Journalism doesn’t need a eulogy

By Andrew Gibson

I’ve heard the question too many times: “Why are you going into journalism?”

Photo courtesy of Alex Barth

Print newspapers are showing signs of decline, but the practice of journalism is here to stay. Photo courtesy of Alex Barth.

It usually comes from people not in the profession who hear about the decline of print newspapers or conclude that online news is an impossible business model. However, I read a post Sunday from a journalism insider. Dave Winer, who “pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software,” according to his website Scripting News, posted this Friday:

“Journalism itself is becoming obsolete. I know the reporters don’t want to hear this, and they’re likely to blast me, even try to get me “fired” (it’s happened before) because at least for the next few months I hang my hat at a J-school. I happen to think journalism was a response to publishing being expensive. It cost a lot of money to push bits around the net before there was a net. They had to have huge capital-intensive printing plants, fleets of trucks and delivery boys with paper routes. Now we can hear directly from the sources and build our own news networks. It’s still early days for this, and it wasn’t that long ago that we depended on journalists for the news. But in a generation or two we won’t be employing people to gather news for us. It’ll work differently.”

I don’t think Winer wrote the post to upset anyone. He’s an “investor in web media companies,” according to his website, meaning he likely wants to see online journalism succeed. But I think it’s unfair, or at least too early, to say “journalism itself” is on the path to oblivion. There’s no easy way to define the practice, but I think of journalism as the process of verifying and disseminating information that makes people better able to make informed decisions. Newspapers are struggling, but I don’t see any widespread appetite for false information.

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Center for Sustainable Journalism publishes list of potential newsroom positions for the digital age

Lindsay Oberst of Kennesaw State University's Center for Sustainable Journalism created a list 11 potential new newsroom jobs to fit the new media and online journalism landscape.

By Melanie Gibson

As I begin my senior year of college, I’ve been thinking about the job hunt a lot lately. But honestly, I’ve been thinking about entering the world of the working journalists since I started college in fall 2008. One of the most memorable moments of that fall happened in a once-required Career Explorations in Journalism course in which the students were told at the beginning of the class that many of us would not actually graduate from the world’s first journalism school, let alone go into the field.

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The Worldwide Leader Makes a Huge Mistake

By Addison Walton

ESPN Radio sign

Photo credit: boboroshi

Social media and ESPN have had a very testy relationship during Twitter’s ascension as a convenient source of information and verifiable journalism. Over the past two to three years, ESPN has had its share of problems related to tweeting.

One of the first well-documented cases of the ESPN/Twitter problems involved popular (now writer Bill Simmons. In October 2009, Simmons, who grew up and went to college in the Boston area, tweeted, “WEEI’s ‘The Big Show’ was apparently ripping me today. Good to get feedback from 2 washed-up athletes and a 60 yr-old fat guy with no neck.” WEEI, an all-sports Boston radio station, signed an agreement with ESPN radio only three weeks before Simmons bashed the station. Editor-in-Chief Rob King suspended Simmons for two weeks because of the tweets, with the only exception being the promotion of his book tour via Twitter. But Simmons would continue poking the fire about one year later.

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The Five Hardest Things About Journalism: No. 1

By Andrew Gibson

This is the fifth post in a series about what I think are the five most difficult parts of journalism. My opinions are based on one year at Mizzou in Columbia, Mo., and a summer internship at KCNC-TV in Denver.

Journalism decided to throw me in the fire last semester.

I had to write a story about teen pregnancy in my News (Journalism 2100) class. It’s a challenging and sensitive topic, especially for a 19-year-old male who had never reported before January.

Which takes me to challenge No. 1: sources.

Finding teen mothers who would talk took weeks and weeks of persistence. I called and emailed places all over Columbia — My Life, Planned Parenthood, Lutheran Family Services, Columbia Housing Authority, Rock Bridge High School and Douglass High School, to name a few — looking for someone who wasn’t intimidated by a notebook and voice recorder.

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The Five Hardest Things About Journalism: No. 2

By Andrew Gibson

This is the fourth post in a series about what I think are the five most difficult parts of journalism. My opinions are based on one year at Mizzou in Columbia, Mo., and a summer internship at KCNC-TV in Denver.

People often shrink away in terror when I tell them my major is journalism. Following the shock, a common question is, What do you want to do with that?

My response usually has two parts. I say, ideally, I’d like to be a political columnist, but my realistic goal is simply to land a job.

Journalism has an uncertain future, and I can’t afford to be picky right now. I’ve accepted, and even embraced, that my first job will probably be a general-assignment reporter at a small news outlet.

That means I’ll need the skills to gather information about almost everything. If there’s a fire, my editor will likely give me the story. Is the local grocery store recalling its green onions? I’m on it.

Which takes me to challenge No. 2: Journalists have to know a little something about everything. Our job is to observe the world and then present it in a way that people can understand.

If we don’t get it, can we expect the same of our audience?

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The Five Hardest Things About Journalism: No. 3

By Andrew Gibson

This is the third post in a series about what I think are the five most difficult parts of journalism. My opinions are based on one year at Mizzou in Columbia, Mo., and an internship this summer at KCNC-TV in Denver.

There’s a great irony in reporting.

Journalists are expected to dig into the depths of a story, examining every relevant angle, yet condense what they find into something readers can skim in minutes.

That’s challenge No. 3: judging what information is important. And doing so quickly.

I learned to use this reporting skill in News (Journalism 2100), and one experience called “man on the street” sticks out in my mind. Everyone in my class had to draw a story idea from a hat, gather background information, interview two people and write a 250- to 350-word story, all in 90 minutes.

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The Five Hardest Things About Journalism: No. 4

By Andrew Gibson

This is the second post in a series about what I think are the five most difficult parts of journalism. My opinions are based on one year at Mizzou in Columbia, Mo., and an internship this summer at KCNC-TV in Denver.

Starbucks Via was a good friend of mine last semester.

This was especially true when my News (Journalism 2100) instructor, Karon Speckman, assigned everyone in my class to cover a Columbia, Mo., City Council meeting.

It started at 7 p.m., so I figured I’d be done two hours later. That would leave me plenty of time to get a quote from someone in the audience, write a 400-word story and check my grammar before midnight, I thought.

Instead, I walked out of the meeting, which was still going on, around midnight with rings around my eyes, an audio recorder with maxed-out memory and a notebook with smeared, illegible notes.

“Welcome to the world of public meetings,”  Speckman said in class the next day. 

And welcome to reality, Andrew, because you want to be a political reporter someday. 

But back to the coffee. The most important part of this anecdote is that I stayed up until 5 a.m. writing the story. I promise I’m not bragging or flexing my academic muscles when I say this.

Rather, I stayed up until 5 a.m. because I had a deadline. And that cruel, yet irresistible, word is No. 4 on my countdown.

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The Hardest Things About Journalism: No. 5

By Andrew Gibson

Please know that this post is a time capsule.

I’ve only completed one year of college and just one media internship at KCNC-TV in Denver.

In fact, I haven’t even declared an emphasis at the Missouri School of Journalism yet.

That makes me about as much a journalism expert as I am a Kansas Jayhawks fan.

My reason for writing this post is so I can look back 10 or 15 years from now and see how my reporting strengths and weaknesses have changed. I’ll probably have no trouble with Associated Press style by the time I graduate from the Missouri School of Journalism, but right now it’s somewhat overwhelming.

So, if it sounds like I’m pretending to be a know-it-all, please realize that’s not my intention.

I’m only 19.

Without further ado, here’s the first post of my series “The Five Hardest Things About Journalism.”

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Offline success in the online age

Image Courtesy of ChocoNancy1 on Flickr

By Nicole Garner

It’s become a common practice for journalists to tweet from the field, find sources through social media and engage with audiences through their online profiles. But what happens when you work for a media outlet that doesn’t have a social media presence?

This summer, I interned at WEIU TV, a news station in Charleston, Illinois, which didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon until after I arrived. The news director hadn’t used any form of social media before and was hesitant to start Twitter and Facebook pages for the station (for reasons unknown).

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If It’s Allowed On TV, Is It Allowed Online?

By Andrew Gibson

Have you ever seen the episode of “Family Guy” in which Peter Griffin goes on a musical rant about the Federal Communications Commission supposedly ruins all of his fun? The lovable cartoon dad does his best Ethel Merman impression and sings about how the FCC ruins his fun by censoring crude humor on TV. He goes so far in the episode as to start his own “scandalous” network that challenges FCC regulations. It’s hilarious, really.

But in matters like this, it takes a gavel and dark robe, not a song, to make serious changes. In 1978, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation that the FCC could ban indecent material from broadcast airwaves between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The commission established this “safe-harbor” period in response to an angry father who wrote the commission after hearing George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue on the radio while driving with his young son. According to the decision, TV and radio are “pervasive” enough to reach children, so the FCC has grounds to ban indecent content during hours when they’d normally be awake.

Fast forward 33 years. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could redefine how much authority the FCC has over TV and radio airwaves. Soon to be in question is whether the commission can punish broadcasters the first time they air a fleeting expletive — which is an unscripted, indecent word spoken once — on TV or radio. Below is a screen shot from a New York Times article about the case, called FCC v. Fox Television Stations:

The Supreme Court ruled the FCC could punish broadcasters for airing a single fleeting expletive when it heard this same case in 2009. But the following year, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Here’s a screen shot from a Los Angeles Times story about its decision:

Next on the Supreme Court’s agenda, then, is an appeal by the FCC, which will try to prove its policy is not “unconstitutionally vague” and that it still protects viewers from indecency during safe-harbor hours.

If you’re like me, this is probably confusing. So, let’s take another route: rewind to 1978, and then fast forward again to 2011. But this time, think about your computer monitor, not your TV screen. While the Supreme Court prepares to decide what should be allowed on TV and the radio, here’s a look at what is allowed online.

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