MORE JOURNALISM STUDENTS THAN EVER

Files under General | May 16th

The New York Times reports that Journalism Schools are attracting more students than ever.

But the big question is if the best graduates are going to newspapers as in the past.

I am not sure.



EVERYWHERE?

Files under General | May 16th

Brilliant slogan of NBC News Networks:

“On Air. On Cable. Online. On the go. Everywhere.”

But what about On print?



LESS CONVERSATION AND MORE ACTION

Files under General | May 15th

What if we spend less time in conversations about how bad newspapers are these days and concentrate in real action to change and improve them?



THE MIAMI HERALD CALL TO ARMS

Files under General | May 12th

This memo didn´t get too much attention but in my opinion reflects how deep, smart, dramatic and fast must be the changes in our newsrooms.

The Miami Herald was a great paper. Today is in a big crisis.

They made several graphic redesigns but circulation was and is going down.

The paper is another example of the mistakes of the Tony Ridder´s era that ended with the sale of Knight Ridder.

“From Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler, sent to
the Herald staff via e-mail on April 12, 2006:

To the staff,

All of you who have stepped off an elevator into the Miami newsroom
in recent days cannot have missed the wall-mounted flat-screen monitor
constantly displaying and refreshing the MiamiHerald.com site.

And if you’ve attended any of the morning or afternoon news meetings,
you will have heard an opening discussion about what’s on that site,
how many hits each article has received, and what’s coming to the
site later in the day.

These may seem like the incremental markings of evolutionary change,
mere head-nods toward on-line as we continue to think of ourselves
as newspaper people first, foremost and — perhaps for some — always.

But that cannot continue to be. Today we change. Today, as in NOW.

Three years ago, on one of the anniversaries of ou100thth year,
we focused time, thought and effort into remaking the newspaper
as part of the New Century Project. I have no doubt that it
produced a more successful newspaper, one that incorporates
all of the great journalism on which we’ve prided ourselves,
presented in a more visually exciting and easier-to-use
newspaper. Imitators are legion.

But time marches on and constantly improving the newspaper
isn’t going to guarantee success, either in journalism or
in the marketplace.

I have two messages to deliver today.

First, my goal is to remain as relevant, as important and
as influential to this community in the future as we have
been in the past — and to do it through world-class
journalism. It’s a goal we all share.

Second, we will make delivering that journalism on
MiamiHerald.com and our other media platforms just as high
a priority as delivering it in The Miami Herald. Let me
repeat that for emphasis: Just as high.

We are beyond being satisfied with incremental change and
giving polite head nods toward other media platforms. We
are going to execute fundamental restructuring to support
that pledge. Every job in the newsroom — EVERY JOB — is
going to be redefined to include a web responsibility and,
if appropriate, radio. For news gatherers, this means posting
everything we can as soon as we can. It means using the
web site to its fullest potential for text, audio and video.
We’ll come to appreciate that MiamiHerald.com is not an
appendage of the newsroom; it’s a fundamental product of
the newsroom.

No more will some people be strictly newspaper staff and
others will be strictly on-line or multi-media staff. If
you produce news, you’ll be expected to produce it as
effectively for the electronic reader or listener as you
would for the newspaper reader. If you edit or design for
the newspaper, you’ll learn to edit and design for the web
site.

We’ll be creating and posting several new jobs that will be
necessary to deliver on this mission. We don’t have the luxury
of waiting for new resources to do this, so we may need to
find the wherewithal by dropping some of the less-important
things we do now. Almost certainly we’ll be changing the typical
work schedule so we can deliver the news when our audience
wants to get it. Of course we’ll invest in training to help
everyone succeed in new responsibilities.

The details will be worked out over the next few weeks and I
invite everyone with ideas to be involved.

Let me stress that we aren’t going to milk The Miami Herald
to do this. This newspaper is what brought us here and it
will remain very successful for many years. There is something
special and unique about journalism on the printed page and
we won’t neglect that going forward. But we didn’t fall in
love with journalism because of ink and paper. We fell in love
with it because it had the power to change lives for the
better — and we can do that on paper, on the web and over
the airwaves with equal devotion.

The potential for having even greater impact than we have
now is enormous. Although all of us are aware of the challenges
we face in keeping newspaper readers, a few facts about
MiamiHerald.com:

*In January 2004, our web site captured 100,000 unique
local visitors. Last month, just 14 months later, it hosted
250,000 unique local visitors. In fact, between February
and March of this year, our on-line traffic grew by
22 percent. Remember, of course, that only on the web
site can we reach readers without regard to geographic
boundaries, something we do very well and can do
even better.

*Across the nation, newspaper web sites increased the
share of 18-24 year old readers by 9 percent, and 25-34
year olds by 14 percent.

*We’re making money. In the first quarter of this year,
our websites exceeded even optimistic revenue estimates
by $2.2 million.

When I entered this business 35 years ago, the way things
were done in the newsroom wouldn’t have been unfamiliar
to someone doing my job nearly 100 years before. I
scarcely can imagine what the newsroom will look like
35 years from now in terms of how we deliver our journalism.

What’s exciting is that we are in the position today
of shaping that future. What we do will largely determine
how successful The Miami Herald will be in serving
generations to come. As I said, that’s exciting — and
daunting.

This much is certain: We won’t be successful by standing
still and lamenting what used to be. Three years ago
this September we launched the New Century Project.
Now we need to begin work on the next century and I
need each of you to come along.

Tom.”



MOSCOW NEWS

Files under General | May 5th

I am in my first visit to Moscow.

Fascinating country, city and media market.

Most important than anything else. This is a land for opportunities and entrepreneurs.

Great advantage: big market, media consolidation underway, and booming online ventures.

Russia becomes with India and China the new big media market after USA and Europe.

If you are coming to the WAN Newspaper Congress in June take time for pleasure but don’t forget business.

Russia needs more than ever great foreign media partners, not just the ones that came here thinking that exporting the eastern formulas con content and management were going to work, and failed, including the most powerful American and European conglomerates that came as conquerors more than as partners.

The INNOVATION recent expansion in these former communist markets show how eager are these countries to start new media business or reinvent old media ones but just with one condition: real open minded partnership.



THE THIRD GENERATION OF QUALITY HOME DELIVERED FREE NEWSPAPERS

Files under General | May 3rd

I have been working during the last few days in Scandinavia and found that there is great expectation about a new free paper that could be launched in September by a newspaper group from Iceland.

The idea is not new, and Javier Errea, that now is one of our consultants, was four years ago the force behind the DIARIO LIBRE project in the Dominican Republic, a country with not reliable press and where the traditional paid newspapers together sell no more than 100.000 copies

Today DIARIO LIBRE alone delivers almost 100.000 copies of a 48 pages full color tabloid with a great design, a lot of advertising and a fair amount of balanced news to the top of the market houses in the Great Santo Domingo.

As Carlos Soria, president of INNOVATION, said in a recent presentation at the Congress of the Spanish Free Newspapers Publishers Association, “free newspapers are here to stay and progress, and now is the time for the third generation of the new quality home delivered free papers.”

Let’s what happens in Denmark when the Iceland invaders comes to the houses of thousands of wealthy Danish people. Papers could be free but home distribution is quite expensive in markets where home delivery workers get more than $30 per hour.



AMEN, AMEN, AMEN

Files under General | May 1st

Tim Porter says, better than ever, what INNOVATION believes:

“The article bellow appears in the Spring 2006 of Nieman Reports. I wrote it in January before the Knight Ridder sale/resale and announcements by several newspapers that are either cutting days of publication or moving more traditional print content, such as stocks, online.

If Newspapers Are to Rise Again
‘Reinvent or die. It’s that simple.’

By Tim Porter

Newspapers are in big trouble, the biggest since television began eroding their audience 60 years ago. There is no need for an umpteenth recitation of the demographic, economic and technological trifecta that has endangered newspapering as a vehicle for journalism – which, of course, is why we care about the fate of newspapers: They pay the freight for the type of journalism we have considered a necessity in a democratic society.

There is, however, a need to repeat an unpleasant truth most newspaper journalists, particularly newsroom managers, don’t like to hear: They are as responsible for the decline in readership and relevance of newspapers as any of the other bugaboos cited routinely as contributing causes – the Internet, pesky bloggers, disinterested youth and that Craig guy from San Francisco.

Why is that? Because risk-averse newsrooms have spent several decades with their collective heads in the ink barrel, ignoring the changing society around them, refusing to embrace new technologies and defensively adhering to both a rigid internal hierarchy and an inflexible definition of “news” that produces a stenographic form of journalism, one that has stood still, frozen by homage to tradition, while the world has moved on.

But, there is good news. Amid the carnage of smaller newsroom budgets, buyouts, layoffs and seemingly endless prognostications of doom, opportunity lives. In fact, newspapers have never been presented with an opportunity this large – or with such an urgent reason to take it. Opportunity is not just knocking; it is kicking down the front door to the newsroom and yelling: Reinvention!

Newspapers now have the chance – albeit forced upon them – to discard decades of rote practices and processes. They have the chance to build new forms of journalism that operate on traditional principles of fairness, stewardship and vigilance but are not bound by tired definitions of what is “news,” how it should be presented and who should be given the tools to do so. Reinvent or die. It’s that simple. And the death will be slow and painful, a continuing slide into mediocrity and irrelevance, as tighter budgets reduce staff and the public opts for newer, more compelling sources of information.

The Route to Reinvention

Reinvention must begin at the core, the nucleus, the thing all the 1,450 or so daily American newspapers that are not The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or USA Today must excel at: Coverage of local news.

Local is the franchise for newspapers. Local reporting, local photography, local commentary, local information, local interaction with the community. Yahoo and Google spew out routine national and international news by the screen full. The bleat of the blogosphere and the wail of cable TV heads provide the nation with punditry in spades. Myspace, Flickr and other social network sites built the virtual communities the Internet promised in its nascency. The one-time mass media has been thin-sliced and cross-diced into me-media, an RSS feed for every person, an opinion expressed for every viewpoint offered, everyone a publisher.

All that’s left is the journalism. Local journalism. That is the niche, the slice, newspapers can and must own.

I can hear the protests now. Editors are pointing to the numerous local stories in their papers, to the enterprise projects and to the staffing that, while no doubt reduced, is devoted primarily to local news. Fair enough, but let’s look more closely. True, most newspapers produce hundreds (at least) of column inches of local copy every week, but what is all that ink and all those pixels being used for? In most regional and smaller newspapers, two-thirds to three-quarters of all local, non-sports stories are about institutions (government), crime (courts and cops) and reports (more institutions.) Count them in your paper. And, as the papers get smaller, these stories become increasingly eye-glazing, devolving into either recitations of agendas or, worse, poorly executed attempts to mimic the more difficult forms of journalism (narrative, analysis, columns) practiced with excellence by only the best papers.

If newspapers were a restaurant, their motto might be: C’mon In. The Food Ain’t Great, But You Get Plenty of It.

Sadly, this tired, institutionally-focused news formula makes it nearly impossible to provide readers with the one thing the Readership Institute at Northwestern University finds resonates most with the public – an experience. They want journalism that makes them feel smarter or makes them feel safer or makes them shudder, shake, shimmy or otherwise twinge with emotion. You won’t find these characteristics in the halls of government where journalists spend so much time.

Don’t misunderstand. Journalists must cover government and journalists must cover crime – but politicians and bureaucrats and cops and criminals aren’t the audience; the electorate, the taxpayers, the victims and all the other ordinary people these institutions were formed to serve are the audience. The current beat structure and the reigning newsroom value system produces and rewards news reported from the point of view of the government instead of from the perspective of the governed – and that makes for bland reading.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the practices and processes of journalism and still keep its principles intact. Here’s how.

1. Start with a question: If you could rebuild your newsroom from scratch, with the same full-time equivalent of employees and budget numbers, and with the only requirement that you must make a print and an electronic product, what would you change? Would you hire the same people? Create the same beats? Keep the same print and Web designs? Implement the same workflow? Of course you wouldn’t. So why do you continue on as you do?
Asking and answering this question – honestly – compels a confrontation with assumptions about staffing, resource allocation and news judgment, and leads to conversations about editorial goals, readership strategy and producing a newspaper that is unique to its community instead of one that reflects a generic industry template. In short, it provides a reply to the perennial question: Where do we want to go?

2. Put the bodies in the right places – where the priorities are, where the mission-critical reporting, photography and editing must be done. Is having a staff movie critic essential to your mission? If not, use the job for something else. Foreign and Washington correspondents? Aren’t you already paying for the Times, the Post, the Associated Press and Reuters? Out-of-town sports? Do readers really care about the byline? Hundreds of column inches for TV grids, entertainment listings and stocks? Put them online.

After realigning resources behind true, community-oriented priorities, and after some difficult conversations, you’ve picked up news hole, able-bodied journalists and production time that can be used for other things – local content, niche editorial packages, interaction with the community around you. This is called product development.

3. Determine the skills your newsroom needs to meet your new goals. Do reporters need to learn how to use digital tools – photography, video, audio? Do copy editors need to learn how to write? Do managers need to learn to collaborate? Yes, it’s training, but training with purpose. It’s focused, it’s goal oriented and it’s measurable. This is called resource development.

4. Kill the defensive, authoritarian newsroom culture. Break down the hierarchy. Dismantle the content silos. Don’t manage, enable. Newsrooms are filled with creative people whose talents and ambitions are shackled by a plethora of inhibiting rules. Reward effort. Fail. Learn. And repeat. Free the newsroom 55,000! This is called fun.

5. Get a persona. I won’t use the word “brand” because it makes journalists blanch, so let’s use “identity.” We all have one and the paper must have one, too, something for which it is known, a signature type of work that reflects a zeal to excel, to be the absolute best at something that separates it from the rest of the media horde. Great writing. Great investigations. Great columns. Great reader participation. Great simplicity. Objectivity is not a personality.

6. To borrow a phrase from Hodding Carter, don’t cover the community, be the community. A while back, Carter, former head of the Knight Foundation, spoke about his early newspaper days at the Greenville (Miss.) Delta Democrat-Times. His words are better than mine: “We practiced journalism with zeal and, occasionally, foolhardy abandon. We took up the implicit demands – the implicit responsibility inherent in the First Amendment – and let people know our editorial mind when most of them would have happily been spared that opportunity. We covered our region, warts and all. And we participated in the life and civic causes of our town – Greenville, Mississippi – with avocational fervor. We saw ourselves as citizens as well as journalists. We saw ourselves not simply as a mirror reflecting what was happening in the community, or as its critics, but as indivisible from it, a piece of the community’s fabric.”

Never has the passion Carter displayed toward journalism’s role in building community been more important for newspapers. Because technology has given the people, in the words of PRESSthink blogger Jay Rosen, “formerly known as the audience” the power to publish, they are talking back and engaging in conversations, with each other, with news sources and with the press. Newspapers can join this conversation and help gather communities of local interest or stand mute and be left behind.

7. Finally, big ideas rule. It’s too late for tinkering. There’s no time to rearrange the deck chairs once again; the keel for a new boat must be laid. Media have exploded. We need to explode the newsroom.

This is a time of great transition in journalism. The tectonics of technology, demographics and economics are disrupting the ground on which newspaper journalism stood for half a century. Survival requires nimbleness, resoluteness and an unwavering sense of the possible. This is called leadership. Newspapers that acquire those skills will prosper – and so will their journalism.”