Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The digital challenge for news editors

Newsroom managers today face a difficult training challenge with the internet. None of their organizations can exist any longer as solely video, print or audio. In essence, they have to retrain their entire staffs to meet the new needs.
The personnel issues are complex. Staff who have worked in one medium exclusively may lack the talent or the desire to learn another medium. Budgets may prevent hiring new people. Training courses may be scarce or unavailable. Cynicism of staff because of layoffs, especially in print media, could be a barrier. Union rules may prohibit an editor from requiring a reporter, say, to use a digital camera or video recorder on assignments.
There are even some daily newspaper publishers, such as Walter E. Hussman Jr., who consider the concept of free news to be anathema.
But as Roy Greenslade reports in a recent article in the Guardian, many journalists appear to be grasping the opportunity as a new and richer way to tell their stories.

News organizations have been transforming themselves for years, and as their needs have changed, they have been demanding new skills from new hires. In the U.S., journalism schools have started to talk about convergence of the media and integrate it into their courses. Journalism schools are having to reorganize themselves to respond.

Universities respond

At Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism, Assistant Professor Carol Schwalbe has developed a digital media course that integrates blogging, video, audio, slide shows and other elements to give students experience in all the elements that can make online journalism come alive.
Arizona State is also going to host the Knight Center for Digital Media, a project aimed at development of innovative digital media products that can "build and bind communities."

The University of Maryland's Philip Merrill School of Journalism offers online journalism training modules in which students produce multimedia reports for the college's news website.

The University of California at Berkeley hosts the Knight Digital Media Center, which offers tutorials on subjects such as producing web video that can aid professionals.

University of Washington Professor Kathy Gill writes that blogs help engage people in public affairs and allow for a rapid media response to crises.
In line with this focus on getting the community linked in to the media, the university will be part of a multimedia course in the fall aimed at using simple devices such as cellphones to provide digital content for media websites.

Robert Scoble, a tech geek who produces a closely followed blog on new media technology, has been at the forefront of advocacy of engaging public participation in the mainstream media through posting of videos, photos and other data collected by cellphones and simple handheld devices.

Mainstream media adapt

Inc. magazine's online editor Loren Feldman says that today's journalists have to embrace fully the concept that their content is going to be sharing space online with reader content. The new model of journalism has to be two-way and interactive with the reader. Inc.'s target audience is business people interested in innovation, and that is why Feldman has aggressively sought to include blogs by a changing roster of business owners on the site. They describe the daily ups and downs of their business, something every other business owner can appreciate.
The site also recently had a slide show of 10 CEO politicos, successful business people who had crossed over into politics. The package combined text with photos to give the business-oriented reader a quick series of profiles.
Inc.'s sister publication, Fast Company, has been taking the concept of reader interaction further through its network on FastCompany.com, in which it is trying to become the preferred business networking site of its reader, who are interested in business and innovation. The site is in the process of being upgraded into something that resembles networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Washingtonpost.com is widely recognized as one of the most completely integrated multimedia sites. It also makes heavy use of blogs, with more than 50 of them listed on its site, including one about shopping at discount marvel C-Mart, which drew more than 20 comments from readers. That is engagement.
The Post also did a marvelous job of combining a slide show with audio of an Iraq war veteran trying to recover from devastating injuries. The soldier's voice added tremendous impact to the series of photos.

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