By Eva Dou
Job hunters know to have a ready answer when recruiters ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
As for where the industry itself will be in five years, that’s a much harder question.
Panelists did their best to peer into their crystal ball this week at workshops on the future of print. Though the picture is blurry at best, there was one thing everyone could agree on – any good print strategy must include a good digital strategy.
That plan should include embracing bloggers rather than ignoring them, says Mike Fancher, former Seattle Times executive editor and adviser to the Knight Commission.
With newsrooms cutting costs, many newspapers no longer can cover local neighborhoods as thoroughly as they once did. At the same time, hyperlocal blogs have sprung up to fill the niche.
Newspapers like The Seattle Times have started tapping this local resource with partnerships. Bloggers provide local coverage, while the newspapers drive viewers to the blogs.
“In an interactive world, success will come from working very effectively with people who once were your competitors,” Fancher said.
Mark Potts, a former journalist who co-founded WashingtonPost.com, agrees that newspapers of the future will need to rely more on partnerships with the community. He sees newspapers having an increased role as aggregators and curators, pointing out the best content on the Web.
Newsrooms are also looking at mobile apps as potential money-makers, said Niala Boodhoo, a radio reporter for WBEZ in Chicago and former Miami Herald reporter.
While web surfers are used to content being free, many people don’t seem to mind ponying up for mobile applications. This has led newspapers to roll out local sports-related apps, such as the Miami Herald’s $1.99 Dolphins football app and The Seattle Times’ $2.99 Husky app.
Charging for online news is a more controversial topic. The mention of the word “paywall” brings a storm of debate at every turn.
Those in support of paywalls say news organizations can’t continue giving away their content for free.
“I absolutely believe in paywalls and the sooner the better,” said Anh Do, managing editor of LA Spot.us, a community-funded news source.
Others argue there’s no way to start charging now that viewers expect online news to be free.
“I’m skeptical of paywalls and anything that stands between people and information,” Fancher said.
Potts noted that publications with successful paywalls, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, frequently provide information that helps people make money. They also offer specialized content that readers can’t obtain elsewhere.
Less specialized publications would have more difficulty earning enough from paywall subscriptions to offset the drop in viewership and ad revenue, Potts said. An important litmus test will be how The New York Times fares when its paywall goes up in January.
Overall, panelists say the outlook is rosier than a year ago, with more companies hiring at this year’s convention job fair.
“I’m pretty optimistic that there will be new business models that develop,” Fancher said, “because I think the public and society want and need and value journalism.”
By Elizabeth Gyori
AAJA’s budget may be back to black following a tough 2009.
After closing with a $207,000 deficit, officials said, the governing board and the national AAJA office instituted aggressive measures – some unprecedented – to balance the budget.
“We are moving toward a brighter future,” said Executive Director Kathy Chow. “This is a great sign that even in the end of deficit from last year, we were able to pay off our deficit with interest already.”
Although national officials said Friday there is currently no deficit, the governing board refused to release how much AAJA has raised thus far until today’s National Advisory Board meeting.
Last year, AAJA borrowed $154,000 from the endowment to cover the shortfall. The loan was paid back in full, with interest, said National Treasurer Candace Heckman, totaling $160,000.
One of the measures used to ensure fiscal stability was asking individual
chapters to contribute money to the national office. Several chapters contributed more money than asked for and
were happy to help out.
Ameet Sachdev, president of the Chicago group, said the decision to give the national office more was not a difficult one. The chapter contributed
“I think that if (chapters) are not using those funds for the local activities, then they should give back to national,” Sachdev said.
Another major change was starting a fundraising policy that allows AAJA to accept money from companies outside the traditional media industry.
And as media outlets evolved, AAJA officials revamped the parameters.
For practical purposes, the definition of media funding sources has broadened to include not only companies such as NBC, but also Microsoft, which creates
new media enterprises.
Furthermore, AAJA can now accept money from any company that
share’s AAJA’s diversity mission. Government and in-kind donations – goods and services given by companies – can add to the coffers as well.
“I think we have a good balance of being able to protect our members
from conflicts of interest, but still seek the funders we need,” Heckman said.
Other changes also have added up to a projected balanced budget. For instance, the national AAJA office in San Francisco will be moving from Market Street to the Hearst Building. National President Sharon Chan said the move will save the organization $35,000 in rent expenses.
AAJA also switched from Bank of America to the Bank of San Francisco because of lower credit-card fees. The Bank of San Francisco also gave AAJA a line of credit.
But Chan emphasized that the national office is waiting to see how the convention ends before celebrating. Typically, the annual convention funds half of AAJA’s operating expenses and with last year’s loss officials hope to break even in Los Angeles.
“We had the worst crisis in our organization last year, but it’s history and we’ve shepherded AAJA through it,” Chan said.
Find Elizabeth on Twitter @LizGyori
By Candice Nguyen
At the end of 2009, AAJA’s national office was left with a $207,000 deficit.
That loss created a sense of financial emergency, pushing officials to ask for help from individual chapters with suggested donations as high as $12,000. Some have balked at the quota, while others are giving more. Donation amounts were not arbitrary, said AAJA National President Sharon Chan.
“We assessed the individual chapters’ accounts to calculate how much they’d be able to contribute,” Chan said. National officials worked with accountants to create a formula that figured out each chapter’s share.
The formula took a chapter’s bank account divided by the sum of all the accounts. Then it multiplied that fraction by the fundraising goal, which according to Chan, is $115,000. Membership numbers also were taken into account. Larger chapters with bigger budgets paid more while those with less paid a smaller amount. A payment plan was available for those chapters who couldn’t pay outright, said National Treasurer Candace Heckman.
Heckman said she’s not able to release exact figures of total chapter contributions so far until today’s treasurers’ meeting.
“In the end, all the chapters understood the mission and paid that formula that we came up with because, in the end, all of our money is together anyways,” Heckman said.
Chapters have pledged a total of $79,380. More financially stable groups, such as Sacramento and Atlanta, supported this fundraising method.
“We didn’t have a problem with paying,” said Vino Wong, Atlanta Chapter president. “Nonetheless, it’s about unity. If the mother ship sinks, we all sink.”
Earlier this year, AAJA National asked the Sacramento chapter for a $25,000 donation, which Sacramento delivered. Judy Lin, the chapter’s copresident, said it only initially wanted to donate about $10,000, but decided to donate the asked amount instead.
The chapter’s 25th anniversary is in 2010. Yesterday, the Sacramento chapter was awarded AAJA Chapter of the Year. It was the second chapter, after Minnesota, to donate funds through their “Issue Challenge.” Sacramento Chapter Co-President Pamela Wu says, “Our chapter was financially healthy. Then again, our members didn’t have to just reach into their pockets, they could seek sponsorships to help our chapter.”
At the same time, other chapters met the request with confusion and concern.
“It was more of a mandate, not a choice,” said Jeffrey Ong, Arizona chapter co-president. “I disagree with the usage of the word ‘donation,’ and I expressed that. It wasn’t a donation because a donation is a willing donat on to a cause. This was an assessment, from our viewpoint. I just wish it was a little more straightforward.”
The New York Chapter is scheduled to pay $12,626 to AAJA National, a large sum compared to most other chapters. At New York’s board meeting last May, members discussed pitching to AAJA National the idea of being given the bid as host of a future convention once they pay the amount.
Two years ago, New York lost a bid to host the 2011 convention to Detroit.
“We would love to have the AAJA convention in New York, but we’re not using our payment as a bargaining chip,” says Sital Patel, New York chapter president. “It was just part of the larger discussion.”
On all levels, 2009 hit AAJA hard. However, Chan reassures members: “This is a one-time thing. This was an SOS during the worst time for our organization.”
Find Candice on Twitter @candinguyen
By Wesley Cho
The march of technology and the economic recession have changed the TV news industry. Many stations already have or are beginning to move their news crews to “One-Person Crews.” These so-called, “One-Man Band” or “Multimedia Journalists” are not only responsible for reporting and writing, but also for shooting and editing. However, there have been many debates over the issue. Some TV journalists worry about the quality of news because not everyone can be skilled enough to do everything. Others say Multimedia Journalists will raise both the quantity of news and its quality as well. WUSA-TV, Channel 9 is based in Washington DC and it’s the first station in a major market to replace its crews with Multimedia Journalists. Here’s a Q& A with WUSA-TV’s Multimedia Journalist Elizabeth Jia:
A. I was born in Shanghai, China and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. I studied journalism not thinking I would become a multimedia journalist. In college, the word “multimedia” was not a popular word yet. Then, when I was accepted into the Talent Development Program at Gannett, I was trained as a multimedia journalist.
A. Every reporter is expected to know multimedia skills in the newsroom. I think the newsroom knows that certain stories require more than one person to cover it effectively. So, it’s based upon editorial judgment (for example, some stories are less safe when done with one person such as traffic or weather stories)
A. I have better access to different locations since the camera is smaller, and I don’t have a crew accompanying me. This gives me a chance to cover more in-depth stories.
A. Human-interest stories or personal stories always inspire me.
A. I think the future of journalism belongs to people who know how to effectively tell their stories online, print and in broadcast. The quality of journalism will improve as the online audience increasingly demands better and more thorough reporting.
A. I am happy with where I am now. Right now, I am looking forward to earning my Master’s in Journalism at Georgetown University.