Last night I tweeted this link to PBS’ site. Here’s the gist:
White America is coming apart at the seams.
That’s the thesis Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, puts forth in his new book, “Coming Apart.” In a piece soon to appear on the NewsHour, Murray argues that the super wealthy, super educated and super snobby live in so-called super-ZIPs: cloistered together, with little to no exposure to American culture at large.
Those people, he says, live in a social and cultural bubble. And so he includes this 25-question quiz, covering beer to politics to Avon to “The Big Bang Theory,” to help readers determine how thick their own bubble may be.
I took the quiz and scored a 15 which supposedly puts me in a quite thick bubble. I asked people on Twitter what they scored and of course many people responded, because we all love to wallow in our racial and cultural exceptionalism.
Most everyone that responded said they felt their scored were accurate in representing their past and current class status. I’m not sure the same is true for me and here’s why:
There’s more, but you get the idea. Did anyone else feel like the quiz spit out a somewhat inaccurate result? Why or why not?
Image via Big Think
This reaction would come from a big-J journalism person, probably someone working for a print daily or someone who once did. They would say you see, this is what happens when you stop caring about the journalism. This is what happens when profits trump public service. I would be nodding along to all of this. But then they would say: you see, this is what happens when you let the techies into the newsroom. And this is the part where I would stop nodding and start fuming.
It took a lot longer than I expected (maybe things are changing?) but this reaction finally surfaced last week from Stuart Thomson at the Edmonton Journal. Here’s the key graf:
We have to be wary about listening to tech geeks with no experience in journalism, who see a lot of micro trends but rarely see the big picture. Most of them don’t understand how a newsroom works and they certainly don’t understand how advertising and revenue in general can extend past banner ads. It’s tempting to take what they say as gospel, because they understand the ones and zeroes better than us, and we’re desperate for a saviour.
Oh really? So a world beyond banner ads wasn’t being talked about by techies in 2009? And I can assure you, it was talked about a great deal before that as well. Everyone knows banner ads suck. Everyone. Online advertising still sucks in general, even today. There has actually been little innovation in this space and techies are very upset about it, as should be big-J journalists. But I digress…
Let’s get back to those dirty techies who are on a mission to ruin journalism. I wrote some comments in response to Stuart’s post. One of them read:
“Techies” are not to blame, sorry. Techies don’t run newspaper companies; they are mostly ignored there if they even exist (again, go back to newspaper missing the Internet, missing learning aggregation, linking, a billion other things). You have to blame the people in charge, the people who make these decisions.
To his credit, Stuart responded. But his response is still problematic. For instance, Stuart writes this about his newsroom:
If you asked me what we’re missing in the Journal newsroom right now, I’d say: a writer who work solely on the web (we don’t have a single person who writes for the web instead of the newspaper) and more software people.
If it were even remotely true that newspapers are concerned about the lack of such employees on their staff, they would hire them. While there are a few jobs like this here and there, they are still not the norm in most newspaper newsrooms.
Put your money where your mouth is. You’re either concerned about your organization’s digital future or you’re not. If your only digital person on staff is someone who posts things to Twitter and Facebook, you’re not serious. If your digital people are just shoveling the print stuff online, you’re not serious. If your digital people don’t have a seat at the table in terms of content development and other key decisions, you’re not serious.
Moreover, where are newspapers looking for these hires? They are looking for them in the traditional places. They are looking at j-school grads or people with past journalism experience. Here’s the truth: journalism and ethics can be taught easier than digital know-how and intuitiveness. They can both be taught. But one comes more naturally to more people in my opinion.
If you want people in your newsroom who understand digital, who are native to the medium, you have to look in the right places. You have to look at bloggers for example. No one understands better how to build and keep an audience, I guarantee you. No one understands better how to engage with one’s readers and community. No one knows better how to follow everything else being written on a certain topic. Trust me, I know this from personal exprience. I just might have to write a book called Think Like a Blogger, Act Like a Journalist. You read it here first.
As for the software people, they aren’t that welcome in newsrooms either. Any coders, developers, etc who work in news organizations are usually working only for large metro dailies or national newspapers like the New York Times. It’s anyone’s guess how much power and influence they wield even in those places (maybe some of them can comment here). Some of the ones that are brilliant and inventive, but don’t work for news organizations are routinely ignored.
So again, to sum up, the techies are not the problem. They are the solution.
Since I’ve been reporting on Journatic, I’ve been meaning to check how the stories look in my suburb of Northbrook.
This morning the lead story is about some sort of annual survey of private high schools. My guess is “annual” means this is the first year of the “survey,” but if anyone remembers otherwise, please let me know.
Notice anything interesting about the byline? It’s says “Journatic News Service.” An identical story in Schaumburg says the same. An intrepid Twitter follower sent me a photo of the same story in print. That one still says “Neighborhood News Service” as you can see. What’s going on here?
I spot-checked other Northbrook stories and they all still said “Neighborhood News Service” as well. Perhaps it’s some sort of transition that hasn’t taken full effect yet. But still, how can the Schaumburg story appear one way online and another way in print? More to come on this if and when I find out more.
Back to the Northbrook story and what’s this? There’s a comment at the bottom. One Jim Schufreider writes:
This article is poorly researched. It has North Shore Country Day west of Glenview when it is actually east of Glenview. It references Notre Dame, but omits Loyola and Regina which are arguably closer to Glenview than Notre Dame. Is no one watching the interns?
While many will recognize the intern line as standard way for readers to complain about a story, I think it illustrates that people care about who’s writing their news and they want it done accurately.
I’m not sure whether Jim’s criticisms are valid or not. I’ve only lived in this area for three years and I’m not sure. I know if I had written this story though, I would now be finding out and then responding to his comment. Let’s see if that happens here.
UPDATE: A Tribune staffer informed me via Twitter that the mistake the reader pointed out was corrected. Was the reader told? Since the only way to let him know would have been to respond to his comment, I must conclude that the answer is no. I don’t see how this way of doing things is supposed to engender the trust of readers. But I guess no one really cares about that.
Have any information for me on this or anything else pertaining to Journatic? Please email me at tooter2 (at) gmail (dot) com.
Image via SPJ
It’s always been a running joke inside my head that I’m a media reporter, it’s just that no one pays me to be one. I even added it to my Twitter bio at one point.
But with this story now out, I might need to change that bio.
Though I’m still not on staff anywhere and maybe never will be, I got paid for this story and will presumably get paid for future ones I do (yes, that means the book isn’t closed on this so stay tuned).
My story was at the top of Mediagazer for a bit. There was considerable reaction on Twitter. People I deeply respect and consider to be my mentors said I did a good job. Though he may have forgotten it by now, Ira Glass briefly knew my name. My family is also proud. That all makes me feel great and I can’t help but wonder if it also makes me a media reporter. A real one.
Time for another bio change.
UPDATE: I was on Connecticut’s public radio station on Monday, July 9 discussing the Journatic story. Listen here.