Good Journalism Doesn’t Come Cheap

Despite the swirling criticisms of “the media” these days, there have been several recent examples of high-quality public service journalistic efforts. They provide good opportunities for a closer look at how this important work gets done.

News flash: It’s not cheap. It involves big investments of people, money, and time.

Here are a couple of case studies.

Continue reading “Good Journalism Doesn’t Come Cheap”

Good Journalism Doesn’t Come Cheap

How long does it take to edit a story? I can tell you. And I have proof.

I’ve written plenty about the importance and craft of editing – about how it’s a collaborative process that starts with helping the reporter shape the pitch and plan the story, continues through the reporting process, and doesn’t end until the facts and audio have been checked and the text and photos in the digital piece are in place.

I’ve also written about how editing tends to be undervalued. After all, it happens behind the scenes, and managers rarely understand how time-consuming and labor intensive it can be.

I now have data that sheds light on the time question.

Continue reading “How long does it take to edit a story? I can tell you. And I have proof.”

How long does it take to edit a story? I can tell you. And I have proof.

What the Orlando shooting taught me about how non-journalists deal with tragedy

I live in Orlando.

Today was the first time in my adult life that there’s been a huge breaking news event in my backyard (the shooting was less than two miles from my house) and I haven’t had to cover it.

The only thing I’ve ever done in response to tragedy was work – from 9/11 when I was in DC, to the 2004 hurricanes when I was in Florida, to the Aurora theater shooting and deadly fires and floods when I was in Colorado.

Today, I found out what everybody else does in response to tragedy. They sit. They watch. They feel helpless. They watch some more. And then, they come together.

I sat in my house for ten hours today watching and listening to wall-to-wall coverage, taking notes on press briefings and live Tweeting updates. Because even though I don’t work for a news outlet anymore, that’s all I knew to do.

This evening, I had to decide whether to go to a “Swanky Sixties Cocktail Party” that a group of my good friends had been planning for weeks. The hosts asked the group on Facebook whether people thought it was appropriate to go forward with the event. The group collectively decided that, today more than ever, it was important to celebrate life and love and friendship.

I agreed with them.

I realized I wasn’t doing anybody any good watching rolling coverage in my living room, so, while I felt a little weird about it, I donned a cocktail dress and pearls and headed out. But I still wouldn’t agree to be in this great Facebook photo of everyone in their Swanky Sixties attire.

Continue reading “What the Orlando shooting taught me about how non-journalists deal with tragedy”

What the Orlando shooting taught me about how non-journalists deal with tragedy

Don’t ignore pubmedia core values in podcast debate

Public media has become obsessed with podcasts in recent months. Many think they may be the silver bullet that will finally bring coveted millenials into the public media fold. Many more feel threatened by the success of podcasts in the commercial world and fear public media is missing the boat.

I’ll be honest. This conversation is making me nervous. Not because podcasts are bad or because I’m scared of new things, but because the debate and many of the resulting actions seem to be minimizing three core public media values:

Unbiased news, localism, and public service over profit.

Continue reading “Don’t ignore pubmedia core values in podcast debate”

Don’t ignore pubmedia core values in podcast debate

What NOT to do? The hard part of setting newsroom priorities

When Michigan Radio News Director Vince Duffy shared my last post, Journalists aren’t superhero content machines, on Facebook, he highlighted this quote:

News organizations need to realize that reporters are not superheroes. If you want more content, hire more people.

Vince should know. His newsroom has spent the past several months covering the Flint water crisis nonstop, to a great deal of critical acclaim. But Vince says his staff is working at an “unsustainable pace.”

“The audience is appreciative and congratulatory,” he wrote in his post, “but we’ve set a standard we can’t frequently meet.”

That’s despite the fact that his staff has more than doubled over the past five years and the station has significantly expanded news resources, as this post from the Columbia Journalism Review details.

“Good people don’t work for free, nor can they work 60 hour weeks forever,” Vince wrote.

But then he put his finger on the crux of the conundrum. 

“I also don’t want to work in a newsroom where the culture is ‘Meh, let’s not rise to the challenge, we’re understaffed.’ So I don’t really have an answer for this.” Continue reading “What NOT to do? The hard part of setting newsroom priorities”

What NOT to do? The hard part of setting newsroom priorities

Journalists aren’t superhero content machines

A little over a year ago, I voiced serious concerns about the ever-increasing demands on journalists to be multi-platform – to create more content for more types of media and to promote that content on all types of social platforms.

I argued that this push for content volume, driven by a panicked rush by news organizations to grasp at every bright shiny digital object, had caused a collective loss of focus on basic reporting and real journalism.

Somewhere along the way, we got so worried about the “content” a reporter can “create” that we forgot about the need to tell meaningful stories.  We got so excited about re-Tweets and Facebook likes and web hits that we lost focus on our mission to inform and enlighten.

I also argued that news organizations were demanding too much of their journalists, to the detriment of the content itself.

When you have to file for three major platforms and “engage” on whatever social media are en vogue at the moment, it’s easy to forget about finding the crux of the story.

Last week, my concerns were echoed in an excellent post by Erica Berger, formerly of the Economist and Storyful.

“Many newsroom writers and editors feel that they are bumping up against their maximum output,” she writes in the online news site Quartz, “even as their bosses demand ever-more productivity.”

Continue reading “Journalists aren’t superhero content machines”

Journalists aren’t superhero content machines

Whither the News? How podcasts and storytelling are blurring the lines between news and entertainment … and why it matters

Judith’s Website

“Infotainment.”

I heard a public radio station’s podcast describe itself that way the other day, and it made me cringe.

That word tapped into something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately – whether the popularity of the podcast style of audio storytelling is blurring the lines between news and entertainment … and whether public radio’s panicked rush towards podcasting will prompt stations to put their scarce resources into entertainment (perhaps dressed up as “infotainment”) rather than news.

Continue reading “Whither the News? How podcasts and storytelling are blurring the lines between news and entertainment … and why it matters”

Whither the News? How podcasts and storytelling are blurring the lines between news and entertainment … and why it matters