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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

‘Nobody Speak’

In Media on 13 Jul 2017 at 2:10 pm

I’ve just seen a new documentary that is bound to fill any journalist with pride and dread. It’s a Netflix original called, “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.” I highly recommend it to you.

First, speaking of pride, I want to say that I heard about the film from Ryan Mac. He’s a former Half Moon Bay Review intern who appears in the film only briefly, but he played a big role in revealing the truth about one of the biggest First Amendment challenges of the last generation. Mac, then working for Forbes, first reported that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was behind Hulk Hogan’s expensive lawsuit that ultimately brought down the Gawker media empire.

I know. It sounds weird, which is why the story didn’t really resonate with me at the time. But as laid out here in the documentary, the Gawker case dots connect to form an arrow into the heart of journalism and the American democracy.

The goes into great depth describing the Hogan v. Gawker case. Apparently because Gawker properties have reported on Silicon Valley in a negative light, Thiel (who founded PayPal and is a major funder of Facebook) decided to take it down. He financed Hogan’s successful civil case, which revolved around publishing a sex tape, and was able to bankrupt an entire media company.

The entire film, to my mind, is a bit uneven. It attempts to tie together three different stories in which notable men with money are making it their business to put us out of business. Why? Because a free press is bad for their businesses. … Read the rest of this entry »


News from home

In Media on 15 Jun 2017 at 12:47 pm

This week I returned from vacation. My girlfriend and I took a cruise. It was fantastic.

I mention it here only because of what I learned along the way about news and its consumption.

Wi-Fi on the ship is expensive. Most people either do as I did and eschew online activities for the duration or seek some Internet café at each port. That doesn’t mean people have given up on news entirely.

The Times Digest was must-read material every day on the ship. The digest is created by a company called KVH Media Group. It distills the top stories from the New York Times every day — including weather, sports and crossword — and presents them in a letter-page booklet format. I think each one might have been 12 pages.

Virtually everyone talked about getting these news summaries. In fact, some days there was a bit of a line at the kiosk where they were distributed at 10 a.m. each day.

Here’s what I made of it. Travel can be an untethering experience. We are positioned in this universe in relation to the things we recognize. People who don’t normally read the Times were drawn to it in the same way I think of soldiers craving “news from home.” It’s a reaction to missing home, but also simply a matter of finding something solid upon which to hang amid the unreal experience of being on a cruise ship. … Read the rest of this entry »

Is it liberal bias?

In Media on 6 Oct 2016 at 3:58 pm

A video shared on Facebook made the rounds with Wick folks this week. On it you hear the voice of Judith Miller, who once won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting at The New York Times.

The video attempts to unpack why so many Americans no longer trust the press. Among other things, Miller says that economic forces have squeezed professional media and technological advances have made everyone a sort of unprofessional media. That is certainly true. She steps on squishier ground when she says we just have to trust her that most reporters are liberal and biased.

Someone on my email thread noted that Miller is mighty opinionated for someone who seems to be arguing that a lack of objectivity killed the mainstream media. Another person noted that, while individual reporters might be liberal the corporate media owners are not.

Personally, I think someone who makes such claims ought to disclose her own biases. Miller was forced to resign from The New York Times after the newspaper of record uncovered a pattern of inaccurate reporting from claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. And if you haven’t heard of “Prager U,” the “university” that published this content, that’s because it isn’t a university at all. As far as I can tell, it’s a video service set up by a conservative radio host. … Read the rest of this entry »

What we are missing

In Media on 25 Mar 2016 at 8:49 am

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This is not a post about Donald Trump. This is a discussion about us, and the things we’ve been getting wrong.

David Brooks is making me write this. Well, not exactly. But my ruminations were spawned by his column last week, headlined, “No, not Trump, not ever.” As you might surmise from a headline like that, Brooks – an unabashed conservative who often explains the virtue in Republican positions – is not enamored with Trump.

Which is neither here nor there, and not why I’m writing this. It’s not the headline that stopped me, but rather something buried in the column:

… many in the media, especially me, did not understand how (Trump voters) would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.

There it is. The rare admission that beltway journalists from from polite society are not well connected with the folks about whom they are endlessly squawking. The esteemed prognosticator Nate Silver made a similar acknowledgment recently when he called the Bernie Sanders’ Michigan victory an epic defeat for pollsters. … Read the rest of this entry »

Year of the Podcast. Again.

In Media on 7 Jan 2016 at 3:43 pm

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In case you are wondering, 2015 was The Year of the Podcast. And if you missed that wave, despair not. Because 2016 is also The Year of the Podcast.

It’s easy to snark about such broad predictions, but there really is something happening here.

Podcasts have been around for more than a decade. They have long been the unsexy stepchild to video online, but lately they have become more important. This American Life, TED Talks, Radiolab – there are now thousands of streaming radio-like shows that can be played at home, in the car or on your mobile device. According to some estimates, 15 percent of Americans over the age of 12 listened to some form of Podcast each month in 2014. I guarantee that figure has risen significantly since then.


Jonah Willihnganz, director of the Stanford Storytelling Project, says the “aha” moments of journalism are just more palpable when delivered via the spoken word.

“Our brains soak up information and learning in stories much more easily than in analytic essays,” Willihnganz said. “The audio story is particularly appealing to our brains because we get so much powerful information from the sound of someone’s voice and their environment.”

There are so many good reasons to produce podcasts as part of news reports that it’s crazy we didn’t try our hand at this long before anyone proclaimed the Year of the Podcast. Glenn Liebowitz of McKinsey and Co. identified several compelling traits of podcasts in his blog, which is the first link above.

Podcasts are mobile: You take them with you on your walks, while doing the laundry, in your car.

Podcasts are on-demand: Forget appointment radio. You decide when to listen.

Podcasts are free: “Nuff said,” said Liebowitz.

Podcasts allow for multi-tasking: You can listen to this week’s episode of Serial while you go about your life. You don’t need to sit down and read. (If you don’t know about Serial, you really should. Google it. I’m hooked.)

Podcasts are reasonably easy to produce: I say “reasonably” because the hardest part is getting the audio levels right. Well, OK, the hardest part is a good idea and compelling storytelling. But the levels are critical. Really anyone can do that. Read the rest of this entry »

‘I need some muscle’

In Media on 12 Nov 2015 at 6:11 pm

When I first saw this Monday night, I actually had to get up and walk away from my computing machine. That’s how angry it made me.

By now you surely know about the turmoil at the University of Missouri (which happens to have one of the nation’s finest journalism schools.) This week the president and the chancellor of the university said they would resign. The complaints are widespread and include what many believe to be a culture of racism in the administration.

Those are important charges that deserve respect and introspection from the state’s leaders. Congratulations to peaceful protesters who made themselves heard and affected real change in their community.

Which brings us to Melissa Click. She, on the other hand, needs to go back to elementary school. She’s been stricken from a couple posts at the school and apologized. I’d call that a start.

At the moment, anyway, Click is an assistant professor of mass media. Yet, apparently has never heard of the First Amendment let alone the benefits of the mass media in bringing attention to causes like hers. On the above video, she can be seen grabbing a reporter’s camera and screaming, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle.”

To which, I might say, “Who wants to help me get this assistant professor out of the University of Missouri College of Communications? I need some muscle,” if I were the type of person to do so. … Read the rest of this entry »

Praise for local press

In Media on 20 Aug 2015 at 2:40 pm


Many thanks to Wick Advertising Director Cindy Hefley and Regional Advertising Account Executive Inese Kalnins for bringing this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show to our attention.

Maddow, of course, is a left-leaning talk show host on the cable network MSNBC. She comes from a liberal perspective so she might not be your cup of weeknight tea, but to my mind, at least, she is more articulate than some of the shouters I see both on her network and on the competition. Perhaps that is because she was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

I don’t have too much to add to what she says over the course of four beautiful minutes here, but I did want to share it with you all. It deals with a fire at a small newspaper in the middle of North Dakota and how the town rallied to see that the next edition got out. After extolling the virtues of small-town journalism, Maddow tells her audience, “If you do not already subscribe to your local newspaper, do so. If you need to give a kid a gift, get them a subscription.”

It’s awesome. … Read the rest of this entry »

Is 800 words too much?

In Media on 7 May 2015 at 3:34 pm


I’m always wary of anyone who pretends to know the future of journalism, so I approached this interview with Quartz Editor-in-Chief Kevin Delaney as if it were a rattler under a rock.

But the man makes some good points.

Haven’t seen Quartz? You know it’s cool because the URL is qz.com. See? That’s cool already. If you go there, you will see a news site that is decidedly different from most. It doesn’t place much truck in photos or images. It’s essentially a list of stories that editors think will be interesting to smart people. It also blends in native advertising in a way that I find purposely confusing to consumers. But I digress.

Delaney suggests that the era of the 800-word newspaper story is over. He may be right-ish about that. To the extent that he is, it should be said that he didn’t discover this fact. Al Neuharth and Gannett did about 30 years ago when the company started publishing USA Today. We had the “eight-inch rule” when I worked at a Gannett paper 25 years ago. Our stories were capped at about 400 words. If readers’ attention spans were challenged in the Reagan years, they are only more so now that we are all trying to consume news on smartphone screens the size of playing cards while riding the train. Incidentally, many of the Quartz stories I see today are themselves pushing 800 words and Delaney’s podcast interview on DigiDay was more than 36 minutes. … But I digress again.

He suggests that many journalism processes are antiquated. No question that is true. He takes particular aim at the beat system, which traditionally focuses around processes and places, like “cops” or “courts.” He suggests reporters focus on a rotating list of “obsessions,” probably driven by what the analytics say folks want. I completely agree that how we view our bests is very important. For example, I prefer to think of “cops” as “public safety.” That would include a lot more than what you see in the police log. … Read the rest of this entry »

Newspapers and shared experience

In Media on 21 Jun 2013 at 7:24 am

Nicco Mele is a proponent of — or at least an announcer of — the coming of small. He has written a book about how the Internet has democratized things and ended the need for institutions and gatekeepers of all kinds. No need to shop at Macy’s when you can get a T-shirt on the Web that no one else in your neighborhood will rock. Forget the music sold by the record labels. The guy down the street is streaming his online. And so on.

Only Mele admits that the pressure on “big journalism” — principally the big metro dailies — makes him nervous. And it should make you nervous too.

From his excellent piece on the Nieman Lab’s site:

The front page of a newspaper was a judgment about what was important
to the public, what we should think about, what we should discuss. But
now, the unbundling of content has led to the unbundling of audience.
The “even bigger” digital platforms exacerbate the problem through
personalization, ensuring that my Google search turns up different
results from my wife’s. There is no shared public experience.

I say that shared experience is the glue that binds society. What is lost when we no longer relate to the same television shows and pop tunes? Do we lose the power to agree on mores and societal good when we no longer agree on the headlines before us? Do these agreed-upon standards form the basis for empathy? And who is going to hold the powerful accountable if there is no powerful countervailing force?

I think this is the fundamental problem of the digital era. We’re all plugged into our own iPads and Instagram feeds. But what of the problems that don’t start with “I?”

I think Mele’s piece is something every one of us should read.


Who’s reading the newspaper?

In Media on 14 Jun 2013 at 8:51 am

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This week, AdAge, reporting on numbers crunched by Scarborough Research, pointed to some curious trends in our business. It reported that newspaper readership was generally stronger in the Northeast and Midwest rust belt towns and that it was less robust along the sunbelt.

To which I say, “Huh. You don’t say?”

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. I can think of a couple possible conclusions. Perhaps residents in towns like Pittsburgh and Toledo and Cleveland maintained their loyalty for their local paper because they are more likely to have deeper roots than residents in places like Las Vegas and Atlanta. Having lived in Atlanta, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Pittsburgh residents are more interested in the civics of their town. Maybe it has something to do with the age or wealth or education of residents in the respective communities. Perhaps those papers that maintain readership are more in tune with a more homogenous populace. Or maybe, as executives at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggest, the numbers don’t reflect growing digital reach.

Are those Midwestern newspapers just better?

It’s an intriguing question. Rather than dismissing the notion, we might do well do look at what they do well. As I say, those communities at the top of the list are long-established with residents who are proud of their roots. Don’t think so? Go to an NFL game in Cleveland some time. Perhaps the newspapers at the top of this list do a better job of catering to that fervor. Newspapers should reflect their communities; mere technical capability is not enough. … Read the rest of this entry »