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21 Feb

NENPA: My #realtalk presentation to newsroom leaders

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I was invited to speak at the New England Newspaper Publishers Association in Boston to talk about industry challenges, pulling no punches. “We would be quite interested in your views on what most newspapers appear to be doing right or wrong, and the best path forward,” the invitation said.

I had been invited to speak at a different newspaper publishers association in the past.

It didn’t work out. (I got uninvited when I told them my topic.)

But NENPA was committed and even wrote a piece on what I was going to say in my talk.

This talk, for me, was years in the making… one that I imagined giving when I was in the newsroom and one I wanted to give if I have a newsroom leader asking for advice.

Here, for those interested, is my talk*:
[ Hour and 15 minutes ]



Direct link: http://youtu.be/Hc6ZwLKDLP4

* Sadly, the projector changed the color of the slides… it’s not perfect, but it’s the content that matters, right? Right??

For those not interested in watching the entire video, here’s an animated GIF of the nutgraph from my talk:

realtalk-with-news-leadership

11 Feb

The Pope, the Invisible Gorilla and journalism

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This post is brought to you by today’s Morning Edition.

Two stories from today’s show, for me, are made relevant to journalism after running it through my journalistic filter.

Those who know me (or have read past rants) know that newsroom leadership, across the country and regardless of medium or market size, has frustrated me.

The news story about radiologists that invoked the ‘invisible gorilla’ reminded me about this struggle. Years ago, while I was at The Seattle Times, editors were brought into a retreat called Newspaper Next, I believe. (The site no longer exists, but thanks to the way back machine, you can still see it).

This was a retreat that had started popping up in newsrooms across the country, dealing with one central question: How do we pivot and use our existing resources to generate revenue for the newspaper.

Great topic.

During the presentation they played a video that has stuck with me for years since the talk, and which was played this morning on NPR (KPCC is my local NPR station).

I didn’t recall the name, but now know it is called the ‘invisible gorilla.’

While mine was slightly different, here is the video. Play it and follow the instructions.

The logo from theinvisiblegorilla.com is a gorilla reading a newspaper. A newspaper!

So, did you notice the gorilla? Or those other changes? Isn’t that amazing? According to the story and video, 50 percent of people who see this video are so focused on the task at hand that they miss the not-so-invisible gorilla that walks into the frame.

The take away from the video during that newspaper retreat was “are we so focused on newspapers that we are missing the gorilla?” And in newspaper speak, the gorilla meant digital.

A high up editor at the time, after watching the video, said how eye opening the exercise was… me, being a bit of a loud mouth, responded by saying “I’ve been that guy in the gorilla suit. Not only waving my hands, but also jumping up and down.”

Most digital journalists have had this experience.

It’s the culture difference between traditional and, well, digital leadership and competence that is such a challenge. Many of us have dealt with this in a variety of ways.

Which leads me to the second story: The Pope.

In his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI said “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith … I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” said the Pope.

I hear that, then tweet this:

If the Pope can realize he’s not fit to lead in these modern times, why can’t some newsroom leaders? #thingsithinkabout
@webjournalist
Robert Hernandez

And then I write this post.

Look, there have been so many changes in newsrooms and its leadership. We are the better for it. But there is still much more to go. And it’s on us to push it forward.

We will have moments when newsroom leaders retire, take buyouts, etc. … and their incredibly valuable newsroom knowledge will be greatly missed… but we have to remember that we are moving — slowly — toward the goal of a modern, well, newsroom.

This is not about age. No. It’s about understanding culture… in this case digital/Web culture.

And these are the things I think about. And occasionally ramble on in a post.

Please feel free to tell me what you think.

For those interested, here is a Poynter piece from 2008 about Newspaper Next 2.0: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/business-news/the-biz-blog/87155/newspaper-next-2-0-way-outside-the-box/

23 Apr

Deadline, U.S.A. … still alive and relevant

Yesterday I had the privilege to see the classic 1952 film Deadline, U.S.A. My USC colleague Jack Lerner managed to obtain a 16MM print and showed it to his media law class… he invited me along. I had never seen the film, but, boy, am I glad I did.

I’m a Web journalist… but my career has been with newspapers. I have a newspaper rack in my office (it use to be in my living room). I still find beauty in the broadsheet and there is nothing like ink on your fingers. But I’m a tech geek and think I bridge those two worlds together.

I’ve started to maintain a Tumblr (http://wjist.tumblr.com/) that collect quotes that relate directly or indirectly to journalism… and as I saw this film, there were too many quotes to list.

Thanks to the Interwebs, you can see this film on YouTube… in parts. I highly recommend it. Part II brought me to tears because I was there when the Hearst-own San Francisco Examiner was killed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfM-Ktj1xO8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnUmb6SvRis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQNjsoZhBCw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpo3LCI7yBk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqZ72ORMPqY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emWgvRd2dKk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQFPWzngbPY

Some of my favorite quotes are:

This paper will fight for progress and reform. We’ll never be satisfied merely with printing the news. We’re never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory wealth or predatory poverty.” – In the first edition of The Day

A journalist makes himself the hero of the story. A reporter is only a witness.” – Jim Cleary

About this wanting to be a reporter, don’t ever change your mind. It may not be the oldest profession, but it’s the best.” – Ed Hutcheson

A free press, like a free life, sir, is always in danger.” – Ed Hutcheson

That’s the press, baby. The press! And there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing!” – Ed Hutcheson

Get a few more quotes here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044533/quotes

Categories: Journalism, Newspaper, Personal Tags:
05 Mar

Los Angeles Times: One edition, lots of great photojournalism (and stories)

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NOTE: Republished on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201103/1952/

Los Angeles Times' frontpage 3-5-11My wife and I recently decided to subscribe to the newspaper again. We’re ‘weekender’ subscribers to the Los Angeles Times. Like most papers, the size is a fraction of what it use to be, but the content is as diverse as the city it covers.

I, like most modern news consumers, have not had much time to actually sit down with the paper product, even through we only get it Thursday through Sunday.

But today, over the breakfast table, we get our fingers dirty with ink print (which I love) and dug in.

I could not ignore the great, diverse photos that filled the paper – the majority of the great shots from staff. So much so, I had to write this post.

In this one, random edition [Saturday, March 5, 2011], I found great photos throughout the sections of the paper. Check them out below… all of them, but one are available online.

Back in Libya after decades in exile, a dissident takes on Kadafi

Since his return in late December, a longtime opposition group leader has become more vocal in his denunciation of Moammar Kadafi. But some experts say such groups have been gone too long to be of much help to the rebels in the streets.

Back in Libya after decades in exile, a dissident takes on Kadafi

Anwar Magariaf fought from abroad against Moammar Kadafi's rule for more than 30 years. (Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)


[NOTE: Looks like the photo was removed from the site.]

Founder of Crescendo charter schools fired

John Allen is accused of promoting cheating on standardized tests; L.A. Unified closed all six schools in the group.

Just after the charter group’s governing board decided unanimously to fire him as executive director, John Allen, founder of Crescendo schools, leans against a wall. Shortly thereafter, he left the meeting. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)

Just after the charter group’s governing board decided unanimously to fire him as executive director, John Allen, founder of Crescendo schools, leans against a wall. Shortly thereafter, he left the meeting. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)

As L.A. tourism rebounds, tour buses bring noise and gridlock

Residents of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills complain that an increase in tour buses — crowded with photo-snapping visitors — is clogging narrow residential streets.

Reflected in a bus mirror, visitors Sharon Butchart of Uxbridge, Canada, left, and Miriam Leiser of Ramsey, N.J., use headphones to listen to their tour guide. (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles Times / February 23, 2011)

Reflected in a bus mirror, visitors Sharon Butchart of Uxbridge, Canada, left, and Miriam Leiser of Ramsey, N.J., use headphones to listen to their tour guide. (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles Times / February 23, 2011)

Aaron Liberman hopes to lead Valley Torah to a first for Jewish schools

Aaron Liberman and his brother Nathaniel earn kudos for their work ethic as Valley Torah prepares for 6AA Southern Section basketball championship game against Bishop Diego on Saturday.

Brothers Aaron and Nathaniel Liberman after a recent Valley Torah practice in Burbank. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2011)

Brothers Aaron and Nathaniel Liberman after a recent Valley Torah practice in Burbank. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2011)

Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Don Bartletti

Only part of portrait photo, taken by Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times, of ornithologist Peter Harrison is seen in the archive and sadly not available online version: Scientists announce discovery of new species of seabird, the first in 89 years

To be fair, there were some great stories too, especially the ones paired with the photos. From the latest on Libya to California having the highest gas prices in the country to LAPD’s dilemma with Charlie Sheen, a good mix of stories that caught my (limited) attention. My favorite, though, was this piece my wife spotted inside business: Spiders in Mazda cars still a mystery (print headline)

I have to say, this experience reminds me of an incredibly powerful piece by Robert Niles in OJR a few months back: Letting go of the rope: Why I’m no longer a newspaper subscriber.

In it he used the strong imagery of letting go of the rope while someone, who asked for help but failed to do anything to improve their situation, was still holding on. The person on the rope was the newspaper/news industry.

Personally, I think Niles forgot something.

Yes, the news industry needs to do more to get itself out of the situation. But, the only person he saw on the rope, in my opinion, was the leadership.

What I think Niles missed are the hundreds of people trapped under that leadership … the ones that are passionate and believe in the value of their craft… the ones that — even after layoffs, furloughs and bad pay – come to work every day, working long hours to tell the stories of the community in text, photos, videos or whatever form the best they can.

Journalists that are as frustrated as Niles, but are trapped under that leadership. Journalists that choose not to let go of the rope. Journalists that are trying to do what they can with what they have … in most cases, “more with less.”

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of crap too (Check out Churnalism.com). There is a long way to go to make this better. I’m also as frustrated as Niles is with the leadership.

But I can’t lump the great, good or even mediocre work journalists do across the country every day and night with the bad leadership and poor business decisions that have undercut them and our industry.

I’m just a weekender, and for this one edition, I’m glad we re-subscribed.

π