September 27, 2010 § 1 Comment
Today, Google turns 12 years old.
In addition to being the world’s leading search engine (everywhere except China where it’s second to Baidu), Google has come to shape the very way Internet users navigate and utilize the web with a wide array of useful and, more often than not, free products.
In conjunction with its birthday, Google unleashed Google Instant, a live search function that’s more cool than shocking in terms of changing the way users search online (it didn’t). And Google is becoming a force to be reckoned with outside the confines of the Web, competing on the phone market with its highly popular Android operating system for smartphones, as well as the newly launched Google Voice, which is set to compete with Skype as well as traditional landlines.
Google’s web shadow is monstrous, yes, but what exactly does it have to do with journalism? Well, just about everything.
For starters there’s Google News, the popular news aggregator that had that pesky run-in with the Associated Press, and Google’s ongoing partnership with China, which brought up a censorship debate over the country’s use of a search-limited Google.
So it’s no secret that Google plays a large role in the dissemination and access of information on the Web, which in turn plays a part in the general dissemination of news. And more recently, the ‘killing’ of traditional news as it shifts from print and television to the web…but perhaps we’ve been looking at it all wrong.
Back in June, James Fallows of the Atlantic wrote a piece entitled “How To Save the News,” providing readers with an inside look at Google’s attempt to save journalism by coming up with an alternate business model.
Among Google’s suggestions for the drowning industry? Cutting newsprint, bundling news online, rebuilding display ads, designing a paywall, and basically transforming the way people digest news by linking directly to youtube videos and breaking up text.
All in all, it’s an interesting take on the biz from a group that’s poised to kill it.
September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
While the 2:14 video didn’t divulge much in terms of details, it pressed on a topic that was near and dear to my journalistic heart: science reporting.
Peter Lewis, a Knight fellow, former New York Times tech writer, and proud maker of the nytimes.com domain name, is working on building a model that creates a generation of science journalists ready to report in-depth on a plethora of technology, health, and environmental issues.
Lewis, who had originally to set out to find an alternate business model for the sagging journalism industry, has since shifted his focus away from “reinventing the wheel” to finding a way to “revive the idea of robust science journalism with a focus on the environment.”
In a world where technology dictates every facet of our lives and climate change is a household word, it’s hard to believe that science journalism wouldn’t be catching on like fire.
“It turns out that science journalism is one of the most endangered species in an overall industry that’s in turmoil right now,” Lewis said of the need for knowledgeable science reporters.
One of my many far-reaching journalistic aspirations is to be a science reporter that specializes in the environment (this is supposed to happen somewhere in between being an international correspondent and an investigative reporter).
All too often I see science journalism abstracted into ideological debates that are unfounded in the roots of the scientific inquiry. At the same time, I’ll be the first to admit that I am unqualified to become a science reporter.
In the minds of many, science journalism still remains a niche field, relegated to specialty magazines like Wired.com for the tech-geek, or Popular Science for the general geek. In its purest form, science journalism becomes too unsavory and too dry and technical for the average reader to comprehend.
“It doesn’t relate to me” is a general complaint I hear from people in relation to why the Science Times section ends up in the wastebasket.
But in my experience, science is about as human as it gets. Nothing has a greater ability to link us to one another than a story about DNA and evolution. Nothing is more distressing to read than a large-scale community ravaged by natural disaster. And few things are more frustrating to read about than humanity fouling its own nest.
September 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
Let me start off my saying that I know almost absolutely nothing about sports.
I know enough to get by, but rarely will you ever find me watching a game on television. In the rare instance that you ever do, there will probably be a very short time interval between when I feign interest to when my eyes begin to glaze over.
It’s not that I hate sports, it’s just a matter of sticking to what you know. Which is exactly why I found myself thoroughly surprised and delighted when sports writer Jon Pessah came to speak in one of my journalism classes.
[To be fair though, he spoke specifically about sports journalism and anyone who knows me knows that I can listen to just about anything in the context of journalism.]
Formerly of the Washington Star, the Hartford Courant, and Newsday, Pessah’s experience with covering sports has given him a front row seat to both the changing industry of journalism as well as the domination of sports coverage by ESPN, the sports equivalent of 24-hour cable news networks like CNN.
And just like CNN, ESPN is subject to scrutiny when it comes journalistic integrity.
ESPN, which was brought to life as a father-son collaboration by NBC-affiliate sports writer Bill Rasmussen in 1979, was initially conceived as an outlet to provide additional sports coverage in Connecticut. It wasn’t until the marketing genius of VP John Walsh and the miracle of Sunday Night Football that ESPN began to draw the following that it has now.
Since then it has hired a host of retired athletes and talking heads to serve as anchors and commentators and dictated the shift of sports reporting to a primarily entertainment-based genre.
So what’s the big deal if sports reporting panders to the more profitable elements of the entertainment industry instead of straight news?
Well, it’s all in the numbers.
For instance, I had always written off steroid scandals, chalking them up as a fact of athletic life that some athletes use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. From baseball to biking, it didn’t really faze me.
However, Pessah pointed out that the way the government treats sports steroid cases is different than the way it treats any other controlled substance by targeting athletes instead of distributors. And when you start realizing that an illegal substance is intrinsically tied to a multibillion dollar business, steroids becomes no laughing matter.
According to Pessah, the use of steroids, along with the fact that billions of tax payers’ dollars have gone on to build stadiums instead of rebuilding communities, are some of the issues that sports reporting no longer addresses. The investigative elements of sports journalism have seemingly fallen to the wayside.
Pessah was asked by a student whether or not he thought the demand for hard-hitting sports journalism existed. He retorted by asking whether or not young reporters going into sports journalism will be willing to avoid the financial temptations of the easy route of entertainment sports.
Industry giants like the MLB and NFL, which keep a tight lid on access to its athletes and information, are another deterrent to hard-hitting sports journalism.
While I have no idea what lies ahead for the state of sports journalism, I’ve never been more interested in sports journalism than I am now.