Mar 21, 2009

Some Themes from Friday

On adapting your reporting skills to 'New Media'

1. Succeeding on the web means building a community.
The internet allows journalists to build active, involved communities of readers. But it's not an automatic process. The web is a little bit like the Wild West. Comments sections can seem like skeezy saloons full of company you'd never want to keep. But as columnist Connie Schultz noted in her keynote speech, it's possible to clean them up. Give encouragement to the thoughtful comments, correct factual inaccuracies in negative ones, and make sure the people commenting on your articles know that you read their comments. Some of the best old-school journalism thrived because of an active and engaged readership. Reporters can build this kind of readership on the web, but it may not come easily.

2. Don't be redundant. Different medium=different story. A few of the conference's new media specialists chastised news organizations for "adapting" to new media by adding multimedia components without enough thought about what makes a good article versus a good video versus a good slide show. It's important to adapt the story to the medium. Think about whether you want viewers to choose between reading the article or watching the video, or whether you expect one component to lead to the other.

3. Be authentic. Any story needs to be authentic in order to succeed. Don't create new media projects you don't believe in. Use new media in ways that you think fit the story you want to tell. And try to keep a sense of your own authenticity and personal moral compass. As Connie Schultz said, "Don't ignore the interior life you're going to need to be a good journalist."

4. Master the gadgets. In order to be able to know which medium is the best fit for your story, you need to understand your different options. That means becoming fluent in different forms--video, audio, slideshow, Twitter, blog. Once you really know your tools--once your camera feels like an extension of your hand, as new media whiz Richard Koci Hernandez said--you'll know intuitively whether a story should be told using video, photo, text, sound, or some combination of the above.

5. Do more things. But don't think you have to do everything. If you try to master everything at once, you'll be overwhelmed. Take baby steps, digital correspondent Mara Schiavocampo recommended. Film an interview, load it onto your computer, and select a single clip of a quote you don't use in your story. Then load this along with your text. Build confidence by integrating new media into your work one step at a time. And don't assume that all the journalists of the future will be self-sufficient writer-blogger-videographers. Schiavocampo takes this omnicompetent approach in her work as a correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, but she said she believes that there will always be plenty of room for specialists.

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