Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Ode to True/Slant: First year of a news startup in rhyme

Posted by andreaitis on April 8, 2010

One single year has come and gone
Since the Alpha launch of
Launches tend to be crazy, that’s the default
Ours was no exception courtesy of Mossberg-comma-Walt

But let me back up, start with some history
Of how True/Slant first came to be
LD had the idea, he needed a check
He got the first round with a powerpoint deck


We sat in an office;  year 2008, month July
Just three of us then: Lewis, Coates and I
In the back right corner we commandeered our space
Our office christened once the whiteboard was in place

We talked, we drew, we diagrammed and graphed
We walked to the corner for lunch at ‘Wich Craft
We posted on Techcrunch for a CTO
Enter SMcNally; he had us at “Hello”

Like speed-dating we interviewed for UI and Design
Surely we met with at least eight or nine
Then James rolled in, the last one to show
With his Williamsburg skinny jeans and glasses; he had us at “No”

He was smart and clear but he did not hob-nob
J argued back.  As LD says, “That’s what got you the job.”
With the Athletes on board we could really begin
The beat was on: No Sleep Til Brooklyn

During this time I came to realize
A VC’s Fred Wilson was very nearby
Up one floor, in fact, and me a big fan
That’s how my Fred Wilson Watch began

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Business, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Washington Post crisis of credibility continues (but don't Twitter that)

Posted by andreaitis on October 5, 2009

“If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.”

That used to be the Washington Post’s ad campaign.

Ironic, huh?

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander wrote a piece yesterday in response to the Post’s anti-social media guidelines for reporters.  The title, Do Ethics Guidelines Threaten Freewheeling Social Media?, suggests these rules are about ethics.  They’re not.

It would have been fine if Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said only this:

“What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account,” the guidelines warn. “If you don’t want something to be found online, don’t put it there.”

But he didn’t.  That good, basic common sense was just part of the guidelines that Brauchli summarized in a staff memo:

“Reporters and editors should not express views that can be construed as political, nor should they take sides in public debates.

There are prohibitions against “writing, tweeting or posting anything — including photographs or video — that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.” The guidelines “apply to all Post journalists, without limitation to the subject matter of their assignments.”

I presume Brauchli is okay with this memo making the rounds.  If not, he wouldn’t have written them in an email, right?  Here, though, is the final kicker in Alexander’s column:

To Brauchli, the policies speak to neutrality, which he told me is “essential to maintaining our credibility.”

Neutrality is not the only thing essential to maintaining credibility. Transparency is also essential.  Authenticity, an open dialogue and an open mind to how news happens in today’s world.  And these policies contain more neuter than neutrality.  Newsweek’s Dan Lyons is currently engaging in a conversation right here on True/Slant as journalism students dissect one of his columns.  If Dan worked at the Washington Post, he’d be violating their “prohibitions.”

You’d think the Washington Post would have learned something from the off-the-record exclusive access for cashola lobbyist scandal.

I guess it’s true.  If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

Posted in technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bloggers: Seen One, Seen Them All

Posted by andreaitis on March 29, 2009

That’s what Nick Cohen suggests  in a happenstance companion piece to T/S Nancy Miller’s coverage of  a new fund supporting investigative reporting.

The best reason for wanting my colleagues to survive is that serious reporters and broadcasters offer a guarantee that what they say is true. If they stray, their editors impose journalistic standards and insist on objectivity. They may not have the best or fullest story or the most vivid account, but readers should be able to assume their work is reliable, while a blogger’s commitment to objectivity can never be assumed.

via Nick Cohen: Who would you rather trust – the BBC or a blogger? | Comment is free | The Observer.

Specifically, I take issue with this phrase:  “…a blogger’s commitment to objectivity can never be assumed.”  First of all, commitment to objectivity should never be assumed, period.  It suggests objectivity exists, which is a discussion unto itself.   But readers should be smart and sensible; they should interpret and question accordingly, whether they’re reading from a newspaper, a mobile phone or a Kindle.

Bloggers as a generalization?  That doesn’t fly anymore.  Blogging is a platform, like tv, radio and print.  It’s been a quick and energetic transition, from blogging  infancy to adolescence.  Bloggers  are no longer simplistically defined.   Just ask Andrew Sullivan.

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The Reboot of Journalism

Posted by andreaitis on March 19, 2009

Dave Winer was at the forefront of blogs, RSS and podcasting.   His take on the state of journalism is a bit different because his perspective is inside out, but the inside is from the tech side rather than the print side.  So, to his point, we are not at the beginning of the Journalism transformation.  Technology has been leading us here for quite some time.  And where will we go?  It’s kind of like porn: we’ll know it when we see it.

In 1994 we didn’t know what the new journalism would look like, and we still don’t, but we knew some essential elements, perhaps the essential element — the sources go direct. It’s the thing the Internet does to all intermediaries, it disses them. It happened to travel agents, realtors, classified ads, all kinds of shopping, and it’s happened to news too. Permalink to this paragraph

As with everything new, to see it you have to jump out of your skin and look at the situation from the new body, not the old one. Imagine what news would look like once the limits of the past are erased by the technology of the new. It’s been knowable for many years, but some didn’t want to look. But if you did look, as millions, if you weren’t one of the gatekeepers; rather you were one of the people they gates were meant to keep out — there was no problem seeing how it would shape up. Now we’re there, we’re not at the beginning, we’re already far along.

via The reboot of journalism (Scripting News).

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Columbia Journalism Schoolhouse Rock

Posted by andreaitis on March 13, 2009

Sign me up for Professor Goldman’s class.  He gets that you can’t take full advantage of the future without understanding the past. There are certain fundamentals of journalism and storytelling that are pervasive and enduring, and you can’t cover them all in 140 characters.  Some you learn in class, some on the street, and some over a beer in a bar. And those are often the ones you remember most vividly.

“Fuck new media,” the coordinator of the RW1 program, Ari Goldman, said to his RW1 students on their first day of class, according to one student. Goldman, a former Times reporter and sixteen-year veteran RW1 professor, described new-media training as “playing with toys,” according to another student, and characterized the digital movement as “an experimentation in gadgetry.”

Goldman’s official take on the situation is considerably more measured, and he insists he is not against new media. “They need to know the ethics and history and practice of journalism before they become consumed with the mold they put it in, because the mold will change — the basics won’t,” he says, explaining his outburst.

Columbia J-School’s Existential Crisis — Daily Intel — New York News Blog — New York Magazine

Footnote: I’m setting aside my personal “new media” pet peeve.  Really, it’s not so new anymore…

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Jim Bellows, The Last Editor, Gone at 86

Posted by andreaitis on March 7, 2009

Jim Bellows

Jim Bellows

I saw it on twitter first. I know, I know, it sounds trite already (or, uh, twite). It resonated, though, because our CEO worked for Jim Bellows at one time, and knew him well. I’ve heard the stories. Bellows was a truly great editor, by all accounts — even his own in his book The Last Editor. He loved what he did, and he loved the people who did it with him…whether he was working in print, TV or the Internet.

LD says Bellows was known for repeatedly asking the following: “Young man, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” And, LD says, you would think about that question, from then on. Bellows had an impact, one that was resoundingly felt by those who worked with him. And it transcends. I was not fortunate enough to meet Jim Bellows, but LD talked about him and shared stories. And when we started down the startup path in July, LD sent me a copy of Bellows’ book. “Read this,” he said. So I did. And in reading it I got a sense of who Bellows was, and the joy with which he approached every step along the way.

I found this clip of Jim Bellows from March of 2008, almost exactly a year ago.  He was at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner Almost-20th Reunion Party at the LA Press Club.  To get a sense of the man, listen to the words of those who worked for him:

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Highest praise, said with great affection.  What did Bellows have to say for himself?  The Editor & Publisher obit includes excerpts from a 2002 interview on the PBS NewsHour:

TERENCE SMITH: What’s the future hold in this business that you’ve been in so long, in journalism? Is the answer the Internet, will newspapers still be around, will they still be on newsprint?

JIM BELLOWS: You’re going to have a newspaper that’s delivered there at your home every day, but it’s not going to be market quotes, it’s not going to be baseball statistics; it’s going to be commentary and opinion, but you’re going to be able to get that other material that you want by the computer world and everything else.

TERENCE SMITH: Jim, what worries you, if anything, about journalism today? When you look at the news business and you look at everything from newspapers to the 24-hour news channels, any cause of concern?

JIM BELLOWS: The newspapers now are too tame. And you need more people with passion who are willing to take risks and have a commitment to making a difference.

TERENCE SMITH: Too tame when you look across the country, too tame? Papers that… you see papers that ought to be more adventurous?

JIM BELLOWS: Yes, and they ought to take risks, which they’ve got to, it’s productive to be helpful to people to make a better life and make sense out of the news.

To make a better life and make sense out of the news…

I had planned to post pictures of our new office tonight, before hearing this news. I am still going to post them, because I think Jim Bellows would have enjoyed LD’s latest adventure. He would appreciate True/Slant. I can picture Bellows standing in our office, asking LD yet again what he wants to do with the rest of his life. LD would look him straight in the eye and say, with conviction, “This is it.” I imagine Bellows would mumble in response, with a glint of pride and pleasure. And he would look out the windows of our new office, see the future and nod with approval.

To Jim Bellows…for always raising hell.

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The Cost of Doing Newspaper Business: $238K

Posted by andreaitis on February 24, 2009

Duluth News Tribune awarded training grant

The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership program has given the Duluth News Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication a total of $238,000 to help retrain the newspaper staffs.

Huh.  That was my first reaction.  Just…huh.  Then I read the story. Advertising is mentioned 7 times.  Internet is mentioned once.  Web and mobile?  Zero mentions.

I get that it’s a business. Of course we need to figure out how to make the news (overall news, not newspaper) business work.  And, we certainly need to bridge the gap for advertisers, to help them move from traditional to digital opportunities.  That is a true and noble goal.    So if that’s what this grant is all about, then let’s just be honest about it.  After all, isn’t that part of the training, too?  And while you’re at it, maybe set aside some of that grant time and money to think about how it all fits together, now and 25 years from now.  It won’t be “computer programs” … And about that consumer feedback?   Happy to hook you up with some open source forums and polls.   All free.   ;-j

I underlined some of my favorite passages below:

Now the two newspapers and journalism department will begin working on what ought to be studied. Those involved say it’s likely to be a mix of learning new computer programs to help sell advertising and tell news stories, and fundamentally rethinking how to deliver news and advertising.

“There are all kinds of ways we can use it,” said Peter Passi, a business reporter and president of the Lake Superior Newspaper Guild at the News Tribune. The idea of applying grew out of negotiations between the paper’s owner, Forum Communi-cations, and the union last year, Passi said.

Rob Karwath, executive editor of the News Tribune, said he envisions money going toward rethinking how to sell new products that deliver news and advertising to readers, and setting up methods to increasingly receive feedback from customers.

“I think it’s primarily rethinking what we’re doing, where we put our people, and where we put our efforts,” he said.

Aaron Becher, advertising director at the News Tribune, said he hopes the money can help create more of a lab-type experience where advertising staff can train to sell new kinds of advertising products in an in-house practice system before taking it to actual customers.

Duluth News Tribune awarded training grant | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

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Reporting: Being First vs Being Right

Posted by andreaitis on February 24, 2009

I posted on the / Techcrunch face-off yesterday, but after reading Journalism, or irresponsible rumour-mongering? I’m thinking a bit more about it.  And the thought I’m thinking is this: editors.  What we’re seeing is a mad rush — to post, to critique, to judge.  We now live in a world of immediate immediacy, and many have lost track of the pause button in the frantic race to be first. Editors provided that pause, the questioning and probing that often made our stories better: clear, crisp, tight, and more often than not more accurate.

Now, though, the fact that anyone can publish anything at any time means editors are not actually needed. Desired by some, maybe, but not necessary for the act of publishing.  Is that a blessing or a curse? In the mashup of Journalism and Darwinism, I’ll say what every local TV anchor has said at least once in a classic on-air moment: only time will tell.

TechCrunch, one of the Web’s top tech blogs, sparked a firestorm of criticism with a recent story about — the popular music-sharing network that CBS acquired last year — by reporting that the service had turned over a pile of user information to the Recording Industry Association of America. The story turned out not to be true, and co-founder Richard Jones responded with a blistering denial, in which he said that TechCrunch was “full of shit.” Plenty of people on Twitter and elsewhere have been using the piece as a stick with which to beat TechCrunch, arguing that the report was irresponsible and the blog has lost all (or most) of its credibility as a result, etc.

Journalism, or irresponsible rumour-mongering?

Posted in news, technology | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

dude, where’s my journalist?

Posted by andreaitis on January 13, 2009

a couple of things happened over the last few days that got me thinking:

1.  i was on a call to prep for a digital breakfast panel on the future of news and information.  it’s put together by gotham media ventures, and will be at the harvard club.  fancy.   the call was supposed to be a quick intro but lasted twice as long because, rather than just prepping, we got into the actual conversation ourselves.

2.  fredwilson wrote avoiding the big yellow taxi moment, a post about newspapers, journalists, reporters and the yet-to-be-solved business model.  it prompted a lively and insightful discussion with  over 150 responses — including a comment  from our ceo.

3.  i spoke to a sportswriter who is now teaching journalism at loyola college in maryland.   i asked her:  how do you teach journalism today?   she said she is asked that question more than any other.

it occurred to me this morning that there is a correlation between what’s happening in the video world and what’s happening in the print world.   we used to watch tv by network — must-see-tv on nbc — we were loyal to the network.  now, i can watch tv on my pc or when i’m mobile using hulu, or i can use boxee and watch anything i want on my tv.  i become the network.   my loyalty is not to the tv networks of old, but to the shows and personalities.    i watch house and  jon stewart and true beauty.    (btw, ashton kutcher and tyra banks might be geniuses.)

it’s the same with print.  i talk about andrew sullivan’s  ‘why i blog’ and michael hirschorn’s ‘end times.’ both are connected to the atlantic, but that’s not how i reference them.  i am aligned with the writer, not the publication.  my loyalty is to the human brand.  this isn’t 100%, of course.  there is credibility attached to certain media brands, tho that’s been impacted by an influx of fakes and phonies like jayson blair and stephen glass, among others.

which leads me to my next thought:  are journalists a dying breed?   to me,  ‘journalist’ was a word uttered with wistful reverence.  it was aspirational, something to work for and earn, almost like being knighted.   in all my years in news, i never called myself a journalist; i thought of myself as a storyteller.  but i know i did the job with integrity and ethics.  i know i was careful and thoughtful in my reporting.  i was never cavalier; the details mattered.

there are different pieces to being a journalist: the research, the angle, the hunches, the facts, the writing, the presentation….the parameters when you’re chasing the story, and the boundaries when you’re telling the story.   it’s the training, the skills that build solid reporting and credibility, that allow you to responsibly push those boundaries.

anyone can  ‘report’ today.  we all know that, and we’ve talked about mass quantity and the credibility spectrum.  but below the surface is this question: will the next generation learn the skills of basic reporting?  will they want to, or will they feel it’s unnecessary because they can instantly publish?  we learned so much of the craft from actually being in a newsroom, eavesdropping on phone conversations and hanging out in the bar.   every newsroom in every media company had such a bar.  we didn’t even use the name, just called it ‘across the road.’    i’m not sure digital communication can replace that physical presence.   and those bars?  some aspiring journalist would do well to take a tour of those bars and pubs.  there are stories to be heard and stories to be told, and they won’t be there forever.

it’s possible today to  be a ‘reporter’ without ever leaving your house.    i’m just not sure that’s a good thing.   the role of the journalist will be redefined and reshaped as the industry continues to change; we’re just at the beginning of that transformation.  and up-and-coming journalists?  i guess the ones who will make it will understand the steps they need to take along the way.  at least, i hope so.   because, content isn’t king anymore.  credibility is.

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