AAJA Convention, Day 2

Okay, I’m back!

I wish that I had been able to continue this sooner, but when school and work have piles of deadlines, personal deadlines have a tendency to get pushed back.

On to day two of the convention…

The Present and Future of Print Journalism

Opportunities in Digital Journalism

A Hyphenated World

The Future of Mobile

….


The Present and Future of Print Journalism

I started off by attending “The Present and Future of Print Journalism,” which was sponsored by the Seattle Times.

The talk was focused on whether print even has a future. The answer I came away with was “yes,” but not a resounding one.

Although there was plenty of of discussion about the apparent problems with print—mostly the corporate ownership and lack of community focus—there were few proposed solutions.

For print to survive, it was proposed that news organizations need to figure out what it is “uniquely suited for,” or what it does better than any other medium. What that unique purpose might be was never elaborated on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love print. I think people will always prefer to read paper over a screen, but I also think that people will adapt to reading screens if it is cheaper and more convenient.

Much of this panel was focused on print’s transition to the Web. The concept of pay walls was debated well on both sides, and it is an issue that I think will need to be resolved for publications on an individual basis.

On the one hand, people are very much used to getting everything online for free, and consumers can feel betrayed when that suddenly changes. However, a company can’t continue to provide the news if it can’t pay the staff.

The pay wall has been proven to work for some companies, like Spot.Us. The trick is to keep the readers in control of the news. They can choose what news they are interested in and help fund those stories so they are able to be reported on.

Spot.Us has also played with the advertising model to make it work for them. Readers can participate in surveys to earn credits usable for funding stories.

It’s a clever way of doing business because the company only pays for stories that will get read, and they don’t have to guess as to which stories are “newsworthy.” The public tells them what is.


Opportunities in Digital Journalism

This panel, sponsored by NBC, focused too much on defining digital journalism, rather than exploring new opportunities it provides for journalists. The audience was told over and over again that digital journalism means a journalist who does it all, from the writing to the photography and video.

The “one man band” label was thrown about several times.

But what does this mean for journalists and journalism as a whole? Audience members were concerned that being the only one covering a story will compromise quality. After all, one person is never going to be as good at everything as a band of dedicated specialists.

The panel pointed out that although reporting single-handedly isn’t always the best approach, it has its benefits. Obviously, for a news corporation the money-saving is a huge benefit. The immediacy digital journalism allows for is rewarding for the audience.

But in terms of story-telling and producing quality journalism, having the ability to cover a story comprehensively by yourself allows greater freedom at times. Following the BP oil spill, one digital journalist was able to uncover the impact on the Vietnamese fishing community. This was in part due to his ability to speak Vietnamese, but it was also due to the fact that he didn’t have to wait for others to start reporting.

Consolidation in the newsroom and cost-cutting may not be the ideal situation to work in, but the resulting digital journalism trend will be here to stay.


A Hyphenated World

This was by far my favorite panel to  attend, and I almost didn’t go. Being a minority in the workplace, hearing about diversity can often time be boring. Obviously there needs to be more diversity; tell me something I don’t know!

The discussion here transcended that surface-level critique and delved into issues that are more relevant, but rarely mentioned in traditional workplace analyses. And all the while the discussion was funny and entertaining.

Being Asian-American means that you’re automatically part of this community, even if you aren’t actively involved in it. Just by being a member of a minority group, it can seem like you have to be an advocate for “your people.”

But advocacy isn’t journalism.

When reporting on stories involving people of your own race, the coverage still has to be fair. Sometimes, this can be difficult.

As a minority, it’s not uncommon to be stereotyped and wrongly associated with a certain ideal or behavior. When one member of the race is looked down upon, it can easily translate to the group as a whole. Just look at the way terrorism in America has given a bad reputation to the Middle Eastern community.

It can be tempting to give a member of your own race the benefit of the doubt in order to save your own skin. Similarly, a source might expect that you present him or her in only a favorable light due to shared race.

However, the fact of the matter is that if you engage in this behavior, it’s biased reporting.

The panel also brought up the idea that seeing negative coverage about a member of your race might actually be a good thing.

It used to be that Asians had such limited exposure that negative examples would seem too prominent a badge for us as a group. Now, increased exposure has allowed us to be more comfortable with a few bad seeds because it means we are being seen as equals in the media. There are a variety of personalities within the group, and we are not viewed as homogenous.

Bloggers from Disgrasian spoke at the panel and strongly held this view. Opening criticism toward our own race shows that there are people within our group that we like and don’t like, just as with anyone else.


The Future of Mobile

This panel focused on the latest technology in mobile and how it can be used to our advantage.

Part of using mobile effectively is understanding how people use it in their daily lives. If a person is reading a news story on their phone, they want the news to be quick and concise, because they’re probably looking at it in between other activities. A person’s attention span on a mobile device is much shorter than with any other medium.

A significant part of the discussion examined the latest iPad apps. Tablets are a relatively new part of the mobile market, and can be used differently from phones. The innovations in these apps may yield significant results, but at this point it’s just exciting to know that there are new possibilities.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I gained as much from this workshop as the others, but it was interesting to see what apps are being developed. More than anything, I left that discussion with a desire to own an iPad.


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