It's All Journalism

Journalism is not dying. It's changing.

August 21, 2014
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Alexander Howard — Ferguson, Mo. and the First Amendment

By Michael O’Connell

The killing of Michael Brown and the ham-handed way law enforcement officials in Ferguson, Mo., handled its aftermath angered Alexander Howard. It’s been a long time since he was that “ticked off” at a story.

Alexander Howard

Alexander Howard is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and editor. (Photo Courtesy of Alexander Howard)

“The systemic discrimination and racial bias, political powerlessness in that community, because of voting rights and people being arrested for assault and losing them, these are things that have been going on a long time but, unfortunately, because they’re kind of the fabric of American life still, they hadn’t caught fire,” he said.

Howard is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He’s also a columnist at TechRepublic and founder of “E Pluribus Unum,” a blog focused on open government and technology. Previously, he was a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Ash Center at Harvard University, the Washington correspondent for O’Reilly Media, and an associate editor at SearchCompliance.com and WhatIs.com.

While the brutality of the shooting and the disenfranchisement of the populace provided more than enough reasons for a rational person to be angry, the treatment of the members of the media trying to cover the unfolding events should raise the concerns of journalists and the public, alike, both of whom benefit from the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment:

“When media who went in there, trying to document how people were upset and why they were upset, were raising up the voices and faces and pain of people who have been living in that environment but not being heard, were targeted, roughed up or in this case arrested, I got angry about it,” Howard said.

He did what any good journalist would do with a healthy mad-on, he wrote about the thing that angered him for TechRepublic.

“I write better when I’m passionate,” Howard said. “This felt like an opportunity to say something important in the way I could, because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t on the ground, about the importance of not only letting the public and media record the actions of the police, but also make it clear that these are constitutional rights that are our government should be protecting.”

In this week’s podcast, producers Megan Cloherty and Michael O’Connell talk to Howard about what the events of Ferguson, Mo., can teach journalists and the public about freedom of the press, oversight of government officials and the increasing militarism of law enforcement.

Similar Podcasts:

Podcast #13: Alexander Howard, O’Reilly Media

Alex Weaver: Covering the Boston Marathon Bombing

Washington Post’s Kat Downs talks graphics reporting, breaking news visually

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August 15, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Popping the culture — Yakking with NPR’s Glen Weldon

By Michael O’Connell

It all started with Jacques Cousteau.

“I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t follow that for a long time,” said Glen Weldon, a panelist on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. “For the longest time, I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist. At age 4, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist.”

NPR's Glen Weldon joined IAJ producers Megan Cloherty and Michael O'Connell in studio. (Photo by Megan Cloherty)

NPR’s Glen Weldon joined IAJ producers Megan Cloherty and Michael O’Connell in studio. (Photo by Megan Cloherty)


In pursuit of his dream, a young Weldon memorized the Latin names of every whale and dolphin, watched the talking cetacean flick “Day of the Dolphin” and even became a competitive swimmer.

Thankfully for fans of his NPR work, though, Weldon realized in college that writing was a better fit for his temperament.

“The marine biology station at the school was just aquariums and tubes and plastic buckets and it smelled like rotting fish on a dock,” he said. “And every time I would take an elective course in the fine arts building, it’s like I would walk in and smell the chalk, the books and leather. And it’d be like peacocks walking down the hallways and people playing harps. It just felt like this is where I belong.”

Over his career, Weldon has worn many hats. He’s been a theater critic, a science writer and a bookstore clerk. His fiction and criticism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and many other publications.
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August 8, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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How to market to and break-down content for mobile

By Megan Cloherty

WASHINGTON – Last year was supposed to be the year of mobile. This year is also supposed to be the year of mobile. But taking it beyond the buzz the phrase is generating, two speakers at the 2014 Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual conference spoke directly to the user breakdown and how companies are monetizing mobile.

Justin Ellis, left, of Nieman Lab and Wouter Vermeulen, with Opera Mediaworks. (Photos by Michael O'Connell)

Justin Ellis, left, of Nieman Lab and Wouter Vermeulen, with Opera Mediaworks. (Photos by Michael O’Connell)


Justin Ellis, a writer with Nieman Lab, spoke more about the a major shift in the way people are accessing news. For the first time, people are turning to digital sources in greater numbers than television for their news, but beyond that, he says more are ditching the desktop and using their phones as their access to the Internet.

“According to Pew Research, 34 percent of cell users use their phones specifically for the purpose of going online,” Ellis said.

And a majority of users are spending time on their phones in apps, which Ellis calls surprising.

“Even though they’re spending more time with their phones, the individual sessions are small,” he said.

The bite-sized Internet use of smartphone users lends itself well to easily digestible content like that found on the app, Circa, Ellis said. He also cites personalization and location-based news as paramount for marketing content to mobile users.

Wouter Vermeulen, with Opera Mediaworks addressed mobile from a slightly different angle, in how newsrooms like “The Washington Post,” “Bloomberg” and “The Wall Street Journal” are selling ads on mobile.
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August 1, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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At Speakeasy, the content goes down smooth

By Megan Cloherty

WASHINGTON —— Generating content for companies for profit rather than news outlets, the Dallas Morning News’ content marketing and social media agency Speakeasy is taking off. It has already generated $1.5 million in revenue since its start in late 2012.

Grant Moise is senior vice president, business development and niche products at The Dallas Morning News

Grant Moise is senior vice president, business development and niche products at The Dallas Morning News (DMN photo)

Grant Moise, the senior vice president of the Dallas Morning News, joined us on the podcast via phone to talk about the idea that’s creating a profit center with more than 50 clients so far.

Depending on the size of the client, Moise said they generate content and in some cases handle the social media to start a conversation and drive interest.

“We are helping them create all their own content. We do editorial calendars at the beginning of each month and come up with unique things that can be relevant, depending on the audience they are trying to reach,” Moise said.

The Dallas Morning News partners with ad agency Sling Shot on Speakeasy, which can be found on every social outlet @YourSpeakEasy
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July 25, 2014
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What does an older, more diverse America mean for the media?

By Michael O’Connell

America is changing. The U.S. is facing two major shifts over the next 50 years.

“We are on route to becoming a majority non-white country,” Paul Taylor said. “At the same time, a record share of our population, like me, is going gray.”

Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor is a senior fellow at the Pew Research Center. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Taylor is a senior fellow at the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank that uses demographic research, media content analysis and public opinion polling to examine a variety of topics affecting America. He is also the author of the recent book, The Next America, which looks in greater detail at the looming generational showdown.

“Demographic change is a drama in slow motion,” Taylor said, during a presentation at the 2014 Association of Alternative Newsmedia conference in Nashville. “It unfolds, tick by tock, incrementally, but it changes society in fundamental ways.”

Either of the shifts Taylor described would be a significant demographic story, but because they are happening simultaneously, they are having major impacts on everything from politics to entitlement programs to marriage.
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July 24, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Talking pop culture, self-publishing

It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell recently appeared on The Carolyn and Joe Show podcast, talking about pop culture, collecting and changing genders in the superhero realm. Listen to the audio.

Carolyn Belefski and Joe Carabeo appeared on our podcast in 2013, talking about self-publishing, podcasting and their comics newspaper, Magic Bullet. Listen to that podcast.

You can find out more about Magic Bullet and find out how to obtain the latest issue here.

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July 18, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Penny Muse Abernathy — It’s not too late to save community journalism

By Michael O’Connell

Penny Muse Abernathy likes to think in ledes.

The lede she’d write for alternative news weeklies would have something to do with how the decline of print publication and the rise of digital journalism are changing the traditional role of the alternative press.

“What struck me is that many of you are at an inflection point,” she said, during her keynote address at the 2014 Association of Alternative Newsmedia conference in Nashville. “It’s driven by the fact that you have the decline of traditional media, most especially the decline of the longstanding, major newspaper in your market. And in many ways, you are becoming the community newspaper.”

Penny Abernathy

Penny Abernathy signs copies of her new book, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Abernathy is a Knight chair in digital media economics at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to that, she was a business executive at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Harvard Business Review. She’s also the author of the new book Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability.

The challenge she sees for alternative newspapers is how to be the source for community journalism while maintaining their “alternative” edge.

“You go from being the attacker, the entrepreneur, to being the one who is attacked,” Abernathy said.

This week’s podcast is a recording of Abernathy’s presentation at the 2014 AAN conference. She discusses the economic shift taking place in the journalism industry and what business decisions publishers need to make in order to remain competitive.

Similar Podcasts:

Scott Brodbeck leads thriving hyperlocal news network

Laura Amico turns passion for crime reporting into Homicide Watch D.C.

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July 11, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Comic satire with the Bob Woodward seal of approval

By Michael O’Connell

Winning the 2014 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning was a big deal for Jen Sorensen, whose work can be found in 20 alternative weeklies across the country.

Jen Sorensen

Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist whose political/cultural strip appears in 20 alternative weeklies around the country. Here, she’s talking to visitor to her booth at the 2014 AAN convention in Nashville. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)


“It was a big deal,” said Sorensen, who was the first woman to receive the honor. “It was possibly the thrill of my career.”

It also turned out to be a bit of an intimidating experience too.

“I had to give a speech at the Library of Congress, and that was a big deal,” she said. “Even though the weather was atrocious — there was a weeklong deluge in D.C. that week — there was still a lot of people there. Although I suspect it’s because Bob Woodward was the guest lecturer.”

The famed Washington Post editor, author and Watergate reporter told Sorensen that he admired her work.

“He told me I had an edge,” she said. “Take that as you will.”

Sorensen’s strip began its life with the title “Slowpoke.” Even though some of the alternative weeklies that carry the strip still call it that, the strips generally appear just under her byline.

“The strip is in the tradition of ‘This Modern World’ and ‘Life in Hell,’” she said. “It’s definitely an alt-weekly strip, you know, multi-panel, a little wordier than a traditional political cartoon.”

As far as subject matter of the strip goes, Sorensen tries to create a mix of cultural and political content that leverages her sardonic sense of angst.
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July 6, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Going Down to Nashville — AAN Convention 2014

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia is hosting the AAN Convention 2014, July 10-12, at the Downtown Sheraton in Nashville, Tennessee.

Featured speakers include:

  • Penny Muse Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Melissa Bell, co-founder of Vox.com
  • Paul Taylor, executive vice president of special projects at the Pew Research Center.

AAN Executive Director Tiffany Shackelford gives us the lowdown on what you can expect at the convention, both in the meeting rooms and after hours.

Related Podcasts:

It’s All Journalism launches partnership with Association of Alternative Newsmedia

Tiffany Shackelford: Journalism flourishes in an alternative space

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July 2, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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On a very special 100th episode …

By Michael O’Connell

As a Gen-Xer, I’ve had my fill of clip shows, those network TV programs where the producers cobble together a “new” episode from clips of earlier installments.

The worst offender for doing that was Family Ties. It seemed like every other episode, the Keatons would gather around the kitchen table to discuss that week’s crisis and someone would say, “Do you remember that time … ?” Then they’d play a clip of Skippy asking Mallory for a date or Alex learning an important lesson about friendship.

I hate clip shows.

So, welcome to our clip show.

Actually, we tried our best to make it something a little bit better. We wanted to do something different to celebrate our 100th podcast.

Rather than trying to score a big guest, Megan Cloherty, Julia O’Donoghue and I decided to each pick three interviews that were our favorites and discuss what we liked about them. Here are the nine we chose:

We’ve been fortunate to talk to many journalists about the work they do as our industry is changing. We’ve learned a lot and, hopefully, our listeners are learning along with us.

Thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement.

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