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Of course we’re fascinating!

What do the two prime Emmy winning shows have in common? Mad Men and 30 Rock are both shows about the media, with managers as their main characters. Not the news media, but the media environment in advertising and sketch comedy, where off-balance creative people pour their genius into satisfying the demands of the marketplace.

Everyone who has worked in media has known colleagues as troubled and brilliant as agency creative director Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm, above left) and as daffy and endearing as show runner Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey). In both cases, their personal lives are a mess, but they’re completely devoted to professional excellence.

A newspaper editor I used to work for, Stewart Spencer,  told me we’d chosen our careers because neither of us was normal enough to function in a “regular” office. A “regular” office wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, of course.

Citizen journalism for the corporate set

I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by the just announced deal between CNBC and LinkedIn. LinkedIn has the potential to be Facebook for people with a paycheck. As CEO Dan Nye describes the facets:

1. On LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s rapidly growing user base of over 27 million professionals now have an opportunity to both consume as well as share with their professional network, breaking business news & content from CNBC that ranges from articles and blogs to financial data and video content.

2. On As a regular user, you’ll start seeing LinkedIn’s community and networking functionality integrated on (for e.g. sharing CNBC articles with your professional network on LinkedIn or finding out who in your network connects you to the companies you read about).

3. On CNBC: Community-generated content from LinkedIn will also be broadcast on CNBC programs. These include survey results and on-air Q&A with CNBC anchors, reporters and guests.

It’s the third item, user-generated content, I think has the most potential for CNBC journalism. 

 If CNBC handles its end well, it can be like having news sources deeply embedded at every white collar level in virtually every company in America. The same people who would be scared speechless if they got a call from a Wall Street Journal reporter will be far more comfortable sharing what they know through LinkedIn.

The social media hurricane

Here’s how old I am: When I wanted to make a strong impression in accepting my first full time job, in 1972, I sent a telegram. To me, the means of communication symbolized urgency and importance. Today urgency and importance are increasingly signaled through social media, as the convergence of social and news media speed along.

My teenaged children have never sent nor received a telegram. They rarely talk on the phone or send emails, preferring to text friends’ cell phones or, in my son’s case, through game communications in World of Warcraft. He knows many of his friends will be there, just as my daughter knows a lot of dialogue among her classmates is going on through Facebook.

I now check Twitter a couple of times a day, LinkedIn every day or two and Facebook when it alerts me, for signs of what my friends and colleagues are up to.

The widespread adoption of social media in personal and business communication is now working its way into the news ecosystem, with Hurricane Gustav being the latest example.

I picked three news organizations (formerly known as newspapers) with good track records I knew were well-positioned to follow developments, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Biloxi Sun Herald and Austin American-Statesman. In addition to print and online coverage, each fielded a Twitter presence. New Orleans used its ongoing Twitter account, NOLAnews; Biloxi established FollowGustav and Austin created TrackingGustav.

The advantage of Twitter over the Web is that virtually everyone with a cellphone purchased in the past few years has the technology to receive instant Twitter updates, 140-character bursts  of information sometimes, but not always, linked to a longer Web entry. 

Even the Red Cross provided hurricane information through Twitter. The advantages lay in the instant and portable nature of Twitter and its near universal availability.

Check out the the great interview on Poynter about NPR’s efforts to use social media in Gustav coverage

At the intersection of news media and social media

Media intellectuals Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, Howard Owens and Howard Weaver sold me on Twitter because of their skills putting it to serious purpose. They’re masters of blogging and longer forms, but I found them just as provocative in 140 characters. 

Then The Wichita Eagle’s Ron Sylvester demonstrated the news value of the form, with his adroit Twitter reports on trials in progress.

It all came together for me last night in a blessedly smoke-free barroom in downtown Wichita, where folks whose employers include newspapers, branding agencies, non-profits, a church and a university came together for a Wichita Tweetup. It evolved organically around a long, noisy table as we got acquainted and exchanged tales of the D life, as L. Kelly reports here.

Ron Sylvester courtroom tweet

Ron Sylvester courtroom tweet

 I said Twittering from the courtroom would get even more interesting when five or six people — not all of them professional journalists — are covering the same trial and you can read their posts as one continuous stream. Ron Sylvester, who has been getting national attention for his Tweets, said it will get even more interesting when family members of the defendant and victim join the Twitterers.

I don’t fear the day when Ron and other professional journalists are fully part of a democratic stream of information, reporting on the same events. I think the journalists work will continue to be closely followed by those who search for the truth; I think the journalists will benefit from access to multiple contemporaneous perspectives on what’s unfolding in front of them.

Bring it on!

My guilty secret: A baker’s dozen books I’ve been meaning to get back to all summer


A collection of good intentions

A collection of good intentions

Help! I think the Web has zapped my concentration. I’ve spent so much time online this summer reading about social media, citizen journalism, technology and day-to-day media business developments that I’m way behind on the books I meant to thoroughly comb for my class. Some I’ve read before, others I’ve started, some just stare at me above my computer, like puppies who need a home.

Please let me know if you have strong feelings about any of these for use in my Fall semester seminar, Strategic Issues in Media Management:

  • Groundswell, Li & Bernoff
  • Advertising and New Media, Christina Spurgeon
  • Media Product Portfolios, Robert Picard
  • The Technology of Journalism, Patricia Dooley
  • Autumn of the Moguls, Michael Woolf
  • Handbook of New Media, Lievrow & Livingstone
  • Living in the Information Age, Eric Bucy
  • Media Debates, Dennis & Merrill
  • Journalism and New Media, John Pavlik
  • All the News That’s Fit to Sell, James Hamilton
  • Internet Advertising, Schumann & Thompson
  • Handbook of Media Management and Economics, Abarran, Chan-Olmsted & Wirth
  • Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida
Two updated books we’ll be using for sure:
  • The World is Flat (Release 3.0), Thomas Friedman
  • The Elements of Journalism, Kovach & Rosenstiel

The sickening plunge in newspaper stocks; the human toll

I’m finding it hard to concentrate this morning, so riveted am I by the death spiral of newspaper-related stocks and the carnage in newsrooms.

The day started with a terrible earnings report from Gannett, the largest publishing company. Earnings down 36% on a 14% drop in second quarter newspaper advertising revenue. USA Today ad revenue was down 17%. 

Alan Mutter, my blogging hero, reports that newspaper stocks have lost $4 billion in value since the beginning of the month. That’s his chart at right.

Meanwhile, the bodies stack up, day by day. the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported this morning it will eliminate 8 percent of its employeees, 189 jobs. It will also eliminate its geographically targeted sections, including a Gwinnett County section it has published for 20 years. I remember when it started, with great resolve and fanfare, to beat back a frightening challenge from a New York Times suburban newspaper, the Gwinnett Daily News.

That was a great time for readers, with two formidable competitors fighting for their loyalty with strong, locally-focused news and advertising products. The AJC destroyed the NYT entry. But even with a strong web presence of its own, it can’t compete toe-to-toe with all of the social, economic and technological forces making it more and more difficult for newspapers to prosper.