Postmortem of a news junkie

All through my childhood and adolescence I read two local newspapers a day. Residents of my hometown have the option to subscribe to both the Journal Gazette and the News Sentinel. My daily news consumption formed much of who I was for a very long time. I even went to school for journalism and moved to Austin to start a digital magazine, because I was convinced the world needed another publication telling local stories in new and interesting ways.

Today I don’t read any news publications, digital or otherwise. Sometimes I stumble across an article from one of the major national newspapers, but it’s nothing like it once was. I was a heavy Google Reader user at one time, but now I don’t do anything with RSS. What happened?

I’ve found that the news doesn’t contribute anything useful to my life, so I choose not to consume it. Instead I get by with a lot of slow information (think magazines and books), niche blogs, and several online communities that tell me everything I need to know. I still get Austin news, but it is a filtered version that comes from other Austinites discussing it online. If I need more information about whatever is happening I go directly to the source. No newspapers or reporting required.

I don’t necessarily think my habits are a good idea for an average person, but I’m almost certain they are very similar to most people my age and younger. No one my age has ever come up to me and said, “Did you see the story about [some local event] in the Statesman?” People often ask me about thought pieces published on some blog or another, however.

It wasn’t until I spent time at my parents’ house recently that I realized how much things had changed. They still get a newspaper, and they still read it every day. Habits die hard, I suppose. Or perhaps the only way to get the information they are accustomed to is from the physical paper. I’m not sure, because it wasn’t important enough to me at the time to ask about it.

There aren’t many areas in life where I’ve changed so completely over time. I would love for the journalism and “news” business to get back on its feet and do something wonderful, especially because of all my friends and former classmates who are still working in publications. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

This all came to the forefront when I came across a Medium post about the future of “creative artists” and society the other day. I’m not sure how I found it (which is one fascinating symptom of my media habit these days) but I read it in full. Read it yourself if you must, but don’t expect any great insight into the reality of the situation. The author makes an argument that seems to be built upon the fact that journalists, musicians, and other creative types are making $X millions less a year, while Google, Amazon and Apple are making $X millions more a year. Amidst all that, people are consuming more of the stuff the creatives are making, but somehow the creative people are getting less money. The great logical leap here is that the money that went away from the former must have gone to the latter, so we can blame Google, Amazon and Apple for creative people making less money.

It’s a ridiculous argument in almost every way, and the only reason I read through the end was some small hope that it was all a joke. My hope was squashed, as it often is when reading about the business of news, and I was left to ponder my own part in all this. Over time I’ve learned to become more detached from it all, despite the time I’m spending thinking and writing about it now.

I don’t have any great insight into what the future might hold. I just know that I as a super consumer of news at one point, and now I am not. I don’t see a future where any of my news comes from anything resembling a traditional publication. I hope magazines stay around, but if not I’ll be fine getting my news from books. The rest of the important stuff will make it to me by way of the all-powerful interwebz somehow.

This is the postmortem of a news junkie. May he rest in peace.

My week at Poynter and

“Turn to clear vision.” That simple phrase struck me as I looked out over the water in Saint Petersburg. I was there for a Poynter Institute seminar called “Bottom Line News: Creating Sustainable Journalism Start-ups.” It was an amazing week. I learned more than I thought I would, I met some amazing people and I found even more energy for my plans, hopes and aspirations.

The micro details aren’t important, but I did want to touch on one revelation that came unexpectedly. I’ve tried to be transparent in all things digital. All my social networks are open to the world, and I try to make sure to keep the interaction there rich and real. It came out of a shift in my personal life, one that made me feel I no longer had anything to hide.

In any case, I realized during the week at Poynter that I hadn’t applied my new way of interacting to the world to my plans for the future. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why that happened, but I think it has something to do with a little nagging voice in the back of my head. It wants me to talk to all my friends and family about this before I put it out there for the whole world to see. I’ve done that, so now the nagging voice I shouldn’t have listened to in the first place is gone.

I, along with my three amazing co-founders, am going to start an online journalism start-up. It’s called Rooted Austin. At this point it’s just a page telling you we’ll be coming soon, but we hope to have a blog up soon so we can start getting feedback on our ideas and plans. We want Rooted to be Austin’s home page, the place you go for the best curated news and immersive storytelling. We’ll do the curation, and when you tell us you like a particular topic that’s when we know it’s time for us to go get the story and apply our particular brand of storytelling to it.

I can’t wait until Cassandra Adamson, Peter Gaunt and Becky Rother get down to Texas so Rooted Austin’s full team is here and ready to grow. In the meantime, keep on the lookout for a blog on the site and feel free to tell me what you think in the comments or send me a message at if you’d like.

My vision is getting clearer by the day. I hope you’ll join me to help focus even more.

The future of journalism school

I previewed this post way back in February.


Thankfully, the topic is still just as timely now as it was when I first wrote about it. Some journalism schools have seen an increase in enrollment, despite the treacherous state of the industry.  The economy seems to be on a rebound, but the central questions and concerns about the business (yes, business) of journalism remain.

The time for journalism schools to evolve has come. Continue reading The future of journalism school

Newspapers and money

There’s a lot of talk about how to make newspapers profitable. I have some ideas (after the jump) but no Ultimate Solution. It’s going to take hard work and a lot of smart people to figure it out. I think it’s important for journalists to discuss what newspapers can and should do to ensure all types of important journalism have a place in tomorrow.

This is the beginning of my history of newspapers. Read on to see the entire graphic.

That said, I don’t agree with pay walls. I also don’t agree with people who argue for them in this manner.

Andrew Heller from the Flint Journal in Michigan is the latest I’ve seen calling for pay walls. He does so by writing about how they’re going to save journalism. His column showed up in my Twitter feed and I was hoping it would turn out to be worthwhile, but I was wrong. Heller doesn’t have a time machine but that seems to be the gist of his solution to the problem.

To summarize Heller: I want to go back in time and make newspapers charge for online content. I can’t, so back to the future (now). They, specifically the people at the New York Times, are starting to play with charging models and pay walls. This is good, because a product shouldn’t be free and newspaper stories are undoubtedly products. Also, I’m not an expert on the Web but I have common sense because I know you just don’t give anything away for free.

It’s a sad argument that makes for a depressing picture of the current crop of newspaper journalists. I’ve been down the newspaper path, first as a reader of two dailies in my hometown, then in various positions at my high school and college student newspapers and finally in a stint as an intern at a professional paper. I loved working at the professional paper because of the people and environment, but I knew the business end of things was in trouble.

Does this make me an expert on journalism, newspapers or anything else? Hell no. At least no more (or less) than Heller. I do have one thing going for me, however.

I can’t imagine giving money to a newspaper for any reason.

I’m a news/information junkie and former newsprint lover who thinks newspapers deserve every bit of hardship coming down on them. It’s going to be scary, but read on if you dare. I have some ideas and  you can check out the rest of that graphic that’s previewed to the right. Continue reading Newspapers and money

When snow is no longer amusing

I wanted to go south for Super Bowl XLIV. I had it all planned out: I would get in the Camaro, take the T-tops down, drive until I was barely awake, sleep at the next rest stop and do it all over again until I arrived in sunny Miami. The ticket would be there waiting for me. My Indianapolis Colts would spank the New Orleans Saints and everything would be great.

Then I woke up.

In reality, I was planning on watching the big game with my Pops in my hometown of Fort Wayne. I was pretty much set on making the trip and the forecast came and ruined my day. I heard varying predictions from a couple of inches to a foot for the final accumulation, and I knew my trip was likely canceled before it even started. You see, the only part of the dream above that’s true is the Camaro. As you can imagine, a rear-wheel drive muscle car with a 350 under the hood and summer tires doesn’t do well in the snow.

I was discouraged but determined to have a good Super Bowl without the family traditions. It was a pretty down day until my Pops agreed make the trip to Muncie despite the forecast. It led to the most harrowing drive I’ve ever been a passenger on, and I have the pictures and video to prove it.

Continue reading When snow is no longer amusing