September 30, 2003

News You Can Use

“Too much news is useless,” says Jeff Jarvis, “I don't mean it's not important, useless in our daily lives.”

So, Jarvis proposes a new metric for valuing the quality of news: Useful vs. important, saying it is “a scale that will matter more as more people come online and reshape their definition of news.”

Jarvis is keying in on part of Jay Rosen’s interview with Merrill Brown, former editor-in-chief of in which Rosen asks another good question: “Is journalism as a profession ready to open itself to ideas coming at it from the new horizon? Is it open to the people who are not journalists and who suddenly have more information power? Does journalism value its own intellectual capital?”

Go read them both: Jarvis and Rosen.

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:49 AM

Pursuing Readers in Spanish: Embracing a Class

Newspapers took another big step yesterday away from being part of the mass media and toward being a class medium with the launch of Al Día, a six-day, Spanish-language daily produced by the Dallas Morning News.

The Dallas-Fort Worth region contains 1.3 million Hispanics - 22 percent of the population and expanding (estimated to reach 38 percent by 2006) - and even though the circulation of the Morning News, unlike that of many other metros, has been growing it inched up only 3 percent in the last two years to 515,000.

By comparison, the number of Hispanics in the North Texas areas covered by the Morning News grew more than 14 percent in the same time. The Morning News wanted to reach that Hispanic audience, but it couldn't do it in English and so Al Día was born.

In response to Al Día, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which has been battling the Morning News' for supremacy over the Interstate 30 corridor that connects the two cities, expanded its own twice-a-week Spanish publication, La Estrella, into Diario La Estrella, creating a unique situation in American newspaper publishing in which two major newspaper companies (Belo and Knight Ridder) and competing head to head with non-English daily publications.

Expect more newspapers to follow suit. The number of Hispanic households in the United States is forecast to double to 19.4 million in 2020 - and account for nearly 40 percent of all household growth. Spanish will be spoken in two-thirds of these households (about 42 million people). The lure of this market is too powerful for newspapers, which desperately need new readers, to ignore.

Already, media companies are forming alliances and staking claim to territory.

The Tribune Company, owners of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and Newsday, among other newspapers, intends to form a national network of Spanish-language dailies in the four largest Hispanic markets (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago) based on its successful (90,000-plus circulation) New York tabloid Hoy. [ Read: Los Más Nuevos Periódicos ]

After Hoy rolled out a Chicago edition, four other Spanish-language newspapers - the venerable La Opinion in Los Angeles, Knight Ridders' El Nuevo Herald in Miami, El Diario/La Prensa in New York (the nation's oldest daily Spanish newspaper) and La Raza (a Chicago weekly) - formed a network that will market itself to advertisers as a national buy.

(Ironically, the Tribune Company owns 50 percent of La Opinion, a stake it acquired when it bought the Los Angeles Times in 2000, so if Hoy expands into Los Angeles then Tribune will, to an extent, be competing with itself for the attention of L.A.'s 6.8 million Hispanics, more than 40 percent of the population.)

As I've said before, the newspaper as a mass market medium is dying. Its future depends on developing products that reach out to and serve the various classes, whether they are defined by language, age or platform preference.

Still, newspapers are not going to disappear any time soon (even Ted Turner got that one wrong), but in order to maintain relevance and influence they need to abandon the traditional one-market, one-paper model and pursue readership opportunities wherever they may be.

Think about the New York Times, whose circulation strength at first might seem to reinforce the belief that the mass market remains intact. But a closer look at the Times' audit numbers shows that its readership is geographically fragmented - nearly half lives outside the New York-New Jersey-Pennslyvania area, with the West, New England and the South Atlantic coast contributing 10 percent each to the overall circulation of 1.13 million.

The Times' market is not geographic; it is demographic: A class of people attracted to the Times' brand (I'll let others argue over the characteristics of the brand).

The Times' model, and those of the Morning News, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune and other papers that are now publishing in Spanish or spinning off tabloids aimed at younger readers, transcend the traditional definition of a newspaper and embrace the idea that what counts is readership not format.

"News" doesn't need to be delivered on a 13.5-by-23.5-inch page. "News" doesn't' have to be in English. "News" doesn't' need the phrase "according to" in the first paragraph. "News" doesn't even need to be "news" at all - it can be information or interaction, commentary or comics, written by professionals or contributed by readers.

Congratulations to Gilbert Bailon, the editor of Al Día, and those others who brought the new paper to life. They've gambled a few million dollars on a vision of a bilingual future. It is a bold move. And the newspaper industry needs more like it.


 Editor & Publisher Spanish Newspaper Network Created

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:18 AM | Comments (1)

September 29, 2003

Bee the Blog III

Sacramento Bee ombudsman Tony Marcano sums up the response he received in the wake of the paper's decision to edit political columnist Daniel Weintraub's blog, California Insider: "Blogs good. Newspapers bad. Ombudsman dumb."

I was critical of the way the Bee decided to edit Weintraub, but not of the editing itself.

As Marcano points out, editing is not censorship. Good editing is a partnership between editor and writer.

The better question, as Marcano asks it, is, "Are blogs by their nature incompatible with newspapers?"

Of course they are not. But newspaper editors need to realize, as Weintraub himself states in Marcano's column, that:

"... the online product is not simply an electronic version of the printed newspaper. It is an entirely different medium, more akin to radio and television than it is to print. Commentators on radio and TV are not edited. They say what they want, and if they overstep the bounds of decency or good taste, they face the consequences. … There is no reason that bloggers affiliated with newspapers could not follow a similar model, as long as the Web site informs readers of the distinction. A Weblog is not the same as a printed column. It is a collection of quick, off-the-cuff reactions to breaking events, with an attitude. Those reactions can change over time as more facts are known. Some of those opinions are over the top. The readers know that. It's the nature of the beast. It's what they like."

Journalism with the readers in mind. Now there's a revolution.

UPDATE: Scott Rosenberg from Salon says, "As an editor and a blogger, I find that the perspectives on this tend to fall into two camps talking past each other."

His advice to newspaper managers: Don't waste your "time trying to push blogs back into the old template of the newsroom. The world is richer for the existence of well-edited newspapers and unedited blogs. I want them both -- they complement each other nicely. And there's no reason we can't have both. What we don't need is the same old news product in new blog-shaped bottles."

 Sacramento Bee, Tony Marcano Flogging by blogging: Sorry, editing isn't censorship
 Scott Rosenberg Editors vs. bloggers

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)

Quien es Más Macho: Bush or The Press?

American Journalism Review has a long piece in its new issue that asks: Are the News Media Soft on Bush?

The answers seems to be: Some are, some aren't, more probably should be but the Bushies have them bamboozled. Here's the lead-in:

"That much- ballyhooed 'liberal press' hasn’t been nearly as tough on President Bush as it was on his predecessor. One key reason: Bush’s controversies have involved policy rather than personal peccadilloes, and the media have a much bigger appetite for the latter."

Notably, the piece opens with the infamous March 6, 2003, press conference, the one at which the president made his case against Saddam Hussein and "weapons of terror" while a docile White House press corps lobbed softballs up at the presidential podium.

It was, as AJR quotes New York Press writer Matt Taibbi, "a mini-Alamo for American journalism." Or as Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales commented: The "lethargy was contagious; correspondents were almost as logy as Bush was. Nobody even bothered to ask a question about Osama bin Laden." I called it an "embarrassing acquiescence by the White House press corps to the Bush administration's conversion of the First Amendment into a prep school code of conduct." [ Read: Flogging a Dead Corpse and White House Press Corpse ]

Deep in the AJR piece, Sam Donaldson, the retired ABC newsman best known for his obnoxious style of persistent questioning, offers advice on how the press corps can awake from its coma. Reporter Rachel Smolkin writes:

"Because Bush is so successful at stiff-arming the press corps, Donaldson suggests that reporters ask direct questions and eschew multipart queries. 'Like the old World War II torpedo language, it's got to be hot, straight and true' so the viewer or reader will realize when Bush dodges a question. Donaldson also advises reporters to 'remember that this is not a social occasion' and skip comments such as 'Thank you for taking the question' or 'Good evening, sir.' 'You can be respectful, but when called upon, you rise and ask a direct question,' Donaldson says. Still, he emphasizes there is only so much reporters can do. 'If he's not going to answer the question, he's not going to. ... You can't hog-tie him, throw him down and stand there and debate him.'"

Press conferences are generally a waste of time for reporters, but they are still valuable components of the democratic process. Having elected officials stand before the public, or in this case the journalistic representatives of the public, and answer questions is a good thing.

Bush has avoided this format at much as possible. (AJR reports he's held 58 press conferences; about half what his father or Bill Clinton held in the same time.) That's all the more reason for reporters to look for cracks in the façade when they have the opportunity to do so.

 American Journalism Review Are the News Media Soft on Bush?

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:18 AM

September 26, 2003

Jay, Meet Jeff. Jeff, Meet Jay.

Jay Rosen of NYU and Jeff Jarvis of meet, greet and interview each other about journalism, audience, and blogging. Read the results on PressThink (Rosen) or BuzzMachine (Jarvis). Here’s an excerpt:

Rosen: “Now the audience has a printing press is a good way to put it. But my guess is that you thought you were in touch with the audience before the Net started changing things around, that you had a feel, kinda knew what people wanted, etc. This tells us that in journalism what counts as knowledge of the people “out there” reflects available technology for reaching those people — and for being reached by them.”

Good stuff. Go read it.

Posted by Tim Porter at 06:23 AM

The Inbox of Reporting

Political reporters find themselves increasingly relying on - or taken siege by - email, according to an Editor & Publisher article that reports on how the swarm of Democratic presidential hopefuls are employing the Web and other new media tools.

Skip the breathless quotes from newspaper and academic types - "It has absolutely exploded" or "You have a million different bloggers and people who have a lot of free time to make things up" - and go to the email section, which reports that:

 More and more reporters are Blackberry enabled, so …
 Candidates are spamming reporters inboxes with meaningless press releases, but …
 Email and the Web can also make reporters' lives easier because …
 They can get instant access to archived speech transcripts or …
 Fact check candidate remarks or …
 Do quick interviews by email.

The upside of being wired is the extended ability by reporters to reach out to sources more quickly and the greater assurance that a candidate (well, his staff) will respond. Email is tough to dodge. Also, email's electronic trail should limit accusations of misquotes or deniability, assuming, of course, any of the spinmeisters actually say anything of significance in an email.

The downside includes further separation between reporters and sources. As I said the other day, an email interview is a poor substitute for one done face to face or even by phone. [ Read: Whose Interview is It? ]. Also, the distraction of following what New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney called the "macho battle of the campaigns to see who can pile on the e-mail" won't improve the focus of political reporters, too many of whom already suffer from a deadline-driven attention deficit disorder.

 Editor & Publisher Web Changes Campaign 2004 ...

Posted by Tim Porter at 06:02 AM

September 25, 2003

Al & Jeff's Excellent New Newspaper

Al Neuharth founded USA Today in 1982 after realizing "that the television generation will not fight its way through dull, gray newspapers."

"Now, says Neuharth, "I think the Internet generation is not reading newspapers."

What should newspapers be doing to capture the attention of the Internet-enabled generation?

Jeff Jarvis took advantage of his East Coast time advantage and beat me to the answer - with a smart, pointed outline of the "post-Internet newspaper."

Here are some highlights:

"We get commodity news from all those sources online plus, of course, TV and radio. So a newspaper has to focus on its unique value, which, in most cases, is that it's local. In the long run, online will be good at giving you the news in your backyard (we're trying) but that will, by its nature, be a bit disjointed. A local paper's packaging of local news -- its news judgment -- will still be uniquely valuable."

"We can get breaking news faster than ever before thanks to online … Thus, you have to assume that there are no more surprises (unless you break them yourselves) and you have to stop believing that you are still announcing the news. Maybe your Page One should become a better summary of the news. If you're the Times, the Post, or the Guardian, maybe it should lead with commentary on that news."

"We search online. So we browse in print. Isn't that ironic? The Internet was going to be the browsing medium but if you've sat in any focus group about online in the last two years, you've heard loud and clear that surfing is dead; people search for what they want to get, get it, and move on. So a newspaper's strength is that it can surprise us -- not, perhaps, with breaking news but with great recipes or other useful information or, of course, fresh reporting."

Go read it all.

I add only this: The future of newspapers is all about innovation. Read Jeff's ideas. Make a list for your own newspaper.

Posted by Tim Porter at 08:20 AM | Comments (3)

September 24, 2003

Bush the News Monitor

Andrew Cline of Rhetorica posts an excerpt from the transcript of an interview between Brit Hume of Fox News and President Bush during which Bush admits he doesn't read newspapers - not that unusual, since all presidents receive daily news summaries - putting him in the category of news skimmers (in contrast to news scammers like Jayson Blair).

Those who just nibble on news but leave the full-scale feasting to others, says Cline, are "monitorial," someone who "scans the headlines on a regular basis to get the surface details but little depth. When an issue of particular interest arises, however, monitorial citizens know how and where to get the depth of coverage they desire."

Cline attributes the coinage to historian Michael Schudson, who in his book The Good Citizen "contends that we have evolved into 'monitorial' citizens."

That would, of course, explain changes in the methods of news consumption - the devolution from a medium that requires more time (newspapers) to one that demands less (television) and, now, to one that can be skimmed at will (the Internet).

The Hume-Bush interview, in its own right, demonstrates the exponential growth of journalistic silliness that occurs when the fatuous interview the vacuous.

Here's a Bush response: "I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves."

Posted by Tim Porter at 08:34 AM | Comments (1)

Bee the Blog: The Backwash

The tide has come in and gone out a few times on the Sacramento Bee blog brouhaha [ Read: Bee the Blog: Crabs in a Bucket ]. Here's what has washed up on shore:

Mark Glaser of the Online Journalism Review explores whether blogs and newspapers mix. He writes:

"Newspapers represent all that is old and moldy about journalism: printed on dead trees, distributed by underpaid teens, and read by an aging audience. Weblogs represent all that is edgy and hip about journalism: written in a personal voice, encompassing divergent modes of thought, and distributed on a global platform. But is the commingling of newspapers and blogs like chocolate and peanut butter, or chocolate and pine tar?"

Other newspaper bloggers - Spokane, Providence, Dallas - offer this advice: Be focused, think of readers, explore the boundaries and link out. (Ryan Pitts, of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, posted the transcript of Glaser's interview with him.)

Jeff Jarvis points to a Tim Rutten column on the matter that ends with this comment from Orville Schell, dean of the UC-Berkeley Journalism school:

"An edited blog is a contradiction in terms. It's a characteristic of the Internet in general that forms like the blog emerge with great exuberance and edgy promise and then the overseers move in. That's a pity. We need frontiers of plain-speaking, even it's politically incorrect. I understand why the Bee did what it did, but it leads to a restraint on free-thinking, which is lamentable."

As I said yesterday, I don't mind editing. If you write like I do, you welcome it. So Schell and I part ways on that point.

I do, however, worry about "free-thinking." Newspapers need more of it, not less.

 Online Journalism Review Weblogs Are Pushing the Newsroom Envelope on Writers' Spontaneity
 Tim Rutten Edited blog at the Bee is creating a big buzz

Posted by Tim Porter at 07:52 AM | Comments (3)

September 23, 2003

Bee the Blog: Crabs in a Bucket

The most disturbing thing about the Sacramento Bee's decision to edit political columnist Daniel Weintraub's blog, California Insider, before it's posted online is that it was apparently made, in the words of Slate columnist Mickey Kaus, to "placate PC forces within the Bee's own newsroom."

Bee ombudsman Tony Marcano reported Sunday that the editing dictate followed a complaint about Weintraub by state Legislature's Latino Caucus. Said Marcano:

"Weintraub wrote that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 'certainly owed his elevation to the job of Assembly speaker to his ethnic background (emphasis added) and to the support he received from fellow Latinos. If his name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher.'

"Further, he alleged, 'it's indisputably true that the Legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity.' The caucus protested in a letter to Bee Publisher Janis Besler Heaphy."

As Kaus discovered when followed up with Bee Executive editor Rick Rodriguez that version of events was not true. Rodriguez told Kaus the Latino Caucus complaints had nothing to do with his decision to have Weintraub edited. Kaus explains:

"Rodriguez says 'folks on the staff brought' the issue to him after Weintraub's posting. They 'wanted to know if it was edited,' he says, though he adds he suspects they mainly wanted to 'yell at some editors' about it. Rodriguez volunteers the ethnic makeup of the angry newsroom 'folks': 'Some were Latino, some Anglo, some black.' The result was a review of Weintraub's status. 'Our policy at the Bee is that everything's edited,' Rodriguez declares."

Kaus adds, without sourcing, that there was enmity between the Bee newsroom and Weintraub. "Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons - e.g., he's been beating the pants off them," says Kaus.

The whole incident saddens and angers me - and not because Weintraub is going to be edited. Even thought he's an opinion columnist (but, as L.A. Observed says, "He's their opinion columnist.), everyone can benefit from a good editor. [ Read: Blogging and Editing: Reloaded ]

No, I'm disheartened because the reaction of Weintraub's colleagues to his opinion - an opinion, to restate, that he is paid to write - illustrates that they, and by inference, the newspaper industry remain mired in ethnic divisiveness. They're focused on exploiting sensitivity instead of pursuing truth and obsessed with defending turf instead of promoting quality.

I don't like it when good journalists like Rick Rodriguez make poor management choices and allow the opinion of the mob to determine the fate of the few.

Newspapers need to change or they will lose all relevance. As organizations, they are defensive by nature and therefore resistant to innovation - whether it be a new tool, such as a blog, a new style of management, such as transparent news meetings, or a new editorial voice, such as unfettered opinion that challenges, or at least spotlights, the role of race in political life.

Jeff Jarvis has several good thoughts on the matter, but to me this is the most important: "We should drop the term 'news' with all its heavy baggage and instead look on our job in terms of imparting information."

He's right.

Newspapers are blessed with large numbers of journalists and equipped with sophisticated tools for gathering and dispersing information. A tremendous opportunity to regain momentum and reposition themselves as indispensable platforms for public information and civic discourse awaits those papers bold enough to expel the curse of traditional newsroom thinking.

Until that happens, Weintraub and others like him will continue to be yanked back into the bucket by their crabby colleagues.

(Even Rodriguez might agree with that. As he said during a Poynter Institute conference on journalism and business values: "Editors cannot be intransigent nor shortsighted. The industry has changed. There is much more competition for our readers and our advertisers. … there also is little doubt we have moved into a new media age, one in which we constantly will have to respond and adapt to new challenges and competition.")

UPDATE: Here's NYU's Jay Rosen on the Bee's new group blog by editorial page editors: "By these gradual means the Web is teaching journalism back to journalists… on the Web. For when you have to decide how to use the form, when you’re sitting at your desk and there are things strange, wonderful and new on your screen, you may have to re-decide what journalism “is” ... To force this moment upon mainstream journalism in setting after setting could be the Weblog’s gift to the newsroom."

 Readership Institute Inside Newspaper Culture

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:43 AM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2003

E&P R.I.P.

News technology consultant Vin Crosbie unspins the fable spun by Editor & Publisher that switching from a weekly to monthly publication will actually improve the news industry trade magazine. Writes Crosbie on his site, Digital Deliverance:

"If publishing less frequently enhances a publication, why not go all the way? … E&P's announcement is fatuous and it underscores the magazine's decline under ownership by VNU Media. The magazine's print circulation and advertising page counts have plummeted since VNU purchase E&P a few years ago. VNU might try to hide behind the excuse of the worst media advertising recession in a half century. But what debunks is a comparison of E&P and its partial competitor, Newspapers & Technology."

Crosbie points out that E&P's ad rates ($3,000 for a quarter page) were "way too high" for a fuzzy editorial mix that failed to attract publishers or journalists. "E&P let itself become editorially stuck somewhere between the journalism reviews (such as Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review) and technology journals (such as Newspaper & Technology)," says Crosbie. "Those publications cover their niches far better than E&P does, leaving E&P without a viable niche of its own."

When Steve Outing, who writes an online column for E&P, commented on the publication change last week, he attributed the cutback to the growth of online readership. Said Outing:

"I view this as a logical and inevitable move that more and more trade publications will make in the near future. As growing numbers of people get industry news via the Internet, print publications will decline. I don't expect most trade magazine print editions to die anytime soon, but I do believe that the power of the Internet as an information medium makes weekly trade magazines an endangered species. … For any trade publisher to continue to dominate its industry, it must have a very strong presence online."

(E&P's own story on the announcement said its "redesigned Web site … has enjoyed a tremendous surge in traffic in the past year," although it didn't provide any numbers.)

Crosbie thinks Outing's outlook for E&P online is overly sanguine, at least as a business model. As he points out:

"E&P's own articles have failed to report any trade journals that are profitably publishing online, except for perhaps Variety, a publication that dominates coverage of its own industry in a way that E&P no longer dominates coverage of the newspaper industry (perhaps not so ironically, VNU Media owns Variety's archrival, The Hollywood Reporter)."

I agree with Crosbie. E&P suffered more from a content problem than an "Internet" problem. In fact, the success of online trade journals such as and the increasingly presence of industry-specific (in this case journalism) blogs such as Romenesko, Prints the Chaff and PressThink intensifies the identity issue for any publication - trade mag, newspaper or Web site - that doesn't have a clear, definable focus that separates it from the pack.

Of course, if a publication is charging, readers want more than focus. They want good writing, exclusive reporting and insightful commentary. And if a magazine charges $99 a year for a subscription, as E&P does, it better deliver a lot more each than E&P has.

[ Thanks to MediaSavvy for the pointer to Crosbie's comments. ]

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:46 AM

September 20, 2003

Bikini Story Unravels

So, a newspaper catches a reporter plagiarizing about bikinis, tells readers she Googled the story off the Net, checks out her previous pieces, finds more suspect reporting, pays her off to leave and then tells readers nothing more about what happened.

That's wrong. But that, according to Milwaukee Magazine, is what happened this summer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I'm not going to recount the details. The magazine's got them all, including examples of cribbed paragraphs like this one from (hey, who needs Lexis-Nexis?): "As part of wartime rationing, the U.S. Government, in 1943, ordered a 10 percent reduction in the fabric used in woman's swimwear. Off went the skirt panel, and out came the bare midriff."

Instead, let's look at the "statement of principles" posted on the Journal Sentinel's Web site. Among them:

 "We will try to lead our readers to the truth."
 "We will strive to be accurate and fair.
 "We shall strive to make our paper a disseminator of facts, asserter of the truth … a detector of fraud … "
 "The true measurement of a newspaper is how it serves its community."

The Journal-Sentinel certainly could have more dissemination to the public, the community, about the detection of fraud and the assertion of truth in this case.

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, in their fine book "The Elements of Journalism," address the issue of journalistic accuracy and credibility, the lack of which rates high on the list of reasons readers abandon newspapers. They state several of their own principles. Among them:

 Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
 Its first loyalty is to its citizens.
 Its essence is a process of verification.

The Journal Sentinel failed all three points: The reporter's editors didn't challenge the lack of sourcing in the bikini story; the paper didn't disclose what happened to the reporter until contacted by Milwaukee Magazine; and management stonewalled the community about the truth.

Newspapers are losing the readership battle and this type of us vs. them behavior is much of the reason why. The road to salvation (he said, mightily) is paved with good intentions, one of which must be dialogue -with newsroom, with business partners and, especially with readers. [ Read: Service, Context, Dialogue ]

But, as the Journal Sentinel proved, it's hard to have a conversation if you don't open your mouth.

 Milwaukee Magazine The Bikini Bundle

Posted by Tim Porter at 05:07 PM

September 18, 2003

Whose Interview is It?

J.D. Lasica raises the above question around the issue of bloggers posting transcripts of their email interview with a journalist before the writer's story is published.

The contretemps arose when Jeff Jarvis did just that to Marc Glaser of the Online Journalism Review.

J.D. runs a labyrinth of arguments on both sides of the issue - implied agreement between journalist and subject, ownership of intellectual capital, and common courtesy, among them - and links to others who have weighed in, among them Sheila Lennon of the Providence Journal and Jonathan Dube of Go read it.

I expressed my take in this comment to J.D.'s post:

"I'm going to shed whatever new media aspersions I have and answer with my old media, grumpy newspaper self: Use the phone. You hear tone, inflection, doubt, arrogance, humor -- in short, you get more than information and response, you get a portrait of the person talking that adds context to his or her words.

"If that's what you want, of course."

Email interviews are handy for survey questions. I used them when I sought responses to the New York Times decision to hire an ombudsman [ Read: How N.Y. Times' New Ombudsman Can Succeed ], but they are no substitute for conversation, either on the phone or in person.

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:51 AM | Comments (1)

More Class, Less Mass

A Mexican newspaper company will begin publishing a new Spanish-language daily in San Diego next month, underscoring both the power of the Hispanic market and mainstream newspapers failed efforts to reach out to it in English.

The new paper, named Diario Latina, will be published by a company that has papers in Tijuana, Mexicali and Hermosillo.

The nearly 40 million Hispanics living in the United States are the nation's fastest-growing population group and many cannot - or choose not - to get the news in English.

That's why Spanish-language broadcasting is drawing an increasingly greater percentage of ad dollars and that's why some major U.S. newspaper companies are scuttling underfunded weekly Spanish-language editions in favor of dailies.

This fall Knight-Ridder launched Diario La Estrella in Fort Worth, Tribune Co. expanded the successful 4-year-old tabloid Hoy from New York to Chicago, and Belo plans to launch Al Dia in Dallas later this month. [ Read: Los Más Nuevos Periódicos ]

As the mass market continues to calve, expect to see more newspaper products targeted at specific fragments (the Chicago Tribune's RedEye, for example). That's where the new readers are - and some of them prefer Spanish to English.

 NBC San Diego Spanish-Language Daily Paper Launches In San Diego

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:06 AM

September 17, 2003

Talk Amongst Yourselves

When I grow up I want to be able to rant as well as Jeff Jarvis.

Jeff lays into the Online News Association - and the "insularity" of news industry organizations - in a screed launched when the group invited him to speak at its conference but planned, as he put it, "to charge me $475 for the privilege."

The reason: "The committee decided to charge panelists to register is that most of the panelists are also members of the organization who otherwise would come to the confererence and otherwise pay (and they didn't want to give up that revenue)."

The result: "It means that you're just talking to each other, mirror to mirror, online newsperson to online newsperson." And that, says Jeff, is "what makes these industry organizations worthless to me … they are usually just newspaper people talking to newspaper people. And that may be fine for newspapers (that's for them to judge) but it's not for this new medium."

Of course, it's not fine for newspapers. Their inability to adapt, and subsequent audience loss, to the flattenened media hierarchy is rooted in their clannishness and inbreeding of ideas.

Journalism - in print or on the Web - is not the first industry to face challenges that threaten its survival. There is much to be learned from other industries. It's time to stop talking to just ourselves and start listening to others.

 Jeff Jarvis Online Schmooze Association

Posted by Tim Porter at 10:47 AM

New Blog: PressThink

NYU J-school professor and media critic Jay Rosen has a new blog - PressThink - up and running. Among his latest posts is an interview with Columbia J-school's Todd Gitlin about Attorney General John Ashcroft's refusal to take questions from print journalists. Despite the academically incestuous nature of the interview, it's worth reading. A sample:

"PressThink: But what does John Ashcroft know about the American press that perhaps the press does not know about itself?

"Todd Gitlin: He knows that TV reporters can be relied upon not to show solidarity with their repelled print colleagues. Just as reporters at Bush's last press conference refused to bridle when he acknowledged-take that, minions!-that he was calling on them from a script, he knows that the press corps is no corps at all, but a band of competitors (emphasis added) more committed to seeking advantage over rivals than protecting the public's right to know."

Posted by Tim Porter at 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

Eliminating the Bimbo Factor

I began First Draft more than nine months and 150 entries ago with the idea of understanding better the frailties of newspapers and exploring those remedies that might reinvigorate them.

Since then, I have read more studies about the nature of journalism and the habits of readership, more debate about what should be done to arrest the continued declined of newspapers as a mass medium, more criticism about the obdurate refusal of the industry to act on matters it knows must be addressed as a matter of survival, and more news stories, magazine pieces and commentary about newspapers' successes, failures and business habits than I ever did in the 24 years I worked for newspapers.

I practiced journalism, but I knew almost nothing about it - although I thought I did. Hindsight, of course, clarifies and age, if we allow it, deepens perspective. Still, while working in a role dedicated to informing the public, I had precious little information about my own profession, about its best practitioners (or greatest charlatans), about its history and role in the development and preservation of democracy, about its standards or even about the people I intended to inform - the community around me.

To my surprise, and I say surprise because I didn't foresee this happening, producing First Draft fills that gap and rewards me with a growing body of knowledge about newspapers and their role in the larger purposes of journalism.

To my delight, this knowledge connects me to a network of people who care as deeply as I do about quality journalism and enables me to eavesdrop on and, in a small way, occasionally participate in their world of ideas about communication, readership, credibility and relevance.

To my even greater surprise, I feel compelled to return to the newsroom, something I never would have predicted because I left it disillusioned by the rigidity of its hierarchy, by the desperate but substantively hollow grasps for readership and by the creeping acceptance of mediocrity as an editorial standard, the latter often rationalized with complaints about lack of resources or the penury of publishers, as if good journalism would suddenly materialize if somehow a newspaper had 100 reporters instead of 80 or even 10 instead of eight.

I am thinking about these things because of a speech delivered earlier this year by Tom Rosenstiel of the Committee for Concerned Journalists. I hadn't read the speech before and found it linked from the Committee for Concerned Journalists' new newsletter,

Rosenstiel, speaking at the University of Oregon, chastised those journalists who defensively reject professional standards and asked: "Why do professionalism and a thorough discussion of ethics and high standards in journalism scare people? What about that is frightening?"

Rosenstiel spoke in response to Washington Post column written by Robert Samuelson, who vilified plans by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to move journalism education beyond craft training as "journalism by an elite for an elite" and "snob journalism." Said Rosenstiel:

"These are bad ideas," Samuelson went on, "that, if adopted, would reduce journalism's relevance and raise public mistrust. They might also worsen journalism's central problem: loss of audience."

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe a journalism school education or a degree is needed to be a journalist. Neither does Rosenstiel. But I agree with him that "the bias against journalism degrees is part of something bigger that I do take issue with." He said:

"There is a long vein of thinking of journalism as something instinctual, some kind of mystical art, a kind of news voodoo-and voodoo and instinct cannot be explained or theorized about. News is something you smell, or taste, or sense. … I even once had an editor tell me he liked me because I walked like a journalist. … Tom Goldstein, the former dean of the Columbia Journalism School, has described this as a deep strain of 'anti-intellectualism.'"

Rosenstiel goes on to debunk two myths: Doing journalism is an exercise in craft and public distrust of the news media (the credibility problem) is rooted in journalistic arrogance.

Critics of professionalism like Samuelson who argue for more emphasis on craft over theory are confused. "These are tools of journalism," said Rosenstiel, "but not its core principles. This tendency to define journalism as a series of techniques rather than responsibilities and principles has added to many of journalism's contemporary problems." He adds:

"This confusion of technique with principle has also contributed to what New Yorker media Ken Auletta has called 'The Bimbo Factor.' By Bimbo Factor, Ken does not mean putting good-looking women with empty heads on TV. He means producing stories that look good but are empty of meaning. The Bimbo Factor is why we see so much technically slick and skillfully put-together journalism that is empty, unthinking, and unimportant.

"It's exposes into stinky hotel sheets, killer bras and "will your ice tea kill you?" It's the tendency to reduce our understanding of the war in Iraq to tear-jerker interviews about joy and relief with family members of returning soldiers; its merchandising stories like Lacey Peterson's murder into non-fiction soap operatic drama on morning and prime time TV news magazines. These are slick stories that tell us too little about our lives and our society."

How could Samuelson, or anyone, argue with that?

The craft of journalism, said Rosenstiel, needs to "connect to … a larger purpose … a definition of integrity and intelligence." He followed with quote by legendary Columbia J-school professor Marvin Mencher: "The major emphasis should not be … on how to write but on what to write, lest the prospective reporter become an empty flask, all form and no content."

Americans have lost faith in journalism, according to polls cited by Rosenstiel in which fewer than half those surveyed viewed the press as "a caretaker of democracy," for "sensationalizing stories to sell newspapers and build ratings and doing it either for money or to enhance their personal careers." He added:

"Samuelson is simply wrong in his facts. Rather than self-importance, survey after survey and focus group after focus group shows that it is a perceived lack of professionalism that stirs public resentment."

The roots of journalistic professionalism, said Rosenstiel, are grounded in "the idea that if you bind the press to the interests of citizens-and by citizens I mean members of the society rather than in the legal sense-people will better recognize why journalism matters to them. In that sense, far from elitism, professionalism in journalism is closer to a kind of populism."

Clearly, I am taken with Rosenstiel's remarks. Journalism does matter, especially when endowed with what Rosenstiel describes as its single purpose: "to put information that was once held by the few into the hands of many so they could be sovereign. Without journalism democracy is not possible. Without democracy, journalism has no purpose other than profit. Journalism and democracy will rise and fall together."

In that broad but enlightened view, journalism is not limited to college graduates or employees of media companies. It is a principle that embraces the free flow of information and discourse put into practice using a variety of techniques and distributed via an increasing number of platforms.

I am not endorsing journalism school. I am endorsing a greater self-awareness among journalists about our role in a democratic society. I am endorsing acceptance of and adherence to the professional standards that will enable us to fufill that purpose and eliminate the Bimbo Factor.

(Others wrote about Samuelson's column long before I, among them Charles Peters in the Washington Monthly [scroll down], Bill Dennis, the Education Gadfly, and Columbia's own newspaper, the Spectator.

 Tom Rosenstiel Snob Journalism: Elitism Versus Ethics for a Profession in Crisis

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:30 AM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2003

Cranking up the Quote Machine

A San Francisco Chronicle story about the popularity of a few particular political pundits among journalists covering the state's recall election offers a telling glimpse into the reporting process from the source's perspective and explains why so many news stories seem based on the same tired set of talking heads - because they are.

Berkeley political professor Bruce Cain, for example, "has appeared in more than 200 articles in the past two months, and has done scores of television and radio interviews" and in one stretch appeared in print 28 days in a row.

Cain's biggest complaint, according to Chron writer Peter Hartlaub: "Reporters who are blatantly fishing for a quote that will fit the premises to their stories." He didn't say whether he takes the bait or not.

Former pundit Arianna Huffington, now a candidate for governor, calls the use of quotemeisters "an inevitable part of the political-journalistic theater."

I call it lazy reporting and formulaic journalism.

The now-rote deadline search for "perspective" following a political debate or press conference results in anything but. It produces canned quotes from "experts" who've said the same thing so many times previously one must wonder if they have a collection of standard quotes they draw upon when a reporter calls.

Here's Cain talking about how recall campaigns could increase in number.

On ABC News: "If this recall is successful, then the recall will be used in other states to recall other political officials, and we will have permanent campaigns."

In the Sacramento Bee: "But it certainly will go from zero usage to occasional usage, and the key here is that we now know you can run it like an initiative."

In the New York Times: ''Once it gets on the ballot, it is a purely ingenious piece of mischief. And it could happen anywhere. If it were to succeed here, I think it would be widely copied. It is one of those innovations that the rest of the country could come to regret.''

In fact, a quick search of the Chronicle's archives for "Bruce Cain" produced 27 hits for this year, including today's piece about how popular he is.

Proponents of more ethnic diversity in the news pages have complained for years that most reporters return to the same rolodex when they need a quote, excluding newer sources that might include minorities or women.

But the reliance on a subset of quotemeisters harms more than diversity efforts. It reduces original thinking in newspapers - both on behalf of the reporter, who should be displaying more innovative skills than simply dialing the number of someone he saw quoted in another story, and on behalf of the source, who finds himself deluged with media calls and forced to condense whatever sophisticated thoughts he might have had about the issue into one-paragraph bites.

The result is tired journalism and readers who are tired of newspapers. You can quote me.

 San Francisco Chronicle Journalists' need for quotes swamps pundits

Posted by Tim Porter at 07:10 AM

September 12, 2003

How to Get a Job in Journalism

OK, so you've spent your college years in a J-school classroom only to find that it's harder to land a reporting job than it is to run for California governor. [ Read below: Welcome J-School Graduates. Now Get Lost! ]

Don't despair. London's Daily Telegraph offers hope. On "Telegraph Student Press Day" it advises "60 aspiring hacks" on how to break into the business.

Here's the best, from Piers Morgan editor of Daily Mirror: "Sleep with the editor. It may be a cliché, but it worked for me at The Sun - though Kelvin complained about my stubble afterwards. Other than that: work hard, play hard, dress smart, think smart, file on time and remember that factual inaccuracy is never, ever acceptable."

 Daily Telegraph How do you get a job in journalism? Our experts are first with the news

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:34 AM | Comments (1)

Welcome J-School Graduates. Now Get Lost!

A report that enrollment in some journalism schools is bulging just when university funding is being cut would be a good entry point into the debate about whether or not journalism schools actually contribute to better journalism. But that requires more time than I have today, so instead let's examine how the news industry will welcome these future reporters and editors if they attain their degrees and enter the journalism job market.

Lee Becker, of the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication (note: most "journalism schools" these days also teach PR and marketing, begging the question of how much "journalism school" enrollment consists of would-be Lizzie Grubmans as well as would-be Woodward and Bernsteins.) conducts an annual survey of J-school graduates.

Here are some of the findings from Becker's 2002 survey:

 "The percentage of journalism and mass communication bachelor's degree recipients with a fulltime job six to eight months after graduation dropped for the second year in a row."

 "The unemployment rate for those journalism and mass communication bachelor's degree recipients who were actually seeking jobs was higher than the national unemployment rate."

 "The job market was particularly difficult for … racial and ethnic minorities, and the gap between the level of full-time employment of minority graduates and their counterparts increased to more than 10 percentage points."

 "Six to eight months after graduation, only half of the journalism and mass communication bachelor's degree recipients were working in the field of communication. The ratio has not been this low since 1992."

 "Salaries remained static in 2002, with the median earned by journalism and mass communication graduates with a full-time job standing at $26,000."

 "Job satisfaction for those graduates with a job remained low in 2002, and an increasing number of graduates reported regretting their decision to study for a career in journalism and mass communication."

And here's the good news:

 "Seven in 10 of the graduates with full-time jobs reported they were proud of the company for which they work, and six in 10 said the work they do is meaningful."

It seems like journalism schools should worry less about how students are straining academic resources and more about what's happens to those students after they're released into the working world.

 Editor & Publisher Funding Crisis Strikes J-Schools

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:06 AM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2003

And the Things They Wrote

Sept. 11. 2001, changed journalism in this country - partly for the better, partly for the worse.

TowersThe New York Times was a giant awakened, rising from slumber and bringing all its journalistic muscle to bear in a display of reporting, writing and photography so awesome not even the Raines-Blair scandal could diminish its value.

Bloggers bloomed everywhere, creating a chorus of popular journalism, much of it reasoned and poignant, a lot of it junk, all of it a sign that many members of the news audience are no longer content just being in the audience.

Fair and balanced broadcast commentary gave way to shouting and bullying. "Shut up" replaced discourse. Ratings rose. Civility declined.

Such are the rewards of democracy and the First Amendment. The multiplicity of voices remains our greatest weapon against the conservative forces - religious, political, social - who threaten to deprive us of our freedoms. Not all journalism is great, but in a democratic society all of it is necessary.

Much was written today about 9/11. Here's what I liked:

 Jeff Jarvis: "It's the children's voices that make this so much harder. … I'm standing on the street crying as I have not been able to in two years. I'm not alone. The street is crowded with people who have come to mourn and pay their tributes. They're crying, too. It's the children, their loss, their pain, their strength. It's the children who make me cry." [ Read it ]

 New York Times, editorial: It seemed as if two great tides emanated in response to the tragedy of that Tuesday. One was a sense of generosity, a deep compassion that expressed itself in immediate acts of cooperation and support. The other was a sense of patriotism, a strong consciousness of our American identity. When those two tides overlapped, as they often did in the months after 9/11, the result was impressive and profoundly moving. But we have also seen, in the past two years, a regrettable narrowing of our idea of patriotism. [ Read it ]

 Josh Marshall: "There is something unbearable about seeing people clinging to hope when, you know, there is no hope. Their fate is sealed; they just didn't know it yet. Those were the pictures that even today made me grit my teeth and twist up my face." [ Read it ]

 Washington Post: "The darkness went on a grimly long time, and Juan Cruz-Santiago was not sure it would ever lift. It outlasted the early days, when doctors sewed his eyelids shut to protect what was left of his sight." [ Read it ]

 The Guardian, Brian Whitaker: "The war, as conceived by Mr Bush, also treats terrorism in a vacuum, as a phenomenon that is simply evil and not the product of history or circumstance: never mind the injustices or the violence committed by governments - all that the suicide bombers want is a business-class ticket to paradise." [ Read it ]

 Wall Street Journal, Lawrence Kaplan: "When September 11 Americans look back at the attacks, they see an event that requires an overhaul of national priorities. When September 10 Americans look back at the attacks, they see an event whose significance is emotional, even spiritual, but most of all historical." [ Read it ]

 Slate: "But there is also plenty that we think we know but don't. I'm not talking about shoddy conspiracy theories (that Jews were warned not to show up for work at the World Trade Center, for example) believed by the ignorant and the paranoid, but widespread misconceptions held by everyday Americans. Here are six of the most common." [ Read it ]

 Salon: "New York may be a wildly Democratic city that chose Al Gore over George W. Bush by a 4:1 margin in 2000. But that didn't stop the White House from forming a close bond with the city during its darkest hour." [ Read it ]

 New York Times, Portraits of Grief: Do not forget these people. [ Read it ]

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)

September 10, 2003

Reporting on Nasty Stuff

The Seattle Times, in an effort to shake itself loose from its JOA with the Hearst, reportedly used fuzzy accounting to prove its losing money, according to a story today in - the Seattle Times.

Whatever amount of corporate shenanigans are afoot between the owners of the Times and the Post-Intelligencer - and there seem to be plenty - the Times deserves praise for its coverage of the JOA battle.

The paper hired Bill Richards, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, on a three-year contract to report the story as he sees fit. The contract gave Richards the right to appeal to a third-party mediator if he ever thought the Times ever killed or edited a story unfairly.

Richards story in the Times today, a generally unflattering portrayal of the Seattle Times Co.'s accounting practices, which had they been up to accepted standards would have shown the company making money instead of losing it, is a terrific bit of reporting that bites the hand feeding the reporter.

I like the gutsiness the Times displayed in hiring Richards. I prefer that Seattle remains a two-newspaper town, but in the likelihood only one paper is left standing after this court fight I hope it's the Times - without its accountants.

 Seattle Times Times' finances: Not as dire as pictured?
 Editor & Publisher Seattle JOA Reporter Gets Unique Freedom

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:00 AM

September 09, 2003

Joint Obfuscating Agreement

Nasty stuff. That's what's happening in Seattle between the city's two newspapers - the Post-Intelligencer, owned by Hearst, and the Times, owned by the Blethen family and Knight Ridder - which are locked in a litigious death struggle over the joint operating agreement that binds them.

The latest round in the corporate divorce battle reveals the inherently mendacious nature of the JOA, formed in 1983 to purportedly preserve independent editorial voices in the community by allowing the two companies to merge business, production and distribution operations, effectively granting them a federally sanctioned publishing monopoly.

Both papers reported yesterday that a Blethen family memo written in 1985, and included in a new court filing, stated that two of the family's long-range goals were "move to a one-newspaper agency" and "no JOA."

In another filing, the Times claimed that in July 1997 Frank Bennack, then CEO of Hearst, said "there would be one Seattle newspaper within 10 years and 'the probability was at least 90 percent that The Seattle Times would be the surviving newspaper.'"

What we have here are powerful publishing executives hiding behind the façade of editorial preservation while they are in fact plotting to kill off a newspaper in order to preserve profit.

Nasty stuff indeed.

 Seattle Times Times document: P-I demise a goal since '85
 Seattle Post-Intelligencer Memo shows that for years, Blethens have tried to close P-I

Posted by Tim Porter at 07:46 AM

September 08, 2003

Would You Pay a Nickel to Read This?

Mike Gaynor, the founder of Redpaper, believes you might. Redpaper is a digital newsstand that offers creative contributors a platform to sell their essays, music, photography or, as Gaynor puts it, any of the other "stuff inside peoples heads" for micropayments of as little as 2 cents.

The Wall Street Journal writes about Redpaper (and a similar operation,, which also sells books) and notes that business-model belief behind Redpaper and Lulu is "that Web users will warm to the idea of paying -- as long as the content has artistic merit or other value."

In the world of online newspapers (and other media), the debate over whether to charge for content (more revenue) or not (more readers) draws well-reasoned and emotional commentary from both sides.

Internet culture maven and technology consultant Clay Shirky argues that micropayment-based publishing will continue to fail because "the trend towards freely offered content is an epochal change, to which micropayments are a pointless response." The underlying force driving that change, says Shirky, is "a huge increase the power and reach of the individual creator."

Digital publishing technology, of course, makes personal publishing of all types, from the pure creative to the journalistic, not only possible but affordable. [ Read: J.D. Lasica's report on participatory journalism ] Sharky compares the economics of analog and digital publishing:

"Once you have a computer and internet access, you can post one weblog entry or one hundred, for ten readers or ten thousand, without paying anything per post or per reader. In fact, dividing up front costs by the number of readers means that content gets cheaper as it gets more popular, the opposite of analog regimes."

More interesting than the economic scalability of micro-publishing, is what Sharky calls the disruption of the "fame and fortune" equation. "For an author to be famous, many people had to have read, and therefore paid for, his or her books. Fortune was a side-effect of attaining fame. Now, with the power to publish directly in their hands, many creative people face a dilemma they've never had before: fame vs. fortune."

Sharky argues that media companies, such as newspapers, that charge for generic news will fail, even on a micropayment basis. He says: "It's easy to think a newspaper is worth a dollar, but is each article worth half a penny? Is each word worth a thousandth of a penny? A newspaper, exposed to the logic of micropayments, becomes impossible to value."

Sharky handily sums up the paid vs. free argument thusly:

"The economics of content creation are in fact fairly simple. The two critical questions are 'Does the support come from the reader, or from an advertiser, patron, or the creator?' and 'Is the support mandatory or voluntary?' The internet adds no new possibilities. Instead, it simply shifts both answers strongly to the right. It makes all user-supported schemes harder, and all subsidized schemes easier. It likewise makes collecting fees harder, and soliciting donations easier."

In short, weblogs and other personal publishing tools enable consumers to view content first then decide whether to voluntarily pay for it - the opposite of the traditional publishing and the opposite of these new digital marketplaces like Redpaper, where, even though you're only forking over a nickel, you still have to pay first.

Jeff Jarvis, responding to Sharky's article, points out that some companies, Apple, for example, with iTunes, are gambling on micropayments, but flips Sharky's thesis that micropayments won't work and restates it smartly this way: "But what he's really saying is that free content will work … in ways that are more revolutionary than we even know."

Jarvis debunks what he calls the "mythical nickel payment" with this Appalachianism: " 'Gee, if I had a nickel for every time somebody read me, I'd be rich, I tell you, rich!' - with (to which my West Virginia pa would reply, 'Yeah, and if a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his ass every time he jumped').

I'd pay a nickel for that line. Ribbit.

For newspapers, which derive revenue from a mix of subscription, advertising and newsstand "micropayments," the proliferation of free content will further devalue their journalism.

To entice readers, especially coming generations for whom the Internet's all-you-can-browse smorgasbord of content will be their primary news source, newspapers must distinguish themselves with quality not quantity.

 Wall Street Journal Web Sites Offer Unsung Writers Chance to Sing
 Clay Shirky Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content
 J.D. Lasica What is Participatory Journalism?
 Jeff Jarvis The free me

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:18 AM | Comments (4)

September 05, 2003

The News Boomer -- and Buster

A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that Baby Boomers are more likely than the next generation - essentially their children to read newspapers, even those wired enough to browse the online news pages every day.

That's not news. Every cohort of Americans in the last 40 years reads fewer newspapers than its predecessor.

What should be even more disturbing not just for newspapers but the entire news industry is the Pew study's finding that younger Americans are not only eschewing newspapers for browsers, but that they seem to be increasingly uninterested in news of any kind.

According to an AP story about the Pew study:

"The older tech elite, ages 42 to 62, are fond of technologies yet fall back on more traditional ways and means of doing things. Forty-four percent of this group go online for news on a typical day, but many more, 60%, pick up the newspaper. By comparison, 39% of the younger tech elite, ages 18 to 29, get news online and 42% read a newspaper."

John Horrigan of the Pew study is quoted saying, "The young tech elite are roughly even as to how they get their news, through newspapers and online, and for the older generation, it's very clearly old media."

That's not how it looks to me. In fact, the above numbers show more Boomers (44 percent) reading news online than the younger generation (39 percent). It looks to me that Boomers have transferred their newspaper reading habit online and that much of the younger generation has failed to develop a news habit. And that's not a good thing for the news media regardless of platform.

 Associated Press Study: Boomers Still Prefer Printed Pages

Posted by Tim Porter at 07:38 AM | Comments (1)

September 04, 2003

Blogging Explained - in CJR

Matt Welch explains blogging to journalists in the Columbia Journalism Review with an article that Welch describes on his own blog as "an attempt to persuade skeptics that this is indeed an interesting phenomenon, so it might seem pedantic to outsiders."

Welch recasts the tired question of whether blogging is journalism and instead asks and answers it this way:

"A more productive, tangible line of inquiry is: Is journalism being produced by blogs, is it interesting, and how should journalists react to it? The answers, by my lights, are 'yes,' 'yes,' and "in many ways.'"

A more interesting question asked and answered by Welch is: "So what have these people (bloggers) contributed to journalism? Personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge."

The best of the bloggers, says Welch, "are connecting intimately with readers in a way reminiscent of old-style metro columnists or the liveliest of the New Journalists."

Blogging - whether by "amateurs" or professionals - is indeed part of what Welch calls the "journalism conversation," a apt phrase because that is what journalism should be: A three-way dialog between the sources of news, the producers of news and the consumers of news (roles that can be interchangeable).

Certainly, bloggers can benefit from the verification discipline of good journalism, but journalists can gain equally from the unbridled enthusiasm of blogging.

Jeff Jarvis, a former colleague of mine at the San Francisco Examiner, and now president of and producer of BuzzMachine, explains why blogs are so popular: "I think it's because they have something to say. In a media world that's otherwise leached of opinions and life, there's so much life in them."

Welch expands on that theme:

"For all the history made by newspapers between 1960 and 2000, the profession was also busy contracting, standardizing, and homogenizing. Most cities now have their monopolist daily, their alt weekly or two, their business journal. Journalism is done a certain way, by a certain kind of people. Bloggers are basically oblivious to such traditions, so reading the best of them is like receiving a bracing slap in the face. It's a reminder that America is far more diverse and iconoclastic than its newsrooms."

Some newspapers realize that and are attempting to diversify through their own blogs or niche market products like the Chicago Tribunes' RedEye or the spate of new Spanish-language dailies. [ Read: Los Más Nuevos Periódicos ]

The media pyramid, once dominated by newspapers and the networks, has collapsed. To survive in this less hierarchical world, newspapers must relearn to engage with the public. Blogging is an enabling tool for that part of the journalism conversation.

Tom Mangan has more on the Welch piece at Prints the Chaff. He pops the you-don't-need-to-know-code blogging balloon ("customization requires hours of anguished noodling") and offers this analogy:

"Bloggers are much like copy editors in the way we rip the work of reporters but do no reporting ourselves. In a newsroom, editors and reporters need each other, so there's a symbiotic relationship. In the blogosphere, bloggers are more akin to pilot fish: the sharks tolerate them because they have a small role to play. Maybe a marine biologist can correct me on this, but it looks like the pilot fish needs the shark far more than the shark needs the pilot fish."

Tom's right about the relationship equation, although I don't agree that all bloggers don't report. Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo is a good example of a blog that mixes reference and reporting.

Let's change Welch's phrase from "journalism conversation" to "journalism ecosystem," which I think includes (to continue the marine metaphor) the big fish of newspapers and the little fish of bloggers. It reflects the inherent interdepency of an ecosystem. Without mainstream journalists providing a flow of reporting, news bloggers would have little to write about. Without bloggers, journalists lose an impetus for change.

None of these points addresses the issue of quality, but as Welch points out: " … 90 percent of news-related blogs (are) crap." Anyone care to put a number on the percentage of newspaper stories that are crap?

 Columbia Journalism Review Blogworld: The New Amateur Journalists Weigh In

Posted by Tim Porter at 10:30 AM

September 03, 2003

Fair and Balanced in LaLa Land

Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll became of hero of right-wing pundits when he put out a memo in May criticizing a story about a Texas abortion law as biased (liberally) and correct (politically). [ Read the memo here ]

The memo figures prominently in a Los Angeles Magazine story about Carroll's efforts to remake the Times from the "recognizably liberal" paper created by Otis Chandler into - to quote Carroll's memo - a newspaper that is "intelligent and fair-minded" and challenges the liberal populace of L.A., which, Carroll reminds his staffers in the memo, "and is unreflective of the nation as a whole."

L.A. Magazine writer RJ Smith frames Carroll's "desire to distinguish the Times from modern-day, tabloid-style palaver," certainly a worthwhile goal, in the larger and ongoing debate over news media bias. Smith writes:

"The memo skirts one of the most vexing issues for journalists-that balance isn't always the same thing as accuracy. … A newspaper, in (Carroll's) mind, maintains civility by equally weighing both sides of a controversy. But not all stories have another side, and there are times when to give voice to one position is to lend it more credence than it actually has or deserves. Yes, you have to respect people's beliefs, but sometimes honoring them distorts the truth. What about alien abductees? Creationists? Holocaust deniers? There might be a pro-slavery side, but does it deserve to be sought out for the sake of balance?"

Smith is correct - some stories are one-sided (it is not necessary when writing about rape victims, for example, to interview rapists) - and his questions are rhetorical. Because, as any of us who have written, edited or photographed for a living know, all journalists are biased, but not in the way that FAIR or AIM suggest.

Andrew Cline, the wizard behind the curtain at Rhetorica Network, defines several "structural biases" that afflict - and enhance - journalism.

Journalists prefer conflict over harmony, bad news over good. They are always on deadline and therefore biased toward quick information over in-depth reporting. TV journalists must have moving picture. Reporters tell stories - and therefore create narratives where sometimes they don't exist. [ Read: When No News Becomes Badly Reported News ]

Cline points out that even the dedication to fairness is inherently biased because the he-said-she-said format of most political stories "creates the illusion that the game of politics is always contentious and never cooperative."

Let's applaud Carroll's campaign to root our inadvertent bias in the Times. And let's accept the reality that it is a campaign without end.

 Los Angeles Magazine Making Distinctions: Can John Carroll get the Times to chew with its mouth closed?
 Rhetorica Media/Political Bias

Posted by Tim Porter at 04:01 PM

Los Más Nuevos Periódicos

Major U.S. newspaper companies, frustrated in their efforts to increases circulation by traditional means, are going after the nation's fastest growing ethnic group in their own language - Spanish.

newspaper declinesTribune Publishing and Knight Ridder this week launched Spanish-language dailies in Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth, respectively.

Tribune hopes to replicate in Chicago the success it has had in New York with Hoy, a splashy 25-cent tabloid whose circulation has reached nearly 100,000 in four years. The new Chicago paper, also named Hoy, is part of a larger plan to extend the brand nationally. (Chicago Hoy only has a marketing site online so far.)

Diario La Estrella was a twice-weekly stepchild of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Knight Ridder elevated to daily status (five days) in response to the Dallas Morning News' plans to roll out its own Spanish-language daily, Al Dia, at the end of September.

Broadcast companies have long recognized the allure and buying power of the Hispanic market, with NBC's $2.7 billion purchase of Telemundo in the fall of 2001 put the stamp of the mainstream on the market.

Newspaper companies are finally getting the message: Hispanics are a large untapped audience, but they cannot be reached in English.

Publishing in Spanish is further acknowledgement by English-language newspapers that when it comes to news, and attracting audience, one size no longer fits all. Niche-market products Hoy, Diario La Estrella and, aiming at a different market, the Chicago Tribune's youth-oriented tab, RedEye, are evidence that newspapers, once the epitomy of mass, are now subdividing into publications of class.

The number of U.S. newspapers has decreased nearly every year for the last five decades. It's about time the industry tried something new.

 Associated Press Three Spanish-language papers expand, begin publishing

Posted by Tim Porter at 08:33 AM

September 02, 2003

The Last Picture Show for Newspapers?

In another measure of the growing competition newspapers face from the Internet for advertisers - and therefore for the readers who consume advertising - AdAge magazine reports that the money movie studios spent on Internet ads "skyrocketed 71.2% in the first half" of this year.

"Some studios have doubled their online media budgets … they are moving money from print into online," says an executive with Yahoo! Entertainment, which AdAge says "claims to command 50% of all Internet movie-ad dollars."

A considerable amount of money is at stake. Reports AdAge: "About 10% to 25% of the average $25 million marketing budget for a wide-release movie is earmarked for newspaper ads."

As distasteful as it may be for most journalists to admit, money matters. Midsize and larger papers spend about 10 percent of revenue on news. (Poynter Institute: "The 2000 Inland survey shows papers above 179,500 circulation spending an average of roughly 9.5 percent of revenues for news editorial. For papers of smaller circulation (50,000 to 179,500) the average appears closer to 11.5 percent.") Put another way, every $1 million in movie ads the Internet siphons from newspapers represents $100,000 that would be spent on journalism - about the salary of two experienced reporters.

Many of the difficulties newspapers have in reaching and retaining audience (the subscriber churn rate averages more than 100 percent) have to do with the antiquated, almost rote forms of journalism practiced in all but the best papers, but the blame lies not only in the newsroom.

Newspaper business managers have betrayed the journalists. It is their job to bring in the money that underwrites editorial and their recent performance has been woeful.

The Internet is a disruptive technology [ Read: Newspapers Disrupted ] that is eroding the revenue and readership base of newspapers. Survival depends on adaptation and innovation. Newspapers can look for ways to partner with the new technology (Tribune Media Services is working with movie ticket-seller Fandango) or disrupt themselves (via their own online operations), which, thus far at least, most companies haven't been very good at. [ Read: A Digital Edge report on how newspapers are missing the sweet spot of online advertising.]

Journalists (unfortunately) may not understand that newspapers are in a battle for their lives, but those whose success depends on the bottom line and not the byline see things differently.

Says Dave Murphy, president of Tribune Co.'s Media Net, to AdAge: "It's a customer-by-customer battle today. Advertisers are doing their best to evaluate the return on investment of all media. And we're up to our neck in it. ... Welcome to the media world."

Newspaper editors, reporters and photographers only need to replace the words "customer" and "advertiser" in Murphy's quote with "reader" to define their own situation.

 AdAge More Movie Advertising Moves from Newspapers to Internet

Posted by Tim Porter at 09:45 AM

September 01, 2003

First Look at New Sunday CD ‘Section’

The Sunday Times new monthly section – a CD insert entitled The Month developed to attract younger readers – debuted today and BBC News Online writer Darryl Chamberlain has a review and reader reaction.

The quick take: “Certainly hit on a gem of an idea, but it will need some refining yet before it becomes an essential part of its already-bulky package, rather than just a gimmick.”

Pluses include video of David Bowie and numerous songs; minuses include almost as many ads and a “glorified Powerpoint presentation” that Chamberlain says “would be better off back in the paper.”

I like Chamberlain’s notion that the The Month is a “good first stab” and something that could eventually “stand alone away from the main paper.” Newspapers, with all their content development capacity, need to move beyond print to other distribution channels.

The Month represents a true effort at innovation, a step beyond the traditional – and continual [ Read: How Newspapers Are Trying to Save Sunday ] – reconfiguring of the Sunday paper. Reshuffling won’t attract some would-be readers. They want a whole new deck.

And let’s not overlook the appeal of The Month or similar non-traditional supplements to advertisers. As one reader posted in a comment on the BBC News site: “Finally in response to the comments regarding the adverts; while they may be a little frustrating I’m sure most users would prefer this as an alternative to an increase in the cost of the paper.”

Posted by Tim Porter at 11:50 AM