Metaphors: lawns and mass extinction

Mass extinction
Alan Mutter’s Journicide: A looming, lost generation of scribes

But the loss of a substantial portion of what would have been the next generation of journalists also will be tragic for society. The loss will deprive citizens in the future with the insights that only can be delivered by dedicated professionals with the time, skills and motivation to dig deeply into difficult stories.

Jeff Jarvis’s Get off the lawn

What we need is a level lawn where the tender shoots of these new businesses can grow without government trampling them on its way to try to protect the legacy players.

Metaphors: stores who hate customers, customers who don’t buy and a bunch of clichés

A headline shop
Danny Sullivan’s If Newspapers Were Stores, Would Visitors Be “Worthless” Then?

At the store, the news exec owner greets visitors by asking them what the hell they want. Perplexed, they visitors say they heard about these stories and wanted to know more. The exec shouts at them. “Get the hell out of my store, you freeloader! This is for members-only. We don’t need riff-raff like you in here.”

Jerks who look but don’t buy
Steve Yelvington’s Lookie Lou isn’t really a customer

To use the storefront analogy: When I have people in line to buy big-ticket merchandise, I’m not going to shut down the cash register line so I can provide personal assistance to the guy who’s agonizing over whether to buy a 50-cent postcard.

And the “Lookie Lous” who are shopping but not buying? So long as they don’t get in the way of the real customers, or start knocking the china off the shelves, they’re not really a problem. But I’m not going to go out of my way to serve them on the off chance they might accidentally drop a quarter on the floor.

Jerks who eat but don’t drink
Steve Yelvington’s Lookie Lou isn’t really a customer

A more appropriate analogy — and one more easily understood by journalists — might be that of a bar. If you’re sitting in a bar warming a seat but not consuming anything, are you a customer? If you’re eating the free peanuts but not drinking, are you a customer? Not all visitors are customers.

Every cliché under the sun
Arianna Huffington’s Journalism 2009: Desperate Metaphors, Desperate Revenue Models, And The Desperate Need For Better Journalism

They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail — pick your metaphor — and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the Internet and new media represent


“I speak restaurant HTML”

There was a Roger Ebert — yes that Roger Ebert — Twitter post the other day got me thinking: “I speak restaurant HTML.”

When I worked in restaurant kitchens, before launching into my current, glamorous career, I could speak what is commonly called “restaurant Spanish;” that is I knew some basic vocabulary and syntax that helped me communicate with the native Spanish speakers we employed.

It didn’t get me very far during the week or so I spent in Spain, but got the job done in the limited confines of a kitchen during the dinner rush.

Restaurant HTML, as Ebert coined, is the bare minimum journalists need to know to operate. Most don’t need to understand the difference between a <div> tag and a <span> tag, but they should be able to embed a video, place an image and hyperlink text. Basic stuff.

Are most journalists going to be whipping up Web pages from scratch? Of course not; most will be using CMSs that have be built by Web designers fluent in HTML. But they do need to understand enough basic vocabulary and syntax so that they can post their own images and videos in blog posts, or format text online, or add links. You know, those things that make the Web the Web?

If your school’s curriculum hasn’t found a way to incorporate this basic stuff into core classes, you’re doing your students a disservice.

Metaphors: socially useless supervillians and the Titanic, yet again

Skeletor, Gargamel, Cobra Commander or Wile E Coyote
Umair Haque’s “Is Your Business Useless?

Business supervillains have something in common with the cartoon supervillains above: they rarely win. That’s because socially useless business is built on shoddy, poor economics — and like most things too good to be true, it rarely lasts for long.

The Titanic, yet again but different!
The New York Times‘s publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., quoted by New York Magazine‘s Jada Yuan in “Times Publisher Compares Print Media to the Titanic

He thinks that physical newspapers will stick around as well. “The best analogy I can think of is — have you ever heard of the Titanic Fallacy?” he asked. We hadn’t. “What was the critical flaw to the Titanic?” We tried to answer: Poor construction? Not enough life boats? Crashing into stuff? “A captain trying to set a world speed record through an iceberg field?” he said, shaking his head. “Even if the Titanic came in safely to New York Harbor, it was still doomed,” he said. “Twelve years earlier, two brothers invented the airplane.”

Metaphors: Greek tragedy, the French Revolution and wild boars

Wild boars or something; I mean, you don’t want to die with your dick hanging out, do you see what I’m saying?
Primary Colors

The French Revolution
John McQuaid, on Twitter (here, here and here)

When I say “citizen journalism” has a French Revolution vibe, I mean a couple of things (1/3)

Citizen journalism/French Revolution I: CJ reflects a chaotic, democratic power shift as old, monolithic institutions fade (2/3)

Citizen journalism/French Revolution II: the (overblown) fear in the 4th Estate that angry mobs of “citizens” will destroy journalism 3/3

Greek tragedy
Steve Yelvington, on Twitter

Strangling your own website: When the parent sees the child as a threat, the stage is set for a Greek tragedy.

Metaphors: General Motors

An industrial giant in bankruptcy
Jack Shafer’s “How Condé Nast Is Like General Motors,” in Slate

Although the privately held Condé Nast isn’t as financially distressed as the bankrupt General Motors, and although the magazine business couldn’t be more unlike the car business, the two distraught companies share woes. Both succeeded in segmenting the market with semi-independent divisions that were once unique and distinct but that have since faded into one, much to the confusion of consumers. Both have dramatically dumped once-valuable properties. Both have allowed divisions to operate like independent fiefdoms at the expense of the company’s greater financial good. Both have established cultures of privilege for top employees, and both appear to have woken up to their problems too late.

Metaphors: Ford Motor Company, burning raft, John Huges’ loving teen

Raft on fire!
Jason Fry’s Reactions to Nieman, Part 2

…the print-centric business model is a burning raft — and when you’re on a burning raft, you have to plan differently.

Geir Stene’s Media business revenues are dropping so might your Company’s!

The challenges are huge and concern all of us. Rapid changes are hard to handle. I put an image of a car with this blog posting. What does that have to do with the media industry? Henry Ford’s introduction of the automated assembly line changed the car industry.

A teen who thinks Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is all about him
Megan Garber’s “The Washington Post, Angsty Teenager” in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Reading the text of The Washington Post’s new guidelines for its staff’s use of Facebook, Twitter, and the like, I couldn’t help but think of…John Hughes. Almost every movie the director ever made revolves, in its way, around an axis of insecurity, its key characters so preoccupied with what other people think of them that they risk losing themselves in the angsty inertia of it all—until, by way of an hour or so of zany events, they come to realize that the most noble thing they can be is, of course, themselves.

What does “a place to hack” mean?

Robert Niles posted a list of 8 things journalism students should demand from their journalism schools. Included on that this was “a place to hack”

Online is becoming the dominant news publish medium. And online publishing will not look the way it does today 10 years from now, just as it looks little now like it did 10 years ago. Students need forums in which to explore and test their interactive publishing skills. They need sandboxes in which to play.

While traditional syllabi train students in established story forms, students must demand time and access to explore emerging forms, in social media and whatever else they might dream up. Hacking isn’t simply programming; it’s an attitude that encourages people to find new uses for old forms. That’s something journalism desperately needs. If a school doesn’t provide those opportunities for its students, they must demand it.

This is the tricky one on Niles’ list, but I think the most important one. Here’s the question: What does “a place to hack” mean to you?

For me, it means kindergarten-like unstructured time to play with journalism tools (new and old). Of course, because this is school, you have to justify what you’re doing somehow, maybe by narrating your work as you go and having some sort of reflection on whatever the final result is.


A suggested user list for Iowa’s j-school students

I usually cover social media generally — and Twitter specifically — as a reporting and audience-building tool the last day of my multimedia course. (Social media isn’t multimedia per se, but I worry that if I don’t cover it, it won’t come up at the j-school at all, though that’s changing.) This semester, I’ve moved it earlier, hoping I can provide more than a quick look before the class ends. Perhaps it will even become a tool to organize classes. We’ll see.

But one thing is certain: Twitter isn’t fun or interesting or useful unless you have interesting people to follow. I’ve tried to build a list of suggestions for my students that will be relevant, informative and interesting. These are all people I follow and enjoy. You might not; drop ’em and find new people.

Anyway, here are 10, in no particular order:

Steve Buttry, @stevebuttry, has had several titles at The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, most recently 3C coach. He shares interesting journalism links and commentary.

Dr. Daily, @DrDaily, The Daily Iowan incarnate, at least on Twitter and Facebook. Driven by my former student Adam B. Sullivan, the DI‘s convergence editor.

John Dickerson, @jdickerson, writes for Slate and CBS News and shares interesting observations. He pimps his own work as @johndickerson.

Mindy McAdams, @macloo, teaches online journalism at the University of Florida.

Mark Luckie, @10000words, is the author of the blog 10,000 Words, which focuses on digital and multimedia journalism, and the forthcoming book The Digital Journalist’s Handbook.

Jay Rosen, @jayrosen_nyu, teaches journalism at New York University.

Ryan Sholin, @ryansholin, is the director of news innovation at the journalism start-up Publish 2 and created ReportingOn and the Wired Journalists.

Mr. Tweet, @MrTweet, is a tool that helps find other people you might find interesting by analyzing who you follow and who they follow. Another option is @LocalTweeps., @kottke, is run by Jason Kottke, who curates the Web and shares the most interesting links on Twitter and his Web site.

Dave Winer, @davewiner, is, to oversimplify, a software developer who has a real interesting in news. He was a pioneer of blogging, podcasting and in the development RSS. He’s building RSScloud, which he hopes will be an open Twitter-like system. Don’t worry, lots of this stuff is over my head, too.

Like I said, these are people who tweet about things I’m interesting. Of course, you’ll want to add people who tweet about things you’re interested in: sports, food, narrative journalism, politics, public relations, or teh (often inappropriate) funny.