4 Minute Roundup: YouTube Wins Court Case Against Viacom

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In this week's 4MR podcast I consider the ruling in the YouTube vs. Viacom court case, with the judge essentially throwing out Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit. The judge believed that YouTube followed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provision, taking down videos that violated copyrights when the copyright holder gave it a take-down notice. Viacom said it would appeal the decision while YouTube called it a strike for content-sharing sites on the web. I talked to MediaShift legal correspondent Rob Arcamona to get his take.

Check it out:


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Listen to my entire interview with Rob Arcamona:

arcamona final.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Google Wins Key Copyright Ruling at Wall Street Journal

How the YouTube-Viacom Ruling Will Set the Web Free at the Atlantic

Four Copyright Lessons From Google's Viacom Victory at Forbes

Will video sites stop filtering content? at Hollywood Reporter

YouTube's legal victory supports Internet service providers at International Business Times

Reacting to the YouTube-Viacom Case That Isn't Over Yet at The Big Money

Here are some of the write-in votes for our poll on iPhone or Android:

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Also, be sure to vote in our poll about how you are experiencing the World Cup:

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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Magazine Writers Are Slow to Take Up Multimedia

An ideal pitch for a magazine story today would seem to require great possibilities for text and for multimedia. Freelance magazine writers, one would think, would be honing their multimedia skills so they could pitch well-rounded stories to editors who could feature them in print, on the web and on an iPad or mobile device.

Surprisingly, though, freelance magazine writers don't seem to be encountering those demands, at least not yet -- even as their work becomes more critical to a stripped-down, minimally staffed magazine industry.

The fact that magazines are relying more heavily on freelancers but aren't engaging them in discussions of how their work could best be used online might raise concerns about the slow adaptation of the industry to the digital age. Or, it might reflect a reasonable and gradual movement toward online formats that is appropriate for magazines' audiences today. In the meantime, even the text of freelancers' work may also be changing in more subtle ways that most readers might not detect.

Multimedia Not Financially Rewarding

The freelancers I interviewed all said that they had only rarely been asked to provide multimedia components, or even ideas for them, alongside their stories. Their conversations with editors rarely involved the development of multimedia concepts with the story.


"On the level of thinking through a story and planning it from the beginning, I've never had anyone say, let's think about the web, let's think about handheld. We're not there yet," said John Bowe, a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and author of the book "Us: Americans Talk About Love."

For most magazines, "text remains the vehicle that pays for everything else, in the kind of journalism that I do," said Michael Fitzgerald, who has written for the Economist, Fast Company, the New York Times, and other publications. "Doing multimedia stuff isn't a priority at a lot of places ... I just finished a story that would have been perfect for that kind of thing, and it never came up. I'm speculating that complete lack of margin is driving that lack of interest, or editors don't have time to think of that kind of thing."

The data support Fitzgerald's conclusion. Magazines aren't making much money from online or multimedia. The 2010 State of the News Media report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that only 3.1 percent of consumer magazines' revenue in 2009 came from online and mobile outlets. That number is projected to grow to only 6.9 percent by 2013.

Given what may be a small and slow return on investment in multimedia, perhaps magazines are simply delaying their involvement of freelancers in multimedia projects.

"I don't think that position from the mainstream magazines is entirely slow," said Bowe. "The audience is a mix of older and younger people, and older people are still reading the paper edition. When the preponderant weight of the audience is wanting [multimedia], they'll get it. It's a little early in the game to get all of that."

For the freelancers I interviewed, this situation is just fine. They feel most comfortable working with text, not multimedia, and so they are happy to focus on reporting and writing and not seek additional multimedia skills. They also note that multimedia production for their magazine projects would be time-consuming and not especially financially rewarding for them, either.

Elizabeth Royte, a freelance writer who covers science and the environment for national publications and is the author of two books, said that although she's had magazine editors ask her to "keep an eye out" for good multimedia opportunities or additional web content while reporting, she hasn't been asked to produce or contribute to these projects herself.

royte2.jpg"Well-established magazines like the New York Times [Magazine] have tons of people" on staff who specifically work on multimedia, she said, so freelancers aren't really asked to get involved.

Storytelling Still Critical, But Changing

At the core of their work, these freelancers believe, is still their ability to tell a good story with words. Text alone still communicates powerfully without a lot of additional multimedia.

"People want to be guided by a good storyteller. They don't want to work hard" by exploring complex multimedia, Bowe said. "There's no one so smart that sometimes they don't want to just sit there and watch the dumb Hollywood movie. Sometimes they just want the basic experience without all these goddamn widgets."

However, working primarily with text doesn't mean these writers are unaffected by the fact that their work will probably end up on the web at some point.

Bowe said he feels writing destined for online formats needs "a different tone -- hotter, quirkier, more intense," in order to grab readers' attention within what he calls "the essential boringness of the medium."


Steve Silberman, a longtime contributor to Wired and other national magazines, argued that the changes over time in magazine feature writing go beyond tone, in part because of the web.

"The standard of magazine feature writing used to be New Yorker features," he said. "However, New Yorker features used to be much longer than they are now. And for many younger people, that kind of feature writing -- that delayed nut graph until the second page of the story -- it's hard to pull off in a web-based environment. People want to know what the story's going to be about in the first paragraph, and they decide if they're going to tweet it before they even finish reading it."

These changes in the audience's reading habits, Silberman said, have combined with a cultural shift -- spurred in part by cable news and talk radio -- to push feature writing toward a "quicker payoff, less nuance, and more controversy."

"People want easy polarities and dichotomies to choose between," he said. "I have felt pressure to make my stories more simplistic, to come down hard on one side of a question or the other."

Is It Time to Innovate Yet?

Today's magazine freelancers don't yet seem to feel the need to bring multimedia into their skill set and workflow. Editors aren't demanding it -- yet -- as magazines focus primarily on recovering from the economic blows they've suffered and less on innovating for the future. Whether this focus will be shortsighted in the long run remains to be seen.

Should magazines move away from print and into digital more aggressively, however, freelancers may find themselves increasingly called upon to be involved in multimedia development. For now, though, the focus is still on text.

"Text is the least bandwidth-intensive way to communicate complex experiences to the reader," says Silberman. "Text is always going to be with us because it's highly efficient. It employs the reader's own multimedia capabilities."

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Mass Communication and Journalism Department at California State University, Fresno. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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Your Guide to Digital Training Programs for Mid-Career Journalists

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

The pace of change in journalism over the last few years has left many experienced journalists feeling as though the profession is passing them by. So how can a mid-career journalist build their digital and multimedia skills? Get training, and fast.

Luckily there is a wealth of free or reasonably priced workshops, tutorials and other forms of training available online and in person. Here's an overview of some of the best digital/multimedia training options for journalists.

Poynter's NewsU

One of the longest-standing online training resources is Poynter's News University. It started in 2005 as a place where journalists could receive web-based training in writing, reporting, editing, headline writing and other areas. In recent years it has expanded its offerings to include a range of multimedia tutorials and webinars.

As of today, it's home to more than 225 different training modules. There are a large number of free online self-directed courses, meaning that after creating a free NewsU account you can go through a course at your own pace. It also offers a variety of live webinars that typically cost between $25 and $30. These webinars are then archived on the site and made available as broadcasts.

"News University is and has been what I refer to as 'just in time training'," said Howard Finberg, the director of interactive learning at the Poynter Institute and the director of News University. "It helps address the specific training needs [journalists] might have at any moment during their career or job."

He said the site is "designed with the professional in mind" and that a wide range of self-directed tutorials and courses means that "it's flexible in that you can do it anytime and any place."

NewsU also works to try and provide a wide range of educational resources; it's not just about teaching multimedia skills.

"Obviously we're trying to serve a variety of different needs and multimedia is part of it," he said. "But there also traditional skills-based training like writing, editing and reporting."

Finberg said the most popular course on NewsU is Cleaning Your Copy, which focuses on grammar, style and other similar elements of writing and editing. Other favorites include Five Steps to Multimedia Storytelling and Online Media Law. Finberg said to keep an eye out for more webinars and modules about entrepreneurship, SEO, mobile, and data visualization, among other hot topics. Finberg also noted that the site may soon start charging a small "latte fee" (meaning around $5) for new training modules. This is partly because it may soon be receiving less money from funding partners.

"We didn't want to put pricing as a barrier to training," he said. "On the other hand, we believe people need to understand that good training costs money."

Knight Digital Media Center

The Knight Digital Media Center (KDMC) is a partnership between USC Annenberg and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The program at UC Berkeley is focused on delivering "hands-on, newsroom-focused computer training for mid-career journalists." The number of workshops offered at Berkeley per year varies, and it let it be known earlier this year that 2010 will see it deliver "four multimedia, two Web 2.0 training workshops and one Independent Journalists Workshop." As of this writing, it's not accepting new applications, but those interested should check its website for news later in the summer.


The KDMC is known for offering intensive five- or six-day workshops focused on multimedia storytelling, though it has expanded its offerings to include a News Entrepreneur Boot Camp at USC, among other subjects.

"KDMC@USC training is offered to digitally savvy journalists and includes digital newsroom leadership conferences as well as a News Entrepreneur Boot Camp for people wanting to start their own news and info site," said Vikki Porter, director of the KDMC, noting that the offerings at USC and UC Berkeley are listed on the KDMC homepage.

Paul Grabowicz, the associate dean and director of the new media program at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, said workshop participants at UC Berkeley put in 12- or 13-hour days that mix instruction, lectures and hands-on work. They typically accept 20 people for each workshop.

"We get something like between five and eight times as many applications as we have openings on any given workshop," he said. "We're pretty closely scrutinizing the people who are applying. That's good but also bad in that frankly there are a lot of people we'd like to take into workshops who we can't."

The workshops are offered for free and the Knight Center pays for the participants' hotel and food. Travel and other expenses are not covered by KDMC and are usually picked up by the participants' employers. The good news for those not accepted into the workshops is that the Center's website offers a large collection of videos, tutorials and other content that can be used to build skills on your own time. It doesn't put all of its workshops' lectures and content online, but the list of available presentations is fairly extensive. Whether you're interested in Search Engine Optimization, data visualization, Flash, mashups, mapping or mobile, the Knight Centre has a lot of options.

(Mark Glaser live-blogged a KDMC bootcamp two years ago on MediaShift.)


In late 2008, former journalist Amy Webb watched as experienced journalists were losing their jobs. Many were struggling to get their minds around the new world of digital media. Webb decided to offer a series of free webinars aimed at helping recently laid off or fired journalists find their way online and in the new world of work. (Her company, Webbmedia Group, offers training to corporate clients and newsrooms.)

The webinars proved so popular -- the third one attracted 600 participants -- that in April of last year she launched Knowledgewebb, a site that offers roughly 300 self-directed classes, tutorials, webinars and other information and training. An annual membership costs $129 per year and also provides access to discussion forums where members can exchange information and have questions answered by Knowledgewebb's resident experts. The site recently unveiled a redesign.

knowwebb.jpgLive webinars and live chats with experts are offered a few times a month, and the service also enables members to generate a report detailing the courses and other training materials that they have successfully completed. (Webb said these reports are often sent to managers in order to demonstrate that a given employee is getting value out of their membership.)

"We have hands-on self-directed classes like how to use Flash, but a lot of those classes are about saying, 'Here's what it is and why it's hot' or 'Here is the whole debate about HTML5 versus Flash,' and as go on you do learn the basics," she said.

Aside from the tutorials and backgrounders about new skills and technologies, Knowledgewebb has information about how to set up a business at home, and about selecting the right computer and other equipment. The idea is to help people become successful freelancers or develop necessary business skills.

Webb said the service has "several thousand" paying members, and that it's best suited to those at the beginner and intermediate level of knowledge.

"It really is intended for people who are total beginners through intermediate," she said. "Somebody who is really new to this and doesn't know what blogging is, there is stuff for them. Somebody who got channeled into a new position that requires a lot of social media knowledge [will find] it is great for them, too."

Those interested in signing up might be able to receive a discount if they're a member of one of Knowledgewebb's partners, which include the Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of News Editors, among others.

Visual Editors

visualeds1.jpgVisual Editors, a non-profit organization founded six years ago, aims to "provide an engaging and interactive education for journalism scholars." Noted instructor Robb Montgomery gives workshops all over the world that teach a range of digital skills, and the organization maintains a Ning network that includes discussion forums, a job board and other resources.

Other Options

The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism recently announced CUNY J-Camp, a new multimedia training program. Its first workshop was held on June 24 and was entitled "How to Launch You.com." Keep track of future workshops and register at its website.

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University also offers Mid-career Master's degrees that can be specialized to meet specific goals, and the Medill School at Northwestern University also has a Master's Program for Experienced Professionals that offers some focus on digital skills. For a more complete listing of general mid-career prrograms see this list, or this overview of programs for business journalists.

There are also many other options available for professional journalists looking to educate themselves on their own time. Most of the best free online training and educational resources deal with programming, creating interactive maps and data visualizations, and learning to use software such as Photoshop. (For free self-directed learning focused on still-essential skills such as reporting, writing and interviewing, it's best to look at NewsU.)

W3Schools is one of the best known websites offering free tutorials in HTML, XHTML, CSS , PHP and much more. It also offers paid evaluations that can provide you with a certification to put on a resume. Another option is the Developer Tutorials website.

suchatphotoshop.jpgThose interested in learning Photoshop a can take advantage of the informative and often hilarious You Suck at Photoshop tutorials on YouTube, or consult this Mashable article to discover "10 Fantastic Photoshop Tutorials on YouTube." Tutorials and resources for other types of software are easily found online.

Here are a few great free tutorials created by journalists for journalists:

iTunes U is also home to a wide range of free education materials, as is MIT's OpenCourseWare. For example, both offerings include the MIT class, Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, which provides an overview of the fundamentals of programming and uses Python as the class language.

Finally, a great resource for anyone looking for an introduction to multimedia and technical tools for journalists is The Digital Journalist's Handbook by Mark Luckie, who writes the popular 10,000 Words blog and works as a multimedia producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting. His book is accompanied by some online tutorials that help expand the material.

At this point it should be clear that the abundance of free or reasonably priced training and education options means that it's relatively easy and affordable for journalists to build out their skills for the digital age. All it takes is a bit of time and discipline.

Editor's Note: KDMC and Medill are sponsors of PBS MediaShift, and the site has a grant from the Knight Foundation, which funds many mid-career training programs.

UPDATE June 24, 2010: Commenter Deb Wenger pointed out that the Society of Professional Journalists offers a Newsroom Training Program "with modules on web video, social media, writing for the web, etc." Wenger also noted that the SPJ plans to launch a series of online training modules.

Also, additional text and a link to the main Knight Digital Media Center site were added to the KDMC section of this article in order to highlight that the Center exists at both USC and UC Berkeley, and to specify the focus of the program at Berkeley. The quote from Vikki Porter, director of the KDMC, was also added.


Have you used any of these options? Are there any good training programs or resources that I missed? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments and we'll update this post.

Craig Silverman is an award-winning journalist and author, and the managing editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is founder and editor of Regret the Error, the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, and a weekly columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. He also serves as digital journalism director of OpenFile, a new collaborative news site for Canada. Follow him on Twitter at @CraigSilverman.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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Crisis in Kyrgyzstan Shows Need for ‘Responsible Content’

Back in 1996, my Columbia University colleague Jack Snyder and his co-author, Karen Ballentine, published a ground-breaking article called Nationalism and the Marketplace of Ideas. The essay used Serbian broadcasting and Rwandan radio to illustrate how hyper-nationalist media could be used to incite political violence.

Today's online media have the potential to be used in a similar fashion -- and this has been the case with the current ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan. Prior to this development, online media have played many positive roles in Kyrgyzstan and other former Soviet republics, according to David Trilling, the Central Asia news editor for EurasiaNet.org, an online news service supported by George Soros' Open Society Institute.


"Before the April uprising that ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, social networking sites and chat rooms such as diesel.elcat.kg were becoming the last fora for critical reporting on his corrupt regime," Trilling told me. "As [Bakiyev] silenced Kyrgyzstan's few trusted, independent media outlets, bloggers filled the information vacuum. But reporting anonymously, many bloggers have a tendency to stretch the truth or report rumor as fact. By undermining the credibility of the profession -- because Internet reportage is lumped into the same category -- these bloggers hurt the few journalists brave enough to report accurately without fear or favor."

Crisis Drives Online Traffic

Trilling oversees an operation that scouts out journalists to form a regional network of online reporters whose work is vetted and edited. Those who fail to meet standards of accuracy and independence are first warned, then dropped from his site's roster.

Trilling noted that the rising conflict in Kyrgyzstan drove new traffic to online media.

"There was an information blackout during the April uprising," he said. "As the protests gained strength, Bakiyev cut off international Internet traffic, forcing Kyrgyz to rely for information solely on Internet sites hosted locally."


Kyrgyzstan has roughly 5 million people. The principal ethnic groups are the Kyrgyz (about 70 percent of the population), Russians (roughly 9 percent), and Uzbecks (about 15 percent). Uzbecks are concentrated in the south. For decades, these populations were locked in the grip of Soviet authoritarian rule, but after independence in 1991 the country became subject to local despotism and ethnic rivalries.

Internet penetration in Kyrgyzstan has zoomed from near zero in 1998 to over 850,000 people in 2008. But the country has struggled to create public information systems via any medium. Government censorship of print and broadcast outlets has led many citizens to the Internet. Trilling said that has been a mixed blessing, especially during the recent crisis.

"In the absence of credible, trusted local media, many Kyrgyz turned to social networking sites and chat rooms, where rumors ran wild," he said. "At one point on the first or second day, a rumor quickly spread that 50,000 Bakiyev supporters were marching on Bishkek, spreading panic throughout the city. Other posts reported erroneously on casualty numbers and international invasions, sometimes terrorizing the population. More than once, I heard, 'Tomorrow there will be shooting again in Bishkek.' Many think such rumors may have been spread by Bakiyev loyalists to sow panic, or regional intelligence agencies interested in expanding their influence over a worried population."

Of course, sites such as EurasiaNet and Global Voices Online have helped to provide a remedy for the information blackout. The BBC is enlisting crowdsourcing with its online call for local eyewitness reports.

Local online media have also played a positive role.

"Social networking sites and text messages were useful for spreading essential information," Trilling said. "Some reported where volunteers could donate blood; others where volunteers could sign up to join people's militias, or druzhiniki, which helped restore order in the absence of a police force."

Social Media in the Developing World

In many ways, Kyrgyzstan serves as a laboratory for an ongoing debate on the Twittersphere regarding the role of social media in the developing world. Think Poli Sci 101. Rousseau sees man as fundamentally well-intentioned, while Hobbes says man's failings are only mitigated by controlling his baser desires. The so-called "cyber-utopians" (such as Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, NYU's Clay Shirky, and Ushahidi's Patrick Meier) stress the positive aspects of social media in democratizing access to expression and harnessing the will to do good.

They are countered by the more pessimistic vision of analysts such as Evgeny Morozov, who warn that, in the wrong hands, social media serve as catalysts for ethnic violence and political manipulation.

In a recent briefing at the Center for International Media Assistance in Washington, Patrick Meier (updating a prior presentation) warned that even a platform as powerful as Ushahidi cannot function in isolation: "Its success depends on the strength of the underlying organization, staff, program, policy, and monitoring and evaluation framework."

The problem, he said, "is the vacuum of data-driving empirical studies on impact. Now you just have anecdotes -- Morozov versus Shirky."

Kyrgyzstan's current conflict offers another set of anecdotes that, in themselves, cannot define a new theoretical or policy framework; in fact, they offer ammunition for both sides in the Utopian-versus-Hobbesian debate. But with enough time and purpose, a collection of anecdotes can become a study. In the meantime, the media development community must keep the need for responsible content on the agenda -- along with ways to promote it in life-or-death situations.

Photo of Osh by Margaret Morton

Anne Nelson teaches New Media and Development Communications at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and consults for a number of foundations on media issues. She's on Twitter as anelsona. She was a 2005 Guggenheim fellow for her recent book, "Red Orchestra: the Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of
Friends Who Resisted Hitler."

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Is Aussie Journalism Education Lagging in Teaching Online Skills?

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

I graduated last year with a journalism degree from Curtin University of Technology in Bentley, Western Australia. As with many journalism programs, the first year was an introduction to print and broadcast. It wasn't until the latter half of second year that the word "online" was used. That's too late in my book.

The course was very hands-on, which is what you want from a journalism degree. We had our own university newspaper and a studio for shooting news reports that could end up on television. With the newspaper, we learned a bit about InDesign and how to lay out a simple news page. This has no doubt proved invaluable to those graduates who left university to be a newspaper reporter.

Personally, I enrolled in a journalism course because I wanted to get into magazines or newspaper column writing -- less hard news, more conversational. But the course was not at all conducive to this. The only chance I had to write somewhat creatively was when we wrote feature articles during one of the 22 classes I took during my degree. I believe this also left us at a disadvantage for learning to write for the web.

Not Trained For Online

Had we been taught how to write short, snappy pieces with a bit of wit, we'd have had a much better chance at securing positions at online outlets, the now-preferred medium in Perth, where I live. Many of us with aspirations to write rather than work in broadcast left university and soon discovered that the three magazines based in Perth were fully staffed and offered only unpaid work experience and unpaid writing opportunities. On top of that, the only local newspaper positions were suited to those with a hard news style of writing.


During my studies, the possibility of working for online outlets was never even brought up. Instead, students were vaguely told something along the lines of, "Media is changing and you'll need to know how to shoot and edit videos, write scripts and stories, and layout a page." What about learning how to utilize social media to find sources to interview? Or learning to write for online? We also could have used a few hints as to the online publications that may want to hire us, how to lay out an online page, or how to edit photos for online use. Looking back, many things were glossed over that really shouldn't have been.

I wish more emphasis had been put on all types of media. There was definitely room for it in terms of the course schedule. We did one class where we looked at the Asian online media (mostly China's), but the relevance of that to Australian's own online news community was not driven home.

In a world where anyone can start a blog and call themselves a journalist, it's important for those of us who have journalism degrees to feel confident with online writing and video-editing for online. While it's understandable that technology is always advancing and it's also expensive to upgrade university facilities with the latest tools, a few manuals or brief tutorials on new media would have been helpful.

Self-Directed Learning

Thankfully, those of us who did some work experience throughout our degree realized that we'd need to teach ourselves how to write for online if we wanted to make a living off what we loved to do. Most of us graduates who focused on print and have not found full-time employment have started blogs to keep us occupied while freelancing. Others have taken entry-level jobs at newspapers as a first step toward their dream of becoming columnists.

In the future, I think universities need to bring in more industry insiders from outside their walls to talk to students. The most valuable class experiences came when foreign correspondents, news producers and online news editors came into our class to tell us about their career journey. These were invaluable because we could mentally make lists of what we needed to learn in order to successfully make it as a journalist.

Since graduating, I am still in contact with one of my lecturers who informed me a few months ago that the university is developing an online site for its journalism students. But whether this is for them to practice writing for online media or simply to upload PDFs of the popular newspaper is still not clear...

Tammi Ireland, 20, is a freelance journalist in Western Australia and editor of beauty website Coveted Canvas. Since graduating from Curtin University of Technology with a journalism degree in November 2009, she has written for various publications including Flourish magazine, SunsetMag.com.au and wangle.com.au. Tammi loves travel, writing and fashion.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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6 Takeaways from ‘TechDirt Saves Journalism’ Event at Google

What will the journalism landscape look like five to 10 years from now? The megatrend of unbundled, specialty-focused niche sources of online information likely spells doom for many of today's lumbering media giants. But opportunities abound for new players, as well as for daring news brands willing to expand their notions of what it means to stay competitive in the age of social media and networked experiences.

That was one of the few areas of consensus at a gathering convened at Google headquarters Wednesday night. Some 60 business people, coders, journalists, attorneys and others attended the fancifully named Techdirt Saves Journalism, a powwow whose goal was to spark a few ideas that might prove useful to enterprising newcomers, as well as those who write journalists' paychecks today.

The rambling two-hour event produced five separate brainstorming sessions, with some participants looking to prop up publications like the Sacramento Bee and Harper's Magazine; others were keen on supporting community journalism. As Mike Masnick, the Techdirt editor who convened the gathering, put it: "The journalism business has always been the community business."

Six Takeaways

Below are six takeaways from the event.

1. Mine the data

Hal Varian, Google's chief economist and top numbers cruncher, gave a rundown of the presentation he gave to the Federal Trade Commission in March. (His slide deck is below: Newspaper Economics, Online and Offline.)

031310 Hal Varian FTC Preso - Revised

Among the sobering stats:

  • Only 14 percent of a newspaper's budget goes to editorial. The bulk goes to printing and distribution costs, which puts newspapers at a competitive disadvantage with web-only publications.
  • The average reader spends 25 minutes a day reading the newspaper.
  • The average online user spends 70 seconds a day on a news site.

Varian, like many others before him, pointed out the conundrum faced by traditional general-interest news publications. "The problem is, newspapers never made money from news," he said. "They made money from automotive, home and garden, real estate, health and other specialty sections."

Journalism enjoyed a free ride in an era of bundled content. Now that era is disappearing, and readers are flocking to sites like Yahoo Finance, Edmunds, Amazon and Zillow as niche sources of expert advice.

OK, we knew that. What does Varian prescribe?

Dig deeper into the metrics. Study the Newspaper Association of America's Trends and Numbers to glean opportunities.

"Measure what users seek and what they read and move into those areas: more product reviews, more video, more local news," he said.

Other advice included providing useful commercial opportunities through contextual targeting, and exploring partnerships with local merchants in the mobile space.

He also noted that Google is facing some of the same challenges with users' fickle skimming of YouTube videos. "We've been trying to connect episodic headline skimming with a deeper dive," Varian said, citing initiatives like Fast Flip and Living Stories.

In other words, urged Varian, "Experiment!"

2. Elevate your writers

One breakout group urged news publications to think of themselves as a "news talent agency" that attracts expert reporters and helps them build their brands on the site and through social networks like Twitter and Facebook. People want to connect with experts and star journalists on a peer-to-peer level, not with a faceless institution.

3. Create a platform for your community

Take advantage of talented bloggers, videographers and podcasters in your community, as Chicagonow is doing by aggregating hundreds of local bloggers on its site. Then, curate the feeds to expose the highest-quality content and conversations.

Make it easy for users to contribute content and to hold conversations about every piece of content on your site -- or on another site. By opening up your website's doors to the community, you can foster a sense that you're providing a townsquare rather than a cordoned-off private space. Increased engagement and participation at all levels of your site will lower content creation costs and offer new entry points for making money.

With Facebook on track to surpass 500 million members by late this year, people need to think about how they'll find out about news at the local level.

"My generation has a mindset that they don't care about local when they really, really do," said Geoffrey Samek, 28, co-founder of the Sacramento Press. "Bicycle laws, bike paths changing, streets in disrepair -- I hear people my age complain a lot about the town where they live." Finding ways to engage at the local level matters.

4. Multiple revenue streams

Several groups came up with strategies for bringing in revenues from multiple sources. Fund-raising dinners, as nonprofits like MinnPost do, could feature special guest speakers and enable news staffers to interact directly with members of the community. Live events, such as a New Yorker-style Meet the Writers gathering, could generate income at the more elite publications. Some tech publications have done full-blown cruises with writers and paid attendees, and Make magazine holds a series of Maker Faires. Publications could sell books -- say, the top news stories and features of the year. Photojournalists could offer to sell portraits that they took during Little League games and local assignments. And newspaper archives should be plumbed for rich troves of still-relevant reviews and profiles.

5. Expand the brand

Rich Skrenta, a co-founder of Topix.net who is now developing a new search engine, headed up a breakout group that urged newspapers to use the collective knowledge of their journalists for commercial purposes. Consulting firms bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars with reports, and the expertise gathered through local reporting can be repurposed to create reports and studies of value to local and national businesses.

But there were clear divisions on how far news publications should go in tapping new revenue streams. Said one session leader: "How do you monetize trust without corrupting it?" He cited the example of bloggers in Los Angeles who collaborated on an investigative report of vegan restaurants -- without compensation. "How do you compensate them without corrupting them in the process?"

6. Changing ideas about news

There was a sense that the days of professional writers and editors cranking out polished copy may be coming to an end. Skrenta suggested enlisting the most popular local Yelp reviewers to become a featured food critic for a publication like the Bee.

Another participant suggested a crowdsourced model akin to the Wikinews model of publish first, then curate. "I wish there was a set of smooth, transparent tools for peer reviewing where you can say, 'I'm publishing this story, but it's not perfect and I need your help,'" he said.

A Sober Assessment

As several speakers observed, the goal of the two-hour exercise was not to prop up newspapers' outmoded business models, but to find a way to sustain journalism.

Not all participants were on the same page. "We concluded it was important to get rid of print product," one session leader said of the group's decision to close the print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, which brings in the lion's share of revenue to pay its journalists. Others said the evolution from print to online must happen concomitantly.

In the end, what was left unsaid was the reality that making a living as a journalist is about to get a lot harder, and that the news business is already being bifurcated into a shrinking elite of professional journalists alongside a burgeoning ecosystem of bloggers, hobbyists and amateurs who write and report for very different reasons.

Masnick pointed out that the Future of News and Civic Media Conference at MIT this week is tackling many of the same issues explored here. What's clear is that there's no single solution to the how-do-we-pay-for-journalism problem, and that gatherings like the one at Google will dot the landscape for years to come.

J.D. Lasica is a consultant, strategist, public speaker and author. He runs Socialmedia.biz, a social media consultancy for businesses, and Socialbrite.org, a learning hub for nonprofits. CNET named him one of the 100 top media bloggers in the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @jdlasica.

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Spot.Us Case Study Shows Impact of Crowdfunding on Journalism

Platforms such as Spot.Us and Kickstarter have shown that crowdfunding can work as a financing mechanism for journalism. We will likely see more crowdfunded stories in the future, which means it's important study how crowdfunding impacts journalism and the role and work of a journalist.

I'm currently in the process of completing a Ph.D. project about collective intelligence in journalism, and my case study about Spot.Us attempts to address these issues. I interviewed 15 Spot.Us donors and reporters for the study, which I presented last week in the form of a research paper at IJ-7, the Seventh Conference on Innovation Journalism at Stanford.

This is the first of two blog posts based on my paper. In this post, I offer five observations on how the crowdfunded process impacts journalism from the reporter's and donor's point of view. The quotations below are taken from the interviews I conducted with Spot.Us reporters and donors.

The Reporter's Point of View

Donating bonds readers to reporters -- Donating is a significant act that bonds reporters to the community members (a.k.a. readers). Reporters said it's very motivating to see that the community is willing to support their work. This is how one Spot.Us reporter described the feeling: "It feels great. It feels gratifying ... And seeing somebody paying $20 for a story -- it is way more than 20 cents." Reporters described the act of donating as "heartening," "gratifying" and "personally motivating, beyond professionally motivating." They consider the donors as their supporters. For them, donating is an act that supports their work and the topics they are working on.

Strong sense of responsibility -- The connection created by donations develops a strong sense of responsibility within the reporters. Reporters described this as being different from the feeling of responsibility that comes with a traditional assignment. It goes beyond the usual feelings of "professional responsibility." A Spot.Us reporter explained how this additional level of responsibility felt to her: "It is more than having it written in a nice style and formatted properly, things you worry about for an editor. You worry more about the accuracy, really honest reporting and presenting the issues correctly, because these people have directly invested in you."

Direct connection to the readers -- Rather than writing for an editor, reporters said they feel as though they're writing for the community. They find it rewarding to have a direct connection to readers, and to know who the readers are. One reporter said: "When I started working on the story [for Spot.us] I already knew who the readers are, whereas when writing a usual story [in a traditional journalism model] sometimes it feels like writing for a black hole."

Discomfort with pitching -- Spot.Us reporters don't feel comfortable pitching in public. For example, they feel hesitant to reach out to their social networks to raise awareness of their pitch. "I'm a journalist, not a salesperson," said one reporter. "I can't make myself go out and promote my pitch." Another reporter compared pitch promotion to begging by saying it's like asking for spare change by shaking a tin can on the street. Traditionally, journalists pitch directly to editors rather than to the public. Reporters said they would feel more comfortable promoting their pitch in public if Spot.Us organized promotional events that they could participate in.

Freedom to experiment -- Reporters said Spot.Us is more than just a way to finance their work; they see it as an opportunity to experiment with new methods of journalism, and an opportunity to experiment with tools such as video and infographics. The platform gives the reporters freedom they have been longing for.

The Donor's Point of View

Donating doesn't bind donors -- Donating doesn't bind donors as strongly as it binds journalists. After donating to a story, donors often don't return to the Spot.Us site to read the final work. They are more likely to stay connected with the story process if they receive notifications from Spot.Us, but even then the connection remains loose. "I'm not actually engaged with what has happened on the site," one donor said. "I will wait to get the email [telling me] here's the story done, here you are, here's the output of it. A part of it is that I'm not incredibly close to these stories."
spotusdonor.jpg Not eager to leave comments, submit tips -- Donors are not eager to participate in ways other than donating. They usually said that they don't have enough knowledge to submit tips to a story. One donor put it this way: "I participated by donating. I don't have so much to say about the topic, and I'm not used to leaving comments on websites." The donors rarely interacted with the journalists, even though Spot.Us encourages readers to do so.

Donating to a good cause -- Donors tend to support stories that have relevancy or connection to their lives. However, the primary reason for donating seems to be that they want to support a healthy society, and they consider journalism to be an essential element of this. Donating is more about supporting a good cause or the common good, rather than supporting a specific story pitch. Donors do not expect a master journalistic piece for their donation, though they are happy if that happens. "I don't think I'm gonna get anything [for my donation]," said one donor. "I'll learn something out of the process ... I consider this as a donation for the common good, more than anything else, or any kind of personal gain."

Donating to change the world -- Donors hope the stories they support will make a difference in society. They see articles as a way to produce change for the better in society by revealing wrongdoings or inequalities.

Donating builds one's identity -- The act of donating to a pitch helps builds one's sense of personal identity. Donors who are on Twitter usually tweeted after they had donated. Some donors said the act of donation made them feel part of the community, even though they were unable to define what that community is.

In my next blog post, I will discuss and analyze what these observations mean for journalism. For more information about the study or for the full paper, please contact me at tanja.aitamurto at gmail.com or on Twitter as @tanjaaita.

Tanja Aitamurto is a journalist and a Ph.D. student studying collective intelligence in journalism. She has studied innovation journalism at Stanford, and has degrees in journalism, social sciences, and linguistics. Tanja advises media companies and non-profit organizations about the changes in the field of communication. As a journalist, she specializes in business and technology. She contributes mainly to the Huffington Post and to the Helsingin Sanomat, the leading daily newspaper in Finland, as well as to the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Tanja splits her time between San Francisco and Finland, her home country.

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