Love this one. Hey, ONA! *waves*
Check out this amazing ad by the Guardian which reimagines the story of the Three Little Pigs and highlights how people interact with and create the news today.
In this week’s column Gene Weingarten criticizes ONA’s annual conference (ONA11) held last month in Boston, asserting that the main message of the conference was around attracting reader eyeballs, ridiculing journalists’ focus on branding, and chastising the selection of Ben Huh as a keynote.
Now it’s our turn. Where do you stand in this debate? Give us your thoughts in comments/reblogs or submit your own response for publication on ONA Issues here."
Let me come right out and say this at the beginning: I’m a big fan of The Fluff. Stories that some journalists typically deride as “fluff” are, in my view, the things that create the community around the tough stories.
The fact that Weingarten is willing to kill column inches on a conference that the readers have never heard of and wouldn’t go to if they had is symptomatic of the general failure of the news industry to pay attention to things that are actually important to the public at large. If Bob Niles is right when he says that every street protest is a failure of journalism then perhaps Weingarten should refrain from writing such columns and take the Metro to Occupy DC, or perhaps look into the rising cost of college.
Those “big issues” and fluff go hand in hand in another way: it has become increasingly hard for ordinary Americans to live — to have a job, someplace to live, enough security to consider starting a family or getting an education. Yet, many media organizations pay only scattershot attention to those issues, and at the same time express the most rank kind of snobbery about the kinds of things people who are having a hard day, one day after another with no hope of change — would like to see, hear and read as a way to cheer up and keep going in lives where they don’t get paid to write newspaper columns.
More than 1,000 people were on the attendee list for last weekend’s Online News Association convention in Boston, according to a list the organizers graciously released.
The data weren’t perfect. Only about 3 in 4 attendees listed their home cities. Of them, about 650 were from the United…
On the hunt for the next project
After launching Journalism Conference Bingo at ONA11, I’m on the hunt for my next development project — I have to find an idea that I love, at a difficulty level that will challenge me (yet isn’t impossible).
It’ll come. My ideas are like the subway: there’ll be another one along in five minutes.
Adventures in Coding
So as the Online News Association annual conference gets underway, I’m busily coding away on Journalism Conference Bingo, my example app for my summer project — this summer I spent eight weeks trying to get good enough to write a simple app like this one…so it worked *insert evil-genius cackle here*
- Today I cleaned up the CSS and made it look a lot less like 1998.
- The app, as simple as it is, has plenty of reach: it’s been tweeted by people whose collective follower count is over 150,000 (okay, 50,000 of those are Jeff Jarvis’ followers).
- As it stands now, the app HAS NO DATABASE. Nope! Nuttin’! It actually pulls the names of the squares from a simple flat file.
- I’d love to add a database-driven feature — for example, a user could select what session they’re in, and then we’d end up with a list of sessions where users “won” Journalism Conference Bingo.
- If I get wildly productive — and progress in these parts is very patchy; sometimes things Just Work and other times There Is Much Frustration — I’ll figure out a way to connect the app to either FB or Twitter.
- I also had a major breakthrough this week — I learned how to use a source code repository! I’ll talk more about what that is and why it’s important in a future entry. For now, you can take a look at the source code I’ve written here.
Not bad for all in a weekend! And that’s the idea — to get good enough to toss off a simple app in a weekend. I figure if I keep doing it, I’ll get to the point where I’m doing more sophisticated (and perhaps more serious) stuff.
I think it’s a good idea to show your work, so you can check out the source code for Journalism Conference Bingo on Github.
Principia Mathematica Journalistica
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “Oh, I’m not a numbers person” or “I don’t like math — that’s why I’m a journalist.” Unfortunately, I used to agree with that sentiment, but for the past few years it’s annoyed the heck out of me.
Let’s gather some folks of various backgrounds and inclinations (or disinclinations) toward math and compile a list of the most important concepts and skills with the aim of increasing journalistic numeracy.
Greg Linch didn’t like math in grade school (except sometimes). Now he kicks himself and wants to learn more practical and applied math concepts.
His partner in crime for this session is Daniel Bachhuber, who owned his AP calc test, but doesn’t do math anymore.
Photo via Images_of_Money on Flickr.
#JCARN: In a shifting landscape, what should journalism awards encourage?
This month’s Carnival of Journalism asks a simple question:
“What is good? In the changing landscape of journalism, what qualities should the winner of an Online Journalism Award embody?”
First, a disclosure: I’m a judge for the Online Journalism Awards. I asked this question because it’s time for me to start judging entries again. On the #JCARN mailing list, we got all kinds of responses, including “has a viable business model behind it” to “nothing — it should reward the same qualities as journalism done in traditional media” to many ideas about community engagement, use of the online medium, etc.
I was also a judge last year and it’s one of the most illuminating things I’ve ever done, because I realized as I was doing it that what “good” meant was changing. The kind of entry that would win an Online Journalism Award exemplified different virtues than, say, that of a Pulitzer winner.
Apart from journalistic excellence (was the story hard to get? was it significant? did it spur action? ) these are the qualities I personally look for:
- Growth. Does this story/package/site show a kind of work that the organization has not done in the past? (Many people say that we should reward innovation and risk taking, but that seems a bit vague to me. This is my proxy for innovation and risk).
- Is it ambitious? Are they trying to do something that hasn’t been done before?
- Is it doing things online that could not be done in a traditional medium (broadcast or print)? I’m thinking of crowdsourcing efforts, or news that’s part of a disaster response here — things that couldn’t be packaged in print or as part of a TV or radio show.
- Do they show vivid and lively engagement? Or are there zero comments and no @replies to tweets?
- Punching out of their weight class. I am particularly interested in small and new journalism startups, and in previous years I’ve judged categories for small and micro sites. Size categories (“Best large site,” “Best small site,”) are based on traffic. In recent years, that’s created an odd situation where small sites like Oakland Local are competing directly against ProPublica because they’re in the same class as far as monthly traffic. I do take into account what you might call “bang for the buck,” that is, I’m impressed by small sites doing a lot with limited resources. One of the themes in my thinking about journalism is “The Future is Small,” that is, journalism’s future is about smaller and smaller organizations doing bigger and bigger things; ambitious work won’t be limited to large newsrooms but will become the province of all newsrooms, even very small ones.
- Justice and delight. Does the piece motivate us to care passionately about fairness? Does it show the kind of nimble expressiveness that is the hallmark of a journalist (or team) that is truly “in the zone” — dominating a story, going back and forth throughout the day online to add, amend, and talk to The People Formerly Known as the Audience?
Perhaps it’s worth talking about factors that don’t influence me as much, too.
- Design. It’s great if a site is pretty, but I’m much more impressed by a site like West Seattle Blog, which doesn’t have a sophisticated design but does have high volume of content, traffic, and a highly engaged community that pumps the comments on stories into the triple digits on a regular basis. (There are some categories, of course, where design truly IS important, as with infographics).
- Pedigree. I give The Washington Post and an online outlet I’d never heard of before exactly the same attention.
But what about money, or traffic, or popularity? Some of our on-list discussion said that the OJA’s shouldn’t reward good work that had no visible business model.
To me, judging a journalism contest based on how successful the organization is at making money makes me feel a little squeamish. It feels wrong. And, really, with the endorsement of all those dead presidents, what do they need my endorsement for?
The qualities that make an entry go up in my estimation do have something to do with money, however. I encourage them because I think they’re adaptive: I think organizations whose products show these qualities are more likely to survive, and individual reporters whose work show these qualities are more likely to thrive, grow, and stay in the profession they love.
[For more writing about journalism, check out the Carnival of Journalism. And, since you’re here, this is my blog about my project of teaching myself to program in order to build news apps. If that’s of interest, put up your feet and stay awhile.]
There are only three more days to enter for the Online Journalism Awards. Little known facts: people who would win if they entered don’t. Some categories are very thinly populated. If you’ve got a great site, a great online community gathered around an issue of public importance, if you did a kickass infographic, for the Love Of All That is Interwebz, willya please please please apply?
Disclosure: I’m a judge this year. I want crazy, off-the-wall, gonzo applications to argue with the other judges about. Help a sister out, huh?
“The Online News Association will host a full day of digital journalism training and workshops at the Tivoli Student Center on the Auraria Campus in Denver on June 23, 2011. Our community partners include: The Colorado Pro Chapter of SPJ, the student SPJ chapter at Auraria Campus, Colorado Public News, and Kapost.
Registration is $5 to cover the cost of lunch. Details on programming are available below.”