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Posts Tagged ‘newsosaur’



Press Clips: Why Is NPR in Thrall to Prince Gavin?

Friday, August 7th, 2009

newsom_2_JPGWe were floored to listen to Madeleine Brand’s nine-minute story on the California governor’s race on NPR on Tuesday. Not because that’s a huge amount of time to spend on the race — which it is — but because half the damn thing consisted of an interview with Gavin Newsom (she didn’t interview any other candidates).

The piece also included an interview with the Chron’s Carla Marinucci, whose comments were edited so her money quote cast the race exactly the way  Newsom and his strategist, Garry “Svengali” South, want to define it: as a “generational contest.” Whether Prince of Prides Newsom can succeed in cubbyholing Crusty the General Jerry Brown as a drooling geezer seems to Calbuzz a dubious proposition, at best.

What we found most interesting in the NPR piece was Newsom’s decision to underline strongly his claim to fame as the No. 1 advocate for gay marriage, after  downplaying it in recent months; when Calbuzz asked him about it in March, for example, he said, “People, from my perspective, have really moved on . . . The new realities of the economy are much more pressing in people’s minds.”

But on NPR, he not only embraced his role on the issue, but reveled in it. For the record, he said: “There are certain fundamental values that I hold dear and there are principles that I’ll fight for. I believe in equality. It’s not just a slogan; it’s not just rhetoric. Actually, I want to champion it, I want to fight for it. I’m someone who just doesn’t believe separate is equal . . . I won’t equivocate.”

burningpapersThe decline and fall of practically everything: Thanks to our friend Alan Mutter over at Reflections of a Newsosaur for pointing us to an excellent post at Content Bridges that provides the first quantitative analysis of the journalistic impact of all the financial cuts in the newspaper industry.

The site is operated by former Knight-Ridder guru Ken Doctor, who put together stats on the number of journalism jobs slashed by daily newspapers – 8,500 in the last two years alone – and reductions in pages devoted to news – an estimated half of the 40 percent decline in newsprint usage – to calculate a loss of 828,000 news stories a year, “neither written nor read,” as Doctor put it.

It’s easy enough to trash newspapers and those who run them, and Lord knows Calbuzz does our share, for being arrogant, out of touch and slow off the mark to adjust to the wacky world of the web. But 828,000 fewer stories means that people across the nation know a helluva’ lot less about what’s going on in city halls, cop shops, courtrooms, school boards and state capitals than they did just a few years ago. And that ain’t good for the public interest, no matter how clueless some newspaper editors may be.

P.S. The big buzz in the news industry this week was Aussie press baron Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he intends to start charging readers for content on all web sites of his far-flung News Corp. empire.

difipencilNext up – podcasting with Dianne: Check your thesaurus for an antonym for “blogger,” and you’ll find a big picture of Dianne Feinstein; California’s straight-laced Senator is just about the purest antithesis imaginable of the pajamadin.

So Calbuzz was shocked the other day to find Difi joining the likes of Alec Baldwin, John Waters and Nora Ephron in Arianna’s lineup of celebrity bloggers over at the Huffington Post.

No doubt, Herself’s piece on warrantless wiretaps was Really Important but still: She managed in a single post to  a) put everyone to sleep from the start by employing the dreaded historical lede –- 2 ½ paragraphs worth of it; b) leave us scratching our heads about her central point by omitting the crucial nut graf, and c) churn out a thicket of verbiage as impenetrable as a Brillo pad, laced with bureaucratic Beltway-speak like this:

“Initially, the OLC based its opinion on the president’s inherent constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief. Subsequently, the OLC shifted its rationale to rely upon the Authorization for the Use of Military Force…”

Memo to Dianne: Don’t quit your day job.

mouthpiece

Not exactly “Frontline”: Class act kudos to Chris Cillizza of “The Fix,” for graciously extracting himself from “Mouthpiece Theatre,” the WashPost’s dreadful experiment in multi-media infotainment.

For the past several months, Cillizza served as sidekick to the spectacularly unfunny Post humor writer Dana Milbank in an online video schtick called “Mouthpiece Theatre” in which the two donned smoking jackets, wielded pipes and parodied political pundits, playing it for yuks, which were few and far between.

Last week, they keyed off Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates and the Cambridge cop who arrested him, assigning several dozen obscure brands of beers to various politicians; the creaky episode collapsed completely when they put up a photo of Hillary Clinton and Milbank suggested she should drink “Mad Bitch” beer, a crack that earned the players and their paper widespread condemnation in media, political and feminist circles.

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review’s site, Megan Barber wrote:

“One wonders how much of the Post staff’s time and resources were devoted to researching, writing, staging, shooting, and editing such an extraordinarily value-free contribution to the annals of political commentary. Milbank and Cillizza are no Stewart/Colbert—they’re not even Letterman/O’Brien—not only because they’re simply not as funny, but because their status as (ostensibly) reporters means that they owe us more than lame-puns-for-the-sake-of-lame-puns, as per the typical humor of late-night TV.”

In a substantially lighter vein, comic Andy Cobb did a terrific You Tube send-up of the show

On Wednesday, media writer Howard Kurtz broke the news that the suits at the Post had pulled the plug on “Mouthpiece Theatre.” Cillizza, to his credit, made a clean breast of things on his blog.

The smug,  self-absorbed, fratboy Milbank also apologized in Kurtz’s piece, kinda, sorta but did so in a predictably self-serving way:

“It’s clear there was an audience for it out there, but not large enough to justify all the grief. My strength is in observational, in-the-field stuff, and that’s what I should do. I’m sorry about the reaction it’s caused but I think it’s important to experiment. The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don’t take enough risks.”

Calbuzz decoder ring translation: The little people just aren’t smart enough to appreciate my genius.

lingand leeLee and Ling and One Limp Neo-Con: Like all journalists, Calbuzz felt great concern about Euna Lee and Laura Ling and, back in June, offered space to Betty Medsger to advocate on their behalf. So we were delighted when former president Bill Clinton was able to bring them home from North Korea the other day. It was a wonderful exercise of personal diplomacy with the nutcase Kim Jong Il, who was most likely confused about whether he was posing for snaps with Clinton or Elvis, his one true hero.bolton Anyway, we were jazzed by the release of the two journos.

So when former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton immediately declared that the successful mission actually was “a classic case of rewarding bad behavior,” we just had to make a note — of what a complete dick this guy is.

Reflections On The S.F. Chronicle

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


By Jerry Roberts

I started working at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1977, as a temporary, vacation relief general assignment reporter, and left a quarter-century later, after serving five years as the paper’s Managing Editor.

For most of my Chronicle career, the paper was owned and operated by the descendants of Charles and Michael de Young, who founded it as the Daily Dramatic Chronicle in 1865. In 2000, the family sold out to the Hearst Corp., which struggled with the paper’s finances from the day they bought it; two weeks ago, Hearst executives announced they would shut down The Chronicle unless employee unions made massive concessions, starting with the disappearance of at least 150 jobs.

The financial woes afflicting the Chronicle mirror those of once-flush metro dailies across the country; the rapid economic and cultural changes shaped by the internet shattered their business model of aggregating a general interest, geographically discrete, mass audience to sell to local and national advertisers at premium rates.

For a newspaper junkie who spent more than half my life in daily newsrooms before moving to academia in 2007, the decline of the Chronicle and of the industry is heart-breaking to watch. Here are my own two (three, actually) cents on what’s happened and where things may be headed:

1-The future for newspaper journalists lies in fully understanding – and truly accepting, once and for all – that the value of the product is the news, not the paper, then moving full speed ahead on some version of web-to-print publication that merges daily breaking news coverage with a one-to-three day-a-week print product focused on analysis, opinion and explanatory journalism.

2-News organizations, regardless of platform, should concentrate intensely on three fundamental value propositions:

a) Local news, which comprehensively covers, uncovers and demystifies the information that is most directly and immediately relevant to folks in their communities – public safety, schools, government actors and actions, arts and entertainment, for starters – as consumers, taxpayers and citizens (as sites like Noozhawk and independent.com do in Santa Barbara)

b) Collaborative investigative reporting that bulds on and fulfills the traditional watchdog responsibilities of public service journalism, by aligning and strengthening the organization’s own reporting resources with the expertise, passion and reporting power of online communities (as the Sun-Sentinel did in its Pulitizer short list investigative series on FEMA mismanagement of hurricane disaster relief).

c) Intelligent aggregation and synthesis that brings clarity to the vast mass of daily information that pounds each of us all day, every day, by discovering and highlighting the most important and revealing online reporting and commentary (with models that RealClearPolitics, Huffpost and Daily Beast, among others, are in the process of developing hourly).

3-The current, webwise conventional wisdom that newspaper executives and editors were stubbornly blind to the huge implications of the digital revolution for their businesses is just wrong. Every news organization and editor I know, going back 10 years and more – does anyone at the Chron remember the 39 Steps of the Change Project? – were working hard to reinvent and reposition their products for an era of radical transformation.

It is true that most of these efforts inadequately foresaw the full scope and speed of the coming change; however, they fell short in larger part because the executives and editors charged with finding and navigating the New Media pathways to change were under simultaneous, unstinting demands to ensure that the Old Media legacy products continued to serve, maintain and expand existing, aging audiences in the fullest possible way.

Under the insistent demand for short-term results and profits, the Production Imperative of putting out the best damn daily paper possible inevitably trumped the Mandate for Change, so that rethinking and reinvention mostly remained timid tweaking around the margins.

However, the problem was less a failure of imagination of what the future would look like, as the lofty thinkers of the web world smugly argue, than a failure to bite the bullet, by cutting loose and redirecting critical mass amounts of resources, in the form of time and labor of substantial numbers of reporters, editors and business side employees.

This both/and proposition meant that the short-term, daily deadline driven Sisyphean slog up the hill always took precedence over the long-range necessity to provide the luxury of time needed to experiment, discover and, yes, even fail, in properly exploring ideas, platforms, operations and organizational structures required to forge the right strategies and goals to adapt Old Media forms to New Media realities.

These four links offer an up-to-date, if disheartening, overview of the rapidly moving transformation of the news media landscape.

The East Bay Express details how Hearst in San Francisco has made a take it or leave it offer to the Newspaper Guild to accept the loss of 150 of 460 jobs at the Chronicle – and fast – or suffer the loss of 225 instead.

In Seattle, Hearst is moving to turn the print editions of its Post-Intelligencer into an online only product,

Over at his newsosaur blog, my old city editor Alan Mutter provides the best, smartest and most fact-based real time coverage of newspapers in transition, including a recent two-parter about paid online content (featuring a discussion of the situation in Santa Barbara).

Finally, the Times today has a takeout on the feasibility of the non-profit model for print products, using Mother Jones magazine as a case study, another financial alternative now being widely discussed.