Category Archives: Journalism

Jon Stewart is our generation’s Edward R. Murrow

The greatest journalist of our era is a comedian on a basic cable network.


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If J-School doesn’t teach social media, who will?

I just got an e-mail from one of my former journalism professors asking for input on a new class she’s looking to institute.

She’s got some good ideas for the course, centering much of it around multimedia content.

Tucked within her note asking alumni for ideas and input, she included an interesting little unscientific survey she asked of her students. In her poll of two classes totaling 35 students, she found that:

  • None knew what, Twitter, Technorati, Digg or Newsvine were
  • None were blogging
  • Two said they read blogs, although neither of them commented on those blogs
  • None of them subscribe to RSS feeds
  • None were into podcasting in terms of either listening or creating


I was a bit until I got to thinking about it.

Personally, I didn’t even know the term social media until after graduation. But I knew what Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Myspace were. I knew of blogs and had grown up with IM.

I was involved in social media and didn’t really know it, and I’m guessing these kids are pretty much the same.

And I’m not surprised that they’re not producing content–they’re in school and that’s pretty taxing on your output resources. It’s also taxing on how much you can stomach. If you’re being asked to read several books a week, attend lectures and listen to presentations–all while maintaining a healthy social life–you’re not going to have a lot of room for extra noise.

That’s why you need the type of class that focuses on multimedia and highlights the tools at hand–the type of class she’s asking for input on. The exciting thing here is that social media is exploding everywhere from corporations to kindergarten classrooms. News organizations, businesses and nonprofits need this knowledge, and they need it right now. And who is in a better position to teach on it than the school of communications? If they don’t teach it, who will?

So feel free to chip in. What would you include in a journalism class that focused on the diverse multimedia tools at hand to share a single story?

My ideas include:

  • Teach them to link out within stories (I still can’t figure out why news organizations refuse to do this).
  • Teach them to treat comments like gold and engage readers. I’m blown away by how arrogant journalists tend to be with comments. This is your story, people are talking about it. This is a good thing. Celebrate the community, folks….
  • Get them blogging early. Creating content that the whole world can see will make them better producers. It may also help them get a job someday, journalism or not.
  • Check out Jeff Jarvis and his theories on the link economy.
  • Learn how Google does what it does.

Any ideas?


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A few reasons I don’t do print news (or book clubs)

I was briefly brainstorming with a friend and colleague today over business model ideas for our publishing clients. Our company supports magazines with back-end solutions – it’s a volume business. More is better.

But the reality is, today there is less and less print business. There’s less subscribers. We’re all scratching our heads.

I don’t have an answer for saving the print publication industry. Clearly, nobody does immediately.

But I can start to tell you why I don’t subscribe to any print magazines or newspapers, despite being a complete news junkie.

1.) I find print media inconvenient and inefficient

I never understood the claim – ‘People like print because you can feel it.’

Huh? I think people getting their johnnies off from physically handling their news source is vastly overrated.

Glossy magazines are handy only when leisurely reading. Waiting rooms and toilets come to mind.

And newspapers – actually handling a newspaper is an acquired skill. They’re big, unbound messes. Taking one apart generally results in a crumpled, unmanageable paper pile.

Reality is, most of the time I’m consuming news, not casually enjoying it.

2.) I heart links

Where are the links? I’m spoiled and find print media too narrow when I can’t quickly jump to another source or find more information. I’m talking links to video, to Wikipedia and blogs like mine.

3.) Give me headlines, I’ll decide if I want more

Magazines have tables of contents (TOC’s, for jargon). That’s all I initially need. I read my Des Moines Register news today through an RSS feed. Through it, all I see is headlines (about 100 over the course of a day) and the first 15 words or so. I probably click through to read about five stories a day. It’s perfect.

4.) Nothing is more current than online news

Short of being a witness, nothing is quicker than digital news. Old news is an oxymoron.

5.) Online news is free

Whether you agree with it or not, online news is 99% free, thanks to advertising. I’m not sure this is a sustainable business model or not. Part of the problem is that we still haven’t figured out how to advertise effectively online yet. Brian Clark at Copyblogger had an insightful post on this issue recently.

Either way, today, online news is free. Print news costs me money.

So what can we do? It’s not that I’m anti-print. I mean, I read books constantly. But then again, I don’t join book clubs.

Is it the on-demand nature of the Web that has changed our habits? People constantly speak of the media shift from one-to-many to many-to-many. We don’t wait on the news anymore. There isn’t much need for categorizing and organizing beyond Google and various breaking news feeds – which has traditionally been a major component of print news. People make careers of laying out news pages and deciding what should be seen in what order.

Online, we do that ourselves.

Not sure what to make of this. Like many in the media world, I’m still pondering it. Still talking about it. Still wondering what the industry will look like in a year, five years, 30 years.

But I can tell you this: I don’t subscribe to newspapers. I don’t subscribe to magazines. I don’t do book clubs.


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School is cool: Drake J-School Jr. NAC highlights

I wasn’t sure what to expect from today, but my immediate reaction is that the best part of sitting on an alumni council is the opportunity to sit in a room of people passionate about two things:

1.) The university

2.) The industry

For me, that’s a rare thing. There were some really bright people in attendance and they represented all ends of the media spectrum.

I’m in between Relays events, so there isn’t a whole lot of time to delve too deeply into the conversations, but a quick rundown of my highlights:

  • Alumni are frequently looking for talent, and there are talented students frequently looking for opportunities. A disconnect is occurring because there is no simple way to communicate between the two. Advertising Professionals of Des Moines uses this forum, how about a
  • It’s getting hard to find students interested in pursuing a career in news. So much so that the idea of tossing out the news major altogether has surfaced. That idea didn’t go far, but it’s interesting. Will MTV’s upcoming series The Paper be the Watergate of this generation? Umm… doubt it.
  • Emerging media is key. Well, duh.
  • There’s new initiatives to encourage students to take a more diverse array of media courses. There’s more cooperation and it’s leading to students having a broader base of experience.
  • Who said you had to earn your degree in 3-credit chunks at a time? The J-School staff is considering breaking away from this and breaking up classes into smaller, more diverse learning experiences. That’s genius.
  • The most challenging thing about the media industry is that it’s changing at an increasing rate. That results in a lot of alumni who would like to join in the learning process with the undergrads.

The final big thing is a J-School alumni event in September or October. A date isn’t established yet and it’s tentatively planned to go down at Principal Park. Plans are a little muddy at the moment, but the main goal seems to get everyone back and to establish a more vibrant community of Drake media alumni. Once that’s established, then we can worry about spamming each other with solicitations.

If you’re a Drake alum and would like to help with the event, there’s opportunities to do so.

And a final shout-out to two of the members – Tanner Stransky and Gina Olszowski. They’ve both recently become authors. Gina’s Now Coming to a Town Near You is the product of her passion for the effects of urban sprawl and Tanner’s Find Your Inner Ugly Betty is a unique look at 25 career lessons for young professionals based on the teachings of shows like The Office and Grey’s Anatomy.

Inspiring stuff.

Let me know your thoughts or if I missed something. But for now, I’m off to celebrate Relays over a whole bunch of beers.



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Confessions from someone with the word “Internet” in their degree

I have a degree in News/Internet Journalism from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

I learned a whole lot. Worked with smart people. Even won an award or two.

Thus, I was honored when I was recently asked to join the J-School’s Junior National Alumni Council based on my young career in communications and my interest in emerging media.

It’s got me thinking about my education and all that I’ve learned since walking the stage.

In hindsight, I look back and realize that the awkwardly named News/Internet major offered a whole lot of news knowledge and not much on the Internet.

Here’s a few startling things I realized – so much so that I consider them confessions:

  1. It took nearly four months after graduation for me to read my first blog post.
  2. Facebook was a repository for profane wall posts and booze pics. None of us who spoke about communication on a daily basis noticed the bigger picture.
  3. I never realized the insanity of the term SJMC (School of Journalism and Mass Communication) – “Mass” has nothing to do with communication. How many people receive your message is a by-product of how good the content is and how easy it is for them to receive it.
  4. Social media was a scary thing (even though we were all watching YouTube and using Facebook). The thought of random people commenting on traditional news stories was considered silly. In reality, it’s only the tip of a giant, wonderful iceberg.
  5. I thought having a Web site required a programmer.
  6. I didn’t know how Google did what it does.
  7. For most of my education, I was under the assumption that the audio, video and photo portions of the news were someone else’s job.

Now that I’ve listed a few of the disappointments, let me say that I feel privileged to have studied under some of the best and brightest journalism educators. What I’m not listing in this post is the countless diverse industry topics we covered, the consistent emphasis on ethics and the overall high standards for the work we put forth. Hell, it’s even possible we covered a point or two that I’ve listed (but if so, not enough!).

In short, Drake’s J-School kicks ass. So much ass that a whole lot of us are looking introspectively to see how we can improve the experience and better prepare future generations of communicators.

The council will be meeting later this month. Drake alumni or not, feel free to offer a shout out on your suggestions, your additions (or subtractions) to my list… all that good stuff.

I gave you my list, what’s yours?


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Community media project, part 4 of 4: Other applications

I’m going to go ahead and wrap up my initial thoughts on this community media project with a few of the ways I think it could be used elsewhere.

Up until now, I’ve focused on some specific small-town media sources and lobbed a lot of large stones toward their small staffs, budgets and circulations. I’m not writing to take those comments back – I have no patience for bad journalism, regardless of the situation. It’s the nature of journalism – it’s in the business of having audiences. And so any time the media puts on a bad show by putting out bad or incomplete information, or missing important stories… or do this – every time we let our audience down, it hurts the cause. It muddles the lofty ideals of journalism.

And it’s not just small geographic-based communities I’m thinking of. Rather, there’s plenty of practical applications for this project, which is fundamentally about making communication more meaningful and more accessible to communities.

How about a non-profit?

How about a university?

How about a political campaign? (Not just the presidential ones…)

How about any organization with an existing community, plenty of agents of conversation and a story to share?

Journalism isn’t gone, it never will be. Journalists are wired to be the best storytellers and investigators and analyzers. That takes training and talent.

But the days of waiting for someone else to tell your story – those are gone. There’s no sense in waiting anymore.

Your thoughts?

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Idea for community media, part 3 of 4: How to build it

I’ve discussed the mission of my media project and I’ve offered some thoughts on the content, the sources and a few of the ways people would adopt it.

Now on to the practical issue: How do you build it?

When thinking about this project, a few things really matter:

  • It’s got to be simple. Simple to add content, simple to upload multimedia, simple to experience.
  • While we’re at it, it should look professional.
  • Must haves include: Navigation, search, subscription.

No problem: Here’s a great WordPress theme (for a one-time fee of $80), and here’s a simple video on how to install it on your own domain. Here’s the theme in action.

Too steep of a price? No worries – there are tons of free themes out there and a with a little tweaking of some CSS code (sounds scary, but not bad) you can make a presentation all your own. Something that truly reflects the community.

It’s so painfully simple, it makes me wonder why many media outlets insist on looking like this. Or this. Or this.

And just to prove small community media can do it, visit the Le Mars Daily Sentinel. Nice work.

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