Rosen: ‘Press Freedom Is Shared Territory’

In comments on techPresident last night, Jay Rosen summarized nicely the reason that the discussions about “who is a journalist” and “what is journalism” are red herrings.

“Today, the press is shared territory. It has pro and amateur zones. This is appropriate because press freedom is shared territory.”

Press freedom is shared territory.

Warts and all, press freedom is shared territory. If we can start our conversations from that point, they will more constructive.

Press freedom is shared territory, and that’s territory I want far more Americans to settle.

More on The Future of Journalism

Several participants from last weekend’s Future of Journalism conference are beginning to blog. While I sit here in my pajamas, sucking my thumb (as all good bloggers do!) and pondering the topic by my lonesome, I wanted to share with you two good post from people who’ve already weighed in.

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Citizen Journalism and Authentic Leadership

This post is a written version of comments I presented yesterday at the Future of Journalism conference sponsored by The Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism Education and organized by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

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When Counting News Staffs, Count Fast

In my survey of online news staffs at N.C. newspapers, we did notice that at least one person switched companies while the survey was in the field, perhaps adding some inaccuracy to our count. We didn’t detect any reduction in online staffs, but as noted in a story about the possibility of impending cuts at the News & Observer, it’s something of which newsroom census takers need to be aware, especially when using online mastheads as a guide.

According to a contact list published on the N&O’s Web site, the news operation numbers 224 people. However, due to attrition, a hiring freeze and recent departures, the number is now around 190.

I’ve not seen many of these massive newspaper job cuts reducing online staffs, although I have seen online newsrooms be used as safe landing zones for print staff looking to avoid layoffs (potentially reducing the number of “new” skills being infused in to traditional news organizations.) Although, I’ve also seen hiring freezes be used to update skill sets in online newsrooms as well. Typically, when that happens I see online news organizations slowing the hiring of people with traditional copyediting/production skills (the kind of which we see prevalent among North Carolina online newsrooms) and instead hiring people with more programming skills such as  SQL, PHP or ActionScript.

Do you see similar trends?

Online Titles at N.C. Papers Skew Toward Editing

In the survey of people who work online at N.C. newspapers, respondents were asked to categorize themselves by a general job field and then by a more specific job title. They could chose from 10 job fields and 84 titles. We selected these fields and titles from a list of 237 job titles and detailed descriptions that The Croner Company used in its 2007 Online Content and Service Compensation Survey. All 84 job titles and their detailed descriptions can be seen here.

I previously discussed the responses to the job field question. And, it’s no surprise that the high rate and sheer number of responses from the Asheville Citizen-Times also skews the job title findings toward the “writing” field. As we dig deeper in to the findings, it will be interesting to see what duties and skills those writers have — whether they tend toward the “traditional” or the “new”.

Overall, we had 56 people answer the question about their job titles. Those 56 people chose 24 different job titles for themselves. That comes out to 2.3 people per title, which doesn’t really help us in our quest to standardize titles. Bummer.

Including Asheville, the most popular job titles were:

  • Writer – 14%
  • Manager, Content – 11%
  • Editor – 11%
  • None of the Above – 9%

The remaining 55% of responses were scattered across 20 categories.

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Online Job Titles All Over the Map

One of the reasons we’re doing this study is because its nearly impossible to tell from someone’s job title what they actually do in an online newsroom. If we don’t know what people do, we don’t know how to train them, hire them or judge their performance.

I definitely found some evidence of that in my survey. Of the 70 respondents, there were 55 different job titles that appeared on the paper’s masthead. Only four job titles appeared at more than one organization: content producer, general manager, online editor and online producer.

I’ll report later on some efforts to standardize these job descriptions and answer that burning question (OK, maybe not burning. Maybe smoldering.): What exactly IS a “producer,” anyway?

Online Job Titles at N.C. Newspapers

More Evidence of the ‘Gannett Effect’

In my last post, I wondered whether the way that Gannet newspapers had changed job titles throughout its chain may have caused my survey of North Carolina online newspaper staffs to skew more “traditional” in their self-perception of the work they do. For your consideration and discussion, here’s some more proof of the “Gannett effect.”

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