June 19, 2009

Discovered: Worthless 'ornament'

Did you know you can suggest new old items for the Facebook application Worthless gifts for print news veterans on the fan page?

A comment from Kevin James of Oklahoma City, OK, that he uses the :CueCat, that cat-shaped object that read a barcode and sent you to a web site in the late 1990s, as a Christmas ornament gave us another gift in the application.

At one time, I had two CueCats - one sent to me as a Wired magazine subscriber and another picked up at work as part of a Parade magazine promotion. (Wired, Parade and my work place, the Flint Journal, are all part of Advance Publications. ) You also could get a free :CueCat at a RadioShack.

The idea was that the :CueCat would translate barcodes in articles or ads to web site links so that the user didn't have to write down a web address.

The :cueCat failed, which is probably why there were about 50 like-new ones available on Ebay Thursday, many with a buy-it-now price of $8.99.

Unfortunately, I remember that :cueCat failure everytime I read something about QR codes, the two-dimensional bar codes.

By the way, you will find a shoutout on the fan page to my earlier post that mentions the Facebook application.

Your newsroom is in trouble if ....

Ask the Recruiter Joe Grimm, off on his own site, can't resist finishing that sentence.

Can you?

Here's one that Joe shares:

"Copy editors must turn in the stubs of their old pencils to get new ones."
Head to his Jobs Page, read a few and leave your own:

(I wrote about Joe before, in Skill with language sets tone for Grimm speech and in Beyond the Buyout, Beyond the Bylines for Journalists and ONA08 job fair was fun.

I was wrong

The Daily Derelict did not shout when it caught me in an embarrassing moment.. Seems I gave the wrong publication name for the Sun setting? Sun Newspapers Turn To Readers For 'Nifty' Content? post in the 'Nifty content' not enough post.

Yes, it was on the archive page of The Cleveland Free Press but I missed the large type in the header that said the newspaper merged in July 2008 with the Cleveland Scene. The article on the Sun Newspapers in the Cleveland area appeared in The Cleveland Scene.

The writer was unavailable for comment - the return email said he was on vacation.

The Derelict writes about politics, sports and idiocy. Newspapers, journalists and journalism slip into the blog with posts like Flint Journal readers discover their friends dead and Journalists get laid (off).

I regret the error and for my penance will read I Regret the Error
including John E. McIntrye's new contributions, and wait patiently without nagging for details about MediaBugs, which just got a Knight Foundation grant to treat journalism errors like software errors.

June 18, 2009

'Nifty content' not enough so Advance Publications closing weekly newspapers in Ohio

Getting the neighborhood to pitch in its news may not have helped a chain of weeklies in Ohio as much as hoped.

In December, a published letter from the editor invited more reader participation of the Sun Newspapers, which now publishes 22 weekly publications serving 72 Cleveland area communities on Thursdays.
"We want - more than anything - for you to feel that this is your paper. You will drive the direction, and we're counting on you to help us make big strides toward becoming a more localized paper.

"Has your local Cub Scout troop received accolades for a nifty service project? Let us know, and send us some pictures. Have you or a family member received an award or promotion? We want to know about that as well. Do you have a new baby in the family?" :
In January, the Advance Publication's weekly chain's three satellite offices were to centralize editorial operations in one office.

In early June, the reorganization and slashing of newspapers moved south from Michigan into Ohio. Sun Newspapers will publish under 11 mastheads when the reorganization plan is complete, according to a post on cleveland.com

The June 11 announcement had some talking on Twitter:

  1. Tim McKenna
    ItsThePlumber @j_conner Wondering if the plain dealer is trying to cut out some competition and keep the PD afloat?
  2. Jessica Conner
    j_conner @ItsThePlumber I think it has more to do with Advance Publications, who owns both & that the Sun readership in some comm is really lacking.
-- this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

The Cleveland Plain Dealer will handle Sun's accounting, payroll and retail sales departments and all home delivery, the announcement said. It already was handling some production and art work, according to the Cleveland Free Press.

The newspaper chain's editorial staff also will be reduced, according to the announcement. No details on the numbers were available.

The blog post says President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Mathis plans to complete the reorganization within 60 days. One commenter on the post suggests how he can do that.

The Cleveland Scene had predicted doom for the weekly newspapers in a January post Sun setting? Sun Newspapers Turn To Readers For 'nifty' Content? after the editor's invitation to readers to submit their news. (In the original post, I said the The Cleveland Free Press because that's the site I found Sun setting? Sun Newspapers Turn To Readers For 'nifty' Content? The Daily Derelict pointed out that newspaper closed.)

"Isn't turning over the front page to community newsletters like getting rid of Brady Quinn - because, you know, the guy makes a lot of money and times are tough - and replacing him with a guy from your softball team who can throw a nice spiral?"

The Cleveland Scene expressed concern about changes already implemented:

"The Sun papers were once autonomous and formidable. In recent years, overlapping content has increased, and many papers now share features. Their front pages still run hard news, but now alongside easy-to-generate items like Person of the Week - a glowing profile, complete with a grinning picture, of a local scout leader, outstanding student or swell parent."

The Scene also said:

"In recent months, Sun brass have preached a mission of making the papers "hyperlocal" to cover issues and events on a small scale. If the December 25 Suns are any indication, they're looking for cheap, easy and non-controversial filler about hot issues like a high-school Renaissance Christmas Madrigal Dinner and a local deer's struggle to remove a plastic jar from its snout."

It ended its post with an explanation of why small communities need watching and this:

"In the push for cheap content, the Sun editorial shot-callers could be filling their papers with news that's not worth paying for. It seems like a cost-saving measure that could cost the papers everything."

In Michigan, Advance Publications will eliminate its daily Ann Arbor News in July. It already reduced the printing of the Flint Journal, Bay City Times and Saginaw News to three days a week. Those three newspapers are sharing an increased amount of articles and photos. The Flint Township News, a weekly newspaper, was eliminated in June.

Related update:

Muskegon Chronicle's Paul Keep is not the only publisher with good news. Derek Dunn-Rankin of the Charlotte Sun answers his own question - Do we have a future - with a loud yes.

Other posts about the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

I've written about the Cleveland newspaper before.

June 17, 2009

Michigan student newspaper to try less print as journalism degree debate continues

It comes as no surprise that a Michigan college newspaper will copy its real-world counterparts and print less on paper and more online. I am more surprised that DigiDave entered the Is a J-degree necessary debate.

The River County Journal, an online site for southwestern Michigan, reported that the student-led newspaper at Western Michigan University will now print on Mondays and Thursdays instead of Mondays through Thursdays.

Make it real

The Journal quotes General Manager (and former Flint Journal copy editor) Brian Abbott as saying:
"It will continue its presence on the Web as a 24/7 news source and develop its video sharing, audio podcasts, photo slide show and interactive Web entity.

“We’re here to prepare students for a job, and readers are going to the Web more and more. Newspapers are looking for students who have these skills. We need to be focusing on that and giving them that hands-on experience.”
You can also read what the newspaper's editor wrote about the change or review the official press release.

Ex-chamber CEO heads online-only site

The River Journal, by the way, is an online-only publication with a focus on St. Joseph County, Michigan - River Country run by Bruce Snook, editor and publisher. Snook, who has written a column for the Kalamazoo Gazette, wants to "create a resource for “Celebrating and nurturing life in Southwest Michigan’s River Country.” Archives date back to April 2008 and include podcasts.

The Western Michigan University graduate retired as president and CEO of the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce. Heworked for the chamber May 1992December 2007, according to his LinkedIn page.

digidave blog signature iconShould you go to journalism school?

Now back to DigiDave and the j-school debate. David Cohn, who had a double major of philosophy and rhetoric for his first degree, used internships to get his start in journalism. But he left an Wired to get his master's degree, part of a calculated move to become more then Dave the intern.

Regrets? He has a few.

Suggestions? He has a few, including how does someone learn entrepreneurship. See that might be just as important as traditional journalim skills, he says.

Go to j-school? Well ....
and you know what? I agree with his conclusion. Be sure to read the comments, where he answers my question about a journalism bachelor's degree.

Possibly related posts:

What do you think?
Would you suggest someone go get a journalism degree today?

June 16, 2009

Something special: Looking back at newspaper careers

This was a weekend that had three former reporters looking at their careers while Twitter exploded with moans about mass media failures.

That explosion prompted Louis Gray, who blogs mostly about technology and social media but obviously cares about journalism, to ask his audience if it wants old media to die or thrive.

The former newspaper addict wants to know if the harsh criticism of CNN and mass media is to show how bad it is or "we want to bash the old media when we don’t need them, but flock to them when we do."

Check the conversation on his blog post. for the answers. As Gray says, some folks seem eager to attack all that is wrong with mass media and not pay for any services but then "we hold them accountable for not being there, first to respond" when a real newsworthy event happens.
"Journalism is not a charity event. Its reporters cost money, as do papers and stations’ branch offices, travel expenses, and equipment, yet many of us on the bleeding edge are all too excited to mention how we’re not paying them a dime."
But I don't want to talk about dimes today. I need something lighter to balance my real life.

Journalism privileges

There are a lot of great things about being a journalist, special privileges even.

As Grand Rapids Press Editor Mike Lloyd creeps closer to retiring, he is sharing photos and stories of visits with presidents and presidential wanna-bes. It is part of his series updating stories from his career at the Grand Rapids Press.

A note from a reader led him to update what happened 13 years after a career day visit. The once curious student is still curious, now at Newsday.

Another graduation gave him a reason to remember the class of 1986 and one "superstar." In fact, the annual 100 Superstars feature is what Lloyd calls a highlight of his career. It features outstanding seniors, positive news stories.

Some in the community, like George Woons, agree that Lloyd's project was a good one. Woons was at the meeting when the name of "Superstar Seniors" was proposed for the section. Lloyd writes that Woons said:
"It was a great title that captured everything we were trying to do. You grabbed it and ran with it, and you're still running with it. Superstar Seniors is a heck of a gift to the community from The Press."
Making the right choice

Also looking back is a publisher who recalls days as young reporter and the idealism of the 1970s while reminiscing about "late baby boomers who cut our freak flags and went into business and the professions."

John Christie, now publisher of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, concludes:
"And I'd like to think that putting out a newspaper is a good use of a lifetime, too."
I think Lloyd would agree. Just don't expect agreement from President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, who spoke to 1,300 DePaul University College of Communications graduates over the weekend.

Journalism changes

Several news organizations reported that Axelrod left journalism to pursue a career backstage of politics because the field was becoming "more business than calling."

At first, I thought it mightbe a story about one more person who decided to take the high road and leave journalism because of business pressures.

But the more I looked into his background, I think it might be more that the politics of the newsroom became less inviting then the possibility of putting people into office. It doesn't take much research to learn that his interest in politics started when he was a kid.

Yes, you can

Certainly, Axelrod used his journalism experiences effectively in helping others get elected or get their messages out. That means he can serve as a model for transferring journalism skills to other fields to the many journalists out of the newsroom now.

Axelrod, who graduated from the University of Chicago, holds out hope that the graduates will change journalism and pursue with passion.
“Your generation changed politics forever. There’s no reason you can’t do the same wth journalism, radio and the Internet or any other field.”
Also from the Chicago Sun-Times, which reported that he shared stories about his days in college, is why he once wanted to be a journalist:
“In those days, superb reporting played a historic role in uncovering the truth, shining a bright light on events like Vietnam and Watergate. Journalists heped save the republic, and I wanted to be a part of that."
The Chicago Tribune hired him when he graduated with a degree in politics in 1977. Within a few years, he was able to combine two passions - journalism and politics - by becoming the newspaper's political writer.

Receipts, not reporting

The Sun-Times reported he told the graduates:
"But, over time, things changed. By the mid-1980s, journalism was becoming more business than calling. The front office began to take over the newsroom. The emphasis went from veracity to velocity, from reporting to receipts.”
So, in 1984 Axelrod left what was "more business than calling" to work on a political campaign. He moved on, eventually owning two consulting firms and building a successful career in politics behind the scenes. That career includes working on Detroit's Dennis Archer's campaign.

Perhaps what the students should remember is that when Axelrod collected degree in politics in 1977 he had no idea that one day he'd be advising the president of the United States. They can also review those 40 reasons why studying journalism is a good idea.

Even frogs can report

Do you need an uplift? Check out this article about the career path of reporter Kermit over on the Muppet Wiki.

Or perhaps you are ready to check out what Darlene Koenig , has been up to with Worthless Gifts for Print News Veterans on Facebook. Last I looked there were at least 72 items to send to friends. The owner of Koenig Educational Media keeps adding gifts to the application created in late March.

I especially like her names for objects - messy desks become "time-honored filing system" while a film cannister is "an all-purpose container." "Night shift wheel of death" is the vending machine and "old school filing center" is a pay phone.

On LinkedIn, she's described as an "award-winning writer and editor, combining a journalist's background with additional experience in children's media and education. Particular interests include government, political science, geography, literature and media literacy and their application to students in the real world."

I'd say she has a way with words and quite a memory.

Related posts:
Another editor leaving Booth

Facebook quiz leads to post-journalism jobs

Storyteller won't get regrets from me

Around the 'net:

Tired of my voice? Check A lost opportunity to talk to Grandmother

June 15, 2009

Updates on Advance Publication newspapers come with help from my friends

A travel-weary blogger sends traffic my way with this post: freefromeditors: Inside Out: Your source for Booth News today

The post includes background and an opinion on Paul Keep, who is mentioned in both the Tickling the funny bone post and Happy days in Muskegon. Free From Editors reminds us that Keep once was editor of The Flint Journal. The Muskegon and Flint newspapers are owned by the Newhouses through Advance Publications.

Twitter follower Todd Fettig thought my headline on the Happy days post was a bit too optimistic. He shared the link with this headline: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

OK, as my grandfather would say - don't care what you call me as long as you're calling me to the table. I like readers so thanks, Todd.

Grand Rapids Press Page 1 June 14 2009Todd and I had a friendly Twitter chat this weekend about the Grand Rapids Press A1 Sunday. It helped me clarify that I believe local newspapers should focus on what's in their back yards.
  1. Todd Fettig
    toddfettig This story I'm editing says @johncmayer insists on five chocolate chips per cookie. That's front page material. (And I am not kidding.)
  2. M Chick Whiteside
    mcwflint @toddfettig your decision to make 5 chips per cookie front page news? Bump your head?
  3. Todd Fettig
    toddfettig @mcwflint Those aren't just any chocolate chips. Those are @johncmayer's chocolate chips. (And there's a strong Grand Rapids tie.)
  4. M Chick Whiteside
    mcwflint @toddfettig I get GR angle but cookie chip counts ain't A1 news anywhere. (But perhaps I should consider which editor is still working)
  5. Todd Fettig
    toddfettig @mcwflint Not sold on @johncmayer's chocolate chips? How about Neil Young's favorite salad? (The front page story will divulge even more.)
  6. M Chick Whiteside
    mcwflint @toddfettig Eating habits of musicians won't entice any eyeballs to a daily newspaper. Sounds like a retread. R all journalists on furlough?
  7. Todd Fettig
    toddfettig Rest assured, @mcwflint: @johncmayer's chocolate chip capacity is not the only A1 news. Also a Gitmo North story. http://tinyurl.com/nu2r6q
  8. M Chick Whiteside
    mcwflint @toddfettig Good story, but is it a Grand Rapids story? No. What's wrong with your backyard? Just saying ... If I were editor :)
  9. Todd Fettig
    toddfettig http://twitpic.com/7cwgf - Thanks for the lively exchange tonight, @mcwflint. Here's the front page in question, @johncmayer and all!
-- this quote was brought to you by quoteurl
After reading the story the chips tease referred too, I owe Todd an apology. The story was about a Grand Rapids man who now cooks for musicians, not about the quirky eating habits of folks like John Mayer. And Todd did try to tell me there was a Grand Rapids angle - I just assumed incorrectly that Mayer was playing in that city.

I am still not convinced that putting Guantanamo Bay detainees in an Upper Peninsula prison that is 200 miles away is a Grand Rapids story. Or perhaps it is part of the newspaper's strategy to position itself as the largest home-delivered daily newspaper in Michigan.

What do you think?

Tickling the funny bone: Staff cuts and the future of newspapers

Sometimes, the most political thing happening takes place in your newsroom. Just ask Dan Wasserman, who recently illustrated cuts at the Boston Globe in an editorial cartoon.

You can click on the cartoon to see the rest of this artwork.

Or you can catch up with some of the insights of why he drew it through an interview posted on the Washington Post. Don't worry, the cartoon is there too.

Making a mistake

The political cartoonist, at the Globe since 1985, also shared what he sees as a mistake many newspapers are making:
"Newspapers are really shortsighted in letting go of people who are distinct commentators. Because that's one of the few things [newspapers] have to offer that you can't get off of a CNN Web site or a Google news update. We have a connection to the community. We have accessibility. We have an unpredictability that is not reproducible by any of these news aggregators."
I agree that news organizations shouldn't let go of distinct voices. That's what makes a news organization different from others.

I agree with the unpredictability statement.

But I disagree with his reasoning that only newspapers have distinct personalities, community connections and accessibility. Any good media organization should claim those attributes.

Still the interview in The Comic Riff is worth a read. Then, consider going to Wasserman's Out of Line blog with its tagline of "A notebook of graphic disobedience" to see some of his other work.

Snip, snip, snip

Another cartoon also reminded me of a distinct advantage newspapers have over some media. That cartoon shows a woman speaking to her husband as she cuts out a newspaper. It's not easy to cut out the TV or radio story, so print does reign sometimes.

But I wonder if newspapers are leaving enough in for folks to cut out as they scramble to cut expenses. I miss reading about the top graduates, newly engaged and wed, and the just-opened businesses.

When William Haefeli published his cartoon in The New Yorker on May 11, 2009, the worry was how long the newspaper would be around to cut. But with enough cuts it won't matter, will it.

Another cartoonist, another viewpoint

clip of malard filmore cartoonWasserman isn't the only cartoonist talking about the future of newspapers. Bruce Tinsley, who left the newsroom to create Mallard Filmore, also touched on the subject in a Wall Street Journal article, Mallard cartoonist touts web, mourns newspapers.

He says he's doing well, partly because of the web.
“I’m online only for more newspapers’ websites and in more papers that only have an online presence now, the most recent being the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and it’s weird — but I’m still here.”
He's somewhat optimistic about newspapers:
“I think newspapers are always going to be needed; I just don’t know in what form they’ll still exist.

“The best case for the need for newspapers in an electronic age that I’ve read is a Leonard Pitts column in the Miami Herald where he essentially lays out what each medium does best. He specifically points to state and local news coverage — stories that readers rely on to know how to vote, what to think about scandals in their local state house — that no other medium covers as well, and probably could or would want to.”
Tingley was in the Wall Street Journal and on the O'Reilly show last week because the comic was launched in June 1994. By the way, Michigan's Muskegon Chronicle's decision in April 2008 to drop the duck had editor Paul Keep tasting duck, not crow. That makes it into Tingley's Wikepedia entry.

Happy days here again in Muskegon - revenue, readership up

Publisher Paul Keep tells readers of the Muskegon Chronicle to cheer up as his newspaper can report signs of happiness, or at least signs that a rebound is starting.
"First, in the last few months we have seen some positive signs in our own revenue stream."
Plus, Keep reports readership is up.
"The most recent readership report from Scarborough (something like the Nielsen ratings for broadcast media) shows that combined daily and Sunday Chronicle readership rose 1.5 percent to 71.3 percent of the Muskegon County population at the end of the first three months of 2009.It was 69.8 percent in 2008."
He explains how the web figures in and more of the signs of the turnaround.

Perhaps that good news can spread to BoothMidMichigan and the east side of the state, which Keep discussed in an earlier column: "Newspaper's future in your hands."