Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That didn't take long

Ironic timing, considering my last blog entry, but the next Capital Times has in fact arrived.

The highly-respected, 100-year-old Christian Science Monitor announced today that it will stop printing its daily edition, in favor of going Web only and printing just once a week.

This is the first national U.S. newspaper to abandon daily print operations for the Web. The Capital Times of Madison, Wisc., was one of the first metro dailies to go Web only six months ago.

Said Editor John Yemma: "It's a tough road, but we basically feel that the Web is where the growth is."

Here's the official story from Christian Science Monitor itself.

Now that CSM has taken the lead on a national scale, will others follow? We'll see.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Are more Capital Times on the way?

Six months ago, The Capital Times based in Madison, Wisc., became one of the first daily newspapers in the country to make the switch to online-only.

According to the history page of the publication's parent company, Capital Newspapers: "The company's most recent change - and one of its most important - took place on April 26, 2008, when The Capital Times published its last daily print edition and became one of the first American daily newspapers to go primarily online. The Capital Times now consists of three separate, interrelated products."

What are those three main products? While, there's the "main" one - the newspaper's Web site, captimes.com. There's "a new magazine-style print edition, The Cap Times" published every Wednesday. And there's a new "arts, entertainment and culture publication" published every Thursday.

How has the transition gone? Well, if looking at the company's Web site today is any indication, it seems fine. The content is current, it's fresh, and the site looks good.

2009 is just beyond the horizon. The State of the News Media reports at Journalism.org paint a grim picture for the future. There were many layoffs and cutbacks at newspapers this past year. No one should be surprised to see more experiments like the one at The Capital Times, especially as online journalism continues to develop.

Here's a good feature on The Capital Times' switch to Web-only back in February for those interested.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The resiliency of journalists

Wendy Parker, who recently parted ways with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after 19 years of service, posted this interesting tidbit in the "Wired Journalists" social networking community:

"Here's an update from a journalist at the San Diego Union-Tribune on the new lives, and work, of some former colleagues: FBI agent, political aides, graduate student, law firm investigator, hospital professional, communications manager, minister and, in another setting, investigative reporter. Says one of the (journalistically) departed:

'I miss the people, and there have been occasions where I miss being in a newsroom. It's a stimulating experience...But seeing the direction of the business, I don't have any regrets.'"


Parker ends her rant with this valuable insight: "We all know that journalists are an eclectic bunch, and their second acts reflect that. It's the institution that's homogeneous."

Right on. And journalists will survive because of it.

Sooner or later, the institution will have to change. It'll have to budge and find a new way of doing business, or it won't be doing business anymore. At least not the right way. Good journalism is at stake here, and I believe it's an essential part of our society.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not feelin' the Buffalo News redesign

Update (Oct. 27): The Buffalo News has addressed my two big concerns with the new design, adding timestamps for stories and getting rid of the scroll bar for the Latest News bar. You have to scroll down for it, but now I'm not as heated about the new design.

This may be just me, but IMHO, the Buffalo News redesign is a step in the wrong direction.

I realize it's just the first step of a process. Editor Margaret Sullivan writes in "Inside the News" today, "[i]t is the first phase of an overall site redesign that will continue over the next several months."

Hopefully that process will include reader feedback, and I'm guessing it will. The biggest changes? The front page is broken up into little sections now rather than just one main story and a bunch of other ones with the "Latest News" bar. My biggest beef with the new design is the omission of that Latest News bar. To find the most current news, you have to scroll down now. Then to even use that Latest News bar, you have to scroll WITHIN it. Several steps backwards, IMHO.

Here's a screenshot of the old and new sites. I don't mind the new font/bigger writing and the push toward a more graphical presentation, but the subtraction of the Latest News bar which was unique to the Buffalo News Web site and the omission of when the stories were posted with the new design, these are big problems the way I see it. It used to be that most newspaper sites were commercialized, but the News wasn't; it seems the times are changing. Hopefully they get the issues resolved and find a happy medium everyone can enjoy.

Old site


New site

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Hub for the latest and greatest opinions

Here's something different.

The Dallas Morning News unveiled a new initiative in the Opinion section of its Web site. Instead of featuring its own editorials, usually just a carbon copy of the print - and of course the traditional way of running an Opinion section on the Web -, they're featuring "the best of the best" of the Web.

According to Deputy Managing Editor/Interactive Anthony Moor, the Morning News is "changing out links throughout the day in real time based on an editor’s sense of what the key conversation is online."

It's fresh, it's exciting, and it's taking the lead on opinion journalism on the Web. What better way to let the widest range of voices be heard, yet still be able to filter out non-relevant content and keep it current to the biggest issues? Bravo to the Web team behind this; I think it's a great idea. Check it out here.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Now that's a blog...

Art Golab from the Chicago Sun-Times spoke at DePaul tonight. He gave a real interesting talk.

He spoke about computer-assisted reporting, databases, and interactivity, and the importance of the Web in the future of newspapers. "Online will help us survive a little bit longer," he worded it. Gee, almost sounds like he thinks newspapers will be gone someday! Not exactly encouraging.

But, he did show us some really cool interactive/online stuff. He says that's definitely the future. And something interesting...he says computer/online knowledge isn't as important as good journalistic instincts. He says young people everywhere know computers well enough to work with them, but good journalism/good reporting is hard to come by, and that's key - not all have mastered that. Never heard it that way before.

One thing he showed us is a blog by Lynn Sweet from the Sun-Times. Now that's a blog, he said! And it is. I was really impressed. She follows politics and mostly Barack Obama's candidacy. Golab said, "if you're wondering where Obama is at any given time, check in at her blog, it's probably in there" - because she updates it frequently, often multiple times a day. She does photos, video, the whole thing. It is very impressive. He says being able to maintain a good blog, like Sweet's, is a useful skill for young people to master.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Impressive overnight coverage

Gannett's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has really put a lot of effort in their "overnight" coverage, working well with both the 24/7 news cycle and new technology.

Last night, they did a great job covering a major apartment fire in Greece, N.Y. Audio, video, and photos from the scene can be seen here in the cleverly-titled "While Rochester Slept" blog.

Chad Roberts has been central to these efforts, as he's served as Overnight Editor for the D&C since Feb. 2007 - right in the middle of my time at the D&C from Oct. 2006 to April 2008. I would work nights, so I would cross paths with him often. We'd often see each other in the elevator - me leaving for the night, he off to a big fire or a murder.

Seeing the types of things he's done firsthand, I've thought a lot about how important that coverage is. And it is very important. Also, it wouldn't be possible without the new technology today, that allows him to capture video/audio/photos and put together really compelling slideshows and pieces. I just wanted to take a second to recognize their extraordinary work and share it with others.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

No CBS affiliate in Buffalo - for now

This is a bit different than what I usually write about, but it is related to the media, and it's a pretty big deal where I'm from, so I figured I'd throw something up about it.

I'm not certain why this happened. I'm not an expert, nor do I claim to be in this case, but the main cable provider in Western New York, Time Warner, as I write this, does not currently have a CBS affiliate on the air. The contract expired yesterday and a new one has not been reached.

It could not have come at a worse time for people in Buffalo. Our 4-0 Buffalo Bills are playing at Arizona this Sunday - their final game before the BYE week - and CBS was supposed to carry that game. So, theoretically, tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers could be blacked out of the game if a deal is not reached.

It makes this blog for one other reason, something tied much closer to what I usually write about. That CBS affiliate is using its Web site, WIVB.com, to get its messages across. It has content up for its viewers, on the negotiations and what's going on, including a video, and of course it continues to update based on news in the area. The news continues, despite the blackout, and its most loyal viewers are now going online. What a great use of the site. Hopefully the situation gets resolved soon.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stop the presses?

Director of Social Media at the St. Louis Dispatch Kurt Greenbaum offered some really interesting thoughts in a recent blog entry. Among them: do we really need to print a newspaper anymore?

Think about it, he says. All this talk lately about the need for a new business model - how about an online-only one? Cut the Circulation Department. Cut a good chunk of Advertising. Cut a fraction of News/Editorial and go digital only.

No ink costs, printing costs - no need to own printing presses anymore either.

But then he took a real close look at it, and detracted those same thoughts, saying they wouldn't work - at least in his estimation.

He used various numbers he collected on the Web and came out with a 15 percent profit margin currently for the average newspaper - about $51 million revenue, about $43 million expenses. The new model? Even minus those expenses listed above, your standard newspaper would be 9 percent in the red. Not enough online revenue yet.

Perhaps his ideas could be tweaked and looked at further though.

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