being learned and attempted.

MPR has discovered the power of enlisting “the crowd” to build it’s product. Merging old and new media, technology, and people is a noble effort and has every chance of elevating the quality of journalism as well as the expectations of radio consumers.

Hanging with the Citj-New Pamphleteers/New Reporters

I had the pleasure of attending a two day gathering put together by Journalism That Matters. This gathering of “new pamphleteers” numbered well over a hundred interested in, what is being called, Citizen Journalism.

Because of my interest in the subject and because of my work with this blog and Minnov8, I was anxious to learn from this passionate group of journalists and community members. In the past, I’ve never considered myself a journalist. However, as I now write more than I ever have, I find I have much in common with those that are members of the press.

This world does offer it’s own verbiage. Hey, no endeavor is complete without its own buzzwords. Citj=citizen journalism, Big J=mainstream journalists. Words that are good; aperture, community weavers, citizen, relationship, ethics, trust, quality, and sustainability. Words that are frowned upon; profit, consumer. Examples of Citizen Journalism include Twin Cities Daily Planet, the St. Louis Beacon, Hometown Focus, The Uptake, and Political Chowder.

This is no ragtag group of ultra liberal, “Hey, the man is keeping us down”, don’t trust big brother types fixated on pushing a similar agenda. These are smart, thoughtful, committed, strategic, insightful journalists concentrating on serving their communities with in-depth stories on the topics that impact those communities. They seek to be a source for the type of journalism that has been replaced in large part by the “nothing but the hits” approach to news that the Big J companies have adopted.

[Read more…]