Category Archives: Journalism

Celebrating Poynter NewsU’s 10th Birthday

On Thursday evening [April 9], Eric Newton and I will be discussing Poynter’s e-learning program as part of News University’s 10th birthday celebration.  It will be a glorious and, I hope, fun-filled time celebrating a program that has more than 325,000 registered users and more than 400 e-learning modules.  As I think about how NewsU started, I keep coming back to Bill Mitchell and his nudging of Jim Naughton, Poynter’s president in 2001, to hire me – even on a part-time basis.  It must have worked, as Jim named me Poynter’s Presidential Scholar for 2002.

After nine NewsU 10th Birthdaymonths of study and conversations with the faculty and students, and stumbling around the issues of technology, journalism and training that year I wrote an e-learning report. That report turned into a grant request to the Knight Foundation. The rest is history.

Bill was the catalyst, the spark that got me to Poynter and helped me get the NewsU engine started.  Naughton is gone [he died in 2012] and it saddens me that I probably didn’t tell him enough times how much the NewsU project mattered to me, personally and professionally. Also gone is Paul Pohlman, one of NewsU’s greatest supporters, even though he was one of the least digitally-focused faculty members at the institute.

I remember one senior leadership meeting where Paul said we should just stop in-person seminars and do everything via e-learning. Coming from Paul, people sat up and took notice; he wanted more attention paid to NewsU.  While I’ve told Bill how appreciative I am for his intervention and support, I wish I had told Jim and Paul as well.

So as we celebrate Poynter NewsU, don’t forget to make time to thank the people who make things happen behind the scenes. Thank you.

8 Tips for the Techno-Evangelist

This article was published on Poynter Online on Aug. 19, 2014

By Howard Finberg

Journalism and technology don’t always go together very well.

I think there’s a natural conflict between the gathering of news and information and the various means of packaging and distributing it. This conflict is especially challenging for newsroom managers. On one hand, they want to focus on the journalism; on the other, they need to stay aware of technological changes and motivate their staffs to try new digital tools.

Newsroom leaders need to be evangelists for change — and that includes technological change. They need to better understand the role of technology adoption within their organizations as the means of gathering and sharing news shifts at an increasing rate.

The rate of technology adoModern wireless technology and social mediaption is critical to the success of news organizations, which is why we are embarking on new research about the topic, starting with a survey of journalists, educators, students and others. Follow this link to participate in the technology adoption survey.

While picking the right tools is important, it is essential for managers and staffs to look at technology adoption as part of a larger process. Here are my eight tips for being a better “techno-evangelist.”

  1. Understand that technology is an ecological issue. By itself, technology adds nothing to a newsroom. However, its introduction changes everything.
  2. A newsroom learns by example. If newsroom managers are not willing to invest time or energy in understanding technology, they should not expect the staff to care.
  3. The key issue in technology adoption isn’t hardware or even software or apps. It’s workflow. Understand how work moves (or how you want it to move) through the newsroom or organization, and you’ll understand what technological solutions you need.
  4. Techno-evangelism means finding a leader who will take risks, become a teacher, shoulder responsibility and be willing to go wandering in the “desert.”
  5. Looking at history can help you prepare for the future. Recognizing a paradigm shift is important; knowing when there isn’t one is more important. Going from hot type to cold type was evolutionary; going digital was revolutionary.
  6. No matter how much you try to be on the “cutting edge,” there always will be something newer and cheaper (or free) the day after the purchase order is signed. Accepting that as part of the “techno-lifecycle” reduces stress and allows you to make better decisions.
  7. No matter how well you plan, the project will take six months longer.
  8. Computers, programs and apps crash. No matter how fast any of it works, no matter how nifty it all looks, technology is just machines, software and technology.

I originally wrote those eight thoughts for a Society of News Design workshop in 1993. Only minor tweaking was needed for this article.