Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Stanford’

Nonprofit, not non-business

In Business, Media, nonprofit on 5 Oct 2018 at 6:52 pm

The nonprofit news is in and the word is good. OK, promising.

The Institute of Nonprofit News released findings from a landmark survey of its members at meetings on both coasts on Friday. The announcement at Stanford was hosted by the JSK Fellowship program and a few dozen funders, publishers and journalists were in attendance to hear that business models were maturing and that local, statewide and even global operations were doing more to diversify their revenue streams. It was good to hear that so many of these important news sources are reaching sustainability.

The survey included 88 journalistic nonprofits that answered questions in spring of 2018. It collected 200 data points and is the most comprehensive study of the space to date.

Some facts:

  • Three-fourths of the nonprofits surveyed are less than 10 years old.
  • Together, they boast annual revenues of about $350 million.
  • About 3,000 people work for these entities; 2,200 are journalists.
  • More than half focus on investigations or analysis and nearly three-fourths cover some aspect of government policy. …

Following steep cutbacks in the for-profit industry, the nonprofit sector exploded around 2010. Too many began with an initial grant and no plan beyond that. Those that remain increasingly seek to diversify their revenue streams and to be less dependent on a single, often issue-oriented, foundation or donor. Researchers for INN found that organizations that are more than a decade old have more online reach, higher budgets and spend about twice as much (though still only 15 percent of revenues) on revenue generation efforts.

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Habits, curiosity, elitism

In journalism on 7 Mar 2018 at 2:56 pm

Dean Baquet, courtesy Joi Ito from Cambridge, MA, USA (Dean Baquet) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet speak to a gathering arranged by the Brown Institute of Media Innovations at Stanford. Baquet is as important as any single figure in the journalism world, so it was comforting to hear that he has the same challenges that I face every day. The differences are just a matter of scale.

He indicated the same fiery competitive streak that marks journalists of a certain age. He talked about the paywall (saying it saved the New York Times) and how staff’s use of Twitter sometimes gives him heartburn. He admitted to just filling the paper with whatever he could get back in the halcyon days, when so many more ads were printed in newspapers. He seemed like a great boss who had a deep understanding and appreciation for work of journalists.

Three takeaways:

  1. Perhaps the most interesting admission he made dealt with the struggle between “bedrock principles and things that are just habits.” He was talking about the (perhaps) inexorable evolution from print to digital formats. He began by saying that he wakes up to read the New York Times on his phone. He wants to get the experience that most of his readers get. Then he looks at the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal’s digital offerings, all before settling into the print NYT. It was a good reminder that the newspaper isn’t the end result or the most-perfect product in our portfolio. Then he started in on the inverted pyramid. No, Dean, please not the sainted pyramid! Yes, the pyramid, the very foundation of every journalism writing text for decades up until about 1995 or so. Baquet pointed out that the purpose of the pyramid was to get as much important stuff as possible high in a story because the bottom was apt to be sliced with an X-acto knife before the story was run through the waxer… Well, no one is sticking words to a board with wax and cutting them off with knives these days, and there is no need to cut off the bottom of a story that runs online either. If the stilted prose of the pyramid is merely a habit, what else might we change to benefit readers? For instance, our newspaper comes out on Wednesday. Why is that? Whatever the original reason, now it is simply force of habit and we should explore whether it makes sense to change.

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A special day in Sierra Vista

In Ideas on 26 Aug 2016 at 8:10 am


Wick Communications directors, group publishers and others joined CEO Francis Wick for a very special workshop in Sierra Vista, Ariz., on Monday. We were the beneficiaries of the largess of the Knight Foundation, which paid the tab for a visit from Stanford Design School trainer Tran Ha.

Tran ran through the fundamentals of design thinking. I’ve touted the benefits of this new paradigm in this blog before. In a nutshell, design thinking is a mindset and a process that calls for empathy with users as a precursor to prototyping and testing new solutions to sometimes old problems. I thought I would point out just three of the high points from Monday in hopes you might take something from them too.

Ask the right question. Too often, we jump to solutions without asking the most important people – readers, advertisers, employees – about their lifestyles, needs and hopes for our work. Empathy for the people we serve is the key to the whole ball of wax. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t cost much. If you have a problem, ask the end user before deciding on a new course.

Design-thinking doesn’t have to take all day. Again and again, Tran told us to take five minutes, three minutes, one minute on a creative assignment. Don’t let the process paralyze you. … Read the rest of this entry »

Killing sacred cows for meatier work

In journalism on 21 Apr 2016 at 12:35 pm

These were among the many questions program participants asked when we presented our challenge.

This week I had the honor and extreme privilege of participating in the JSK Stanford News Innovation Workshop. It is no exaggeration to say that I left more excited than I have ever been about my job and my opportunities as a journalist in 2016.

The program was competitive and all expenses were picked up by a grant from the Knight Foundation. Editors applied for inclusion by presenting a challenge they face, a challenge that could be vetted among peers over three days at Stanford. (The JSK Fellowships has a 50-year history at Stanford. In addition to hosting programs like this one, it invites fellows for year-long tenures and it’s a jaw-dropping opportunity. If you are interested, please ask me about it. Seriously.)

Wick Communications was granted a spot at the table along with top editors from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Seattle Times, the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, the Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press. I told you it was an honor. I was also thrilled to be joined at the workshop by Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer.

The Wick challenge?

Well, it started out as one thing and ended up something else after we worked it through. It began as, “How to structure shrinking newsrooms to best cover what our readers want and need while incorporating new tools?” After three days, it had morphed to, “How do we keep our best people fulfilled and maximize their best work while meeting shifting needs in our very different communities?”

There is a lot to unpack there, but let’s concentrate on one word for now: Fulfillment. Read the rest of this entry »

Be more suspenseful

In Writing techniques on 26 Feb 2016 at 6:40 am

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 6.51.18 AM

Does your feature story make use of epistemological uncertainty?

I know, right? What the hell?

OK, I don’t want to make too much of this, but I’m sure these researchers are on to something. They suggest more suspenseful writing is “characterized by the presence of words that convey how things appear to be rather than how they really are, such as ‘seemed,’ ‘perceived,’ or “observed.’”

The research was into writing that keeps us on the edge of our seat when things go bump in the night. That might not seem analogous to what we do, but, if you think about it, we could use a little more of that in the newspaper.

There are many opportunities for suspenseful writing – in personality profiles, sports stories, features. And I’m sure we could learn a thing or two from the masters of suspense writing who knew intuitively to create uncertain imagery with their words.

By the way, the story linked above refers to a field of study called “digital humanities.” That may be the most oxymoronic term to come out of academia in quite a while.


Incremental journalism is dead

In journalism on 22 Oct 2015 at 3:34 pm
A boring photo from a boring meeting that I actually took and put in our newspaper. Really. I did.

A boring photo from a boring meeting that I actually took and put in our newspaper. Really. I did.

“Your product is community connected-ness, not your stories.”

At times, you could hear a pin drop when Tom Rosenstiel spoke to a couple hundred news executives at Stanford on Saturday. He is the executive director of the American Press Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that has always been an industry leader. On Saturday, his message was that our old “on the record” process-oriented journalism model is doomed. It’s a bitter pill for many of us who have been doing this a long time and think we are honor bound to present a full meal with a healthy diet of vegetables for readers who no longer have to stomach them.

Rosenstiel isn’t just bloviating when he speaks about the state of our business. He comes to it with loads of research. Before coming to API, he was founder and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center and co-founder and vice chair of the Committee of Concerned Journalists.

His point is that the worth of the Half Moon Bay Review and the Williston Herald and the rest of our titles is not found in our pages necessarily but in our places as institutions in our respective communities. If we have earned trust, built relationships, set the agenda, we will continue to have a place.

If, on the other hand, we think of ourselves as chroniclers of what happened at that meeting last night that no one attended, well… We are clinging to a sinking ship. He shared research that showed big enterprise and even stories that showed a little initiative continue to draw eyeballs. There is hope if we let go of the Titanic…. Read the rest of this entry »

The Knights of journalism

In Innovation on 20 May 2015 at 4:36 pm

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.38.01 PM

Monday afternoon I snuck away from the office and headed over the hill to Stanford. The occasion was the John S. Knight Festival of News Innovation.

Why? Well, for starters, when is the last time you heard the words “news” and “festival” in the same sentence? Jim Bettinger, director of the Knight Fellowship program at Stanford, said the idea was to provide some level of antidote to the doom and gloom that surrounds our business. He said too many journalism events he attends “have an Eeyore quality: All is lost.”

So the festival was designed to be fun and a chance to meet some really, really talented mid-career journalists who have the great good fortune to spend nine months at Stanford as Knight Fellows. At Stanford, they attend classes, gather for support and work on some project of their choosing. Their projects were as varied as they were and, well, see for yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

Making time to read

In Online media on 22 Jan 2015 at 11:02 pm

Emi art

This week I wanted to draw your attention to the important work of Emi Kolawole. She is currently editor-in-residence at the Stanford d.school, which is almost impossible to describe. The d.school is redesigning everything. She has worked at the Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly and with Gwen Ifill on Washington Week.

She maintains two blogs well worth your time. Emi, Eponymously often looks at the realities of life in an age of rapidly changing technology. The piece that follows first appeared there. The second is The Whiteboard, the d.school blog. It will make your head spin, in a good way. I asked Emi if I could republish this one because it deals with something we all need to do: Make time to read in 2015. Take it away, Emi. – Clay

My Pocket is overflowing.

If you use the Pocket app to store reading for later, you know of that to which I am referring. The application is useful in that it allows you to save web articles and documents to read later. It comes with the added benefit of presenting the content without advertising and in a clean, easy-to-read format. …

Here’s the rub. I never get to read most of these articles. Rather than a small, cozy space for some great reading, Pocket has become a bulging behemoth mocking me from my desktop dock.

Read me, Seymour!

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Making yourself creative

In Innovation on 15 Mar 2013 at 9:18 am

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Compare these equations:

5+5 = ?

?+? = 10

They add up the same. The first one prescribes a single answer. The second one, however, has an infinite set of possibilities.

“This is profound because the way you ask the question determines the answers you’ll get. The answer is usually baked into the question,” said Tina Seelig, a professor at Stanford’s famed Design School during a presentation on creativity recently. (I pulled the quote and other stuff from the Stanford Journalism Department’s Peninsula Press.)

So, what does this have to do with you? Well, Seelig says this kind of rethinking of old problems is the key to unlocking your creativity. We could all be more creative.

I confess that for my entire career I have thought of writing most news stories as a matter of putting together the puzzle pieces. I even use that terminology sometimes. Seelig says I have it exactly wrong.

“True innovators, true entrepreneurs, really creative people are not puzzle solvers,” Seelig said in her lecture. “They are quilt makers. They basically leverage all the resources they have and put them together to come up with something that’s actually much more interesting and much better.”

Incidentally, Seelig identified six creative inputs: Imagination, attitude, and knowledge, which are all internal things, and outside influences including culture, resources and habitat. … Read the rest of this entry »