Monday, February 23, 2009

The gap between young and old

Posted by Craig on 2/23/2009
I attended the "Chicago Journalism Town Hall" today at Hotel Allegro downtown.

An esteemed panel of professionals from outlets such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chi-Town Daily News, Huffington Post, Gaper's Block, CLTV, WTTW, and NBC were there, as well as professors and experts in digital media.

The crowd of 400+ (expected attendance about 50-100 originally according to organizer/moderator Ken Davis) included journalists, students, bloggers, publishers, advertisers, and public relations professionals. It was a great meeting of the minds to discuss the shift from traditional journalism to online and how to save local journalism.

A topic such as this, in the current economic climate, can be highly sensitive. It was. Emotions got the best of people at times, and conversation really heated up in the third and final hour of the discussion. Some people said things they later regretted and some people went really over the top.

One thing was more apparent than anything else. One thing. It was glaringly obvious.

The gap between the young and the old. The new media, Web-savvy folks and the old-school journalist folks.

This is not meant to be an insult to the professionals there I classify "old-school" and traditionalists, many of them understand the Web well enough to get by, but they simply don't "get" it. And the young people did.

Andrew Huff of Gaper's Block, Ben Goldenberg of Huffington Post, Geoff Dougherty of Chi-Town Daily News -- they all get it. They see where the industry is going. They see where the opportunities are. They've all plugged in those holes with innovative ideas which will likely be a major part of the future of this industry.

Hearing some of the "old-school" folks talk about the need to fund this, or the need to fund that, I just shook my head. No one CARES about much of the content they were talking about! Start writing with young people in mind, the future of your organizations. Start channeling your content to areas most in need, write stories that people are most interested in reading - please.

And do your homework when it comes to the opportunities that online offers. Understand there are ways to monetize the Web. There are huge opportunities out there. And micro-payments, while a good idea in theory, may not be the best way to do it. What are some alternatives? One person at the event, Kiyoshi Martinez, put up this blog afterward on ideas he has to generate revenue on the Web. Some solid ideas.

The saddest part is how tight some of the old-school journalists were clinging on to the past. They showed no interest in even having a dialogue about change. They were so wrapped up in their own ways. Attitudes like that will get the industry nowhere.

It's time to be innovative, to pull out all the stops, to try new things. Because there's no question anymore where the future lies. And that's the Web.

4 comments on "The gap between young and old"

Eric Zorn on February 23, 2009 at 11:37 AM said...

I disagree that the "old school" people aren't listening to ideas about change. The entire theme of the discussion was not "we won't change" but "how should we -- chicago journalists -- change to adapt to the undeniable new realities. I think it's an urgent question and one that needs to be tackled with some specificity. TO say that Andrew and Ben and Geoff "get it" doesn't really help, as they each rely heavily on either volunteer or foundation money, which I dont' think is the basis for robust journalism.
Eric Zorn

Craig on February 23, 2009 at 2:21 PM said...

Eric, thanks for your comment. It was just an observation I made as a student. I'm not necessarily including you in the bunch of "old school" journalists because you have embraced new media with your blog, use of Twitter, etc. SOME people on the panel simply came across in the wrong way, and I wasn't the only student to note this - chatted with others about it afterward.

Now you have a point on monetization perhaps, but as Sachin Agarwal of Dawdle and Brad Flora of Windy Citizen said, there is too much "crap" on some major newspaper sites that needs to go if publications would like to survive. That's some of the stuff I'm talking about - material that is not of interest to enough readers.

Frank on February 23, 2009 at 2:40 PM said...

I'm not sure that the non-profit model has been discredited or isn't viable. In a very short time, the Chi-Town Daily News has made huge strides with both volunteer based and professional coverage and developed relationships with foundations, major donors, small donors, and local businesses. The problem that a few folks mentioned, but wasn't fully discussed is that behemoth corporations such as STNG or the Tribune company are no longer focused on producing useful news. They've been squeezing the life out of the newsroom for a while and been unwilling to adjust to a rapidly shifting information environment. It sucks for the journalists, but their platforms are not going to be there for long, and its time to build alternatives or get on board with some that are developing. The upside is that this is a fantastic opportunity to renew the public service and watchdog responsibilities of the news media.

Craig on February 23, 2009 at 11:25 PM said...

Agree with you 100% Frank. Thanks for linking to my blog, by the way on Chi-Town Daily News. You guys are doing such great work, keep it up! If I had more time, I'd love to contribute again but things are hectic.


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