“The responsibility of the crisis: the greed of a few and the lack of controls from whom should control them, the representatives of the people and the toxic journalism that reports the reality only in terms of the media corporations’ political and economic interest”.
Such is Bauluz’s view of the current media crisis.
He then describes a picture well-known to anyone who has ever worked in big media: “There are more and more tired journalists, many hostages in their newsrooms, doing and saying what they’re told”.
With this perspective in mind, Bauluz thinks that the only solution to reconstruct journalism is for groups of colleagues to get together and organise online, supported by citizens, foundations and philanthropists. So we can say that non-profit journalism is not only an American or English idea.
“First it was an option, now it’s a need,” argues the Pulitzer prizewinner.
“If you want to save whales, you’re a member of Greenpeace; if you want doctors in Somalia, you’re a member of Doctors Without Borders; if you want quality information, you’re a member of Periodismo Humano (Human Journalism)”.
Now I have the chance to write about a new role for digital journalists thanks to my Argentinian colleague Alvaro Liuzzi, who recently visited Spain to interview some of the directors of national news websites for his documentary on Hispanic online newsrooms (Argentina, Peru and Spain).
The Editorial Director of 20minutos.es, Virginia Pérez Alonso, told him about a new position they created to permanently control the long home page of the site to make sure everything is correct (links, images, headlines) and to track the most popular stories in each column, using their own software that shows real time stats.
They call this new position the “Portadista” (Portada is Spanish for home page). This is how it works in the newsroom:
The “portadistas” are journalists [This may seem obvious but it is important to note that it’s necessary for the people in charge of this job to have journalistic skills].
There are three portadista shifts every day, and the first one arrives at 7 AM. They say it is a exhausting job so they change the people in charge every 15 days.
They receive all the information from the journalists via Google Docs and organize the home page according to that.
Then they proceed to review the hole home page, check the links, control that the verbal tenses are correct, the photos, etc.
They constantly monitor that the home page doesn’t exceed a maximum file size. If that happens they have to take out images, cut articles and reduce their size.
Like in the music or art fields, we, the Spanish-speaking people, allways look to the Anglo-American world to see what the new trends and innovation about digital journalism are (and laugh when Rupert Murdoch opens his mouth).
But now we can show our own example of a news site that tried to survive in this ecosystem and… died. But it’s all about trial and error!
I’m talking about Soitu.es, which closed its highly-regarded doors after 22 months of life. Of course, its demise had a strong impact in the blogosphere, its increasing traffic more than 10% in the last month.
This Spain-based news site was born in the wrong way, trying to show off with an enormous and fancy newsroom of almost 40 people, in times when the bet must be low-cost. The correct path is to start with a smaller staff and try to grow when the cash starts flowing in. Instead, Soitu.es made an alliance with the BBVA bank, that soon came to an end when they didn’t see the profitability, taking the whole project down with them. Its Director, Gumersindo Lafuente, blamed the financial crisis – as expected – after he spent money on their own CMS and ad server instead of using the great open source options available.
With this experience in mind, David De Ugarte came up with a few key points to make your news site a sure failure:
Over-budget your project: There is nothing quite like having great amounts of money from the beginning to install in your team the habits that will make you fail, while the expectations of your investors remain high.
Abandon your own speech about reality: Comment uncritically on all the fashionable stuff. Cut no ice. Don’t believe in anything and stand for anything and with a bit of luck they won’t remember anything you published.
Don’t allow users to identify with you: people used to buy El País newspaper – or any newspaper, for that matter – as a militant action or a way of life. If you want to fail you can’t allow something like that to happen. Don’t let them associate you with something in particular and don’t make yourself specialist in anything.
Have a “paper mindset”: pay columnists to write like they have been doing it all their lives without a single link for contextualization.
Burn time and capital as fast as you can: organize conferences and invest while you can in nice headquarters with fancy furniture.
In April Maxim Salomatin translated the Model for a 21st Century Newsroom series into Russian. Now Mauro Accurso has translated it into Spanish. All 6 parts, which make up around 10,000 or so words. It’s an incredible feat, and I’m enormously grateful.
(As an aside, The Spanish Press Association approached me last year for permission to translate it too but I’ve never seen it. Perhaps they got bored after part 1… or perhaps they’re just rude. Anyway, if you’ve seen it, let me know.)
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been turning the Online Journalism Blog into a group blog. For our first project we have taken Jo Geary’s news interactivity index, and applied it Europe-wide, creating an ‘interactivity index’ of newspapers across European countries – at the moment: the UK, Spain, Portugal, Macedonia, Hungary, Poland and Switzerland…
The team so far is as follows: UK and France: Nicolas Kayser-Bril; Switzerland: Nico Luchsinger; Portugal and Spain: Alex Gamela; Poland: Marek Miller; Macedonia: Darko Buldioski; Hungary: Molnar Emil; Netherlands: Wilbert Baan.
If you want to help add information on one or more of your country’s newspapers you can do so here – you’ll need to ask Nicolas for a password: nicolas (at) observatoiredesmedias.com.
More newspapers will continue to be added, and there are other graphical tricks to come.
You can also embed this widget on your own blog with the following code: