Saturday, August 18, 2012

Is the University of Georgia student newspaper "misunderstanding" over? I doubt it

Why do I get the feeling that we haven't read the end of the story about the University of Georgia's independent newspaper, the Red & Black?

As you'll remember from a couple of days ago, the newspaper's board decided to shift power from students to a professional. Students walked out and quickly created their own website and began posting to Twitter.. The board quickly apologized, calling the contretemps a "misunderstanding," and invited the former staff members to apply for their old jobs. Stories, including a nice roundup by the Associated Press, said the problems seemed to be "resolved" with the board's apology and discussions with students.

It's clear there were misunderstandings but they were all over the place. The board attempted to change the way the newspaper was run, apparently without consulting the students. The students resisted by walking out. The ensuing furor continued, including the board's head and a student journalist for the university's television station physically clashing.

I still don't think the board gets it. Students value their publications, and will demand their views be considered. At the same time, students sometimes are quite short-sighted about issues, and the board's duty is to think long-term. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is the Journal Sentinel for sale?

Blogger Bruce Murphy says that it might be, based on the company's buyback of all shares owned by the family of its long-time publisher, Harry Grant. The stock price has risen to a yearly high and at least one corporate raider has been purchasing shares. As could have been expected, Warren Buffet's name has been mentioned. He's said that he is is the market for more newspapers like the Journal Sentinel. There is some sentiment for selling the newspaper part of Journal Communications, Inc. but the company's retaining its other holdings, mostly in television and radio. Murphy's blog is here, and Jim Romenesko's is here.

Students, welcome to the real world

A few years ago one of my nieces was an intern at Teen People when the magazine abruptly closed. It was an awakening to the dark side of media these days. She since has switched to public relations, which has it's own dark side.

This came to mind while reading about the University of Georgia's student newspaper, the Red & Black, where all student staffers walked out after the independent newspaper's board took over operations, installing its former adviser as "editorial director," and said he would approve all stories before publication.

The Red & Black is independent of the university. The action was taken by its board.

These students are also getting, as publisher Harry Montevideo says, "experience which mirrors the real world." Even setting aside the fact the newspaper's publisher doesn't know when to use "which" and when to use "that," it's indicative of the real world in that staffers -- even the newspaper's editor who says he wasn't told about this change until he asked -- have no power, and, often, no voice.  Welcome to the "real world," students, and I hope that Marquette's student media never comes to this state. Some lessons are better left unlearned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

As the media world turns . . .

Beware of anyone who claims to know what is happening in the media world today. A good example comes from a story today about how the merger of Newsweek and The Daily Beast is working out.

The story, in, begins under the headline: "The Daily Beast's Digital Challenge." It tells us that the merger resulted in "a publication that has crafted a model that is, by all appearances, caught between the analog and digital worlds. It goes on to say that it's not a sustainable business model, quoting Barry Lowenthal, president of Media Kitchen, saying: "Newsweek's not going to exist anymore. It will go away."

But then it quotes Stephen Colvin, CEO of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, talking about "impressive internal growth numbers," up 20 percent over last year with ad volume up 50 percent, with ad revenue at Newsweek up 13 percent.

It's interesting in part because media figures keep talking about synergy, which appears to be what's happening here, but the digital folks keep saying "It's not a sustainable model," and that the print half of the merged publication (I treat them as one) will just "go away."

The experience with college and professional newspapers is that if the print publication folds, the online version loses a whale of a lot of readers soon after.