Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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Collaboration Takes Many Forms

Just after I was talking to my business partner Adam Glenn about how journalists need to learn more about the culture and skills of collaboration (remember, the news biz is steeped in competitiveness — often to the point of paranoia), my musician friend Mark Brummer sends me this video:

See how much fun collaboration can be? Play with it!

Toxic Journo Culture Oozes Across Blogosphere

E-Media Tidbits on Poynter.org
My Tidbits post yesterday seemed to resonate with a lot of journalists. Check out the comments .

My E-Media Tidbits post yesterday, Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?) (cross-posted to Contentious.com) has gotten many comments and also picked up wider traction. Here are the various people who’ve added substantive comments of their own to this public conversation. Check them out!

  1. Raising hell and having fun , by Charlotte Anne Lucas (A breakfast conversation I had with Charlotte Anne last weekend in Las Vegas actually gave me the motivation to write that article. Thanks!)
  2. Curiosity and journalism , by James McPherson
  3. The only journalism that counts is by mainstream news , by Mike Gregory
  4. Giv mig journalistik med Bøvl og Begejstring , by Kim Elrose
  5. Carpe diem, baby! by Sanjay Bhatt
  6. Journalists, Keep the Change , by Craig Stoltz
  7. The Capital Times Moves From Print to Online , by Kim Pearson
  8. It’s not whining if we have a good reason , on Smays.com
  9. Learning to love change , by Charlie Beckett

I’ll add more later as I find them. Glad my piece was useful to so many folks!

The Cup: The Cool Boulder Geek Hangout

I spent most of today working and socializing at The Cup in downtown Boulder. It’s known locally as the cool hangout place for local geeks. It also specializes in fair trade coffee (which is cool, even though I don’t drink coffee, I’m a tea fan).

Today several of my friends stopped by, so I grabbed video clips of a few of them for the hell of it. Here they are: Joe Pezzillo , Ari Newman , and Dave Taylor.

Not appearing in this video are:

  • My brand-new friend Patrick Sandoval of Primal Future. He’s a local artist and online entrepreneur who creates and sells t-shirts with original images based on ancient symbols. Very cool stuff.
  • My dear old friend Max Chadwick dropped by too. We used to work together about 12 years ago when I was still a wage slave, and now he’s an exec at People Productions — which hasn’t stopped him from being cool.

I’m bummed that I didn’t think to grab video clips of Max and Patrick. But anyway, hope you enjoy the rest.