Newspaper survival tips stress multiplatform reporting

In “12 Things Newspapers Should Do to Survive,” Vadim Lavrusik offers a range of suggestions for “what newspapers should be considering in order to survive and evolve with today’s technology-driven, short-attention-span world.” At the top of his list is “Putting web first and reporting from multiple platforms.” He explains:

Reporters need to focus on primarily gathering information and how to present that information in multiple formats: websites, mobile platforms, social networks and finally print.

The reason? Technology is changing the way people consume news, and though many are still getting their news through traditional print outlets, many others are shifting to get their news through various media, such as television, mobile phones, and the web.

Other tips focus on creating community, integrating real-time reporting and creating content for mobile devices. A good read with lots to get class discussions rolling.

The future of the newspaper? Maybe it’s the nichepaper

A pair of recent articles discusses the role of the nichepaper in the future of journalism. In “The News About the Internet,” Michael Massing recounts recent attacks on the Internet as leeching content from traditional sources. But Massing say critics fail to acknowledge an essential truth:

Over the past few months alone, a remarkable amount of original, exciting, and creative (if also chaotic and maddening) material has appeared on the Internet. The practice of journalism, far from being leeched by the Web, is being reinvented there, with a variety of fascinating experiments in the gathering, presentation, and delivery of news. And unless the editors and executives at our top papers begin to take note, they will hasten their own demise.

In “The Nichepaper Manifesto,” Umair Haque elaborates on some of those experiments and christens them “nichepapers.” The name is somewhat misleading, since like Massing, Haque also is talking about online journalism. But his definition is clear: “Nichepapers are different because they have built a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain — finance, politics, even entertainment — and offer audiences deep, unwavering knowledge of it.” Haque details eight essential rules and four models for such nichepapers. It’s a lot to digest, but it’s very important work.

Hostage situation raises question of withholding information

The EditorsWeblog considers the question of when news media might be right to withhold information from their audiences. The case in question concerned a New York Times reporter, his driver and another reporter who were taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The blog reports that “Thanks to the efforts of New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, for seven months news of the kidnapping did not enter the public domain. Fellow newspapers understood that lives were at stake and nobody was willing to compromise Rohde’s safety by breaking the media silence. In addition, the Times attempted to keep information about the kidnappings from their reporter’s page on Wikipedia:

Within days of [David] Rohde’s abduction, attempts were made to edit Rohde’s Wiki page with the news and so it was that a virtual tug of war began between the NYT and the online encyclopaedia. For seven months, unidentified individuals tried to update Rohde’s entry with the information only to have this erased. Eventually, a joint effort involving Catherine J. Mathis, chief spokeswoman for the NYT and Wikipedia CEO Jimmy Wales, among others, led to a temporary freeze of Rohde’s page, making editing impossible. No sooner was the function reinstated that new efforts were made to add the details.

The blog asks an important question about the Times’ efforts:

The media blackout that took place is probably to be credited for delivering Rohde to safety, but what does it say about the media’s lack of partiality? Keller and his colleagues thought long and hard about their options, ultimately concluding that a hostage as currency is worth less without the exposure. Yet, did this decision represent a disservice to other reporters in the region? Were their lives at risk because of NYT’s choice to look after one man? A reasoned answer is that if news organisations were able to keep the news from spreading, they were very likely able to inform colleagues on a need-to-know basis, particularly if any employees were operating in the same area without risking any leaks.

Of more concern is the inconsistency of news outlets when it comes to dealing with kidnappings when a terrorist organisation is at the helm, as the Poynter Institute’s Bob Steele points out: “Would a news organization apply different standards in the case of a government diplomat or a business executive or a tourist than they would one of their own?” asks the ethics instructor. Invariably the answer seems to be yes, insofar as non-media hostages make the headlines, although often with the support of the relevant families. In this particular case, the NYT made the best decision it was able to under the circumstances and perhaps saved their man in the process. After all, a human life is always worth more than a newspaper’s quest to remain impartial.

Blogger ruled ineligible to use shield law

Bloggers may find themself with no protection when they are asked to name anonymous sources, if a recent case becomes precedent. Techdirt reports that blogger Shellee Hale “tried to claim that she was protected under New Jersey’s shield law, which allows a journalist to protect sources.”However, the judge in Hale’s case “ruled that Hale is not protected by shield laws because she has ‘no connection to any legitimate news publication.'”

The Techdirt posts notes that

This is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, it leaves open entirely to interpretation what exactly is a “legitimate news publication.” The judge seems to think it only applies to old school media, saying: “Even though our courts have liberally construed the shield law, it clearly was not intended to apply to any person communicating to another person.” Sure, but that doesn’t mean that an individual who posts something in the pursuit of reporting isn’t media as well. It looks like Hale will appeal this decision, and hopefully other courts will recognize that you don’t have to work for a big media organization to be a reporter any more.

YouTube starts Reporter’s Center channel

In yet one more sign that journalists no longer have a monopoly on gathering and distributing the news, YouTube has started a Reporter’s Center channel. According to the channel

The YouTube Reporters’ Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation’s top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting. If you have experiences on reporting the news yourself and would like to share your tips, feel free to submit them for inclusion on this page.

(Thanks to Stacy Spaulding for the link!)

The Journalist’s Guide to Facebook

Many journalists have Facebook accounts, but not so many realize that there are many ways to use that account for journalistic purposes. In an informative post, Leah Betancourt discusses how to find leads and sources, reach audiences and much more via Facebook. She notes:

Journalists and the institutions they write for are finding Facebook to be an important resource in conducting the reporting that they do. Reporters and media companies are using Facebook to engage with their audience, connect with sources and build their brands.

The post also includes a great deal of useful information on ethics of social media use.

Focusing on newspapers’ strengths

In “Newspapers’ essential strengths,” David Carr emphasizes how important reporters and real journalists are to a generation that is quickly allowing newspapers and journalism to slip. “Even as newspapers are being attenuated,” he writes, “they are still the source of most of the reporting horsepower out there.” Carr acknowledges that changes are needed in newspaper business practices, but adds:

Newspapers and other print publications need to think about how they finance their work differently as well. But as the gap in balance sheets grows, there will be a growing gap in the things that the public doesn’t know, but probably should.