Thursday, January 11, 2007

For our reading pleasure

Take a gander at this somewhat extreme column from Poynter.

I don't agree with it all. But it aims at the heart of what I'm trying to write about here.

Money quote:

"What we have become are journalists trying to keep things stable. We are trying to survive in the world we've known for another five, 10, 15 years. What you hear in conversations are: "I'm trying to hold out till the next buyout" or "I'm trying to make it to retirement." These are not people facing challenges bravely, but rather people in hiding, hoping to be passed over, undiscovered, until they can make their way safely out of town."

Monday, January 8, 2007

Attempt at a manifesto

Part two

In my last post, I sketched the changing media landscape. Allow me to summarize.

1.) More information is available now than ever before. This is a good thing for consumers of information.

2.) This abundant and free information poses a problem for the traditional news media. This has led to upheaval.

3.) Desk editors are uniquely positioned in newsrooms to deal with this new reality. We edit a wide array of stories, summarize them in pithy ways and concern ourselves with reader response.

What does this all mean?

We, as editors, can take a leading role in leading our newspapers into the future. We spend most of our workdays online anyway. We check facts. We see what other news sources do. We browse websites.

So we shouldn't be afraid of these changes. We should embrace them and learn about them. Write a blog. Record a podcast. Socially network. Make these things work for you. Make these things work for you newspaper.

Ultimately, we must accept change in our jobs. I wrote about this in the last post as well. Most of us are no longer solely copy editors -- we're editors, with the responsibility the title implies. And we will take on more roles as newsrooms acclimate to the web.

We should welcome these roles. And we should ask for more.

Make no mistake: The future of the news media is not about offering less. It's about doing more and doing it better. Abundant folks online offer free commentary and news collection. We have to coexist with them -- and we won't do it by shutting ourselves off in the windowless rooms of the past. We have to stay open and curious. We shouldn't be afraid to try. We shouldn't be afraid to fail.

Jobs will go, yes. But jobs will also be created. Positions in a new media universe will exist. And if newspapers can't employ all the people they used to, we shouldn't take that as a signal of the world's end. We should simply keep doing what we do, whenever and wherever and however we can. Reporting. Editing. Analyzing. Afflicting the comfortable and all that jazz.

Consumers want their news. We know how to give it to them. Let's do it.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Attempt at a manifesto

Part one

The news media are changing. No surprise there, at least not to anyone who has followed it in the last -- oh -- decade.

For readers, the changes have meant access to a broader array of information, opinion and entertainment than ever before. In other words, the changes have been a good thing. And don't tell me it means readers need more time to sort through websites than to go through a paper. That's poppycock. It takes awhile to find favorites, true, but once you have the addresses bookmarked, web browsing zips along.

For folks who create the news media, these changes have caused problems. Notably, the economic infrastructure that kept newspapers in the black (quite far in the black in many cases) has crumbled as ad dollars migrate to the web. The same problem, to varying degrees, has hit magazines and television. Meanwhile, news websites have made money, but not as much money as their print brethren.

The web has also made reporters of everyone. Websites, blogs, video journals, etc. have sprayed from the populace like water from a geyser. Everyone has a little printing press sitting on his or her desk, and in most cases that printing press is steaming away.

Whither the news media?

Well, jobs have gone. Newspapers have cut costs to look more economically viable. As the amount of information online has swelled, many news outlets offer less. The physical paper, in many cases, has shrunk. And newsrooms still react to the web cautiously, as though it is a threat and not the future.

So here we are. I've written six paragraphs and have yet to mention copy editing. My first job out of college was copy editing. That's what I trained to do. That's what this blog -- originally named Copy Massage -- was meant to cover. What do all of these changes have to do with our corner of the newsroom?

Like the media as a whole, copy editing is changing. Some of us may still be able to spend eight hours a day wrangling commas and debating the finer points of usage. But most of us, I expect, now do far more. Some of us design pages. Some of us post stories to the paper's website. Some of us provide first reads to late-breaking stories. Some of us write occasional stories.

In a broader sense, many copy editors have already been absorbed in the new world. Some of us read blogs. Some of us write them. Some of us post on message boards. Some of us, doubtless, film our own goofy videos and post them on Youtube.

In other words, for most of us, "copy editor" covers only a sliver of what we do and who we are. We are, instead, simply editors. We take content and assemble it for public view.

Our job in no way requires physical paper. Our job, in fact, is uniquely suited to deal with the changing media world. Editors have a range of knowledge and experience that allows us to quickly sort through content, saving the good and axing the bad. Information is -- and has always been -- our business.

(In part two, perhaps I'll reach some conclusion about what this all means.)

Monday, January 1, 2007

Blog evolves

Copy Massage is dead. Long live Copy Massage.

Well, the address of the blog is still But that will change. The blog has become Editor Evolved, for reasons I hope to make clear soon.

All past posts will remain. Why not? The name has changed, but this blog has increasingly concerned itself with a wider media world. I ramble, though.

Welcome to Editor Evolve.