Sports and technology columnists join

columnistsTwo new columnists will be writing for starting this week. On Tuesdays, look for a column about journalism innovation written by Melody Kramer, a former digital strategist for National Public Radio. On Thursdays, Ed Sherman, a veteran reporter from Chicago, will write about sports journalism.

Kramer spent most of her career in public media, where she directed, produced, edited, and wrote for several shows such as “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. As a digital strategist at NPR, she launched and directed projects that helped NPR build audiences online and on-air. She is a 2014-2015 visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, where she is working on new ways to think about public media membership. Kramer blogs at, codes in Python, and tweets @mkramer.

For Poynter, Kramer plans to examine projects and people that are leading the charge in digital journalism.

Sherman wrote for the Chicago Tribune for 27 covering the 1985 Bears Super Bowl season, the White Sox, college football, golf and sports media. Sherman also penned a sports business blog for Crain’s Chicago Business and currently blogs at, as well as writing for the Chicago Tribune and the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University.

Sherman said his Poynter columns will “examine the pressing news, issues, trends and challenges in sports journalism.” He also plans to tell the stories of top editors, reporters and outlets in sports media. Read more

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Christian Science Monitor plans Passcode, a cybersecurity vertical


Coming soon (-ish, by January of next year at the latest) The Christian Science Monitor will launch its first vertical, Passcode a “modern field guide to security and privacy.”

“The Monitor saw a real opportunity to do something different, especially in this space that I think is well-covered, in a way, but mostly by trade publications on the security front,” said Mike Farrell, editor of the new project, in a phone interview.

The field of reporting on cybersecurity and privacy isn’t a lonely one. There are already sites and journalists dedicated to covering it from various angles, including The Intercept, Farrell said. PRI also has SafeMode, “A new generation takes on global security.”

With Passcode, though, “there was a chance to do something different,” said Farrell, who has previously written about the Web and tech for The Boston Globe.

Passcode, edited by Farrell and Deputy Editor Sara Sorcher, will try to be a place that readers can learn about what’s happening with the tech in their lives, while the journalists there work to reveal issues of security and privacy in a connected world.

Freelance writers for the project include Jaikumar Vijayan, Paul F. Roberts, and Fruzsina Eordogh. There’s also a fellowship named for the late Monitor journalist Mark Clayton, whose reporting and coverage of cybersecurity inspired Passcode before his death earlier this year.

Passcode plans to take a global approach to their coverage, Farrell said, “starting with the privacy debate in Europe, unpacking the right-to-be-forgotten issues, CryptoParties, a look at how the backlash to the NSA revelations are playing out and how people personally interact with technology,” he said.

In places where tech is developing and booming, including India and Africa, they’ll look at what mobile technology means for security. And in the U.S., where a lot of government and private money is going into security, Passcode will look at a new kind of goldrush, as well as business and government aspects of security.

“The Monitor is basically a 106-year-old start-up,” said Abe McLaughlin, the Monitor’s content strategy director, in an email. “We’re taking the ideals and values developed during our first century and adapting them to the Web era. We’ve always been about providing global, in-depth reporting that focuses on where progress is happening — and identifies solutions.”

Soon after the launch, Passcode plans to take a deep look at the anonymizing network Tor, Farrell said.

“That’s one of the things people may read about but they don’t really understand it or why people might use it,” he said.

They also want to unpack stories that we face more and more often, including security breaches at big companies such as Target or Home Depot.

The challenges of that, and of the site’s content itself, are translating a very technical world for a general audience, Farrell said, and finding journalists who can bring together knowledge of the tech world, privacy policies, cybersecurity and the impact it has on people.

“That’s one layer of challenge, becoming a translator for a broader audience,” he said. “The other challenge will be telling those stories in an engaging way. We want to have great reads about subjects that some people think are really boring and don’t really matter, but they do matter to them.”

Passcode doesn’t want to be a blog only people in the industry read, he said.

“We’re in a fortunate time where more and more people are aware of these issues. Certainly the NSA leaks opened up a lot of people’s eyes to what’s happening in the government.”

Farrell is based in Boston, and Sorcher is in Washington, D.C., but there was debate about having the project itself based in the capital.

Instead, they’ve chosen to be outside the bubble, not just focused on policy and politics, but also on creators of the technology. And some of that is happening in Boston.

Passcode also wants to be a place for exchanging ideas, Farrell said, with regular columnists who can lead reasoned debates. They’re planning events, as well, which started with a kick-off event at 9:30 Thursday morning with White House cyber chief Michael Daniel at the Center for National Policy.

Coming next from the Monitor, McLaughlin said, “revamped science and tech coverage that’s focused on the amazing breakthroughs happening across the space. Also coming: energy, which is having its moment in terms of revolutionary changes that affect individuals and nations.”

Passcode is an experiment for the Monitor, Farrell said, and something they’re committed to making work.

“We do think there’s a real hole that can be filled with the sort of work that we’re trying to do.” Read more

Modern wireless technology and social media

8 Tips for Techno-Evangelists

Modern wireless technology and social mediaJournalism and technology don’t always go together very well.

I think there’s a natural conflict between the gathering of news and information and the various means of packaging and distributing it. This conflict is especially challenging for newsroom managers. On one hand, they want to focus on the journalism; on the other, they need to stay aware of technological changes and motivate their staffs to try new digital tools.

Newsroom leaders need to be evangelists for change — and that includes technological change. They need to better understand the role of technology adoption within their organizations as the means of gathering and sharing news shifts at an increasing rate.

The rate of technology adoption is critical to the success of news organizations, which is why we are embarking on new research about the topic, starting with a survey of journalists, educators, students and others. Follow this link to participate in the technology adoption survey.

While picking the right tools is important, it is essential for managers and staffs to look at technology adoption as part of a larger process. Here are my eight tips for being a better “techno-evangelist.”

  1. Understand that technology is an ecological issue. By itself, technology adds nothing to a newsroom. However, its introduction changes everything.
  2. A newsroom learns by example. If newsroom managers are not willing to invest time or energy in understanding technology, they should not expect the staff to care.
  3. The key issue in technology adoption isn’t hardware or even software or apps. It’s workflow. Understand how work moves (or how you want it to move) through the newsroom or organization, and you’ll understand what technological solutions you need.
  4. Techno-evangelism means finding a leader who will take risks, become a teacher, shoulder responsibility and be willing to go wandering in the “desert.”
  5. Looking at history can help you prepare for the future. Recognizing a paradigm shift is important; knowing when there isn’t one is more important. Going from hot type to cold type was evolutionary; going digital was revolutionary.
  6. No matter how much you try to be on the “cutting edge,” there always will be something newer and cheaper (or free) the day after the purchase order is signed. Accepting that as part of the “techno-lifecycle” reduces stress and allows you to make better decisions.
  7. No matter how well you plan, the project will take six months longer.
  8. Computers, programs and apps crash. No matter how fast any of it works, no matter how nifty it all looks, technology is just machines, software and technology.

I originally wrote those eight thoughts for a Society of News Design workshop in 1993. Only minor tweaking was needed for this article. Read more

virtual newsroom _ depositphotos

Virtual Newsroom: getting journalism done in a digital age

At this moment, I am at my dining room table in Los Angeles with two laptops, a cellphone and an iPad. I work with staff writers who live in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and just outside of Tampa. I also talk virtually with Poynter faculty, adjunct faculty and freelancers who write for us, some of whom live in Florida, but some who do not.

As the future of news is still inventing itself and the nature of news remains in transition, there’s one thing we can say definitively: We’re no longer working the way we did 10, 5 or even 2 years ago.

With technology, we can — and do — report on the news at greater speeds and larger volume. The Web, cell phones, tablets, wearables, and other devices allow us to give audiences what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

Downsizing of staff, added work duties, reduction and relocation of workspaces and other expense cuts are also contributing to the upheaval that thousands of journalists have endured in recent years.

This all has led to the era of the virtual newsroom. By working virtually, I mean journalists can function outside the office, perhaps in their home or in a coffee shop or in a shared space, and produce work for a news organization or website that operates at a distance.

As I prepare to transition out of my interim role as editor, I’m writing what I hope will be the first of several posts on the virtual newsroom, a guide and conversation with you about the challenges of working remotely for a news organization.

For decades, journalists have worked in bureaus far from the main newsroom or they freelanced from home, sometimes thousands of miles from their editors and colleagues. But today more journalists are working independently or, even if they remain on payroll, outside of the typical newsroom. Technology makes it possible.

Working virtually is also expanding in part because digital news jobs are growing. Pew Research Center estimates in its report on digital reporting that news outlets born as digital-only operations have created nearly 5,000 full-time editorial jobs. Often these are small and lean operations run by fewer than four people. And, those journalists may all work in different locations.

In a virtual news operation, all of the advantages that an editor can draw on by walking across the room disappear: the face-to-face contact, reading of body language, and connections that form when we share a physical space.

If you’re a writer, similar conveniences are gone if you work remotely. When you have a question about a change in your story, you can’t simply sidle over to an editor’s desk to have a chat. Or if you need the phone number for a source, your colleague who can help may be in another state rather than at the next desk.

For editors, the tasks of giving out assignments, negotiating story lengths and deadlines, arranging visuals, editing and fact-checking all take on another level of difficulty when communicating virtually. For those who do the work, there’s the challenge of fully understanding what’s expected, dealing with unforeseen events, electronically delivering their stories or images, and getting feedback on their work. On some days, communication goes awry and there’s little one can do to fix things from afar.

But there are practices and approaches that can take some of the pain out of the process. I communicate with my Poynter colleagues, for example, by ways that are most efficient or most comfortable for the writers, and it generally works well.

Still, I only occasionally see the staffers in person, and I can’t attend staff meetings at Poynter regularly. Instead we hold Google Hangouts or I listen in to meetings via conference phone.

I don’t get to know all of my colleagues as I well as I would like. Rather we learn about each other by email or phone calls and during my infrequent visits to St. Petersburg.

On the other hand, I don’t spend hours commuting each week and can use the time to work instead. I take my coffee breaks by walking five feet to the kitchen and I’m back in a flash, available for any requests for edits. In my ongoing quest for work-life balance, I can take care of home chores without impacting my work production.

I’m convinced after working on news websites for over a decade, that journalists with certain skills and personalities best adapt to working this way. Hiring and coaching for a virtual newsroom take on added considerations, but I’ll get more into this subject in a future post.

If you work virtually or manage those who do, tell me about your experiences and concerns. Jump into the comment box below or email me at and let’s talk. You can also catch me on Twitter: @sandraoshiro. Read more

Google co-founder Sergey Brin wears the company's Glass at an event in February. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

PoynterVision: Experiment with wearables

Many reporters shy away from early adoption of new technology. With wearables like Google Glass and smartwatches entering the market, Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of American Press Institute and former Poynter digital fellow, suggests ways for you to jump ahead of the curve and experiment with wearables.

For more on the news impact of wearables, watch the complete Webinar replay of Preparing Journalism for the Age of Wearable Devices at Poynter NewsU. Use the promo code 13POYNTER100WEAR to get unlimited free access to the on-demand replay.

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Related: PoynterVision: Consuming news on wearables | PoynterVision: Watch out for wearables Read more

Eric Migicovsky

PoynterVision: Consuming news on wearables

Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of American Press Institute, shares his vision of how we might consume news on such wearables as watches:

For more on the news impact of wearables, watch the complete Webinar replay of Preparing Journalism for the Age of Wearable Devices at Poynter NewsU. Use the promo code 13POYNTER100WEAR to get unlimited free access to the on-demand replay.

Related: PoynterVision: Watch out for wearables Read more

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Matter faces familiar challenges in crafting a new web experience

While most online news outlets worry about their mobile-first strategy, Matter is trying to create a web-first reading experience. It doesn’t publish a print edition, present a bundled collection of news articles or host advertisements. It has no pop-ups, banners or complicated navigation menus — just a clean, lightweight layout that lets the story stand on its own.

Since its November 2012 launch, the site has offered human-focused, long-form investigative writing about science and technology – a flavor of journalism that’s largely disappeared amid the Web’s cost-cutting strategies and attention-deficit design.

“We’d hear about stories people wanted to tell that were crying out for narrative treatment,” co-founder Jim Giles told me when I visited Matter’s San Francisco office in August. Matter’s stories have ranged from body integrity identity disorder to Silicon Valley’s “charisma coach” to Tutankhamun’s DNA.

Writers of such long-form stories had very few places that would publish them, Giles said — candidates were limited to The New Yorker or Harper’s Magazine. And if none of those publications took a piece, Nature, New Scientist or Scientific America were unlikely to publish a 6,000- to 9,000-word effort.

With no need to support a legacy print product, Giles and co-founder Bobbie Johnson built a hybrid model — e-book meets magazine — promising a new reader experience.

“All writing publications at some level want a reading experience that’s so amazing it’s like you’ve lost track of the world around you,” Giles said.

Paying the bills

Matter has tried to create a reader experience that’s different from that of other websites, but struggled with a problem its competitors know all too well: how to pay the bills.

Matter’s original model centered on publishing a story each month, protected by a paywall. Readers could pay 99 cents for access to the story online or as a Kindle e-book, or subscribe monthly for the same price.

“Ninety-nine cents felt like a nice price in the App Store where people are used to making a decision to buy something without too much cognitive effort,” Giles said last summer.

But the paywall undermined Matter’s efforts to increase visibility, Giles said, leaving the site facing a dilemma: It was difficult for people to grasp the type of content Matter published if they couldn’t see it, and they wouldn’t pay unless they could sample that content first. And, of course, with so many news sites offering free content, it’s difficult to train readers to pay.

Despite a successful Kickstarter campaign – Matter raised its goal of $50,000 within 48 hours and eventually raised $140,000 — it couldn’t generate enough revenue to justify its paywall. In an email, Johnson said subscriptions were “good” but slower than the site needed; while e-book sales gave Matter a solid “long tail” of content for readers to discover, Giles recalled that having an e-book emerge as a hit proved “harder than we thought.”

After a year of trying a subscription-based model, Matter announced last week that all of its stories will be free.

“Ultimately, we’d seen our stories do very well when they were outside the paywall, and thought it would be better to capitalize on what we’d done best,” Johnson said.

That also means an end to selling Kindle singles, which can’t be sold because the content is free elsewhere.

Matter also announced it will move permanently to the Medium publishing platform, eventually abandoning its old website. Medium, co-founded by Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, acquired Matter in April, though Matter declared its business model and editorial focus will stay independent from Medium.

New experiments

In another change, Matter readers can now enjoy “substantial pieces weekly,” Johnson said.

Matter’s hope is that publishing weekly will help keep traffic consistent — Giles said most of Matter’s traffic came in the first three days after publishing a story — and help make the site habit-forming for readers.

Giles and Johnson are now trying a membership program involving reader donations, similar to how NPR affiliates generate revenue.

Looking back at Matter’s experiments so far, Giles said he’s been surprised by Matter’s difficulty finding content.

“I’ve talked to a lot of writers who say, ‘Oh yeah yeah, I heard about you,’ ” he recalled. “Well, we’re here and we have money — pitch us. I can pay you to do the work you want to do. I thought you’d be coming to me.” Read more

Germany Samsung Gadget Show

PoynterVision: Watch out for wearables

Forget the latest iPhone or Android tablet. Watches are the next big thing to hit the market. Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of the American Press Institute, tells why news organizations should pay attention to wearables, and he weighs the pros and cons of the devices.

For more on the news impact of wearables, watch the complete Webinar replay of Preparing Journalism for the Age of Wearable Devices at Poynter NewsU. Use the promo code 13POYNTER100WEAR to get unlimited free access to the on-demand replay. Read more


Highlights from TEDx talks by David Carr, Ben Smith, Lisa Williams & more

During today’s Poynter TEDx event, we’re hearing from a variety of thought leaders in journalism and social media. We’ll live blog all of the sessions, which focus on three main topics: changes in journalism, curation and engagement.

You can see the lineup and replay the live blog below. 

Session 1:  Changes in Journalism

  • 9:50 a.m. “Old Media Ideas in a New Media Age” — Bill Adair
  • 10:15 a.m. “Why the Shift to the Social Web is Good for Journalism” — Ben Smith
  • 10:40 a.m. “If This Is How the New Journalism Is, Count Us Out!” — Jessica Hopper
  • 11:05 a.m. “How Not to Get Squished When the Media Techtonic Plates and Paradigms Shift” — David Carr
Read more

Ex-Engadget editor to write weekly Washington Post column

Romenesko Misc.
Joshua Topolsky, who founded The Verge after quitting Engadget in March, will write a weekly Washington Post column appearing online Wednesdays and in the paper each Thursday. Topolsky, a regular on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” will focus on technology culture, trends and reviews. Also, his reporters at The Verge will contribute several articles a day to Read more


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