Boxing and newspapers

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, two long-time newspaper men with the Washington Post, heading into an ad break for their ESPN program, Pardon the Interruption, on Monday, May 23, 2011 [mp3]:

TK: Here’s whats over: boxing and newspapers.

MW: Yeah. Maybe not in that order.

TK: And horse racing.

MW: And horse racing!

Metaphors: supermarket and farmers’ market

Robert Allbritton, quoted in Paul Farhi’s TBD.com making its move into the crowded market of local news in the Washington Post

“Right now, [getting local news on the Web] is like trying to buy groceries in the old country. First you went to the fishmonger, then to the baker, then the grocer and so on. And it worked until someone said, ‘Why don’t we create a supermarket and put it all together in one place?’ “

John Hawbak, on Twitter

By focusing on partnerships with local producers, TBD sounds more like a farmers market than a supermarket.

via Steve Buttry

Metaphors: maggot-infested meat, everything but the kitchen sink

Steak and maggots
Gene Weingarten’s Gene Weingarten column mentions Lady Gaga.

Call me a grumpy old codger, but I liked the old way better. For one thing, I used to have at least a rudimentary idea of how a newspaper got produced: On deadline, drunks with cigars wrote stories that were edited by constipated but knowledgeable people, then printed on paper by enormous machines operated by people with stupid hats and dirty faces.

Everything is different today, and it’s much more confusing. For one thing, there are no real deadlines anymore, because stories are constantly being updated for the Web. All stories are due now, and most of the constipated people are gone, replaced by multiplatform idea triage specialists. In this hectic environment, mistakes are more likely to be made, meaning that a story might identify Uzbekistan as “a subspecies of goat.”

Fortunately, this new system enjoys the services of tens of thousands of fact-checking “citizen journalists” who write “comments.” They will read the Uzbekistan story and instantly alert everyone that BARACK OBAMA IS A LIEING PIECE OF CRAP.

I basically like “comments,” though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It’s as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots.

It’s like everything but the kitchen sink
Steve Buttry’s Academics measure new media (again) by old-media yardstick

To measure what citizen journalism is doing in the Washington area, you need to study dozens, if not hundreds, of sites and blogs. Especially if you’re studying whether citizens could “replace” old media, you need to look at the full citizen effort. The cliché of bad comparisons is that you’re comparing apples to oranges. This is more like comparing an apple to a grape. A grape will never replace an apple. But a bunch of grapes might provide similar or more nutrition, even if one makes a better pie and the other better wine. These researchers didn’t study the full bunch of grapes that exists in every metro area.

These studies miss the point as badly as if you were to study whether NASCAR will replace horse racing. One kind or racing is declining and another is rising, but no one is replacing anyone here. The media revolution we are experiencing and witnessing isn’t like trying to replace an old quarterback by sending in a younger one (a story most traditional media would give more coverage than your average watchdog story).

Admission: On rereading, I notice that I have gone on a metaphor spree here: auto and horse racing, quarterbacks, fruit, watchdogs, a yardstick. Each of them makes the point I wanted to make, though, and I decided to poke fun at this weakness in my writing because I don’t have time to fix it today. I’ll just point you to the news-business metaphor collection Nick Bergus is compiling (at my suggestion, ironically enough). It’s so much easier to recognize my weaknesses in the writing of others.

Somebody’s watching

Ralph Gross remembered the glory days of The Des Moines Register and he didn’t like what it had become.

“Thirty years ago,” he wrote in a 2005 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, “I would pass in front of the Register building and with great pride read a display that said: ‘The Des Moines Register has won more Pulitzer Prizes for national reporting than any other newspaper except one. Congratulations, New York Times.’”

The national reporting prize has been awarded since 1948 and, at the time Gannet bought the Register in 1985 , the paper had six — the same as the Times. The Wall Street Journal had won just three national reporting awards and this year’s winner, the Washington Post, held zero.

And while the Post, Journal and Times now hold, respectively, three, seven and 11 national reporting Pulitzers, The Des Moines Register, “The paper Iowa  depends on,” hasn’t won since the chain bought it, winning its last that very year.

Mr. Gross was upset and joined the Register’s citizen advisory board when the opportunity arouse with the hope of improving his hometown paper.

I know little more about Mr. Gross. I talked to him once on the telephone about a book project shortly before he died in February of this year. But I respect what he did: take an active role in improving the media his community depended on.

I hope to do the same on this blog: let Iowa’s newspapers, television and online news organizations know that someone’s watching.