Posts about newspapers

Digital deja vu

I just noticed, via the Editors’ Weblog, that the Dallas Morning News is going to insert CD-ROMs into the paper in April.

I don’t get it: Two old media equal a new medium? When was the last time you stuck a CD-ROM into your computer? Now this has allegedly been working in Europe, though I thought that was often for distribution of music CDs and Murdoch complains that it doesn’t permanently raise circulation:

It’s like magazines giving away sneakerphones to get you to subscribe…. or newspapers keeping TV listings to keep you subscribing. It’s not about the core product: news, local news. And there is a much better, more dynamic, less expensive, more personal way to delivery digital content: It’s called the internet.

The last great technological innovation from the Dallas Morning News, let’s remember, was the Cuecat.

I smell fear

Reading the agenda of the World Newspaper Congress in the Kremlin — the Kremlin! — in June, I sense foreboding. Some of the sessions:

Should newspapers welcome citizen journalists? … But what are the consequences for quality newspaper journalism? By inviting their public to participate, are newspapers harming their primary function or is citizen journalism a useful means of maintaining relationships with the “free generation?” …

One of the most pressing dilemmas newspapers face today is how to integrate audio, video and interactivity into their news production. Should print journalists be trained on multiple platforms? Or should newspapers join forces with other media companies to provide multimedia news? …

Web portals and news agencies: new threats to newspapers? New media mean new competition for newspapers. News aggregators lead readers to other sources and Internet companies produce original content. News agencies directly access the public though their websites, skipping the newspaper middleman. …

Lessons from the Mohammed cartoon clash… Six panelists will discuss if there are limits for press freedom and how media responsibility can work in a globalized world. …

Media credibility: should newspapers rewrite editorial guidelines?…

Not a club of happy campers, I’d say. That’s all from the forum, which seems focused on the newsroom. The congress — which seems focused on the business side — concentrates, more wisely, on innovation. I like the title of this talk by Carolyn McCall, chief exec of Guardian Newspapers (where — full disclosure — I write and will consult): “How Guardian Newspapers Limited changed everything except our values in just 12 months.” And I’d say some new values are fair game, too. And I’d say the editors should be concentrating on innovation as well.

They doth protest too much

The newspaper industry is spending $50 million to convince advertisers that it’s not dying, trumping the $40 million the magazine industry is spending to the same end. I agree with Rafat: If they took a fraction of that money and invested in experimentation and development of new ideas, it would pay off a lot more than this.

Mooning the blogosphere

I thought they got it. Now I’m not so sure.

Just as the duststorm over shutting down the comments on the Washington Post blog had settled down, Jim Brady, editor of WashingtonPost.com, decided to stir the shit and to do it from the mighty pulpit of the Post in print.

He moons the blogosphere.

Three-quarters of the way through the piece, Brady does spend three paragraphs (starting with, “Personally…”) giving a good description of the positive relationship between the press and blogs, but he spends the rest of the piece whining about every unpleasant thing that happened to him in the ombudstink.

This is not productive. It’s him telling the world how nasty and mean bloggers can be and were to him. Of course, there’s no saying how many of the 27.9 million blogs roughed him up on the playground. And there’s also no saying how many of the people who left playground epithets in his comments were, indeed, bloggers. By not naming the culprits who roughed him up, Brady also makes it seem as if they were somehow representative of more. He acknowledges that these were the comments of the few. So then, what makes them so newsworthy?

If you can’t stand the heat, Jim, get out of the pressroom.

You’d think that newsmen were tough, but the truth is that as a breed, they’re crybabies. They are used to dishing it out but not taking it. Oh, sure, they may be defter at the dishing. But ask any civilian who has ever been criticized or misrepresented in print how it feels. They don’t get a page of the Post to wail about it.

When the going gets tough, the reflex of the big-media guys is to retreat behind a roll of paper and whine about those people out there. Those people, otherwise known as the public they supposedly want to serve. Those people, also known as us.

I’m not sure why Brady did it. Perhaps this was his sop to the print newsroom people who have been pissing and moaning about those mean bloggers. Perhaps he wanted his own revenge, big time. But it’s unbecoming. Brady sinks to the whiny level of those he dislikes as if to say, “Oh, yeah, well, same to you, buddy!” Yes, that helps.

I’ll amend what I said in my advice to the Post on interactivity with a change of venue:

Too many people judge interactivity by the worst of it, which is rather like refusing to visit New York Washington because you hear there are a few assholes there. This, I think, comes mostly from people who wish they could dismiss interactivity, and the internet and blogs with it. Sorry, but interactivity — and New York Washington — are here to stay.

Brady took to the pages of the Post to concentrate not on the best of his experience online but the worst. He mentions a chat about this incident in which I participated but he concentrates only one his pissing match with a blogger there, making it seem as if this represented the quality of the interaction. He is the representative of online at the Washington Post and this is the face he puts on interactivity with the public. What he thinks that accomplishes, I don’t know.

: LATER: Says a blog with a long title:

Deborah Howell said something that made people angry. In the past those people might have written a letter to the editor. (We all know how often those get printed.) They might have grumbled to their friends at the bar. H*ll, they might have used the newspaper to wipe their a**. But now they have a place to say something.

(In other words, people were questioning the size and effectiveness of your genitalia in the past, Brady. You just couldn’t hear them.)

The magic of democractic participation. You can say stupid things when you’re angry that make you look like an idiot. G-d bless America.

:David Crisp says in the comments that I’m offbase:

…he blogosphere has taken what was once a small fraction of public feedback and magnified it a million times. Even the most thoughtful bloggers frequently have comment threads full of the worst kind of filth and abuse — most of it anonymous and without even the cooling-off period that finding a stamp and envelope requires.

It’s a problem the blogosphere will have to deal with if it’s going to grow up.

I reply:

And how do you propose we “deal with” that? How about ignoring the anonymous assholes and paying attention to the many people who have something worthwhile to say and judging the public and its interactivity on that basis instead of the one on which Brady would have his readers judge it?…

: Dan Gillmor says Brady is overly defensive:

Now, stop whining about it.

Brady points out, correctly, that the Abramoff scandal’s unveiling is due in large part to the Post’s own reporting: brilliant and dogged tracking of this sleazy activity that should make the paper proud. But he doesn’t acknowledge that the Post’s online arm enabled the hate-fest by not making its comment system more robust and less prone to gaming. (He knows about the problem, having told me so in a recent email.) Brady somewhat undermines his complaints with this omission.

Traditional news organizations are learning how to deal with the kind of harsh feedback that bloggers get every day. A thicker skin helps, but better is a willingness to truly listen.

I think the Post is doing better online than all but a handful of other newspapers. It can do better yet.
: Kos says Brady digs the hole deeper by saying that Abramoff directed clients to contribute to both parties and asks for the reporting to badk that up.

Abstain

Even in the fraternity of ombudsmen, The Times Byron Calame is boring. Today’s hot topic: printing roll-call votes.