What my wine blog is teaching me about digital media: Part 1 – Localism

I have a wine blog.

Yes, in addition to being a public media nerd, I’m also a wine nerd. I go to at least a couple of tastings a week, I hang out with sommeliers, I sniff, I swirl, the whole bit.

Last year, under pressure from – and with the encouragement of – a small group of wine enthusiast friends, I started the blog.

It was called My Wine Blog. (Scribbles & Scruples is the only clever blog name I will ever dream up.)

Continue reading “What my wine blog is teaching me about digital media: Part 1 – Localism”

What my wine blog is teaching me about digital media: Part 1 – Localism

Make Journalism … Journalism … Again.

Amid the post-election media hand wringing this week, a post from PRX’s John Barth stood out. He urged journalists to tackle their blind spots when it comes to Middle America – “fly-over country,” as it’s been known; the place that swung the election, as it’s now known. John, who lives in St. Louis, urged journalists to spend more time in the small towns of the Midwest … with this caveat:

Don’t go there to do STORIES. Go there first to listen. Listen for the big stuff and small stuff. Then you’ll see how rural America has been gutted spiritually as have major urban areas. You need to earn their trust back to hear what might, might become stories. Listen.

John put his finger on a potentially existential problem for journalism:

Most journalists don’t have TIME to simply listen.

Continue reading “Make Journalism … Journalism … Again.”

Make Journalism … Journalism … Again.

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.

Rethinking Multi-Platform Journalism: Why we don’t all have to be digital experts anymore

judithsmelser.com

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … the Multi-Platform Journalist!  She shoots photos and video! She records audio! She Tweets! She Facebooks! She Instagrams! She blogs!

And boy, is she exhausted.

Not to fear – we may be able give Madame Multi-Platform a break. Why? Because digital journalism – at once her ancestor and her offspring – is growing up.

And not a minute too soon, because, as you might’ve noticed, there’s something missing from that frenetic task list up there: Getting the Story.

Bright Shiny Objects … and Panic

In his 2010 book, I’ll Mature When I’m Dead, longtime Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry wrote about the newspaper industry’s panic-driven reaction to the rise of digital and social media:

“Newspaper editors are ordering the dwindling number of reporters to spend more and more of their time engaging in non-journalism, non-revenue-producing Internet activities such as Facebooking, making videos, podcasting, blogging, tweeting, fwirping, etc.”

He acknowledges in a footnote that:

“There is actually no such thing as fwirping, but if there were, and if it was something that people were doing on the Internet, editors would order reporters to do it.”

He’s right!  In a panicked rush to remain relevant amid the shifting constellation of digital platforms, news organizations have grasped at every shiny new digital object.  Journalists have been asked to throw stuff against scores of virtual walls to see what sticks.

We don’t all have to be digital experts anymore!

The good news is, some of that stuff was really great.  There are now some shining examples of digital platforms being used to create and present real, meaningful journalism.  Better yet, we’re now to the point where there are experts who know how use digital platforms effectively for journalistic purposes.

Perhaps that means we don’t all have to try to be digital experts anymore! Maybe news organizations will start hiring the real digital experts and take a few of the things off the plate of Madame Multi-Platform.

In fact, I would argue that course of action is imperative and urgent.  Because we need to immediately …

Re-commit to basic reporting

As I see it, the years of panic-driven digital experimentation had another, very disturbing, side effect: a collective loss of focus on basic reporting and real journalism.

By no means did everyone retreat from these core principles, but let’s face it, 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, the context that makes it relevant, the nuances of the arguments surrounding it. It’s hard to find time to dig for facts or track down reluctant sources.

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.

The Pendulum Swings Back?

The new and growing cadre of digital journalism experts gives me hope.

Perhaps – and just hear me out on this – we can start to move beyond the idea that every journalist and every news organization must produce news on every platform.  

I know that’s pretty radical in this age when multi-platform is gospel. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not advocating a re-silo-ization of the news business. We’re never going back to the days of “I just do radio” (or your medium of choice).

But perhaps we can acknowledge that there are journalists and news outlets that are really good at one platform or another; and perhaps we can try to create a framework in which those people and outlets can survive and thrive by concentrating on their strengths instead of diluting that strength by trying to do it all.

Perhaps at the very least, news organizations will restructure their staffing so the digital experts are digital-ing, and other reporters have enough editorial and resource support to re-commit to their core responsibility: Getting the Story.

Rethinking Multi-Platform Journalism: Why we don’t all have to be digital experts anymore