• If you skipped it, go back and read Tuesday’s page 1 Enquirer story about the Kentucky widower who shot and killed an intruder. Reporter Mark Curnutte caught the old man’s spirit perfectly with wonderful quotes.
• Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn told WVXU’s Maryanne Zeleznik that the paper remains committed to “watchdog” journalism. We should be so lucky. I was night editor of one tabloid-size daily and photojournalist for another. The Enquirer is going to shrink its pages again sometime this year: 10-1/2 by 14-2/3 inches. That format will accommodate longer stories only when the type performs the dreaded jump from page to page. Check out prototypes at public libraries. You’ll see how little there is to read on each page after space is dedicated to ads, photos, headlines and graphics. That’s the nature of tabloids meant to attract younger buyers who are more viewers than readers. It’s a path The Enquirer has been following since it shrank its traditional broadsheet page a few years ago to its current measurements.
• The Enquirer’s Washburn also acknowledged (see above) her audiences’ growing preference for reading news on mobile devices. At least they still want news, whatever that means to younger readers who don’t look at today’s print editions. (My journalism students didn’t read print editions …) So how does anyone read promised investigative pieces on a smart phone or tablet? And will readers accustomed to texting brevity be wired to read anything longer than a tweet? Some studies suggest they might. If Washburn finds the right mix of content and format, The Enquirer could win a Gannett award for the Best Investigative Paragraph.
• In case you haven’t appreciated it, CityBeat is adding reporters and increasingly is reporting public issues in long-form cover stories. We’re not abandoning food, drink, music, theater and art, but “alternative” increasingly means tackling news in ways other local media haven’t.
• Other guests on Zeleznik’s Impact Cincinnati were Mary Carmen Cupito, NKU journalism program director and associate professor, and Elissa Yancey, associate professor in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Journalism and managing editor of Soapbox Media. They agreed that gloom about American journalism fails to appreciate the new formats and new media job opportunities. Their students use these media and are being prepared to work in them. Meanwhile, Americans increasingly want news, but we’re not ready to wait for TV evening news, the daily paper or even NPR morning and evening programs. Americans want news when and where we choose to read, watch and listen. That’s the one of the biggest changes that the professors and editor Washburn (above) agreed is driving the industry.
• Meanwhile, Cincinnatians won two victories for free speech. One involved the loathsome UC violation of constitutionally-protected campus activism. As Enquirer reporter Dan Horn wrote, “It just got easier to protest, collect signatures and hold rallies at the University of Cincinnati. A federal judge … rejected UC’s practice of confining student demonstrations to a ‘free speech zone’ near McMicken Commons on the university’s west campus. U.S. District Judge Timothy Black said the policy is too vague, too restrictive and a clear violation of students’ free speech rights.”
The other victory was Cincinnati’s admission that its cop should not have confiscated cameras from two activists recording a Chabot presentation at a public meeting. Officer Tyrone Hill seized the cameras after Chabot’s representatives told the officer that David Little and Liz Ping were not permitted to film the town hall meeting. WCPO’s Tom McKee said that, “In its apology, the city said it regrets violating Little’s and Ping’s constitutional rights, apologizes for any inconvenience, annoyance, injury or damage and assures them that the rights of citizens to film such public events won’t be interfered with by the police or any city department.”
WCPO quoted Paul DeMarco, the activists’ attorney, saying, “I think it’s extremely rare and extremely laudable for the city to step up and say what happened here violated the United States Constitution.” DeMarco could have added that free speech violations by Cincinnati have provided a cottage industry for First Amendment advocates for decades.
• Enquirer reporter Cliff Peale mentions that publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on the UC board when he writes about board action. But he didn’t tell me what Buchanan, on the board by virtue of her clout as publisher of the city’s Sole Surviving Daily, had to say about UC president Greg Williams’ surprise and unexplained resignation. I didn’t see even that she “declined” to comment. This lapse drew national attention on the respected jimromenesko.com journalism website under the headline: “DEAR CINCY ENQUIRER: HAVE YOU TRIED INTERVIEWING YOUR PUBLISHER?”
• Todd Akin’s views on rape and pregnancy aren’t the only gift that keeps giving to critics and the news media. Fraternities and sororities at Miami University can be counted on to flaunt their sense of entitlement with tasteless gusto. If it’s not projectile drunken vomiting, it’s bottle rockets fired at each other’s houses.
• Did anyone really watch or listen to the Republican convention from Tampa, Fla.? It overwhelmed my gag reflex. Republicans hate unions and poor people, love fetuses and deadly penalties, hate Medicaid and love insurance companies that want to take over Medicare. I don’t expect better from the Democrats, only a different love/hate list. My condolences to reporters who have to produce daily stories from those mutual masturbation exercises. At least in the Good Old Days, conventions chose candidates and there always was the chance of a lively police riot and tear gas to spice the night.
• The Atlantic’s James Fallows says we’re entering a “post-truth politics” world where candidates and others take what the AP diplomatically calls “factual shortcuts.” The question is whether reporters will surrender access to campaign sources to fact-check assertions and publish what they learn. Poynter Online adds to the discussion, saying, “When significant political players are willing to say things that flat-out are not true — and when they’re not slowed down by demonstrations of their claims’ falseness — then reporters who stick to he-said, she-said become accessories to deception.” The AP and others acted swiftly to nail the falsehoods in Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention. The Enquirer published the AP’s findings and, later, Rob Portman’s mistaken assertion at the GOP convention that Obama never worked in business. The paper quoted the Plain Dealer’s fact checking and listed Obama’s former jobs. Whether Portman spent as much or more time as Obama in the private sector is unclear, but it apparently was as a lobbyist and lawyer.
• A new poll finds that local TV is the favored news source for most registered voters. At 58 percent, it is the only medium to which a majority turns every day. That’s scary. Think of how little time is devoted to public affairs after ads, weather, sports and happy talk. Local newspapers drew 39 percent daily. The survey was by the Los Angeles Times and Annenberg journalism school at the University of Southern California.
• Cliches, like stereotypes, are handy journalistic shorthand. Most media quoted sources or attributed recent beheading of 17 young Afghans to Taliban who objected to a party with mixed dancing. That fit with what we’ve reported about Taliban morality. Now, London’s Independent questions that conventional wisdom. Other stories are coming out, according to the Independent: The dead were accused of being government spies; the killings were part of a Taliban fight over women when witnesses had to die, or the victims were part of an imminent anti-Taliban tribal uprising. the Independent’s reporter asks where the party goers got an electronic keyboard found in the ruins, why children were among the dead and how any group of young people would have been stupid enough to violate village/tribal morality by openly mixed dancing with loud electronic music. Blaming it on the Taliban was the simple explanation of a fatally complex situation.
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