I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.


Posts tagged journalism

Buzzfeed Bans the Negative Book Review 

Bob Garfield writes:

The estimable online publication BuzzFeed has changed the rules of critical engagement. All I can say is “Bravo!”

At least, if I were writing book reviews for BuzzFeed that’s all I could say, because at BuzzFeed there is no room in the literary criticism section for, you know, criticism. Finally, in an online world of gratuitous snark, one courageous editor has displayed the vision to give thumbs down to thumbs down. You read that right: no negative reviews.

“Why waste breath talking smack about something?” the recently hired book editor Isaac Fitzgerald rhetorically wondered in an interview with the Poynter Institute. “You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.”

I agree that unwarranted negativity isn’t good. But I disagree that all negativity is unwarranted.

Senate Panel Approves Definition Of ‘Journalist’ 

Talking Points Memo has the details:

The vote was 13-5 for a compromise defining a “covered journalist” as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.

Please define “entity that disseminates news or information.”

Using OS X’s definition of entity as, “a thing with distinct and independent existence”, I challenge you to specify something which is *not* an “entity that disseminates news or information.”

Media Analysis: Measles Outbreak Traced to Anti-Vaccine Church

An astounding story that should be part of the national conversation regarding vaccines. Seems straight forward.

However, USA Today doesn’t mention the church’s stance on vaccines until the 13th paragraph. Gawker, on the other hand, essentially reblogs the USA Today piece but moves the pastor’s anti-vaccine stance to the headline.

Fortune is Now Selling Content to Brands 

Fortune is launching “Trusted Original Content”, Fortune-brended editorial content for marketers to purchase for $250,000 to $1 million. Certainly, this raises some questions:

Yet creating content expressly for an advertiser creates other questions for editorial, particularly at a prestige title. That’s why Fortune insists TOC would keep church-and-state separation—clients would agree on the topic and how the material is distributed but wouldn’t see the content until it’s ready to run. Like any piece of editorial, TOC content goes through the normal Fortune editing process, and editors have the final say over it. And Fortune TOC is likely to rely on trusted freelancers, which will keep its staff writers far away from the process. “Nothing we’re doing is compromising editorial integrity,” Caine said.

Now I’m all for advertising innovation and believe the wall between business and editorial can’t stay standing for long, but this seems pretty questionable. If nothing is “compromising editorial integrity” why limit this to freelancers?

Further, brands won’t have editorial power, but Fortune staff certainly has incentive to not write something that will encourage additional clients! The editorial power isn’t explicit, but present in the implicit form of future cash.

(Via AdWeek)

Denton Twists the Knife 

We’ve always prided ourselves on saving young talent from the spirit-dulling indoctrination of journalism schools and genteel media companies — and the conventional thinking, cosiness with sources and addiction to junkets that often go with them.

This personnel policy has paid off, never more dramatically than this week. Jack Dickey — one of the Deadspin reporters who exposed the hoax of Manti Teo’s dead girlfriend — is a senior at Columbia.

The Deadspin exclusive shows what can be done by young journalists who don’t know better. There is another reason for this reminder. Newspapers and magazines — their ranks clogged by veterans with nowhere else to go — are not hiring. We are recruiting — and we value raw talent and attitude over the long resume — in not only Editorial but also our Technology, Advertising, and Operations teams.

Emphasis mine. (Via Gawker)

But there’s a big distinction between trending content and breaking news. While Twitter’s Turks will help bring much-needed context to the platform, they’re not journalists who verify whether something is true. As we’ve seen with the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Superstorm Sandy, Twitter rumors ran rampant. Some rumors turned out to be true, but many were inaccurate or even malicious. Some were important, others were trivial.

Breaking News on “Why Twitter’s army of ‘Mechanical Turks’ will not conquer breaking news”

All of this would be so much clearer if we stopped using the word “journalism”.

Journalism is comprised of three distinct talents or activities: reporting, fact-checking, and editorial or storytelling. To understand how technology is affecting news you have to evaluate how technology impacts each of these activities.

Reporting is commoditized, especially with regard to Twitter. Everyone is a reporter. The first person on-site is never a “Journalist” but a local with a smartphone. Journalists should accept that reporting is now distributed, that we don’t need someone with a j-school degree in every location (at least at first), and that the rise of smartphones has won. You can’t out-cover Twitter and Instagram and it will cost you a too much to try. (Side note: there are no “citizen journalists”, just “citizen reporters”. It’s am important difference.)

Fact checking and editorial should be left to the pros. Breaking News is right that fact checking cannot be easily distributed. But it should be noted that the crowd is relied upon constantly for reporting (especially by Breaking News).

Journalism is great example of a job that might appear obsolete or commoditized, but in reality only a part of it is. If such distinctions aren’t recognized the baby will be inevitably thrown out with the bathwater.

Who says journalism is dead? Not “Person,” that’s for sure. (Via @BradPlumer)

10 years ago, food writers with staff jobs were able to earn $80,000 to $150,000 a year, and freelancers were regularly paid $2 a word; today, these jobs barely exist… Online, $35,000 to $60,000 a year and $.25 to $.75 a word is more like it… And the real problem with these figures is that they’re static – you don’t start at $40,000 and work your way up to $80,000. You either happily stay at $40,000, or leave and let the next young, bright writer take your spot. This $40,000 also comes with many fewer perks – no expense accounts and little travel budget. In 1998, the New York Times sent me to France for two weeks to find some stories. Today, this would be unimaginable.

Advice for Future Food Writers - an article from Food52 (via felixsalmon)

A tale of over-supply, if there ever was one.

(via felixsalmon)

She then spent the next several minutes discussing Cosmo’s “brand extensions”— Cosmo Radio, Cosmo for Guys iPad app, books, e-books among them — and said, proudly, “My guess is we have the most number of the brand extensions in the company.”

This article about editors turning into brand managers is utterly depressing.

Media is evolving and cross-platform publishing is a must, but does the editor of Bon Appétit really need to be hawking branded cookware on HSN? Such behavior seems like a short-term monetization of the publication’s voice. Good luck with that. (Via WWD.com)

Newspapers’ Depressing Digital Efforts

Pew Research’s Project for Excellence in Journalism just released “The Search for a New Business Model”, a new study “which combines detailed proprietary data from individual newspapers with in-depth interviews at more than a dozen major media companies” in order to understand how newspapers are digitally innovating or otherwise trying to stymie their rapidly disappearing print revenues.

It’s not pretty. Reading the report is like watching someone with a headwound fumble for tiny bandaids in the dark.

Here’s the narrative I walked away with:

  • Digital revenues aren’t even close to covering print losses. For every $11 in print revenue, papers brought in $1 in digital revenue. Put a more depressing way: for every $1 gained in digital $7 are lost in print revenue.
  • Newspapers don’t know how to sell digital advertising. Papers are barely selling targeted advertising. Instead, they choose (or only know how) to sell discrete display advertising campaigns. Such campaigns cannot scale to the scale of their audience and reduce the value of digital sales efforts by a factor or two.
  • Newspapers are unable to hire digital talent. The majority of executives said it’s almost impossible to hire digitally fluent sales people, due to newspapers’ bad digital repuations. Further, even if they can hire digital talent they haven’t figured out how to integrate digital sales people with their traditional sales personnel.
  • Newspapers don’t want to think about digital. A surveyed executive worries that they spend too much time working on digital, “We spend 90% of our time talking about 10% of our revenue.” A number of executives expressed concern that they have “too many people-whether it be in the newsroom, the boardroom or on the sales staff-who were too attached to the old way of doing things.”

Based on this report, I’d wager a large chunk of these businesses will die before they change.

Which would you rather be: a business with 100,000 print subscribers (which is the high-end of those surveyed) or a digital-only news startup with $100,000?

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