Saturday, December 25, 2010

We, too, are bidden

A personal hero, newspaper columnist and labor activist Heywood Broun, was known for his progressive views and his passionate interests – from sports and books to poker and Christmas.

Seventy-two years ago this week, the liberal commentator wrote this piece for the old New York World-Telegram.

The angel of the Lord said to the shepherds, “And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

They made haste to go to Bethlehem to see the thing which had come to pass. “For unto you,” the angel said, “is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

But as they journeyed to Bethlehem they fell into a discussion as to just how they should find the place where the infant lay. The shepherds were not folk familiar with the town, even though it lay a short journey from the fields in which they tended their flocks. Besides, they knew that many from the country roundabout had gone to Bethlehem in compliance with the decree of Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Indeed, one of the group grumbled, “In Bethlehem there be many mangers, and how are we to find the one?”

And the youngest shepherd said, “It will be made known to us.”

The night was bright with stars and the way more easy than they had expected. In spite of the late hour many walked in the narrow streets of Bethlehem, and from all the houses there came a clatter. The shepherds stood for a moment in some perplexity as to the appointed place. The noises of the town were confusing to men who had been standing silent under starlight.

And suddenly, the volume of voices increased, and down the street there came a caravan of camels. Upon the backs of the beasts sat great bearded men, and with them they brought sacks of precious stuffs and huge treasure chests from distant kingdoms. The air was filled with the pungent tang of spice and perfume.

The startled shepherds stood against the wall to let the cavalcade of the mighty pass by. And these wise men and kings seemed to have no doubt as to their destination. They swept past the inn and dismounted at the door of a stable. Servants took the burdens from the backs of the camels, and the kings and the wise men stooped and went in through the low door of the stable.

“It is there the child lies in the manger,” said one of the shepherds and made as if to follow, but his fellows were abashed and said among themselves, “It is not right that we should crowd in upon the heels of the mighty.”

The youngest shepherd spoke up, insisting, “We, too, are bidden. For us, as well, there was the voice of the angel of the Lord.”

And timidly, the men from the fields followed after and found places near the door. They watched as the men from distant countries came and silently placed their gifts at the foot of the manger where the child lay sleeping. And the shepherds stood aside and let the great of the Earth go out into the night to take up again their long journey.

Presently they were alone, but as they had no gifts to lay beside the gold and frankincense, they turned to go back to their flocks. But Mary, the mother, made a sign to the youngest shepherd to come closer. And he said, “We are shepherds, and we have come from the fields whence an angel summoned us. There is naught which we could add to the gifts of wise men and of kings.”

Mary replied, “Before the throne of God, who is a king and who is wise, you have brought with you a gift more precious than all the others. It lies within your heart.”

And suddenly it was made known to the shepherd the meaning of the words of Mary. He knelt at the foot of the manger and gave to the child his prayer of devotion and of joy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

News media manipulated on ACORN: study

If you think you know what happened to ACORN, the network of community organizations attacked by politicians and video bloggers over the last few years, check out Michael Schudson and Julia Sonnevend's article “In ACORN’s Shadow” in the new Columbia Journalism Review.

Schudson, a professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and Sonnevend, a Ph.D. student, examined a political science journal article summarizing a study 647 stories about ACORN during 2007-08, and they found that ACORN’s alleged voter fraud “was absurdly hyped for partisan advantage; the national media were steamrolled into promoting ... a ‘disingenuous controversy’; and ACORN twisted in the wind.”

Analysts Peter Dreier and Christopher R. Martin found that the press was "taken in all too easily by a very effective group of 'opinion entrepreneurs largely indifferent to facts or fairness."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pulitzer Prize winner here Thursday

A longtime Chicago journalist who shared in the Tribune’s 2001 staff Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the airline industry will visit a few classes and take part in a Brown Bag It Q&A with students featuring free pizza and soda on Thursday, Nov. 11.

Patrick Olsen, who also worked for the Los Angeles Times, is a good example of a journalist who works in multiple media. Now Editor-in-Chief at, Olsen oversees an editorial staff of almost 20 journalists reviewing cars, writing blog posts, and shooting photos and videos.

Olsen spent 11 years at the Tribune, including six years as the Page One Editor, and more than three years launching and helping to run RedEye, the Tribune’s tabloid aimed at 20-something readers. The winner of numerous journalism awards (including for Investigative Reporting, Professional Performance, Headline Writing, and Design), Olsen will briefly visit two 11 a.m. classes taught by Mohammad Siddiqi and Pearlie Strother-Adams in Simpkins rooms 214 and 309, respectively. At 12:30 p.m., Olsen will be in Simpkins room 327 for a casual "Pizza with a Press Professional" hour or so of Q&A mixed with slices and pop.

WIU's PRSSA chapter is co-sponsoring the appearance along with the department of English & Journalism.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Google invests $5 million in journalism

Google is often criticized for contributing to stealing the audience, if not the contents, of journalism, but in a move this week, the internet giant is making a contribution to help the practice of journalism, if not the platform of print.

And it's making the move because of journalism's importance to democracy.

"Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy," Gogle said in its blogged announcement. "So as media organizations globally continue to broaden their presence online, we’re eager to play our part on the technology side.

"We’ve granted $2 million to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has a proven track record of supporting programs that drive innovation in journalism," they continued. "It will use $1 million to support U.S. grant-making in this crucial area. The other $1 million will augment the Knight News Challenge, which is accepting funding proposals from anyone, anywhere in the world, until December 1. Now in its fifth year, the News Challenge has supported projects like DocumentCloud, which aims to bring more investigative-reporting source material online so anyone can find and read it."

Details on the remaining $3 million to be invested internationally will be forthcoming early next year, Google said.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'Truth LIES here'

The November Atlantic out this week has a compelling story on the use and abuse of the Internet to not just try to control the flow of information, but to make it up.

Contributing editor Michael Hirschorn quotes the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan's line that we may each be entitled to our own set of opinions, but we are not entitled to our own set of facts.

"The Breitbarts, Gingriches, and 'bury brigades' are engaged in an enterprise uniquely enabled by the collapse of the center and the ubiquitous means by which information can spread instantly," Hirschorn writes. "It’s easy to welcome a time in which technology unleashes an ongoing town hall on any and all issues of the day, in which the wisdom of crowds holds sway. But the dislodging of fact from the pedestal it had safely occupied for centuries makes the recent disturbances in politics and the media feel like symptoms of a larger epistemological, even civilizational, rot."

Ex-Courier editor takes Ohio Press helm

The one-time Western Courier editor who led the student newspaper in its early days after WIU kicked it off campus has been named executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association.

Dennis Hetzel, most recently the manager of northern Kentucky operations for Enquirer Media, will start his new duties on January 1.

Hetzel, who penned an editorial for which the newspaper was sued for libel and won, formerly worked at newspapers in Galesburg, Madison, Wisc., and York, Pa.

Monday, October 25, 2010

'Inside-the-Beltway' press out of touch?

Arianna Huffington may be a progressive, but her recent column recalling conversations with ABC-TV's Diane Sawyer and magazine writer Joe Klein is revealing.

Both Washington-based journalists are coming to realize that there's a lot of news -- and a lot of Americans -- being ignored by the Capitol-oriented corporate press.

"One thing I realized on this trip was how much time I spend immersed in the media back home -- reading newspapers and blogs and books, watching TV -- and how little time I spend immersed in other people," Klein conceded.

Huffington praises NPR's "StoryCorps" feature, which showcases regular people and how they/we offer as many lessons as the "inside baseball" perspective of too many members of the Washington press corps.

Check out the full Huffington post here --

Thursday, October 7, 2010

AOL Thinking of Buying Newspapers

There's a fascinating story about how AOL is thinking about buying newspaper properties to enhance its Internet content at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Washington Post Scribe Moves to Daily Beast

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz is moving to the online news site, the Daily Beast. There's a great piece about the move of traditional print folks, like Kurtz, to the Internet on the Poynter Foundation web site,

Friday, September 24, 2010

'Sign of the Apocalypse'? Broadcaster Barbie

Mattel's "I can be..." series of Barbie dolls has a news anchor.

Its promotional material describes her as, "A flair for journalism – and power pink!'

Appropriately, Mattel also has a caution: WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Excerpt shows courage of press -- and wackiness of Nixon

The Daily Beast has a gripping excerpt from Mark Feldstein's book Poisoning the Press, detailed the paranoia, arrogance and totalitarian mindset of the Nixon White House in the months before Watergate toppled that presidency.

Nixon and his Oval Office advisers actually proposed and considered assassinating investigative reporter Jack Anderson, a syndicated columnist.

"We examined all of the alternatives and very quickly came to the conclusion [that] the only way you're going to be able to stop him is to kill him,” said G. Gordon Liddy, ex-Republican campaign operative and future right-wing talk-radio host.

It was a close call, Feldstein shows.

Georgia hyperlocal editor praises

A regional editor from greater Atlanta shared his perspective on AOL's new venture, and describes the initiative as a hyperlocal network of news sites.

Check out this rough posting, which includes a short video of his appearance at the Center for Sustainable Journalism:

Apple 'making nice' with print for iPad

Whether through opportunities to feature content produced by others or chances to monetize material that newsrooms create, Apple is solidifying its ties to newspapers.

In the most recent Adviser Update from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, technology columnist Gary Clites writes an informative piece on the Applie iPad: "Welcome to the wonderful work of publishing by app." Check it out here --

Meanwhile, Apple itself is making sounds that insiders believe mean new subscription ideas for newspapers. However, details are still being finalized, apparently.

"Roger Fidler, head of digital publishing at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Mo., said Apple probably will take a 30% cut of all subscriptions sold through the company's online App Store, and as much as 40% of the advertising revenue from publications' apps," writes John Boudreau in the San Jose Mercury News.

"Publishers wanted to pay Apple a fee rather than a cut of subscription and advertising revenue and are not happy with Apple's terms, he said," Boudreau's article continues. "They had hoped to offer app editions as part of subscription bundles that include print versions of the paper. Instead, they must use Apple as an intermediary with subscribers."

Las Vegas Newspaper Tries For More Civil Online Discourse

The Las Vegas Sun has implemented a new policy regarding online comments on its stories. It's an interesting read:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Journalism jobs outpacing overall economy

Mike Mandell at "Mandell on Innovation and Growth" shows that there's a communications boom resulting in expanding journalism jobs, and "we may be headed into a Golden Age of Journalism."

Using statistics from Current Population Survey from the Census Bureau and Labor Department, Mandel shows that employment levels for reporters and related journalism jobs have climbed back to where they were before the worst of the Great Recession hit in late 2008 (see chart, above).

Adding context, Mandell explains that journalists might be getting hired in nontraditional industries, are successfully self-employed, and are doing better than editors and news-production workers. However, some might be working fewer hours at less pay.

'Good journalism remains timeless'

Dawn Osakue on writes, "Whenever technology advances, there are fears that new inventions will take over the old. The death of the newspaper has been discussed for some time, as the web becomes more popular, and now the death of the web has been announced as apps become more common. However, John Naughton [of the Guardian], has reminded [us] that 'good journalism will thrive, whatever the format'."

Indeed, Naughton argues that predicting Internet trends is futile: "The problem with endism is that it's intrinsically simplistic," he says. "Of course, new technologies threaten some older things ... but the demand for reference information hasn't disappeared.

"Print is just one way of publishing the fruits of journalists' labours," he adds. "The web is another; iPhone apps are a third. And there may be more to come as the internet continues to work its disruptive magic."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

AOL hires hundreds of journalists

AOL hired 900 people over the summer, and about half are journalists working for the company's local blogs network,, according to CEO Tim Armstrong.

Check out --

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Newspapers' audiences way up, if websites count

In the most recent ratings study, newspapers' websites generated "unprecedented traffic," according to Nielsen, analyzing data for the Newspaper Association of America. That seems to show that content matters significantly,\ -- apart from whichever platform that has it.

In the first quarter of this year, newspapers' sites drew more than one-third of all Internet users: 74.4 million unique visitors per month, the analysis shows.

Elsewhere, 56% of Internet users say they consider newspapers' print editioms to be "important" or "very important" sources of information, according to a report from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism's Digital Future Project.

True, newspapers are behind television (68%) and the Internet (78%) in what Internet users value. However -- almost paradoxically -- a majority of Internet users also concede that they don't trust material online: 61% ssay less than half of the Internet's information is unreliable; 14% say that little or none of it can be trusted.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WIU grad named Daily Herald's AME/Opinions

WIU journalim alum Jim Slusher this summer was named assistant managing editor/opinions for the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights.

Slusher joined the Daily Herald in 1989 after two years as managing editor of the Californian in El Cajon, Calif. He also served as assistant metro editor for the Saginaw News in Saginaw, Mich., and as a reporter and wire editor for the Daily Gazette in Sterling, Ill.

"Jim deeply cares about the community and has a great appreciation of the opinion page's mission of public good," said Daily Herald senior vice president/editor John Lampinen. "He's an outstanding journalist and we're pleased that he will be the next steward of the newspaper's editorial page voice."

At the Daily Herald, owned by Paddock Publications, Slusher has served as news editor, associate editor and assistant managing editor with various responsibilities, including newsroom training and direction of the senior reporting staff.

Slusher, a 1974 WIU graduate who worked on the Western Courier, conducted workshops on newspaper design at a 1995 Journalim Day on campus.

Friday, September 3, 2010

'Why can't I sleep? I blame journalism'

The Huffington Post shared this short essay from Oakland University journalism student Kay Nguyen, who makes a topic that could've seemed a bit conceited or too "inside baseball" very accessible -- and fun.

It's safe to say that I'm yet another sleep-deprived college student.

My family's fairly routine schedule has always given me optimal sleeping conditions since I was born and still does.

That's right. I live at home and commute to school. That means that I'm sleeping less, but can't really blame it on anyone else.

I never really had to learn how to sleep in a dorm.

When I did have to share an apartment, though, I learned that a stubborn routine does not work to my advantage. I wake up no later than 8 a.m. every day no matter what the circumstances.

Why did my sleeping habits change when nothing else changed, though? Like everything else: I blame it on journalism.

I started staying up later and later soon after I received a laptop. It was given to me -- with careful instructions -- to use for scholarly purposes when I began college.

After never having any electronic entertainment -- that's right: no PlayStations or TVs -- in my room for my whole life, I all of a sudden had access to everything. By everything I mean YouTube and -- at the time -- MySpace.

I then began working for the campus newspaper. Guess when I began harboring the compulsive need to always stay connected and on top of current events?

In addition to staying up late studying, I now had to read every single legitimate news website in order to sound chic and worldly. Also, let's face it: I also read Perez Hilton and admittedly still click on blurbs about Heidi Montag.

After my brief phase of drinking Celebrity Juice, I became a section editor at the campus newspaper. Cue days of no sleep spent producing the newspaper while stressing out over what e-mails came -- and didn't come -- in.

Fast forward to the present day. I'm a caffeine junkie ridden with the nerves of being a student of journalism a.k.a. what others may call a dying industry.

I do unpaid internships, freak out about the prospect of not getting a job, work on my portfolio, worry about the job market, try to get my website up and running, worry about not having a web present to employers, try to get good grades in case I have to go to grad school and bug out a little more while scouring the internet for more unpaid internships that will hopefully land me a job in the future.

That may be why I have trouble sleeping even though I live in a house that is quiet from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Did I mention I'm also the editor-in-chief now? I now refresh that inbox even more and (hopefully) have two more years of it left.

Social networking? I'm not even anywhere close to being a pro, but I am active in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Even when I truly have nothing to do, I'll listen to Pandora to fall asleep.

I am the American teenager with distracting digital devices at my bedside. I've been leaving my house at 9 a.m. every weekday for two internships, but have been falling asleep later and later.

I don't think Dr. Michael J. Breus would think that 4-5 hours of sleep is enough. It will probably only get worse, though.

I got my first smartphone this week. I am now going to be even more oversaturated with information, as my hands have not let go of that Crackberry since it came out of its box.

Classes begin next week and newspaper production schedules will begin ruling my life again along with an internship.

Looks like I can keep listening to Rooney's "Sleep Song" and blogging about my sleeping habits while I'm laying in bed, though.

Follow Kay Nguyen on Twitter:

100 best blogs for journalism students

The posting is more than a year old and "consider the source" suspicious (coming from ""), but there are plenty of reliable, provocative and sensible web logs listed in the list from "Learn-gasm" (ahem).

Number 1? PoynterOnline: a no-brainer.

Solid suggestions? No. 12 is Columbia Jouraism Review and No. 14 is the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Novel ideas? Six blogs from other journalism students, dozens of "new media" sites (including Mark Briggs' Journalism 2.0, brilliant and fun innovator Rob Curley, and Mark Glaser's Mediashift), the indispensible Romenesko, and The Newspaper Guild.

Areas of interest? Investigative reporting and photojournalism each have multiple sites.

(No, The Bulldog Edition hasn't made it yet.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Journalism is about people, not technology

Following is an excerpt from Journalism Next, a 2010 paperback that students of Journalism should read to put in perspective the great opportunities ahead for the field. (To order go to )

By Mark Briggs

To survive and thrive in the digital age, I argue, journalists need to adopt a new way of thinking and approaching their craft. Learning the skills and technology is the easy part. Recognizing you are part of a new information ecosystem is the steeper hill to climb.

My first book, “Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age,” was published in 2007 and written for working journalists with a simple message: “you can do this” and the “future is now.”

In the United States, that “future is now” message came true. Too true in some ways. Many working journalists in 2006, when I started writing the book, could still embace the illusion that it would be 5 or 10 years before real disruption come to their industry. That grace period evaporated quickly in the U.S. as more than 15,000 journalists lost their jobs in 2008.

The pace of disruption for mainstream media – daily newspapers, local TV stations and magazines – is in full force today. As a result, the evolution of the business model is (finally) receiving the focus it deserves, meaning we have already begun to glimpse what the next incarnation of sustainable journalism looks like.

Newspapers are dying. Why should I study journalism?

We are at the end of a golden period for publishers, where organizations grew large and consolidated, pushing profit margins up and supporting publicly traded companies. Mainstream news organizations, the commercial enterprises that have supported journalism in the U.S., haven’t always been like this. Prior to 1970, journalism was practiced by many more organizations of differing sizes.

But the people who run news companies today only experienced the best of times during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, so any historical basis for claims of a stable industry seem shortsighted when using a longer lens to view the history of newspapers.

More than 100 years ago, the newspaper industry was dealing with technological change on a comparable scale to today. In the 1890s, telephone service revolutionized reporting, while “one linotype operator could do the work of five men,” according to the Encyclopedia of American Journalism, dramatically increasing the speed of printing.

This led to an explosion of newspapers – and newspaper readers – that I see as emblematic of what we’re seeing today with online journalism startups.

Look at the landscape of the Progressive Era, according to the Encyclopedia of American Journalism:
- The number of English-language daily newspapers grew from 850 in 1880 to 1,967 in 1900 to 2,200 in 1910. An additional 400 of other types … were also published that year.
- Daily circulation totals grew from 3.1 million in 1880 to 15.1 million in 1900 to 22.1 million in 1910.
- Chicago and Boston each had eight newspapers in 1900. New York had nine.
- Newspapers began charging (one cent) per issue in 1833 and it wasn’t until the 1880s when advertising slowly began to replace sales and subscriptions as the chief source of newspaper revenue so that by 1914, 66 percent of newspapers revenue came from advertising.
- By 1911, some newspaper critics began to fear the influence of advertising on journalism, “One proposed solution, which had little success, was to create an ‘adless’ newspaper supported by subscribers. Another was to create a non-partisan, adless newspaper funded by city government.

If journalism and the business that supports journalism can evolve that quickly once, who can argue that it won’t happen again? The technology that allowed the number of newspapers to grow 123% in 20 years is similar to what we’ve seen this decade with the Internet and publishing platforms like Wordpress.

In January 2009, the Los Angeles Times announced it was making enough money from online advertising to cover its entire (albeit drastically reduced) editorial workforce. Five years from now we will look back on this development as the beginning of the new era, when news organizations made the switch from print to online ad dollars for financial support.

“Evolution is already happening – at thousands of small and large media sites on the web,” John Battelle wrote in his SearchBlog on Jan. 8, 2009. “In short, I am convinced that journalism will not die if and when major print based journalism outlets die.”

What are the new jobs in journalism?

File this under the “GM problem:” journalists might understand that big, monopolistic news organizations didn’t always produce the best journalism, but they provided the best jobs. Like General Motors, a big company is really good at employing lots of people with solid benefits, enabling families to pay for mortgages and new cars. But a big company can be downright dreadful at innovation, evolution, hustle and experimentation.

And these are the qualities that win the day, especially in times of serious disruption.

Looking forward, the state of news, media and journalism will probably look a lot more like it did at the turn of the 20th century, when far more news organizations were competing for audience. Each was tiny compared to the behemoths of the 1990s and 2000s, but there were many more of them. So instead of a daily newspaper with 50 journalists, a mid-size city in the future might have 10 digital news operations with about five journalists each.

“The probable elimination of a raft of second-tier newspapers during this economic downturn,” wrote Edward Roussel, digital editor for the Telegraph Media Group, in the Winter 2008 issue of the Nieman Reports, “will provide a fertile environment for a new generation of digital media businesses to flourish.”

Shoveling traditional journalism online – that which has always been found in newspapers or television broadcasts – has not worked for news companies. As Jack Shafer wrote at, newspapers tried to invent the Web by copying and pasting their journalism, values and temperament online, with the same control they enjoyed in their local distribution monopolies.

“Despite being early arrivals, despite having spent millions on manpower and hardware, despite all the animations, links, videos, databases, and other software tricks found on their sites, every newspaper Web site is instantly identifiable as a newspaper Web site,” Shafer wrote. “By succeeding, they failed to invent the Web.”

This new reality will allow a new form of journalism to emerge with new job titles, new roles and new responsibilities. Jeff Jarvis, a thought leader in online media and author of What Would Google Do?, wrote about this future at his blog, By separating a single job description – journalist – from a single industry – newspapers – with a single business model – print advertising, the practice of journalism will diversify and emerge as many job descriptions with many business models.

“The key to survival is reinventing what we do,” Jarvis wrote.

Reasons to study journalism

So now it’s your turn. Your opportunity may come from a traditional news company, start-up news blog or a new enterprise you launch yourself. “Journalism will survive its institutions,” says entrepreneurial journalist David Cohn. But only if a new generation of journalists with an entrepreneurial spirit hit the ground running.

So here’s why it’s a good time to study journalism:

1. Journalism has a bright future
Experimental news operations are popping up all over the Web as this decade draws to a close. Some have become sustainable businesses in a very short time. Others are still searching for viability while finding new ways to cover issues and communities.

In short, the demand for journalism from its audience hasn’t diminished. But the models are starting to look very different.

A more narrow focus is required. Think of it as “bottom-up” journalism instead of “top-down.” Technology, political and hyperlocal news sites have been the first to find success by starting small and concentrating on a very specific topic. This, of course, goes against the more general audience publications that ruled the day when a printing and distribution monopolies ruled the day.

Now that anyone can be a publisher with a few clicks, trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for failure.

For a glimpse into the future of journalism, check out these independent trailblazers – Politico, TechCrunch, Voice of San Diego, West Seattle Blog, MinnPost, Pegasus News, The Patch – and many others yet to be created.

“These sites have received little attention in the mainstream media, which has focused on its own demise,” wrote journalist-turned-entrepreneur Om Malik, who started his own successful news service called GigaOm. “That’s too bad, since they may be the best hope for the kind of journalism we used to count on from local newspapers.”

Unleashed from corporate-run organizations sweating out the quarterly profit margin, the journalists powering these new sites have infused them with a level of energy, commitment and passion that can only be found in a startup company. It’s easy to see how these sites will pave the way for the true digital transformation of mainstream news companies, by finding successful new methods to inform and connect a community online.

Or, in some cases, they will replace them.

2. The future is in your hands
Journalism needs you. It needs someone who can bring a fresh approach without the baggage that burdened earlier generations.

As the institutions that perform journalism struggled economically through the past decade, it became increasingly apparent that the people in charge did not have what it takes to oversee a digital transformation that would secure a viable future. Harsh words, I know. But their inability to put the readers first and use new technology to do better journalism – instead of copying the existing model and pasting it online – created a world where every newspaper Web site is immediately identifiable. Most are disjointed repositories of what a news organization has always produced, with some new twists thrown in for good measure, instead of rich, vibrant information sources their communities want and need.

“Newspaper executives chose to sacrifice the interests of their readers and their advertisers by their stubborn refusal to embrace the Web for what it could be,” Dave Morgan wrote in a column titled “My Last Column on the Newspaper Industry.” “As compared to what they wanted it to be (a way to sell and deliver “locked-down” content products in “walled gardens”) which neatly fit in their “trees to trucks” vertical monopoly mentalities. That was their death knell.”

That’s where you come in. Whether you end up working for a newspaper, magazine, TV station or Internet start-up, you will have the opportunity – make that responsibility – to do things differently. My first job in journalism (part-time sports clerk) was mostly answering phones and doing grunt work. No one asked me about my ideas. Your first job is likely to be much different.
In fact, I predict that you won’t get a first job without your ideas, in addition to your skills and experience.

Emily Kostic, a journalism student at Rowan University, captured the opportunity in a blog post titled “Why I’m Not Giving Up: Reasons I’m Still a Journalism Major” in January 2009:
“We all know journalism is undergoing some monumental changes as it embraces the online world more and more. However, the future of journalism and where it’s going is largely going to be left up to us — college journalism students. Think of how major that responsibility is. Think of how inspiring that is. It’s up to us to help make journalism web savvy in way that our elders can’t even imagine.”

3. Journalism will be better than it was before
Transformation and evolution are messy, emotional processes. When they produce advancement for society and business, they are seen as healthy and worthwhile, but not necessarily to those on the front lines.

Because this transformation started 15 years ago for news companies and the Web, you benefit by having missed the early mess. Newspapers, finally, have learned that their vision for a digital future that can be controlled like their analog past is not viable.

But the game isn’t over, for mainstream news companies or independent journalism startups. It’s just getting started and, since you inherently “get” the Internet because you grew up with it, you have the opportunity to shape the future of journalism online like no generation before. Interactive, transparent, collaborative journalism works. Digital technologies, some that have yet to be invented, will aid you, but they can’t replace a thoughtful, skilled professional with an entrepreneurial spirit. You will be ready to try, and fail, and try again.

Thankfully, you will find a more experimental culture at news organizations today (and tomorrow). In “Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate,” author Michael Schrage illustrates how technology allows companies to rapidly and inexpensively test products, services, and business models before unleashing them. This is the new model for news, and one that you will lead.

Rather than confining yourself to the road traveled before you, the opportunity to chart your own course is not only available — it’s mandatory.


As Battelle, the journalist-turned online expert wrote, “I don’t think we’re all that far from the right answer. I can tell you this, however: It won’t look much like the old answer.”

So that’s the new deal: you probably won’t get to travel a well-marked, established career path like your parents did. But you will have a say in how the fourth estate evolves and how citizens are informed and engaged in the decades to come.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. So let’s get started.

About the author: Mark Briggs is CEO of Serra Media, a Seattle-based digital innovation company, and principal of Journalism 2.0, a strategic consultancy formed as a spinoff from his book of the same name. He served as assistant managing editor for interactive news at The News Tribune in Tacoma from 2004–2008 and new media director at The Daily Herald in Everett, Washington, from 2000–2004.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Magazines offer glimpses of people behind WIkiLeaks

Most people hadn't heard of when the organization this summer released tens of thousands of military documents about the war in Afghanistan to three respected news operations: the New York Times, the Guardian in the United Kingdom, and Der Speigel in Germany.

But readers of the New Yorker magazine had, thanks to a superb piece of magazine journalism by Raffi Khatchadourian in the June 7 issue. "No Secrets: Julian Assange's mission for total transparency" is informative feature writing, with insight, detail and depth.

Check it out:

More recently, Rolling Stone magazine published Nathaniel Rich's piece on WikiLeaks' technical wizard, Jacob Appelbum, in its current issue's "The most dangerous man in cyberspace."

That story is still on newsstands, but here's a link to a telling excerpt:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Singer here last Fall ailing, needs help

Anne Feeney, the troubadour, labor activist and citizen journalist who performed with David Rovics on campus last October and locally in a benefit for WTND radio last April, has been hospitalized with a lung tumor and is undergoing tests to find out what can be done.

Regardless of doctors' advice, the recording artist faces months of lost income and is welcoming donations -- of no more than $50.

"I really don't want any larger donations," she says on her web site. "I have enough dear friends who are doing okay that those of you who are struggling shouldn't spend a second worrying about my finances."

Still, the selfless woman is in need, so if you appreciated her music and attitude last year, please consider letting her know -- and include a few bucks if you're able.

Mail to Anne Feeney, 2240 Milligan Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15218.

Her web site is and her blog is

Join the staff of Western Illinois Magazine

Get involved with Western Illinois Magazine!

First meeting of the year will be Wednesday, September 1 at 4 p.m. in the Western Courier office, 3rd Floor, Heating Plant Annex (Through the yellow door next to the basketball courts behind the Art Gallery)

For more information contact:

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Western Courier Wants You

The Western Courier has immediate openings for

• Proofreader
• Reporters
• Photographers
• Newspaper Distributors

Fill out an application today at the Western Courier
3rd Floor, Heating Plant Annex
(Through the yellow door next to
the basketball courts behind the Art Gallery)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Greetings WIU Journalism Majors and Minors


Two things as you start thinking about packing and moving to Macomb for the Fall:

First, all Journalism majors and minors are urged to attend a program meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, August 30 in the Courier newsroom in the brick building called the "Heating Plant Annex" northeast/across Sherman Drive from the University Gallery -- by the outdoor basketball/roller hockey court. Faculty will update you on changes, chat about student organizations, and get you going for 2010-2011. We'll also have a drawing for a DVD of the classic 1976 drama about reporters and Watergate, All The President's Men.

Next, there are still seats available in a few upper-division Journalism courses. Please go to STARS and consider enrolling, especially in Photojournalism/Jour. 335 (STARS # 50353) , Beat Reporting/ Jour. 334 (STARS # 50352 and Editing/ Jour. 328 (STARS # 50348) . Professor Lisa Kernek reminds you that there's no prerequisite for Photojournalism, which will meet 3-4:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays only. Jour. 334, which meets at 10 MWF, has a series of guest speakers including State Sen. John Sullivan, Supt. of Schools Alene Reuschel and Father Luke Spannagel from Newman Center. And Jour. 328 will now be taught by me on an Arranged schedule after the initial meeting at 12:30 on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

See you soon -- and at the program meeting August 30!

Bill Knight
Deputy director, Journalism

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Look at the McChrystal Story

NPR's "On The Media" recently offered an interesting analysis of the differences between beat reporters and freelance reporters working on news stories, particularly in regard to the controversial Rolling Stone story on General Stanley McChrystal. Check it out at

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bill Knight named 2010 John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecturer

Bill Knight, an award-winning journalist, professor and deputy director of the journalism program at Western Illinois University, has been named the 2010 John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences.

He will present the Eighth Annual Hallwas Lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7 in the University Union Grand Ballroom at WIU-Macomb and at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8 in Room 102AB at WIU-Quad Cities.

Knight's topic is, "I Read the News Today, Oh, Boy: Journalism, Empathy and the Liberal Arts."

In addition to teaching at Western Illinois since 1991, Knight remains an active columnist, radio commentator and author. He writes twice-weekly columns for newspapers in Pekin, Peoria, Monmouth, Galesburg, Kewanee and now Macomb. The author of the 2003 "Video Almanac" and "Fair Comment: Essays on the Air," Knight is a featured weekly commentator on Western's Tri States Public Radio.

A graduate of WIU (1971) and the University Illinois-Springfield (1982), Knight this month is being named one of a "Golden Dozen" recognized by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) at its annual conference for his opinion piece on moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to Illinois. His writing has also won awards from the Illinois Associated Press (Best Commentary), the Illinois Press Association (Business Reporting), the International Labor Communications Association (Best Column) and the Suburban Newspapers Association of America (Best Sports Writing).

His newest books are "Horse Shoe Bottoms" (2008), a 1930s novel by west-central Illinois journalist and activist Tom Tippett, for which Knight wrote the biographical introduction and edited; and "Rick Johnson Reader: Tin Cans, Squeems and Thud Pies" (2007), a collection of rock criticism, essays on popular culture and zany screeds by Johnson, the late Creem magazine writer who had attended WIU.

Knight, a native of Carthage (IL), also is the editor of Western’s College of Arts and Science magazine Focus, which is published twice yearly since Spring 2005.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

FAU Adviser Firing Sparks Firestorm

On May 18, Michael Koretsky, longtime adviser to the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University (12 years) and an extremely popular speaker at student journalism conferences around the country was fired from his position. Since then, the ongoing dispute between the student newspaper's editors, Koretsky and the university has made fascinating reading. Check out Koretsky's blog at as well as the student newspaper's blog at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

National Geographic Photo Editor to Speak at Knox College

Senior photo editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine and Galesburg native Dan Westergren, will present a talk, “The Last Degree,” at 7 p.m. Friday, April 30 in the Round Room, Ford Center for the Fine Arts, Knox College in Galesburg. The talk is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Second issue of Western Illinois Magazine now available

Western Illinois University journalism students have produced the second issue of "Western Illinois" magazine, a new publication showcasing interesting people, places and things in western Illinois.

The free publication, available in Western Courier newspaper racks on the WIU Macomb campus and in various locations in Macomb, Galesburg and Springfield, includes a cover feature on the history and legends surrounding the abandoned Illinois State Asylum for the Incurable Insane in Bartonville, near Peoria.

Other features in the issue include a look at the 1970s “Forgottonia” tongue-in-cheek political movement, which encouraged people in western Illinois to secede from the rest of the state, as well as the bizarre story of the Macomb poltergeist, a real-life firestarter. The issue offers a profile of Western Illinois University quarterback Matt Barr, and spotlights the unique shopping opportunities found on Galesburg's historic Seminary Street.

Additionally, the issue includes articles on: Lisa Welch, Macomb’s "Rug Lady"; Colchester's Bill Combs, a retired WIU professor who collects antique tractors; a kid's eye view of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield; a profile of comic book writer and WIU alum Chris Ward of Springfield; and other topics.

"Western Illinois is probably one of the least exposed parts of the state, so we’ve found there are plenty of stories out there just waiting to be told," said Alyse Thompson, a WIU sophomore journalism major from West Chicago (IL), and editor in chief of the magazine.

The student-run magazine is produced once each semester. Advisers include veteran Illinois journalist and WIU journalism professor Bill Knight and Rich Moreno, director of student publications at WIU and a former magazine publisher.

To receive a free copy, send your name and address to

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bloggers help expose Israeli censorship

Bloggers and independent journalists somewhat apart from the pressures of the mainstream press were key in exposing a scandal wherein Israel's government placed a reporter's alleged source under secret house arrest for months, placed a gag order on on Israel's news media about the arrest, and even imposed a gag order on the existence of the first gag order, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.

The Forward summarized how the incident finally came to light when bloggers not only stood up to Israeli threats, but posted material despite pleas from the supposed source, Anat Kam, who feared for her future if her imprisonment became known.

The government reaction stemmed from leaked documents apparently showing that Israel's Defense Forces defied Israel's Supreme Court and targeted unarmed Palestinian militants for assassination.

After the first few stories about the story went online, other news media broke the story: the Associated Press, the Guardian, the Independent, Israel's JTA news service, the Times of London and the Washington Post.

Reporter Lisa Goldman recapped the scandal in the Forward.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NYT shares morning meetings with world

Journalism students, much less news consumers, will be interested in the New York Times' latest web feature: scenes from the newspaper's regular morning budget meeting.

That's where editors pitch stories, update colleagues on works-in-progess, and generally plan the next day's editions -- and ongoing web updates.

Reporter Clark Hoyt also did a nice behind-the-scenes overview of some of the unintended consequences of the new feature --

Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPads offer hope to print: 2 blogs

Two insightful posts from Alan Mutter (Newsosaur) and Susan Moeller (Huffington Post) are optimistic about what Apple's new iPad can offer to journalists and to operations depending on print.

"Fortunately, print publishers have a distinct edge over their digitally indigenous competitors in the race for tablet supremacy, because they have a depth of content that will work to great advantage on tablets," writes Mutter, a long-time newspaperman who once was Chicago Sun-Times editor.

"The strength of print is that it enables deep and subtle exploration of a subject," he contnued. "The [iPad] tablet combines the strengths of print, web and mobile into a satisfying -– and, yes, transformational –- experience."

Mutter expressed disappointment with most newspaper and magazine applications, however.

"Publishers who want to take full advantage of the iPad will have to do better by creating content that is media-rich, interactive, viral, transactional and mobile," Mutter said. "In other words, this is no time to cut corners."

On Huffington Post Moeller compares classic, decent journalism to traditional, nutritious food and sees parallels between the "slow food" movement and "slow journalism -- valuing content over speed."

She writes that "the iPad's capabilities align neatly with this agenda."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guild recruiting 'foot soldiers' to fight for journalism

The Newspaper Guild labor-union affiliate of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is stepping up its efforts to guarantee that journalism survives despite changes in how it's presented.

The fight for journalism in many ways is the fight for a representative republic, obviously.

TNG-CWA is planning a May strategy session in Cleveland and is encouraging broad attendance from U.S. and Canadian Guild locals.

Free Press founders John Nichols and Robert McChesney, authors of the new book The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, have been invited to be a part of the discussion, which will focus on ways the Guild, organized labor and other groups concerned about democracy all can help maintain the vital role of a free press.

“This should not be a discussion about journalism," said Nichols, who's a co-founder of the nonprofit Free Press advocacy group and a writer for The Nation magazine and an editor at the Madison (Wisc.) Capital Times. "It should not be a discussion about newspapers, or a discussion about media. This is a discussion about democracy.

“The founders were very, very blunt: Freedom of the press meant not just a free press but a ‘press’ — something real.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Discuss the Future of Journalism

The Journalism Program in the Department of English and Journalism and the University Libraries invite you to attend "Journalism Beyond Print" this Wednesday, March 24, in Malpass Library Room 180.

This discussion begins at 11:45 a.m. and brings together three professionals to describe and share examples of how their news organizations are delivering information and news "outside of their legacy platforms of newspapers or broadcasts" to the digital realm (to computers and smart phones or with podcasts or RSS feeds).

Mark Butzow, assistant professor of journalism, and other WIU journalism professors will augment the presentations by these guests: Jason Piscia, a web editor from Springfield's State Journal Register; Erin McCarthy, a reporter/photographer for Macomb's McDonough County Voice; and Rich Eggers, the news director for Tri-States Public Radio and WIUM-FM (NPR).

We see this is as a wide-ranging discussion of the directions that journalism is taking in the wake of digital media, and we invite your participation. For more information, contact Mark Butzow at or 298-3171.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Content and its vehicles

The next time some Internet guru (or broadcaster) snickers "Print is dead," you might reply: "Everything's dead.

"And, everything's alive."

According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, more than 25% of American adults now get their news on their cell phones.

True, what they consider "news" consists mostly of weather reports and sports scores, but the point is made.

Content is key.

It matters less that a soup is delivered in a bowl or a mug than its ingredients and preparation are tasty.

Just wait 'til the iPad price comes down.

"TV, phone home."

WGN radio boss muzzles announcers

The CEO at WGN-AM recently annoyed staffers and listeners by issuing an edict forbidding announcers from saying certain words and urging them to report those who utter them, according to a memo shared by longtime Chicago media reporter Robert Feder.

The heavy-handed memo is reminiscent of a comment from a priest friend who recalled parishioners complaining about some Masses varying ever-so-slightly from others: "When you can't control the Big Picture, you tend to get really bitchy about the little things," Father said.

Some of the words are tired, cliches or journalese, sure. But prohibiting "alleged" seems a bit much. And "really?"


You'd think a chief executive would have other things to do.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Todd Frankel Today

Todd C. Frankel, an award-winning metro general assignment reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, will be the keynote speaker for Western Illinois University's 2010 Journalism Day Wednesday, March 10.

Frankel was a key reporter in the Post-Dispatch's daily coverage of the "Missouri Miracle," the kidnapping and rescue of youths Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby. He was a finalist for the Livingston Award in 2006 and won a Sigma Delta Chi award for feature writing and a Casey Medal for coverage of families and children in 2002. When the St. Louis Riverfront Times named him the best newspaper reporter (Sept. 29, 2004), he was praised for his ability to report with equal comfort and enthusiasm on events including a horseradish festival, a fiery car crash, a double murder or a flu epidemic.

A graduate of the University of Delaware, Frankel previously worked at The Herald in Everett, WA; The Daily Mail in Charleston, WV; and The Gleaner in Henderson, KY. He often speaks on three main topics: making sense of the Missouri Miracle; bringing pizzazz to mundane topics; and telling compelling stories in 20 inches or less.

At Western, Frankel will speak about "How to Tell Compelling Stories on Deadline" to journalism students at 4:30 p.m. at the Western Courier office in the Heating Plant Annex.

He will present "Breaking Away From the Pack: Finding and Telling the Overlooked Story," at 7 p.m. in the University Union Sandburg Theatre. This presentation is open free to the public.

Frankel's visit is sponsored by the WIU Visiting Lectures Committee, the English and journalism department and the WIU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Broadcast journalists aren't escaping media 'transformation'

The press for more than a year has trumpeted the lousy news of big-city daily newspapers' financial woes -- brought on more by ridiculous business decisions and outrirght goofy assumptions than by Internet competition. But even as small dailies and weeklies survive and even prosper, other media sectors are suffering, too.

ABC News will cut between 20% and 25% of its news-division employees -- some 300 jobs -- on the heels of CBS News' recent layoffs of about 100 employees.

ABC News president David Westin (above) in a memo inexplicably wrote about the potential of growth even as in the same breath -- or, paper -- he announced the cuts.

"The digital age makes our business more competitive than ever before," he writes. "It also presents us with opportunities we couldn't have imagined to gather, produce, and distribute the news."

He lays out his plan for the network'a news operation's transformation by promising to "dramatically expand our use of digital journalists" and "move to a more flexible blend of staff and freelancers," which sounds like the short-sighted management axioms "Do more with less" or "Use cheap help."

Westin buries the lede, too, finally mentioning, "When we are finished, we will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News. To ease the transition, we are offering a voluntary separation package to all full-time, U.S.-based, non-union, non-contract employees."

Unionized journalists and other workers will have separate "voluntary separation offers," he adds.

Like the Tribune's Sam Zell or other media moguls, he doesn't address how such a gutted endeavor will be expected to do more work.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Be encouraged, editor tells J students

The president of the American Society of News Editors recently assured students at Penn State that now is a great time to be in journalism.

"This is an opportune time to be a journalist," said Martin Kaiser. "From all this uncertainty comes opportunities."

Kaiser, coverred by the Daily Collegian newspaper, said he realizes that there are problems in the industry, but that there are actually more readers now then ever before. The main problem to be solved is how to bring in revenue to the newspapers from the online readers.

With the increased amount of online traffic for newspaper Web sites also comes an opportunity for reporters to experiment, Kaiser said. New technology gives reporters "an opportunity to be more transparent," lending more credibility and interactivity to stories.

'Journalist' as a diagnosis

Magazine writer and novelist Anna Quindlen maybe had it pegged when she wrote, "Being a reporter is as much a diagnosis as a job description."

However, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller added some flair to the sense of destiny to pursuing journalism -- the calling, if you will.

In an email to Off The Record, Keller wrote, "Journalists are disposed to a kind of A.D.D., a restless curiosity. One great lure of this work is that you can move from subject to subject, from reporting to editing and back again. Think of it as pushing the 'refresh' button."

Eggers' 'new/old journalism' in 'Panorama'

The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Borrelli writes about the wonderful one-shot "Sunday newspaper," the San Francisco Panorama, through a chat with creator Dave Eggers, an Illinoisan from his roots through college.

"The first thing to know about the 33rd issue of McSweeney's, the literary journal started in 1998 by Lake Forest native Dave Eggers, is that it's a fantasy, a tantalizing mirage — a glimpse of a perfect media world. And it isn't a fantasy, not entirely. Issue No. 33, so immense it comes in a pillow-size, silver, Ziploc-ish bag, is designed as an old-school Sunday broadsheet newspaper. It features articles from Junot Diaz, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, Miranda July and actor James Franco; it has comics from Alison Bechdel, Art Spiegelman and Oak Park resident Chris Ware; cartoonist Daniel Clowes (another Chicago guy) created the front-page logo. The books section runs 96 pages, the Sunday magazine 112 pages. The photos are large and gorgeous, the longest story is about 20,000 words, the arts section is two sections, and, basically, it's fun.

"Really fun.

"So perfectly executed that if you work at a daily newspaper — heck, if you merely prefer the feel of news on print, or just adore the beleaguered medium (as Eggers does) — issue No. 33 may bring a tear to your eye."

Click on the link above for the full Q&A; also fun.

Journalism's past and future: ex-BBC news chief

BBC global news director Richard Sambrook is excited about what the web offers news consumers and news rooms, but frets about substance.

"The Internet for breaking and daily news is going to be more important, but where is the space on the web for current affairs and investigative journalism?" he asked in an interview with Vin Ray of the BBC College of Journalism.

After three decades in journalism, Sambrook is leaving the BBC to join the public relations firm Edelman.

Ustream has the conversation on video on the link above.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Toyota puts price on good journalism

As Toyota steps up its public-relations pushback machine, consumers of news as well as cars might recall that the Japanese carmaker’s problems are not new –- and they’re trying to financially punish those news operations that brought the facts to light.

ABC-TV affiliates in five southeastern states had Toyota pull all their advertising in retaliation for ABC News accurately reporting on problems such as sticky pedals.

“ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross have been reporting on the problem of ‘runaway Toyotas’ since last November,” reports journalist and commentator Laura Flanders. “Ross had hosted a series of stories long before Toyota management started issuing apologies and denials about the extent of their cars’ defects.”

Earlier this month, as Toyota started its biggest recalls ever, Southeast Toyota dealers started pulling commercials off ABC. According to excerpts from an ABC report, the ad agency representing 173 dealers told local ABC affiliates that the shift was due to “excessive stories on the Toyota issues.” One unnamed ABC station manager quoted in a February 8 story on the ad-pulls is quoted as saying that the dealers shifted their commercial time buys to non-ABC stations in the same markets, “as punishment for the reporting.”

Toyota recently started recalling 2010 Prius, too. to its list of recalled vehicles.

“Will ABC News continue reporting?” Flanders asks. “Probably. But will cash-strapped local affiliates continue to run those stories?”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

'A fight I'd like to see'

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists this week re-printed the following essay, which is worth sharing.

Pictured at right is newspaperman/novelist/correspondent Ernest Hemingway -- "content provider"?

By Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent

DUMMERSTON, Vt. - The first time I was called a "content provider," I knew things were all downhill from there.

Think about Ernest Hemingway. Martha Gellhorn. Dorothy Thompson.

Then Damon Runyon. Alberto Moravia. Mark Twain. Jacob Riis and Lincoln Steffens. Graham Greene. Tom Wolfe. Gay Talese. Nellie Bly. H. L. Mencken. Grantland Rice. Hunter S. Thompson. Walter Winchell. Red Smith. Ernie Pyle. Russell Baker. Dave Barry. Carl Hiassen. Edna Buchanan. Ambrose Bierce. Mike Royko. Herb Caen. Janet Flanner. David Remnick. Seymour Hersh. Art Buchwald. George Seldes. I. F. Stone. David Halberstam. Geraldine Brooks. Jane Perlez. Tony Hillerman. Molly Ivins. A.J. Liebling. Murray Kempton. Ellen Goodman. Anna Quindlen.

Think about the sob sisters and advice-givers: Dorothy Dix. Amy Vanderbilt. The Lederer twins, Eppie and Pauline, also known as Dear Abby and Ann Landers. Heloise.

The great photojournalists: Mathew Brady. Margaret Bourke-White. Robert Capa. Weegee. Eddie Adams. Alfred Eisenstadt.

The New York columnists: Jimmy Breslin. Pete Hamill. Jimmy Cannon.

The ones who will forever be linked together: Katharine Graham. Ben Bradlee. Carl Bernstein. Bob Woodward. Or Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

The great movies, The Front Page, His Girl Friday, the brutally cynical Ace in the Hole, Absence of Malice, All the President's Men, Sweet Smell of Success - god, Sweet Smell of Success! The Year of Living Dangerously, The Killing Fields, The Quiet American, Good Night and Good Luck. And the greatest one, Citizen Kane."

The arts writers - Gilbert Seldes. Brooks Atkinson. George Jean Nathan.

Donella Meadows. Rachel Carson. Truman Capote. Joan Didion.

Journalists have added immeasurable richness to our culture.

I've loved four great newspapers in my life: The New York Times, The Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Boston Globe.

These are all shell papers now, ghosts of their former selves. Today we are hearing the death rattle of the Globe as the Times struggles to stay afloat.

Some people say newspapers have outlived their usefulness. These folks have their iPhones and Twitter and podcasts and RSS feeds. Newspapers, they say, are like buggy whips. They served their usefulness and should pass quietly from the scene.

But it's hard to come up with the many cultural contributions of the buggy whip. Or to find instances where people have given their lives for it.

The International News Safety Institute recently estimated that more than 1,300 journalists and other news professionals have died trying to cover the news in 105 countries since 1996. In places like the Congo, Mexico, Darfur, Georgia, Iraq, Colombia, Gaza, Afghanistan. They didn't die to provide "content." Or to raise the price of a media company's stock. They died to bring us the truth.

Some people say that texting, community journalism and social networking will replace newspapers. Yes, it's easy to hear about a plane landing on the Hudson River from people with iPhones who were watching as the thing come down. But will they break the news on Twitter about the next Abu Ghraib, pedophile priests, or a corrupt President?

Newspapers are more than a place to learn what's happening in the world. They're more than a place to find out which congressman is stealing, which sports figure is on steroids, and which actor is secretly having an affair.

They're where you go to get a lead on the good movies and books. They tell you stories about people you've never heard of. They give you the scores and the past performances. They tell you about the latest hip restaurants. They even give you pages of recipes. How many of us have learned to cook our first turkey with the pages of some newspaper taking up too much counter space?

All in one place, mind you. And every day.

Every day in this country, about 1,400 daily newspapers large and small publish how many pages filled with how many words?

And who comes up with the words to fill those pages? Writers.

Mind you, I'm not saying that all newspaper writing is good writing. Far from it. A lot of reporters are terrible writers. They bury the important facts, or cling to the "narrative" opening even when it's a hard news story, or get their facts wrong, or misquote and misinterpret, or push their own agendas, or defend conventional wisdom even when it's clearly not true.

But when you've got that many pages to fill with that many words, you're going to unearth some damn fine writers along the way.

A world without newspapers is a world without a place for writers to be paid to start writing. It's a place where curious people won't be paid to start investigating. I fear a new set of Dark Ages ahead.

We're barely five months into the new year, and the number of laid-off or bought-out reporters is approaching 10,000. The number will rise if the Globe is closed.

Imagine if Hemingway was still alive and someone called him a "content provider." That's a fight I'd like to see.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Journalists in Haiti need help, too

Broadcast journalists work in the studios of Signal FM, the only Haitian radio station to continuously broadcast during and after the powerful, 7.0-magnitude earthquake that ravaged the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas. (Photo from AP/Ariana Cubillos)

Haiti needs water, food and medical assistance, and the world needs news from the impoverished nation reeling from the January 12 earthquake there.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has joined a myriad of groups gathering donations to help Haitians.

"We are beginning to collect funds that will go directly to Haitian journalists," Simon said. "If you’d like to make a contribution you can [go to] and enter 'Haiti' in the 'Notes' section on the second page."

For other opportunities to help Haitians, go to

Also, there are three easy ways to donate $10 through your cell-phone bill: To give $10 to Hope for Haiti Now, text 50555 and type "give" in the message. To give $10 to the Red Cross, text 90999 and type "haiti" in the message. To give $10 to Save The Children, text 20222 and type "Save" in the message. All three will promptly reply with an opportunity to confirm your contribution.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mainstream newsrooms still produce most news

A new study finds that "most local news still flows from newspapers, and while broadcasters, web sites and blogs, and even social-network sites or podcasts distribute news, "the work of gathering that news is still the job of newspapers," adds the Pottstown (Pa.) Mercury.

The study, from the Pew research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, shows that mot actual reporting comes from U.S. newspapers.

"It does say that as digital platforms for information proliferate, most original reporting comes from traditional sources — local newspapers, television stations and radio stations," writes Majorie Cortez of the Deseret (Utah) News. "Most digital news outlets are regurgitating the reporting of newspapers, television and radio stations. They often add commentary but provide little new information.

Newspaper job loss in perspective

About 15,000 newspaper workers lost their jobs last year, according to News Cycle, a media industry outfit.

Some perspective: From August forward, layoffs dropped significantly.

Further, as Bill Steiderwald writes in The American Conservative magazine, "despite all the headlines and hysteria, exactly 10 of the country's 1,437 daily newspapers have stopped publishing since 2007. [And] in September alone, the construction industry shed 64,000 jobs."

Lastly, there's a sizable difference between the headline-grabbing situations of the Rocky Mountain News and the Chicago Tribune on the one hand, and dailies that operate far more quietly and profitably in small and mid-sized markets.

"One thing that would be supportive of newspaper employment is that 70 percent of daily newspapers have circulation under 50,000," said newspaper financial analyst John Morton. "Those kinds of newspapers have suffered far less than big city papers have. Going forward, they will suffer less."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Regional Journalism job fair Jan. 30 in Muncie, Ind.

There still may be time to get a slot at the January 30 job fair at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Go to this pdf file for details --

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stop blaming the Internet: Tina Brown

One-fourth of the Daily Beast's Tina Brown's fine January 3 post, "Things to stop bitching about in 2010," rightfully criticizes the whining about the web and the doomsayers who pronounce as dead or passe substantive journalism such as investigative reporting.

"What a load of Spam!" Brown writes. "American newspapers are dying mostly because they were so dull for so long a whole generation gave up on them. They needed to innovate back in the Fax Age of the 1980s but were too self-important and making too much money with their monopolies to acknowledge it.

"In the U.K., there is a banquet of glorious newspapers to feast on in the morning despite the presence of the Internet," she continues. "All of these papers look nothing like they did 15 years ago. Furrow-browed broadsheets like The Times of London and The Guardian got snappy new overhauls, cut down to a more modern-feeling tabloid size, with a use of pictures and color that's imaginative and striking and appealing to the younger demographic.

"These 'serious' papers are replete with sexy culture coverage and hip fashion stories as well as foreign reporting and brainiac columnists that make them a guilty pleasure to read. It's one of the biggest fibs going that American newspapers are now being forced to give up their commitment to investigative reporting. Most of them gave up long ago as their greedy managements squeezed every cent out of the bottom line and turned their newsrooms into eunuchs. As for the Internet thieving the bona fide news reporters' hard-worked stories, 'Back at ya!' is all I can say. Online writers for years have had their stories ripped off by newspapers with no credit. At least the Internet links to the things it steals. Whatever his views on this issue, by the way, Rupert Murdoch has greatly improved The Wall Street Journal. Leave it to an Aussie to give American journalism a swift kick in its down under."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Between tweets and twenty-inch clumsiness

Long-time commentator Michael Kinsley in the new Atlantic monthly magazine criticizes "traditional" newspaper writing for being too long, too formulaic and too timid.

He's got a point -- several of them, actually. And surely there must be a happy medium -- at least a practical, functional middle ground -- between ridiculously short Twitter posts or even typical USA Today brevity on the one extreme and overwritten and predictable (and lo-o-o-o-ng for no apparent reason) stories on the other.

Kinsley's take (not too long, appropriately enough, and quite readable) is highly recommended.