A crazy night in Pittsburgh

Compassion. Compromise. A willingness to hear what others have to say. Even when you don’t agree.

We brought all of those elements together when Newsmax founder Christopher Ruddy recently visited Point Park University. My take on what happens when we create time to listen. I’d like to see more of this happening, particularly right here in river city, a blue dot surrounded by a sea of red. Let me know what you think: aconte@ pointpark.edu.

Me interviewing Christopher Ruddy at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Photo by Gracey Evans.

A strange thing happened in Pittsburgh recently: A right-of-center speaker appeared on a college campus, students organized a protest — and everyone left the event feeling they’d been heard.

Few Americans these days seem willing to share a room with anyone who does not also share their ideology and political outlook. But Pittsburgh serves as a key place for such dialogue: a blue dot of voters who supported Hillary Clinton, surrounded by a sea of red, representing President Donald Trump’s supporters. It’s a short drive to cover that gap, but few of us take the time to try understanding each other’s perspective.

That makes it all the more remarkable when those moments happen. Read more… 

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The Newseum & me

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Cybersecurity experts and the journalists who report on them often struggle to understand each other. That was the point of a recent event jointly sponsored by the Newseum and the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. We brought together experts, journalists and students to find points of commonality. The event highlighted some common concerns, which I address in my latest media column

 

WASHINGTON – They don’t even have the words.IMG_0879.jpg

Cybersecurity stories fill the headlines almost daily: The Equifax breach potentially compromised personal data of more than 140 million Americans — nearly half of us. Yahoo finally acknowledged losing email addresses and passwords for every single customer — about 3 billion accounts. We’re still waiting to find out just how much the Russians hacked into the 2016 general election .

We see such headlines so often that many of us have become numb to the potential risk. Worse, reporters covering these stories don’t always know how to describe the real danger — or how to separate legitimate threats from hyperbole. Too often, they lack the vocabulary, context and experience to converse with technical experts and convey meaningful alerts to the public. Instead, the public hears a wall of noise in which relatively minor events get similar billing to those that really threaten our lives. Read more…

This also turned out to be a great time for our students to take a look at the Newseum exhibits. After the event, we toured the museum’s FBI exhibit on cybersecurity, led by the Newseum Institute’s COO Gene Policinski.

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This also turned into an opportunity for David Hickton, the former U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, and me to revisit one of our favorite moments. The Newseum exhibit includes a photo of David and my frontpage story from the Tribune-Review on the day after federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh charged five Chinese military officers with stealing computer secrets.

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Disruption sows seeds of opportunity

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 3.21.31 PMWe celebrated the CMI’s one-year anniversary by focusing on #MediaPioneers who are doing something truly new and different. The disruption that has run through the media industry has caused a lot of pain and caused all of us to rethink how we value news and access it. But it also has created opportunities that never existed before. For my latest media column, I focused on some of these people who are doing truly exciting work – and starting figure out ways to pay their bills.

 

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Frank Murgia, executive producer at the Pittsburgh Podcast Network, discusses the YaJagoff podcast and how it’s starting to make money.

“YaJagoff” can express exasperation or endearment, as any Pittsburgher knows. But John Chamberlin also sees it as his brand.

He hosts the YaJagoff Podcast , and as the name implies, he focuses on all things “yinzer,” from pierogies to basement potties. It is one of five core offerings from the Pittsburgh Podcast Network, which has started making money in its fourth year, executive producer Frank Murgia recently told me.

“It finally feels like it’s a real thing and we’re starting to see opportunities,” he said.

Recent years’ disruption that has shaken news companies also has produced media pioneers. Large outlets are becoming nimble by experimenting with innovative platforms and content. Startups are redefining the industry with concepts no one has tried. This energy creates opportunities for older journalists seeking to rediscover the craft and for students who want to engage in storytelling and try something new. Read more…

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AmyJo Brown, founding editor of new media startup Grant’s Hill, talks about her business plan.

 

 

It’s a small world … on my iPhone

Photo by Tania Conte.

Getting away used to be so easy. But in a world where even forest monks carry smartphones tucked inside their saffron-colored robes, it can be hard to get off the grid. My latest column looks at this phenomenon from the perspective of a recent trip to Thailand.

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — I’ve been checking my emails here only once a day, like it’s the 1990s all over again.

For many Americans, a great part of traveling in Asia is not receiving any messages during the day because almost everyone you know — halfway around the world, back home — is asleep. I wake up, read the overnight messages and forget about email. If only this could last.

Even that disconnected luxury goes only so far when almost half the world’s population accesses the internet , and even forest monks at a remote mountain temple carry smartphones tucked into their saffron-colored robes. Along a narrow canal an hour outside of Bangkok, we passed a small wooden shack with open-air windows — and a 60-inch TV mounted inside the front door. Neighbors had sealed up their homes and installed air conditioners.

Everyone, it seems, hungers for the same cutting-edge technology, instant connectivity and modern convenience. That drive holds exciting promise for bringing us together, and perhaps a little danger for our demands on the planet as well. Read more…

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood: Mr. McFeely

Nice surprise to meet David Newell, aka Mr. McFeely, in the CMI today. He’s here for Steve Cuden’s StoryBeat podcast. In real life, of course, he looks totally different than on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Sounds the same though. You can’t hear it here but he was giving me a, “Speedy delivery!”

Is it getting faster in here?

Kids have no idea! That’s the theme of my latest column. I spent some time thinking about how much work it used to take to make a video. Now Facebook (or Google, Videolicious, Snapchat, etc.) does all of the heavy lifting so we can focus on being creative. That already means that we see so much more content – and higher quality videos too. Hope you enjoy…

Just for fun, I recently created a video of my beach vacation, posted it to Facebook and shared it with the world.

The entire production process took about 30 seconds and I reached hundreds of my “friends” online.

Doing the same thing 20 years ago, when I was in journalism school, would have taken far longer, moving images from one analog tape to another with a large and expensive editing bay. Sharing my work with the world? Almost impossible.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the iPhone this summer , it’s worth taking some time to reflect on how quickly our world keeps changing — and considering whether we’re capable of keeping up. Read more…

Business of journalism

Journalism is a business. That always has been true (as a reader reminded me this week) but disruption in the industry has changed the way that journalists must think about their jobs. On a recent visit to Boston, I caught up with a friend working at the Boston Globe’s new spinoff, Stat News, and I met with Josh Benton at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. Both talked about the need for reporters to be aware of their company’s bottom line. That used to be taboo. My latest column looks at the changes taking place…

The experiment should have been a disaster: Take 15 advanced journalism students and challenge them to spend a semester thinking about money, spreadsheets, marketing ideas and business plans. But it wasn’t.

A decade ago, it would have been heretical for journalists to think about making money. Today, that thinking has become essential for media businesses to survive — and for creative people to support themselves.

After seeing journalists forced reluctantly into becoming entrepreneurs, I ran the experiment at Point Park University this spring. We talk often about using technology to tell stories in innovative ways, but young journalists — especially — also must think creatively about selling their ideas. Read more…