NickEaton.net


It’s not a closed door
July 3, 2008, 9:59 am
Filed under: Internet, Journalism, News Industry

Jose V. Heinert (though I’m honestly not sure who that is … sorry, Jose) posted an interesting comment on my entry about young people reinventing the newsroom.

I’m sure your group is smart, thoughtful and far-sighted. But to exclude people because of their age is ageism: Young people are more innovative. Women are more nuturing. Fat people are jolly. Old people, like Steve, can’t come up with fresh ideas. All bogus assumptions and all have no place in a modern workplace.

Jose raises a good point — just because we’re young doesn’t mean we know better about innovation than people who are older than us. In fact, there are times when we could be worse. I would argue, however, that young people are much more in tune with the internet community tham middle-aged folks.

The older journalists in any newsroom know how to use the internet. They use it for Google searches, for finding phone numbers, for using maps, for reading other newspaper websites. They use e-mail. Some of them blog for work.

But how many of them go home after work and immediately sit down on their personal computer because they want to check whether their friends have written any new blog posts? Are they checking Facebook daily? Are they Wikiwandering just because it’s fun?

For young people, the internet is a community. It’s a society. Jokes start on the internet and infiltrate our lives. Would a 50-year-old editor laugh if I busted out an “O RLY?” or mentioned the LOLrus? Would they have any idea what Monorail Cat is?

My point is, young people — in general — have a better idea of how the internet is used and constantly evolves. And it’s young folks only because we’re the people who spend the most time on the internet. I would argue that we would know better if a newspaper website looks great or horrible. I would argue that we would know better what people would like to see on a website. And, hence, I would argue that young people would know better how to most efficiently get content on the internet.

To return to Jose’s comment, about ageism, I’d like to let you know that we have opened up our meeting next Tuesday for anyone in the newsroom to come give us ideas. We don’t want to miss out on great input. Older people might — and will — have some great ideas. Our group of eight — Team Fix Newspapers for Ever and Ever, or the Young Turks, or whatever — is not proud, we are not trying to exclude people.

Of course, this all assumes that we’ve been charged solely with finding a way to better integrate online operations into the newsroom structure, which isn’t entirely the point. The way I see it, however, is the traditional newsroom structure has worked for 150 years; the only reason things need to change now is because the internet has been thrown into the mix.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

Like Kate Martin said on her blog, “Electric Fishwrap,” today:

The only way this can change is if we change our priorities. I cannot pretend to know what those priorities should be. I constantly hear that online news doesn’t pay the bills, and yet that’s where most of our competition is.

What is the answer? I don’t think anyone knows. But at least some people are trying.

“We must all hang together, or assuredly, we will all hang separately.” — Thomas Jefferson

Amen.

UPDATE: Heinert comments below:

With reduced revenues from subscriptions and advertising, Internet journalists will be looking at a dim future. Is it wise to shift resources from people like me, who pay the bills, in an effort to court a demographic that doesn’t seem to want your product?

If we look at this way, we might as well already give up. It’s not that people no longer want our product, it’s that people are now looking for our product online. People still care about what goes on in the world — just look at the explosion of blogs. It’s just that the venue is shifting from one medium to another, from print to online.

I ask you, is it wise to keep all the resources dedicated to “people like you, who pay the bills,” when we know the print product is itself failing? Fewer people are picking up the print edition. Where are they going? Online. If we don’t meet their needs online, we’ll lose them permanently.

Advertisements

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

All valid points, Nick. I’m in my late 50s, and if we got in a contest over who spent more time on the Internet, well, I’d be happy to cede that prize to you.

But how often do you pay to read something on the Internet? And when will Internet advertising pay anywhere near what print advertising pays? (In Spokane the paper competes with the inlander for advertisers. On the Web, it competes with a gazillion other outlets.)

With reduced revenues from subscriptions and advertising, Internet journalists will be looking at a dim future. Is it wise to shift resources from people like me, who pay the bills, in an effort to court a demographic that doesn’t seem to want your product?

Seems like the risk is that you’ll go too far, divert too many resources to the Web, eviscerating the print product, driving away the older subscribers that fund both platforms, and sending the entire enterprise down the tubes faster than it’s already going. Maybe that’s an old-fashioned view and there’s no place for it in the whiz-bang world of, god help us, Wikiwandering.

Sorry to ramble, but that’s one of the traits of being a curmudgeon. Gotta go, “Matlock” is about to start. Best of luck to you and the group.

Comment by Jose V. Heinert

“Of course, this all assumes that we’ve been charged solely with finding a way to better integrate online operations into the newsroom structure, which isn’t entirely the point. The way I see it, however, is the traditional newsroom structure has worked for 150 years; the only reason things need to change now is because the internet has been thrown into the mix.”

This seems to me to be the core of your challenge. With due respect to Mr. Heinert, it doesn’t strike me that it is an either/or issue. It doesn’t appear that you are trying to eliminate newsprint editions, but to find ways in which the internet can enhance your bottom line.

This is not, of course, solely the challenge of the Spokesman Review, but of every newspaper. It’s the evolution of the media. The radio had to adjust to television — to redefine what they did and how they did it. Newspapers have to adjust as well. You can’t afford to ignore the reality of the internet. The papers that recognize, address and incorporate change, I believe, will be the ones with the greatest chance for success.

Best of luck to you.

Comment by beach

YA RLY!

I am glad your newsroom is being proactive. Earlier today I had the fear of God put into me by one of my editors during an all-staff meeting to let us know how screwed we were. Not too bad. Not layoffs bad. But close.

Editors assure us they are working on it. They are asking us for our input if we have any. To me, that is encouraging.

Those of us savvy with teh innertubes need the folks who have been there and done that and those folks need us around to show them Twitter and Flickr and Facebook (and whatever comes after those).

Nobody has a monopoly on ideas, regardless of age.

Good luck with it!

Comment by Kate Martin

[…] It’s not a closed door But to exclude people because of their age is ageism: Young people are more … Like Kate Martin said on her blog, Electric Fishwrap, today: […]

Pingback by Age Of Electric » Blog Archive » It’s not a closed door

[…] got rid of the title. Either way, we were responding to a general feeling from the newsroom when we opened up the floor for suggestions. Carla Savalli, the S-R’s AME for local news, half joked, “If it’s any […]

Pingback by Feedback on the reorganization report « Stories on the run




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: