Wick Communications

Pay for training

In Online media on 12 May 2011 at 2:35 pm

Once again, the Palo Alto Weekly is doing some interesting things here in California. This time it is offering a rather intensive video academy for would-be videographers as well as new paid blogging positions. The stated intention is to create a trained cadre of citizen journalists with an allegiance to the newspaper.

First, the newspaper partnered with a local educational outfit to offer a four-week course in reporting skills and video production. It is not simply an overview. It asks participants to commit to six three- to four-hour courses and pay $215 for the education. That strikes me as a rather large commitment, but the training looks valuable too. In a story printed online, the newspaper promises to make program graduates into community correspondents, sending them out to cover stories, conduct interviews and work alongside staff.

In addition, the newspaper is looking for a few good bloggers – good enough to merit pay. The newspaper already links to a stable of bloggers and is now offering to “feature” those who prove they can generate a lot of pageviews. This is a big idea in journalism at the moment and the subject of J-Lab grants and a lot of talk at a recent American Press Institute gathering that I attended.

Suffice to say, the jury is out on the value of such exercises, but it’s important to note that if you don’t aggregate these community bloggers, someone else likely will. I’m interested to see how the Palo Alto experiment works out.

Clay

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  1. This is a great idea as our editorial departments constrict and we find it difficult to keep up with news in our communities. But I fear if successful, this move will chip away at credibility. You can’t train someone to be a journalist in 24 hours of courses.
    I’m conflicted. Are we dumbing down our newspapers just to fill news holes?

  2. I guess I hope that such a plan wouldn’t have to make us dumber. It could increase the diversity of opinion in our newshole and add some social media savvy along the way. I don’t see this taking away from what we are already doing but augmenting it.

    I’ve since heard from Palo Alto Weekly Managing Editor Jocelyn Dong. She wrote this in an e-mail to me:

    “One thing we found is that people particularly enjoy engaging with writers who have strong opinions. With that in mind, we have had unpaid bloggers on our site for several years. Even beyond allowing people to comment on news stories, blogs give readers the chance to develop a dialogue with a specific person. One blogger (who now works for a competing newspaper!) consistently attracted fans and enemies of her viewpoint.

    With featured bloggers — paid bloggers — we hope to offer our readership a variety of “voices” on different topics. These bloggers may represent a stage of life, a hobby, or a particular perspective. We’ve decided to pay them just like we would any columnist in our paper, though they have the added responsibility of demonstrating that they can attract readers to their blogs. We’ve crafted some simple standards for featured bloggers, such as number of comments, etc. It IS a first for us to pay bloggers, and we’ll pay between $25 and $75.”

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