Saturday, October 25, 2008

Inside Washington Post

Last week on a class trip to the Washington Post meeting Chet Rhodes of the interactive division gave a fresh perspective on online journalism. Rhodes has worked as a news director on radio, taught broadcast journalism for 10 years and is currently assistant manager of the web division.

Rhodes was very positive about the work environment at the Post, which was obvious considering he works there. But his enthusiasm certainly was heartfelt.

Rhodes also clarified the certain myth on newspaper interactive division not turning profits. He said, “It’s not that we not making money. We are making plenty of money. If we were a business onto just ourselves we would be like great, but that’s not the case. We are trying to make up for the fact that newspapers are declining.” was ones of the first ones to launch comments on their stories.

In the three hours spent there Rhodes answered a lot of questions and gave a good idea on the difference of treatment and craft online journalism demands.

Overall this outside-the-classroom experience and into the real world of online videos, web interactivity, user behavior, change in media landscape and video making and camera techniques was a valuable lesson.

Here's Chet Rhodes covering the conventions.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Internal evaluation could be a starting point

Adam Riley’s column in The Phoenix talks about the presidential debates and journalists having conflict of interest. He points out while some scandals are recognized and discussed there are a few that miss the public eye. The recent on the list is the moderator of the vice-presidential debate - Gwen Ifill and her book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. The reaction came after the debate and she was even spoofed by Queen Latifah on SNL.

Riley states, “the public gets a double message: we (the media) aren’t as hard on ourselves as we are on everybody else; and we don’t trust you (the public) to.”

I guess a having a bias towards a subject or story is one thing but a defined one-sidedness can affect the journalist' credibility. If there were a potential conflict of interest with the story, then a self-evaluation exam would help in avoiding future trouble. We need to ask ourselves:

Will my involvement with the subject affect my perception towards the story and will the viewer/reader's perception change if I decide to pursue the story?
If I support a certain organization or a candidate is it fair to report but show my inclination outside work?
Is it better to avoid a story having a potential conflict of interest?
Am I jeopardizing my company’s reputation?
Is it appropriate to report a story if there are personal beliefs (on religion and politics etc.) or relations with the subject?
Is it better to be open and transparent from the beginning about my involvement with the subject?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Media is dealing with changes

Lately it feels like media is busy assessing the changes it is going through. The news formats have shortened and perhaps it is because the sources to get that news are manifold. We are experiencing information overload. With the rise in new media like blogs, facebook, twitter etc the challenge is to bring news in the best consumable way. And sometimes the consumable format is a text alert.

Professional journalists and broadcast and publishing houses are no longer competing amongst each other. Today everyone is a writer, producer and publisher. Though professional standards are compromised more and more consumers prefer a balance of new and old media. For journalists it certainly is no excuse to reduce writing and reporting standards. Dumbing down the information is not the solution.

In the last five years media has seen a decline in the newspaper business and is busy reinventing itself. Traditional media is trying hard to bring the viewership/readership back and reach its prior monopoly. At the same time there is an urgent need to re-evaluate old school methods and join hands with new technology and parallel media.

I think the future holds a lot of innovation from the traditional media. It will be really sad to see newspapers going out of business. Not just newspapers but all other traditional platforms are going through a rough patch. The change has taken everyone by a storm. But overall we will see a new and improved face of media and hopefully it will be a balance between strong journalistic writing and reporting standards and multimedia technology.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A worthy innovation

At VCU’s Mass Comm Week I got a chance to get an inside look from the industry people. The fears attached to the job market in media (and elsewhere) are omnipresent, but overall the opportunities for fresh-out-of-college journalists are still plenty.

At one of the events Phil Hillard (on left) and Michael Terpak spoke on “Innovations for the newspaper business”. Hillard and Terpark recently graduated from VCU and currently are part of a young team in Media General’s publishing department. Their job involves using new technology to generate new areas of revenues.

According to the duo, coming up with innovative ideas to attract more business for publishing is not the only challenge. It’s tough hanging in there with the kind of bureaucracy involved in big companies like theirs. They felt that even though they were hired to bring in a fresh perceptive in publishing, the top management on most occasions wasn’t open to new ideas.

But one of their successes has been the classifieds for Tampa Tribune website. They enabled small businesses to come online and advertised their products and services with the freedom of choosing their own design and content. It helped the businesses in advertising for much less compared to the newspaper.

They are currently working on a, a website for individual and pre-packaged day trips. It provides travel businesses an online presence, a chance to advertise and different tools to connect with their customers. Again the pitch wasn’t easy for them. Firstly the top-level suits didn’t understand the concept. Their Interactive department saw this as a potential threat since this would take their business away.

I guess with the bad economy and deteriorating newspaper business such innovations can help save the newspapers for being extinct. Unaffiliated media and better technology are somewhere responsible the decline of newspapers and publishing media. But here’s a chance to use that very technology to bring a new and improved face of newspapers.
Here's what Phil Hillard and Michael Terpak predict.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

You, me and Youtube

There is an increasing amount of discussion on new media and its impact on daily life and social behavior. The Christian Science Monitor’s Cole Camplese wrote an interesting editorial on the evolution of the web.

He mentions a video - “Charlie bit my finger” on Youtube viewed by 53 million people. The funny thing is, it’s a home video of two kids having their cute moment. Camplese says, “The point of this new media landscape is to create something and share it with the world.” The web has formed a community that provides interactivity and communication, which was not possible before.

You don't need to be a big actor and A-list director to showcase your work. Charlie’s older cousin on Youtube would be this “Evolution of Dance” video having over one-hundred million views. That is a phenomenal figure for any broadcast medium.

Here’s a comedian giving a six-minute performance on evolution of dancing. For many such performers and artists, Youtube and similar others have provided an economical and quick road to fame. The relentless growth in new media probably indicates the importance of convenience. Convenience to produce and share videos that previously had a small circle of audience.

There is a fair and equal opportunity for every person to broadcast himself and expect a reaction. The individuals out there have formed a community which now is responsible for making and breaking trends.

Camplese sums it up in three sentences. "Today the Web landscape is dominated by blogs, wikis, and social networks. It is finally fulfilling its original promise of interaction, engagement, collaboration, and conversation. We are living through a media revolution that is set to explode this political season."