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Posts Tagged ‘News Media’

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.

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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

What are the Ramifications of West Michigan Newspaper Cutbacks and the new Mlive Media Group?

November 2, 2011 5 comments

[Updated] Earlier this morning, Dan Gaydou (President of the newly-minted Mlive Media Group) announced that the Booth papers: Grand Rapids Press, Kalamazoo Gazette, Flint Journal, Jackson Citizen-Patriot and Muskegon Chronicle will be cutting distribution down to three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.  The announcements characterize the new venture as a “digital-first company.”  Another big announcement was that MLive Media Group will merge with Advance Central Services Michigan.

What does it mean for the citizens of Michigan?  I’m afraid it will be less detail and less of a local focus in their news coverage.

Even in the announcement of the move was somewhat disconcerting (and even incestuous): 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…

No Truce, Newsweek – The Six One Six is Coming at You

May 27, 2011 2 comments

Newsweek Says Grand Rapids is Dying (While Circulation Plummets)

After declaring Grand Rapids, Michigan a “dying city,” Newsweek is now backing off the characterization after GR’s flashmob empresario Rob Bliss organized the world’s largest lipdub video in response to the charge.

Perhaps written up best by Gawker (“Dying Michigan City to Newsweek: Drop Dead”), the response boggled my mind:

“To the Grand Rapids crowd:

First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We’re big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home.

But so you know what was up with the list you’re responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called mainstreet.com—not by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek web site as part of a content sharing deal)—and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn’t endorse and wouldn’t have employed. It certainly doesn’t reflect our view of Grand Rapids.”

A couple of immediate concerns spring to mind:

  • Newsweek recycles content under its masthead?
  • Newsweek publishes analysis it doesn’t even stand behind?
Talk about the Lamestream Media.

Here’s my problem:  A Facebook status update is hardly as prominent as an article on Newsweek’s website.  Fairness demands that Newsweek publish a retraction of equal prominence.

As Grand Rapids (along with the entire state of Michigan) attempt to attract emerging industries to the state to diversify our economy (which suffered so greatly recently because decades of incompetent leadership allowed us to grow far too dependent on manufacturing) – publishing a characterization like this isn’t just an interesting diversion; it has real economic ramifications.

As I teach my Communication students: perception is extraordinarily powerful.

So my challenge to Newsweek still stands: let’s wait five years and see which institution better fits the adjective “dying.”  

It’s on.  Time to take yer beatin’ like a grown-up.

Dying Magazine Names Grand Rapids Dying City: Why Newsweek can Tongue-Bathe my Crotchular Region

January 25, 2011 2 comments

Newsweek Says Grand Rapids is Dying (While Circulation Plummets)

Newsweek just caused a flap by declaring Grand Rapids (viewed by many as a shining beacon of economic recovery in a depressed state) to be one of America’s top ten “dying cities” (“Americas Dying Cities: Cities With Bleak Futures Ahead”).  The basis for this assessment of the top ten dying cities is based on a scant two pieces of data:

  1. a population decline from 2000-2009
  2. a population decline for people under the age of 18

There are a lot of ways to rebut Newsweek’s deliberately inflammatory article, but here are just a few:

Limited Data: Basing a declaration of  a “dying” city based purely on population statistics is … stupid.  It ignores the variety of other measures that can be used to assess vitality.  How about median income, for starters?  Economic development?  Access to higher education?  Unemployment rate?  Using Newsweek’s very short-sighted measures, many flourishing European cities would be considered to be “dying” simply because people aren’t procreating enough.  Just look at the fastest-growing metro areas in the US.  More people doesn’t always = better.  More people create more congestion, they tend to lower the median income, contribute to traffic, and in many cases in the Southwest – they’re going to cause catastrophic shortages of fresh water.

Population Trends: Grand Rapids is in the latter stages of weathering a once-in-a-generation structural economic shift.  After the state of Michigan ignored the signs that banking heavily on an auto manufacturing economy was untenable, the dam finally burst and the state has been scrambling to diversify its economy (something it should have been doing since the 1970s).  The good news is that West Michigan has turned things around. The population losses happened in the early 2000s, and the city’s population is up from 1990.

Comparison:  Just as Newsweek would like its declining circulation to be considered in the context of a radically changing mass media environment that has seen content and readers move online faster than most print news enterprises can adjust business models to respond, Grand Rapids decline has been tiny compared to the declines in the rest of the state.  By comparison to the rest of the state, Grand Rapids is doing fantastically.

West Michigan has been tremendously successful at attracting investment from the healthcare, biological sciences, and alternative energy industries.  Cranes have dotted the skyline of the city for the past few years as gleaming new buildings have gone up.  Higher Education institutions have clamored to open up campuses downtown.  Internationally-ranked breweries are scrambling to expand to meet demand.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: how would Newsweek feel if I called it a “dying magazine?”  After all – its circulation numbers have been falling far more precipitously than the City of Grand Rapids’ population.

Unlike Newsweek, nobody’s putting Grand Rapids up for sale.

I’ve got a wager for Newsweek: let’s wait five years and see which institution better fits the adjective “dying.”

“Wikileaks is …”: Public Opinion in the US on the Wikileaks Release

December 9, 2010 2 comments
Google "Wikileaks is..." Sentiment

Google "Wikileaks is..." Sentiment

Related to my previous post, one of the other fascinating things to observe about the Wikileaks release of cables from the US to other foreign governments is how the event seems to serve as a blank canvas upon which people can paint their own perspective.

I don’t watch much of the traditional newsmedia, but it seems as though the US public isn’t really of a single, cohesive mind on the case.  This would make sense given that audiences continue to fragment, and the news sources selected by most in the US cater to their particular flavor of opinion.

Check out what Google’s analytical tools show people searching for when referencing Wikileaks:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It would be interesting to see what context/terms the people of OTHER nations are using to search for Wikileaks information – I’d enjoy seeing screen caps or other analytics data if anyone has it.