Can journalists be human — and good at their jobs? Yes, I hope so

Here are some short-takes of interesting stuff about journalism and newspapers that I found around the blogosphere:

Social media rules: The buzz over how news organizations should use (or not use) social media surfaced last spring and then died down again only to come back with a vengeance in recent weeks. The blather gained more steam when a Washington Post editor closed his Twitter account after he feared his tweets violated his newspaper’s new social media policy.

My take: Puleeeze! Why is it that journalists don’t think they can manage to be both human and good at their jobs as so many people in other fields can be. The Globe and Mail’s Mathew Ingram sums up the whole debate over social media rules well. Lehigh University J-prof Jeremy Littau offers some insight as well. And here is a list of how 82 companies handle the social media dilemma.

Five sentences to outlaw: Alison Gow at Headlines and Deadlines has a truly great post about five sentences that should be outlawed in newsrooms. The best (or worst?) takeaway is number 4: “It’s only the Web site” as in, “Who cares about posting the news on the Web first or creating an interactive chat or filming a video, it’s only the Web site.” Also some interesting fodder in the comments. Her post reminds me of mine from a while back, comparing old journalism to new journalism. Let’s move onto the news, please!

People pay for what has value: The Washington Post had a story recently about Jerry Capeci’s Gang Land Web site. Capeci wrote the Gang Land column for years, first for the New York Daily News and later the New York Sun. He put the column online and eventually left the paper. Last year, he decided to start charging a $5 subscription fee for his online column, and he’s making enough, the Post articles says, to make a living. I think this example raises two points relevant to online journalism: 

  • One: As much as I’m against a paid-subscription model for online news in general, I think it can work in niche markets like this. People are willing to pay for something they believe has value.
  • Two: Capeci wouldn’t reveal to the Post how much he makes, but even with subscriptions, it appears to be only enough to support one person (or one family). So news organizations: Beware, of being lulled into thinking online subscriptions will solve your problems. They won’t. Online subscriptions would never make enough to make up for the lost ad revenue, just as print subscriptions were only a portion of your revenue.

Twitter ads: The Austin American Statesman recently launched its first Twitter ads, according to a report in Editor & Publisher. The Statesman is selling Twitter ads on two of its 50 Twitter accounts, Statesman (13,843 followers) and Austin 360(10,098 followers). The ads are labeled as such and most offer a coupon or discount offer. Will this work? Who know. I think it has potential, especially because the Statesman has obviously put effort into boosting it’s Twitter followers. Niche ideas like this are the future, not closing your eyes and hoping the Internet and recession were just a bad dream. News organization may have to make money through multiple small projects like this, rather than the big honking print ads of days gone by.

I applaud the Statesman for trying this. Sitting around and say, “Oh, that won’t work” solves nothing. And if it fails, so what. Let’s all learn from it and improve next time. Trying things and then learning from the mistakes does. We need more of that in the journalism biz. As Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”  So, Bravo, Statesman!


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