Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The book of lists: Things we know

There are some great "things I know" lists out there where people in the news biz enumerate the hard truths they believe to be true about the state of journalism and this transition we're in the middle of. Here are three I highly recommend:

William Lobdell's "42 Things I Know"

Veteran LA Times journalist Lobdell volunteered to be part of the recent round of layoffs. He left his job Aug 1 after 18 years in the biz. In an email exchange with an OC Weekly reporter, Lobdell made the sobbering admission that he had concluded that "the risk of staying at the paper had become greater than the risk of leaving."

His list of "42 Things" offers his assessment of the news industry, including the fact that the newspaper business model is broken (#3), no one knows how to fix it (#4), and that's probably because it can't be fixed (#5).

He also says:

  • A news web operation can support far fewer journalists and layers of editors. It requires a different mindset. (#17)

  • Sam Zell isn’t the ultimate villain.... In the long run, he’s just an accelerator for a downfall that is happening naturally. (#20)

  • We operated as though we had a monopoly on truth and great journalism for far too long. We didn't listen to our critics and sometimes our readers. That cost us. (#24)

Ryan Sholin, "Ten Obvious Things You Need to Get Through Your Head," and "Ten Obvious Things, One Year Later"

Sholin is a San Jose State University grad student in mass communications. He's also a former Web developer and online editor. Plus, he's located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Maybe those things combined have contributed to his point of view.

"Ten Obvious Things...," written in June 2007, was one of his most popular blog posts ever. He updated it a year later. Among his thoughts:

  • Your major metro newspaper could probably use some staff cuts. If you’re not writing about local news, your paper’s readers are probably getting what you do from somewhere else. (#3)

  • Bloggers aren’t an uneducated lynch mob unconcerned by facts. They’re your readers and your neighbors and if you play your cards right, your sources and your community moderators. (#7)

  • You ignore new delivery systems at your own peril. RSS, SMS, iPhone, e-paper, Blackberry, widgets, podcasts, vlogs, Facebook, Twitter — these aren’t the competition, these are your new carriers. (#8)

  • THE GLASS IS HALF FULL. There is excellent work being done in the new world of online journalism and it’s being done at newspapers.... You don’t need millions of dollars or HD cameras or years of training to make it happen; all you need is the right frame of mind. (#10)

Mindy McAdams: "The Survival of Journalism: 10 Simple Facts"

McAdams teaches university courses in online journalism and the use of technology for communication. She says:

  • Journalism CAN be done, and done well, without newspapers. (#2)

  • Newspapers were a nice business.... It worked for a long time, but now, like trans-Atlantic leisure travel in big passenger ships, it will never work again. (#5)

  • The business model to sustain journalism in the 21st century has not been seen yet. (#9)
Photo courtesy of Claudecf. Creative Commons license.

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