What’s the way out? Research in media, racism and lobotomies

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"Are you a cop, too?"

"No, I'm just a reporter," I said, grabbing my notebook and recorder, climbing out of the front seat of the cruiser. I didn't know how to talk to a 16-year-old who'd just been placed in the back of a police car.

Several hours earlier, we had pulled over next to a double-parked SUV and told them to move. Here it was now, mid-afternoon, and we went on a high-speed chase across Holyoke, Massachusetts, because the teenagers in that car had been driving around with an air gun, telling people it was real.

When the cop pulled the SUV over, he waited a few moments for backup and then approached the car. The kids had stashed the gun under the back seat, but told the police when they saw it that it was real.

This was the sort of thing that got 12-year-old Tamir Rice killed by police in Cleveland.

Maybe these folks were better cops, maybe the kids were just lucky. All that happened was they got arrested.

I was on a ride-along that day. I showed up at the police station around 7 a.m., signed a waiver, met the officer I'd be riding with, and climbed in his cruiser. He said that Mondays were typically slow, that we would more than likely park near the railroad tracks and ticket a couple of drivers with expired registrations, maybe get out of the car and talk to some of the merchants.

He couldn't have been more wrong about how the day went.

There was a foot chase, there was a car chase, there was a fatal accident.

It took me two whole days to go over my notes and my tapes and get a succinct (OK, maybe that's not a good word for it) 120-column inch article (about 4,000 words — the equivalent of a 16-page paper).

This was years ago, before we were putting our stories online; only some news outlets were moving their stories from the paper to the web, and they certainly weren't writing with the intent of getting their stuff out there fast.

Twitter wasn't even Odeo yet. Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school. The World Trade towers were still standing.

There were no immediate public reactions unless you were physically in someone's presence. There was no YouTube.

It's not a time I'm nostalgic for. I'm just trying to paint a picture of the world we lived in. Most of you remember that time, but you might not really remember how different day-to-day life was. You might not remember what news consumption was like. You might not remember what our interactions were like.

Nobody immediately sprung into reflexive reaction like we did in Ferguson, in Staten Island, in Baton Rouge, in Charleston, in Minneapolis, in Charlotte. Nobody got on Twitter to shout. Police departments didn't get body camera footage out to the world in a single swoop.

We relied on storytellers to gather information and tell it to us.

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Chuck Palahniuk's short story "Zombies," part of his 2015 collection Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread, about kids who are too smart to ever be happy, so they start a trend of self-lobotomizing using AED kits from schools and gyms and airports.

It reminded me of our hero in the film Pi, Max Cohen, played by Sean Gullette. Exhausted from trying to find a pattern in pi, overwrought by migraines and hounded by both Hasidic Jews and Wall Street firms, Max lobotomizes himself with a drill.

When asked how they made the scene look so realistic, director Darren Aranofsky is fond of saying, "We did one take then rushed Sean to the hospital."

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Who are we now?

We are all journalists, inasmuch as a journalist is one who journals. We're all doing it in public, too.

We are not all reporters, however. We react, but we don't necessarily report what's happening. We let someone else do that, then we journal a link to it.

One of the things that I learned while I was a reporter was not just to tell the story, but to give it some context. Not just why did it happen, but why is it important? What are the implications for us as a community? As a species?

We're supposed to have some perspective on things, but in a world that demands everything now, now, now, it's difficult to do enough research to make it worthwhile. A lot of elder statesmen are getting out of Dodge before it becomes entirely impossible to have a reasoned, researched discussion.

So far it's difficult, but yet impossible.

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We need an exit strategy.

I'm not talking about anything drastic — not death or explosions or anything.

Hopefully not lobotomies.

We need to take a step back, to slow down, to give things time. To allow ourselves the opportunity for reflection, for observation, for discussion.

A lot of this sounds familiar to me.

In just two weeks, the US has an election. It's an important one: It's between (primarily) two candidates who are not particularly well-liked among the general populace. They are very likely the last people of their generation who will run for president.

There's a half-generation — the one President Obama belongs to — that will be prominent for a few election cycles.

The next younger half-generation, the one I belong to, is called Generation X. We're famously derided for not giving a crap about anything.

Some of that comes from the apathy toward community our parents showed. While Baby Boomers drastically changed the world we live in, they also stayed away from religious groups, recreational sports leagues and social and professional groups like Rotary and Toastmasters clubs, among others. A Harvard professor did a giant study on it.

Gen Xers may or may not get into politics, and if not, we're going to see those Obama's age in politics for about 20 more years and then Millennials will take office. That's the generation that grew up with mobile phones and ubiquitous high-speed internet; the generation coming out of college to have job titles that didn't exist a few years ago.

We have no idea what the world will look like in another couple of presidential cycles. But if it keeps speeding up the way it is, we might need to worry about exit velocity.

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Unbiased vs. objective: The real role of media

I was having a discussion with someone recently about media bias, and more specifically about how reporters are biased.

"Of course they are," I said. "They're human. Their job is not to be unbiased, it's to be objective."

Let me explain.

People are biased. We like some candidates better than others. We like some sports teams better than others. We like some dog breeds better than others. We like some foods better than others.

If you take away the biases a person has built up, you take away something of the essence of the person. Something essential — something that maybe led them into writing, into reporting, into being the sort of person people trust enough to talk to.

Objectivity, on the other hand (at least from a journalistic standpoint), is coming at an issue from multiple angles, reporting as many reasonable angles as possible (hang on, we'll get there), and allowing people (readers, viewers, etc.) to reach their own conclusions.

Why do so many journalists seem to have a liberal bias? Because something on the order of 70% of journalists (according to the recurring study The American Journalist) claim liberal views.

So, there's the bias. Now take that bit of information and allow it to color how you take in stories. You should ask your reporters to give you as much information as possible, not tell you how to think about it.

Now, what do I mean as many reasonable angles as possible?

I mean, at some point, you have to stop digging and just get the information out. If you're doing a story on the Patterson-Gimlin footage, maybe you find someone who thinks it was really Bigfoot, maybe you find someone who things it was a Bigfoot costume, and maybe — just maybe — you find someone who thinks it was an alien. But you can't just keep going down the spiral, looking for someone who thinks it was a giant deformed rabbit and claims he has the DNA to prove it.

Even when the Fairness Doctrine was really in effect, it allowed media outlets to stop at some point. You had to give Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders equal time, but you were under no obligation to the Zoltan Istvans of the world.

Not that I don't think Zoltan Istvan wouldn't make a wonderful president. Just he's not exactly really in the running.

We're certainly in an interesting time in journalism. More than ever before, we have the ability to say, simply, "this happened," and we can do it by showing you. But I think journalism really needs to do well at providing context.

To truly act in the public interest, media needs to go back to their role as "The Fourth Estate" — that body, independent of government control, that keeps the power in check.

Journalists aren't just supposed to tell you what the power elite (be it the government, celebrities or big business) are up to, but also provide you with some clues as to what it means in your life.

You should still take in stories with an eye toward understanding where the reporter comes from, but also understand that the reporter's job, fundamentally, is to provide you with more than just a report of what happened. Understand also that, whatever the journalist's biases, most reporters will have some history reporting on the same topic over and over again, so will have wider material to draw on than you will — the same way that you'll have better insight into your job than the journalist will.

I do want to touch a little on news consumer responsibility, too.

Inasmuch as I think it's up to a good journalist to come at stories objectively — give me information and context without judgment — it's up to me as a news consumer to take the information, determine what is fact, what is opinion and what is context. It's also up to me to determine whether I think the journalist fulfills his or her job, but after I do that, it's up to me to determine whether I consume news from that source again, not whether the journalist should be fired.

It's also incumbent upon me to take in news from multiple sources, preferably with a variety of perceived biases — the stuff that overlaps in reports is fact and/or context, the rest is commentary.

It's not my job as a news consumer — and, let's be honest, in this season, a voter — to either take all information without consideration, or to take out my frustrations on people who have presumably been hired and retained because they're good at what they do.

Parsing Oregon

The takeover of a remote federal facility in Oregon by a group of white guys with guns is monumentally weird.

I spent a long time the other night helping put together the collection of stories at the bottom of this post via the social aggregation tool Storify. I got to see even weirder stuff than what actually made the list. And there's some more stuff circulating on Facebook. I'm sure you've seen it.

This is the biggest thing to learn from this, I think.

This is a good piece to read for some background, but basically what you have is a couple of ranchers who were convicted of arson for fires they set while waiting impatiently for the government to do some controlled burning. A court ruled they were sentenced too lightly, and were sent back to prison. A group of armed white guys calling themselves a "militia" traveled to the county the ranchers are sentenced in, and took over a building on a federal wildlife reserve in the middle of nowhere, demanding the land be privatized. (Seriously. It's in the middle of nowhere. You have to drive 220 miles over the Idaho border to find a decent-sized town.)

The re-sentenced ranchers don't want them there. The local police don't want them there, but don't seem to be taking much action. The media love the story.

The most interesting part of this for me is that it's like Waco for a new generation – a generation with immediate access to news, social media and the sort of access to records that shows us when a guy who claims to hate government intervention benefits to the tune of a few million dollars from it.

Anyway, just. So. Strange.

The truth about media bias and what you should consider when listening to criticism of media

I've noticed a lot of stuff lately, particularly on Facebook, but also people talking to each other in public, about media bias. Usually this is jibes aimed at "liberal" media, but it goes both ways — certainly you've seen postings about "Faux News Channel"?

Some of this comes from the politically correct "cry-bully" movement — a term I only recently just heard for the first time here — you know, the people who want you fired because you said something they don't agree with.

Here's a criticism I've heard a lot: Why did media cover the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 but not the Beirut attacks on Nov. 12?

Here's the answer: Uh, they did. From "the liberal" CNN to "the conservative" FOX, every major national outlet had the story on Nov. 12.

Why did you hear so much about Paris, then? Because nobody clicked on the Beirut stories, so they fell off the front page. And then 200 of your friends posted on Facebook about Paris but not Beirut.

You didn't hear about Beirut because Facebook and Twitter are your news sources.

Here's the truth about media bias: Outlets are biased toward what will make them money.

Any bias perceived in media is really a bias of the journalist, and, while there's a slight shift to the right going on, over the past 40 or so years since they've started doing the study, journalists in America are by and large far more liberal than the general population.

What does that mean? If you want more centrist (or right-leaning) journalists, get more centrists (or righties) to become journalists.

Here's something else about human nature we don't often think about, because we tend to see the words on the page (or the website, really), rather than the person behind them: People get defensive when challenged (if you're not sure what I'm talking about, watch Hillary Clinton talk about her damn email or Donald Trump talk about those New Jersey Muslims no one actually saw celebrate after 9/11). So, if you just go on the offensive to attack an article, the next one's going to be further biased.

Know what also isn't going to solve a bias problem? Criticism that is more yelling than constructive. Like this. Try applying methods like this instead.

In my experience (16 years professionally, from print to web and a couple of years studying the industry in grad school), here are five things you can do to improve your own news experience in a developing story (like Paris or the AME Church shooting in Charleston):

Wait. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, news media thought over 10,000 people had died in the World Trade Center alone. The final number ended up being under 3,000. [This is not to belittle the attacks; it's to explain that the information coming out first isn't based on anything. The information you get later is fact.]

Hold off. If you're not sure if you can trust something, you probably can't. The only thing most reporters have that you don't is a list of contacts in the police and government and university structure. Don't share information you think might be wrong — if enough people do share it, it becomes "truthiness" instead of truth.

Don't embarrass anybody. If you call a reporter who reported some bad information an idiot (or something worse), you're going to get defensive babbling in return. If you point a reporter to a different source or give useful information, you'll get a thank you. You can either be a trusted source of good information, or a bully. Take your pick.

Diversify. It doesn't matter what your political leaning is. If you seek only sources you're likely to agree with (confirmation bias), you're going to receive an increasingly small amount of information. As an extension of this, don't discount something just because you find a bias you disagree with. We don't have to agree on gun control for me to accurately report that Ronald Reagan was both an actor and a president.

Stay skeptical. Just because it's published doesn't mean it isn't a load of crap — especially since news organizations everywhere are dumping editors and fact-checkers. Again, just don't be a jerk if you find some incorrect information.

The president is doing podcasts; what does the future hold for the medium?

You probably heard that President Barack Obama appeared on comedian Marc Maron's podcast, WTF, about a week and a half ago (photos). It wasn't the first time he's done a podcast — he was on the B.S. Report way back in March 2012 — but you most likely heard about this one, since he said the word "nigger" (in the context of "it's not OK to call someone a 'nigger'" — he wasn't just dropping an N-bomb casually) and mainstream media freaked the fuck out.

After you've listened to that episode, take some time to listen to Maron talk to his producer, Brendan McDonald, about setting this up. Maron had been scheduled to be on vacation, so that was rescheduled, so McDonald dealt with Secret Service and such leading up to the interview.

Maron has one of the most popular podcasts on the planet. His 2010 reconciliation with comedian Louis CK was selected as the best podcast ever recorded. He's interviewed Terry Gross, Robin Williams, Mick Jagger and over 600 other people. For most of the people who aren't scared of disruptive technology and formats, Maron is old guard in a new world.

But still, this wasn't like doing Bill Simmons' podcast with ESPN (a Disney subsidiary) backing it. That's still old media, just in a new format. For his WTF appearance, the president parked his helicopter at the Hollywood Bowl, climbed into a car and went to go talk to a comedian in his garage.

If podcasting hadn't already arrived, it has now. And it's only going to get stronger.

Savannah social media successes, so far

Well, we've been in Savannah almost two months now, and we've had some good experiences with some businesses doing social media well.

Let's start with this one:

I went over to the local sports bar, tweeted my beer, and within a couple of minutes, the owner walked over and introduced herself and chatted for a few minutes. We've been back a few times since. If you're in Georgetown or Southside Savannah, go pay Rachael's 1190 a visit.

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You may have seen my post about our experience at Gribble House a couple of weeks ago. Whoever's handling their Twitter account has been very responsive via favorites and saying thanks every time I mention them — including when we checked in on Swarm, when I dropped the audio into SoundCloud and when I posted about our evening.

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Another one who's all about the favorites are the local foxes (I think they're sister shops, but I'm not 100 percent sure on that), Coffee Fox and Foxy Loxy. They serve different neighborhoods, but both with excellent coffee and food that smells really good (we haven't eaten at either). PERC also gets a shout for being helpful; the foxes both serve their coffee. It's delicious.

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We're still new here, though, and have lots more places to try. Chef Brandon at The Olde Pink House has been really friendly; we're excited to get over there some evening, hopefully soon.

Whom are we missing? Tell us, please, we're still out exploring!

What if we’d had Twitter on 9/11?


If you're still able to hear from wherever you are, Amy, this is for you.

One of the more more formative events in my life — from the perspective of shaping my attitudes about politics, war and my industry (news) — was the series of terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, collectively known as 9/11.


Amy Toyen [via]
There is a whole cohort registering to vote this year who might vaguely remember their parents' reactions that day, another getting drivers licenses who were too young, and more becoming bar and bat mitzvot who were just being born.

It was 13 years ago, and it's very much etched in the brains of almost every adult today, but very soon that won't be the case.

I was walking my neighborhood at 4 a.m. one night last month – a night that ended with The Associated Press confirming the death of a sprint car driver after our normal closing hours. We found out minutes before The AP moved a story thanks to a Tweet from a local reporter.

We didn't have Twitter on 9/11. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have YouTube. We had Google, but it was still nascent and not doing enough traffic to be archived multiple times daily as it is now — the Way Back Machine picked it up on Aug. 23, 2001 and didn't come back until Sept. 17 of that year.

Residential broadband was just coming into being. Cell phones were really just starting to become a thing everybody had, though most people were still hanging onto their home phones (many because they needed a home phone line to access the Internet).

Despite our seemingly limited ability to communicate (ha!), we still had a problem then knowing when to shut up. News went on for days about 9/11 to the exclusion of just about everything else. NPR, CNN, Fox, it didn't matter. The stock market was closed the rest of the week. Baseball was shut down. If anything else was going on in the world, it was invisible to U.S. media.

The early reports — yes, we did have 24-hour cable news and the Internet — were crazy. 10,000 were dead, another hijacked plane was heading for L.A. and one maybe toward Chicago. And then it was over, and we sheltered in place around our TVs for three days.

Despite the initial reports being highly speculative and wildly inaccurate, we did not yet have the dreaded Internet rumor mill — you know, the one that kills celebrities and retires basketball players.

Can you imagine what Twitter and Facebook would have looked like on 9/11 — especially considering that, even today, nobody with any first-hand knowledge (as in, having been there) would have had any cell phone service (much like that day)? It might have taken days to dig out some facts, instead of the hours it took us.

Let me ask, then: Do you use your social networks responsibly?

Related:
10 Septembers, 20 Septembers
Memorialize 9/11 by being more awesome






Technology, and journalism as art

Ed. note, disclosures &c — I work for Advance Digital, whose network includes several newspaper-partnered websites I mention here. All opinions are mine and not endorsed by my employer [full list of associated properties]. Any information about the company and its affiliates given here has already been public knowledge.

Let's start this off by talking about tablets. You know, iPads and Kindle Fires and such. If the third type of lie (statistics) is to be believed, half of American adults own a tablet. And 37% of tablet owners read news daily, on their tablets.

Overall, that puts at about 20% the percentage of Americans who read news daily on their tablets.

The only thing about that number that should be surprising is that it's so low. Of course, take into account your casual news reader (that is, someone who gets the bulk of their news from TV or radio sources), and I'm sure the number of people getting news on their tablets is much higher.

Again, this came as a surprise to no one. Here's a group of Knight Ridder folks talking about a tablet newspaper with interactive graphics and embeddable video and audio. In 1994.


Knight Ridder was bought out by McClatchy in 2006. Here is a list of their media properties. They're not lightweights, and they saw this coming.

I wrote last month that news is not in trouble. I still believe that's true, despite Morley Safer sounding the alarm because the New Orleans Times-Picayune went down to delivering the paper three days a week. They're still great work online.

So is the Pennsylvania Media Group, which has done a fantastic job covering things that matter to the local audience like high crime rates in Harrisburg and the Farm Show (Syracuse folks can equate that to the State Fair). And all that work despite the fact that the Patriot-News went down to three print days a week the first of the year.

Let me say it again. Technology is not killing news. It's killing newsprint. Here, in case you didn't get that:

Technology is not killing news, it's killing newsprint.

The New York Times' recent multimedia piece is worth spending your entire Sunday morning exploring. It's amazing journalism, and it could never be done on newsprint. That's not to say the Times should stop printing, but when you have tools at your disposal, use them.

Fifty years ago, New York City's seven daily newspapers – that's right, seven – were in the midst of a 114-day strike. Vanity Fair has a great piece marking the anniversary. The central issue was technology, and the refusal to move to new technologies on the part of some at the papers killed four of those papers.

Destroyed newsprint.

Back to that New York Times piece for a moment. That's the sort of artistic long-form journalism you couldn't do in a newspaper. And during that strike, newspaper people went off and became artists. Tom Wolfe. Jimmy Breslin. Nora Ephron. Gay Talese. Pate Hamill. And they, in turn, helped launch journalism as an art form, and 50 years later, someone like Fontezia Walker can take a creative writing class and make the rational leap to journalism as a career from there.

And so long as the stats on Internet usage are going to continue to grow, let's use the communications channels we have.

Lessons from Sandy Hook Elementary: When to shut up, when to not

On Friday, Dec. 14, a young man killed his mother, then walked into an elementary school, killed 20 children (all six and seven years old) and six more adults, then killed himself.

I found out about this a few hours after it happened, while I was setting up to play racquetball. When I came home later in the afternoon, I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me.

One of the things I found out that time outside of news has taught me is that I can feel, intensely, even.

I was a general assignment reporter on 9/11. It happened on a Tuesday, and our weekly papers came out on Monday and Tuesday, so we wouldn't be going to press again for another few days. I didn't really have anything to write about, even though it was obviously big news, and a life-marking event for my generation.

But I was mostly numb to emotion for a few days. When I found out a friend had died, I took a couple hours off of work and played music, music that she'd enjoyed, songs she'd sung with me dozens of times. Generally, though I just felt like I should be informing someone of something.

In Daniel Schorr's autobiography, he says one of the things that made him a great journalist was that he felt emotionally removed from everything that happened, and able to report on it objectively.

I felt the same way about my ability to be emotionally removed. But I just couldn't be that afternoon. And let's be honest, some people want journalists to show they're human sometimes.

It was an interesting night, not only because we had different information coming from different sources throughout the night, but also because we have 12 different sites that we work with (when I say "we," I mean our team – I work from home, but there are always three or four others working from their homes and we're in constant contact), sites in different locations with different things important to them. We have them in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana; in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley; in New Jersey and on Staten Island; all across Michigan; in industrial cities like Springfield, Mass., Syracuse and Cleveland; and in that liberal Mecca Portland, Ore..

These are communities with very different populations and very different priorities. And they all love their children.

If you followed the news at all over the weekend, you know that it was pretty much wall-to-wall coverage for the first day and a half, and now it's more of a human interest angle (funerals and profiles). During the first 12 or 15 hours or so, there was so much misinformation out there, much of propagated by news outlets, that it reminded me that sometimes we need to shut up and look for truth sometimes. And in some cases, maybe shutting up isn't the best route to take.

Media jumped all over information and drew conclusions without any real information. We know now that the shooter was Adam Lanza. He had his brother Ryan's ID on him, though, and some media outlets didn't think to account for the fact that maybe the person and the driver's license wouldn't match. Far from being dead in Connecticut, Ryan Lanza was wondering why people were writing shocking things on his Facebook wall. He was on the bus on the way home from work.

For several hours, the media had the wrong Lanza brother. Ryan deleted his Facebook account, and I'm sure there will be plenty of fallout from this as the months progressed. Don't be surprised if there are civil lawsuits.

An interesting side note on jumping the gun like that. Even in 1694, news organizations were concerned about getting confirmation. When did that stop, and why?

Lesson for the media: Sometimes you need to shut up and figure out what the facts are before you go blabbing out any old information you think you have.

You know who else should have shut up? Some people who just want their football. President Obama was in Newtown to deliver his standard "America is weeping with you, something must be done" speech on Sunday night [aside: Don't get me wrong, that's important for the people of Newtown to hear, I just wish we'd have someone speak from the heart instead of delivering the script sometime]. He interrupted the broadcast of the Sunday night football game for about 10 minutes.

Someone tweeted, "Get that nigger off the TV, we want to watch football." Yeah, that got him kicked off his college football team. He deleted his Twitter account, and one of the people he tweeted at had to delete his account, too, what with all the hate mail he was getting.

Another person he tweeted at in that post reminded people that he can't be responsible for every stupid thing the people he knows say.

That guy who got kicked off his football team, though, was definitely not alone in his sentiments. I hope other people suffered some consequences of not shutting up.

On the other end of the spectrum is the National Rifle Association (NRA), the country's biggest gun lobby. Just a few days after they thanked everybody for getting them to 1.7 million likes on Facebook, they pulled down their Facebook page.

They also went silent on Twitter for a few days, which is common for them in the wake of mass shootings in the U.S.

If you want to stay relevant, I think you have to say something, even if it is just a "We're mourning, too." I think it's really telling that they take a "let's go hide in the corner until everybody focuses on something else for a while" approach to these events.

Lastly, I want to mention something that might point to the growing maturity of the Internet as a medium.

You might have seen your friends posting a plea to stop stigmatizing mental illness called I am Adam Lanza's mother.

Well, one mother went back trough the author's personal blog and ripper her a new one for the things she was really saying about her kids in public.

Instead of this becoming a war, like that Oatmeal-Buzzfeed thing that happened, the two parents got together to start a discussion and find some common ground.

We, as a species, and we, as a culture, and we, as the media, have a lot to learn still. Mostly, I think it has to do with listening. If we listen to each other, we're going to be able to prevent some of these incidents in the first place.

Where is news headed now?

You probably missed 'Hi and Lois' on Monday. Go ahead, click on it, I'll wait the 20 seconds.

Welcome back. The fact is, more newspapers are, in fact, stopping print publication, or severely decreasing it.

I'm working in media again now, after almost three years out of the industry, and online-only or primarily-online is much more of a reality now than it was in late 2009 and early 2010 when the only papers who were going that way were in serious trouble. Now, there are papers taking preventative measures and cutting their print runs before they get into serious trouble.

I don't think journalism is in trouble, and more importantly, I don't think good journalism is in trouble.

I think newsprint is, and I've been saying that for four years now.

Back to this new job I have in news. It's primarily a production gig. You won't see my byline very often, and when you do, it'll primarily be stuff like this cross-market roundup that will appear on a dozen sites in various markets.

Because I work on a dozen sites in various markets.

My job may be very different in a couple of months, though. I'm not sharing anything here that isn't public somewhere, but some of the papers affiliated with our sites are cutting their publication schedules in the first quarter of 2013. We actually don't know what the day-to-day operation of our particular corner of the company is going to look like.

In other RIP newsprint news, The Sporting News is ending its 126-year print run with the issue dated Dec. 13. A sign that it's a good idea? Its front-page columnist says nobody recognizes him as the guy on the front of the paper.

Let's be clear, this shift to online is not about the journalism. It's about technology. It always has been.

You simply cannot make someone purchase and read a medium they don't want to read. Sure, there are people who want newsprint. But there aren't enough of them. There are also people who want to see Hollywood make more religious films, but there aren't enough of them for Hollywood to actually do it.

Online news still has a reputation problem. Newspapers that are going online-only are competing with sites that just can't figure out whether they're going to do serious news or not, and they're going to have to take the high road if they want to stay relevant to their readers. Here's a great synopsis of online news's maturity issue.

To wit, there's a big story locally about a high-profile college basketball player not getting arrested. Someone locally grabbed a photo that appeared to have the kid in handcuffs being escorted out of a store in the mall. The police and mall security both said they had no idea what that was about, but the store didn't call them at all that day.

I've successfully gone 13,171 days without getting arrested. Nobody's ever done a story on me not getting arrested.

We have to find a way for journalism to stop reacting to rumors and do serious reporting again. Update: More on reacting to rumors – watch this TED talk from Markham Nolan on separating fact from fiction online.

Ben Huh makes a great point in the video in the top of this post: We don't need everybody to write the same story. We need people to be willing to share the basic story and do your own angle on what the story means to your readership.

Yesterday, there was a shooting at an Oregon mall. How many stories across the country are "this is what happened"? Well, CNN, NBC and The New York Times all ran bylined stories. They differ in their coverage only in that they spoke to different frightened people. Other than that, they're all just "this is what happened" pieces. The Huffington Post had the good sense to run a wire story.

Other news outlets across the country are running "here's what happened" stories, too. Why are news organizations putting manpower resources into that story? Run the wire piece, and put the manpower resources into analyzing what it means for your community. That's where news organizations can separate themselves.

For Syracuse, N.Y., what does it mean for the giant shopping mall we're hoping will bring people from hundreds of miles away? Will people stay away? Will the payroll increase as security needs increase? For Springfield, Mass., what does it mean for Smith & Wesson, a gun manufacturer with a large plant? Will more people want guns for self-defense in a situation like that, or will guns get harder to purchase?

This is where local journalism can set itself apart.

This has been a long rant, and I haven't answered the question I posed at the beginning: Where is news headed now?

The answer is, I don't know, but it's going to depend heavily on technology. I think tablets are going to be short-lived. I own one, and my primary use of it is as a reader and for light productivity tasks. I don't see that changing much for the tablet industry. Something is coming next; Mitch has some ideas.

If the news industry wants to survive, it needs to be willing to meet consumers at the delivery method they want to use. The organizations that do will survive.