Jurnos as Community Managers

One of the new jurno jobs in Webworld is community manager. It’s rapidly becoming a must-hire at news organizations, and it can be an opportunity for journalists to do journalism at non-news organizations. (“Community manager” seems to be the term that’s sticking. It’s also been called “social networking coordinator”.)

What does a community manager do? That job’s still evolving, so it’s defined by the organization and/or the journalist. Huffington Post’s OffTheBus projects director Amanda Michel and her team, who worked with 2,000 contributors during the U.S. presidential campaign, could be called community managers. The Washington Examiner, one of the string of Examiners across the U.S., is advertising for a community manager, who’ll be doing this:

This new and exciting job will monitor the blogosphere, talk radio and social media for hotdcexaminer stories and inform all online and print staff of such stories. You will also work with Examiner staff to link, blog, distribute, and/or report on all hot stories to the paper’s web site.

Additional responsibilities include: Serving as ombudsman for user complaints and dispute resolution. Managing internal social network content. Pushing content to external social media networks i.e, (Facebook, Digg, etc.) Supervising and executing the delivery of daily digest emails to subscribers and other possible email lists.

All kinds of organizations are looking for community managers, says media consultant Amy Gahran, of Contentious (and who helps edit Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits), including trailer parks and large corporations. She gave permission to reprint this from a discussion on the Society of Environmental Journalism‘s listserv:

As I said, there are so many of these jobs available right now that you can afford to be choosy

Amy Gahran

and only go for the ones you want. The job descriptions may sound like marketing/PR because that’s the kind of job descriptions HR people are used to writing — and so far people from those fields have been most of the folks grabbing those jobs. That doesn’t mean what they really need or want is marketing/PR. As someone said here earlier, what’s more effective is an ombudsman-like role.

Amy Gahran

It’s up to you to define the kind of work you want to do. These organizations generally aren’t completely sure what they’re asking for in community manager roles and are generally open to allowing a qualified candidate to define their guidelines and expectations. Look at these job listings as starting points, and approach them with your ideas. Initiative and creativity definitely pay off on these fronts.

Trailer parks [don’t sneer….the 4,000 people living in Duroville Mobile Home Park in Thermal, CA look as if they could use a good jurno or two], corporations…and nonprofit organizations: When I was editorial director of TOPP.org, a forward-thinking niche science organization that hired a science journalist (yours truly) to revamp its Web site, we brought on a social networking coordinator last year for a long-term reporting project about elephant seal migration. Nicole Teutschel did a great job distributing the project’s content to social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, blogging, and involving members of the community — including state park docents, visitors to Año Nuevo State Park (coastal home to a couple of thousand elephant seals) as well as elementary and high school students — in various aspects of the project.

As Webworld evolves, a journalist’s role is changing. In larger news organizations, modern journalists — jurnos — manage beats. Increasingly, as large organizations shrink or die, and nichification expands, they manage their own niche organizations. (Even in a large organization, a beat becomes a nearly independent niche organization, not tied to a centralized hierarchy, but operating as a flexible unit in which reporters/editors make most of their own decisions. So, let’s just call beats within large news organizations niche news organizations, too.) Managing a niche news organization comprises many tasks. First, jurnos are responsible for creating a Web shell that serves as the go-to place for that topic.

  • It holds the jurnos’ blogs. These nodes of continuous conversation about what jurnos are doing and exchanges with members of the community they serve replace daily stories. The information and stories in those blogs are some combo of video, still photos, audio, graphics and text.
  • It holds the most useful, relevant resources, links and databases for their community (or communities). This is the “useful” part of the site. This stuff is what generates the most traffic.
  • It contains longer stories — profiles, or the status of an issue, or backgrounders that explain an issue.
  • At the core of the site — visually and spatially — are the voices and input of the community. This is the nerve center of the beat or organization, and the engine that drives it: the community members’ blogs, forums, discussions, chats, news aggregations. This is participatory journalism. Community journalism. (Citizen journalism, schmitizen journalism….when you need ghostbusters to do the heavy lifting, you want the gals with the proton packs whose full-time job it is to hunt them down.) In their role as community managers, jurnos watch and manage that input. They watch it to jump in when the community can use their input as fact-checkers, watchdogs or investigators. They manage it to highlight issues that affect more of the community, or may be of interest to more members of the community. They are beholden to the community, just as a city manager is.
  • Community includes businesses and services who pay to reach the members of this community. If you modernize the advertising/marketing/search functions the same way that journalism is modernized, why wouldn’t people who want to reach a targeted community want to be part of that community? Many Webcentric news organizations have done this. More about that in another post.

In addition, community managers distribute the niche news organization’s content to other sites and social networks, as well as to other platforms, especially mobile. Mobile is the new video. Video used to be the new blogging. Blogging used to be the new podcasting. Or was it vice versa?

btw, for more information on the Washington Examiner community manager position, contact James Dellinger — jdellinger@dcexaminer.com


API Crisis Meeting Results

….to talk again in six months? That seems to be the main suggestion from the three reports my fellow RJI Fellow Bill Densmore sent around yesterday:

From Editor & Publisher: API Summit Concludes: Industry in ‘Crisis,’ Needs Outside Help

From Presstime, an NAA blog: API Summit on Saving an Industry in Crisis

From the American Press Institute: CEO Summit on Saving an Industry in Crisis

The most thorough of the reports is the last on the list. James Shein, a turnaround specialist and professor
crisiscurveat Northwestern U’s Kellogg School of Management led the analysis:

Shein, who researched the basic financials of the public companies represented at the summit, concluded that as a whole the industry is at or approaching full-blown crisis stage, though individual companies are in various phases on the continuum. And he is pessimistic about their ability to halt their fall without outside help.

“The biggest hurdles to progress the industry’s senior leadership, including some of the people in this room.” Shein told the group. “I am not sure you can take a look at your industry with fresh eyes.”

Since there’s no way to add comments to any of the three writeups (there’s no way to do so on the first two, and the API comments function doesn’t work….I’ll let Jeff Jarvis play with that symbolism), I’m adding another suggestion to a list I put together last week before the API meeting: For the days of the week that the newsPAPER itself — the printed news product — isn’t making gocovermoney, follow the lead of the Lawrence Journal-World, as described by LJ World’s general manager, Al Bonner, in Alan Mutter’s blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur: try something different. In this case, a “themed edition” — a Monday “lite” news magazine aimed at women. Advertisers loved it; nearly a whole year of editions was sold out before launch.

News organizations, the ones with papers, really need to do something different with their papers. The Web’s SUCH a better way to sift through the news of the day, to plunge deep into the depths of a topic, to experience the story appropriately (some combo of video, still photos, audio, graphics, text), to scamper along linked trails to related information, and to have conversations with others about the day’s events, that the paper’s got to do something different. I’ve always said that newspapers as we know them will disappear. That doesn’t mean that paper as a distribution platform will disappear anytime soon, especially during this transition time, when most of the revenues still come from paper. It may mean, however, that news(paper) organizations that don’t make a transition quickly will disappear, as the API meeting demonstrates.

In the meantime, I think there’s plenty of opportunity for journalists and journalism, and that’s the focus of our work at RJI.

Real Jurnos Think Like Google


Is Google’s Flu Trends site cool, or what? Say Google didn’t figure this out. Say a jurno did. Hey. It could happen. This is how:

One day, a snuffly, misable, virus-laden jurno types in “flu symptoms” to see if what she has is indeed the flu. She searches for the latest remedy floating around cyberspace, and, for curiosity’s sake, checks out the CDC site to see how hard the flu’s hitting the U.S., and, in particular, her town. The CDC site says Columbia, MO, doesn’t have a whit of flu. Jurno knows better; half her friends are misable. They’ve been passing around news about the latest remedy — some cinnamon-honey-goat cheese concoction — from their surfing sessions. Hmmm. She checks the CDC site to find out how it gets its info. Wow. A two-week delay between gathering data on the ground and passing it up the line. Wouldn’t just tracking locations and hits for “flu, flu symptoms, flu remedy, flu shots, etc.” give a better picture?fluchart

Google thought of this, and showed the CDC that this approach would work: for them and for the rest of us potential flu victims. But a real jurno could have. A real jurno would also know that the best way to present all this info would not be in 1,000 words of text, but in an interactive graphic. A real jurno wouldn’t necessarily do it; she’d call upon her two partners: the database guru and the graphics goddess. They’d figure out the map and chart that update automatically; two searchable databases, one to zero in on state flu levels, the other to find places to get flu shots; an RSS feed with flu news; and a link to the CDC. The jurno would dash off a definition of the flu. [All this Google actually did.] A real jurno would also work with the graphics goddess to put together an interactive graphic of how the flu virus invades and multiples in the body. And she’d provide a spot on the flu trends site for people in the community to offer up their home remedies, and have flu experts rate them one to five stars, and explain why they don’t or do work. [Google actually didn’t do this.]

Voila! A Web shell about the flu. And the news runs through it.

The point: Jurnos are Web-savvy adventurous journalists charging into Webworld with trumpets blaring and video-cellphones recording every move. They understand how this medium works and they use all its bells and whistles to serve their communities in the best ways possible.

btw, just since last week, the flu marched into a few more states, heading east from Kentucky and Mississippi. If I were living in Tennessee or North Carolina, I’d be wearing a mask over my mouth, goggles over my eyes, and rolling up my sleeve for a flu shot.

10,000 Jurno Startups…Why Not?

On Friday, a jazzed-up Dave Cohn waxed poetic about the future of journalism. I agree wholeheartedly.  Except with this statement:

What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups. Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and digidavefinancial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times. (The NY Times is part of this game, I’m not making a big/small media divide here, just using them as a standard).

My prediction: It could be that two out of 10,000 may become equivalents to the New York Times. But in this so-very-networked medium, I believe that 10,000 journalism startups can find success and financial security. There doesn’t need to be another New York Times. WestSeattleblog.com is successful and is providing Tracy Record and Patrick Sand with a living. They’ll have to tell you if they define it as financial security. And they’re covering only part of Seattle. MexBizNews isn’t successful yet, according to Diane Lindquist (reporter, editor, chief cook-and-bottle-washer), but it could be. Diane’s got the jurno chops; she just needs guidance in a few areas, such as content management systems, advertising, marketing, search, Web shell development (including user-friendly searchable databases), and community building.

Some of us at the Reynolds Journalism Institute have been batting around the idea of starting a news organization incubator to help people like Diane be successful. This new medium has certain characteristics; if you understand its basic nature and have what you need to make a go of a journalistic enterprise, then you have a much better shot at supporting yourself.

Our main goal: We want to put journalism back in the caring hands of journalists. No matter what the medium.

Friday picks

Newsecon: Newspapers better hope Nick Denton’s wrong on advertising in ’09 — Zachary Seward infriday NiemanJournalismLab. The best part is his review of Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker’s analysis of where online advertising’s going.

A Gavin O’Malley article in Online Media Daily about research by tech firm Attributor: Nearly 60% of views of publishers’ content takes place off their destination sites.

Nichification: HealthCentral Expands Potential Partner List, an Online Media Daily news brief, notable because HealthCentral shows the continuing trend of nichification and networking as it buys TheBody.com, an HIV/AIDS resource/news/info site, and partners with others to develop an ad network.

Social networking: Gannett bought Ripple6, which powers the social networking engine of the Moms sites. RIpple6 also provides social networking for General Mills and Proctor & Gamble, and will soon launch MixingBowl.com for Better Homes & Gardens.

Meebo’s partnering with Hearst Corp. to set up Meebo Rooms in the Stars Style 2008 section of Seventeen.com. This is interesting because the chat rooms are surrounded by videos and other content, part of the continuing move to integrate elements (stories, data, resources, social networking) into one page. A little klutzy, because some of the content takes you to a new page, away from the chat. Also, not much activity in there yet.

Everybody’s getting into social networking, even the Financial Times. They’re setting up a spot on the Alphaville blog for market professionals to discuss the day’s news, says Portfolio.com’s blogger Jeff Berkovici. But how to keep out rumor-mongers? The editors of FT.com will approve the people who want to participate.

Noncitizen journalism: Okay, this is a week old, but that’s my modus operandi these days…catching up. In interviews with NowPublic founders Leonard Brody and Michael Tippitt, Seattle Post Intelligencer’s Brian Chin discovered that they really don’t like the term “citizen journalist”. On NowPublic, they practice “participatory journalism”.

Brody, in fact, is famously quoted in Jeff Howe’s book “Crowdsourcing” as saying that “Citizen journalism makes about as much sense as citizen dentistry.”

“I think that the term ‘citizen journalism’ sounds like you’re a nut or something,” Brody explained. “It’s not particularly engaging. It sounds like work.” It’s also a barrier to participation, he said, “because it doesn’t mean anything. This is about people’s experiences and sharing those.”

NowPublic is a combo — aggregation, commenting, and original news — from folks all over the world. But, to continue the mantra…..Citizen dentistry. Citizen plumbing. Citizen surgery. Citizen pilot. Citizen construction worker. Citizen flight attendant. Yep. I agree.

Magazine madness?

Check out Lesley M. M. Blume’s article in Slate’s The Big Money about Condé Nast pulling back from the Webconde1 by firing many of its staffers from CondéNet, which oversees such sites as epicurious.com and style.com:

What is behind Condé Nast’s bellicose approach to the Web? Other traditional media outlets properly regard the Internet as both destroyer and savior and have gone into overdrive to translate themselves into online brands. By axing its online properties, Condé Nast is revealing its apparent online strategy: looking the other way while Jaws devours the back of your boat.

Magazines, as a whole, are four or five years behind newspapers in their transition to the Web, mainly because advertising is just starting to erode in magazines. Blume points an exception — People (8.7m uniques, 733m page views a month) — but notes how People’s Web traffic still pales in comparison to CNN.com and ESPN.com.

Condé Nast’s move reminds me of the dotcom bust of 2000, when many newspapers pulled back from the Web. (btw, that move spawned, among others, MaxPreps.com, which is taking over high school sports coverage nationwide.) In hindsight, we know that wasn’t the best strategy.

Condé Nast owns some wonderful sites. It remains to be seen what impact the Web layoffs will have. Mansueto Ventures (Fast Company and Inc.) cut its digital division in October, and shifted online responsibilities to the print publications, which is a better solution. Having a centralized digital division that controls the Web sites for individual publications doesn’t work, as Knight Ridder found out.

This transition to Webworld is a challenge made in heaven…for the brave, not the faint of heart; for those who like wobbling along on a tightrope for a few years (e.g., magazines’ online revenues are still tiny — in the low single digits), who like exploring new territory and leading others into it, who tolerate making mistakes, because they know that mistakes provide very useful information.

These folks can’t fathom how erudite people can ignore the massive changes happening around them, and make decisions that are the absolute opposite of what’s in their best long-term interests. For some insight, check out Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. It taught me that the best strategy is to focus on the people and organizations who are willing to learn to ride the big waves, instead of those who are comfortable wading in the shallows.

10-Point Road Map for API execs

Hey-ho! Check out this tidbit from Editor & Publisher:

The American Press Institute (API) will host an invitation-only, closed-door “summit conference” Nov. 13 in which 50 CEO-level executives will ponder ways to revive the newspaper business. The one-day conference at API’s Reston, Va., headquarters will be “a facilitated discussion of concrete steps the industry can take to reverse its declines in revenue, profit and shareholder value.” Former turnaround CEO James B. Shein will lead the discussion.

Shein’s a professor at Northwestern’s business school. I guess the API’s Newspaper Next project hasn’t solved newspapers’ problems as it was supposed to.

Well, there’s a lot of us around who coulda told them that years ago. So, in case any of the 50 news executives attending the secret conference are interested, here’s Jane Stevens’ 10-Point Webcentric News Organization Roadmap to Success:

  1. Merge news and digital. (Some of you STILL haven’t done that. Unbelieveable.)
  2. Publish to Web first, mobile second, print/TV/radio third. Change or ditch the print version.
  3. Focus most of your resources around core “community” issues and what you still own, and make the community the engine that drives the issues, topics and beats. (Most of you have already jettisoned science, international reporting, entertainment, and unwittingly lost prep sports, college sports and professional sports.)
  4. Integrate your local businesses and services into a searchable community marketplace that links to information and stories. (Check out the Lawrence Journal-World’s Marketplace for inspiration.)
  5. All journalists are multimedia journalists. Minimum requirements for this medium: using a Continue reading