Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Newspapers are not dead"

Posted by Craig on 8/28/2008 0 comments
Poynter Online just posted this response to Jay Mariotti's departure from the Sun-Times, and specifically how he handled it. This should be required reading for everyone in newspapers. It's a rally cry. "Newspapers are not dead," Roger Ebert emphatically proclaims, and he goes on to say why.

Mariotti jumps ship

Posted by Craig on 8/28/2008 0 comments
"I feel like I'm getting off the Titanic."

That's what renowned sports columnist and ESPN contributor Jay Mariotti said upon his resignation from the Chicago Sun-Times this week. Those were his parting words to newspapers, as he moves on to pursue new opportunities on the Web.

He's not the first and definitely not the last to switch from a career in print to online, but the fact that he's so outspoken makes him a particular interesting case study. He held nothing back in his most recent comments.

"Any paper without a quality, progressive Web site is dead meat ... [The] Sun-Times is dead meat," he told the Chicago Tribune.

He added to the Boston Herald that print media is “dead in the water if we don’t realize what’s going on."

Mariotti admitted to the Tribune that his former employer of 17 years is not at all happy that he's speaking out about the "weak" state of newspapers, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He said he came to the realization that the business was no longer for him when he was at the Beijing Olympic Games earlier this month and saw more Web outlets than print.

It'll be interesting to see where he goes and what this could mean for the Sun-Times as a whole, which has already been suffering mightily in recent months.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New world of journalism "like baseball"

Posted by Craig on 8/25/2008 0 comments
A past professor of mine - and former colleague at the Democrat and Chronicle -, Scott Pitoniak, was in Beijing covering the Olympics the last three weeks. He wrote in excess of 100 items (stories, blogs, web updates, features) while there according to his latest estimate and was one of just nine sent by Gannett to cover the Games, his fifth Olympics. I look up to him greatly and he really knows his stuff. The closing ceremonies were held yesterday and he wrote the following in his wrap-up blog, reminding readers that he has a regular blog too and they should keep coming back to check it out:

"[T]he new world of journalism is like baseball, and if I don’t get a sufficent number of hits, they’ll be putting this middle-aged sports scribe out to pasture."

That really resonated with me. What a sad way of putting it, but as a sports fanatic, what a perfect analogy, too. Online is all about generating traffic, building up readership, creating loyal customers, and providing a viable product that people find worth checking out...when there are so many other distractions out there in the chaotic digital age that surrounds us. How do you get someone's attention and maintain it? It's certainly not an easy task. If you're not good enough, you're replaced by someone else and the beat of the business goes on, just like in big league baseball - because after all it is a business. It's a harsh and terrible truth in newspapers at this difficult time. And Scott couldn't have put it better than he did in that statement.

I certainly wish him and everyone else at Gannett all the best at this difficult time. And I sincerely hope that changes for the better are on the horizon for all of print journalism, whether that be a new business model, a new direction - it's yet to be seen but adjustments are still needed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Latest newspaper numbers

Posted by Craig on 8/19/2008 0 comments
Here's a news flash (not really): A study released this week by the Pew Research Center found that newspaper readership is (still/again) on the decline.

Just 34 percent of Americans are reading a daily newspaper, compared to 40 percent in 2006, and 48 percent in 1998. On the other hand, 37 percent of Americans are going online for their news at least three days a week, compared to 31 percent in 2006, and 13 percent in 1998. These latest numbers support Pew's State of the News Media 2008 report from back in March.

The online-only Huffington Post, which I've been reading increasingly lately, had a story up on this latest Pew poll on Monday. While many newspapers are cutting back, the Huffington Post just launched HuffPost Chicago, a hyperlocal news source and community, the first of its kind for the formerly "national" publication. We'll see where that goes and whether or not HuffPost expands to other cities, but my point is, outlets like Huffington Post seem to be growing, while we saw more cutbacks at Gannett and Tribune Co. just last week.

Arianna Huffington herself commented on the Huffington Post story in her Google Reader, which I'm now subscribed to. She writes, "A good snapshot of journalism's hybrid future.: more online, TV still strong, newspapers scrambling to adjust." I'm not sure I agree with the whole of that statement, but I think the hybrid future and online parts were right on. I think where TV fits into all of this and where newspapers end up are still up for debate.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tribune Co. cuts as well

Posted by Craig on 8/16/2008 0 comments
Gee, what gives? On Thursday it was Gannett and on Friday the Tribune Co. eliminated 40 newsroom positions from the Chicago Tribune. It's the second cut of 40 employees in the last few weeks, so 80 total have been let go this month.

These job cuts were expected - the company announced they were coming in July - but at least 10 more people than anticipated have been laid off, according to Chicago Business.

Here's a troubling stat: The Chicago Tribune had 670 employees in 2005, but it is now down to just 480, according to the Tribune report sourced above. That's a drop of more than 28 percent of the workforce.

My take: it certainly isn't good news for the company, but as stated earlier, this development was expected. However, coupled with the Gannett news from Thursday, it's definitely a very difficult week for newspapers to say the least. If cutbacks continue at this pace, you have to wonder at what point the quality starts dropping significantly at these publications. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gannett cutting 1,000 jobs

Posted by Craig on 8/15/2008 0 comments
Some sad news was announced yesterday by my former employer. Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper publisher, is cutting 1,000 jobs across its U.S. Community Publishing Division. I worked for the company from Oct. 2006 to April 2008.

The details for the cuts are sketchy, but I did some poking around the Web and it looks like The Tennessean in Nashville and Cincinnati Enquirer will be the hardest hit, each eliminating 50 positions. Here's some of the other losses I was able to find online today:

-Tucson Citizen, Ariz.: 30 jobs
-Des Moines Register, Iowa: 26 jobs
-Indianapolis Star, Ind.: 23 jobs
-Louisville Courier-Journal, Ky.: 15 jobs
-St. Cloud Times, Minn.: 12 jobs
-Democrat and Chronicle, N.Y.: 11 jobs
-Mansfield/Bucyrus/Marion papers, Ohio: 9 jobs
-Appleton Post-Crescent, Wisc.: 8 jobs
-Green Bay Press-Gazette, Wisc.: 8 jobs
-Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.: 8 jobs
-Newark Advocate, Ohio: 6 jobs
-Chillicothe Gazette, Ohio: 3 jobs
-Muncie Star Press, Ind: 2 jobs
-Pensacola News Journal, Fla.: 2 jobs

Apparently, the Detroit Free-Press and USA Today will be unaffected. No word yet on other newspapers at this time, as far as I can find. If a lot more numbers come out later, I may update this post or post a new entry with that information.

This news follows up the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cutting nearly 200 jobs and the Wall Street Journal eliminating 50 positions last month. Besides Gannett, the Tribune Company, McClatchy, and Cox are among the major media players that have also been suffering lately.

What does it all mean? It seems to me that it mostly has to do with pleasing the shareholders, which is sad. That's one of the problems with big business overseeing a bundle of local-oriented publications. And newspapers across the nation are feeling the effects, as are journalists across the country. Ultimately, the news will end up suffering and that's a very scary part about all of this.

The cuts in one sense aren't a surprise though. The 2008 State of the News Media report on Newspapers put it this way: "As for cuts, the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 are shaping up as a time of you-ain't-seen-nothin'-yet." The report continues, "As one executive, ordered by headquarters to plan a fresh round of newsroom cuts for 2008 told us, 'I'm past bleeding - we're into amputation now."

Things may continue to get worse before they get better. It'll be interesting to keep an eye on this.

An uncertain future

Posted by Craig on 8/15/2008 2 comments
Times are bad right now for journalism, and they're only going to get worse, so the experts say.

I suppose that's why a number of professionals have asked me, "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" And why I was cautioned a number of times throughout college that I may want to look into another field. The signs of trouble ahead were evident when I first enrolled in the Communication/Journalism program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., and they amplified as the years went by. But I plunged forward, anyway, because, yes this is what I want to do. I walked the stage with a C/J degree and now I'm about to pursue an M.A. in Journalism.

As often as I've been questioned about my career choice, I've heard far more people say, "Make sure you do something that you love." They say it makes going to work bareable, even worthwhile and enjoyable. I've found that passion in journalism, and that's why I'm as confident as ever that I've made the right choice - even though the industry forecast continues to call for stormy weather ahead.

My main interests are newspapers and online. We're at a crossroads right now in which newspapers are still trying to figure out online. How to make the shift, how to be profitable in the process, how print and online should work together, how print and online should be different, and where the majority of their resources should be going are just a few questions being asked. Some newspapers are further ahead of others in this digital age. But big questions still remain. What will the future hold and what role will the latest technologies (and new ones) play 5, 10 years from now and beyond?

Naturally, I'm keeping a keen eye on all of this. It's the industry I've chosen to join, and the uncertain future of journalism directly affects my future. I'm doing my absolute best to prepare for what that future may hold. That's what led me to the Masters in Journalism program at DePaul University, which emphasizes the online, convergent newsroom and social responsibility of journalism. I start classes for that in less than a month.

This blog will give me an outlet to share my thoughts as time goes on, sure to continue to evolve along with the industry itself, and a place to monitor the rapid changes going on all around us in the media.

I'd encourage comments, especially from others in the journalism industry or those interested in technology, the Internet, and new media, as I am. By combining your insight with my own, I'm sure we can learn more together about where journalism is and where it might be going.

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