Sending you away so you’ll come back later

Well folks, I’m pretty much all blogged out on the whole New Newspapers thing for now. I’ve started to feel like a broken record playing a recording of a broken record where lots of people tell each other why they need to change how they run their businesses. I’m still reading plenty of on-topic stuff, so be sure to keep an eye on my feed, which is also here on the sidebar of this site, and I’ll keep tagging some of the more interesting articles I find.

As for me, I’m gearing up for one bear of a summer, with travel, work, family, animals, the great outdoors, and a thesis proposal to deal with, among other things. Not to mention learning Flash, improving my Photoshop skills, and learning more web-design-by-osmosis, as it usually works out.

One thing I am thinking about writing here is more about what my ideal newspaper website would look like. I often point to sites that do Task A, but not Task B, or sites that don’t even think about Task C, or even organizations that tried Task D, ran it for a few months, then took it down after all hell broke loose.

So yeah, I think it’s time for me to lay out my own ideas about what an online newspaper should do for readers in 2006.

But not right now.

My task, for the moment, is to send you away to the following places. Enjoy.

  • Journerdism: Will Sullivan’s “…website for journalists and nerds to kick it.”
  • Teaching Online Journalism: Mindy McAdams teaches online journalism, and wrote the textbook on Flash Journalism. Literally.
  • Steve Outing: Qualifies as an online news Guru.
  • Steve Yelvington: “Lifelong journalist” tracks technology and online news trends.
  • Gangrey: Some of the best of what I would call narrative journalism in today’s newspapers and magazines. Lots of links to great stories, most days.
  • Required reading and linkage for aspiring paginators.
  • Subtraction: A web designer for the New York Times writes about web design.
  • Typophile: If you really, really like fonts, this is the place for you.

Pizzacasting for answers

I had an interesting time last night at the Pizzacast session. It was a small group with a wide range of interests (journalism, public relations, computer science, theater, business, aggregators), and the conversation ranged wildly from the on-topic question of what to teach in the upcoming New Media class at SJSU’s j-school, to some pleasantly off-topic tangents about open source textbooks and the Future of Newspapers.

Steve Sloan recorded a podcast, which you can grab from his post. Not sure if this is part 1 of 2 or if he cut the pre- and post-pizza conversations into one file.

Andrew will probably have some webcam video or audio of his own up later today. (Note to self: Sit as far away from wide angle webcam lens as possible next time…)

Oh, and the bonus mystery guest, who read about the beer-and-pizza plan on Valleywag, was Gabe Rivera of Memeorandum. That was unexpected.

Anyway, the whole point was to discuss what and how to teach undergraduates about New Media, with the idea that they should come out of the course with some practical knowledge about blogging, podcasting, video podcasting, and related will-get-you-hired-if-you-know-how-to-do-it technologies.

Here’s a few takeaways, filtered through my own opinions:

  • Teaching some theory is okay, but just enough to get students excited about the practical things they’re learning. Let’s read this stuff online when possible; even better, let’s just read blogs on certain issues so that we’re reading current ideas, not stuff from three years ago.
  • The lab portion of the class should include blogging, podcasting, and video podcasting. Use a minimal amount of equipment and as much pre-fab content as possible, teach students how to use an open source (read: FREE) content management system like WordPress, Joomla, or Mambo.
  • The goal is to train online editors, not just online reporters. The class should logically follow 132 (Online Information Gathering) and 134 (Online Reporting) in the progression of courses. Students who have taken the class will be prepared to be the Online Editor for the Spartan Daily, Access magazine, or Update News. (Yeah, I know, Update doesn’t have a website. An Online Editor would fix that, eh?) These students would also have a big head start on creating online content for all three of those student media outlets.
  • Guest speaker suggestions: Robert Scoble, Shel Israel, Dan Gillmor, Shel Holtz (Prof. McCune – I think this is who you were thinking of), Jon Fortt and/or Mike Bazeley, Dai Sugano, Bruce Koon, and lots of other Silicon Valley online journalists or tech bloggers/podcasters. I think the speakers should always be tied to something practical in their area of expertise. Ask Scoble to demo an aggregator, ask Dai to talk about photo/audio slideshows, ask Fortt or Bazeley to talk about managing blogs and podcasts, ask a podcaster to demo whatever hardware and software he or she uses, etc.
  • Storytelling is key. Let students rework old stories (from 132 or 134?) for a new medium, then have them write new web-native stories. Teach them to have an eye for what makes a good story online.
  • Assign a blog/podcast/video podcast for weekly reading/listening/viewing for the whole class so there can be some collective discussion of a new media product.
  • Assign each student one blog to follow for the whole semester. Students need to consume the medium they want to work in, whether that’s print newspapers or online news or blogs or podcasts or video. There’s no understanding RSS or tags or hyperlinks without reading blogs in an aggregator on a regular basis, playing with the tools they become interested in. Students will probably notice things like Digg, Technorati, and Delicious before you get to them in class if they’re reading a few blogs.

I’m sure other folks will have more to say about this, and this was just a sort of brainstorming session. The folks who will be teaching this class need to hear more from students about what they already know and what they want to learn. How often does the faculty ask the students what they want out of a class? If you’ve got anything to contribute, you might want to start talkin’…

New Orleans hospital drama at Atlanta Journal-Constitution

There’s a huge 22-episode package running in print and online down at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution right now, and it takes the reader inside New Orleans hospitals during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

From the introduction to the piece:

To report this story, staff writer Jane O. Hansen interviewed more than 50 people over six months, beginning two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit, when recollections were still fresh.
She spent time in New Orleans, where she went through both hospitals. To interview sources, she also traveled to Nashville; Houston; Columbus, Ohio; and the Louisiana cities of Baton Rouge, Covington, Robert and Lake Charles.
While the story may read like a novel, it is reported using the same principles of accuracy and fairness we apply in every article.

The online elements include audio and photos, plenty of which were offered up by the subjects of the stories. There’s nothing fancy about the layout, but you can get the audio as a podcast in iTunes (a good and simple idea to keep people interested using the medium of their choice).


Redesign round-up: The New York Times

nytredesignThe New York Times launched a redesigned home page yesterday, with Multimedia and Video high enough on the page to make me happy, and a cute little “Most Popular” tabbed box that includes the stories getting e-mailed and blogged the most, as well as the top search terms on the site.
It gets better. Click on an article, then scroll down to the bottom of the story, and you’ll find direct links to “Related Blogs,” as well as related stories (although anything older than a few days is hidden behind the Times Select paywall) and searches on the keywords from the story.
I was about to moan and groan that even after buying Blogrunner, the company behind the Annotated New York Times, the redesigned site hadn’t started self-annotating. Of course, I would prefer the blog links to be a little more high profile. Hey Mr. Apcar, how about creating a little logo bug for the “NYT Annotations” and placing those “related blog” headlines a little higher up on the page, a la Take a look at this article on trends in Internet traffic and notice how easy it is to find the blogs. Then again, my eye is drawn to the familiar little green Technorati logo.

The most intriguing link on the new NYT site is right on top of the page, just to the right of the “Home Page” button. It’s the one that says “My Times.”

Whoa. That looks like a New York Times personal homepage, or maybe an aggregator, or more likely, a memetracker. The tagline is “Where the best minds in journalism help you edit the Web.” Hmm. Interesting. You can even sign up for the beta to be notified when the service goes live. How very Web 2.0.

More along these lines:

  • Khoi Vinh, a web designer for the NYTimes who came on board after the redesign was already underway, gives some details about the operation.
  • Anil Dash of blog software compant Six Apart writes that the new NYT borrows from blog layout, including the new 1024 pixel width.
  • Mike Arrington of TechCrunch is patiently awaiting the arrival of blog content published directly on newspaper sites.
  • Dave Winer isn’t impressed“…because it ignores most that has been learned about reading news on a computer screen, and instead models the front page of the print pub. Not a good use of the screen, it ignores the fact that they can produce a new document for each user every time they visit.”
  • Steve Outing says the new width on the NYT site means it’s finally time to ditch your outdated monitor and upgrade to a higher resolution. Amen to that. I fought this change early this semester at the Daily, but then quickly saw the Knight Ridder sites and CNN both stretch out their pages. Seriously, even the cheapest of cheap monitors these days should be able to handle 1024-pixel-wide pages. (Note to self: Should this blog page get wider?)
  • And finally, James Cramer writes this week in New York Magazine that the Times should ditch the print edition entirely and go all-digital.

    “That’s right. It should abandon newsprint and force everyone to the Web. It should make a stand against Google, using its division—something with real growth, and which is actually working out despite the $410 million in debt taken down to buy the thing—to lead the way. Maybe it should even take the revolutionary step of blocking Google from accessing its content, something no one else is willing to do. Or maybe it should at least say, “This is the deal: You want our stuff, you must share much more with us than you are willing to share with others.” It is worth it to preserve value for the future, to make it so our kids don’t think, Let me go to Google for all the news that’s fit to print. Heck, in another couple of years they won’t even know that the New York Times exists as anything but private-label news source for an Internet portal.”

What would your dream newspaper homepage look like? (And with that, I admit that I daydream about this sort of thing. Sigh.)