Wednesday, April 29, 2009

'Don't give away your newspaper on the Web'

Gary Sosniecki is a regional sales manager for specializing in weekly newspapers. He owned three weekly newspapers and published a small daily in Missouri during a 34-year newspaper career. This appeared in the newsletter of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

By Gary Sosniecki

I cringed when I saw a publisher friend's new Web site.

That's because my friend is giving away his entire newspaper, page by page, on the Internet.

Why would anyone pay 50 cents for his newspaper when every word can be read free online?

Metro newspapers have closed in Denver and Seattle, others are in bankruptcy, and part of the blame rests with Internet strategies that removed the incentive for readers to buy their print editions.

Every newspaper needs its own Web site if for no other reason than to protect its franchise as the community's purveyor of news and advertising. And until the masses are willing to pay for online content, which won't happen anytime soon, access to that Web site needs to be free.

But giving away all the content of your core product is foolhardy if you still want readers to buy that core product.

What's the solution?

Community newspapers should strive for a balance between print and online. Your Web site should have enough content that you can sell advertising to support it and, hopefully, make a profit. But it should complement your newspaper, not compete with it.

Yes, some content will be duplicated. A community newspaper's Web site should include a couple of stories from your front page, an editorial, obits and some local sports. But don’t give away too much.

Instead, post content that you don't have room for in your newspaper: Extra photos from your school coverage. Columns from your legislators. Full text of speeches. Church sermons. Consumer tips from your university's extension service. Reader-submitted photos.

Remember to post online updates between your print editions: Death notices. Sports scores. Boil orders. School closings. Candidate filings. A few paragraphs of breaking news after a fire, traffic accident or school-board meeting, always promoting that a full report can be found in your next print edition.

Learn how to post video clips. It doesn't take much expertise or fancy equipment to upload highlights from a football game, city-council meeting or news conference to your Web site.

In effect, make your Web site a separate product from your newspaper while creating reader and advertiser demand for both.

If, as my publisher friend did, you choose to do an e-edition – posting full-page pdfs of your newspaper online – make sure that it's password-protected so readers can’t access it without a subscription.

Otherwise, the only readers your print edition will have are those without Internet access.

And that number shrinks every day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jobs, internships are out there

It may be late for this summer's part-time work, but the Chicago Headline Club and Illinois News Broadcasters have a lot of tips for full-time job seekers and a few internships that remain open.

Check out the opportunities --

Also, keep in mind that you can create your own opportunities and internships by approaching a local news operation and offering to work for what the Journalism program may be able to credit you.

Check out the catalog description: "404 Field Work in Journalism. (1–12, repeatable to 12) Credit for internships at newspapers, magazines or other publications, or in advertising or public relations offices. By arrangement. See department chair or journalism coordinator. No more than 6 s.h. can be used in the Journalism major, and no more than 3 s.h. of that can count toward the 400-level elective requirement. Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing."

Friday, April 17, 2009

L.A. Times Reports that Journalism Schools Thrive Despite Economy

As newspapers decline, journalism schools thrive
Young people are flocking to graduate school programs, driven by the thrill of deadlines, the lure of a good story and a belief that they'll play a role in shaping the evolution of journalism.

By James Rainey

April 17, 2009

Maybe this is what it feels like to be a minister returning to the seminary, an officer back at the academy, an old ballplayer joining the rookies for another spring training.

I'm at a journalism school talking to young people and they are affirming the faith: the thrill of chasing a story, the queasy high of deadline, the satisfaction of getting it first and the enduring hope it all might matter.

Those forces may be intangible, but they're powerful enough to lighten an old news hound's heart and to keep pumping up enrollment at journalism schools, even as newspapers fold, TV slashes reporters and radio outlets combine staffs.

Applications jumped more than 20% this year for the graduate journalism program at USC's Annenberg School for Communication. Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism got 44% more applicants this year than in 2008. Other J-schools reported similar increases.

For almost $100,000 (including room and board) over two years, USC's graduate journalism program will prepare you for a profession that features low pay, long hours and an uncertain future. You'll learn to produce video, to blog and to write a tight news lead. (I don't think they're yet offering the section on responding to e-mails that begin "Hey Moron.")

So what are these nutty kids thinking?

"It's like an adrenaline rush. Every day is different. Every story is different," said Annenberg student Adrianna Weingold, 24. When she added, "There are very few careers that let you get out in the world and talk to people and learn something new every day," an old flame within me leaped anew. Really.

Chris Nelson, 29 and a refugee from a DVD production job in Hollywood, told me Annenberg students aren't so naive that they've overlooked the sickly media job market. But they've embraced an axiom: Crisis=Opportunity.

The young ones may not have the same reporting and writing chops, but they tend to beat the stuffing out of old-timers in their facile use of the Internet for reporting and writing and with their entrepreneurial spirit.

"They are much less afraid of change," said Jonathan Kotler, an Annenberg professor and chairman of graduate admissions. "Start-ups don't scare them, they excite them."

"I don't think people are feeding us a line when they say this is the most exciting time to be in journalism," Nelson said. "It's a ground-floor opportunity to shape how journalism is going to be. . . . We are sort of setting the rules right now."

At any good university, the students end up teaching their professors a thing or two. That adage couldn't be truer than in journalism today, when students' ability to ply social networks and dig information out of online databases often outstrips their teachers'.

Bill Grueskin, a dean at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, gave an example when I called Thursday. The school's Bronx Beat weekly paper had already moved online.

But as he sat in class Thursday morning, students added a feature so they could post instant Twitter feeds to supplement their already exhaustive coverage of the Yankees' home opener at their new stadium.

"They just said 'Boom, let's do it' and it was done," said Grueskin, who previously ran the Wall Street Journal's website. "So the faculty teaches the core. But the students drive a lot of the process."

Political animosities ("The press is too liberal" or "It's too corporate") overshadow almost any discussion about the future of the media. But the future journalists talk much more passionately about stories.

Nelson recalled vividly what he learned visiting a home for emotionally disturbed teens. Weingold enthused over putting together a video report explaining an LAPD debate over the use of emergency lights and sirens by squad cars.

Rachel Hunter, 24, looks forward to enrolling in the fall in an Annenberg program in urban ecology.

How can you not admire a young woman who said she got "a glow" out of doing a story about a program in which businesses plant gardens and donate the harvest to local food banks?

"There will be a need for people who tell stories in the right way, with depth and context," said Hunter, who now freelances for the Jewish Journal and Los Feliz Ledger.

No, not all of the roughly 60 students who join the next graduate class at Annenberg will find jobs in journalism. Some will make their way to law school or other businesses.

But some appear hopelessly smitten. News slaves.

Weingold flips from CNN to KCAL 9 to NBC and beyond every night. She takes a half-hour break to watch "Jeopardy" with her roommate

Initially focused on a future in television, she still hopes for an on-air position.

But she realizes her video might as easily be streaming via computer as coming from a TV set. And she's ready to write in every medium.

"I think we're headed for a complete convergence," Weingold said. "And I'm just headed for journalism, in whatever form it decides to take."

Knight Voted Best Professor in Student Newspaper Poll

WIU Journalism Professor Bill Knight has been voted Best Professor in the Western Courier's 2009 Best of Macomb reader survey.

According to the Courier's story:

Bill Knight spent over 16 years as a full-time working journalist before returning to his Alma mater to teach. Among his many experiences, he has functioned as a beat reporter, entertainment critic, columnist, editor at several weeklies and dailies in cities such as Washington D.C., San Diego and Peoria.

Even as a tenured professor, Knight continues to contribute work to various publications and commentary to a local radio station. Over the last decade, Knight has also been involved in the publication of several books as both an author and editor.

"Obviously I'm flattered, because I enjoy students, but at the same time I'm humbled, because I know a lot of excellent teachers at Western," Knight said.

Knight tried to pinpoint just what students might see in his teaching strategy that appeals to them.

"In the classroom, I try to be accessible and flexible," Knight said. "I also try to be demanding, but maybe protective, too, as students prepare for what's to come and for what I like to call the joy of life-long learning."

Congratulations, Bill.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Western Courier Staffers Reap Illinois College Press Assn. Honors

Three current and two former staffers of the Western Courier, Western Illinois University's student newspaper, were recently recognized for their contributions to collegiate-level journalism.

WIU students Adam Sacasa (senior, journalism, Skokie, IL), Ken Woods (junior, journalism, Broadview, IL) and Jon Oakley (junior, journalism/broadcasting, Plainfield, IL), who are pictured above, as well as Zach Wingerter (B.A., journalism, Macomb, IL) and Brent Busby (B.A., broadcasting, La Prairie, IL), who both graduated in December 2008, were recently bestowed with honors from the Illinois College Press Association in the ICPA's annual student journalism competition.

"I'm extremely pleased by the Western Courier staff's honors in the 2008 ICPA student journalism competition," said Rich Moreno, director of student publications at Western.
"I think the most important thing the students learned during ICPA's annual conference, held earlier this year, is what they need to do to get better. Everyone came away from the conference filled with a renewed sense of purpose."

Western Courier staffers' winning entries included:

First Place, Best Sports Column for "What's in a Name? Maybe Everything," by Zach Wingerter (available online at

Second Place, Adam Sacasa, Best Sports Photography (Sacasa's award-winning photo is available for viewing online at

Second Place, Brent Busby, Best Critical Review (Non-film) for "Slipknot—'All Hope Is Gone'" (available online at

Third Place, Jon Oakley, Best Headline for "Hunt Nails Down Hammers"
(available online at

Honorable Mention, Ken Woods, Best Sports Feature for "Parental Control" (available online at

"Zach's first place showing for best sports column was particularly deserving, because he's a very talented writer with a real flair for humor," Moreno added. "I'm also gratified that Adam was recognized for his hard work and talent as a sports photographer. Adam is one of those shooters who really lives and breathes photography -- he's always got the police band radio blaring next to his desk -- so it's nice to see him win."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Documentary filmmaker visiting J program April 16

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 16 in Simpkins Room 027 , journalist, author and documentary filmmaker John De Graaf will speak to interested students.

Here's a biographical sketch of him:

John de Graaf is the national coordinator of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME, an organization challenging time poverty and overwork in the U.S. and Canada (see and a frequent speaker on issues of overwork and over-consumption in America. He is often a guest lecturer on college campuses.

John is the co-author of the best-selling AFFLUENZA: THE ALL-CONSUMING EPIDEMIC (Berrett-Koehler, 2001/2005—now published in eight other languages as well.). He is the editor of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME (Berrett-Koehler, 2003) and of the children’s book, DAVID BROWER: FRIEND OF THE EARTH (Henry Holt, 1992). He also wrote the first chapter (“Childhood Affluenza”) of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ seminal book on childhood, ABOUT CHILDREN (2004). His articles have been published in dozens of magazines.

John has worked with KCTS-TV, the Seattle PBS affiliate, for 24 years, as an independent producer of television documentaries. More than 15 of his programs have been broadcast in Prime Time nationally on PBS. He is also the recipient of more than 100 regional, national and international awards for film-making, including three Emmy awards. He produced the popular PBS specials, RUNNING OUT OF TIME, an examination of overwork and time pressure in America, and AFFLUENZA, a humorous critique of American consumerism. His other national PBS specials include FOR EARTH’S SAKE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVID BROWER; VISIBLE TARGET; A PERSONAL MATTER: GORDON HIRABAYASHI VS. THE UNITED STATES; BEYOND ORGANIC; ESCAPE FROM AFFLUENZA; IT’S UP TO US: THE GIRAFFE PROJECT and CIRCLE OF PLENTY.


Prior to his work in TV, John was Public Affairs Director for KUMD Radio in Duluth, Minnesota. He has taught documentary film production at The University of Washington and The Evergreen State College. He has also taught on Time, Consumerism and Sustainability issues at Evergreen. He is the founder of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival and former president of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Network. He is also the recipient of the Founders of a New Northwest Award for his work in environmental media. The de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, named in his honor, is presented annually at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, California.

He is also a member of the steering committee for the Simplicity Forum, a national think tank for the Voluntary Simplicity movement. In 2005, he was the World Food Day George McGovern lecturer at the FAO in Rome. He is a member of the Balaton Group on International Sustainability, which meets annually in Hungary, and a member of the steering committee of the Forum on Social.

Panel to talk about newspapers

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 15 in the Union Sandburg Lounge, Journalism faculty Mohammad Siddiqi, Mark Butzow and Bill Knight, and Professional Writing professor Bradley Dilger will take part in "Not [Yet] The End: A Discussion about Newspapers."

The loaded title may be slanted, but the discussion may be more interesting than the conventional wisdom, which is derived from the well-publicized experiences of about 100 debt-laden major-metro daily papers in an industry of more than 1,300 operations.

"In our time 'information wants to be free,' but journalists want to be paid and shareholders want to see black ink and not red," said Mark Butzow, assistant professor of journalism at Western Illinois University. "For either of those to happen, newspapers need to make money."

Newspapers are not the only ones hurting, he added. Television newsrooms across the country are cutting back on reporters.

"The point of the panel is to address what is happening -- and what is not happening -- with newspapers in particular and news in general -- and what it all means for the future of our democracy, which, after all, is in no small part founded on the Freedom of the Press," he added.

The panel discussion is open free to the public.

Here's the complete university news release --

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bagwell scholarship open for this semester

Through arrangements with the family of the late Dameris Bagwell, the WIU journalism student killed in an auto accident last semester, the first $250 Dameris Bagwell Scholarship will be awarded this semester.

Wednesday, April 22 is the deadline to submit applications to department adviser Ellen Poulter (Simpkins 130).

Journalism faculty will review applications on Monday, April 27, and the winner will be announced at the First Annual National Association of Black Journalists/Dameris Bagwell Awards Banquet at Sapphire restaurant, 127 E. Carroll St. in Macomb on Saturday, May 9.

The scholarship is open to WIU journalism majors or minors students who:
• are minorities of at least sophomore standing;
• have a 3.0 GPA in the major or minor or a 2.75 overall GPA;
• are active in at least one professional student organization.

In future years, applicants must submit one letter of recommendation and apply through the department scholarship committee.

10 reasons you should hire a journalist

The next time some prospective employer murmurs "WTF," or a relative squirts milk out her nose when you proudly say you're majoring or minoring in journalism, share the letter below -- or at least its essence.

(At right: CBS News Bob Schieffer and Poynter's Jill Geisler at a recent appearance.

10 reasons you should hire a journalist

Dear Potential Employer:

Please accept this letter of recommendation for the journalist applying for your job opening. I know this is unorthodox -- a generic reference letter. But permit me to explain. Thousands of men and women who made journalism their vocation have lost their jobs. For many, telling a community's stories through words and images is the only career they've known.

They didn't leave their jobs; their jobs left them. Many are still shell-shocked, wondering if potential employers in other fields will place any value on the things they do best.

That's why I write this letter. I don't pretend to know the individual who's applying to you, and certainly, every journalist is unique. But as someone who has spent decades hiring and firing, coaching and mentoring journalists, I know a bit about their skills and values and what they could mean to your organization.

I also know that journalists may not be comfortable appearing to brag about what they do well; self-esteem can get downsized pretty easily these days.

So permit me to make their case to you. Here are 10 reasons you should hire a journalist.

1. Journalists will improve the writing, photography or design in your organization. When journalists volunteer for church, school or civic organizations, they are inevitably asked to work on communications projects. Their writing is clear and succinct; their photography and design skills make whatever they're working on look more polished and professional. They're sticklers about copy editing and will raise the quality of even your internal memos.

2. Journalists deliver on deadline. Their work lives have been defined by deadlines. Blowing a deadline is a cardinal sin in the newsroom culture. Tell them when something is due and you'll get it -- or you'll get a bulletproof reason from a nonetheless-contrite employee.

3. Journalists are multitaskers. In recent years, journalists have been required to do more with less. Reporters and photographers took up videography, editing and blogging. They file stories for print, broadcast and online, some while also tweeting. (If you don't know what tweeting is, ask during the interview. Don't worry. It does not involve stomach upset.)

4. Journalists are quick studies. Imagine a job in which you have to learn things every day, then turn around and teach those things to others. That's exactly how I've described the challenge and absolute joy of journalism at student career fairs. That skill set demands that journalists take in and process information with extraordinary efficiency and clarity, a benefit in any line of work.

5. Journalists are critical thinkers. They've been trained that "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." Journalists know that asking why and why not, looking at multiple perspectives, digging beneath the surface, challenging conventional wisdom, discerning patterns, finding context and thinking about "what's next" improves any story. Just as it improves job performance in most any field.

6. Journalists get answers faster than most. Even in social situations, you'll find friends rely on their journalist buddies to gather information. Scout the restaurant. Get the background on the car I'm thinking of buying. Vet the new school superintendent. Help me find the best doctor for my condition. Journalists know how to do research -- fast.

7. Journalists know how to use the Web. Your organization may or may not have embraced all of its online opportunities, but journalists know firsthand why the Internet matters. Sure, some news folks adopted an online mindset more slowly than others, but now many are well-equipped to help you execute online strategies -- blogging, creating video and audio, connecting through social networks. They've been brought up to speed in the past several years as their newsrooms expanded their horizons.

8. Journalists have a great work ethic. If you've ever complained that your team has a 9-to-5 approach to the job, hire a journalist. Some may think they're crazy, but they've often followed stories, not schedules. They've dropped everything for breaking news. They've gotten up in the middle of the night to catch a perfect picture of the moon or listen to a source who could talk only in darkness. They took on the work of laid-off colleagues while still doing their own, for as long as they could. And they still have energy.

9. Journalists have a solid moral compass. Imagine signing on to a job where you promise not to accept gifts that others could, must take pains to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, should keep your opinions to yourself, are expected to question authority while respecting the law and to recognize that your work carries the opportunity every day to do good or harm.

Journalists didn't just sign some statement saying they'll comply with the organization's policies, file it and forget it; they chose a profession that embraces a code of ethics and wrestles with its obligations daily. You might think they've fallen short over the years. But if you want to ask a great job interview question, ask journalists about some of the ethical minefields they've successfully walked and how they made it through while minimizing harm.

10. Journalists are loyal. That's why they're hurting right now. The journalists you may hire have been faithful to their vocation, even when the going got more than tough. They've adapted, learned new skills, added duties, taken pay cuts and furloughs, mourned the loss of colleagues and coverage, and kept on doing work that mattered. What does that mean to you? Speaking as a management coach, I say it means this: hiring journalists presents you a terrific opportunity. Give them a job they believe in and they'll work like hell to help you succeed.

Jill Geisler
Group Leader, Leadership and Management Programs
The Poynter Institute

Mailer contest accepting submissions

Named after a journalist, novelist and co-founder of the Village Voice, and offering cash prizes of up to $10,000 to national winners, the first annual Norman Mailer High School and College Writing Award is accepting submissions through May 15.

The College competition is open to students who will be seniors, juniors or sophomores in fall 2009. Entries must be no more than 15 single-spaced pages. Submissions will be accepted online only. For submission guidelines, judging criteria and entry instructions, go to the National Council of Teachers of English website --

The contest is sponsored by the NCTE and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony.

Prizes will also be awarded to runners-up, honorable mention writers, and those writers whose work earns top scores in early evaluation rounds.

(At right, Mailer teamed up with New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin in 1969 to sarcastically run for New York Mayor and President of the City Council, respectively. Part of their platform was secession.)