Monday, December 05, 2005

Required reading vs. required interaction

Back when I first studied journalism a million years ago, one of my teachers announced on the first day of class that students were required to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. Getting a copy from the library would not suffice. Nor could we share a subscription. We each had to have our own copy. We had to read it cover to cover every day.
We would, of course, be tested on the material.
It only took about a week of reading that paper for me to see the value in the assignment. Much to my surprise -- for I was an obsessive consumer of news -- there was an entire part of the world that other papers had failed to teach me about: business. And the Journal served as my guidebook. More importantly, I found in the Journal a set of writing tools that would serve me well throughout my career. Chief among those was the news feature -- an easily understood template that featured an anecdotal lead and a "nut graf."

As the years passed, I took to demanding a similar commitment from any young journalist who worked for me. "If you have time to read only one thing a day," I'd say, "read the Journal. If you don't have time to read anything, learn to sleep less and read the Journal."
But not anymore.
In recent weeks I've found myself saying something like this: "If you look at only one thing a day, make sure it's BusinessWeek's site."
The simple truth is that although I continue to love the Journal, I find far more material of value to journalists in BusinessWeek.
While much of the mainstream press has learned to adopt the tools of new media, only BusinessWeek has mastered them. As others struggle with understanding what conversational editorial is, BusinessWeek has adopted it.
No one is doing a better job with blogs and feedback functions. Heck, no one is doing a better job with podcasts, slideshows and video. BusinessWeek has become the best single source for thoughtful and compelling multimedia news.
I know I'm not alone in this. "BusinessWeek is one of the few old school magazine/online "brands" that is not running from, but is embracing new forms of social and conversational media," according to Rex of Rexblog.

I'm not suggesting that anyone cancel their subscription to the Journal. This is particularly true for people who work in print. Because I still believe the best print product in the world every Monday through Friday is the front page feature in the Journal.
But if you want to understand what is possible in the post-print era, then you need to start each working day with a visit to BusinessWeek.

If you're a media guy who continues to struggle with the concepts of conversational editorial, you may recognize yourself in this post from Jon Fine's blog at BusinessWeek.
And if you're a journalism teacher looking for something to assign in addition to a daily dose of BusinessWeek, consider requiring your students to start a blog.

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