Posts Tagged ‘business’


Passion in uncertainty

The need to seek truth and report it is more important than ever. If you want to do it, pursue it. (Photo: Pixabay/CC)

This past week, a column appeared in the Business section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, encouraging students to find a vocation that they would find themselves useful in, instead of following their passion.

The observations of columnist Lee Schafer, intertwined with a conversation with a career counselor at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, argues that finding a job that one will be useful in should be prioritized over doing something that will make one happy.

“Vocation may sound a little like a life of toil for little pay, but it is a very useful idea when approaching a decision on any kind of work,” Schafer wrote. “All it really means is work that is worthy of respect and with a reward that is bigger than just a paycheck. Passion for your work sounds great, but by now it is pretty clear people have a tough time figuring out what will make them happy. It is a lot easier to figure out what will make them feel useful.”

While Schafer’s piece raises some interesting points, including the need for conversations about what it means to work, I disagree with its core thesis – finding a vocation for a vocation’s sake, instead of following your passion and finding something that makes one happy.

My disagreement derives from the story that led me to pursue work in what are uneasy times for the industry. If I hadn’t stumbled upon to the BBC World Service through public radio one night in March 2009 as I suffered from insomnia, it is likely that I would be doing something else – though I suspect I would have no idea what it was. I was encouraged to follow this passion I had for journalism despite the uncertainty.

We all have stories that led us to decide to pursue work in this industry. Journalism is a calling, and the need to inform, engage and educate people about the events of the time, as well as holding those in power to account still is a necessity.

However, I’m not naive to suggest that things are perfect in this industry. Yes, times are hard for journalism, and yes, prospects, especially for early career journalists like myself, are uncertain – as we debate future business models as well as how to maintain trust with audiences, especially in the digital age. At the end of the year, the questions are still present, as well as the uneasiness that comes with not knowing what is next.

When my mom on one occasion saw that the thought of these uncertainties was a bit much for me, and I was ready to give up, she asked what I would do if I did. I didn’t know, as I found what I had wanted to do in the first place. Perhaps the pros of finding your passion can outweigh the cons.

Fred Rogers famously said that life is for service, and as life is for service, then certainly one of the best professions to have in life is a role in journalism.

Last week, I resolved for journalism to keep itself honest in 2018. I’ll resolve for one more thing – if you have a desire to work in journalism, pursue it. Have conversations with people, be it in your local media, across the country or around the world, and, to quote my mom once more – keep going.

It may not be easy, but it’s better to pursue what you’re passionate about and what makes you happy, instead of finding something for the sake of it. Besides, we’ll be a better industry because of your work in helping us do what we set out to do – seek truth and report it.

Happy New Year.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

A need to champion

Helen Thomas, one of the first women members of the White House press corps, as seen during a 1976 news conference with President Gerald Ford. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko/LOC/Wikimedia Commons/CC license)

This is something I’ll freely own up to. I am a subscriber to The Cohort, the newsletter from the Poynter Institute curated by Katie Hawkins-Gaar. The newsletter aims to celebrate and promote women kicking ass in digital media. I read it not because of its look at the impact of journalism in the digital age, but to serve as a reminder for me about the challenges that are abound, and how I can help avert those challenges.

Today is International Day of the Girl. The UN declared October 11th to be that day five years ago in order to celebrate the importance of women and girls and to advance their opportunities.

Though industries beyond this one struggle with how to promote women, there is a special case with journalism. In this age where clicks versus authenticity is a daily debate, where news of layoffs are a daily occurrence and the blunt, excessive criticism of President Trump and his administration with the words fake news, it is essential that we champion our colleagues who work to help the public be at their best – especially women.

Yet, at the same time, it is more than that. As more women are studying journalism in still a male-dominated industry, there is still work to be done – from giving them opportunities and championing their voices in our newsrooms to defending them amidst attacks on social media because of who they are.

That case is evident with Laura Kuenssberg, the British political journalist who has been subjected to abuse online and who reportedly had to be accompanied by a security guard during a major political party conference. It is also evident with Jourdan Rodrigue, a sports reporter with the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, who was the subject of a joke by Charlotte Panthers player Cam Newton. Newton has since apologized for the remark, but Scott Fowler, Rodrigue’s colleague, wrote that it was inexcusable.

Collaboration in journalism is more important than competition. It is necessary for us to survive – a point emphasized at the Online News Association’s conference last week in Washington.

As it is necessary for us to survive, it is important that we champion all those who work to help the public do what is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics – seek truth and report it.

We need people like Hawkins-Gaar, Rodrigue and Kuenssberg. We are a better industry because of people like Lauren Gustus at the Fort-Worth Star Telegram and Tory Starr at WGBH in Boston. We know journalism’s future is bright because of the work of people like SPJ president Rebecca Baker, the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Sarah Bauer Jackson, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (and SPJ Minnesota president) Jenna Ross, Andrea Swensson at The Current at Minnesota Public Radio, and freelance journalist (and SPJ International Community co-chair) Elle Toussi.

If I am limited to giving only one reason for why being a feminist is important, let it be this. To borrow The Cohort’s quote, women kick ass in journalism, and are needed in journalism, period. They inspire me to do what I can for this field. I’m proud to work with them, and I value what they do.

After all, when journalism is at its best, by evolving everyone, irrespective of race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation, the public is too.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Committee, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social balance

Social media platforms are in a delicate balance when it comes to platforms and engaging users. (Photo: Visual Content/Flickr via Creative Commons)

In the world of social media, content is king, and for journalists, social media has allowed for new ways to not just inform audiences, but also to engage them – creating new dimensions in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Yet, while there are benefits for journalists and news organizations in this relationship with social media, there also are questions as to the right balance – informing users versus attracting them.

For social media platforms, it is the matter of designing the right platform to curate these stories, and the algorithm that distributes them to users. This includes the most notable, Facebook, who has rolled out updates on stories and photos in an attempt to compete with Snapchat, which has been a notable app because of its ability to engage younger audiences.

For news organizations, it is the matter of staying true to the goals at the core of journalism – informing, engaging and stimulating, while trying not to be too content heavy, leading to people unfollowing them on Twitter or unliking them on Facebook.

It all comes down to the question both social networks and news organizations are facing: “How much is too much?”

As the right way to handle this is debated and put forward, and strategies are tweaked, there must be the consideration of the people who will ultimately be at the receiving end of these strategies – the audience.

When writing about the changes for Facebook, Casey Newton, an editor for the technology news web site The Verge, included a section in his story on the social network’s introduction of Stories, and wider implications.

Among them is this:

“Where should you post your daily story now becomes a daily concern for a certain subset of youngish, social media-savvy people,” Newton wrote. “Facebook says stories belong everywhere that people are talking online, but what if the format is a fad? And what if forcing it on users across its entire family of app leads to a general fatigue with the idea? The company says each of its apps has a distinctive audience, and I believe it. But there’s also plenty of overlap. There’s a risk here that Facebook’s mania for stories will be interpreted as overkill by its users, and the feature will ultimately fade into the background. (This happened with live video!)”

In other words, on the whole, its the delicate balance that social platforms like Facebook have to play in order to attract users but also try not to put them off. Because of the importance of the content, be it a photo or video based story on Instagram, going live on Facebook, or creating a Moment on Twitter, social networks are trying to be distinct in how they can get the most audiences possible – for content can support a platform’s future.

A new platform or new feature brings the potential for more users on the social network, and the opportunity for news organizations to increase their audience on that particular platform. That opportunity also raises the question of prioritizing stories, and what platform gets to be the lucky recipient of the story.

But considerations must be made for why the story is there on that social network in the first place. Are you posting a story on Facebook because people really need to know about it, or are you putting up on Snapchat a customized dancing cat video merely designed to expand your reach and the number of eyeballs on the post?

It is important that audiences are informed and engaged by journalists about the world around them – it is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics’ steadfast value – seek truth and report it. It is also important that social media plays a role in informing and engaging audiences, as it is a reflection of the change in platforms where the news is curated and disseminated.

Yet, when all is said and done, both parties need to consider what is best for their audiences, instead of the opportunity to boost audience figures. After all, it isn’t about quantity, but quality, and that an accurate, fair and quality piece of work benefits everyone – instead of something rushed.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The need for journalism

Last night, John Oliver used humor to make a point about the future of this industry.

A portion of his HBO program Last Week Tonight was devoted to a look at journalism, and the future of newspapers, amidst the decline of advertising revenue. In a near 20 minute segment, Oliver examined the case for journalism, through a monologue and a satirical skit of the film Spotlight, and how the direction of newspapers and other aspects of the industry will dictate how journalism is conducted moving forward.

Yet, his quote towards the end before the filmed skit resonated the biggest challenge for journalism yet, and what will happen to the industry down the road if nothing is done about it.

“Sooner or later, we are either going to have to pay for journalism or we are all going to pay for it,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s monologue about paying for journalism reflects a generational divide, a generation accustomed to paying for news through newspapers versus a generation, through the internet and social media, accustomed to getting content for free, and reluctant to pay for it, exacerbated in this social media age.

I am a part of that latter generation. I am a 24 year old who has access to an abundance of information no matter the circumstance — anytime, anywhere, all for the low, low price of $0.00.

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

Yet, compared to my peers, I am willing to invest in that content. Every day, a newspaper arrives at my house — The Wall Street Journal Monday through Saturday, and the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. But on the same token, I also look at sites that are either paywalled or have their content for free — from The Guardian to The New York Times, the BBC to Reuters and NPR, and periodically — The New Yorker. I also will find content linked either from Twitter or Facebook. I also have a digital subscription to the Journal that ties in with the newspaper subscription.

I read to stay informed of the world around me and to keep up with trends — I read the Journal, the Guardian and others because an informed and educated public is beneficial for our society, and for democracy, something journalism can give. It is something that I am not afraid to pay for.

Those in this industry enter it and seek work in it because we believe in the fundamental principles for which it is associated. We subscribe to its ideas and its values align with our own. We believe in the cause for an informed public and an enhanced civil discourse — that those in power must be held to account, that the work we do together can do the most good.

I believe in the role journalism has in our world, and the role information and education can have in making the lives of others better. I can’t imagine a circumstance where the world is bereft of journalism, which is why its worth supporting and paying for.

It is important for all of us to invest in journalism, for your investment now will result in a significant investment down the road, in the education and knowledge that comes from the pages, in print and online, about your world and your life. That alone has more benefits than seeing a video of a raccoon cat time and time again.

So, subscribe to journalism. Support my friends and colleagues who believe in making the world better, and invest in democracy. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Journalism by Facebook

Journalism was a key component of Facebook's growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

Journalism was a key component of Facebook’s growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

The New York Times today published an interesting collection of pieces in its Room for Debate series on if Facebook is saving journalism or ruining it. The series of pieces comes amid accusations last week that the social network was suppressing content supportive of Conservative policies and ideas, and the release of documents giving guidance to editors on trending topics.

Since Facebook launched over a decade ago, it has significantly influenced how we communicate with each other, and ultimately, how news organizations communicate with audiences. Its relationship with journalism has evolved, from the fan page encouraging interaction, to recent new features including Instant Articles, where content from publishers is hosted on the social network itself, and Facebook Live, where any news organization in the world can broadcast a Q&A or do live reporting, all with the touch of a button.

As Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica wrote, Facebook’s role with some media companies became symbiotic, and the social network “could save both mainstream and alternative journalism.”

It was clear that journalism was essential for Facebook’s growth, and Facebook was essential for journalism to engage and evolve in the digital age. Yet, as the relationship evolved, it signified a wider change in the business of social media, as well as journalism. It became a mutual relationship, and though Twitter and Snapchat would later play prominent roles in social journalism, Facebook would still be at the helm of that change.

However, in spite of its advances, the relationship has its share of issues, particularly on the subject of its algorithm. More work needs to be done to address that relationship, and more accountability, as Robyn Caplan of the Data Society argued in her piece, needs to happen. Indeed, as I wrote here last week, Facebook and other sites should hire public editors, in the aim to improve the relationship with platforms and the public, as well as the relationship between social media and journalism.

There are also more complications, particularly when the social network looks to announce changes. As Catherine Squires of the University of Minnesota wrote in her piece, Facebook’s focus ultimately is on the advertisers and other entities that make it run, and when privacy settings are changed and the news feed itself is changed, that becomes prevalent.

“People who are shocked that Facebook might be skewing their newsfeed probably shouldn’t have trusted them with their news diet in the first place, given its history,” Squires wrote. “This is not the company I’d trust to tell me what’s important in the world.”

Nevertheless, Facebook remains at the helm of what is now the norm in the business of modern journalism, and though the relationship can be best summed up as mutually complicated, it is clear that Facebook continues to have the lead in the world of social journalism.

It is, according to Wired reporter Julia Greenberg, “the most powerful distributor of news,” as users flock to Facebook and other platforms instead of directly going to publishers and news organizations themselves, causing publishers to think twice about their engagement strategies.

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Facebook and these platforms are not necessarily saving journalism. Instead, they are reinventing journalism, upgrading it in a multi-platform, content focused age. Journalism is still a prevalent part of modern society, and the principles and ideas that remain at its core are still present even as the mediums themselves change.

Yet, the focus is transfixed on the content, and of all the platforms, Facebook remains the most popular hub. However, journalism still remains a constant, signaling a positive notion for an industry that remains in a state of flux.

In spite of its shortcomings, the mutual relationship between Facebook and journalism will continue to be dominant in the industry, and while questions will continue to be asked within newsrooms about how to best engage audiences, the relationship signifies a bigger message.

Even though it is being reinvented, journalism is not dead. It is here to stay, and though the mediums change, the mission remains the same — to inform, educate and enlighten, something that will always remain a quintessential part of the business of journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

News app: The Apple of journalism’s eye?

An Apple Store in New York. Apple is reported to be introducing paywall content on its News app. (Photo: Anthony22/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

An Apple Store in New York. Apple is reported to be introducing paywall content on its News app. (Photo: Anthony22/Wikimedia Commons/CC)

On the heals of a concerning report to investors on iPhone sales, Apple is said to be introducing subscription content through its News app.

The tech company, which introduced the app last June as part of the new iOS 9 software, is looking to continue its competition with Facebook and its Instant Articles initiative. According to a report from Reuters, the move from the company would allow news organizations to maintain a relationship with readers, as tech companies including Apple and Facebook would be the go-to between them.

As of data compiled last October, there are over 50 publishers that participate in Apple News, and the Reuters reports quotes readership of 40 million readers.

While this has not been officially confirmed by Apple, this will likely continue the ongoing competition for readers by tech companies trying to engage audiences, which includes Instant Articles as well as Moments, the curation feature introduced by Twitter late last year featuring content from news organizations including BuzzFeed and The Washington Post.

Yet, this would be different from what had been seen when initiatives like this had been introduced, as it allows news organizations and publishers the ability to maintain that relationship with audiences on the platform, as well as give them the ability to engage new readers, something organizations have long since advocated for. In addition, it may give cause for new publishers to sign on with Apple and allow their content to be distributed under the frame reported.

We’ll have to wait and see what is confirmed from Apple, but journalism could be the Apple of readers’ and news organizations’ eyes.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Twitter’s growth poses questions for journalism

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will spend 2016 trying to figure out how to ensure user growth for the social network. (Photo: Brian Solis/Wikimedia Commons CC)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will spend 2016 trying to figure out how to ensure user growth for the social network, which could change how journalists and news organizations use the site. (Photo: Brian Solis/Wikimedia Commons CC)

Three weeks from now, we will inaugurate a brand new year — a year where the citizens of the United States go to the polls to determine their country’s future, where the intersection of social media and journalism will continue to grow, and where questions will continue to face a certain social network as to its future.

That social network is Twitter. It will celebrate its tenth birthday in 2016, and as that occasion is marked, there are a number of questions its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, is facing from investors. Yet, the most notable one has implications for the journalism community — how do you solve the issue of reversing user declines?

As Twitter began to take off, it was clear the social network could have potential in changing how journalists and news organizations work. A replica of a wire service, Twitter would be the hub of all global events, from the protests in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring, elections in the US and internationally, and the events in Ferguson, Missouri, to plenty of sports matches and awards ceremonies.

Dispatches in the form of 140 character messages would inform and enlighten millions of people of the events around them, and news organizations saw potential in aiding storytelling, whether disseminating information to new audiences, gathering sources for reporting or engaging in discussions. It was clear to the media industry that Twitter was here to stay, even as it enhanced its own business.

When the social network released its third quarter earnings, the problem of user growth was still prominent, something Dorsey and his predecessor, Dick Costolo, had to tackle.

This year, immediately after Dorsey became CEO, it unveiled Twitter Moments, known for a long time as Project Lightning, in an attempt to help news organizations with coverage, and, as Aly Keves of The Daily Dot web site said in an interview for this blog in October, paint a bigger picture as to why a particular event is trending.

However, there are still questions as to whether it can still be successful for Dorsey’s strategy, and it is unclear thus far of the wider implications Moments has had on individual newsrooms.

Twitter is also said to be testing timelines similar to that of Facebook, where instead of the live stream that has been at its core for a decade, posts would be appearing in non-chronological order. While it is uncertain if the feature is to remain, should this feature remain a part of the social network, it could mean implications on how journalists and news organizations use the service.

As we prepare to ring out the old year and bring in the new, the question of user growth will still be a constant for Dorsey and his colleagues, as they try to figure out Twitter’s role in the whole of social media. Yet, at the same time, whatever ideas that come forward may change the relationship the social network has with journalism, for better or for worse.

Let us hope Dorsey solves the issue, making investors and users happy. Otherwise, news organizations may need to bring another new item into the new year — a new social strategy.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to the SPJ blog network on British media issues and social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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