Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Was anyone thinking about this hed?

At times, words just fail me ...

Courtesy of the Green Bay Press Gazette via Fark.

Apparently they get the message up in old Green Bay:

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Raise your hand if you want to work for a newspaper

Hmmm ... any hands go up out there?

Didn't think so, at least if you check out the recent post by AOL Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis (thanks to Gary Karr for the outpoint).

Leonsis, who also likes to be known for his interests in the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards, spends some time recounting a guest lecture he gave at Georgetown and the responses to his questions about what search engine, IM service, etc., the students use.

He closes with this:
When I asked which industry or career would they pursue, almost everyone said a career in the entertainment or new media industry. Many said they wanted to make documentary films. Many said they wanted to be in marketing, advertising, sports management or start their own business or go work for a non profit. When I asked who wanted to go work for a newspaper, NOT a single hand was raised. Not one.

If no one is reading a newspaper on campus and no one wants to go work for a newspaper, what does that auger for that industry compared to new media?

OK, so this isn't unbiased. He has a dog in this hunt. (And as a note, people are reading newspapers on campus. See this study (pdf) that shows about a 50/50 split among all students, and significantly more readership among undergrads.)

Still, that last paragraph should be something that every editor, every publisher and every newsroom talks about every day. It is clear newsrooms are not getting the best and the brightest -- at least not to the extent they once did.

What do they plan to do about that? What are you doing about that? Let us know in the comments area.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

New jobs and directions at AP

If you want a sense of what the world's oldest and largest news service is up to as it tries to reshape its business, pay attention to the job postings.

Some recent ones:
  • Web developer is Washington, with an emphasis on databases to Web. AP definitely is looking into moving into databases it can slice, dice and sell to news and other clients (just like Gannett and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are setting up database desks by various names).
  • Editor to head a three-person team in New York focusing on culling stories from SEC filings. Another case where I suspect some database knowledge will help, along with the ability to move quickly through various arcane parts of the Web. (But can AP compete with the plethora of other financial services out there doing similar things?)
  • A slew of cataloguer and business development positions for "AP archive," its stock footage business. Just as World Wide Photos, AP's stock and archive photo buisness has long been a cash cow, AP says that expanding its video stock business is a major strategic initiative -- more proof that 2007 is the year of movin' pictures.
Oh yeah, there are a few writer and editor jobs mixed in with all this, too.

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WaPo multimedia profile

If you can sit through the blatant Apple product advertising, this is a very interesting video on the Washington Post's multimedia operation.

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Gadget corner

Over at the newspaper video group, two neat little gadgets, one potentially useful and the other a little silly but fun.

Under the potentially useful, put this homemade steadycam outpointed by Howard Owens.

Under the silly but fun, put this bottle-based tripod system. Unfortunately, it only screws on to PET bottles, meaning the idea of toting a good wine around to ease the job is probably not likely -- although the dedicated might want to decant ( does flash photography take red or white?).

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Words of wisdom from Kudzu - Blog Babies

Does Doug Marlette nail it in today's Kudzu or what?

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Billings is back

Good to see Mike Billings firing up the old Copy-Editing Corner blog again.

He's also got a new one -- a tour through the unabridged dictionary.

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Gannett - the video

We've written here several times about Gannett's shift to the Information Center concept of newsroom with its Ditigal, Public Service, Community Conversation, Local, Custom Content, Data and Multimedia desks.

Now, you can watch the video. See how the Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis., is implementing it:

Here's the link to the YouTube video as well.

After watching this, I come away with the uneasy interpretation that really what we're just trying to do is push the print model into an online bottle. I have mixed emotions on that -- glad to see a push, any push, in that direction but a vague uneasiness that the "get it" quotient is still a little low. It's still "here's what we're going to do for you" and not enough here's how we bring you into the tent (even the "help us investigate" really seems to be deprecated to "give us tips').

The "we're going to update every 15 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m." sounds like all-news radio when I began in it in the 1970s (KYW-"You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world.") And what about 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.? A bunch of things happen during that time. Doesn't sound like that 24-hour news idea Gannett CEO Craig Dubow suggested. From a management view, I guess you can argue that you need to impose some structure -- making folks update every 15 minutes ensures it stays on the front burner -- yet a lot of this video still smacks of the "production," not the "newsgathering" mentality.

We also now know where the copy editors end up -- on the Multimedia Desk. This should be interesting to digest for ACES, which is finally (about two years too late) grappling with the changes at its annual meeting coming up in April. Lacking in the video is exactly what role those copyeditors will play and what skills they will need.

So I come away intrigued, but still with a bit of unease. Your thoughts?

And does anyone detect a bit of irony that the video ends with a pitch for a print subscription?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Now hear this ...

Catching up on some back reading, and in another space has been a thread about newspapers starting to provide audio versions of their stories using text-to-speech technology.

Here's an example.

It sounds just weird enough to be off-putting for me.

And you know, turning the newspaper into radio -- bad radio -- may be OK for those who are sight impaired, but I'm not sure it accomplishes for the rest of us what is intended. Just running the paper through some software to produce audio has that "cheap" feel about it and produces something much less memorable than the original story (think how much of your typical radio broadcast you really remember) -- even if it is the original story being read. In fact, that's the problem; those stories really are not designed to be read out loud, but in your brain.

If you are truly aiming at that audience that's rushing around then maybe it's better to rewrite the thing into briefs at least -- something with a little more substance than the typical radio story, but not much. Something like the Wall Street Journal podcasts (this link via Mobilcast)

Anyhow, some links to companies doing it: It uses voice talent.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Shaking up the AJC ...

And the dominoes continue to fall ...

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution becomes the latest to reinvent its newsroom for the digital age. It's not totally a surprise. The paper's online editors have co-led the daily news meetings for several months. One of our ACES colleagues, Lynn Orr, has been "manager of print/digital integration," and I've enjoyed hearing some of the details of the struggles to bring things together.

But I think it has tremendous significance for where it puts us on the convergence continuum (PDF version).

The nut grafsfrom the memo that came from AJC editor Julia Wallace:

We must make these changes to respond to our readers. They now have more sources than ever for news and information, and we must fundamentally alter the way we operate. Online, we will show that we know Atlanta best, providing superlative news and information and becoming the preferred medium for connecting local communities. In print, we will really listen to our core readers and create a newspaper that offers distinct and valuable content. As we think about this future, we have four clear jobs:

Grow digital
Reinvent print
Create more regular local enterprise (distinctive content) that readers cannot get elsewhere
Improve our news and information gathering

We must organize ourselves to meet these goals. That means a major shift in the way we work. Our current structure is fine for the pace and demands of a printed newspaper, but isn't structured for online's immediacy and evolving needs. Additionally, as we have evolved over time, we have added layers and bureaucracy and have become less nimble. Rather than tinkering with the old newsroom, we need to start over.
The emphasis is mine ... and in general form follows the same path Gannett said it was taking -- the time for tinkering is over. Totally new structures are needed.

In addition, the AJC is"extending a voluntary separation program offer to about 80 employees who are 55 years of age or older and have 10 years of Cox pension vesting service. (Out of a newsroom of 475.) " The company also plans to pull back to 73 counties around metro Atlanta. That may still sound like a lot compared with some of the pullbacks we've seen. But it means you no longer will be able to get a print edition in South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and parts of Georgia. It also means additional job losses in circulation and similar areas. The paper also will close its downtown printing plant in two years and just use its one in Gwinnett County. It will spend $3o million on printing upgrades and $12 million on a classified ad system (likely, I think, to have wide capabilities for people to create and post their own ads).

Why do I think this is so significant? Because, like the earlier announcement from Gannett, it marks some radical restructuring of the news operation. It comes closer to what we have been exploring at Newsplex for several years -- the "unhooking" of the content creation from the publishing platform.

Specifically, here's what Wallace has to say about the revamped newsroom:

  • News and Information: Focus, digital. Get it, get it fast. "This department will think online first but will also provide print with a heavy dose of news. Beat reporters, general assignment reporters, full-time columnists and go teams will work in this department. The goal is a fast-paced, fun department, learning and growing digital knowledge, while still serving print in smart ways."
  • Enterprise: Focus, print. This is smart because it looks at telling the story the best way in the best medium. In this case, print still remains better for long-form storytelling. "Print will be its focus, but it also will take full advantage of the online platform. Success means stories that offer something truly distinctive for the newspaper, create emotional connections, make us think, teach us something and change our world. The hallmarks of this department’s work will include unrelenting watchdog coverage, deep reporting, great storytelling, interesting profiles and trend stories. The primary goal of the enterprise department is to build more loyalty among regular print readers by providing them a menu of first-rate enterprise every day."
  • Digital: Similar to Gannett's digital desk. Think calendars, chats, blogs, interactivity -- especially interactive databases. "Responsible for growing online audience by offering local news and information; providing a platform for interactivity and social networking; and extending our selection beyond news to attract new audiences."
  • Print: This is the real kicker for me -- it focuses on print production, pulling as needed from all the other areas. This is the nexus, the separation of content from production. "[W]ill produce the best newspaper possible. Much like the digital department, it will pull from news, enterprise and other sources, including Cox's Washington bureau. This department will focus on issues such as balance, story play, headlines, cutlines, photos and design -- the many factors that determine a reader's experience with the paper. This structure places print and digital on equal footing, each taking what they need to satisfy their specific audiences." (emphasis mine)
I've been thrashing about in my head for several months a piece tentatively titled "Why would I ever want to work for a newsroom that owns printing presses?" The AJC, to my mind, has finished the thought.

Wallace wants it all done by the end of June. To help it along, Shawn McIntosh has been made "director of culture and change." Wallace also says the paper will boost its training, already good through Coxnet and other internal training initiatives, with a focus on "understanding our audiences and how to serve them."

I am a little bothered by the paper's feeling that a bunch of people 55 and older are surplus. I think that's the same kind of compartmentalized thinking papers have been guilty of for years. In fact, some of those folks -- who go back to the era of multiple editions and PM papers, probably could file faster and cleaner for the news desk than some of the newbies. And from what I've heard from online managers, it's the 30- and 40-year-old "print" folks who can be most resistant to change.

Expect to see more of this from more major newspapers. We are entering the fourth phase.
  • Phase one was just the realization that you had to have an online presence and it had to have some real content.
  • Phase two was the acknowledgment that online was more than a repository for shovelware and the establishment of online departments to not only repurpose but also to create content.
  • Phase three was the integration of online back into the newsroom and, in some cases, establishment of 24-hour news desks. The emphasis was on flashy projects and breaking some news online
  • Phase four is the gradual nebulizing of the newsroom that integrates online into all planning and that recognizes there is no one-size-fits-all medium, that every story is better told and every user better reached through a particular medium and style.
  • Phase five is the complete uncoupling of print, broadcast, online and whatever production from the news gathering -- the transformation of the idea of story from a siloed chunk of medium to something like the time slice envisioned by Gelernter and where editors and "publications" truly become, as Newhagen and Levy suggested, "guides," not gatekeepers.
I'd love to hear your reactions.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quiet on the set ... 'er, newsroom

So if you needed any more proof that this isn't your father's newspaper anymore, consider this thread that's getting active discussion over at the newspaper video group on Yahoo -- how to dress a studio set.

It opened with a question from a Colorado paper that wants to start shooting a talk show with its sports reporters from its newsroom "studio" (it now does most of the shooting outside).

Now folks from other papers are weighing in with suggestions from what they are doing at their papers -- from setting up some used sports lockers adorned with team jerseys, to painting things matte black and hanging prints, to the ubiquitous potted-plant-and-big-screen-monitor look.

Remember the days when the only "decor" being discussed in a newsroom was where to hide the day-old pizza boxes and bottles of "refreshments" when word came that the newsroom was going to have visitors?

I know by now this should be registering with most folks, but from my talks with students and professionals I still find a lot of cases where it isn't. So it bears repeating: In the current frenzy (until the blush comes off the rose a bit), it may say newspaper on the door, but get your video face on.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'Computational Journalism'

Now this sounds like a cool course at Georgia Tech, Computational Journalism:

In this class we will explore themes such as (a) storytelling in the context of news, (b) sense-making from diverse news information sources, (c) the impact of more and cheaper networked sensors (d) collaborative human models for information aggregation and sense-making, (e) mashups and the use of programming in journalism, (f) the impact of mobile computing and data gathering, (g) computational approaches to information quality, (h) data mining for personalization and aggregation, (i) authoring and broadcasting, and (j) citizen journalism.

And here's the course blog.

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AP and Cit-J

AP has signed an agreement with Canadian-based NowPublic to integrate some of NP's citizen-journalism content into the AP report as appropriate. reports that the AP's Jim Kennedy says the content will be vetted for accuracy by editors on AP's national desk. AP will pay for the content, though Kennedy isn't saying how much (if it's like the old stringer checks in the many years I was there, don't figure on getting rich).

AP's news release also says local bureaus will "work with NowPublic communities in selected locations on ways to enhance regional news coverage." (That will be interesting, since AP is battling its long closed-system culture. Yes, it would accept great photos taken by "ordinary" people of events like the Oklahoma City bombing photo that won a Pulitzer prize. But few words reached the wire unless they came from an authorized stringer or member media outlet.)

I wouldn't tout this as a major shift, however. It's more like a tiny step that helps give legitimacy to the concept of some forms of user generated content. There's a lot of marginal stuff on NP's site. I suspect AP wants access to the video and pictures more than the words, which are comparatively easy to get.

Why Vancouver-based NP? Well, a few reasons perhaps. First, as the AP release touts, NP lists 60,000 contributors in 140 countries. Also Canada is a bit of a special case for the AP. By an agreement by which it shares with CanPress, it's never had more than a Toronto bureau. (As a side note, CP's Web site is far superior to the wall AP puts up for a Web portal.) So supplementing its coverage there makes sense for AP. And NP has somewhat of an editing system in place, where questionable or incomplete stories can be flagged or where people can be asked to follow up on stories. I suspect that kind of intervention makes AP more comfortable. Still, much of what's there is a mishmash (including the APs own stories that are promoted by NP contributors).

But the bottom line is that AP's business model has been seriously upset -- not just that its core newspapers are dying, but the newsgathering model that made it economically viable is under siege. AP has always relied on local media to generate a substantial part of its news report. If it had to hire the staff to actually produce all the stories it moves, it would likely be close to going under. If it is going to continue to be viable, it has to figure out how to harness UGC -- and the people behind it -- to help make up that hole left as radio stations consolidate and newspapers and TV cut back.

Looked at in that light, the agreement with NP makes sense. Don't look for AP to go out and get all jiggly about UGC. Sites will have to have some of the controls NP has. But do look for more opportune agreements like this.

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Google loses again in Belgium

The AP reports that Google has lost again at a Belgian court in a suit by 18 mostly French-language papers that Google News violates their copyright rights.

The AP says the newspapers, part of Copipresse, argued that Google's cache allows access to older stories that the papers normally sell out of their archives. But Google News does not show a cache link, unlike its main search, so I wonder if the wire service is interpreting that correctly. (For a good, earlier article on the ins and outs, see Danny Sullivan's on the Search Engine Watch blog. Sullivan pretty much concludes this isn't about caching but about forcing Google to pay for any kind of link to a publisher's material.)

The same court had ruled against Google last summer, but the search-engine giant did not appear at that hearing and asked the court to reconsider so that it could present its case. Google says its news service is "entirely legal" and that it will appeal.

The Belgian court ruled that Google's technology violates Belgium's data storage laws. Unclear is whether anything similar exists in U.S. code (I'm not an expert; feel free to chime in on this). It did cut the potential fines to about $33,000 a day from a possible more than $1 million.

As search engine expert John Battelle told E-Commerce Times after the latest ruling: "The honeymoon period is over for Google when it comes to content owners."

Of course the other side of the argument has been that Google drives users to Web sites, providing untold revenue opportunities

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Monday, February 12, 2007

New design book

Design consultant Ed Henninger, a friend, writes that he's got a new design book hot off the e-press and awaiting your PayPal payments.

Find details at

I'm no design expert -- far from it (I know enough Quark to be dangerous) -- but I do know Ed is one of the most dynamic speakers on the topic that I've ever had the pleasure of working with at editing conferences. I've seen his stuff, and I like it. He specialty is smaller papers and, as I like to call it, "design on a dime of time" -- practical advice for desks that already are strapped for time.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007


The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 688
Copyright © 2007 by BONG
Retransmitted by permission for those needing an RSS feed.

For Feb. 2, 2007. Oh, good work, Turner Broadcasting and your Cartoon Network committee! Paralyze Boston traffic with bomb scares, send a couple of giggling doofuses to the post-bail press conference and clear it all up with an offer of $500,000 to make good! Inspired flackery and conspicuous corporate citizenship, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 688!

While Exxon Mobil admits making $75,000 a minute in profits, Texas is perforated by more than 17,000 holes abandoned by oil and gas drillers who are happy to leave the cleanup to taxpayers. Texas builders sell houses salted with poisonous asbestos waste, and Texas legislators interrupt a special session on school finance to punch out a law protecting builders from lawsuits about it.
It was a place that had to have a Molly Ivins.
For a brief moment there was a Molly to call out that state's shitkickers on their vile habits, with or without a good ol' boy in the White House. Now it is left to all Texas newspapers to try to take up the slack. As they say in Texas opinion page committees with their manicured fingers on the pulse of every public outrage, "Boy howdy, time to come out for a new football stadium, y'all!"

AND SO LONG ART, ARTIST OF THE WORD. Art Buchwald had a career in satiric commentary almost as long as Mark Twain's and James Thurber's put together. He certainly had the longest running obituary as a series, the rare patient and even rarer newsman ever kicked out of a hospice for refusing to die.
Buchwald moved in a flock that included Twain, Thurber, Max Shulman, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Ring Lardner, Walt Kelly -- an army who came on as gentle warriors, but whose high-hat victims didn't know they had been cut down until they reached for a handkerchief and found the seats of their pants burned away.
Roy Blount, Calvin Trillin, Garrison Keillor, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert carry the banner still, but they are too few, and witless imitators are too many.
Consider the agenda -- pageant queens, plutocrats, randy preachers, disaster relief, war as political patronage, underpants-optional pop culture, politics as comedy and vice-versa, White House daughters, congressional felons, no-pill pharmacists and no-booze cabbies. Who can't see a Sunday page front on any of these? And yet why do so few even dare?

MEANWHILE, BACK TO UGLY FACTS. A titmouse is not a rodent. A bison may be a daughter. And a grouper may at times feel very, very alone. Observing a need for education on these and other points of fact (not only for copy editors, but for people too), BONG's new subsidiary the Getting It Right Foundation announces free graphic reminders suitable for any screensaver. Choose one

LOST IN TRANSLATION. Internet lore provides these signs, allegedly from world tourist spots.
-- In a Tokyo Hotel: Is forbitten to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis.
-- In a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
-- In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
-- In a Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.
-- In a Moscow hotel near a monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
-- In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
-- In a Hong Kong supermarket: For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.
-- In a Soviet Weekly: There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.
-- In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.
-- In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.
-- In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today -- no ice cream.
-- In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
-- At a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
-- In a Majorcan shop: Here speeching American.

COMIX SECTION. The Further Adventures of Herman "Speed" Graphic, ace photographer for the Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar, and his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig.
PANEL ONE: Speed eyeballs Typo suspiciously as they discuss the day's photo assignments, but Typo queries earnestly, "Boss, remember that sinking feeling you used to get when the city editor said, 'I'm gonna make you a star!'"
Speed replies, "Yeah."
PANEL TWO: Typo continues, "And remember before that thing at the tango contest, when Absentee Publisher Gimlet Peen used to say, 'My boy, the new computers will put this problem behind us!'"
Speed grumbles, "Yeah."
PANEL THREE: Typo appends, "And how about all those times when Features Editor Hyperba Lee used to say, 'Oh Speedy, would you mind covering a few extra assignments every day, just until we get the overtime budget worked out?'"
Speed gasps, "Oh yeah."
PANEL FOUR: Typo cheers, "Well, Boss, I have our assignments here, and I'm glad to say we're going to get even!"
Speed croaks, "That sounds even worse than what Hyperba said, Typo!"
PANEL FIVE: Rolling out the copy desk coffee urn, soon to be converted to a low-orbit rocket by the addition of a Do-Good Pellet from the pocket of Speed's trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, Typo exclaims, "It's true, Boss! For this assignment I got us unlimited overtime and Class A charge-everything travel budget! We're touring,
Speed reads from Hyperba's assignment slip: "'For the Dating page, find Julio Iglesias and bring him to me in satin, leather and handcuffs.' I say, Typo, have you been doing ventriloquist things in her answering machine again?"

BONG Bull is the product of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough in Dayton, Ohio. E-mail for any reason. Or what the hell, for no reason.

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Modern Sex Offender Mag?

My local paper, in a story noting that the sheriff's department is starting an e-mail notification service when a registered sex offender moves into a community, also had this line for those who don't own a computer:

The Sheriff's Department publishes a sex offender magazine each year. It is available at the Richland County Sheriff's Department's Two Notch Road headquarters or at any of the department's substations.

One wonders about the ads -- or centerfolds -- in that ...


Still grabs from HD video move on AP

AP photographer Evan Vucci reports on Multimedia Shooter that for the first time, a still grabbed from an HD video assignment has moved on the wire.

Newspapers, most notably the Dallas Morning News, have been dipping their toes in this water for a little bit now. With the AP doing it, can its more widespread use be far behind?

Look at the shots on Vucci's portfolio. They look pretty good.

(See more on the DMN stuff at Cade White's blog.)

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Regs Nix H.S. Sports Pix Sales

OK, it's not exactly as good as the old Variety hed (Hicks Nix Sticks Pix), but you get the idea ...

I've been spending a lot of time lately plugging into a crop of newspaper video blogs and mailing lists, and with every publisher and his brother, it seems, starting to fall in love with the movin' picture shows for their Web sites, some new issues are arising.

One of them is popping up in Wisconsin, where the high school athletic association has created a "Whoa, Hoss" moment for papers that want to shoot stills and video and then sell prints to mamma, poppa and all the assorted relatives.

Seems the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has contracts with two independent companies to shoot the state tournaments. So, as the association's spokesman says, you can take photos for editorial use, but as far as selling them, no way -- unless, of course, you pay a $100 licensing fee.

The newspaper industry's response, according to the AP? Thwwwpttttttttt!
(The WNPA online blog has links to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, too.)

Expect more of this. The NFL and the other pro leagues started it, colleges picked it up, and why wouldn't the little fry at the high school level want their cut of the action, too? Of course, this raises some major questions, like these are PUBLIC schools. But many state-supported colleges have managed to corral the marketing bull and put news media in their place, so that argument might not carry too far.

In an era when the mantra for news operations is sell anything and everyting you can get your hands on (Ma -- keep an eye on the kids!) , these kinds of issues are going to rise more and more often. Face it, we've beeome a society where much of what is deemed "interesting" is not public anymore but has been deeded into private hands -- hands that have a lot better marketing savvy than newspapers that got fat and sassy. Publishers, editors, reporters and photographers can stamp their feet and cry all they want -- pay to play is the new name of the game just at a time when papers, with their deteriorating economoics, have less "pay" to play.

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Knoxville fire shows changing news biz

Jack Lail, multimedia managing editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel has a good look at how things have changed in the news business with his summary of how the N-S -- and the rest of Knoxville, it seems -- covered one of the biggest fires in that city's history:

We've had live blogging from news events, but this, it was different.

If you're just catching up, two warehouses and another building in the downtown area caught fire just after 1 a.m. Wednesday and burned through most of the day, leaving four firefighters in the hospital and raining embers down on much of downtown.

People living in the nearby downtown condos on North Gay captured the late-night-into-day fire with digital still cameras and video cameras. The results are just a search away on Flickr and YouTube and personal Web sites. Bloggers here and yonder logged in with personal tales, links and tidbits.

The city's Web site posted a slide show. The sheriff's department shot aerial video.

All the traditional media used their Web sites for as-it-happens news. At the News Sentinel, where I hang out, we had quite a bit of video, audio, tons of photos, stories that seemed living they changed so much. You can see a lot of the multimedia and sidebars attached to this story.

Email news alerts flew out. Cell phone alerts buzzed in. Page views and visits ratcheted up.

Bob Stepno, a friend and AEJMC Newspaper Division colleague at UT, has a good roundup of coverage, too.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

33 reasons for librarians

I am a huge fan of librarians -- especially news librarians who have made my job easier, even enjoyable, more than a few times over the years. (And it doesn't hurt to be married to a wonderful lady who also is a library assistant.)

I fear, despite our protestations that they are more important than ever in the digital age, that they will continue to be cut from newsroom budgets.

While not dealing directly with news librarians, this 33 reasons why libraries and librarians are still extrmely important is good fodder for the debate.

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NYT printing in 5 years? Sulzberger: 'I don't care'

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger as quoted on

Under Eytan Avriel's byline, Haaretz caught up with Sulzberger at the World Economic Conference in Davo for a quick chat with the normally reticent publisher.

A few other things of note:
On the merging of the print and online news desks: "You know what a newspaper's news desk is like? It's like the emergency room at a hospital, or an office in the military. Both organizations are very goal-oriented, and both are very hard to change. ...
"But once the journalists grasped the concept, they flipped and embraced it, and supported the move."

On the deal with Microsoft to distribute the paper through the Times Reader: "I very much believe that the experience of reading a paper can be transfered to these new devices." But, Sulzberger said, it won't be free.

Is the Times likely to make many new investments on the print side? It doesn't sound like it: "These costs aren't anywhere near what print costs," Sulzberger says. "The last time we made a major investment in print, it cost no less than $1 billion. Site development costs don't grow to that magnitude."

"Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information . ... But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world."

While not a particulary earthshaking interview, still worth reading the entire thing and pondering.

Ralph Hanson reminds that this is not all that different from what Sulzberger said in a 1999 Advertising Age roundtable.

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Now, everyone's your competition

And you thought you had problems before with citizen journalists and placebloggers eating on your one flank and Craigslist eating on your other.

Now along comes Zlio, a site based in France that lets anyone quickly set up their own shopping Web site.

The company has just released its U.S. version, and Frank Gruber has a review. As he describes it, Zlio has a big catalog of products, and you pick the ones you want to feature on your site. Someone buys one by clicking from your site and you get a cut of the dough, but don't have to hassle the shipping, etc.

Talk about viral marketing.

So when newspapers are surrounded by hundreds or thousands of these kinds of sites, how do they stand out from the clutter and provide true value to their advertisers? Heck, why couldn't the advertiser set up a Zlio site to just augment its own product line?

Questions to ponder ...

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Join the Journawiki

Maurreen Skowran, a fellow member of ACES, has created the "Journawiki" Journalism Wiki. It's a pretty neat little project that allows all of us with some expertise to keep an updated online resource about the depth and breadth of journalism.

With all the expertise out there, this could become a great central site for exploring and expanding on some of the issues of the day.

Take a quick look. See if you can contribute.

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Web 2.0 - the video

If you haven't seen this video on You Tube from Kansas State ethnography professor Michael Wesch, you haven't been checking your viral video rosters.

If you don't understand what Web 2.0 is, this will give you some things to think about:

Direct YouTube link.


Monday, February 05, 2007

AP on heds

AP weighs in with a new "headlines" entry in its upcoming 2007 stylebook (the entry already is in the online edition):

Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Follow story style in spelling, but use numerals for all numbers and single quotes for quotation marks.

Nothing earthshaking. Just worth noting in case your publication does something different and you tend to shovel AP heds online.

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Well, it froze over

Sent through a friend of a friend today with the question: It finally happened, now what do we do?

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Uh, Rochester, check your Web site

In a story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal (via Media Info Center), newspaper circulation managers say newspapers' downfall is exaggerated and that there are lots of examples of papers growing circulation. Work hard at it, they say. Pay attention to customer service and give customers what they don't expect.


Except, in the middle of the story is this from Bill Lisser, circulation director of the Post-Bulletin in Rochester, Minn., an area that has lots of "snowbirds" who flee for southern climes during winter days like today when it got to a balmy 4 degrees:

The Post-Bulletin also shut down free Internet access to its daily stories.

"Once we offered free (access online), we saw an immediate rise in stops (canceled subscriptions) and a drop in paid home delivery," Lisser said. "Our numbers went from plus 1 percent (annual growth) to the negatives. So we shut the site down, and we were able to grow circulation again."

Today, the Post-Bulletin allows only paid access to all its stories online.

Really? I was able to click and go fine to anything on the site. Has Lisser checked his Web site recently, or did someone forget to lock the barn after the horse escaped? Chances are, this paper has discovered as have many others that the subscription wall is just an invitation to go elsewhere, perhaps the local TV station.

About all it appears you have to be subscribed for is to comment on stories.

Don't know whether the reporter got it wrong or Lisser had a brain freeze -- after all, it is supposed to go to -8 tonight, both Web sites helpfully tell me. No thanks.

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