Teaching Examples

Online news, good and bad, in new Pew report
July 31, 2006, 2:18 pm
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People who get news online don’t spend a heck of a lot of time doing it, according to the fine researchers at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In their newest study of how U.S. residents use and interact with the news, they found that more people use online news three or more times each week (31 percent now, compared with 29 percent in 2004), but growth of the audience for online news has slowed, and it tends toward older users (40 and up).

Make sure you compare the numbers for online news with the numbers for print and broadcast. It still seems clear that the percentage of people using those media for news is declining — and that the decline will continue.

The chart labeled “More Turn to TV for News and Use It Longer” might make some broadcast folks do a little happy dance, but there are a few things to consider before you break out the champagne. First, stack up the percentages of where people go for news: 31 percent online, 28 percent nightly network news, 40 percent newspaper. These numbers are not exclusive, of course — Pew found that many of those newspaper readers are also getting news online.

The best number of all was for local TV news — 54 percent said they watched it three or more times a week.

What does that tell you?

Steve Yelvington made a strong point about local news a couple of days ago:

Churn rates at many major metro papers exceed half the subscriber base. In other words, for every 100,000 subscribers, more than 50,000 cancel every year and have to be replaced (at great marketing expense). Many major dailies now reach only two out of ten households in their own circulation areas. They’re not treading water; they’re sinking fast.

It’s the smaller markets that are solid — the ones where newspapers are full of the local news that allegedly dumbs down the paper so that it appeals to the hicks in flyover country.

People want local news. They desperately desire to know what’s going on in their own backyard. They don’t find that in the network TV news, and they don’t find it in a lot of cookie-cutter, chain-owned newspapers nowadays.

They also don’t find a lot of that online. Is this going to change? It might. When Pew makes its next report two years from now, we’ll see whether any of this hyperlocal stuff has made a difference.

Oh, and about the short time people spend with news online … People spend a short time with anything online! Just look at the Nielsen//NetRatings: On average, a person spends less than 60 seconds on any Web page. (This is actually increasing a little — it used to be about 48 seconds.) It’s not as if news will be different from all the other information they look at online.

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Video standout in Flash package
July 31, 2006, 12:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Some nice video work by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon in a package about Amercian racism from the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman newspaper. Each of the four main stories has a single Flash video segment. Some of the interviews are staggering (racism quite clearly has not been wiped out).

The package itself is a bit clunky. Too many pieces pop up in separate windows outside the package. I see this a lot, and I think it’s probably just a matter of time until the new Flash journalists start crafting packages that are better integrated and less like a bricolage of cutouts from the print newspaper. I don’t mean to hammer the people who put this together; it’s just that I’m sure their next package will be better.

Video edited by Zach Ryall. Flash design by Vasin Omer Douglas. Fine narration by Bavu Blakes. Check out the credits: This was a big project!

Tipped by Interactive Narratives.

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Why people use blogs
July 30, 2006, 1:03 pm
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Anil Dash is brilliant. If you already know that, you probably have already read his post about how people get paid in currencies other than money. “People” being online contributors, in this case. You know — the people formerly known as the audience. The vital 1 percent (he says 5 percent) who do all the work that raises site value (read: traffic) to the stratosphere.

Why do online journalism people need to know this? Because otherwise, all your hyperlocal and user-generated and citizen journalism thingies are doomed to failure. Because we will see once again that the journalism organizations don’t do research, don’t know what the heck they’re doing online, and don’t understand how people function in this milieu. Or medium. Call it what you like.

People will contribute to a community if they feel it’s worth their time. Now here’s where things get tricky. Some people get mad or defensive when you point out that pontification, punditry, and politics are only a tiny part of the reason people communicate through blogs. Similarly, a lot of people have emotional reactions to the fact that contributions are made to online communities like Wikipedia, Craigslist, Flickr, or yes, Digg, for reasons other than pure monetary value.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money; that’s just not why most people use communication tools.

Via the blog Journalism Hope.

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Online editors get bigger paychecks
July 30, 2006, 12:04 pm
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Jon Dube posted this about newspaper salaries:

Online editors enjoyed the biggest increases in base pay and incentives in 2006, according to the Newspaper Industry Compensation Survey.

The position of online editor recorded an 8.1 percent increase in base pay from 2005 to 2006, and an 8.8 percent increase in total direct pay, which consists of salary and incentives, according to the NICS.

He mentions that the Inland Press Association will not release details about the survey. According to the IPA press release, “Specific salary figures and ranges from the confidential survey are released only to study participants.” Fair enough. I dug around on their site a little and found they have posted the 2001 numbers. Here is an Excel file (18 KB) of Table 2, with the salaries for 40 positions from publisher down to entry-level press operator.

Note that the survey concerns only newspapers with a circulation of 20,000 to 30,000. These are smaller papers; naturally, the salaries at medium and large newspapers are higher.

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you might want to look at the University of Georgia surveys of (U.S.) journalism and mass communication. Some cheerful recent findings:

One in five of the graduates with a job is writing and editing for the web and about one in 20 is designing and building web pages.

— Six in 10 of the 2004 journalism and mass communication bachelor’s degree recipients reported that they held a full-time job on October 31, 2004. This represents the first increase in the level of full-time employment since the economic downturn after 2000.

— The level of unemployment for journalism and mass communication bachelor’s degree recipients declined, bringing them closer to their age cohort nationally than has been true any year since 2000.

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Video for the newspaper (3)
July 29, 2006, 12:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Cade White has posted his third installment about job shadowing the video journalists at the Dallas Morning News. He includes a short video about the videotaping of the assignment (bartender lights drinks on fire! Whee!).

The assignment took about an hour to shoot for video, compared to the 15-20 minutes it might have taken to shoot a still photograph. Will all video assignments take significantly more time to shoot than still assignments? Is this a potential human resource management issue? It’s not impossible to shoot a video assignment in a matter of minutes, depending on the subject. But is that really the goal here?

Too bad the DMN uses a brain-dead Windows Media Player for the video. Slow to download, chokes, hangs, stops and starts, etc. All the typical WMP behavior. (If you’re not going to do Flash video, at least do Quicktime.) So I didn’t actually see the video until the fourth time I tried it. I sat there looking at a still image (very boring) while I heard the audio. It was cool when it finally worked. (Note that Cade’s embedded Quicktime movie on his blog page works fine every time.)

You’re spending all this time and effort to shoot and edit video and put it online. Why don’t you use a delivery technology that actually works?

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Photo essay: Tour de France
July 28, 2006, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Magnum in Motion photo essay, with narration and music: Tour de France. Lots of historic photos here. It’s the flavor, the sensation. Like poetry. No podium, no peloton. No doping. Via Metafilter.

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U.S. Congress slashes free speech (again)
July 28, 2006, 1:06 pm
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Yelvington calls it a “war on social networking,” and he’s not exaggerating.

A total of 410 of our elected Representatives in Congress voted for this bill (H.R. 5319), which undercuts two vital elements of the First Amendment: freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. (Thanks to Cory’s public records blog for the link to that excellent Congressional votes database!)

People who were online 10 years ago will remember the CDA and COPA laws, which were passed but ultimately declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court — thank goodness. Like this current bill, those two laws were ostensibly crafted to “protect children” from all the evil that lurks on the big bad Internet. And like the current bill, they too attempted to do so by treating all U.S. citizens and residents like children — stripping us of the very rights that the Bush administration claims our military is fighting to bring to others in, for example, Iraq.

The right to think as we will and to speak as we think, to speak (and that must include posting messages online) freely without fear of censure, and to meet (online or off) with others to discuss what we want to — without these rights, we are not a democracy. Without these rights, we are as repressed and downtrodden as any undemocratic country you care to name.

No child is physically harmed while sitting at the computer. The threat comes when they go out unsupervised, when they meet up with strangers in the real, physical world. Remember the question “Do you know where your children are right now?” That’s the issue here. Not the Internet.

This bill (called the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006) is a direct attack on those rights, which generations of Americans have fought and died to defend.

Update (11:14 a.m.): Here’s a librarian’s view of the bill, which — I forgot to mention — is known as DOPA (pronounced DOPE-ah).

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