by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond
• A wet daily paper is near-useless. By the time the Enquirer and New York Times
dry, my day is underway. I might get back to them after supper.
However, we have a new delivery person who, unlike the woman she
replaced, understands that double-bagging only helps if the bag openings
are alternated and neither opening exposes the highly absorbent
newsprint to rain or snow.
• Poynter Online reports the growing number of news media hoping to profit from the Times-Picayune’s retreat from daily journalism in New Orleans. The Baton Rouge Advocate plans to produce a New Orleans edition in October, when the T-P plans to cut printed editions to three days a week.
Coincidentally, Poytner reported, four online news
organizations in New Orleans said they’re forming an online news
collective called the New Orleans Digital News Alliance. The four are The Lens, My Spilt Milk, NOLA Defender and Uptown Messenger. (All but the Lens
are for-profit sites.) “The members will begin promoting each other’s
work immediately through social media and other avenues, and closer
cooperation is being developed,” their press release says. My Spilt Milk
honcho Alex Rawls says in a post, “Our collective goal is to provide
sustainable, up-to-the-minute, hyperlocal online journalism serving the
New Orleans community.”
That’s not the only online newsroom planting a flag in New Orleans local coverage, Poynter continued. Gambit Weekly Editor Kevin Allman says NOLA Beat,
“a nonprofit startup planned in the mold of ProPublica or the Texas
Tribune,” is planned to start up before the end of the year. Gambit is a New Orleans paper.
• Trust must exist between news media and
audiences and journalists and their editors. No medium is immune. NPR
recently had to retract a story after being alerted to a reporter’s
plagiarism. Here’s the NPR editor’s note from July 9: “Earlier
today, we published and distributed a story by Ahmad Shafi recounting
his experience witnessing a public execution in Kabul in 1998. Since the
story was published, it has come to our attention that portions of the
piece were copied from a story by Jason Burke, published by the London Review of Books in March 2001. We have removed Shafi's story from our website.”
• Journatic, a commercial attempt to provide
hyper-local news to major newspapers is in trouble because of
journalistic fraud, fabrication and plagiarism. The agent of its
distress was a former Journatic employee who explained how
low-paid writers in Asia provided the local U.S. stories under phony
bylines to unsuspecting American dailies. The revelation came on public
radio’s This American Life in early July.
Journatic seemed perfect in an era of corporate
cost-saving at any cost, readers’ trust be damned. Cheap outsourced
labor allowed Americans to be fired. Poynter Online said the Chicago Tribune, which invested in Journatic, laid off about 20 American journalists and reassigned another dozen who’d worked on Trib suburban papers and websites. Journatic stories made that possible.
Other papers that substituted Journatic stories for those that could have been done by local journalists included the Chicago Sun-Times, Houston and San Francisco Chronicles.
The Enquirer still struggles to provide the kind of
hyperlocal or local-local news — “Local Youth Wins Trumpet Contest” —
that executives believe readers want. It tried in print and online. It
never found the right formula and gutting its reporting staff left it
without people do it all.
Gannett helped by buying most of the Tristate weeklies.
While not hyperlocal — you can’t cover two or more neighborhoods and be
hyperlocal — this was a good idea. There is nothing second rate about
community weekly journalism; it has some different news values and high
credibility among readers and advertisers. Some of my former students
have created productive jobs and careers on community weeklies.
• Jimromenesko.com eports a fascinating poll result: YouTube has become a major way to
get news. Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said YouTube poses
“a signficant opportunity and also a challenge” for mainstream news
media. Romenesko included these findings:
The most popular news videos tended to depict natural disasters or political upheaval-usually featuring intense visuals.
News events are inherently more ephemeral than other kinds of
information, but at any given moment news can outpace even the biggest
Citizens play a substantial role in supplying and producing footage.
Citizens are also responsible for posting a good deal of the videos originally produced by news outlets.
The most popular news videos are a mix of edited and raw footage.
Pew added, “The report points out that viewership for TV
news still easily outpaces those consuming news on YouTube — 22 million
people on average still watch the evening news — but fast-growing
YouTube is now the third most visited destination online, behind only
Google and Facebook.”
• Former Enquirer reporter Cam McWhirter and Wall Street Journal colleague Keach Hagey scooped NPR about NPR’s investment in a nonprofit startup in New Orleans called NewOrleansReporter.org. It’s the latest effort to complement the diminished New Orleans Times-Picayune,
which is cutting back from daily to print editions three days a week.
NPR’s partner will be University of New Orleans. Poynter Online says NPR
could be chipping in an initial $250,000. NPR followed with its
announcement, NPR issued a press release after the story, saying the new
site will follow a ”public radio funding model” and will be open
source, like ProPublica and The Texas Observer. NewOrleansReporter.org
will be based in WWNO’s newsroom, and its general manager Paul Maassen
will run both organizations. NPR, the release says, is “providing
consultation to WWNO around technology infrastructure and online revenue
generation as well as training to support the rapid deployment of a
multimedia newsroom.” It also says NolaVie and The Lens are “content partners.” The Lens recently announced (above) it would also be part of an online news collective called the New Orleans Digital News Alliance.