Monday, February 09, 2004

Two things from today at Poynter's convergence conference. If you want more perspectives, hop on over to the conference's own blog, the Converged Oyster.

First, Janet Weaver, former executive editor of the Sarasota Herald Tribune and now dean of faculty at Poynter spoke about what professionals want in new hires. Weaver was "czarina" (as she puts it) over the newspaper, a Web site and a cable-
TV all-news channel. First, her observation that the most resistant people to cross-media work seemed to be those right out of college. Second, what she looked for:

  • Not someone who can do it all. Instead, someone who can find information, knows public records, and is more than a quarter-inch deep in one or two areas.

  • People who know how to interview and how to systematically develop a story. That means they know how to get the document, to think about the photo.

  • People whose writing is clear and concise and who know how to work with photographers because she's found those are the people who understand how to connect the visual to the written word. These are the kinds of people who go to the page designer before they start writing to find out where the story will break and what picture is going with it.

  • Those who don't talk about "my" story or "our" story. She says it's the community's story, and our job is to get it to them as accurately and quickly as possible. (Al Tompkins challenged a bit on this, noting that current industry structure favors individuals, and, besides, if you're not going to pay people that much, you've got to give them some ownership.)

  • Those who understand the need for speed, that if I have the information solid, I publish, but that I can't sacrifice accuracy for speed.

  • And finally, those who understand it's all about accuracy and that the rules of the game have changed: If you get it wrong, you get it wrong across platforms morning, noon and night. "Do not ever say to me, 'I think' or 'it seems like,'" Weaver says. "You'd better be able to tell me 'I know and this is how I know.'"

There's darn little in there about the technology.
Weaver's my hero.

Second, is just an observation based on the presentation by Andrew DeVigal who has helped develop a lot of the multimedia component of San Francisco State University's program.
DeVigal showed us a lot of great stuff that's been done around the country. His is worthy of bookmarking for anyone interested in the potential for multimedia journalism.
But I came away from his presentation with a little skepticism only because much of what he showed us was filled with Flash-based eye candy. Forgive what seems like a slam; it isn't. Admittedly, this is really good stuff -- the kind of stuff that attracts audiences. But once again I find myself asking how many different programs we'll have to learn to be effective in the classroom.
Yes, DeVigal has a good point, that there are experts in most of these somewhere on campus, and we need to seek to partner. But that's often easier said than done, and any benefit a partner is likely to derive from such a venture would be from a big showcase project. Yet the real problem will be at 4 p.m. on a Thursday when a student on deadline frantically wonders how to do something, and you're the only one in the classroom or newsroom.
Stnadards would be nice, but then comes the worry about stifling innovation.
Until then, we muddle along.


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