Monday, March 30, 2009

Atlanta Unfiltered Response

If the future of serious journalism is independent Web sites, then we're in trouble.

First of all, newsrooms should be doing investigative journalism. But layoffs and consolidation have created a tough environment that makes it hard for journalists to do their jobs. I think the business mindset of the newsroom is more to blame than the economy. It's a regrettable situation, and it needs to be fixed.

Secondly, an independent website does not have nearly the same clout as an established news organization. Anyone can publish anything on the Web. Jim Walls may have great credentials, but how does the casual browser tell the difference between a sham site and a legitimate one? People often glance at a website and gauge its credibility based on how professional the design is and who the sponsoring organization is.

Also, the Web may be world wide, but it still has limited reach. Newspapers are affordable and widely available. Internet access is not. Residential internet service is a luxury, and many people do not have internet access at home or at work. A 35 or 50 cent newspaper is easier to get than an open computer at the local library.

This is not to say that there shouldn't be watchdog sites on the internet, but it is especially hard online to tell what is trustworthy information and what is not. These sites will have to build credibility with readers, just as traditional news organizations have. And hopefully, traditional newsrooms can regain some of the credibility they've lost with layoffs. Society needs its watchdogs. Letting public officials operate without oversight is certainly not an option.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The new face of journalism

In the recent years, "journalism" has become more adorned with flashy graphics, high def TV touch screens, and perfectly groomed reporters. This change over the years has led journalists farther from getting to the truth and "peeling the onion" and more about ratings and spin.

Jim Walls Atlanta Unfiltered is, I believe, a perfect representation of where journalism, actual investigative journalism, is going in the future. It's unpolished look IS a representation of where we are, but it is also an homage to the muckrakers of the past. Those journalists weren't afraid to crawl through the muck of society and get a little dirty to get the facts, and neither is this site.

Journalism is going to go through a trend were it will no longer be about flash, graphics, and image, but be more about substance. Walls' site looks to do this.

I truly believe that this will be the future of journalism. In the art and design world, trends are pushed to the limit until they look tacky, and then artists come in and scale back, and journalism is getting ready to go through that trend design wise. This site is the best example.

And I don't believe that is a bad thing. Journalism seems to have lost its mind and turned into a conglomorated business venture and has forgotten the people it works for. It has become too much about style and look, and not about getting to the bottom of stories. This will be a welcome change, and I believe, this is where journalism will be heading.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Generation

I don’t think that there is anything with local newspapers, but I’m not all that surprised that the younger generation doesn’t seem to have a use for it. With the rise in technology and with interesting events happening all over the world, I think that the younger generation has traded local events with world and national events. Most civic life isn’t interesting to a generation that wants the information before it even happens. I think the appetite for knowledge of all kinds in insatiable for the younger generation and it’s become easier to receive that information by other means. If my local paper can email updates to my Blackberry just as the Washington Post does then maybe I’ll read it, but it’s just easier to sit down with and watch WIS for local events while I also read my online papers and Twitter from a phone. Reading a paper takes time and concentration, and I’m afraid that maybe the younger generation doesn’t want to make that time.
I do believe that if the civic papers want to gain youth readership that they should cater to that audience. There can be a way to include information that everyone should want to read, and I think that the younger generation is somewhat being ignored and that the internet has picked up on that and has decided to encroach on this market. Journalists need to find a way to make it work. They need to find whatever it is that will pull us in and make us want to read that paper. I also think that as new, younger interns and journalists enter the field that we will see a shift in the content of local papers. As we bring new ideas and information we will also bring a new readership along with us. But mostly it’s important for newspapers to keep up with the way we receive our information.

Adapt, Adopt and Reach

The journalist's role has not changed.  He or she should gather information, process and present it in an honest and intriguing manner.  The journalist's responsibilities have changed - they have increased.  Getting the message out in as many different formats as possible including print, online, cell phone, ect..., has moved to the top of the list.  Who are we writing for and how do we reach them? 

The unprecedented growth in voter turnout among 18- to 29-year olds in 2008 was a response to identification.  Young voters identified with a candidate and a set of issues including change of the status quo, ethics and anger over the war and the economy.  These voters did not have to read the paper the previous day to know the most up to date information, because they were saturated with information from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources.  Information was available on TV and from online sources.  Information was available directly from the candidate as e-mail and cell phone updates.  Information broke on cell phones first in some cases.

The newspaper is not the easiest or best media source for all users anymore, particularly the younger demographic, but that does not translate to a failure to understand the value of a free press to a free society.  Parker does not offer any data to make the case or compare past and present media use and understanding for the 18- to- 29 demographic.   I would guess from my own experience that today's youth are more aware of what is going on than in the past.  That they are more reachable than ever.  However, the journalist is now competing with many other players on these newly opened roads for access to the media user.  It is then the journalist's responsibility, as one of the few players on the road who was trained to be accurate, objective, ethical and concise to go through as many media sources so he or she can to reach the user.

That said, the journalists and everyone else inside and outside of newspapers should find a way to do whatever possible to preserve newspapers.  Endow newspaper?  Story for another time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lost Generation Response

I do not think voter turnout in the 2008 election had much to do with local newspaper readership. Most voters were probably most interested in the presidential race and used other media to follow it. I think the unpopularity of President Bush and the historic nature of the election were the two main factors that increased young voter turnout.

With that said, the increased young voter turnout is at odds with Parker's comment that the younger generation doesn't understand or appreciate the free society-free press connection. I think today's young people are connected to civic life, but in new ways. Young people are building their own communities, many on the Internet, around shared interests, if not geographic location. So many young people may be engaged in civic life based on broader causes rather than their smaller communities.

But people still use media to stay connected to civic life. For many young people, that media is television, the Internet, and magazines. But journalism is not just media. Journalism is supposed to give people unbiased information so they can make up their own minds. Journalism is essential for a free society because it allows people to think freely.

And journalists have an important role in helping young people stay connected to civic life. I think this role is to seek out and report more stories that directly involve young people. In general, people like to see, hear, and read about others like themselves. So the best way to get young people to read newspapers is to write about young people in newspapers. I know I liked to read the page of my local Sunday newspaper that was devoted to students when I was in high school, and I will look through the marriage announcements now that some of my classmates have gotten married. At any rate, the most valuable news is news that affects you and news that involves you. Young people will not read the newspaper if they think the news in it has nothing to do with them, but they will find other ways to stay connected to civic life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Generation is Lost? Maybe not quite yet

Most people don't read the newspaper today, but they still utilized publications to get their news, but it is now over the web. And most don't go to local news papers websites, but the national papers. It seems most young people aren't concerned with their town, but the nation.

Also, the unprecedented voter turnout can be contributed to what we grew up with.
We grew up knowing what was going on in the world, and 9/11 is the keynote. After that, I believe many young people saw that there are things wrong in this country, and we took it on our shoulders as a need to fix, and now that that generation can finally vote, we used that ambition to make our voices known.

To tell the truth, I don't know what truly connects people to civic life. I believe it is a side effect of globalization, that the sense of small community is lost, and that most are connected to the big picture of what is going on nationally and internationally.

Most people, it seems, connect to a "news" broadcast that reflects their views, and doesn't necessarily report the news. Conservatives connect with FoxNews, liberals connect with MSNBC, and moderates connect with CNN.

I believe it is our role as journalists to keep that public informed, but to not spin that information, or omit things that don't fit certain political agendas. Our first allegiance is to the public, and to maintain that connection of civic duty, we need to ourselves act civil and ethical in our news coverage.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Defuse and Follow-up

Post game news conferences often veer off the topic of the immediate game, the season or sport in general and into a variety of conversations including coaches and personalities.  Why not a question and discussion on coach Jim Calhoun's salary and its relation to other state employees salaries.  The question was clear and relevant.  Calhoun ends the discussion at the press conference stating the reporter should get some facts and that the program brings in $12 million to the University of Connecticut.  Case closed.

When is a good time to discuss Calhoun's salary?  Apparently in the parking lot.  

The conversation about Calhoun, his program or practices should be open to public scrutiny just as it would for any state employee.  Calhoun is able to deflect the argument in the news conference where emotions run high and the coach can both speak loudly and carry a big stick.  That however can not be the end of the debate.  Knowing the program contributes $ 12 million to the university's general fund should not be a condition for interviewing Calhoun, though including that info in the reporter's question might have garnered a more reasoned response.  

That said, the reporter should take Calhoun's advice and bring it back to him ten fold in a follow-up interview, which the coach is apparently open to.  The reporter should come armed with new facts and careful questions, and in a less hostile environment he will likely receive more sober and reasoned answers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Calhoun response

Really, I don't see a story here involved with interviewing Calhoun.
I do think you would interview the University and see the sheer monotony of having a basketball coach as your highest paid state official.
That is the real story, and why such a lower tier job in respect to jobs in the medical field is seen in such high regards.
Though his program does contribute a large sum of money ($12 million I believe) to the state, it doesn't excuse his behavior and his ridiculous paycheck.
But this isn't a story with him, because he is a private citizen and can do what he wants with his money.
UConn needs to be questioned in their thought process to pay him so much for doing what could be seen as a volunteer job.