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"Journalism and the New Media Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messengers?"

CLOSING SESSION: The View from the Newsroom

What follows is an honest attempt to document a two-day conference at Yale Law School, "Journalism and the New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messenger?" The reporter is Bill Densmore of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. As with a similar in-the-moment report from a gathering at Harvard University two weeks ago, I make no warranty about the accuracy of direct quotes -- captured on the fly -- but make a promise to have supplied appropriate context as best as possible. The sessions are being videotaped. Consult that source for the final history of this event.

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This session, "The View from the Newsroom," includes David Carr of the New York Times, Marcia Chambers of the Yale Law School and the Branford Eagle; Bill Mitchell from the Poynter Institute; and Linda Greenhouse from Yale Law School.

Greenhouse: 30 years of work covering the Supreme Court

Linda Greenhouse: When she began to cover the U.S. Supreme Court there was almost no information about the SCOTUS available to the public. Now transcripts are put up the same day; it used to be two weeks. It enables a real-time conversation about what's going on in the court. That's a great benefit. But there are burdens. When here daily journalism career was wrapping up, all of her colleagues were obliged to file for their organization's websites within a half hour or 45 minutes after decisions came down at 10 in the morning. She would not have felt comfortable doing that. She felt obliged to take the decisions and think about them four a couple of hours, and when she did she often felt quite differently about them. "Sometimes first-cut impressions create a national impression that is not correct," she says. "It has put an enormous burden on those people who cover the court."

David Carr: Happy to do it -- but not with a sandwich board

As a working reporter: It is dark where I am, you can't see anything, you hear the sound of rushing water and you realize you are in a barrel and you are about to go over a big waterfall. You start examining the barrel you are in for its efficacy.

At the New York Times, for the first quarter consumer revenues surpassed advertising revenues. Increasingly consumers are participating. The mood in the newsroom: Most peole are glad to have a job. But the grind of print, video, Twitter, blogging, around and around puts you in a work-and-face-plant mode. "You may be too busy producing media to consume media, so what you end up putting out is dumber," he says.

"A person like me is a result of the legacy business model. Craig's list came on and shot off the back end of the media business -- which was classifieds -- 40% went away ... that means that somebody like me who has been trained and paid as a media professional all his life, is a legacy asset. I was probably never made to live in the suburbs, put my kinds in college and drive a car that works."

"On the web there is no scarcity ever and the adjacency's are far more limited. ... we can't leverage price as we would like to."

The 30% margins are gone. They kicked out a lot of wonderful journalism.

"People who are covered are beginning to realize media is not as robust as it once was," and as a result, "You better put the nut cup on and you better hire a damn good lawyer." You had better be prepared to defend your work.

Advertiser are now hacking their own route to the consumer. There are some workarounds to what media does that are a significant threat.

The New York Times online has 17 million unique users. "That's a huge audience that we never used to have." On the day of the Oscars, 8 million people visited. "That's a really powerful tool that most journalists never used to have." He works from his basement. "I just feel that I have all the instruments that I need to connect." But he has "time poverty." He doesn't know which way to look. But there are so many advantages.

He says he doesn't need to surf anymore because he has such a good set of RSS feeds. He doesn't have his laptop open at a conference. He says he loves what he does. "I just don't want to be putting on a sandwich board that says, 'Will write for free,' to do it."

Marcia Chambers: From the New York Times to the Branford Eagle


She started up the Branford, Conn., Eagle, an online news operation in a small Connecticut city, as a sideline to her roles as a Yale Law School professor. She tells the story about how a small town reacted suddenly to serious reporting.

She has had to learn how different the web is from strictly printing newspapers.

Bill Mitchell: Asking people to pay for new routines

He is living in an undergraduate dorm at Harvard this semester while on a fellowship there and there are five newspaper subscriptions in the dorm -- two of them his. Any debate about whether the transition has taken hold becomes academic.

It is a lot more complicated than asking people to move from one platform to another. Asking people to shed daily routines that they care a lot about. The Detroit News cut from seven days to three days a week for home delivery. In Ann Arbor, Advance Internet simply shut down the daily paper on July 23 and the next day began publishing http://www.annarbor.com . The old newsroom had 66, the new newsroom 28 -- may paid below what they were paid in the old print newsroom. What's left of the paper comes out on Thursday and Sunday "but it feels almost like an afterthought ... so there is bold experimentation taking place but many questions are left behind."