Tag Archive: journalism

Jake Batsell, Assistant Professor in the Journalism department at SMU, discussed media convergence and the importance of maintaining a presence in, or on, various media, including social media, at the January meeting of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Chapter of the RCC on January 26. He is also faculty adviser for the student media websites, combined at smudailycampus.com, including the SMU Daily Mustang, a multi-platform news site produced by journalism students, and SMU-TV. Entitled “Media Outreach During Turbulent Times for the News Business,” Batsell’s presentation included results of the longitudinal study of media convergence that he, his colleagues, and students have been conducting.

They began the  study by asking a central research question: To what extent has convergence journalism taken hold in U.S. newsrooms over the past decade, and to what extent have these cross-platform partnerships endured? Newspaper and TV managers in the top 200 U.S. media markets were surveyed in 2002-‘03 (Phase 1), 2004-‘05 (Phase 2), and again in 2011 (Phase 3). Batsell and his colleagues are currently studying the results of phase 3. The results indicate challenges and opportunities for media outreach.

“The bad news is that traditional newsrooms are short-staffed, making cultivating relationships with reporters difficult. When you do interact with reporters, they’ll have less time to absorb your story than they used to.”

The good news, particularly for religion communicators, is that there are more non-traditional ways to get the message out. “Press releases that used to be ignored now might spark a blog post, which can be amplified through social media.” Suggested links to background information during an interview are likely to be included in the story. Alternate media outlets are plentiful, such as NeighborsGo and DallasSouthNews, as well as Pegasus News and Advocate Magazine, in the Dallas area.

Current results of the study show that news managers are focusing on developing interactive relationships with readers and viewers, primarily through social media. Which includes multimedia (both staff-generated and user-generated), news as conversation (blogs, comments, live chats, etc.), and engagement via social media platforms. “Today, news is a two way conversation” between newsrooms of all media and their readers. As religion communicators, we need to join the conversation. In an online world of “likes”, links, blogs, comments, and re-sending articles, and posts, good content and internet interaction are key to delivering our message to more people.

Peace be with you.

Will journalism survive the digital age? If it does, what will it look like? Will it be profitable or subsidized? These were the questions discussed by the panel that included David Sedeno, editor of The Texas Catholic/El Catolico de Texas, Sam Hodges, managing editor of the United Methodist Reporter (UMR), and Jeff Weiss, reporter (and past religion writer) for the Dallas Morning News (DMN). The journalists were speaking to members of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) at their October meeting, held at Christ United Methodist Church, Farmers Branch.

Moderating the informal discussion was Cherrie Graham, Chapter President and advertising manager at UMR. “Looking at the first question, Will journalism survive? Well, it has to, it doesn’t have any other choice.” The question is not will it survive, but how will it survive?”

During his response to the question, David Sedeno discussed the elements for successful publications in today’s media environment. “Let’s not give up on printed product yet, in terms of niche [religion] publications. The four things I look at [for success of print publications] are content – not content as content, it has to be relevant. So the second thing is relevance. The third, obviously, is technology. You have to take a look at the capabilities you have to extend your reach. The third, and probably the most important one, is partnerships.” Sedeno went on to explore the avenues of partnership.

Media applications on tablets are partnerships, using advertising from both sources to affect the financial outcome. In 2001, DMN entered into a partnership with a website in Mexico that wanted their content to translate into Spanish. Which illustrates not only a partnership, but content that is relevant to readership. Sedeno added that while he does not think that paper products will come to an end, “tablets are certainly taking a big bite out of everything.” Tablets are portable and you can take them places you couldn’t take a laptop. In addition, the applications open up new avenues of revenue. But it all goes back to content that is relevant, and partnerships.

Jeff Weiss, “the only one [of the three panelists] still employed by the Dallas Morning News,” began by saying that when he woke up that morning, “it was cold and wet.” “I picked up my iPad…and opened the e-edition of DMN and it looks exactly like the print version. And that’s how I have increasingly read the newspaper. I’ve been comfortable with the title ‘content producer’ long before some of my colleagues were. Because that’s what I do – I generate content.” Addressing the religion communicators directly, Weiss stated that with fewer and fewer people and less and less money, mainstream media has a smaller and smaller stream of what they can cover. “Which makes what religion publications do so much more important to their target audiences and people who want to get the word out for them.”

In response to the question – how will journalism be paid for – Weiss stated that he does not know “where we (Dallas Morning News) will be in five years time.” The newspaper continually has less people and less content while asking people to pay more for it. “At a certain point, we can no longer be producing enough content that people will be willing to pay to read it.”

“Are we there yet?” Weiss asked. “I don’t think we are. Even in its diminished form the Dallas Morning News is still producing way more general content than anybody else in the area. And there is still an audience for that. And as a business proposition, we have more advertising dollars than anyone else in the area. So advertisers are going to be willing to pay for that as long as they see results.” While he is fairly certain that he could make a decent living writing for online publications and websites, he would not receive the benefits that he does with DMN.

“I think the larger truth, that David was speaking to, and Jeff, too, is the decline of mass media and an era of fragmentation,” said Sam Hodges. “It’s a wild frontier out there. And I think journalistically there are advantages to having fewer gate-keepers, and some real disadvantages. I think the question mark is the economic model. What underwrites professional journalism, the gathering of news, analysis, etc.?

The world is becoming flat and also fragmented at the same time. You can communicate instantly with anybody in the world and yet we all seem to be in our little villages at the same time. If you are passionately interested about [a particular subject] there is something on the web that will satisfy you. Journalism might be part of a bigger shift in American life that disadvantages the middle class.

Because, it seems to me, that we had an era where what went away were pension plans. What you got next were 401K plans, and then, suddenly, employers weren’t contributing to 401K plans anymore. And now I think phase three is that salaried, benefitted jobs, especially in journalism, are going to continue to decline. You’ll have people working as freelance writers or maybe on contract and they’re responsible for their own benefits and vacation pay.”

While the discussion was lively and informative, there were few clear answers. Religion and niche publications have a more secure future than mainstream media, but what form that future may take is still an unknown factor. The emphasis, however, will be on adjusting focus to attract succeeding generations in a changing world, such as The Texas Catholic’s Texas Catholic Football publication to engage the younger generation. As well as broadening the options available, like UMR, with advertising partners and printing services. But the future of journalism will still depend on what has kept it alive and vibrant for years. Content, relevance of that content, technology, and partnerships.

Peace be with you.

September Meeting

The Future of Journalism will be the subject of the October  meeting of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC), an interfaith organization. The presentation will be a panel discussion with panelists including Sam Hodges, managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter, David Sedeño, editor of the Texas Catholic / El Católico de Texas, and Jeff Weiss, long-time reporter and religion writer for the Dallas Morning News. Also invited is Jake Batsell, assistant professor for digital journalism at SMU. Providing additional input (although a schedule conflict precludes his attendance) is Ken Camp, managing editor of The Baptist Standard.

Questions to be considered include:

Will journalism will survive the digital age? If so, what will it look like or in what form?

How will journalism be paid for? Is it possible to make a profit or will it be a non-profit or subsidized “public good”?

Will the news be good? Why?

The meeting will be held at Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. The $15 fee will include lunch. Please email or call Deb Christian, RCC Secretary, at dchristian@umr.org, 214.630.6495 x147 by Monday, Oct. 24 to make reservations. Bring your own thoughts and answers to these timely, pertinent questions.

I will be the host for the meeting. The discussions are always lively and informative with timely, relevant topics. This particular topic is of major concern to communicators, journalists, and writers as we look forward to the future with technological advances, social media, blogs, news feeds, etc.

Peace be with you.

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