Friday, October 19, 2007

Update On "All The News That's Fit..."

Society of Professional Journalists' leaders are backing journalists at The Commercial Appeal including as Trevor Aaronson and Louis Graham who opposed "monetizing the content" plans.

In a post to its website, the 98-year-old, 10,000-member organization said:

"As news organizations develop creative ways to create new revenue streams in a time of lower circulation and ratings, SPJ encourages journalists to keep a vigilant eye toward journalistic independence and integrity. A wall between news and advertising must be firmly established and upheld. The trust of readers, viewers and listeners is at stake, and once lost, cannot be retrieved.

“'I cringed when I read about an editor's interest in ‘monetizing content,’ a phrase that needs a wall right in the middle of it,' SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andy Schotz said. 'Outsiders’ money should not be involved in the news process.'”

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good for SPJ. Supporting the AMM (AntiMonetizationMovement) should be a no brainer for anyone who believes in the public's right to and need to know.

memphisj said...

Forgive me for a long post, but I'm really stunned at how quickly and badly this has gone in such a short time.
First, you have the "brand" of the CA which was already damaged locally now being damaged on the national level, at least among journalists and probably wider.
Second, it opens a huge can of worms for advertisers at a point in history where they need the daily paper less than ever to get their message out.
Look at how FedEx must think of this, you think they're happy that their name is being associated with this? Probably not what they had in mind when they entered into this "sponsorship".
Also, other advertisers who can't "sponsor" or were thinking of it, what do you think their impressions are now. Can't afford "positive" coverage, need to "buy" some? Kind of lose/lose, don't you think?
And the CA employees, a paper with low morale where they can't even get a raise in 4 years now has the staff looking over their shoulders even more.
If Peck is gone because of this, it will simply be because he didn't keep it out of the news and execute the plan successfully. Sends a hard-nosed reporter who won't back down (I for one am not buying the pitch that this "sponsorship" wasn't in the works long before the trip, although perhaps the reporter didn't know), botches the PR angle early and basically has to finally admit it was a mistake, although still indicating that there would be more in the future.
This should become a textbook case for j-school professors when explaining why the separation between editorial and advertising needs to be there, in the final analysis it damages the credibility of both sides.

B said...

MemphisJ,
Very thought-provoking post. Sorry to follow it with another long one! I think the damage from this would have been mitigated tremendously had the CA i.e., Peck, Pepe and Jiranek been more up front internally with their efforts. I think they would have been slapped down pretty quickly, but it would have an internal issue, not one for the trade journals.
It also seems to me that, once the story broke, it would have been better to explain themselves to their Memphis constituents instead of crying to Editor and Publisher and Romanesko at Poynter (especially after Poynter sided with journalism and not their silly plan).
The newspaper business model is still content drives advertising. The CA needs to look at its coverage priorities if it wants to solve the mystery of why its readership is falling off.
Take the front page, for example: it's usually one big photograph and some oversized, albeit pithy, headline. Wire copy trumps local.
Page 2: National and international news is truncated in favor of a "good old days" photograph, which, while occasionally entertaining, is again oversized and totally irrelevant to the day's events.
There's no meat in this sandwich, and the bread is often stale.
That's why people aren't picking it up.
So all the news gets posted/broadcast before the CA has a chance to print it? So what. Give the people more than TV can, not less. Use the web site for more than video and silly devices that are not designed to inform, only to sell to advertisers.
Give the readers the subtle nuances, give them the big picture. All it requires is a commitment to reporting. A commitment to reporting requires a commitment to personnel, which means not hiring entry-level journalists unless they show exceptional talent. The CA used to be a destination newspaper for journalists. Now it's a bump in the road. They don't want to keep people, and are encouraging those with any experience to leave.
It's sad.

theogeo said...

You guys are making excellent points about the CA's content and news coverage (content drives advertising and the content is necessarily lacking because of the way the company is being run and the resources are being stretched thin) that I very much agree with, but I have to quibble with this part of the last comment:

Page 2: National and international news is truncated in favor of a "good old days" photograph, which, while occasionally entertaining, is again oversized and totally irrelevant to the day's events.

Actually, the old photo runs every day on B2 in the local section. Old people LOVE IT and freak out and call us when it's not there. Old people are who read the paper. We try not to piss off the old people too much. :)

A2 is still a mix of national and international news. The huge photo on that page is usually from across the globe.

B said...

my bad. i got my pages confused. i still think both photos could be smaller and still effective.

Michael Roy Hollihan said...

Theo, you say "old people" like it's a put-down. If you're lucky, you'll become one some day.

theogeo said...

Mike, it's tongue in cheek. I absolutely hope to be old some day. Beats the alternative.