Archive for the ‘ Changing News Industry ’ Category

Journalism and women: much more to be said and done

My last post, on women’s progress in newsrooms (far below the proportion of women in journalism programs, thinnest at the top, especially at newspapers), left me unsatisfied. I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to talk about the sometimes outrageous treatment of women journalists and women news sources by some male journalists and the lack of outrage this treatment receives. (Compare this with the outrage over expressions of racial stereotyping. Both are wrong, of course. But when was the last time society called out Chris Matthews for his piggishness? Check out the video linked above for some primo examples of lascivious oink.) I wanted to learn more about, and discuss, organizations that push for more accurate and comprehensive portrayals of women in news stories. And I wanted to continue the conversation about how journalism professors can help prepare students for the obstacles they, or people they care about, may face in the industry.

The Women’s Media Center video linked above and here does a fine job of illustrating the lingering obsession with looks and charm among male talking heads (seemingly everywhere) and female talking heads (largely on Fox, at least as portrayed in the video). Accomplished women, young and old, sources and journalists alike, are reduced to a tone of voice, a bit of cleavage, a hairstyle. It’s infuriating. What to do? Write letters, send emails or let the Women’s Media Center do the job for you by filling out this form when you see, hear or read reductive portrayals of women that disregard their full humanity – like this absurdity from New York City’s WCBS-TV, which I found on the media center’s terrific website. Continue reading

Women in media and gender equity: the role of journalism schools

When I read last week that a new study from the Women’s Media Center found little change over the past decade in the low levels of women holding key positions in the news media, I sent the center’s press release to my colleagues on the journalism faculty (11 women, 21 men), with this note: “Given who our students are, this should be discussed in classes.”

Of our 248 majors, 153, or 62 percent, are women. The headline on the press release read, “Report Exposes Problem: Gender Disparity in Media is at Crisis Levels.”

A male colleague replied,  “What would be the discussion? We should tell women jstudents that they face ‘a crisis’?”

I did a slow burn for a couple of days over that one, dreaming up hotheaded, sarcastic replies. Then I decided to answer the question. What would be the discussion? Continue reading

Journalism 24/7: What we studied, Fall 2011

At the end of each semester, I like to reflect on what I learned from teaching Journalism 24/7, my course on the changing news industry. The material changes so fast that the world looks different every time I teach the class. This time – my 10th – at the request of journalism major Evan Livingston, I’m compiling an annotated list of the websites we examined. For any journalism program contemplating such a course – and all programs should be preparing their students to understand the business side of journalism along with its history, ethics and skills – this list offers a framework on which to build.

Given the wildly overpriced textbook market, it’s gratifying that this is such a low-cost course. I require only one book, “The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril,” by Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser, a widely available trade paperback that costs less than $15. Though published in 2003, much of it is essential background reading. The only truly outdated chapter is the one on network television news, so we skip that. Everything else we read is available for free online – appropriately, for a class in which a major theme is the loss of revenue in the movement of news to the web.

The annual State of the News Media report published by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism is essential reading for instructors. This exhaustive compilation covers newspapers; magazines; online; local, national and cable television; audio journalism; and ethnic and alternative news media. For each sector, the authors analyze audience, economics, newsroom investment, ownership and digital trends. The 2011 report includes special sections on mobile platforms and community news. A report on the previous year is issued each spring. Sections of the report could be assigned in small doses, or for graduate students, but the whole is overwhelming. I assign the section on local television, which is where many of our students hope to find jobs. The material has proved invaluable in class discussions.

Another core text is the 2011 report by Bill Grueskin, Ana Seave and Lucas Graves of the Columbia University School of Journalism, “The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism.” Each of the 10 chapters – on journalism economics, audience, Continue reading

A Gannett strategy on newspaper video inflames the debate

A beet.tv interview with Gannett Digital executive Kate Walters, in which she announced a “significant investment in video” at the company’s 80-plus newspapers, has sparked a bonfire of scorn among photographers, videographers and Gannett employees, past and present.

Walters said the company will train and equip “all reporters” to add video to their stories, use third-party suppliers to provide video in places and on topics where staff are unavailable, and feature user-generated video prominently on all sites.

What really steamed many commenters was Walter’s wide-eyed promise of a “culture shift” for all reporters, getting them to think about stories visually as well as textually. Continue reading

Newspapers and web video, part 3: Choosing the stories that need video

Over the past week, I’ve been reading what newspaper photographers and videographers have to say on the touchy topic of how their sites use web video.

Seems to me there’s a consensus that less IS more, which is exactly my point.

G.J. McCarthy, a photographer at the Dallas Morning News, posted this comment on sportsshooters.com’s message board: Continue reading

Further thoughts on newspaper video

It’s been fascinating to follow the debate that sprang up in response to my Sept. 23 post, “Newspapers should jettison (most of) their web video efforts.” Thanks to all who responded. You have given me much to ponder.

In the original post, I called for local and regional papers to be more selective in deploying their resources in today’s financially straitened times, not to abandon video altogether (emphasis added; not everybody read me correctly). While some categories of video draw visitors to newspaper sites, not every story needs multimedia, and much of what’s produced on newspaper sites goes to waste. Newspapers, I wrote, should play to their strengths.

As evidence, I cited a report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, which suggested earlier this year that fewer than 10 percent of unique visitors to newspaper and local-TV websites watch video streams. Anecdotally, I’ve found this to be true not just among middle-aged people like me but also among the undergraduates I teach.

Several commenters blamed these results the feckless way too many newspaper managers approach multimedia. Giving a reporter, or even a still photographer, a video camera doesn’t make that person a video journalist, any more than handing a photographer a notepad makes that person a writer. Training matters. Some newspapers have provided the necessary education, but many editors panicked once they decided to increase the multimedia on their sites. They shoved video cameras into the hands of nearly everyone on their staffs and demanded that they start shooting.

As Rebecca Gerendasy, a veteran video journalist from San Francisco, commented: Continue reading

Block by Block 2011: Veteran journalists are succeeding with independent, online community news sites

A wonderful thing about the Block by Block Summit 2011 was seeing that many of the nation’s most successful independent, online, community publishers are veteran journalists in their 40s, 50s and 60s—my cohort, broadly. Go, team! More important, these are the journalists whose jobs have been most vulnerable in the legacy-media crisis of the past 10 years.

These journalists watched their newspapers close, or took buyouts during staffing cutbacks, or got laid off, and found themselves adrift. They had honed their reporting and writing skills over decades, built broad, deep source lists, developed mature judgment and possessed a still-burning desire to tell stories and reveal truths. But the institutions that had employed them since the 1970s and ’80s were shrinking. The business models that had supported those institutions no longer worked, and because of the disruption wrought by the Internet, they seemed unlikely to return to robustness.

These veterans wanted and needed to keep working. And they were deeply perturbed that changes in legacy media—news organizations that existed before the birth of the Internet—left many communities without the kind of news coverage that informed citizens need in a democracy.

And so the hyperlocal movement was born.

Now, a few years into their online ventures, after endless months of 24/7 dedication to building their sites journalistically and financially, they are making enough money to cover their personal expenses (mortgage or rent, health insurance, food, car, etc.) and even to pay themselves a small salary. They have embraced the fact that they are running businesses; that’s why they went to Block by Block, to figure out the next steps toward greater profitability. And they’re eager to share their knowledge, as Howard Owens of The Batavian, which covers the countryside between Rochester, N.Y., and Buffalo, wrote in a post on his personal blog titled “How to launch your own local news site in 10 (not so easy) steps.”

Ben Ilfeld of Sacramento Press

Ben Ilfeld of Sacramento Press introduces himself at the opening of the Block by Block 2011 Summit in Chicago. (Photo by Howard Owens)

 

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