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.

Sources: Editor & Publisher, the New Yorker and the and Wall Street Journal

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

New York Times Co. chops 500 personnel

The New York Times Company announced yesterday its second round of job cuts in four months. In May, the Times Co. had to eliminate 200 of its staff or 2% of its workforce (see previous posting), mostly resulting in contract buyouts which have cost the company more than it expected.

This time around, 500 positions, or 4% are set to be gradually cut over the next 6 to 9 months. 45 employees (3.75%) in the flagship New York Times newsroom will lose their job as well as 35 (6%) from the Boston Globe newsroom. NYT's executive editor Bill Keller also announced that the paper is not searching for any new employees at the moment. The cuts are blamed on slow advertising growth, apart from the company's digital holdings which are growing at double-digit rates.

Knight Ridder also announced 100 cuts in two of its papers' newsrooms: 75 at the Philadelphia Inquirer and 25 from the Philadelphia Daily News. The cuts were also attributed to a loss in advertising revenues. Additionally, the papers' publisher declared that overall revenues have been "flat" for the past few years.

These cuts, especially those at the New York Times Co., are a bothering but telling sign of the direction in which the newspaper industry may be headed. NYT Co., a huge operation and industry trendsetter, could provoke other large news companies to do the same in the face of a demanding Wall Street. For example, the California based publisher McClatchy, which has in recent years been a beacon of growth, also just announced that its earnings would be lower than expected in the third-quarter.

However, with double-digit advertising growth in its online divisions, several recent Internet company acquisitions, and an online subscription service, the New York Times may also be steering itself towards a more digital approach to business which other companies already have and will undoubtedly continue to follow.

Sources: The New York Times, Morningstar

Posted by john burke on September 21, 2005 at 05:56 PM in p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, September 16, 2005

Italy: one in three journalists consult blogs

A survey of 400 Italian journalists conducted by an Italian consulting company has found that a third of them read blogs on a daily basis. E-periodistas reports that 50% of these blog browsers link to political blogs, 45% to tech blogs and 35% to culture and art blogs. 72% said they do so out of curiosity and only 21% scan blogs looking for new information. 46% percent admitted that they access most blogs through links placed on other blogs. However, a mere 4% of blog-reading Italian journalists find blogs to be credible. A quarter of the surveyed journalists have their own blog, 38% using their blog as a means of "creating a space of discussion" and 32% as a "professional experiment." Overall, 60% of the journalists questioned feel blogs have the capacity to transform the information world, mostly by "changing significantly the means of news generation and distribution."

Source: e-periodistas (in Spanish)

Posted by john burke on September 16, 2005 at 01:52 PM in a. Citizen journalism, p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina hurricane: citizens initiatives replace newspapers initiatives

At this weblog, we have much admiration for the work done by newspapers in Louisiana, especially the New Orleans Times-Picayune. For instance the "missing persons list" was launched very quickly by the newspaper and it is a remarkable initiative.

But I think to two other consequences:

1) If the goal of newspapers is not only to provide news, but to serve their communities, why have we seen so many "missing persons lists" and why were big newspapers in the US unable to organize any common initiative? It was a poor conception of competition that prevailed, when so many citizens initiatives appeared (see below).

2) How many developers and online specialists are working in newspapers or media companies? Why were they unable to set up any original "community content"? Has imagination deserted the online newsrooms?

The remarks are based on two new websites recently visited:

- one first innovative site is Scipionus.com. On its Katrina Information Map, people can post information about the status of an area that is not yet covered. Little red teardrops on a Google map indicate where postings are available. The site is intended to offer information to people affected by the Hurricane who want to know about the status of a specific location. The site was launched by Jonathan Mendez, a computer programmer, and Greg Stoll, a software engineer, reports Wired.com: "Since Scipionus.com launched Wednesday, it has become a giant visual 'wiki' page, attracting tens of thousands of visitors who are collaborating in creating a public document of astonishing detail."

Greg Stoll said in an interview with Wired.com: "Well, it was my friend Jonathan's idea. He's from New Orleans, but lives in Austin now. He wanted to do something to help, and he found these forums that had lots of information, but most of it was questions like, 'Does anyone know about this block or this street?' And so he was going through 50 pages of these and the thought occurred to him that this would be much easier with a map." However, as everyone can post information on the site there is no control over the accuracy of the postings.

- The Katrina People Finder Project is an open community effort by volunteers to aggregate evacuee data from across the web coordinated by Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Salesforce.com Foundation. According to Cyberjournalist (from September 7) its searchable database Katrinalist.net includes more than 95,000 records.

Sources: Wired.com, Scipionus.com, Cyberjournalist

Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on September 9, 2005 at 05:56 PM in a. Citizen journalism, i. Future of print, n. Online strategies, p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

Source: Reuters

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

US: how can newsrooms shield sources' identities?

Newspapers are currently finding themselves in a dilemma: "After a series of scandals that have undermined their credibility, news organizations are being pressured to be more open in how they operate; at the same time, threats of court action are pressuring them to be more secretive," writes the New York Times. After a scandal about the use of anonymous sources in Pentagon press releases, the Pentagon stated that anonymous sources are prohibited (see Mediachannel). However, anonymous sources are still vital to newspapers.

In order to solve these problems some papers have already changed their editorial guidelines and restricted the use of anonymous sources. The Los Angeles Times issued new ethics guidelines in July saying that "relying in print on unnamed sources should be a last resort", reports LA Observed.

But the use of anonymous sources is still permitted. Therefore papers are looking for new ways to facilitate the protection of sources' identities. The Times for example is "looking into ways of bundling office telephone extensions so that calls to and from particular reporters cannot be identified" reports the New York Times. As the NY Times points out one important question is to determine whether a reporter's notes belongs to him personally or to the company. Some technical solutions, like e-mails that automatically expire after some time, could help. Time Inc. executives are said to think about special portable hard drives so that journalists could remove all their notes from the company's computers. Also the debate whether to avoid a paper trail or keep notes and e-mails etc. needs to be addressed.

Source: New York Times, Washington Post, Mediachannel

Posted by Anna-Maria Mende on August 3, 2005 at 04:05 PM in o. Ethics and Press Freedom, p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New York Times merges online and print newsroom

The Washington Post calls it "a significant step in an industry struggling with big changes in the way people get their news". Editor & Publisher speaks of a 'Web Victory': "The firewall separating the Web site operations of The New York Times from the newsroom on 43rd Street is about to come tumbling down." That means that one editor will be in charge of the print and the online version of his article. It is not the first paper to take this step but the most prominent reports the Washington Post.

In a memo, posted yesterday on Romanesko, the New York Times tells its staff that "one of the biggest long-term challenges facing our craft is to invent a digital journalism and new services for our readers that both live up to our high standards and help carry the cost of a great news-gathering organization. We have concluded that our best chance of meeting that challenge is to integrate the two newsrooms into one. This will enable us to fully tap the creative energy of this organization and thus raise digital journalism to the next level." After ten years of separation, although there was always cooperation, the paper feels that the world has changed and the paper should so too.

In charge of the project will be Jon Landman, deputy managing editor. The physical merger will take place when the New York Times moves to its new Headquarters in 2007, but side-by-side cooperation and integration will begin before that and some people will move already now. According to paidContent "the print newsroom is being told they are now the editors for all the news, not just the print edition. Not sure yet what that means for their counterparts on the web side - or for readers." As stated by Wall Street Journal "no staff reductions are planned as part of the integration."

"It's inevitable, I think, that over time, more and more people are going to gravitate to the Web. For a decade, our school systems have been training the youth to go to a keyboard to get information. That's only going to grow," says John Morton, a Silver Spring consultant experienced with news-industry analysis, in the Washington Post. The Washington Post itself has no plans to combine its print and online newsroom, but stresses that the constant collaboration between the two newsrooms is working well.

Next month, the Times plans to restrict online access to popular columns to subscribers who pay an annual fee of $50 reports the Wall Street Journal.

Sources: Romanesko (Poynter), paidContent, Editor & Publisher, Washington Post , Wall Street Journal

Posted by Anna-Maria Mende on August 3, 2005 at 02:23 PM in c. Multimedia convergence, p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

US: Media trying to shed bias?

Responding to an e-mail by a reader blaming the Los Angeles Times to be too left-wing in its news coverage, Jon Friedman writes on MarketWatch: "What readers refuse to concede is that even if a media organization does have a bias - and, yes, many do, in both political directions - they still have a professional obligation to report on the news. Most do a decent, if not a good, job at it". He suggests that, perhaps due to those readers "the media generally are trying harder to shed the long-held belief that they are liberal rebels with a cause."

"I am noticing that the news networks are trying to look more balanced. Their biggest problem is perception. Viewers seem to think they have a conspiracy against the American people to present only one side of the news" states Bob Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, on MarketWatch.

Source: Market Watch

Posted by Anna-Maria Mende on July 27, 2005 at 05:36 PM in p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday, July 15, 2005

Are newspaper sponsored blogs too risky?

It is well known that many reporters have begun their own blogs apart from their day jobs. Some, such as Daniel Finney, formerly of the St. Louis Dispatch, have gotten in trouble for publishing vitriol of their employers on their personal blogs. But what are the consequences of newspapers sponsoring blogs that their reporters write? An article at Wall Street Journal Online questions the practice for the potential legal problems it could pose for newspapers. Media lawyer Michael Rothberg worries that "It does create considerable additional libel risk for newspapers to have their reporters doing blogs that are not edited." The article uses the example of the San Jose Mercury News' sponsored blog SiliconBeat, whose two assigned tech reporters regularly include rumor, opinion and anonymous sources in their postings, skipping over the editing process usually associated with newspaper articles. One of the blog's authors, Michael Bazeley said, I could definitely see how in journalism circles people could look at what we do and be a bit nervous... but when we sit down to write news stories, we put on a totally different hat." Other postings on the blog are fairly written, as noted by the common consensus in the WSJ article that some recent news about Microsoft's potential acquisition of the Internet marketer Claria was well reported on the blog. Several papers around the US, including the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News, are toying with the sponsored blog idea, showing that newspapers are willing to risk publishing non-edited material. Former San Francisco Examiner editor Tim Porter supports the idea, saying "I'm interested in newspapers getting off their spot and doing something different, because they are increasingly less relevant." But the legal risks still remain. Do you think that newspapers are wise to add blogs, which can provoke lively reader interaction, to their websites? Or does an unedited column go against the grain of what newspaper reporting is all about? Can guidelines be established if blogs are to be a permanent fixture of the media landscape?

Source: Wall Street Journal Online

Posted by john burke on July 15, 2005 at 02:08 PM in n. Online strategies, p. Newsroom management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 04, 2005

UK: evening paper drops website staff

MediaGuardian reports that Associated New Media (ANM), parent company of the London Evening Standard, has cut the paper's online staff fearing that the free website was stealing readers from the paid paper. ANM eliminated city news, will publish only a few articles that are printed in the daily, and is redirecting the site's energies into its entertainment section, ThisisLondon, as well as into its online dating service. The Evening Standard launched its free commuter paper, Standard Lite, six months ago which has contributed to a 6,000 paid copies increase. ANM's decided to scratch most of the website after a survey by News International that determined that 93,000 readers would "potentially" stop buying the paper if they could get most of the news for free online. Business-wise, this could be a strategic move. Chances are, Londoners will easily find other free sources for city news, but by refocusing its resources in its entertainment site, ANM could make ThisisLondon the city's go-to source, enticing its advertisers to follow.

Source: MediaGuardian

Posted by john burke on July 4, 2005 at 12:11 PM in n. Online strategies, p. Newsroom management, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack