Archive for December 2008

“Should I Get a Master’s in Journalism?”

December 18th, 2008 — 2:42pm

I’ve gotten this question twice from a couple of friends and colleagues, to which I gave lengthy responses. My answers reflect only my opinion, and I can only comment on my experience at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, having received my Master’s in Journalism with a focus in new media in December of 2007. But here are some thoughts…

“So, I’m wondering, are you happy you got your masters?”

When I was at Northwestern, students chose one of four disciplines: traditional reporting and writing, broadcast, magazine or new media. I chose new media. I’m very much interested in Web 2.0, social media, link journalism, networked journalism, online community journalism – you name it. I looked at Northwestern and it seemed as if that was the direction they were heading so I went for it. I tell you all this because I think it’s really important to specify that I went out looking for a new media journalism degree specifically.

Therefore, when I was at Northwestern, I took the core journalism classes in reporting and writing on public affairs, editing, ethics of journalism, etc., but I also took courses in new media storytelling (HTML, Flash, CSS, JavaScript, etc.), Videography (shooting and editing w/ Adobe Premiere), introduction to computer programming (Java) and two marketing courses (one in new media economics and one on online social networking.)

Finally, I did a quarter-long project researching, conceptualizing and proposing a hyperlocal community news site for Morris Communications, along with 10 or so other students. Eventually, the company took our recommendations and launched Sort of on the side, I did an independent study working with a former NW graduate who launched a social networking site called Tokoni. Again, I tell you all this so you can get a feel for what my experience at J-school was and use that to put my comments into context, because I don’t know that it’s typical (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it was my experience).

So am I happy I went there and got my masters? Eh…yes and no.

Yes, because I had some incredible experiences, met some amazing (and amazingly talented) people, made some great connections and, to be honest, just plain had a lot of fun.

No, because I think it’s overpriced, and that a lot of those experiences can be had, people can be met, connections can be made and (probably) fun can be had without the degree.

“Do you like what you’re doing now?”


I work at a medium-sized custom publishing company and I’m its first Online Content Manager.

It’s a great opportunity. I’m learning a lot of new things, meeting a lot of great people and interacting with some creative minds. And I do enough freelance stuff on the side to keep me plenty busy. Oh, and (insert shameless self promotion) I blog on all things digital here.

“Did they help you find a job after graduation, provide access to internships while you were there, etc?”

Absolutely. Any graduate program that offers a degree in a field in which no degree is necessary to practice must continually justify its existence to prospects like yourself. Therefore, it’s in their interest to connect their students with prospective employers through job fairs, internship programs, job boards, job postings, etc. I still get an e-mail a week with job postings in the Chicago area, many of which are not promoted anywhere else.

“Do you feel that they prepared you for your current position?”

Absolutely. Again, this goes back to my new media training and my specific interests. But the custom publishing industry and the news industry are both in need of new media-trained journalists, writers, editors and producers. Because of my training, I feel “at home” talking to the editors, photographers, videographers, web developers and marketing folks – which is an asset. Note: I am by no means an expert in any of those fields, and I don’t pretend to be. But it helps to be able to speak their languages.

“Other comments…?”

The people…

One thing I enjoyed the most about the program that you can’t discount is being constantly around the “fascinated-by-the-potential-of-new-media” news junkie types. I now count amongst good friends and colleagues an independent Web publisher in Chicago doing some really interesting things (, a writer at Time, and numerous others doing a lot cooler stuff than I am. But again, I’d emphasize that it’s not that they are connections, it’s that they are friends – and it was a lot of fun to be immersed in an intense 15-month program with them.


This gets back to what I said earlier about J-schools needing to continually justify their existence. You don’t need a degree to practice journalism. You don’t even need a high school education. With all the tools available, all you need is a public library card and your own skills. So in that sense, it’s overpriced. Just saying.

New Media drawbacks…

This may have changed, but one drawback I found is that new media is so, well, new, that all of the really interesting people doing cool things in new media are, well, doing cool things in new media – NOT teaching at J-schools. Just my observation. I had some incredible teachers, but I also had a few who didn’t really “get” the Web.

The future of journalism…

OK, if you thought this e-mail post was long, it’s going to get longer. Here’s my rant on new media…

In some ways journalism schools mirror newspapers and local TV stations in that they are gatekeepers. The former were gatekeepers to the industry and the latter were gatekeepers of information in general. That’s just not true any more.

Sometimes (usually around the first of the month when I’m paying my monthly loan repayments) I look back and think I should have just started blogging rather than gone to j-school. The act of blogging is still (somewhat) stigmatized and largely misunderstood by those who don’t do it. But to have a successful blog, you have to be an incredible writer, editor, publisher and advertiser. In essence, you have to learn the business. You’re much more a producer than just a blogger. Creating a successful blog that brought in even 10,000 visits a month and made $10,000-$20,000 a year would be an incredibly worthwhile accomplishment and would have taught me a ton about new media journalism.

So, anything to add? I know that, even amongst those who went to Medill, whether or not the education was worth the price tag was hotly contested. What do you think?

2 comments » | Journalism, Medill

Social Media Accelerates the Blurring of Life and Work

December 17th, 2008 — 2:41pm

Indeed many people see interweaving as a natural way of operating, a sort of throwback to the cottage-industry days when life was integrated and whole. It seems a healthy reaction to the organizational age system, which split work and life into compartments and required you to be one person here, another there.

Richard Florida – The Rise of the Creative Class – p. 153

I have six e-mail addresses, two of which I check regularly for work and personal usage, respectively, the other four of which forward automatically to my personal account.

I maintain two separate Google accounts, one for work, one for personal use.

I tried two Twitter accounts for a while, sporadically save bookmarks to three accounts on and have intermittently maintained two YouTube user names (in addition to my presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads,, amongst others).

If you spend any time looking at the activities of any of these “online identities,” you’ll come to the same conclusion I have: it’s unsustainable, inefficient.

And it requires added time that I’m just not willing to give up.


So the solution seems that I should consolidate. But that brings up some interesting questions. How much information can I make publicly available on Facebook? Should I have a separate MySpace account for more private information? How social/transparent/forthcoming can Matt the employee versus Matt the person be?

I’ve been telling colleagues that I sense a fading of the distinction between personal and professional lives brought on by social media. As I lay in bed last night reading “The Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida, I realized that social media is just one part of it, albeit an interesting one.

According to Florida, casual dress at work, longer work weeks and less direct oversight of “creative types” all amount to a blurring of our personal and professional identities. And they aren’t causal, they’re effects of the dramatic shifts that have occurred in the way people live their lives now versus how they did, to quote Florida, “in the organizational age.”

Social media merely accelerates this phenomenon.

2 comments » | Social Media

“Google Wants Fastrack” WSJ reports…

December 15th, 2008 — 9:31am

In a word, boo.

The celebrated openness of the Internet — network providers are not supposed to give preferential treatment to any traffic — is quietly losing powerful defenders.

Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

Comment » | Google

How many MSM outlets have been nominated for a Shorty?

December 11th, 2008 — 12:18pm

Shorty Logo

A fellow Twit pointed me to the Shorty Awards, a popularity contest of sorts for top Twitterers.

I wonder how many mainstream media outlets are nominated…?

I’m going to Tweet this, post the question to FB, throw it at my friends over at Old Media, New Tricks, and dig a little myself. My suspicion is not many, but we’ll see.

1 comment » | Twitter

Project Wiimote Operational!

December 4th, 2008 — 1:46pm

So I snuck into my wife’s first grade classroom before work today and tinkered for a bit with my Johnny Lee Wiimote setup.

And now it works!

I promise I’ll post my experience in a bit more detail here, and over at the Wiimote Project. There’s even some talk amongst some of my friends of volunteering some time with a few underfunded schools in the area.

But first things first: I need to get it working and integrated for my wife so she can use it in my absence.

3 comments » | Johnny Lee, Wiimote

Wiimote Project Stalled!

December 3rd, 2008 — 8:39am

I haven’t had much of a chance to work on this because of the Thanksgiving break, but I wanted to give an update on my most recent project: installing a makeshift smartboard in my wife’s classroom using Johnny Lee’s Wiimote Hack.

I’ve downloaded the software, synced her computer using the Bluesoleil stack via Bluetooth to the Wiimote and ordered and received an IR pen from Penteractive.

When I launch the program and attempt to calibrate the pen with the software, nothing happens. I suspect one of two problems:

1) Since I’m using the trail version of Bluesoleil, the amount of data I can send via Bluetooth is limited. Perhaps I need to upgrade.

2) The pen I received from Penteractive is broken (I sincerely hope not)!

We’ll see. I need to post my problems to the Wiimote forum and spend some more time troubleshooting them myself. I’ve just been swamped!

7 comments » | Johnny Lee, Penteractive, Wiimote

Digital Music Sales Grow + Overall Music Sales Shrink = A Padded Industry?

December 2nd, 2008 — 8:31am

PaidContent reports on a Jupiterresearch forecast that while revenue from digital music consumption will grow over the next five years, it won’t grow fast enough to supplant the overall shrinking in the industry.

It begs the question: was the industry overall inefficient? Is this a natural “correction”?

Or is there a business model for the sale and distribution of digital music that hasn’t been developed yet? Or does the current one (dominated by iTunes) need tweaking? Perhaps DRM-free is the answer?

1 comment » | Digital

An Entire Industry in Need of Disrupting…

December 1st, 2008 — 8:36am

Over this Thanksgiving break I’ve given some thought to an industry’s business model that is based on a monopoly that no longer exists. Like real estate agents who enjoyed premiere access to listings, foreclosures and a mountain of sales data that the average consumer couldn’t easily study, the gatekeepers of this industry have leveraged their 20th century model to the breaking point. I, as a consumer, am ready for the revolution.

I’m talking, of course, about wedding photography.

The revolution will be digitized

Excuse the melodrama…it’s Monday morning.

Here’s the problem. Our wedding photographer took hundreds and hundreds of pictures – maybe even a thousand. We paid her an enormous amount of money (all things are relative, I know, but I’m a pretty frugal guy). And now we have five photographs which we’ll frame for display in different parts of our house, plus a coffee table-sized book she’ll lay out for us that features another couple dozen of our photos. The rest, the vast majority of the photographs she took, will sit on a hard drive somewhere in a closet until enough years have passed that she feels comfortable enough to erase them.

What an incredible inefficiency!

No one else will want copies of those photographs other than my wife and I (and our mothers of course), but we’re also not going to fork over enough money to cover the cost of printing each and every one of them.

What needs to happen, of course, is that we should receive digital copies of all of our wedding photographs so that we can do with them what we see fit. It’s our special day, and we have 1/100th of the work she did to capture it in our possession.

The business model’s to blame…

To me, this is a great example of the business model getting in the way of the technology. The technology is there, it’s just figuring out how it all shakes out. Personally, I don’t think our wedding photographer should make any less money. I just don’t want to pay her for the production of our photographs in the form of physical photographs. The means of production cost near to zilch. I want to pay her for the expert photography and lay out of our photographs (which she did a tremendous job of, by the way). She’s an incredibly well-trained photographer with a lot of experience. I want to pay her for that, not for printing our photos. Heck, I can do that at Wal-Mart.

What do you think

Are most photographers already upping their initial fee or hourly and offering the photos digitally? Can you normally get these on a CD and I just need to be persistent? Do excuse the Monday morning rant, but hey, don’t even get me started on the videographer…

5 comments » | New Media

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