The Future of Communications

NYWICI panel
(left to right) Sarah DaVanzo, Dana Points, Lisa Stone, Liz Kaplow. Photo by Jan Goldstoff.

On June 11, 2014, a panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) debated the shift in communications. A shift that is leading away from personal interactions toward a future obsessed with blazing-fast, always-on technology in our pockets. Is the ability to stay connected wherever we go a service or a disservice? To find out, NYWICI surveyed its members in partnership with BlogHer and discovered that 79% feel ignored when another person is using a phone during a conversation; 67% feel that multi-tasking is both a blessing and a curse; most would give up an e-reader before a phone (20% couldn’t decide). But overall, all seem to agree that technology is empowering — and disempowering them — at the same time.

Continue reading The Future of Communications

Journalism ca. 1940

Headlines and Deadlines recently posted this wonderfully quaint video about newspaper journalism in the 1940s (“You Life Work Series”), probably taken from the Prelinger Archives. I posted the same video in the past and wrote about women in journalism — now and then but it is worth reposting.

Aside from the fact that the newspaper business was a man’s business, what struck me as the biggest difference between then and now was that the hierarchies were much less defined. In this video, the managing editor sits with his staff in the same newsroom, no special treatment here. I wish today’s executive editors would be less self-centered and as humble.

The video also shows footage of manual typesetting and layout, printing and the process of creating matrix molds for syndication, skills that are all but lost.

As are the jobs for journalists…

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHgwFYbSF6E]

Too Old to be Online?

According to a PewResearch study, for the first time, half of seniors over 65 are online.

“As of April, 53% of adults ages 65 and older said they used the internet or email. Though these adults are less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, this represents the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant. […] One third (34%) of internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day.” 

Toby Young on Journalism

“[The media have] gradually become more respectable, which is a bad thing. Luckily, the Internet is making it less respectable again. To paraphrase Ben Hecht, journalists should occupy a rung on the status ladder somewhere between whores and bartenders.” […]

“I’m sure journalist/activists will become more common. It’s something that goes hand in hand with blogging. It’s a combination of roles that seems to be more and more popular with young journalists just entering the profession.” Read more (via The Browser).

The Joy of Quiet

Quote of the day (from an op-ed by Pico Iyver in the New York Times a while back, but still very much relevant):

“In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight. […] We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.” 

Quickshots: November

What was it like to be the top press photographer in New York City in the days “Before the Paparazzi?”

The Deadline Club has issued a statement concerning the arrests of journalists at the Occupy Wall Street protests:”The Deadline Club condemns the actions of the New York Police Department in detaining journalists who were covering the Occupy Wall Street protests on Tuesday, Nov. 15 and on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. As the New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Deadline Club believes that a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy and opposes any police interference with journalists in the lawful pursuance of their reporting. We urge that any journalists who are in custody be released and that any charges against the detained journalists be dropped immediately.”

I was baffled to learn about media blogger Romenesko’s (temporary?) dismissal from Poynter because of alleged plagiarism. I relied on his insight many times and his service to the media industry is invaluable. Here’s a thorough analysis of the case by Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review: 

“Romenesko found a new way of communicating attribution that renders old “rules” about attribution irrelevant. Journalism leadership that focuses on the ends our ethics are supposed to guide us toward would have recognized that. Leadership that focuses on rules for rules’ sake, wouldn’t have. And didn’t. It’s clear from this episode that something does need to change at Poynter. But it wasn’t Jim Romenesko.”

You can continue reading Romenesko’s media analyses on his website.

Reminiscing: Internet 1996 vs. 2011 Where were you?

Quickshots: June

NYTimes’ Bill Keller in “The Twitter Trap“: “… [B]efore we succumb to digital idolatry, we should consider that innovation often comes at a price. […] I wonder if the price is a piece of ourselves. […] Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud.”

At left, my own rant.

And here is more on Twitter: “Twitter is building a machine to convert 140 characters on Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher, narcissism, the struggle for human freedom and Starbucks into cash — and quick, before its moment passes. Is this asking too much of even the world’s best technologists?” asks Joe Hagan in New York Magazine under the headline “Tweet Science”.

No, it is not.

This PBS story, “Children and Facebook: The Promise and Pitfalls for Social Media,” reminded me of another quote by Keller: “Last week, my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth.”

Bill Moyers on the Daily Show: “I try to figure out the difference between the important and the immediate […] News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity. […] We amuse ourselves to death.”

 

David Carr of the New York Times says: “I don’t believe in the sort of bifurcation of old and new. The whole ‘we’re old world media, we make phone calls and we put them in the newspaper’ and ‘we’re new media and we grab whatever’s in the ether and put it up.’ There’s been this steady march toward each other and what you’re doing is no different from what I do.” More here.

♦ 

Very interesting article in the NYTimes “In Praise of Not Knowing” (June 18). “It’s fun being In the Know, but once everyone’s in it, there’s nothing to know anymore. […] I hope kids are still finding some way, despite Google and Wikipedia, of not knowing things. Learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simple not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill.” 

 ♦

There is so much wrong with this blogger’s assumption that journalism is dead and its market value is zero in the digital age, but he argues his point well and that is what good communication is all about. Judge for yourself.

And here is a counter argument in the discussion whether the value of journalism is zero, posted by Newsosaur, a blogger whom I respect a lot: “The Value of Journalism, Sir, Is Not Zero”. 

 ♦

Are the 700 Gannett layoffs “a vote of no confidence in the future of print by America’s largest newspaper company?” According to Poynter, they are indeed. Humph.

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You’ve got to be kidding me: “Women Still Don’t ‘Get’ LinkedIn” (via The Atlantic). Nonsense. According to TechCrunch, “Women rule the Internet. [They’re] the routers and amplifiers of the social Web. They are the rocket fuel of e-commerce. If you figure out how to harness the power of female customers, you rock the world.”

Do you have a LinkedIn profile yet? No? Get going. Here’s mine.

Gail Collins on Women Journalists

New York Times columnist Gail Collins was the keynote speaker at New York Women in Communications annual meeting on May 17, 2011. She spoke about the evolution of women journalists — from being denied entry to the National Press Club in the 1970s, where even the restrooms were off-limits to them, to covering world events today.

Collins credited her success in journalism to the trailblazing women that came before her, who paved the way so that her own fight was made easier.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-itrDSRrh0E?rel=0&hd=1]

Yes, women have indeed come far. But not far enough. As a reminder, read Mika Brzezinski’s account (“Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth”) on why we value our work less than our male colleagues’ and how to get equal pay for equal work.

Listening to Collins’ speech was heartwarming, not only because of her wit and intellect but because of her down-to-earth, unpretentious demeanor that is lacking in too many media personalities and stars.

And I was reminded again how complacent many young journalists and almost-media-starlets are. I don’t see many who have Collins’ inner strength and determination to fight for women’s rights.

“A feminist? Me? Hell no.” Their dream jobs are working for Lifestyle or editing Cosmopolitan or Vogue — not covering Washington politics or the Pentagon. They want to work for Lucky and Us Weekly, not Wired or Foreign Affairs. At New York Women in Communications, I have met many a student and young professional who yearns to be the next Oprah and gets weak knees when coming face-to-face with senior fashion and beauty editors at NYWICI panels.

As broadcast journalists and magazine editors, they, too, will get caught up in superficiality in the hunt for the lowest common denominator, pleasing advertisers to get ratings or ads.

And as copy writers at advertising agencies, they, too, might come up with sexist ads like this one (why did the woman agree to take part in the ad, I wonder. But ladies, that is another story that you should investigate).

Soon, we’ll be back in the 1970s. Gail Collins will tell you what that was like for women journalists. You’d be surprised.

That could happen, because trailblazers like Collins, Helen Thomas or Carole Simpson can, and could, do only so much. You will have to pick up the torch someday if you want to have an impact that lasts beyond your career, even if it is just for your own dignity. Because even on a really bad hair day, there are more important things to worry about.

Remember Lara Logan? Get out there and be heard. Don’t sell yourself short.

Digital Natives

PBS Newshour aired a fascinating segment yesterday by Miles O’Brien about the effects of multitasking and addiction to digital technology on adolescents’ brains. The gist: multi-tasking is possible and the constant, simultaneous use of technologies will rewire our brains over time. But it is very inefficient and a constant give and take.

I wrote a while ago about “Our Brains Online.” Now, here’s another take on the story: How kids and “technology addicts” may alter their brains  — for better or for worse. “The prime time for pruning is adolescence,” says O’Brien.“Connections that are used are strengthened. Those that aren’t are disconnected.”

“This is the time when human beings learn to live independently in their environment — 10,000 years ago, teens would have been learning how to stay warm, what berries to eat, or how to hunt. Today, they are learning how to drink from a technological fire hose. And, in fact, in their adult jobs, they may be doing a lot of multitasking. But the other side of that coin is, will they become less good at focusing on one task, of being able to do one thing really well?”

In a recent article in Nieman ReportsDistracted: The New News World and the Fate of Attention,” Maggie Jackson went even further:

“In our rapid-fire, split-focus era, are we able to process, filter and reflect well on the tsunamis of information barraging us daily? Are we hearing, but not listening? If this continues to be the way we work, learn and report, could we be collectively nurturing new forms of ignorance, born not from a dearth of information as in the past, but from an inability or an unwillingness to do the difficult work of forging knowledge from the data flooding our world?”

Adults, who have been using new technologies from the start, show the same brain-changes. “I can feel it, too” admits Nicholas Karr in his December 2010 article in The Atlantic Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains

“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

And it all started so promising. In 1982, The Atlantic published a very entertaining piece “Living with a computer” by James Fallows, who describes the positive and time-saving experience of working, and slowly coming to love his first computer (with a 48K memory). At the end of his story, Fallows expressed his hope “for a world in which my sons can grow up to have a better computer than their father had.”

They definitely have. But has that served them well?

Almost 30 years later, Karr is less enthusiastic than Fallows was back then: “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

Much ado about nothing? Maybe. It is up to parents and teachers to introduce kids to things that they wouldn’t look for themselves or are not aware of that they need. Choices are good once you make sure that you don’t get sucked into more of the same of what you already know.

O’Brien muses at the end of his piece for PBS: “I suppose cavemen parents worried about their kids playing with that newfangled fire.”

Fire? What fire? Many of us have lost the ability to really see the glow of the flames, hear them crackle, smell the burning sap of the logs and feel the heat on our faces even if the fire is right in front of us. We watch it on Vimeo, tweet about it, Digg it, Stumble Upon it, blog and text about it and find it on Google Maps or on our iPhone app. And then we immediately forget that it ever happened.

Still, my brain and I don’t want to go back to the time where we couldn’t choose what to read, watch, learn and listen to freely, wherever and whenever.

Hmm. What was I just talking about?