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Archive for December 2005

Spinning support for education …

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My freshman representative in Congress, a Republican named John R. “Randy” Kuhl, has learned quickly the divine arts of legislative and linguistic sleight of hand.

My mailbox today contained a four-page, full-color brochure (“prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense”) titled “Strengthening Education for Our Children.” The cover photo — a tow-headed, blue-eyed young boy apparently holding a microscope — has this legend overprinted: “With the right tools, his dreams don’t seem too far away.”

Keep dreamin’, kid, because last month Rep. Kuhl voted for, repeat, for, H. 4241, the House budget reconciliation bill that, among other things, would slash nearly $13 billion from student loan programs. (See how your representative voted here.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 21, 2005 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A matter of trust? Or business as usual?

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“Trust us,” say journalists — and their management. “We’re unbiased, we seek truth and we’re working for you.” It doesn’t matter if the journalists are print, radio, TV or the Web.

“Trust us. We know what’s good for you.”

So just what is the trusting listener supposed to think about the news produced by WIBA-AM in Madison, Wisc., when the Clear Channel radio station begins pushing news onto the airwaves from the Amcore Bank News Center in January? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 16, 2005 at 11:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

How to make more money: Serve more (desirable) readers

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My hometown newspaper, for which I labored for nearly 20 years, used this promotional line: “Serving the people of Franklin County.” Over the years, that claim became less and less accurate.

Claims of broad, demographically diverse coverage by newspapers today remain just that — claims.

Franklin County consists of 26 towns with the county seat, Greenfield, smack in the middle of 400 rural square miles. Greenfield held a third of the countywide population of some 70,000. But we had “county” reporters who covered smaller towns with populations measured in the few thousands — towns covered by bureaus in east county, west county, south county and north county.

As the ’70s became the ’80s, rising staff and newsprint costs, the recession of the early ’80s and a change in profit expectations by new ownership led to, one by one, the cutting of these bureaus. Sure, the paper had stringers and still does. But the shrinking expectations of coverage by readers did not match the proud claim of “serving the readers of Franklin County.”

That’s the microcosm I worked in. But there’s a macrocosm, too: Newsroom folks at almost any newspaper will tell stories about the incredible shrinking coverage areas of their newspapers. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 14, 2005 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Will the last person to leave the newsroom turn the lights out?

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It should be simple: If a competitor’s product is better than yours and stealing your customers, then make your product better than the competitors’ and find a way to get it to those customers.

But that’s not the attitude of managers of newspaper companies (to say nothing of their institutional partners). Increasingly, the true owners of newspaper companies seem to be investors, so the motives of investors rule the decisions made by executives of newspaper companies.

Investors believe newspaper company executives and boards of directors should base their actions solely on protecting shareholder value. That means decisions affecting the quality and quantity of journalism reflect business rather than public interests. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 12, 2005 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Uh, oh … Microsoft newspapers’ new foe?

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Richard J. Tofel’s piece at CJR Daily on newspaper woes and their relationship to Microsoft’s plans for ad dollars — “Does it even know what it’s selling?” — is compelling reading.

It looks at Gates’ thrice-fold reinvention of Microsoft in terms of online usage and delivery of information and newspapers’ failure to adapt. It’s worth a read.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 2, 2005 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized