Every Thursday, we ask Poynter faculty, staff and online contributors for their impressions of the news of the week. What surprised them? What was overplayed? Underplayed? What does it mean for the media? What will they be watching for next week? You can find this week’s answers below and answers from previous weeks here. To contribute your own thoughts on the week in review, click the “Add Your Comments” link at the bottom of a post. You can also subscribe to receive “This Week in Media” by e-mail: just click here.
For the week of Feb. 20-24, 2006:
- Jim Romenesko’s most-e-mailed stories of the week
- Kelly McBride on cartoon questions, magazine circulation and Wall Street Journal fusion
- Casey Frechette on rescues in the Philippines, lottery winners in Nebraska, rioting in Nigeria and more
- Rick Edmonds on mixed signals
- Bill Mitchell on the Newspaper Association of America’s Orlando meeting
- Sree Sreenivasan on the blogs famous media folks read
- Jill Geisler on leadership lessons in the lottery story
Most E-mailed Stories
Senior Online Reporter (ROMENESKO)
The most-e-mailed ROMENESKO-posted stories of the week:
1) Check out the winners of the 2005 George Polk Awards
2) Journalism needs more working-class people and immigrants
1) Washingtonpost.com wins NAA’s best news site award
2) (tie) Microsoft co-founder Allen seeks buyer for Sporting News
Supreme Court decides not to touch college newspaper case
1) WSJ to combine print and online editions into one unit
2) Study: Critics tend not to review bad movies they’ve seen
1) Rocky gets about 200 complaints after trimming stock tables
2) Block: “I think the Post-Gazette has a staff that’s too big”
The Question of Cartoons, Growing Glossies and Fusion at the Journal
Ethics group leader
Overplayed: Cartoon questions. Reporters who are still asking if American editors should run the Muhammad cartoons are missing the point. It’s not a “free speech versus political correctness” issue. It’s more complicated than that — and the story has moved on.
Underplayed: Magazine circulation grows. This is one more piece of evidence that documents how the public is changing its habits when it comes to consuming information. It’s not that people don’t read hard copies. They read more magazines, fewer newspapers. They spend more time on the computer and less time watching TV. What’s it all mean???
Next week: The Wall Street Journal combining print and online. Maybe the public won’t be as interested as I am, but I want to know what that’s going to look like. How has it been going over at USA Today, which recently did the same thing? How will reporting and writing be different? Newspaper newsrooms are structured and organized around production of a newspaper, usually once a day. How will all that change?
Perspective on the Philippines, The Lotto in Nebraska, Rioting in Nigeria, Ports, Populations and More
Interactive learning producer/NewsU
What coverage surprised you?
NPR ran an informative piece Tuesday on the Philippines’ recent history and current economy. The story followed a report on the status of the mudslide rescue effort, and demonstrated how brief reporting on a current event can effectively set the stage for deeper coverage of related, possibly little-understood topics. In this case, the history and economic snapshot were not only informative but added context to the mudslide story.
Was anything overplayed? Underplayed?
Overplayed: The mega-million lotto winners. It was nice to see several people win the unprecedented jackpot, but the prominent coverage on CNN, Fox News and other cable news/online outlets overreached the importance of the story. The newsworthiness here is in the record-setting, difficult-to-fathom $365 million prize, but I couldn’t help feeling that more important things were happening in the world as the story continued to get top billing, especially midweek.
Underplayed: It seems strange to say that a story that’s gotten as much coverage as the cartoon protests was underplayed this week, but one particular angle of the story — ongoing religious rioting in Nigeria — didn’t get much play. The Washington Post ran a piece midweek and CNN.com weighed in Thursday, but I haven’t noticed much coverage elsewhere. Difficulty parsing out what aspects of the violence connect to the cartoons and what parts tie to pre-existing religious strife makes the Nigeria violence tough to cover. But this story also helps to highlight the complexity of the violence and shows, at least in some cases, how the publishing of the cartoons may have served more as a catalyst, rather than a cause, of the ongoing conflict. The difference is subtle, but an important step toward deeper understanding of all the factors at play in this issue.
What will you be watching for next week?
In addition to repercussions of the Shiite shrine bombing in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates port deal seems like the big story to look out for next week. There are quite a few angles worth watching here: the unprecedented effects in Washington (promises of a first-ever Bush veto, a rare clash between the White House and top-ranking Republicans in Congress, the backdrop of impending midterm Congressional elections), the security front, and, more generally, foreign policy. Later this week and into next, I hope there’s a bigger effort to clearly define what exactly “port terminal/shipping operations” entails. We heard a little bit from the White House Wednesday on what it’s not (i.e., managing security), but early descriptions stated merely that the deal would put the UAE in “control” of certain ports. This lack of details, combined with impassioned concerns over national security and xenophobia (along with the drama of a late-night call from Air Force One) seemed to result in a powderkeg of sorts by midweek. Thursday brought more details and thoughtful analysis, and I hope this continues into next week.
Also worth watching: Wired News this week points out that the Earth’s population will soon reach 6.5 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau tells us we’ll cross the threshold sometime this weekend. I’m curious to see how many outlets use this milestone as a springboard for population coverage next week. This is an interesting topic that could be covered from any number of angles (food, water, natural resources, environment and so on). The 6.5 billion signpost provides a rare opportunity to explore a topic that, though important, may not otherwise be deemed newsworthy.
Mixed Signals, Mid-Meetings
I have poked my nose out of marathon staff meetings this week just long enough to harvest the usual mixed bag of tidings on the newspaper industry’s economic health:
- To start with the good, most public companies had excellent January advertising results, with gains of 10 percent or more year-to-year typical. No one is boasting that the whole year will hit that mark, but it is better than the miserable fourth quarter of 2005. That dragged down total advertising revenue growth to barely 2 percent for the year — half of the gain from online and niche publications.
- Conversely, my prolific friends at Media Post send an estimate by e-Marketer that automakers’ online advertising will double over the next two years. That is where nearly all the advertising growth in many lines of business is going now.
- There has been a spate of studies and articles lately suggesting that the growth in readership of blogs is cresting and that except for a few elite bloggers, the economic model that would pay one person a living wage is not materializing. A good, extended treatment appeared in last Friday’s Financial Times. Perhaps I’m partial because author Trevor Butterworth shares my low estimate of the news/journalism heft of the great majority of these offerings. I don’t read this to say newspapers should nip in the bud their growing volume of experiments with staff blogs. Newspapers have two things going for them that independent bloggers (except for a few stars) do not: professional writing and reporting discipline and the ready-made audience that visits the typical newspaper Web site.
Don’t Be So Sure About Your Core… and Other Notes from NAA in Orlando
Editor, Poynter Online
Even Web editors refer to the evening news or the morning paper as “the core product.” But readers and viewers may suggest a different way of looking at things.
Karen Crotchfelt, vice president for market and business development at The Arizona Republic, told a Newspaper Association of America meeting this week that the core product for 18-to-39-year-olds in Phoenix is no longer the print newspaper. At least for this chunk of the market, she said, the paper regards its Web site — azcentral.com — as its core. For readers in some outlying regions of the market, she added, the core product is one of the Republic‘s community newspapers rather than the main sheet.
What would it look like if, depending on the story and the portion of its audience most likely to be interested, more mainstream media outlets regarded their new media platforms as at least occasionally “core”?
Acting More Like an Ad Agency
I believe it was in one of the buzz sessions for the Connections portion of the convention that somebody suggested this as a strategy for newsrooms.
An ad agency figures out what its clients need and then comes up with a package of various media that matches the particular strengths of various platforms –- print, video, online, e-mail, etc. -– to the particular needs of the client.
Advertising departments for newspapers and TV stations have been struggling to get to this kind of consultative selling for years. Rather than selling space in a newspaper or time on the air, sales staffs have been urged, with mixed results, to come up with customized solutions to customer problems.
What would it look like if more newsrooms (and individual journalists) took a similar approach to the information and entertainment needs of readers, viewers and users? What would the daily report look like if, as a matter of routine, assignment desks and their staffs matched the strengths of various techniques -– narrative, chart, video, audio, photo, interactive –- to particular needs of readers, viewers, users (otherwise known as news clients)?
Words to Work By
I found most of the NAA sessions remarkably straightforward about the challenges facing newspapers these days.
But what might newspapers look like if they really took to heart the words of NAA Chairman Jay Smith?
“The world has changed a lot,” he told 1,400 representatives of advertising, circulation, marketing and online departments from around the country, “and we haven’t changed all that much.”
Too Much To Read!!
Web Tips Columnist
Finding the time to read more than a few blogs each day is tough. So when I visited one of my mandatory stops, Instapundit.com — the libertarian rock star of the blogosphere — and saw an external link to blogs Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman reads, I just had to follow it. Fineman’s a writer I admire and I always stop channel-surfing if he’s punditizing on TV, so I was curious about what I presumed would be a short list of blogs he visits every day. Turns out he has a very healthy blog diet and reads all kinds of bloggers.
This item was part of a new feature on the ExtremeMortman blog: “Blogs The Famous Media Reads.” Here’s what Jake Tapper of ABC News reads, and here’s what Jeff Dufour of The Hill reads. Keep track of the entire feature here.
Leadership & Management Group Leader
Didn’t you love the meatpackin’ millionaire lottery winners from Nebraska? Now THAT was reality television — or was it? My friend Lori Waldon, assistant news director at CBS-13/UPN-31 in Sacramento, Calif., sent me a note about one winner’s quote, since it resonates with leadership teaching.
Here it is, excerpted from a story by Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune:
Not all of the winners, though, stepped immediately into early retirement. At least three said they would stay on the job — for now, anyway.
“They would have been short of help,” said David Gehle, 53, a supervisor who has worked at the plant for two decades. “The managers, we think a lot of them. We couldn’t just leave them.”
Four hours before the news conference, Gehle had finished working the overnight shift. He said he planned to report to work Wednesday for his 10 p.m. shift and politely asked not to be disturbed until then. “I need to get some sleep,” he said.
As Lori pointed out, they must have some pretty good managers at the plant! Wonder what the quotes would be like in your newsroom if eight of your staff won the lottery today?