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Naysayers are swarming on Clayton Christensen and his “gospel of innovation”

Clayton Christensen

Updated 6-24.

If business school professors were pop stars, Clayton Christensen would be Beyonce. His 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, is wildly influential — in particular, it has been both the theoretical underpinning and rallying banner for would-be digital disruptors of legacy media.

Most recently, Christensen’s thinking is central (and repeatedly cited) in the leaked 2014 Innovation Report young digital staffers of the New York Times produced this spring.  They argue that the print newspaper on which the company built its reputation needs to be de-emphasized and that, borrowing from upstarts like BuzzFeed, the Times should embrace a newsroom culture of aggressive digital development.

This month, however, Christensen has begun to gather some formidable detractors as well as acolytes.  The lead critic is fellow Harvard professor Jill Lepore who unloads a long debunking article in the current issue of The New Yorker.… Read more

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Upworthy

Top 8 Secrets of How to Write an Upworthy Headline

The best thing I’ve read about the story sharing network Upworthy was written by Katy Waldman for Slate and was republished in my local newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. I had been alerted earlier by colleagues to a now famous trademark of Upworthy’s approach to information sharing: its three-line headline style.

That style…

See Why We Have An Absolutely
Ridiculous Standard of Beauty In
Just 37 Seconds

…has been praised for being irresistibly attractive and attacked for being cynically exploitative. For the moment, I don’t have a dog in that fight.

My angle is on the writing front. I spent some time on Upworthy and paid special attention to the headlines to determine not just what the writers were trying to do, but how they were trying to do it.… Read more

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Monday, Sep. 16, 2013

Ethics - Dictionary Series

Why ‘be transparent’ has replaced ‘act independently’ as a guiding journalism principle

Whenever people discuss how journalism is changing, one of the most common questions is: “Who is a journalist today and who isn’t?

It’s the wrong question.

In an age when publishing has gone from being an industry to a button, as theorist Clay Shirky has put it, anyone might commit an act of journalism given the right circumstances.

The more pertinent question, then, is what constitutes an act of journalism.

Bill Kovach and I have considered this question in several of our books together, particularly “The Elements of Journalism” (a thoroughly new edition is coming next spring). Now, Poynter’s Kelly McBride and I, along with a dozen other thinkers, have taken up this issue in a new book called “The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century.”

The work explicitly attempts to update a set of ethical guidelines, “Guiding Principles for Journalists,” developed by The Poynter Institute in the 1990s under the leadership of Bob Steele.… Read more

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Facts

The danger of journalism that moves too quickly beyond fact

The best thinking about journalism’s future benefits from its being in touch with technology’s potential. But it can get in its own way when it simplifies and repudiates the intelligence of journalism’s past.

That is happening, to a degree, in a discussion gaining momentum lately that journalism should now largely move beyond fact gathering and toward synthesis and interpretation.

The NSA story is just the latest case that shows the importance, and the elusiveness, of simply knowing what has really happened.

In a Nieman Journalism Lab post, Jonathan Stray made the case recently for moving beyond facts, or what might be called The Displacement Theory of Journalism. “The Internet has solved the basic distribution of event-based facts in a variety of ways; no one needs a news organization to know what the White House is saying when all press briefings are posted on YouTube.… Read more

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Key to Leadership

5 qualities of innovative leaders in today’s media

In “The Boys on the Bus,” Timothy Crouse’s fabled book about the press and the 1972 presidential campaign, Jim Naughton was the quiet and contemplative New York Times reporter who toiled alongside the outsized and flamboyant Johnny Apple.

After he left The Times 1977, Naughton became known to another two generations of journalists as a manager and leader — first as a top editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer in its ascent to becoming one of the country’s great papers, and later as president of the Poynter Institute. (Poynter’s annual Leadership Academy, one of its signature events, begins each year with a lecture in Naughton’s name.)

Naughton, who passed away last year, led in a style ahead of his time — by listening, shielding creative people from bureaucracy, pushing power down and more — concepts better recognized today for their value than when Naughton subtly advanced them.… Read more

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Monday, Apr. 15, 2013

Conversation2

Why we need a better conversation about the future of journalism education

Two New York writers exchanged misfire recently about journalism education, and almost all of it was misdirected. Then the conversation they started died with damning faint praise.

We should have that conversation, only a better one.

The brouhaha began when media pugilist Michael Wolff in USA Today attacked the Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism as a “disgrace” and “an intellectual failure” largely because President Lee Bollinger had appointed a traditional journalist as new dean, ex-Washington Post managing editor and New Yorker writer Steve Coll.

The New York Times’ David Carr rose to praise Columbia and Coll, but in the process he tarred almost everyone else. “Journalism education is something of a confidence game,” he tossed off. Given a shrinking job base, “many journalism programs … are escalators to nowhere.”

This is a critical juncture in the history of how we teach the next generation of journalists– whether they work in conventional newsrooms or elsewhere.… Read more

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Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2013

mobilenews

New studies offer 5 ways publishers can capitalize on mobile trends now

As Cory Bergman explored in a thoughtful piece here last month, mobile connectivity– people linked to the Web via smart phones and tablets — is poised to thoroughly disrupt news all over again.

News publishers must deeply understand the contours of the shift or risk mobile becoming “digital hesitation 2.0.” The market research firm comScore recently released its annual major mobile report. A dive into the data distills lessons for journalism right now, some of them counterintuitive.

Move aggressively to mobile immediately — don’t wait for revenue to materialize

Smartphone ownership grew 30% in 2012 to surpass the 50% mark of units owned. Americans also own 50 million tablets — a penetration in three years that took a decade for smartphones.

One in three minutes spent online (37%) is now on mobile devices — and growing.… Read more

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Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

pressbriefing

The dangerous delusions of the White House press corps and the president

The White House press corps became a story this week, which is almost always bad news.

In a piece entitled “Obama the puppet master,” Politico reported that the Obama Administration had put media manipulation “on steroids.” It was using social media and technology in new ways to bypass the press and target access. By doing so, the White House had embarked on a “transformational” path that tipped power “unmistakably toward government.”

What’s really occurring, however, is something less novel but actually more important — and it may be making our leaders less honest and less credible.

Presidents and the press

Presidents have grumped about reporters since Thomas Jefferson complained about the licentiousness of the press in 1809. And every competent president has adopted the newest technology to bypass them, from Roosevelt talking directly to Americans on radio in the 1930s, to Clinton using satellite hookups with local TV reporters.… Read more

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Thursday, Feb. 07, 2013

mainstreetsmall

The Next Journalism will be a service that helps build community

This column, launching today, will be about where news media culture is heading. We are calling it The Next Journalism.

The subject matter will range widely. The search for new revenue to subsidize the mission of journalism will be part of the focus. So will experiments in how to use new technologies and platforms to gather and report news. The ethics and values that make news useful and reliable will be another topic. And a central goal will always be to understand the changing nature of how the public consumes and shares news. The column will not shy away from debate, though argument will not be the prime purpose.

It will be a reported column, one grounded in facts and offering new information. But it will be a column with a point of view.… Read more

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