Thursday, July 12, 2012

You don't need no stinkin' reporters to write stories

If number of stories counts (see previous post), then do we care whether they're written by a human, a community reporter, or someone in India writing to a formula. Yet more options are available to editors. For example, computers can string raw data into story form. Or a reporter far away from the actual story.

The problem with shortcuts is that they seldom produce good journalism. While I don't have a study to back it up, I strongly suspect that most people can tell the difference between the passionless words-strung-together by a machine or written-to-a-formula story and actual journalism. Yes, newspapers have cut their staffs way too far and they are offering way, way too little space for actual stories. But most consumers can tell the difference.

Yes, you don't need real reporters to write stories. But you need them to write good stories.

Once again. content pays off

This study finds a direct tie between number of stories on the website and more subscription revenue.

For those of us on the content bandwagon, it's yet more proof that we're right. The report in Poynter quoted Press+ cofound Steven Brill as saying, "“If you want to sell journalism, you have to do journalism." It's logical. It's a basic tenet of journalism. It's correct.

Unfortunately, given the vast amount of really bad journalism (see next post) out there, I'd caution that it should be good stories to really add up the numbers. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Americans lose confidence in television

Americans' confidence in television news has hit a new low, according to a Gallup survey. Survey authors said, "It is not clear precisely why Americans soured so much on television news this year compared with last." Let me make a couple of suggestions. The first is the product is pretty weak, especially since cable television has gone so heavily toward opinion. The second is that this is a continuation of the almost 40-year long push by politicians to blame the messenger. Most of my adulthood has seen media vilified -- and that's taken a toll.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Younger people more willing to pay for news

Young people who disdain buying print media may well hold the key to the future for newspaper and magazine companies.

The reason? They're more willing to pay for digital services on tablets and smart phones, a study shows (see chart, above; other charts and the study here).  "The research suggests that, as more younger people buy tablet devices, willingness to pay money for the news products many publishers are delivering to them may grow," according to 

Perhaps most interesting is that while respondents said they weren't too interested in paying for news, they actually purchased news at a higher percentage. In other words, they don't way to consciously think about paying for news, but they will do so.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can partisanship hurt American newspapers?

Sorry it's been so long, but this has been a very busy summer with lots of planning for major changes coming for Marquette student media.

However, this story illustrates the continuing experience of American newspapers in reverting to the past. In this case, it's further illustration that our rapidly segmenting news media is continuing a slide toward a partisan press, such as we had in America partisan press during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century when news outlets (generally newspapers) were openly affiliated with a party or political idea. That's where names like Waukesha Freeman, Manchester Union-Leader or any of the various newspapers called Republican or Democrat originated.

Erik Sass reports that purchases of newspapers by politically-oriented owners with open partisan leanings "threatens the editorial independence of some publications." He specifically cites the recent purchase of The San Diego Union-Tribune by a real estate developer who opens says, according to Sass, that the newspaper will be a cheerleader for a downtown stadium.  Frankly, the newspaper's previous owners were often accused of slanting the news so it's only changing the message, not the tone.

This trend, added to the increasing segmentation of the Internet and the open partisanship of cable television, allows us to only know all the news deemed important by likeminded media. It's interesting to see that issue being intelligently explored by Aaron Sorkin's HBO show, The Newsroom. And, yes, the show is highly partisan itself. Still, it is exploring some of the weaknesses of partisan media.