Tuesday, February 03, 2009

ONA Proves Journalism Has a Future

NASHVILLE-- I realize several days have passed since the Online News Association workshop. But, there's nothing like a head cold to re-order your priorities.

Now that the virus appears to be breaking and I'm not nearly as congested as I was in the hours following the workshop, I can more clearly see the impact of the workshop on what we're teaching students and what's happening in the industry.

First off, it's clear the Journalism DOES Have a Future. But, it's not just because there's the Internet. We have a more sophisticated answer, a fine-tuned vision of that future because of this workshop.

And, what better place for that vision to come into focus that The Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center, which found itself in the Nashville area headlines Friday. A story involving a local judge and some faked invitations made for interesting side story from our gathering.

I think there are five lessons I learned from the workshop:

1) There's a right way and wrong way to blog

I've got to say-- ONA may have saved the best for last. Full disclosure: I missed the keynote speaker, Janet Coats, due to a mid-day conference call. But, I have to say the last workshop of the day on bloggers and journalism was the BEST of the day. Put Tammi Marcoullier and Rex Hammock on a panel together and you have a great combination. It was a pleasure to met the founder of Hammock, Inc. and hear from a blogger from WKRN-TV. Previously, I've always thought of WKRN-Channel 2, the Young Broadcasting Station in Nashville as a distant number-three behind WSMV-4 and WTVF NewsChannel 5. But, listening to BLogger Christian Grantham from the WKRN blog, Nashville is talking, , I have a different impression.

My favorite term of the day-- bloggers are "curators" of the news. I will review my online notes from this session and even change the way I teach my students to blog.

2) Re-purposing video is not just a possibility, but an expectation

Here at University of Alabama, we've operated from the position that most newspaper newsrooms are not investing in high-end video editing software. But, after attending Val Hoeppner's session at the workshop, I'm having to re-think that particular idea. Her three categories of video were a part of my lecture on video editing in class THIS WEEK. But, I have to admit I had not considered talking much about Avid until hearing her story on what's happening at IndyStar.com and lots of other Gannett Information Centers (as they're now called)

3) Building an online audience is just as important as being online

If there's one thing I will remember it is the idea that when we post online, we're not just doing it for ourselves, we are doing for an audience who we hope will come back. Tammi Marcoullier's session on link journalism gave me some ideas for how to augment both my home page and my blog site. But, most of all, she emphasized the importance of Publish 2 tool in allowing you to speak to multiple audiences at once.
As I've picked up more followers at these various gatherings I've attended, I want to give them a reason to continue following me.

4) Taking Twitter seriously is a skill

Along the same lines as Number 3 is the idea that being in Twitter is more than just sending Tweets. It's got to be a conversation. I have to admit I have not used my tweets to do much more than one-way communication. So I'm under-utilizing this online resource. Perhaps some of my Twitter followers will want to comment (respond) to this item.

Speaking of followers, Anniston Star Online Director Justin Thurman's tweet last month was what made me decide to re-up with ONA and come to the Nashville workshop. Thanks Justin!

A big plus of making the trip for gatherings like this is finding out what online editors and web directors like Justin are doing day-to-day. Even though Justin and I work together through UA's Knight Fellows in Community Journalism, we're on opposite sides of the state (a 2-hour drive apart). So Nashville was a meet-up for us.
Checkout the candid shot of J.T. on his cell phone.

5) ONA is cool

I've been a member of the Online News Association before, but never attended one event. Having recently renewed my membership, this $25 workshop was a GREAT value for the money. The speakers/facilitators were well-informed in their area and I walked away with tips that I could immediately put to use. Other journalism organizations to which I belong could learn a lot from ONA about how to put on a workshop that have a maximum "take-away" value.

Speaking of other journalism organizations, I can't forget my encounter with Former Society of Professional Journalists National President Mac McKerral, who is on faculty at Western Kentucky University. Before heading back the icy roads of the Bluegrass, Mac took a quick shot with me.

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