Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yearnings for Earnings

Have you ever hopped onto a friend's computer, or maybe you share a computer workstation ... we're not talking intentional history snooping, but ... you hit the pull down menu on the URL bar. There's some fun address history, Facebook, the person's blog, news sites (we wish), Jilted Journalists (dream on) and some of the latest in workplace distractions aside from keeping FB chat open. At least these recent examples provide hope that we're still literate, and looking for news at some base level.

Awhile back Dirty Scottsdale morphed into nationwide The, and its main content is cell phone pictures of maybe hot babes or hunky guys, with captions like, "I have seen some far away pics not bad but looking straight at her she isn’t as hot as she thinks she is" with host Nik responding. "Why does she have Fling-V lips? Must be a tough recruitment year for Tempe 2.- nik."
While The Dirty is still popular, two other sites prove you don't need pictures, although cartoons are available on one. And they are the, um, epitome? of reader involvement and engagement.

In, you can tell what you did and viewers comment and vote on whether your life sucks or if you deserved the fate. They even turn some into cartoon representations. Recent tame example: "Today, I was at my boyfriends house, meeting his family for the first time. We were all standing in the kitchen when suddenly a small white and brown mouse ran by. As a natural instinct, I stomped on it. Turns out, it was his little sister's pet mouse that had gotten out of its cage earlier. FML" (The vote on that, BTW, was, when we peeked, 'sucks' 3309 to 'deserved' 9714.) usually runs pretty raunchy, and you can search by your favorite area code. A tame but fun entry: "(231): Those 2 guys from the sonic commercial will be virgins for life." But most usually center on waking up the next morning, like on the kitchen floor with a phonebook for a pillow. And viewers comment and vote if the text means good night or bad night.

News is so personal. All this reflects why the most earnest efforts of community sites aren't always the earning-est.

But that won't stop us from trying. Check out what Connecticut Consumer Watchdog Geoge Gombossy says about making a success of his site after the Hartford Courant kicked him to the curb after a 40-year career with the paper.
Read the story at Jilted Journalists and continue the discussion by commenting back here (click link below).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hyper-local, Part II

Keeping the discussion going

Carll Tucker responds to comments left from our Saturday post (see original story here):

"Thanks, R and Anonymous, for your comments. After two decades as a community news publisher and hanging out with other community news publishers, I know there are lots of folks who care about their community.

"They want to know about their kids’ schools and games, their houses of worship, the value of their homes, local crime, what local politicians are up to, who was born and who died, what’s doing over the weekend. Yes, some parents attend any given Little League game, but not all, and the ones who couldn’t attend want to hear about it (not to mention Gramps and Granny).

"Does an individual need our help starting such a site? No. It’s not rocket science. But it’s hard. How many people are expert at all the disciplines required: reporting, ad sales, technology, billing, community relations, promotion? One can spend one’s precious time learning all those things, but why not spend it gathering the news and rustling ads, the two keys to success? With our tools, experience, guidance, and launch capital, we can help local entrepreneurs get off to a faster, more profitable, and less risky start.

"Is that worth paying for? Depends on your point of view. To those who want to go it alone, we say, More power to you. The folks who’ve started viable community sites are our heroes – but there aren’t that many of them. Many communities in America have no local news right now (my wife and I live in one). In other communities, the local newspaper is wobbly.

"Our first objective is to assure quality local news in all the communities where the newspaper is doomed. We think we can help build success – but we’re rooting for all the other folks who are doing it too. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a high-quality community news site whose proprietor is making an OK living. Thanks again for your thoughts. C "

What do you think? Please add your comment.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saving local news, will it work? What do you think?

With 20,000 or more journalists and other newspaper professionals out of work, and tradtional printed newspapers seeming to shrink all the time, who's going to cover local news?

Publisher Carll Tucker, right, developed a local news franchise and sold it to Gannett; now it's just not the same.

But maybe by applying some old-fashioned country editor principles to modern technology, his franchise business plan will save local news franchises.

Personal finance columnist and author Jane Bryant Quinn, left, says she is involved because she's a believer in local news.

Take a look at our story on Jilted Journalists.
What do you think?
Will it work?
Would you try it?

Please add you comment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's in your future Beloit Mindset List?

Some news of course is cyclical in nature and reporters and copy editors try to make coverage different, be it Christmas, Fourth of July or the current crop of back-to-school stories.

One of our favorites in that genre is The Beloit College Mindset List, providing 75 "cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college."
This year's list presumes students entering the class of 2013 were born in 1991.
Just a few of our favorites - they have more serious ones:

-- The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.

-- Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
-- Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
-- There has always been a Cartoon Network.

The list also addresses some of the same issues creating havoc in the news and media.
"Members of the class of 2013 won't be surprised when they can charge a latté on their cell phone and curl up in the corner to read a textbook on an electronic screen. The migration of once independent media — radio, TV, videos and CDs — to the computer has never amazed them."

So help us help Beloit editors get ready for future lists. Here's a few media-news-related items that may come up in a few years or possibly for the class of 2031. Please add items that you might dread or embrace. (Please use the comments section and we'll pull them back out to our main site.)

Will we see items such as these:

-- News has always been downloaded free to handheld mobile readers and never printed on paper.

-- Pictures have always been digital and Photoshopped in broad daylight and never burned and dodged in a darkroom.

-- Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reports have always been written 140 characters at a time by citizen journalists and never by well-paid or even poorly paid reporters working for a news organization.

-- Great literature has always been read for free on 2-inch-wide screens.

-- TV shows were always watched on demand and never at a time scheduled by a so-called TV network.

-- Facebook friends have always shared their private thoughts through HuffPost Social News and never emailed each other, picked up a phone, or met at a Starbucks, which has always only had tables for one.

What's on your future Beloit list?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Not as bad = It's getting better

It seems we inadvertently touched someone's nerve. A friend of a Facebook friend took umbrage when we added a comment about the jobs report to which the friend was linking. The New York Times story she cited:

There was some fun banter, so we quipped, "Is the rate down because there just aren't that many people left to lay off?"
Which brought further discussions and a serious retort with a US Census Bureau citation: "There are more than 153 million jobs in the US. This idea that there are fewer jobs to lose is ludicrous."

Ludicrous or not, above is the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart showing net monthly changes in jobs. (We're not making this up.) Since January, 2008, the net change has been negative each month. The bureau's monthly net count (those are minus signs):
Jan. -72,000
Feb. -144,000
Mar. -122,000
Apr. -160,000
May -137,000
Jun. -161,000
Jul. -128,000
Aug. -175,000
Sep. -321,000
Oct. -380,000
Nov. -597,000
Dec. -681,000

Jan. -741,000
Feb. -681,000
Mar. -652,000
Apr. -519,000
May -303,000
Jun. -443,000 (Preliminary)
Jul. -247,000 (Preliminary)
So, we have no quibble with the report that the pace of job loss is slowing, and the other monthly figure, the jobless rate, dropped a point to 9.4%. Recession may be ending. Jobless counts lag economic movement.
Our point:
If you're one of the 153 million at work, congrats.
If you're one of the 247,000 who lost a job in June, one of the 5 million the bureau calls long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more), or have been out of work some other period of time, we may have help for you, especially if you are a jilted journalist.
Check out our latest story on reinventing yourself. Lots of advice, particularly aimed at journalists, from career coach Madhu Krishnappa Maron.
Hope it helps.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Corporate bedfellows

We knew something was amiss when we noticed news stories citing Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls.

Not a normal story topic for Jilted Journalists but perhaps something worth pursuing for our readers.

The particular topic here is how polling partnerships come about and what they mean.

For example recent national stories quote Washington Post/ABC News poll or USA Today/Gallup or CNN/USA Today. Some of those pairings have been around for years.
The Wall Street Journal is paired with NBC News in recent polls on President Obama's health-care plan, Sarah Palin's political future and government spending, to name a few.

That seemed odd considering the venom usually spewed between arms of the companies' parents, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and GE. Particularly Fox News' O'Reilly and MSNBC's Olbermann.

Why wouldn't WSJ pair with FNC, we wondered?

Along comes The New York Times' Brian Stelter shedding some light on what's going on.

But are there even more reasons for the two organizations to get cozy?

Insights welcome in comments.

Monday, July 27, 2009

E-Books update

We knew this was coming, in case you hadn't seen, it's here.

Barnes & Noble launched its eReader email campaign, touting 700,000 titles, anytime, anyplace.

And if you sign up now to download the free, "fast and easy" eReader, they throw in 6 free ebooks for iPhone and PC users: The Last of the Mohicans, Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, and a handy Pocket Dictionary.

An example of pricing: The House at Sugar Beachby Helene Cooper, $9.99 on ereader, $25 list. (Their links.)

Just an example of how publishing changes so rapidly.

If only newspapers could get their $9.99 from customers who could download e-editions.
People may not be paying for stories, but they may pay for convenient delivery.
Pipeline owners often (ok, El Paso Gas, not always) make more money than the products they deliver.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We're all Caesars

Have you ever noticed how the Caesars in Caesars Palace has no apostrophe in it?

(Waxing nostalgic:) It was a detail that escaped us way back in 1979 at Lake Tahoe.

Back then, Harrah's and Caesars were rivals. Back then, there was a Harrah, Bill, and he owned the poshest hotel-casino at Tahoe's south shore. Across the street, Highway 50, was another rival, Harvey's Wagon Wheel, owned by Harvey Gross. The names of Harrah's and Harvey's casinos each had an "apostrophe s" in them, Bill and Harvey owned them back then.

Along comes Halloween night of 1979. At the stroke of midnight, Caesars, without an apostrophe, would take over the Park Tahoe hotel-casino, a couple doors down from Harrah's and across from the fourth major club, Sahara Tahoe. We were there to witness the changeover as a reporter for what was then the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Gaming pretty much never stops and we chronicled how one hand at a blackjack table was the last dealt under the Park Tahoe's auspices, a tray of chips was quickly subbed and the very next hand was dealt under Caesars ownership. (Caesars lost, but the player's streak only lasted three hands.) And so it went table by table, watched by officials from Del Webb, which operated Park Tahoe's casino, Caesars, and Park Cattle Company, owner of the land on which the hotel-casino sat.

The Tribune then was a 5-day, afternoon daily. So the Nov. 1 edition carried our front-page story of the changeover under the headline, "Caesar's comes to Tahoe."

A couple days later comes the letter from the Caesars PR department, thanking us for the story but pointing out the ghastly error of the apostrophe. There is no apostrophe, the PR folks stress, because all their customers are Caesars, to be treated and honored like rulers of their own gaming empire (the fate of the namesake Roman emperor notwithstanding).

(Getting to the point:) Caesars no longer operates at Tahoe, it's part of the same company that also includes Harrah's and Harveys (no longer boasting an apostrophe in its logo) and seven other familiar hotel-casino brands. The Tahoe Daily Tribune is no longer daily. We no longer work for any newspaper, but we publish stories at Jilted Journalists and blog for free here.

In looking at the parallel upheavals in the newspaper and book-publishing industries, we can see more parallels in the way changing technology, industry consolidation, a deep recession and changing customer habits conspire against traditional casino operations just as they do the news and book industries and so many other businesses.

In the news and book publishing worlds, more readers are rising to be Caesars.

They can choose their experiences, they can publish their own stories from Tweets to treatises more inexpensively than ever before, and in doing so they build their own personal brands of themselves.

What can we deal them?
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bastille Day and The Fourth Estate

(Updated July 14, 2014)

How can we let Bastille Day, July 14, pass without examining the future of "The Fourth Estate?"

As we mark the 225th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, heads still figuratively roll as more media companies place jobs under the blades of corporate guillotines.

Coming to terms
"The Fourth Estate" as we think of it today is a phrase invented in England but likely rooted in French history.

In France, King Philip IV in 1302 convened the Estates-General triad of clergy, nobility and commoners. His deal: They would approve new taxes, he would grant them more freedom. The Estates-General was active at first and then went dormant.

Along came 1789, a financial crisis, the guillotine, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, a reconvening of the Estates-General, distribution of the U.S. Constitution articles, and a commoner-led revolution.

Later in England the three estates were parallel, The Lords Spiritual, The Lords Temporal (together making up the House of Lords) and the commoners (The House of Commons).

It was also in England where the term The Fourth Estate as applied to journalism stuck.

Author Thomas Carlyle in 1849 credits politician Edmund Burke, who likely was thinking about French history: "Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all."

British politician and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay is quoted this way: "The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm."

Even in a more egalitarian America, the term is often applied to the news media because of its government watchdog role, a de facto regulator.

Coming to termination
Under a generations-old business model, those who rule news media "tax" advertisers to underwrite much of their operations.

It worked in newspapers, later for over-the-air broadcasts. And cable.

The model held for so long that those who ruled the media could not fathom transformative technology and the quickening pace of change. 

Nor were they ready to cope with the loss of control as the Internet first and later the Web and now app after app put "commoners" more in control of what they want to see, when they want to see it, how they want to discover it, what they want to say about it and how they want to create their own flow of "news."

"Taxed" advertisers have gained more and more freedom to say what they want and where they want to say it. Increasing online and mobile advertising dollars flow more to Google, Facebook and Twitter rather than to news sites.

Control over news creation spread to "commoners," too.

In theory, anyone can say anything. Anyone can be a citizen journalist.

Just about anyone can start a blog. We can open Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+ or other accounts. We  tweet, text, sext or toss in our two cents in a Web site's story comments. Despite the fees to access wireless networks and set up home wi-fi, it all comes at a much lower cost for "commoners" who don't need to tax advertisers to get their "jobs" done and their "news" delivered to friends, foes, frenemies and other followers of all sorts -- even if only at 140 characters at a time.

Thousands of traditional "Fourth Estate" jobs are perishing never to return in the forms we once knew them. Pew estimates newspaper and magazine newsrooms chopped 54,200 journalism jobs in the past decade, offset by the creation of only 5,000 internet-based news jobs.

"The vast majority of bodies producing original reporting still comes from the newspaper industry, Pew said.

But don't let anyone get too complacent. There are more revolutions ahead.

Nothing stays.

Even the guillotine fell out of favor.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Your journalistic origins

Anything unusual help spur your drive to become a journalist?

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record: prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own, for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is... that these things cannot be confined... to The Twilight Zone."
- Rod Serling,
closing narration.
"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,"

"The Twilight Zone"
Episode first aired, March 4, 1960, says IMDB.

Holiday Greetings

Wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July holiday.

Jilted Journalists is a site for sore eyes when your newspaper has or is about to declare independence from you.

Hope we can all help each other.

With about 1,400 more Gannett employees about to join the Jilted Journalists ranks, the recent departure of a great top-ranking Los Angeles Times editor, and whatever else is coming down the pike, we're here to help each other.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New Items at Jilted Journalists

Tom Brown, a Daytona Beach News-Journal business reporter who took a buyout in June 2008 at age 61 after 38 years in the news business, sends this reminder:
Terminated people who worked at newspapers that still have defined-benefit pension plans need to pay attention to annual disclosures about the financial condition of their plans.

Should you contribute even if your company jilted it matching contribution?
Answer may surprise you!

AP jobs:
We asked AP how many of the Central and West editing hub jobs that were widely posted over the winter went to insiders vs. applicants from outside AP. The answer was vague.
Do you have information you can share for a Jilted Journalists story?