On print redesigns

Brothers and sisters in the print design world, you know I love you.

You bust your collective ass day after day to dress up content that may or may not be as award-winning as your design work, and in the end, you usually just get laid off for your troubles.  Because when management looks around that newsroom and sees you drawing pretty pictures, they usually don’t quite understand the importance of your work, compared to, say, an education reporter. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

All this is just to say, hey, redesign away.  Make beautiful pages.  I lust after your hot L and your reverse-type flags.  I wish every paper looked as cool as yours.

But try not to mistake fresh design for fresh content.

A print redesign — or an online one, for that matter — needs to be accompanied by training for the whole newsroom, especially if you’re designing using different story forms.

If you’re going chart-crazy, make sure you train reporters on how to format data for different types of charts.  If lists are your thing, give the news staff some good examples of A1 lists to follow.  Putting a set of briefs in rail?  Try training the copydesk to distill stories down to the right word count in a hurry.

This should be obvious, but is it?  You tell me.

Keep an eye on print design here:

2000 strong at Wired Journalists

So many milestones this week…

Here’s another one:  Wired Journalists now has more than 2000 members.

The Ning-powered social network that Howard Owens, Zac Echola, and I created back in January has exceeded our expectations, in terms of numbers, interaction, community, and the learning/teaching that’s going on there.

Plus, it’s really bringing some people out of the woodwork.

I’m talking about beatbloggers like Matt Neznanski and Web staff from smaller papers, like Carlos Virgen from Walla-Walla.

Jay Rosen has been talking about using Wired Journalists as a pool of talent to find reporters and editors and bloggers like Matt and Carlos as they bubble up to the surface of the network, and I’m excited about the possibilities.

We created Wired Journalists to connect the non-wired with the wired, to give everyone a place to speak freely about online news and experimentation on the Web, as it’s happening in newsrooms around the world.

I think what we’ve learned, in the first 120 days and 2000 members, is that not only are there thousands of journalists out there ready to improve their craft and expand their skillset, but that journalism is alive and well around the world, in all demographic groups.

In recent days, I’ve seen members at Wired Journalists from Iran, I’ve seen a French version of the network, I’ve seen high school journalism students join the network to extend their education, and I’ve seen entire television news staffs join up over the course of a day or two. (What’s up, Topeka?)

So, thank you.

Thank you for answering the call to join Wired Journalists and thank you for helping each other learn about what’s next for journalism.

Introducing WiredJournalists.com


At the end of 2007, Howard Owens* published a blog post outlining a year-long program he called 2008 objectives for today’s non-wired journalist.

A few of the objectives:

  • Become a blogger.
  • Start shooting your own pictures.
  • Do the same with video.
  • Join social networks.

Howard soon started fielding e-mails and requests for guidance from reporters looking to take him up on his offer of a $100 Amazon gift certificate for the first journalist to go from Zero to Everything as far as the list of objectives goes.

Howard, myself, and Zac Echola got together to start building WiredJournalists.com as a response to those calls for help.

From the Mission Statement:

“Our goal is to help journalists who have few resources on hand other than their own desire to make a difference and help journalism grow into its new 21st Century role.

You don’t need the best equipment, the biggest budget or even management support to accomplish worthy goals. The only requirement is a willingness to learn and a mind open to new ways of thinking about journalism.

We are here to help each other learn basic skills and learn how new technology and new societal expectations for media are changing journalism.

At WiredJournalists.com we are all teachers and we are all students. We help each other and learn together. Those who know more should help those who know less. Those with questions should never be afraid to ask them.”

So please, come join this new community, but more than that, pass the link along to the guy in the next cubicle who doesn’t read blogs.

Pass it along to the photographer who hasn’t built a slideshow.

Pass it along to your editors, your teachers, and your students.

All are welcome.

*(Howard is my day-job boss.) 

Your real competition

You *think* your competition is the guy at the TV station who always rip-and-reads your stories, or the reporter on your beat at the major metro from the big city 12 miles away, or that alt-weekly with the nasty cartoonist, don’t you?

Sorry, but that’s simply not the case.

Oh, sure, your ad reps and their ad reps might be calling the same local businesses and trying to squeeze a few more upsells out of them, and in that sense, yes, you’re competing with other local news organizations for advertising dollars.

But what are you doing to compete for the attention of your audience?

Your competition is the Web.

It’s Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and blogs and iTunes and IM and Ning and Digg and Delicious and e-mail and Flickr and Yelp and Amazon and now is not the time to wave them off as something someone other than your readers spends their time doing.

If you’ve said the words ‘Oh, well we’ve always done it that way’ in the last FIVE YEARS, you have a problem with addressing the question of who is competing with your organization.

If you’ve said the words ‘Oh, but that won’t work here’ in the last THREE YEARS, you definitely have a problem with addressing the pace of change in the news business.

Paul Conley says the time for training dinosaurs is over. I say it’s worth the effort, but the first step is helping them understand they have a problem.

Dave Cohn says the time for evangelizing for change is over. I say he’s right that it’s time to put up or shut up; my job is to do shepherd along journalists who are quick to pay lip service to the Web, pushing them through the next steps of actually changing the way they work, every day.