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Journalism in Exponential Times by Randy Smith


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Randy Smith presents "Journalism in Exponential Times" during the annual 2012 Reynolds Business Journalism Seminars, hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit

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Journalism in Exponential Times by Randy Smith

  1. 1. About me Thirty years at The Kansas City Star. Pulitzer team in 1981 that covered Hyatt skywalks collapse. Several roles: Business editor, City editor, Deputy ME, overseeing national, suburbs, city desk and special projects. Last job: Director of Strategic Development. President of Society of American Business Editors and Writers; president of the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships. Worked as a reporter and editor in LA and the South for two other newspapers in the 1970s.
  2. 2. Journalism in Exponential Times
  3. 3. It’s raining everywhere
  4. 4. Competition is growing
  5. 5. Jobs will be different
  6. 6. Fewer high paid anchors in our cities
  7. 7. Fewer investigative stories at big papers and networks
  8. 8. Journalism is not dead
  9. 9. More new ventures
  10. 10. Samsung’s view of the future
  11. 11. What does this tell us Media will be interactive – we will be able to smell flowers as they’re being arranged. 3D will be the standard – not a big screen exception. We will be able to work at great distances in ways that we’ve not yet imagined. There will still be 24 hours in a day, but we’ll be able to get more accomplished.
  12. 12. Are there any hints about future business models?  Saves time.  Interactive.  Helps us achieve our desires – a birthday surprise for a loved one.  Convenient.  Ease of use.  Fun and entertaining.
  13. 13. Preparing students for the journey10 lessons from my first year of teaching
  14. 14. You’ll need to recruit students Don’t expect students to beating down your door to be business journalists. There’s money and jobs in business journalism. But where’s the romance? And math is scary. How do you do it?
  15. 15. Lesson 1: Honey is a potent force Innovation. Entrepreneurism. Exploring your ideas. Large interest in service work/international. Excellent journalism. New ideas.
  16. 16. Three new classes One graduate level course for MBAs and journalism students that brings real entrepreneurs to the class with real problems. One graduate/undergraduate course that teaches journalism students how to take an idea and shape it into a business plan. One graduate seminar class that takes students around the world to look at a variety of businesses who are succeeding/failing.
  17. 17. And they’re applying for jobs where?  Reuters  Bloomberg.  Wall Street Journal.  AP  Business Journals.  Business departments of large metros.  Radio/television.
  18. 18. Second step on the journey Is there an e-reader or an Ipod in the house? Can I get a free newspaper? (quiz them weekly) Cameras, digital recorders? Bloomberg terminal? Searching the internet: Dorothy Carner exercises. es.htm What’s missing from the library? The Economist?
  19. 19. Third lesson: Math isn’t that scary  Lots of accolades for early reading programs.  But how many accolades are there out there for early math programs in schools?  First exercise in undergrad class is a confidence booster for anyone with math phobia. That’s most everyone in journalism school.  Test their fifth grade math skills: Percentages, ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  Homework assignment: Build an Excel spread sheet with the local baseball team’s salaries in descending order.  We need to create a math friendly environment.
  20. 20. A budget assignment due on Monday  Assume $25,000 in student debt.  Assume a $159/month car payment.  Three months contingency fund.  We’ll assign you a city.  Research all of the expenses that you might have.  Bottom line: How much money will you need to make in your first year on the job?  There’s one thing that I’m leaving off the following list.
  21. 21. Doing a budget Portland Oregonian Job BudgetRent $6,000 $500 per monthBills $3,000 Springfield COI + 57%Food $6,500 Springfield COI + 57% Est daily driving x 365 / est milage x $3.25 average gas price, + est oilTransportation $2,000 changes and tires Car payment of $160 monthly, perCar Payments $1,800 assignmentInsurance $2,100 Car + RentersEntertainment $2,000 A generous amount, for miserly me. Including clothing, replacement appliances, and a hefty chunk forOther $3,000 whatever it is I forgot.Loan payments $2,900 Per on online loan calculatorEmergency $8,825 Annual expense / 4, + COBRA X 3 Can live much cheaper under normal circumstances, but planned for theTotal $38,125 worst.
  22. 22. What was left out of this exercise?
  23. 23. By the end of the class, we’re doing this
  24. 24. Fourth Lesson: Entrepreneurism Teach basic business skills: How to build a budget, how to protect your ideas, how to market your ideas. Expose students to entrepreneurs and look at some case studies. Assign some case studies on companies that are succeeding: Angie’s List and Politico are two that we did last semester. Challenge them to come up with their own models, and present their ideas in class. Who knows? New ideas might be worth funding.
  25. 25. New ideas from unusual places OPubCo’s $5 million venture into television monitors. Gannett’s 22 Broadway in Nashville. McDonald’s milkshake study.
  26. 26. Don’t be like Western Union…
  27. 27. When this guy showed up!
  28. 28. Western Union could have Bought out Bell But they didn’t believe the telephone would ever surpass the telegraph. Bell started his own companies, and first attracted rich people who wanted to talk to their servants. Soon telephone wires were strung in one community after another. Western Union today is known for the transfer of money.
  29. 29. Fifth exercise: Good Books How do you get everyone to work on the same team? How do you sell your ideas? How do you convey urgency? How do you build success? John Kotter’s “Our Iceberg is Melting.”
  30. 30. Clayton Christensen: Seeing What’s Next  Resources, Processes and Values Theory  Incumbent companies are not as creative as independent counterparts. So they’re more likely to be vulnerable to disruptive innovations. Everything that they do - resources, processes and values - lock them into a mindset that does not allow them to think like an entrepreneur.
  31. 31. Sixth exercise: Good writing sells Too much of business journalism is difficult to read. Focus your students on award-winning work that analyzes the complex in easy to understand ways. Feed them stories about entrepreneurs who succeeded and why – and those that don’t.
  32. 32. Seventh exercise: A world view Students are flocking to international service projects, but they do not have a real understanding of the world. Create opportunities for them to attend exciting presentations, and have them write about them from a business perspective. David Crane and diamonds. The Center for the Digital Globe ( 12-hours of interdisciplinary work focused on understanding the world through different disciplines: A&S, Law, Journalism, Business and Textile Management.
  33. 33. What continent skipped the PC?
  34. 34. Africa
  35. 35. What’s the next Saudi Arabia? And what does this tell us about business journalism and business models?
  36. 36. Bolivia – 50% of world’s lithium
  37. 37. Consider my recent job An firm in India did most our basic back-office financial work. A German company watched over our presses 24/7. A Philippine company handled all of our circulation department’s phone calls/messaging. A Danish firm developed and watched over our computer software.
  38. 38. Eighth exercise: Stress versatility
  39. 39. Keys to your versatility Stress the tools on your tool belt: digital, academic, writing, reporting, radio, television. Teach this right away! Work history with an accent on accomplishments. Education with an accent on what you learned. Achievements. For example, student body president. Activities. Try to show community involvement. Show your ability to learn and adapt to changing technology.
  40. 40. A key lesson: Fix it yourself Most of the technology that we’re teaching today at the university level will be obsolete within a few years. Learning Dreamweaver. Work with your computer folks to create a how-to video. Learning other technologies without a teacher holding your hand. Real skills for the real world. Michelle Nicolosi at (Newsroom went from 170 to 42).
  41. 41. Ninth: Help students find work  Spend time helping students with their resumes. Too many colleges don’t do this anymore or make it a backburner item.  Talk to them about how to approach an interview and what/what not to say.  Teach them how to research the prospective company and also themselves.
  42. 42. Some of my tips on getting ready
  43. 43. Facebook, Linked-in, etc. Google yourself and see what comes up. Is there anything that you wouldn’t want an employer to see on any of your social networking accounts? Do you write your opinions on current events of the day? This will come up. Do you have a blog? Not a negative unless you’ve done something embarrassing. If so, expect it to come up. Several media companies have turned down applicants because their blogs/facebook postings show they can’t be impartial. FYI. Anything you submit will likely end up on the Internet.
  44. 44. Toughest questions to answer An exercise for your class. Divide into teams. Tell me about yourself. Focus on professional experience and talk about your successes. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses, and what are you doing to correct them? Always have three questions for the interviewer.
  45. 45. Never tell a lie - Lincoln
  46. 46. Can you speak Spanish? Your resume says that you speak Spanish. “Yes, I do,” said the applicant. “Good,” said the recruiter. “Let’s do the rest of the interview in Spanish.” “I should have said that I’ve only had Spanish in grade school,” said the applicant. “So you can’t speak Spanish?” “Yes, I can’t speak Spanish.”
  47. 47. Filling in the blank slate
  48. 48. Follow-up with a handwritten note
  49. 49. Tenth: Be available This is complex stuff. Students need to feel comfortable with you. They have different hours than we do. They have other pressures outside of your class. Make sure that they learn.
  50. 50. Final Point We should not forget our foremost mission: To train journalists in the basics and fundamentals of our field. Our industry will always need journalists who understand the basics and can write clearly, putting news and events into context.
  51. 51. A new day for business journalism.