What I'll be telling journalists in Minnesota

Tuesday I'll be at a University of Minnesota conference titled "New Economic Models for News."

The conference is cosponsored by the Newspaper Guild, so I'm focusing my brief presentation on some things working journalists need to understand about their own business, and I'll be speaking from an inside-the-mainstream perspective.

I'll be joined in my session by Joel Kramer, who was my uberboss at the Star Tribune in the 1990s, and now runs the nonprofit startup Minnpost.com.

Been-dones and am-doings

My friend Steve Outing has what he calls a "blog rant" listing a number of ways to "save" the newspaper industry, but says, "No longer do I have much confidence that newspaper CEOs and publishers will do the right thing."

While I often share that lack of confidence and while I'm perfectly aware that there are, indeed, morons scattered throughout the hierarchies of newspaper companies, I'm struck that his to-do list includes quite a few been-dones and am-doings.

When, how, and why did you go online?

I used to ask new hires: When, how, and why did you "go online?"

The question seems quaint now, and it's been more than a decade since I asked it. After all, many of today's job prospects grew up with home broadband access to the World Wide Web, text messaging on their phones, and possibly a laptop in their bags.

But maybe it still applies.

A tale of two audiences (and beatblogging and topics pages)

Everybody is different from everybody else, and there are lots of ways to group people. But when looking at the audience of a newspaper website, there's one way that I continue to find compelling -- and troubling.

When we group users by frequency, we get something like this:

two audiences

The episode in which I sell out to the promise of paid content

Last week I put my stuff on the market. If you're a Kindle user, you can pay $1.99 a month to get my blog wirelessly delivered to your device. Setting myself up as a Kindle content vendor took about five minutes. Digging myself out of the crater that the stock market made of my 401K? That could take forever.

Your co-workers are all Star Trek aliens

It's Star Trek weekend, so here's a Trek-centric look at The Mess We're In.

The strength of Star Trek has always been its ability to make us look at ourselves -- our own human traits, good and bad, projected onto "alien" species.

Obsolete jobs: Wire editor, features editor

Charles Apple has highlighted some structural changes at the Tribune Company newspapers that many find troubling. The comments on his blog post are especially interesting.

Some of the reaction struck me as reflecting a big disconnect between working journalists and economic reality.

Daily journalism and monkey screech

Macaque photographed at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaI have a theory. Maybe some grad student will test this. My theory is that you can take a random story from a newspaper, and a random person from the community, put them together, and have about a 50 percent chance that the person won't understand it.

Turns out it's Google's fault, after all

Once upon a time, you couldn't find much of anything on the Internet.

Oh, there were a couple of ways to do it. Gopher tried to hook everything into a big menu tree that you could follow to the point of exhaustion. Mosaic's homepage was set to automatically open the National Center for Supercomputing Applications "what's new" document, which announced three, four, even five new websites a day. If you were smart, you bookmarked the good ones.

Should this be illegal?

My first job as an editor was at a weekly newspaper. My parents and I had pooled our funds (read: my college savings) and bought a couple of failing small-town newspapers. One of the things I did every week was scan other weeklies and dailies in the region and write a summary of their high-school sports coverage, citing and crediting each source, of course.

It was a different time. Back then (when I had long hair and a motorcycle), most of the publications I cited weren't generally available in my community. There were no computers. There was no Internet.