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?"