Thursday, July 01, 2010

What makes newspapers different...

...when they're not papers anymore?

Last week, I was offered a full-time position at the Daily Local News. I accepted - and Saturday, before I had even begun officially started that position, news of two separate murders broke on the same day.

Man, oh man, have I been wishing I had the tools - an iPhone or other smart phone, an iPad, and a netbook - that will be given to members of the ideaLab, the Journal Register's new initiative!

But mobility is really only part of the story. The way news is delivered changes, society changes, people's desires from news change somewhat - change itself is the only thing that is inevitable. That's why we need to make sure development and adaptability are our key values.

Two thoughts:

1. It's obvious how these tools can be useful right out of the box in terms of mobility. This would imply that those who are more familiar with developing technology should have the tools, because they could do more. This does affect my nominations; however -

2. We don't just need people who know how to develop apps. We need people who experiment with them as the average user will, but who are savvy, out-of-the-box thinkers. The way news is being delivered is changing, but it's changed before and will change again. There will not be a time when we can breathe a sigh of relief, sit back and know that we won't have to go through this mindset-jostling-process again. That's why we need people who possess adaptability as a trait to act as our developers and guinea pigs.

I'm hoping that the ideaLab is a precursor to recognizing the demands of the newsroom and equipping all staff appropriately. This does not necessarily mean handing all staffers a full arsenal of products, but giving these tools to people who will experiment should give us some data on what tool is best for what job. Some staff might be better served, for example, by a netbook than by a computer at their desks.

And finally, one last thought: we don't need to be TV news. As I covered a sensitive conspiracy murder case this week, I talked to long-time neighbors of the family torn apart by the tragedy. At first, they asked to be anonymous. After we talked, I asked again if, considering what they said, they were willing to let me use their names. They said yes - but had I been quick to whip out a camera, I doubt they would have been. As we adapt to a multimedia world, there are still benefits to the intimacy of what we do.

Also - related to intern life - check out the Daily Local interns' blog, linked from the right and also here: Will Work for Clips.