Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Are Bloggers Journalists? Are Journalists Bloggers?

February 29, 2012 1 comment

Blogger vs Journalist Flowchart

Are bloggers journalists?

This debate continues to simmer as the traditional news-gathering industry undergoes a painful period of rapid evolution.

The answer to the question “are bloggers journalists?” can be answered by flipping the question on its head:

In an era where journalists increasingly write for digital versions of their newspapers (many of which have cut delivery to a handful of days per week or eliminated it completely)- publishing news DIRECTLY to the web without editorial oversight on every single story: are journalists bloggers?

Yes.  And vice versa.

Journalism is an activity, an ethic, a philosophy.  Historically it’s been bound by certain physical trappings: the masthead of a newspaper with a large circulation, rumpled oxfordcloth shirts, and thin spiral-bound notebooks.  No longer.

Even the structural and social components that used to define journalism have changed:

If you’re a blogger that subscribes to a code of ethics and strives for honesty and integrity – you’re a journalist.

If you’re a journalist that publishes your content electronically to a content management system – you’re a blogger.

Advertisements

Seeking Advice From Journalists who Made the Leap to “Brand Journalism”

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

The Public Relations Society of America asked me to write a little piece on Brand Journalism for a series they’re doing on trends for 2012 (“#PRin2012: 12 Trends That Will Change Public Relations“).

As a follow-up, I’d love to hear from journalists who recently made the jump to public relations who perform a similar journalistic role for their company/organization – reporting on its “news.”

If you’re a news professional who now reports on a company/organization’s news in a PR role and you’re interested in sharing your insights, please visit this form (I will gladly keep your personal information confidential and attribute your comments anonymously if you request).

AllThis Seeks to Test the Adage “Any Press is Good Press” With Dick Move

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Internet startup AllThis drew fire recently after it was discovered (by writers like Rob Beschizza at Boing Boing) that the site scraped content (including profile photos) from the social media profiles of prominent tech pros and created profiles for them in its service.

The service seeks to sell ten-minute chunks of “time” with individuals that are bid on in an auction by other users.  The implication is that the time of these experts is available for sale to the highest bidder (though they would have to claim their profiles in order for the transaction to actually take place).  It’s tantamount to defamation for any tech writer considered to be a journalist who needs to appear to be impartial because it implies their attention (read: coverage) can be bought (David Pogue of the New York Times was disciplined for a similar practice – offering PR pros a chance to learn how to pitch him at a seminar).

Another implication nurtured by the way the company handled its launch is that these tech figures endorse the service … which is similarly problematic.

It’s pretty hard to imagine that AllThis didn’t intend for either of those implications to manifest, or that the structure of their service wouldn’t nurture them.

For its part, AllThis claims that it didn’t intend for either of those things to be the case and that the profiles were created when other users expressed interest in the time of the figures (who include some of my favorite tech figures like Tom Merritt and Leo Laporte).  That isn’t necessarily problematic in and of itself – but the execution is where the problem lies.

As Joel Housman extensively documents on his blog – AllThis scraped his profile details and images (which is copyrighted content) and used that to sell its service.  It’s the equivalent of me cutting-and-pasting content from someone else’s blog and hosting it on my site, siphoning away some of the traffic from their site to raise awareness of my own – only removing it when they object.

Dick move.

It will be interesting to watch this story to see if the adage “any press is good press” holds true for AllThis.

The Survival of Newspapers Depends on Embracing Social Media – Pew Study Shows This Isn’t Happening

November 16, 2011 2 comments

The MSM 9000 - Turning Twitter Into a Glorified RSS Feed

The Pew Center Project for Excellence in Journalism recently published a study (“How Mainstream Media Outlets Use Twitter; Content Analysis Shows an Evolving Relationship“) showing that, despite its myriad applications, most newspapers just use Twitter as a way of regurgitating the content they’re already publishing on pulp or on their websites.  Megan Garber at the Nieman Journalism Lab rightly points out that this turns Twitter into “a glorified RSS feed.”

Pew Newspaper Twitter Use Study - Tweets During a Week

The results of the study are a good insight into why the newspaper industry has suffered such a decline in recent years; they still haven’t embraced social media in a meaningful way.  The particularly telling statistic was that during the one-week period when the Twitter accounts were observed, 93 percent of the tweets linked back to a story on the news organization’s website.

In fairness to the newspapers observed, most of them likely have a strategy that divides up the content and engagement among various different Twitter accounts.  For example, the Arizona Republic notes that @azcentral is the site they use for news and opinion (they reserve @arizonarepublic for interactions with the newsroom) and fortunately the Pew study methodology noted this.  The Pew study took this into account to an extent by measuring what was published by reporters that work for each paper.

One measure of an organization’s level of social media engagement (though admittedly it’s riddled with problems and much-derided by many social media experts) is Klout.  For what it’s worth, here are the Klout scores of the 13 news organizations measured (as of November 15, 2011).  By comparison, I’m not terribly influential and my Klout score is 54 – the highest Klout score currently is Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) at 100:

  • The Huffington Post (@huffingtonpost): 86
  • The New York Times (@nytimes): 86
  • ABC News (@abc): 83
  • The Wall Street Journal (@wsj): 83
  • The Washington Post (@washingtonpost): 82
  • Fox News (@foxnews): 82
  • CNN (@cnn): 81
  • MSNBC (@msnbc): 77
  • USA Today (@usatoday): 77
  • NPR (@nprnews): 76
  • The Arizona Republic (@azcentral): 63
  • The Daily Caller (@dailycaller): 61
  • The Toledo Blade (@toledonews): 46

Replicability?

I was curious to see if some of the non-traditional major newspapers also succumbed to this non-engaging practice of using Twitter so I took a look at the accounts of the St. Petersburg Times (run by the Poynter Institute) and a few of thedaily papers operated by the McClatchy Company, as well as the Grand Rapids Press.  My hypothesis was that they would have embraced social media (in this case Twitter) in a more meaningful way than the traditional for-profit newspapers which would show up in a higher volume of tweets and more engagement with individual Twitter users.

During the one-week period between November 8-14, 2011, these were the results:

Tweets Links to Own Stories / Others / Pct Klout Score
The St. Petersburg Times (@tampabaycom) 51 48 / 0 (100%) 47
McClatchy – Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom) 100 65 / 15 (81%) 10
McClatchy – The Kansas City Star (@kcstar) 213 169 / 20 (89%) 58
Grand Rapids Press (@grpress) 50 49 / 1 (98%) 49
 Total 331 / 36 (90%)

As you can see, they were pretty much the same as the rest of the newspapers observed in the Pew Study; an average of 90 percent of the links provided were back to their own content.

What was interesting was that the period of time observed for the Anchorage Daily News was during a massive storm which dramatically changed the way the paper used Twitter. It was far more likely to retweet breaking news from other Twitter users, as well as link to other sites (such as the National Oceanographic and Aeronautic Administration – NOAA). This change begs the question; if it’s important to martial all information regardless of source during an emergency, why isn’t that the case during the regular news day?

Recommendations

Here’s some advice for the newspapers (for what it’s worth):

1. Acknowledge and Engage Followers:

While it’s certainly reasonable for any given news organization to tweet links back to its content, that shouldn’t make up the bulk of the tweets.  Twitter offers a unique opportunity to interact one-on-one with readers in a very timely fashion.  The organizations that use Twitter well participate in the online community and acknowledge their customers/constituents – speaking personally to them and sharing what they publish(by re-tweeting “RT-ing” them).

2. Embrace Social Media Conventions:

There’s an interesting phenomenon going on right now where news organizations are worried about re-tweeting content from other users because they fear it is perceived as an “endorsement” of the person (some go so far as to expressly mention in their Twitter descriptions that RTs are not an endorsement).  Be not afraid, journos!  RTs are only sometimes an endorsement, and if some of your readers are too stupid to note the difference – you probably don’t need them anyway.

Pew Newspaper Twitter Use Study - Use of Hashtags

What was particularly shameful was the lack of use of hashtags in tweets.  NPR didn’t use a single hashtag during the entire period they were observed.  That’s shameful.  Hashtags are signposts that allow people (and algorithms) to identify relevant content, and they facilitate discussion around a topic.  They should be a priority for any Twitter user to include whenever the 140 character limit permits.

3. Give Your Social Media Presence a Face:

By this I mean an actual face.  Of a person.  Not a logo, but a person.  Everyone knows that there’s a person behind every social media presence, yet most organizations conduct themselves on social media as though a giant machine is adding copy and triggering the “send” button.  Of the Twitter accounts measured, only five readily identified who was tweeting on behalf of the organization (The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Arizona Republic, The Daily Caller, and the Toledo Blade).

4. Learn From Your Reporters:

In my experience, I’ve found journalists are frequently adept at using social media – Twitter in particular.  They’re personal, timely, and engaging.  They get social media conventions, and they’re not afraid to participate (even using Twitter to gather news and find interview subjects).  That’s one of the reasons why #JournChat (a weekly dialog involving reporters and public relations pros) is my favorite Tweet Chat

Jack O’Dwyer is Less Woodward & Bernstein, More Statler & Waldorf

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment
Jack O'Dwyer is Statler & Waldorf, not Woodard & Bernstein

Jack O'Dwyer is Statler & Waldorf, not Woodard & Bernstein

If Jack O’Dwyer’s journalistic credentials were ever in question before, let all doubt be removed with his recent flurry of scandal-mongering.

Responding to PRSA’s thorough documentation of O’Dwyer’s unethical behavior and rationale for his lack of press credentials at the latest PRSA International Conference, O’Dwyer has ramped up his campaign against the organization and is now incorporating students in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Unlike Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who have taken an objective approach to covering the US Government in their careers, Jack O’Dwyer is much more like Statler and Waldorf – the comical gadflies on the Muppets who criticize the performers no matter what they do.

It’$ All About the Benjamin$

The economic backbone of O’Dwyer’s operation is, like much of the traditional media, based on “eyeballs” (ie subscribers, traffic to his website, etc).  In order for it to be financially-viable, O’Dwyer needs to be perceived as being an important figure in the public relations industry where his trade is plied, and to have attention-grabbing material to write about. Read more…

A Case Study in the Declining Editorial Filter of the Mainstream Media

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

People fond of a more traditional, fundamentalist definition of journalism are frequently critical of the idea of citizen journalism.  The criticism usually centers on the lack of editorial oversight in the content that is produced.  The “news,” they argue, is better and we should all bemoan the rise of citizen journalism and citizen reporting because there’s “no oversight” and that means more misinformation and a more poorly-informed public.

I’m an advocate for citizen journalism.  I think it can be every bit as good as traditional journalism if the right conditions are present.  I would also argue that the public can retroactively apply an editorial filter of its own to proof and vet content.  It’s just a matter of flipping the timing of the model. Read more…

Former O’Dwyer Columnist Glosses Over Hacking and Libel in Forbes Column on PRSA Dust-up

August 31, 2011 3 comments

Today, Aaron Perlut penned a piece for Forbes magazine titled “The Case of Jack O’Dwyer vs. PRSA” that explores the titular conflict.  Unfortunately it’s woefully incomplete and devolves into an exercise in false equivalency.

Forbes False Equivalency

Here are some of the major problems with the Perlut piece:

1. Though he discloses his connection to both sides (being a PRSA member and actually writing for O’Dwyer’s isn’t a legitimate enough equivalency to establish neutrality), Perlut goes to heroic lengths to paint the conflict as a wash with both sides sharing blame: Read more…