A snow news day — and a little bit of Sylvia PlathRobin Washington column: I had been looking forward to cavorting with the English majors, if for no other reason than to hear what they thought about being the butt of a Garrison Keillor routine.
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune
I had been looking forward to cavorting with the English majors, if for no other reason than to hear what they thought about being the butt of a Garrison Keillor routine.
Yet the best laid schemes gang aft agley, as Burns would put it, and Friday’s snowstorm meant the 21st Century Publishing Conference hosted by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s English Graduate Student Association was canceled.
Or mostly canceled. The University of Wisconsin-Stout contingent didn’t get the message.
“The bus showed up at quarter after six,” student Amanda Lafky said of their early morning journey to Duluth. “We walked into what we thought was the conference center and asked where the journalism conference was.”
The answer was it wasn’t, so their professor, Mitch Ogden, ushered them around Duluth to meet the people scheduled to speak, including me. I also took questions online from others who planned to attend.
“They are interested in publishing, in digital media studies, in Sylvia Plath,” messaged UMD professor David Beard, the conference organizer.
“Forgive them their fascination with Sylvia Plath,” he added.
No problem. UMD master’s candidate Jaime Jost was all business.
“I wonder how you think newspapers will evolve with the introduction of multimedia, social media, digitization, etc.?” she messaged. “Will (their) role in the community change?”
No, I answered. The most valuable asset of news isn’t how it’s disseminated, it’s the integrity of what we write. While Facebook is a perfectly legit way to spread information, its credibility depends on who’s posting it. And though Michael Jackson’s death was tweeted before major news sources reported it, social media also shouted out the horrible mistake that Ryan Lanza, not his brother Adam, was the gunman at Sandy Hook.
The News Tribune’s integrity is everything, and before we put anything in print, on social media or online, we’re determined to make sure it’s right.
“I taught high school journalism for four semesters,” UMD grad student Lindsey Fifield Jungman asked next. “We always watched good old ‘All the President’s Men’ and talked about the media as watchdog. For a newspaper like the DNT, what does this role look like?”
Sometimes it means a major investigative series, like our report last year about deaths attributed to methadone prescription misuse. On an everyday level, it means knowing our beats and looking for anomalies that just don’t seem right, and adding context to stories. Our recent reports about the Last Place on Earth, for example, noted that in nearly 20 years since the first police raid, proprietor Jim Carlson has never been convicted. The watchdog looks both ways.
Of my professional career, a Stout student asked, which did I like best: radio, television or newspapers?
It depends on the story, I said. Some are better told in print, some in broadcast or online. You’d struggle to visualize an art review on the radio, while the storm surfers on this page demand to be on video. You can see more of them here.
And that led back to the conference theme and how media have always been changing. When I started 30-plus years ago, newspapers were printed with hot metal type, replaced by photo-typography using computers now long since junked.
With that comes a warning: Don’t go overboard with every new toy. Remember those symbols that showed up in print ads a couple of years ago? You’d wave your handheld device over them, and … what were they called?
“QR codes?” Stout’s Jace Johnson suggested.
“Right!” I replied. “Anyone use them these days?”
I thought I heard “nah-unhs,” though it probably was their stomachs growling.
“I need to get them to lunch,” Ogden said, and off they went. Afterward, Dave Wruck of our advertising department updated me on the codes.
“Some applications work well, like a print ad,” he said. “During the summer, we’ll put them into the rummage sales ads. You take a picture and pull up the interactive map on your phone.”
But don’t try that with a code on a billboard while driving down I-35, he said. Plus, it can be a pain getting them to work on both Androids and iPhones.
So was all this just a newspaper editor beating up on the online world, pretending that nothing has changed? Hardly. It’s a reminder that journalism must always adapt to new technologies, be it our new press (see today’s Outlook section) or Twitter or whatever may come.
Or the late Ms. Plath, who, it turned out, no one brought up after all. But just in case you’re wondering, click here .
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at email@example.com.