Suggestion Box

After examining the contents of the employee suggestion box, the editor complained, “I wish they’d be more specific. What kind of kite? What lake?”

An Untimely Death

Wolff at Conference Predicts ‘Death of Newspapers’ — Adds It’s Not So Bad

NEW ORLEANS — Delivering the Thursday keynote at the annual E&P/Mediaweek Interactive Conference in New Orleans today, Michael Wolff — Vanity Fair columnist, Murdoch biographer and Newser.com founder — again predicted the “death of newspapers,” adding that he’d been having “fun” pushing the proposition in recent months to the point of being considered a “Dr. Doom.”

Newspapers “not only will go away but they should go away,” he said, adding that today’s talk would “cap” his statements and then he would “never speak of the death of newspapers again.”

He said that newspapers going away would not be a bad thing and might even be a great thing, with replacements promising to more than fill the news role and hole. The problem, he admitted, was a financial model.

“So, how to turn this into a business?” he asked. “What is the next step for all of us? The answer is uncertain.” But he proposed: “To make it work we need really, really, really large audiences.” What he called “television size,” maybe 50 million for a few sites.

What he sees coming and needed are giant “networks” — a few major Internet players, like the TV networks with tens of millions of users.

He repeatedly said that those who worry about the valuable work of newspapers going away are overstating the case, and should look at newspapers with a “cold eye.” Few papers, he said, do such work nowadays and can be replaced by networks of bloggers, local or niche experts and journalists. He called a column earlier this week arguing the case for newspapers by The New York Times’ David Carr “completely idiotic, fatuous … Biblical.”

He declared flatly that “no one” reads newspapers anymore, even though actually, tens of millions still do. And they even pay for it.

Wolff noted that he has a strong newspaper background himself: His mother worked at a New Jersey daily, and his father sold ads to papers. Wolff started his career in newspapers, and so did his daughter. But he said his arguments months ago that newspapers would disappear from many major cities is now “conventional wisdom.”

-Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher

QuoteWorthy #9

“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize.”

-Winston Churchill, 1940

Tighten and Lighten

15 Tips for Trimming Fat in News Stories

From Bob Baker’s Newsthinking.com, an excellent resource for journalists.

1. Test your quotes. If you can do a better job communicating in your own syntax, do it. We must fight against obligatory-sounding quotes.

2. Read your story aloud. If you have true courage, have someone read it aloud to you.

3. Check your sentences that precede a quote. You can often find redundancy. Kill these “echoes.”

4. Try to avoid passive voice.

5. Edit on a print-out, not the screen.

6. Read your print-out with the margin tightened to resemble the published column-width version.

7. Pretend you are a subscriber.

8. Use shorter words.

9. Try to avoid parenthetical sentences.

10. “Of” is a sentence-stretcher you can often lose.

11. Value periods over commas, which can create extraneous phrases.

12. Squeeze the “background” elements of your story.

13. Can you read your first paragraph with one breath?

14. Kill jargon.

15. Too much of the word “that” can slow down the story.

The Hometown Hero

Stuff Journalists Like

 

I wrote my first hometown hero piece this week after a family flipped a vehicle into a ditch filled with river water. A group of passersby pulled the 21-year-old mother and her 3-year-old and 18-month-old daughters out of the Jeep Cherokee.

I began with the story of the emergency room nurse who performed CPR on the youngest child, and my next story will focus on the men who pulled them from the vehicle.

Seeing the above blog post (hilarious) made me want to share the news. See the full post here: http://www.stuffjournalistslike.com/2009/03/hometown-heroes.html

Furlough Food

The grievous news came last Monday, as the Entourage of Death — publisher, editor, advertising and HR directors — descended upon our tiny newspaper staff. Ten-day furlough, they said. 

Earlier that morning, the Ann Arbor News announced it would close, and three other Michigan dailies — The Bay City Times, The Flint Journal and The Saginaw News — announced they were scaling back to 3 days a week. Considering all that and other bad news in the industry, our staff was praying for the furlough. 

Newhouse announced 10-day furloughs and pension freezes at all its papers outside Michigan. Also that day, Gannett announced a week of furloughs, having already implemented a company-wide, one-week furlough just months ago.  We at Newhouse get the benefit of three-day weekends and extended vacation time, if we choose, or we may also work 37.5 hours for 32 weeks so we aren’t hit too hard. 

Friends at Gannett report they were told “furlough isn’t vacation” and must take mid-week furlough days. As if the cash-strapped employees weren’t put out enough!

I dipped my toe into the furlough pool immediately, taking off that Wednesday, to see how it would affect my paycheck and budget. I’m also extending two planned vacations with furlough days and taking a four-day weekend.

Now our staff adds “furlough” to nearly every noun for effect. One coworker baked furlough cookies (delicious!) for the next day. Today, she brought in a furlough quiche for breakfast. I’m holding out for furlough steak! 

We Report. You Decide.

Q: What do you call a newspaper reporter with a TV reporter on either side?

A: An interpreter.