August 3, 2011

by Roger Pynn

I dreaded the walk like a man headed to his own execution.  The sun wasn’t up.  Night birds were still singing.  I bent down knowing today was the day I had long dreaded … the day the newspaper died.

If you’ve been following the saga of the daily newspaper and debates of whether there will be newspapers as we’ve known them in the future, the answer lay on my driveway this morning as if Tribune Media had started waving a white flag and was giving up the ghost.

Our once robust newspaper – where I worked as a young buck reporter and editor, and where my brother retired as public editor – was reduced to a shadow of its former self.  Stripped nearly bare of national and international news, I saw the villain of this sad drama … up there in the upper left hand corner:  “*Free app!  Available for download on your iPad, iPhone or Android.” 

“In an effort to reduce expenses, we’re consolidating the Main News and Local & Business sections into one section dominated by local news,” said the announcement explaining the thinner-than-thin broadsheet.  And what dominated the front page above the fold:  a color photo of Casey Anthony … certainly something readers needed to make important decisions during their day … a story that the mother you love to hate may be dragged back to town by a headline hunting judge to serve out a probation no one understood.

Fortunes have been lost as the story of the American newspaper has unfolded, talented journalists have lost their jobs or been smart enough to hitch their wagons to other stars and our society has lost the most powerful institution for the protection of a democratic society.

Newsroom sources say 70 percent of the paper’s revenue comes from its print editions.  Why, then, is so much money, effort and print real estate devoted to driving you to use a product no one pays for and fails still to produce revenue commensurate with cost?

The Cost of Copy Editors

November 2, 2009

by Dan Ward

It’s not enough to say that the Internet and social media are killing newspapers.  Newspapers are also killing themselves by neglecting the quality of their product.

When copy editors are shown the door in increasing numbers, how can any newspaper expect to publish a quality product … a product that not only contains accurate and useful information, but is also free of glaring errors and typos that affect the readers’ experience?

Not to bash the Orlando Sentinel, but since it’s my hometown paper it’s the most convenient example.  The Oct. 29 “Sports Daily” section contained a number of errors:

  •  From an article on the Orlando Magic:  “Fans hated to see Lee traded after his promising rookie season, but Carter, an eight-time all-star authored a solid, if not spectacular, in his homecoming at Lee’s old shooting-guard position.”  Huh?
  • A Mike Bianchi column stated that Rashard Lewis had been suspended for the “first10 games.”  Might be a space-bar mishap there.
  • The next paragraph in that column ended without a period.
  • The same column asks us to “just as” instead of “just ask” the team’s biggest fan.
  • An AP story about the tragic murder of a UConn football player was so strong that the Sentinel chose to run two differently edited versions of it, on the same page, under different headlines.


Mistakes are always going to happen, and not every typo will be caught.  But when newspapers cut their editing staff to the point that quality suffers, their demise can no longer be blamed solely on the Internet.  The cost is evident in the latest Editor & Publisher report on circulation, which shows yet more double-digit declines.  Quality always matters, no matter the product.


November 19, 2008

by Roger Pynn

Poor Rupert Murdoch, all those millions poured into newspapers and an attitude like this: papers have an edge over bloggers and other newcomers because readers trust them more, according to a story by Associated Press.

Rupert, old boy, if you haven’t noticed public confidence in the media is at an all-time low. Why? Could it be that many in the news business have abandoned the basic tenants of journalism and become so comfortable with prefacing their comments with the words “I think” that they’ve forgotten altogether that journalists shouldn’t express their personal opinions?

He’s right. There are huge opportunities for papers that pursue online markets for news. We don’t need to argue whether or not there is a market of people like me who still enjoy the feel of newsprint as they sip a morning cup of coffee.

But if you truly believe there is a difference between “organized journalism” such as what used to and should be practiced by newspapers and the online personal editorial pages that blogs like this represent, why not create a continuing education program for your editors and reporters to remind them that just because Woodward and Bernstein uncovered Nixon’s complicity in Watergate doesn’t mean everyone in the newsroom should be on a mission to prove that every news sources or “public person” or organization carrying the postscript initials “inc” ought to be pursued as a public enemy.

Just report the news. If you need a reminder, you can get your people to start with “who, what, where, why, when and how?” instead of language resembling the best opening argument of a state attorney before a grand jury.

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