The Gray Lady learns texting

January 28, 2008

As an elaboration of some of the general trends we’re seeing in journalism online, I point to the announcement today by the The New York Times of a new text messaging service that will, according to the Times, “deliver the latest news, features and columns from the newspaper as well as features from The Times Magazine to cell phones and mobile devices.”

“We intend to use every available platform to disseminate The Times’s quality news and information,” said Rob Larson, vice president, product development and management,


We’ve been discussing in Intro to Digital Communication this push to mobile as one of the larger macro trends determining journalism’s future online. Other trends include Web 2.0 social networking, a trend that rewards those who develop platforms rather than content (FaceBook, YouTube, MySpace, Digg), platforms that enable and incent users to create the content, and the spread of Long Tail hyperlocal niche news, like Hometown Headlines locally, Rome News-Tribune’s Gridiron Central,, EveryBlock, and BlufftonToday. This emphasis on the very local is not new. News 400 years ago was shared in coffeehouses and publick houses, and it was all very, very local, or as Adam Holovaty refers to it, “address-specific news.”

To mobile and social networking, add one more ingredient for quite the online journalism cocktail — personalization. Think Digg, and most portal page fronts. We are getting increasingly more control over our media landscapes, accustomed as we have become to TiVo in television.

All of this sets us up nicely for discussions on Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, which are upcoming.

(btw: “The Old Gray Lady” is a nickname for the New York Times, from its pre-color days)

Using World of Warcraft to teach leadership?

January 22, 2008

wow.pngAs many of you know, some of you perhaps a bit too intimately, World of Warcraft (WoW) is an example of a commercial massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Though it was designed for educational use, players might, it could be argued, experience some learning, particularly in such areas as leadership.

The argument: Players join guilds that include players with different skills. Each guild has a leader.

My questions for COMmies: Does WoW teach players how to be leaders? Can the game be incorporated in existing courses in leadership? What do you think?

What is a journalist? What is journalism for?

January 21, 2008

In my intro class, we are discussing these questions in the context of ethics. To extend our conversation, and to amplify it, I’d like us to respond to these two questions, then build on and riff off of each other’s answers to this question.

Friend and Singer, based on the research of others, propose that a journalist in American society is someone “whose primary purpose is to provide the information the citizens of a democracy need to be free and self-governing; someone who acts in accordance with a firm commitment to balance, fairness, restraint, and service; someone whom members of the public can trust to help them make sense of the world and to make sound decisions about the things that matter” (p. xvi).

What do you think? What information do we need to be “free and self-governing”? What do balance, fairness, restraint and service look like? What is journalism for? (For a good discussion of this, I recommend Kovach’s and Rosenstiel’s Elements of Journalism, which I am re-reading now.)

David Simon, a former reporter and a producer of HBO’s The Wire, recently asked in the Washington Post: “In any format, through any medium — isn’t an understanding of the events of the day still a salable commodity?” He asks if the Internet is so profound a change in the delivery model “high-end news,” or journalism that really matters, will become increasingly scarce, rare, exotic. What do you think?

Traditional journalists have had to agree to a code of ethics, however tacitly, typically one similar or identical to the Society for Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. The Online News Association also has a code, which was modified from SPJ’ for online specifically for bloggers. What do you think? Is there anything you think should be added, changed or removed from either code, but for our purposes the ONA’s version?

Finally, the book posits that “a code of ethics does not create ethical behavior” (p. xx). These codes are merely compasses, maps, orienting philosophies. What do you think does or can create ethical behavior, or get people to use the compass, the map, to embrace the philosophy? What leads to ethical behavior in online news, particularly with new pressures such as speed of information delivery, challenges in verification, commercial pressures, the expansion of civic discourse and the increased need for transparency in everything?

I look forward to our deliberations.