Newspapers are in trouble. Readers are straying in record numbers as papers become less essential to their lives. This blog will explore where we've gone wrong and what we're doing right, with an eye toward REWRITING THE FUTURE of newspapers.
This adventure into journalistic ideas and sausage-making brought to you by a group of journalists with ties to the Newspaper Management Program at the Medill School of Journalism:
MO | Meg O'Brien is associate business editor at the Chicago Tribune. She's dabbled in online, keeps her hand in design, did the metro reporting thing and teaches occassionally at Medill.
DS | A copy editor at The Daily News Hole, a Midwestern major metro daily. As an 18- to 34-year-old, he is highly sought after by media outlets and advertisers. When not shoveling copy, he enjoys traveling, cooking and spending quality time with his iBook or TiVo.
Finding Rewrite! Actual search terms used to find this site:
+ Mike Tyson's Tattoo Pic
+ Medill any good?
+ adult movie Fashionista
+ "Take cover, here come Mediasaurus"
+ sausage making receipts
+ Bat Boy T-shirts
+ "spark interactive" comic creator
+ selling a sunday newspaper to a media planner
+ elvis costello t-shirts
+ pictures of operations at hospitals
+ "Dixie Redfearn"
+ Washington Post pressman union strike
+ gannett thrive boise
+ star trek miniskirts
+ today's front pages
+ "typography musueum" london
+ lynn upshaw usa today
+ chicago rewrite service
+ francois dufour, editor
+ sleeve marijuana tatto pic
+ research paper-interesting topics
+ why rewrite papers
+ blog fashion hosiery
+ "Chicago Tribune" "youth publication"
+ mediapost kids
+ "societal influence" AND newspaper
+ dirty tattoo pic
+ free copy of Marijuana Growers Guide Deluxe
+ status update evan and zora
+ "mon quotidien" pay bac
+ newspaper sun for san bernandino
+ Enquirer Bat boy T-shirts
+ Rich Ramhoff
Monday, February 24, 2003 JUST LIKE MEXICAN FOOD | It's been a couple of months since I looked at a RedEye but after they installed four more boxes in my neighborhood I felt surrounded and picked up a couple last week. I quickly remembered why they annoy me so much.
The Chicago Tribune has gone through considerable time and effort looking for a way to reach the underserved and disinterested 18-34 demographic. Yet, for the most part, all they're doing is repackaging the same news most papers give to the masses. They're taking burritos and making soft tacos -- same ingredients, same taste, different form.
If you're truly trying to reach a different market -- a market that you've identified has different interests and priorities -- doesn't it make sense that you would have different content?
RedEye has attempted the occasional original story. They did one on how it's difficult to park in Chicago (that's news?) and they did another Friday about the upcoming Chicago city elections. The election article focused how voting may have slipped the minds of young people because they're thinking about things like "Gotta get to the gym ... am I hot? ... Tyson's tattoo ... and will Evan and Zora get married?"
The RedEye could have done a great youth-centric election issue, questioning incumbent Mayor Richard Daley and other mayoral candidates on what they would do for young people in the city and/or ask for their positions on city services most used by the young. Or, they could have have looked at the youngest aldermanic candidates and why they are getting involved in government. Or, they could have examined why there isn't anyone under 40 involved in Chicago politics.
But no, they gave us a few man-on-the street shots of three white young guys saying that voting is a good thing, directions on how to register to vote (even though it's too late to do so for this election) and a story that starts with this lead: "You may not know it, but there is an election Tuesday."
Well, if the RedEye thinks its readers are that ignorant about the election why write about it at all? Or at least given them a ward map to help them figure which aldermanic race they're blowing off.
If the RedEye really wants to attract young readers, it needs to serve them. That means being their voice and writing stories about their issues -- stories that supposedly aren't already out there for them in traditional newspapers. Taking stories from the big people's paper and cutting them in half doesn't serve anybody.
[ 8:52 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Wednesday, February 19, 2003 AUSSIES EYE REDS | Even editors in Australia are watching Chicago's Red tabloids as they try to figure out how to get young people to read newspapers. They're having the same problem.
These tabs are getting a lot of attention. It's too bad they aren't better.
[ 8:03 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Monday, February 17, 2003 TALKING TO READERS | I've listened to a few presentations now from the folks at Northwestern University's Readership Institute about the findings of its national survey of 37,000 newspaper readers and what they want from us.
Sure, they want it all. But one thing they crave in particular is communication. In fact, readers are willing to forgive many of our failings if we just explain the situation or give them a chance to know us better.
At the Hoosier State Press Association conference in December, researcher Steve Duke encouraged newspapers to actively promote upcoming features and stories, casting aside fear that we might not be able to deliver the story on the promised day. "In that case, you just have to tell them when it will run. Readers are forgiving, all they ask for is communication about what happened and what's next. ... Newspapers just don't do that now. They leave readers guessing."
The editors at the Journal-Times in Racine, Wis. recently have taken steps to stop the guessing and reveal a bit of themselves to readers in a new a Web log, called Inside the J-T.
So far, editors have used the forum to: explain policies about slowing political coverage in the days before an election; give insight into how the paper interacts with other subsidiaries of the parent company; talk about decisions to cover stories outside of Racine; and even answer reader questions about why stories sometimes appear differently on the Web than they do in print; among other topics.
As important, though, the blog solicits comments so readers can give their own feedback. I think it's a great mechanism for this important dialog. Every newspaper should have one.
[ 9:55 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Thursday, February 06, 2003 HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE | This site is dedicated to moving newspapers forward, but today I had fun looking back when an article on a Virginia group getting a grant to digitalize Civil-War era newspapers caught my eye and led me to a small archive that already exists at the University of Virginia.
The university's Valley of the Shadow Project has transcribed or summarized hundreds of stories from five newspapers of the era -- two from Virginia, three from Pennsylvania. The papers have some interesting historical information and provide a fascinating glimpse into life at the time. Interestingly, the curators of the project suggested that these papers had their own problems with relevance -- even when there was no competition from TV, radio, magazines and the Internet.
Curators: "The papers of the nineteenth century, however, may be an even more important source of information for those of us investigating the past than they were for those who lived in it. In the nineteenth century, as today, individuals shared information in many nonliterate and informal ways -- by word of mouth in the church, the household, the workplace."
Wow, were we ever relevant?
Even more interesting than the articles are the actual digitized pages. They're hard to read, but still quite interesting. You can look at a few here, here, here or here.
My absolute favorite find was a small item at the bottom of the Republican Vindicator of Nov. 25, 1859 -- it struck me as somewhat innovative in terms of subscription payment models. Currently, this is a hot issue at newspaper companies as papers try to get subscribers to convert to automatic-billing methods like credit cards or direct debit to reduce costs, cut churn and, I think, obscure how much a subscription actually costs. The Vindicator's alternate payment method of choice, however, was wood. And in that cold November, it put in a notice that someone needed someone to step up and pay their bill.