Saturday, December 13, 2008

One man band or VJ approach hits TV news in DC

Not sure what to call this job category... "One-person band" is less-sexist, but still sounds awkward.

Abbreviating Multimedia Journalist as "MJ" sounds like Peter Parker's girlfriend.

Maybe, since every journalist can pocket some kind of small video camera these days, we don't need a prefix at all. Just "reporters." We are all potential "photojournalists" or "videojournalists," I guess.

WUSA to Hire 'Multimedia Journalists' Who Work Solo -
"Under a new agreement reached this week with its labor unions, WUSA, Channel 9, will become the first station in Washington to replace its crews with one-person 'multimedia journalists' who will shoot and edit news stories single-handedly.

"The change will blur the distinctions between the station's reporters and its camera and production people. Reporters will soon be shooting and editing their own stories, and camera people will be doing the work of reporters, occasionally appearing on the air or on in video clips on Channel 9's Web site."

Twittering the News

I mentioned Twitter in one of my classes and was surprised that only one out of 34 students had heard of it.

I thought young folks were supposed to be ahead of gray-bearded old guys on this stuff... For any who are still in the dark, here's a nice explanation of Twitter as a resource for journalists -- from another guy about my age... | Steve Yelvington's media weblog:
"Why do people use Twitter in the first place? That's simple: Humans are genetically programmed to thrive on conversation."

Coincidentally, I've just posted a bunch of links to Steve in my other blog, on the topic of news Web site management systems.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Historic magazine archive via Google

Just when my Media History students might need one more source for their final semester projects...

Wonder what the latest technology was in 1905? Go read Popular Mechanics for that year, back when "wireless telegraphy" was the hottest thing since the "horseless carriage." (I guess "...less" was "more" back then.)

This blast-from-the-past search is thanks to a new archive of old magazine articles at

(For more about Google linking to historic newspaper archives, see my blog item from a few months ago.)

For background see this BusinessWeek article: Google updates search index with old magazines:
"Google has added a magazine rack to its Internet search engine. As part of its quest to corral more content published on paper, Google Inc. has made digital copies of more than 1 million articles from magazines that hit the newsstands decades ago."
(Many thanks to Gerald Grow, a magazine-publishing expert and one of the most "sharing" professors on the Web, for an e-mail alert about this new Google search development.)

I haven't explored enough to see what publications are included... but Popular Mechanics and Popular Science are part of the collection, which will be useful for the "Media History" course when we talk about communication technology...

And I noticed New York magazine turning up in a quick search, which will be a resource for research into more recent journalism history -- and for news writing courses. Originally the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald Tribune newspaper, New York published a lot of great "new journalism" in the 1970s, including Tom Wolfe's article "The Birth of 'The New Journalism,'" which I was just talking about in class today, and one of my all-time favorite cover stories on investigative reporters. Amazing.

Here's a surprise: I did a quick search for the words "journalism" and "politics." The top two hits were not the first magazines I expected to see. They were Jet and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is archived back to 1945. Jet -- a great resource for studying African-American culture, apparently had regular columns headed "politics" and "journalism." (Ebony and Black World are also part of the collection.) As for the Bulletin, I guess the topics just came up regularly. This quote jumped out at me from a 1985 article, titled "The Media: Playing the Government's Game":
Before the atomic bomb, journalism never hesitated to march off to war, but the news media usually were eager to demobilize once victory seemed at hand ...
I haven't stumbled on a list of which magazines are in the collection, but I've noticed quite an assortment: Ebony, Mother Jones, Black Belt, Cincinnati Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, Log Home Living, Bicycling, Backpacker, Vegetarian Times, Prevention, Runner's World, Baseball Digest, CIO... The themes suggest that publishers like Johnson, Emmis and Rodale have contributed groups of titles.

Finally, although you can search for any words in any magazine, the results delivered are full-page images. That means you get to see full-spread advertising layouts, which will be appreciated by students and professors interested in advertising and design.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Practicing 'theft superior'

I've alerted the keeper of the W.T. Stead Resource Site, a collection of writings by an influential 19th century U.K. newspaper editor, to what I take to be a wonderful typographical (or digital scanning) error that stumbles into a larger truth.

The essay in question is
W.T. Stead, "The Future of Journalism" (The Contemporary Review, 1886). The passage that caught my eye is this one, with a great opening (emphasis added):
"A man without a newspaper is half-clad, and imperfectly furnished for the battle of life. From being persecuted and then contemptuously tolerated, it has become the rival of organized governments. Will it become theft superior? The future of journalism depends entirely upon the journalist."
True either way, especially that last sentence, but I think "theft superior" is a bad scan of the word "their."

The ironic question today is whether corporate publishers with their eye on profit margins and stock quotes have been distracted by such "theft superior" and have led to the demise of the vigorous public-service newspaper journalism that might fulfill its promise as a democratic force.

(Stead wrote about that, too. See his "Government by Journalism.")

This week's end-of-semester question: Can some new online media financial model, community-funded ( or non-profit journalistic enterprises and bloggers fill the blank if newspapers are knocked out of Stead's opening line?
"A man without [a blog | Google | numerous RSS feeds | Facebook | Fox News | MSNBC] is half-clad, and imperfectly furnished for the battle of life."