Why limiting employees’ online presence is a big mistake in journalism and elsewhere

Recently Forrester Research decided on an unfortunate, shortsighted policy. Forrester analysts can no longer can their own personally branded research blogs. They’re allowed to run their own blogs about their personal life or topics unrelated to their work at Forrester. But all their blogging on work-related topics must be done in blogs that are owned by Forrester.

Forrester’s rationale for this, according to VP Josh Bernoff, is that “Forrester is an intellectual property company, and the opinions of our analysts are our product.”

Which IMHO is the equivalent of saying “If you work for us, we reserve the right to own your brain and your social/professional network and reputation.”

Here’s why that’s a bad idea all the way around — not just for research, consulting, and IP companies, but for news organizations and journalists, too… Continue reading

Twitter @ replies & how I’m changing my live event coverage

Scott Rosenberg (journalist)
If you weren’t already following author Scott Rosenberg on Twitter, as well as me, you would have missed my coverage of his talk last night. Sorry, that won’t happen again. (Image via Wikipedia)

Just yesterday I learned that on Twitter (a social media service I use a lot), if I begin a tweet with an @ reply (such as: @lisawilliams said…), that tweet will only be seen by people who not only follow me but who ALSO follow the Twitter user named after the initial “@”.

You’d think I would have known this already, but every once in a while something major slips by me. Twitter changed how it handles “@ replies” a few months ago — something that caused considerable controversy on the service. It was a controversy I happened to miss. But thanks to the kindness of a stranger, I’m now caught up on the issue and can offer some useful tips.

I’m writing about this issues because it has significant implications for how I’ll be doing live coverage of events via Twitter.

Whenever I’m at an event (such as a conference, talk, or arts event) that I think might also interest some of my Twitter followers, I tend to “live tweet” it — posting frequent updates about what’s being said, what I’m seeing, reactions to what’s happening, etc.

I do this so much, and have gotten pretty good at it, that I have attracted many Twitter followers because of it. So I’ve decided to explore offering live event coverage as a professional service.

BUT: What if only a fraction of my nearly 5,000 Twitter followers have the opportunity to see my live coverage? And what if those people are already, in a sense, part of the “in crowd?”

That’s the situation when I start my live tweets with “@”.

Yeah, big problem. Especially if part of the value I bring to the table with live event coverage service is the size of my Twitter posse.

Fortunately, it’s fixable… Continue reading

What Is Citizen Journalism?

NOTE: I get asked this question quite often, so I thought I’d take a stab at providing a definition. This represents my view only — feel free to disagree, question, or elaborate in the comments. I intend this to be the starting point of a discussion, not the last word. I originally published this post in another blog in May 2007. I’ve been getting many questions about it lately from journalism students, so I thought I’d repost it.

“Citizen journalism” is a clunky term that manages to be as open to interpretation as it is controversial. I tend to think of it this way:

Any effort by people who are not trained or employed as professional journalists to publish news or information based on original observation, research, inquiry, analysis or investigation.

Here’s what that can mean, more specifically… Continue reading

Making Twitter Lists more useful with filtering

Choose
Sometimes you don’t want EVERYTHING, just what you want. (Image by ervega via Flickr)

Today Twitter has begin a broad rollout of a new feature, Twitter Lists. The feature had been available only to a select group of beta users, but product manager Nick Kallen tweeted yesterday,Currently, 25% of all users have Lists.” I don’t have access to Lists yet, but I expect it’s coming soon.

The point of Twitter lists is relevant discovery: It’s an easy way to find and follow Twitter users you might not otherwise know about, but would be interested in. However, you might not be interested in everything (or even most things) a given Twitter user in a list has to say. This is more likely if you’re more interest in topics than people. In this case, Twitter lists might deliver more noise than signal.

But I think if you use a good tool like Tweetdeck for accessing Twitter (rather than just the Twitter site, which has always sucked for usability), you can combine Twitter Lists with filtering to end up with something very useful indeed, especially for staying abreast of news or topics… Continue reading

Citizen v. Pro Journalism: Division is Diversion

The house to the right is a small settlement, ...
What, exactly, are journalistic fences supposed to accomplish? (Image via Wikipedia)

Recently Kellie O’Sullivan, a third-year communication student studying at the University of Newcastle in Australia, asked me some questions about citizen journalism for a class assignment. I get questions like this a lot, so she said it was fine if I answered her in a blog post.

The way she framed her questions made me wonder: Why are folks from news organizations and journalism/communication schools still so hung up on building fences to divide amateur from professional journalism? Does this reflect insecurity about their own status/worth, or simply a lack of understanding of how much these endeavors mostly overlap and complement each other?

Seems to me that we’d all gain more by focusing on the practice of reporting and journalism (especially being transparent and open to discussion, correction, and expansion of news and information). In my opinion, doing journalism is more important than what kind of journalist you consider yourself to be, or how others label you.

With that caveat, here’s what she asked, and how I answered… Continue reading

Experiment: Great Live Event Coverage for Hire. What do you think?

As I mentioned in my previous post, today I’m liveblogging and tweeting a daylong Las Vegas event by Metzger Associates: Social Media for Executives. It’s a small event for a select group of executives representing several types of companies.

I’m doing this as a pilot test for a new professional service I’d like to start offering: Great live event coverage.

In my experience, most online event coverage isn’t so great. A few folks will be tweeting or blogging in several places, some hashtags will be used, but it’s all rather confusing and inconsistent to follow. Also, a lot of people tend to tweet items like “Jane Doe is speaking at this session now.” Uh-huh… AND….?

Liveblogging/tweeting has turned out to be a real strength of mine — I’m good at it, and I enjoy it. I’ve also had the good fortune to collect a sizable Twitter following among folks whose interests in media, business, and other fields overlap with mine — and who enjoy my particular blend of reporting, analysis, and attitude. (Or at least I guess they do, because every time I do live event coverage my Twitter posse swells noticeably and those folks tend to stick around afterward.)

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter and CoverItLive. For instance, earlier this month for my client the Reynolds Journalism Institute I liveblogged/tweeted J-Lab’s Fund My Media Startup workshop at the 2009 Online News Association conference.

So, being a longtime entrepreneur always on the lookout for new opportunities, I’m looking for ways to offer live event coverage as a service for my clients. Today’s event is an experiment on this front.

I want to figure out how this service could work in a way that would appeal to my Twitter posse, maintain my integrity and independence, and provide value to clients who’d pay for it.

Here are some of the issues I’m wrestling with, that I’d welcome your thoughts on…

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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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Basic journalism skills: Today’s real world

Today I got an e-mail from a journalism undergraduate with a few basic-sounding questions that I could answer quickly. But when I looked at my answers, I realize they have some more profound implications then she was probably expecting:

1. What is the most important skill you use in your posts on the Web?

Having a good sense of what’s likely to be interesting to the people I’ve connected with (or who I’d like to connect with), and why.

2. In your opinion, what is the most effective way to tell a story online (pictures, text, sound, video, etc.)?

You should know how to use all these tools and know the people/communities you want to connect with, and what their media preferences are (both for media content type, and the tools they tend to use most). Then tell your story in a form that will work best for them.

Stories don’t exist for their own sake, and you are not your audience. It only works if you really connect with people, and that means taking them into account from the start.

3. What is the hardest part about being an online professional?

Anyone these days who’s doing any kind of media work is inherently an online professional in some way, directly or indirectly. People who deny that or try to avoid it make their own careers impossible.

4. What core skills do you think every journalism major should have?

Many, but the most basic one is: How to define and connect with communities. This is the basis of all media activity, including journalism — but too often it’s taken for granted and not studied and understood in its own right.

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What’s “Media?” Time to Update Default Assumptions

Yesterday it occurred to me — as I heard about yet another “multimedia workshop” for journalists — how dated and useless the term “multimedia” has become. It’s now normal for media content types to be mixed. It’s also normal for anyone working in media to be expected to create and integrate various types of content (text, audio, photos, video, mapping/locative) as well as delivery channels (print, Web, radio, TV, podcast, social media, e-mail, SMS, embeddable, mobile applications, widgets, e-readers, etc.).

Ditto for the terms “new media” and even “online media”, which imply that channels other than print and broadcast are somehow separate or niche.

The best take on why it’s important to update and integrate assumptions about the nature of media (and how that affects news) is shown in this hilarious skit from Landline.TV:

Here’s where media is at today: In the current integrated media ecosystem, every print and broadcast organization has an Internet and mobile presence — and most of these now go beyond bare “shovelware”. Also, more and more of these organizations are distributing their content online first, making print and broadcast secondary channels (if not secondary markets). In contrast, most media outlets and public discussion venues that began life on the Internet do not have a print or broadcast presence. These vastly outnumber print and broadcast media outlets.

Consequently, when you consider the number and diversity of media outlets, print and broadcast media have become the exception — not the rule…

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