Friday, December 29, 2006

Two Friday notes

  • There's been a debate among television news people about "breaking news" becoming irrelevant because it's being overused. You see this on Channel 12 here all the time. They flash the "breaking news" banner and follow it up with something lame or old. Now the Enquirer is getting into the act. This morning on the web site, under "Latest News" is this story about a Hamilton County jail worker being indicted for stealing toilet paper. This shows how desperate the Enquirer is to put up new things on its web site to improve traffic. Now, this is a curious bit of news, and there might actually be a better story here. Why indict the employee instead of just disciplining him? How much toilet paper did he steal? The Enquirer, however, gives us 80 words and four paragraphs, and just slaps it up on the web site without any attempt to answer even basic questions about it. If the Enquirer can't take the time to tell me a real story, please, don't bother me with this crap (no pun intended).

  • The Enquirer has rolled out a "Speak Up!" feature on some stories, allowing users to add comments to stories. It's hard to tell which stories the Enquirer chooses to put this on. This morning I looked at 24 stories in Local, Business, Sports and Life, and found just 7 stories that had this feature, and only 4 had comments. The Enquirer should be happy to know that Yahoo is shutting down its message boards on news stories. "As they were set up, the Yahoo! News message boards allowed a small number of vocal users to dominate the discussion. In addition, related discussions from similar news articles were not easily linked," Yahoo says. Let's agree that Yahoo has a lot more experience at this than the Enquirer, and they're ending something the Enquirer thinks is a smart idea to start.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Old news, again

The Enquirer doesn't understand speed. On Wednesday morning, it had a front-page story about a skier killed at Perfect North. The skier died on Sunday, and I saw it on Ch. 12 news on Monday night. This is something I've written before: If something big happens on the weekend, it takes the Enquirer a few days to recover because they're so understaffed on weekends. This week was especially bad because of the holiday on Monday.

This morning brings the front-page story about people clogging the iTunes site in a post-Christmas rush. What good does this story do the reader? The news was two days old. The story doesn't tell me anything useful to help me get through to iTunes. And, if I already tried and failed, then I already know the site was overrun so it's not news to me. This is unsophisticated news judgement, that anything having to do with Apple gets onto the front page whether or not the editors understand it.

I couldn't find another newspaper in Ohio or anywhere else that put this story on the front page. Apple's two hometown newspapers did have Apple stories on the front page, but it wasn't iTunes. Both the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Apple may have forged documents to backdate Steve Jobs's options.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hooray for the hometown

The Enquirer's small town mind gets smaller and smaller. Almost nothing that happens in the world makes it into the Enquirer unless some local connection can be established. I was prepared for another lame former-local-guy story when I read the James Brown obituary in the Enquirer on Tuesday. It turned out Greg Korte's story was readable and interesting. Score one for shameless parochialism.

What puzzles me is this: When does the Enquirer decide to do or not do this? Jerry Berns died last week. He was the co-owner and greeter at New York's 21 Club, which was one of the nation's most famous restaurants. Read his New York Times obituary and you'll understand why. The 21 Club was one of those places that helped create New York City's aura, the kind of joint that made you want to pack your bags and go.

The local connection is this: His family sent him out of New York to keep him from running liquor during Prohibition, and he graduated from the University of Cincinnati. And what was his last job before he returned to New York to help run 21? He was drama critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I haven't found any evidence news of Berns' death ever appeared in the Enquirer. If you can find a link, please send it to me.

One thing hasn't changed since Berns left the Enquirer in 1938. The Enquirer continues to find ways to force its journalists to find new careers.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Taken for a ride

Two Enquirer employees have sent this to me: The Enquirer has reduced the mileage reimbursement that employees will get for using their personal vehicles for newspaper business, from 31 cents to 29 cents per mile. This was disclosed to employees on December 18, in a terse email from the publisher -- so terse it made it sound like a logical move. Please recall that the Enquirer also eliminated its annual employee Christmas gift to save money, so on or about the day employees should have gotten their trinket, they got this email instead.

On November 1, the IRS raised the allowable tax deduction for business use of a vehicle to 48.5 cents per mile. If you want the technical description of why the IRS did this, read this. I don't understand it but it appears the IRS believes the cost of operating a vehicle includes many things beyond the cost of gas, including the actual cost of the vehicle, insurance, maintenance and depreciation. I found one page online that says AAA estimated the per-mile cost of operating a vehicle was 56 cents a mile in 2004. One Enquirer source said (and I can't confirm this) that both the Post and the Associated Press pay about 40 cents a mile.

This is not another case of the Enquirer being cheap. It's another case of the corporate pigs who run it committing immoral acts upon their employees. To pay employees less than it costs to operate their vehicles for Enquirer business is stealing, pure and simple. I'm sure the publisher gets a bonus for hitting profit targets set by Gannett, and she's trying to get there by stealing nickels from the pockets of her underpaid and overworked employees. We know for certain she's not making the newspaper better by doing this, and those nickels aren't going to sell more papers or help it win on the Web. It's just greed, and it's cruel. I hope she chokes on that fucking money.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Enquirer gets a "C"

Journalism students at Miami University graded Cincinnati's major media, and the Enquirer got the best grade. Which was a C. I'm surprised it was that high.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bad Friday

Today's Enquirer front page is full of poor choices. I wonder if we could "vote" a story onto the Enquirer's front page. There's only one way to explain how a story that's more than 24 hours old gets the top of the front page. The tragic story of a woman killed by a wrong-way driver was covered like crazy by TV on Thursday. My guess it that it was a busy story on the Enquirer's web site all day, which is what led the paper's know-nothing editors to put it across the top of the front page, even though the news would be more than 24 hours old by the time you picked the paper off your driveway.

That makes me wonder if we could ever pick a story off the Enquirer's web site and hit it so often we could launch it onto the front page. It would have be something really lame to prove our point, but I think it could be done.

The Enquirer's editors have apparently given up on news judgement. Why else would they put this woe-is-me Film Commission story in the center of the front page? There's only been four movies shot here since 2000. The story would lead you to believe there's five movies, but it wrongly lists "Seabiscuit." According to this story and this story, not a minute of the movie "Seabiscuit" was ever shot in Cincinnati. There was a casting call downtown, but Cincinnati lost out to Lexington for actual filming. This hard-to-read graphic "Films Shot In Our Area" lists "Seabiscuit" as one of them. Wrong. lists Seabiscuit's locations. "Mr. 3000", which the Enquirer also lists, doesn't list Cincinnati as a location, either. Great American Ball Park shows up briefly in the movie, but the scene was so minor "Mr. 3000" doesn't belong on the same list as "Rain Man".

And surprise -- retailers cut their prices when you get closer to Christmas! The story states the obvious. What else could have gone on the front page? How about McCain and others calling for up to 30,000 more troops in Iraq? And I'm surprised cornhole didn't make it to the front page. (Note here that the lines are blurring between the Enquirer and Cin Weekly. The Enquirer's cornhole story was written by Gina Daugherty, who also wrote this Winter Sports Festival story, which includes the cornhole story, for Cin Weekly.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

More awards the Enquirer didn't win

For outstanding environmental journalism. This one was taken by the Los Angeles Times. I think the Enquirer doesn't do environmental journalism because our air is so clean and you can drink out of the Ohio with a straw. But hey, if they ever give awards for best coverage of sporting events that won't be on television, the Enquirer will clean up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This patient is brain dead

This is the lamest use of space in a newspaper ever. Ever. It's the search for "hot" doctors in Cincinnati. (The Enquirer can't even post the story right. In the paper this morning, there were two doctors on the front of the Life section and three more on the back page. The web version has five pictures but only talks about two of them.)

Newspapers like to do fun stories, but what does the Enquirer want you to think when you see the picture of hot doc Lana Hawayek? "Boy, what does she look like naked? Hey, open up that lab coat and let me see what's there." The Enquirer is too poor to give its employees a Christmas gift, and so poor it has to ask them to take unpaid vacation. But it has no problem wasting a reporter's time on this drivel.

Also, the story doesn't have one of those "Speak Up!" buttons on it. The Enquirer has begun putting these buttons on stories like this one today about copper thiefs, to get readers to talk about the stories. Seriously, what would you rather talk about: copper or T&A? Not copper, because the last time I looked that story didn't have any comments.

Instead of a Christmas gift ...

The Enquirer is doing its employees a big, big favor: It's letting them take time off! Without pay! This makes up for the Enquirer cancelling its annual employee Christmas gift. What a generous company!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Enquirer on Monday

  • The Enquirer somehow thinks UC hiring a new coach is more important than the city's murder rate, as exhibited in the way the stories are played on the front page. The new coach gets the big headline across the top of the page, which the murder rate is second. Nobody cares about UC football. They couldn't even sell out their game against Rutgers. This story doesn't belong on the front page.

  • The editorial page finally comes out and says it's time to shift strategy in Iraq. Really? They should have written this a year ago, but of course they're too gutless to take a stand until they're sure it'll be popular. This is about as timely as Sunday's lame MySpace story, which also is at least a year late. To show how out of sync it is, the story only mentions Facebook once, in passing.

  • I've seen this thing a few times in the paper recently. Above the story on the front page is the words "Premium In This Edition" (see the front page here). The Enquirer also used it November 10 on this story about veterans. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason about when the Enquirer uses it. What does that mean? Does that mean it's free? Or extra? I think today this refers to the two pages in the Local section devoted to the Enquirer's Wish List. There is much less local news in the paper today because of it. Does that make it a premium?

  • If you're interested in the future of the Enquirer, read this story today in the Washington Post, which looks at how Gannett's new vision for news is being put to work in Fort Meyers, Fla. It's not encouraging. Read also this New York Times story about the changes coming to the Wall Street Journal. The paper is shrinking physically and the space for news is going to be reduced by 10%. The story says, "The move has alarmed some journalists there, but executives say it will save millions of dollars and that the reconfigured Journal will offer more information, not less." This is the same thing the Enquirer has been saying for years -- it looks like less, but it's really more. More bullshit, that is. Or should I call that a premium?