Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Journalism at Social Media

I was a speaker at the #140confHV, the 140-character conference at the Seven21 Media Center in Kingston today. I met many of the tweeps that I follow, in person, and it was an overall enjoying and enlightening experience.
My talk focused on Journalism and Social Media (and yes, I grab my hair a lot when I'm nervous and I say "uh").

Here are the slides. I'll post the transcript later because I know nobody understands a word I say.

Here's the transcript:

The newspaper business model is dead.

And you have killed it.

I said this not because I’m a masochist. But because it is true.
And I say this not with morbidity, but with excitement.
We used to have ‘readers’: People who, after we decided what was news, would come to us, read our stories and maybe later write a letter to the editor that we would later decide whether if we wanted to publish or not.
The conversation was driven by us (or at least we would tell that to ourselves).
And so the agenda was set by us.
But when this thing called the Internet came around and the readers began writing and taking photos and the viewers picked up their cameras and phones and posted them in their blogs and social networks, the newspapers’ model was broken.
Newspapers realized that their consumers have become their competitors. And newspapers panicked.
This was awesome.
It was awesome because it meant newspapers have finally seen the writing on the wall.
Newspapers had to transform and evolve in order to survive.
It is in that context that we have tried to reinvent ourselves.
But we could not have done it without you. Because this change represented a humble realization:
We can’t be everyone.
We can’t cover everything.
But you are.
And you can.
So, humbled, we came to you, and we asked for your help.
Not as consumers, or as viewers, or as readers, or even users. But as partners.
We are all members of this community, we all contribute to this community.
So why can’t we work together?
I have to be clear. This does not mean outsourcing our job to you. Partnering means listening, collaborating, and mutually benefiting from an open and transparent process.
But OK, that’s a lot of nice and fancy theory. But at this moment you are probably asking: OK, buddy? But what have you done at the Daily Freeman?
And my reply, is to show you, some of the things that you, and we, as a community, have done.
For instance, when of the Daily Freeman’s reporters, Patricia Doxsey, we live-tweeting a murder trial, we not only opened a window into our writing process, but also invited you to comment, to post questions, to challenge our reporting.
And you did.
Sometimes you corrected us. Sometimes you asked for clarification. Sometimes you offered clarification about posts that we or others had posted.
The experience became more informative because of this collaborative process.
In another instance, one of the Daily Freeman reporters, Paul Kirby, held a livestream forum with the mayor of this city in which the questions were asked live by the reporter, and by you.

Most recently we held two debates with all the candidates for mayor of the city of Kingston and the questions, once again, were asked by you in advance and while the livestream was taking place.
We have partnered with area bloggers to increase their visibility in our community. And the roster is growing and expanding. They cover everything from politics to dogs, food, film, photography, theater, sports, business, mental health, and, yes, even social media.
We have partnered with a venue here in Kingston, Stella May, to bring you livestreams of benefit concerts and events, so you can enjoy them and participate even if you can’t be there physically.
We have cultivated our Twitter and Facebook presence, not to push links, although we do some of that, but to hear from you, to have a conversation.
Now let me step back a little bit, and admit this: We are not perfect. As a matter of fact, we have no idea what we are doing.
First of all,
I personally sit on a desk most of the day and monitor and participate in the conversation online while doing pages, writing and creating web features. But that hardly constitutes shoe-leather journalism.
Fortunately for all of us, we do have real journalists in our staff who do the heavy lifting with old school practices and new media readiness.
When I have gone out to do some livestreaming and such, I have messed up.
Big time.
Numerous times.
And guess what? I’m probably going to do it again. Because we’re learning as we find new ways to tell stories.
Some of the story-telling tools that we are now using, like Storify, a social media curation tool, are no more than a year old.
We have told stories with
Ustream, Scribd, CoverItLive, Google Maps, docs, forms, spreadsheets, ManyEyes, Photaf, Photosynth , Timetoast, Dipit, Batchgeo, and of course, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Myspace, Formspring. The list goes on.
But we haven’t used these tools because they’re cool. And, believe me, they are.
We have used them to bring you the context that you rightly have demanded from us.
On a personal note, I was chosen last year by the Journal Register Company, the parent company of the Freeman, as a member of the Idelab, a selected group of people that received tools, time and money to experiment for 10 hours a week in order to improve our journalism.
Most recenetly, the company’s CEO, John Paton, released the company’s rules for social media. And I think they deserve much consideration.
These rules have had great impact in our mission. These ‘rules’ have given us the freedom to be unafraid and creative and, yes, to fail on occasion.
Unbound by an invisible duty to serve the newspaper god of a dead tree, we are finally free to do what we signed up to do:
Journalism. True and new journalism.
That means that the standards for excellence still apply. Report the fact, Be fair, etc.
But we also listen. And we are part of and take part on the conversation, via text or email or tweet or post or story or any other media.
Bottom line is the medium doesn’t matter.
The journalism does.
And crappy journalism is crappy journalism in a newspaper or a phone or an iPad.
So we have refocused our mission and our journalism. And social media is a big, integral part of that.
Has it worked? So far, many indicators point to this.
Our web traffic and presence has skyrocketed and I’ve heard from many members of this community that our credibility and scope of coverage has improved. Because we are not just in the community, we are OF the community.
So where do we go from here?
And the simple answer is I don’t know.
And I couldn’t be more excited about that.
Thank you very much.

BONUS! An earthquake pays a visit to the conference: