The real cost of genuine journalism

Updated with a video on PolitiFact Guide to Fact-checking

The idea for this column came to me last March; I was flying back from Stockholm. Schibsted, the Norwegian media group I work for, had asked me to be part of the jury for its yearly Schibsted Journalism Award. I was both honored and curious to be part of such a delicate process. The group’s publications, in Scandinavia and abroad, submitted entries in several categories: best storytelling, best innovative entry, best scoop. Altogether, 27 entries were compiled in a hefty kit sent by Fedex to each member of the jury; the kit included a couple of binders — facsimile of original pages, translation in English, CDs, memory stick, etc. Serious work. Then, we gathered in Stockholm to select the nominees and the winners.

Of course I’m bound to secrecy, I’m not going to be specific about the discussions.  But I feel an urge to write about the event because I was surprised by the level of journalistic ambition
demonstrated by many of the entries. Among them were several investigative pieces: a bribery scandal in Russia, a huge Bank fraud in Norway, or revelations of a hidden part of Norwegian war history, just to name a few. We were faced with difficult choices — happily.  On my way back to Paris, I thought this was the perfect illustration of how, true, genuine journalism differentiates itself from blogs — even good ones, simply because news organization will invest time and money in the genuine article, so to speak.

To make my point, I’ll just focus on the cost, yes, in euros or dollars, of such journalism. It could sound like a trivial way to assess editorial performance but I believe money remains a much-needed fuel for good journalism. More

Brilliant insights at the NYT

“If they start making products people don’t want, and start losing users, then Apple’s strategy will run into problems.” You can see the full NYT Business section story here. My wife and I love to read the papers in the morning. French-born, we still marvel at this American icon: the newspaper route, the nice deliveryman in his beat-up truck throwing the paper on our doorsteps in the wee hours.

But enough Norman Rockwell.

‘Who is this guy?’ My spouse is pointing at the NYT story. I had avoided it because we’re a couple of days away from Apple’s WWDC. Every year, in San Francisco, Apple holds the Worldwide Developers Conference for individuals and companies writing programs (applications) for its computers and, now, its smartphones. The rumor mill makes too much noise. Writers, bloggers, anal-ysts, pundits and kremlinologists attempt to top one another with predictably bad results.
Still, who is this guy? Is Brigitte referring to the article’s author, Brad Stone, a respected writer, or to Benjamin Reitzes, the Barclays Capital analyst quoted above? The doubt points to an all-too-common problem with business writing in our Valley: Cut-and-Paste stories, formulaic and, if not content-free, bland and devoid of insight or explanatory value. More

New Journalistic Storytelling

From multimedia productions, to Computer Assisted Reporting

Last Thursday, I presented a series of great news related multimedia productions before a group of students of the Sciences Politiques School of Journalism where I happen to have a small gig.  I was curious to see their reactions. Too often, journalism students are mostly interested in the pursuit of a “voie royale”. This is especially true of those following a high-end academic path such as “Sciences Po”; they yearn to write for big newspapers, especially on noble beats such as foreign policy and politics. Fine. Grand ambitions are healthy.
Last year, as I was coaching another group on the handling of daily editorial meetings for a fictitious newspaper, I started to worry. In the real world, their editorial output would have been boring, un-commercial. Many in that group of students found me of the utmost vulgarity as I discouraged front-page stories covering elections in Zimbabwe, for example. Instead, I tried to ingrain into their well-wired brain the charms of explanatory journalism (I was fresh coming out of six years at 20 minutes, which was, after all, a solid success — 2.7m readers — and based on a good journalism mix).

This year’s group is different. They are two years younger, hence more realistic about their professional future. I helped them build a decent blog titled “Matière Crise” featuring untold (as much as they could) aspects of the economic crisis. They did fairly well, I think. For the last sessions, we decided to look into the best alternative ways to present news. More

Providing oxygen to publishers

22% of Internet users in the United States said they stopped their subscription to a printed newspaper or a magazine. Why? Because they could access the same content online, according to a study released last week by the Center for the Digital Future. And it was only one in a string of bad news for the industry. Most of these items came from the US but, to a large extent, apply to European media as well.

Newspapers need to regroup and take a breath. Both in Europe and in the United States. They need protection. Not the temporary protection of a bankruptcy, but a durable one based on alternate business models and a drastic change in their capital structure. More