Wired Journalists in 2008: Were you in it to win?

Howard “yes, he’s my boss” Owens follows up on the December 2007 post that spawned Wired Journalists with an update as the year grinds to a burly, overwhelming close. (Well, it’s been that way the last couple weeks for me, at least.)

Howard asks how wired you’ve become in 2008:

The post stirred a lot of conversation, but I only heard from a couple of reporters who were taking on the MBO program.  I’ve not heard back on progress from any of them in months.

Editors John Robinson in Greensboro and Linda Grist Cunningham in Rockford set up similar programs for their newsrooms.  Robinson, I know, rewarded at least two staff members for completing his list of “get wired” goals.

Of course, Howard framed this as an “MBO program” and to me, it’s always going to be more organic and harder to track than any checklist with accountability, so here’s my completely anecdotal analysis:

  • More journalists are using Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking and reporting tools to connect with their peers, sources, and readers.
  • More journalists are learning multimedia skills, whether it’s as simple as point-and-shoot video or as complicated as XML-to-Flash.
  • More journalists are getting curious about what all this new media talk is all about, even if that just means they’re curious enough to sign up for Wired Journalists (where there are now more than 3,000 members) and lurk.
  • All of this is good.

What about you?  How do you think journalists, in general, are doing at adopting (and adapting to) new technology? 

If Howard were to re-write his post for next year, what should the objectives for a wired journalist be in 2009?

Carnival folo

Some of the best posts I see coming out of this past weekend’s Carnival of Journalism are drifting into the blogosphere after the fact, as folks not on deadline analyze what we prattled on about for a few grafs each, who did the prattling, and how to muster up some real temporal freedom in newsrooms.

Doug Fisher, a contributor to the carnival, circles back around to take a closer look at the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina, a newsroom Jack Lail mentioned in his own carnival entry.

Anderson editor Don Kausler Jr. said this in Lail’s post:

“In our shrinking newsroom, we no longer have enough reporters to cover traditional beats such as government, education, business, health, etc. Now all of the reporters on our content staff are general assignment reporters. They are assigned to geographic regions, and they cover government, education, business, etc., in that region (or they wrangle content from freelancers).”

Fisher responds:

“I find myself wondering who is going to keep an eye out so that things that might be seemingly isolated or random among geographic areas don’t get overlooked as pointing to a larger pattern. This, it seems to be, puts additional pressure on the editors to see that 10,000-foot view. But even if they do, will the GA reporter thrown in to do the story have the time to develop the expertise.”

This is a hard one for understaffed newsrooms. When the shrinking-profit-margin layoff virus hit the paper I worked at in California, we cut both specialists and GA reporters working a geographic beat. They weren’t replaced, and the newsroom wasn’t re-organized to cover the losses.

And if a newsroom does give up its specialists and re-organize around geography, does it need to keep one body working on investigative, or enterprise, or education, or business — something where they can go in-depth and anchor the front page a few times a week?

Probably, but that one extra body doesn’t exist in most newsrooms.

“So perfectionism is a good place to hide: Everybody is always too busy to innovate.”

Which brings me back around to time.

My original question for the carnival bloggers was meant to find ways for newsrooms to take back some time from the print edition.

Print edition workflow is a huge timesink, as files get passed back and forth, budget lines are floated, edited, mulled over in meetings, questions are posed, and the actual process of writing gets jammed into a small space on deadline.

Michelle McLellan, writing at the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Leadership 3.0 blog, says it’s hard to let go of the newsroom culture of perfectionism:

“The research tells us that traditional print news organizations tend to reinforce perfectionism to a fault. People focus on details at the expense of big-picture thinking. Perfectionists are afraid to leave anything out, much less stop doing something. This is why stories get longer, workloads get heavier and to-do lists grow to discouraging proportions. These newsrooms also are risk-averse. So perfectionism is a good place to hide: Everybody is always too busy to innovate.”

McLellan goes on to list 10 steps to getting an individual journalist to adopt a new practice, whether it’s online or off — well worth a read, especially for those of us saddled with the task of actually talking to reporters and editors every day, trying to get them to pick up some new tricks — if they can find the time.