Killing the crap to save the news

Howard Kurtz — and most of the newspaper industry — is getting it wrong. Kurtz laments cutbacks at newspapers, fearing it will cut investigative reporting. I think what he should lament is the refusal of newspaper editors to wake up and smell the latte: all the wasted froth that squanderes their budgets. The newspaper has to learn what its real value is and that is, indeed, reporting and its editors have to stop defending raw numbers of bodies. They need to boil themselves down to their essence and they haven’t had the courage to do that yet. Stop wasting money on commodity news, ego, and fear and start investing it in reporting again.

: Roy Greenslade agrees to disagree with Kurtz:

Without wishing to be unduly rude about US journalists, seen from the British perspective, it appears that there are far too many of them being far too unproductive. The LA Times has 980 journalists at present, a huge staff compared to any serious British national paper. Yet we manage to hold our government to account. Ask Tony Blair is he can get away with anything without being scrutinised.

Now, I’m fully aware of the different journalistic cultural differences between us and them. I’m certainly not urging that US newsrooms should be cut to the quick. But it appears to me that there’s been a lot of feather-bedding on big monopoly metro papers in the States and the current crisis is providing an opportunity to hack away the hacks who do not contribute. Kurtz concludes: “If this erosion continues, it would be bad news for serious journalism, and good news for corrupt politicians.” But Howard, please get this into proportion. There’s a revolution going on and we need to think positively about that.

Amen, brother bombthrower.

And here comes Juan Antonio Giner with a lit fuse:

Of course … you need journalists, but for what?

To re-package the same news from the same sources?

To attend the same boring press conferences?

To publish today the same news that our readers knew YESTERDAY?

To produce pages and pages of commodity information with no value added?

To edit pages and pages of listings that could go directly to our web site?

To attend long and badly planned news meetings?

To expend hours and hours in front of our computers?

To work with not real feed-back from your editors?

To work with no time to think?

The real challenge in our industry is not how many people do we need, but to know how to change the rules and traditions of a newsroom management system that does not work anymore.

Firtst fix the newsroom management system, and then let´s discuss how many people do we need.

And then we will not have any problem to keep or find the best talent.

Today´s problem is the opposite: newspapers are loosing or not attracting talented people because our newsrooms are not creative places to work, to discuss, and to dream.

I am not about the people that leave (many of them with great early retirement packages) but about the people that stay in our newsrooms to work under the same conditions.

It is vital — for the survival of news(papers) that we have guts enough to rediscover our real value and essence and build from there. Cutbacks can help.

I think you begin by deconstructing the newspaper.

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  • Jeff,

    You will excuse my “flight-by-night, hole-in-the-wall, NY-taxi-driver-English”, and please find here the corrected last paragraph of my quote:

    I am not worried about the people that leave (many of them with great early retirement packages) but about the people that stay in our newsrooms to work under the same conditions.

    If blogger needs something is first class and reliable spelling and grammar tools.

    Said that, mea culpa.

  • Vulgorilla

    What I want from a newspaper is just that … the news. I want it reported as accurately as possible, and with nothing intentionally omitted, or fabricated, to support some internal political agenda or bias. I cancelled my newspaper subscription, as well as my news magazine subscriptions because I could not obtain what I just wrote I wanted above.

    I refuse to pay for propaganda, so the Internet is my sole source of news. Yes it takes a while to compile it from a number of different sources, but I get what I can’t get from a newspaper/news magazine. Good luck!

  • Dave Grace

    I agree with you that there is a revolution on, and it’s time we start to think positivley about it. Established news organizations are now having to deal with heavy competition from online sources, which is starting a processes of evolution in those newsrooms. I think its great that people are starting to think in fresh ways about news and making changes happen, the only way to keep anything alive, let alone the press, is to adapt as the environment changes.
    This is a great topic of discusion, thanks.

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  • “It is vital — for the survival of news(papers) that we have guts enough to rediscover our real value and essence and build from there.”

    It is much simpler: just follow what the consumers want.
    In a fast changing society the communication means HAVE to change FAST.
    Or to die.
    “Everything must change in order to be always the same”
    Do newspaper want to attract customers as they used to?
    They have to understand that life has changed and so the consumers’ needs.
    When TV appeared Hollywood slowly adapted to the new reality and came to people’s home.
    Now the Internet has revolutioned the way people buy, entertain and inform themselves.
    So that stores, entertainments and information HAS to come to them or just loose them.
    This is the choice to do.
    And it won’t be painless, because gone are also the big revenues.
    In a virtual world everything has got very cheap, because there is no paper, no printing, not even few almost monopolistic newspaper, and many which recooked the same news.
    There is a huge world which is slowly opening, which could mean huge revenues because of the number.
    Yes, in today’s world what makes good revenues is the huge number.
    What about a newspaper on line for a 10 dollars yearly fee?
    Or even less.
    It looks very cheap, but it could be profitable.
    What about a newspaper made by many selected articles, to suit the tastes of the people.
    What about many niche markets?
    What about real news in real time?
    What about a newspaper which is international and in the same time has local news?
    What about the end of “the same size fits all?”
    This is the beautiful of the Internet and the virtual THING: everything is cheaply possible.
    And the one who will have the best ideas in the shortest time, HE will be the winner.
    No, the newspaper time is not over, it just began…

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