Tag Archives: NBC

Is Journalism Dead, Dying, or Just Faking It?

I feel like I’m watching Journalism fall apart; watching with interest, horror, and dismay … but just watching, like watching a fire from far away, powerless.

Photo by mphotos on Flickr

Like you do, I read about the newspapers folding, falling like trees in a rotting forest. Even the New York Times is in trouble. Many of the newspapers I grew up with are either dead or dying.

News flash: this isn’t new. It’s been going on since I can remember. It was already a big deal in the 1960s. (News at 11!)

We blame it on different things: blogs, 24-hour news networks, mainstream network television news, declining education, apathy, the Web, Fox News, Huffington Post, the new president, the old president, whatever.

I got a grad degree (MA) in Journalism, with honors in fact, in the early 1970s. That was so long ago we actually called it Journalism, not communications.

Back then newspapers were already dying because television network news was killing them. People liked their news in 30-second bite-size pieces. Professors wrung their hands about the loss of analysis and in-depth reporting.

And we all worried a lot, back then, about the impact of television violence in general. And sensationalism. Like that would turn the news business into show business. It’s a good thing that didn’t happen, right? (Show of hands, please).

Not that it was ever just academic for me. Before I reached my 30s, grew up and sold out (I became an entrepreneur, got the MBA), I spent eight years as a journalist. I was a foreign correspondent, based in Latin America. I worked for UPI, freelanced for Business Week, Financial Times, etc. Even after business school I wrote columns in several magazines, although mostly computer magazines.

It’s also a bit of the present for me as well, because of my new job blogging and writing. You can see that here on the right column: I’m on the Huffington Post, USNews.com, plus several business blogs.

So where does that leave us? With this:

Accident of history: journalism and business

We tend to forget that journalism grew up to fill pages between ads. It wasn’t about the the sanctimonious needs of society, or the fourth estate, or fundamentals of democracy.

They needed readers to sell ads. And in the old days, before Fox News or Huffington Post, when freedom of the press was limited to those who owned presses, the best way to get and keep readers was to do real news; to pay Journalists to investigate and report.

In the heyday of great journalism, bias was bad business. So the owners paid the reporters and, with many very well known exceptions, tried not to meddle. Good journalism was also good for business.

And we got professional news reporting because that was good business. They paid somebody to attend town hall meetings, and somebody else to travel the globe covering wars and revolutions, because that kept the readers happy and, because of that, the advertisers happy.

Journalism wasn’t about the public good. It was about making money.

Fast forward to the Internet, the Web, and the collapse of the printing press and big owners as the oligarchy of the “media.” Suddenly the media is splintered up into hundreds of millions of websites, in infinite variety of degrees of professionalism or lack of it. And even on the television, far less free, it’s six hundred channels instead of three, so we have the Fox News people talking to their tribe, and the Jon Stewart-Bill Maher people talking to their tribe, and CNN talking to whomever has 24 hours a day to listen, and NBC and CBS and ABC news trying vainly to compete with Joan Rivers and Entertainment Tonight. All bets are off.

And there’s this other trend mixed in: Even before the Web, while few people noticed, newspapers spent the last generation or two cutting costs by cutting news staff and using AP and UPI, and lately, Reuters.

So what happens next? Who’s going to pay whom to sit through those boring town council meetings, or risk their lives in wars and revolutions, or report politics and democracy fairly?

I don’t know. But, in the time-honored tradition of the back side of journalism, I’m going to tell you anyhow. Later. Not now. News at 11.

(Photo by mphotos on flickr)

Loving and Hating Twitter, in 5 Easy Pieces

I love twitter. What blogging is to email, Twitter is to instant messaging (IM) … and then some. You can follow me on Twitter as Timberry. I’m like a fish with a shiny new thing. And, with due respect to the MSNBC line (if you don’t get it, you’re too old) — I’m 61. But that’s nothing: my 89-year-old dad is on Twitter too.

Consider this picture of Twitter usage published earlier this month on TechCrunch:

Something’s happening there.

1: Vocabulary

But first, some vocabulary (just to get it straight): Twitter is web publishing in 140-character snippets. A tweet is one of those snippets. To tweet means typing those snippets into Twitter. To follow is what you do (takes a click) to get access to somebody’s tweets. A follower is somebody who follows you. To retweet means to take somebody else’s tweet and tweet it again, giving them credit, to your followers. Your followers can also be called tweeps, or sometimes tweeple.

Is it all too cute? Avoid the now-famous Stephen Colbert gaffe with the wrong verb.

2: I Hate Twitter

About Twitter backlash. The Daily Show take on it, Samantha Bee ignoring the interview while peering into a cellphone keyboard, was hilarious. The Twitter Facebook users accuse it of twitterizing itself.  The Google search for “twitter bashing” turns up half a million hits. “I hate Twitter” is good for more than 18 million.

So here are some good reasons to hate Twitter:

  1. Twitter clutter. The “I’m having dinner now” or “I’m going home now” inanities. I did that too when I started, as if I were telling family members “arrived in Denver airport.” I get it now: Nobody cares what you’re doing. Tweet something interesting, or nothing at all (note to self: and don’t try to make cute contractions for Twitter clutter. Doesn’t work.)
  2. Twitter selling. Ads are ads, even at 140 characters per tweet. Infomercial I don’t mind, when there’s actual info — happens a lot — but there is selling going on. (The good news, though, is that you only get that once. Don’t like it? Stop following. A lot like changing the channel. If you don’t follow them, they don’t bother you).
  3. Tweeting at meals, in conversations, or at meetings or movies or events is really annoying.
  4. Tweeting while driving is at best stupid, at worst, manslaughter.
  5. People collect followers. The more, the better. The Twitter version of counting friends in Facebook. Now we have some Web applications designed to get you more followers. Ugh. People measure themselves and compete on number of followers.
  6. It’s really distracting. It gets in the way of getting things done (of course, that’s actually a good thing disguised as bad; the same would be true of everything fun or interesting except work).
  7. I hate it that Steven Wright, the comedian, master of the one liner, isn’t on Twitter (that’s a good thing too, because maybe he’ll start.)

3: I Love Twitter

Consider this an enthusiastic hooray for relationships in 140-character snippets. Crazy as this sounds, ironic indeed, but some of my Twitter friends feel like real friends to me. When they tweet their latest blog posts, I go, I read, I comment. When I tweet my latest blog posts, they go, read, and comment. They recommend me to others. I recommend them. I ask for recommendations, they respond. Sometimes it’s just “I liked your last blog post” and sometimes it’s “does anybody know a restaurant in Portland that does Thanksgiving dinner?”

I blog a lot these days. I care about other people in the same general topic areas. It’s nice to follow them on Twitter.

So, then here are some good reasons to love Twitter:

  1. Keeping up with some professional relationships. I know that seems incredible, more so if you knew me. I’m kind of a hermit. I hate cocktail parties. But I like keeping up with people in Twitter.
  2. Fascinating real-time constantly scrolling updates on interesting new blog posts, news, issues. I follow some people whom I respect, and they point out interesting ideas, posts, etc. I work in tweetdeck, and it’s like having a scrolling world of interesting little tidbits.
  3. Writing. Sometimes good writing. Good tweets are amazing. See number 5, below.
  4. Publishing. Think of it as publishing short snippets to people who want to read them.
  5. Someone’s tweets get repetitive, or become sales pitches, or just Twitter clutter? Unfollow them. It’s as satisfying as changing the channel.
  6. Taking responsibility: people with real names and real pictures. You can’t delete a tweet.
  7. Maybe Steven Wright will get on Twitter in the future.

4: Twitter in Business

Seems like almost everybody on Twitter is a social media marketing expert offering to show the rare non-social-media-marketing experts how to make money on Twitter. Seems that Twitter can be good for people in the expert business. But is it good for business? Or, the question of the last month or so, are you an idiot if you’re in business and not in Twitter?

Twitter is no more good or bad for business than telephones, letters, conversations, or pies in the face. The medium isn’t the message; the message is the message. I have lots of twitter friends who are straight, like it, keep in touch with it, and — lo and behold — that’s good for their business. But is being in Twitter good for business? Nope.

I can’t figure out Twitter and relationships. It’s oxymoronic, and, sometimes, just plain moronic. But it brings me closer to blogging and Web people I like and respect. Paradox, I suppose.

5. A Few Good Tweets

At its best, it really is writing, and a new kind of self publishing. For evidence, I call on David Petheric (clarocada on Twitter) and his post Top Tweets of 2008 on DigitalBiographer.com. He gets the credit for the collection, and I’m choosing just a few:

  • brandmilitia: Sometimes the fastest way to screw up a company’s social media strategy is by letting the marketing department run it.
  • chrisbrogan: Just made a VC choke somehow on my speaker’s fee. Tough times for startups in 09, kids.
  • copyblogger: I’ve got to go on a carriage ride through Highland Park tonight with 4 kids and 3 lawyers. This is why God gave us scotch.
  • boris: “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” — Jorge Luis Borges
  • SaraD: Accidental Death & Dismembership Insurance. I passed on that. I choose Membership.
  • mathie: I need a pair of headphones. Or a shotgun and at least 5 cartridges. Or an office of my own.

There: see what I mean? Good stuff. It reminds me of something that came over the teletype 38 years ago when I was on the night desk at UPI in Mexico City. Rumor had it he put this onto the service and walked out for good. His tweet, 38 years ahead of its time, was:

“Too much work, too little money. I quit.”

And, what the heck, my favorite tweet from my 900-some tweets:

Gray cold comfort. Clouds pressing the forested hills downwards, covering the tops. Ghosts of holidays past. Western Oregon in November.

I felt poetic that day.

Conclusion: a quote from an NBC web story about twitter:

The nicest thing about Twitter might be that it’s a grassroots medium nobody has quite figured out a way to make money off of yet. Not even the guys who created it.