Hi. My name is Adam.

New blog: adambsullivan.com

Posted in Uncategorized by adambsullivan on May 11, 2010

I purchased a domain and am hosting my blog elsewhere. Check it out: adambsullivan.com

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Vulgarity in political dissent: A legal and ethical analysis

Posted in Uncategorized by adambsullivan on April 29, 2010

Paywall debate brings out worst in media critics

Posted in blogging, economy, journalism, news by adambsullivan on April 8, 2010

Rupert Murdoch thinks paywalls will make news orgs viable. He says it all the time; it’s not news. Still, every time he brings up his Wall Street Journal pay-for-news model, the media conversation swells with attacks on Murdoch:

Murdoch just doesn’t get it
Murdoch misunderstands the Internet news world
Murdoch getting lonely inside his walled garden
No, Mr. Murdoch, they’ll stop caring

As I’ve blogged before, there are emerging business models which I think could make content operations profitable. However, I’m still sympathetic to paywall models as well. I don’t know for sure what will work. Neither does anyone else.

But we should be thankful that Murdoch’s WSJ (and a handful of others) are trying the paywall model. We can tweet and blog as much as we want, but unless we conduct real-world business model experiments, we make no progress. Maybe it will work long-term and maybe it won’t; we can’t know if nobody tests it.

As far as I can tell, attacks on Murdoch’s paywall position aren’t attacks on paywalls at all: They’re manifestations of political resentment. Most of the prominent players in the media conversation are liberals and Murdoch has oft thrown his weight behind conservative movements. It makes sense that bloggers would attack Murdoch, but it’s petty nonetheless.

We all agree we need news. And most of us agree we need a professional class of content-producers. Citizen journalism can be part of the new media landscape, but it can’t be the whole of it. Accordingly, we need to develop a way(s) to fund journalism. That development relies on our being allies.

Produce good content and nothing else matters? Wrong.

Posted in blogging, economy, journalism, news by adambsullivan on March 29, 2010

Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter penned a guest op for MediaWeek today with reassurance that the magazine industry won’t disappear any time soon.

I really don’t care if the magazine industry disappears; I’m not inclined to work for a magazine and I don’t think most magazine content is particularly original. However, the logic Carter uses to arrive at his conclusion is troubling.

Carter points out that we’ve seen advances in communications technology in the past and that those changes haven’t killed preceding media, but changed them. Specifically, he looks at movie companies’ worry that TV would put them out of business:

After trying every gimmick in the book—3-D, Cinerama, even Smell-O-Vision—the studios discovered that the best way to save their core business was to keep making great films, a mission they have had sketchy success at.

That’s kinda true. What movie studios actually did was create movies that capitalized on the strengths of the medium: Movie theaters are well-suited for cool effects and epic shots, so movies that perform well feature cool effects and epic shots.

He goes on:

So if print journalism’s business model is changing, our only move as editors is to double down on delivering what our readers have always wanted from us: compelling stories and iconic photographs. And it won’t matter if they’re read on a laptop, a cell phone, or on paper.

This is a toxic attitude. If content-producers are to survive, they need to recognize what media best convey what information. Stories need to be told differently when they’re presented on different platforms because different technologies have different strengths and weaknesses.

Carter’s attitude (“produce good content and nothing else matters”) is why media is in trouble today. We need to be responsive to what our consumers demand and how they demand it.

Non-profit journalism can fund watchdog projects

Posted in economy, journalism, news, politics by adambsullivan on March 28, 2010

There are lots of good ideas being talked about on ways to fund journalism. My favorite models are RevenueTwoPointZero and CUNY’s news innovation.

The best ideas focus on two things: Be part of the community (hyperlocal, social interaction, transparency, etc) and offer your advertisers a unique service (ads that work, tasks which small businesses don’t know how to do or can’t afford, etc).

I’m optimistic those things can help keep daily news free to most consumers. However, in-depth reporting is different. Long projects offer little utility for news organizations: They require a lot of resources (man hours for reporting and sometimes dollars to obtain documents and outside expertise) but the return is usually quite small, especially because once the story breaks, every news organization will confirm it and publish it.

The best way to fund watchdog assignments — long-term reporting projects aimed at protecting the public interest — is to solicit donations. While most people don’t care about daily news enough to volunteer their cash, I’m confident there’s a reasonably large population which is willing to donate to programs aimed at keeping government and big business honest.

In fact, we’re already seeing this idea in action. Nationally, ProPublica operates on donations and grants to produce stories “with significant potential for major impact” and The Huffington Post Investigative Fund backs projects which can be reprinted by other news organizations.

Locally, The American Independent funds five state-wide online news outlets (including one in Iowa) which focus on political coverage. And projects like The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism will crowdsource journalistic expertise in the region to produce public interest pieces.

There’s an obvious question here: “If the market doesn’t do a good job of supporting watchdog projects, what evidence is there to suggest that people will donate money to such a cause?”

That’s a good question and many have used it as evidence that we need federal intervention in the media industry. However, we’ve observed that when Americans believe something is vital or in the public interest, they’ll hand over dollars (religion and education attract the most donated dollars in the U.S.).

Still, watchdog projects can’t ignore the priorities outlined in new media business models. Convincing potential donors that journalism is a public good needs to be a priority. As is, we’re in one of the least trusted professions. To garner public trust, we need to to be transparent, accessible, and community-oriented.

Disclosure: The publication for which I currently work, The Daily Iowan, is a nonprofit corporation. Additionally, this summer I’ll be working for The American Independent‘s Iowa outlet. And, finally, I’ve worked with the directors of The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.

Hashtags: The best way to pawn your work off

Posted in Uncategorized by adambsullivan on March 26, 2010

I covered a Barack Obama’s visit to Iowa City today. (Here’s some of what I came up with.) While covering a presidential address, there are plenty of sources who want to talk to you and you don’t even have to take notes because the you have an embargoed copy of the speech already, but it’s still stressful: You don’t want to mess it up and there’s a lot going on.

Usually during event coverage, I tweet as much as possible, trying to fulfill my role as a public surrogate. It can be a stressful thing, especially when I’m trying to manage my personal twitter account as well as the couple profiles I manage for The Daily Iowan, all in addition to taking notes, shooting stills, shooting video, conducting interviews, reading the competition, updating the website, etc.

However, today was the first time I really grasped the power of twitter hashtags as an event coverage tool. I’ve used hashtags before to monitor trends and medium-term happenings, but not often for one-day events.

A couple days before the event, I started throwing around the #ObamainIC hashtag, trying to make it as social as possible (asking people what they thought of the event, whether they’d received tickets, etc). Luckily it caught on, peaking at more than 100 tweets per hour before, during, and after Obama’s speech.

Because audience members and people watching the speech at home were giving quotes and asking/answering questions, I didn’t have to do those things as much. I still threw up some tweets before the event, but not nearly as much as I would have if I hadn’t crowd-sourced the task to my networks.

Additionally, this presents an excellent counter-argument to those who say web stuff distracts journalists from their primary reporting and writing responsibilities. If you successful utilize your social networks to carry on the discussion, you’ll free yourself up to concentrate on collecting good interviews and developing interesting angles.

The danger of overworked journalists

Posted in Uncategorized by adambsullivan on March 17, 2010

Last week in Iowa City, I spoke with Sen. Chuck Grassley about health care reform. He tossed around a lot of numbers — for example, proposed legislation would grow government by $2.5 trillion, delegate more than 1,600 new authorities to the Department of Health and Humans Services, and would raid $52 billion from Social Security premiums. Sometimes he cited the Congressional Budget Office. Sometimes he just said the numbers.

Being a busy guy in the newsroom (in addition to reporting and writing a couple stories a week, I handle social media, do some multimedia, and work as an assistant news editor), I don’t have time to verify all of Grassley’s claims. Accordingly, I didn’t include the numbers in my story.

The reporter from my paper’s primary competitor — who I know writes as many as five articles a day — also didn’t have time to verify the numbers. But that didn’t stop him from including them.

Printing unverified numbers isn’t just a local problem, though. Iowa politician Tom Fiegen points out that even at the national level, reporters stretched thin by dwindling newsroom resources often go to press with facts and figures straight from politicians mouths.

On one hand, small newsroom staffs make us efficient and ensures journalists are working hard. On the other hand, it’s detrimental to public affairs reporting.

A recent study in Australia found that more than half of news articles stem from some kind of public relations material. That’s the product of reporters having to complete more tasks than they’ve traditionally done. One Australian newspaper editor said:

“It’s very difficult I think, given the way resources have drifted from journalism to public relations over the past 30 years, to break away as much as you really want to … I guess I’m implying, the number of people who go to communications school and go into PR over the years has increased and the number in journalism has shrunk even more dramatically.”

Especially in the health care debate, that leads to a misinformed and uninformed public. It’s hard enough to track political discourse; to have to dig through bullshit filtered to you by newspapers is too much for many citizens to do.

On the bright side, I’m sure there’s a fun “strategic communications” job waiting for me after graduation.

Make your work matter: 7 priorities for journalists in 2010

Posted in blogging, convergence, journalism, news, twitter by adambsullivan on January 7, 2010

Individualism — Reporters need to be more self-sufficient than ever. Editors exist to assist reporters and to be a resource. However, reporters ought to think of ways to expand their coverage with technology without being told to do so. Just as reporters don’t wait for the command from an editor to call a certain source or look up a bit of information, reporters shouldn’t wait for orders to shoot video, engage their audience via social media, or put links into their stories. Additionally, while newsroom leadership is there to teach and guide you, it’s the reporters responsibility to seek advice and to learn new skills.

Branding — Journalists should make sure their web presence provides a flattering picture of their work. When you apply for jobs or internships, your employer is going to Google your name. If what shows up is bad (or, worse, if nothing shows up at all), you’re not going to get hired. Write stories that get a lot of hits, start a blog, and use social networking.
(See also: Your digital profile tells people a lot, by Steve Buttry)

Promotion — The web is an excellent place to promote your work. Your friends and family (facebook!) want to see what you’re doing, but they need to be reminded to look. People you don’t know (twitter!) also want to see your work, they just don’t know it yet. Use the web to reach out.

Engagement — Simply put, you need to be tuned into your community and your community needs to be tuned into you. Your “community” includes the local area as well as people elsewhere who are interested in the beat you cover. If your community is engaged in your work, it’ll be a huge asset: They’ll alert you of story ideas, promote your work for you, and provide valuable feedback.

Content — People don’t want to be told what they already know. And the Internet allows people to know a lot. You have to bring something new to the table. Daily Iowan display advertising was up last year, while other papers had to lay off reporters or shut down because of low ad revenue. Why are we ahead? Our advertisers say we provide more unique and original content than any other publication.

Media — Always be cognizant of what medium best conveys what information. We have lots of technology at our disposal. We can create text, photos, video, audio, graphics, interactive graphics, conversations, and more. Think about what message you want to send and then consider what medium will best allow you to do that. Having the skills to create all of those things will make you extremely employable. Additionally, always offer your reader something extra. Usually when we cover hard news, we’ll have the same information as our competitors. But if we have the same information plus a multimedia piece, we’ve done a better job.

Report smarter — This extends far beyond Googling the name of a source. Crowdsource your social networks, examine your source’s web presence, and read non-traditional news clips.

Tweeting from BCS football bowl games is probably against the rules…but that’s okay

Posted in BCS, football, hawkeyes, Orange Bowl, sports journalism, twitter by adambsullivan on December 24, 2009

The BCS doesn’t want news outlets to compete with television broadcasts. Accordingly, the list of media guidelines for covering bowl games is miles long and very direct. As far as I can tell, the rules say reporters cannot tweet from inside the stadium. But I’m no legal expert (not a sports reporter, either) so I was a bit fuzzy on what the rules meant.

To confirm, I tried to get in touch with someone at BCS or the Orange Bowl, but wasn’t successful. Instead, I did some twitter crowd-sourcing. The verdict: The rules say no tweeting, but most news orgs are probably going to do it anyway.

Mike Hlas, Gazette sports columnist: Looks problematic. Let’s see what happens at the Rose and Sugar bowls to see if they disobeyed the BCS like we will.
Jamie Kelly, Gazette social media guide: I’d say limited Tweeting, for sure.
Laura Bergus, tech-enthusiast and uiowa law student:
Just b/c it violates their terms doesn’t mean it’s *legal* to keep you from doing it, but then again, u wanna go to court? 😛
Laura Bergus, tech-enthusiast and uiowa law student: Well, folks sure live-tweet game descriptions from home all the time. Haven’t heard of anyone getting dinged…yet.

The BCS doesn’t want people following their favorite sports reporter on twitter instead of tuning in to the game on TV. However, if a reporter is good at twitter, his or her posts will be a supplement to the game, not a replacement for it. My football reporters don’t just tweet the score and the big plays; they add unique commentary that (hopefully) no other human is capable of providing.

All reporters — sports or not — should be adding something to the discussion, not just posting facts and information. If that’s the case, they won’t be stealing viewers away from the game.

Related: Can sports journalists tweet from BCS football games?

Can sports journalists tweet from BCS football games?

Posted in BCS, college, football, journalism, live updates, twitter by adambsullivan on December 8, 2009

My senior sports reporter and I were just looking over the BCS media regulations. Understandably, the BCS a long list of stringent guidelines regarding coverage of bowl football games. I’m no legal expert and I’ve never covered a sporting event, but it seems to me the media rules disallow journalists from tweeting about the game.

An excerpt:

  • Except for those originated by the rightsholders, live text, audio or video play-by-play accounts originating from the stadium are prohibited.
  • Score updates are permitted.
  • The use of textual statistical information must be time-delayed and limited in amount (e.g., the score, injuries, record-breaking performances, scoring summaries at the end quarters, a condensed halftime story) so that an organization’s game coverage on the Internet does not conflict with the electronic media rightsholder’s rights to play-by-play accounts of the game And/or exclusivity as to such rights.

Does anyone know if tweeting/facebook updating are restricted? Any insight would be much appreciated.