What do journalists and Miley have in common? Twerking, apparently.

On Tuesday, journalism news site The Raw Story published an article by Eric W. Dolan that carried the headline, “Study concludes: ‘Journalism — to some extent — is twerking.” When the article popped up during a Google search, I raised an eyebrow and poked fun at it on my Facebook page — then clicked through and read the article.

The article focuses on a study published in April in New Media and Society by Edson C. Tandoc Jr. of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who writes:

‘In order to attract an audience no longer loyal to legacy news, journalism dances in a provocative manner — publishing stories about the wildest celebrities, uploading adorable cat videos, highlighting salacious headlines — hoping to attract attention, to increase traffic. … Journalism — to some extent — is twerking.’

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Let’s call for more diversity in online journalism leadership

Over the past few months, news has come out about the launching of several new journalism websites. By now, we are familiar with a few of the names at the front of the new-media movement: Ezra Klein, Nate Silver, Glen Greenwald. All are respected, talented journalists, expected to go to these new platforms and do exciting things.

A problem?

As Emily Bell of The Guardian pointed out in a March 12 article, they’re all white men. So are the leaders of Vice, Buzzfeed, Politico, Grantland and more, Bell says.

In the meantime, Bell says, the lone female top editor or founder is Re/code’s Kara Swisher, who is running the site collaboratively with a man. When Bell wrote her piece, Klein had hired 10 men for “regular bylined work” and only three women, and Silver had six women on his 19-person editorial staff.

To be sure, the internet has presented journalists with an extraordinary opportunity to remake their own profession. And the rhetoric of the new wave of creativity in journalism is spattered with words that denote transformation. But the new micro-institutions of journalism already bear the hallmarks of the restrictive heritage they abandoned with such glee. — Emily Bell

How the gender balance in production of day-to-day coverage shakes out, I’m not sure. At the time this post was written, 8 of the 26 bylines on the main page of Klein’s Vox appeared to be women’s names, as did 4 of the 11 on the main page of Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. These outlets could have hired more women since Bell wrote. They could be taking content from a bunch of female freelancers. I don’t know.

But it alarms me to know that women are not well represented in the leadership of these sites. At my university and in my internships, I have met, worked with or admired the work of so many women who are amazing journalists and fantastic leaders. I would love to see one of them, or someone like them, at the helm of journalism’s next big thing.

And, of course, I don’t want to stop there. As Bell also pointed out, all the men she named are also white men. Where are the African-American men, the Latino men, the Asian men, the other non-white men? And all those women? What about people with disabilities? And can we make sure we have diversity in religious backgrounds, geographical origins and sexual orientations, too?

In journalism, we talk a lot about content diversity, making sure we’re pushing and growing and trying new things all the time. But at a time when we’re already going through a lot of change, let’s add one more thing to our innovation to-do list and make a point of diversifying our leadership and our staffs.

As Bell says,

Remaking journalism in its own image, only with better hair and tighter clothes, is not a revolution or even an evolution. It is a repackaging of the status quo with a very nice clubhouse attached. A revolution calls for a regime change of more significant depth.

Site entry can affect reader engagement

The Web offers many options for people to find and read news. Anyone looking for information can find what they need by visiting a trusted site, scrolling through their Facebook feed or doing a simple Google search. All three options can be equally fruitful for them.

On the other end of the exchange, though, it’s good for news organizations to know how their visitors are coming in, because visitors’ method of entry can influence how they behave on the site.

According to a report from the Pew Research Journalism Project, direct visitors — people who come in through bookmarks or typing in the site’s URL — spend about three times as long on the site as people who come in through a search engine or through Facebook. They also view about five times as many pages per month as those visitors and visit the site three times as often.

Facebook and search are critical for bringing added eyeballs to individual stories, and they do so in droves. But the connection a news organization has with any individual coming to their website via search or Facebook seems quite limited. For news outlets operating under the traditional model of building a loyal, perhaps paying audience, obtaining referrals so that users think of the outlet as the first place to turn is critical. — Pew Research Center report

The findings of the study can have different meanings for different organizations, depending on their business model or how they want to attract traffic. For an organization like Buzzfeed, which develops buzz-worthy content for people to share, it might be fine to build a base of Facebook-driven users who only visit one page every day. For an organization like the New York Times, which visitors who come back regularly and read a day’s worth of news, direct visitors would be more attractive.

In terms of business, a site that runs on page views and advertising might be okay with short-visit Facebook visitors; one that wants paid subscribers should aim for direct visitors.

To me, this article also indicates that most news organizations shouldn’t be married to the idea of always having SEO-driven, share-bait content, because the visitors who come for that won’t do much or stay long. It seems like a far better idea to focus on always creating quality content that will win people’s respect and trust and earn you a spot in their bookmarks page.

Of course, having a balance of visitors is important — if you have no people coming in through Facebook, you’re not making share-worthy content, and if you have none coming in through search, you’re doing something wrong with your SEO. But I think it’s important for news organization leaders to decide where their priorities are and to decide what kind of visitors they most want to pull in, then adjust their strategies accordingly. That will ensure that their content gets where they want it, how they want it, and that’s always a good thing.

Evaluating the business of web journalism

It was recently confirmed that Ezra Klein, creator of The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, would be leaving the Post for Vox Media, a younger, digitally-based company. The news sparked two columns by the New York Times’ David Carr about web journalism. His main question: Is web journalism is a bubble waiting to burst or an actual growing business?

Carr says web journalism has the advantage of being digitally-based, so it can deliver content quickly and easily. It has smaller staffs and fewer operating costs. Advertising rates are going down, but advertising on sites with quality content is a solid business. Overall, Carr seems to think web journalism is in good shape.

However, Carr’s columns also seem somewhat cautionary. He quotes a man who talks about how various forms of journalism have had times when they reigned supreme, and “these days the reigns are briefer than ever because the march of technology has quickened to a trot.” It is encouraging to think the reign of web journalism is coming, but it’s also a reminder that web journalism will only reign until something better comes along. Web journalists must remember that they can’t focus entirely on having the best technology, because it is only a matter of time before even their best is outdated.

So, web journalism sites need to maintain strength in other areas, too, such as reporting. Carr mentions George Parker as wondering “if everybody tried to make a living by aggregating and explaining the work of others, a k a blogging, there would not be much actual reporting going on, and thus little left to talk about.” I’ve seen a lot of that online — one outlet repackaging another’s content — and it makes me nervous, not only as a journalist but also as a consumer who worries about the quality of the material she is reading. But, as Carr points out, many sites that aggregate are also taking new risks with reporting.

My takeaway from these articles is that there is a solid business in online journalism, but it must be built with caution. Keep up with the best technology so you can effectively and efficiently spread information; however, stick close to the traditional focal points of quality reporting and editing, too, so you’re always providing quality content that retains value and technology changes. It’s a lot easier to say than to do, but I’m confident the industry can handle it.

Media analysis

My classwork as a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism includes not only doing journalism but also learning how to think critically about journalism. The graduate assignment for my convergence editing class includes this directive:

… write an academic analysis of a current event/development in online journalism. Students must demonstrate an understanding of the issue presented, providing critical synthesis and analysis of the coverage current events, ethical case studies, academic reports, etc.

This page on will house those analyses. Stay tuned for the first one!