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Home > Publications > Quill > Journalists to Follow



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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Journalists to Follow

20 industry thinkers, innovators and practitioners we recommend you get to know

PART 1. See PART 2 here.

In lieu of the regular “10” interview, this month we’re featuring questions with a bunch of cool journalists and innovators. Call it the “follow list,” or something like that. These are people in the industry we think have great ideas and hold great potential. In short, you should pay attention to them — not only on Twitter, but in the wider industry. See what they do. Interact with them. Learn. Engage.

Of course, there is a nearly bottomless pool of people out there, and we tried to pick a good sampling. What we don’t have in print is bottomless space, and we unfortunately couldn’t involve absolutely everybody who should be here. If you use Twitter, you can follow these people with this list. And please suggest more people to add to that list by dropping us a line on Twitter: @spj_tweets.

Benét J. Wilson

On Twitter: AvWeekBenet; benetwilson; tweeter for NABJDigital

About: Online managing editor for McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week business aviation channel, where I write for The Weekly of Business Aviation, the business channel of the online premium Aviation Week Intelligence network. I’ve been a trade journalist for 20 years, covering issues as diverse as aviation, employment and training, welfare reform, economic development and agriculture/agribusiness.

Blog/website: aviationweek.com; nabjdigital.wordpress.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

I am concerned about journalists who still refuse to adapt to the rapid change going on in our industry. I’m an old-school print reporter (I used typewriters at the beginning of my career) that continues to transform into a multimedia journalist. But we also need a business model that will keep the industry growing and thriving.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

I think they will remember it as a turning point on how the business of journalism is done. Those who have adapted will continue that process, and those who didn’t will be out of the business.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

I would say “adapt or die.” Change is scary, but you have to take that leap of faith to use the new tools available to handle an ever-increasing workload that will help you work smarter.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

They are both here to stay. So I say that the industry needs to reach out and try to work with these groups and encourage them to maintain the journalistic principles we all follow.

David Cohn

On Twitter: digidave; spotus

About: I'm a tech reporter turned new media scientist. I focus on participatory journalism. My project right now is Spot.Us — pioneering "community funded reporting."

Blog/website: digidave.org; spot.us

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

Transparency around the process of journalism. If journalism is to become more participatory then we must also become more transparent so the public can be involved at every step.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

The same way that regular consumers view a 10-year-old computer. The thing will still boot-up and work. But who really wants a 10-year-old computer?

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

It's not about right/wrong for "journalism." It's about what is. Social media/crowdsourcing just "is." And it won't disappear anytime soon. Thus, we must learn to embrace or become irrelevant to the growing conversation online.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

My reaction is nuanced. These are blanket terms that mean everything and nothing. I do believe that journalism will be participatory moving forward. That includes acts of citizen journalism, distributed reporting, crowdfunding, Pro-Am journalism and more. We need to explore what we mean by "citizen journalism" to really harness the potential.

Steve Buttry

On Twitter:
stevebuttry

About:I’m a digital immigrant who occasionally feels nostalgia for my print homeland. But I won’t return, except to visit.

Blog/website: stevebuttry.wordpress.com; tbd.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

We need to develop the business model(s) for a prosperous future for independent journalism and have the courage to pursue them. We are not going to find that prosperous (and almost certainly mobile) future by following the safe path or following what we know.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

The journalists who make it through the next 10 years will get there by looking forward, not back. So they won’t look back often and won’t dwell when they do.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

If you’re still skeptical, you have decided not to change, so I wouldn’t waste my breath on you. If you’re a bit confused but sincerely trying to find a prosperous future for journalism, I’m glad to join you in finding our way.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

Like most buzzwords, those phrases oversimplify and they become caricatures. But without question the future of journalism is a conversation and collaboration among the professional journalists and the public. I embrace and enjoy that collaboration, even if I haven’t fully mastered it and even if it is at times uncomfortable. (When was good journalism ever comfortable?) I believe the result will serve communities and democracy well.

Gina M. Chen

On Twitter: GinaMChen

About: I spent 20 years as a newspaper editor and reporter and am now a mass communications Ph.D. student at Syracuse University. I blog about how social media will impact the future of journalism and research how people use social media to connect with each other.

Blog/website: savethemedia.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

The most important issue is a need to innovate and try new things. Journalists need to become leaders in understanding how people consume and use news, not followers. This requires changing thinking, attitudes and behavior.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

I hope they will remember it as a time of great promise and excitement. The industry is revolutionizing itself, and, to me, that's exciting, although sometimes painful. I hope journalists 10 years from now will have built on the pioneering efforts of those who today are trying to serve their readers better.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

I'm not sure I can convince the true skeptics, but I think the marketplace may do that in time. The way social media and online applications are growing, I believe, they will become so intrinsic to life in the developed world that it won't be a question of whether journalists should use them or not. I think social media use will become so ubiquitous that journalists will see it as a normal tool of their trade, similar to how they see the telephone, the computer and e-mail today.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

I have no problem with either citizen journalism or user-generated content, although I do not think they should — or really could — completely replace content produced by professionals. I think reader-generated news and content augment the storytelling of professionals. The definition of professional certainly is evolving and will continue to do so. The key is for professionals to learn from what works — and what doesn't — in citizen journalism and use that to tap into their community of readers better than journalists have in the past.

Emma L. Carew

On Twitter: Emmacarew; researchcarew

About: Minneapolis transplant currently working in Washington, D.C., as a researcher/reporter covering major data projects about the non-profit world. I decided to become a journalist in 2002 at a summer workshop and haven't looked back. Previous gigs involved covering health, higher education, K12 education, local news, business and finance at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Washington Post and Chronicle of Higher Education.

Blog/website: kitchendreamer.blogspot.com; emmacarew.wordpress.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

The big question of "how are we going to pay for journalism" aside, there's the issue of leadership. Who's going to lead the newsrooms of the future? I look around and see very talented colleagues and classmates killing themselves to make it, just keep their heads afloat. Journalism has always been hard, but it's getting harder. It takes a lot to break into journalism today — you have to be planning from Day 1 to get to college publications, get the best internships, get the best training. I think the biggest challenge you'll see among young journalists — the ones who should be our leaders in five to 10 years — is burnout. More needs to be done to help keep the best and the brightest from bleeding out too young.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

This is a great period of trial and error. Hopefully, we'll look back and be proud of the short and long-term solutions we came up with — whether they changed the entire industry or just made a difference for one person. There's so much creativity happening in journalism, and I think that's what we need to put more focus on.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

Sometimes I still am those people. And I think that's OK. No one ever became a great journalist without a healthy dose of skepticism. Social media and crowdsourcing do have their drawbacks and disadvantages. But journalism is also an industry full of folks who can only be described as "old school." We should all be willing to give new methods a try, in the hopes that it may improve our day-to-day product. If it doesn't? No need to continue. That's all we can ask of ourselves for any reporting method these days.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

I have yet to see an example of either of these concepts that makes me say, "Wow, I'd love to see more news orgs doing this." I'm just not convinced this is the future of news.

Mark S. Luckie

On Twitter: 10000Words

About: Author of the digital journalism blog 10,000 Words and "The Digital Journalist's Handbook." I also work as a multimedia producer for California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Blog/website: 10000words.net

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

The most important issue is the will to innovate, but the perceived lack of resources. In order to be at the forefront of online media, journalists and newsrooms need to harness the resources they have to create a better, more immersive experience for their audiences.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

Journalists will hopefully see this as a dark time, but merely a bump in the road toward news media's ultimate recovery and reinvention.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

I would say to them be as skeptical as you want — you'll be skeptical in the unemployment line. It's not a matter of "if" social media will have an impact on journalism, it's how soon will journalists recognize and harness this power to enhance their reporting.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

I get giddy like a school girl when I hear these terms because I get excited about the potential content produced outside the newsroom has to supplement and influence traditional reporting.

Vadim Lavrusik

On Twitter: lavrusik

About: I’m a digital media journalist working as the social media manager at Mashable. Most recently, I worked with social media at The New York Times and received an M.S. in digital media from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and launched NYC 3.0, a news site covering the city's growing tech startup scene.

Blog/website: Mashable.com; Lavrusik.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

The business model, of course. But more importantly, experimenting with new forms of revenue and transitioning from legacy business models. Secondly, figuring out a format for providing contextual journalism on the Web. Online journalism lacks context, and there is a lot of noise out there. Overall, embracing the renaissance we are experiencing in journalism. It's an exciting time.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

One of great and tumultuous transition from a broadcast model to a social journalism model, one in which readers participate in, discuss and create the content just as much as professional journalists. A transition into social news.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

Embrace it or be left behind. Social media has become an integral part of the online journalism process. Journalists find sources, stories and community using these platforms. Also, it seems a lot of the skeptics out there haven't actually tried the platforms themselves, so I would say give it a try before you say it's pointless babble. It's not just about people talking about what they ate for breakfast. There's a lot of smart conversations, connections and news sharing happening on these platforms. And they'll continue to happen, whether you are there or not.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

There's no such thing as a "user" or "citizen" journalist anymore. We all take part.

Linda Thomas

On Twitter: TheNewsChick

About: I'm a broadcast, print and online journalist, currently co-hosting the morning news at NewsTalk 97.3 KIRO FM in Seattle. Radio journalism has always been my first passion, but close seconds are blogging, which I've done since 2005, and communicating through social media.

Blog/website: thenewschick.com; lindathomas.com; mynorthwest.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

One of the threats for journalists is the public's need for instant information and the many people who step in and fill that need with online or social media reports that might not be complete, accurate or in context. How does a journalist stand out when there have never been more sources of information? How does he or she stay relevant at a time when the public doesn't really care who they get their information from?

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

Ah yes, back in 2010, that was the year we realized having the title of "journalist" doesn't make you more interesting or important than anyone else. Considering all of the sources of information — from your neighbor, to gossipy websites, to popular local blogs — we realized the true value of journalism isn't found in the random information we produce, but in the number of stories we produce that have an impact on our listeners, viewers, readers. Despite all the sources for news, we realized in 2010 that original content is king. It's a great thing that we stopped re-reporting what everyone else was saying, and focused on unique, primarily local content.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

There are three main benefits to Twitter, Facebook and other crowdsourcing tools.

As a tool, Twitter is as important to my everyday life as a journalist as my microphone is. It is a tool that helps me get a lot of great news tips and make connections with listeners that I would otherwise miss. I've used Twitter to find Seattle-area drivers who were concerned about the Toyota recall and were taking their cars in that day to get fixed. What's the other option for doing that story? Waiting at a dealership for hours until someone happens to show up with a Toyota they're concerned about. When we had a shooting at a Tacoma school, it took our reporter an hour to get to the scene. Through Twitter, we were able to get information from eyewitnesses instantly. I also regularly get listener tips that sometimes turn into stories we've developed for air. The key with any tool is being careful with the way it's used. We would never report things we hear on a police scanner, for example, without confirming the information with the department involved. The same is true of using Twitter as a tool: Everything needs to be verified.

The other benefit is that Twitter gives journalists another way to connect with their audiences. Twitter, and to a limited extent Facebook, is one more way to reach your listeners, readers and viewers. What are they thinking? What issues are they concerned about? What makes them laugh? What trends have they noticed? What's happening in their kids' schools, or in their workplaces? Find out through Twitter. I have broadcast friends who say to me all the time, "Who cares what I had for lunch? I don't have anything interesting to say on Twitter." My somewhat harsh response is, "Then you don't have anything interesting to say on the radio, either." I believe everyone can be helpful, informative, engaging and real in 140 characters.

The third benefit is the most important: It's fun. I wouldn't spend as much time on Twitter (and thank you for not asking how much time I waste with social media each day) if there wasn't a personal payoff. I have connected with incredible people who I wouldn't have otherwise encountered if not for Twitter. Many of them I've met in "real life" too, and they've become sources of encouragement and best friends.

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

I used to cringe at the term "citizen journalist" and preferred using "citizen reporter" as if I'm more special because I have a degree and they don't, therefore I'm a journalist and they're mere reporters of information. It's similar to the attitude the traditional, established media outlets have toward the National Enquirer or TMZ. All titles or labels are silly now that I think about it. Good, helpful, accurate information can come from anybody. Jon Stewart isn't a trained journalist, yet “The Daily Show” host has done some compelling interviews. Some of his interviews are more challenging than ones I've seen done by esteemed journalists.

It's true that many journalists have ethical standards and commitments to the truth that are exceptional. But not all operate that way. It's also true that many bloggers or citizen journalists aren't devoted to digging for facts that support their arguments. But not all operate that way. It's time to judge the content, not the provider.

Journalists don't own the trademark on skeptical (cynical, sure). People should examine the information they receive and figure out for themselves if the news they're getting seems on track or questionable.

Sree Sreenivasan

On Twitter: Sreenet

About: Columbia Journalism School professor and dean of student affairs. Contributing editor, DNAinfo.com. Technology evangelist and skeptic.

Blog/website: Sree.net; bit.ly/sreesoc

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

The search for effective, sustainable business models, especially for Web journalism.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today's industry?

An industry that got so focused on the troubles around us that it didn't comprehend the increased interest in all things journalistic nor effectively capitalize on the enthusiasm and optimism of young journalists.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

I'd tell them to come spend an hour in one of my classes to see how it can be useful in a practical, actionable way. More seriously, it's only one set of tools to enhance the work of traditional journalism — we shouldn't overestimate what it can do, but we shouldn't underestimate its potential.

What's your initial reaction to terms likes "citizen journalism" and "user-generated content"?

These are important components of the ecosystem that is journalism today. Used correctly, they can add much to our understanding of the world around us.

Mónica Guzmán

On Twitter: moniguzman

About: I’m a newsgatherer at Seattlepi.com, where I write news and features, hold weekly reader meetups, and help with much of the online-only news site's social media outreach. (Editor's Note: As the print issue went to press, Monica announced she would be leaving Seattlepi.com for a startup called Intersect. Friday, May 28 was her last day.)

Blog/website: seattlepi.com/bigblog; moniguzman.com

What do you think is the most important issue facing contemporary journalism?

Learning how to collaborate — not just with colleagues and readers, but with other media outlets. The social Web gives some amazing opportunities to build large, swirling newsrooms based around a particular issue — rather than a particular news outlet — and incorporating as reporters both the people watching an event unfold and the people being paid to cover it.

How do you think journalists 10 years from now will look back and remember today’s industry?

As a crazy, crazy time of a lot of uncertainty but a lot of excitement.

What would you say to change the views of those who are skeptical of social media/crowdsourcing and their benefits for journalism?

How could making and maintaining more connections more easily with more people do anything other than help journalism?

What’s your initial reaction to terms likes “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content”?

All hands on deck.

SEE PART 2 - With even more journalists to follow

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