Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The news from India is different than from the U.S.

The reason you're seeing so few posts these days is that I'm in India teaching a backpack journalism workshop at St. Xavier's College. The bad news is that we are having network issues so I'm only getting on line for about 10 minutes a day. The good news is that I am now reading Indian newspapers, which really opens our eyes. Again I'll say that online just doesn't hold a candle to print newspapers, which are much more complete than what I've seen on the Internet.
I am blogging on my experiences (so far most of it on my lack of Internet access). If you're interested, the URL is

Friday, December 26, 2008

What does cutback by Missouri student newspaper mean?

It's worth noting that the Columbia Missourian will cut back to publishing five days a week. The paper is an anomaly among American newspapers in that it's a student newspaper by the University of Missouri that serves as the main local newspaper. I think this cutback is significant more because this is a nonprofit newspaper that is cutting back even as some are suggesting the nonprofit business model might be the way for newspapers to go.

Lawsuit may change news on the web

A company you've never heard of, Gatehouse Media, which operates a string of small newspapers in New England, has launched a lawsuit that, if Gatehouse wins, could have major repercussions. Gatehouse has sued the New York Times Company over links to Gatehouse stories on the Times' Boston Globe website.

It's probably going to lose, but what if Gatehouse wins? The Internet is built today on a framework of linking. Virtually every site -- including this blog -- is little more than news aggregators with links to the actual news sources. What if a judge were to rule those links were illegal? Seems to me that Drudge, the Huffington Post, JSonline, etc. would have to dramatically change their ways of doing business.

Internet grows in influence

With a big jump in 2008, the Internet has overtaken newspapers as a favorite source for news although both still trail television. All this is according to a new Pew Research Center report. Some very interesting data there -- newspaper loyalty climbed (even more among young people) but the Internet climbed more. Both took market share away from television. And the results were for national and international news, not local news where most newspapers are concentrating their efforts.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Should newspapers go the nonprofit route?

Editor & Publisher columnist Joe Mathewson suggests newspapers look at nonprofit models if they really are hurting. He offers a couple of examples. They could also think about employe ownership as a model. Oh, yes. That's what the Milwaukee Journal Co. was back when its newspapers were honored, its radio and television stations on top of the ratings, it never laid off anyone (even during the Great Depression), and its stock price increased every month. In other words, before the current management (how is it still in office?) took the company public a dozen years ago.

Be that as it may, nonprofit might well be a saving business plan. I'd certainly explore it before just shutting the doors as a few publishing companies threaten.

Washington Post, Baltimore Sun to share stories

The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun announced plans to share content, especially Maryland stories and sports. A Post story said: "Exclusive stories will generally not be shared between papers. Also out of bounds are articles about Maryland state government and University of Maryland athletics, both of which are competitive subjects to each paper." This latter gives this story a Marquette tie since the Post writer covering the University of Maryland is Steve Yanda who was the Marquette Tribune's sports editor a year ago.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Will we get what we pay for?

That's the question raised in an essay on the news business byJames Surowiecki in the current New Yorker magazine. Nothing here you shouldn't already know, but it's written in the usual excellent New Yorker prose that makes you yearn for more good writing, which, frankly, you aren't likely to find on the Internet -- and that sort of sums up his argument.

Philly newspapers start local music website

I've criticized many old media companies, especially newspapers, for doing little beyond cutting staff and offerings to customers, to build readership. At the same time, some are working with new media to build a new form of company. Now comes a story from Philadelphia where the newspapers are starting a website offering both free and available for download streaming music and videos of local groups. The Philadelphia newspapers are returning to their local roots, and trying things. That I applaud.

I think it's worth mentioning that the newspapers aren't conceding all their subscribers to the web. They don't post all articles automatically. They post their news stories, but not all columns and features. I think this is well worth trying. Clearly this is one old media company that's not going quietly into the dark.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Watergate and the new media. What would happen today?

Catching up on a story I forgot to post yesterday, very interesting column from former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. keyed to the death of Mark Felt ("Deep Throat") where he asks whether the truth would have been found out about Watergate given today's media landscape. Speculation, of course, but interesting take on how the media changes could impact how we cover news.

And the top media story of the year is . . .

Editor & Publisher lists its annual Top Ten industry stories of the year, and guess what is the top story? Yep, it's the massive cutbacks in the industry. By my count, eight of the ten are bad news for the industry.

Interestingly enough, E&P calls it "Top Newspaper Stories," even though one is only about web sites.  Maybe it should be "print media" stories since the web is print. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Boston company to offer foreign news

Meanwhile, another web startup offers something different for media junkies. In this case, Boston's Phillip Balboni has hired veteran Boston Globe foreign editors to offer foreign coverage, something that's becoming almost non-existent in American media. Read the Boston Phoenix's story about the new venture, which has a chance of really improving our knowledge of the world. It's called, and is coming January 12.

That's the thing about the changing media landscape. It's costing us lots of jobs and lots of expertise and shaking up where we go for news, but it's also extending what and how we learn about our world. As a journalist, I can't help but be excited about the potentials (as well as fearing about the paychecks). I watch Marquette student journalists using multimedia to bring stories to life in a way that I couldn't when I worked in print media and with more depth than available in broadcast. The potential is what is most exciting. I can't wait.

How about some success business models for newspapers?

PBS's Mark Glaser gives us a wonderful overview of "successful alternative business models" for newspapers. There are many ideas out there, some already successful. Is any one the perfect one? Not likely, but some show great promise.

I've long advocated special, niche content at a premium, the way the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does with its wildly success Packer Plus magazine and online section (go to this page, scroll down to "Packer Plus Magazine" to see a listing of some of its content). Thousands of Packers fans, from throughout the country, pay at least $45 extra for access to this section -- and most think it's a bargain. It's a model I'd stretch into other areas, and ADVERTISE WHAT'S THERE. For example, you have to scroll two-thirds of the page just to find the listings of what you are missing, and this is already on a Packer coverage page. I'd get those stories higher.

I used to wax poetic about the intelligent way the JS was handling a columnist named Vicki Ortiz. She generally wrote two online-only blogs, then the paper ran a third as a column in the Weekend Cue section. It also ran online. I got hooked into going to her blogs by reading the printed column. I've often wondered why they didn't also cross-market by not putting her Friday column online. That would make me subscribe to the Friday paper if I liked the column. It's a model that works, so why not expand it.

Is the end of home delivery near?

MSNBC and ABC takes a look (and here) at the Detroit newspapers' decision to cut back home delivery to three days a week, and quotes experts predicting that home delivery might be gone in the near future. As someone who has subscribed to home delivery since leaving my boyhood home, it's a hard concept to grasp. But, you know, it makes more sense than just waiting until your costs overwhelm your company. Picking up individual papers on the other four days of the week isn't all that hard, although I'd suspect advertising would really drop off then.

I would predict that home delivery will continue for smaller community newspapers. But, for metro papers, I'm not so sure. Nevertheless, I look for growth in "total market coverage" products as some advertisers realize that their appeal doesn't fit into the narrower and narrower niches that media is targeting. I think of this every time I try to look something up in the Yellow Pages. Once, it was simple to find numbers and addressed. Today an advertiser has to buy niche ads in several areas. For example, a restaurant might have a listing under "restaurants," another under "ethnic restaurants," another under "cuisines," another under "Neighborhood restaurants," and who knows what other areas?

I remember how nice it was to take the Sunday newspaper's listing of open houses (generally the back page of the Sunday classified section), mark the ones I was interested in no matter the realtor (deliberate lower case of this ostentatious word), and drive around to visit them. Today, one has to go to each website, try to figure out where your interest is, then print out a guide. Then go to another company's site and repeat the process. Of course, I'm going to be told there is an aggregator out there somewhere, but I sure don't know where it is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pew study reminds us that technology changes are uneven

As our conception of what constitutes media continues to grow, technology keeps expanding our potentials. I'm reminded of this as I'm preparing for a backpack journalism workshop in India, which has me thinking anew of the great tools available for journalists today. The easily used, portable cameras and audio devices have made a new kind of journalism possible. At the same time, the Internet has expanded news consumers' choices exponentially -- even while creating competition that has cost thousands of jobs in the traditional media.

Nevertheless, events and reports keep coming that forces us to rethink many of our assumptions, including those of the immediate demise of one form of media or another. For example, the rise of mobile technology has many proclaiming that 2009 will be the year when mobile media (basically cell phones) overtakes computers for accessing the Internet. Well, Pew Research has come out with a study that points to 2020 as that year. And who can accurately predict what will happen technologically by then?

The bottom line for those studying or practicing journalism, I believe, is to stay loose. Take advantage of what technology exists today, but be alert for potential new venues or technology. And don't forget, good storytelling relies on good techniques -- and they're the same no matter how the end product is delivered.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Washington TV station to switch to backpack journalists only

Gannet's WUSA (Channel 9) in Washington will switch all of its reporting to backpack journalists early next year. It means that instead of the typical two-, three- or even four-person crew on a story, the station will rely on one-person backpack journalists, according to the Washington Post. The backpack journalist -- so-called because they can put all the equipment needed in a backpack -- produces, reports, films and edits their own stories by themselves. It's a cheaper, more personal form of journalism. The station has experience with this kind of journalism, noted backpack journalist Becky Diamond worked there for more than a year in 2006 and 2007. If it works here, look for it to sweep across the broadcast world. It's already made its mark on Internet reporting with several backpack journalist stars.

Detroit newspapers to go part time for home delivery

Word is that the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News will cease home delivery except for the three most profitable days, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On other days, there would be copies for sale on the street and an online edition every day. It's yet another attempt to hold on to an audience; don't know how it's going to work for NFL Mondays, but since the Lions are headed toward a record 0-16 mark, maybe there isn't all that demand for a Monday sports section. Interesting concept. It's not what I'd do, but it is interesting anyway.

TV viewing up, but advertising is off -- Same for radio

Turner Research reports that television viewing is up -- but advertising is way down. This is yet more evidence that the advertising industry is abandoning old media and going where? (Actually, Media Daily reports all spending for advertising was off 1.7 percent the first nine months of the year.) I'm still waiting for research showing the Internet advertising is doing the job for big companies. Yes, it works well for click-throughs and small, highly-targeted products, but what about institutional advertising? 

It's the same story for radio: more listeners but less revenue. Newspaper readership is off, but not nearly that as the decline in newspaper advertising.  

While mulling over the Turner Research story, I was trying to remember any of the advertising I've looked at this morning in my viewing of eight different media online sites (yes, I'm a news junkie), and I couldn't remember a single advertiser. Maybe my subconscious is picking up data, but I sure don't remember it. This, by the way, fits in with educational research that says retention of information is best from writing on paper. I know from students that if they have something they want to remember, they print it out. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From Rupert Murdock to Jon Stewart

Tonight's Daily Show with Jon Stewart (online later; replays at 7 tomorrow on the Comedy Channel) had a nice bit on the depressing news  from the newspaper world. Nothing new, but Stewart is always funny -- even on a subject that isn't all that funny.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rupert Murdock: the savior

Newsweek profiles the changes at the Wall Street Journal -- among others, de-emphasizing financial news in favor of general news -- with a story that comes across as pretty favorable to Rupert Murdock. According to writer Johnnie L. Roberts, the general staff sees Murdock extending, rather than cutting back as is happening at most American newspapers. Still, there's concern with many distrusting the Murdock regime. He's installed an Australian as top editor and a Brit as deputy, both claiming to be "change agents."

Both circulation and advertising are up. The paper is bigger. But, as it looks more and more like other American newspapers (especially the New York Times), many on staff fear the Journal will lose its distinctiveness as it moves more toward becoming the Journal, not the Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tribune, Miami Herald, Rocky Mountain News in the news -- for bad news

Word is that the Tribune Co. has hired bankruptcy advisers in an effort to guide its deepening financial gloom. 

Scripps Howard has put the venerable Rocky Mountain News on the block, saying that if it doesn't get a buyer by next month, it will "explore other options," leading to speculation that the Denver newspaper might be shut down. This AP story outlines other newspapers on the market.

Finally, McClatchy is reportedly shopping the Miami Herald after totally botching its takeover of the once-proud Knight Newspapers chain.

A lot of the problems can be directly traced to the credit crunch. Owners of both the Tribune and McClatchy went heavily into debt buying the media properties. Add the advertising slump following the economy, and you find a dismal business environment.

Andrew Sullivan on newspapers: Wave goodbye

Blogger Andrew Sullivan, writing on the UK's TimesOnline, analyses what's happening to newspapers and comes to a reluctant conclusion that newspapers are dying rapidly. This despite the fact he doesn't see blogs replacing the reporting needed by an informed population. It's the conundrum of media: the successful media pushing out the less successful doesn't do an adequate job. I can see a future where people wake up one day and ask: "What happened?" 

Friday, December 5, 2008

OK, more depressing news

The news has been so depressing lately for journalism (and, yes, the decline of print journalism is hurtful for all journalism) that I've been ignoring the drip, drip, drip bad news stories. But MediaPost (online, of course) does a nice job of wrapping up this week's bad news here. There are some dramatic charts showing the decline since 2000 -- with the cut in employees being constant followed by the decline in stock price. Could they be tied together with a decline in quality hurting the bottom line? Yes, advertising is fleeing, but I would argue that some of the decline in advertising is because print media isn't aggressively seeking it out. I hear, anecdotally, that one of the problems at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is that they've cut so many advertising salespeople that they don't have enough bodies to service existing customers, much less drum up new business. I don't think that's any different than the rest of the industry.

By the way, I'd suggest a third chart just to compare: How has CEO compensation fared over this period? Do you think it declined with the number of employees and stock price? I'd do it myself, but the end of the semester rush is hitting.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why copy editors matter

Calling it "A primer in news credibility," the American Copy Editors Society "fills in the holes" in Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell's conception of the work done by copy editors. It's one of the best explanations of what copy editors do and why they are important that I've read. This is highly recommended, especially for bloggers and would-be "citizen journalists." Zell said what happens online is that a reporter calls a "copywriter" with a story, and it's on the web in 10 minutes. Unfortunately, that's all too true, which is why the Internet is filled with a lot of garbage (sure, there is a lot of good material, but there's also a lot of inaccuracies, copyright violations, and libel). Basically, ACES calls for more eyes on every story. That's what professionals do, and a story vetted by many eyes has a much better chance of meeting journalistic standards. Frankly, bloggers can do the same (I have someone who reads my copy before it goes up, and others quick to let me know if something is slightly off).

Today's warning on newspaper future: 'Several cities may be without newspapers next year'

A financial group, assigning negatives to just about every media form's business, predicts that "several cities will be without newspapers." The country's terrible business outlook, coupled with incredibly short-sighted media ownership, has left a large number of companies at financial risk, including Tribune Co. and McClatchy Co., both of whose debt it lists as "junk."

It's all part of a worldwide economic hit, Fitch Ratings says, predicting a "global depression" next year. A few years ago, a Pentagon analysis predicted such an event in the case oil prices topped $90 a share. They were, as we all know, well above that for much of the past year, and analysts are predicting they'll go back soon. Unfortunately, it looks like this is one thing the Pentagon got right, and media companies are in the line of fire economically.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Outsourcing sourcing

Fun little piece on the two-source rule as applied on the Internet. It's not journalism that would be accepted by Kovach and Rosenstiel, but it is what's happening today.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

And for another view . . .

Unfortunately, Steve Outing's view is one that I'd sum up as "print readers are old, stodgy, and just going to die, so forget them already and put all your eggs in digital, even though you're losing money at it." Even though that's basically what Outing is saying, I wonder why he thinks print managers should just concede the future? Remember how radio killed newspapers, and television killed radio and movies?

Frankly, I strongly believe in the future of digital and online media (not so sure about some of the less content-rich forms). However, I can't believe in just forgetting print. People are still buying lots and lots of magazines and books as well as newspapers, which still are selling a lot better than the Outings of the world would have you believe. So why is it good business to just give up?

Mr. Outing comments (be sure to follow the link at the bottom of this to his comments) that I'm misinterpreting his views. I agree on the need for newspapers to build a digital presence, my concern is that too many newspapers are simply sitting around waiting for their print edition to fail. As a holder of far more stock in media companies than I wish I had (that $16 a share for Journal Co. stock a year and a half ago seems awfully good right now when it's hovering around $2), I want to see them at least go kicking. That said, Mr. Outing's comments are important -- which is one reason why I regularly read his columns on the Editor & Publisher site, and recommend that you do, too.

A question for newspaper executives

Not news, especially, but good comments about how newspaper executives seem to believe their critics and are dumbing down their product. They come from a layed-off journalist and, surprise, surprise, were spiked by his former publication.  The question that should be asked repeatedly of newspaper folks: What's your game plan for your most valuable -- and profitable product -- the printed newspaper? Do you have any?

I see a lot of innovation in online and a lot of just cutting and slashing in print. Why not try to innovate in print as well? Do you really think you're going to get me to continue subscribing by cutting your quality staff, offering only long, often dull and even more often, of no interest to me at all, investigative stories but no good, innovative writing on things I care about.

Why not have your print newsrooms suggest some innovative coverage? Most newspapers have the staff to innovate. Why not try?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai and the media

Nice report in the Wall Street Journal summing up media coverage -- especially new media coverage -- of the chaos in Mumbai. Well worth reading to see the extent of diffusion of media use today. Two key points stuck out to me: 1) the instantness of much of the posting, 2) the incorrectness of much. Yes, we are getting our news instantly (and as someone planning to pass by Mumbia in less than a month, I was following along as the crisis exploded), but much of it is incorrect since there is no gatekeeper in much of new media. Everything's still evolving.

Meanwhile, Variety reports that some in India believe the saturation coverage helped the terrorists.

CNN to compete with AP for newspaper clients, prompting thoughts of convergence and local news

Years ago, I worked for the "legendary" City News Bureau of Chicago (legendary is in quotes because that's how it was referred to in Chicago media circles). It was a fabulous idea spawned in the days of very competitive business in Chicago with lots of newspapers competing. What City News did was cover the minutiae of police, courts and basic city coverage, then send its stories out on a wire to all the newspapers (by the time I joined, it had added TV, radio, even AP, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters). It covered the city, and, often, its reports were carried as is by the newspapers. Other times, they supplemented newspaper coverage.

In this era of convergence, I've been wondering when someone would move to replicate what City News has done for all the local web sites popping up. Nobody has yet, but they will, I predict.

Anyway, convergence is moving rapidly along even without local coverage as CNN is moving to compete with AP on wire stories, basically seeking to be the City New of America and the world. I think it's a good idea.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Media bias and the election discussed has an interesting discussion of media bias and the Obama-McCain election. Exceptional collection of voices from all over the spectrum with an awful lot of wheat amongst the chaff. It's a must-read for those contemplating politics and the media.

Can new, old media co-exist? Two say 'Yes'

A book by super-blogger Arianna Huffington and a conference in Indonesia both reach the conclusion that new and old media can co-exist, and even improve each other.

As could be expected, Huffington says that "journalists are blogging and bloggers are gaining credibility and stature." The first point goes without saying, and the second has more credibility to me when I think about how I received information during the recent national campaign. Most came from and from

The conference, titled "New Media: The End of Conventional Media?" and sponsored by a group named the Alliance of Independent Journalists, called the current news situation a "blogosphere ecosystem" with each form of media informing the other. Despite all the inaccuracies and just plain untruths bandied about by bloggers, there are examples upon examples piling up of where mainstream journalists are picking up on information gathered by non-traditional journalists on the web.

One speaker cited the case of Situ Babakan in West Java as an example of the successful synergy between the social and mainstream media. Objecting to a local administration's plan to build a shopping mall on the lake, local environmentalists and the lake's supporters launched an online campaign to have the plan rejected. "They created a blog, informed web users about the blog and their cause through mailing lists, Facebook, online petitions and other social media. The web-based campaign generated a tremendous buzz that grabbed the mainstream media's attention. As the mainstream media picked up the issue the campaign attracted greater public support," he said.

The key was a mainstream media outlet picking up the issue, and spreading it. If I were editing a newspaper today, I'd have my staff reading over the local blogs for tidbits, just as we used to have beat reporters talk to secretaries at courthouses, then do the reporting necessary to see if the tip is worth a journalistically-sound story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do Pulitzers sell newspapers? A lively discussion

It's always interesting to read the letters on Jim Romenesko's blog of media news. Comments by Tribune owner Sam Zell that Pulitzers don't sell newspapers has sparked a lively discussion, well worth reading. Several comments seem to make a lot of sense while others are ridiculous. It's typical of the new media, you have to wade through a lot of chaff to find the wheat. This fact about the new media was graphically portrayed in the Luann comic strip yesterday.

State intervention sought for Connecticut newspapers

Two Connecticut legislators are seeking state intervention in hopes to save two newspapers planning to close. They aren't the first to suggest radical means to save community newspapers. Several nonprofit newspapers have been founded recently, both in print and online only editions. If the newspaper business model is broken, an alternative model may be the industry's hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zell calls newspaper business model "a failure"

Sam Zell, controversial owner of the Tribune Co., speaks extensively on the newspaper industry to Portfolio magazine, calling the newspaper business model "a failure" and that Pulitzer Prizes are worthless ("I haven't figured out a way to cash in a Pulitzer Prize"). He also called his purchase of the Tribune Co. "the deal from hell." There's a lot more.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Smaller papers embrace investigations

As bigger newspapers continue to cut back, smaller papers are embracing investigative reporting, as shown in this interview.  Why? One reason is that government is ripe for reporting. With few reporters really looking at government, it becomes easy pickings for enterprising reporters. 

Another reason? I suspect its because more good reporters are finding themselves at smaller newspapers these days.  At least one recent Marquette journalism graduate, an excellent investigative reporter, finds himself doing solid research on a smaller Florida town (much to the dismay of his papers' staid management, which really doesn't want to see their boat being rocked.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Does the media have an obligation to report right away?

Newsweek doesn't think so, saying the greater depth of its post-election stories came because it promised not to report until after the election. It's a case of weighing priorities. I could create a pretty lively ethics discussion using this as an example, especially if you could throw in some "what-ifs." What if the reporters found one of the candidates had a drug habit? Or a violent temper so bad he lost control? Or was growing senile? Or couldn't control his emotions at all? All of these had been alleged against one or more of the most recent candidates. Would that change your thinking? These issues are raised during this nice story from Adam Conner-Simmons of Gelf magazine.

A bad example

As an example not to follow, it would be hard to top this. A University of Minnesota television intern first slacked off enough at her job that she was fired, then attacked the person firing her, shouting obscenities and kicking out a window. This is a good way not to get a good recommendation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Patting college media on its back -- deservedly

Brian Murley, whose Innovation in College Media blog is one of the best around, offers a broad overview of college media's online operations, saying that, in many ways, college media has led the professional media. I concur (see for proof, updated daily).

Comic strips as revenue-generators?

Going back to the days of the Yellow Kid, newspapers have used comic strips to attract readers. This was very important at the turn of the last century when America had a large number of immigrants whose English wasn't all that hot, and a very competitive environment with many newspapers competing for the audience. Both situations exist today, obviously, just substitute other media for the competing newspapers and recognize that America today is in the midst of a wave of immigration. Newspapers, of course, have long since forgotten the promotional quality of comic strips. It's hard to find today's Sunday "funnies" in the Journal Sentinel since the section is used to wrap advertising inserts and is virtually covered by a spadea (that wrap-around advertising section). It's a long way from the days when the comics were on the outside of the newspaper. Those were the days when attracting readers was seen as the way to build a revenue stream.

Fast-forward to today. King Features is launching an ad-driven comics portal (story about it is here), in cooperation with a number of newspapers, including the JS. It offers 60 comics in full color plus a 30-day archive.

Internet beginning to impact television

Hollywood Reporter reports on a conference on whether new media is helping or hurting the television business. The consensus is mixed, but both sides say it is beginning to have an impact.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How'd that work out for you, buddy?

David Carr in the New York Times likens newspaper industry leaders to the failed management of soon-to-be-no-more Circuit City in its plan to save itself by jettisoning its most talented people -- just like newspapers are cutting their stars. As he rhetorically asks of Circuit City, "How'd that work out for you, buddy?" I've been accused of seeking to preserve the old way, and it's true, in a way. I happen to think newspapers have great reputations and ability, I just hate to see them go. Please read Carr's report.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch said roughly the same thing in a Melbourne newspaper. Newspapers won't be obsolete, some editors' ideas will, he said.  A longer story is here.  I can't believe I'm seeing Rupert Murdoch as more intelligent than most newspaper leaders, but I am.  Here's a third.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leonard Downie's view of the future

Leonard Downie Jr., longtime executive editor of the Washington Post, talks about his view of the future. It's both heartening and grim since he identifies both the strengths and weaknesses of new media. Here's a transcript, which has a video attached.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The end of objectivity?

In an essay titled "The End of Objectivity in New Journalism Era: A Good Thing?", Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp takes on the deep subject of objectivity -- presenting both those who think it doesn't exist and traditionalists who believe it's worth striving for -- with a nicely-balanced look at how journalism has changed (has it?) in our new media environment. Undeniably, the proliferation of opinion vehicles has changed the public's perception of objectivity. But is that necessarily a bad thing? With proper labeling, I don't mind the change. But I still think we should strive for objectivity in anything labeled (or branded) as news. Anyway, for a truly objective account of what the essay says, read it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

U.S. News offering digital edition as well as monthly print edition

The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. News & World Report is switching to a monthly print edition, but will go digital but "special reports, daily news updates, blogs, newsletters, rankings, guides and videos" will be updated and posted on its web site, it says. 

More college media poor judgment

An Arizona student newspaper became the second college paper to run a cartoon about Barack Obama and the N-word. Bad judgment continues.

Hot news

OK, so it's maybe it's not the hottest news, but I love comic strips and believe they have suffered from benign neglect from uptight editors who never appreciated them because they don't have either a sense of humor or sense of history.  Comic strips became popular during a period when newspapers faced rigorous competition -- from other newspapers. 

Anyway, Berke Breathed's wonderful Opus strip has been retired (here's the last printed strip) has got many newspaper editors thinking about comics. Some, of course, are just not replacing it to cut their costs. But others are adding such great strips as Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine or Daddy's Home. (The last is a shameless plug for what really is a good comic drawn by my friend Gary Markstein who is also a very talented editorial cartoonist.) Columbia Journalism Review has a nice roundup of the comics news.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election thoughts, contd.

Here's Business Week's take on what it called "A Victory for Social Media, Too."

More election day news consumer fallout

Research indicates that broadcast television audiences continue to erode in favor of cable and the Internet. The latest comes from a study of election day. CNN actually beat CBS in viewers. Clearly many Americans are looking to cable for news and commentary more than broadcast. I also wouldn't discount the Internet. I spent much of election night switching from one cable channel to another while using a laptop all the while.

Interesting report on Internet social community

Read the MediaPost's report on fractured social community on the Internet. It demonstrates, once again, that no one really understands what's happening out there -- just that something is happening. This report is fascinating.

Don't know what the run on newspapers really means, but. . .

the fact that all over America newspapers sold out, printed extra editions and added specialties like glossy covers or T-shirts indicates to me that people do want printed papers. I know the Marquette Tribune's special print edition was flying off the newstands around campus, and I heard more people talking about it than I ever did about the online Tribune (which is updated several times a day whether there is an edition that day of the twice-weekly print Tribune.

As I'll openly admit, I'm a fan of print newspapers (try reading comics online only) and I think print newspapers are better teaching tools than online, especially in creating that informed public needed in a democracy.

So the question for the newspaper industry is: How do you translate that demand for the permanence of print we saw yesterday into continuing sales. Even more, how do you convince advertisers that this is the way to go? I don't have the answer (although if I were the Journal Sentinel I'd be telling all of my advertisers about the success of the McDonald's spadia wrapped around the front section of yesterday's paper).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More fallout from the election

Just as I noted last night about the sheer speed with which the world reported Barack Obama's election victory, others are reporting different aspects of how the media handled the election. One of the most interest is a nice package in Top Tech News, which reported on how the old media learned new tricks. Frankly, it's a good sign, if you believe there is value in journalistic values. An interesting story outlining a number of new ideas hitting old media.

U.S. News going monthly

U.S. News and World Report, which has been published bi-monthly (before June, it was weekly), is going to a monthly schedule as the wave of cutbacks in publication continue. This trend is driven by spiraling costs of paper, and it won't be the last magazine to cut editions or to follow Rolling Stone, which went to a smaller format.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a new world out there

After President-Elect Obama's speech 10 minutes ago, I quickly swept around the world, viewing how the rest of the world reported this. Top story on every news site I sampled, from London's Guardian to Argentina's Diario El Dia to the Asian Times to Melbourne's Age to the Middle East's Al Jeezra, for every one, their top story was America's  election, most of them already reflecting his speech within minutes after the actual speech. Never was the strength, speed and power of the new media reflected.  It's a new world out there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Newspaper web sites have record audiences

There's more evidence that newspapers still have cachet as a concept. A special report by Nielsen showed record audiences for newspaper web sites. Clearly the public perceives a value in news collected by newspapers -- and that hasn't changed. Now, if newspapers don't kill that perception by cutting staff too much . . .

Monday, October 27, 2008

Big newspapers continue to lose circulation

Circulation continues to fall at big newspapers, Editor & Publisher reports. Wall Street Journal and USA Today were flat, but most other big papers fell, including the Chicago Tribune, which reported a 7.7 percent decline. It would be interesting to see recent numbers from the Tribune after its major redesign. It had lost 7.7 percent daily and 5.7 percent on Sunday for the six months preceding September, which was when its redesign hit the streets.

Different worlds of media

Howard Kurz of the Washington Post offers a nice piece on "two different realities, a Sean Hannity reality and a Keith Olbermann reality" (the quote is actually from Barak Obama). Although limited to broadcast, it brings into sharp focus the demand for agenda-driven media with which one agrees. Frankly, as I read some of the editorial endorsements and rebuttals over the weekend, I, too, wondered if we came from the same world. Could Rick Esenberg and the Journal Sentinel editorial board be writing about the same candidates? How about the local talk radio presenters (I love that British term, which is accurate and not value-laden)? Sykes, Belling, et. al. on the one hand and WNOV's lineup with Joel McNally and Eric Von?

Frankly, journalism has been moving away from the purely objective model for quite some time, especially driven by broadcast. Virtually every news standup these days ends with a comment, either from the reporter or the studio folks. With that as a background, I think audiences are expecting viewpoints -- and we all like viewpoints with which we agree.

Forbes looks at the newspaper business

And it doesn't paint a very optimistic picture. Nevertheless, the story is complete, listing some good news for smaller newspapers. Still, the picture is pretty dim for big papers, Forbes believes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Newspapers a big success -- on the Internet

MediaPost reports that newspaper websites captured 41 percent of all Internet views last quarter, a big success. Of course, it also reports that they aren't making money from them, not so big a success.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Column laments loss of people of color from Sun-Times

Huffington Post column laments the loss of the last people of color on the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. It's only the latest in a largely-overlooked trend. As newspapers shed staff, they are often losing a large part of their minority staff since, often, these were the reporters and editors with less seniority or minorities jumped to other media or even other occupations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maybe the doomsayers are right

It seems that way as more and more industry leaders seem to be wandering the desert looking at mirages with hope. Read this report of a talk by MediaNews Group Inc. CEO Dean Singleton who talks about outsourcing everything, including local reporting, then contrast it with suggestions of "local, local, local," and question whether the industry's leaders have a clue. James McPhearson of a website that has outsourced reporting to India is quoted in the article as saying: "You might miss the nuance of a sneer on a councilman's face but you know how he voted and what he said. That's factual and can be reported on from anywhere." He's correct. Just running the press release will do the same.

Meanwhile, the American Copy Editors Society points out the problems with Singleton's plan. Simply put, it destroys credibility.  FYI, this is a good site to visit on a regular basis.

Show me the money!

MediaPost continues to point to a major problem with all the new media talk: the money's not there yet. Yes, online revenues have increased, (although they are slowing now), but not close to enough to cover the losses in other areas. It's enough to turn even normally-optimistic people like me (who sees the tremendous upside of convergence) into a bit of a pessimist. Still, when I see some of the wonderful media storytelling -- including the current Journal Sentinel opus on Wisconsin's drinking culture (which has some excellent stories among the hand-wringing and preachy stuff) -- I can't help but think of the tremendous possibilities available to reporters.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some thoughts on newspaper space cutbacks

While I was reading a story on the latest big newspaper to announce it was cutting sections, the Boston Globe, one line stood out to me. The Globe is dropping two sections (actually combining their content with existing sections, while adding a new entertainment-themed tabloid. But the phrase that stood out to me was this: "Martin Baron, editor of the Globe, said while some newshole will be lost, the pages lost include house ads and event listings."

The key part of that was the "event listings" portion. It's long been an axiom in print journalism (back when the competition was seen as broadcast) that newspapers owned "anything in agate type," that is all of the box scores, event listings, calendars, stock tables, etc. that ran in the smallest type. This was because this detail was impractical for broadcast.  

But, frankly, its better on the Internet since it can run in larger fonts and more detail. If I were seeking an online audience, I'd have the most complete listings, calendars, box scores, etc on my site.  Then I'd aggressively promote it on the print pages. Anyway, it's just one more indication of how the media landscape has dramatically changed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Media use up -- both new and old media

An Iowa State University study finds that media consumption is up, but it's both new media and old. Apparently many of us are using new media while continuing to use old media. In fact, old media numbers are up, as well as new media. Doesn't mean advertisers are staying with old media, they're not. Maybe they should be.

Philip Meyer on "the endgame" for newspapers

Philip Meyer, who has written some of the most influential books on journalism, especially precision journalist, takes on the newspaper industry in an article in the American Journalism Review. He's been predicting the end of print editions for some time now, based on readership data, but has some very interesting observations and predictions in this article. His bottom line suggestion: focus on the community leadership role with interpretation and context. He also says time is running short for newspapers to sharply focus their missions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chicago Tribune joins dump-AP movement

Tribune Company executives notified the Associated Press that all newspapers owned by the corporation would drop AP service after the two-year period contractually demanded. It's only the latest and largest media company to notify AP that it planned to drop the service after a price rise. That doesn't mean it actually will drop AP, but it's a move that shows how the media world is changing. Editor & Publisher offers a nice roundup of what's happening.

In defense of bloggers. . .

New York University's Jay Rosen offers a stirring endorsement of bloggers, saying, among other things, that "bloggers and journalists are each other's ideal 'other' . . . ." Bloggers fill different needs than journalists, and operate differently. Rosen's blog has long been one of the more thoughtful journalism blogs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Student newspaper story prompts thefts

The student newspaper at the University of Texas at El Paso reported on the school's defrocked homecoming queen's past may have included time as an exotic dancer. Suddenly, its newspapers began disappearing from their sales boxes. The Student Press Law Center reports that says that more than 3,500 newspapers were stolen. No one has been charged.

Wisdom from down under

For four decades, American newspapers have been lulled into complacency by being virtual monopolies. They have grown fat and ossified. During my time with just The Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel, I watched as it went from a lean, tight newspaper with only a few editors to one with layers upon layers of assistant managing editors, senior editors, deputy senior editors, assistant senior editors, etc. (When I started at The Milwaukee Journal its news operations had one editor, one managing editor, one assistant managing editor; today, its masthead lists an editor, a managing editor, a deputy managing editor, six assistant managing editors, and at least six senior editors.)

I strongly believe that we must start looking for solutions in areas where competition has continued -- overseas. Newspapers in other parts of the world have had to stay nimble to keep afloat, and that has led them to reacting positively to changing media winds, not just to wring their hands and lay off more people. As someone who loves and is addicted to newspapers, I can only hope that our leaders will start looking for ways to adapt, not just die. 

The CEO of a major Australian media company -- with extensive newspaper holdings, including in Sidney and Melbourne -- makes the case for why print media will continue to be important, and how it can survive. His speech includes a lot of business jargon, but he makes a case not only for how print must survive but why. 

David Kirk calls himself a newspaper "conservative," who believes that newspapers are a vital part of a healthy society, with a healthy future. He builds his argument around three pillars: strong content, addressing audiences and supporting his newspapers' brands. He isn't talking about cutting staff that his audience wants to read, like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and, frankly, most American metropolitan newspapers continue to do. Nor is he talking about dropping sections, ignoring portions of the audience, and allowing his readers to gradually drift away. He is talking about aggressively going after them. I'd love to see our newspapers tell their story as well.

Monday, October 13, 2008


OK, that's a bit exaggerated, and those of you who turn up your noses at newspapers like the late, great Weekly World News can turn away now because it's time to get down and have some fun. A group of investors calling themselves Bat Boy LLC after a WWN character has purchased the newspaper. I always like media to be pretty upfront about itself and the WWN never quite hid the fact that, well, it didn't use facts in its stories about "How to Tell if You're Descended From a Space Alien" or "Titanic Survivor Found in Lifeboat." Will it return (it's been online only for more than a year; the current issue features a story about Barack Obama's "half-man, half-bat, half-brother")? We don't know, but I can think of few possible revivals that bodes more fun.

Newspaper online revenues hitting roadblock

A New York Times story today reports that newspaper online advertising revenues have flattened after several years of nice gains. It shows that no one has yet found a good replacement for the old media ad/circulation revenue models.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A must-read from London

Some of the best comments on America come from foreigners. Think back to de Tocqueville's Democracy in America in the 1830s. And, today, a truly outstanding assessment of what's happening to media in America comes from Lionel Barber, editor of London's Financial Times. He correctly assesses the state of our media, and traces some of its causes and potential effects. This should be required reading for anyone even thinking of our business. He's both pessimistic and optimistic at the same time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm sooo tempted . . .

. . . to link to a lurid New York Post Page Six item on TV folks spatting in Philadelphia, but I can't think of a way to make it relevant unless . . . student editors, pandering to the audience like this is just, plain wrong.

Flash, newspapers shedding sections

Of course it's not news that the daily newspaper industry is cutting sections right and left. Ironically, the Chicago Tribune is dropping its books section in favor of a books and media section (with few books). I guess they were afraid their subscribers might be readers. Wouldn't want that, would we? Meanwhile, I hear the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is dropping its TV listings unless they are specifically asked for. Not that I use them, but there are people who do. Dropping them will give subscribers yet another reason to become former subscribers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

False "Jobs heart attack" story comment swirls

The fake story posted by a "citizen journalist" on CNN's site last week has prompted a swarm of comments throughout the Internet. Some point to it as proof that the concept is flawed.  I think this comment by Ben Amoldy of the Christian Science Monitor points to yet another redefinition of journalism: verification can by the traditional method or a new process.

"Citizen journalism, or user-generated content, has proved successful enough to argue against abandoning it over snafus like this, say new media experts. Rather, the episode serves as a public reminder that 'news' now includes both traditional journalism and a crowd-sourced model that treats verification as a public process, not a prerequisite for publishing."

All aspects of journalism are changing. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Facebook COO offers advice to magazines

A thought: after writing that line above, I have to wonder if there is any difference between magazines and newspapers in our brave new world. Anyway, Sheryl Sandberg offered a lot of observations, especially about content, pointing out that "not all content is created equal." Not a lot of great new stuff here, but it's still worth reading to put our knowledge into context.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Doonesbury tackles journalism job declines

We in Milwaukee don't see it since the Journal Sentinel, in the midst of taking away reasons to buy the newspaper, dropped the comic strip Doonesbury, but that strip is in the middle of a very on-target story arc involving newspapers cutting staff and content (which, of course, is what the Journal Sentinel is doing). It's prompted strip creator Garry Trudeau to says this on the Washington Post comics blog: "I can't get beyond the hand-wringing stage -- I see nothing that will save our beloved industry. . . ." 

And since our local media moguls have decided you should go onto the Internet for features like Doonesbury, you can find it at this address on Slate. By the way, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel advertisers; we won't see you on Slate. Too bad for my Journal Communications stock. cuts jobs; what's it mean?

Just like old media companies, cuts staff. Some thoughts from AppScout, the blog of editors and writers at PC magazine. Basically, they wonder (as their post heading says) if new media is just old media without a press.

"Citizen journalist" hoax ramifications continue to roil

Last week, a so-called "citizen journalist" planted a false story on CNN's iReport site that Apple's Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack. The market responded immediately, dropping Apple stock. Now the SEC is investigating, and many are assessing the fallout, which, I think, hurts the entire movement. A thoughtful comment on the IT site,, suggests that, perhaps, "citizen journalists" may need a filter.  I'm old fashioned enough to think that all journalists need a filter. That's what verification and editing is all about. Frankly, comments and gossip posted by just anyone is just that, comments and gossip. It's not journalism.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Citizen Journalism" loses big (so does CNN)

The problem was an absolutely false report filed by a "citizen journalist" on CNN that Apple's Steve Jobs had a heart attack. It was taken down by CNN after it was found to be false. 

That's one of my problems with the term, "citizen journalist." I think journalism means checking and verifying -- before you run a story. That's where CNN went wrong. Sure, it wasn't filed by a CNN reporter, but the network's name was on the line.

Sure it's stupid, but. . .

A radio reporter in Detroit was fired for wearing an Obama shirt while covering an event. Of course, it's stupid and unethical. But it's a reminder to us all not to let ourselves get carried away. This, of course, is something student media reporters and editors must remember, especially on campus politics.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Some thoughts on redefining news

Editor & Publisher's Steve Outing has some interesting thoughts on just what should constitute news today and in the future. One though, melding the social networking experience into your website. It's not that I agree with everything he proposes, it's that he is looking at the problem the correct way -- from the audience back toward the publisher. Define what news should be, then figure out how to create it.

As someone who regularly uses both old and new media (it's fascinating to see that one niece just finished a long visit to Australia while working on a cruise ship), I understand the appeal. Perhaps better (easier, less porous) filtering will halt the outpouring of excess information (not just spam, but too much information) that is brought to us by the Internet. As I teach, I talk about one role of journalists is to put facts into perspective. Another is to select which facts are most relevant to the story. New media delivers a lot of facts. As someone with 67 unread emails awaiting action as I speak (I've already dealt with at least 50 this morning), I know that keeping ahead of facts on new media is hard. Maybe that's an area for old media.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Practical tips: Interviewing

I'm going to start posting some practical tips for student (and professional) journalists. Here are some great observations about reporting, including the observation that 93% of human communication is nonverbal upon first impressions. That means it makes a huge difference in approaching an interview subject on how you are dressed, the tone you use, even the personal space you choose.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What do readers want? You don't want to know

OK, let's let the pessimism flow:

A former L.A. Times newsman blogs about his doubts about the future for newspapers. Why is he pessimistic? It's what the readers want. A thoughtful blog.

Meanwhile, an Internet guru speculates that the future hold less print -- and it's been very, very different (think magazines). An interesting take, and I'm not sure he's wrong. Incidentally, he thinks blogging will continue to drive communication. Does that mean I have to keep this up?

Finally, you can read here about how the banking industry is going to "disembowel" the newspaper industry. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

The new Chicago Tribune

The new design for the Chicago Tribune hit the streets today. At least one online design expert offers instant analysis of the new, magazine and Internet-inspired design which featured lots of big pictures, promos and a new "you are here" inside guide. I liked it; my student editors from Chicago hated it. One of us is wrong; but the paper is different, and it is nice to see something different from a newspaper company. It also has new features, as opposed to those newspapers cutting features. And it's not your father's Tribune.

The folks at also weigh in on the new Tribune, with lots of links.

Meanwhile, Editor & Publisher posts reaction from the other side -- those cut by the Tribune Company.

On Tuesday, 72% of Crain's Chicago Business readers said they hated the redesign, a poll reported.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What'll replace metro dailies?

Business Week columnist Jon Fine offers his view, and it's depressing. By the way, he's predicting the demise of "big city dailies," not national or local ones. Among winners? Local TV, glossy free monthly pubs, and online sites (lots of them).  

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch took a statesmanlike stand and rejected the anti-Arab DVD advertisement, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," saying it exercised its right not to distribute the film, which has been attacked by various Muslim groups in the past two years. The News and Record in Greensboro, N.C., a community that has seen hate in action, also refused to distribute the film. It was distributed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, publisher Elizabeth Brenner saying it was a free speech decision.

The JS also published a column by its local conservative columnist Patrick McIlheran defending the film, saying that it clearly labels the anti-West attacks by Muslims as fringe, and that we should "take a look" at the film." I have a friend who is an expert on right-wing hate groups' web presentations (think American Nazi party, KKK, and skinheads). He has a wonderful site on Christian music that is used to lure people into the skinhead movement. On the surface, it just nice, Christian rock. Then the discussion groups draw people into private chats and the topic of how this music is good because it doesn't have any of those "Afro-Carribean" influences that mess up regular rock. Then, if the person is receptive, the discussion shifts to "good, white-oriented" music. You can guess where it goes next. As, I guess McIlheran would say, we should "take a look at it." I did both at the DVD and the web site. Hate is hate, and anyone distributing that DVD should take a long look in the mirror, then go wash their hands again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A pet peeve about the new media

I've long promoted the excellent content that Jim Romenesko puts together each day reporting on media for the PoynterOnline web site. I go there first thing each morning, and check again throughout the day. I advise my students to do the same, and, frankly, I would hope anyone interested in journalism would do the same. It's the place to find out what's happening in the media world. I highly recommend the site.

Nevertheless, the site was recently redesigned, and its designers fell into the trap of "because we can, we do" with a window that opens as you roll over the "bookmarks" area at the end of each item. It opens a window with 11 choices plus a "more" option button. Because Jim's posts are generally quite short, since he operates a linking blog that serves as a portal to the nation's reporting, the rollover windows obscure the items. Interesting enough, ad agencies have found these rollover popups are not only intrusive but very annoying, and some are warning their customers to ignore this capability.

I wish Jim's designers had done the same since I tend to scroll rapidly through his list with my cursor apparently on the very spot needed for these "blog spam" inserts to annoy me. The more cluttered media gets, the harder it is to easily read, and the easier it becomes to ignore it in favor of leaner, more user-friendly media.

Shape of things to come?

The New York Times is reporting that, the online politics site, plans to expand after the presidential election, adding reporters, content and boosting its advertising. Watching the old media seemingly in freefall while observing that the new media relies mostly on old media reporting for the facts that it comments on, I've long waited for signs the new media is maturing into something more responsible. Responsible reporting by new media sites becomes more and more important as the old media cuts back. Seems to me that this is a maturing media response to changes in the landscape.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Facts aren't always believed, study finds

A Duke University study found that even if the media corrects misstatements, the public isn't likely to believe. So much for all the like groups.

Minnesota drops charges against media

Following the pattern established the past few years of mass arrests, including media, at political events followed by dropping charges, Minnesota has decided it's not going to charge any of the media people (including Democracy Now's Amy Goodman) who were arrested at the Republican National Convention.

As I mention every once and a while in class, the anti-press ploy in the 1960s was merely to tear gas we media types who were covering events. It's moved now to arresting anyone attempting to cover demonstrations. Then, they get released later when the charges are dropped. So far the City of New York has paid more than $2 million to settle lawsuits arising from the 2004 convention (media arrests were only a few among the thousands arrested there). I'm sure we'll read tiny stories about taxpayers settling lawsuits from this year's conventions and phony arrests during the campaign, and four years from now will see more arrests, then dropped charges, etc.

How to sink a newspaper

Arkansas publisher tells editorial writers that newspapers are following a failed business model in giving all their content away free on the Internet. His newspaper, which puts only news on the net, has gained subscribers the past decade.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crain's says Tribune redesign ready for next week

Crain's Chicago Business reports the redesign for the new Chicago Tribune will be next week with the newspaper consolidating from five daily sections to three. The redesigned front page, Crain's reports, will be heavy on photos (or, at least, one very large dominant photo) with fewer stories. Also gone is the Sunday Perspective section, which didn't draw much advertising, only readers and they apparently don't count any more to clueless newspaper executives.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Does print media matter in this election?

That's the intriguing title used by the New York Observer for an exploration of the topic. The answer, like so much else in this fast-changing media world, is . . . it depends. As Frank Rich of the New York Times says, there is no one reporter setting the agenda. But it's clear that the print media retains much of its influence. Still, as Newsweek's Jonathan Alter says, the stories are burning out much quicker now. This sometimes is a bad thing, according to Jim VanderHei of, in that some stories that deserve more consideration get moved ahead as the news cycle moves on. He says his political website now thinks in terms of winning the hour, not winning the day. So the pressure to move on becomes almost irresistible for both websites and cable television networks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The other side of student newspaper economics

Hey, they're niche publications, and that area is doing reasonably OK in this miserable economy. A report in the Chronicle of Higher Education responds to this week's news from the West Coast about financial problems by surveying others, and discovering that college publications, in general, are doing well.

A key seems to be that college newspapers are serving their audience in ways that are unmatched by other publications. That seems to be the goal of those publications attempting to remold themselves these days, from metro dailies to neighborhood monthlies to how-to magazines.

Is the media pulling its punches?

That's the conclusion of a group of Denver journalists at a panel at the National Press Club. The panel believed that declining revenues has cut into the courage of old media and that new media won't spend much on reporting, especially to press government arms that are bolder and bolder in denying access.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More data on our segmenting news audience

A new Pew Research report offers new data showing that the news audience is segmenting by types of media to a degree not anticipated. While a group it terms "traditionalists," who get their news the old fashioned way (heavy reliance on TV, especially), is the largest with 46 percent of news consumers falling into this grouping, of note is the growing group called "integrators (23 percent)," who get their news from both old and new media.

Some sobering words on the iPhone -- and new media

In a blog on InfoWorld, Bill Snyder offers some sobering words on the iPhone that carry over, I think, to other new media. He writes that the biggest problem hitting the iPhone is limited bandwidth by the telecommunications companies (especially AT&T), which, he writes, aren't allowing the iPhone to reach anywhere near its potential. One staggering observation is that the U.S. ranks about 12th in average broadband connection speed worldwide, but first in cost. Along with recent moves by cable companies to limit or charge more for broadband usage, it means that no matter how effective the hardware and software developed for the new media, it's dependent on the monopolistic telecom system that's been allowed to reform in the U.S. in the past few years -- a system that's very unresponsive to its consumers, I believe.

"A Town Without Media"

Under that title, Bob Guccione Jr. writes a fascinating piece for MediaPost in which he reports on the media habits of the Amish and Mennonites, especially those living in Intercourse, Pa. There is some media use, telephones in wooden boxes near fields, even an Amish newspaper, but how media is used is interesting, especially with some of the recent research implying that the rest of us may be suffering from an overdose of media.

Consumer magazine advertising drops sharply

MediaPost reports that consumer magazine advertising sales have followed newspapers' into the tank, off 9.2 percent for the year so far. It has an extensive breakdown by category. The bad news is across the spectrum, although some are hit far more than others.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Using the election to lure younger readers

Editor & Publisher story today talks about ways to reach younger readers with election stories. It postulates that "millennials' " interest in the presidential election gives news media a good opportunity to "develop a substantive news consumption habit." Its first advice: don't over-saturate them with stories. This fits with recent findings that media consumers are becoming overwhelmed with all the choices out there.

Good article on mid-career journalists retraining

An article on the Society of Professional Journalists' site talks about mid-career journalists retraining for the new media. There's a nice sidebar with five things to know about switching to multimedia. This is something that should be read by all journalists, including our student journalists.

Monday, September 8, 2008

More buzz about flexible e-papers

The flexible plastic e-newspaper is generating more buzz. In addition to the story from the New York Times, Newsweek takes a look at the possibilities, especially featuring the product from Plastic Logic (also video on YouTube). This seems to be a product that might appeal to the reader as well as the publisher -- if the price is reasonable.

University newspapers feeling the pinch, too

An article in Inside Higher Education sums up the latest decisions by university newspapers to abandon some print editions as the same dynamic that has hit commercial newspapers moves along to university newspapers (especially independent ones). These moves have been discussed on the College Media Advisers' discussion list for some time with the consensus from universities that have dropped print in favor of online only editions being that most students don't migrate to the Internet editions; they just quit reading, resulting in the loss of community brought by the student newspaper. It also would hurt journalism students since student media -- at least at Marquette -- is an important part of the learning experience.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Commentators lose news jobs on MSNBC

NBC and its cable arm, MSNBC, have decided to replace commentators with news people for election coverage, according to the New York Times. After earlier using Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews to anchor election "news" coverage, the network says it's going to use news staffers, especially David Gregory, in the role.  This is great news for those who believe the walls between commentary and news have been reduced or eliminated, especially on cable network shows.

Why aren't people reading newspapers?

Bill Lueders of Madison's Isthmus looks at why people aren't reading newspapers in a thoughtful speech, and concludes that . . . it's the people's fault.  He's not all wrong, but I would lay a lot of the blame at the feet of media managers who misread their audience. Yes people who should read newspapers aren't, but what are newspapers doing to attract them?

For example, even the New York Times announces it's combining sections, as are plans for the Chicago Tribune and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (all the while eliminating many of our favorite writers and features), then the managers will shake their heads sadly and wonder why people are giving up their subscriptions. 

Newsweek takes on the e-paper

It's a sort of state of the art right now offering the pluses and minuses for electronic delivery system, starting with Amazon's Kindle but giving more heart to various proposals for flexible plastic systems. It may be newspapers' salvation -- or not.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kentucky student journalists, adviser among media arrested in St. Paul

Two Kentucky Kernel journalists and their photo adviser were among people -- including several others representing media -- who were arrested outside the Republican convention in St. Paul. A story is here. They are charged with felony trespass and face a minimum of a year in jail.

While not taking sides on whether the students were "rioting" or reporting, I am reminded of my experiences covering riots in 1968 at Greencastle, Indiana when the police made sure their tear gas blanketed the media covering a demonstration even though none of it hit the demonstrators. As their boss said at the time "We were attempting to break up the demonstration, and the media got in the way."

Interesting question though, why has so little been reported on arrests at any of the conventions this year even though New York paid big bucks to settle lawsuits for its policy four years ago of arresting great masses of people without actually filing any charges. I would expect the "liberal" media to question whether we have an official policy of jailing people without actually filing charges merely to keep them from protesting. Whatever you think, it seems to me that it should be a story.

Magazines also struggle for an identity

In case you thought it was just newspapers going through dramatic changes, MediaPost offers details on the latest moves in the consumer magazine field as three more publications move to expand their digital offerings.

Magazines face different problems than newspapers. The fundamental question all publishers must decide, I believe, is what consumers are getting out of their publications. Are they reading them for information (news is a form of information), for entertainment (well-written stories, such as in the New Yorker), just to pass the time (crossword puzzles, sudoku), or other reasons. It seems to me that the reason a reader is attracted to a publication will dictate how that reader (and, although it seems many media managers often forget this, Internet consumers are generally reading) can be most effectively served. For example, I am a very heavy media consumer. I scan certain Internet sites for news several times a day. But I read the New Yorker not only for information but for pleasure. I can't imagine reading it on line.

The problem U.S. media managers face, of course, is that their advertisers are seeking reader eyes, and don't care why I read something and notice their ads; just that I do. So publications need to keep our eyes while convincing advertisers they can best reach their audience by advertising in the publication, whether it be printed on paper or on line. It's several tough jobs at once, and it's ongoing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Newspapers are not going anywhere"

Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and general manager,, while answering questions online today stated flatly that "Newspapers are not going anywhere. Advertising revenue may be in decline, but publishing newspapers is still a very profitable business and we intend to keep our presses running for a long time to come." The rest of her responses to questions about the Times, newspapers in general and the Internet are online. (You may have to register to read.)

She offers a lot of information about the thinking of online executives, including some analysis of revenue streams, online video and the various digital forms the Times is offering. All in all, it's a very useful story that should be read by anyone serious about our business.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Possible cracks in the new media model

A couple of Internet technical decisions recently have demonstrated the volitality of the new media home. Like with much of what's happening elsewhere in the media world, no one seems to know exactly what these moves will mean in the long term, but it's clear that there are possibilities both positive and negative for the media world.

For example, the decision by Comcast, a major Internet provider, to put a ceiling on Internet usage along with trial balloons from others about usage caps or charges. Time-Warner, for example, is experimenting with charging more for more usage, as is AT&T (no surprise there; the monoply is back as anyone with AT&T service knows). PC World magazine has a story explaining some of the concerns raised about the Comcast decision. One thing is clear: There is no way anyone can predict Internet usage demands for the future.

Another was reported by John Markoff in the New York Times. His report says that Internet traffic is beginning to flow around the U.S. due to both technology and concern with our government snooping.

Does it all mean that the new media model commonly accepted -- the one where print media is replaced by digital -- is wrong? Who knows? I believe it means everything is still in flux, which is why student journalists should continue to be trained first as good journalists, versed in the practices of reporting and writing, but that digital forms of communication skills be taught as necessary tools of the trade.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Will the Chicago Tribune really become just the Trib?

At right is one of the redesign proposals for the Chicago Tribune, according to this story on the Editor & Publisher web site. The Trib, as we've always called the Tribune, will be redesigned officially during September (no date has been announced). Even more dramatic, I hear, are planned content changes prompted by new owner Sam Zell's management team, which is dominated by television folks. 

Look in archives at Romenesko, Editor & Publisher, and for other comments and insights into the redesign. I expect the designers at to offer solid professional comment after the final design is unveiled. Currently, demonstrates the redesign of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, another Tribune newspaper, and a lot of comment on the company's redesign of the Orlando Sentinel.