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Nov 11 / King Kaufman

NYU professor Jay Rosen’s roadmap for understanding the media landscape

Want a roadmap to understanding the rapidly changing world of journalism and media? You might want to read Jay Rosen’s post at his PressThink site: How to be literate in what’s changing in journalism.

Rosen is an NYU journalism professor and one of the sharpest media critics in the U.S. The list consists of “the main currents and trends” that he expects students in his “digital thinking” class to master by the end of the term.

He clarifies in the comments that the list is not about the skills one needs to have to land good jobs in the ever-changing media:

That’s worth doing. But that’s not what I am doing here.

The focus is not on “skills” but on “forces.”

I am starting in a different place: what’s changing in journalism, and what is forcing change by looming ever larger in the calculations of those trying to build a 21st century news operation?

I want my students to understand those things, first.

The concepts range from social media and the rapid shift to mobile devices to thinking of news as a product or service to “robot journalism” to … well, that ranging from X to Y to Z phrasing never works out for me because I never know if, in this case, “creating an agile culture in newsrooms” is within the range of “the personal franchise model in news” and “analytics in news production” or outside of it.

But the point is, it’s a wide-ranging list, and Rosen helpfully provides links for more reading on each concept. Worth your time.

Nov 10 / King Kaufman

Social media for more than just promotion: 15 tips for journalists

Cordelia Hebblethwaite points out in her Twitter bio that her delightful name is too long for the platform. But that hasn’t stopped the veteran journalist from knowing a thing or two about social media.

She was a founder and lead blogger for BBC Trending, the service’s blog covering stories trending on social media, and she’s doing a yearlong fellowship at Stanford where she’s “exploring how journalists can exploit the full potential of social media.”

That’s according to the bio on a piece she wrote for the International Journalists’ Network headlined “15 tools to help journalists navigate social media.” Hebblethwaite writes:

Journalists are used to promoting their work on social media. But there’s also lots of scope for journalists to use social media as a reporting tool—to find stories, for newsgathering, research, finding interviewees and more.

But where to start? At a recent presentation I gave in Italy, I included a slide on this, and noted a lot of furious scribbling. There’s clearly appetite for this. So here’s a list of tips and tools that I find useful.

As the headline promises, she lists 15 of them, ranging from the familiar, like LinkedIn and Twitter lists, to, well, the unfamiliar. At least to me. I’ve never heard of CrowdTangle or GramFeed.

I’d also never heard of Nuzzel before reading Hebblethwaite’s piece, but it’s quickly become a favorite site. It filters your social media feeds to show you the stories that are being shared by your friends. Here’s my public feed, which is to say the stories being shared by the people I follow. Not surprisingly, it’s a list of stories I find interesting.

As a reminder, Bleacher Report last week posted its new Social Media Guidelines.

Nov 3 / King Kaufman

Bleacher Report’s new Social Media Guidelines

Social media is an important tool. We talk a lot on this blog about the different ways you can use social media for discovery, curation, reporting, brand-building and to enhance your stories.

We also talk about best practices to avoid running into various kinds of trouble. As with any tool that can be used for good, social media can also be a source of pain.

Bleacher Report has posted new Social Media Guidelines, a guide for writers to get the most out of social media without running into trouble. The introduction puts it well: “Given the razor-thin margin between success and failure in the sportswriting business, you can’t afford to forgo the upside dividends any more than you can afford to pay the downside price.”

The guidelines take the form of laying out “4 Habits of Highly Effective Social Operators.” Here they are:

  1. Anticipate Every Risk
  2. Explore Every Opportunity
  3. Follow Every Rule
  4. Earn Every Follower

I don’t want to get into the details here because I’m hoping you’ll take the few minutes required to go read the guidelines.

* * *

Note: The B/R Blog will be on hiatus until Nov. 10.

Oct 31 / King Kaufman

A visit to the SEC to talk about B/R’s advanced educational programs

I’ll be on the road next week in SEC country, so after a post on Monday the B/R Blog will be quiet.

I’ll be visiting journalism programs at the Universities of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana State. If you’re in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Oxford or Baton Rouge, in that daily order starting Monday, look for me on campus. Let my Twitter feed be your guide. I’m hoping to add another school on Friday.

What I’ll be talking about, aside from Bleacher Report and sports media in general, is B/R’s two educational programs, the Advanced Program in Sports Media, which focuses on writing, and the Advanced Program in Editing and Content Management, which I think is self-explanatory.

The APSM and the APECM are paid, part-time, 12-week programs to which students may telecommute. Bleacher Report hires quite a bit out of both. I think they both represent a great opportunity for advanced journalism students and early-career pros, and I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of the former across the Southeast.

Oct 30 / King Kaufman

Storyful: Applying “traditional journalistic skills” in new ways to verify news from social media

Here’s a good feature on NPR about the verification company Storyful.

In both a text and audio story, David Folkenflik tells the story of how Storyful works:

The company is constituted of a team of several dozen digitally savvy journalists operating around the clock in Dublin, New York City and Hong Kong to identify and acquire material from social media platforms for their clients — and to authenticate that content so it can be trusted for use in print. Storyful is scarcely known by the wider public — and highly regarded by digital journalists.

How It Works

Storyful’s editors rely on a “heat map” of traffic on a variety of social media platforms from users previously designated as credible to trigger awareness of incidents as they occur. They then pull down video, audio, text and images and try to authenticate that material, and send continuous updates to clients who are seeking information about that story.

What strikes me about this story is the way it shows how people are using journalism skills to make a living in ways they probably didn’t even imagine when they were learning those skills:

On any given story, editors might run down the origins of dialects on tape, use metadata to figure out when a picture was really uploaded or check Google Earth to study terrain shown in videos. They compare weather conditions shown in a video against meteorological statistics for the day that it supposedly shows and call up shipping registries about stories that involve tankers.

“What I’m doing is applying … traditional journalistic skills to a new medium,” Megan Specia, then a duty editor for Storyful, told me recently at the company’s New York offices.

This is one of those stories I file away to pull out and look at any time I start to feel anxious about the future for people with those skills.

Oct 29 / King Kaufman

The New Republic celebrates 100 years with 100 great stories

It’s been three months since the New Yorker made 231 of its greatest stories available online to celebrate a website design, so you must be finished reading that collection by now.

So you should have plenty of time to dig into 100 Years 100 Stories, a celebration by The New Republic of its 100th anniversary.

That’s it. Go read. I’m planning to start with George Orwell’s Brilliant Guide to Writing Well, from 1946. But you can start anywhere.

Oct 28 / King Kaufman

Data journalism danger: You have to question the data and where it comes from

Data journalism is a hot trend in the last few years, but there are so many numbers in sports that you could argue sportswriters have been doing data journalism since before data journalism was cool.

We haven’t always done it well, but we’ve been doing it.

While it isn’t sports related, Trevor Butterworth’s piece When Data Journalism Goes Wrong has some good lessons for sportswriters who want to tangle with numbers.

The main lesson is pretty much the same as the prime directive for tangling with things that aren’t numbers too: Question everything.

Butterworth breaks down two posts on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Think you drink a lot? This chart will tell you and Why the U.S. should start taxing soda like cigarettes and alcohol. He examines where the underlying data comes from, questions the motives and methods of various people behind them, and proceeds to generally, in his own words, “follow the footnotes and check out the data.”

Butterworth concludes:

The risk for wonk journalism is that you either lose in audience as you expand in analysis, or you dumb down and end up dumb. The rub is, you can’t tell good data from bad without doing analysis.

Early in my career, on the night sports copy desk at the old San Francisco Examiner, I made up a rule for myself that I still live by as both a writer and an editor. It’s an extension of the rule that says to check every name and every number: If you see any kind of math in a story, re-calculate it yourself, because you have to assume it’s wrong. At least 37 percent of the time—about one in five—it will be.

Oct 27 / King Kaufman

Good, bad and ugly? Three departures offer views of the media business

There were three really interesting pieces I read last week tied to departures in the media biz. They don’t really have anything to do with each other, but together they give three glimpses that serve as a little snapshot of some big issues in media at the moment.

OK, only two of them do. We’ll start with them.

Dave McKinney, a longtime political reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times, resigned last week and explained why in a personal blog post headlined “Why I left.”

The reason is a little complicated, but it has to do with what McKinney writes is his feeling that the Sun-Times “no longer has the backs of reporters like me.” He writes that he was taken off his beat, put on leave and later denied a byline after the campaign of Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for Illinois governor, accused McKinney of having a conflict of interest. And then the Sun-Times, which declared in 2012 that it would no longer endorse candidates for elections, endorsed Rauner.

All this after the Sun-Times had called the Rauner accusations an “attack” that bordered on defamation. McKinney asks:

Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story [in which Rauner looked bad] that had the blessing of the paper’s editor and publisher, the company’s lawyer and our NBC5 partners? …

Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times.

It’s had a chilling effect in the newsroom. While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern. I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.

There has traditionally been a “wall” between a media outlet’s newsroom and business interests, as well as between the newsroom and the owners’ powerful friends and political interests. We’ve heard a lot in the last few years about that first wall becoming more permeable, and about how that can be a good thing, with content creators taking on a more realistic view that what they’re doing is part of a business, and needs to succeed to survive.

It’s the other wall that McKinney is talking about. Is that one becoming softer too? And if so, what will the consequences be?

Another unhappy departure is chronicled by Rebecca Carroll in the New Republic: “I’m a Black Journalist. I’m Quitting Because I’m Tired of Newsroom Racism.”

“It’s a strange and incredibly demoralizing time to be a black person in American media,” Carroll writes, continuing:

The words “racist and “racism” have cynically become clickbait, all while various newsrooms are claiming that they want to hire more writers and reporters and editors of color, but don’t. What it feels like you are hearing is: We’re not really trying to diversify our newsrooms, because we don’t actually have to.

Among the challenges that make racism so difficult to fix, and so odiously constant, is that white people often don’t even recognize when they’re saying or doing something that cuts their black colleagues to the bone. Or worse, they do recognize when they’re being racially insensitive, but then demonstrate some semblance of regret and move on unscathed. If we can’t say anything about this kind of behavior—or don’t—then who will? What’s more, if we do speak up, particularly if we are among the chosen few who are granted a voice in mainstream media, at what cost?

If you don’t think racism is a real issue in media—and if you don’t, chances are you’re white—you should read Carroll’s piece.

On a happier, if wistful note, is news that “iconic” baseball writer John Lowe is retiring from the Detroit Free Press. You may have heard the Fox broadcast crew mention this during Game 2 of the World Series. Here’s Fox’s Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal writing about Lowe.

They both mention how much Lowe loved baseball, loved writing about baseball, had a positive outlook, and helped younger writers. That’s a pretty good way to approach the daily grind.

Oct 24 / King Kaufman

Lennay’s Law in action in CBC’s level-headed coverage of Ottawa shootings

It’s easy to forget that when you write about sports, you’re potentially writing about almost anything. Politics, economics, race, violence, substance abuse. There’s almost nothing that gets covered on news sites that couldn’t, somehow, end up on a sports site.

So while a rampaging shooter like the one who terrorized Ottawa this week doesn’t figure to be a part of sports coverage, it could happen, depending on where or at whom that shooter shoots, or threatens to shoot.

That’s why I think sportswriters, not just hard news folks, can get a lot out of this Mother Jones report by James West, headlined “Canada’s Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame.”

West notes that while the situation unfolded live with lots of sketchy details and unconfirmed rumors, the CBC’s coverage, anchored by “the unflappable Peter Mansbridge,” was very different than what we’re used to in the U.S.:

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10 a.m. Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud:

MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And it’s on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it’s important—it’s on days like this, where a story takes a number of different pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation like this. We try to keep them out of our coverage, but when they come, sometimes from official sources, like members of Parliament, you tend to give them some credence. But you carefully weigh it with what we’re also witnessing. It’s clear that the situation is not over. It is clear the police are in an intense standby situation and continue to be on the lookout, and until somebody blows the all-clear on this we will continue to stay on top of it and watch as the events unfold.

West continues: “Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it.” (Emphasis in the original.)

That’s a great example of Lennay’s Law in action. Here’s video of the quoted coverage.

Oct 23 / King Kaufman

Remembering the Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee, a giant of American journalism

Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post from 1965 to 1991, died this week at the age of 93. Whenever journalism giants die, there are lots of stories around about their lives and careers.

I usually find it fruitful to read as many of them as I can find.

Bradlee, familiar to non-Beltway insiders as the character played by Jason Robards in the movie version of Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men,” was not a sportswriter or a sports editor. But he liked sports and, evidently, understood well the role of sports journalism. His obituary, linked in the lede above, notes that when he took over as managing editor of the Post in 1965, its most famous writer was a sportswriter, Shirley Povich.

Here’s and TNT reporter David Aldridge, who got his start at the Washington Post, writing on Facebook:

Working at The Washington Post was the anchor for my professional life. All the lessons I learned about journalism came from my nine years there, and all those came with Ben Bradlee at the helm. He didn’t run the Sports section, but he was the undeniable boss of the paper. He loved Sports and was quite fond of our immediate boss, George Solomon (the feeling was mutual). So, while he wasn’t there every day, Ben would come back to the section quite often to see what was going on. He was not that interested in the score of the game last night. He wanted to know if anything big was cooking. (Per David Maraniss’s outstanding biography of Vince Lombardi, It was Bradlee who first found out Lombardi was coming to D.C. in 1969 to coach the Redskins, having been given the scoop by his close friend, the late owner of the team, Edward Bennett Williams. Bradlee told Sports, which printed the story. THAT was Ben Bradlee’s idea of a big story.)

New Yorker editor David Remnick was a Washington Post reporter from 1982 to ’92. In a thoroughly entertaining remembrance, he writes of Bradlee, “Among his many bequests to the Republic was a catalogue of swaggering anecdotes rich enough to float a week of testimonial dinners.” The piece ends with one of them.

Here’s a great letter Bradlee once sent to a PR flack from a circus who had complained that the Post’s Style section hadn’t published a story about someone’s retirement. The kicker is a nice statement of purpose when it comes to dealing with press agents: “I would like to be sure that you understand that we trust our editors’ news judgment and that we distrust yours.”

More reading:

Ben Bradlee Wrestled With Racial Issues by Richard Prince, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Ben Bradlee: His sense of Style brought a new sensibility to features by Martha Sherrill, Washington Post. The headline refers to the influential Style section, which Bradlee introduced.

Post bigshots on Bradlee: Donald Graham. Leonard Downie.

A Story About Ben Bradlee That’s Not Fucking Charming by Peter Maass, The Intercept.

Journalists reflect on Ben Bradlee’s life and career by Benjamin Mullin,