No-news conventions, the disappearing newsroom and AP the dinosaur

Google sponsors Blogger Tent at Democratic and Republic National Conventions

For $100 you can have access to an exclusive tent for bloggers at the Democratic and Republican national conventions – complete with Googleplex-style goodies and granola. For all the hoopla about Google as a media company, how new media alters the journalistic landscape, etc., I kept wondering the same question: what news comes out of a convention anyway? After the running mate is announced, it’s a lot of rah-rah and pats on the back, right? (The above link to the WSJ article buries this point at the bottom.)

Emmis cuts 4.6 percent of workforce

I love print. Always have. It’s how I learned how to read. But I have to ask. Is this a healthy “leaning” of artificially large newsroom staffs? Before I draw harsh criticism from print-age journos, I’m speaking purely of the business model. Will newspapers hit an equilibrium where they narrow in scope and turn a profit? Furthermore, from Gannett…

Gannett blogger laments thinning newsroom staffs

Former Gannett editor Jim Hopkins provides a former where anonymous Gannett employees, past and present, can keep up to date on the latest dismal news from the colossal newspaper chain.

Tribune layoffs hit minorities disproportionately harder

According to a report by Richard Prince at his Journal-isms blog, the most recent round of cutoffs at the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Co.’s flagship brand, were disproportionately minority reporters. Ray Quintanilla told Prince that of the more than 80 people let go, after you factor in 30 voluntary exit, the list is heavily minority, and “looks bad.” To play my own devil’s advocate, this, if true, is anything but healthy for journalism.

And finally, a bit of good news…Idaho Falls drops AP contract in 2010

This I applaud for its boldness. Publisher of the Idaho Falls Post Register Roger Plothow stated in a letter:

I’ll put my cards on the table — I’m not sure how we’re going to pull this off. While the AP’s value to us has been severely diminished over the years, it still does provide a handful of services that we haven’t been able to find elsewhere — yet. I’m betting, however, that it’s only a matter of time. More likely, we’ll use that time to become essentially 100 percent local, which is probably where we’re headed eventually anyway.

Bravo. That’ll be one to keep tabs on.

4 thoughts on “No-news conventions, the disappearing newsroom and AP the dinosaur

  1. comment about the ap story. i think you’ve got it a little wrong, matt: ap is not a dinosaur. what it realizes that it is in the business of feeding dinosaurs and sees the ‘future’ in that. ap is actually going to be the godsend of much of the sites that aggregate news. this rate structure change that idaho falls defended and now excoriates is the sign of ap being smart. ap sees where the future of news dissemination is and has structured its rates and fees accordingly. the choice for newspapers such as idaho falls is to get savvy or get out. and, honestly, i think the editors at the paper have made a smart decision. no one is ‘wrong’ here: if the idaho fallses of the newspaper world want a future, they *have* to get local — from what i now know about the zeeland project you guys worked on, you better than anyone should know that. and i’m not saying that as a chastisement. what ap does well — gather and report news on a broad scale — shouldn’t be the things that a newspaper the size and scope of idaho falls relies on anyway. all they’ll be missing are probably some state news and state sports scores, but their readers shouldn’t be coming to them for that anyway. the line from the newspaper next folks is that a local paper should start viewing itself as a municipal utility for information: a source for everything that people living in a community need to live in that community. ap isn’t going to be in that mix for the idaho fallses, nor should it be. and there’s nothing wrong with idaho falls — or the ap — recognizing that.

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  2. Good points.

    And for the most part, I agree with them. In fact, after I’d written that piece, I realized I should have distinguished between “AP the dinosaur,” and “AP’s business-model-in-the-past the dinosaur.”

    But now reading that over, let me play devil’s advocate…

    Let me get really progressive/futuristic on you. Their print components grow more and more local, yes. But with the Internet, couldn’t the Idaho Fallses of the world rely on cheaper, more efficient, online syndication partnerships to produce the news their online audiences want/need?

    In other words, is there a true need for a global source of news? If news providers become less provincial about releasing their content to so-called competitors by adopting a more networked approach to journalism, what does AP provide?

    Or is the AP’s role (or Reuters, or whatever) to aggregate news on a global scale and put things into context? To report in places where local news organizations are faltering or hindered by government?

    Your thoughts?

    Your thoughts?

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  3. we’re on the same page, you sage: as i typed my first response, i thought, ‘there should be some idaho news consortium’ — a lot of news organizations rely on pool reporting for big trials or certain events. do we really need a gaggle following the candidate to understand what the candidate does? that, to me, has always been more about the personal aggrandizement of the reporter/news org than about ‘getting the news right.’

    but i stray from your point: i’m not a champion of any global news source or provider. ap is successful in the same way the u.s. postal service is successful, and i do believe that the u.s. postal service is successful. where ap goes to provide news coverage, it does it well. the u.s. postal service — even though we crab about rising rates for stamps — does an amazing job of blanketing the nation with doorstep delivery of its mail. but is the postal service method the only way or the very best at what it does? of course not. that’s why successful competitors have arisen. i’m fine with that. no one should have a stranglehold on anything. that’s how things get flabby and complacent and sub-par.

    i’m saying idaho falls doesn’t need the ap and shouldn’t be nervous about life without it — if it truly wants to be good at providing the people of idaho falls with news.

    the ap is a combination of members and staff. if the members leave, ap isn’t as dominant, but that’s ok.

    the smartest thing i’ve ever heard your ol’ buddy pete esser say was something along the lines of papers like the one in holland will survive and thrive, but the papers that need to be worried are the chicago tribunes and new york timeses. he said, ‘there need to be 40 chicago tribunes.’

    people don’t need newspapers for metro, wholesale news/information. they need niche information, and delivering that in a general interest major metro is too cost prohibitive and not smart. memo from the new editor of the chicago tribune says research has shown that people have an unexciting experience with the time they spend with the tribune. i don’t think that means newspapers should start massaging every reader’s feet, but i think that papers have to get smart about how and what they provide. and dumbing it down to bubble gum, pop-culture stuff isn’t what people want. i spent a lot of time trying to find something about the russian invasion of georgia that gave me the context i needed, the understanding i needed and the news i needed. nytimes, tribune, ap … none of those places were getting it to me.

    anyway, i don’t know if this answers your questions.

    i say smaller, cheaper, regional partners. maybe coordinated by ap, maybe existing outside of ap. i say a global source for news is a menace.

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  4. to one of your other points: someone needs to pull the plug on the conventions. they serve no purpose. they’re scripted, staged, fabulously expensive and newsless. nothing in a party platform has any real meaning unless the candidate agrees. the whole exercise is obsolete.

    perhaps this brave, bold and correct editor in idaho falls will get someone at nbc or the new york times to say, ‘hey, we don’t need to send people to cover this.’ and keep them home.

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