Wick Communications

Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Public access likely to get worse

In journalism on March 16, 2017 at 3:23 pm

It won’t come as any surprise to journalists that access to documents, elected officials and the legions of minions who (supposedly) work for us is not what it should be. Thanks to Wick CEO Francis Wick, I now know it’s only likely to get worse.

Thanks, Francis!

Francis alerted me to this study released this week by University of Arizona journalism professor David Cullier. He interviewed 300 journalists and freedom of information types and found great pessimism when it comes to access to government. Among his findings:

  • About half of the experts said access to state and local government records has worsened during the past four years. They said things were just as bad under President Barak Obama when it came to the federal government.
  • Survey participants reported long delays in getting information, documents that had been overly censored, high copying fees, out-of-date government technology and public officials not knowing the laws.
  • Nearly nine out of 10 predicted that access to information will worsen during the next four years under the new presidential administration.

Cullier was clear: American government has become more closed over long decades. This isn’t a partisan issue. Experts, he noted, suggest we should all be taught how to file a FOIA request in school as part of our basic civics lessons in an effort to combat this creeping secrecy. … Read the rest of this entry »

Young people and us

In journalism on March 3, 2017 at 9:02 am


“I think you have to really just listen to everything, and then pick out what you believe and what you think is really truthful.”

“If I don’t see it on social media, I’m not going to hear it.”

“Even if it’s factual, it may be sort of tainted.”

“I’ll believe your [citizen-captured] video before I’ll believe [one from the media]. Because they will tamper with theirs.”

These are representative responses gleaned from a new study called “How Youth Navigate the News Landscape,” released from the Data & Society Research Institute. The scientific study used focus groups of teenagers and young adults in three big U.S. cities.

The one over-arching message was that young people, in other words, our future consumers, express “widespread skepticism” about the news media and think most of it is biased.

Young people are more likely to trust user-generated content than things they get from a traditional news source like a newspaper. Why? Because they themselves share newsy nuggets and they trust that mechanism. These findings join a cascade of evidence that people of all ages have less trust in the news media than ever before.

Young people have a much wider definition of news than old-school newspaper editors might have. A friend’s new car, a presidential appointment, a new song from Drake — It’s all news. … Read the rest of this entry »

Goals for 2017

In journalism on February 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm
Time to shoot for some new goals.

Time to shoot for some new goals.

Sometimes our best intentions fall victim of daily expedience. We all have grandiose visions of what our publications could be were it not for myriad daily aggravations that keep us from doing the important stuff.

Well, we’re going to resolve to do some important stuff in 2017. What follows is a first discussion of relatively small, achievable goals — one for each remaining quarter of the calendar year. They were formed at the behest of Wick CEO Francis Wick, and after consultation with some Wick editors and other company executives. In the near future, I will follow up with a separate email and will call all Wick editors before Feb. 28 to make sure you understand them and can follow through with three simple tasks.

I’m calling it “One, Two, 10 in 2017.” Here they are:

One: I’m asking everyone to focus on one new editorial project to be achieved in the second quarter (April-June). This can be a special section or publication, an event, a niche vertical for the web, a photography project or anything else that is a production of the editorial staff that adds value for readers. This may or may not have revenue potential, but it must be something staff is passionate about. This is something the newsroom believes in and will see through to fruition. Don’t panic. It doesn’t have to be an enormous undertaking. I’ll call; we’ll talk about it.

Two: Beginning in the third quarter (July-September), you must have at least two local opinion pieces every week. This one is easy. You should already be producing that many staff-written editorials. One way to accomplish this is to augment what you already do with other opinions from the community. These are local-issue-oriented and written solely for your readers. It does not include someone’s 500-word take on an immigration ban, nor the chamber of commerce’s regular shout-out to local businesses. I want you to seek out other local voices to talk about issues of concern that concern your community. …

Ten: I want everyone to achieve a consistent expanded use of social media by posting 10 percent more to one social medium by the fourth quarter (October-December). You’ll simply count your posts to, say, Twitter last October and resolve to do 10 percent more this October and continue that level regularly going forward. Why? Primarily in order to brand your organization as a reliable, accurate, fun source of information in your community. … Read the rest of this entry »

Should we just shut up?

In journalism on January 27, 2017 at 10:59 am
Steve Bannon, via Wikipedia

Steve Bannon, via Wikipedia

You probably heard that one of the president’s top advisers said this week that the media should “keep its mouth shut.” Strategist Steve Bannon labeled the media “the opposition party” and said it doesn’t have a clue and should just listen and stop talking. Ouch.

Of course, like the president himself, Bannon, the unapologetic leader of Breitbart News, says a lot of things. Perhaps we ought take his salty language with another grain of salt and not spend an inordinate amount of time whining about what he said.

Bannon’s calculation is that the people who elected his boss largely feel the same way. The define “the media” as an amorphous blob of eggheads in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. I think that he is right about one thing: Many people don’t go for navel gazing like I’m doing here. They don’t care if our feelings are hurt and don’t have time for existential crisis on the value of a free press in a just society.

I don’t think he or his believers are thinking of the New Iberia Daily Iberian when they talk of the media. After all, he invited our own Matt Lindberg onto his plane not so long ago. … Read the rest of this entry »

The parachute isn’t opening

In journalism on January 18, 2017 at 6:48 pm
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

This week, Josh Stearn’s writes on MediaShift about a concept that is absolutely radical: Cooperation.

In the wake of our recent presidential election, pundits have suggested the fundamental lesson is that media and people on the coast failed to understand the folks in the flyover states. Consequently, the smartest people in the room completely missed the temperature of the country.

That may be true. Here’s what many national news editors got wrong: They then parachuted national journalists into middle America in an attempt to extract the essence in one well-written 50-inch takeout from Bristol, Tenn., or Wahpeton, N.D. or other such places about which they knew nothing.

Stearns argues for a cooperative approach. He notes that journalists like ours in Wick newsrooms know our communities. Rather than sending Mr. Big Name from New York to report from a place like Sierra Vista, Ariz., that news organization would do well to partner with The Herald for a more rich and complete telling from the field. Stearns goes on to mention some such partnerships. … Read the rest of this entry »

Journalism as ‘civic reactor’

In journalism on January 18, 2017 at 6:44 pm
U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy

Nicco Mele is a fascinating guy who may be on to something.

He is director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, an angel investor, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy as well as a contributor to the Harvard Business Review. He was once deputy publisher of The Los Angeles Times and it’s safe to say he’s thought a lot about the future of news organizations.

In an important and short post to Nieman Reports, Mele makes a potent statement on behalf of our mission:

With a declining respect for expertise, a worldview inextricably shaped by celebrity, and an intense desire for escapism to avoid the pressing challenges of our moment, Donald Trump seems suddenly inevitable. But a resignation to inevitability is not an honest or just response. There is really only one thing to do: Go local. The emphasis on national politics is drawn like a magnet to celebrity. The stories in our own backyards tether us … but that local connection is our salvation. It can redeem our journalism and our politics. …
Read the rest of this entry »

A newspaper is born

In journalism, Uncategorized on January 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm
Brinkley, Ark. Courtesy Wiki Commons

Brinkley, Ark. Courtesy Wiki Commons

Here is to Hayden Taylor. May he bring journalism to Brinkley, and new ideas to our industry.

I love this story by Stephen Steed of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat and Gazette, outlining plans of an ambitious 19-year-old bent on reviving a community newspaper that was almost lost to a fire last month. (I’m interested in the subject matter, of course, but Steed provides wonderful detail throughout and reveals a real empathy for the town and its people.)

Taylor confesses he has little journalism training. I am sure there was a day when I would have poo-pooed any plans of a precocious kid who says he will just get a couple books and learn how to do this reporting thing, but that day has passed. We need ambitious, audacious young people in this business more than we need book-learning. We have long passed being able to lean on dogma about the way things should be done.

I might question his decision to axe the opinion page (particularly since his dad is on the city council and stands to benefit from a lack of local opinion), but mine isn’t the last word on such things. I’m very sure Taylor — whose family has been in Brinkley for five generations — knows the community better than I.

Importantly, for me, Taylor says he understands his contemporaries lean on Facebook for their news. He says he doesn’t think that is good enough. That is very encouraging. Because it’s not good enough. And we should encourage any teenager who says as much and puts his money where his mouth is.

You go, Hayden Taylor. Best of luck with the Monroe County Herald.


Our common values

In journalism on December 8, 2016 at 11:18 am
Martin Baron at The Boston Globe.

Martin Baron at The Boston Globe.

By now, many of you have probably seen the brilliant speech delivered by Washington Post Editor Marty Baron upon being presented with the Hitchens Prize last week. If not, you should really take the time to read it. Our business is about 20 percent inspiration. Take it where you can find it.

Baron argues for a way forward in an environment in which the president-elect openly vilifies our profession by calling us “disgusting,” “scum,” “lowlifes” and “the enemies.” The answer? Barron says it lies in the pursuit of truth.

Baron famously pushed The Boston Globe investigative staff to force the Catholic church to release records implicating high-level officials in a decades-long child abuse scandal. The church was and probably still is the most powerful institution in New England. It took great intestinal fortitude to chase the truth in the story that was outlined in the movie “Spotlight.” We all need a little more of that now.

The stakes are much higher than the future of our individual news organizations. Baron quoted CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour to make the point:

“This is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdoğan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al,” she said upon begin honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists. “First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating—until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison—and then who knows?” … Read the rest of this entry »

This is holiday enterprise

In journalism on December 8, 2016 at 11:05 am


There are 20,000 kids in foster care in Arizona. That’s up 95 percent from six years ago. Six hundred more kids are taken from their homes every year in Arizona alone. It’s a very sad epidemic that The News-Herald in Lake Havasu is bringing to light.

The week of Thanksgiving, the newspaper ran a front-page package that also included an editorial calling for more families to consider a true sacrifice of love.

Last week, I used this space to ask that you plan for enterprise over the holiday season. There are a zillion reasons to do so. You likely have more news hole this time of year. Folks have more time away from work to sit down with your newspaper. It’s a natural time to write stories that further community.

But stories like those in The News-Herald don’t just happen. Here’s editor Brandon Bowers describing the genesis of the idea. … Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding holiday snooze

In journalism on December 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm


Matt Lindberg called from The Montrose Daily Press the other day. He wanted to brainstorm ideas for the holidays. He dared verbalize what we all know: Sometimes our papers take a holiday as we get closer and closer to New Year’s. In fact, he gets credit for the term “holiday snooze.”

The holidays are wonderful in many ways, but they also present a perfect storm in your newsroom. More ads mean more space to fill. Fine employees want and deserve time off with family, even if it’s only a couple days for the regular holidays. Meanwhile, the rest of the world goes into hibernation. Government and schools close. Many sports and nonprofits slow down. … You are not alone. All newspapers struggle to stay aggressive and relevant in December.

I don’t know how much it helped, but I suggested Matt might think about three categories of stories. (Again, this isn’t revolutionary thought. But perhaps you haven’t thought about it in just this way:

Evergreens. Stories that don’t require some news event to propel them. Off the top of my head, I thought these might include local winter destinations, year-in-review kinds of stories, sports highlights from the year gone by. (See more in the list at the top of this post.)

Holiday stuff. This is ground you’ve already covered, and probably cover every year. School events, the local Christmas tree business, traditions like live Nativity scenes. … Read the rest of this entry »