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Thu Oct 12 2006 08:52:10

OT Online News Association Conference

By: Ina Steiner

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I was at a conference of journalists and editors over the weekend. It was the first time I'd been to such an event, and it was a great experience. Some highlights follow.

- Mary Lou Fulton works for The Bakersfield Californian and publishes in which 95% of the content is contributed by the community online, then they publish a free print edition with that content (edited). The site focuses on music and arts. She said something along the lines of, don't focus on the tools, it's about the people and self-expression.

- There was a session on Internet Law for publishers that I found useful.

- The Knight Foundation sponsored a dinner at the National Press Club for about 30 people focusing on "Journalist as Entrepreneur" organized by Gary Kebbel. There was good conversation and good food in a "hallowed" setting.

- There was a session on "Church/State Challenge" so journalists could discuss some of the challenges they face in satisfying their communities while dealing with the realities that publishing is a business.

- There was a panel of teens ranging in age from 12 to 21. They were hysterical, so open and sincere and very smart cookies. None read print publications - not magazines, not newspapers!!! They were totally "wired." They were skeptical of the accuracy of blogs, saying they would go to the sites of newspapers like New York Times for the accurate version of a news event.

NOTE: I always think skepticism is a good thing, hopefully they will understand blogs are just a distribution format. The content is what counts, and a healthy dose of skepticism should be given to everything you read/watch.

One teen panelist disdained newspapers because the ink made his hands dirty! It was a little scary to hear how dependent they were on their mobile devices. One felt panicky when she was on a week-long camping trip and couldn't get her Blackberry device to work. She uses it to look things up online, talk to people and even to tell time instead of wearing a watch.

They use IM, Facebook, MySpace, Wiki, Podcasts, and news aggregators. It was a fun panel for sure. However, these kids did not strike me as "average" - I think they were from high-income families; not sure what percentage of teens in America have all these gadgets and technology to play with. One of the attendees blogged the session (link).

- There was an Iraqi dentist turned blogger who talked about the challenges western media had in getting to the local stories due to communication and safety issues. This was another, though more dramatic, example of a blog that fills in the gap in traditional media coverage. LINK

- One journalist I spoke to talked about what sounds like an innovative program to teach "Citizen Journalists" best practices that the newspaper's reporters use and set them up with their own blogs and more.

- I met some extremely interesting people too numerous to mention.

I was very excited that I was going to hear two well known entrepreneurs-turned-bloggers speak. I had hoped to hear about some of the ways they monetized blogs and whether they had to sacrifice quality or objectivity to do so, but they did not address those issues. I was disappointed, since it seemed to me they were unprepared, and, call me old-fashioned, disrespectful to the audience.

But I forgot all that when I got to meet someone whose work in online video I've admired for some time: David Pogue. He in fact won the "Online Commentary" award for his videos that appear in the New York Times and was very gracious when I gushed like a groupie upon meeting him. :) I am not sure I mentioned it, but it was David Pogue's videos that inspired David and me to get video cameras and launch AuctionBytes.TV.

I'm still behind, so back to work for me!! Hopefully I learned something I can put to use on AuctionBytes to make it a better site.

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