Friday, October 07, 2005
Washingtonpost.com Opinions section vs TimesSelect
A very positive article on the redesigned Opinions section at the washingtonpost.com written by the Online Journalism Review. No reference to Times Select, the new paid-for access to the New York Times Op-ed contributors, but I read that as a sharp criticism of the Times' online strategy.
Here are some excerpts of the OJR article: "By giving more power to readers and editorial personalities, the redesigned Opinions section at the washingtonpost.com will become more functional and interactive, according to Hal Straus, Opinions Editor for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the subsidiary of the Washington Post Co. that publishes its online content..."The Post newspaper provides an incredibly deep and smart opinion report. The Web-only content supplements that with some different voices and with work that responds to the Internet’s continuous news cycle and is more focused on Internet information sources," Straus said.
Straus said he and his colleagues hope the changes will not only promote discussion about issues and ideas but will also enliven the site and its appeal to viewers.
"There?s an enormous audience for people who want to interpret what?s going on around them and who really enjoy the give and take of debate on political and cultural issues," Straus said. "We think our new design and features make the opinions area a more useful and provocative place for the readers to visit," he added."
Source: Online Journalism Review
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
American bloggers: from Jayson Blair to Judith Miller
Jay Rosen, NYU professor and blogger, just changed his ranking of the top three newspapers in the US: The Washington Post is now first before the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal! But what is interesting in this - personal - view is that his move is linked to the Judith Miller story. Rosen was horrified that nothing appeared in the Times except a very deferent article presenting the journalist as a "First Amendment hero". That is exactly the Editors Weblog position from the beginning: you can't see the trees (anonymous sources debate) for the wood (the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction scandal in American mainstream newspapers).
Moreover, Rosen made a subtle link between the Jayson Blair story (forged sources issue) and the Judith Miller story (anonymous sources issue). But the great difference is that the blogosphere was an infant two years ago and now it is a rebellious teenager! When the Blair scandal appeared in 2002-2003, the debate was among journalists and a Times report cleared the affair in a few months. It seems that this kind of "smooth process" does not exist anymore. Rosen and other bloggers are asking for more transparency and more investigation, they want more than the fairy-tale...
At the Editors Weblog we understand that it is difficult - and sometimes unfair - to compare the Jayson Blair scandal with the Judith Miller case. But in both situations, it raises questions on the information process and how stories can be distorded or manipulated. And we think it is a very good debate to clarify what really happened when Judith Miller was in jail. If not, the community of journalists will be accused not to cover the real news!
My conclusion: The New York Times must react very quickly to avoid any parallelism between how the newspaper managed the Blair scandal and how it deals with the Miller affair.
Here are some quotes from Jay Rosen: "Just one man's opinion, but now is a good time to say it: The New York Times is not any longer--in my mind--the greatest newspaper in the land. Nor is it the base line for the public narrative that it once was. Some time in the least year or so I moved the Washington Post into that position...
? The Post, I believe, is our great national newspaper now; the Times is number two, with the Wall Street Journal close behind. Still a strong fleet. With a new ship in the lead perhaps it will sail to unexpected places."
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Los Angeles Times: how and why the editor was sacked
Editor & Publisher reveals that in the Oct.10 issue of The New Yorker, media writer Ken Auletta outlines how the newsroom/corporate -- and Los Angeles/Chicago -- conflicts led to the departure of John Carroll as editor of the Los Angeles Times this summer and cloud the future of the newspaper. In another paper, the Wall Street Journal asks: "Is Marilyn Monroe the answer to the hard times at the Los Angeles Times? After five years of sagging circulation and advertising, new managers at the Times are pushing for more coverage of Hollywood and celebrities."
Please find below some quotes from the Auletta's article:
“In Los Angeles,” he writes, Scott Smith, head of Tribune Co.’s publishing division, “is sometimes described as ‘an empty suit.’”
"Carroll's and Baquet (the successor of Carroll)’s drive to make the Times become a great national paper came at the expense of local coverage. Baquet tells Auletta, “We haven’t mastered making the paper feel like it is edited in Los Angeles.”
-- Times editors and reporters were outraged when Tribune did not offer public congratulations after the paper earned five Pulitzers in 2004, then did not send an exec to the awards cerermony.
- An unnamed senior editor describes the conflict between Chicago corporate and Times editors as ?a wrestling match,? with editors urged to adopt the latest ?management fad,? such as free youth papers that could be read on trains, when there are few trains in L.A.
- Carroll calls the current Times ?test case No. 1 of whether a newspaper chain can produce a first-rate newspaper. ... It may be that is simply structurally impossible.?
- Baquet wants to find new readers but does not commit to a youth spinoff, and does not endorse the new mantra about simply giving readers "what they want" as opposed to what editors think are important. "It's not always our job to give readers what they want," he declares."
WSJ reports that new managers at the Los Angeles Times plan to change the paper's reporting. They want more stories on celebrities and Hollywood, shorter stories, more regional reporting and more combination coverage linking the paper and its web site.
Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on October 4, 2005 at 06:27 PM in j. Staff changes, m. Improving editorial quality, p. Newsroom management, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Catalan newspaper: Editorial turn towards more explication and services
The Catalan newspaper Avui will change its editorial strategy towards more explication and services, reports Mediacafé (in French). The goal is to incorporate elements that help readers to interpret the news and form an opinion about it. The main goal is no longer to cover breaking news as fast as possible. The paper also plans to offer more service information. In addition it will launch a new supplement called 20-30 that targets young readers.
Source: Mediacafé (in French)
Friday, September 23, 2005
American newspapers: fretting about how cuts will be executed
A very smart article from Jon Friedman, MarketWatch about the current and future layoffs in the US press: "Newspaper companies talk a lot about how they hope some doomed employees will accept, in the more dignified newspeak of the publishing business, "voluntary" exit compensation packages.
I hope that the paper won't use the layoffs as an opportunity to abandon the less sexy coverage areas, such as urban affairs and metropolitan news.
President Bush was rightfully blasted by the media for turning his back on the poor people of New Orleans when the administration utterly failed to exhibit any sort of an adequate evacuation procedure prior to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
It would be oh-so-easy for any metropolitan daily to reduce its concentration to the news that affects the less desirable readers - you know, the people who neither subscribe to the paper nor read it online. And if you don't even own a computer or have an Internet connection, you might as well move to the Australian Outback."
Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on September 23, 2005 at 12:35 PM in k. Circulation and newspaper launches, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Major paper acknowledges that media blogger broke story
The Wall Street Journal has publicly recognized that Rafat Ali at PaidContent.org broke a story that the Journal played off as their scoop. In the wee hours of September 20, PaidContent posted that Viacom was in talks to acquire Internet film distributer iFilm. The following day, the Wall Street Journal printed the same story, not crediting Rafat with the scoop. Only after this was pointed out did WSJ list the correction on their website. Unfortunately, the correction is behind a paywall and can't be viewed by non-subscribers and probably won't be noticed by many people.
Perhaps the most disturbing part about this story is that this is the second time in two months that WSJ has failed to credit PaidContent with breaking a story before Rafat called them on it.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Joke of the day: Brussels calls for media code to avoid aiding terrorists
Thanks to Nicholas Watt and Leo Cendrowicz, The Guardian, for this thorough article on the latest European Commission's whim!
According to Franco Frattini, the vice-president of the commission who is in charge of the report called Violent Radicalisation and Terrorism Recruitment, "Europe's media should draw up a code of conduct to ensure that newspapers, television stations and the internet do not act as propagandists for terrorists. In a move which is likely to provoke a debate on state controls of the media, the commission warns that journalists pose "specific risks" in the fight against "violent radicalisation". The report warns that the media are taking an over-simplified view of the world, which plays into terrorist hands.
The warning to Europe's media will be issued today by Franco Frattini when he outlines a 12-page proposal calling on the EU to agree a Europe-wide strategy to tackle terrorism. Mr Frattini, a close ally of the rightwing Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, offers to host a conference with the media this year to discuss his criticisms."
... "One striking proposal is a call for people to refrain from talking about Islamic terrorism. In an attempt to ensure that the vast majority of peaceful Muslims are not portrayed as terrorist sympathisers, the paper says: "The commission believes there is no such thing as 'Islamic terrorism', nor 'Catholic', nor 'red' terrorism ... The fact that some individuals unscrupulously attempt to justify their crimes in the name of a religion or ideology cannot be allowed in any way ... to cast a shadow upon such a religion or ideology."
The criticisms of the media are contained in a draft drawn up in July, but seen by the Guardian. It has since been refined. Mr Frattini's office said the latest version is tougher in one key area - it names the al-Manar satellite station, run by Hizbullah in Lebanon, as an outlet for terrorist propaganda. The station has been banned in France, the Netherlands and Spain."
My comment: Europe doesn't need such a media code, this is an insult to all journalists and editors already aware that the "war of words" exists and that expressions as "terrorists" or "Islamism" need to be used very cautiously.
The second main drawback of the Frattini's report is that it is not acceptable to say that media - in general - are responsible for disseminating "violent radicalisation" ideas. It is too easy to assimilate Al Manar to the vast majority of European media outlets.
No, Mr Frattini, we are not aiding "terrorists" and we don't need any media code related to this issue. Editorial guidelines decided in every newsroom will be enough.
Monday, September 19, 2005
TimesSelect: a missed opportunity for newspaper partnerships
Regarding the new paid service from The New York Times providing exclusive online access to Op-Ed columnists, the NYT archives and some web tools, he considers that "the hybrid online publishing model is a good one (keep most of the news Web site free, but build a suite of premium services worth paying for)".
Nevertheless, I consider an opportunity was missed in the struggle for the newspaper industry to reinvent a new business model. And I hope this missed opportunity will serve as a lesson in other countries as in the US.
What's the issue? It seems rather clever that the New York Times finally choose to introduce new "pay" service. But this shift would have a totally different significance if other national newspapers - such as the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and why not USA Today - did the same thing at the same rate at the same moment.
Immediately more than 50% of all op-ed pages produced in America would be available behind paywalls and op-ed page addicted readers - and many bloggers using these sections as punching balls - would have to choose: to pay or not to pay, to be an insider or a news refugee!
The Times decision to make its own and lonely policy is risky: not because web editors and bloggers will copy and paste the columns some will disseminate, but because a majority of them will ignore the Times columnists and will find their "honey" in other sources.
Another strategy would have been to discuss with other publishers and to define a common strategy to create a more powerful leverage toward readers. The problem is that every newspaper thinks it is able to escape the circulation decline by itself. But this is a wrong attitude: newspapers need to talk together and to define common paywalls. If not, every newspaper's paywall will be submerged one by one.
This mentality of working together is not at all "in the air" within the newspaper industry. But defeat after defeat, publishers and editors will be obliged to present a common front regarding pure online players: it is better to share revenues of a big cake - for instance all op-ed pages produced by some national newspapers sold in one package - than to go it alone!
PS: in Spain, El Paisdid exactly the opposite than The New York Times: three years ago, they decided to become a paid site (with very few exceptions), but in June 2005, the Spanish newspaper was obliged to change its strategy and to again become a free website!
Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on September 19, 2005 at 07:06 PM in a. Citizen journalism, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
About the "media's inability to deliver scientific evidence"
Ben Goldacre, himself an academic (see here), writes a comment piece in The Guardian about science journalism and the media's inability to cover scientific evidence. (See also his site Bad Science.) Among others, he states that many reporters cannot handle statistics and some even confuse hypothesis and evidence. He asks why "science in the media is often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong". Here are some quotes from his article. The full article can be found at The Guardian (registration required).
"Statistics are what causes the most fear for reporters, and so they are usually just edited out, with interesting consequences. Because science isn't about something being true or not true: that's a humanities graduate parody. It's about the error bar, statistical significance, it's about how reliable and valid the experiment was, it's about coming to a verdict, about a hypothesis, on the back of lots of bits of evidence."
"So how do the media work around their inability to deliver scientific evidence? They use authority figures, the very antithesis of what science is about, as if they were priests, or politicians, or parent figures. 'Scientists today said ... scientists revealed ... scientists warned.' And if they want balance, you'll get two scientists disagreeing, although with no explanation of why ... One scientist will 'reveal' something, and then another will 'challenge' it. A bit like Jedi knights."
"Science is done by scientists, who write it up. Then a press release is written by a non-scientist, who runs it by their non-scientist boss, who then sends it to journalists without a science education who try to convey difficult new ideas to an audience of either lay people, or more likely - since they'll be the ones interested in reading the stuff - people who know their way around a t-test a lot better than any of these intermediaries. Finally, it's edited by a whole team of people who don't understand it. You can be sure that at least one person in any given 'science communication' chain is just juggling words about on a page, without having the first clue what they mean, pretending they've got a proper job, their pens all lined up neatly on the desk."
Source: The Guardian
Friday, September 09, 2005
How Wikipedia's rising recognition may affect newspapers
The popular Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, easily holds the distinction of top reference site on the Web with double the traffic of Dictionary.com. In fact, it is so popular that its growth rate, 154% last year according to Reuters, means that it could soon surpass the New York Times and other news sites in terms of page hits. This statistic could have some interesting consequences for the future of newspapers.
The essence of a Wiki is that it is an organic webpage that anyone can edit which results in a 'neutral point of view' article. When "Wikipedians," as contributors are dubbed, post their paragraphs, the information must come from a legitimate source; no original material or personal opinion is allowed. But as recognition of the site grows, Wikipedia is increasingly referenced for breaking news, not just general background information, even more than its own news offshoot, WikiNews. Articles are often posted immediately, as an event unfolds, as opposed to a traditional encyclopedia whose articles are purely retrospect. For instance, in April, Wikipedia had the same percentage of people browsing for info on Pope Benedict as did CNN.com. The difference with Wikipedia is as time passes, more people contribute to an entry that was once breaking news, adding new information and deleting or clarifying that which was disproved, producing well-rounded encyclopedic entries. But much of what is posted is simply a mix of regurgitated content from various newspapers joined together into one article. In this respect, the existence of newspapers nor their journalism are not at all threatened by Wikipedia. It's collaborative wealth of information as well as other online sources could, however, be used by newspapers for the benefit of the reader.
When writing a story, journalists could link to a Wikipedia entry or other reference to provide background information for the reader. Some newspapers such as the Economist, who have detailed explanations of situations in their own database, place links to this info next to their articles to give the reader a foundation for the article they are reading. But few actually link to other sources. Some New York Times columnists have begun linking to other newspapers, but this is more in reference to what other columnists say instead of background.
Adding such background links may be beneficial in holding younger readers attention. Think about a twelve year-old who is asked to do a report on a current events article and finds one concerning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict published in a major national paper. It may be the student's first encounter with the issue and thus, at first glance, the article will not make much sense to the student. But if their were links to background information integrated in the article, the young reader will not only be able to understand the gist of the story, but also may develop an interest in it and begin to follow it daily in the newspaper. This idea is also relevant for anyone who picks up the paper in the middle of a developing story. Online newspapers of the future may thus act as virtual information super-links aside from their role as purveyors of quality journalism.
Keeping this in mind, the future newsroom may have an additional employee: a 'link editor' (if the position ever takes hold I'll try to come up with a more original job title). The bearer of this responsibility would be charged with reading drafts of articles before they are published, adding any relevant links to names, places, events, etc., in the text. The journalist, as many of you may realize, does not have time to complete such a task. The link editor would work from a database and if ever they crossed an obscure reference, would search for background, link it with the article and place it in the database for future reference. It could work in reverse as well: journalists could consult the link editor for quick background on a story idea. Of course, similar functions have already been technologically automated such as a service that links words to a dictionary site, which is useful for improving ones vocabulary. But such a position in a newsroom could result in more informed, fulfilled and happier readers, indeed the type of reader that returns to read your newspaper the following day.
Posted by john burke on September 9, 2005 at 05:02 PM in a. Citizen journalism, b. Alliances and partnerships, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack