Journalism's problem isn't the Internet or advertising; it's attitude

Forget about Internet competition, the alleged advertising crash, declining news program ratings and newsroom cutbacks. There’s only one problem facing the journalism industry in 2011.

And that’s… attitude.

Too many people in our industry, from publishers to cub reporters, are wallowing in a culture of failure, bringing a fatalistic attitude to their jobs, one that has been and will continue to become self-fulfilling.

Journalists’ bad attitude toward their business manifests as whiny entitlement: People should communicate online under our rules; Readers should pay more for our reporting; Online publishers (in this case, Julian Assange) should play nice to the powerful like we do, too.

Winners make money and differences in peoples’ lives. Losers make excuses. Which do you want to be?

Sure, you can find (at least temporary) comfort in the familiar. Keep working on traditional, quote-three-sources-including-one-elected-official, inverted pyramid, newspaper-style stories. Maybe add a part-time blog on the side, to feel “hip” and score some points with your boss. If you get laid off (or fear you might be), send clips and resumes to other newsrooms. If that doesn’t elicit a job offer, look for a j-school faculty gig. Keep attending the same industry conferences, networking with other newsroom journalists, to commiserate about how tomorrow just doesn’t look or feel like the good old days.

People who follow this path are simply trying to run out the clock on their career: trying to make it to retirement before they’re forced to make any substantial change in how they work or what they do.

Do you really think you can make it? Even if you do, is that really how you want to live?

You don’t have to live in a culture of failure. You can leave the journalism industry that pines for the past to join a journalism industry that engages the market as it exists today – one where publications are building income, and influence, along the way.

You won’t be the first journalist to do this. That means that others are available to help show you the way. But you’ll need to start listening to these new voices, and tune out the pessimism, frustration and even scolding you might hear from the colleagues you leave behind.

So here is where I make my pitch to you: Come apply for our 2011 KDMC News Entrepreneur Boot Camp. It’s an intense experience that will help you develop the skills you need to succeed in this new journalism industry. It will help you see that our industry is not one that’s failing, but one that’s being failed by ignorant management and inflexible institutions.

You don’t need to be their victim. You can be the leader of new journalism publication, one that makes a positive difference in its community while providing you will the livelihood you need.

We won’t help you do this by trotting out the same speakers and voices that you’ve been hearing at journalism industry conventions for years. We’ll be at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, hearing from business school faculty – people who have built multi-million dollar businesses with less money up front than you spent on dinner last night.

The journalists you hear at this camp will include boot camp alumni, individuals who’ve taken what they learned at the camp and built functioning publications that are supporting themselves (and, in some cases, multiple employees). This boot camp isn’t about learning the theory of entrepreneurship – it’s an online and in-person blueprint for how to do this yourself.

And it’s free. We’ll even help cover part of the cost of getting you to LA in May for the in-person week that wraps up the camp.

I’ve been publishing my own websites since 1996. I’ve been working full-time for myself for nearly three years. And I’ve never had more fun in the journalism business than I’m having now. My income went up in 2010, not down. I am so thankful to have found a way out of the culture of failure that imprisons so many others in the news business. I just want to help other journalists find their way out, as well.

That’s why I’ve worked so hard on developing this boot camp, and why I hope that you will take the time and make the commitment to apply for it. Here’s the link. The deadline is Friday, January 14, 2011.

Got questions? Hit the comment button below. We can’t wait to see you at the camp.

It's time to apply for the 2011 KDMC News Entrepreneur Boot Camp

Where are you at in your journalism career? Are you worried about your future with an employer, and thinking about starting your own online news site in response? Have you started a site, but need to take it to the next level to make it a financial success for you?

We’ve been talking about entrepreneurial journalism here on OJR for longer than just about anyone else. And not just here on the website – we’ve been showing readers in person how to launch their own news businesses, too. We hosted our first conference, devoted specifically to entrepreneurial journalism, back in 2006. For the past two years, we’ve worked with our new home at the Knight Digital Media Center to create and present the KDMC News Entrepreneur Boot Camp. This week, we open the application process for next May’s camp.

If you’re thinking about starting an online news business, or looking to take your start-up to the next level, trust me, you need to apply for this camp.

As helpful as I hope our articles have been for you, there’s simply no replacement for in-person, one-on-one, personalized instruction. That’s what we offer as part of our boot camp, and it’s a uniquely valuable experience that you don’t find at many of the other industry conferences and gatherings devoted to entrepreneurial journalism.

Here’s what we offer with the camp, and it’s not just one week in Los Angeles. Our camp experience starts nearly two months before you come to LA. You’ll study online with Tom O’Malia, professor and entrepreneurship expert in USC’s Marshall School of Business, who will lead you through a pre-camp curriculum to prepare you for the decisions you’ll be making on your entrepreneurial journey.

You’ll also get to know, and work with, your fellow campers. Success entrepreneurs draw upon their personal network, and we’ll help you build yours through this experience.

Where you arrive on-site in May, you’ll join your fellow campers at the USC Marshall School of Business, where you’ll hear from our camp faculty in morning instructional sessions. After lunch, you’ll have opportunities to meet individually with faculty members for personal coaching. We’ll break down your ideas and help you rebuild them into a feasible business plan.

In the evenings, there’ll be no trips to Hollywood and no tours of downtown LA’s nightlife scene. You’ll work – hard – on completing the tasks we challenge you with each day.

Do you know the difference between audience and customers? Do you know the steps in organizing a community? Do you know how to test the feasibility of business idea?

We’ll show you.

Here’s what we’re seeking:

  • People with journalism experience. (If you’ve not worked in news before, then this isn’t the camp for you. We’re not looking to train entrepreneurs in journalism.)
  • Passion for your community.
  • People who are cool with math and technology.
  • People who get energized, not drained, by work.

Does that sound like you? If so, please, consider applying today.

Don’t listen to the skeptics. You can do this. People are making money online. You can be one of those who are, but you need the training, the techniques and the support that success entrepreneurs possess. Let us help you get there.

Second KDMC News Entrepreneur Boot Camp begins this weekend

This weekend, 20 aspiring journalist/entrepreneurs will arrive in Los Angeles for the second News Entrepreneur Boot Camp. OJR is a co-sponsor of the event, which is presented by the Knight Digital Media Center (publisher of OJR) in cooperation with the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the USC Marshall School of Business.

The camp starts Sunday afternoon and runs through Friday morning. I’d like to invite you to follow the action through Twitter – we’ll again be using the hash tag #uscnewsbiz. The events themselves will not be webcast, as the participants will be discussing their business ideas and concepts and we’d like to afford them a bit of privacy as they develop those. But summaries of the various talks and discussions will appear over the next week or two here on OJR, as well as on the KDMC website. I hope that you’ll follow along.

Even though the physical event begins this Sunday, participants have been working up the camp for the past several weeks. Tom O’Malia, Director Emeritus of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School, has put together an online instructional course for the participants, to help them begin to learn some of the business concepts behind what they’ll be doing as the develop their online news initiatives.

Changing attitudes is key. Too many journalists fail as publishers because they can’t stop thinking and acting solely as reporters or editors – to stop thinking as employees and start thinking as business owners. Once you make that mental change, though, the next step is to cultivate a habit of lifelong learning and training, to develop the full range of skills that you will need to build a community of readers and customers, to cover that community, and to secure the income that you will need to make your business sustainable over a long term.

Those are the topics that we’ll be covering, in person, at the camp next week. We’ve brought some great speakers and instructors to the event, including Susan Mernit, Lisa Williams, Tracy Record, Ben Ilfeld, Tom Davidson and more. We’re also bringing back two of our alumni, Rita Hibbard and Bargain Babe Julia Scott, who will share their journey from last year’s camp to their current work.

As I said in my introduction to last year’s camp, we need to pry journalists from the culture of failure that’s evolved around the news business. Opportunities abound in the information business. So, please, follow us on Twitter during the event and on the websites after… and join us on this journey.