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Friday, 31 May 2013

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Referring back to my comments from yesterday regarding photojournalism, it has NEVER been an easy choice of professions. It is even less so now, but in all this there will come opportunities...hopefully.
It's finding the niche that may prove the most difficult.

http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=3573

It looks like the Sentinel was purchased by the Journal in 1962, but the merger with the Journal did not occur until 1995.

"Maybe it's just that Chicago is finally following suit, in response to more recent economic pressures."
Good suggestion, Mike. But I think the core issue may be much more profit-oriented. Sure, it's well known that the Internet and 24 hour news tv have dramatically changed the news delivery business model. But the reason that Chicago has long had two newspapers is because Chicago has long been two cities. The Sun-Times has always been the city's rather "blue-collar" paper with a readership based on the city's south side. The Tribune has always been the north-siders' paper, with ads and editorials that appeal to "white-collars". When I was a boy the city had two other papers, the Chicago American and the Chicago Daily News, which disappeared by the end of the 1970's.

So while I don't think that Chicago's big enough to support or need two print-only daily papers any more (I think the Sun-Times is actually printed at the Tribune's massive Freedom Center plant) it is big and intramurally newsy enough for two news operations, especially given the deep-seated mutual hatred that many of each paper's readers have for the other's readers.

No, I think that the Sun-Times's drive to replace photos with videos on its Web site is all about revenue. You can't tag a photo with a billable lead-in ad the way you can with video. There may also be a bit of a labor union evasion move afoot. (The photographers were unionized.)

This modal change in communications (technological obsolescence?) isn't only for the print media, it is also affecting TV. Most major newspapers have websites, and so do many TV stations. This has led to a 'dumbing down' of print/TV content, as the papers and stations try to hold on to their advertisers, without whom they go broke and out of business. Not all that many people really know or care about events in Syria, Iran, Japan, China, etc.etc., unless they have direct interaction with the reader/viewer. To hold interest, and advertisers, they need more sensational coverage. Here in the Washington D.C. area (international relations center of the U.S.), getting news of any but the most high visibility events from the papers or local or network TV is nearly impossible. Luckily, for those of us with an interest, there is TV from BBC, France 24, Al Jazeera, and a few other foreign sources available in English. On the web, there are many more. What this means for photojournalists is not good news. Not many newspapers or TV networks/stations maintain foreign bureaus or even have them in other major cities. When you look at the source of much video and pictures in TV and papers, it comes either from agencies or local individuals. The photo or video essay is rare. The iPhone is being used by reporters, not photographers, and in newspapers given a large number of images, one adequate one is usually enough. IPhone video is common on websites. The photojournalist may well be on the path of the buggy whip maker. I wonder if the laid off photogs are eligible for gov't funded retraining?

One gets the feeling that the owners would be just as happy not to go through all that pesky business of, you know, actually publishing a newspaper--they just want their customers money.

Fwiw, the last issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel was published April 1, 1995.

http://news.google.com/newspapers/p/milwaukee_journal?nid=wZJMF1LD7PcC&dat=19950401&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Mike, hard to believe, but for some reason, I think the Sentinel and Journal merged into one paper in 1995! I was a paper boy in the late 60's, so I know they weren't merged then...

The two papers were owned by Journal Communication for years, but operated independently, editorially anyway, under a JOA (joint operating agreement), up until the 1995 date. A JOA usually meant they shared press and distribution costs, but the papers stayed editorially "pure". The two papers' editorial staffs fought tooth-and-nail for scoops up until the merger, and regardless of the Journals alleged superiority, the Sentinel was actually the paper with most of the better stories, scoops, etc.

I believe at the time of the merger, they let some really good Sentinel staff go, for the "lamer" Journal staff, and if they hadn't merged, the Journal would have been "dead". There was a lot of animosity that less talented Journal people were placed instead of Sentinel people. PM newspapers were also a dying breed, also contributing to the Journals shaky footing. A lot of the animosity was based on the fact that the Sentinel was robust, as a morning paper with a well read business section, and they were "saving" the Journal, yet replacing some key Sentinel staff.

Interesting to note, Journal Communications has had some pretty questionable business practices since at least the 70's, and their less than fair dealing with Jim Romenesko, the now-famous journalism blogger, caused him to flee and become an associate editor for Milwaukee magazine, where he created a column called Press Room Confidential, that dealt with all the shady employee and editorial policies going on at Journal Communications as portrayed by a series of "deep-throats" inside the company.

Maybe modern day "Jounalism Experience" is exactly the problem.

A few years ago, when I lived near Mt. Vernon, IL, a close friend discovered a stack of Depression Era newspapers. In reading them, I found them to be more entertaining and interesting than any newspapers I had previously read. If I could count on such entertaining and informative writing today, I would still be a newspaper subscriber.

I reflect frequently on those old papers and wonder what it was, exactly, that made them so enjoyable. In reading the stories, it was if you were transported to the spot where events happened, allowed to observe for yourself, and them walk away to make of it what you would. The writers, while relating events, did not seem to impose on you in any perceptible way.

When I hear, or read, the term "journalist," I am not filled with admiration and respect; I am not sure why that is....Form me, It hasn't always been that.

Wayne

To report a suspected error in Wikipedia, edit the paragraph in question (which you can do without even signing up) and add a "{{citation needed}}" macro.

However, on reading it myself, it looks like Hearst shuttered the physical operation of the paper but the Journal, which bought the name, continued to operate it separately until 1995.

Mike,

I've been enjoying your blog for some years now.
This is my first comment, and it's not about the journalist post i'm replying to.
I'ts an apretiation, or awe for your series called random excellence.
I lived and worked in WI (Shawano) from 2006 to 2009, and became a Packers fan more or less by default. As a Swede from the nothern part of Sweden I'm really a hockey fan, where almost as crazy as the Canadians. And then a year in Chattanooga TN before coming back to Sweden in2010. However I've got the impression you are a man appretianting music. I hope I'm right, or this is going to suck. As a tribute to your series Random Excellenc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duRdHZKQmrE&list=PLjmS3F1O1BPeC8mPyqnmMuuHAxO4VPTR

/Jörgen_

I guess the problem is that the US only has one 'national' newspaper: USA Today (if that counts as a newspaper). By comparison, the UK (pop. about 60 million) supports nine, covering a broad political spectrum (though biased towards the 'swivel-eyed loony' right wing): the Daily Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and at the sleazy end of the market, the Daily Mirror, the Sun, the and the Daily Star. There are also major regional newspapers such as the Herald (Glasgow), the Scotsman (Edinburgh), the Daily Record (basically a Scots version of the Mirror), the Western Mail (Wales), the Belfast Telegraph (for Northern Ireland Protestants), the Irish News (for Northern Ireland Catholics), plus far more local papers like the Newcastle Journal and Evening Chronicle (for example).

The Republic of Ireland, where I currently live, with a population of about 4.5 million, has three national papers: the Irish Times, the Irish Independent (no relation to the British paper), and the Examiner.

If the US had half-a-dozen national papers with headquarters in a major city and regional offices in other major cities, and stringers in less-populous cities, US journalism would be far healthier. Let's say we have the NY Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, the LA Times or the SF Chronicle, the Washington Post and one or two others, with printing and ditribution across the whole of the US (easy to do with electronic publishing: the NY Times could be printed on the presses of the Tennessean, for example). People would still buy the regional papers for the local stories that don't merit national interest (as in the case of the two Newcastle papers I mentioned in the UK), but they'd also buy one of the nationals for the the big news, and also for a political outlook that suited them.

Our town of 30,000 still has an OK paper, part of a regional media group. They've recently done a re-vamp, with more of a local focus, and with lots more amateur photography featured. They have a daily "local lens" section for general submissions, then an abstract "art" photography section for the Thursday art pages, and finally a Friday nature photography page for the outdoors section. Sometimes we can hardly find a world or national news article in the paper, but these days, that's what the internet or NPR is for.

Our little town has a daily paper, The Daily Olympian (shortened to the Daily O or the Daily zip). And, like you, if I look at it in a local coffee shop I have indeed seen the same thing on the Yahoo news/gossip feed, usually verbatim.

As to video stories, I won't even click on them unless they contain the story in print below. I'd much rather read than watch. I too really miss the picture story magazines. From about 1957, at 8 years old when I started receiving a gift subscription every year of the National Geographic I was hooked on stories with photographs and graphics. The NG was where I learned what good photography looked like.

In Toronto we still have 4 newspapers. The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Daily Star, Toronto Sun and the National Post. These papers cover Local National and International news. I feel it is their broad coverage of events from around the world and not just their local coverage that keeps them alive. Three of the four are also seen as national newspapers with large sections devoted to world buisness. I find it difficult when travelling around the world to get any news of Canadian interest and usually the only mention of Canada in the Herald Tribune only happens on Canada day, Whereas the above mentionned newspapers have news from all parts of the world daily. I feel the demise of the newspapers is caused by a lack of information from parts of the world in which they are not located. We were in Paris the day that John Kennedy jr.'s plane went down and the only coverage on CNN was of the search for his missing plane hours of shots of ships cirling the area. The BBC on the other hand gave the news the space it deserved but also covered other events happening in other parts of the globe.

Mike, the problem is not the wrappers, the problem is the content.
In newspapers, the advertising that subsidized wrappers has obfuscated the issue for too long.
In the music business, record companies' insistence on reaping the wrappers overhead almost killed them.
Over here in Europe, one of the most remarkable success stories in recent years is the Qobuz online music service, which delivers high quality content in increasingly high definition at fair prices. This year, I'm seeing hi-fi shops in France selling high-end stereo equipment built around a streamer/DAC with a Qobuz hi-res streaming flat-rate included. Wrapper-less content has become a selling point.

Thom Hogan had a killer question today in response to the Sun-Times shoot-in-the-foot:
"So I ask you: when did you demand that your newspaper give you more video?"

Thom proceeds:
"If you're in the content business, there's one simple rule you have to remember: create the best content for your chosen media. First, you can sell great content to customers (circulation revenue). Second, you can sell your access to a great set of customers to others (advertising revenue). Corollary: if you don't invest in the content, you'll die. First, because you don't attract a large enough audience and can't hold them. Second, because the declining audience will scare advertisers away. Finally, if you just run from your chosen medium to try to dominate another one, you're playing moose to someone else's elephant. Prepare to get stepped on."
(My emphasis.)

From what I'm seeing, Thom is right. Many media outfits don't understand yet how their medium has changed. Watching video consumes time. Video is attractive to those whose time is not at a premium, and who can watch it for free. I'm not going to pay for a medium where I have to be my own editor. If I want to do that, I can do it for free in the social media. If one has to pay, directly or indirectly, for news media, structured information ends up winning, sooner or later.

Ah, facts are expensive opinions are cheap and a lot of opinions turn people into sheap. So what are newspapers these day, at best a well balanced mix of contradicting opinions that are based on nothing but the rejection of the truth. At worst an unbalanced mix of favourable opinions. The latter is called propaganda. Most papers are owned and therefore are part of "the system" ergo I don't read any papers anymore these days. Why waste my time on propaganda anyway.

Greets, Ed.

That piece, while satirical, is unfortunately close to the bone. (Yes, this is another journalism studies story). About 70% of my journalism class weren't journalism students. They were Mass Communications students - future PR flacks and advertising vampires - who just wanted to study Journalism for a bit to pad out their resumés purely so they could study "the enemy" (ie, newspapers and broadcast news). So when they'd know how to best spin a story to either minimise or maximise its impact, depending on whether you want to cover up about that massive toluene spill your company just did, or get the papers talking about your new line of jeans. About 20% were actual journo students, and 10% were miscellaneous, like me.

A lot of them had a career mapped out like this: "I want to work for a paper for a few years so I can build up some contacts in the press, then move onto public relations and use my contacts for that." That was it. The media is not a vital part of democracy; it's just PR and advertising leverage. Some did mention they wanted to stay in media - but only in fashion mags like Cosmo because, quote, "They get a lot of good perks and freebies!"

The tutor for that class looked like she was about to cry. (She also asked us what we liked to read; I'm not joking, I was the only person who raised my hand.) The tutor was an old-school hack who had worked for the ABC.

And they were the exact kind of people whom the Sereno piece satirises: the shallow, vacuous iDrones, who don't want to do boring things like interview politicians or investigate corruption, but go to fashion shows and movie premiers, or write about that cute kitten video they saw on their Facebook page. The iPhone is emblematic of this. (It might seem stupid, but I guarantee you the CS-T will sell thousands more papers once all the hipsters find out it's the paper that uses iPhones.) Of course, in this po-mo world, anything that happens is equally valid news!

Like, why should a story about, like, a bus crash be, like, more important than one about a cute new wine bar that serves everything ironically in paper cups? That's, like, discrimination!

My first thought upon reading the story of the photo-journalist firings was not that in-house photography was on the way out, but that the paper was getting ready to call it quits. Saint Louis (my old home-town)had a morning paper (The Globe Deomcrat) and an evening paper (The Post Dispatch). The Globe was the "over morning coffee" paper, the Post was the "after work" paper. The Globe began in 1852 and folded in the mid-1980's (a few years before the internet started developing for the consumer). The Post is still kicking. I always thought it was the advent of television (and television news)in every home that began the declining need for two papers in St. Louis. Thinking back, it was a real luxury to have two honest-to-goodness, real newspapers, with actual real reporting and photography each day (for just pennies a day).

cfw

Come to Toronto! National papers Globe & Mail, National Post; City papers Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, plus free give-aways Metro, 24 Hours, and a number of free alternate weeklys.

Even as an internet guy, fully conversant with blogs, discussion forums, online shopping, reference sites, cute cat videos, etc., I still prefer to get my news via a printed paper. I just now came from the Guardian's site and, before that, CBC.CA (Canada's national broadcaster), two sites I visit each morning. I generally click from story to story, occasionally opening up a video (which first annoy me with ads and then disappoint with very cursory footage) and I'm always left vaguely unfulfilled, even guilty, as if I haven't dug deep enough.

I'm not able to do it every day, but if I go buy a Globe and Mail, our Toronto-based national paper, and sit for 45 minutes in a coffee shop, then I do get the larger satisfaction of truly seeing the big picture somehow.

Is it a mirage? I mean, it's the same set of stories. Am I a closet dinosaur, still stuck in the print age, even with my Kindle and iPhone and Apple TV. Is it the presentation? The layout? The font?

For me, the decline of newspapers is one of the 21st century's great social tragedies. I don't see why both mediums can't be equally viable or why one has to replace the other. But my misgivings are meaningless, aren't they? Just personal opinions powerless against this juggernaut that is the crowd. And the crowd has decided apparently to kill off the traditional newspaper.

Before they do once and for all, I really hope some web designer takes a hard look at how a good newspaper (the Globe&Mail's latest incarnation is a visual treat) presents the day's events and figures out a way to make news sites more compelling.

Rochester (NY) and its contiguous towns, is much larger than either Waukesha or Ft. Wayne. Yet we have NO newspaper. Oh, there is a publication, the Democrat and Chronicle that masquerades as a new journal, but it is a typical Gannett advertising vehicle. If some actual news manages to sneak in, you can be sure there are typos, factual inaccuracies, really poor writing, or all three.

To Alun Carr's point, the New York Times IS actually printed near the cities it distributes in, i.e. the NYT I buy in Milwaukee is printed in Chicago, which is why I've said for years, that you're going to see an era in the near future where you'll buy a Sunday NYT with a Chicago or Milwaukee section in it, and they'll have a few reporters in every city to write it...it's not like they'll need more, the local papers are so poorly written, with a heavy dependance on wire stories that it shouldn't be hard to beat; they can even hire the aging staffs of the local papers who were "early retired". They have all the institution knowledge of the city, which the "kids" working on the paper now don't know, and don't care about...

If today's Sunday Milwaukee Journal runs true to form, the local section will be 3 to 3.5 pages of actual news (count 'em Mike!), with the rest in obits and ads; and it just went up to $2.50!

I would actually rather buy a Sunday paper for 6 dollars every week, that had long form synopsis of all the local news events, long form photo stories, and the like. Papers can't compete with radio and television for breaking news, so why bother? Instead, you get one paper towns like Milwaukee, where they keep raising the price of the paper, cutting the content so it tells you no more than a 30 second radio story, and they expect people to keep paying...

My most valuable paper of the week, is the Friday Chicago Tribune.

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