This just in: Google and Yahoo are hiring journalists away from The New York Times.
A hot entry journalism job these days is to work at The New York Times Online desk, writing stories for the web site that will be replaced overnight by the paper's star reporters.
Google and Yahoo, which are substantially beefing up their news operations in innovative ways, are now hiring young journalists with a year or two of experience on this desk to join their online teams. So The New York Times is now a training ground for Google and Yahoo.
We talked about many things at the conference, but the above is the takeaway fact that single-handedly tells me the most about the future of news and journalism in the Internet age.
The prestige of the Times, for now, is keeping its experienced reporters and editors there. But the solid employment packages that Google and Yahoo presumably are offering, as employment contracts at newspapers crumble nationwide, is starting to turn the tide.
As the talent goes, so the practice of journalism itself will go.
Increasingly, news and journalism itself will be seen in the context of searching, search engines, and the whole array of subsidiary programs (maps, e-mails, games, etc.) that Google, Yahoo, and other search engine companies provide.
This afternoon I caught Bob Garfield at On the Media interviewing Davis Merritt, a 40-year veteran at the Knight-Ridder company and author of the recently-published "Knightfall," which argues that Wall Street greed is imperiling American journalism and American democracy.
Merritt said he was beyond worrying about American newspapers, which he thought very well may disappear or morph into a kind of printed entertainment and consumer information vehicle having nothing to do with journalism.
"My main concern now is that newspaper journalism successfully transfers onto the Internet," he said.
Google and Yahoo, are you listening? With success comes responsibility. You may not have asked for it, but the responsibility for supporting and maintaining the great traditions of American journalism -- a foundation of American democracy -- now fall to you.
Are you up to it, Sergei Brin, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Terry Semel, Daniel Rosensweig, Jerry Yang, David Filo?
The News Game, Take Two
Oh, by the way, do you think that "news" and "online games" don't mix?
Check out Soft Target, an MSNBC feature story on anti-terrorism airport security procedures that doubles as an online game, testing your ability to spot bombs hidden in purses and luggage. (Thanks to Sandeep for that and other tips.)
Here's another news game: Seed Stewards.
I highly recommend a trip to Sandeep's page where he links to examples of several new ways that young journalists are using to tell stories on the Web. His compelling series of video interviews with men and women suffering from AIDS in India is here.
At the CCFR conference I gave my standard pitch for glocal journalism.
Other presenters at the conference were:
Rebecca McKinnon, Global Voices Online
A co-founder of Global Voices Online, Rebecca showed off this terrific web site. It aggregates blogs from around the world but – here's the key point – only good ones. It's really amazing.
"Unless you live in Egypt, you can't just go hang out at a Cairo coffee shop," Rebecca said. "But you can hang out in the Egyptian blogosphere."
The Global Voices home page offers a summary of the best blog posts of the day from around the world, while the site's astounding World Blog Aggregator itself is here.
Rebecca made the important point that the blogosphere, extensive as it is, is overwhelmingly populated by the elite in every country, including in the developed world. That is, people with enough time and money to buy the computers, pay for the online time, and have the leisure to opinionate for hours at a time, every day.
As a journalism teacher – and one who sometimes despairs what to tell young people where to turn if they have the itch to write – I found Rebecca's comment interesting, that "people get hired because of blogs."
So her advice for young journalists is to start a blog and start reporting and writing. Because, "when you go for a job you will be Googled first thing," and you'd like a clean, literature, useful, fascinating blog to pop up.
A former CNN reporter in Beijing and Tokyo, Rebecca also told how she'd left the company after being told that "my expertise was getting in the way of what they wanted on CNN in America. They wanted more of a sense of gee-whiz wonderment."
She also told of getting an exclusive interview with Japanese Prime Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, in which he said that President Bush needed to be more sensitive to America's reputation in the world, because that reputation was badly declining. CNN declined to run even a soundbite of the interview.
After which, Rebecca declined to stay with CNN and to become an Internet journalism pioneer instead. And she plastered this bumper sticker on her laptop: "Will Work for World Peace."
Raman Narayanan, Atlanta Journal Constitution
To this day, Atlanta and the World remains the best example ever produced of great "glocal" journalism at a major U.S. daily newspaper.
Malaysian by birth, Raman spoke about how his own background helped him to steer the section towards examining the great international issues of our day by seeing how they play out locally by changing the lives, jobs, education, play, religious faiths and habits of local people.
"When we started the section, people asked 'Is it too provincial to look at the whole world through Atlanta?,'" Raman asked. "To which I answered, in today's globally interconnected world, 'provinicial' takes on a whole new meaning."
A shift in mindset is all that is required, Raman said, to start a never-ending flow of stories.
"Americans tend to see America as isolated in the world between two great oceans," he said. "Like other people from Asia, I see America as a land bridge connecting the two oceans."
Mixture, multiplicity, and hybridity is the essence of our national identity today, Raman said. He quoted a line from one of his favorite Atlanta and the World stories. "An immigrant from Colombia said 'America is my father, Colombia is my mother, what's the problem?'"
Raman gave two lovely examples of global interconnection.
First: "What does a guy sitting in a cave in Afghanistan have to do with commercial jets flying into the World Trade Center in New York City?"
Second: "We sent a reporter to Wal-Mart, to interview a person buying a T-shirt. We asked the question: 'What does your 50 cent T-shirt have to do with your $2.50 a gallon gas?' Of course they are related, because the Chinese factory that makes the 50 cent T-shirt is buying oil to fuel the factory that pushes up the price of gas for your car."
John Cruikshank, Publisher, the Chicago Sun-Times
On the second day, after these tours of the future, Cruickshank, a very sympatico guy (and a former journalist) who is shouldering immense business and legal challenges at the paper, gave us his view of an, ahem, "mature" industry struggling to get with the times.
His outlook is decidedly mixed. On the one hand, he referred to the "shrinking of the public sphere" as described in Robert Putnam's book "Bowling Alone," as a threat to the future of newspapers.
He also quoted statistics showing that young people are not migrating from newspaper from newspapers to the Web to get their news. That's because they are not much interested in news on the Web, either. The news itself leaves them cold.
For the young generation, "Jon Stewart is their news reader and they get their ideas of family and community from South Park and the Simpsons," Cruickshank said.
Nevertheless, newspapers have a responsibility to continue instilling the values of civic participation and involvement, he said, in part by partnering with schools and other educational institutions so children learn civic skills like reading the news.
Honestly, I don't think Cruickshank convinced the group that the chances of that happening were all that high. His gloomy statistics outweighed his unsupported idealism.
Yet he was clearly fascinated and engaged, and the most interesting hypothetical he posed was "Will Google and Yahoo replace local journalists with citizen journalists?"
In other words, is a new journalism going to crop up that is written by freelancers for free, in the same way that Wikipedia, the web's most frequented encyclopedia, is written entirely for free by volunteers at a remarkably high level of accuracy and quality?
Another way to put the question is, will Google and Yahoo do for the local news what Craigslist has already done for local advertising in newspapers, which is, to decimate it?
"Citizen journalists don't have the time, the resources, or the imperviousness that we can manage when coming up against powerful institutions," Cruickshank said. "I don't mean going against City Hall, or being antagonistic in some way. I mean in the sense of just keeping them honest. Can there be courageous individuals? Absolutely. But as a society, we don't have a great track record of listening to courageous individuals."
As for Chicago's Hispanic and other ethnic communities, did Cruickshank think they represent a long-term opportunity to expand the newspaper's readership?
"No," he said bluntly. "They don't want us, and they don't read us."
Newspaper readership rates in, for example, the Hispanic community was relatively low in any case, he added. But he acknowledged that the Sun-Times, like many other labor-intensive companies, faces challenges from within regarding the ethnic makeup of the workforce.
One such issue for the Sun-Times, he said, is "Hispanic delivery people, delivering newspapers in the middle of the night for almost nothing. It's appalling."