Where have I been, you ask? In Oaxaca, Mexico, where the food is great, the mezcal is better and DSL is only a dream (at least on my dirt road). It's a great place for a media break. Until I return in about another week or so, read about how I built a house there or wander the stacks of the Best of First Draft: The list is below. Hasta luego.
The Quality Manifesto: What started it all.
Journalists Overpaid? Nonsense: There are many reasons newsrooms have disconnected from the communities they cover, but overly fat paychecks is not one of them.
No More Whining: He's wrong that penurious publishers are to blame for readership woes.
Eliminating the Bimbo Factor: I practiced journalism, but I knew almost nothing about it - although I thought I did.
Would You Pay a Nickel to Read This?: In the world of online newspapers (and other media), the debate over whether to charge for content (more revenue) or not (more readers) draws well-reasoned and emotional commentary from both sides.
Newspapers Disrupted: "When you realize this newfangled thing is stealing your business, and you aren't sure how to get it back."
How Journalism Went Bad: Reading writer Michael D'Antonio's thoughtful essay on the demise of traditional journalism (print and broadcast) in the L.A. Times reminded me of the Woody Allen line about death: "It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
Time for a Leadership Tuneup: Newspapers are like cars. They are complex machines that require regular maintenance, occasional new parts and a certain amount of high-speed driving to keep the grit and road grime from dulling their engines.
There's Nothing Left but the Journalism: Quality sells. Relevance matters. The real lesson both the newsroom and the boardroom need to learn is that, in the age of the 24-hour scroll, the micro-fragmentation of electronic media, and the constant clamor for a news consumer's attention by everyone from the New York Times to yours truly, all that's left is the journalism.
The Journalism of Complacency: Tim Rutten, who was completely wrong about Daniel Okrent (see my comments here and here), noses about for the roots of journalistic evil and finds it to be money - that is, the relative affluence of reporters and editors, at least those in larger news organizations. He's half-wrong again - but inadvertently landed on a point worth making.
ASNE's Diversity Study: Looking for Answers: Why do America's newspapers remain so white despite 25 years of effort to have them be more reflective of the communities they cover?
Money, Money, Money: The salary gap widens between the boardroom and the newsroom
New Readership Study: Culture Counts: A new study by the Readership Institute - released at the ASNE convention - focuses on attracting younger and more diverse readers to newspapers and on overcoming the internal cultural barriers that inhibit innovation.
Applied Talent: Howell Raines was right about one thing (at least) -- what counts is how much talent is at work, not how much is in the building.
According to This Reporter: Sources and Accountability: Is having no source in a news story better than citing an anonymous one?
Goodness and Tyranny: The desire to do good work and the obstacles of tradition, convention and production connect all newspaper journalists.
News Media vs. Journalism: It's time, once again, to make the distinction between the "news media" and journalism.
Editorial Pages: Pizza vs. Finger Bowls: The nature of editorial pages and how newspapers use them to connect to readers.
He Said, She Said, We Said …: Revelations about the mindset of traditional journalists, the power shift personal publishing technology has brought to media, and a common frustration shared equally by reporters and their subjects.
Apologize? For What?: The Boston Herald, has apologized for publishing a photograph of the young woman shot to death by police during a street disturbance following the Red Sox's victory over the Yankees. That was a mistake.
Explode the Newsroom: Six Ways to Rebuild the System: After meeting last week in Atlanta with a group of smart, committed journalists who gathered to brainstorm about ways to rescue what Carol Nunnelly of NewsTrain calls the "prisoners of the newsroom" - assignment editors and other mid-level managers - I've come to believe the traditional newsroom structure is obsolete and cannot respond to the challenges of changing readership, new journalistic forms and professional stagnation that threaten the relevancy of newspapers.
The Power of One: Over and over again I hear journalists bemoan the falling numbers in their newsrooms or shrinking size of their news hole. And they are right to do so. They are also right to pursue efforts to link quality journalism to higher profits. But that is not enough. Individual journalists need to take personal responsibility for the quality of their work and get beyond the question someone asked yesterday at a conference on homeland security reporting: What can one person do?
Reading the Vanishing Newspaper, A Guide: Philip Meyer, a University of North Carolina journalism professor, wrote "The Vanishing Newspaper, Saving Journalism in the Information Age," as "an attempt to isolate and describe the factors that made journalism work as a business in the past and that might also make it work with the changing technologies in the present and the future." I read the book and dissected it chapter by chapter.
ASNE Convention: Six Things that Should be on the Agenda: The American Society of Newspaper Editors convenes next week in its usual location (Washington, D.C.) with its usual line-up of predictable political keynoters (Bush, Rice) and its usual array of panels devoted to the industry's ongoing crises (declining readership, stagnant diversity, confused ethics, eroding credibility).
New Values for a New Age of Journalism: Are some of the newsroom's most prized values contributing to journalism's continuing decline in credibility? What should replace these values to better reflect the complexities of modern media yet still embrace the core principles of journalism? What should be the standards of credible journalism in an age when all definitions of news are up for grabs?
Readership: Survival Lessons for the Future from Minneapolis: Could the most ambitious readership experiment underway at an American newspaper provide clues to construction of a future in which newspapers survive by embracing the values of the very forces that are threatening their distinction?
The Mood of the Newsroom: In the last 18 months I've interviewed several hundred journalists - reporters, photographers, copy editors, executive editors, designers, graphic artists. I've been in newspaper newsrooms of more than 500 people and in newsrooms of less than 50. It has been an immersion course in the mood of the press - and much of it hasn't been pretty.
Local News: Who is Going to Write for Citizen Me?: Can grassroots journalism bridge that gap between local information and local news? Is it even necessary to do so? Or is just having the public distribution of the information sufficient to fulfill the need of an informed citizenry?
Newsweek Flushes Credibility Down the Toilet: When is this self-destructive obsession by the press with "scoops" and "exclusives" going to end? Newsweek is the latest self-inflicted victim of this misplaced priority, which values "sources" over facts and half-truths over transparency - and for what?
The $34,000 Question: What Will You Give Up to Get More Local?: Change comes with a price. The more radical the shift, the higher the cost. For newspapers, the tariff to a different future must be the sacrifice of sacred cows, damage to some newsroom egos and even the loss of some of today's readers in the hopes of securing more of tomorrow's.
Oh, Canada: An Innovation Presentation: I spoke yesterday at Canadian Newspaper Association's annual conference, held this year in Ottawa. I pulled together a number of the ideas you've seen on First Draft for a presentation on newsroom innovation.
Working at Change: How One Newspaper Created a New ‘Compact’ with Readers: As I noted the other day when I wrote about John Robinson’s efforts to make his newspaper in Greensboro more local, change is hard work – and at a newspaper it can be dauntingly so.
Blogging the Beat: I talked with several reporters who write blogs. Here's what they had to say about the advantages blogging brings to a beat reporter.
Dawning of the Age of the Journalist: Could it be that as the age of the journalism business wanes under the weight of an obsolete business model and changing audience that potential power of the individual journalist is on the rise? Are we entering the age of the journalist?
London Bombings: The Unread Newspaper: The first-day story no longer belongs to newspapers - and hasn't for a long time. It isn't even the property of professional journalists any longer.
News Meets the Global Thought Bubble: How are traditional news organizations responding to citizen journalism and blogging? What interests do citizen journalism and mainstream news organizations share? Where are they at odds? founder responses (what will future audiences of news look like?)
Building the Journalism of the Future, Intentionally: It's getting harder and harder to find a silver lining in the cloud of bad news that is enveloping the newspaper industry. But I'm going to try. My mantra that practicing quality journalism will help newspapers find a path to a sustainable future rings hollowly in light of the New York Times' announcement that will trim 4 percent of its workforce, including 45 positions in the newsroom.
Journalism by Every Means Necessary: One reason I have been writing less these past few weeks on First Draft - aside from the temporal summer slump and yet another plunge into Mexican real estate - is that I have run out of patience.
The Rise of the Norgs: In scraping the newsroom clouds for a silver lining, I could argue that this year of cutbacks and layoffs, as institutionally disruptive and personally damaging as they have been and will continue to be to so many journalists, can be seen as the catalyst so desperately needed to awaken a slumbering industry.