Friday, July 4, 2008

Students sue college over newspaper funding

The administration at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia cut the budget of the student newspaper (despite a big increase in its advertising revenues), the students sued. A report by the Student Media Law Center is here. Students claim the budget cut was in retaliation for strong reporting by the paper, the Inkwell, on student government and a claim that the administration was not fully disclosing campus crime information.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

An industry magazine reports that the Wall Street Journal online site's viewership has boomed since the takeover by the forces of evil despite much of its content being "pay-only." Mediaweek says traffic is up 94 percent since last summer. A big part of the reason is attributed to the site having more free content; currently it's a mix of pay and free material. If I were a media executive, I'd be watching. For example, the Journal Sentinel's packer-plus area is pay-only. A model mixing pay and free content, it seems to me, could be a way to drive up online revenues.

Call it 'frightsizing'

Commenting on today's newspaper downsizing (L.A. Times cutting 250 jobs), an industry blogger calls it "frightsizing" not the industry's word, "rightsizing." Ken Doctor, whose blog says it's connecting "the rough edges between old and new media," writes that cutting staff is exactly the wrong move. He echoes points I made earlier about how cutting content and product are driving business away -- and going to hurt the digital side as much or more than the print.

By the way, looking at the 45 percent pay cut being taken by Midwest Express' CEO, I have to wonder how much of a pay cut CEOs are taking at media companies? For that matter, as the Journal Sentinel plans to lay off 10 percent of its staff, is it cutting editors and managers? That company, by the way, has lopped off more than half its pre-1995 merger staff, dropping from the full-time equivilancy of 2,500 jobs to 1,170, after the current plan to cut 130. A question one could ask those MBAs coming up with terrible business plans, how's it working out? Readership up? Advertising? Profits? Stock price? Sure, there are frightful industry trends -- but isn't giving readers a lesser newspaper (both in print and on the web) a plan to just sit by and watch them go away? Is that the business plan?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Howard Weaver, vice president for news of McClatchy, has started a wiki for staffers and anyone else to comment on the future of the company, which announced a staff reduction of about 10 percent last month.  The Editor and Publisher story is here. It brings citizen-journalism into what has traditionally been a top-down management style. I’m not sure the wiki is the best vehicle, but I strongly encourage other newsroom managers to get tips from whomever and wherever they can.  That’s one reason I leave this blog open to comments, and I’m sure when students return there will be lots. 
In a letter to employes today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced that it was planning to reduce its employe numbers by about 10 percent of the 1,300 full-time employes. This comes after a major reduction in staff last year that took many newsroom "names." I know of several more who were awaiting a buyout offer, so don't be surprised when you hear who is leaving this time. Morale has never been lower at the paper with even "stars" privately expressing their concerns. It's yet another sad day for journalism in Milwaukee.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More provocative thoughts on newspapers

Tim McGuire of Arizona State University lays out his thoughts on the newspaper industry’s future in a provocative speech. I totally disagree with him on some points, but I love others (cutting the price of the Sunday paper, for example or the stupidity – my term, he’s a little nicer to the industry – of cutting content when you’re losing readers). What he does say is that content is driving to the web, readers still want mediated news (I think that’s going to be more important in the future), and, most important, that the readership is ahead of advertising in that advertisers are abandoning newspapers while readers (some of them, but a significant number) still want their paper newspaper. There’s a lot more, and the speech is worth reading.

More on journist entrepreneurs

I heard a great term last summer, the journalist entrepreneur. It was at a conference panel discussion. The panel included the photo editor of McClatchy newspapers, a graphics editor from the Washington Post, a man who started his own photo syndicate, two online journalists, and a magazine editor. As one panelist put it, "You won't get a 9-5 job in journalism where you come into the office, get an assignment, go out report, then write for a newspaper anymore." The gist of the discussion was that individuals will create their own niches, and shape their own jobs in journalism.

More evidence of that today as the Record of Hackensack, N.J., announces that it is abandoning its physical office, shifting to mobile journalists who will find space at another of the company's offices when it needs it. It's been done in other businesses, and, frankly, a lot of reporters have always worked from their homes (especially free lance ones). I think it's part of the evolution as the industry moves to find ways to build up its bottom line.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For a different view of Mike McGee's conviction . . .

Go to the black press. Milwaukee is lucky to have a diversity of opinions among its black newspapers with three that regularly voice opinions. Two of them commented this week on the conviction of African-American Alderman Michael McGee. Both offered coverage that was quite different than the mainstream Journal Sentinel.

As usual, the Milwaukee Community Journal did a thorough, professional job rounding up opinion of several black community leaders with that opinion ranging from "it's time to move on" from Council President Willie Hines to praise for McGee's leadership from former Mayor Marvin Pratt and regret from former Alderman Fred Gordon. Interestingly, both Pratt and Gordon said the evidence seemed to warrant at least some guilty verdicts.

This was in marked contrast to the Milwaukee Courier, which followed a headline reading "McGee convicted" with a deck saying "Real extortionists continue to operate central city convenience stores." The story basically defended McGee and attacked the non-black store owners who testified against him. It built its argument around the alleged high prices at the stores, and talked much more about their situation than the McGee trial. Interestingly, the Courier's webside did not mention any local stories.

The Times did not comment on the verdict either in the edition at City Hall Friday or on its website.

Both the Community Journal and the Courier also had long front page story on changes at the black radio station WMCVS-AM and the "utter chaos," as the Community Journal's headline called it, at the flood relief line. Both stories showing once again why it is important for strong community press coverage in metro areas as mainstream media cut back on reporting and stories.

More on reporting of Obama's name and more

Kathy Schenck, assistant managing editor -- copydesk for the Journal Sentinel, published some further thoughts on Barack Obama's names and also an explanation of how the newspaper decided to call him black. It's posted on her blog, Words to the Wise (which is a nice blog to regularly check).