Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Group 2's Response

As a group we picked out what we thought were the most important chapter/ideas...


HoustonChronicle.com’s Virtual Voyager:

In Boczkowski’s chapter on the Houston Chronicle’s Virtual Voyager, two reasons seemed to stand out as to why online innovation by print newspaper companies was so reactive:

1) The extensive coordination networks that had developed in order to
publish on the web. The editors, reporters, multimedia recorders, programmers, designers and executives all had to communicate and come together just to get one item published.

Today’s most successful media organizations have developed a system where reporters and other content producers can publish themselves and have an editor (possibly hundreds of miles away) look it over and give it a go ahead within an hour.

2) An inability or unwillingness of reporters and editors to expand their skill set beyond simply writing to include web publishing and multimedia editing. There isn’t a need for reporters to be able to program java applets, but at this point in the game, they should at least be trained in basic HTML.

At the same time, as is evident in the example of the Houson Chronicle’s Virtual Voyager site, programmers don’t always have the skills or perspective to communicate effectively with those producing content for the web.


Digitizing the News

New York Times’ Online Venture

Boczkowski’s chapter about the New York Times on the Web shows both the accomplishments and the struggles of the paper in its beginning online venture in the mid-1990s. I would think that this portrayal would be representative of most papers that were looking to venture into the web at this time. There were issues with newsroom processes, technology and interacting with the print section of the newspaper.


Boczkowski looks at how technology was used in the journalistic process in the CyberTimes news room and shows that its effects were small, for this venture at least. The journalists writing for the NYT’s online portion reported no significant changes in the way they reported their stories, since most of it was print on the site anyways. The changes came in the editorial and formatting side of things with editors adding links to relevant things within the stories or links to previous articles about the topic at hand. The links raised issues came up
about who to link to and how often, journalists were concerned about being seen as a PR rep by including those links. He also talks about limited use of technology and technology equipment in the Times’ operation. This was interesting to me, as it seems the Times’ online operation was really set on focusing only on one group of
users.


He also focuses on the interaction within the Times organization between the CyberTimes unit and the print operation. The description of what happened in the early days of the CyberTimes operation seems that it was at times difficult for both operations to interact and be on the same page. However, a fluid relationship developed over time as meetings increased and someone who had previously workedin the online unit took charge in the print unit, he knew what the online people needed and worked to getthem that. This fluid relationship growth signified the online operation as legitimate, with increasing sharing of content between the two.


This is a through look into the operation of the Times’ online news operation and a look that probably had the same issues at many other news operations around the country as they turned to the web. Boczkowski does a great in-depth job of showing the challenges of this venture and how it progressed from a trial to something that is commonplace today.


Distributed Construction: New Jersey Online’s Community

Boczkowski’s chapter on online communities sheds insight into the non-profit world of publishing. Town and state newspapers online have given non-profit organizations an opportunity to have their own websites within the larger site. Boczkowski makes a solid point that “community connection” has illustrated many things. Two very important being that this “connection” illustrates not only great usability but also builds many connections. A person not knowing anything about HTML can write messages, edit graphics and change the overall page with no ptior knowledge. Also, this tool helps to exemplify what the internet is about, connections. It greats a one way stream of information from the non-profit organization to the users.

Chapter 2

Chapter two focuses on the vast changes newspapers undergo beginning with exploration in the 1980s to the “settling” of newspapers on the web in the early to mid 1990s. He begins by explaining the difference between the 1980s as the exploring years, the 1990s as the settling years, and finally 1995 with the success of the web. Boczkowski describes the culture of innovation as the combination of reactive, defensive, and pragmatic traits. Reactive referring to actors following social trends, defensive referring to newspaper’s failure of moving into new areas, and pragmatic also referring to newspapers and their inability to focus on the long term.
Boczkowski continues with an in depth explanation the different technologies produced through the 1980s concluding that videotex was the only technical alternative that was somewhat profitable. Although he spends a great deal of explaining these developments, I believe the narrowing down and settling which took place in the 1990s to be far more important. He attributes the Clinton-Gore campaign, “information superhighway” and privatization to the development of the internet. Newspapers soon realized they must conform to the demands of society by being on the web or they will fail as an industry.

Discussion Questions:

The creators of Virtual Voyager tackled projects both projects that focused on content over timeliness and vice versa. Which is more valuable? Is it possible to do both? Which way are media and news website leaning towards today?

-Are journalists more adapted now to working in both the print and online world or will it take more time to get fully adjusted to the differences?

-Is unidirectional message flow good? Is it good for the public to have more access to
journalists? Do forums like the Times’ ones provide a constructive place for people to talk about things, or is it just a waste of time?

-Is it better for an online news entity to focus their content (text, broadband multimedia, etc) on one specific user group (Like the Times) or should they look to include things for more than one group?

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