A new career path?

If you’ve heard this once, you’ve heard it a million times. The path to a major market TV job starts in a very small market, where you can learn on the job and make mistakes that won’t kill your career. It’s good advice, but it’s not the only way. Gil Matos is a 2006 graduate of Emerson College who’s already on TV and radio in Boston, covering professional sports from a Latino perspective.

Matos bypassed the traditional route to a big market job by combining several “niche” jobs at small media outlets. He does a twice-weekly talk show in Spanish for a local radio station, writes about sports for a Spanish-language newspaper, and reports in English for a local cable channel.  (He also keeps a blog, but doesn’t update often.)

Thanks to his bilingual ability and multimedia savvy, Matos tells the Boston Globe, he’s had opportunities his peers didn’t.

I have friends who were working [as broadcasters] up in Maine, and they would come down to cover one or two Red Sox games. I get the chance to be there every day if I wanted to,” says Matos, who aspires to be a full-time TV sports anchor. “Covering the pro sports, hopefully, someone from the English side will take notice, and I can make my crossover.”

There’s one big catch in Matos’s story:

His radio and TV stints are part-time, volunteer endeavors. His day job: recruitment coordinator for Hult International Business School in Cambridge. He also bartends on weekends to pay his student loans.

While his dedication and hard work are admirable, you have to wonder how long the outlets Matos is working for will take advantage of his willingness to do it for free, and how long he can keep it up under those conditions.  But if it all pays off in a full-time job, it will have been worth it.

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Diversity lacking in sports journalism

It’s the second year for bad news when it comes to the diversity of newspaper sports departments.  According to Editor & Publisher, a survey from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) has found an overwhelming majority of white males behind this country’s sports pages.

“This report shows that in 2008, 94% of the sports editors; 89% of the assistant sports editors; 88% of our columnists; 87% of our reporters; and 89% of our copy editors/designers are white, and those same positions are 94%, 90%, 94%, 91%, and 84% male,” wrote Richard Lapchick, director of TIDES, which is housed at the University of Central Florida.

This is the second year for the study which noted one bright spot – an increase in African-American sports columnists who now make up 10.7% of the field (up from 7.4%).

According to the article, some sports editors blame newspaper downsizing for the problem saying the dot-coms are hiring away women and minorities and then the newspapers are not allowed to fill those open positions. 

If that were the case, wouldn’t it stand to reason that sports departments would have been just filled with women and people of color 10-15 years ago, when sports Web sites were far from a major player and the economics of newspapers were much brighter?

I think there may be quite another reason why sports departments are a nearly all white male club and that probably won’t change as long as the old excuses are allowed to go unchallenged.

Video wins online

A new study says PBS.org has seen its Web traffic grow in part because of “enhancements” to its video offerings. TV Week reports that a Hitwise survey finds PBS.org had more total U.S. visits in the past month than the other broadcast network Web sites. PBS says its traffic overall is up about 25 percent over last year, due in part to improved use of video. (Whether that really makes them number one is debatable. The Washington Post points out that comScore ranks ABC highest for unique visitors.)

But what’s interesting about the growth at PBS is the kind of video they feature online. The network bucks the conventional wisdom that online viewers won’t watch anything that’s more than a few minutes long. “We’ve added many hundreds of hours of full-length video to the site,” Jason Seiken, senior VP of PBS Interactive, said in a statement today. It’s worth exploring why longer video works for them. Is it the quality? The topics and treatment? The heavy-duty on-air promotion of the Web site?

It may also be significant that PBS–which doesn’t rely on advertising in the same way the other networks do–is succeeding online. MediaShift’s Mark Glaser reports that online video ad sales make up only a small fraction of the $21 billion spent on all Web advertising last year. Why?

Many online videos are too short for people to sit through “pre-roll” video ads that play before the content, and people don’t like “overlay ads” that run during videos because they are intrusive. Another barrier for marketers is having to format ads differently for different video-sharing and media sites — not to mention the challenge of gauging how effective the ads actually are.

Glaser’s post, well worth reading, looks at all online video, not just news and information sites, and says the situation may be changing. Taken together, the opportunities for video ads and the PBS results hold lessons for anyone trying to boost Web traffic and get users to watch video online.

Farewell OJR

I’m a little behind on this unfortunate development: the Online Journalism Review is no more. Editor Robert Niles says the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School has decided to pull the plug. While he doesn’t offer much in the way of an explanation, Niles says USC will focus its online efforts for professionals on the Knight Digital Media Center instead. Niles himself has launched his own blog, Sensible Talk, which he calls “a community devoted to media, business, arts and technology criticism.”

I, for one, will miss OJR. It offered insights and examples of good work that are hard to find elsewhere. Sorry to see it go.

Powerful local TV Web sites

A short while ago, we published a post about some of the best newspaper Web sites; now here’s a look at some of the most heavily visited local TV sites.  Broadcasting & Cable reports that newspapers generally dominate local Web traffic, but there are exceptions.

According to “What Local Media Web Sites Earn: 2008 Survey,” recently released by Borrell Associates, sites for stations such as WMUR Manchester, N.H., KTHV Little Rock and KSL Salt Lake City are dramatically outperforming their market’s major newspaper sites in unique visitors.

A total of 14 local TV sites outperform the largest local newspaper in terms of traffic.  The article says the sites have a few things in common:

  • Strong video offerings
  • Innovative interactivity
  • Exhaustive weather coverage

The story goes on to point out the competitive advantage a local TV station’s meteorologists can provide online and the creative ways the most-visited sites are soliciting user-generated content.

More ratings info

Sometime this summer, Nielsen will begin providing information about who is watching what when they’re away from home. For a long time, many in the television industry have complained that they don’t get “credit” for people watching their programming in hotels, bars, gyms, etc.  Now, according to Media Post, the “Nielsen Out-of-Home Report” may be about to change all that.

The data that covers viewing of national broadcast and cable networks will be culled from a panel of 4,700. Panelists will carry cell phones from AT&T that run the software that allows tracking of the exposure to programs (participants receive $50 a month).

At the local level, Nielsen plans to begin in six markets by the end of September.  Those markets include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and Denver.

Nielsen estimates that as much as 8% of TV viewing takes place outside the home.

New model for investigative reporting?

Everyone knows that newsrooms have been cutting staff and shrinking their budgets. When there aren’t enough people to get the daily job done, in-depth reporting can suffer. What’s to be done?

Chuck Lewis thinks he has an answer. The founder of the Center for Public Integrity is launching a new “workshop” at American University in Washington to produce “demonstration projects” for investigative journalism. He plans to bring in “all-star” journalists as senior fellows, involve students in reporting and writing stories, and partner with news organizations to disseminate the stories.

What makes it different than anything in the country is that we’re going to look to incubate new models of doing investigative journalism. It’s in great peril at the moment and is in free-fall. This kind of journalism is the most expensive, time-consuming and risky in terms of litigation. This is really extraordinarily ambitious — and some would say foolhardy. I’ve done a lot of work in the non-profit world, and the fact is that we need new models that will help pay for this work. And it might not just be some exciting investigative reporting centers; it might be something better, larger, with greater impact than that.

Lewis talked about his plans with Mark Glaser at MediaShift just as another new reporting model is making its debut. The non-profit Pro Publica project will air its first investigation, a joint effort with 60 Minutes, on CBS Sunday night. Pro Publica reporter Dafna Linzer contributed to the piece about the U-S funded Arabic language channel Al-Hurra, and will publish a separate multipart series on the project’s Web site.