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The headline near the top of The Wall Street Journal’s front page was straight to the point: “Obama Mandates Regulation Review.”
However, the item was far from routine. It told readers of this most widely read and influential business publication that on Page A17, they could read an exclusive article by the president about this topic. If they so chose, readers also could turn to a much smaller, less powerful news article written by a staff writer, on Page A3.
The headline on Obama’s article spanned the top of the Journal’s influential Opinion page. “Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System.”
The headline on the news story by Elizabeth Williamson ran across two-thirds of the top of A3 and read, “Obama Launches Rule Review, Pledging to Spur Jobs, Growth.” The article was complete, and offered the context that the president had been in conflict with some business leaders who see his policies as overly-restrictive.
But on the whole, the strategy of announcing a new policy in the media by writing an op-ed article was effective. First, the Journal benefited from the “scoop,” which came directly from the president. The news story certainly was secondary.
From the Obama Administration's perspective, they were able to express their views directly to an influential, target audience and bypass the filter that all media impose on those they cover.
The New York Times, as it covered the announcement, cited Obama’s article, published in one of the Times' fiercest competitors. “Mr. Obama announced his executive order with a column on the op-ed page in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, in which he called for “the right balance” between free markets and public safeguards against health hazards and commercial abuses like those that gave rise to the financial crisis.”
Publishing an article from the President of the United States is not without precedent. Congressional leaders submit op-eds frequently in the national media to promote their particular agendas or to speak to specific hot-button issues.
Of course, getting an article accepted is not easy. Most media reject submissions that lack widespread appeal, substance or are self-serving. Not everyone will get their work in The Wall Street Journal. But as mainstream media diversify their platforms through their websites, featured blogs and other forms of social media to attract readers, they are likely to give more individuals the opportunity to speak directly to target audiences. No Pennsylvania Avenue address necessary.
Is it my imagination or are there more end-of-year lists and predictions than ever? It would make sense, as there are more sources of information available to us than ever. Or perhaps my appetite for this media tradition every December is waning.
These lists can be poignant, whimsical, silly or just plain ridiculous. The best offer perspective on the year that was and some insight into the year that will be.
This list of the biggest PR blunders of 2010 is entertaining. Of course, at the top of the list is BP’s handling of the oil spill crisis in the Gulf. However, Richard Carufel ranks NPR’s firing of Juan Williams at No. 3 on the list. I’m not sure about the NPR blunder was that significant. But an opportunity was lost to examine the growing problem the media have with uninformed – and often loud -- opinion.
The New York Times released a thoughtful, moving compilation of photos from 2010. I defy you to review this without humble reflection on the world’s joys and disasters in the past 12 months.
For one of the more interesting overviews on the state of the media, see these survey results from Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab. Here are excerpts:
Q. “Who will have more traffic: The New York Times or The Huffington Post?
A. “Old media wins — barely: 57 percent say the NYT, 43 percent HuffPo.”
Q. “Who will have more traffic: The Daily Beast or Newsweek?” (The two merged in 2010)
A. “Perhaps a trick question, depending on how NewsBeast finally decides to handle its URLs. But 83 percent think the Beast half will win out.”
Q. “Name two media companies you expect to merge in 2011, a la Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
A. The answers were a random spray: no two predictions matched up. Some of the more intriguing: AOL and Yahoo, Tribune and Yahoo, USWeekly and The Huffington Post, Slate and The Atlantic, TBD and the Washington City Paper, Clear Channel and Pandora, Politico and Roll Call, and Gannettand Groupon.”
Q. “How many local sites will Patch have in operation by the end of 2011? (It had 475 on 12/6/2010.)
A. “Most folks believe Patch will still be under 1,000 by next year’s end.”
Here’s a few prediction of my own:
High profile journalists will continue to make news as they leave their traditional media organizations for more cutting edge publications such as AOL, the Daily Beast and the Huffington Post.
Many more lower profile journalists will do the same, but make fewer headlines.
Wikileaks will continue to leak.
Many more lower profile leaks will continue to pepper media reports.
The presence and value of opinion will grow in the mainstream media.
Uninformed opinion will become more of a problem, resulting in more apologies and firings. (See Juan Williams and NPR.)
Do you have any others you wish to share?
The reporter was so angry with me as I was editing his story, his voice was shaking. “You want me to reference another newspaper in my story? You want me to tell readers about our competitor’s coverage? Is this just because I didn’t break the story myself? Do you think other media would do this?”
At the time, interacting with readers by citing other sources of information was a foreign concept to many. Today, the conversation would go far differently. Engagement is a journalism buzzword, illustrating depth, breadth and personal investment.
AOL’s Patch.com is in the process of launching a series of “hyperlocal” news sites in my back yard of Northeast Ohio. The purpose of these and other extremely local news sites being created around the country is to “engage the audience and connect that audience to advertisers,” Patch president Warren Webster recently said in an interview with Crain’s Cleveland Business.
In a New York Times story this week, Peter Applebome writes about The Register Citizen in the economically challenged town of Torrington, Conn. The paper is trying innovative ways such as opening up the newsroom to the public to connect with residents and encourage interaction with readers.
“The business plan is based on making The Register Citizen’s website a magnet for all things local and thus an attractive place for advertisers, sponsors and others who can replace declining newspaper subscribers and advertisers.”
“The same thought underlies the public meetings and open newsroom, the opening of the company’s archives, the public spaces for bloggers and the meeting room that will host courses on blogging and journalism, so residents can write and link to the site.”
Perhaps no other media has received as much attention for its engagement efforts as TV-Website TBD.com in the Washington, D.C., area, which launched this year with the goal of producing local journalism unlike any other organization. TBD is supported by a “community engagement team.”
In this article in Neiman Reports, team members describe how they review the website’s 200 community bloggers and then look to provide readers with fresh, engaging content.
“My challenge is to capture and funnel information from blogs, websites, legacy media (yes, even from our competitors) that will enhance our community’s experience,” team member Jeff Sonderman told Nieman.
Of course, all these efforts may fail, engagement may go the way of the pet rock (yes, I am dating myself) but don't bet on it. I’m looking forward to the growth of the Patch.com site that covers my neighborhood. Heck, I might even engage with the site.
I wonder what my reporter would say to that?
On Oct. 26, the Associated Press is taking the momentous step of removing the word “writer” from many of its bylines. The idea is a byline that in essence says, “The article you are about to read was created by John Smith, Associated Press Writer,” potentially mischaracterizes John, who may not be a writer at all. With all the digital platforms available to the AP, John may be a videographer, blogger, photographer or some other form of skilled journalist.
The change, of course, is somewhat tardy. As I had the opportunity to write last week and in previous posts, the blurring of journalism’s traditional lines is accelerating.
David Carr of the New York Times (yes, he is a writer) recently addressed this blurring while recounting the transfer of top-notch talent from traditional print media to the digital media world. The most recent journalist to move: Howard Kurtz, who left the Washington Post for the more spirited Daily Beast.
Kurtz follows Peter Goodman, who left the New York Times for the Huffington Post. Goodman follows Howard Fineman, who left Newsweek for ... you get the idea.
Meanwhile, as 2010 begins to wind down, AOL is making news as it reportedly considers the purchase of Yahoo! AOL already is hiring hundreds of journalists, expanding its Patch hyperlocal coverage and is pondering the purchase of a few newspapers. There is no telling what AOL will look like in 2011.
Carr points out that he remains partial to “the old school” of newspaper journalism, with its fact checking, editing and permanence. And there is some allure to this romantic notion.
But in the end, the AP has it right. It is going platform agnostic. Content is what matters most in journalism now. As Carr says, “News is the killer app.”
The world of journalism is crumbling! It’s turning on its head!
Actually, website-based journalism is simply growing up.
Business and economy writer Peter Goodman, one of the New York Times’ top writers, is taking his talents to …wait for it….the Huffington Post.
Yes, Goodman is leaving the “Gray Lady” to work for one of the world’s edgiest, fastest growing major media websites, where he will be the business and technology editor.
In a blog post, Catharine Taylor of MediaPost.com calls the move “ More Significant Than You Think.”
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz is more measured in his post, calling Goodman’s decision “the latest sign that Web sites can compete on an equal footing with media giants.”
Like most coming of age indicators, the news represents neither a sudden shift in power nor a surprising raid of top talent. Just as cable TV grew up to hire away top network talent, just as USA Today expanded and hired away top talent from other, “more serious newspapers,” the best journalism websites are hiring away talent from the mainstream media. (The Huffington Post also recently added Howard Fineman from the failing Newsweek.)
Just as significant is the fact that Goodman intends to write “lengthy, deep-dive pieces” and to hire a handful of reporters to beef up the website’s business and technology coverage.
This is just my opinion. Of course, as a blogger, I’m free to provide an opinion. Mainstream journalists usually don’t enjoy this freedom. That also is Goodman’s point.
“For me it’s a chance to write with a point of view,” Goodman told Kurtz. “It’s sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what’s going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting.”
The media are becoming increasingly divided, between those who continually strive to produce objective reporting, who try to limit political opinion to the editorial and op-ed sections of their websites, shows, magazines and newspapers, and those who freely express opinion as they report the news.
Guess what? Those who freely express opinion are gaining the louder microphone.
And now, they have Peter Goodman.
Guess I’ll have to tune in more often.
During my 20 years in journalism, few things were as valuable as a reliable source. Someone with good news judgment, who understood the media and what they were looking for, and provided valuable information, particularly on deadline when chasing a story, was a source to be cultivated.
During my four years in public relations, I’ve learned that few things are as valuable as the ability to communicate well, to reflect good news judgment, to provide interesting and valuable information to journalists in a timely manner and above all, to be sensitive to their increasing deadline pressures.
The key is to make the initial connection, to develop the necessary relationships. In an article today, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times calls these “professional relationships that seesaw between love and hate.”
Journalists pride themselves on their ability to “source,” or develop the relationships they need to do their job. A new website launched today is designed to help them.
NewsBasis leverages the Internet’s ability to bring people of common purpose together. In this instance, the common purpose is an exchange of information, from an organization to the media. In addition, NewsBasis allows organizations to insert their own information into a news story, just for the edification of other journalists.
PR professionals can monitor NewsBasis for queries pertinent to their clients, and then respond as well.
Whether NewsBasis, created by Darryl Siry, a former journalist and marketer, can become a new marketplace of ideas and mutual information exchange, will be an ongoing question.
I suspect it will work if it reflects good news judgment, is frequented by those who understand the media and what they are looking for, and provides valuable information, particularly on deadline.
And perhaps mixes in a little love and hate as well.
Today is my son’s last day of first grade. He was so excited at the prospect of entering second grade, he practically jumped out of bed this morning.
He is growing so quickly, it is difficult to keep up.
In the last few weeks, we’ve been watching new media grow up, one mouse click at a time. First, the Huffington Post announced that as it turns 5, it is attracting 13 million unique viewers a month. Some of you weren’t sure those numbers warranted a passing grade, however. Next, the New York Times announced that in its quickly maturing effort to cover all levels of news, it was adding a popular political blogger to its repertoire.
Today, it’s AOL’s turn to announce a milestone.
David Eun, the new head of AOL’s Media and Studios division, recently declared that AOL intends to hire hundreds of journalists around the country to supplement the efforts of the hundreds it already employs.
“AOL’s ‘Make Or Break’ Bid To Become A Content Network,” is the headline on Gavin O’Malley’s post in the newsletter Online Media Daily.
The plan is to “galvanize and build content networks of scale that can win,” Eun told O’Malley. “I don’t think it’s a secret to say that the turnaround of AOL is hinged on content ... It’s going to make or break [the company.]”
Eun also referred to mergers and media partnerships as being “crucial” to AOL’s future success as a new content provider.
Once written off as slow Internet portal with no future, AOL is growing to become another major player among the nation’s media. Remember, AOL already owns Patch.com, a fast growing hyper-local website that depends on thousands of freelancers to file community news posts.
Yes, first grade is over. I wonder what the summer will bring.
Many of you treasure your “legitimate” media.
Last week, I asked whether the Huffington Post had joined the growing group of influential media in this country. The reaction in private messages was split, with more traditional-minded consumers of news offering a decided “No!”
Their opinion was based less on HuffPo’s popularity – it attracts 13 million readers a month – and more on the website’s approach to journalism. The website repurposes news that others report, covers current events via the blog posts of volunteers and publishes the posts of journalists on its own staff.
The New York Times magazine recently published a well-done article on Mike Allen of Politico, another popular web-based news source. In the profile, reporter Mark Leibovich is lavish in his praise of Allen’s e-mail “tipsheet” Playbook, which he says “has become the principal early-morning document for an elite set of political and news-media thrivers and strivers.”
Remember, this is a New York Times reporter saying that a newsletter from a website is a “must read” in Washington.
“Allen refers to his readership as ‘the Playbook community,’” Leibovich wrote. “He appeared wounded one morning in March when I suggested to him that his esoteric chronicle may reinforce a conceit that Washington is a closed conclave. No, no, he protested. Playbook is open, intimate. No one even edits it before it goes out, he said, which adds to his ‘human connection’ to ‘the community.’ ”
Today, the New York Times announced that it would begin hosting the popular political blog and news aggregator FiveThirtyEight and make its founder a regular contributor to the paper and its magazine.
The media lines are blurring, blogs and websites are becoming essential sources of news and information. The walls between legitimate and established media are crumbling and coverage is becoming “more intimate.”
So, forget about influential media. As we work to put blurred lines into focus, how have the media changed in the past two years, and is it making coverage “more intimate?”
The next time you think newsgathering is doomed, consider AOL and the New York Times. They both employ an arsenal of journalists and are expanding their coverage of hyperlocal news.
AOL now employs 500 journalists. In fact, the company once known for digital access and canned content hired 150 journalists last year, when nearly every other newsgathering organization was trimming jobs.
This expansion may not be the most significant for AOL. Business Insider recently reported that AOL plans to expand its network of hyperlocal news blogs, Patch, from 30 sites to hundreds by the end of the year.
(I wrote about the expansion of Patch and other hyperlocal coverage in this article.)
Meanwhile, The Local, the Times’ hyperlocal project started last year, is expanding from five sites in New York and New Jersey into the East Village of New York City. The project will be run by New York University’s journalism faculty and students through its Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, according to David Kaplan of PaidContent.org.
“The collaboration is similar to the one the Times has with the citizen journalism initiative at The City University of New York. CUNY has been involved with The Local since its inception and it was recently handed oversight for two Brooklyn sites. The East Village outpost is expected to launch in the fall,” Kaplan wrote.
So, if you are not yet convinced that hyperlocal coverage is one of most significant themes in the journalism world this year, just think of AOL and the Times. Oh, and think of CNN, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald…….
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Pre-Haiti, as most news events this week should be cataloged, Tim Arango and David Carr of the New York Times published an insightful profile of Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News. Out of the many points they made about the man who helped build Fox, this one really stuck out:
“At a time when the broadcast networks are struggling with diminishing audiences and profits in news, he has built Fox News into the profit engine of the News Corporation. Fox News is believed to make more money than CNN, MSNBC and the evening newscasts of NBC, ABC and CBS combined. The division is on track to achieve $700 million in operating profit this year, according to analyst estimates that Mr. Ailes does not dispute.”
Pre-Haiti, this statement raised a few questions, such as:
Why does this news organization seem to thrive when many others are struggling?
How could it dominate its competition so convincingly?
Does its widely-perceived conservative political approach to news coverage appeal to so many, or does the perceived liberal political approach of other mainstream media frustrate so many?
Post-Haiti, these questions tend to take a back seat. Covering breaking news is an expensive undertaking. More often than not, media spend money hand-over-fist sending journalists to the scene, expanding news space in print and eliminating commercials on broadcast. Overtime skyrockets as journalists jazzed at updating a fixated world on the most gripping story of the year work round the clock to communicate, to connect and to bring hope to those isolated by disaster.
Consider some of the media chronicling the misery of the Haitian people.
The Miami Herald
The Washington Post
The New York Times coverage includes a Twitter list, which allows you to expand your sources of information.
Pre-Haiti, Charles Pelton, a former journalist, wrote a controversial article that appears on paidContent.org titled: “How to turn journalists into profit centers.” Pelton recently came under fire for proposing that Post reporters attend a series of sponsored salon dinners, where the paper essentially sold access to its reporters.
The journalists straining to cover the Haitian aftermath are revenue drains. And that is how it should be.