Welcome back, to the 'new' OJR

First, thanks to all of OJR’s long-time readers for coming back. We are grateful for your loyalty, and we hope you will join us regularly in this new quest to help journalism find a sound footing in the digital age.

I am the new director of the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California. My four decades in newspapering may have helped land me in this position, but it’s my gusto for the future of information in the public interest that defines my work now. We hope — here at Annenberg, and here at OJR in its new Knight Digital Media Center home — to help figure out what it is about journalism that is most important to carry forward. And, we hope to do what we can to ensure that it does indeed GET carried forward.

Those are no small goals, and they will require the lively participation of new contributors to OJR, as well as the continued enthusiasm of old OJR hands.

This website will be different from the “old” OJR in a couple of ways: First, as you’ll see, it is integrated with the Knight Digital Media Center. Also, we want to ensure that Annenberg faculty, friends and students play an important role in the conversation. What remains the same is that Robert Niles (called by The Guardian “one of America’s top media academics,” and we quite agree) will be around. We also will eagerly continue to accept comments and suggestions from readers. And the archives will remain in place.

We propose four main areas of discussion:

1. Reporting and writing in a conversational environment. How can, and should, we report the news when publications are now a two-way conversation, instead of a single-direction monologue?

2. Investigative reporting in the Internet era. How can news organizations, and individual journalists, harness the power of modern computing and networking (including crowdsourcing) to investigate public data?

3. Entrepreneurial journalism. The old business model for news is broken. How do we prepare journalists to develop new ones?

4. “Guerilla-marketing” the news. This builds from topics 1 and 3, and addresses how journalists ought to be thinking about making their content “viral,” optimizing for search engines and using promotional techniques to draw audience to their content, at minimal financial expense.

We’ll be publishing twice a week on the “new” OJR, on Wednesdays and on Fridays. But you will also find fresh posts on other topics other days of the week on the KDMC website, http://www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/.

Robert will be writing the next piece, on Friday. See you after that.

About Geneva Overholser

Geneva Overholser is director of the School of Journalism at USC Annenberg.


  1. I’m so glad OJR is back! Thanks!

  2. Welcome to a new challenge!

  3. Great to see you’ve brought back OJR — and Robert! I’m especially happy to see a rundown of all my old archives. They had been missing for some time…
    Cheers and good luck with it!

  4. Welcome back, Geneva and Robert.

  5. Welcome back, OJR! Welcome back, Robert!

  6. How about losing the grey background, so your web site becomes more visible?

  7. Tom Grubisich says:

    It’s great news that USC/Annenberg will be keeping the OJR nameplate blazing through the Web. I’m also happy, with so many other well wishers, that Robert will continue to shape this needed site at a time when everyone is trying to figure out how the migration of news to the online medium should play out for the public’s benefit.

  8. says:

    It’s great to have OJR back on the Web. And thank you for including the invaluable archives. Best, Joe Saltzman, USC Annenberg

  9. It’s of course a great news that OJR is back! I will be eagerly waiting to see new pieces.

    Thanks to all who have made this possible.

  10. Gina Laurieson says:

    This site was mentioned to me by a thesis papers researcher and I can say that it’s very informational and has a lot of resources I can use. Hope to get more insights from you guys.

  11. Congrats on the new responsibilities!

  12. Your ‘welcome’ posting proposed four main areas of discussion. I certainly realize that these four are ‘in the buzz’ but I want to take this opportunity to raise some questions about several of the points.

    (1) What does it mean to report the news by having a “two-way conversation?” To me, reporting the news is, by definition, informing others of some (presumably newsworthy) event. The reason that getting news reports is important is that others cannot be everywhere, so they appreciate others (reporters) letting them know what’s going on. I can see the benefit in having readers comment on articles, particularly if the article has a lot of editorial content. I can also see giving readers an opportunity to make suggestions or criticisms about the reporting. But those are, I think, the exception – the primary and essential nature of the transaction IS a unidirectional monologue.

    (2) You say that the ‘old business model for news is broken.’ What does that mean? What part of it is broken? What part of it can we expect journalists to put in its place? I think the problem is that ‘news articles’ in the conventional sense, have become a commodity. But that is, I think, due to the basic nature of what a conventional ‘news article’ is – a description of some event. What can a journalist do to change the commodity nature of the thing that he/she produces?

    (3) What is ‘viral’ content (relative to a news article)? Is it a different kind of article? Is it a cleverly written news article?

    I hope these questions come off in the constructive way they they are intended. I have heard these terms so much, but when I really stop to ask myself what they mean, I come up empty. I hope you can clarify them for me (and perhaps for others as well).

  13. says:

    Cue the “Welcome Back Kotter” music.

    Good to see you back wandering the quiet countryside and rousting the status quo. You’ve got a lot to catch up with.

  14. Welcome back. I agree about the gray background. You don’t have to take it away completely, but make it a lighter gray and things will be easier to read. 😉


  15. Responding to Terry Steichen: Surely it’s true that terms get tossed around. I think these do have meaning — and i hope that those meanings will become stronger and clearer over the next weeks as we discuss them. But let me take a brief stab at your three questions.

    1. News consumers now want more than an opportunity to “make suggestions or criticisms” about somebody else’s reporting. They want to contribute to the reporting — and our reporting can be better for their contributions. They want their comments to be heard — and I think we’re often better off when we enter into conversations with them that may indeed shape our reporting. The old “unidirectional monologue” is not the only way to go. We want to help think about other models.

    2. What we can no longer count on is the good old reliable notion that we can just do the journalism that will attract the
    audience that the advertisers will then pay to reach — which will pay for the journalism that will attract the… You get the picture. That circle is broken. I think all of us have to care now about what happens to the work we do, where it goes, who sees it, and how it’s going to be paid for.

    3. Viral content isn’t about the article itself so much as what happens to it. On the Web, for example, it can spread like wildfire — or like a virus.

    We’re all just figuring this out. I’m glad you’re along for the figuring.

  16. I’m impressed. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who knows as much about this subject as you do. You’re truly well informed and very intelligent.