By paulgillin | June 12, 2008 - 7:53 am - Posted in Facebook, Google

In the new world of journalism, anyone is potentially a journalist, even if only for a few minutes. This idea doesn’t sit well with a lot of media veterans, so it’s no surprise there is debate over the tactics of the Huffington Post and its employee, Mayhill Fowler, that led to two big campaign scoops.

The most recent one, which every political junkie heard by now, concerns a three-minute rant by Bill Clinton over a Vanity Fair report questioning the propriety of his post-presidential decorum. Clinton’s remarks were captured on video by Fowler, who didn’t identify herself as a reporter but who claims to have had the video camera in plain view while Clinton was talking. The LA Times account describes the recorder as “candy bar-sized” and Clinton claims to have not known he was being recorded.

Fowler also recently caught Barack Obama criticizing small-minded Americans in comments that were not meant for reporters.

Fowler claims no professional journalism experience, which means she isn’t a “true” journalist, to use a phrase favored by veteran editors. Yet no one can dispute the veracity of her reports. After all, they’re on tape.

The hot potato for professional journalists is that ordinary people with a $100 video camera can now capture major news events that the media miss. The problem for public figures is that these folks don’t necessarily identify themselves as journalists or operate by the rules. And since public figures have practically no coverage under libel laws, their every utterance is potentially fair game for the media. Which is actually a problem for the media.

Layoff Log

  • Continuing the trend toward newspapers burying their own bad news, The Day of New London, CT cut about 12% of its jobs and relegated the news of the cuts to an inside business page on a Saturday. The comments are as interesting as the story on The Day‘s website. Readers question whether senior executives are taking pay cuts and cite a director’s profile from dating site, of all places, as a source of information about the director’s compensation for his services.
  • Layoffs are spreading into the magazine industry, which until now has been far less affected by the ad sales slowdown than the newspaper business. Folio magazine reports that three publishers are announcing layoffs. Meredith Corp. will cut 60 positions and leave 60 other open jobs unfilled. B-to-b publisher Reed Business Information is eliminating 41 jobs in advance of its divestiture by parent Reed Elsevier. And another b-to-b stalwart, Penton Media, will cut 42 jobs. There’s no word on what percentage of the workforce these layoffs constitute.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer is one of a ring of innovative Ohio newspapers that came up with the idea of putting aside rivalries to share resources. That isn’t going to save it from the storms that are battering the industry, though. Cleveland Leader reports that management plans to cut 35 pages of news a week along with 20% of the workforce. That’s on top of a 17% cut in positions after a recent buyout.


Craig Stoltz reviews the redesigned websites of the ultra-conservative Unification Church-backed Washington Times and the Bay Area-bred San Francisco Chronicle and concludes that, surprisingly, the Times is the one doing the innovating. Whereas the Chron‘s new design is more of the same, he says, Times has apparently started with a blank slate and rethought its approach to news presentation without bias toward print or anything else. The most innovative new feature is the Dig Deeper button, a hyperlink that literally flips a story on its head to show more background and detail. Try it; it’s neat. (via Jeff Jarvis).

Editors Weblog rounds up some data and opinion from around the industry and shows why the economics of online advertising don’t comfortably replace the print model. There’s a study that shows that readers of spend an average of 68 seconds per day with the paper, compared to 16 minutes for the print edition. And the bounty of alternatives means that ad rates are under constant competitive pressure. Quoting Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0, “Print circulation is about 10% of total audience reach, while online advertising revenue is 10% of total ad revenue — the economics are nearly the perfect inverse of what they should be.” This is not an optimistic piece.

Gannett Co. will write down the value of its assets by up to $3 billion, blaming troubles at its UK operation. Gannett is widely to considered to be one of the most financially sound US newspaper publishers.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says his company has a “moral imperative” to help the newspaper industry and that the company’s recently acquired DoubleClick ad service could help. He didn’t offer any more details. Newspaper publishers must be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Dan Schultz of MediaShift Idea Lab proposes a five-step process for vetting news that originates from citizen journalists. It involves link analysis, commenting, geotagging and moderation, among other things. Content Ninja has an analysis.

It’s depressing to see newspapers shutting down ventures in new markets. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will close a free weekly aimed at young readers. A memo posted by Romenesko cites two years of ad declines and increasing newsprint costs as the double whammy.

The new venture by former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger has debuted. Pro Publica will produce investigative reports in partnership with other media outlets and publish those stories first on the partner’s print and Web properties. The initial site is nothing more than a roundup of news from other sources, but the site is almost fully staffed and original material will begin appearing shortly, according to the “about” page. Pro Publica is a nonprofit funded by some big charitable organizations. It will initially employ 27 journalists.

Paul Bradshaw wants to know if blogging has changed the way journalists work. You can take his short, anonymous survey here.

And Finally…

Jolly JournalistThe Online Journalism Blog is piercing the gloom with a new website where journalists can tell why it’s a great time to be in the business. It looks like Jolly Journalist just debuted, so hurry on over to be one of the first to comment.



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