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Thursday, June 11, 2009


Bye Bye Analog

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Friday, March 13, 2009


Eli Broad: 'You Can't Afford to Lose'

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad explains why "you can't afford to lose newspaper journalism."

(via 92Y, MediaMemo and Fitz & Jen)

*Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Monday, March 09, 2009


LA Times Not on 'Endangered' List

Jennifer Saba, of Fitz & Jen, wants to know "What's with Time's obsession with the newspaper industry?"

For the second month in a row [that's last month's cover story pictured at right], TIME magazine has dedicated space to the crisis facing the newspaper industry, this time with a list of "The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America." Making the list means these publications are, in TIME's estimation, the most likely to close or go paperless (digital-only) in 2009.

Most surprising -- the Los Angeles Times isn't on it.

Here's the list in the order in which the names appear in TIME:
1. The Philadelphia Daily News

2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune

3. The Miami Herald

4. The Detroit News

5. The Boston Globe

6. The San Francisco Chronicle

7. The Chicago Sun Times

8. NY Daily News

9. The Fort Worth Star Telegram

10. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

More about the list, including the reasoning behind each newspaper selected, is online at TIME magazine.

(Twitter This)

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Sunday, February 22, 2009


Are Newspaper Journalists to Blame?

Dear Newspaper Journalist,

You're misunderstood, not just in terms of how vital your newspapers are as news-gathering organizations, but for what you do, or, rather, what you don't do, or maybe just what people think you don't do on purpose.

Seriously, people don't get you.

Never mind what you know. Of course, you consider media conspiracy theories ridiculous, if only because your ranks are teeming with so many Type A personalities that even the mere whiff of a newsroom plot would result in a stampede for the exits with everyone vying to be the first to blow the whistle and win the Pulitzer.

Out there in the World Wide Web, however, it sounds like you're in cahoots to dupe the universe.

And that's not all. A lot of people also appear to believe you've got some mad desire to continue killing trees by maintaining paper as your primary news-delivery method, as though you're secretly addicted to those nauseating chemical solvent smells that so often waft from the press into the newsroom, as though you enjoy the added deadline stress of having some desk editor admonish you with statements like: "Those are union drivers waitin' out there, mister." As if ... as if ...

Paper? Good riddance.

No doubt, the Internet is both your industry's present and future, and you dominate the Web as much as you dominate the airwaves. Regardless of the medium, the overwhelming majority of mainstream news is first reported by newspapers, then followed by everybody else. Newspaper journalists mine the gold, and now you're getting the shaft.

The latest grim predictions are all but foregone conclusions. The former editor of The Des Moines Register Geneva Overholser, who is now the director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism, recently stated her best bet during an appearance on the KCET program SoCal Connected:
"We're going to have major American cities with no daily newspaper within the next year. I'm willing to bet quite a bit of money on that. We have newspapers for sale around the country in cities from Miami, to Denver, to Seattle, to San Diego, and no one wants to buy them."

You and Overholser surely see the colossal domino effect to come, not just for newspapers, but for all the other news organizations that harvest newspaper content, as well as for the democracy over which all you journalists keep watch.

Still, there are countless other bright people blissfully waving you goodbye.

"Shut up."

That's what Wonkette said a couple weeks ago in response to the petition launched to highlight your plight.

If it's sympathy and understanding you seek, you probably won't find it at blogs like Wonkette:
"What you’re so pathetically grieving is your fading culture, a masturbatory profession of over-educated overpaid typists who had a stranglehold on American journalism for 30 years or so ..."

The reader comments on that one were even less flattering.

Yet, as unreasonable as all that may seem to you, it's not the reason so few signatures have appeared on the petition that calls for a week-long blackout of all free-access newspaper Web sites.

The effort to emphasize your importance to society and democracy has gone viral.

The YouTube video explaining the petition's intent has logged more than 2,400 views. In addition, more than 45 different Web and print publications have either reported or opined on the petition's merits.

Some comments have even been favorable, though perhaps the most telling observation came from a journalist who blogs as scoopgirl. She says she expects to soon be counted among the casualties of budget cutbacks:
"Sadly, the people who run this industry (from the WSJ to the NYT to my own bosses) appear to be thinking in the short term for a new business model. The layoffs will help the bottom line, for now.

But with fewer reporters, there will be less news. We will lose those necessary eyes, for both our advertising purposes and our information purposes. It's a vicious cycle.

So, at the end of the day, I just don't know that I believe that a day without online news is the answer. Or maybe it is, for calling attention to a service many people take for granted.

Yet another point of view comes from Just Journalism, a blog that observes the "online petition has only attracted 163 signatures."

The current total is displayed in the box at right.

So, why so few signatures?

It's certainly possible that the idea proposed by the petition is more ridiculous than, say, asking people to work for free.

Or the reason could be you -- newspaper journalists.

From the onset, the petition effort was sure to be a difficult sell simply because journalists are so averse to putting their mark on anything resembling a petition.

Admirable as that standard may be, it's nonetheless a stumbling block for those seeking to draw attention to your cause.

If you're waiting on the suits and CEOs to save you ... well ... the layoff rolls are filled with the names of former newspaper journalists who were waiting on the same thing.

You must get actively involved in this, but, rather than ask you to go against your own code, how about this: What if all you had to do was what you do best?

What if all you had to do was to take the time to communicate this complex issue to those closest to you, to explain why newspapers matter to your wives and husbands, your mothers and fathers, your brothers and sisters, your best friends and neighbors?

That's it. Just explain and encourage them to pass on that wisdom to their friends and family. And, of course, it couldn't hurt to point all these people in the direction of the official petition Web site at KnowNewspapers.blogspot.com.

No ethical standards stand in the way of any of that. And, no doubt, you've probably been doing plenty of that for years already.

Do more of it.

Of course, the alternative is to let everyone else sort it out, including those who don't want anything more to do with your sort. Unlike you, however, they don't seem to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

— TJ Sullivan

Cross posted at LA Observed.

* KnowNewspapers.blogspot.com is the official site of the Web blackout petition.

"No News" logo by Will Sweat.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009


'Major Cities ... No Daily Newspaper'

*** Read about the Web blackout petition at this link ***

An interesting report about the online newspaper Voice of San Diego aired last week on the KCET program SoCal Connected.

Reported by Judy Muller, the segment included an interview with Geneva Overholser, former editor of The Des Moines Register and now director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism.

Newspaper journalists in particular ought to be interested in Overholser's prediction for the year to come:
"We're going to have major American cities with no daily newspaper within the next year. I'm willing to bet quite a bit of money on that. We have newspapers for sale around the country in cities from Miami, to Denver, to Seattle, to San Diego, and no one wants to buy them."

Related: The Web blackout petition.

* Cross-posted at LA Observed.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Press for the Petition

*** Read about the Web blackout petition at this link ***

The Web blackout petition is scheduled to be discussed Wednesday afternoon on Crosstalk with host Jim Rondeau at KCLU 88.3 FM. The show airs from 1-2 p.m. and the segment about the petition is likely to occur during the last quarter hour.

[Listen online]

Also scheduled to appear on Crosstalk Wednesday is Judy Muller, a correspondent for the KCET program SoCal Connected. Muller is expected to discuss her upcoming report, set to air Thursday evening, about the online newspaper Voice of San Diego.

Regarding the petition ...

Several publications have requested interviews. One published its story Wednesday at Journalism.co.uk, an edited Q&A conducted via e-mail by London-based reporter Laura Oliver.

Many other blog posts about the petition have also been published, though the variations are extreme. Online publications that appeal to the American journalism industry have represented the effort accurately. But some sites that write for a more general audience have misrepresented the petition's purpose as an effort to save newsprint, which is not the case. The goal of the petition is to raise awareness about the crisis facing the news-gathering organizations we call "newspapers." It's got nothing to do with saving the medium of paper. Clearly the future of newspapers is the Internet.

Such misunderstandings only serve to underscore the need to make online readers aware that newspapers account for the bulk of online news content, which is the goal of conducting a week-long blackout of all non-pay-access Web sites run by newspapers and The Associated Press.

Because most people access newspaper content online, where it's often stripped of its brand and repackaged by countless unassociated providers, the public perceives the news it consumes as being free, when, in fact, more often than not, a newspaper reporter either wrote the stories, or reported the original versions that some other entity rewrote. The news, like the water that comes out the taps in people's homes, does not inspire those who consume it to determine from where it comes, unless it is tainted, or fails to flow. I'd prefer not to wait until more newspapers fail and the news stops flowing.

More about the petition is at this link, including a list of links to the many other posts that have been published in response.

Related: Save your newspaper via 'The Daily Show'

Related Event: SPJ/LA Panel Discussion, 6:30 pm Wednesday Feb. 18 — Imagine a City Without a Newspaper

— TJ Sullivan in LA

*Cross posted at LA Observed.

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Monday, February 09, 2009


Save Your Newspaper via 'The Daily Show'

*** Read about the Web blackout petition at this link ***

Walter Isaacson, author of this week's TIME magazine cover story about saving newspapers, appeared as a guest Monday on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Isaacson makes a similar case to the one made in the petition to persuade newspapers (and the AP) to pull the plug on their non-pay-access Web sites for one week this summer. It's not about saving "newsprint." It's about saving newspapers as news-gathering organizations.

Jon Stewart's intro:
I couldn't think of a more worthy cause. I love the newspaper. There's nothing better ... but how do we do it?

A potential solution:
Jon Stewart: What about giving it more of a cable TV or a radio model ... because the aggregators are the ones. The Huffington Post ... the Drudge Report ... Those ones that link to the reporters, that don't do reporting of their own, but link.

Walter Isaacson: Right. The aggregators are getting the bulk of the ad dollars right now.

Jon Stewart: Right. Why not do licensing deals, like they're 'a radio station' and you're 'the artist.' Do it like 'hits' are 'spins,' and make those deals. Like it's a cable model. Or it's a radio model.

And that may explain why Web entrepreneurs like Ken Layne at Wonkette appear to be so upset that we're talking about this.

("The Daily Show" via The E&P Pub)

Related Event: SPJ/LA Panel Discussion, 6:30 pm Wednesday Feb. 18 — Imagine a City Without a Newspaper

— TJ Sullivan in LA

*Cross posted at LA Observed.

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Friday, February 06, 2009


What if Newspapers Didn't Exist for a Week?

The Petition ...

Thomas Jefferson did not wish to become a wolf.

Odd as that may sound today considering all the good he did his country, Jefferson worried about the possibility, so much so that, while on a trip to Europe in 1787, one of his letters home became a kind of dissertation about the people he'd seen transformed into "wolves and sheep" along the way.

Cloaked in the garb of government, Jefferson wrote, the leaders of Europe had managed to divide their nations into two distinct classes -- "wolves and sheep" -- with the ruling class preying upon everyone else.

It was, Jefferson figured, the result of the public's inattention, an inevitability wherever government was permitted to exist absent a free press.
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Those words appeared in Jefferson's letter to Edward Carrington, a Virginia statesman who was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In it, Jefferson went on to say that, without newspapers, he feared the American public would stop paying attention to their government. Once that happened it was only a matter of time before Jefferson, the Congress, and the whole of the American government turned into a pack of wolves preying upon sheep.

Wolves and sheep. You don't have to be a Jeffersonian scholar to comprehend what it means.

Yet, here we find ourselves more than 222 years later in the midst of a newspaper crisis that TIME magazine says has reached "meltdown proportions," meaning our transformation into wolves and sheep may soon be a foregone conclusion, and still the majority of the American public appears oblivious.

Many newspapers have closed. Buyouts and layoffs have decimated once great institutions of American journalism. And despite all that, some of the craziest last-ditch efforts you ever could have imagined are being implemented in the effort to stave off death.

- The Los Angeles Times has killed its local news section.

- The Gannett newspaper chain has put its newspaper employees on mandatory five-day furloughs.

- The Detroit New and The Detroit Free Press have ceased daily home delivery.

These aren't sane measures. Indeed, had anyone suggested such things two years ago they'd have been branded a lunatic. But as we approach panic mode, even remotely plausible ideas seem worth a shot.

TIME magazine's cover story this week, a very thought-provoking piece written by Walter Isaacson (a former TIME managing editor, and president and CEO of the Aspen Institute), suggests the solution may be to charge readers for access:
"Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for an article or a dime for that day's full edition or $2 for a month's worth of Web access. Some surfers would balk, but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough."

Simple enough, except that, as Isaacson points out, it's not new. Writers have been charging readers for news since paper put cave walls out of business, but, despite that, prior attempts to make readers pay in the wired world of the World Wide Web haven't gone over very well.

Which brings us right back to where we've been for years while, in the meantime, another newspaper (Denver's Rocky Mountain News) rages against the dying of the light.

No more.

It's time to do something drastic.

It's time to do more than join another Facebook pledge group, or promote a campaign like National Buy A Newspaper Day, or to purchase some overpriced t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Save a journalist, buy a newspaper."

It's time to admit that, regardless of how many readers may be clicking through newspaper content for free on the Internet, newspapers don't matter to those readers because Jefferson's concerns aren't on their radar. They've got enough to worry about. They've got jobs of their own. They've got this much time to read blog X, Y and Z, and click their way over to the paper and back, or not, or whatever, but there's no compelling reason for them to stop and think about what would happen if the newspapers providing all that news ceased to exist.

To the average reader wolves and sheep are little more than characters in a fairy tale.

It's not that Americans don't care. It's simply a matter of human nature. Until the discomfort reaches the readers -- at which point it will be too late -- there's no motivation for them to get involved in finding a solution.

Clearly newspapers can't solve this alone. They've had years. They're lost. And, at this stage, asking for directions isn't enough to put them back on track.

Now is the time for newspapers to do something proactive; time for them to demonstrate what life would be like without them.

It's time for every daily newspaper in the United States, in cooperation with the Associated Press, to shut down their free Web sites for one week.

Yes. Shut it down. Blank screen. Nothing.

Of course, news would still be reported daily in every newspaper's printed product. No editor, or reporter or publication would dare shirk their watchdog responsibilities. This isn't about stopping the presses.

But the Web? People can do without news on the Web for a week. They won't like it. They'll complain about it. But, that's exactly what has to happen before they can be expected to care.

Pulling the plug gets their attention.

So, here's the proposal: At the stroke of midnight on Independence Day, Saturday July 4, all daily newspapers ought to switch off their Web sites until Friday, July 10.

Call it "A Week Without a Virtual Newspaper." Call it crazy. Call it costly. Call it whatever you want, but it's no more drastic a measure than asking people to work for free. [The petition is available online at this link.]

A move like this puts the crisis where it ought to be, front and center at the top of every newscast. It makes it impossible for anyone to deny where the majority of news content comes from, and why it matters. For without virtual newspapers, what would Drudge report? What would Huffington post? What would Google News and Yahoo News and all those cut-and-paste blogs that get so much of their material from newspapers have to offer if newspapers went away?

Not that there's anything wrong with public affairs blogs, aggregate news sites, or any other online entity that makes use of newspaper reports. The point of pulling the plug for one week isn't to harm them, but to emphasize the origin of all that news content, and why everyone should care about protecting that source.

Pulling the plug is perhaps the only way to make people outside of journalism sit up and take notice that this isn't about jobs in journalism, but American Democracy.

It's about wolves and sheep. Wolves and sheep.

-- TJ Sullivan

*Cross posted at LA Observed

** Update: Similar thoughts from Jay Smith, former CEO of Cox Newspapers.

***Related Event: SPJ/LA Panel Discussion, 6:30 pm Wednesday Feb. 18 — Imagine a City Without a Newspaper

51 Posts About the Petition:

- Romenesko at Poynter.org

- Fitz & Jen

- Editor & Publisher

- Columbia Journalism Review - The Kicker

- Media Musings - Claudia Meléndez Salinas

- News Me Baby

- Jay Rosen

- David Hauslaib's Jossip

- Parent Talk Today

- Wonkette

- Jon Slattery, A Freelance Journalist ... London

- JoshShear.com

- Matters of Varying Insignificance

- The American Scene

- Karen Pierce Gonzalez

- Journalista, The Comics Journal Weblog

- Blogstipated by Audrey

- Crook's Shadow

- Journalism.co.uk

- Journalism.co.uk -- Q&A

- Elizabeth Nolan Brown

- Prof. Kobre's Guide to Videojournalism

- Randi Rhodes Message Board

- Typos & Tribulations by Mikel LeFort

- Andrew Sullivan/The Daily Dish

- Scooping the News

- The Same Rowdy Crowd

- Editors Weblog

- Someday, all jobs will be Odd Jobs

- Random Mumblings

- Vin Crosbie

- Virtualjournalist

- Brian Blum @ Aim Group

- Society of Professional Journalists: SPJ News

- Darren He

- Just Journalism

- Ink-Drained Kvetch

- Agence France-Presse (AFP)

- Les Jones: A Bouquet of Weeds

- milne media

- scoopgirl

- Angelswin.com

- The Exception

- What's New in News

- Pasadena News Weekly


- The Heights

- Newspaper Death Watch

- Craig Smith

- Bangkok Bugle

- Huffington Post

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Monday, February 02, 2009


Budget-Cuts Humor Falls Short

Maybe this isn't a good time for cryptic tagline jokes like the one that appeared at the end of a Super Bowl story in Monday's Los Angeles Times:
(Editor's note: This review has been ended because of cutbacks. We wish the writer success in his future endeavors.)

Apparently, as explained at LA Observed, it references a gag in a Bud-Light commercial that aired during the game, and is mentioned at the end of the story.

Some readers, however, might have assumed otherwise after the massive staff cuts that the newspaper has endured, including the recent elimination of the local-news section.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Monday, January 26, 2009


LA Area Official Given $18,000 Pay Raise!

Here are today's links to my posts at NBC:

- At least one city's still giving pay raises ...

- Signs of Indie 103.1 start to show online...

- Print writers bolster new movie biz site ...

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


A SLAPP In The Face Of Journalism

A hearty congratulations and considerable sympathy is due freelance writer Susan Paterno, whose American Journalism Review article "Santa Barbara Smackdown" so upset the owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press that the journalist ended up in court for two years before having the case dismissed this month.

That's two years of courtroom conflict that should light a fire under every American journalist, and not just the freelance writers who aren't reading their contracts before they sign them.

Two years.

As Howard Kurtz reported a year ago, the publisher of Paterno's story, American Journalism Review, "was not originally named as a defendant but agreed to pay Paterno's legal bills and indemnify her against any judgment."

And what did AJR get for doing the right thing? Kurtz had that answer too: "management was stunned to discover that its libel insurance did not cover freelance writers."

Like AJR, a lot of mainstream newspapers are contracting out more and more of their content, which in many cases exposes their freelancers to the same sort of experience Paterno suffered.

Every journalist ought to consider the chilling effect this is bound to have on freelance journalists covering business and government at every level. Will injustices go unreported for fear of retaliation? I don't know. Is two years in hell too long?

The rundown of Paterno's case is at LA Observed.

Cross-posted at LA Observed

Hat tip to Romenesko at Poynter.org for the related-comment link.

Click to e-mail TJ Sullivan in LA

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