The great big essay.

Talk about your irony. I finished the project that’s been occupying too much of my brain — and running my printer cartridges dry — and sent it off to my editor at the Indiana Policy Review Sunday night. It’s set to run in the spring issue.

So of course I open my browser today and find it on a website! Dang new media! Eating dead trees for lunch ONCE AGAIN!!!

Actually, it was all shared on the up-and-up. Since the IPR takes no advertising and exists not to sell magazines but to disseminate ideas, it’s all good. I think I’ll let you steal Fort Wayne Observed’s bandwidth; you can find it here. (Warning: It’s very long. You know you’re working for a non-profit when you ask how much they want and they say, “Oh, you know, 4,000 to 6,000 words.”)

I will tell you this: It’s a subject upon which my own ideas continue to evolve. So if you feel like talking about them, you know where to click.

Posted at 4:11 pm in Media |

11 responses to “The great big essay.”

  1. alex said on March 14, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    Fort Wayne’s so conservative… thirty thousand people still read the News-Sentinel just so they can bitch about the fact there’s absolutely nothing in it.

    That’s the impression I get talking to my folks, who still subscribe for no other reason I can discern. It’s a daily ritual. After spending the entire five minutes it takes to get through it, the conversation inevitably turns to what a dissatisfying experience it was.

    My dad marvels over the sports section, which actually still has writers. But who’s running the show? Recently they filled enormous space with Olympic preliminaries that are of absolutely no interest to him or anyone. The next day, however, when results were eagerly awaited there was zilch.

    I wish the damn thing would die already so that the old folks would take the Journal-Gazette and find something else to talk about like actual news.

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  2. jcburns said on March 15, 2006 at 2:07 am

    So you’re saying you sent them a buncha printed out pages, and they retyped it all in and posted it on their website? Yee-gads. The horror! The waste of interns!

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  3. Jeff said on March 15, 2006 at 7:48 am

    When i read that publishers are cutting certain circulation segments to generate higher quarterly profits (22.5%? What other business even comes close? Other than Microsoft . . .), i lose all my mild sympathy for the struggles print is going through.

    I can’t see how they bridge the gap from current economic models for advertising to making a reasonable profit on-line somehow, or add staff and resources for more dynamic web presence that can carry some advertising or whathaveyou to py bills. People want content, and would rather not pay for it, but we’re in a bubblebath today that TimesSelect and other pins are popping. But now i see even better why i keep seeing stories in my local Gannett paper that end not only in mid-story, but with almost daily frequency in mid-sentence! Apparently copy editors are trained by their abusive “spouses” to fear departing the template more than ending a sentence with “and then (no period, either)”.

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  4. Jim said on March 15, 2006 at 8:46 am

    I think the main reason the News-Sentinel has survived is because it’s perceived as the conservative/Republican paper, versus the liberal/Democrat Journal-Gazette. I know that’s why my parents subscribed for decades. Those 30,000 readers probably read the News-Sentinel (or, for the really old-timers, “the News ‘n’ Sentn’l.”)

    There’s definitely a generational shift that directly affects pm papers — it’s been going on for years. My dad came home from work every day, sat in his chair and read the News-Sentinel while he watched the 6pm news on WKJG (not WISE!) and then the NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor (never Cronkite). It was like clockwork. I think if he had shifted his pattern, the earth would have stopped spinning.

    But most people aren’t like that anymore. They don’t come home from work and read the paper. If they read one at all, they read it at breakfast or on the way to work. And advertisers like morning papers because they have a longer “life” — once read, they sit around for the rest of the day where people will see the ads. With an evening paper, once you’re done with it, you tend to throw it out quickly.

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  5. nancy said on March 15, 2006 at 9:00 am

    PMs are also a victim of the death of manufacturing. They were the staple paper for the blue-collar working class, who heard the factory whistle at 3, 4, maybe 4:30 at the latest, and had that chunk of leisure time before dinner. Jim, I don’t know what your dad did for a living, but you just described the prototypical p.m. newspaper reader.

    And Jeff, you want to know what other business comes close to newspaper profitability? Try local television. Owning a broadcast license is like having a license to print money, and makes newspapers look like dogs — 50 percent is an easily reached profit standard in broadcasting. Which is why so many of them have been snapped up by corporations since deregulation in 1996. Technology keeps making them more profitable, since they can now run virtually on autopilot.

    A columnist at the Dispatch did a funny piece once on a Sunday wire story that had been trimmed to fit and lost its ending. The story was about a woman who had been falsely accused of tampering with Halloween treats, and ended with a quote, something like, “But that wasn’t the worst part. It wasn’t the investigation. It wasn’t the police. It wasn’t the money.” And then, the end.

    It’s like playing “Shave and a Haircut” without the last two notes.

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  6. MichaelG said on March 15, 2006 at 11:11 am

    It’s a very fine article, Nance. It got me thinking about one of my fave topics. A dozen times I went “right on!” or “yeah, but” or “wait a minute” or “what about this”. I enjoyed your take on the publish or not dilemma concerning the Mohammed cartoons (“Way to keep your readers away from your scariest competitor.”). At the same time, newspapers are eminently findable, sueable, firebombable and demonstrateinfrontofable. Blogs are all hidden somewhere in someone’s bedroom. It’s easy to see how the papers might have been intimidated.

    What is the future of the newspaper? If I had the answer, my consulting fees cup would runneth over. I certainly fit the demographic of a newspaper reader. Age 55 is well in the rear view mirror. I like reading a paper. I like the touch of a paper, the smell, the view of all the stuff on the page including the Macy’s ad. I like to hold it and fold it and shake it and turn the pages. I like discarding one section and picking up the next. Yesterday I went through the first few sections knowing that the sports pages had the NCAA brackets and analysis. The anticipation was enjoyable — I had deliberately avoided looking at any on-line NCAA stuff because I know the brackets look better on newsprint than on my screen. I look at very little sports stuff on line. Sports are TV and newspaper to me.

    At the same time, I have my daily list of sites, newspaper, TV, blogs and other that I view on line (I find Woot a hoot). I’ve bought tons of stuff on line including my car. But marketing is another story. Newspaper people have to look at how to combine the net, print, cell phones and lord knows what other new stuff that’s coming down the pike. There is an easy apparent break down, cell phones for the brief (scores), the net for the breaking and print for analysis, expose’ etc. But this model doesn’t even hold up. Pictures I print off the net are superior to those I cut out of the paper. The papers have all been trumpeting that blogging isn’t journalism and that bloggers aren’t journalists. The papers claim that only they have the resources to maintain correspondents in far flung places and to run long term investigations. This may be somewhat true as far as it goes for the moment, but look at Josh Marshall’s growing blog empire for example. He’s got blogging, analysis, opinion and he’s even hired investigative reporters. No one blogger has far flung foreign correspondents yet, but then there are individual bloggers all over the world who provide superb local news and insight. Read Riverbend or any of the other Iraqi bloggers lately? Excellent business and legal analysis beyond what you see in the local rag or the NYT, LAT and WAPO are easily available on the net. At the same time the newspapers, preferring to accept official handouts, have done a horrible job of chasing down and elaborating upon many stories with national and international import — leaving in depth coverage to the bloggers. Look at your pal in Fort Wayne for example.

    As alluded to in the first paragraph, newspapers have enormous investments in their physical plants and bloggers don’t. As such, papers are wedded to an obligation to maintain, pay for and operate that physical plant. This means they’re stuck with printing. It’s easy to see how they can be scared, considering the huge financial obligations they carry. And as with so many scared operators, they aren’t playing to win, they’re playing not to lose. That attitude tends to foreclose creative thinking and bold action. In the end, it is still going to come down to product. However newspapers combine paper and electrons or even jettison printing, however blogs evolve, consumers will gravitate to the product that suites them.

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  7. MichaelG said on March 15, 2006 at 11:17 am

    OK, the mens’ brackets were Monday and yesterday it was the womens’ brackets. But you get the idea.

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  8. Jeff said on March 15, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    So how long before we see the major erosion of TV news operatio. . . .oh, right.

    I still startle friends by pointing out that there are, on the major Columbus station (CMH-4 for Nance and the Ohioans), maybe 6 full timers on air not counting meterologists, and everyone else is a part-time, no benefits, under $25,000 wog. It seems impossible until you make them think about Reporter H or Correspondent D — how many days a week do you see them? Average age is what?

    And the coverage is “live from our parking lot or a spot within 2 miles” pretty much always, unless its a “shooting on the east side.”

    When bootleg streaming video with snarky voiceover becomes easier and more affordable, will vidblogs start to show up on the plasma screens of middle America? I guess what you’re saying is, soon, and TV will charge the same ad rates well into the departure of actual viewers until someone points out the Empirical’s new nudity, sometime after we’re down to three national newspapers and a slew of shoppers left in piles by the grocery cart rack.

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  9. basset said on March 15, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    CMH is the “major” Columbus station? when did that happen? I always thought BNS would be the blowtorch forever.

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  10. alex said on March 15, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    Jim, if the Journal-Gazette is liberal/Democrat then the Wall Street Journal is Wiccan/Feminazi. Fort Wayne’s so conservative that even the liberal mystique of the J-G has apparently survived the paper’s transformation into a fairly well right-of-center lapdog for the likes of local GOP chairman Steve Shine who holds a lot more sway there than his Dem counterpart. Shine pulls a transparent ploy against the Dems and it’s news. Kevin Knuth of the Dems pulls a transparent ploy and it’s called a transparent ploy. The J-G also features blowhard neocons like Jonah Goldberg. Then again, in Fort Wayne, even Jonah Goldberg’s too liberal for the real hard-core Chreeschun constituency so I can see why some might still consider it liberal.

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  11. Jim said on March 16, 2006 at 8:08 am

    I didn’t say it was liberal/Democrat — I said that’s the perception.

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