The Inside PagesA look at the inner-workings of our newsroom and the newspaper industry.
More from Inside Pages
The Poynter Institute, news about the news industry
Media Watch, left-leaning commentary about the news industry
Media Research Center, right-leaning analysis about the news industry
The McClatchy Company, parent company of The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet
NewsVoyager, links to other newspapers around the country
I know why I like Liz Farrell so much. The copy desk chief for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette is hard-driven and a little neurotic when it comes to her job, which means she would be just like me if I were smarter, funnier and female.
The main difference between us? I figured out what I wanted to do for a living when I was a sophomore in high school; I’m not sure Liz knows even now what she wants to be when she grows up. That’s not to say she isn’t devoted to and serious about her job or that she doesn’t enjoy it.
But consider the route she took to arrive in it.
A recent Seattle Times editorial presented a cogent narrative to explain the current state of the newspaper industry:
In the year-plus since I changed job titles, I have occasionally felt compelled to let people know:
I have a boss (in addition to my wife.)
Some people see my title, “editor,” and assume I run the newsroom at The Beaufort Gazette and/or The Island Packet. It’s an understandable mistake — not because of my personal attributes, lord knows, but because of the simplicity of the term. It is unadorned and open ended, not narrowed with a long list of qualifiers — as in, “Editor in Charge of Dateline Utilization on Feature Articles Appearing on Page 3.”
The reporters huddle tightly around the locker of the day’s star. They have faithfully recorded the facts of the game, but as deadline looms, they seek color from a key participant.
“Hey, slugger, can you give us a quote?”
The question comes from beneath a fedora, out of lips clasping a cigarette. And the scene is depicted in grainy, black-and-white, out of an imagination that doesn’t grasp the way the media work.
Or at least, not the way they work properly.
Few things are as frustrating to a journalist as procuring an interview with a reluctant source, furiously taking notes and then having the subject ask, “You’re not going to print any of that, are you?”
What do they think? That our note-taking is simply an experiment to see how long it takes for writer’s cramp to set in? That if we didn’t fill our spare time with their off-the-record speculation, we’d have nothing else to do but pound sand?
My former sports-department co-workers must be doing a pretty good job — it took seven weeks this season for someone to go over their heads and complain to me about coverage of high school football. I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of record.
The streak ended Saturday, though, when a Beaufort Gazette reader left a message ticking off the front-page headlines:
“Seahawks staggered by Cougars”
“Silver Bluff overpowers Ridgeland”
“Reigning champs blast Prep”
RSS feeds allow readers to filter and collect news that interests them. New cell phones and PDAs make information from a variety of sources more accessible than ever before. Social-networking and file-sharing Web sites allow easy publication and distribution of user-generated content.
Several of my posts here in Inside Pages have included no small sum of hand-wringing over the future of the newspaper industry. The current economy certainly has evoked a lot of the anxiety. I would argue it also has accelerated the arrival of problems we were going to have to confront sooner or later, anyway — primarily, figuring out how to either enhance or replace what we do in print with online versions of our services and, more vexing still, figuring out how to make a buck off those services.
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ biennial media attitudes survey was released late last week, and the results were, to say the least, distressing for anyone in my line of work.
According to one summary of the results, the public’s assessment of the accuracy of news stories is now at its lowest level in more than two decades, and Americans’ views of media bias and independence match previous lows.
Some of the numbers:
My day usually goes like this ...