Tag Archives: news

It Ain’t Just How College Students Get the News

John Robinson, not long ago the editor of the Greensboro News & Record, is now teaching journalism to students at UNC-Chapel Hill. He’s written a blog post about how his students get their news, and while it’s not exactly shocking, it’s still interesting.

This is how one of my student’s began the diary of her day’s media interactions:

  • 8:15 a.m.: phone alarm sounds, snooze it
  • 8:30 a.m.: phone alarm sounds again, snooze it
  • 8:45 a.m.: phone alarm sounds again, turn it off
  • 8:50 a.m.: begin checking phone
  • Check text messages, respond
  • Check UNC emails
  • Check personal emails
  • Check Facebook
  • Check Twitter
  • Check Yik Yak
  • 9:05 a.m. Turn on laptop and begin work

That’s pretty much how she ended the day, too, minus the alarm.

I had 35 students in one of my classes record every interaction with media they had over the course of two days. The exercise surprised most of them with how reliant — addicted, in the words of several — they are to their phones and to social media. Putting aside the above student’s wake-up routine, it’s worth noting where her first stops of the day are not:No newspaper, no TV for news or otherwise, no CNN website. If it isn’t on her social media, she’s not going to get it.

That’s not uncommon, either. In fact, it would be more common if you add two more stops: “Check Instagram.” And “Check Snapchat. Respond to Snaps.”

As I read this I had to chuckle because if you were to push the time frame up – I am almost 50 and I have a hard time remembering the last time I slept that late – that’s pretty much how I roll in the morning too. I do consume news directly from traditional sources like newspapers, TV news and magazines, but honestly I do that more for depth and background than for news itself. Almost all of the interesting stories I read are shared with me by someone on one of my multitude of social networks and I seriously doubt I’m the only person in my demographic who can say that.

Later on in his post John writes, “They simply don’t access a great deal of mainstream news media outlets in their course of the day. They often get the news indirectly. But they still get it. (I was a college student once pre-Internet and they know a lot more about what’s going on in the world than most of my classmates did.)” That was true of my college experience too. So many people gave me funny looks when they saw me reading a newspaper or magazine even though it wasn’t assigned school work. Sure, plenty of people cared about news but many did not then and still don’t to this day.

What’s interesting to me is that most people I know in the working world already behave the way his students do. Many of them never paid attention to the news before social networks, and now they actually do because they’re bombarded by shares from their friends. (The reliability of these sources can be questioned, but that’s a post for another day). In my mind if a media company figures out the sharing economy then it’s made itself relevant. If not? Well, bless their hearts.

The Basic Report

Do you read The Week? It’s a great publication because it does something vitally important – it provides on overview of issues of the week and incorporates excerpts from news sources from around the world in the process.

Now some folks in San Francisco have created The Basic Report, which is kind of like The Week, but appears to go a step further by taking the events and explaining how you can best use this info in a cocktail party setting. November, 2014 is Vol 1, Issue 1 and it looks like a great start. Here’s to hoping they stick around.

Here’s What You Should Know

A good suggestion for news organizations from Jeff Jarvis:

So the opportunity: If I ran a news organization, I would start a regular feature called, Here’s what you should know about what you’re hearing elsewhere.

Last week, that would have included nuggets such as these:

* You may have heard on CNN that an arrest was made. But you should know that no official confirmation has been made so you should doubt that, even if the report is repeated by the likes of the Associated Press.

* You may have heard reports repeated from police scanners about, for example, the remaining suspect vowing not to be taken alive. But you should know that police scanners are just people with microphones; they do not constitute official or confirmed police reports. Indeed, it may be important for those using police radio to repeat rumor or speculation — even from fake Twitter accounts created an hour ago — for they are the ones who need to verify whether these reports are true. Better safe than sorry is their motto…

* You may have heard reports that there were more bombs. But you should know that we cannot track where these reports started and we have no official confirmation so you should not take those reports as credible. We are calling the police to find out whether they are true and we will let you know as soon as we know.


Don’t Quote Me

Anyone who has ever been interviewed for a news story has experienced that "Oh God I hope I don't sound like and idiot" feeling and the related "I hope they don't use what I say out of context to make me look like an idiot" feeling. It's terrifying and a primary reason that there's an industry built ar0und media training.

Related to the fear of being misquoted is the desire to control the story and as a result there's a growing trend for people to demand quote approval as a condition for being interviewed. Some traditional news people argue that it's bad for the news reporting business, but Dilbert creator Scott Adams thinks it might actually be a good thing:

I've been interviewed several hundred times in my career. When I see my quotes taken out of context it is often horrifying. Your jaw would drop if you saw how often quotes are literally manufactured by writers to make a point. Some of it is accidental because reporters try to listen and take notes at the same time. But much of it is obviously intentional. So much so that when I see quotes in any news report I discount them entirely. In the best case, quotes are out of context. In the worst case, the quotes are totally manufactured.

I've also been in a number of interviews in which the writer tried to force a quote to fit a narrative that's already been formed. The way that looks is that the writer asks the same question in ten different ways, each time trying to lead the witness to a damning or controversial quote. It's a dangerous situation because humans are wired to want to please, and once you pick up on what a writer wants you to say, it's hard to resist delivering it…

Quote approval is certainly bad for the news industry because it reduces the opportunities for manufacturing news and artificial controversies. But on balance, I'd say quote approval adds more to truth than it subtracts.

Over the past few years I've been interviewed a few times for news stories related to my job, but they were mostly "friendly" stories that didn't carry any "gotcha" risks. Then a few weeks ago I was interviewed for a story and it was apparent throughout the interview that the reporter had a pre-conceived narrative and she was trying mightily to get me to give up a juicy quote to support that narrative. I spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to not give her that quote and then spent eight agonizing hours until the story was aired to see how anything I might have said would be used. I've never been happier to end up edited ott of a story in my life.

Local TV News on Social Media

I have a question for local TV news folks.  Do you think your social media outlets, Facebook in particular, should reflect your station/corporate values?  I would imagine the answer is yes, and if it is you really should be careful what you post or link to on your Facebook page.  Although I think it's perfectly appropriate to link to stories you don't air on your regular broadcast since, like your website, your Facebook page is a great way to expand your coverage, I don't think it's appropriate to link to stories that you wouldn't air on your broadcast because it's simply too racy. 

If you'd like me to give you examples I'll give you two just from this week: a story about a guy having unnatural relations with a dog, and another story about a guy who got a tattoo on a certain body part that resulted in him developing an unexpected condition normally associated with a Viagra overdose.  Sure, some people will find them funny, and I've been around long enough to know that stories like that grab attention, but if they aren't an accurate reflection of your organization's values then you really shouldn't post them.

By the way, the same can be said for any organization in any industry.  Just because they're a different venue that might have a slightly edgier audience than your norm doesn't mean that your social media outlets should not reflect your values.  Remember, you are what you post.

When You Don’t Want to Know the Whole Story

When the headline reads:

Drunk, Naked Man Spends Night In Stranger's Vehicle

And the first paragraph reads:

Police in Wilkesboro said a man who got drunk at the Sagebrush restaurant on Thursday evening caused $600 in damage to a vehicle that he spent the night in at the Red Carpet Inn.

Do you really want to know the rest of the story?

Read more: http://www.wxii12.com/news/28961547/detail.html#ixzz1VxsUwWnP

Shirky’s News Machine

Clay Shirky has a very interesting post on the news/newspaper business.  An excerpt:

None of the models being tried today are universally adoptable; the most we can say is that each of them happens to work somewhere, at least for the moment. This may seem like weak tea, given the enormity of the current changes, but if our test for any new way of producing news is whether it replaces all the functions of a newspaper, we’ll build things that look like newspapers, and if replicating newspapers online were a good idea, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

If we adopt the radical view that what seems to be happening is actually happening, then a crisis in reporting isn’t something that might take place in the future. A 30% reduction in newsroom staff, with more to come, means this is the crisis, right now. Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad.

Having one kind of institution do most of the reporting for most communities in the US seemed like a great idea right up until it seemed like a single point of failure. As that failure spreads, the news ecosystem isn’t just getting more chaotic, we need it to be more chaotic, because we need multiple competing approaches. It isn’t newspapers we should be worrying about, but news, and there are many more ways of getting and reporting the news that we haven’t tried than that we have.

Worth the read.

Reporting is Reporting

A reporter-turned-blogger who won a journalism award in the blog category thinks that reporting is reporting no matter how you report.  She also divulges her secret to scooping her media competition:

Well I use a lot of tasers and threats – idle threats. Someone asked me this the other day, they say how do you get so many scoops? And I’m like, I work harder than you, I call more people, I follow up. I’m kind of relentless in terms of making calls, building sources, creating relationships. When I hear a small thing I follow it up. I think there’s no trick to great reporting, it’s just being curious, following things up, developing sources and not just putting up whatever idle rumor is around. We don’t do that. When we write something it’s going to happen. We spend a lot of time on accuracy, on credibility, on truthfulness, and on being right about what we say is going to happen.

I've long felt that the one competitive advantage that mainstream news outlets had after they had laid off their real competitive assets (their people) was that they were the "reliable source." Of course all it takes to lose that advantage is a couple of poorly researched stories that are publicly debunked by some nosy blogger, or heck, some well informed and well connected person who exposes the errors on Facebook.  It's like you tell your kids, one lie undoes all the trust you built with a thousand truths. Now I'm beginning to think that another way the traditional news outlets can lose their advantage is by having it taken by a reporter who's spent years building her reputation by doing great work and who is now swimming outside of the mainstream media, probably because she was downsized, and is now highly motivated to eat their proverbial lunch so she can continue to literally put her dinner on the table. 

So what's the over/under on when we'll stop referring to reporters as "main stream" or "bloggers" and just start referring to them as, well, reporters?  How about when we'll stop worrying/caring if the reporting comes to us in the form of paper, traditional television newscast, carrier pidgeon or electronically on the personal-digital-device-du jour?  I'm glad I'm not the one who has to figure that out.