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.