Saturday, July 28, 2007

Circulation strategies

When I talk about how newspapers have changed, one issue is about how commodity headlines aren't much use nowadays. "We can't make a living telling people Dick Cheney shot somebody in the face," I often say.

I did so again in Charlotte recently, and somebody with a "Don't Mess With Texas" sign on her wall (okay, it was Regional Editor Hope Paasch) gave me a copy of this Texas Monthly cover:

I've also talked about newspapers' traditional marketing approach as being something like "Eat Your Broccoli." I think I like this pitch better.

P.S. I will start posting something besides pictures when I get time to think of something substantive. Might be a while ...

I should have eaten here

This downtown Charlotte restaurant was mighty proud of its Observer review. (I took this shot with my iPhone; yes, it was too expensive, but I love it.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Our vested interests ...

McClatchy editors hate the idea of NFL photo vests with sponsor logos, as this quick sample of opinion Jill helped me gather will illustrate. (They also note some nuance here, and that there's precedent that didn't rise to the level of our attention).

We'll be working with professional associations and our own legal folks to support our editors as they deal with the NFL on this.

Ledger-Enquirer This doesn't directly affect us, since we do not shoot any NFL games. But we should fight this as much as we can. The NFL shouldn't be able to dictate to us that we become walking advertisements for it or one of its corporate sponsors.

Sun Herald I think this is a serious matter and media companies such as ours should join with all others who are impacted by this ridiculous demand, with the strongest opposition. If we accept this we are on a slippery slope that will be incredibly harmful to our future. If we advertise NFL today can Herbalife or Budweiser be far behind?

The Beaufort Gazette The Beaufort Gazette has never shot an NFL game, to my knowledge, but as a former sports editor who oversaw plenty of NFL coverage, I have some thoughts on the subject: It’s ridiculous for the NFL to mandate that photographers wear vests with Canon and Reebok logos. and newspapers are correct in fighting this one as much as they can. We go to great lengths to avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest, and this policy definitely would create that perception. It would be impossible to cover Canon or Reebok in news stories without some readers thinking we have a vested interest – bad pun, I know – in the company.

The Charlotte Observer We should collectively resist logoized vests. And I think we start with our local NFL franchises, and tell them logos are unacceptable. Then we, as a group, take our message up the NFL corporate chain.

The Herald It's unethical and manipulative. It makes us stooges of the NFL rather than independent news operations covering games.

The Island Packet It’s offensive to require professional photojournalists to wear something that promotes a product other than the newspaper, TV station or network they work for.

The News & Observer Photographers and reporters are not billboards. We shouldn’t do this.

Centre Daily Times We don't cover NFL games but my thoughts are in my blog. The NFL should get a penalty.

Anchorage Daily News Not being in an NFL city, we don't have much interaction with it.

Belleville News-Democrat My opinion of the vest program is that we should fight these requirements. I don't want our photographers to be walking billboards for anyone, and particularly as a condition of covering something. There are some ethics issues there.

Idaho Statesman Wearing vests to identify the working press is one thing, and photographers have had to do that for a long time. It’s quite another to be dressed in advertising logos, turning the press into “walking billboards,” as some have described. It’s something working journalists just shouldn’t do.

The Bellingham Herald It's outrageous. Don't know that no football photos will serve our readers, but I'd be willing to boycott. Easier to say in that we don't cover a team. Best would be negotiation with NPPA/AP/Newspapers and the NFL to get them to back off. Maybe a few more "greedy owners?"

The Kansas City Star I just read the letter ASNE is sending out to the NFL today (coming to you separately). It’s as you would imagine _ we’re committed to maintaining our integrity, blah, blah. However, I also had a discussion this morning with the longtime AP New York sports editor Terry Taylor and she was pretty ho-hum about the whole thing. She said, as our APSE legal affairs guy mentioned, that the vests are in fact very similar to ones worn by newspaper photographers at the Olympics, the Pan Am Games, etc. Those had ads on the back, whereas this version places it on the front. This precedent is a bit of a problem, and we don’t want to lose the leverage that AP New York gives us with the NFL. Our best bet is probably making the argument that while some photogs have worn the vests, many papers did not send shooters to those events and the vests would in fact force them to violate ethics policies. (They technically would violate The Star's ethics policy, for instance.) Through APSE, we can draft a letter to that effect in support of whatever APPM, ASNE and other organizations are doing. If needed, APSE might also be able to arrange a meeting with the league, since we are familiar with the players involved. Hope that’s brief enough.

The News Tribune I hate it, though I’m not sure what we can do about it. We’ve been wearing their green vests for years. But I do object to having our journalist turned into billboards for the NFL to sell.

The Olympian This NFL policy violates our newsroom code of ethics and should be resisted tooth and nail.

The Wichita Eagle We don't typically send photographers to Chiefs games, as we rely on the KC Star for this, but on principal, I think the NFL vest rule is appalling. We're increasingly faced with these "do what we say or you can't cover the game" directives (the NCAA's recent anti-blogging rules, for example) and I would love it if media outlets could band together to exercise enough clout to put a stop to this crap.

Tri-City Herald I don’t like the idea of photojournalists being forced to promote commercial products by wearing the vests. That violates our professional ethics standards. I think the bright red vests are likely to make a photographer into a highly visible target at some point when an out-of-control fan is unhappy about a game’s outcome. What’s wrong with a less visible, less commercial identifier?

Lexington Herald-Leader Until this issue came up, it hadn’t dawned on our visuals editor, Ron Garrison, that the photographers’ vests at the Kentucky Derby the past couple of years had Nikon logos on them. That said, we’re against turning our journalists into walking billboards for event sponsors. We would propose refusing to wear them or, failing that, wearing the vests inside out.

The Fresno Bee Maybe it’s time to look at sports coverage in general. We accept the best seats in the house for free; maybe it was inevitable that the bill would come due. Maybe we need to find a way to be more independent of sports organizations, even if it means we cover sports from paid seats rather than on the field or courtside. Then we can set our own terms. In the meantime, why not boycott photographic coverage of the NFL? Have readers submit their camera phone photos instead and use more graphics.

The Miami Herald With regard to the NFL's attempt to require photographers to wear vests with corporate logos (Canon, Reebok), we think the situation is a deliberate attempt by the league to give added exposure to advertisers. The NPPA has reacted strongly against the rule, and Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute recommends newspapers pursue this issue with all means necessary. He listed the APPM, NPPA, APSE, APME, SND, ASNE and UNITY '08 as organizations that should join the fight. We will wait for the issue to be resolved, but have no intention of wearing the vests. If the NFL persists, we will cover the logos with tape.

The Modesto Bee Even though we do not regularly staff NFL games in Oakland and San Francisco, on general principle we should strongly oppose the NFL’s requirement that photographers wear vests bearing brand advertisements. I agree completely with ASNE’s request that the NFL reconsider this new policy.

The Sacramento Bee We're strongly opposed to the concept, so much so that I doubt we would comply, meaning that we wouldn't wear the vests and then risk expulsion from the game or we might not cover the games photographically. Obviously we are there to gather news, not to be walking billboards for Canon and Reebok. I think we could also try to pressure Canon to pressure the NFL to drop this.

MCT I think it’s an awful idea, but after finding out about it, I learned that photographers for MCT contributor papers and MCT staff photographers themselves have been wearing similar vests at the Kentucky Derby, the Olympics and at NFL games in a few cities for several years. While I would love to oppose this, I think we would also have to oppose the imposition of vests at these other events as well. I don’t know how the folks at Churchill Downs would respond, but I know we would have very little hope of persuading the Olympics organizers to change their minds.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's not about the spiders

The Beaufort Gazette recently posted a fairly routine AP story on its Weird News page online. (Teen claims spiders alerted her to fire).

Somehow the popularity/referral service Digg latched onto that link, and before long the spider Diggers accounted for four times as much traffic as the sites homepage.

Now this isn't an appeal for more stories about spiders. But it can be a useful reminder about the power of the referral services. Articles on most of our sites provide links to Digg, del.ic.ious, Newsvine and others on articles. You want to be sure you have them all available.
P.S. Sorry about the lack on new posts here. We were busy with a board of directors meeting and other matters here and I just didn't have much time. I'm scheduled to be on the road in the Carolinas next week, but will try to do better anyhow.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Eight (or nine) reasons to feel better

Howard Owens is a newspaper guy. Maybe that makes his optimism suspect in some quarters, but not around here. He's a smart guy who's been thinking about (and working on) online journalism for a long time, and he knows as much about it as anybody.

So take a moment to read his post Eight reasons to be hopeful if you work for a newspaper company.

Here's a taste:

In most communities, newspapers are seen not just as big media, but as part of the community. This is especially true in smaller communities, but even in large metros, the love/hate relationship that is sometimes displayed by readers for the local rag is still brand equity. So long as we are around, large segments of our communities will need what we do, and turn to us first for not just the big stories, but the small stories other media ignores. We don’t need to reach everybody, just enough (and we can always develop other products to reach the people not interested in general purpose news).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

How wise is a crowd?

The phrase "wisdom of the crowd" has become commonplace nowadays, but most people who use it didn't read James Surowiecki's book and certainly don't realize that not just any crowd will do.

In fact, some crowds are just mobs – no wiser than individuals, and frequently less so. (A favorite columnist in Anchorage, Mike Doogan, used to say that talk radio is "a way for people to get together and pool their ignorance.") To discover wisdom, it's essential to assemble a genuinely diverse crowd, and create systems that make sure everybody gets listened to and considered.

Jay Rosen posts a good interview with Surowiecki at PressThink, here. You'll enjoy the interview with Emily Gordon, I think. Here's a taste:

... one of the consequences of the digital divide is exactly what you suggest: the “crowd” of people online is not as diverse as it could be, and therefore is probably less collectively smart than it might be, since we know that cognitive diversity is fundamental to collective wisdom.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Did I mention that I'm on vacation this week? (A couple of days along the Redwoods coast and a couple at the theater here in Ashland).

Sorry not to mention it for those who have been looking for fresh postings.

There may still be a couple. This B&B has good wireless, and Barb can't watch me all the time ...


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hyperlocal hype?

It would be easy to read too much into the failure of the smart, well-funded hyperlocal web play – but it would be silly not to pay attention. The fact is, there's been far more hype than payoff in the hyperlocal world so far.

There's an overview article that looks at backfence in AJR, available here. Perry Evans collects a number of perspectives at his blog, evans ink. Ryan Sholin still believes that newspapers should embrace hyperlocal, and adds to the debate here.

UPDATE: Scott Karp at Publishing 20.0 has a different (and, to me, persuasive) perspective today; have a look here.

From Sholin:

Gather more and produce less ... It’s hard for lifelong newsroom types to see layoffs one day and reader participation initiatives the next and not feel a bit slighted. But we’re not just talking about event calendars and little league reports here, although I love ‘em, we’re talking about your newspaper as the platform for local information and interaction.

So it’s not just “send us your events and we’ll shovel them where they belong,” it’s “post your own events on your calendar which other users can add to their calendar, and tag your event with a number of useful categories that will help others find it.” Then let readers add their write-up of the event, and photos, and video.

From Karp:

The problem with all the thinking on hyperlocal is that it’s focused on what we think people need, i.e. more local news reporting, not what they want, i.e. help getting things done — web publishers figured out 10 years ago how to give people what they want, and then Google stepped in and took care of the rest.

From AJR:

The failure of Backfence may offer no greater lesson than the old one about pioneers being the ones with arrows in their backs. New ventures fail all the time. But it could also sound a cautionary note about the present--and immediate future--of hyperlocal news sites. As big-media companies and entrepreneurs alike rush into the hyperlocal arena (see "Really Local," April/May), it's worth pausing and asking: Is there a real business in this kind of business?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Get ready for Rives

National Slam Poetry Champion Rives is sometimes called the world's first "2.0 poet." Combining contemporary technology with ancient storytelling skills, he brings synthesis and narrative coherence to an astonishing range of experience. Now he's doing that on America's biggest story: the marathon campaign for president that stretches from here to November, 2008.

This debut piece, centered around the Democratic candidate debate at Howard University, also introduces a new feature at a collection of non-traditional reporting projects designed to bring you political and campaign news from new perspectives: a poet, an artist, a screenwriter and more. Watch the website for new episodes of the project we call "alt.campaign," with more Rives and contributions from a movie screenwriter, a graphic novelist, and more.

There's also more Rives available at his blog, here. Also check out "If I controlled the internet" – his talk at the TED conference.

P.S. This video -- like all the video on -- can be embeded on your blog or website. (There's a "Post to Blog" link in the "About this video" box.) We're planning to have it watermarked to help spread the word when folks start embedding them.

"Ten Principles" from WaPost

The Washington Post continues to operate a newspaper newsroom both structurally and physically separate from its operation – an impediment our newsrooms have thankfully avoided – but is working hard (and well) to optimize the journalism on both. There's a story and reprinted Len Downie memo available here. It includes this list of "Ten Principles" for web journalism:

Ten Principles for Washington Post Journalism on the Web

  1. The Washington Post is an online source of local, national and international news and information. We serve local, national and international audiences on the Web.
  2. We will be prepared to publish Washington Post journalism online 24/7. Web users expect to see news as it happens. If they do not find it on our site they will go elsewhere.
  3. We will publish most scoops and other exclusives when they are ready, which often will be online.
  4. The originality and added value of Post journalism distinguishes us on the Web. We will emphasize enterprise, analysis, criticism and investigations in our online journalism.
  5. Post journalism published online has the same value as journalism published in the newspaper. We embrace chats, blogs and multimedia presentations as contributions to our journalism.
  6. Accuracy, fairness and transparency are as important online as on the printed page. Post journalism in either medium should meet those standards.
  7. We recognize and support the central role of opinion, personality and reader-generated content on the Web. But reporters and editors should not express personal opinions unless they would be allowed in the newspaper, such as in criticism or columns.
  8. The newsroom will respond to the rhythms of the Web as ably and responsibly as we do to the rhythms of the printed newspaper. Our deadline schedules, newsroom structures and forms of journalism will evolve to meet the possibilities of the Web.
  9. Newsroom employees will receive training appropriate to their roles in producing online journalism.
  10. Publishing our journalism on the Web should make us more open to change what we publish in the printed newspaper. There is no meaningful division at The Post between “old media” and “new media.”

Great place for journalism ...

The CJR article on what became of some 200 journalists who left the Dallas Morning News through layoffs, buyouts and attrition from 2004-2006 is long but worth reading for many reasons.

I admit that one of the things I liked best was this:

The former [DMN] books editor Cheryl Chapman, sixty (who separately sued the newspaper for age and gender discrimination), became a wire editor at the Anchorage Daily News. She feels reinvigorated. “The Anchorage Daily News is a paper run by journalists who care about two things—solid reporting without fear or favor, and memorable writing,” says Chapman. “It’s a great place for a serious journalist.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A closer look at Atlanta

This story from Creative Loafing (a venerable, capable alternative weekly in Atlanta) offers the best overview I've come across on how changes are moving ahead at the Journal-Constitution since the innovative reorganization was announced in February.

You may recall that the plan first cut 70 people from a 500-person newsroom and then reorganized the remainder into just four divisions: 50 staffers were assigned to "Enterprise," responsible for "the bulk of the investigative stories, long-form narratives, personality profiles and government exposés that will appear in print." The counterpart is "News & Information," where about 170 will cover "everything from Georgia politics to corporate mergers to Braves games, as well as so-called 'mojos,' or mobile journalists, who patrol the streets with laptops and digital cameras looking for features and news. Much of the work ... won't appear in print, but will have a home online."

Production duties occupy the other two newsroom components, divided into Print and Online divisions responsible for producing AJC products.

Is this the right plan? Obviously, it's too soon to tell, and Editor Julia Wallace and others in Atlanta are quick to note that they'll be tweaking and tuning the effort as experience dictates.

But it's clearly an effort worth watching. Somewhat like McClatchy, the privately-held Cox enjoys the advantage of having some time to reorient and refocus to accommodate changing conditions. It's a blessing we dare not waste.

From the story:
Miles Groves, a media analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Morton Groves, says private ownership gives Cox Newspapers a distinct advantage in the industry's current sky-is-falling climate.

Says Groves: "Cox is one of those companies that will still be around in 20 years because they don't have to answer to analysts and institutional investors who have more loyalty to the market than to the corporate mission."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day

Thanks to the Charlotte Observer opinion staff for this video of kids reciting the Declaration of Independence, not the easiest document to read. This guy was especially forceful and animated.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Oh say, can you see?

(click to enlarge)

I'm going to post some thoughts about how to focus the newspaper better for today's audience and today's media mix. I plan to get that done in the next day or two.

In the meantime, this was the front page of the Kansas City Star the day we visited last week.

I'm just saying ...

I'm with Billy on this one

In 30 Years: 1977 vs 2007

Thanks to Technobusiness for posting this.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

McClatchy's on Yahoo now

McClatchy's foreign correspondents are now contributing to Yahoo! News, and two of our blogs are there as well.

There's a general listing here, and an example of a specic story page here. The listing of other McClatchy stories listed down the left side of that page is intended to drive traffic to our new

What's up with Gannett's Information Center initiative?

What's the story with the Gannett Information Center initiative that was launched with such fanfare late last year?

Somebody asked me about it last week on our Midwest trip (Wichita, Kansas City and Belleville) and I realized that I didn't know. 

Gannett has moved swiftly to embrace the online imperative. I
 give them credit for adopting the Ready-Fire-Aim methods we've talked a lot about here and moving forward. There were also concerns at the time about news staffers being asked to participate in sales, about trivializing reporting efforts by focusing disproportionate attention on online subjects regardless of news value, and the like.

So what do you hear about life at Gannett newsrooms nowadays? If anybody has read or heard interesting news, can you share the links or anecdotes here? 

(Reminder: this blog is open to the public).