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Archive for June 2010

Forget Spitzer’s errant penis: Think more about CNN’s blunders

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You remember this tableau, don’t you? It’s Monday, March 10, 2008, and the governor of New York state is standing in front of reporters and beside his stoic wife. In a story, Elliot Spitzer, the reporter wrote, “confess[ed] to an undisclosed personal indiscretion, saying he had acted ‘in a way that violates my obligations to my family, that violates my or any sense of right and wrong.'”

On that day, a story on posed this question: Is scandal enough to sink Spitzer for good?

We learned that, on Feb. 13, 2008, Spitzer spent three hours and $4,300 on a prostitute. She was “Kristen”; he was “Client 9.” On March 12, in a story, we learned Spitzer had spent $15,000 on prostitutes. Spitzer announced he would resign, saying, “I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. I will try once again outside of politics to serve the common good.” [emphasis added]

But now CNN has hired Spitzer, not to “serve the common good” outside of politics but to serve CNN’s desperate need for better ratings in prime time. Out will go Campbell Brown at 8 p.m.; in will go Spitzer and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker.

Americans love stories of redemption, and Spitzer has a right to make a living. But I won’t be watching the as-yet unnamed program, and it won’t be because Spitzer disappointed me as a man and a politician. I won’t watch because this show represents yet another dumbass decision by CNN’s top brass.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 24, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The new news: lean, multiplatform, creative? Is less now more?

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Editor & Publisher reported this today:

The San Diego Union-Tribune laid off more than 30 staffers on Thursday in what Editor Jeff Light called in an editor’s note an effort to build “a lean, creative, multi-platform team that can lead the industry.” [emphasis added]

E&P reports that this is the U-T’s seventh round of staff cuts since 2006.

In April 2008, when The Seattle Times cut 200 people, its publisher said: “Strategic and thoughtful changes to the way we do business will allow us to be positioned for the future.” [emphasis added]

When The New York Times cut 100 jobs in 2009 (after whacking 100 jobs in 2008), its executive editor said:

These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world. … I believe we can weather these cuts without seriously compromising our commitment to coverage of the region, the country and the world. We will remain the single best news organization on earth. [emphasis added]

Why is that the MBA-driven leadership of the newspaper industry, after cutting 35,000 mostly newsroom jobs between October 2007 and June 2010, continues to insist that the future (for whom?) is bright, and news (about what?) will multimedia its way to us day after day, quantity and quality unaffected?

There are words for that kind of image-driven happy talk: Reality challenged. Misrepresentation. Delusion. Outright lies. And, of course, bullshit.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bloggers have been ‘reimagined’ in the future of news. We’ll be rich!

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So, you’re a blogger. You gettin’ paid for what you write?

Nada? Thought so. Me, too. Nada. But don’t worry: Corporate types who run content businesses have big plans for us. They’re gonna make us stars of online local news.

Here’s an example: In the latest edition of American Journalism Review, writer Karen Carmichael outlines the plan for Albritton Communications’ strategy for local online news in Washington, D.C. She writes:

[T]he new operation is determined to figure out how to make local online news a profitable venture and to reimagine the relationship among reader, blogger and news organization, with heavy aggregation and partnerships with area bloggers key parts of his strategy. [emphasis added]

Damn. We’re going to be reimagined. (Say, how much does that pay?)
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

If objectivity is dead, then replace it with subjectivity done well

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Be objective.

That’s the credo my newsroom presented to me, the young cub, four decades ago. But it did not require much time for me to realize that objectivity was merely an ideal, a sales pitch that proclaimed “we are professional and unbiased; thus believe us.” As the Grey Lady claims, it does its job “without fear or favor”: no bias affects the content of stories – or the selection of the stories themselves.

Well, as we see now, that’s bullshit. Journalism is entirely a subjective enterprise. Editors assign stories. Reporters select sources. Reporters select the questions for the sources. Reporters decide on the structure of the story: Does one point of view make the lede, or does the other? Editors edit the stories. Changes in structure are made, altering the reporter’s judgment. Journalism is judgment, and that involves heavy doses of subjectivity.

Yet I and hundreds of journalism professors continue to stride about our classrooms explaining and demanding objectivity from our students (who are living online quite subjectively and for the most part not doing it very well).

Well, that total obeisance to objectivity ought to end. We must ask: Do journalism faculty have a limited view of what journalism is — or how it has mutated in the age of the Internet?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized