Future of News roundtable, Eugene-style

Future of News panel at SPJ's Building a Better Journalist

The lunch session at SPJ’s Building a Better Journalist conference today was YAPOTFON, or Yet Another Panel On The Future Of News. Conversation was facilitated by President-elect Hagit Limor (@hlimor).

DJ Wilson is the President and General Manager of the KGW Media Group in Portland. “More than ever, people are consuming media.” Part of it is the 24/7, anytime, anywhere demand from consumers. KGW is a content business that works to meet that demand.

Rita Hibbard (@rthibbard) is the executive director and editor of InvestigateWest, a reporting non-profit in Seattle started by ex-Seattle Post-Intelligencer staffers. The bad news is the sheer number of journalists that have been laid off; the number of credentialed reporters in Olympia, Washington has gone from 25 to 6. [Ed note 10/25: This may also be due to waning interest in covering government] “Readers and news consumers are starting to wake up to what’s being lost out there.” We’re not replacing the investigative troops, but figuring out new ways to get the job done. InvestigateWest is brand new; incorporated in May, website launched in July, and first story will be out next month. It’s a piece on the misuse of public lands. They generate original, high-level investigative content. The business model is to syndicate it to as many media partners as possible, not build up their website. The first grant InvestigateWest received was from the Bullitt Foundation, which hasn’t traditionally funded journalism.

“Collaboration is a big part of this new media ecosystem.” InvestigateWest is working with a number of media partners in ways that would not have happened five or ten years ago. “The era of one dominant media source in a community is over.” News will now be an ecosystem of many parts.

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BarCamp Redefining J School

A few co-conspirators and I want to hold a BarCamp on Sunday, October 25th, the day after the SPJ regional conference at the University of Oregon. For those who have never attended one, a BarCamp is an “ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.” In short, if you think you have something to teach you can throw it in to the mix. If you’re there to learn, then you have a whole number of knowledgeable people as teachers for a variety of topics.

The topic for this BarCamp? Redefining J school. The news industry is going through epic change that most J schools are ill-equipped for. It’s time for a new style of learning. We brainstormed several possible sessions:

  • What courses should you take to supplement your journalism career? What are good minors to a journalism degree?
  • What do students want from professors? How can students take initiative and enhance classes?
  • Crowdsourcing, and leveraging the knowledge of the community to put together a story
  • Where’s the line between PR and journalism?
  • Digital basics (blogging, Twitter, Google Alerts, etc.) and how those tools can be used
  • How to get paid internships (i.e. kickstarting your career while still in college)
  • Where’s the line between work and life when building your personal brand online?

Granted, I’ve done a lot of punditry in the last year talking about how J school is obsolete and needs to be completely reinvented. It’s time to translate grand ideas into action.

We’re planning to meet at 6:00 pm PT in the EMU Fishbowl, next Tuesday the 6th. Join our Google Group to stay in touch, or leave a note in the comments.

#wcpdx: Speed Up WordPress

First session at WordCamp Portland this morning was “Speed Up WordPress” with Jason Grigs of Cloud Four. He jokingly argues that “we’ve remade the internet in our image and the image is obese.” Since 2003, web page size has tripled, number of objects has doubled, and we can partially blame it on WordPress. On the developer’s side, the expectation is that everyone is going to be on a fast connection, with broadband at home or at work.

Page load time, however, determines whether people will stay on your site and do what you want them to do. Speed and performance affect can change perceived quality and credibility of the website. “You can have a great brand and your site is really slow and people will think you’re crap online.” It’s critically important that your application maintains the user’s flow and focus. Amazon says they lose $1 million for every extra second in their shopping cart experience. There’s also an environmental impact for slow site. The number of data centers in the last four years has doubled, and has an energy consumption equivalent to five 1,000 megawatt power plants or the entire state of Mississippi.

In short, build a site that is optimized and doesn’t use more resources than it needs to. Be proactive about it.

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News entrepreneurship session at Digital Journalism Camp

Steve Woodward and Carolynn Duncan of the Portland Ten

Arrived a few minutes late to Digital Journalism Camp, organized by Abraham Hyatt, and these are my notes from the first session about news entrepreneurship in Portland. Steve Woodward and Carolyn Duncan, of the Portland Ten, led the session.

Steve Woodward of Nozzl Media argues that the drop in newspaper revenue is a metrics problem. Newspapers need to work more with metrics and be able to prove their value such that they can reengage their advertisers. The tools for metrics in print are much less than the tools for metrics online.

Discussion about Perez Hilton. Carolyn Duncan asks “who the hell was this guy three years ago?” Chuckles from the audience as someone asks “who the hell is this guy now?” The same guy asking that question follows up with “if you want to be in this business, trust is the word. If you don’t have trust, you’re not going to make a dollar.”

Pete Forsyth on trust and citing sources on Wikipedia: “you want to have a clear, transparent editorial process.” The producer of the content has to adhere to a published set of standards that others can audit.

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Sesh ideas for BCNI Philly

Tomorrow morning will find me headed to Philadelphia for Saturday’s BarCamp NewsInnovation Philly. Needless to say, I’m super stoked for this opportunity. Not only will I be able to finally meet my boss, my new colleagues, and the rest of the CoPress team I haven’t met, but I’ll get to spend an entire day, and probably much of the weekend, discussing the future of journalism with some of the smartest news folk in the country. If my flight doesn’t get laid over in Atlanta, I’d like to spend my time taking about at least a couple of different things:

Designing a News Startup From Scratch in 60 Minutes

The goal would be to rapidly prototype what a news organization of the future might look like by walking the hypothetical startup from concept to a year after launch and covering things such as:

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BarCamp Portland and the future of news

There’s talk on the town about adding a journalism session to BarCamp Portland. This should be a time to brainstorm and collaborate on the future of news in the Portland-area, instead of just being a space for journalists and bloggers to come together and try and resolve their issues. Let’s have an idea-generating session on what the journalism needs of Portland are, how we’ll be able to fill those news from the grassroots if/when The Oregonian implodes because of their terrible CMS, and then, in turn, how we’ll be able to monetize that. This is something where perspectives from both camps, the journalists and the bloggers, would offer value to the conversation.

To provide fodder for this discussion, listen to the most recent installment of Dave Winer and Jay Rosen’s Rebooting the News. One of the ideas that I think will “save journalism” is the digital assignment desk Jay starts talking about near the end. His part of the idea is this: a tool to map out all of the particulars that might need to be reported on in the coverage of any given issue. Once the editorial team has this laid out, they can then decide what resources they want to apply and where.

I’d like to take this two steps further.

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Presentation: Reinventing Direct Action

I’m giving this presentation today as a part of a panel at a global health weekend my friend Alex Goodell spent a significant amount of time putting together. The conference is “You Can’t Crush a Louse with Only One Thumb: Integrating Biomedical & Sociocultural Approaches to HIV/AIDS in Africa” and my panel focuses on student experiences in these issues.

To make this interesting, I’ll be arguing that both the university system and standard practices in international development are broken, and that, more importantly, there are ways to fix each which will create more desirable future. It’s not about who should be to blame, but rather how the methods for each can be improved. One of these days, I’ll start producing second version of my presentations that include more narrative text too (I’m too much of a minimalist to include extensive text on my slides). Because the Oregon Direct Action project ended before implementation, I also hope to do a retrospect post on what worked and what didn’t work in the effort.

Whitman Direct Action has been active recently, first posting an update about their most recent project, The Transnational Community Development, and then reporting on meetings with a couple of the NGOs they’re supporting.

I’ve also uploaded a PDF of the report we produced last spring, titled “Developing Water.” Through a series of surveys, focus groups, and interviews, we took a look at the socio-cultural constraints to clean water access in the Kolwan Valley. It isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking if you’ve been working in the sector, but it does serve as a pretty legit primer to water access issues in India.

Discussion topics for NewsInnovation Portland

In no particular order, these are the things I’m looking forward to discussing at BarCamp NewsInnovation Portland tomorrow:

What is journalism? Every conversation starts with a foundation, or core premises, and I don’t believe we’ve gotten to that point yet in this shindig about newspapers dying. Considering it’s a fundamental paradigm shift we’re going though, I think it’s going to be important to start at square one and build up.

The model for the ideal digital news organization. There’s a lot of ideas bouncing around as to how newsrooms should change, what the business models are, and what their websites should look like. It would be really sweet to come up with a master list of all of these ideas (and then have someone experiment with them…)

Transparency for building trust. The first group to take the concept of an “open source organization” and apply it to journalism wins five dollars. I’d enjoy covering strategies and techniques (a la the CoPress Team Blog) for completely opening a news organization.

If you can’t make it, we’ll be livestreaming and liveblogging the whole day long. It will be epic.

First stage of MobilizeMRS research

Day one in Arequipa: asking as many questions as I possibly could about how Health Bridges International‘s partner clinic in Alta Cayma operates. This research will serve two purposes: extensive background for how MobilizeMRS might be useful, as well as assessing resources for intra-clinic collaboration. 

A little background. The catchment area for the clinic in Alta Cayma includes 30,000 to 35,000 people. From this population, the clinic saw 22,000 visits in the past year, with between 15,000 and 17,000 unique patients. Recorded number of visits to the clinic is increasing at a rate of 4,000/year. The clinic is pretty well resourced, according to Wayne of HBI, with a team of physicians (rotating 5, not all full time), dentists (2), nurses (9, not all full time), pharmacy (4), management (2), and two specialists, a psychologist and opthamologist. Essential medications are provided through a Catholic charity program and they can get most others through donations. Where the clinic lacks is primarily in specialization, health education, and patient care advocates.

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Ideas for a UO Sustainability Conference in October?

Steve Mital, Sustainability Director for the University of Oregon, recently sent a call for ideas to help guide a Sustainability Conference tentatively planned for the 23rd and 24th of October, 2008.  It is being organized by Sustainability Directors at Portland State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Oregon, and the second day will reportedly be “entirely devoted to students and sustainability.”  My suggestions for the conference, written in full on the Oregon Direct Action blog, revolve around these ideas:

  • Planning this conference digitally and in the public eye so that students can be a part of the entire process
  • Adding an international component to help bridge the local-international sustainability gap
  • Networking with local sustainability non-profits
  • Drafting a set of sustainability guidelines for campus community to voluntarily adopt (i.e. minimizing paper use, using Tupperware instead of styrofoam, etc.)
They are looking for ideas on “workshops, themes, keynote speakers, etc.” until July 3rd.  Let’s make this conference worth attending!