Archive for April, 2008

90-year-old Wisc. newspaper discontinues print product

The Madison, Wisconsin daily newspaper The Capital Times will cease printing this Saturday, and will continue as a Web-only publication. The Capital Times is the progressive, afternoon paper in the city, has been publishing since 1917. While they move their emphasis online, they will continue to provide print pieces on a twice weekly basis to be contained within other publications. This is one of the first, long-standing newspapers to go this route. I predict that we will see more of this. As the newspaper industry experiences a downturn, and continues to lose readers of print products, the players will have to adjust. There is just too much expense associated with printing and distributing paper.

But, the transition will be difficult. There are still people who love their printed broadsheet. Personally, I would miss my Sunday NY Times, should they go completely online. And, I do subscribe to Wired, even though I could read the whole thing on my computer. Others have formed daily habits around reading the newspaper. How the market reacts to The Capital Times shift will be an interesting experiment, with lessons learned for all.

On a related note, a shockwave went through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at my school, Texas State University, when we heard about journalism departments being discontinued or cut at two universities, Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX and Florida International University in Miami. A few years back, Texas A&M dropped their journalism major.

Recently, an email from Columbia’s Dean of the School of Journalism Nicholas Lemann to the university president was leaked expressing his uneasiness about the future of journalism education. My opinion…well I just see media everywhere around us, professional and amateur. Maybe the old ways of doing things are being reconsidered, might even be unprofitable and non-productive. Like any industry, journalism needs to adapt. Students need to be trained to operate in the media field, regardless of the medium in which they will be working. The general population needs literacy about new media topics. I just don’t see the need for media education to decline, but we definitely need to adjust and redefine the curriculum to make it relevant for the environment in which students will be participating and leading.

And, I don’t think the problem has to do with comedy shows or late-night talk show hosts. People are just engaging with media in different ways now. Instead of reading a paper once a day and watching an evening newscast, people are constantly exposed to news and information throughout their day. They get it via RSS feeds and blogs. They get it on Yahoo and Google News. And, yes, they get information from The Daily Show and Colbert Report. But, these shows wouldn’t be considered funny nor would they have garnered success if their demographic didn’t get the joke. Who cares where people get their information, as long as they are getting it? There’s a reason why so many, particularly young people, have turned to comedy shows for their news. The other news outlets lost their edge. This happens with any industry that has few players. The 24-hour news stations repeated the same boring drivel all day long; newspapers, in which most towns just have one, did not reflect diverse voices. There was little analysis of the important issues, just a horse race mentality that cared more about who was ahead in what polls, focusing on a candidate’s particular snafu of the day, and failing to question crucial decisions our government made in regard to war and foreign policy. And, there was no way for the audience to express their displeasure and provide feedback, develop communities.

Until the Web. Thank goodness for the Web. Otherwise, who would wake these folks up? I mean, Jon Stewart is only one man. He can call Tucker Carlson a dick, ultimately get him fired, but that’s not going to affect the hundreds of other talking heads out there, unless there’s a groundswell, and groundswell is the result of community.

It’s our job as academics to provide the framework around discussions of these trends, to better prepare our students as communicators and citizens, to better prepare them for a media world in which feedback is immediate and stories are told by a community rather than a single person. And, it’s our job to help the industry comprehend the issues and do better for our democracy.

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New iMac is already old

So, I got up this morning to an email from my friend at Apple that ordered the new iMac for me. He said something like, “I didn’t know about this, honest.” If you take a look at the Apple site you’ll see that the entire iMac line was refreshed this morning, faster processor, better video card, and $50 cheaper!!!! For Christ’s sake, I just got my computer on Saturday. So, I got on the horn with Apple customer support to see if I could return and reorder. The whole time I was on hold, I was wondering what I would do if they didn’t accommodate me. I mean, I might have to change my whole identity…I mean, I talk about Apple all the time, pontificate about them in class, discuss their brilliance and attention to design. What if I suddenly had to be angry with them?

Alas, after about 30 minutes, I was given the answer I wanted to hear: return the out-of-date, 2-day old system for a full refund and no restocking charges. So, in a few days, you’ll see another post proclaiming that the even newer iMac is here!

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New iMac is here!

And it’s a beauty!!! Wow, now that it is finally here, I can’t believe I waited so long to upgrade. First of all, it’s got a gigantic 24-in monitor, takes up almost all of my desk. The only wires are the power cord, and the usb for the keyboard. I also have an external hard drive attached. I’m connecting via wireless. The installation was quick and painless, the only thing that was even the least bit time-consuming was the software updates that it requested almost immediately. Those took about 5 minutes, but I was really anxious to get things going.

I’m not sure the pic above really does justice to the size. Here is a shot with old, tiny-screen round-base computer purchased in 2002, I think. He was a brave soldier to the end. And, actually keeps on going. I’ll be using it as a backup for some time, until I do all my transitioning.

Now, I have to figure out how to handle Time Machine. It wants me to wipe my external drive. Not sure if I want to move everything from it to this computer, then start using it. I also need to connect my iTunes. I’ve already downloaded Firefox, next step will be to get Fetch. Then, the Quicktime Pro upgrade. Next week, I’ll look into Adobe CS3 stuff and Office 2008, although I might just stay in the cloud with Google Docs.

Then, I’ll move on to learning all about this new iMovie version. I’ve had students bring in laptops with it, and it appears to be completely different than previous version. We don’t even have it installed in the labs at school yet. So, it’s good that I can finally get a chance to play with it.

I’m looking forward to many hours of fun-filled computing on my iMac. Thanks for my new toy, Mr Jobs!

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What’s Up With This Mesh?

Microsoft unveiled Mesh yesterday, launched in beta. It is billed as a synchronization system, allows users to synchronize all their devices, computers, mobile etc. It uses a technology called FeedSync to synchronize folders, so that you can access them anywhere.

It’s not available yet for the Mac. It also has a cloud component called Live Desktop that allows you to access synchronized folders via the Web.

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. People seem generally excited about this, and I guess it is a step in the right direction for Microsoft, but I don’t see what is so revolutionary about this. Seems like it is still dependent on the desktop and synchronization rather than truly centralizing file management in the cloud. Granted, I see how that fits in the way we are currently working, but nothing really innovative here.

This is also positioned to be a developer environment. Here’s Scoble’s post that might shed more light on the benefits.

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Community 2.0

Yesterday, I wrote about the benefits that you receive by participating in a community. But, the term “community” implies both take and give, a two-way street. What can you do to give back to the community?

  • Make comments on blog posts. Ask questions or provide references to related information. Bloggers love to get comments.
  • Start your own blog. Contribute to the community by providing your own take on the issues. It doesn’t matter if 10 or 10,000,000 people read it. At least you have started a dialogue, and you never know where it might take you. Position yourself as a thought leader. Try Blogger or WordPress (where I host this blog).
  • Volunteer for local organizations, events. This is a great way to get to know some of the people behind the scenes.
  • Be a guest speaker at a local school or college. Provide career advice, talk about trends in the field.
  • Just be generally helpful. If you know of a position or opportunity, and you don’t necessarily fit the bill, spread the word. Karma is a valuable tool in this world.
  • Encourage others to participate in the community. The more the merrier, and the more robust a community, the more valuable it will ultimately be to its members.
  • Join social networks that are part of the community. It is often difficult to comprehend the scope of a community, but social networks provide a way to organize and mobilize members.
  • Start your own social network. Maybe you have identified an untapped niche, a group that you can mobilize on your own. Try Ning.com. I started my own social network for former students at webpubnet.ning.com. It gives me a way to keep in touch, provide current information, and communicate job leads.

And, once again, have fun. Where “networking” implies something artificial and insincere, “community” implies something natural and organic. Participate because you want to, not because you feel you have to. And, your enthusiasm will be recognized.

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A Word About Community

One of the things I have been talking to my students about lately is the importance of being part of a community. Many are graduating, looking for jobs. They’ve all heard about how important it is to “network,” but that word sometimes has a negative connotation, a bit scary and artificial. I prefer to talk about it in terms of community. In the world of new, interactive, or multi- media, that means participating in events and activities that bring you together with others sharing the same interests. ‘Round here that includes attending things like South By Southwest Interactive and the UT Online Journalism Symposium. There are also other, smaller networkings events that revolve around the tech community that give you the opportunity to get out there and meet the people making things happen.

The benefits of attending these events are multiple. An obvious benefit is that you might meet someone who can give you a job. You chat a bit, spread your business card around, later you get a call for an interview…the rest is history. But, even if this is doesn’t happen, there are still tremendous advantages for attending. First, you become more comfortable conversing about topics in the field. Do you have an opinion on net neutrality, cloud computing, or the future of social networks? If you are in a position to discuss these things, say in an interview or even something more informal, you gain an ease and fluency in how you communicate. Think about how impressive you will be in your next interview when you say something like, “When I was at the UT Symposium, Jim Brady of the Washington Post discussed the challenges traditional media are experiencing regarding the Internet,” or “When I was at South By Southwest, I heard Mark Zuckerberg talk about the importance of granular privacy controls to the future of social networking.”

Another way to stay abreast of topics in the field is to read the important blogs, regularly. Set up your Google start page with several RSS feeds from the tech community. I read TechCrunch, Scobleizer, Pogue’s Posts, and TechMeme. I also have Google and Yahoo Tech news feeds as well as NY Times and Washington Post. And, I follow the cool kids on Twitter, Robert Scoble and Kevin Rose (of Digg).

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the most important thing…read Wired. Subscribe to it. Even though you get most of the content online, it is so much fun to get the new Wired in the mail, check out the cover story, hold it in your hands, place it on your coffee table, pile it up in your office for future reference. It’s the only magazine to which I subscribe, only one I need. Sure, I have some problems with the way Wired caters to what they define as their demographic (from a gender perspective), but I’ll hold off on that for now. It really is the best way to stay in touch with anything having to do with technology and culture.

Community is important to all industries. I have several friends who are musicians. Sure, it’s competitive in Austin, but what I have found is that it is more about community. Musicians go to each others’ shows, they show up for spontaneous, magical collaborations, they loan out equipment, play on each others’ recordings, they fill in when needed…They know each other and they know who to go to for what. It’s the same in tech. People want to work with people they know, those on which they can count. I had guest speakers Nick Weynand and Caroling Lee from Trademark Media visit with my class last week. They validated the importance of all these things, how difficult it is to find good people, how important it is to stay abreast of technology, and how your passion and enthusiasm for these topics is the most critical thing you can convey about yourself in an interview.

Mostly, have fun. If you don’t enjoy this stuff, maybe it’s not for you. The people that are successful in this field eat, drink, sleep, and rock this stuff. That doesn’t mean you should kill yourself for your career. It just means you need to find a career that you can integrate with your interests, passions, and your life.

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Saturday at the Symposium

Saturday is for research. Scholars from around the globe converge on Austin today.


George Sylvie of UT, talks about Long Tail theory as it relates to long distance users.
Mary Dichard diligently takes notes.

So does Cordula!

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