Thursday, July 20, 2017

More vampirism in the newspaper industry

I've seen it outside the forty-fourth estate, but it is apparently starting to catch on inside, too.

"It" is a newspaper trying to get as detailed a past salary history as it can from you as early in the process — as in as part of the application — as it can.

Via Journalism Jobs, I believe it was, a while back, I saw a Virginia newspaper saying that W-2s from previous work were part of the hiring process. I found that paper's Twitter account and told it what place it could find to file those W-2s.

Then, the growing Community Impact group. Its web-based application asks for salary at each previous spot. I had had two jobs with it pop up off of one of my job search engines. I had started applying for the higher-level one when I saw this. So, I put in $1 per week/month/year on each job.

And didn't apply for the other position.

These folks are relying on a mix of a still weak job market (don't listen to Janet Yellen at the Fed), an ongoingly weak newspaper market, slick branding of "we're new and different" (with Community Impact), and masochists in the biz who don't want to leave.


But, that's another story.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The publisher as projectionist

Picture that your community-sized daily paper, which you joined just recently out of necessity, it not being "your" community until you moved there after being downsized elsewhere, is bought from its family owner by a small chain.

Picture the new chain's nearest paper is less than 40 miles away, in a community and county somewhat bigger but not too much. Picture the managing editor of your paper is bumped to publisher. Picture the publisher of the next paper over figures he'll take this new publisher under both the publishing and editorial wing of his.

With me?

Picture the next-door publisher has what he thinks are some great design ideas.

Picture that ...

He doesn't always practice what he preaches at his own paper, and you have the publisher as "projectionist."

Not the movie-theater guy. The Freudian psychological projectionist.

Next-door publisher thinks you should always have a vertical picture on the front page.

Problem? A 12-issue sample of front pages, riffing through issues at the next-door town's library, says he broke that one-third of the time.

Yes, it's a small sample. But, it's not tiny, let alone infinitesimal.

The projectionist.

Other things? Yes, it might be nice to run less AP content. Or it might not. And, it would be easier to do that with one more editorial person. And with a half-point bigger font that looked like wider Century Schoolbook or similar, rather than Times, to boot. And with all stories run ragged right. And on a narrower web.

And, with a five-column double deck header on the front page (yes!) that ... looked like ass or something.

The projectionist.

Nuff ced for now.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Fake news, thy name is Associated Press

Mainstream media has caviled about so-called "fake news" for the last year or so.

Of course, there's a high level of hypocrisy here.

The New York Times ran Judith Miller's fake news, nay, PUSHED it, then, if that contribution to the Iraq War wasn't enough, it spiked for a full year a story about Bush's warrantless snooping, which helped him get re-elected. Not that John Kerry would have done much different on Iraq, and judging by Dear Leader four years later, wouldn't have done much different on spying on Americans.

(And, I haven't even covered the fake news that's increased on the Times' op-ed page with hiring Bret Stephens.)

And, earlier this year, after it decried "fake news," the Washington Post then Tweeted repeatedly for a third-party group called "Prop Or Not," which made the Democratic Party's, and Clintonistas', "Putin Did It" claims about the presidential election read as soberly as wallpaper drying compared to Prop Or Not's McCarthyism — McCarthyism which later turned up to have seeming connections to Ukrainian fascists.

And, now? Per that screenshot up top?

It's the good old Associated Press, with the screenshot coming from this story.

The issue of posting crap from a place like Taboola has become even more decried in the last year or so, even as "digital dimes" in the online ad world become ever more "mobile nickels." (Thanks, Dean Singleton, and the 1990s AP board of directors, who touted the "TV model" of the Internet while ignoring that pay TV channels like HBO had already existed for 15 years or more.) Indeed, Taboola itself is one of the worst of the "sponsored links" folks, and most the news, or "news," you'll find off those links is sketchy at best, skeezy at worst, and almost certainly native advertising in some way, shape or form.

But, that's not all.

AP is writing, and photographing, its own clickbait as well, as shown above.

If American media dies, it will be from self-strangulation in its own crib.

Friday, June 02, 2017

NYT kicks Liz Spayd to curb as cover for continuing ad struggles

Liz Spayd has been neutered
So, the Old Gray Lady has decided to can its public editor position, apparently in part as a way of canning its current public editor, Liz Spayd, who didn't do the job as well as predecessor Margaret Sullivan.

That said, the position, created in the wake of Jayson Blair, was always about forward-looking PR for the paper at bottom. And, when the paper gives you shit, sometimes, shit-tasting lemonade being made at the end still isn't that good, if you're the public editor, no matter the seriousness of your lemonade-making endeavors.

That said, per a Salon overview, on paper, Spayd had the chops for the job. But, she not only appears antiquated in relation to social media, but in relation to ways in which the Times could be, and sometimes was, different in a good way.

In hindsight, she strikes me as "earnest." Like a fourth-grade schoolteacher from the 1950s. And, generally, that's not that good.

On the other hand, predecessor Margaret Sullivan was by no means perfect. I once both emailed and Tweeted her about staff "pre-writing" a weather storm in anticipation of a snowpocalypse that didn't pan out. Never heard back. How she would have handled Stephens, I have no idea. That said, per Nieman Lab, Sullivan's defense of the position, and by extension, her prior inhabitation of it, is kind of laughable.

But, back to the headline of this post.

The decision to eliminate the public editor comes a day after the Times announced the creation of a “Reader Center” led by editor Hanna Ingber. One role of the new “Reader Center” is to improve how the Times “respond(s) directly to tips feedback, questions, concerns, complaints and other queries from the public,” according to a Tuesday memo.
This is the TrumpTrain punking part of the headline. Have fun with THAT, Times! Because you will get it. You're probably already getting it with your idiotic "say something nice about Trump" schtick. I know that, if there's others like me, you're getting punked from the other side, too. Well, actually from the nonduopoly left-liberal third side.

Then, there's this, from the memo to staff from Punch Sulzberger:
We are dramatically expanding our commenting platform. Currently, we open only 10 percent of our articles to reader comments. Soon, we will open up most of our articles to reader comments. This expansion, made possible by a collaboration with Google, marks a sea change in our ability to serve our readers, to hear from them, and to respond to them.
Lemme see how interesting that is. Will readers try to Google SEO their own comments? Will Google AdSense try to sell Google ads into those comments?

What else will this involve? Google bots helping edit comments?

And, while the PE role was allegedly designed to address, or turd-polish, the Blair issue, it never did allegedly do that for Judith Miller. Or for the Times holding a 2004 story on President Bush spying on Americans until after the election. Or its sanitized photo coverage of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Couple of other notes, coming primarily from the Times' own piece. One, Spayd is getting kicked to the curb today, just two days after the announcement.. Wow. Second, this is part of larger buyouts. Third, they're going to hire some new journos. They claim that the moves are to hire journos who don't think in "legacy" ways, but what it really is, is younger people they can pay less.

Overall ad sales are still down. It's unclear if the post-election circ rise has come close to offsetting that. It's also not reported if the backlash over the Stephens hiring has ixnayed that rise or even reversed it.

In any case, getcha popcorn! And remember Spayd by this interview earlier in May.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Nooo, Facebook Live videos are not "the answer" for a struggling newspaper

The publisher at my former newspaper, who downsized me, then cut to a weekly, then downsized the sports editor after winter sports were over because baseball and softball aren't a big deal, has some "interesting" ideas.

Among the interesting dumb in my opinion ideas? His lusting for Facebook Live videos. He shot one nearly 20 minutes of himself walking through a house the day after it was gutted by fire. Not sure how much of that is a general lust for Facebook Live videos, and how much is a pontificating ego.)

Then, to top that, about two months later, he shot another one, of a fatal bus crash. On the scene. Before all families — the injured as well as the one fatality — had been notified, from what I heard.

And, it got a lot of negative comments on Facebook.

First, 10 minutes is too long for ANY video of that nature.

I'm not sure that Fountain was a vulture for doing a 10-minute vid about a bus crash, as some called him — and if he was, then the 325 people and counting who shared it are vultures, too.

But, I do think he's wrongly enamored of the idea that Facebook in general, and Facebook Live videos in particular, are an important part of journalism. Even if we get guaranteed income, people still have to follow YOU, not Facebook.

Had I thought a video were warranted (which is itself dubious), I would have shot one with my DSLR, non-live, and done some editing. Yes, Fountain did lower his cam at times to avoid people, but he didn't always.

I think he's also enamored of the idea of being a videographer.

This gets back to the "wrongly enamored."

TV news doesn't run 10-minute videos. People don't normally sit through them unless they either have a loved one potentially involved with a situation like that — in which case I do question disturbing them — or unless they're vultures, IMO.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The media has but selective support for the First Amendment

I've been at a number of rodeos, with different companies in different places. Some were newspaper-only, others were combination media in some way, shape or form.

But, in general, at least among old media, support for the First Amendment is selective.

And, that means we need to first look at exactly what the First Amendment says — including ALL FIVE different phrases for different "intellectual expression freedoms" it supports.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Most people know only the first three, and know them imperfectly, like the Religious Right claiming America is a Christian nation.

The media is established on the third freedom.

Over the past decades, this has become problematic in several ways.

First, "old media," especially old print media, was slow to accept blogs, or even full online-only news websites, as "journalism." Shamefully slow. Parochially slow.

And, ultimately, capitalistically slow.

That leads to what I'm really getting at here.

At various media organizations, I've been asked to sign papers about personnel policies, etc. Invariably, part of this involves social media.

Some companies are less hinky on this, others more so. The more hinky ones basically want you the media employee to throw away your First Amendment free speech rights — just because you work for a media company.

Now, to some degree, I'll bet other businesses try this, at least if you're a rung or two up their white-collar ladder. (Does the trash company make its pick-up people sign such policies?)

But, it's more egregious with media companies for several reasons.

One is that, per the header, they're being selective about the First Amendment.

Another is that, when they get into image management, they're now getting into public relations. Oh, sure, any company has to do that somewhat, but when a media company wants its employees to be tohu w'vohu (Google it) on opinions, then, no, we're at PR at the expense of journalism.

The third is when said media companies extend the spirit of this idea to employees being asked to write columns, do opinion-like podcasts, do opinion-like takeout videos — but actually say as little as possible.

And, of course, the hardness of said media stances are going to be doubled down upon in right to work get fired states.

In a sidebar, at least in the media world, it's easy to tell exactly how a company has been burned by its employees in the past, by looking at two things:
1. Their personnel policies and
2. Their access restrictions on what can or cannot be on computers, what server portions are accessible by whom, etc.

Let's get back to the First Amendment, though, as months or years from now, that may become its own post.

Media at the national level are also selective in their defense of the last two clauses of the First Amendment.

Unions get shorter and shorter shrift, even from allegedly liberal newspapers. That includes said newspapers overlooking national Democrats cutting them shorter and shorter shrift.

Well, part of the power of organized labor has traditionally come from a robust interpretation of what "peaceably assemble" covers.

But, that's just one problem.

The mainstream media has remained silent for more than a decade as presidents and presidential candidates have used "security" as a claim, especially at political conventions, to herd peaceably assembled protestors a half a mile or more away from them.

Boycotts, too, are a form of peaceable assembly. Yet, the mainstream media, when confronted with a New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talking about criminalizing the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement against Israel, has managed to keep its collective mouth totally shut.

The real bottom line on this issue IS "the bottom line."

When the First Amendment meets capitalism, the media bread will always have capitalist butter on it.

Of course, this is one small chip in why media is dying, in my opinion. And, it's a big boulder in why "old media" SHOULD die more.

Friday, May 05, 2017

We're a print-first newspaper ...

Except when we're NOT!

Yep, yep, have heard those words more than once in the past three months. Heard them again on Monday, when a new change came within my southern world of newspapers.

And then, two days later ...

"Oh, we need an Instagram account as well as Facebook and Twitter."

Dunno if that's the publisher's own initiative, or a "suggestion" from the new sheriffs.

But, I don't think I've seen the Instagram Times or the Instagram Daily News printed anywhere.

Personally, I think Instagram may be an even higher level of potential Internet addiction crack cocaine than Facebook.