Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Politics schmolitics

In Politics, The news biz on September 29, 2007 at 3:41 pm

I want to run coverage of the presidential election campaigns, but I can only rarely bring myself to put any of the crap that AP writes into my paper. I do not care about:

    Who’s ahead in the latest poll. Screw the horse-race, we’ll know a year from November.
    Infighting among campaigns. Of course they’re fighting; duh.
    Stenography of candidates’ scripted statements. When was the last time a candidate said something fascinating, witty or statesmanlike on the stump?

I want to give readers at least a semblance of info that will help them make a choice in the primaries and then in the election. (Call me an eternal optimist, but I’m willing to suspend the disbelief that our votes will actually be counted and honestly reported by Mr. Diebold.)

But there is precious little in the coverage that comes across the wires that fits that criterion. And let’s not kid ourselves about how much time and energy that I, a small-time, small-market newspaper editor, have to put into such a quest. I need hard-nosed looks at who’s paying for whose campaigns. I need subtle, revealing biographies. I get a steady stream of crap. And I won’t bore my readers with it.

I’m telling you, the Associated Press (not to mention all of us who enable it) is hastening the demise of the American newspaper.

Awww, they like us

In The news biz on September 20, 2007 at 5:41 pm

When you work for a newspaper, you’re mainly apt to hear from the public when you screw something up, or failed to catch someone else’s screw-up. And woe be to a copy editor or designer if he lets slip in public that he works for the paper: Then he has the unenviable task of explaining what he does for a living and/or having some bitter ass grind his axe for 30 minutes. Or answering the (intended to be) rhetorical question: “Don’t newspapers proofread, anymore?” Or all three.

Those were largely my experiences in the news biz for many years. Not everyone was actually mean, but the ratio of unpleasant encounters to pleasant wasn’t all that great.

Then I went to work for Bluffton Today. I don’t know if it was because it was delivered free, or folks liked our snippets of self-deprecating humor, or because we ran lots of fluffy pets stuff, but people loved us. Publicly. Like, in the checkout line at the grocery store. It was astonishing.

I got a tiny taste of that with the new gig, today, in the form of an anonymous voicemail:

“I’m not going to leave my name and number, I just wanted to let you know that I got one of your papers today and I think it is positively great. There used to be a newspaper like yours, it was only weekly, called the “Tarheel Shopper” and a nice little sales paper called the “Fayetteville Trader,” but the
“Fayetteville Observer” stomped them down and bought them out. They even bought out the Paraglide.
I was so glad when someone threw one in my yard today that I ran down the street thanking them. Don’t let them buy you out. They are not the only newspaper in town – now. This is so great. I stole one from my doctor’s office the other day. I was so glad when someone threw one at my home today. Thank you very, very much. Keep up the good work.”

I do think there is hope for news. I don’t know if there is room for multiple newspapers in all our markets, but there is in people’s living rooms.

P.S.: Regarding the caller’s comparison of SmartNews to a couple of defunct shoppers — We only dream of having the ad content of a shopper. We are a free paper, but we’re not a “total market coverage product.”


In Culture, Politics on September 20, 2007 at 3:50 am

I thought Stephen did a nice job on the “tasered kid” story, ripping the daylights out of the (admittedly obnoxious) kid’s fellow students for their utter lack of reaction, and of Gen-Why for preferring virtual protest to knocking heads in the streets. Uh, wait, that sounds like this blog. Ah, well, I got a good coupla belly laughs from his “The Word” segment and his Atone Phone bit with Ed Asner.

Asner: “I’ve got to admit, you’ve got spunk.”
Stephen: “Why, thank you.”
Asner: “I hate spunk!”

Class move for those of us decrepit enough to remember.

That kid who got himself Tasered at the Kerry forum …

In Politics on September 19, 2007 at 3:00 am

… was waving a book, I saw it in the photos on AP. A closer look indicates it was a book by lefty journalist Greg Palast, “Armed Madhouse.” According to Palast’s blog, the out-of-control student, Andrew Meyer, was quoting passages from the book that claimed Sen. John Kerry won the 2004 presidential election and confronting Kerry about having failed to challenge the vote count.

You can’t say it’s not interesting stuff.

Yet another way to auto-filter the news

In Smartness, The news biz on September 14, 2007 at 6:08 am

I ran across this in a LinkedIn Q&A. It’s called Ten by Ten. Here’s the lowdown:

Every hour, 10×10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour’s most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10×10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.


Currently, 10×10 gathers its data from the following news sources:
Reuters World News
BBC World Edition
New York Times International News

In my experience, the pictures vanished from the grid after the first click, which greatly diminished the alleged intuitiveness. Maybe it’s just a temporary glitch. Your results may vary.

It’s all a bit counterintuitive to a guy who’s immediate job is to scan the wires so you don’t have to. But it’s darkly amusing to watch what we once may have thought of as a fairly intellectual job automated out of existence, like a typesetter or a factory welder. What we need is a killer app that makes arrogant, overpaid CEOs obsolete.

See you in Birdland, Joe

In Culture on September 11, 2007 at 6:36 pm

Austrian jazz pianist Joe Zawinul, who founded influential 1970s jazz-rock group Weather Report, has died.

Time to break out some old fusion, from back before it got all sappy and cheesy and “smooth.”

Step to the Mo

In Biz, Culture on September 11, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Rap Heroes Talk Smart Money at A&T

Those new Nikes are fresh, but will they rock your retirement like a money market account?

Rap artists and fans debated the finer points of money management this weekend at a seminar at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro. The event was sponsored by the Hip-Hop Action Network, led by music industry heavyweight Russell Simmons.

Life imitates art. As soon as I saw this article, I thought of the Chappelle Show sketch. (The second of two on the link; not safe for work.) I wonder if anyone brought up the spoof at the seminar. Or would that be when keepin’ it real goes wrong?

Also, does anyone use the term “fresh” anymore?

I’m sick and tired of these …

In Unfettered stupidity on September 10, 2007 at 10:38 pm

No idea why it took so long for this story to slither into the light.

Security officers found 30 snakes, a dead bird and pieces of several other birds in the luggage of a man arriving at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from South Korea last month.

Bonus: The link to ajc.com includes a nice photo of the asps, et al., provided by TSA, which my friend Doug says stands for Thousands Standing Around.

A racier headline than even I would have published

In Culture on September 9, 2007 at 5:47 am

And that’s saying something. Read it here.

Bullish on news, if not newsprint

In The news biz on September 8, 2007 at 5:35 pm

I’ve worked for more than my share of “former” newspapers. And at the surviving papers today, I’m seeing many bosses do the blame game and have ugly public panic attacks as their print products teeter on the abyss of irrelevance.

Because she’s preaching to my choir, I’m adding Charlotte-Anne to the blogroll. She’s a little ahead of my 2.0 curve, however. Reckon I best be catchin’ up:

Thanks to the wonders of Ajax, I can now have my 25 current favorite niches fed into little modules on my Netvibes start page. Among other things, I have the local weather, my three favorite news feeds, an online magazine, a half dozen journalism and news blogs, a Flickr photo montage of photos tagged “San Antonio,” a YouTube feed of video tagged “politics,” and a dynamic Craigslist search for something I’m in the market for.

And if the local news organization does something smart, like offering me a feed of content that I can’t get anywhere else – content about my neighborhood, for instance – then it will earn a piece of real estate on my Netvibes start page.