Interview - JD Lasica

Interview: JD Lasica, Journalist, Online Journalism Review & Author - 8th June 2003

How did you get your break in journalism, and in your current role?

You make your own breaks, right? I started out in daily newspaper journalism, and spent 11 years at The Sacramento Bee as an editor and columnist. I started writing about online journalism as the first new media columnist for the American Journalism Review, and for the past five years I've been writing about new media as a freelance columnist for the Online Journalism Review.

In 1997 I made the leap to the frenetic world of dotcoms, working as a senior editor or department head for Microsoft's city guide, (then owned by eToys) and an ecommerce startup. The differences were striking: We worked longer but more satisfying hours. Goal-oriented teamwork and collaboration, not atrophy and bureaucracy, were the shared assumptions at all three new media operations.

In May 2001, after I wrote an article two-part series about weblogs for OJR, I started my own. New Media Musings now gets about 3,000 visitors a day.

What gives you the edge?

I think any journalist who tackles a subject fearlessly -- honestly, without favor, and without worrying about the repercussions -- has an edge.

What are your greatest accomplishments?

They're just ahead, of course. Mine seems to be one of a handful of voices from within the news industry pushing for real reforms in the way newspapers interact with their customers. Readers and users need to be made partners in the news. Through new media, they need to be brought inside the news equation, not preached to by a closed priesthood. In my massive amounts of spare time, I wrote a novel, Return of the Legends, a few years ago. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and it came within an inch of being published by Putnam. Now an online celebrity novel.

Last year I began writing a nonfiction book, about the growing clash between the entertainment industry and users and creators of digital technologies. Just signed on with a New York agent, so I'm hopeful the book will be published next year.
But my greatest accomplishment has got to be fatherhood.

What do you prefer to write about, and why?

Two topics I frequently tackle for OJR are emerging media or tools -- such as RSS feeds, alternative news sites and other niches of trust , multimedia gear, weblogs as journalism, personalization, and journalism ethics, such as online news practices after 9/11, ethical search engines, the ethical dilemmas of sponsored content, and online credibility gaps.

What is the worst sin in journalism?

Deceit and deception. (See fired New York Times reporter Jayson Blair.) If you break that bond of trust with your reader, it's terribly difficult to reestablish. But far more common than deceit are the sins of arrogance, hubris and aloofness. The main reason the public no longer thinks highly of the news media is that journalists have grown removed from the ordinary people whose lives they have to cover. When readers see a mistake in news coverage, they don't report it because they think news organizations don't care, or they make it too difficult to do so.

What else would you like to advise our media-savvy audience about?

Don't be afraid of your readers -- use them to extend news coverage in new directions. The fact that hundreds of thousands of users have taken up weblogs shows the power inherent in personal media. Beyond text, we've begun to see in the past few months the power of amateur photojournalism with photo blogs. And we're already seeing early examples of vlogs, or video blogs, with users posting video footage of news events, movie reviews -- whatever interesting new uses of personal media they can devise.


Editors comment: JD Lasica is and will continue to be a huge and positive influence in media. Watch this space!

Interview mentioned on JD's Blog: 9th June 2003


Online Journalism Review


JD's Blog: New Media Musings