Interviews from #ONA10 with Smart People

There were LOTS of smart people at the Online News Association conference in Washington D.C. last month. It’s one of my favorite conferences because I get to see all my online friends and meet new ones. I didn’t get interview nearly everyone I wanted to – but here are some of the highlights – most of these have appeared at the RJI blog, but here they are, together at last! (UPDATE: Yes, they are all men. My bad. It wasn’t pre-meditated. Let the record show there are many smart women. These were just the folks I ran into when I had a spare moment here or there. Don’t read into it too much. Feel free to leave a comment if you think I’m a male chauvinist.)

Do you regret the error?

Few things in life are as certain as death and taxes. One thing that is also guaranteed, there will be errors in journalism. Nobody is perfect. The future of journalism won’t be error free, but it will have a different attitude to how corrections are caught, fixed and dealt with. Some of those changes we have already observed, newspapers popularized the strikethrough, blogs popularized the strikethrough, but the changes are ongoing.

Nobody has given more thought to the future of errors than Craig Silverman. He literally wrote the book on errors.

What is the future of correcting errors? What barriers does the journalism community have to get to that future? Craig gives us his vision.

#wjchat – When Journalists converge

At ONA I had a chance to hang out with my friend Robert Hernandez. Robert made a splash this year at ONA when he asked if Patch was evil. This year, however, Robert has made a splash in the journalism Twittersphere when he co-created #WJChat, a weekly Twitter conversation with rotating hosts to discuss important issues of the week. The chats are every Wednesdays at 5 p.m. PDT. All you need is a Twitter account and to follow the hashtag #wjchat.

Here’s Robert explaining what wjchat is and how it came up out of nowhere to become a vibrant conversation.

If you’re starting a news business – what pain are you solving?

Mark is working on his latest book which is about entrepreneurial journalism. In a quick discussion at ONA Mark discussed some of the broad ideas in his book. This includes the influence of technology and Silicon Valley on news startups, such as the acceptance of failure and experimentation.

Another important point that Mark touched on was asking what the value of your startup is. This is something I harked on at my personal blog “I love journalism, but if you’re a new media startup your value proposition is NOT “saving journalism” – that is meta and only journos care.

As Mark put it.

“The key is, especially for journalists that have never had to think entrepneurial before, is to focus on what the consumer needs, what pain are you solving?…. You see a lot of journalism startups that are really abou trying to recreate the old jobs journalists had and that’s great, but it’s not the world we live in. You need to focus on what consumers want and what solution I can bring that will solve this pain….”

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

What pain are you solving?

What Should J-schools Teach?

I was in the “New Media” track at Columbia’s J-school. As a student I was immersed in and became accustomed to the “new media skill set.” I learned video, photography/photoshop, flash, html, etc.

What was touched upon only briefly, however, was the “new media mind set” which is a fundamentally different thing. This is learning to relinquish control to the audience, becoming a story-enabler instead of a story-teller, etc.

The term that this “mind set” is most associated with is “social media.” I was very excited to find out that Columbia hired Vadim Lavrusik to teach a class in social media.

There are certain journalism institutions that have nothing to fear in the current age. University programs are a perfect example because they are sheltered from economic realities (to some extent). As a result I argue they have a responsibility to pursue and push into new boundaries. But don’t take my word for it – here’s Vadim.

The Arc of a Journalism Career

I often say that if I were born 30 years earlier the arc of my career would have been drastically different. At 28 I would hopefully have graduated from a cub reporting beat, maybe covering the cops, to some other topic. My aim would be to win awards for my organization with the hope of becoming middle or upper management.

As luck would have it, and I do consider it luck, I’ve been in charge of my own career. I started out as a cub reporter covering technology and instead of staying on that route – I’ve created my own organization. The upside, I am my own boss. The downside – all responsibility and stress falls on my shoulders.

As Mavis Staples would say “I am not alone.” More and more young journalists are taking this path. In part because becoming your own boss is just as uncertain as a “normal” career path. But also because where there is chaos there is opportunity.

Meet Dan OShinsky, one of many other young entrepreneurs. Without putting words in his mouth – we are making it up as we go along. It’s like jumping out of a plane and making the parachute on your way down.  Dan’s project stry.Us not only continues the bad precedent of .us (you’re welcome) but seeks to reinvent the model by which reporters syndicate their work. He joins the ranks of Spot.Us. Emphas.is, eByline, and a host of others that are questioning the relationship between freelancer, news organization and the public. But don’t take my word for it……

The Past and Future of Public Insight Network

Publish Insight Network, from American Public Media, will be eight years old this January. In web terminology – that makes it ancient. Before Twitter, before “crowdsourcing” was a word, before “the year of the blog” and more.

So what is it, how is it still relevant and where will it go?

And finally: NewsCred.

I have  been a fan of NewsCred since the start and friends with co-founder Shafqat online. We finally met (after what feels like three years) in person last month. What Shafqat talked about is his first hand experience running a startup which includes understanding and managing “pivots.”

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