Notes from this year's convention of the American Society of News Editors, April 2-4, in Washington, D.C.:
- Mobile took center stage as the convention opened with an RJI report on mobile news consumption: About 63% use mobile devices to keep up with the news. That's more than those who use mobile for social media (58%). And the tablet is on the rise as a good home for news: About a third use tablets to keep current. Here's the Knight Digital Media Center's take on the report.
- Mobile took on added urgency with Mark Jurkowitz' report on the Project for Excellence's search for a working business model. According to Jurkowitz, for every dollar in digital revenue that newspapers took in during 2011, they lost $10 in print.
- But the focus on business models took a humorous turn at a Newseum reception, where Ken Paulson interviewed Jessica Frech, the Belmont University student who defined her own business model by posting her People of Walmart video straight to YouTube. Then, challenged by Paulson to create a video for the newspaper industry "without mocking us, please," she whipped out Where Have All The News Papers Gone. And yes, it was full of mock.
- Val Hoeppner of the Freedom Forum's Diversity Institute gave a great mobile tools session, Storified by Steve Buttry, who also live-tweeted (#asne12) the convention to the point of being temporarily shut down by Twitter.
- Moving moments were many, such as a session on covering war, during which Tyler Hicks talked about Anthony Shadid's last minutes; the editor of the Joplin Globe, Carol Stark, bringing six of her staffers to the lectern to accept the award for deadline news reporting; and a panel on leadership led by women.
- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein headlined a discussion of how Watergate would be covered differently if it happened today. (One immediate difference: Coverage of the panel by C-Span and on YouTube.)
"One of the colleges asked students in a journalism class to write a one-page paper on how Watergate would be covered now," said Bob Woodward, "and the professor - "
"Why don't you say what school it was," suggested Carl Bernstein, sitting to Woodward's left in a session titled "Watergate 4.0: How Would the Story Unfold in the Digital Age?"
"Yale," Woodward said. "He sent the one-page papers that these bright students had written and asked that I'd talk to the class on a speakerphone afterward. So I got them on a Sunday, and I came as close as I ever have to having an aneurysm, because the students wrote that, "Oh, you would just use the Internet and you'd go to 'Nixon's secret fund' and it would be there.'"
"This is Yale," Bernstein said gravely.
"That somehow the Internet was a magic lantern that lit up all events," Woodward said. And they went on to say the political environment would be so different that Nixon wouldn't be believed, and bloggers and tweeters would be in a lather and Nixon would resign in a week or two weeks after Watergate."
A small ballroom of journalists - which included The Washington Post's top brass, past and present - chuckled or scoffed at the scenario.
"I have attempted to apply some corrective information to them," Woodward continued, "but the basic point is: The truth of what goes on is not on the Internet. [The Internet] can supplement. It can help advance. But the truth resides with people. Human sources."
Yep, that was an unshamed plug for the value of knowing how to get actual facts from real people and actual documents - and knowing how to find them and what questions to ask.