Jason Fry


Boston explosions a reminder of how breaking news reporting is changing

Terrible events such as yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon have always meant “all hands on deck” for news organizations, with staffers pulled off their regular beats to contribute.

But the endpoint of the newsgathering and reporting is no longer a front-page package of stories explaining — the best one can — what happened, why it happened and what might be next. Now, there is no endpoint — events are reported in real time, with stories in constant motion, and the front page is a snapshot of an organization’s reporting at the moment when the presses needed to roll.

Boston was a reminder of that, and a look at what’s changing in real-time journalism. Through Twitter and various live blogs, I found myself looking over my shoulder at the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Reuters and other news organizations, and was able to make some observations and draw some conclusions. Read more

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How ESPN published “Chink in the Armor” Jeremy Lin headline & what’s happened since

The rise of Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks’ Asian-American star, has been one of 2012’s feel-good sports stories. But it’s come with an unwelcome undercurrent: racial references by fans, columnists and TV personalities that have ranged from innocent-but-cringe-worthy to openly offensive.

Last week, ESPN went from the sidelines of this spectacle to center stage, issuing three apologies within 24 hours for “offensive and inappropriate comments” that led to one employee’s dismissal and another’s suspension for 30 days.

The first incident to garner widespread attention involved a headline on ESPN’s mobile website early Saturday morning. As ESPN dealt with the fallout from that mistake, its attention was drawn to another incident, on ESPNEWS on Wednesday night, then to a third on ESPN Radio on Friday night. All three involved the phrase “chink in the armor,” which has no racial connotations in itself but was an unfortunate choice — to say the least — when used in discussing Lin’s on-court performance. Read more

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Rules of the game change as sports journalists compete against teams they cover

In September of 2009, when I started writing a weekly column about digital sportswriting for Indiana University’s National Sports Journalism Center, I figured one of my major themes would be the fraught relationship between the mainstream media (inevitably shortened to MSM) and indie sports bloggers. Despite the missiles lobbed back and forth (here a “tired hack,” there a “mother’s basement”), I thought the distance between the two was shrinking. And as a writer with a foot placed uneasily in each camp, I fancied I might be able to help dispel myths and misconceptions.

But over my column’s two-year run, MSM vs. indie bloggers increasingly struck me as a narrower and narrower distinction between two variations on a theme. Sure, I occasionally waded into MSM/indie-infested waters – see here and here, for instance. But such columns would prove exceptions. Another development struck me as more important, with far more potential to remake sports journalism. Read more

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Some say that Starbucks sold in Barnes & Noble or Target is not the same as the coffee in its own standalone stores. Is that true of mega media brands who relocate? Is the Washington Post/Howie Kurtz combo more influential than the Daily Beast/Newsweek/Howie Kurtz combo?

4 questions to determine the value of your brand, plus how to keep your biggest stars happy

The age of the individual brand was inevitable, a natural consequence of the way digital media has remade our reading habits. In print, columns have a home on a section front or on the opinion page, but online the basic unit of reader consumption isn’t the section or page, but an article — or a video or podcast.

When readers search for or share columns, what’s found or shared is a single article. Meanwhile, writers spotlight links to their own work on their Tumblrs, share them with their Twitter followers, and hope for comments on their Facebook fan pages — all activity that spotlights their individual brands and pushes the institutional brand deeper into the shadows.

The idea of powerful individual brands and a push and pull with institutional ones didn’t begin with digital media: The peregrinations of noted columnists and TV anchors have generated industry buzz for generations.

Diehard fans say that Starbucks sold in Barnes & Noble or Target is not the same as the coffee in its own standalone stores.
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AP, CNN Trade Shots Over AP’s 15-Minute Edge in Reporting Steinbrenner Death

Early Tuesday morning, legendary New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was taken to the hospital in Tampa, Fla. At 9:44 a.m. EDT, the Associated Press sent out a news alert that Steinbrenner had died — a report that was cited within minutes by Fox News, MSNBC and ESPN.

CNN, though, didn’t report that Steinbrenner had died until 9:59 a.m., when Alina Cho cited a statement from Steinbrenner’s family.

Fifteen minutes isn’t a very long time; by lunchtime CNN and its competitors were busy dissecting Steinbrenner’s life and legacy, and it’s unlikely that many people outside of the news business noticed or particularly cared which network said what at the beginning.

But 15 minutes can feel like 15 years amid the blare of breaking news — and the lag served as a reminder that CNN and the AP have gone their separate ways and raised the question of whether CNN is paying the price. Read more

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Will You Be Ready When ESPN Local Comes to Town?

Last April, ESPN Chicago debuted with a roster of writers drawn from the ranks of ESPN staffers as well as former Tribune and Sun-Times writers and bloggers, with their efforts supplemented by video tailored for Chicago and audio from ESPN’s local radio station.

Within three months it was the top sports destination in the market, surpassing the Tribune’s sports section. It has since been joined by ESPN Local sites in Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles, with ESPN New York to be rolled out soon.

ESPN’s deep pool of writers and video personalities and its radio network allow the sports colossus to launch local franchises that are impressive out of the box. Their brand name is catnip for beat reporters and columnists who seek national exposure and are worried about newspapers’ prospects. And ESPN can call on its impressive advertising-sales operations to find advertisers either as part of local deals or as part of larger agreements. Read more

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Advice for Sports Sections: Lay Off Travel, Game Stories

Amid the wrenching changes remaking the news industry, we find the sports department in a strange place, at once impressively ahead of the game and stubbornly lagging behind.

There has never been a more lavish spread set out before the information-hungry sports fan. There’s the near-infinite newsstand of traditional publications available via the Web, not to mention scoops, opinion and observations blasted out in real time by sportswriters who have adapted to new technology and a wealth of blogs lovingly maintained by passionate fans.

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At the same time, though, sports sections seem slow to break with old models and habits that no longer serve the interests of their readers, wasting precious resources on shopworn forms of coverage and attendance at big events that could be covered ably from afar. Brace yourself for next month’s tidal wave of stories from the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, too many of which will go unread. Read more

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Fry: It’s Still Journalism That’ll Save Us, But…

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Nearly nine years ago, I came to Poynter to talk about how the Web was changing journalism –- and how it wasn’t. I said that this era’s new technologies and news sources posed challenges, but maintained that we could meet them with basic journalism tenets, from writing great stuff to using our offline instincts in assessing information found online.

Poynter asked me to revisit what I said then. What did I get right? What did I miss? And do I still think journalistic values are the best defense?

A lot of my advice strikes me as more or less today’s common sense. I’d like to say that’s because I was a far-sighted sage, but I think it’s just that the world has changed, with 2000′s online marvels now the stuff of daily life.

I said then that journalists could learn from online communities, but they had to take time to understand them and verify whatever didn’t pass their smell test. Read more

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