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Preview: Conover on media

Conover on media



A front-row seat at the final bonfire.



Updated: 2014-03-19T02:48:34.972-04:00

 



5 Lessons from newspaper contests

2008-04-15T02:09:22.390-04:00

Here's a humbling series of events, and the still unpopular lessons I learned as a result: In February 2005, my co-workers put a crown on my head and carried me to the front of a banquet hall to receive a plaque that said I was the state's Journalist of the Year. I'd secretly dreamed of winning that award for years, but it took the end of my career as an editor to make me eligible. I got my



BONUS POST: "Ad hocracy"

2008-03-19T17:17:38.996-04:00

I'm breaking up my series on newspapers to float an idea that I'm hoping to present at a workshop next month.It comes from this basic observation: We've already got the free tools to construct ad hoc breaking news networks around discrete events: Blogs act as a reverse-order chronology of evolving events; Twitter gives us two way communication across platforms, plus a means to capture text via



MEDIA REVOLUTION: Why The Tower Must Fall

2008-03-16T00:18:00.758-04:00

From a generic perspective, it’s probably fair to say that the public history of new media began five years ago this month with the invasion of Iraq. Technorati was tracking fewer than half a million blogs in March 2003, but 24/7 coverage of the war meant cable news needed things to talk about, and there were the bloggers – this strange new species of pundit – always talking, talking, talking. I



An old idea has a new future

2008-03-11T19:37:20.829-04:00

Back in the late 1990s, at roughly the same time as the advent of the ill-fated :CueCat, my employer invested in a failed technology called "GoCode." Both of these devices had the same goal: to connect print readers easily to the Web. :CueCat was a bigger flop because it had a bigger footprint, but I'm sticking with the GoCode scanner system because I got up close and personal with it.Here's how



Foundations of 21st century journalism

2008-02-21T13:16:36.058-05:00

Up to this point, I've been talking about some of the concepts that shape my thinking about media and journalism: Quality; epistemology; the cultural flaws that warp these discussions; the ideas that I think will lead us around those obstacles to answers. But I haven't really offered any answers of my own.One reason: What use are they? They're not scholarly. They're not researched and footnoted.



"Blackboxing" news judgment

2008-02-18T22:54:57.423-05:00

Orson Scott Card's "Ender" series wouldn't be much of a story without a device known as "the ansible," a sort of sub-space radio that allows people to communicate instantaneously from planet to planet across light years of empty space. The story doesn't work without it... but how does it work?Card's answer? It doesn't matter. The ansible is a black box: In science fiction terms, that means that



Gloom and Doom

2008-02-17T22:24:05.213-05:00

I hear this quite a bit: Journalists (particularly print journalists) are tired of hearing all the "doom and gloom" about what lies ahead for the industry.The statement is usually followed by a call for "solutions" and bolstered by high-ranking reassurances that "newspapers aren't going away."Which probably explains why I'd rather talk about doom and gloom than sweetness and light.Some points



Why quality is a moving target

2008-02-06T19:56:55.742-05:00

I got my first regular job at a professional newspaper in my final semester of college. It was a job that no longer exists: Paste-up guy for The Chapel Hill Newspaper.In those days, editors used pencils to draw page layouts on pieces of paper and stories came out of typesetting machines in long single columns. My job was to take those typeset columns, run them through a machine that coated the



Are you thinking, or "quorum sensing?"

2008-02-06T18:01:26.637-05:00

In the fall of 2005 I wrote one of my final science-beat articles on research into a biological phenomena called "quorum sensing." Specifically, quorum sensing represents a form of chemical communication between bacteria. That's vaguely interesting, but the exact moment at which quorum sensing transformed my understanding of the world took place when a microbiologist described bacterial behavior



Quality and other essential bullshit

2008-02-18T09:33:38.304-05:00

"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then to work outward from there. Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value." -- Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974Our topic for Feb. 25th (absent a spiffy



Wake up!

2008-02-18T09:31:41.966-05:00

I mothballed this blog in 2007 for many reasons. Some of them were conceptual (I felt that discussing media absent the larger context of culture was pointless); others were personal (I'd stepped down from a "management" level job and returned to reporting).But it occurred to me last week that it was time to bring it back in a new, and very specific, incarnation: From now until Feb. 24, I'll be



Times-Select RIP

2007-08-08T15:00:01.644-04:00

File it under We-Told-You-So: Management at the NYT is preparing to shut down Times-Select, the company's $50-a-year paywall experiment. I don't feel like dancing on its grave, because the idea of paying for certain types of content shouldn't be lost, and Times-Select (in concept, anyway) came close to being that kind of product. But there's a message in this headline that's going to cause a lot



NEW CULTURE, NEW MEDIA

2007-05-17T13:00:13.088-04:00

I spent the weekend at a gathering of what might best be described as the post-mass-media tribe in Black Mountain, N.C.They don't read newspapers, and why should they? Newspapers scorn them to begin with.They don't watch much TV, either.Big music labels piss them off. Small labels that care about music turn them on.They don't like one kind of music: they love all sorts of music.They would rather



WHAT IF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN WAS LOVE?

2007-04-24T12:13:00.866-04:00

I've developed a new schtick for explaining the concept of news judgment to civilians: A newspaper is a big averaging machine, I tell them.Here's how it works: When reporters and editors get new information, they estimate its newspaper value based on their subjective mental picture of the average audience they're trying to satisfy. If they're thinking very clearly, they'll also abstract the



SHOOT BETTER VIDEO: 33 tips from Ellen Seidler

2007-02-05T17:14:12.023-05:00

One of the perks of finishing up one assignment (helping modernize our paper's website) and heading on to the next one (back to the newsroom as a combo print/online features reporter) is that I'm finding cool stuff as I pack up my office. Today's gem: Notes from a fantastic class given last March at the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism during my week as a 2006 Western Knight Center



HYPING HYPER-LOCAL

2007-01-04T16:49:08.366-05:00

The big issue in newspapering these days isn't quality or ethics but preservation: preservation of jobs, status, and the printed product, but also to some extent the preservation of our own cultural myths. The aloof-but-wise senior editor. The tough-but-fair city editor. All manner of reporter stereotypes. We desire not only to preserve newspaper journalism in the digital age, but to do so with



INVEST OR FAIL

2006-12-15T14:01:24.443-05:00

We don't know all sorts of things about the business future of online media, but there's one thing that's already quite predictable: the eventual profit-margins in 21st century media are likely to be far less generous than the fat and complacent margins to which we grew addicted in the 20th century.I'm confident about this because we already know that the Web is inherently competitive, and in any



DEATH TO UNSIGNED EDITORAL ENDORSEMENTS!

2006-11-10T23:38:59.396-05:00

Attention, newspaper executives: In case you were wondering what to cut next, the dumbest thing you put in print every damned day are those unsigned editorials written by ... well, who exactly? Even the people in the newsroom don't really know, and the people outside are pretty sure Satan is involved somehow.You've been told this before, but you're creatures of habit, and apparently one of your



Hey, let's hire this Winer kid...

2006-10-19T00:05:32.546-04:00

Wanted: News organization with vision, guts, asbestos underwear and enormous brass balls, willing to hire free-thinking, outspoken tech-pioneer to serve as chief technology officer. Apply to Dave Winer, somewhere on the road to the future...Today on Scripting News, Dave runs an excellent list of suggestions for news organizations that want to master the transition to the new news. But the last



It's the tools, stupid

2006-10-07T16:55:37.740-04:00

Some things are so fundamental that you just have to keep repeating them until people start imagining the concept, and this is one of them: The future of news media and its affects on society isn't going to be shaped by updated versions of the obsolete institutions we already have, but by the invention of technological tools that radically change the rules. Today's mediascape is superhuman in



Our motto at work

2006-09-20T23:19:36.556-04:00




Commerce hubs and the future of advertising

2006-09-20T14:24:11.576-04:00

I've learned three things of consequence since I set aside reporting to work on new-media development last November: first, if your news site sucks, upgrade your content management system; second, stop thinking about documents and start thinking about databases; and third, online advertising is primarily a form of information, and its most profitable future relies on packaging and delivering that



Hope for the indies

2006-08-25T15:29:52.010-04:00

Progress toward the new information economy continues to surge and sputter in uneven ways, sometimes confusing us but other times pointing ahead to tantilizing possibilities. I found an example in September's issue of WIRED, in an article about Netflix's new role in creating distribution deals for independent filmmakers.The article (not available online until Sept. 1) showcased the power of



Corrections: The error of our ways, & vice-versa

2006-05-31T14:02:54.210-04:00

A letter to Romanesko from David Cay Johnston, written in response to Ted Vaden's ombudsman's column in the N&O, bears amplification, because Johnston flat-out gets it (although I do disagree with one of his formulaic solutions). He writes (bolded emphasis is mine):The analysis of errors and corrections in Ted Vaden's Sunday column in the Raleigh News & Observer is troubling on many levels -- and



Media message? Kill the court jester

2006-05-05T18:25:25.966-04:00

So the family downloaded the video of Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Association dinner and gathered around the old monitor to watch.And being a journalism-based household, we all had the same reaction:What in the HELL were these "journalists" doing at a gala event with the people they're supposed to be covering?Most of the reaction to Colbert's performance has focused on how