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Home > Publications > Quill > Journalists to Follow (Part 2)


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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Journalists to Follow (Part 2)

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

PART 2. See PART 1 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.

Laura Oliver

On Twitter: lauraoliver

About: I'm an online journalist and editor of the journalism news website Journalism.co.uk. My job is a mixture of straightforward reporting and editing alongside building a community for our news content and other services. Through my day job I've developed a deep interest in digital technologies and social media and what these might mean for journalists in the workplace.

Blog/website: journalism.co.uk; pebbledash.wordpress.com; guardian.co.uk/careers

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

A lack of a new grammar and language for online and multimedia journalism. By this I mean that there is still too much multimedia for multimedia's sake on news websites and not enough thinking behind how a story can be adapted to live on different platforms. The barriers are being broken down by individuals and individual news organizations, but newspaper websites, for example, don't tend to make the most of reports online, but rather replicate their print format with some audio-visual bells and whistles added on. Journalists need to think more about formatting, style and tone and how these change according to which medium you are filing for. They need to maximize the impact and reach of their reports by looking at their structure, whether that's better SEO, embeddable multimedia or a clearer, retweetable intro. It all starts with a good story, but I think journalists need to get better at making their story more visible, accessible and shareable amongst new audiences and new distribution methods.

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

I hope they will look back and think that journalists and the news media in 2010 were at a tipping point and that from this point there was a move toward a less fractious and more streamlined industry, where generalist news organizations began making the most of niche specialties and prioritized reader engagement over big traffic figures. I think it'll be seen as a time of flux and a shake-out for the traditional operational and management structures that still exist within many news organizations – the results of which are ongoing, particularly in terms of job losses and pay cuts for journalists. I also hope it will be seen as a time when many journalists became open to new ways of working and, by choice or through circumstance, new technologies to aid their daily working lives.

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

For those who are skeptical, I'd remind them that social media and crowdsourcing give you an instantaneous link to existing and potential readers. You can get feedback, news leads, business leads and a high-speed distribution network. Each network you are part of will have different demands and consist of different individuals. They show you that your readership isn't a homogenous lump and as such can't be catered for with a one-size-fits-all approach to reporting or presenting the news. It might not be possible to please all of your readers all of the time, but with social media and crowdsourcing you have the opportunity to offer alternative channels for receiving your content, interacting with it and letting you know what works and what doesn't.

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

I find the term, though not the concept, of citizen journalism troubling. Many citizens who blog, write or report on what's happening around them aren't doing so to become a journalist. Their motivation is often very different, and as such journalists shouldn't view their output as a threat. Instead they should be seen as a valuable resource: There will be dozens of non-journalists writing about your local area or subject matter, who will be experts on their topic and should be utilized as such. It should also be remembered that non-journalists who commit themselves to covering a topic or area for whatever reason can offer valuable insight into a subject from an alternative perspective and viewpoint.

Victor Hernandez

On Twitter: vhernandezcnn

About: I’m the CNN all-platform journalist program manager / social media and tech enthusiast / Interested in the future of journalism and other complicated matters.

Blog/website: CNN.com

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

The lack of consistent opportunities for experimentation and risk-taking toward advanced storytelling by some news organizations. The reality is it’s usually not an absence of eagerness or curiosity by journalists interested in applying emerging tools and concepts to everyday reporting, but rather a result of overburdened, understaffed newsrooms. Thus the onus to reach new creative heights often lands squarely on the shoulders of the individual journo (often on their own free time), not their news managers.

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

As an amazing transformation period — operationally, strategically and technologically. Among the significant breakthroughs has been the embrace of important audience engagement tools including social media and interactive reporting concepts. We are learning so much, so quickly through this industry evolution, it seems our future may actually be much brighter than some fear.

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

I’d like to hope that in the year 2010 we’re past the point of needing to convince our industry colleagues why it’s important to engage in these fast-growing and super-dynamic spaces … however, the benefits gained toward stronger newsgathering and beat reporting, better informed to so many unique, diverse communities, the branding opportunities and the closer connections with audience/readers are far too great to ignore.

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

Terrific components that when done right, work in tandem as complements to “traditional” journalism. Effective news information environments have begun to work like strong ecosystems. Professional journalists produce and distribute stories, “citizen” journalists often then add to that content with their own, which may lead to follow-up by the “pros,” etc. All leading to a richer, more comprehensive “information experience.” UGC may not necessarily have a role in every story, but when done right the two sides not only can work well together, but actually make the story better.

Mark Briggs

On Twitter: markbriggs; gonzocamp; lostremote

About: Co-founder and CEO of Serra Media and the author of “Journalism 2.0” and “Journalism Next.” I worked for daily newspapers for 15 years, the last nine running online operations for The Herald in Everett, Wash., and The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.

Blog/website: journalism20.com; serramedia.com; gonzocamp.com; lostremote.com

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

Adapt or die. There is so much opportunity to do better journalism with technology, and many independent news startups have found this to be the recipe for success, both in terms of audience and revenue.

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

The great transition. We are moving from an industrial age of journalism to an entrepreneurial age, and the process seems slow to those of us in the middle of it. But 10 years from now, it will seem obvious.

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

I would ask them to remember how they first felt about e-mail. Many journalists cringed at the thought of having their e-mail addresses printed with their stories because they were "too busy" to respond to all the e-mails they would surely get. Now editors are trying to get reporters away from their e-mail. It's taken for granted. Just like social media is for some, and will be for all information workers in a few years.

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

I try not to get too caught up on terms and instead focus on the concepts. I never liked the term “blog” but was pushing reporters to launch them before most newspapers had them because I saw the potential. I'm bullish on the concept of collaborative journalism and willing to use whatever term someone prefers to help them understand the concept — and the potential.

Suzanne Yada

On Twitter: suzanneyada

About: I'm a former copy editor, now finishing my degrees in journalism and business at San Jose State University. I'm also the social media strategist for the San Francisco Public Press and all-around Web help at the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.

Blog/website: suzanneyada.com

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

Everyone is trying to figure out how to pay for good, original journalism in the digital sphere. Plenty of people figured out how to make money off aggregation. That's a needed service in many cases. But they all need stories to aggregate.

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

Yes, there was a digital revolution, and yes, there were some horrible casualties, but we won enough battles to make it through. The industry will not be the same, but we will be OK. Maybe even better.

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

It's great to be skeptical. It means you're a journalist. But if you look at the evidence, you'll see there are too many success stories to ignore. Social media is great for finding breaking news, publishing your own organization's news, establishing relationships with potential sources and communicating with readers. If you're really still skeptical, dive into social media for just a month and see if it's worth it.

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

They're buzzwords, and I get turned off by buzzwords, especially when the concepts behind them should not be ignored. Allowing more voices into the information ecosystem is good for democracy and great for journalism itself. There's still value in editing and fact-checking to be sure, and news organizations need to be touting that as loud as they can. But, let's face it, journalists are doing the jobs of three people now, and they simply don't have time or the resources to be covering everything. They never did. The "citizen journalists," or whatever you want to call them, want to help fill those coverage gaps. Work with them.

Greg Linch

On Twitter: greglinch

About: I work in journalism and technology at Publish2, a startup that makes tools for journalists. I graduated from the University of Miami in May 2009 and have previously worked as an intern at The Dallas Morning News, The Miami Herald and South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Blog/website: greglinch.com

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

It's hard to generalize because every individual or organization in the journalism world is unique, but I'd say that we should try to step back and look at the "big picture" more often. Recognizing the fundamentals of journalism and how to do better journalism is crucial and sometimes gets lost among everything happening from day to day.

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

Journalists in 10 years will see today's journalists as part of the early days of when people across the board started to embrace and lead in the new, constantly changing world of journalism. Or, as Dave Winer says, this is Year Zero for Journalism (see tinyurl.com/JournalismYearZero).

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

Social media (most media are becoming social, at least in some way) and crowdsourcing should be embraced because they can help us do better journalism. Don't dismiss something you don't fully understand. And, from most people I've met who are skeptical, it's usually because they haven't used a certain tool or haven't been using it in the best way. Generally, any journalist or news organization ignoring social media tools and crowdsourcing techniques does so at their own risk of losing relevancy. Social media is something everyone practicing journalism should have weaved in seamlessly with their work when appropriate, not set aside for any single person to do.

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

They are used to describe what represents a much more fundamental shift in the way journalism is practiced, and it's more important to focus on that level than the words themselves. That said, I'm not particularly fond of the actual terms for each. "Citizen journalism" is an inaccurate phrase, and I think "user-generated content" is cold and clunky. These terms also help perpetuate the attitude that work not produced in-house at a news organization is second-class or less valuable than the work done in-house.

Jeff Cutler

On Twitter: JeffCutler

About: I’m a journalist and freelance writer with 21 years experience in the news business and heavily involved in social media efforts. I regularly train news outlets on the proper way to engage communities with these new tools.

Blog/website: jeffcutler.com

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

The prevailing feeling that cutting staff — editors, reporters, columnists — is the path to profitability. Unfortunately, an outlet without accuracy and writers who contribute interesting and engaging pieces is not long for this world. And news management should do just the opposite. Get the best staff you can and you'll draw in eyeballs. That's the way to survive.

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

I would hope they look back and see today as a fantastic opportunity to brand themselves as experts. If a reporter these days doesn't take advantage of the tools available online, they're missing a grand opportunity to reach readers/viewers. Today is the start of a content revolution, and skilled journalists are best poised to take advantage of their unique skills. Sadly, I think many journalists will look back and see this as the death of an industry as opposed to a birth of opportunity.

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

No matter how head-in-the-sand you want to be, people are having conversations about your writing, the news of the day and your publication. Social media brings everyone into the same room where you can really communicate about topics that matter to everyone. I would say, "Wake up, look, listen and learn." Social media is here to stay, and it can be a great benefit to reaching your audience with the stories they are hungry to consume.

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

A citizen journalist is like a citizen plumber or a citizen dentist. It's not accurate because you can't be both. You're either trained as a journalist or you're not. User-generated content is a wonky descriptor. If your content is user-generated, then that means that only the people creating it are consuming it, the users. So you're better served calling it contributed content or reader content.

Pia Christensen

On Twitter: AHCJ_Pia

About: As managing editor/online services for the Association of Health Care Journalism, I manage the content and development of healthjournalism.org. I’ve been publications coordinator for Investigative Reporters and Editors, a copy editor and an interactive producer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a producer for Tribune Interactive, a sports copy editor for the Marin Independent Journal in Novato, Calif., and job and internship coordinator at the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism in San Francisco.

Blog/website: healthjournalism.org

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

We’re grappling with how to support journalism financially. That perfect new business model hasn’t come along. It remains to be seen whether foundation-supported journalism can be truly independent in the long run, whether community-supported journalism is sustainable or whether we can create content that people will pay to access.

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

I hope we will be able to look back on this as a transformative time in journalism. Without discounting the turbulence in the industry and the many jobs that have been lost, I think this period will be marked by new ways of reporting and telling stories in a variety of formats. It’s important to look at the challenges and the new skills as empowering us to do our jobs better.

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

Crowdsourcing and social media offer journalists more tools to do their jobs. They are new ways of reaching out to potential sources and, hopefully, reaching a more diverse group of people and including them in your coverage. That said, just as with any methods that journalists use, crowdsourcing and social media must be used appropriately. That means verifying the information you receive and the people you use as sources. It also means journalists have a responsibility to really understand the tools, whether they’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media.

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

Overall, I think citizen journalism and user-generated content have value, particularly because they allow for more diverse points of view and discussions than mainstream journalism has supported in the past. However, I can’t help but worry that poorly done citizen journalism efforts or user-generated content will dilute the efforts of professional journalists. I hope journalists can find ways to embrace such efforts and encourage responsible practices, such as accuracy and fairness.

Megan Garber

On Twitter: megangarber

About: I’m an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, where I report and write on the future of news. Previously I was a staff writer at the Columbia Journalism Review and have discussed press performance on NPR, the BBC, al-Jazeera English, MSNBC and other outlets. I was also a featured speaker at the 2010 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.

Blog/website: niemanlab.org; cjr.org

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

Collaboration versus competition: How do we leverage the best aspects of both approaches to journalism, both as individual news outlets and as a singular informational ecosystem?

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

The worst of times. And the best of times.

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

I'd say that taking advantage of social media (and of the crowdsourcing opportunities those media facilitate) is, at its core, simply a means of expanding one's source pool. And what journalist wouldn't benefit from having more sources?

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

I don't love the terms themselves — they're somewhat clinical, when the practices they connote often come from a place of passion and generosity — but I love what they represent: a new compact between journalists and the citizens they serve.

Eric Kuhn

On Twitter: KuhnCNN

About: CNN’s Audience Interaction Producer where I focus on social and emerging media for the network and television-Web integration.

Blog/website: CNN.com and CNN.com/Ticker

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

One of the most important issues facing contemporary journalism today is finding the signal, or the significant messages, amid all the noise. Journalists have always had to search for information, but now -- more than ever -- an enormous amount of information is being pumped out on to more platforms. As the volume of messages and platforms expands, the quest has become far more complex. Weeding out the trivial from the important is the challenge. There are important conversations occurring in small communities everywhere.

Journalists need to become more technically savvy than ever before in order to create their own listening mechanisms. For example, when US Airways flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River the first available photo was a TwitPic taken by a bystander who saw what happened. Those journalists who had set up a means to listen carefully were able to find this photo instantly. Information is dispersed everywhere and it is both a technical and analytical challenge to determine what really matters.

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

As being over-saturated with "new media consultants!" Just kidding.

Today's industry is about communities and networks. By simply hitting a button on a story you would like to share with your “friends,” you can have a tremendous influence on how others view the news.

We are living in the golden age of innovation, shifting the definition of what it means to be a journalist. The almost universal access to information, and the capability to transmit and receive it, has caused the profession to analyze its very definition from multiple perspectives.

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

I would simply suggest a skeptic walk through any given newsroom in America. The majority of journalists now have Twitter constantly running, are posing questions to their Facebook friends as they probe for stories, and identifying sources through multiple social platforms. CNN, a company built on media innovation, has hundreds of employees using Twitter daily, from CNN/US president Jon Klein to our anchors to our production assistants. Social media is not replacing traditional journalism; it is augmenting it, providing journalists with greater access to information and increasing our ability to disseminate the facts we report.

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

Honestly, CNN's iReport. iReport is the network’s user-generated news community. It is a perfect combination of the power of personal digital storytelling and the journalistic expertise of CNN. The two combine together to give a new diversity of voices to the world of news and information.

Jay Rosen

On Twitter: jayrosen_nyu

About: I teach journalism at New York University and direct the Studio 20 Program, focused on Web innovation. Author of “What Are Journalists For?”

Blog/website: pressthink.org

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

Overcoming a dysfunctional professional culture in order to open itself to the changes sweeping the media world and figure out how to sustain the serious business of the press.

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

If I had to guess (and I do to answer this one...) "What took us so long?" will be one of their what-if questions. "We had it sooo good, for sooo long..." will probably be a common attitude. "Thank god for the young people" will also be heard. And "it's better now" will be the conclusion.

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

What Dan Gillmor said when he was a newspaper journalist learning to blog: "My readers know more than I do." If pro journalists cannot learn how to get some of that knowledge flowing in, so as to improve their reporting, they will fail to capitalize on one of their biggest assets: the users of journalism, and what they know. This would be a large error.

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

When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism. "User generated content" is an industry term for what happens when people use those tools and send the results to the media.

SEE PART 1 - With 10 other journalists to follow

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