Optimism, collaboration reign supreme at day one of ASNE conference
In March 2009, the “N” in ASNE changed from “newspaper” to just “news,” a subtle but simple acknowledgement of a new era. The change was not only in name, but the organization broadened its membership criteria, allowing online-only news outlets and nondaily outlets.
News’ new attitude was on full display at day one of the group's IdeasNow Summit in Washington D.C. where attendees had their attention focused strictly on the future. Not bad for an organization that had to cancel an event last year and drastically downsize its staff because of the poor economic state of the news industry.
EMV was there and noticed a few trends that publishers should keep an eye on:
"Pessimists are gone from the newsroom, the people who are left are the risk takers," said Jane Hirt, Managing Editor of the Chicago Tribune.
I counted only one instance where job loss was mentioned. Instead, people were excited at the possibilities of a new year, and most newspaper editors had their minds open.
Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," presentation on his 350-page seven-month Panorama project was particularly bullish on the possibilities of print. Eggers gave reporters 22,000 word story wells and comics took up entire pages as Eggers enlisted over 100 contributors to a single $5 newspaper.
He was adamant that the experiment had actually turned a profit and that any newspaper in the country could replicate his project.
“I will sit here and do the math until midnight,” he said to skeptics.
Money, low staff or the fall of advertising is no longer a valid excuse for not innovating. Many of the projects and tools mentioned cost little to no money. For example, Amy Webb’s presentation on web trends contained nearly a dozen of low-cost tools that publishers should keep an eye on.
Admittedly, this was a conference for news editors, there was still disturbingly little talk of revenue models or the economics of the business. Most conversation was focused around content and different ways of disseminating it.
Merging of tech and media
The age of the xenophobic journalist is over. As mentioned above, anyone still working for a newspaper likely has some degree of open-mindedness to emerging tech.
“Newspaper companies are trying to be more like media companies, while technology companies are trying to be more like newspaper companies,” said NPR’s David Wright in a session about page design.
“I mean, if you would have told someone 15 years ago that Yahoo would have a news division, they would have said ‘No way!’”
As tweeted by Publish2 CEO Scott Karp, every new idea at ASNE revolved around the prospect of collaboration between news companies, tech companies and readers. A cornerstone of this theory was a session on building local news networks led by the Charlotte Observer, the Miami Herald and the Seattle Times.
Each newspaper, with help from a J-Lab grant, reached out to local blogs to help create a content sharing network. In Charlotte’s case, they actually had to help foster the creation of such blogs. Ad sharing deals are currently being worked out, but all parties agreed that their editorial operations benefitted from such an arrangement.
The papers could coordinate coverage with partners to avoid having two reporters at a local event when one would do. The Observer also said that its partners would sometimes defer stories to the more experienced newspaper.
The shared goal between the local blogs and newspapers is to cover the community in the most efficient way possible and have each side learn from the other. So far, they are off to a great start.