What’s the attitude in traditional newsrooms toward new media?

    by Mark Glaser
    December 8, 2006

    We hear a lot of rhetoric from old-line media company moguls such as News Corp.‘s Rupert Murdoch that new media and the Internet are of utmost importance. And Murdoch has certainly put his money where his mouth is, buying up MySpace, IGN and other Internet properties. But what about in the newspaper, magazine and TV newsrooms and editorial meetings? Is there action in those ground-level environments to make good on the pronouncements from the top? How do veteran and newbie reporters, editors, producers and TV anchors feel about the Internet disrupting the media environment? Are they excited about it, scared about it, or both? Is there a generational gap between incoming journalism grads and the old-schoolers? If you work in a newsroom, or have interacted with editorial departments in TV, radio, newspapers or magazines, please share your thoughts in the comments below. You can also send private, anonymous emails to me via the Feedback Form, if you prefer. I’ll run the most insightful comments in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: new media newspapers
    • streeter

      Mark, I was pleased to read your post on Major(now) Ziegenfuss. His is an inspirational story and It is great to see the good one person can do if he just gets started.
      I have read Chuck’s story before and it motivated me to get started helping the Marines in Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.

      i can put you in touch with the Command Master Chief there if you have any interest in pursuing these types of stories in the future.

      Good Work. Streeter Parker

    • Shane

      I worked at a media company that was great at talking the talk of new media, but terrible at walking the walk. This was clear if you looked at how resources were allocated, and when you looked at who had the power to make real decisions about content and priorities. People were hired b/c they had “new media” expertise, but then they weren’t empowered to put that expertise to work…”old media” people knew they needed to have us around, but they didn’t really want to change anything about how they did business.

    • I’ve seen a marked shift in attitude by some within the newspaper industry. In 1997, the Washington Post newspaper published a profile article about a colleague doing academic enrichment with youth after school in the District of Columbia. As a longtime volunteer at my colleague’s nonprofit, I was a source for the article.

      When the reporter called me on the phone to gather facts, I suggested gently that the reporter find a way to include my colleague’s email address in the article. The reporter flat-out refused: “We don’t do that,” she said curtly.

      “Wouldn’t this be a good time to start?” I asked very reasonably. Stone cold silence in response.

      Fast forward 3 years to 2000. A young reporter from New York City, Emily Wax, does a feature Metro section article in the Washington Post about my taking donated computers to the homes of children who didn’t have computers. I didn’t ask for my email address to be included in the article, but after the public response was very strong, this reporter persuaded the Washington Post editors to re-run an abbreviated version of the article, with my email address included, a month later.

      The action by this young reporter was without knowledge of my prior interaction with the newspaper.

      I was a first-hand witness to a sea-change in attitude. In many ways the Washington Post remains mired in 20th century (and some 19th century) practices. But I know the name of one reporter who gets it — and who helped the newspaper move forward an inch.

      Interestingly, the same older reporter (mentioned at the top of my comment above) asked me what I do for a living. When I explained that I work as a technology access activist, a branch of civil rights activism, she told me she wouldn’t be able to write that in her article.

      When I asked politely, “Why not?” she explained, “My editor won’t let me write that.”

      I paused for a moment and then asked, “Do you let your editor tell you what else is true and not true in this world?”

      As I hung up the phone, I thought to myself, “That reporter just told me I chose an invalid career for myself.”

    • Nate

      I get the feeling that my newspaper would change if it weren’t such an inconvience to the people who have been doing the same thing for 30 or more years. Disrupting their daily work habits seems to be one of the big barriers. On the economic side, it’s “we still make money this way” so change comes very, very slow.

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