Editors, and how bad ones are ruining the newspaper business
This just got me angry all over again, even though it barely scratched the surface.
So what do you propose should be done? If the model is dying and papers can no longer afford to survive as they have, what is the solution? Keep going full steam ahead until they are gone completely? Or do you propose they try something different? I hate to say it, but the majority of people are going to get their news on the web. I realize that a large percentage of New Orleans doesn't have internet access. However, as the younger generations grow up, that percentage is going to decrease. And while that may be 20 years off, newspapers can't last that long in their current model.Personally I think a lot of papers have had bloated newsrooms over the years. With technology now, you can do more with less. I think the new system will work, in the right hands.
I propose that if Advance is getting ready to bury the print product that it consider a sale to a billionaire willing to keep it running.Not doing so is an act of arrogance and stupidity that is beyond my understanding.Secondly, there are other ongoing experiments to try and improve the print product and charge more for the online product (see new post).Let's see how those work.Lastly, "hit" generation and bloggers are not journalism. If you are going to do online, then do it right. Pay good reporters real wages and give them real benefits and treat it like it is an important product. And I would ask you, if the model is dying why is the only part of the business making any real money the print product? Paying journalists low wages and poor benefits simply shows that you are not interested in a quality product.That's my take.
I respect your take As someone who wasn't in the industry when it was "good," I see things a little differently. I think "hit journalism" as you put it is journalism. You report what people want to read. Make sense. Where I'm at, we do just that. Guess what, they tend to read the investigative pieces, etc. Maybe the problem isn't the papers at all. Maybe it's the readers. The issue that I have with your arguments is that if papers aren't making money, just like any other business, shouldn't they change so they make money? Every other business in the world does that, or they go out of business (unless they're the auto industry or banks, but that's another story). I don't know how you expect these papers to pay reporters more and print more when they can't make money doing what they're doing. I suppose they print paper, they could print money too, right? I'm not trying to argue with you, but you're not looking at it from the business owner side of things. Sure they could sell to a billionaire who plans to keep the print product going, but billionaires don't become billionaires by losing money. When they can't make it work, they'll shut it down or take the same steps. Instead of living in the past, a dying past, journalism needs to change to survive. Just my two cents.
OK, I have consistently admitted that I'm a dinosaur. As a reporter/journalist I never looked at what I did from the perspective of what was right for business. I looked at it from the perspective of what was right for the readers. The wall between the newsroom and advertising was brick, now it's a lace curtain. You may be right that as a business plan that may be good, but as for good journalism, I find it appalling. If I have to compromise what is right and in the best interest of the Republic to save a business, then I want no part of it. I always looked at the journalism side as much more than making widgets and manufacturing. It was a calling. To me when the line is blurred between the newsroom and advertising it is akin to a politician taking a bribe. I know that's harsh, but that's how I feel. But I always hold out the possibility that I may be wrong. I just can't understand why Advance wouldn't accept a generous offer to keep the New Orleans paper running as a seven-day a week publication. It's like a scorned lover telling his former partner, "If I can't have you no one can." But I enjoy the give and take so keep it coming.
I enjoy this discussion. Here's the problem I have with old journalism vs. the new model. Journalists like to be all high and mighty about being objective and keeping their opinions out of things, but that NEVER happened. That's because journalists chose what news was. There wasn't much reader input. Journalists decided what to write about and journalists decided what was important enough to go where in the paper. In the new hit journalism, readers make those decisions. In the end, they're our customer, and if they're not buying what we think is news than we're wrong, not them. I think there's still room for investigative journalism, but to be honest, people don't care about the union contract for county employees that commissioners just approved. They just don't. But for years, that's what we gave them. As for mixing with sales, I used to agree with you. But it's important to collaborate. That's because sales people hear things that can be news when they're out and about, and reporters stumble across ad opportunities. Where I work, advertising doesn't dictate what we write unless its a special section or a special page, and that's just the type of content. But we work together, and we're making changes now to work together more. The old days of money pouring in and reporters not having to worry about it are over. We can't just do what we want anymore. We need to do what the reader wants. And when you have the information, the analytics, right at your fingertips, you'd be crazy not to use it.
If you give the public what they want and ignore what they need, you will simply add to the dumbing down of our country.Sure it may be boring to cover the union contract and maybe only a few people will read it, but without the watchdog our country will not survive. A good journalist will explain to a reader why they want and need to read a story about the union contract. That's where good reporting and good writing collide.If not, we'll have media full of the doings of Kim Kardashian and her baby. Oh wait, we're already there.As to the wall between advertising and the newsroom I will never agree to a compromise in that. So I guess we'll simply have to agree to disagree.
There is an amazing amount wrong with this statement:In the new hit journalism, readers make those decisions. In the end, they're our customer, and if they're not buying what we think is news than we're wrong, not them. While I understand what you're trying to say, read that sentence again and recognize that the sentence explains the deep, probably non-negotiable, difference between the past and the ideals of today's "writers." Few are journalists.The difference is that a journalist does know how to recognize what's important and should be put to the public for their ingestion (the choice to read and decide how you feel about it is strictly up to the reader).As an example, I think about how every year we'd get calls in the newsroom (dozens of calls) about the "first robin" of the year. People loved that story. They would have read it every single year and marveled at it. Nobody seemed to want to know that some robins don't migrate and stick around MIchigan all year. If I use your line of thinking ... "readers make those decisions" we would have been up to our necks in "first robins of the year stories." Todays writers do respond to the readers. Give 'em a call and you can get a story. But the poor writers don't have time to dig deep enough into as simple a story as a newly hired Public Safety Director to learn that he is rarely seen and is working at another fulltime job in Detroit.That's also why Flint's top 10 list of reader-selected stories for 2012 included Genesee County endures 500 year flood event; Undefeated Beecher Basketball team; Crim Race/Back to Brick/Warrior Dash and other events tied with the sale of Genesee Towers for $1 and MSD gets a new home. There's nothing NOTHING wrong with these stories. But where's the dig, where's the meat? Where's the investigation?The Journal editor carried on like a maniac about their outstanding coverage of the serial stabber. But nothing was "uncovered" it was just coverage, good coverage, of the events as they occurred. And of course, the number 1 story was boxer Clarissa Shields. A lovely young woman from Flint who made readers feel proud. "The old days of money pouring in and reporters not having to worry about it are over. We can't just do what we want anymore. We need to do what the reader wants."So do what the reader wants. Sell some ads. Make sure the coupons wrap around your stories and for god's sake find a robin this spring. Just don't call yourself a journalist.
I feel like there's room for both. And where I work, we do that. Face it, journalism is a business, just like anything else. If the business model isn't working, you change it. If you don't, you die.
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