Thursday, June 16, 2005

Media times, they are a-changin'...

I was reading the latest entry in a blog that I frequently visit called It's linked above. Anyway, Mr. Porter has a section entitled First Draft on his site that focuses entirely on the newspaper media. Porter used to be the editor of the San Francisco Examiner. He talks mainly of large daily newspapers, but many of the problems he speaks of in his writings can extend down to the smallest papers.

His latest post was dealing with the Michael Jackson verdict and how it was covered by the media. I don't know about you all, but I was watching MSNBC when the verdict came down. However the Santa Maria Times, the newspaper for the town where Jackon's Neverland Ranch is located, published an Extra! about the verdict that afternoon when the verdict came out.

On Porter's website he had a photo on there of people just reading their Extra! totally engulfed in the paper. Porter's comment on this was that the Extra! is a thing of the past. Back in the golden age before the internet and 24 hour news channels, if you wanted your news up to the minute you had to rely on a newspaper printing an Extra! in the middle of the afternoon. The people were reading the Times out in the middle of a field near Jackson's ranch. That meant they had no idea that the verdict had been announced. I guess they could have used their cell phones, but they were in the middle of a field in central California.

There used to be a time where the local daily newspaper was how everyone got their news. The nightly news on TV was in its infancy and for the most part they were still only reading the newspaper and showing you the photos that would be printed for the next day. And on top of that they couldn't go in depth because they were only 30 minutes or an hour long.

Maybe this is why Porter is so down journalists these days. Everything is at their finger tips. Now a lot of the newspapers are the same because they don't want to be the ones that didn't print a significant story that was buzzing on the internet and TV even if it didn't mean a thing to their readers. But they don't want to hear anyone complain about not seeing that stupid story in the paper even though they read it first on Yahoo! News.

Back in the day all you really needed to do was get the facts our there, but now the facts are everywhere. Now journalists are pushed to find something unique about a story and emphasize it. Unfortunately, most papers are understaffed and are happy to just get the paper out instead of pushing themselves to improve.

Porter linked to some photos from back during World War II when 300 point headlines were a lot more common than they are now. People were showing the photographer their newspapers about how the Japanese surrendered. That photographer no doubt followed the delivery truck to the newspaper stand where everyone was waiting for the news.

The last 300 point headline I can recall was on September 12, 2001

We always hear and use the cliche–"I'll believe it when I see it". There used to be a time when you couldn't believe it until you read it in black and white in your newspaper.

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