By Jane Stevens on September 11, 2008 0 Comments Experiments

A Selection of Jane Steven's Blog Entries, Sept. 2008-April 2009

Mizzou confab — New models of journalism

September 11, 2008

ReJurno, Jane Stevens, blog

Alum and students packed Neff Auditorium to hear some highly respected traditional jurnos who’ve made the leap into the Webcentric world with sites such as ProPublica, MinnPost, the St. Louis Beacon, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Good on ‘em. Good on ‘em. But they’re not going to make it if they keep on with a we-talk, you-listen approach. Or a great-journalism-is-all-you-need approach.

Or a linear, text-centric newspaper/magazine content approach. (A shining light: the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s multimedia story — Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica.) Or a been-there-done-that approach to covering their beats (i.e., no context or continuity). And where are the links, the resources, the backgrounders, the databases, the solution-oriented approaches to providing USEFUL information for their communities? I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll move in those directions FAST FAST FAST. We’ll be a lot better off if good, solid journalism survives. And these folks have soooo much good experience and understanding to contribute to Webcentric journalism. But their sites show that they don’t yet understand the medium.

Mizzou confab — Newspaper Next 2.0

September 13, 2008

Steve Buttry, editor of The Gazette and the GazetteOnline, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Here’s info about Buttry on the UM J-school site. This is one of many presentations at UM J-school centennial this week. But I’m adding this late…it occurred on Thursday, Sept. 11) “How many people are using Newspaper Next?” he asked. One or two raised their hands. “How many people have heard about Newspaper Next?” he asked. Just a few hands went up in an auditorium in which almost every seat is filled. Buttry says: “We gotta do a better job getting the word out about Newspaper Next.” [ReJurno: Ya think? Isn't this billed as the newspaper industry's big push to save newspapers, to embrace disruptive technology?]

Buttry said that newspapers used to be the place for the entire community. They served the community’s needs. But newspapers are not the best vehicle anymore. So, the American Press Institute developed Newspaper Next, which includes the concept of looking at a community’s megajobs, that is, the jobs that people and businesses need to do in community. Buttry says that newspapers should ask: What are the jobs our products are doing for business and consumers? And he repeated what many are this week, and have been for the last few years: We’re no longer newspaper companies. Instead of defining ourselves by our technology, we need to ask what is it we do for this community? We need to become the local information and connection utility. Great journalism alone can’t sell a newspaper.

Newspaper Next’s solution: Find a new business model. Buttry reviewed Newspaper Next 2.0’s report and approach. He also mentioned that a new report about databases — he prefers calling them answerbases [ReJurno: Not bad!]– will be out soon — perhaps as soon as next week.

The Newspaper Next 2.0 report provides 24 case studies of products. And case studies on how change culture of organization. Products. I really hate thinking about journalism as a product. It seems that API is missing the forest for the trees. But perhaps that’s what it’s supposed to do: save those newspapers…but at the cost of journalism?

Buttry offered some nuggets, however. 209Vibe in Stockton, CA and Cox Ohio Publishing’s Swocol (South West Ohio Colleges…four of them). [ReJurno: Those two sites are on to something. Why can't news organizations do that for other interest communities?] He also mentioned sites started by news organizations that try to engage the local citizenry in providing content, including, Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal, and Monroe Publishing Co.’s [ReJurno...these are a start, but still segregating community from jurnos.] And he also pointed out companies that have provided a place to feature local businesses and services, including Cox Enterprises’ (whose competitor is Angie’s List),’s Inside Guide, and World Company’s Marketplace.

Newspaper Next sure has some good ideas. And I’m looking forward to the “answerbases” report. However, they’re all about products. I can’t help but think if news organizations had just put as much emphasis on understanding the Web medium, educated their journalists and let them experiment, there might not be so many layoffs and so many newspapers dying.

Journalists w/o Journalism?

September 19, 2008

Oh so sad. An upcoming free half-day seminar – Journalists without Newsrooms — on Sept. 24 at the National Press Club could be titled “Journalists without Journalism.” Less than half of the panelists offer advice on how to continue doing journalism. The rest include tips on how to switch to the film business, public relations, newsletters, association work and, yo ho!, private investigations.

Holy moly. If that’s all we can come up with, journalism’s sunk. Where are the workshops and seminars that offer an entrepreneurial roadmap for the 10,764+ jurnos who’ve lost their jobs so far this year? Can’t anyone just look at the proliferation of niche news/info networks popping up in the Medium That’s Taking Over the World to see that plenty of opportunity exists for journalists…and journalism?

This year, I’m fortunate to be doing a fellowship at U. Missouri’s new Reynolds Journalism Institute to help figure out how to ease the transition for jurnos by developing free or very-low-cost community-centric news/info templates. But that’s just one tiny part of what needs to be done. More on that soon.

HuffPost on a roll

November 2, 2008

Online Media Daily had a short article about Huffington Post’s success:

Third-quarter revenue is double that of first quarter. A year ago, the HuffPo began launching new verticals, business and entertainment among them, and this September the site showed a 600% increase in unique visits over a year ago, according to Nielsen. Media, style, green and living verticals have also been added to the site. Mario Ruiz, vice president of media relations, says to expect a books section to be added in the first part of 2009.

More than seven million visitors in September, and over a million comments. Not bad. Half the traffic’s on something other than politics. Encouraging. Some of the blogs are journalism. Some aren’t. Some of the bloggers are journalists. Some aren’t. The good thing is that each blog IDs the blogger with a short bio, so that bloggees can judge content based on bloggers.

News organizations: Take heed. The format for daily coverage is morphing from print’s 24-hour deadline-driven daily 12-inch story to a continuous drip-drip-drip (bubble-bubble-bubble?) of news and information. Every reporter should blog her/his beat. As Amy Webb says: a blog’s just a format; it doesn’t define the content. (And don’t make reporters rewrite their blogs into old-time 12-inch stories. Just strip the blog into the paper, for heaven’s sake.) News organizations’ strength is their reporters and the trust that the community puts in them. Bring them out from behind their bylines and shout out their qualifications.

One more thing. HuffPost chief revenue officer James Smith keeps talking about a “growing brand,” a “healthy brand.” Yeah, I suppose so. But each time the word “brand” pops up, journalism fades a bit. HuffPost calls itself “The Internet Newspaper.” Couldja say something about journalism somewhere, Arianna?

Obamanet’s a model for journalism

November 11, 2008

News organizations can learn a thing or two from the Obama campaign’s Web strategy — about community-building and creating a place for members of a community to meet, organize and take action. That’s not the role of journalism, you say? Bear with me.

First a few intriguing facts about Obamanet. In the Washington Post, Shailagh Murray and Matthew Mosk pointed out that the campaign:

  • has an email list of 10 million people who gave money, who were part of or connected to the millions more volunteers who organized rallies and registered voters.
  • employed 95 people in its Internet operation. [rejurno: That could drive a healthy mid-size news organization.]

In the NYTimes, Claire Cain Miller attended Web 2.0 Summit 2008 last week where Joe Trippi mention that the YouTube videos created by the Obama campaign were watched for 14.5 million hours. Trippi is a political consultant who ran Howard Dean’s political campaign in 2004.

From Sarah Lai Stirland in

Volunteers used Obama’s website to organize a thousand phone-banking events in the last week of the race — and 150,000 other campaign-related events over the course of the campaign. Supporters created more than 35,000 groups clumped by affinities like geographical proximity and shared pop-cultural interests.

The social networking part of the site — — was organized by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

As the presidential race heated up, the internet grew from being the medium of a core group of political junkies to a gateway for millions of ordinary Americans to participate in the political process, donating odd amounts of their spare time to their candidate through online campaign tools. Obama’s campaign carefully designed its web site to maximize group collaboration, while at the same time giving individual volunteers tasks they could follow on their own schedules.

Obama supporters didn’t wait for campaign headquarters to tell them what to do. They created Web sites, videos for YouTube, and even an iPhone and iTouch app. The Obama sites themselves were always morphing, growing, splitting off, adapting as the campaign evolved and grew.

So, what does all this have to do with journalism? As we move away from we-talk-you-listen into Webworld, news organizations must adapt to the characteristics, to the nature of this medium, or die. The Web’s more complex that print, TV or radio, but it’s not that difficult to understand.

The Web is solution-oriented, interactive, participatory, contextual, immediate, mostly visual, nonlinear, continuous and very personal. The Obama campaign got ALL of that, mainly because it had Joe Rospars and Hughes, and a room full of others who understand the medium. They created a social/news/information network that they fed with information and stories, but the engine that drove it was those millions of people who were working toward their solution: electing Obama.

Newspapers of olde did the same, in their own way. A person who started a newspaper in a community actually created a place for all the community’s news, not just for news gathered by reporters. That community news and information included the news in ads from businesses and services; turning-point news submitted by members of the community– deaths, marriages, graduations, births; legal notices; shipping news; police logs; court calendars; entertainment, humor, etc. The stories that reporters wrote were a small part of a greater whole. And, on many days, many people thought the news from the grocery store (half-off coupon for milk) was of greater value than what was on the front page. The engine that drove a newspaper was its community.

Today’s journalists — for decades separated from their advertising, marketing, circulation, classifieds and subscription departments — have been lulled into thinking that their stories are enough. They aren’t, and they never were.

On the Web, smart journalists create a place for their community:

  • where its members can collaborate to solve a problem (reduce local violence, increase local breast cancer survival, make the streets safer for bicyclists, etc.),
  • where its members can buy and sell relevant services and goods (bicycles, health clinics, etc.),
  • that’s connected to the rest of the Social Network Universe (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc.),
  • where journalists carry out their traditional role of serving their communities as fact-checkers, watchdogs and trusted sources.

Some journalists already have (more about them in a later post). It just ain’t rocket science.

10,000 Jurno Startups…Why Not?

November 16, 2008

On Friday, a jazzed-up Dave Cohn waxed poetic about the future of journalism. I agree wholeheartedly.  Except with this statement:

What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups. Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and financial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times. (The NY Times is part of this game, I’m not making a big/small media divide here, just using them as a standard).

My prediction: It could be that two out of 10,000 may become equivalents to the New York Times. But in this so-very-networked medium, I believe that 10,000 journalism startups can find success and financial security. There doesn’t need to be another New York Times. is successful and is providing Tracy Record and Patrick Sand with a living. They’ll have to tell you if they define it as financial security. And they’re covering only part of Seattle. MexBizNews isn’t successful yet, according to Diane Lindquist (reporter, editor, chief cook-and-bottle-washer), but it could be. Diane’s got the jurno chops; she just needs guidance in a few areas, such as content management systems, advertising, marketing, search, Web shell development (including user-friendly searchable databases), and community building.

Some of us at the Reynolds Journalism Institute have been batting around the idea of starting a news organization incubator to help people like Diane be successful. This new medium has certain characteristics; if you understand its basic nature and have what you need to make a go of a journalistic enterprise, then you have a much better shot at supporting yourself.

Our main goal: We want to put journalism back in the caring hands of journalists. No matter what the medium.

Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism

December 29, 2008

So, how do we keep journalism thriving? Make sure that journalists thrive.

To help journalists thrive, the Reynolds Journalism Institute is hosting a one-day Talkfest on Jan. 21, 2009, called “Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism.” The participants’ challenge: to develop plans for the RJI Collaboratory, a news organization incubator.

This is why: In 2008, traditional news organizations continued to shrink or close their doors. They laid off more than 15,000 journalists, resulting in a significant loss of good journalism so vital to U.S. citizens and our democracy. Dozens of communities now have little or no coverage of their local health issues, their local environment, or their local government. Some no longer have reporters, no journalism at all in their communities.  That trend is likely to accelerate in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Web continues to provide fertile ground for new social/news/information organizations, hundreds of which have appeared over the last few years and are thriving, including, MinnPost,,, Huffington Post, BlogHer, (which is now part of, the St. Louis Beacon, and Marketwatch.  There’s a need for hundreds, perhaps thousands, more.

We think an RJI Collaboratory could provide resources and knowledge on how to start effective and successful Web-based news organizations. Those who could benefit from the news organization incubator are entrepreneurial journalists and existing news organizations that are undertaking the transformational strategies necessary to adapt to a Webcentric world.

These are some of the things we’d like to figure out that day:

  • What does a news organization incubator do exactly? We know it should provide advertising strategies and techniques, technology services, business planning, Web shell (information architecture ) and design services, and ethics guidelines. But what else? And how does it provide this guidance and these services?
  • What roles can other colleges and departments of the University of Missouri play in a news organization incubator? Could computer science students develop online services for entrepreneurial journalists? Could business school students work with entrepreneurial journalists to develop robust organizations?
  • What could the RJI Collaboratory do in the first year? The second year? The third year?
  • What does a news organization incubator need to get started?
  • Does a news organization incubator derive funding from the organizations it nurtures? If so, how? If the news organization incubator is part of the university, what is the incubator’s intellectual property policy?
  • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with other centers or journalism schools?
  • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with organizations that might be interested in funding start-ups?

If you’re interested in attending, send me an email – jstevens at mmjourno dot com. We’re limiting the in-person attendance to 60 people. It’s free. You just have to get yourself to Columbia, MO. We’ll also be running an Adobe Connect virtual room, which can handle 100 people. If you’d like to attend virtually, also let me know.

WestSeattleBlog — Don’t Call Them ‘Bloggers’

January 16, 2009

Just because they’re using a blog format, says WestSeattleBlog co-founder Tracy Record, it doesn’t mean they’re “bloggers.” (Unfortunately, that’s still a perjorative term in the journalism community. That’s too bad, since the blogging format is the Web “story” format.)

Tracy and hubby Patrick Sand started blogging about their West Seattle neighborhood in January 2006 while she was still working at local TV station KCPQ.

Mark Poepsel, my research assistant at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and I have done a fairly thorough case study on them.  Besides being a model for jurnos who want to start their own geographic-based news organization, theirs is an interesting story.

They call themselves a commercial news site operating in a blog format. They do original reporting, posting 11 times a day, on average. They support themselves with display advertising, which most people in the Web ad world think is passé. But there’s a layer of businesses that  have been priced out of metro dailies for a long time.  At this point, display ads work very well for them — at least in West Seattle. And if you’re doing a community site — in this case a community of 68,000 people — wouldn’t you want to include the people who sell products and services?

After all, ye olde newspapers were catalysts for economic enterprise; why shouldn’t Web-based news organization be, also?  WestSeattleBlog is hitting home runs on so many levels…advertising, community-building, collaborative reporting, continuous and contextual coverage. They’re so successful that they’ve outgrown WordPress, their free content management system. They could use some help in Web shell and database development.

At next week’s //CHANGE URL TO INTERNAL LINK//RJI Collaboratory Talkfest, “Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism”,  we’ll be talking with them, and exploring how a news organization incubator might help people starting out, as well as people like Tracy and Patrick, who are ready to move up to the next level of content management systems, and even, perhaps, advertising.

If you have more questions after reading the case study, let me know. I’ll pass them on.

Making a Living with

March 7, 2009

When Bob Gough lost his job as news director at a Quincy, IL, TV station in October 2007, he had a choice: Move to another city or figure out another way to stay in the journalism biz in Quincy. He didn’t want to move — Quincy was his home. He had a wife with a successful career there, and three kids who weren’t keen on pulling up roots.

So, he figured out another way: He found a couple of local investors and, on April 28, 2008, launched a local Web-based news organization:

The good news: he’s making a living….$1,000/week. He loves what he’s doing. The site is growing. And so far there isn’t any bad news.

Check out all the details, from soup to nuts, in ReJurno’s latest case study. And if there’s anything else you want to know, just ask and we’ll be glad to provide more info.

Case Study:

April 12, 2009

Here’s the third in a series of ReJurno’s case studies – Justin Carder launched his startup news site on a Neighborlogs CMS about a year ago. Neighborlogs is a free platform (CMS and hosting) for people who want to start niche-based news sites. Carder does business development for Instivate, the company that owns Neighborlogs.

Carder’s in good company in Seattle, where several niche-based news sites have debuted over the last couple of years: Tracy Record and Patrick Sand’s WestSeattleBlog (the case study is here); the topic-based niche site TechFlash(case study coming soon); and Cory and Kate Bergman’s Next Door Media, which publishes My BallardPhinneyWood,MagnoliaVoiceFremontUniverse, and QueenAnneView.

Carder, who says that Tracy and Patrick are his mentors, takes a slightly different approach in CapitolHillSeattle. While Tracy’s goal is to cover as many West Seattle’s events and issues as possible, Carder focuses on providing a unique perspective to issues that might be covered by his competitors and on nurturing local storytellers.

CHS is, in a sense, also a proof-of-concept for Neighborlogs. Neighborlogs isn’t like, which sets a reporting framework and hires reporters. It’s a free one-stop-shopping blogging platform for people who want to do a startup that offers self-serve advertising, but who don’t want to mess much with software. I’ll be doing a case study on Neighborlogs….AFTER I finish the next case study on TechFlash.

As the wait-staff says in some of those trendy Seattle restaurants: Enjoy!
(What would Russell Brand say????)

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