Why newsrooms suck at digital first

“Newspapers as a distribution system just aren’t equipped to handle news as a process; printing a single version of a news event with no links and no updates (until at least the following day) fundamentally doesn’t make sense in today’s news environment. Looking at the news from a logger’s point of view — as an amalgamation of Twitter and Storify and video and photos, with comments and updates and links — makes a lot more sense, but it doesn’t translate well into a print-focused culture.”

Mathew Ingram

This is a hard one to get in practice. News as a process or a series of increasingly rich layers takes more effort, more thought and more accountability than write once and print tomorrow.

The typical newsroom’s tools to accomplish that goal, it’s editorial system, is generally horribly designed to accomplish the task.

Newsroom editors need to ferociously embrace digital first (the required culture change) and demand investment in systems (the requierd technology change) that do that well.

Doing digital first well from a technology standpoint would include posting online, handling social media posts and sending text messages, tracking revisions and managing multimedia and web elements such as links, videos and social media comments  as the primary purpose with the use as in a printed format as a econdary use. (Or, to be brief: Stand the current systems on their head.)

This idea is far from radically new, but I haven’t seen a newsroom content system that even begins to meet those needs. I’m sure I haven’t seen them all, but I have seen the dances of several of the major players in editorial content management systems marketed to newspaper chains. The vendors may be slow at evolving or they may just be giving the customer what she says she needs with specs based on what the newsroom is doing instead of what it needs to do.

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The most terrifying thing yet about the Internet

“Television is the first truly democratic culture – the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.”

Clive Barnes

He said the above about television, but it’s better applied to the Internet.

Thanks to Trish Jones, Chief Emerging Technologies Officer, Turner Broadcasting System, for using this quote in a recent presentation.

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‘Page One: Inside The New York Times’ is a must see for news junkies

elfaDavid Carr of the New York Times

One of the personal treats of FutureMedia Fest 2011 at the Georgia Tech Conference Center on Tuesday was getting to see “Page One: Inside The New York Times.”

I’ll admit that before looking over the program for FutureMedia, I had never heard of the movie, which premiered in January at the Sundance Festival.  You’ll be lucky to see it in a theater near you, I suspect, even an art house.

Judging from its Facebook page, it is being shown here and there. There was a showing at MIT in October with a panel discussion. Not many stayed on after a cocktail reception at the FutureMedia Fest (who knew there were other things to do in downtown Atlanta) to see the documentary.

But if you’re into newspapers and the changes buffeting them, it’s a must see. In late October, it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. An excellent gift idea for the journalist on your list.

Jeff Jarvis and Clay Shirky are interviewed in the documentary as well as Alex Jones, who both wrote for and about The Times.

There’s former executive editor Bill Keller agonizing over layoffs (“we should be wearing bloody butcher smocks”) and holding budget meetings. There’s archive footage of Timesmen Turner Catledge and Howell Raines. There’s Gay Talesoe, who wrote one of the defining books on the paper (The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at The New York Times: The Institution That Influences the World) talking about the Times.

It’s an inside-peek at the Gray Lady.

All good stuff if you love journalism and the New York Times.

But the star of the movie is David Carr, self-described former cocaine addict and single parent on welfare who turned his life around to marry the New York Times.

Carr, in the movie is a one of those one-of-a-kind newspaper characters, the kind journalists tell stories about over beers: irreverent, at times odd (well, maybe most times) and passionate, always passionate about his craft. His takedown of Newser’s Michael Wolff, as gifted as any with a sharp wit, but left speechless, at a panel will make you laugh.

The movie, directed by Andrew Rossi, and produced and written by Kate Novack and Ross, covers Carr’s reporting of the incredible piece on the disaster of the Sam Zell era at the Tribune Co. as well as the breakdowns involving Judith Miller’s Iraq coverage and the paper’s partnership (or was it) with Wikileaks.

There’s layoffs and iPads and pay walls and Twitter and corner newspaper hawkers. It’s the old and the new; the blemishes and the beauty; the tumultuous and the trivial.

And through all the twists and turns, the good times and the bad, there are those like David Carr who know in their hearts, it’s about fighting the good fight of journalism.

Finally watched/highly recommend: Page One: Inside the New York TImes http://t.co/2LYKrl4z Fascinating, honest, entertaining too.Sun Nov 13 15:27:18 via web

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LiquidText might go in the toolbox

Craig Tashman, a doctorate student in the School of Interactive Computing, says this research project at Georgia Tech is being spun out of the university and will become a startup. LiquidText will be first released as an iPad app. It’s a tool that could have implications for journalists.

The plan is to make it work with PDF documents (it only works with text files right now), standard issue for much government information. The ability to easily and graphically selected noted sections and relate them could be a powerful tool.

I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it. It was one of the things I stumbled upon at FutureMedia Fest 2011 at George Tech.

You can follow the conference on Twitter at #fmfgt.

Just another reason why local communities need local media

The Knoxville News Sentinel, my employer, has filed suit to unseal a secret file being used by defense attorneys in efforts to overturn convictions in the brutal torture and murders of a young couple in 2007. Evidence presented in the trials outaged the community.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file that details  how the judge who presided over the cases was abusing prescription painkillers during the trials (the story actually is more sordid).

The investigation eventually led to the resignation and disbarment of the judge, but the contents of the investigative file never came to light.

Now, defense attorneys are using that file to demand new trials for their clients even while it remains sealed under order from Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.

“Evidence has been introduced, reliance upon it will be indicated and objections will be filed, all of which will be considered by the court and ruled upon in secret,” newspaper attorney Richard Hollow wrote. “To cloak this (information) in secrecy is an error of constitutional proportions.”

“The Christian/Newsom trials may have been the most important exercise of justice Knoxville has seen in many years,” News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy said. “But now secret information is being used to argue that those verdicts be thrown out. The News Sentinel has a duty to challenge that secrecy and to try to bring to public light all the arguments and evidence influencing this crucial ruling.”

I won’t go as far as to say that only a newspaper could mount this war on local government secrecy; local TV stations have been willing to join in on First Amendment related issues in the past.

But I will say only local media have both the willingness, the motivation and the wherewithal to fight the issue in court.

Google and Yahoo and AOL and many others certainly have the wherewithal, but no willingness or motivation to fight a local battle. There may be individuals with the willingness or the motivation, but without the wherewithal for a protracted legal battle.

It’s a another touchstone of the importance of a vigorous and vibrant local media even in this Internet Age.

Or as McElroy said in his Sunday column:

“There are times when a newspaper has no choice but to fight to force the government to conduct its business in public.”

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