Tag Archives: journalism

Hacks/Hackers Seattle kicks off Nov. 11 with free food

AAJA Seattle members Sharon Chan and Karen Johnson are joining forces to hold a kickoff event for Hacks/Hackers Seattle on Nov. 11 at Havana in Capitol Hill.

Come out and show your support and learn about this interesting group!

There will be FREE food from Marination Mobile sponsored by Patch.com!

Hacks/Hackers is a group that was started by former AP bureau chief Burt Herman (now CEO of Storify), Aron Pilhofer of The New York Times, and Richard Gordon of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Read a piece Herman wrote about Hacks/Hackers’ origins. Gordon has written on PBS’ MediaShift blog about the first truly national gathering of Hacks/Hackers last spring in San Francisco.

Hacks/Hackers meetups have become common now at national journalism conventions, including at this year’s Investigative Reporters and Editors convention in Las Vegas. (We gathered at the hotel bar, of course.) The group has received sponsorship from the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge and has attracted journalists and technologists from all over the country. Former New York Times reporter and AAJA member Jenny 8. Lee is a key organizer for Hacks/Hackers now.

Hacks/Hackers chapters are forming one by one across the nation, and our own Sharon and Karen have taken the initiative to get the Seattle one off the ground.

Chan, who covers Microsoft for The Seattle Times (and finishing her term this year as AAJA National President), sent out this invitation:

If you’re a journalist who cares about technology and the future of media, you should come. If you’re a technologist who cares about journalism and the future of media, you should come. Journalists call themselves “hacks,” someone who can churn out words in any situation. Hackers use the digital equivalent of duct tape to whip out code. Hacker-journalists try and bridge the two worlds.

Hacks/Hackers Seattle will bring all these people together — those who are working to help people make sense of their world. It’s for hackers exploring technologies to filter and visualize information, and for journalists who use technology to find and tell stories. In the age of information overload, all their work has become even more crucial.

We aim to help members find inspiration and think in new directions, bringing together potential collaborators for projects and new ventures.

RSVP and get your free ticket at http://seattlehackshackers.eventbrite.com.

For more information about Hacks and Hackers check out http://hackshackers.com.

The event is in partnership with AAJA Seattle and the Western Washington Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Frank Blethen, Seattle Times Co. receive James Madison Award


Frank Blethen, publisher of The Seattle Times, accepted the James Madison Award on behalf of The Seattle Times Co. on Friday from the Washington Coalition for Open Government. WCOG gives the award annually to an individual or organization whose long-term commitment to the cause of open government has been demonstrated through exemplary words or deeds. Former winners include Denny Heck and Stan Marshburn, founders of TVW, and James Andersen, former chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Blethen is a long-time supporter of diversity in newsrooms and the Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship. He is an AAJA Gold Member. AAJA members Sharon Chan, Candace Heckman, Judy Hsu and myself attended WCOG’s breakfast to show our support.

Here is the text of his speech:

I am honored to accept the James Madison Award for The Seattle Times and for our family of newspapers from Seattle to Issaquah, Yakima and Walla Walla.

As Seattle Times publisher, it has been my privilege to serve for three decades as the instrument of the Blethen family and of the wonderful journalists at The Times.

Good journalism, including the pursuit of all aspects of openness and transparency, is hard and often lonely work.

It’s time consuming.

It’s costly.

It engenders hostility and enmity from powerful individuals and organizations.

I know only too well that good ownership, like the Blethen family, pays a dear price – financially and personally – in the pursuit of mission.

When the powerful and wealthy are permitted to operate without scrutiny and without accountability we become a nation whose government and economy are run by secretive elites.

We become a nation of haves and have nots.

Once the majority of citizens no longer believe in the “American Dream” they have no vested interest in perpetuating the existing form of government or the existing form of the economy.

After 230 years, America’s self-government experiment is, in historical terms, on life support.

For many reasons these are dangerous days for our nation.
One of the root reasons is that we have lost our popular independent press.

60 years ago noted journalist Walter Lippman said:

“… there is, I believe, a fundamental reason why the
American press is strong enough to remain free. That
reason is that the American newspapers, large and small,
and without exception, belong to a town, a city, at the
most to a region.”

“The secret of a truly free press is that it should consist of many newspapers decentralized in their ownership and their management, and dependent for their support upon the communities where they are
written, where they are edited and where they are read.”

“There is safety in numbers, and in diversity, and in being
spread out, and in having deep roots in many places. Only in variety is there freedom.”

Today, rather than preserve our nation’s system of independent newspapers providing robust localism and a wide variety of voices we have come under the control of monolithic corporate ownership.

For the most part, they have turned our Watchdog into their Lapdog, leaving us in a dangerous vacuum of too many untold stories, too little scrutiny, and too little transparency.

Quite literally, our newspapers and broadcast houses, our phones, our cable, our satellite dishes and the Internet have been co-opted by a handful of powerful financial mercenaries.

Despite the proliferation of new communication and social tools, almost all the substantive news and information necessary for self-government and community originates in our newspaper newsrooms.

And despite the “myths” out there, the newspaper business is viable and profitable with virtually all newspapers making money, even in the middle of this terrible economic RESET.

Indeed, readership is strong and it’s the place the public values the content enough to pay for it – to the tune of $10 billion a year.

We do not have a readership or business model problem – what we have is an ownership and control problem.

Few realize that 80% of newspaper revenue is now controlled by a handful of financially-driven corporations.

Or, that 75% of all internet advertising is now controlled by only four companies.

Here in Washington State there are only four local daily newspaper owners left.

The Seattle Times, which is now the second largest newspaper on the West Coast, is one of only four privately owned, local metropolitan newspapers left in the country’s top 50 markets.

And, if the current dominant ownership class and their control scare you, consider the near future; the emerging new dominant newspaper and broadcast owners are the very banks and venture capitalists which put us into today’s economic crisis.

How does this happen?

With the reckless lending and borrowing which enabled the creation of newspaper chains and media conglomerates. As these borrowers turn to bankruptcy restructuring because they can’t handle the crushing corporate debt, despite profitable newspapers and TV stations, the banks and venture capitalists are fast replacing them as the new owners.

Not a good trend for watchdog journalism.

In this troubling ownership environment, WCOG and its pursuit of openness and transparency have never been more important.

Because of the economy and forced cutbacks the newsrooms around Washington State are not providing the breadth of coverage required for government accountability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Olympia. But at least, with your help, we, the press, and citizen activists can seek to uncover the most egregious secrets, the best examples of power abuse in our never-ending effort to hold state and local government accountable.

Some days I feel like Don Quixote tilling at windmills. Then there are mornings like this when I am reminded how critical our work is and of the wonderful citizen patriots in our community. Knowing you are there and you care is very energizing to me and the Times family.

Personal Reflection

I’d like to close with a few moments of personal reflection about my watchdog journey –

The bookends for my journey are Cam Devore and the WEA.

The first bookend, involving Cam, was in 1976 as the 31-year old publisher of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I found myself in court testifying against the respected school superintendent for an egregious violation of the Open Meetings Act. Thanks to Davis Wright Tremaine attorney Cam DeVore and Seattle Times Managing Editor Henry MacLeod I was given the education and support I needed to pursue this violation. It had a good outcome and set the stage for my career-long passion of pursuing open meetings and public records.

More recently the other bookend involving the WEA was in 2003 when we spent about a half-million dollars pursuing records and defending ourselves from some of our most respected school districts and the WEA.

The investigative series involved was “Coaches Who Prey” – one of the proudest journalistic/community-service moments of my career.

Years earlier I had learned that one of our community’s dirty, hidden secrets was the way school districts quietly passed on sexual predators to prey on kids at the next school down the line.

For years I struggled to understand this – how otherwise intelligent, moral educators could place their public image and fear of the WEA ahead of the health and safety of their students. And I don’t even want to get started on the WEA, whose actions suggest they would rather protect perverts and chill news coverage than protect students.

I understand it now.

Without openness, transparency and accountability, otherwise principled and moral people can succumb to illegal and immoral behavior.

Cam and Henry taught me how to do the right thing. The WEA and our school bureaucracies taught me why we can never stop being vigilant in our pursuit of openness.

There are many people from The Times and Blethen family that deserve recognition for this award.

My cousins, Will, Bob and John, who have been unfailing in their absolute support and passion around good journalism and openness for three decades.

My open meetings and public records mentors: starting with Henry MacLeod and Cam Devore. Followed by Mike Fancher, Alex MacLeod and Dave Boardman.

A special thank-you to the Seattle Times Board of Directors, who have been unwavering in their support of our journalistic mission. One of them is here today, Rick Holley, CEO of Plumb Creek.

As to the future, with leaders like Ryan Blethen, Dave Boardman, and Mike Shepard, I have no doubt The Times and its affiliate newspapers will remain on the leading edge of openness and transparency.

Thank you for validating what we do and empowering us to stay at it.

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Mobile apps: A source of real revenue for news orgs?

Posted on by sbhatt

On Thursday night, I attended a panel discussion on mobile advertising put on by TiE-Seattle, a not-for-profit group dedicated to fostering and supporting entrepreneurship. TiE-Seattle is part of a global network born in the early 1990s when Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of South Asian heritage decided to hold regular meetups.

The panel discussion certainly had some noteworthy speakers, but more on that later.

First, the WHY.

As in, why might mobile advertising be an important subject for journalists, especially those in print media, to think about?

Even if more people than ever are consuming what journalists create, the revenue that pays for the people, the equipment and the overhead is shrinking. (It’s no surprise publishers like the New York Times are planning to erect paywalls for their content starting next year.)

I thought newspapers might be stabilizing in 2010 after two terrible years, but the former media executive and bearish pundit Alan Mutter recently raised alarms again that the newspaper industry is still in trouble, having missed out on the recovery in advertising spending in the first quarter of 2010. His chart says it all: “Newspaper and magazine [ad] sales in the first quarter dropped respectively 9.7% and 3.9% at the same time television expenditures advanced 10.5%, Internet rose 7.5% and radio gained 6.0%.”

Auto and retail advertising historically have been important sources of newspaper ad revenue, so it’s disturbing to hear that even as auto and retail sales rose in the first quarter, spending on newspaper advertising for these verticals plunged. Clearly, some big car advertisers (i.e. Ford, Mercedes) are testing other ways to deliver ad impressions to potential customers.

Motor Trend magazine earlier this year launched an iPhone app with Mercedes-Benz sponsorship. According to an article in eMarketer, the iPhone app was part of an integrated marketing campaign in which Mercedes wanted to convey the message that the E-Class represents the next generation of Mercedes-Benz design and technology.

Advertisers like Mercedes-Benz are eager to deliver their messages to the booming number of mobile customers. Get the stats here.

Publishers are branding themselves too with apps. The alternate weeklies in Seattle, The Stranger and Seattle Weekly, have happy hour apps.

The question is can newspapers, most of which have weak engineering capacity and change-resistant cultures, come up with apps compelling enough to make the upfront development costs payoff? The Miami Herald’s iPhone app for baseball fans has been a hit. My own employer, The Seattle Times, has an iPhone app.

The challenge for media organizations is not simply migrating their content to mobile devices (just as they migrated it to the web), but leveraging the unique strengths of mobile for content AND advertising.

Mobile devices offer multiple “sensors” — such as location (GPS), touch, balance (accelerometer), visual (camera) and aural (mic). Unlike PCs, mobile offers advertisers a unique end-user; most of us don’t lend out our cell phones. All of these factors create interest for advertisers, who want to deliver a message to a specific audience that is going to stand out and be memorable in today’s information glut.

That brings us back to the TiE-Seattle event on Thursday night.

TiE-Seattle’s panel was composed of marketing and business types:

(Interestingly, the panel moderator, Kevin Keating, was a former journalist for the Spokane Spokesman-Review and is now founding partner of Lucid Communications, a strategic marketing firm based in Seattle. Keating opened the discussion by noting that research firm Garnter forecasts mobile advertising will reach $1.6 billion this year.)

Google and Apple are staking claims to mobile advertising by controlling the platforms that serve up mobile ads.

“It’ll lend a lot of credibility to the space,” Jordan said.

Similarly, Ribera views 2010 as the first year that mobile is seriously considered part of the marketing mix. Two-thirds of the campaigns his group is doing now, he said, are “integrated media buys,” with ads deployed on three marketing channels — mobile, web and keyword search.

Publishers, take note: The CPMs for mobile ads are higher than banner ads on websites, Ribera tells me.

But Bryan is skeptical of claims that mobile will eat the lunch of television, the dominant media for brand awareness advertising. (Think Super Bowl.) “Advertising is not an infinitely large bucket of money,” he said.

There’s consensus that mobile is gaining advertiser interest by delivering targeted messages through text messages (SMS), keyword search, and interactive apps.

But marketers are learning that user behavior is not the same on the mobile screen as it is on a PC. Mobile users have more urgent demands for information when it comes to search.

For example, Ribera noted, most mobile users of the Bing search engine complete their task within an hour or a day, whereas most PC users take up to a week. Mobile search keywords tend to be more conversational and abbreviated than PC search keywords.

(I love the fact that audience members added their knowledge to the discussion: C.N. Chiu, a consultant for MobileWebGo in Portland, Ore., said Spanish-speaking users are six times more likely than native English speakers to use mobile search.)

What does all this mean for news organizations and journalists? Based on what I learned from these speakers, here’s a few thoughts.

1. News organizations should charge for their apps, but they should be sure the apps do more than simply copy what is delivered on the PC screen. Get creative and offer something that’s entertaining, educational or utilitarian. Give the user a satisfying experience. This is not unrealistic as mobile payment use is growing. (If it’s a sponsored app, then obviously the news organization wants to make it a free download to maximize its distribution.)

2. Text messaging still has the greatest reach on mobile devices, but location-based services are the hot new thing. (Uh, Foursquare, anyone?) Could news organizations license to location-based services their news stories about a location, so urban explorers can not only find deals on shoes but also learn more about that neighborhood?

3. There’s great demand for quality video on mobile devices but a whole host of technical issues need to be worked out. But once those issues are worked out (and it won’t be long), inventory will sell out quickly. The new iPhone takes 720p high-def video and the $5 iMovie app turns the device into a video editor. Start to build mobile video into your multimedia workflow so you’ll be in a position to sell ads with them. Think Webiscenes, not Webisodes.

4. Because mobile users’ information needs are typically more urgent, certain kinds of content will be a better fit for the mobile device: Movie and restaurant reviews, breaking news alerts and sports stats. But news apps, because they must be downloaded by the user, involve intention and thus can also be designed to appeal to a niche editorial interest — and carry higher advertising rates.

Please add your comments! And contact us at aajaseattle@gmail.com if you have ideas for speakers for our next Innovation Salon, which will focus on monetizing digital news content.

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Ten Twitter lessons from AAJA Seattle Innovation Salon at TASTE

Posted on by sbhatt

AAJA student member Peter Sessum, a three-time recipient of Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship who writes for The Daily, documented the event and wrote up 10 Twitter lessons he learned at our AAJA Seattle’s first Innovation Salon:

1. Be yourself. While Twitter can be used for business, it is expression of who you are. Relationships with customers can be built if your Twitter has that personal touch. Better to be loved, or hated, for who you are than to be invisible.

2. Don’t retweet compliments. It comes off as self indulgent and will get you deleted from Becky Selengut’s feed. It is enough that all of the sender’s followers can read it, all of your followers don’t need to as well. Simply reply a thank you and move on.

3. Be mindful of which account you are using. For the professional Twitter, posting a personal Tweet, or replying to a friend, from a business account reflects on the business. Remember to log out and log back in from your personal account.

4. Deleting posts. Recent news proves that deleting can be just as troublesome as the original post. Twitter is in real time and instant gratification. There is a feeling of urgency to post right away or retweet before there is a gap in the posting. In a professional setting, take a moment before posting. It will get read, might as well have it right.

5. Misspellings. Make a correction and move on. Do not be too critical of another’s mistakes; it will happen to you too someday.

6. Inflection is lost when typing. A public forum is not the place to give someone new a taste of your sense of humor.

7. Do not argue over twitter. A healthy exchange of ideas is good, shouting matches are not. In online fights there are no winners, only losers.

8. We are all connected in the Twittersphere. Retweets are a good way to link people you don’t know with people you don’t know. Selengut’s beautifully convoluted story that linked up strangers illustrates how to help one another. As a result, you may end up with jam.

9. There is still room for improvement on Twitter. Creative people will find new ways to utilize twitter at 140 words at a time. Limitations do not stifle imagination, they inspire innovation.

10. Most importantly, know when to unplug. Despite all the “connections” on Facebook and Twitter, it isn’t real interaction. Sit down with friends and family without phones and computers. Have some real connections, there will be plenty of time to Tweet about it later.

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AAJA Seattle holds first innovation salon at SAM

Posted on by sbhatt

AAJA Seattle moderator Karen Johnson leads a panel on applications for Twitter. From left to right: Karen Johnson, managing editor of SeattleMag.com; food writer Matthew Amster-Burton; PR-pro Hsiao-Ching Chou; and chef Becky Selengut.
From left to right: Karen Johnson, managing editor of SeattleMag.com; food writer Matthew Amster-Burton; PR-pro Hsiao-Ching Chou; and chef Becky Selengut.

AAJA Seattle held its first Innovation Salon on May 25 at TASTE Restaurant at Seattle Art Museum.

These salons are aimed at getting journalists outside their comfort zones. By hearing from innovators in marketing, media, technology and other fields outside traditional media, journalists can learn about innovative concepts, integrate this thinking into their own work and become innovation leaders in their organizations.

Our first salon, not surprisingly, focused on the culture of Twitter and how various users wield it to have conversations, cultivate sources and disseminate their messages – all of them outside traditional newsrooms.

The stylish downtown restaurant, between the foodie suppliers at Pike Place Market and the social-media startups in Pioneer Square, was the perfect setting for journalists, foodie bloggers, marketing executives and tech analysts to gather for an evening of stimulating conversation.

The event was co-sponsored by AAJA Seattle, TASTE Restaurant and Seattle Magazine. About 40 people attended the event, which was designed to be small to encourage meaningful conversations and networking.

After chowing down on delicious appetizers prepared by TASTE chef Craig Hetherington, the audience heard from a panel moderated by Karen Johnson, online managing editor of SeattleMag.com.

The panelists were food writer Matthew Amster-Burton; PR-pro Hsiao-Ching Chou; and chef Becky Selengut.

Shoutouts to Johnson, online managing editor of SeattleMag.com, for organizing the panel and venue; chapter treasurer Nicole Tsong for providing support; and volunteer Jillian Dinnie, who sold tickets and collected money for AAJA Seattle at the door.

Want to learn more? Read AAJA student member Peter Sessum’s post on 10 things he learned about Twitter etiquette from the salon.

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