My Ideal News, uh, Thingy

I’m not affiliated with and don’t have any knowledge of the newspaper business. You could make the case that this doesn’t make my opinion worth much, but if you consider the performance over the last few years of people who do know the business, maybe doing something different warrants some consideration.

Jack Lail has been posting recently about possible new ways to calculate compensation for journalists, and in a post today hit on something:

At my newspaper, we have been distributing daily top 10 lists of articles based on page views to the entire newsroom for a year or more. The lists are not used for compensation and do seem to provide instant market insights about what readers found interesting.

The way I see it, newspapers, for now, are positioned to provide three things that are at a high premium and that most blogs/bloggers can’t deliver. I think most would be wise to capitalize on these by shifting the state of mind from being a newspaper to becoming a news organization/outlet/center:

Excellent writing
Not just good writing. For now, newspapers have a large market share of excellent writers. That’s a part of the market I’d want to keep. Let the good writers go if you have to, but keep the excellent writers around. That means paying them well. If you don’t, you will eventually lose the excellent writers to their own endeavors, and you’ll be stuck with nothing but good writers. Good writing is nice, but it doesn’t make you much more special that the thousands of independent blogs that feature above average writers.

Investigative journalism
The time, resources, and energy it takes to dig (and dig, and dig) for a story set newspapers and real journalists apart from everyone else. Give us more stories that take time to develop. Give us stories that, in short, no one else can. In most cases, that would mean increased concentration on local news, and pulling back on stories happening elsewhere. And sports? Please. The account of a football game that was attended by 100,000 people, viewed by millions, and opined about (real time) on countless message boards and blogs has little value the day after the event. Does it sell copies? I’m sure of it. Does it sell as many copies as it did 10 years ago? I’d guess probably not, per capita. And if you’re now going to count web clicks instead of copies, newspaper web sites definitely don’t have the market share that the print version of the paper had 10 years ago. It doesn’t seem like a good place for resources long term. It may be time to start scaling back or redirecting resources.

Being community hubs
Newspapers have a huge asset that takes years to create–name recognition in their local markets. It makes sense to capitalize on that by being first to that market with resources that connect the community. Instead of viewing local bloggers as competitors and hacks, find a way to leverage them as a way to drive traffic. Become the place that the community uses to find local blogs. The bad news? It’s may already be too late. In my local market, the News Sentinel caught on remarkably early, and even goes so far as to feature bloggers on the front page of their web site on the weekends and has built a community aggregator. In other markets, it has taken a while, and links to other sites and blogs still aren’t featured or easy to find. As a result, other organizations have stepped up and are trying to fill the void left by what should have been the logical market owner.

It is great to see some newspapers are catching on and are willing to try something new or go in a different direction. At the same time, it’s frustrating to see the industry as a whole belly aching about its problems. Face the facts–not only are the rules of the game changing rapidly, but the game itself is evolving.

I mean, this isn’t the record industry. You guys may actually have to change.

He’s Ba-ack!

EJ’s Damn Sexy Morality Void has finally been updated. I ran into him Sunday and there are a ton of new stories that he could post. The question–when will he? Unfortunately, he can’t spell or punctuate all that well, but he has a way with words that is rivaled only by his way with women.

she asks me on a date. i say yes so we go into another room for our date.

How romantic.

A Bold Prediction

If Hillary doesn’t win in New Hampshire, you’ll see her crying on TV at least 4 times between January 9th and February 5th. What do I base that statement on? Mostly this:

Another woman in the group, Alison Hamilton of Portsmouth, New Hampshire said she, like most of the people in the group, had been considering Obama.

But after seeing Clinton become emotional, she said she was going to vote for Clinton.

“That was the clincher,” Hamilton said.

I’m sure they’ll poll it first to see if crying will actually work for her, and they’ll probably (correctly) determine that it will turn some people off. But then again, they aren’t exactly appealing to people’s rational side to begin with, so why not jump off the cliff and appeal to their emotions completely? By then it will be her only chance.

The real challenge for her will be turning on the waterworks on demand. Her best bet would be recalling someone something Bill did.

***UPDATE***

Here’s the video

[youtube MVlwH7-05Fk]

This Hits a Nerve

XKCD is an online comic strip for nerds.  Usually they stick to programming, uh, “jokes” and making fun of the fact that nerds can’t get girls.  I have had chick-getting skills so I mostly like this strip to laugh at my peers.  But this one cut pretty deep…

More From New Hampshire

Rogel has posted another update from New Hampshire on the Ron Paul Town Hall Meeting and a couple of quips:

I can develop the point of tell me “Tell me who is campaigning for you and I tell you who you are” but I will leave it with reminding that Chuck Norris is actively campaigning for the huckster.

Lessons From the Record Industry

Seth Godin has a great post today on the lessons to be learned from the music business.  It’s a little lengthy for a Godin post, but it’s definitely worth the full read.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but here goes: suing people is like going to war. If you’re going to go to war with tens of thousands of your customers every year, don’t be surprised if they start treating you like the enemy.

This point alone is a lesson that the record companies themselves still don’t seem to have learned.

Reports From New Hampshire

Rogel packed up the whole family and carted them from New York to New Hampshire to participate in the primaries.  He’s reporting back some of his experiences, and a couple of funny anecdotes:

In the background my wife listen to a conversation between a Ron Paul supporter and a McCain supporter – The Ron Paul supporter tried to explain that monetary policy is the main issue and that, obviously, Ron Paul is the ideal candidate to deal with the economic crisis. Frustrated with the other supporter ignorance he urged him “You have to read Hayek and Mises”. He lost him at “you have to read” observed my wife.

I really enjoy reading these “man on the street” type reports from regular folks like you and me.  He isn’t beholden to any editor or corporation to dictate what he writes, giving him the chance to tell it the way he sees it.  Keep it up, and keep posting updates!

Sooner Or Later They Catch On

A little over two weeks ago, Ron Paul made a morning appearance on Fox and Friends and made a slightly controversial statement that was talked about (a little bit) in the blogosphere well into the next evening.  Pretty sticky story, huh?

Now, as far as newspapers go, our local New Sentinel is pretty forward thinking and aware when it comes to blogs and online media.  I’d wager to say they are ahead of the curve.  So why did they wait until January 3 to publish an editorial on Dr. Paul’s comments?  Did it take that long to pen an opinion?  I mean, it may be better than I could do, but it isn’t that well written.  Countless people wrote about this within a couple of hours.

I realize Mr. Korda doesn’t have editorials posted very often, which actually makes this column even more disappointing.  If you’re going to have me sit on the edge of my seat for two weeks waiting on an editorial, at least give me something timely.

I’m a little embarrassed for all of the Ron Paul supporters who bothered writing responses defending him over a story this ancient.  The fact that the entire column is based on a comment taken out of context is nothing when you consider that George Korda must have spent most of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays carving it into a slab of stone with hammer and chisel.

If you’re wondering why the newspaper industry is having problems…

My (sort of) Smoke Free Workplace

The company I work for removed all smoking areas upon our return on Wednesday as the second part of their plan to eliminate smoking on our campus completely.  The State of Tennessee is eventually going to make us do it anyway, right?  As of January 2, employees are only allowed to smoke in their cars.

I bet on the under (2 days) and was unpleasantly pleased to find I’d won with plenty of breathing room when I walked into the restroom yesterday and smelled cigarette smoke less than 12 hours after the ban had been implemented.

Isn’t it funny that treating people like children almost guarantees they will act like children?

The next bet is how long it will take for the company to require management to take turns patroling the restrooms to catch outlaw smokers.

The Wire and The Press

Last night we watched the first episode of season 5 of The Wire, and it is already shaping up to be very interesting. This season is focusing heavily on the newsroom of The Baltimore Sun and how news is sorted and reported. The best quote so far is, “I wonder what it’s like to work for a real newspaper,” which is ironically the same thing said about the Baltimore Police Department in season 3.

All we know of the newsroom so far is that staff has been cut by the parent corporation in Chicago, and the older guys who can actually write (“you don’t want to say that people were evacuated”) are being pushed out in favor of young kids who see the Sun only as a stopping point on their way to The Times or The Post.

One thing I’ve noticed about The Wire is that it exposes the fact that every profession they’ve examined is made up of people that basically fit into the same categories. There are always people who only care about their stats, the people that are there to do the minimum to get the paycheck, the ones who are only interested in furthering their careers, and the ones who do the job because it is a part of who they are and only want to do their best work. So far this has held true for police, politicians, teachers, drug dealers, thieves, and sometimes drug addicts.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the newsroom.