Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm feeling like an obituary writer

If it's a day that ends in a "y", it's time to report that another newspaper has folded.

This time, it's Denver's Rocky Mountain News. Yes, it's far away from New Haven and far away from New York, but now Denver has only one news source that lands on the porch. The Coloradans who counted on the feisty paper now have to turn to the Post.

Closer to home, the Hartford Courant fired another few dozen from its newsroom and about 100 people altogether. I talked about one of them in my last post, but there are so many more stories. I just cannot go into them now.

I just sit in wonder as the brain trust that runs these papers plays out the end of their reigns, like a scorpion that stung itself.  The scorpion lashes out with its stinger, madly trying this and that to save itself, but in vain. 

The geniuses who now run the New Haven Register and other Journal-Register papers still haven't figured out that if you run a story on your own home page before it appears in the paper, you haven't scooped yourself. 

The Gannett papers in Westchester and Putnam counties of New York, for whom I labored for nearly 15 years, still haven't figured out that you need to bring news to people that they care about. So now, to save a few dollars, they are printing the Poughkeepsie Journal in Westchester, which gives the PoJo a lot earlier deadline. So much for night meetings, sports events and the rest of the news people care about.

So what do the Journal-Register geniuses do? Instead of jumping at the chance to profit by Gannett's errors, they shut down the papers they own in that neck of the woods. So now, not only do the folks in Putnam County lose out once, they lose out twice. The daily Journal News has little Putnam news, but the alternative weeklies are no more. 

And they wonder why chain newspapers are dying.

You would think the folks at Hearst who just bought three newspapers whose circulation areas border Putnam and northern Westchester would jump at the chance to compete in areas where a weakened Gannett circulates. Hearst publishes the Danbury News Times, just across the border from Putnam, and the Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate, which border southern and central Westchester. 

So, will they? Only time will tell.

By the way, have you heard what Hearst is up to?  They apparently don't have enough reporters to get the news, so they are partnering with Helium, a blogging service. They're paying $20 for a 400-word story and asking people who are Helium subscribers to give their opinions on various issues. The Connecticut Post in Bridgeport is one of the test beds for this scheme.

I just hope they hire enough editors to separate the bad writing and the rumor-mongering from real news. 

One of the problems, as I've said before, with citizen journalism is that many of the citizens think opinion and rumors are news. They're not. News is defined as the best possible version of the truth. That means, you find out about a story, or cover a meeting and divine the truth. How do you do that?

If you have to ask, please, please don't answer the Connecticut Post's ads for Helium reporters.

Page 2

Here is the weekend already. I hope the rain and snow hold off. Sunday is March 1, and next week, we set the clocks ahead already. We've almost made it to spring.

Have a great weekend and, for those in the Tribe, a wonderful Shabbos.

Until next time...

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