[I’m Reading] ‘the view from nowhere…isn’t the natural tone and register of people on the internet’

This, from a piece that’s mostly about Ampp3d’s approach to data journalism, jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

We all understand what data journalism from a broadsheet looks like, and it is very good. We’re trying to find out what data journalism from a tabloid looks like. I want Ampp3d to be fast and funny and popular as well as being factual and accurate.

I don’t think it should have “the view from nowhere”. That’s great for where it is appropriate, but it isn’t the natural tone and register of people on the internet. And it isn’t what makes stories resonate with people, or makes them compelling to share.


Hands up! (or, on transparency in newsrooms)

Media types are all a-twitter about this Seth Godin post, “Principles for Responsible Media Moguls“.

So I thought I’d cross-post a piece I wrote in 2011 on transparency in newsrooms.

I’m fascinated by the concept of “radical transparency“, though not under the guise of eroding privacy norms.

The concept is especially relevant to media organisations and newsrooms; journalists and media executives are not themselves used to being obliged to reveal how the sausage is made.

Still, the (media) world is moving toward more openness around the reporting process, including in the slightly uncomfortable area of corrections and clarifications, and the not unrelated challenging of keeping on top of evolving stories. Online media have been far more willing to embrace transparency than their printed ilk. (Good examples: Business Insider’s use of Chartbeat, FT Alphaville passim.)

Along those lines, a colleague shared what I think are a very good set of rules for dealing with either corrections and clarifications or fast-moving news situations.

  1. Don’t kill posts
  2. Keep the reader updated about contentious things as quickly and honestly as possible
  3. Don’t back yourself into a corner by accepting the first plausible explanation
  4. Rely on facts whenever challenged

I will put my editor hat on here for a moment. These are excellent principles; in practice, the challenge is getting reporters (and indeed, editors at all levels) to be comfortable with what is a radical departure from the voice of God approach.

This is a challenge that can only really be tackled by creating an environment in which reporting is preferred to punditry; in which gaps in knowledge are met with training and mentoring instead of ridicule (because there is no shame in not knowing, only in not then seeking to find out); in which editors will stand up for their reporters when the pressure is on; in which genuine mistakes, errors and misunderstandings are acknowledged and corrected swiftly, openly and guilelessly; in which press release “journalism” is shunned; in which reporters are challenged to go deeper, to ask more questions, to seek more (and better) sources, and crucially, to always question their assumptions; and in which the most junior reporter feels empowered to fact-check or correct the most senior of colleagues.

Such an environment is not easy to achieve, but it’s worth it.

My $0.02, etc.

“it might be worth more — particularly in the long term — to spend the time trying to confirm the…”

“it might be worth more — particularly in the long term — to spend the time trying to confirm the reports that emerge through social media (was that tweet really from the niece of Whitney Houston’s hairstylist?) or to push the story beyond the simple report that something has happened and figure out what it means or why it matters. That kind of analysis and context has always been the most long-lasting aspect of journalism, but mainstream media outlets continually get distracted by the need for another scoop or another “exclusive,” something very few non-journalists care about.”

Twitter and the incredible shrinking news cycle — Tech News and Analysis

“another VC recently told me his firm recently had passed on opportunities to invest in some new tech…”

“another VC recently told me his firm recently had passed on opportunities to invest in some new tech blogs that were proposing a business model he described as “hush money.” Potential investors were being offered “most favored nation” status for themselves and their portfolio companies if they put money into the site.
This is what now passes for “journalism” in Silicon Valley: hired guns and reformed click-whores who have found a way to grab some of the loot for themselves. This is perhaps not surprising. Silicon Valley once was home to scientists and engineers — people who wanted to build things. Then it became a casino. Now it is being turned into a silicon cesspool, an upside-down world filled with spammers, liars, flippers, privacy invaders, information stealers — and their grubby cadre of paid apologists and pygmy hangers-on.”

Real Dan Lyons Web Site » Blog Archive » Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool » Real Dan Lyons Web Site


Content Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink


Most of what is written about the tech world — both in blog form and old school media form — is bullshit. I won’t try to put some arbitrary label on it like 80%, but it’s a lot. There’s more bullshit than there is 100% pure, legitimate information.

The problem is systemic. Print circulation is dying and pageviews are all that matter in keeping advertisers happy. This means, whether writers like it or not, there’s an underlying drive for both sensationalism and more — more — more.

Read More

[Replace tech with finance. Still applies]

‘The New York Times’ offices are a surprisingly inert environment’

So said GorkanaPR in a comment on Monday 5 Dec 2011 (emphasis mine):

The end of empires

The feature length documentary, Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times was aired as part of the consistently excellent Storyville series a fortnight ago, although for the purposes of the Beeb it has been renamed Deadline (it’s available on iPlayer until next weekend). It was filmed in the same fly-on-the-wall manner as The September Issue, a similarly conceived film about Vogue, but unfortunately it focuses less about the editorial direction of the publication, and more a look at the US equivalent of Media Guardian. This may in part be because The New York Times’ offices are a surprisingly inert environment (the editorial meetings are especially disappointing) and you have to constantly remind yourself that this is the pinnacle of the US media establishment and not some logistics office of a multinational on the outskirts of St Louis. By focusing on the media team it also allows the film to use a number of incidents throughout the year from WikiLeaks to the collapse of the Tribune group to analyse how the newspaper market has changed in the US. It also allows the gruff and laconic media columnist David Carr to take a starring role. 

Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis – Clay Shirky