keskiviikko 9. marraskuuta 2011

Only Professionals Are Journalists

Let’s face it. We journalist are lousy marketing people.
If you stumble into a discussion about whether blogging is journalism or not, or what is the future of journalism since everybody can be a publisher on the web…  you could start yelling about how good journalist are on writing stories. You will suggest that ordinary writing people are not that good at storytelling..
Let’s be frank about journalism. Journalism is nothing more than a process for refining information. This process includes ethic elements, focus groups, timing and al lot more aspects that constantly are present in a news room.
Journalism is journalism when it contains this element of profession. Period.
The news business is in is biggest change in its history. The news business is changing paradigm, and nobody seems to understand where it is heading. This huge change gives the stage to all kinds of thinkers. How often have we not heard that journalism is dead or that the form off news is dead or a whole lot more of that kind.
The more information you are facing, the more you are asking yourself “What piece of information can I trust?”.
Quality journalism is never true. No journalism is ever true. It is at its best plausible.
The journalistic process tires to make sense of things and processes in a complex world. The better the elements of professionalism is in the journalistic process, the more plausible the outcome is.
Journalism is still not only about what you want to know. It is still – as it has always been – about what you need to know.
This will stay the same regardless if you consume journalism on paper, pads, mobiles or on television.
Only professionals are journalists.
But we are lousy at letting people know this fact.

keskiviikko 25. toukokuuta 2011

The tablet is a good thing for the newspaper

First I believed that after all the laptops would be the new template for electronic newspapers.
Then I believed in the e-paper. I guess I thought that the electronic newspaper should be more mobile.
Then came the smartphones. I used my smarphone as a newspaper template one summer. I got used to it.
Then came the tablets. Then came The Daily on the iPad.
The tablets might work as a medium for the electronic newspaper. Some people think that the iPad is too heavy for keeping in one hand, where as the Kindle tablet is lighter. I do not know – I have not been testing either of them.
The tablet – or the XL smartphone – is anyway a breakthrough for the electronic newspaper. Now the papers do not have to teach people to use the new device. People will have the device (soon, soon…) and will be more comfortable with reading the paper on the tablet.
I have talked about quality of journalism recently in my blog. Quality is also a question of usability. It is very interesting, and nice, to see that newspapers are really working on creating versions especially for the tablet. This, I think, is going to create the electronic newspaper much faster than I ever would have expected. It is a good way to do quality work at once.
To me this is good news. To people stuck in the “People are used to the newspaper printed on paper” mantra will never agree with me.
We need the electronic newspaper for many reasons – for the business, for ecology, for usability, and for getting youngsters to subscribe to newspapers again.
When I moved out to my own apartment, my parents paid for a subscription to the newspaper for me. So did almost all parents. They do not do it very much anymore. Their youngsters, and the parents, get their news free.
Well, get The Daily going, and you might have a new wave coming!

tiistai 24. toukokuuta 2011

Quality of journalism is already defined

Journalism is a peculiar industry. It is a mass industry, where - like in all mass industries - there are lots of quality talk. When you buy a car or a pair of jeans, you the customer judge the quality. In journalism the quality is judged by the producer. 
No way, you say. We can tell quality by sold copies or reader figures or amounts of tweets!
Oh, really? So, well-selling tabloids are quality because they sell well? Well, then quality means profit, and only profit.
I have been working as an editor-in-chief and I too have been very clear on (without anything more than the intuition of an editor-in-chief) what is good quality journalism and what is not. Still, I was the producer, not the consumer.
I now think that quality will matter, and matter a lot, in web journalism. But then ”quality” has to be defined and processed in the same way it is defined and processed in other industries.
Yes, a great deal of research has been done on quality of information. The quality guru Joseph Juran defines quality of information in the same way he defines “quality” in general: High- quality data is data that is fit for use in its intended, operational, decision-making, planning, and strategic roles. Fitness implies both freedom from defects and possession of desired features. 
Another guru, Philip B. Crosby, presents a rather similar view of information quality - but Crosby can be implemented directly on journalism: “Communication is getting the message to the areas that need it in a way that will be accepted and implemented. That requires both credibility of presentation and integrity of content useful”, and “When we can communicate with others in a way that helps them make the choice that is best for them, we are being useful. When we aim it at something that is best for us, and not for them, we are not being useful. The whole purpose of communication is to be useful.”
Paul Lillrank gives too something to the journalism industry. He defines “quality of information” as its ability to generate action. 
Well, there you go. The definitions and the theories have been there long enough. The whole purpose of communication is to be useful. Thus, we need to define ”useful” in terms of useful to the reader or the consumer on the web. And we need to start measuring.
On the web the critical measurement right now seems to be amounts of clicks. Ok, but does it mean that an article clicked 1000 times is more useful and has generated more action than one clicked 100 times? Of course not. Amounts of clicks measure only amounts of clicks.
Look at journalism as a method for refining information. That is all there is. After that we will be dealing with the effects of journalism. That is usefulness and action generation. I don’t have the answer, but journalism with effects tends to be more important than journalism with no effects or with only brain draining effects.
If readers are returning to, and paying for, Murdoch’s web news, it might have something to do with quality of journalism. After all, some people, who did not want to pay for web journalism, have turned to paying customers.

Everything, all over the place

No longer is the newspaper The Newspaper – the main source of information for anybody. Today, every person gets his or her daily information from a myriad of sources – and in a personal way.
There is no “we have it all” anymore. There is only “everything, all over the place”.
Ok, that’s nothing new.
Let’s talk ecology. Give me a more non-ecological way of producing daily news than to print them on paper and transport them hundreds of miles. There is none.
So you see, I am a man of multimedia journalism.
The ecological aspect is easy to understand. The ecological break-even for a web publication vs. a newspaper is tied to minutes of use. It is also tied to the way electricity is produced. 

There is no carbon dioxide free way of producing electricity, so using the web will increase the carbon footprint. Finnish studies suggest that the break-even is somewhere around 40 minutes of newspaper consumption on the web. If you read longer, the paper version is more ecological.
I have a hard time believing this, but I don’t have any evidence.
Then a word about attitude. If somebody in 1983 had put an ad about bingo, poker or – God heavens Girls! -  beside a high quality journalistic article in a high quality paper, there would have been a crisis beyond belief in the newsroom. Girls, games and gambling is nothing you wrap around quality journalism.
Well, now you have to.
Papers are making money on the web, but not enough. And they will not make enough money before they realize that “enough” is a smaller amount than they are used to. And they still not make enough money on the web before they realize that ads on the web are not ads on paper. Girls, games and gambling – in some form – is going to be advertisers funding quality journalism.
You either take it, or leave the web. Until you find something more suitable.

Is there still going to be The Hunt For The Scoop?

“Like other forces brought to bear by the web, there’s no getting around this one — rewards for originality are what we want, not just as consumers but as citizens — but creating an environment that generates those rewards will also mean dismantling the syndication model we’ve had since Havas first set up shop”, says Clay Shirky on the Nieman Journalism Lab.

The question 101 is: How do we get rid of, or around, the new journalism driver – the hunt for The Scoop? Or, does The Scoop mean something else in web journalism?

Jeff Jarvis is probably right when he suggests “Report what you do the best, link to the rest”. In practice this would mean huge resource savings, since reporters wouldn’t have to work on every background detail, which would give them real resources to create and present new news.

Well, sharing is not what journalism has been about. The driver has been Our Scoop, which again generates consumption and revenue – and some media sticking out in the business. A media that produces scoops IS doing something right. News is still something that someone somewhere doesn’t like to see in publicity.

Take away this driver for The Scoop and you take away lots of the heart of news journalism.
But Jeff Jarvis did not say scip the scoop. He said that by sharing old news you would probably have the time to investigate and come up with pieces of real, relevant, mattering new news. 

Does it work in practice? I don’t know. In Scandinavia news media on the web share, but they don’t seem to build further on shared news stuff. It very much like Shirky puts it: “Giving credit where credit is due will reward original work, whether scoops, hot news, or unique analysis or perspective. This will be great for readers. It may not, however, be so great for newspapers, or at least not for their revenues, because most of what shows up in a newspaper isn’t original or unique. It’s the first four grafs of something ripped off the wire and lightly re-written, a process repeated countless times a day with no new value being added to the story”.

Being first with a revealing is still, I think, one of the most important competitive edges in the business. Yes, we can share. But no, we are not going to give up the race for being first. Being first is still The Business in the business.

I don’t believe in citizen journalism in the sense that almost everyone could become a good journalist. I believe in the profession. But still, this is nothing that would not prove Clay Shirky right. The drive for The Scoop is probably going to mean that we will have a lot more professional journalists out there publishing scoops or “scoops”.

Then again – the “scoops” will either mess up, or clean up, the market. Poor journalistic revelations will shoot down “professionals” as unreliable. But, on the other hand, good revelations by small new, or single publishing journalists, will expose big media corporations as dinosaurs or mummies.