David Carr praises new Columbia director Steve Coll

As USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism looks for a new journalism director, Columbia’s Graduate Journalism School hired former Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll to lead. Though some have criticized Coll for taking a job sculpting tomorrow’s journalists having never tweeted once in his life, The New York Times’ David Carr wrote a positive appraisal of Coll in which he calls the Pulitzer-winner a Dumbledore to Columbia’s Hogwarts.

Carr, the Times’ media columnist, suggests that Twitter isn’t central to journalism (“my boss likes to point out that I tweet constantly but Twitter never sends me a check”). He also argues that Coll definitely has a knack for thinking ahead, evidenced by an early plan to equip reporters with portable cameras, which Carr made fun of at the time.

“I think the great digital journalism of our age has yet to be created,” Coll told Carr. “The cohort that is at Columbia now is the one that will be making the journalism that is going to shape our democracy; working on mining data sets, creating video that is not 2012, coming up with much more powerful ways of accruing and displaying information.”

L.A. Times and Other Papers Publishing Much Less Longform Journalism

Three of the world’s largest newspapers published significantly fewer longform stories in the last year, according to Dean Starkman at CJR. The L.A. Times, for example, ran 256 stories longer than 2,000 words last year. In 2003, they published 1,776.  It’s an 86 percent drop. Starkman got similar numbers for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The papers experienced even larger drops for stories longer than 3,000 words.

Starkman notes that papers are generally publishing fewer stories, period. This suggests that the decline in longform stories in prominent American newspapers may just be reiterating what we already know: newspapers are having a hard time.

But if print can’t sustain the bulk of longform articles, the web has proven that it can. In fact, Poynter pointed out sometime ago that print is actually adapting to how the web handles longform journalism. No doubt that the web breeds versatility, but these findings both suggest that the content and the form are not in trouble, but the print medium is.

(Dean Starkman / CJR)

(Dean Starkman / CJR)

Washington Post Paywalls Might Sacrifice Public-Interest Reporting

Washington Post building back before the web was even a thing. (Flickr Creative Commons: DC Public Library Commons)

Dean Starkman at CJR has a meditation on what will survive when The Washington Post puts up paywalls for its online content.  Weighing sustainability and readability issues, Starkman mourns the possibility that the Post’s recent shows of public-interest feature reporting won’t rake in audience dollars. He offers a page-one profile of a lower-middle class high school student struggling to make it out of her home town.

“[L]et’s face it,” he writes, “the downer subject, and the five screens of copy, all but cry, ‘skip me.’  It had other obstacles to popularity. It’s written in newspaper-feature-ese, so some of the writing might seem strained, depending on your taste.  I couldn’t find it on my mobile phone, either on the Post’s mobile app or via my browser.  The piece is economics-statistics-free–a smart editorial decision, but it doesn’t leave much room for interactivity.”

Starkman notes that type of public interest reporting is important because it connects elite readers with people and stories they would otherwise never know about. But it also takes months to report and comes, therefore, with a hefty price tag.