Metamorphosis: Journalists describe an evolving industry

The poet Ovid wrote his 15-book Metamorphoses to describe the creation and history of the world. Three panelists addressing a group of campus communicators today at UW-Madison took one hour to paint a picture of a news business undergoing a metamorphosis nearly every day. News organizations scramble to keep up with technological changes while trying to navigate a tempest-tossed economy. They try to balance quality journalism with the desire to open up to submissions from citizen journalists.

UW Madison communicator Brian Mattmiller moderated as each panelist made brief introductory remarks then took questions from the audience of about 40 communicators from departments and schools around the UW Madison campus.

Sharif Durhams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is part of a team reporting breaking news for the newspaper’s Newswatch service.  He said his news organization is putting more emphasis on new media, including mobile communication. Holding up his SmartPhone, he said “We want to go where our readers are. We want to be part of their day and part of their conversations.” He pointed us to the publication’s page of Twitter streams and to Newswatch, which aggregates headlines from internal sources and from the Asssociated Press.

Tim Kelley, who has held positions at Madison newspapers and at UW-Madison Communications, now directs online development for Capital Newspapers. He’s working on a number of new Web initiatives involving The Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times and other news sources, incuding WKOW Channel 27 TV. Here’s their multimedia page. Hey! here’s a video from last summer’s national slam poetry competition!

J.R. Ross edits WisPolitics.com, a news source for people hopelessly addicted to state politics. His site offers a subscription-based news service and a public portal to a wide range of political information.  Ross said that because his organization serves a niche audience it is somewhat immune to editorial pressures facing general news outlets. “Our audience may be an inch wide,” he said, “but it’s a mile deep.”

Although Wispolitics may not be an ideal outlet for news produced at UW-Madison, Ross said, its sister publication, Wis Business.com may well be. In particular, story ideas about new tech startups and other spinoff companies from UW madison research.

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