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US Digest: staff down at Variety; ads down at Ars Technica; sense down at FishbowlDC

It’s the end of something at Variety, and Roger Ebert isn’t happy

The biggest media news from the other side of the pond this morning was the laying off of two of Variety’s marquee critics. Chief film critic Todd McCarthy and chief theatre critic David Rooney were let go amid staff cuts that will see the magazine feature freelance reviews only.

The NYT have the full story here, and PoynterOnline have the staff memo, in which editor Tim Gray seems happy to offend exiting colleagues and readers alike with statements like: “Today’s changes won’t be noticed by readers.”

“It’s the end of something, I don’t know what” said McCarthy. The first thing that springs to mind is: your staff job at Variety, Mr. McCarthy. But he may have had Roger Ebert’s subscription to the magazine in mind:

No reprieve on death row interview policy

From Associated Press, news that the Supreme Court has decided against any changes to the federal prison policy preventing death-row inmates giving interviews to journalists.

The decision was prompted by an appeal from David Paul Hammer, an inmate in Terre Haute, Indiana. Hammer claimed that the policy, which came into effect after the Oklahoma City bombing, violated his constitutional right to free speech.

Twenty-three media organisations urged the Supreme Court to hear Hammer’s case.

Ars Technica and its readers kiss and make up after ad-blocking stand-off


An interesting development in the use of ad-blocking software was played out over the weekend by technology site Ars Technica and its not-so-faithful followers. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

After discovering that a shockingly high 40 per cent of their online readership were using ad-blocking software, which removes advertisements from web-pages, the site hit back. All of a sudden, those using the ad-blocking plug-in were unable to see the site’s content, with no explanation.

The quite amazing outcome is that, after publishing a post on the site explaining the damage that ad-blocking software meant for their revenue, and explaining why they had to take the counter-measures, editor-in-chief Ken Fisher received around 1,200 emails from people who had whitelisted the site, preventing its ads from being blocked. Furthermore, 25,000 people went on to whitelist it within 24 hours and 200 people subscribed, paying for the ad-free version.

It seems that the key in this case was communication, getting the message out to an essentially appreciative readership that using ad-blocking software can have seriously detrimental effect on content that you enjoy.

And, it seems like it worked. Good for Ars Technica.

An error within and error within and error within an..hold on what?

Finally, FishbowlDC shows everyone else a clean pair of heels in the competition for today’s strangest blog post, which reports in a round about way that the blog Regret the Error made an error reporting on an error made by Wolf Blitzer.

I can’t find an error in the Fishbowl post, which it rightly points out would constitute an error within an error within an error, but as that would also constitute even less of a story than the current one, it’s probably for the best.

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US Digest: media echo-chambers; one-man bands; LA (Times) real estate agents

Talking about making sausages

Dispatches from inside the “echo-chamber of mediated Manhattan” today, courtesy of the NYT’s David Carr. Carr has an interesting piece up on what he sees an increasing amount of news on the news: ‘Breaking the story that isn’t

As a media reporter, I’m obviously not one to suggest that the activities of journalists are not a legitimate source of inquiry. But I worry that the incremental needs of an always-on Web — everyone wants to know what the state of play is at any given moment — will imperil the practice of longer-form journalism, the kind that demands time, an open mind, a lot of questions and sometimes results in dead ends.

As a media reporter reporting on a media reporter reporting on over-zealous media reporting, I’m really obviously not one to suggest that the activities of journalists are not a legitimate source of inquiry.

As Carr puts it, “the manufacture of sausage is sometimes as much the point as the sausage itself”.

These US Digest posts are little more than an aggregation, a round-up of published material, but Carr has the close online scrutiny of ongoing stories in his sights.

Twitter and blogs may have become part of advancing the story, but it’s more likely that incremental updates on what the reporters are up to — or misleading rumors about same — may harden the opposition, button up sources and sometimes derail investigations.

So at what point does the navel-gazing jeopardise good stories? How much talking about making sausages spoils the taste of them?

Carr’s piece may have been prompted by the attention paid to his paper’s coverage of the Governor Patterson scandal, which he refers to as “wild and wildly off-base rumours”. Paying the most attention was the ever-vigilant NYTPicker.

“The deeper sounds of a small journalistic orchestra

Journalists complaining about cost-cutting moves toward ‘one-man band’ journalism isn’t anything new. Journalists extolling the virtues and opportunities of ‘one-man band’ journalism isn’t anything new either.

But using a handful of good examples Howard Kurtz has produced a decent, objective edition of Media Notes today looking at both sides of the coin. Lazy journalists living in the past be warned, it also includes some intimidating tales of multi-tasking.

The highlight of the piece is the story of one journalist’s remarkable transformation, graduating from suits and ties to baseball caps and a dirty hatchback:

A coat-and-tie journalist who has worked in television news for 27 years, Broom had to reinvent himself – with the aid of a three-day boot camp on shooting video – when he joined the Gannett station in 2007. Now he wears a black jacket and black Channel 9 cap and rarely goes to the newsroom. Instead he cruises the area in an unwashed white Honda hatchback, its front seat filled with a Dell laptop, police radio, tripod and Sony HVR-V1U video camera.

Kurtz’s article is balanced, and doesn’t jump to defend the profession against the suggestion that journalists should be able to do it all, but there is a simple reminder that standards may be at risk:

A one-man band is cheaper, quicker and more nimble — but cannot produce the deeper sounds of a small journalistic orchestra.

No press pass, no get out of jail free card

Student journalist Cameron Burns finds himself on the other side of the story today in The Daily Californian, after finding himself charged at by riot police on a California freeway at the end of last week.

Covering a demonstration over public education funding for student paper The Daily Californian, Burns had left his press pass in the office and was tackled to the ground and arrested alongside the protesters, despite repeated assertions that he was a journalist.

The result? A twenty hour stint in jail and a court appearance scheduled for April 6.

L.A. Times disappears behind paywall Johnny Depp

From Reuters, news of dismay among the L.A. Times’ readership after the front page – “our most valuable real estate” according to Times’ spokesperson John Conroy – was replaced by a mock front page adorned with a huge advert for Tim Burton’s new Disney-backed Alice in Wonderland adaptation.

It seems some readers have been particularly offended by the decision to use a mock-up front page in the background of the ad, which includes the paper’s masthead, although the word ‘advertisement’ is written underneath in small letters.

“We made it clear that this was a depiction of the front page, rather than a real front page of the newspaper,” said Conroy. “We had an unusual opportunity here to stretch the traditional boundaries and deliver an innovative ad unit that was designed to create buzz.”

Perhaps the style of the L.A. Times advert is particularly galling, but as the Reuters article points out, it is not the first quality newspaper to exploit the value of the technique, called a ‘cover-wrap’.

The nationally circulated USA Today drew criticism for a pseudo edition of its newspaper distributed at an AIDS conference in Geneva as a promotion for a pharmaceutical company. The Wall Street Journal and other dailies have run partial wrap sleeves around the outsides of their papers.

I’m not sure how the film reviews page rates in real estate terms, but the film producers are in luck significantly less people will have gone for a viewing there, where the film didn’t make quite the same splash.

Fading to Black have an image of the cover here.

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US Digest: NYT buyout rumour; Student paper fights prior review; Spiderman gets the sack

NYT shares on the up after rumour of buyout

Shares in the New York Times Co. rose by more than 11 per cent yesterday, the result of a rumour that mexican billionaire Carlos Slim was planning to buy the company.

Slim’s representative has denied rumours that he is after a greater stake in the company, claiming that the billionaire is happy with his 6.9 per cent lot.

Full story at Editor&Publisher

Disney and Cablevision slug it out over ABC

Cablevision subscribers in New York have been warned by The Walt Disney Company that the local ABC signal may go blank this weekend. The cable providers are locked in a dispute with Disney, who want an extra $40 million in annual fees. Cablevision already pay Disney $200 million a year.

According to the NYT, Disney have previously charged for cable channels such as ESPN and the Disney Channel, but not for its ABC broadcast signal.

The Academy Awards will be broadcast by ABC on Sunday, and a continuing dispute would mean 3.1 million customers in New York unable to tune in.

Jay Rosen on the future of journalism education

A little follow up now to last week’s US Digest post on the new NYT/NYU East Village hyperlocal blog. Over at Nieman Journalism Lab Seth C. Lewis has posted a Q&A with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who hailed the class working on the new blog with him the most exciting he has worked with in 24 years.

Rosen discusses the thinking behind the collaboration, how it will cope with students coming and going, and how the model might benefit journalism education across the United States.

This project began when I noticed what the Times was doing with The Local, and thought I glimpsed a need to experiment and learn. I mean, that was the logic of what they were doing. So, the first step is to get inside the head of the potential collaborator and start with a need or interest they have. The next step was to look at what we are doing at NYU and where we wanted to go with our program, and figure out where the two circles overlapped.

Students stand ground over prior review

Fading to Black reported yesterday on an ongoing dispute at Mounds View High School, Minnesota. Student journalists working on school newspaper the Viewer have said they will stop publishing before ceding to the school’s demand for prior review of stories.

“I would like to keep our newspaper a real newspaper, not a newsletter for the district,” said Christina Xia, 18, editor-in-chief of the paper.

The school district’s case is based on a controversial story published by the paper, naming students involved in the misuse of a teacher’s photograph online. The paper apparently obtained signed waivers from the students involved and their parents, but school administrators are concerned about the legality of publishing the names.

Full story at this link.

Do you have any other skills I can put down Mr. Parker?

Finally, bad news I’m afraid. Everyone knows by now that a lot of news industry jobs are hanging by a thread. I would have thought that, in Peter Parker’s case, that thread was stronger than most. Superior in tensile strength to high-grade steel even

But, according to CNN, the Daily Bugle photographer and alter-ego of Spiderman is to lose his job in the latest issue of the Amazing Spiderman, and face the grim reality of unemployment.

“He’s going to struggle with unemployment and trying to save the city while he can barely afford to keep a roof over his head,” said Steve Wacker, Marvel Comics senior editor.

What next? Clark Kent down the dole office? Talk about healthy competition.

I might have something ideally suited to you Mr. Parker...

Image of Carlos Slim courtesy of Jose Cruz/ABr on Wikimedia

Image of Jay Rosen Courtesy of Joi on Flickr

Image of Spiderman courtesy of HOWI on Wikimedia

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US Digest: America goes multi-platform; Miami goes hyperlocal; NYT hits the big screens

News consumption according to Pew: Loyalty wanes, social sharing rises

The United States is, according to a new study published today by Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, a multiple platform nation when it comes news consumption. The study, which looks at the different ways Americans access news on a daily basis, suggests that loyalty is on the wane and social sharing is on the rise.

In the digital era, news has become omnipresent. Americans access it in multiple formats on multiple platforms on myriad devices. The days of loyalty to a particular news organization on a particular piece of technology in a particular form are gone [...] While online, most people say they use between two and five online news sources and 65% say they do not have a single favorite website for news.

[...]

To a great extent, people’s experience of news, especially on the internet, is becoming a shared social experience as people swap links in emails, post news stories on their social networking site feeds, highlight news stories in their Tweets, and haggle over the meaning of events in discussion threads. For instance, more than 8 in 10 online news consumers get or share links in emails.

Three Ps stand out from the results according to the summary of findings

  • Portable: 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.
  • Personalized: 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.
  • Participatory: 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

NYT strikes video screen deal with RMG

Starting today, New York Times’ content will be displayed on video screens in five major US cities.

The newspaper has struck a deal with RMG Networks, a major owner of screens in the main business districts of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, which will see 850 of their screens become part of the ‘NYTimes.com Today Network’.

The screens will display articles and images form the Times’ website on a 14 minute cycle, interspersed with advertising. A further 850 screens will be added to the network over the next few months.

According to the Times, their network “will be a small part of RMG, which has tens of thousands of such screens.”

The details of the financial arrangement have not been disclosed.

Further analysis of the deal from Lost Remote at this link

Al Tompkins: Everyone invited to journalism training

From the Poynter Institute today, Al Tompkins with an interesting take on broadcast journalism training.

When I train journalists at a television or radio station, I usually recommend that the newsroom invite anyone who will come — including those in the sales, promotions and engineering departments

Unsurprisingly, few take him up on the offer apparently. With times as tough as they are, who in their right mind would think the answer lay in sending the sales team on journalism training?

The idea behind Tompkins’ approach is that, with some basic knowledge, salespersons, receptionists, engineers, and others can hold the fort in the case of an emergency.

Possibly a useful model for broadcast journalism, to avoid dead air, but ‘Time to Train Everyone in Your Organisation to be a Journalist’ is a call to arms unlikely to sit well with most economical bosses. And one at risk of going down like a lead balloon in the more traditional newsrooms, I would have thought.

South Florida Times announce student collaboration on new hyperlocal section

Following in the footsteps of the NYT, weekley newspaper the South Florida Times have announced a collaborative hyperlocal project with students from Florida International University’s journalism school (via editorsweblog).

The project, Liberty City Link, aims is to improve coverage of Miami’s Liberty City area. Unlike the NYT collaborations, Liberty City Link will feature both online and in print, having a page in the print edition and a blog under the South Florida Times URL.

The Times’ announcement bills its new partnership as a way to overturn the area’s notoriously bad reputation.

News accounts about the Liberty City community, one of South Florida’s largest historically black communities, have long zeroed in on its most negative aspects, spotlighting it as a notoriously dangerous section in the shadows of the glitz of Miami Beach. But the colorful murals of black heroes on Liberty City’s buildings stand for the spirit of what is, in fact, a thriving community.

Seventeen students have been recruited to report for the new section. Neil Reisner, a veteran journalist and FIU professor, defends the inclusion of just one African-American among them:

Students learn to cover a community they’re not part of. And that as journalists it is OK to ask questions to people they don’t completely relate to, as long as they are honest about what they want to know.

Gillian Tett named new US managing editor of the Financial Times

Gillian Tett has been named US managing editor of the Financial Times today. She replaces Chrystia Freeland who joins Thomson Reuters as global editor in chief.

Full story at Editor & Publisher

The Hong Kong house that Tote Bags built

Finally, from FishbowlNY, news that, while publishers run around tearing their hair out about paywalls, payments, micropayments, even smaller payments, design and culture glossy Monocle magazine is to open a Hong Kong bureau with the proceeds from selling Tote bags.

This business model may not, however, be the saviour of publishing. So I’m sorry if you’ve gone and got your hopes up. The blurb on Monocle’s Tote bag sale page may tell you a little about their readership, and how they’ve pulled off this nifty trick. As might the price.

Whether it’s a spur-of-the-moment overnighter or a day hitting the shops, this bag can hold anything you throw in it. Inside there is a host of pockets for your wallet, BlackBerry, plus your Japan-only mobile, a detachable purse to get at that Amex card quickly, and a sizeable wash bag.

I left my Japan-only mobile on the train with my free copy of the London Weekly so the bag’s not really any good to me anyway.

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US Digest: McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern; Newsweek’s yearly results; Winnipeg’s bright future

February 26th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Journalism Daily

Starting this week, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.

A glimpse of a perfect media world

To the Chicago Tribune first today for a heartwarming paean to Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s, and to Eggers’ own heartwarming paean to the newspaper journalism of old.

Eggers is the founder of independent publishing house McSweeny’s, responsible for, among other things, Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

Issue 33 of the McSweeney’s quarterly – “so immense it comes in a pillow-size silver, Ziploc-ish bag” – has just been released. It is safe to say that Tribune reporter Christopher Borrelli, who likens it to “a fantasy, a tantalizing mirage — a glimpse of a perfect media world”, is a fan.

The books section runs 96 pages, the Sunday magazine 112 pages. The photos are large and gorgeous, the longest story is about 20,000 words, the arts section is two sections, and, basically, it’s fun.

Really fun.

So perfectly executed that if you work at a daily newspaper — heck, if you merely prefer the feel of news on print, or just adore the beleaguered medium (as Eggers does) — issue No. 33 may bring a tear to your eye.

In interview with Borrelli, Eggers discusses the pragmatic (financial viability) and nostalgic (reading the newspaper as a child) elements of his relationship with the printed word. He also offers a decent response to the accusation that print journalism is elitist:

Readers can tell you what’s important to them by what they look at, but there’s a great danger in that too. When I see a picture of a funny dog wearing a hat on the Web, yeah, I click it too. The problem is that pretty soon you’re down a rabbit hole, and who’s still holding the government accountable? I would much rather have reporters who have been at a subject for a while tell me what’s most important about a subject. Am I really going to cobble together my own news of what’s happening in Afghanistan?

Truth be told, if all the good newspapers called it a day Eggers probably would cobble together his own news of what’s happening in Afghanistan, and it would probably be pretty good. But I suspect this one man publishing phenomenon is not a very good test case for the rest of us. With luck, the San Francisco Panorama – “a nod to Eggers’ adopted hometown and the locality of newspapers” according to Borrelli – which broke even on its first run, will make it into regular print.

Dave Eggers

A glimpse of the real media world

North to the New York Post now, which reports that formal experimentation doesn’t seem to be paying off so well for Newsweek. From Post reporter Keith J. Kelly:

Attempts by Newsweek CEO Tom Ascheim and Editor-in-Chief Jon Meacham to reshape the magazine into a lower-circulation weekly with a more Economist-like feel do not seem to be paying off.

Tucked in the fourth-quarter earnings report from parent Washington Post Company were numbers that suggest the magazine lost $28.1 million in 2009, the first year of the process.

Newsweek is one of only two magazines currently published by the Washington Post Company. The other, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, lost $1.2 million bringing the magazine arm losses to a total of $29.3 million.

Politico commentator Michael Calderone was sceptical about the shake-up from the start. From early 2009:

It certainly is a big gamble to mess with the DNA of such an established brand. But given Newsweek’s losses — and the magazine industry as a whole — it’s not a bad time to try and switch things up.

Perhaps some new kind of gamble is now needed at the beginning of 2010, established brand or not.

The hyperlocal/local/niche debate: a follow-up

To, well, anywhere local now with Lost Remote, and a follow up to Wednesday’s US Digest story about local/hyperlocal/niche reporting.

What seemed at first like a fairly innocuous post by the site’s editor Steve Safran provoked a fair amount of discussion. Safran then returned to the fray with a follow up post to address some of the readers’ comments.

Last in: the last in

A little toward the trailing edge of technology, the Winnipeg Free Press, “whose dead-tree edition have been hemorrhaging readers for two decades”, is nonetheless deserving of a runners-up round of applause for finally catching the ‘tweet from local council meeting’ bandwagon.

Apparently, reporter Bartley Kives’ “irreverent tone is perfect for social media”.

Lest the improbably named Bartley Kives get carried away with fantasies of the Twitterati, Duncan McDonagle of Snoo.ws chimes in with a sharp reminder of the realities of modern local reporting in Winnipeg, to which the world’s best-named people clearly gravitate.

And poor old Kives still had to interview participants and write stories for the paper’s website and for the newsprint edition the next morning – as well as keep an eye on council’s debate about garbage containers.

Fear not though, Kives’ humour is very much intact, in evidence in his Twitter report that McDonagle had reported on his Twitter reporting:

Reporter tweets about journalism instructor blogging about reporter tweeting. http://tinyurl.com/yaytn3a #selfpromotion #wpgcouncil

Image of Dave Eggers courtesy of David Shankbone

Image of street map courtesy of Htonl

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US Digest: Sally Quinn vs gossipers; Deadline vs Gawker; Kevin Smith vs the media

February 25th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Journalism Daily

Starting this week, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.

Public feuding seems to be flavour of the week this week, with Cheryl and Ashley Cole fighting it out on the fronts of red tops and t-shirts, and Anna Ford and Martin Amis going pound for pound in the letter pages of the Guardian.

With no shortage of handbags stateside either, today’s digest seems, somewhat tenuously, to be all about what the media had to report on feuding.

Round One: Sally Quinn vs. those pesky gossipers

Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, who writes a lifestyle column called “The Party”, used her most recent column to address claims amongst gossip columnists that two Quinn family weddings scheduled for the same day were evidence of some kind of family feud.

Unfortunately for Quinn, Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli didn’t take very kindly to the article. More unfortunately for Quinn still, Washington City Post editor Erik Wemple (who, lucky, lucky man, appears in US Digest for a second day running) turned all his communicative efforts to getting some information out of the Post, and quite impressively got around the Brauchli very own eponymous omerta, the Brauchli Doctrine, to get the scoop on his reaction.

That reaction was to bring a swift end to “The Party”, like two surprised parents returning from holiday early. As tragic an event as the failure of the Cole’s marriage, Quinn’s column has been cut from the print edition of the post, Brauchli has banished it to the doldrums of Washington Post online.

And who the hell reads their journalism online?

Amidst a raft of “The Party Is Over” headlines, Gawker, ever moderate in their approach, ran with this gem instead:

Sally Quinn’s Stupid Idiot Column Being Killed, at Long Last?

But very kindly let up in their opening paragraph:

The Washington Post is reportedly considering doing away with Sally Quinn’s godawful self-absorbed rich lady column from hell, which is an embarrassment to the entire institution.

Continuing on with the feuding theme, both the Washington Post and Gawker have their own scraps featured in the press today.

Round Two: The Washington Post vs. New York Times

Michael Calderone from Politico reports on the Post and the NYT trying to pinch each other’s staff. The Times are apparently in the lead at the moment, having raided the Post newsroom consistently for the past few years, but the Post, with a couple of fresh vacancies on the Politics desk, are eyeing up staff at the Times.

Still, it seems that the Times, a full 26 years older than the Post, is keeping the upstart down.

Both papers have long sought out top journalists in Washington and elsewhere, but in recent years, The Times has been able to grab more talent from the Post than vice versa.

Gawker doesn’t seem to think America’s top journos are too well off at either paper right now:

What are those slick bastards at the Washington Post trying now? They are trying―and failing―to hire a bunch of good reporters away from the NYT [...] And that looks even worse for the Washington Post, since all the New York Times can offer its own staffers now are fake sideways promotions, like, why don’t you go from editing this one thing, to writing about this other thing? Because there are no new jobs there, you see. But hey, at least it’s not the Washington Post!

The NYT - not to be poached from

As promised, news of Gawker’s very own new spat:

Round Three: Deadline Hollywood vs. Gawker

The Deadline Hollywood blog’s Nikki Finke claimed yesterday that she had bested Gawker’s stats for the month and, not only that folks, she had done so without having to “bottomfeed about celebrities just to increase web traffic”.

Well, in hindsight, that was probably a mistake. Actually it definitely was a mistake, and Gawker came out of their corner with irrefutable stats to prove it and, more importantly, another great sucker punch of a headline:

Nikki Finke Beats Gawker In Traffic, In Her Own Mind

Finke’s very begrudging correction can be found appended to her post, with a suitable shift of blame.

Gawker - not to be messed with

Enough of media feuding now? Me too. But it’s the theme of today’s post so, the show must go on. In the case of Keven Smith much-publicised set-to with SouthWest Airlines, the show goes on, and on, and on, and…. on.

Round Four: Kevin Smith vs. the media

Having been ejected from a SouthWest airlines flight just prior to take-off because staff were worried his weight was a safety issue, the film director Kevin Smith used his Twitter account, followed by 1,669,611 people, to launch a seemingly interminable campaign against the airline. Clever Southwest.

That bit is old news.

But in a new interview with Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times, Smith has dragged the media into the feud, claiming their reaction left a lot to be desired:

It really sickened me that after all the years I’ve been so open with the press that they didn’t bother to dig at all. I was unfairly bounced and discriminated against, but they never bothered to tell that story. They just went with the easy fat jokes. Every TV show imaginable asked me to go on, from Oprah to Larry King, but I turned them all down because I didn’t want to turn into Octomom.

So Kevin Smith is peeved with the media now too, but still kindly giving them material for their ‘easy fat jokes’ with talk of bouncing and the Octomom. Which, obviously, we are not going to exploit here at J.co.uk, because I’m no good at puns.

Kevin Smith - not too big to get on tiptoes


For more airplane related tales of less-than-respectable reporting, follow this link
.

Having shamelessly cast aside everything really newsworthy in today’s digest in favour of stories that tenuously serve my feuding theme, I am running short on material. So, finally, and most tenuously of all, the social media story du jour, which sees Conan O’Brien amass way more followers with one tweet than Jesus fed with his five loaves.

Round Five: Conan O’Brien vs. Jay Leno

Conan O’Brien took over NBC’s Tonight Show from Jay Leno back in June 2009, but walked out on the show over a proposed scheduling change that would see it moved it from 11:35pm to 12:05am.

Retired, probably at a loose end, O’Brien did what any self-respecting man would do and joined Twitter, getting off to a pretty funny start:

Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me.

O’Brien’s followers started to stack up at a mind-bending rate. At the time of writing he has 257,328, but by later this afternoon it could easily be 1040.

This fairly innocuous story soon grew into an infant media feud, with headlines uniformly reading something like this:

Conan O’Brien joins Twitter, outdoes Leno again.

Jay Leno’s followers, at the time of writing: a paltry 30,371.

Conan O'Brien - not too busy to tweet

Image of the New York Times building courtesy of ReservasdeCoches

Image of Kevin Smith courtesy of Shane Kaye

Image of Conan O’Brien courtesy of VDTA Info

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US Digest: ABC announces cuts; Washington Post Co. announces profits; Yahoo! messes about on Twitter

February 24th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Journalism Daily, Online Journalism

Starting this week, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.

ABC president soft-peddles what look like substantial cuts

Do you want the bad news or just the news first? Bad? OK.

The bad news today comes from the Los Angeles Times in the form of an announcement by ABC that it is to make a “fundamental transformation” to its news division. “Fundamental transformation” being bad-newsspeak, of course, for ‘streamlining’, or ‘workforce optimisation’, or ‘force shaping’, or, even, ‘mass redundancies’.

Reports suggest the company may be ‘smart-sizing’ its ‘force’ to the tune of a 20 per cent reduction. The news arm currently employs 1,400 staff. The maths, or ‘math’ in this case, produces bad news whichever way you phrase it.

David Westin, president of ABC News, went with a memo that all sounded like this:

The time has come to anticipate change, rather than respond to it. We have a rare opportunity to get in front of what’s coming, to ensure that ABC News has a sound journalistic and financial footing for many years to come, and to serve our audiences even better. But we must move boldly and promptly.

Redundancies have been offered, but it seems likely that if staff don’t move as ‘boldly and promptly’ and Westin intends to, they’ll be pushed.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not all about contraction though:

In newsgathering, we intend to dramatically expand our use of digital journalists [...] In production, we will take the example set by Nightline of editorial staff who shoot and edit their own material and follow it throughout all of our programs…

So, listen up: if you can write copy, sub-edit, shoot and edit video, write code, produce an outside broadcast by yourself, mend a broken server, and all the while keep time on the big drum strapped to your back, now is the time to show your face at ABC.

Westin’s memo reprinted at the Los Angeles Times.

Washington Post Co. and A.H. Belo Corp announce Q4 profits against backdrop of newspaper arm losses

Just in from Editor & Publisher, news that the Washington Post Co. and A.H. Belo Corp (parent company to the Dallas Morning News) both had a profitable fourth quarter 2009. The Washington Post Co. reported a Q4 profit $82.2 million, or $8.71 a share, in comparison with $18.8 million, or $2.01 a share in Q4 2008. A.H. Belo recorded a much more moderate $5.6 million, or $0.27 per share, its first quarterly profit since it was spun off from Belo Corp. two years ago.

The figures behind the figures at the Washington Post Co. make for fairly grim reading on the newspaper side of things though, with advertising revenue still in decline. From E&P:

Newspaper revenue declined four per cent in the fourth quarter to $193.3 million. Print ad revenue was down 9 per cent to $92.6 million, with declines in classified, zones and retail advertising offset by an increase in general advertising.

And whilst the overall figures seem to be going in the right direction, they are nonetheless sobering:

For the full year 2009, the newspaper division reported an operating loss of $163.5 million, compared to an operating loss of $192.7 million in 2008.

Similarly, at A.H. Belo:

Advertising revenue continued to fall substantially in the quarter, with the retail down 30.9 per cent, and print classified down 31.1 per cent. Internet revenue fell 8.5 per cent, to $10.1, which accounted for 7.5 per cent, of total revenue for the quarter.

Washington City Paper editor’s second attempt to leave proves successful

From E&P again, news that Erik Wemple is leaving the Washington City Paper, where he has been editor for eight years. He will join Allbritton Communications’ new local start-up in Washington D.C.

Wemple accepted a position as editor of Village Voice in New York during his editorship of the Washington City Paper, but changed his mind before his first day, deciding instead to stay put.

Yahoo late to the Twitter party, but may have come best dressed

Today’s big social media news is a Yahoo/Twitter partnership.

TechCrunch takes an irreverent look at the embargo politics surrounding the announcement, and a sideswipe at Yahoo for being late to the party:

Yahoo and Twitter have reached an agreement to share data between their properties. That’s great. Yahoo is only a few months behind Google and Microsoft (Bing) doing the same thing.

It seems Yahoo! got so over excited at the news themselves that they toyed with their Twitter followers over the course of the day, hyping the announcement by tweeting clues, and possibly confusing its importance with your Moon landings and presidential race winners.

  • Clue #1/5: Who has approx 29,000 followers as of this morning? #ybignews
  • Clue #2/5: What kind of “moon” had teen moviegoers swooning last fall? #ybignews
  • Clue #3/5: Who might you greet with a friendly “howdy”? #ybignews (use hashtag for previous clues)
  • Clue #4/5:What’s both a sugar substitute & a mathematical symbol? #ybignews (use hashtag for previous clues-forms a phrase)
  • Final clue: A little birdie told us to find them @twitter #ybignews Thanks for following us (winners notified soon)

What fun.

Mashable goes into more detail about the partnership, claiming that despite its tardyness it is more comprehensive, and a better all round deal than Twitter’s search partnerships with Google and Bing.

“This is a local blog, for local people…” Erm, I think you mean hyperlocal there love

Following on from yesterday’s US Digest coverage of the NYT’s new East Village hyperlocal venture, a small, but useful post from Lost Remote today outlines its take on some key new terms:

There is a difference between the terms “local”, “hyperlocal” and “niche” and I want to outline our editorial policy regarding the three. We see the three used interchangeably some times, and I think it’s important we all recognise the differences. ‘Hyperlocal’ covers neighborhoods, while ‘local’ covers towns and cities. We get some press releases here about how stations or newspapers are starting new ‘hyperlocal’ websites that cover their city or a given topic in their city (say, ‘moms’). A mum blog is a niche site. A neighbourhood blog is hyperlocal. A city blog is local. Disagree? Let us know.

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US Digest: NYT launches hyperlocal; HuffPost chases students; Shatner plays Twitterer, and more

February 23rd, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Journalism Daily, Online Journalism

Starting this week, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.


NYT explore new avenues with another hyperlocal blog

Starting off small today, with news that the New York Times is launching another hyperlocal blog. this time in conjunction with students from New York University (NYU).

The new blog, which will report on New York’s East Village, will come under the Times’ URL but be developed and launched by students from the NYU Studio 20 Journalism Masters programme.

Two NY hyperlocals were launched by the paper last year under a channel called ‘The Local’. One covers Clinton Hill and Fort Greene in Brooklyn, the other Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange in New Jersey. Those blogs featured student contributions from the start, but were helmed by Times staff (although the former was recently turned over to students from CUNY). The new East Village blog is edited by a Times staffer but will be largely overseen, from inception to launch, by NYU students.

Jessica Roy, blogger at NYULocal and member of the East Village project said:

While the site will function in a similar way to the hyperlocal sites the Times already has running in Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill and Maplewood, this will be the first time journalism students will be heavily involved in the site’s content and design process before the launch.

It will be interesting to see how this ties in with the reported NYT plans to hide their blogs away behind a paywall. Can the Freakonomics blog, Paul Krugman, and other NYT blog big-hitters tempt readers to pay? Can a bunch of students from NYU?

Arianna Huffington admits spending “a lot of time” on college campuses

The NYT are not the only ones hanging around campuses and jumping in bed with students, “I’ve spent a lot of time on campuses lately” admits Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post.

But Arianna is not, apparently, just trying to recapture a youth she threw away on “promise, passion, intellectual curiosity, and vitality”. She is referring to the launch of HuffPost College, a new section of the Huffington Post devoted to the promising, passionate, intellectually curious, and vital students out there, and presumably to the billions of normal students too.

Edited by Jose Antonio Vargas, our Tech and Innovations editor, with the help of Leah Finnegan, a recent graduate of the University of Texas and the former editor of the Daily Texan, HuffPost College is designed to be a virtual hub for college life, bringing you original and cross-posted material from a growing list of college newspapers.

“Announcing HuffPost College: No SAT scores or admission essays needed” reads Arianna’s headline.

Just an internet connection then, which everyone in America must have by now, right? Hmmm…. Published yesterday, the results of an FCC study into internet use in America show that a third of the population don’t have broadband internet access – some 93 million –  and the majority of those don’t have any access whatsoever.

Here is John Horrigan, who oversaw the survey for the FCC, making the findings sound impressively grotesque:

Overall internet penetration has been steady in the mid-70 to upper 70 per cent range over the last five years. Now we’re at a point where, if you want broadband adoption to go up by any significant measure, you really have to start to eat into the segment of non-internet-users.

Fortunately for Arianna Huffington, those remaining blissfully un-penetrated (albeit in danger of being eaten into by hungry internet providers) are “disproportionately older and more likely to live in rural areas”, and not the vigourous youth, who are probably desperate to spend their time out of college at home reading about college.

Shatner to play Twitterer

One elderly American well in tune with all things online is Justin Halpern’s dad. Even if he doesn’t quite get why. Justin Halpern’s dad is the man behind Justin Halpern’s Twitter account, “Shit My Dad Says.” Although this is slightly old story already, news that William Shatner will be playing an curmudgeonly, 74 year-old man whose live-in 29 year-old son tweets “shit that he says” is too ridiculous to pass up. If CBS are in luck, the account’s 1,187,371 followers, and many more, will tune in to hear William Shatner say this:

A parent’s only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed.

And many, many other 140-character pearls of wisdom far too rude for the very mild-mannered Journalism.co.uk. I for one prefer Justin Halpern’s dad’s personal choice of James Earl Jones, and applaud his straight talking response to suggestions that colour is an issue.

He wanted James Earl Jones to play him. I was like, ‘But you’re white.’ He was like, ‘Well, we don’t have to be! Who gives a [censored]? You asked me who I thought, and that’s who I think.’

Who could possibly resist the powerful combination of Halpern Snr’s coarse tweets and Darth Vader’s husky voice?

Largest YouTube content provider reaches 1 billion views

One million followers is an impressive landmark in the Twitterverse, it puts you up there in the Twittersphere with such luminaries as Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher. It’s about 28,000 times as many as I have. Demand Media went a thousand times better than that though in YouTube terms yesterday, with its billionth view.

According to its site, the company, which has about 500 staff and is based in Santa Monica, provides “social media solutions that consumers really want”. Demand is the largest content supplier to YouTube, owning around 170,000 videos available on the site.

Co-founder of Demand Shawn Colo discusses the YouTube platform and the company’s media strategy, courtesy of Beet.TV.

Rampant cutbacks trumped by loaded shotgun

Finally, from Editor & Publisher, the happy news that redundancy is no longer the most frightening thing in the newsroom.

Employees at the Grand Forks Herald, Chicago, were more than a little surprised to find a loaded shotgun in a closet at the paper’s head offices.

“No notes, no threats, no nothing – just a loaded shotgun in a case in a closet in a common area, five rounds in it,” Grand Forks Police Lt. Grant Schiller said.

For those staffers who may not have already jumped to this conclusion, Herald editor Mike Jacobs made it clear that: “Carrying a loaded gun into the building is a dismissible offense.”

Newspaper journalists, in an age when your profession is almost a dismissable offence in itself, please, leave your loaded shotguns at home.

Image of East Village by Joe Madonna

Image of weapons ban sign by Dan4th

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US Digest: paidContent 2010; Tiger Woods, Scientology vs; journalism, and more

February 22nd, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism, Journalism Daily, Online Journalism

Starting today, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.

paidContent 2010

The issue of paid content was high on the agenda at the end of last week with the paidContent 2010 conference in New York. In attendance were big names from the New York Times: Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and publisher; Janet Robinson, president and CEO; and Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president of digital operations, who were interviewed at length by ContentNext’s Staci D. Kramer on “metered news and more”.

According to the paidContent coverage, “while they were willing to buy lunch, they weren’t ready to feed the appetite for detail about plans for NYTimes.com to go metered in 2011″.

See the video here

And the full conference coverage from the paidContent site here

“Does the bleeding ever stop at 425 Portland?”

image courtesy of Stephen Cummings

Presumably, ways of making newspaper journalism pay were also high on the agenda over in Minneapolis at the end of last week, where the Star Tribune announced that five voluntary redundancies would be offered to reporters and editors. “Does the bleeding ever stop at 425 Portland?” asks MinnPost.

Staff memo here

Pessimistic stories of this kind, including this one, continue to be thoughtfully aggregated by blogger and pessimist extraorinaire Fading To Black. Not featured on this chronicle of US newspaper decline was the story that down in South Florida, rather than asking him if he’d like to pack his things, the Sun Sentinel handed production maintenance manager Bob Simons a $25,000 spot bonus and a Caribbean holiday. Simons’ suggestion of a different supplier for equipment apparently saved the paper $1 million.

A very different staff memo here

AP underperforms on non-profit content distribution

An interesting story from the Nieman Jounalism Lab reports on the outcome of Associated Press’ decision to distribute content from America’s top four non-profit news outlets: ProPublica, Centre for Public Integrity, Centre for Investigative Reporting, and the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

The six-month project was launched back in June 2009 at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Baltimore, “with great fanfare” according to Bill Buzenberg, executive director of Centre for Public Integrity.

It seems however that the scheme hasn’t been successful so far, with admissions from both the AP and the non-profit directors that very little content has made it into print. A poor distribution model is to blame apparently, with new non-profit content not being sufficiently flagged.

“They haven’t done the technical backup work to really make it work,” said Buzenburg. “They haven’t made it a priority.”

However, hope remains for the project from both sides. Buzenburg added: “This is a good idea. I’d like it to work [...] The potential of this remains.”

“It’s early yet – we’re only six months into it,” said John Raess, AP’s San Francisco bureau chief.

“We want our celebrities to show a little leg”

image courtesy of Jim Epler

Much of the weekend’s media coverage in the US was given over to Tiger Wood’s much-publicised public apology on Friday morning. Mediabistro nailed the best format for coverage by inviting readers to pen Haikus for the Mediabistro facebook page. Submissions include this clear frontrunner from Pamela Ross:

“Questions? Don’t go there.
My Thanksgiving meal was ruined.
Thanks. Now. Watch this swing.”

With more syllables at his disposal, David Carr of The New York Times’ Media & Advertising pages goes into a little more detail, considering the relationship between celebrity sportsmen and the media:

Athletes and actors would like for us to focus on the work, while reporters know that their editors and audience want more, because while the work is visible, we want our celebrities to show a little leg.

But once this bit of leg, so strictly concealed by Woods for so long, has been shown, why are the media who feed on it so relentlessly owed some sort of apology?

Those of us who have had some experience with human frailties all know why Tiger Woods did what he did last Friday, which was to get in a room with people he had hurt or embarrassed to say he was “deeply sorry” for what he had done. That part made sense, the beginning of a process of amends.

I just don’t know what the rest of us were doing there.

A sentiment echoed this side of the pond by Charlie Brooker today in the Guardian.

There are those that must hope that, now this enigmatic character has addressed his hushed audience, and delivered his much anticpated talk, that the hype, rumour, pontificating, and endless media coverage will die away.

Apple wields knife over TV show prices

It is fair to say that at least a few people thought exactly the same thing about Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the iPad. But the so-called saviour of the newspapers is back in the media spotlight this week with news that Apple are considering halving the current price of television shows on iTunes from $1.99 to 0.99 cents. Media commentators have hailed the iTunes store’s 125 million registered customers as a potential liferaft for sinking newspaper publishers, and major networks may be wary of waving a pin anywhere near that customer base by rejecting the move, instead gambling on even a small percentage increase in those paying for TV offsetting the significant price drop.

image courtesy of curiouslee

Meanwhile, Adobe and Conde Nast have jumped right aboard the good ship iPad, unveiling “a new digital magazine experience based on WIRED magazine” at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California.

The Church of Scientology vs. the St. Petersburg Times, Round 1

And finally, from Howard Kurtz’s Media Notes at the Washington Post, the improbable story that the Church of Scientology, in a tit-for-tat response to investigations by the St. Petersburg Times of Tampa Bay, has organised some investigative journalism of its own.

image courtesy of Ben Sutherland

The church has officially hired three ‘veteran reporters’ – a Pulitzer Prize winner, a former “60 Minutes” producer, and the former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors – to look in detail at the newspapers’ conduct. Steve Weinberg, the former IRE executive, who was paid $5,000 to edit the study, says that the agreement stipulates the church publish the study in full or not at all.

Weinberg claims that in spite the study being bankrolled by the church, it will be objective. Neil Brown, executive editor of the St. Petersburg Times, thinks otherwise:

“I ultimately couldn’t take this request very seriously because it’s a study bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology.”

Brown seems to feel a bit hard done by in this instance:

“I counted up something like six or seven journalists the church has hired to look into the St. Petersburg Times. I’ve just got two looking into the Church of Scientology,” he complained.

No fair.

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Journalism Daily: AutoTrader tips, Technorati’s ‘original content’ and the online anonymity debate

September 11th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism Daily

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