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Missouri

ISOJ 2006

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Missouri

  1. 1. Grass Roots Journalism by Mid-Missourians The citizen journalism route to readership Clyde H. Bentley, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism
  2. 2. Short circuiting the “priesthood” Technologists empowered Heretics Johannes Gutenberg Martin Luther Tim Berners-Lee Oh Yeon-ho 13th-14th centuries 20th-21st centuries
  3. 3. The “other” side of journalism Information from non-professional communicators  Bulletin boards  Civic club presentations  “News” releases  Coffee klatches  Chat rooms  Gossip  Blogs
  4. 4. 16 months with “citizens”  A participatory project under “The Missouri Method.”  Real-world challenges, real-world solutions  Empowered students who developed management skills http://mymissourian.com launched Oct. 1, 2004
  5. 5. Inspired by others  OhMyNews was well known to professors and popular with our Korean students  Launch of Northwest Voice generated a faculty discussion.  Dean Mills recognized the potential and asked us to move quickly.  Proposed in late May 2004, launched Oct. 1. . “Can we proceed with all deliberate speed? I'm in no hurry. Next week would be soon enough” “”Can we proceed with all deliberate speed? I'm in no hurry. Next week would be soon enough” - Dean Mills “”Every citizen is a journalist” - Dean Mills - Oh Yeon-Ho
  6. 6. A challenge to tradition  Missouri is the home of traditional newspaper journalism education  Some faculty questioned the ability to maintain credibility  Could we teach a journalism where “we” were not in control?
  7. 7. So why do it?  To give voice to those traditionally excluded from the media  To allow non-journalists to help set the community agenda  To test our knowledge of audience values  To train students in a new form of journalism Oh, I forgot . . .
  8. 8. First three quarters, 2005 And to make money … Newspaper Print and Online Revenues 0 5000000 10000000 15000000 20000000 25000000 30000000 35000000 40000000 1 2 First three quarters, 2005 $33,934,000 $1,373,000 Print Online 4.38% Source: NAA Quarterly Newspaper Advertising Expenditures
  9. 9. Online alone is not enough
  10. 10. A hybrid strategy  Gather content via an online citizen journalism product Use that content to fill a printed TMC product Use revenue gains in TMC to underwrite the online product Which led to one more BIG goal…
  11. 11. End Driveway Rot!
  12. 12. TMC = The Money Cow  Total Market Coverage products often produce a substantial portion of a newspaper’s budget.  At the Missourian, our TMC is budgeted at about 25% of our revenue but actually brings in 33%. Depending how you count it…
  13. 13. It more than adds up “Also, we will do about $230,000 with the Real Estate This Week magazine this year. That would not be possible if we did not have the Saturday TMC for distribution purposes.” Dan Potter Missourian GM “What’s deceptive is that much of the daily revenue comes from the TMC agreements in a forced buy, so even more of our revenue is the result of our TMCs.
  14. 14. Back to print  Print edition launched Oct. 1, 2006  Allows use of the efficient advertising pattern of print  Increases readership by 23,000 households  Reverses the print-to-Web paradigm
  15. 15. Compelling content is the key to readership  TMC’s are often filled with old, trivial or syndicated material  Lack of reader interest can cause “pickup failure”  Citizen-generated material is unduplicated, compelling and does not compete with our own daily product
  16. 16. Readers reach readers  “I have seen newspaper companies spend thousand of dollars annually to determine what readers expect. Few of their findings, however, are ever implemented.  “The greatest benefit of what we have done with MyMissourian is we have given newsroom leaders an inexpensive and effective way to give readers what they truly want.” Hans K. Meyer graduate student Citizen journalism succeeds where others have failed.
  17. 17. Is there a future for journalists?  YES -- both professional and citizen journalists  Blogs pose both a threat and an opportunity  The power relationship in information is being re-negotiated  Journalists provide continuity and quality control  Story tellers become story guides
  18. 18. New journalism skills  “As more and more news organizations adopt community/citizen/open-source journalism ventures, they'll need to learn how to run them.  “Covering stories and collecting, cultivating, sharing stories are very different things. Helping others to share their lives is still journalism, and it needs to be taught.” Brian Hamman graduate student
  19. 19. Inviting the public to our table  Many editors are concerned about errors, credibility and libel  Some fear that citizen writing quality is low  How do we know if those untrained people are lying?  WILL WE LOSE CONTROL?
  20. 20. Mix logic with understanding  Most participants in citizen journalism have little reason to cheat or lie.  The “WBC” category is primarily the realm of blogs.  By and large, most Americans will conform to rules that are both simple and logical.  Focus on broad concerns; keep rules simple.
  21. 21. The arguments “Decency” - How do we treat profanity and adult topics? “Commercialism” - What about the promotion of a business, organization, religion, etc.? “Literacy” - How much editing and rewriting should we do? “Banalism” Is anything just too stupid to appear on the site? If so, how dumb is dumb?
  22. 22. Logical solutions “Decency” No profanity, no nudity - use normal newspaper standards of propriety “Commercialism” Don’t ban businesses that self- promote, but work with them to produce copy of general interest. “Literacy” Keep editing to a minimum, focusing on readability rather than style. Avoid jargon and cultural slang that can be misinterpreted. “Banalism” Journalists are poor judges of the banal. Rather than say anything is too low-brow, just find an appropriate category and let the public judge it.
  23. 23. And… Just Four Simple Rules No profanity No nudity No personal attacks No attacks on race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation
  24. 24. The end of “NO”  “I worked in newspapers for seven years, and as an editor most of my dealings with the public were about telling people “no” due to limited space.  NO, we can't cover your event.  NO, we can't run your youth baseball photo in the newspaper.  NO, your story idea isn't good enough for publication.  “The open source format takes a medium with limitless file space and allows us to finally say ”YES" to the public.” Jeremy Littau graduate student
  25. 25. Let them write Any subject. Everything is interesting to someone
  26. 26. Enlist “senior” photogs Hobbyists are often looking for a forum for their photos
  27. 27. Give them disposable cameras Example: Camera passed around at a teen dance
  28. 28. Go for the “gut” QuickTime™ and a TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  29. 29. Earth Day: Natural news  Annual festival celebrates environmental awareness  Provided wireless laptops so citizens could comment on the spot
  30. 30. Earth Day: Picture it  Loaned digital cameras to citizens to document the festival
  31. 31. Unexpected reader issues Political issues are much less popular than we predicted. Religion is far, far more popular than we predicted. Pictures of dogs, cats and even rats trump most other copy.
  32. 32. Unexpected teaching issues Traditional journalism students want to write, not “guide.” Many were at a loss at how to cover “non news” topics like Little League. Few students are well prepared to work with the public.
  33. 33. Into the future  More teasers in the morning newspaper  Increased connection with high school journalism classes Addition of student and citizen blogs Establish a “Websighted” photo program. Class in “entrepreneurial journalism”

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