Thursday, November 19, 2020

Final farewell thoughts to the eastern front

The "eastern front" in this and several previous blog posts is a play on "Southern Newspapers," former owners of the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram, where I was until early 2019.

Another thing I don't miss?

Six-month instead of annual evaluations. Please.

Taylorism in play.

That said, since Southern no longer owns this paper, and I wasn't with Moser long enough to know if he does evaluations at all, things would be different now. Possibly worse on the advertising side, though John Henry is certainly no Dennis Phillips. Maybe better on the editorial side, though credit to JS locally for pushing for a lot of latitude on the op-ed pages.


That's not the only analism that runs through the company.

A drumbeating for "must be vertical" on front-page layout?

They obviously don't look at papers outside the company, or else don't care. Nor do they look at the fact that smartphones and tablets will adjust webpage layout from portrait to landscape if you turn them 90 degrees.

What it really is, I know, is a cheap attempt to make a newspaper look like a website.

Well, we don't read newspapers like websites. And, a lot of research has shown that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Gainesville paper gives state Rep. free campaign ads

 I'm speaking, as in the past, about the Gainesville, Texas, paper.

State Rep. Drew Springer was just re-elected, and as is tradition in a banana republic state with a legislature that meets just every other year, Drew, along with other Legiscritters, filed a bunch of bills on the first day of filing, a week after the election.

The Gainesville (formerly daily) Register saw fit to put that on the front page.

At a weekly, in a smaller community, I MIGHT have put that BELOW THE FOLD on the front page. 

In a normal election year.

I NEVER would have stripped that across the top on all six columns as the lead story.

Not in a normal year and certainly not this year.

This year being different as in Springer is in a runoff special election for a state senate seat. And, just about every one of the bills he filed was a pander against claims by his opponent, Shelley Luther, that he's not a "real conservative."

In short, the Register gave him a shitload of free advertising.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Another crappy NM paper bites the dust, sort of

 About two months ago, I blogged about the Los Alamos Monitor going belly-up.

This new post also involves a newspaper where I applied long ago, then got lowballed (as did others) by a publisher engaged in resume bottom feeding.

That would be the Rio Rancho Observer.

Or should I call it the Albuquerque Journal Observer?

JournalismJobs recently had a listing for a new ME at Socorro's El Defensor-Chieftan Chieftain, yet ANOTHER place I applied to about a decade ago. (Initial phone interview, publisher indicating he liked me, then no follow-up on his part.)

I applied via JJ's website, then thought .. do I apply directly by email?

So I hit its website. At lower right, I saw a listing of "Partner sites." One I thought was in Belen, and indeed the News-Bulletin is. Then I saw the Albuquerque Journal.

Then, "RRObserver."

I web-searched, and sure enough, the Observer is owned by Number Nine Media, the Journal's parent.

Which means the cheap-ass publisher of the Observer took the money and ran.

He reminded me of the owner of the Focus Daily News in the Best Southwest suburbs — cheating on his distribution so as to fudge numbers similar to a free throw shopper. And, in the interview, he admitted it.

He said he zoned Rio Rancho into quadrants and did a free throw once a month, on a rotating basis of the four quadrants. And this was with a loophole-laden, but not fishnet-level, ABC at that time. That's before the Audit Bureau of Circulations basically washed its hands of such things entirely. (A perfect strategy for the newspaper of the city of Glengarry Glen Ross, eh?)

Especially now that the Journal is printing-partnering with the Santa Fe New Mexican, it can throw its muscle around about anywhere north of Los Cruces and SE New Mexico, and with Hobbs, Carlsbad and Roswell oil-imploding again, who knows on that?

Anyway, the Observer is not disappeared, but it's surely a shell of its former self.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Greenwald illustrates a Gnu Media problem

Unless you've been dead for 10 days, if you follow media issues, you're aware of Glenn Greenwald's temper-tantrum departure from The Intercept and his decamp to freelance journalism at Substack.

Temper-tantrum it was, and lie-based it also was. Those who know Greenwald should be shocked by neither.

This whole Greenwald claim of "but my contractual rights say no editing" is a lie. The Intercept, per this great NY Mag story, says that was ONLY true of his columns. His news stories were, are and always have been subject to editing, and mentioned previous examples. Details of that in re the proposed Hunter Biden story.

Greenwald’s main editor on the nonpolitical pieces was Peter Maass, a veteran journalist who joined The Intercept shortly after its founding in 2014. In light of the high-profile, controversial nature of Greenwald’s planned column on Hunter Biden, Reed told Greenwald that Maass would edit the column. 
On Tuesday, Maass sent a lengthy memo to Greenwald, outlining what he said were the draft’s strengths and weaknesses and suggesting that he adopt a sharper focus on media criticism rather than litigate questionable evidence of Joe Biden’s corruption based on purported documents from his son Hunter that had been published by the New York Post.

Shock me.

(At The Guardian, he was billed as a columnist, and I don't know if he wrote any straight news stories. I can't remember back to his Salon days.)

But, in any case, Glenn's belief that he was above editing, as well as above the need for editing, illustrates a problem with Gnu Media related to problems I've noted before. (And, to add to that, on YouTube with video or SoundCloud with podcasts, one can claim that anything one is throwing against the wall is a column, and I think that's the basic stance.

As an Old Media person, as managing editor of several weekly and semi-weekly papers, I've edited staff writers. And, contra this gotcha bullshit, even by his standards, from Max Blumenthal, 

expected to be paid more than them. 

My response, which included Max, Reed, and the person who retweeted:

Beyond that, conveniently omitted by Max, the retweeting Aaron Maté and the re-retweeting Mona Holland, is that Reed is not just editor, but editor-in-chief. And had 16 years of various editorial experience at The Nation before that

I've also, when possible, subjected myself to some degree of at least "proofreading-plus" myself. That's both on stories AND columns, on the writing, and on layout. At my current pair of weeklies, my former office manager now ad salesperson and more looks at stories I write, my columns, obits, and a semi-regular column from a school district superintendent. She primarily looks for grammar (actually good on commas and even knows subjunctive usage!) and formatting, but will make occasional editorial suggestions.

I don't always accept them. BUT, I do normally give them due consideration.

I have joked at times that, like Pontius Pilate, "What I have written, I have written," but that's not totally true. And not just in Old Media.

At this and various other blogs in Gnu Media, I sometimes start a post a week or more in advance to give it time to percolate. Now, here, my normal schedule is once a week plus other occasionals, so, I may write in advance by several days anyway. But, at other sites, where I may blog daily, at least on weekdays, this is indeed true. I'll jot out a rough draft of a blog days, weeks, even a full month or so in advance on serious items that I think need blogging but also need an extended thought process.

Per the NY Mag piece, I think that, on some of his news stories, Glenn doesn't like to let things percolate, and he definitely doesn't like parts of the editorial process that force him to percolate.

I'll venture nobody regularly proofreads, edits or fact-checks Blumenthal, either. And, I KNOW that at least one other Gnu Media maven in his general orbit, Jordan Chariton, has refused to correct major errors on claiming many black men's deaths this summer were murders when they were indeed suicides, and at a rate not significantly different than statistical averages.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The newest "AI is taking our media jobs" screeds

A week after The Guardian wrote a shortish piece breathlessly touting new writing AI, specifically a program called GPT-3, The Atlantic takes a deep dive in the shallow end of the pool.

At least Renée DiResta gives us unedited, albeit excerpted, material to read (the Guardian only had edited slices):

In addition to the potential for AI-generated false stories, there’s a simultaneously scary and exciting future where AI-generated false stories are the norm. The rise of the software engineer has given us the power to create new kinds of spaces: virtual reality and augmented reality are now possible, and the “Internet of things” is increasingly entering our homes. This past year, we’ve seen a new type of art: that which is created by algorithms and not humans. In this future, AI-generated content will continue to become more sophisticated, and it will be increasingly difficult to differentiate it from the content that is created by humans. One of the implications of the rise in AI-generated content is that the public will have to contend with the reality that it will be increasingly difficult to differentiate between generated content and human-generated content.

As for the horrors of AI being used for propaganda writing? Well, if Russian trolls can be replaced with AI bots to "flood the zone" even more, or capitalist businesses in America doing the same to We the People, that is troublesome to a degree.

But nowhere near the breathlessness degree.

As for letters to the editor? Ms. DiResta, astroturfing campaigns opened that barn door years if not decades ago, and better-staffed newspapers regularly screwed the pooch.

Moving beyond the media angle, though, which is somewhat what the Guardian does? It claims editing on its AI piece took less than a human piece. That, in turn, makes me wonder what level of dreck its writers, or freelance op-ed submitters, actually turn in.

Other than the narrow world of yet more media-industry job losses, when I look at this, am I worried? No. 

I do worry there, and that many companies like Craphouse and Dead Fucking Media would use stuff like this without much editing.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Twosiderism, the MSM, and Kool-Aid drinking

(Sorry that I had originally published this, and backdate published it, before it was ready.)

 I've used that last phrase elsewhere about people like Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, Mark Ames, Jordan Chariton, Yasha Levine, Matt Taibbi, and others.

They're a loose cluster of people who claim to think outside the box of what I call the bipartisan foreign policy establishment here in the U.S.

However, they carry this to an extreme, and that's the twosiderism on their own. Especially on things like China's Uyghur detention camps, they're willing to drink Xi Jinping's bullshit or whatever just because the U.S. foreign policy establishment calls him out for this. (As does most the Western foreign policy establishment.)

Well, beyond two wrongs not making a right, this is not really outside-the-box thinking. Instead, it's creating your own new box.

On things like the New York Post's story about Hunter and Joe Biden, Glenn Greenwald has been a willing member. And, he too is wrong.

Yes, it's Vox, Ezra-land, but Jay Rosen, who is interviewed there by Sean Illing, isn't Ezra Klein.

Rosen just mentions the Post piece in passing as part of a larger issue. And that is that political journalists have for decades more and more treated political reporting as insider baseball. 

There are two other problems he mentions.

One is commercial pressures. Here, the equivalent of the old "if it bleeds it leads" would be "if Trump tweets he leads."

The second? The MSM's long desire for "the view from nowhere" or "equal time." Well, on broadcast media, the Fairness Doctrine hasn't existed since Reagan. Print media has never been bound by any such thing. Electronic media of the Internet era of course isn't.

Rosen does say that leaders in the MSM have adapted a little bit to Trump exploiting the "fairness" issue. Not as much as they need to, but somewhat. The "if Trump tweets he leads"? In their DNA, though.

To the degree they are truly playing inside baseball, the Times etc. deserve a callout. But, where are the stenos calling out the Post slouching more toward Gomorrah? Or the Wall Street Journal making its news pages a harbor of coronavirus conspiracy theories, herd immunity puffery and antimasking?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Snooze, aka Dallas Morning News, slouches further on its adhole

 I hadn't popped open a Snooze in a while, but I did a week ago.

Their Thursday exurban edition continues to get worse and worse.

COUNTING obits, just over 3 1/2 pages on a 32-page issue, or 14 percent. Err, my math is bad. That would be just over 10 percent, or else I meant 4 1/2 pages.

NO ads in the front section other than a half-page house. NONE.

They should be pulling a page from Advance and not delivering to stores and racks certain days of the week. If you insist on keeping Mondays so people out in the country can read your necessary Dallas Cowgirls coverage, still, Tuesday and Thursday at a minimum are cuttable outside the core area of Dallas, Ellis, Rockwall, Collin, Denton and Hunt counties.

Three weeks later? Thursday, Nov. 4 after the election? 4 1/2 or so on 34 pages.