Friday, November 10, 2006

Two dimensional living and Skittles overload

Friday morning
Development spend: not paid invoices yet
Number of Skittles eaten in last hour: less than 100, more than 50
Websites skimmed this morning: eight

Working my brain today over what and how. Still not sure whether I should be publicising sweeble properly yet, while it's still so very beta-stage, but how do I get stuff up there if only a handful of people know about it?
I've had discussions this week with developer Neil and the design company working on the site look, to start moving forward some of the revamps and Big Ten tasks I mapped out in last week's brain splurge.
But that's left me even more cautious about promoting sweeble yet when I know what's in the pipeline. What I don't want is for people to visit once, read a couple of stories, then bugger off because there's not enough to keep coming back for.
But maybe that's inevitable at the start. I wonder how many videos YouTube launched with, or whether they got there by buying in a batch of material to seed the site with?
In any case, that's one of the routes I'm trying over the next few days - talking to journo friends about chasing contacts to get sample first-person stories up there. When I do decide to push sweeble, I need to make sure there's enough of a mix to spark visitors into wanting to put up their own stories.


Teaching journalism students is starting to get a bit weird. My head is so full of sweeble all the time, and future journalism, and the democratisation of news delivery. Then I'm yanked out in the middle of each week to teach first-year journalism students about the importance of being an old-style journalist. Well, not actually old-style, actually current and foreseeable future style journalism, but to me it's the past.
The students are mostly great, but teaching them interviewing skills yesterday and explaining why we still ask for ages and whether a woman is married, then going through using quotes and reported speech and why reporters can't comment in their story - it feels like I'm working in two dimensions at once.
But that's my issue, not theirs. It's important that they learn the techniques and the principles as the background skills to becoming good journalists. Being able to write a good, tight story quickly is part of their craft. The bigger issue is whether the industry itself - particularly local newspapers - is looking for anything more from them nowadays than to be good at their craft.
Newsroom cutbacks and lazy editorships mean most reporters spend too much of their working day filling set spaces around adverts with words, and too little chasing down new stories and looking into the dark corners of their city or town.
That's why local newspapers are losing readers - not because they don't have enough community information or because the Internet kidnapped them, but because they don't have enough new things to tell their readers about the place they live in.

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