Paul Burka and Eileen Smith: Traditional vs. New Media

Paul Burka and Eileen Smith had a great discussion on traditional and new media, Wednesday at 3:30.

Burka, senior executive editor for Texas Monthly, has been with Texas Monthly since one year after it started. He spoke about how his opinion of traditional media and new media transformed over time.

“The new world of media was 25 years away back then,” said Burka. “There was no 24/7 media world; we operated at a much slower pace and that went on for a number of years.”

For his very first encounter with new media, Burka wrote a column that was very dismissive toward the new media.

Before working with Texas Monthly, Eileen Smith wrote her own political blog in 2005. She ran across Burka’s column and was appalled.

“I saw his column and went off on him!” said Eileen Smith, now editor of Texasmonthly.com. “I was like, ‘Who is this dinosaur?'”

Evan Smith, now president and editor in chief of Texas Monthly, did not like Burka’s column either and saw Eileen’s comment. He sent her an email because he was interested in what she had to say.

“Then I was hired and now Paul and I are best friends!” said Eileen Smith.

Since his column, Burka gradually started to realize the benefits of new media. With traditional media he provided the filter. Each story he wrote would go through a process of re-checking facts and making a concise paper.

“With new media even if things are wrong you don’t have to worry about it, it’s self correcting (and it will be corrected in the most insulting way by your readers),” said Burka.

He still was uncertain about new media when his job description changed to blogging.

“I felt as though I foreclose on a beautiful house and moved to an apartment in the slumps,” said Burka.

Soon he started to see that with traditional media he had so many ideas before that were useless because they were not timely. The next month, when the new edition would be issued, the ideas would not be any good.

“Now I no longer have that problem,” said Burka. “I am able to get my opinion out there quickly for people to make hot shots at. The world does not sit and wait for anything.”

“Instant feedback and conversation is important,” said Eileen Smith. “It will not mean the same thing in a month.”

She started on the print side of journalism, but now sees that today if you do not know how to write for the web you are out of luck.

Smith spoke about all the interactive things you can do on Texasmonthly.com that you cannot do with the magazine and how it’s all available for free.

“These days you need to be able to do everything,” said Smith. “You should be your own multimedia producer.”

Now you need to be able to write and be able to provide
all of the interactive things on the Internet.

“You shouldn’t be in it if you are not driven to do it,” said Burka.

He feels as though he has never worked a day in his life.

“I want to know what the hell is going on and I want to be the first to tell the public,” said Burka. “If it doesn’t feel like work, do it!”

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