On the media
Friday, Apr 23, 2010
* Lee Enterprises (which publishes the Post-Dispatch, the Pantagraph and the Southern, among others) reported its third profitable quarter in a row this week. Gannett’s first quarter profits jumped 51 percent. McLatchy and the New York Times also had some good news to report.
Part of the reason for this apparent comeback is that the companies have so aggressively cut staff that their spending is now more in line with the revenues they can reasonably generate. Also, newsprint prices have fallen dramatically, as papers have slimmed way down or gone out of business. The ad revenue depression appears to be slowing, if not exactly bottoming out. And at least one analyst is pleased…
He’s mostly right, but there’s still the big problem of reporting staffs stretched to the limit of breaking. What newspapers ought to be doing is clearing out their front offices of the expensive dead weight. It’s the content, stupid. Better content will drive more - and better - eyeballs. Bells and whistles are fine, but strong, timely content is king, baby. The Tribune is probably doing the best job of this of any media company in Illinois. They’ve shown a remarkable willingness to experiment with new ideas, and some of their reporters are eagerly embracing the new online news venues.
But newspapers ain’t out of the woods yet. They are, for the most part, still far too stuck in the past. The State Journal-Register, for instance, hired Ryan Keith away from the AP and gave him the task of handling the paper’s new media duties. Ryan initially did things like live-blog political events, debates, etc. He also created and staffed its aggregator page. But the paper has seemed to be returning to more traditional stuff in recent months. Ryan was reportedly frustrated with the mindset and announced today that he’s leaving the SJ-R for a career in public relations. From a press release…
I’m really sorry to see Ryan go. He was a huge asset to that paper, but he was woefully underutilized. Mac Strategies will be a good fit for him, though. Best wishes, man.
* As we’ve discussed before, newspapers make a nice chunk of change off publishing official legal notices. State law requires local and state government notices to be published in newspapers, and the papers charge for the privilege. So it’s no surprise that a bill that cleared the Senate this year which would allow fire protection districts to post a couple of types of notices on their own websites has the Illinois Press Association up in arms.
The IPA has published a “guest editorial” by its own executive director on their site, and you may see it in your local papers soon…
Um, “report on itself”? If this was “reporting,” then why do newspapers want to be paid to run the notices?
The bill does have an obvious flaw…
Just because newspapers have been publishing notices since “before the days of Abraham Lincoln,” as the IPA exec director writes, that doesn’t mean we should be continuing to do it now. Instead of this flawed little bill, the GA ought to be thinking about setting up a central online clearinghouse for these notices which could be easily accessed and navigated by the public. Money could be saved and the public might be better served. It’s worth a debate, anyway.
* Meanwhile, there was a bit of a behind-the-scenes blowup yesterday over a claim by NBC 5 that they had the “exclusive” story about how the redacted material on a filing by Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys could be seen by simply copying and pasting the pdf file into a text file.
The station blasted out a mass e-mail late yesterday afternoon announcing their exclusive. But they made the mistake of not blind-copying the recipients. So, I hit the “reply to all” button and pointed out that I published the story hours before they did. They apologized profusely and corrected the story.
This is truly not a big deal, although I must admit that I did enjoy dinging the NBC guys a bit.
More importantly, though, I didn’t even realize that my own story actually appeared nine minutes after Natasha Korecki published the entire, unredacted document yesterday. Natasha should get credit for the scoop.
Things move fast in this business. When I was focused on writing my piece on the redaction problems, I didn’t even bother looking around to see if anyone else had it. I imagine that the same thing happened with others as well. Heck, I just realized that my Giannoulias story headline is almost identical to NBC5’s. I honestly don’t know if I saw their hed and it stuck in my mind, or if I came up with it on my own. Weird.
Also, I didn’t figure out this redaction thing on my own. CBS2’s Internet guru is the one who mentioned it to me. Information sometimes moves in unusual ways.
…Adding… I started to write this piece because the IlliniPundit blog has been shut down. And then I forgot to post the darned story. Sheesh.
Gordy will continue blogging at his campaign website, which is here. I’m hearing that he’s accepting offers to buy the IlliniPundit blog. Good luck, Gordy, with everything you’re doing!