Thursday, September 8, 2011

This media merger has broad implications

Should we care about a merger of sorts between newspaper chains that don't have outlets in our hometown? The answer, of course, is yes when it's a merger between two of the nation's largest remaining chains, Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group. As widely reported, especially in this context-setting piece by Nieman Journalism Labs, where two independent companies are forming a third company to manage the two others. It's a vastly different business model that's worth watching.

Speaking of business models, the new company's CEO, John Paton, also CEO of the Journal Register, is an outspoken opponent of paywalls and MediaNews Group has more than two-dozen paywalls already erected. Paton says it's too early for him to decide what to do with the existing paywalls.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Social media editors take on another task -- debunking

Social media editors and reporters are all the rage these days with good reason. They expand a medium's reporting ability infinitely as well as engaging the readers. However, they are serving more and more as debunking editors, this Poynter Institute report says, with a new charge of not only separating the true from the false, but an obligation to let the world know about the false.

As we have moved from a slow and careful analysis of reporting before publishing to rapid posting of information, often without review of even a second person, inaccuracies are swarming the media universe. They post a particular problem for media attempting to be among the first to publish information.

Journalism on the go more than ever

As this essay by Alex Salkever on Streetfight, a blog devoted to reporting all things hyperlocal, says, the move by the Washington Post to close all but a couple of its bureaus shouldn't be surprising given the changes in the industry. It's a fundamentally sound decision aimed at cutting unnecessary costs, which (hopefully) will be spent increasing reporting. Unfortunately American businesses have a poor track record on this strategy. For example the insurance industry started these moves years ago with the result seeing declining numbers of agents along with declining service and declining profits.

Still, today's reporters can do their work in the field using basic backpack journalism equipment, which does cut costs dramatically. I look for more of this.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A question of priorities -- and losing readers

Don't take this as a criticism of Duane Dudak, the very hard-working TV and movie critic for the Journal Sentinel. Instead, it's a commentary on the times and, in my view, one huge reason the JS is losing subscribers.

While a new TV season isn't quite as big as it was when the four networks ruled, it is still a time when people change their habits, building their lives around new, interesting-looking television shows. It was a huge time of year two decades ago with the old Milwaukee Journal devoting not only more than a page in the Sunday paper, but huge stories daily giving readers not only a good overview of the new season but show by show reviews. Back then, the Journal alone had two full-time television writers along with one full-time movie critic. Duane carried the load alone for the Sentinel, but his season preview was pretty comprehensive.

These days, it's back to Duane handling the job single-handedly and the result showed up in today's JS -- a listing of show premiers with only a sentence or two for new shows. Can I plan my fall's viewing from this? Not really since I don't know if any of the new shows interest me. (For example, " 'Up All Night,' sitcom about new parents with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett; "Free Agents," romantic comedy about mismatched co-workers, with Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn (NBC)" tells me almost nothing.)

As I said, it's not Duane's fault, but the money-pinching management moves to cut staff and paper use have eliminated so much content that it invites readers to go elsewhere. And I have to question their judgement. A new television season deserves at least as much space and effort as one story in the never-ending series of Asian carp invasion stories.