Saturday, December 13, 2008

Free journalism is not journalism

In recent days I've heard a number of people say that journalism will survive even if newspapers don't. Journalists who used to work for newspapers will simply switch to online venues and provide the same news coverage, these people say.

They are wrong, at least for the foreseeable future.

You see, while many of us love the practice of journalism we, like everyone else, have a need to be paid for our labor. Even in the current newspaper model, college educated "journalists" can count on barely above minimum wage salaries for a good part of the start of their careers.

Only a very talented few can survive on money they make as freelancers so what will be left are hobby journalists, or bloggers, in other words.

This blog is a good example. First, it is not journalism. It's basically a long column filled with my opinions, observations that are hopefully based on facts as I receive them. So far you can count on the fingers of no hands how much money I have made at this.

Probably Drudge makes a decent living, so does Huffington, but remember they exist largely by ripping off the work of other journalists and reporters of other publications and blogs.

So no, journalism, without a strong base of financial support like that that was once supported by newspapers is not likely to survive in a responsible form.

Sure there will be places to turn for opinions, even news, but without the money to pay competent journalists to collect the stories it will be neither balanced or reliable. A lack of competent copy editors to read, review and correct mistakes will further degrade the quality of online journalism. Heck, my mistakes are proof of that (the name of my blog notwithstanding).

Professors who teach journalism should level with their students that the immediate future for making a living at journalism is pretty dim. Some might even consider steering them into professions where they can actually pay rent and feed a family.

When I'm asked about careers in journalism this is my advice:

"If you are good at science and math, go into medicine. If not think about a career in a service industry or business (not even that looks too good right now). But the return on the investment of a journalism career today is pathetic. A military career provides a better and more secure living than journalism.

For those bent on pursuing a journalism education I simply wish them well and tell them they better be the one who invents a new form of online newspaper so good that people will actually pay for it.

I welcome your take on the future of journalism.

The bear checks in, finally

Someone from Russian checked into Free From Editors yesterday, the first visitor from that country.

That brings to 44 the number of separate countries that have visited here in just the past nine months. I have also had visitors from every state, except three, including North and South Dakota which really don't count as states anyway. Oh, all but three unless you use President-elect Barack Obama's map with 57 states (, in that event I'm missing ten states, but I just don't know which ones they are.

I spent a year in North Dakota one day. Why is there even a North Dakota? North Dakota is Indiana without the charm, the businesses and people.

In just the past month, owing in great part to the new buyout news at Booth, we have added 1,766 new free from editors readers.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A blood runs hot, or maybe cold story

If you don't want to get really, really mad this weekend. Don't follow this link I found on Reflections of a Newsosaur.

I've been writing this week about the arrogance this week of media bosses and this is simply a reinforcement of what I've been trying to get across.

For more on this subject:

What decent reporter wouldn't want to know what the various executives and top editors in their company makes?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rumors swirling about Detroit dailies

Everyone heard the news today about the rumored downsizing and potential end to home delivery for one, or both, of the Detroit dailies. A faithful Free From Editors reader dug up the attached link from Editor and Publisher:

Here's another take:

Sounds like a pretty bad Christmas for the Detroit newspapers.

Nothing I can add to this

Jim Carty over at Paper Tiger No More offers this today.

Nuff' said except "ditto" for the FJ.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some editing errors are worse, much worse, than others

Regret the error posted this very funny correction:

So right now there are at least three or four Free From Editors readers who are screaming, that sounds very much like the story of “Mrs. Bandit.”

Ah yes, Mrs. Bandit, a prime example of copy editing gone beserk.

Some years ago, I think this even pre-dates my arrival at the Flint Journal in 1989, but the story is legend. Well, it was legend until everyone who knew the story was swept out the door in the Great Buyout of 2007.

So here’s my chance to coattail onto the “bedwetter” story.

A fine reporter did a story on a motorcycle gang. One thing a street reporter learns very quickly is that motorcycle gang members guard their identity. After all, they have many natural enemies, many of whom wear badges and others who have marriage licenses with their names on it.

So the reporter identifies the gang member as “Bandit” his nickname. A woman with him was identified only vaguely, which was probably the way “Bandit” wanted it.

When the story was turned in for editing a persnickety editor decided that while “Bandit” was borderline acceptable for a news story, she couldn’t abide with the identification of Bandit’s female counterpart so she changed it to: “Mrs. Bandit” and sent it through for publication.

That brought an angry call from two people, “Bandit” who wanted to wrap a motorcycle handlebar around the reporter’s neck because he was not married to the woman, and the real “Mrs. Bandit” was not happy that another woman was married to her gang member.

So “Mrs. Bandit” has always been one of the benchmarks by which egregious editing errors are measured.

During my career I probably visited a half dozen motorcycle gang clubs following up on stories. As far as motorcycle gang members are concerned, reporters are just slightly higher on the “hate” list than police officers and bounty hunters.

I wouldn’t have wanted to be the reporter that got the call about calling a motorcycle rider a “bedwetter.”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

That's illegal?

Who knew there was corruption in Illinois politics?

Of course I'm referring to the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich this morning on the allegation that he was trying to "sell" President-elect Barack Obama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.

All over Chicago politicians were asking themselves: "That's illegal?"

Can you imagine Blagojevich's sales pitch?

"Pssst, let me tell you what happened to the last guy that had this Senate seat." That should drive the price up.

Apparently the good governor also tried to leverage his hatred for certain Chicago Tribune editorial writers into a deal where the State would help with remodeling Wrigley Field (owned by the Tribune Co.) in exchange for a quick exit of the editorial writers Blagojevich hated.

Another one bites the dust.

These guys are so good and funny too!

A new Vegas ad

A loyal Free From Editors reader sent along this photo.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I borrowed this from a blog, who borrowed the rewritten Holiday classic from an anonymous blogger:

To the tune : "Winter Wonderland" The reference to Craig and Dubow is to Gannett Corporation Chairman Craig A. Dubow.

Here's what I took from the blog:

“Death knells ring, are you listenin'?
Those let go, are a' bristlin'.
A horrible sight, cuts left and right, wallowing in Dubow's Wasteland.

Gone away, are some good birds, Here to stay, corporate's real turds;
As Craig rolls along, doing us wrong, wallowing in Dubow's Wasteland.

In the tower they will build a snow job, telling us that things will turn around.
We'll be back, they say, and we'll say, 'No, man!'
You've run a once-great firm into the ground.

Then next year, they'll conspire, to see whom else they can fire.
More phones will ring, and the reaper will bring, walking papers in Dubow's Wasteland.”

Any relation to other newspaper groups is strictly coincidental and unintended.

Giants in the news business in big, big trouble

News moves fast anymore. Here's a story on Monday about the pending bankruptcy filing of Sam Zell and his Tribune Co. empire:

Then just hours later this from the Huffington Post:

It's a shame for all the employees involved.

Thanks to a frequent FFE reader for the above.

Someone take Al Gore's Oscar away!

Where the heck is all this global warming? I'm thinking there's a new ice age moving in with the snow and cold that has descended on us here.

So far this year we have had 15-inches of snow, compared to 5-inches last year at this time and the low temperatures for Wednesday are predicted in the 5 to 7 degree range.

FJ posts its own story on changes

The Flint Journal posted its own story on the changes at the top a couple hours after I did.

The person I incorrectly identified as the managing editor is listed as the Local News Editor. All these years and I thought he was a managing editor. He certainly tries to act like one. But now he will be THE editor.

Following this paragraph I will post a link. Make sure you check out the comments, all complimentary so far. And who can argue with a poster named Rivethead.

I would take issue with the contention that the new interim editor has strong community ties to Flint. Since coming back to the Journal a dozen or more years ago he has commuted home to Lansing every day. Unlike many of us who were told when we were hired it was important that we live in the subscription area, the Local News Editor (I'm trying to get that straight now) has never moved closer to the area.

He eats nearly every lunch at his desk and I'm not sure he could find many of our local cities on a map. So his ties to the Flint community, in my humble opinion, are very weak.

Here's the link:

Editor out and up as of January 1

As I hinted earlier, there was an announcement this morning that Tony Dearing, the editor of the Flint Journal, will be moving on to a new assignment as of January 1.

Also, as I predicted, he will land on his feet in the Advance Internet (read MLive - the lamest newspaper website you can find) staff.

Supposedly he will be in charge of all online content. If this weren't so pathetic, it would actually be funny. This is the guy who once said that we might have to look for people "who wear their baseball caps on backwards" as examples for the direction we should take.

Maybe Booth thinks that the editor can do for MLive what he has done for the Flint Journal. Oh wait, that didn't go so good, did it?

In his place, to prove that the Peter Principle (edited from my earlier spelling) and the Brown Nose Principle (also edited from my earlier spelling - see I do need an editor once in awhile) are alive and well at Booth, will be the current managing editor. That will mean at least one or more of the managing editor's favorites will also survive. Word is they may even bring back an editor from another Booth publication down the road. All while they slash and burn the staff that actually produces the newspaper.

Whether the managing editor keeps the post permanently, or not, remains to be seen. I guess they say they are looking "outside" for a new editor. Yeah, there's an idea, hire another management person in a room already top heavy with them.

In the words of one of my friends: "Always remember the Flint Journal maxim - It can always get worse."

I have never felt worse for my friends left behind than I do at this minute.

I ask again: Is anyone in top management at Booth or Newhouse minding the store?

Stay tuned

Word is some big news will be coming out of the Flint Journal today. Could be, as a recent poster said, that the "Peter Principle" will be alive and well in the Booth and Newhouse chain.

I'll let you know.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Best hockey game of the year

It was a tough drive down to the Joe (Joe Louis Arena) last night for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks hockey game, but boy, was it worth it.

My friend Greg and I purchased a series of nine tickets (Gordie Howe series - jersey number 9, get it?), and this was one of the games on our series.

It took about 20 minutes longer than usual to get there from home, but still arrived with a half hour to game time.

Detroit started out quickly scoring two quick goals within the first few minutes and it looked like it was going to be a rout.

But then Chicago caught fire and in one of the best defensive performances this year against the Wings eventually made the score 4-2. Greg and I had seen 3 straight wins, but this looked to be a loss until the Wings found the mark with two goals to tie it with ten minutes to go.

Then there was a five-minute overtime that resulted in no goals and then a shoot-out.

Pavel Datsyuk (see photo above) put in the first shoot-out goal and that was all that was needed to win. Ty Conklin looked shaky in the first two periods, but then looked really sharp the rest of the way, including stopping three shoot-out shots.

Our section (218) was rowdy and included a number of Chicago Blackhawk fans and a bus load of Canadian junior hockey players who were more interested in drinking beer and yelling at passing women than rooting for either team on the ice.

Eventually they drew enough attention that security arrived and discovered they were drinking underage and that slowed things for the rest of the evening.

While we were in the arena, the snow stopped and the drive home was a little slower due to icy roads, but nonetheless wonderful considering the great game we just saw. When the radio announcer on the post-game show called it the "best game of the year," we had to agree.

Go Wings!