Tag Archives: Gregory Lamb

Lamb’s Vision of the Future

The Internet journalist of tomorrow will not be defined by his/her tech-savviness alone, but by the same earnest drive that moved print journalists of yesterday, newsbook writers of old and town criers of yore to accurately record and honestly share the happenings of the world, according to Gregory Lamb.

“To be in journalism today, you can’t be a technophobe,” he said in a recent interview.  “But on the other hand you don’t have to be mister and missis gadget guru.”

As the next generation of reporters take the reins at the Christian Science Monitor, where Lamb has worked since 1972 after he graduated Principia College, a growing number perform unprecedented jobs and utilize state-of-the-art technology.  Likewise, Lamb’s first job at the Monitor was in the wire room, communicating with correspondents via teletypes and Telex, a primitive form of email, all of which, down to the wire room itself, no longer exist.  But as journalists and media organizations adapt to the changing technological landscape, where information is shared and published instantly by self-sufficient, all-in-one reporters, profit-margin has been slow to catch up.

Alexander Kaufman:  How has your work changed from when you began your career as a journalist to now?

Gregory Lamb:  Obviously the technology.  The nature of the stories themselves, the big change is writing for the Web.  That’s really a fundamental rethinking that substantial.  Besides that, a news story has been a news story a feature story a feature story, but there have been rends saying that people want shorter stories or … to increase international or national coverage.  But every few years we have to recast ourselves as any news organization.

AK:  How many online writers are on-staff at the Monitor?

GL:  It’s growing.  When I think about Web jobs, we’re creating jobs [for people] here that you wouldn’t all call journalists.  They’re doing the underlying tech and support we need.  I would agree with Steve [Ainsley, publisher of the Boston Globe] that the industry is shrinking so the more versatile the better.  It’s important that a journalist can do print, broadcast, understand blogging, can use Twitter, can use Facebook.

AK:  The Monitor’s recent switch from a daily print to a weekly, coupled with a beefed up Web site, has made headlines in other newspapers as news organizations everywhere struggle to find profit in the Internet Age; how do you see The Monitor’s business plan succeeding?

GL:  It has.  We’re still trying to get a new content management system (proprietary software that will let people file faster and more easily and the average user will find it a simpler system to work on; it will be even more centered on Web first) in place that will make us even more efficient and will make the Web site even more useful but we’ve had a growing traffic to the Web site and the weekly has gotten much more subscriptions than the daily had.  More and more readers are going to find us online.  That’s where we can grow our audience.  We have a legacy of readers who might enjoy the weekly product even more than the daily product.  These stories are more reflective and stand back, and that’s kind of a Monitor aspect.  The weekly keeps us grounded right into that way of thinking.  When you’re on the Web, you’ll be pulled into thinking what happened and what can we write about it in the next minute, next five minutes.  We run at a deficit and have for decades, and going online really expanded our audience and eventually we hope we’ll bring in advertising revenue [from the Web site].

AK:  Have you seen a reduction in staff since the switch?

GL:  I think in the course of doing that, along the lines of half a dozen jobs were lost.  I don’t know if people took voluntary buy-outs.  Since we’ve done it, a little over six months, I don’t think we’ve had any more jobs going away.

AK:  Media mogul Rupert Murdoch frequently complains that Google searches have undermined his Wall Street Journal’s new business model of paying for some stories, do you believe the Monitor’s business model helps to avoid such an inevitable problem?

GL:  Yes.  I really want him to do it.  I really want him to get off of Google.  I would love to see the experiment run, but I wouldn’t run it here at the Monitor.  On a personal sense of it, it kind of goes against the ethos of the Web.  To start walling things off, though we have to find a model to pay for news.  But it’s working to some extent for the Wall Street Journal, people can pay and do, but their stuff gets read less.

AK:  Boston media newcomers GlobalPost, who publish exclusively online, allow users to access a plethora of information for free, but grant paying members access to more pressing stories and consider input from members on upcoming stores, do you see a business like that working?

GL:  It wasn’t even invented by the Internet.  There’s sort of the free sample then the next level and the next level.  Depending on how much value information has for you, you’re willing to go from paying nothing, to a little, to a little more.  I think that’s a great model to explore.  It puts the control in the readers’ hands, access and inside knowledge in the organization.  I wouldn’t be surprised to us do something like that.

AK:  How long has the Monitor been a publication for international news, and how does that affect your audience?

GL:  I think it’s been part of the paper for the 101 years it’s existed.  It’s always had an international aspect.  We’ve been known as a source of international news.  But sometimes we emphasized our national coverage more as a business plan, you know we’ve got to beef up this side of it because most of our readers are in the U.S. and they want to known about the U.S.  We’re one of those publications with correspondents in other countries.  That doesn’t make us unique but puts us in a small group that still has international coverage.  You see international emphasis because, yeah, there is.  It’s our contribution, the right fit for us.

AK:  Now that you are on the Web, allowing global access to your stories, how does that shape your audience?

GL:  We sure expect the international audience to grow.  I think we have something that’s valuable to them, I suspect the Globe might be saying, “we have people who are interested in Boston all around the globe; they have family, lived here, went to school, etc.  How can we tell the world about our region of the world and what’s happening here, we’re here and we do that well.”  The Monitor has a different purpose of putting a reader in the chair and saying “I’m a citizen of the world, how does it affect me directly and indirectly?”  I think the readership in whatever country would find the Monitor a resource.

And finally, Lamb wanted to share this with aspiring journalists of today:

“To those folks who really want to stay in journalism, I think there’s  away to do it, whether setting up a blog site or the like.  We need journalists.  I hope students who are coming up now and want to pursue journalism don’t run off and do something else.  Society needs–the world needs–intelligent, topflight students who want to become journalists.”


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This Blog Could Soon Be Realer…

By Alexander C. Kaufman

Gregory Lamb has whetted our lips for a coming technological phenomenon: augmented reality.  In his latest post in Innovation, a technology blog, he provides five different examples of computerized perception, be it with glasses, iPhone applications, scannable baseball cards, among others.  The brief summary of augmented reality which began the post was almost the only text in the article, the overviews of the examples being Youtube videos.

Though Lamb promises a full article next week, the videos exemplify the diverse range of products available to computerize everyday life.  A BMW technician dons a pair of glasses which digitally instruct him on how to do repairs.  An iPhone user in London seeks out a nearby Underground station on the smart phone’s screen.  By imaging a parcel in available shipping box sizes, a US Postal Service customer selects the best fit.  Esquire magazine premiers a barcoded publication with interactive features for the computer.  A baseball card collector plays a miniature videogame with his cards.  Gamers are enthralled with tags that activate 3D action figures onscreen.

Needless to say, virtual reality is no longer the mere plaything of arcade-goers and science fictionists.  And as it is further synthesized into everyday life, so is electronic storytelling into journalism.  While the post contains little text besides an introductory summary and a title for each video, the videos themselves provide the meat of the article.

And moreover, Lamb shows the variety and breadth of available products and just how accessible a digitalized view of the world has become.

Here are the videos:

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What’s the Good Word?

By Alexander C. Kaufman

Technological advancement seems to be ebbing always at the average attention span; brevity dominates and defines modern nonfiction, abridgment hastens the intake of fiction.  So it makes sense that late Hartford (Conn.) Stage Company director Michael Wilson’s arrangement into a nine hour epic of Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Horton Foote’s entire dramatic oeuvre would be appropriately cutting-edge to be reviewed by Gregory Lamb.

Wilson, who had a close professional relationship with Foote, had originally wanted to perform each of the latter’s nine plays. In late 2007, Lamb reported, Wilson got to agree to Foote to condense his work into three, three-hour plays as to make them all viewable within a day.  At the time of his death last March, the playwright had completed the three part saga entitled “The Orphan’s Home Cycle.”

Here is how Lamb describes the “Cycle”:

The plays track the life of Horace Robedaux from the time he is a young boy whose father has died to the time after the death of his father-in-law when he becomes the family patriarch. Like a classic hero, Horace must meet a series of challenges from an early age. Yet he manages to survive and eventually prosper. The character of Horace is based on the life of Foote’s own father.

Among the themes Foote explores are the elusive search to find “home” and the question of how people face adversity. Horace is on an “Odyssey,” Wilson suggests in program notes, “as profound and epic as Odysseus’ return journey.”

The three-part play, divided into “The Story of a Childhood,” “The Story of a Marriage” and “The Story of a Family,” closed in Connecticut last month, but reopened in New York on Nov. 5, where it will run until Mar. 28, 2010.

Alongside recent technology and book reviews, Lamb’s write-up of Wilson’s production is relevant to his state-of-the-art beat.  The Broadway industry grossed $943 million from 12.15 million tickets between 2008-9, according to data collected by the Broadway League, an organization for the theater industry, enforcing the idea that the thespian is perhaps as much a part of modern culture as Lady Gaga and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

In fact, there exists a parallel between Wilson’s production and Lamb’s own work.  Journalism–and Lamb’s writing is a testament to this–is becoming increasingly trimmed down in order to make the information more palatable in an era where an instant feels like a year.  Likewise, many journalists are now considering a standardized shortening of articles to 500-words or less.  This trend of condensing written work seems to be part of a new wave for briefer written word.

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The Non-Silence of the Lamb

By Alexander C. Kaufman

Little has kept Gregory Lamb, a Christian Science Monitor (CSM) staff writer and editor, silent.  His hefty portfolio of articles includes movie and book reviews, cutting-edge technology reports and environmental blogging.  But the diversity of his beat is itself a testament to the multi-faceted specialization media-consumers have come to expect of online journalists.

The Internet age has redefined the New York minute, setting new standards for brevity and quickness and a front page story is usually outdated before the newspaper even goes to print.  So with the CSM, formerly a print daily, adapting to its new business plan–daily online editions and emails, weekly print edition–Lamb’s multiple blogs on environment and technology play an integral part.

But take his latest articles for example. There are few links, other than the author, between his most recent review of Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book “Bright-Sided” and his preceding blog posting about the future of online college, published within a few days of each other.

And yet veteran news-media analyst Tom Rosenstiel recently told Lamb that the term “blogging” is a dying word denoting a thriving informational tour-de-force.  According to a study Lamb reported on, newspapers are becoming increasingly more like blogs, and vice versa.  With bureaux, editors and staff writers, many big-time blogs such as The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast are beginning to resemble their yellowing forebears.  Meanwhile periodicals like the CSM, which was founded as a daily in 1908 and effectively became a weekly in April 2009, are facelifting their businesses by integrating blogs with their usual Web articles.

In subsequent postings, this blog will specifically analyze the work of Gregory Lamb, tracking how his innovative beat mirrors the innovativeness expected of and by his employers and a 21st-century audience.  As long as Lamb keeps posting, this blog will keep posting; so keep posted.

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