Audience (formerly), Home Page, JTM Findings, JTM News, Resources

An Open Letter to Journalists

It’s time for a new compact between Journalists and the Public.

We need you.  Your work is vital to the well-being of us all.  I can’t imagine a functional democracy without the passionate commitment journalists make to digging deeply into what matters.  It is a sacred trust and I thank you for doing it on our behalf.

If I – and others –believe that, why do so many of us seem hostile to the press?  Because we feel betrayed.  Where were you when we needed you?  Where were your warnings about the state of the economy?  About the lies of weapons of mass destruction?  About the many stories closer to home that affect our lives and well-being?  Did you miss the clues yourself? Did you know and not help us hear your messages?  How could you let us down?

If you don’t feel trusted, please understand that it is in part the corporation behind you that many of us don’t trust.  When my primary identity shifted from citizen to consumer something died.  You are not your corporation.  I don’t need them.  I need you.

Continue reading

Audience (formerly), JTM News, Projects, Seattle

Civic Communications Commons

This group proposes the development of a Civic Communications Commons (CCC) in Seattle and King County as a common civic infrastructure that connects virtual and face-to-face civic, community, and neighborhood spaces.

It’s proposal says:

“The CCC would be a common civic space in Seattle, growing from the many existing resources in neighborhoods, communities, the non-profit sector, government, and business. The Seattle Commons will be built by many hands with widespread ownership and responsibility.

“By envisioning the CCC as a ‘common civic space’ we mean, quite literally, the space in which members of a community do their work as participants in the public life of that community. This work includes:

  • The many small, informal, but important networks of everyday civic life (helping neighbors, building and maintaining community gardens, etc.) ;
  • The building and maintaining of “third-places” both on- and offline, and weaving the two together;
  • The civic work of young people, gathering and posting neighborhood and community stories, and building the commons itself;
  • The collaborative work of media: city- and county-wide, mainstream, public, and alternative; neighborhood, and micro-local to present a broad picture of the community and gather and disseminate the information necessary for public work;
  • The vital work of libraries as conveners, connectors, and providers of information and civic space;
  • Supporting grassroots participation by engaging and assisting lively community and neighborhood news and information centers.
  • Organization for a broad range of projects in urban design, arts, and culture;
  • Community members addressing and petitioning, but also collaborating with, government Continue reading
Audience (formerly), Business Models, Curriculum, Events, Home Page, JTM News, Seattle, Technology

What questions do you have?

The first full day of JTM/PNW was possibility day — a series of conversations about questions. Here are some of the topics:

  • Can open government online help sustain the new news ecology?
  • How can we create sustainable freelance in an increasingly decentralized newsroom?
  • What is possibility, solution journalism and how can I do it?
  • Do we respect the audience and, if so, how do we show it?
  • What can academia do for the “new news”?
  • How can journalists support community and remain fact-based, truth tellers?
  • How can we pay for city hall beat reporters and Olympia gavel-to-gavel coverage?
  • How can technology better serve journalism?
  • Can you survive the new “free” economy?
  • After the crash, how can we re-connect local audiences with journalism that isn’t hyper-local?
  • How is journalism different with the tool is a Wiki?
  • How do we ensure that the new news ecology is infused with diverse voices?
  • What should journalism be in the 21st Century? What should community be?
  • What aspects of traditional media journalism need to be preserved and what should be jettisoned?
  • Can issue advertising be leveraged to support new forms of issue journalism?
  • How can I sustain my local blog and sustain it as a business?

Today we move into anwsers.

Audience (formerly), Home Page, JTM News, Member News

In this corner, Journalism as Conversation

Submitted by Jay M. Young on Fri, 03/20/2009 – 11:46am

This is a gloves-off, newsroom style conversation from a JTM discussion group this week. The honesty is refreshing, the conversation is necessary and hopefully continues.

Jay

Maurreen Skowran

Mar 15, 2:53 am

1. My perception is that news organizations are relatively blind to journalism as conversation, that they make little or weak use of the interactivity available to them. They might offer it on their site to

other people, but it’s not very meaningful.

What do you think? Do you know of notable exceptions?

2. If there were a program, a college degree or what-have-you, other than or more-specific than JTM, to train people in journalism as conversation — designed to move the conversation forward, toward making connections in general and toward solutions in particular — what nonmedia compenents might it include?

Maybe stuff along the lines of interpersonal communications and applied sociology?

Tracy Record, WSB Editor

Mar 15, 3:19 am

Out here, though the P-I has had story comments for quite some time and the Times finally added them a couple months ago, neither allows reporters to freely participate in them. The P-I’s one “online” reporter has said that if she does want to comment – it has to go through an editor.

That is insanity. Sheer insanity. (One of the local weeklies, meantime, The Stranger, which has a lively “blog” format site called Slog, DOES interact in its comment threads, sometimes quite sassily, but of course, that’s their style.)

Some of our best interaction (besides the ongoing off-the-site e-mail) comes in comment threads. I tend to participate both in answering questions that “readers” raise about the stories – often questions I didn’t think of, no matter HOW thorough I thought I was being – and also in truth-squadding comments – someone might post “well, but that just goes to show it’ll happen to organizations with more than 700 employees” and I’ll say “actually, agency X has 450” that kind of thing.

I think it not only makes you better and makes your site better, it builds a relationship with your “readers.” And the lack of that kind of relationship seems to be one reason why more than a few citizens are going ho-hum over the departure of century-plus-standing news institutions, while they wax enthusiastic over some of us upstarts that have only been around single-digit total years.

I think more and more, people will EXPECT conversations with the places where they engage online. Not just with each other in the “peanut gallery” while The Journalist stays aloof out there somewhere. Although the reader-to-reader interaction can be great conversations too, as evidenced with our December snowstorm coverage, in which the “readers” started talking to each other in the comment threads re: bus status, road conditions, etc., stuff that I as the “journalist” couldn’t get from any official sources.

As a result … by the way … the county agency that manages our beleaguered, snow-challenged transit system, FINALLY got itself a blog and a Twitter feed before the last wave of snow earlier this month. (They also invited me up to chat with them after the first wave, when I said in some forum somewhere that I would love to offer feedback, and happened to catch the ears of the few that were already Twitter-savvy.)

Wandering but … news IS conversation … and it’s not just ABOUT the news … the conversation can BECOME the news. I’ve lost track of how many times new developments on stories are “broken” by people leaving comments about those stories. Such as – a week ago, a diver had a medical emergency of some sort. He was rushed off to the hospital. That is where the official information ended, because of privacy rules and because the authorities were no longer involved. A friend came to our site the next day and posted that the guy didn’t make it; we subsequently found long forum threads on the local diver forums about what had happened and what kind of amazing guy the person who died had been. (If you haven’t heard, as it looks toward what kind of future, if any, it has, the P-I has been experimenting with home-page links directly to other local news sources, including us, and that was one of the stories from our site to which it linked that day – so the

commenter on our site wound up informing the entire region of what ultimately happened with that story.)

If you don’t engage in the conversation or you ignore it, you are not just shortchanging yourself and your organization, but also your other “readers,” including the “lurkers” who never openly engage in the conversation but count on it being there for them to observe.

Tracy in W. Seattle

Maurreen Skowran

Mar 15, 3:34 am

That was my perception … on both ends.

I’ve generally thought news orgs treat their “community” areas more or less like a ghetto, but I didn’t have a lot of observation to back that up.

Orgs shouldn’t “try to build community.” They should work to inform, connect and foster the community that already exists.

I was at a small journalism conference a few months ago. I was amazed when the speaker said journalists at her paper were not allowed to interact in the comments portion of the site.

I once tried to respond to some comments about a story I wrote. But the registration was too bothersome.

This kind of thing is a loss on so many levels — missing engagement, transparency, acountability — trust and credibility and affinity — missing news — not just missing particular information, but losing the opportunity to move the real geographic community and conversation forward or together more.

Jay Young

Mar 15, 3:02 am

I think “relatively blind” is fair in most cases. Journalists by nature are independent people, and I’ve found organizations often work within a bubble. I think to encourage such discussion it takes

outsiders to overcome, or join, a few loud voices within that newsroom, and those outsiders would have to travel to newsrooms.

On Mar 15, 2:53 am, Maurreen Skowran <maurreenskow…@yahoo.com>

wrote:

Jay Young

Mar 15, 3:27 am

Journalism IS conversation. I like that. My former paper just decided it will no longer allow comments on stories online that involve private citizens on mostly private topics. I believe the reason is they just don’t want to put the resources toward monitoring those comments. I think approaches like that are leaving a huge door open for startups.

Ross Williams

Mar 16, 4:53 pm

What is the difference between journalism as conversation and a radio/TV talk show?

It seems to me that traditional journalists have not had to build and audience. That is what circulation managers did. Was their an interaction between the two? Yes. That was the publisher’s job along with the third and largest leg of that stool, the advertising department.

Any time a journalist spends interacting with their “audience” is time taken away from reporting. While a reporter might occasionally learn something from reading readers’ comments, most of what takes place in comments sections has little news value. When it does, the reporter is going to be better served by a private conversation with the reader than an online dialogue.

From the NYT Week in Review this week:

“in this new world it is easy to become addicted to the debate one stirs. The “most e-mailed” lists, the blogs, the online comments — these can tempt one to write what draws the most praise or at least the most “noise,” as Mr. Cohen put it. “You hear a great range of views about what you are writing, and some of those views can be exciting or interesting or lead you in new directions in terms of what you write and subjects you choose,” he said. “My hesitation is that this is a temptation to somehow write into that noise and stir it further and be in the noise because it’s fun being in it, which I think can be a distraction.”

In the 1990s, Mr. Cohen chronicled, in person, the horrors that accompanied Yugoslavia’s dissolution. Today, correspondents doing such work can find their time being sucked away by the profusion online of viewpoints and images and tweets from the scene, which multiply and demand attention. But keeping abreast of the Internet chatter is not the same as bearing witness. ”

My comment is, lets hope our new online news sources don’t just further confuse interest entertaining an audience with informing it.

Ross Williams

The Northern Community Internet

www.northerncommunityinternet.org

A project of Northern Community Radio (91.7 KAXE)

Tracy Record, WSB Editor

Mar 16, 5:05 pm

— On Mon, 3/16/09, Ross Williams <rosswilli…@advocacytechnologies.org> wrote:

> Any time a journalist spends interacting with their

> “audience” is time

> taken away from reporting.

=====

They are not an audience.

They are collaborators.

Doesn’t mean they’re doing the heavy lifting but they have great questions and information to offer … and their prism on the story can lead it in a much more insightful direction.

This is so much better a world than when story tips and “letters to the editor” were “submitted” and reviewed and perhaps round-filed. Than the day when the phone rang at the assignment desk in the newsroom and the overworked assignment editor rolled her eyes at yet another “member of the public” calling.

One-way media was wrong. And “letters to the editor” didn’t make it two-way. I look back on how pompous we were in conventional media to think that we knew best, and that our opinion was something so important that it needed to be shared in editorials and endorsements. I’m pretty radical about that. We seldom editorialize. The opinion on our site comes from our … not audience … collaborators.

And it’s not about “building” an audience. It’s about TRULY COLLABORATING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY, WORKING WITH AND FOR THEM. Nothing less. Not broadcasting “at” them, etc. I have been hugely passionate about this for years .. even to the point of coaching writing and speaking styles once I became a manager … telling broadcasters I supervised, don’t ever say “Good evening, EVERYONE” – people listen and watch and think as individuals, even if they are in a room with a group of people or an audience with thousands. You are speaking to/with ONE person. Think of it that way.

And now, they can speak to/with US, the media, in a timely way they never could before. So glad to be alive at this time and can’t wait to see what the coming years/decades bring. (I’m no spring chicken btw, 50 this fall. Summer chicken, maybe.)

TR in W. Seattle

Jane Stevens

Mar 16, 5:07 pm

For jurnos working in Webworld, there’s no such thing as “audience” anymore. There’s only community. Jurnos are in constant conversation with members of their communities as they do collaborative, serial reporting.

They never forget they’re journalists — they’re still fact-checkers, watchdogs, investigative reporters. And they never forget that they serve their communities.

Jane Ellen Stevens

ReJurno: http://www.rejurno.com

Fellow, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Associate faculty, Knight Digital Media Center

UCBerkeley Graduate School of Journalism

jstev…@mmjourno.com

707-495-1112

Ross Williams

Mar 16, 6:04 pm

“For jurnos working in Webworld, there’s no such thing as “audience” anymore.”

As a result, there is usually no such thing as a paycheck either.

Right?  I was referring to journalists  who got paid, largely from print advertising.

“They are not an audience.

They are collaborators.”

You can call them whatever you want. But if you really want them as collaborators, then treat them that way. Let them publish their stories on your website, unedited, alongside yours, instead of in a comments section. The reality is that “collaborators” or “audience”, there is little a reporter has to gain from initiating a dialogue with them.

“they have great questions and information to offer”

So do editors and fellow journalists and, most importantly, other sources that a reporter could be talking to instead of engaging readers online. No one is saying reporters should ignore online comments, suggestions, information. But there is little added by having someone who is paid to produce content largely for a print audience, spending a lot of time interacting with online readers.

“One-way media was wrong. And “letters to the editor” didn’t make it two-way.”

Well yes, they did make it two way. But online conversations aren’t bi-directional, they are multidimensional involving many people interacting with one another.

I have yet to see a reporter elicit better information from a forum than the “collaborators” elicit for themselves.  In most cases, interjection of the author into that conversation changes that multi-dimensional dialogue back into a two-way conversation between author and “collaborators”. “Collaborators” compete for the attention of the writer to validate their information, questions and opinions.

Far from broadening the conversation or providing better information, reporters injecting themselves into the conversation narrows it. Its really an effort to assert control and make themselves the center of attention.

Ross Williams

The Northern Community Internet

www.northerncommunityinternet.org

A project of Northern Community Radio (91.7 KAXE)

Jane Stevens

Mar 16, 6:12 pm

Many jurnos are making a living at this, from WestSeattleBlog to QuincyNews.org to BaristaNet, to MaxPreps and Marketwatch.

I’m sorry your experiences haven’t been as positive and expansive as mine or Tracy’s, or many of the other jurnos who are working this way.

Cheers, Jane

Jane Ellen Stevens

ReJurno: http://www.rejurno.com

Fellow, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Associate faculty, Knight Digital Media Center

UCBerkeley Graduate School of Journalism

jstev…@mmjourno.com

707-495-1112

Barry Parr

Mar 16, 6:19 pm

I can think of one reason why a editor or publisher may not want their reporters to participate in the “conversation” on their site.

On most newspaper websites, the comments are a stream of cranky rants.  And on “successful” news sites, these comments can number in the hundreds.

Any reporter that wades into that swamp could be lost for good.

I’ve been advocating the use of strong moderation and real identities on news sites for quite a while now. My sense is that most publishers are happy

to abandon the comments to the crazies, who seem to be getting more and more of their information from talk radio. Lately I’ve been discouraged by the potential for having any real conversations on news sites.

bp

Barry Parr

http://coastsider.com

http://mediasavvy.com

650.523.4929 phone

815.572.0794 fax

—————————————–

Tracy Record, WSB Editor

Mar 16, 6:29 pm

we have cranks, God knows. and we have had comment threads that stretched into the hundreds. you don’t have to be a big “newspaper” website for that.

however, one thing that mystifies me is why more sites don’t have a few rules. A couple around here – one daily and one weekly come immediately to mind – allow their comment threads to deteriorate into what I call “sewers,” and that’s being charitable.

We have just a few rules. Including no directly insulting somebody else in the discussion. “Criticize the comment (if you must), not the commenter.” And you can’t levy any criticism related to either the story or your fellow commenters based on traits with which people are born – size, sexual orientation, gender, race, for starters.

Our threads are not necessarily a world of enlightenment all the time but having a few rules makes a world of difference … TR

Jane Stevens

Mar 16, 6:30 pm

How are things going on Coastsider?

Jane Ellen Stevens

ReJurno: http://www.rejurno.com

Fellow, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Associate faculty, Knight Digital Media Center

UCBerkeley Graduate School of Journalism

jstev…@mmjourno.com

707-495-1112

Ross Williams

Mar 16, 8:05 pm

“WestSeattleBlog to QuincyNews.org to BaristaNet, to MaxPreps and Marketwatch”

That’s five … Many more aren’t.  And those five are all unique and they all appear a lot closer to drive time radio than a newspaper.

There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not a model for people trying to create news gathering organizations.

My understanding of Barista,net was that no one was actually making a living doing journalism for it. They have four part time employees,

including ad sales, and pay other people to do stories.  But that information may be out of date.

There are a lot of successful models out there that are foundation funded. Our Community Supported Journalism project is  paying a full time news editor and stringers to do stories. But that is grant funded and tied to a successful community radio station. www.MinnPost.com is very successful, with a large startup fund and lots of underwriting support from foundations. There is the community supported journalism model in Northfield Minnesota. You can find a lot of temporary successes out there, but none that have really established themselves.

“I’m sorry your experiences haven’t been as positive and expansive as mine or Tracy’s, or many of the other jurnos who are working this way.”

From your resume, your online journalism experience appears to be from the perspective of a Bay Area academic, not a full time online journalist or successful entrepreneur. Where you seem to be “expansive” is with your definition of making a living.  I appreciate the cheerleading for community journalists. But I doubt there are any established institutional models out there at this point. We ought to acknowledge that everything is an experiment to be learned from and pick it apart for ideas rather than holding it up as finished product to be emulated. Unless you are in the consulting business.

But the larger point I was making, was that journalists for newspapers have a job to do that is not significantly enhanced by interacting with people who comment on the newspaper’s web site. It might be interesting, but it doesn’t help them do their job which is to produce news for a newspaper where the readers may or may not ever see that online discussion.  Most online “journalists” have a different job, which includes building an audience for their web site.

You can tell newspapers that they ought to pay their reporters to spend time building the online audience, but that implies spending less time on producing stories for both the print and online products.

I suspect that reporter is going to be more productive spending that time out in the community reporting, rather than building an online community. And It certainly is not “insane” to think that.

Ross Williams

The Northern Community Internet

www.northerncommunityinternet.org

Tish Grier

Mar 16, 10:52 pm

— On Mon, 3/16/09, Barry Parr <ba…@parr.org> wrote:

> I’ve been advocating the use of strong moderation and

> real identities on

> news sites for quite a while now. My sense is that most

> publishers are happy

> to abandon the comments to the crazies….

I’m real big on moderation as well (not as much on people using real identities except for at registration–anonymity can be important)  And over the past  year or so I’ve been talking with various editors who either do moderation or are connected to policies made about moderation….

what it comes down to is this;  moderation doesn’t scale.  It takes a lot of staff to be able to moderate properly, even with filters.  And most newspapers  (and magazines) simply cannot afford the requisite amount of staff to comments in order to moderate properly….

So, we hear all sorts of stuff about how moderation doesn’t work, or that if they moderate they’re stifling free speech (I love that one) or that holding a comment for moderation would squash the immediate gratification that commenters need (how weird!)

Here’s a novel idea though:  pay to be part of the community.  If you value the conversation and want to be part of it, you have to pay a subscription.  This does make things more civil.  Who’s going to pay to insult others??  Another way is to have strict screening by community memebers, including email conversations first before being allowd to post.  But if there’s inadequate money for moderation, I don’t see this latter suggestion happening either.

So, conversation on news sites–esp. big ones connected to newspapers–will continue to lack in quality until moderation can be increased.

Tish

Tish Grier

Mar 16, 11:08 pm

Ross–you should talk with Debbie Galant of Baristanet, where they are doing quite well these days. I spent some time with Debbie over the summer, when she was on a panel I moderated at Blog World Expo, where she explained how they are making a pretty good go of things on the cash front these days.  It was a slow process that involved a lot of word of mouth marketing techniques and involvement in face to face community as well as online community.

One problem is that many people who build sites think that people will just come to the site–not thinking that they have to do some old-fashioned marketing to get the word out, for people to know who they are, etc.  For hyperlocals to work, they have to be very connected to community, and they have to do what any small businessperson would do to promote their business….

And then they need a good scoop or two…..

Now, there are exceptions that start on web and gain steam–probably because the community members are more “connected” than others. Seattle seems to be this way….

and no, there aren’t too many “established institutional models” right now–and it’s rather premature to be asking for them.  Yet, from what we’re seeing with the news business these days, the established institutional models aren’t really working all that well either.

Everything is in a state of flux.  it’s revolution time, whether we want it or not….

Within this revolution is the changing idea of community.  Online community can be just as important as f2f community, as the number of people using online sources for news grows.  This however doesn’t take away from the trouble with civility, trolls, and other disruptors.  For this we need good moderation.  But the cost of adequate moderation doesn’t scale in proportion to the number of comments coming in.  Newspapers cannot afford proper moderation or online community development.  So, the online communities are full of sturm und drang (to be polite about it)

When the money starts to appear for proper moderation, then the value of online communities on newspaper sites will grow.  But how and when that will happen is impossible to know, given the shape of current (institutional) business models.

Tish Grier

Chief Community Officer

Placeblogger.com

(go ahead–tear up my credentials.  I’m wearing asbestos jammies 😉 )

Ross Williams

Mar 16, 11:56 pm

“Debbie Galant of Baristanet, where they are doing quite well these days. I spent some time with Debbie over the summer, when she was on a panel I moderated at Blog World Expo, where she explained how they are making a pretty good go of things on the cash front these days” I haven’t talked to Debbie Galant, but from what I have read, Baristanet has  0 full time journalists on staff and Debbie’s primary role is selling advertising. They do pay for stories, but they don’t have anyone who is making a living as a journalist on staff. If that is accurate, then its fair to say they have learned some important lessons about what the priorities should be for staffing a startup site. Perhaps experience with advertising sales is more important than journalism skills.

” One problem is that many people who build sites think that people will just come to the site–not thinking that they have to do some old-fashioned marketing to get the word out, for people to know who they are, etc.  For hyperlocals to work, they have to be very connected to community, and they have to do what any small businessperson would do to promote their business….”

I think the larger problem is that a hyper-local website of any kind is not about technology or journalism, its about community organizing or small business development, depending on the model. There are going to be viral exceptions to that, but those are completely unrepeatable.

So someone who starts out enamored of playing with the latest technology or focused on being a journalist is going to have a rough go of it and are going to have to adapt a lot to be successful.

> And then they need a good scoop or two…..”

Where is the evidence that is an essential ingredient?  That is a genuine question. Should people be focusing their journalism efforts on breaking one big impressive story? I have not seen anything that would make that a general rule. To the contrary, most blogs and websites that are attracting audiences seem to put out a steady stream of useful stories that brings their audience back over and over again.

Rather than hitting a home run, they are getting lots of hits.

It seems to me what most sites need is a lot of contributors and there will never be enough money to pay all of them. That means building a base of people who are looking to find an audience and will contribute just for that opportunity. And the more audience you deliver the more content those folks will offer up.

“(go ahead–tear up my credentials.  I’m wearing asbestos jammies 😉 )”

Gladly. But where are your credentials? 🙂

Ross Williams

The Northern Community Internet

www.northerncommunityinternet.org

A project of Northern Community Radio (91.7 KAXE)

Porter Bayne

Mar 16, 6:40 pm

Echoing and extending Tracy’s comments on the need for rules.. I’d point to Clay Shirky’s lengthy essay and observations on what seems to make groups online work and fail.  He mentions that all successful groups (online; nations) have some form of constitution.

http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html

His *Three Things to Accept* and *Four Things to Design For* are pretty solid and worth chewing on (I’d suggest reading the whole thing):

*Three Things To Accept

*1.) You cannot completely separate technical and social issues.  (i.e. how

you design the system impacts how people can use it)

2.) Members are different than users. A pattern will arise in which there is

some group of users that cares more than average about the integrity and

success of the group as a whole. And that becomes your core group, Art

Kleiner’s phrase for “the group within the group that matters most.”

3.) The core group has rights that trump individual rights in some

situations.

*Four Things to Design For*

1.) Handles (identity) the user can *invest* in.

2.) Second … design a way for there to be members in good standing. Have

to design some way in which good works get recognized. The minimal way is,

posts appear with identity. You can do more sophisticated things like having

formal karma or “member since.”

3.) Three, you need barriers to participation. This is one of the things

that killed Usenet. You have to have some cost to either join or

participate, if not at the lowest level, then at higher levels. There needs

to be some kind of segmentation of capabilities.

4.) And, finally, you have to find a way to spare the group from scale.

Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way

conversations.

Cheers!

Porter

Maurreen Skowran

Mar 17, 1:26 am

I put the following in the wrong thread a little earlier. I have a lot on my mind.

I sometimes write for Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. This conversation is relevant to a piece in the works for that, whether by me or someone else. Partly as a courtesy and partly to make sure we could handle any potential traffic boost, I’d like to make sure it’s OK if this conversation is references in that piece.

I hope that makes some sense. Thanks.

Tish Grier

Mar 17, 8:40 am

— On Mon, 3/16/09, Ross Williams <rosswilli…@advocacytechnologies.org> wrote:

> I haven’t talked to Debbie Galant, but from what I have

> read,

> Baristanet has  0 full time journalists on staff and

> Debbie’s primary

> role is selling advertising. They do pay for stories, but

> they don’t

> have anyone who is making a living as a journalist on

> staff. If that

> is accurate, then its fair to say they have learned some

> important

> lessons about what the priorities should be for staffing a

> startup

> site. Perhaps experience with advertising sales is more

> important than

> journalism skills.

Do some research, Ross, rather than just continue making the same point on speculation.  While I don’t know if Debbie takes a salary (she has income from her books), Liz George does make a salary, and they now have another full-time staffer.  They’ve also expanded the site to include a couple of other special sections (food is one of them).  They’ve grown considerably since launch, and the money to do so isn’t coming out of their own pockets.

> I think the larger problem is that a hyper-local website of

> any kind

> is not about technology or journalism, its about community

> organizing

> or small business development, depending on the model.

> There are going

> to be viral exceptions to that, but those are completely

> unrepeatable.

> So someone who starts out enamored of playing with the

> latest

> technology or focused on being a journalist is going to

> have a rough

> go of it and are going to have to adapt a lot to be

> successful.

that’s pretty much what I said–it’s about community building and small business development.  Many folks starting hyperlocals these days are bringing a business sense into it.  Hyperlocal is growing considerably, and folks coming into it now are very different than a couple of years ago.

Models are different, often based on the business climate of the region.  If there are a lot of local businesses who understand the value of the Internet, it’s somewhat easier to get advertising.  If one lives in a region dominated by chain stores and malls, getting advertising is almost impossible.  As it is in areas where business owners do not understand where customer attention is shifting.

> > And then they need a good scoop or two…..”

> Where is the evidence that is an essential ingredient?

Something I learned from Debbie, and have seen first hand.  If a hyperlocal can get something over on the local dailies, then it begins to make a name for itself.

> That is a

> genuine question. Should people be focusing their

> journalism efforts

> on breaking one big impressive story? I have not seen

> anything that

> would make that a general rule. To the contrary, most blogs

> and

> websites that are attracting audiences seem to put out a

> steady stream

> of useful stories that brings their audience back over and

> over again.

> Rather than hitting a home run, they are getting lots of

> hits.

Nope.  As I’ve seen on my own blog, sometimes you have to get that one entry that puts you on the map.  then, you continue to put out content, and grow the audience you want.  I’ve been very strategic in the audience I’ve cultivated on my blog.  It may not be big, but it’s pretty influential.  And has helped me build a pretty solid career.

> Gladly. But where are your credentials? 🙂

Well, you know what community developers sometimes have to tell communities:  Don’t feed the trolls 😉

T.

tish

Tish Grier

Mar 17, 8:52 am

This is a fantastic essay, and one I always recommend when groups are looking to get into community building.  I’ve seen Shirky’s points happen over and over again in communities I’ve been part of over the years.  Human nature doesn’t change (or changes very slowly), and there’s always new people discovering online communities that the patterns of behavior are consistent.

Tish

Powers, Kathleen

Mar 17, 9:59 am

Watching you smart folks wrestle this, I’m wondering if we’re doing this

correctly.

Tish (Placeblogger.com), and myself (I’m in charge of a hyperlocal site

attached to a newspaper at http://www.wickedlocal.com/somerville/)

aren’t quite finished exhausting all “what-ifs” involved in putting

stuff online. I know I haven’t reached the end of my education there —

I still don’t know what a just-starting marketing campaign will do for

my traffic, nor do I know what the next round of citizen-experts I’m

recruiting to write will do for me. I’ll report back once I know.

Meanwhile, Ross Williams (www.northerncommunityinternet.org) has to

wonder how we’re going to pay for the folks to cover the mayors,

governors and foreign wars.

I was on a panel last night where it seemed the stuff I am doing, and

what folks like Tish are doing, is cause for some happiness, but we

don’t have to pay for an office in Baghdad. But we also don’t have to

figure out how to fund a newsroom of 20 reporters — I don’t know how

folks like Ross are going to figure out how to do that, but I wish him

the best of luck.

I have a little site associated with that little paper, and I get to

produce a small but “steady stream of useful stories that brings their

audience back over and over again.” I can’t pay all my contributors who

write on politics and arts and schools, but I can give them a central

place where they can discuss their ideas in our wonderful city.

I hope you figure out a way to pay for journalism Ross, along the scale

of what used to exist in city newsrooms. I only had a glance of that

sort of scale early in my career. I hope you figure out the way to do

it, so I can pay my contributors a fraction of what they’re worth to me

and to the Democracy in my city.

Aldon Hynes

Mar 17, 12:48 pm

I must admit I come at this from the perhaps a radical perspective.  Do we

need to pay for people to cover the mayors, governors and foreign wars?  For

foreign coverage, I get my news from Twitter, from Global Voices, and from

friendships I’ve struck up with people around the world.  It seems like I’m

getting better coverage this way than much of the traditional media.  The

same applies to people covering local and state events.

Yes, I feel sorry for some good friends who used to work in traditional

media who have lost their jobs.  I hope they find new and better jobs.  Yes,

I worry about the quality of coverage that volunteer journalists produce and

I am glad to see efforts that are being made to help train volunteer

journalists to higher standards.  Yes, I worry about distribution to people

that are not online, but I am busy trying to get more people to use tools

like public access television to broaden the audience.

So, what do we REALLY need to get the best quality of journalism in the

twenty first century?

Aldon

G. Patton Hughes

Mar 17, 6:10 pm

>>> And then they need a good scoop or two…..”

>> Where is the evidence that is an essential ingredient?

> I thought I might provide a little evidence to back up the notion that

> scoops – NEWS – makes a difference.  I’ll simply recall the first year

> of Paulding.com’s history and annotate the results. Note specifically

> April and May of 04.

Here is a graph of registrations.

Graph shows registrations for first year on paulding.com

August ’03 … previous board registrations (360) were emailed an

invited to join ‘new’ site. About 1 in 10 came back (and there were a

good number of bounces). (35 registrations)

Sept. 03:  First month of  intro promotion “Paulding’s Most popular” (83

registrations)

October 03:  Ending month for Paulding’s most popular contest. (Winner

got $1000 for their favorite charity, second got $500 and third, fourth

and fifth places got $250 ea. donated to their favorite charities. Used

the ‘contestants’ as good will ambassadors to recruit members to vote on

the site. Registration required to vote.)

November 03:  Just coverage and community kind of coming together. (261

registrations)

December 03:  Coverage of High School Football team going to state

semi-finals covered with video. (57 registrations)

January 04:  Got story on 5 D (Metro Section) with photo in AJC on

January 11 … which drove registrations for that month. (260

registrations)

February 04: Purchased ad in “Planning for Paulding” recruitment piece

mailed to 32000 households.(156 registrations)

March 04: Had been doing daily ‘news’ since January and buzz beginning.

(136 registrations)

April 04:  Led three of four TV station news on April 7, 2004 (a slow

news day) at 11 with video credited to Paulding.com. I knew the video

existed because I heard a rumor on the site that a kid had been kicked

out of school for having a gun on a bus and that the evidence was a

video taken by another teen, who was also expelled.   As the case was

adjudicated and the Juvenile Court Judge was quite upset with the 15

year old boy who was playing with the gun on a school bus in an

afternoon sports program, she made it available. (Registrations

doubled). (306 registrations)

May and June 04:  Site offered the communities best ‘look’ at several

contentious local races (Sheriff, Commission Chairman, Post

Commissioner, Magistrate Judge, etc.) by providing ‘public poll’ for

political primary races.   Had a couple of candidates, including one

running for sherriff and State Senator sit for live IRC-type online

‘chat’ interviews.  (582 and 385 registrations) leading into actual

election on ~ July 15.

July and August 04:  ( 295 and 324 registrations)  Result of good buzz.

For instance, we had local election results and, if memory serves, had

over 400 people online checking results.  Election nights are a

tradition with now easily over 600 average users every 10 minutes with

constant churn.  Election days typically will show 14,000+ visits.

Overall the scoops – particularly of the gun on bus story, provided good

buzz in the community and ended the first year with 2965 registered

members – an average of over 240 new members a month … a rate we’ve

maintained since.

Notably, that May 04 registration total is a site record although we

have come close  to the 582. That too, was news driven as we recorded

576 new registrations in January 07 after three teens died in an tragic

auto accident.

Indeed, I can point to the ebb and flow of registrations over the 75

months we’ve been in business and tie high-registration to events with

high news interest.  FYI: The topics are archived and due to a hacker

who destroyed the posting account, many of the posts in the archives are

broken.  The video will play from here:

I think it is also important to remember that registrations are largely

cumulative.

On another thread in this discussion, let me suggest that if you haven’t

read it, you should pick up a copy of the Cluetrain Manifesto.  While

I’m perfectly comfortable saying that “news is a conversation” the

authors of that  book (popular in the Internet boom) were known for

saying that ‘markets are conversations.’

I’ve found it helpful, in getting over my shame of hosting 400+ daily

conversations (we’re over 2.6 million posts in 200,000 topics) about

things from the latest dollar-off coupon to unfounded rumors that a kid

took a gun to school, to think of the inanity and breadth of the

conversation as being akin to walking around in a news room hearing this

writer bitch about that source or that reporter complain about the

company’s management to the proud father and the editor taking about

parenthood while the police scanner wails in the background.

By making news a conversation you pull back the curtain and invite

thousands to participate with what is going on in the newsroom – and by

extension, the local community, state and world. If you listen closely

in any newsroom, you’ll hear talk about gardens and dogs poop … all

mixed in with real stories on real issues.

Now, imagine the roar in background if you had 5000 people milling

around in your newsroom instead of 50.

It is unsettling for most who prize order above most other things. Yes,

it is true, with that many warm bodies you won’t get 100 times the news

from this unruly crowd but you will get two or three times the news at

no increase in cost.  Of course there is another cost you will have to

put up with which is 5000 times the chatter.   I recommend you embrace

that chatter and sell banner ads on the pages they appear.  I do.

GP Hughes

Tish Grier

Mar 18, 11:21 am

Aldon:  not everyone has the time to get their news from sources like GVO, or even from friends.  You’re definitely an “early adopter” there, and someone who’s a real “news junkie” (so to say.)  Things should be easier for others who aren’t so inclined….

Therefore, we still need trained people to cover these things–but that we don’t need a cadre of editors correcting grammar, spell-checking and the like.  There may be a need for a researcher or two to check facts, but reporters should be better writers.

When I started writing, I was told, unequivocally, that I’d have to be perfect in my spelling and grammar or no editor would ever look at anything I wrote. I did not have a chance as a writer if I wasn’t a perfect amateur.  Why does that standard of perfection not apply to professionals? Why is it that professionals can turn crappy copy over to editors who make them look really, really good? (Is it the college degree???) The journalism community loves to kvetch about the inaccuracies, bad spelling, and awful grammar of bloggers, but never bothers to admit to an army of support folks who make their work look professional.

It’s the tremendous level of support staff (12 editors for one article in WaPo!) that, for better or worse, needs to be leaner and meaner.  We’ll have the money, and the best quality, when the bloated big heads who need the army of editors to make them look good, and who hate to interact with “the peasants” are out of the picture.

Best,

Tish

Aldon Hynes

Mar 18, 4:05 pm

Tish, et al.

I recognize my role as an early adopter and understand that many people

don’t currently approach the news the way I do.  However, I wanted to

present my approach to news to question some underlying assumptions.

For example, one underlying assumption that seems to be embedded in the

discussion is that while the style of reporting used for hyperlocal online

sites might be a viable model for hyperlocal news, it isn’t viable for

covering large cities, states or foreign news.  I question that assumption.

It seems as if you are questioning another set of assumptions about the

writing and editting process itself.  I think it these are some other good

assumptions that should be questioned and explored.

I wonder what other assumptions people have about the news process that

should also be questioned.

Aldon

John Campbell

Mar 18, 2:58 pm

Tish Grier wrote:

>  The journalism community loves to kvetch about the inaccuracies, bad

> spelling, and awful grammar of bloggers, but never bothers to admit to

> an army of support folks who make their work look professional.

Bothers? Admit? As a buck private in that army, I’d love for them to

brag about my work, but I knew when I enlisted that only my mistakes

would be noticed.  The powers that be might ignore my good work, but

they would not go out their way to pretend it does not happen. That

professional look is a selling point,  and readers care even less than

my bosses do what happens behind the scenes to effect that

professionalism.

> It’s the tremendous level of support staff (12 editors for one article

> in WaPo!) that, for better or worse, needs to be leaner and meaner.

It is leaner, for better or for worse, but mostly for worse.

I don’t know about meaner, but I can do my part.

WaPo aside, one article aside, out in the wider world, two dozen eyes

on a story was a luxury even in the good old days.  Will readers notice

stories getting two reads rather than four or six? We shall see.

John Campbell

Copy editor

Jay Young

Mar 17, 5:24 am

This entire thread should be saved and published. I think it really

shows the status of the industry.

I think there’s a lot to be gained by having paid people interact with

customers. As a former city editor, I know there is a crucial customer

satisfaction aspect to this, and while there is 99 minutes of stuff –

there’s one minute that can make or break a project. There are too

many reporters in this world interested in rubbing elbows with

sources, while the actual person they’re supposed to represent is

ignored – these are the people in these forums.

As far as not making money, that’s exactly where I’m at right now. I’m

a journalist – I write stories about people who make a living off

taxpayer money in the from of earmarks and grants and I’m really am

not interested in becoming a recipient. Journalists must produce

something unique that people want – and something that can be marketed

at least statewide. Only then will people read the material and create

that community on that site. When was the last time a journalist had

to do that? Most are allowed to duplicate the work of other media

(cover the same stuff) while the obits and comics bring in the readers

and cover the costs of journalism that doesn’t matter.

Beyond the delivery and business model problem – the products/stories

need improved to relate to those forums posters.

**********************

COMMENT

I found this thread so

Submitted by Liz (not verified) on Sun, 03/22/2009 – 6:34am.

I found this thread so interesting to read, especially the repeated mention of “making a living as a journalist.” Debbie Galant and I, as co-owners of Baristanet, both enjoy income from the site. We also pay 7-8 people to do various jobs for the site, from tech work, site maintenance, design, photos, and writing and reporting. The growth of the site continues to surprise and delight us, both as being part of a new kind of journalism and as owners of a business which is thriving in spite of the recession. I think we are on to something and so we will continue, while other folks debate about making a living as a journalist. The longer folks take to figure that out, the better the playing field for start ups like ours with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to embrace new media and be open to its possibilities, rather than holding on to something that’s slipping away.