Monday, December 5, 2011

#newsfoo distillations: audio, occupy and werewolves {braindump}

After every conference or gathering I attend, I’ve built in the habit of sitting in the airport (if it has wi-fi) or on the plane and typing up everything. It’s almost necessary to ensure that I go back home and remember the conversations I had and things I learned.

But to get this out of the way. Yes, newsfoo was an invite-only conference. I consider myself far from the media elite, because I’m fairly young to the high level tech discussions that happen at these sorts of things. The moment I walked in the room, saw who else was there, I was flabbergasted. I only knew 1/3 of the room. It was full of people I respected from afar, considered good friends and others i had only dreamt of talking to. 

Even if I don’t get invited back, I can’t thank the kind folks who organized it and everyone who came enough for filling my brain with the awesomeness it now contains.

I actually got the guts to propose a session I led with the amazing Monica Guzman of GeekWire, Ryan Jones of Frontline SMS and Jon Vidar of the Tiziano Project. It was about the psychology of sharing. But I don’t want to write about that.

The Takeaways

Occupy the News

I arrived at News Foo after a very, very long week of covering the Occupy LA raids and ridiculous wind. The challenges, successes and failures of how our coverage went down were very fresh in my mind. 

I had a couple of really long conversations with Michael Levitin and Sasha Costanza-Chock about Occupy LA, the resulting media coverage and the general issues and quandaries that come along with covering one of the most well-documented national movements in recent memory. 

I also attended a session where I shared some knowledge about the media pool in LA and how well (or alternately not well?) we dealt with citizen media as a whole. 

Personally, I do not think Occupy is going away. I do not think the resentment and anger will go away. This is not the last time I will have to debate whether to put an activist tweet under our name, or when a protest becomes a movement or how to reliably verify reports that come from “biased sources.”

I am a very transparent person and the work that Andy Carvin and others have done has already begun to shape a precedent. We can work with and utilize movement-based journalism. We can still filter it through out lens, whatever that lens is. 

Also, my plane reading is the Occupied Wall Street Journal. A printed product. How cool is that?

Audio is the new cool kid

I’m not a radio producer by any means, but working on the digital side of a radio station has a bit pitfall — seeing radio as the “old folks.”

So it surprised me that in several sessions I went to, that we talked about audio and it’s potential. (Note: I only went to sessions that had nothing to do with what I do for a living, so I actively avoided social media themed sessions)

This is alternately great and terrible in my eyes. 

Great: Public media, in particular local stations, has a great opportunity. It could build something that starts at passive consumption and span across multiple devices and locations and builds toward interactive. Audio is not doing much for us right now. We can do everything with it, and there are evidently interested people.

Terrible: Innovation in public media has been centered around digital. Blogs, social, etc. NOT audio. We are missing something here. The innovation is happening on the web site and the web site is rebelling against the radio, instead of making it cooler. I’ve seen this in my own newsroom, the divorcing of audio and web content. Why haven’t we done it yet? Why are non-public media people pointing out to us that we could do more? Are we so blind?

Fight for fun

The dense pessimism that has infested us media types is killing us. My newsroom spent a week kicking ass and taking names (on air and online) and it took over a week for a positive sentiment to be e-mailed.

The day after, no one said to the newsroom, “We kicked ASS!”  They said: “Well, that could have gone better. Let’s have a meeting.”

What. The. Fuck.

That pessimism I speak of is killing the souls of innovators. Someone needs to be our champion.

I consider a good chunk of foo-ers my colleagues (sometimes more so than my colleagues). They are optimistic. The believe. They subscribe to the Church of Making News Better. Yet, I saw a bunch of tweets from people angry that we were tweeting about werewolf, a game we played until the wee hours to bond, instead of the future of news.

What. The. Fuck.

Aren’t we allowed to be optimistic? Aren’t we allowed to have fun?


Algorithms were a huge topic of discussion. Automating some of our news process so we could focus on the best of what we do.

I don’t have much more to say on this than let’s go.

Let’s go build something. 

One last thing..

A few tips for anyone doing this next year (I can only dream of being invited again):

  • They are not kidding when they say arrive well-rested. I was exhausted and felt like I could have gotten more if I hadn’t covered all the things I did the week prior.
  • Bring a jacket. I’m a terrible packer, apparently.
  • Participate. Host a session you do not know the answer to. I talked about the psychology of sharing and I definitely learned just as much, if not more, than I shared.
  • Make it a point to go to sessions you know nothing about, and talk to people you’ve never seen. There are some of the most amazing people there, but you have to get out of your bubble.
  • Jenny 8 Lee is *always* a werewolf.