Pogo: We have seen the enemy, and he is us…

Jeff Straub, CoJMC broadcast news major, works on a story for the NewsNetNebraska.org Web site at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

Jeff Straub, CoJMC broadcast news major, works on a story for the NewsNetNebraska.org Web site at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

I’m proud of the new media training we provide students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Speaking of which:

Tom Petner stirred my juices with his lead on TV Spy’s ShopTalk today.

Tom wrote:

“Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How would you like to be sitting in a classroom at Columbia University’s J-School – it’s your first day of class – and one of your journalism professors lets loose with:

Fuck new media

That happened, according to a student quoted in a story posted last week in the Daily Intel section of New York magazine.

The professor is also reported to have described new-media training as “playing with toys” and characterized the digital movement as “an experimentation in gadgetry.”

I heard about about this posting a few days ago, but I ignored it, chalking it up to the rant of a misguided (and perhaps out-of-touch) academic.

But a friend and former colleague, Chris Harper at Temple University, reminded me about a controversy brewing over the professor’s comments, and the larger on-going discussion/controversy at Columbia University.

I should note that Chris and another friend and former colleague – Linn Washington – took my place as co-directors of Temple University’s Multimedia Reporting Lab (MURL).

The Columbia controversy seems particularly timely with Hearst Closing Seattle P-I Print Edition, Going Online Only.

Yesterday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer produced its last printed edition and become an Internet-only news source

Seattle Paper Shifts Entirely to the Web

(Dan DeLong/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via Associated Press)
Roger Oglesby, right, of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, announced the paper’s final print edition.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will produce its last printed edition on Tuesday and become an Internet-only news source, the Hearst Corporation said on Monday, making it by far the largest American newspaper to take that leap.

But The P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it had, and a site with mostly commentary, advice and links to other news sites, along with some original reporting. (more)

In the New York magazine story, the Columbia professor in question insists he is not against new media.

“They need to know the ethics and history and practice of journalism before they become consumed with the mold they put it in, because the mold will change — the basics won’t,” he says, explaining his outburst.

True. But it does make you wonder whether that new media attitude is what you want professors carrying into a journalism classroom.

Convergence is no great surprise.

The digital transition in journalism has been coming to newsrooms for a long time, so the frustration and angst are curious.

What’s also curious is whether universities and the j-schools are preparing students for what’s expected of them in a contemporary newsroom…not the digital tools and toys….but online journalism as a platform that develops stories and complements print and broadcast.

What do ShopTalk readers think.

Here’s a link to the New York magazine piece:


…and a response from Scott Rosenberg, a co-founded of Salon.com


Here’s my reply:

Pogo: We have seen the enemy, and he is us…

Our journalism students accept the need to learn new media skills.  Most embrace these skills.

I believe the bigger challenge is to convince faculty and administrators in every U.S. journalism school that they must make time to acquire and use new media skills in order to be relevant and credible in the classroom.

Many faculty and administrators have directly taken on this responsibility.  Others have not for different reasons-  Can’t find time.  Don’t feel comfortable learning new media.  Want nothing to do with new media.

NewsNetNebraska students K.J. Hascall and Mimi Abebe edit video for a story they're producing on NewsNetNebraska.org. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

NewsNetNebraska students K.J. Hascall and Mimi Abebe edit video for a story they're producing on NewsNetNebraska.org. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

During the past eight years, CoJMC has been a national leader in training students in classes offering online journalism.

Recently I blogged (University of Nebraska-Lincoln J-School ramps up online journalism) about additional changes in our college designed to uniformly emphasize new media journalism skills in most of the courses we teach.

The new curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training will begin in the freshman year.

These changes are based on basic realities:

  • Multi-tasking journalism skills are the norm, not the exception for working journalists and communicators today.
  • Many journalists who have survived job cuts were those who added new media skills to their existing journalism skills.
  • Most newspapers, networks, magazines, radio stations and television stations are increasingly producing online content as they seek ways to vertically integrate content across print, broadcast and online venues.
  • They’re doing this to produce new income streams to replace traditional ones that have declined over the past decade.
  • They’re also doing this to reach growing audiences that are increasingly turning to the Internet for information.

I believe journalism schools across the country have two options:

  1. Accept reality, refocus, adapt and hopefully survive.
  2. Ignore reality and fade away.

Option #1 may be the only opportunity to educate future generations of journalists.
Option #2 speaks for itself.

When the river runs dry

Dick Jeffrey

The Omaha World-Herald, Photo: Dick Jeffrey

The Omaha World-Herald became the latest casualty of the Internet today.  It joined a growing group of newspapers that are cutting printed editions in the face of declining circulation, higher newsprint costs, a slack economy  and an entire generation of news consumers who simply don’t subscribe to newspapers.  These consumers get their information for free and they get it from the Internet.

Here’s the story:

The Omaha World-Herald will eliminate one of its five daily editions on Feb. 2 and stop same-day delivery in much of western Nebraska to save money.

The newspaper delivery changes announced Tuesday come less than two months after the World-Herald eliminated 51 jobs to deal with rising newsprint costs and the recession.

The World-Herald said about 12,000 subscribers in western Nebraska will lose same-day delivery. Spokesman Joel Long said those subscribers will be offered either mail delivery or a subscription to an online replica of the newspaper.

Long said the employee-owned World-Herald doesn’t expect to lose all those subscribers. He said the newspaper has a daily circulation of 169,722 and a Sunday circulation of 216,285.”

The OWH’s move comes as the paper is dedicating new resources to help train young student journalists in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This spring semester, four CoJMC students will help create content for the OWH as they report on events in and around Lincoln. The program also includes another class dedicated to exposing journalism students to the  process behind the World-Herald’s editorial decision making. This content will appear in print and on the Web.  It’s a commendable effort.

This partnership comes at a critical time when journalists in training may ask if there will be enough jobs to warrant careers in print or broadcast.  The answer to that question is blowing in the wind as traditional journalism revenue models have collapsed in the face of the Internet where users expect to get news and other information for free.

pewHere’s another sobering tidbit:

“The Internet is now the most popular source of news after TV,  according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which  released its year-end roundup of news media consumption last week.

While TV is still king of the hill, its steady decline in the face of  Internet competition bodes ill in the long term.

In 2008, 40% of the respondents said they got most of their national  and international news from the Internet, versus 35% for newspapers in  2008.

The Internet’s share is up from 24% in 2007, while newspapers  also increased slightly, from 34%.

The long-term trend is even  clearer: the Internet’s share has more than tripled from 13% in 2001,  while newspapers fell by almost a quarter–from 45% in those six years.

As with anything else, it costs money to report the news. Hopefully, the Internet will yield a revenue model for news organizations that can replace the traditional ones now in a state of collapse. Perhaps, news consumers on the Internet will be willing to pay for some or all of the content they now expect to get for free.

It hasn’t happened yet. Until it does, the landscape of traditional print and broadcast journalism continues to be punished by dwindling audiences, declining revenues and a very real threat that the ability to comprehensively cover the news is becoming increasingly difficult because the dwindling revenues won’t support the effort.