Thursday, April 13, 2006

Improving your publication through murder

Hey, you know that "print' guy in your newsroom?
You know the guy I'm talking about? He can't edit an audio file. He can't upload a digital photo. He doesn't know html. He doesn't know what a title tag is. He can't insert a link. He's ever-so-fond of his writing style, and he's not exactly sure what it means to "repurpose" content or to "write for the Web."
You know that guy?
I want you to take a look at this piece on the Teaching Online Journalism blog. Then I want you to follow the link to the memo that went out yesterday to the staff of the Miami Herald. Then I want you to print that memo. Then wrap it around a baseball bat.
And then beat that guy with the bat until he is, at long last, dead.

And you know that delusional journalism student? The silo student? The guy one without a single new-media skill on his resumé? You know the guy I'm talking about. He wants to be a newspaper man. He wants to be a Writer with a capital "W"? Take that same bat and hit him a few times too. But don't kill him. Maybe just hit him across the knees. Folks like that are too young to die, but may not be too young to save.

tags: , , , , , conversational media, ,


  1. First, let me say that I find your postings just as effective in jolting me awake as my morning cup of coffee..

    My specific comment, really more of a question. Many news organizations are not known for their fat editorial training budgets. Ahem. Do you know of anyone with any best practices for steeping news staffs in new-media skills on the cheap?

  2. Hi Heather,
    Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading the blog.
    "Steeping news staffs in new media skills" is not something that a lot of companies do. Although it's worth noting that most training can be done "on the cheap," many publishers prefer not to spend any money on staff development. That's a pain. But I understand. Money is tight, and executives are frightened.
    There are exceptions. IDG offers training. Cygnus does too. (Disclosure: I've done training for both companies.)

    As for "best practices," I'm a believer in mentoring.
    For example, I took a look at your site and see that part of your job involves running a blog. That's fantastic. And it means that you have some understanding about conversational media and the potential of your company's content-management system. Are you sharing that knowledge with co-workers? (I'm amazed by the number of people I meet that haven't learned to insert a link in copy in their CM system.) Is there someone on staff that you've noticed doesn't/can't link? Have you offered to teach them?
    I'd be willing to bet that there's at least one person on staff whose "hobby" is digital photography. Can he teach a class or two on photo editing? building slideshows? etc.?
    A company of your size is likely to have a slew of designers/graphic artists/etc. Who is the best? Can they teach a course at the company? Or can they do some tutoring for the editors at your Web site?

    Sure...your company can hire someone like me to get the staff motivated, to get them thinking about new media and beyond. And of course I prefer it when a company pays for staff development (that is, after all, part of how I make my living), but people can learn the basics from each other or from free or very inexpensive sources.
    I tell journalists "Sure. Your boss is an idiot. Sure. He doesn't spend any money on editorial. But when he fires you so that he can cut costs at the print publication, you're not going to get your next job by complaining that your last job failed to train you."

    The reason that citizen journalism has become such a force is because ANYONE can learn to produce online content now. So I think it’s a mistake for journalists or college students to expect that someone should "teach" them skills that thousands of amateurs are learning on their own.

    Last week I heard from an editor who wanted some advice on how she could learn new media. This is what I told her:
    1) Spend some time at The site is free, and it's a remarkable source of information on new-media skills. Start with Step 1 and move your way through the program. Within a few weeks you'll have mastered all the basic skills you'll need (assuming that you can spend a little money on a digital camera and a digital recorder.)
    2) Wherever you live, you should be able to find a course in new-media skills. MediaBistro offers courses in NY, LA and elsewhere. Take a look at the MB site and see if anything is coming to your area. If not, check out the local community college.
    3) Find a place to "play." I should hope that your bosses are open to letting you experiment with some new features. Start slowly. Add some links to copy. Record an interview with someone and add it to the site. Then pick up the pace a little. Start some sort of online product. I'd suggest you go with a blog. Use a free content-management system such as Wordpress or Blogger. Use the blog to do some real-time news, more frequent coverage, upload some photos and audio.
    If your boss isn't interested (or if he’s just too much of a pain to deal with, i.e., "we need to sell some ads first," etc.,”) then do something on your own. I'd suggest that you launch a blog-based product that either covers something you love or some industry that you would like to cover in the future. Either way, within a few months you'll have something you can show people that will demonstrate that you know new media.
    4) Then use your new skills in new media to land a job at a company that does invest in training.

  3. Ah - a baseball bat. I hadn't thought of that. I used to use ethernet cables, but then we got that darn wireless network...