It's All Journalism

Journalism is not dying. It's changing.

July 24, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism

Talking pop culture, self-publishing

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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

Penny Muse Abernathy — It’s not too late to save community journalism

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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.

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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

Comic satire with the Bob Woodward seal of approval

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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

Going Down to Nashville — AAN Convention 2014

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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
  • 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

On a very special 100th episode …

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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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June 27, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism

What will become of classical arts journalism?

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By Julia O’Donoghue

Robert Bettmann worries about what will come of arts reporting as amateur criticism takes off on the Internet.

Robert Bettmann

Robert Bettmann is the founding editor of Burgeon, a literary arts magazine. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

“When we think of arts writing, most of what people are thinking of is criticism,” said Bettmann, the managing editor of an arts magazine, Bourgeon. He is forever concerned about what will become of the arts writing profession, now that every twenty-something can start a blog.

“I worry about the future of arts journalism. I feel like we are losing some of the qualities that have lead to the best achievements in the arts over the course of history,” said Bettmann.

In his career, Bettmann has focused on classical music and classical dance. He has no problem with popular culture, but he doesn’t think people should mistake the latest “Batman” movie as a substitute for classical art. Classical art takes time to digest and mull over. Pop culture tends to be easier to understand.
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June 20, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism

What does a successful digital newsroom look like?

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By Michael O’Connell

Some of the most interesting conversations — and podcasts — begin with an exchange of ideas on Facebook.

Aram Zucker-Scharff is digital journalist, new media consultant and  a content strategist for CFO Magazine.

Aram Zucker-Scharff is digital journalist, new media consultant and a content strategist for CFO Magazine.

Aram Zucker-Scharff, a content strategist at CFO Magazine, was writing recently on Facebook about why some news outlets were still separating print and digital roles in the newsroom.

“Technically, if we’re all supposed to be going digital first, if we’re supposed to be doing everything electronically now, if the Web is integrated into our workflow at every level, why separate out digital editors as their own role?”

Zucker-Scharff argued that this separation may be needed now, during the transition to a digital first outlook, but one day that role of the editor or manager leading the push to digital may disappear.

“While most of our rooms are trying to become digital first, we don’t necessarily have it all the way there yet,” he said.
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June 13, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism

Washington Post’s Tim Wong explains design for mobile, tablets and desktop

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By Julia O’Donoghue

Tim Wong works in design and digital layout for The Washington Post. Prior to coming to The Post, he had only worked as a designer for print publications.

Tim Wong

Tim Wong is the senior designer for mobile at The Washington Post. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Surprisingly, he hasn’t found the transition to online design work that daunting. Many of the same tenants that apply to print design are also relevant for online presentation, he said.

When first thinking about design, Wong looks to mobile first and then considers tablet and desktop experiences. But designers need to be careful not to make the desktop and tablet experience too simple for users if they start with mobile. The experience on the bigger screen is very different than a mobile device.

“[Desktop and tablets] inherently have more real estate. They often have more processing power. So you really have to scale up,” said Wong.

There is a question about how much energy should be spent doing “one-off” designs, the types of web presentations which can’t be used for multiple pieces of content. Should designers spend more of their time on templates that can be used over and over for new content?

Wong said there should be a balance. News organizations should ideally be doing both. There is a place for unique design that fits on story or piece of media content. But there also need to be basic templates for every day media that goes up on the site.

In the online design world, Wong said there is a debate about whether to use grids or lists as a layout. Wong believes “lists” are winning that fight. “I think [grids] make choice and decisions difficult,” said Wong.

“Gridded off designs, I think they throw too much at the user,” he said. “Users want to be able to make quick decisions.”

Wong said he tries to pay attention to the way all sorts of online design, including non-news apps like Tinder. He is also a fan of the design of, a news site started by several former Washington Post employees.

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June 6, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism

Politics, funding collide in making of Citizen Koch documentary

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By Ellen Kortesoja

Citizen Koch, a title that makes a none-too-shy nod to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, similarly aims to show the far reaches of big money in society, and specifically how the Supreme Court Citizens United decision opened the flood gates by deregulating campaign funding.

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, co-producers of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, are the documentary’s filmmakers. They say their galvanizing moment came after trying to visit a fundraising retreat in Palm Springs, California, in 2011 hosted by the Koch brothers.

Documentary filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin talk to It's All Journalism about their struggles in getting their film Citizen Koch made. (Photo by Megan Cloherty)

Documentary filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin talk to It’s All Journalism about their struggles in getting their film Citizen Koch made. (Photo by Megan Cloherty)

CEOs, Supreme Court justices, pundits and politicians were all on the guest list. The Koch brothers were putting together a network of conservative billionaires.

“We were curious to see what their agenda was,” Lessin said. “We were promptly thrown out.”

Failure to gain access had the opposite effect on the two, inspiring them to follow the money trail and dig deeper.
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June 4, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism

Online Journalism Awards: Time to recognize digital innovation

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By Michael O’Connell

UPDATE: The Online News Association has extended the submission deadline for the Online Journalism Awards to Friday, June 20, at 11:59 a.m. ET.

Journalists are using digital technology every day to find new and innovative ways to tell their stories. Shouldn’t they be recognized for those groundbreaking efforts?

For the last decade, the Online News Association has presented its annual awards to honor innovation in online news. The Online Journalism Awards committee and judges give special attention to those journalists and newsrooms who show a mastery of the emerging technology.

Thanks to the generosity of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Gannett Foundation and The University of Florida, 10 of the awards being presented Sept. 25-27, at the ONA14 Conference in Chicago will come with a total of $52,500 in prize money.

The awards recognize excellent work in the technical aspects of our field — data journalism, visual digital storytelling and technical innovation — as well as the more general — public service and investigative reporting.

The person in charge of running the awards is Josh Hatch, treasurer of the ONA Board.

It’s been more than a year since we last had Josh on our podcast. Back in January 2013, he talked to us about data visualizations and the work he was doing as senior editor of data and interactives at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In our new podcast, he talks about how the Online Journalism Awards have changed over the years and why people should get their material ready for the June 13 deadline.

Related Podcast:

ONA’s Joshua Hatch knows how to use data visualizations and so should you

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