My next assignment: covering online journalism

I’ve spent 10-plus years working from within to change newspapers in some small way. Now I hope to effect change from the outside. Earlier this month, I left my job as interactive technology editor at the Los Angeles Times to travel and learn and share stories about the great work taking place in online journalism around the world. I love the Times, my work and my colleagues, but I’ve decided it’s time to try something new: reporting.

Beginning in January, my plan is to spend six months or so writing about trends and best practices in the field, both in the U.S. and abroad. Among the questions I’d like to explore:

  • What common themes emerge as news organizations change their workflow, culture, reporting structures and newsroom geography?
  • What are newsrooms in Europe and elsewhere doing that American media can learn from?
  • How are news organizations succeeding in doing more with less? Where are they focusing their resources and what are they walking away from?
  • What lessons can we take from success stories outside traditional media, including solo practitioners and online-only outfits?
  • How are news aggregators and social media affecting coverage choices and marketing of content?
  • What new storytelling and data presentation forms are gaining traction? How are viewers reacting?
  • How are traditional media companies altering (or blowing up) their business models to compete in the new information economy?
  • What role are the people formerly known as the audience playing in the newsgathering process?

Kind of broad, yes, but I’ve always been more of a generalist than a specialist.

A lot of people are blogging their opinions about the state and the future of journalism. I have plenty of my own, and I’ll share them when I think they’re relevant. But mostly I want this to be a fact-finding mission. I am not a reporter, but that is what I’ll try to be for these few months.

I believe that much of the journalism newspapers do is still important and essential, and I want to see that work live on after print dies. So I intend to write with an eye toward helping traditional news organizations negotiate the terrain of online media, but I hope that some of these topics will be of interest to people beyond “old media”.

I’ll be blogging here at ulken.com, unless some generous benefactor agrees to finance all or part of this endeavor, in which case I’ll write wherever I’m asked to.

I’m looking for guidance on where to go, who to talk to and what topics to investigate. Please leave your advice in the comments here. I plan to base my itinerary in large part on the suggestions I receive.

More soon.

Update 2008.12.05: Thanks for all the great thoughts. A few more details on the itinerary. Also, Journalism.co.uk ran a little e-mail interview on my plans.

Update 2009.01.24: An up-to-date itinerary can be found here.