Really lame-O

Another Monday, another lame point/counterpoint in my Metro Daily Newspaper.
This week, the debate is over whether Joe Wilson was out of line when he shouted at the president 12 DAYS AGO(!).
Glad I didn’t wait for the O wise ones to enlighten me.

Why bother?

I used to say that under M. Sill the target reader for the N&O became the lonely commuter.
Now, I’m not sure what to make of it, especially on Monday when it looks like half of the paper (maybe more like 2/3 of some sections) has been an exercise in going through the motions.


In just a few short years my local metro daily has become tiny – the width is down, the sections collapsed or consolidated, ads have drifted to the front page or section page and it’s all blurbing and ‘read more about this on the web.’
Yet, with some frequency they still insist on devoting space on sharing insights on major Hollywood motion pictures, new TV shows and the latest adventure of Lady Gaga. They are boxed in by an old way of thinking, imagining that they still keep the fires of pop culture just as they insist on being the conduit of conventional political wisdom. The game remains very much one of delivering an assortment of wire stories deemed essential and interesting.
There continues to be good investigative work being done by good reporters and editors who will do so until the bitter end or they break down and take the buyout. But they have got to be thinking that rather than the standard bearers, they are now the odd birds in this mix – especially as each of them rotates through an obligatory cops shift or fills in to cover a beat that no long has no one assigned to it.
And it’s those smaller beats in the smaller towns that are falling away only to suddenly be covered again when something controversial, quirky or man-bites-dog comes along. Covering the day to day grind of local government and writing the diary of the life of a community has no place in the bottom line anymore. This is where I worry more about the loss of daylight.

Not necessarily the news

Dear Mr. Editor,
I am not interested in the least whether or not Miss California keeps her and I certainly don’t need a teaser for it on the front page of a morning newspaper in a state thousands of miles away. You must be watching too much television. Or something.
If I want to watch Entertainment Tonight or some other crap I shall do so. Please don’t feel you need to help me keep up with pap.


Newspaper people

Read this blog post about the N&O layoffs.
A lot of the people headed out the door today in Raleigh were the people many of us turned to to try to better understand our government, our state, its people and places.
They contributed some of the best journalism ever produced in this state and some of the most important. Their work represents the best in a free press.
Their departures represent everything wrong with this industry.

Gillmor’s concern

One of the things I’ve always liked about listening to Dan Gillmor is his straightforward delivery. He seems more interested in technology and innovations as tools for better journalism – it’s not about wow, it’s more what can we – what can you – do with this?
At his recent visit to UNC and Duke, Gillmor outlined his research into the demand side of journalism. He started out with a bit of comfort to those of us trying to make the supply side work saying that he’s optimistic that new models for journalism operations are going to emerge. The demand side is another story.
Note: I’ll post a couple of videos from this talk in a day or two.
I’m glad to see thinking in this direction because it is a much bigger problem than a few chains unraveling or even figuring how to sell ads online.
What do people really want out of their papers, web sites, iPhones? If you can program your own news flow do you block out opposing ideas? Is journalism worth something to most people?
These are important questions because I am afeared that the brand has been damaged. The age of dis-informers, chattering pundits and star-driven infotainment has left the image of what journalism is or does in a shambles. At the same time the downsizing of the metro-dailies, the fumbling about with web models and the utter disdain by established sources for bloggers and new media innovators are eroding faith – and probably trust – in traditional local sources.
One interesting parallel is the result we’re seeing now in trying to deal with the economy. It is indisputably a moment for federal action yet many can’t shake the deeply embedded idea that government is the problem.
When we go out looking for support for journalistic endeavors will the response be based on a similar reaction or do people still feel connected to the work of the courthouse reporter and the city desk?
Gillmor is right, I think we’ll eventually get the supply side figured out. But if there’s little demand it won’t make a damn bit of difference.

Not so careful

I’m starting to hear the names of the people McClatchy has discarded (talk about not knowing when to hold ’em and fold ’em). In addition to the many people who make the Char-O and the N&O go, there are some really key journalists who are now roadkill on the way to the next debt restructuring. And again, I remind y’all – This was at papers that were making money. They just weren’t sending enough to Sacramento. This is not about flagging ad sales or higher costs (newsprint is actually going down in price) or the beloved internet-that-will-solve-everything. This is about debt and lousy business decisions.