Early morning reading…


The Evolution of Blogging

Over at GigaOm, Om Malik argues for an evolution of blogging toward real-time, social publishing. Basically, context matters now more than ever after the rise of real-time mass messaging services such as Twitter, Facebook’s News Feed, Friendfeed, and the like. This explosion of short snippets of information and data points makes context paramount.

The Pushbutton Web: Realtime Becomes Real

Anil Dash describes a new set of technologies he dubs the “Pushbutton Web,” which he says will push online publishing ever further into realtime communication. He writes for a technical audience, but it’s certainly apropos in the wake of Facebook’s purchase of Friendfeed. I say that because I’ve had quite a few friends ask me in the last few days why Facebook buying friendfeed matters (many of whom had never heard of friendfeed before the news hit). My answer is that the Web values immediacy. Facebook, which has always been more ‘turn-based,’ can better compete with Twitter with friendfeed’s technology (not to mention their development team, which includes a bunch of ex-Googlers).


John Borthwick, CEO of a company called betaworks, describes the emerging Web as a stream, and offers some great analogies to the uninitiated for understanding what’s happening online.

Young Journalist on the Job Hunt

I recently got a question from a young writer type asking how to get into the publishing industry right now. Below was my advice. I had meant to post this months ago, but got sidetracked…

Bad News…

Layoff Sign

As for getting into the industry in general (in this economic climate), I’m not sure I have any good advice. Here’s my bad news first: Everywhere you turn it seems that more and more publications are laying folks off, cutting back circulation or stuck in a hiring freeze. It’s a bad job market, and from what I hear from friends, colleagues present and past, etc., it’s not a good time to be looking. You mentioned Southern Living, for example? While there, I was told the best thing about working there was the job security because they never let anyone go. Then this…

Silver lining…

But here’s my good news. You’re young, so you don’t need to be paid as much as someone who has been there forever and a day. You’re young, so you’re more tech-savvy (I used to cringe when people said that because I thought it reflected an ageist attitude, but now that I’ve worked for a while, I’ve basically accepted it as true). And you’re young, so you’re flexible and can take on long work hours, have more time learn a lot of different skills since you don’t have kids, etc.

My take…

So here’s my advice in general: I’d look at getting involved in writing as much as possible. I’d look into a company such as b5 media (a network of bloggers). They don’t pay much, but the experience you would gain by a) writing on a daily (if not hourly) basis would be invaluable and (b) learning the vaguely defined skill of “building an online audience” is extremely valued these days. If you can head into a job interview at a more traditional media company such as the ones you described and tell them how you launched a blog with b5 media and grew it from nothing to 10,000 visits a month – well, that’s going to mean a lot to them. Also check into mediabistro & Poynter – they have good job postings.

Finally, my last bit would be to look online (as in, look at new/online media companies) in general and avoid print. Print companies aren’t hiring right now and, to be honest, I don’t think they are all that exciting to work for (that’s my “new media” bias though). At Southern Living, I was given a lot of encouragement to try different things on their Web site, because I didn’t work on the print side of things, and it was awesome! I launched a podcast, a blog, picked up some (rudimentary) Flash experience and learned a bit about Omniture’s Web Analytics software. It was a true jack-of-all trades experience, but I couldn’t have gotten it fetching coffee for the food editors like some of the other interns who worked on the print side of things.

Anything you would add, subtract, disagree with?

“Should I Get a Master’s in Journalism?”

I’ve gotten this question twice from a couple of friends and colleagues, to which I gave lengthy responses. My answers reflect only my opinion, and I can only comment on my experience at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, having received my Master’s in Journalism with a focus in new media in December of 2007. But here are some thoughts…

“So, I’m wondering, are you happy you got your masters?”

When I was at Northwestern, students chose one of four disciplines: traditional reporting and writing, broadcast, magazine or new media. I chose new media. I’m very much interested in Web 2.0, social media, link journalism, networked journalism, online community journalism – you name it. I looked at Northwestern and it seemed as if that was the direction they were heading so I went for it. I tell you all this because I think it’s really important to specify that I went out looking for a new media journalism degree specifically.

Therefore, when I was at Northwestern, I took the core journalism classes in reporting and writing on public affairs, editing, ethics of journalism, etc., but I also took courses in new media storytelling (HTML, Flash, CSS, JavaScript, etc.), Videography (shooting and editing w/ Adobe Premiere), introduction to computer programming (Java) and two marketing courses (one in new media economics and one on online social networking.)

Finally, I did a quarter-long project researching, conceptualizing and proposing a hyperlocal community news site for Morris Communications, along with 10 or so other students. Eventually, the company took our recommendations and launched MyZeeland.com. Sort of on the side, I did an independent study working with a former NW graduate who launched a social networking site called Tokoni. Again, I tell you all this so you can get a feel for what my experience at J-school was and use that to put my comments into context, because I don’t know that it’s typical (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it was my experience).

So am I happy I went there and got my masters? Eh…yes and no.

Yes, because I had some incredible experiences, met some amazing (and amazingly talented) people, made some great connections and, to be honest, just plain had a lot of fun.

No, because I think it’s overpriced, and that a lot of those experiences can be had, people can be met, connections can be made and (probably) fun can be had without the degree.

“Do you like what you’re doing now?”


I work at a medium-sized custom publishing company and I’m its first Online Content Manager.

It’s a great opportunity. I’m learning a lot of new things, meeting a lot of great people and interacting with some creative minds. And I do enough freelance stuff on the side to keep me plenty busy. Oh, and (insert shameless self promotion) I blog on all things digital here.

“Did they help you find a job after graduation, provide access to internships while you were there, etc?”

Absolutely. Any graduate program that offers a degree in a field in which no degree is necessary to practice must continually justify its existence to prospects like yourself. Therefore, it’s in their interest to connect their students with prospective employers through job fairs, internship programs, job boards, job postings, etc. I still get an e-mail a week with job postings in the Chicago area, many of which are not promoted anywhere else.

“Do you feel that they prepared you for your current position?”

Absolutely. Again, this goes back to my new media training and my specific interests. But the custom publishing industry and the news industry are both in need of new media-trained journalists, writers, editors and producers. Because of my training, I feel “at home” talking to the editors, photographers, videographers, web developers and marketing folks – which is an asset. Note: I am by no means an expert in any of those fields, and I don’t pretend to be. But it helps to be able to speak their languages.

“Other comments…?”

The people…

One thing I enjoyed the most about the program that you can’t discount is being constantly around the “fascinated-by-the-potential-of-new-media” news junkie types. I now count amongst good friends and colleagues an independent Web publisher in Chicago doing some really interesting things (WindyCitizen.com), a writer at Time, and numerous others doing a lot cooler stuff than I am. But again, I’d emphasize that it’s not that they are connections, it’s that they are friends – and it was a lot of fun to be immersed in an intense 15-month program with them.


This gets back to what I said earlier about J-schools needing to continually justify their existence. You don’t need a degree to practice journalism. You don’t even need a high school education. With all the tools available, all you need is a public library card and your own skills. So in that sense, it’s overpriced. Just saying.

New Media drawbacks…

This may have changed, but one drawback I found is that new media is so, well, new, that all of the really interesting people doing cool things in new media are, well, doing cool things in new media – NOT teaching at J-schools. Just my observation. I had some incredible teachers, but I also had a few who didn’t really “get” the Web.

The future of journalism…

OK, if you thought this e-mail post was long, it’s going to get longer. Here’s my rant on new media…

In some ways journalism schools mirror newspapers and local TV stations in that they are gatekeepers. The former were gatekeepers to the industry and the latter were gatekeepers of information in general. That’s just not true any more.

Sometimes (usually around the first of the month when I’m paying my monthly loan repayments) I look back and think I should have just started blogging rather than gone to j-school. The act of blogging is still (somewhat) stigmatized and largely misunderstood by those who don’t do it. But to have a successful blog, you have to be an incredible writer, editor, publisher and advertiser. In essence, you have to learn the business. You’re much more a producer than just a blogger. Creating a successful blog that brought in even 10,000 visits a month and made $10,000-$20,000 a year would be an incredibly worthwhile accomplishment and would have taught me a ton about new media journalism.

So, anything to add? I know that, even amongst those who went to Medill, whether or not the education was worth the price tag was hotly contested. What do you think?

Why Wasn’t Hillary Clinton Considered for Top Post at Department of Health and Human Services?

In the wake of multiple appointments made by President-elect Obama as he readies his transition to the White House (Clinton for Secretary of State, Daschle for Department of Health and Human Services, Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury, etc.) one question still lingers in my mind:

Why wasn’t Clinton considered for the the department of Health and Human services, where she could put her experience with health care to work? Is that not the top post in the land for reforming health care? Is that not her legacy?

Don’t get me wrong, I think she’ll make a fine Secretary of State. And I think Tom Daschle will do fine at the department of Health and Human Services. My point is, I just haven’t heard anyone ask that question. Am I missing something? Is there a plain reason why a simple explanation isn’t given by any reporter’s story of Obama’s picks?

Enlightenment welcomed…

Journalism 3G: The Future of Technology in the Field

This two-day conference in Atlanta, Georgia, took place Friday, March 22nd to Saturday, March 23rd. It brought together some extremely bright people doing some fascinating things at the intersection of computation and journalism.

Here are just a few of the examples there I found particularly interesting:

Everyblock – a location-based aggregator of crime statistics, news articles, Craigslist postings, and a ton of other publicly available information sources displayed at the neighborhood level. Everyblock currently operates in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Global Voices – a global network of paid and volunteer bloggers who monitor the blogospheres around the world and report back in English on the site.

Django – an open-sourced Web framework utilized by many news organizations for more robust Web publishing. Lead developer Jacob Kaplan-Moss asserted (and was challenged on it) that with Django, journalists could (and perhaps should) learn enough programming to free them from the time and resource restraints of their newsrooms.

News at Seven – a broadcast-ish production that creates a personalized news piece. Users input a few preferences, and the program pulls a news piece, checks Wikipedia, finds video, images and blog reactions and creates a broadcast reported by avatars.

“Evangelical Power Vastly Diminished Headed Into Super Tuesday”

OffTheBus MastheadThe so-called “evangelical vote,” often cited by media analysts as a crucial constituency in securing the Republican nomination, is likely to exercise considerably less influence this cycle, according to a series of interviews with clergy and political analysts conducted by HuffPost’s OffTheBus {citizen journalism project.}

I recently participated in the Huffington Post’s OffTheBus citizen journalism project, which can be read at the above link. I interviewed Executive Pastor Marty Thompson of Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Fargo, North Dakota, for the piece.

It was my first such participation in a citizen journalism project and I was both impressed with Amanda Michel, Marc Cooper and Dan Truel for coordinating the effort, as well as pleased with the final result. Although many of the issues discussed in the article fell outside the scope of my specific conversation with Pastor Thompson, I still felt my interview informed the article and helped the group arrive at a collective truth regarding the so-called “Evangelical vote” leading up to Super Tuesday. Namely, we dispelled the notion that evangelical Christians are somehow to be perceived of as a homogeneous voting bloc in the United States, a notion reflected in my particular interview with Marty Thompson.

The best new magazine Web site of 2008

PopSci LogoI just wanted to take a moment and recognize the folks over at Popular Science magazine for their Web efforts. They quietly launched a redesigned site, PopSci.com, in 2008. It’s built on the Drupal platform and one way of looking at it is that, functionally, it’s a group blog. Each navigational bucket along the top represents a category, but all posts/articles/stories appear time-stamped in reverse chronological order on the home page.

PopSci home page

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend.

It offers a unique model for a traditional print company to leverage their assets on the Web. It also gives me hope that old media companies will come to realize that a blog is just as easily (and perhaps more helpfully) understood as a medium, not as a genre.

Catholicism 2.0: Religious blogging, podcasting & online communities

Call to Action logoEach year Call to Action, a progressive, reform-minded organization within the Catholic Church, convenes a National Convention. This year the group aims to hold a few sessions on how to utilize new media technologies to inform and galvanize the laity to action. Some suggested sessions include blogging, podcasting and social networking. I had a conversation last night with an organizer, and hope to sit on a panel for the group. The convention is in November and preliminary information can be found here. More to come soon…

What two aspects of journalism will never change?

Here’s the answer Bryan Gruley of the Wall Street Journal gave a group of Medill business reporters today:

People’s need for knowing what they didn’t already know.

People’s need for good storytelling.


Most truths are.

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal archives, I’d suggest reading Gruley’s tribute to Tim Breslin, a former Chicago Wolves hockey player who died young of cancer – especially if you ever played hockey. It’s simply great.

Here’s a great piece on Gruley by Poynter.