For our next Journalist One-On-One, we had a chance to catch up with veteran journalist Dorian Benkoil. In addition to writing about digital media, Dorian also co-founded Teeming Media and launched the Mediathon, which is a hack-a-thon for media makers. He also teaches Digital Media Management as an adjunct professor at Baruch College. Dorian's wisdom spans a 30 year journalism career, and it's always a pleasure to get his insights on the things moving the media industry today. You can follow him at @dbenk.
1. You started your career in journalism nearly 30 years ago and have worked for Newsweek, The Associated Press, ABC News and Mediabistro. What are one or two of the most striking changes you've seen in regards to media and news over the years?
Accountability. Journalists can now be fact-checked by the community and made to account for their actions or reports. They’re put under the same scrutiny and transparency requirements as their subjects.
2. Back when you were regularly writing and editing for media outlets, where did most of your story ideas come from? PR folks? Agencies? Direct from companies? What helps capture your attention and interest today?
Mostly from observation and conversations. Sometimes from observing an internal paragraph or mention of something that was lower down in another story, or a trend I saw that hadn’t been seen. Or from events that needed to be covered. Occasionally, when I was assigned, I assume the story came from a PR person, but did not have direct contact with them. Today, what captures my attention is something that’s a trend or new wrinkle I’m seeing and hearing but that isn’t in the zeitgeist. Not one product or service, but multiple angles that get at the same issue or quandary.
3. What's your one piece of advice for building relationships with busy reporters -- and has that advice changed from when you first started as a journalist to today?
Be genuine and helpful. Don’t pitch stories that aren’t relevant to what the reporter is doing.
4. Where do you see digital media heading in the next five years? In a world full of listicles and tweets, is there still room for long form journalism (apart from the major daily papers)?
Yes. Medium seems to prove it. BuzzFeed seems to show there is room for both. Politico. And what is “long-form”? 1,000 words? 3,500? A thought-provoking list-icle could be long-form, and take a long time to construct and conceive.
5. What's your take on the native advertising debate and the role it plays in today's media?
It’s fine, as long as it’s done transparently and well. It is very hard to make it scale.
6. You've written a bit in the past about the clickbait / ad traffic phenomena. There was a big Bloomberg piece recently diving into this topic. Your reaction in a nutshell?
There will be a constant battle, a cat-and-mouse game, between using technologies effectively and thwarting those who would misuse them for illicit gain.
7. Tell us about what you do at Teeming Media, including the Mediathon you've put together.
Teeming Media: Devise and execute business, media and content strategies for publishers, brands and technology companies. Focus on media- and advertising technology. Research, analyze and implement business processes, workflows, measurement and technology for digital and social media.
The Mediathon: A Mediathon is a hack-a-thon for media makers. For a day or a weekend, we get together to create, collaborate, and compete, making media around a specific theme. Boundaries will be stretched, networks will expand, and fun will be had! The Mediathon facilitates collaborative production of innovative original content. Our mission is to interrupt the status quo, inspire new directions and promote media that informs and delights those who consume and create it. We also foster great conversation among experts and thought-leaders and the assembled.
8. When it comes to media consumption, what are your top 'must-read' news sites or 'must- watch' shows for you every day?
Re/Code, Business Insider, MediaShift, NYT, WSJ, On The Media, AdExchanger
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