Tag Archives: Poynter

Journalism’s great experiment

3 Apr

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

“Journalism is not dying, it is just changing,” is what all of my first-year professors told us in J-school.

Advertisements’ cause of death: Yahoo and Craigslist. Newspapers’ cause of death: the Internet.

This is not a new topic.

It is official: Open newsrooms are having conversations with their readers and using social media to obtain feedback and information. Those who stick to traditional journalism shield themselves saying their type of journalism is more analytical and in-depth.

Clay Shirky said, “Journalism has remained so unchanged … that journalists didn’t feel they had to change. As such, there was a general skepticism of online sources. Leads can be found everywhere now, from places you’d never deem credible in the past. Amateur blogs, for one … But, five years ago, if you said you were citing a stranger on the Internet you’d [probably] get yelled at by an editor.”

If it was wrong before, what makes it right now?

Shirky also adds that by linking and becoming more innovative in journalism, newspapers can avoid plagiarism. This is an argument all on its own. Is aggregation plagiarism?

Of course, the media that opts to go digital faces its own challenges such as no or reduced revenue.

Newspapers went steady and even had their readership explode in the 1830s, he said. Part of the reason why newspapers were successful was because there was a scarcity of news. There was only a couple of selected places to get your information. Now, that scarcity of news is gone. Competition has intensified.

Shirky argues the newspaper and print media needs “radical reinvention.”

Julie Moos of the Poynter Institute writes, ““The monopoly era of factory-produced, one-way, institutional journalism has ended.”

Today, what exists is a “democracy of distribution.” Anyone who had Internet can publish or access any information available.

Journalism is not dying, however. “Many students are still choosing to enter journalism programs,” Eunice Chan said.

According to Ernie Sotomayor, careers director at Columbia University graduate school of journalism, the number of applicants to journalism schools is increasing.

What appeals to students even more now is the fact that with the Internet their work is received by a larger audience.

Mathew Ingram writes that people are still looking for journalists who can break down and make sense of what is out there. The readers need someone who can breakdown data and analyze it.

Even if journalism is alive and well, and it is just going through a period of experimentation, journalists must change with it to keep it alive and competitive.

Steve Myers said: “We know we should broaden our network of sources, but we stick to official ones. We know we can connect with the community through social media, but we haven’t signed in to Twitter in months. We know we should think Web-first, but our days are still built around the daily deadline.”

Not only does the journalist have to adapt to new technology and media platforms, but he or she must work on adding value to the craft.

Richard Koci Hernandez, a photographer at the Mercury News, said, “”Right now there’s a huge appetite for multitalented journalists. You have to bring something else to the table.”

In journalism today, you need to show that you can bring value to your work. If you can do multimedia, you’ll have a job. One needs to separate oneself from the average blogger out there.

Gina Masullo Chen said: “Challenge away. We’re fighting for our lives here as an industry. We can’t afford to do anything that doesn’t add value, and figuring out what adds value must be tied to the reader…We must listen to our readers.”

She writes about journalists saying, “I think part of the reason is we assume readers don’t really know what they want or we think what they want isn’t good for them.  That paternalistic model, frankly, hasn’t been working for decades.”

I think it is tough to balance listening to the reader, but keeping the quality of your work. She argues that journalists see world affairs and news about the economy as important, but the readership doesn’t care. People, in my opinion and maybe I am thinking like a “paternalistic” journalist here, are shallow. They want shallow and dumb news. People wonder why the U.S. ranks low in knowledge about international affairs and politics in comparison to other countries, and I believe this will get worse as we continue to go for the “listen to the reader” philosophy.

Maybe the “feed the reader” system hasn’t been working for decades, but I can tell you that through traditional media we had a much more educated public back then than we do now.

I think Ingram is right when he argues that journalism is more about inquiry and analysis rather than a method of publishing. So whether journalism goes digital first and print second is irrelevant, though this will probably happen. The most important issue here is the quality of the work being given.

I very much agree with Brent Cunningham who said, “Sustaining serious journalism in the digital age is a topic of much discussion and experimentation, most of which focuses on the product — the supply side of the information equation. But there will be no solution without demand from a citizenry that understands and values quality journalism.”

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Case Study 5: Why headlines are so important

21 Feb

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

As a reader, you can feel let down or decieved if a certain headline leads you to read an article, and then you realize the headline didn’t accurately represent the story.

For example, the summary of the article “Falcons ‘won’t forget’ Saints throwing late for Brees record” would be the Falcons lost a game because of  the Saints’ Drew Brees’ last throw, which cost the Falcons the game and broke a record. It is an article whose headline is supported by the information in the body of the article, in my opinion.

The reader is not deceived when he or she reads the headline and decides to read the article.

The article “Brees’ record-breaking night tainted by decision to go for it late,” on the other hand, is one that is deceptive to the reader. The writer, Peter Prisco, begins the article with an anecdote about how a child told Brees that he hoped Brees would break the record. Prisco ends the piece again reaffirming that the child got his wish, but he adds his opinion in that it was an unfortunate way for the child to get his wish.

In the middle of the body, he includes comments from the opposing team about the late pass. Prisco tries to focus the article on the late pass but it doesn’t fit well with the anecdote of the child. The article’s focus, defined by the writer, is the fact that Brees broke the record and that the child got his wish.

The headline suggests that this article is like the former one about the late throw. Obviously, he is a columnist, and he expresses the opinion that he was bothered by the late throw as were players and Falcons staff. What he did was he merged what disappointed him in the game with an innocent and nice anecdote that doesn’t further support his point. It almost makes Prisco look mean. He “taints” the record breaking moment. The record-breaking moment was not tainted for the child.

Writers who do what Prisco did may not get much readership after that. Readers don’t want to waste their time thinking they are getting one thing when they get another. Also, perhaps the reader does not care for the writer’s personal opinion. The same goes for magazines that try to lure readers by announcing something on the cover. Oh the disappointment when you open the magazine, and what you find is not what you were told to expect.

Amy Gahran, of the Poynter Institute, said: “Online headlines should be intuitive, not cryptic, vague, or leading. That is, simply by reading a headline you should be able to grasp what a story’s about. A well-crafted online headline provides the reader with sufficient information and incentive to decide whether to click a link to read the story.”

Gahran states how headlines require effort. A headline like “Business backs college,” she said, tells the reader nothing.

The University of Iowa has a website with a chart of what makes a headline strong. An important element is detail. Not only should the journalistic piece be accurate, but the headline should be accurate in tone and thought.

Save and Delete said it can be helpful to plan your headlines first. This helps you maintain a focus in your piece as you write and develop it.

Not only do headlines generate interest and bring in readers, but they can also show a lot about the quality of the work and the writer’s mentality.

Fair: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting said, if a writer or media organization has a bias, this bias may be revealed in the headline. This is seen in the example of the Brees story by Prisco. He was obviously disappointed in the late throw, but that doesn’t mean others were. His unfocused headline reflects his unfocused article in a sense, and it reveals his bias. Fortunately, he is a columnist so he is permitted to exhibit some bias. Unfortunately, the headline doesn’t represent the piece.

Headlines are important. They may determine the response you receive from readers or whether they take the time to read your work at all.