Monday, October 08, 2007

Journalism lite

Janelle Gelfand is one of the Enquirer's better writers. She is, however, lost in the shuffle because she covers a subject with limited appeal: classical music. That by itself is pretty amazing, considering the Enquirer hasn't had a popular music writer in nearly two years, since C.E. Hanifin, quit. [ A side note: About a month ago, the Enquirer invited the heads of local arts organizations to drop by and talk about arts coverage. Tom Callinan insulted the group by implying the don't get it about the Internet, and editor Hollis Towns insulted the group by not showing up at all. ]

In today's paper, Gelfand penned The Making of a Mogul, about Antonio "L.A." Reid, the chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group. He's a music industry biggie born and raised in Cincinnati. It's a decent read, except for the fact that the Enquirer apparently didn't bother to put Gelfand on a plane, so she could meet him and interview him in person. It looks like Gelfand interviewed him by telephone.

How can you profile someone without actually meeting them face to face? Even CityBeat does better than this, but this is what you get with the Enquirer these days: The paper is too cheap to do the story correctly. The result is a story like "Mogul," where there's some quotes from the subject, quotes from some people who knew Reid growing up, and some Cincinnati namedropping (James Brown, Sarah Jessica Parker). It's about Reid's kids and family and friends and how Cincinnati made him the person he is, but contains nothing about his management style (how he finds and develops talent) or how he deals with the turmoil in the industry.

It's another example of the Enquirer's shallow world view. The Enquirer believes all readers care about is the Cincinnati link, and aren't intellectually curious about anything else. Here, the Enquirer uses the local link to get close to someone famous and powerful, but all they come back with is where he went to high school. The only thing missing from the story is how he likes his chili and whether or not he likes goetta. The fault isn't Gelfand's, it's the Enquirer's low expectations. This kind of local-boy-done-good story belongs in a 10,000-circ community newspaper, not a major metro daily.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Phantom Girl said...

Right on about Gelfand. She is one of the best and often writes about the complexities and subtleties of arts culture in Cincinnati.

Your note about the lack of a pop writer is interesting. Perhaps the operating theory is the older crowd -- which still buys the paper -- is a target for cultural music writing, while younger people interested in pop music could care less about the Enquirer.

That's odd in one sense given the continual drum beat about reaching younger readers.

But it also is another signal that changes at the Enquirer following multiple lines of logic.

By the way, the travel budget is a myth at the Enquirer, so don't be too surprised that Gelfand did a phone interview. And maybe that would have been OK if a balance had been struck on ties to Cincinnati and industry giant.

This might have worked better had she been teamed with Cliff Peale -- a frequent partner in the past on issues that cross business and cultural lines.

But Cliff is now on the education beat so....

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even Rolling Stone and Spin only get to spend about 30 minutes with the interviewee, unless they're a high profile writer like Chuck Klosterman. So Janelle interviewed LA Reid over the phone - big deal. He probably wouldn't have deigned to meet with a reporter from a rinky-dink like the Enquirer anyway.

Infinitely more troubling is the Enquirer's lack of a non-classical music writer. CiN Weekly hasn't come close to filling the void either.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similarly, on both occasions the Bengals hosted Monday Night Football this season (and, for that matter, last season), the Big Story in the Enquirer has been the presence of many Big Trucks (Oooh!) and fawning over TV Sports Personalities (Aaah!).

Geez. In the immortal words of Darrell Royal, "Act like you've been there before."

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Enquirer's market research department determined that the story scored high on the Pavlov-Towns scale of readability. Eight of 10 test dogs barked loudly after reading the story, while six stamped their paws enthusiastically. Only two growled objections to the telephone interview, but after all participating dogs were fed Milk Bones, the objections were dropped. All 10 dogs indicated that they would continue to subscribe to the newspaper as long as they were properly incentivized. Four of the dogs said the treats were better than what they got for serving as message board starters at CincyMoms.com.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Bonus Sunday has passed and apparently the “bonus” has yet again gone to the Enquirer’s bottom line - all at additional reader expense.

No special insight. No additional coverage. And, no real, discernable value above and beyond what readers should expect to receive each week can be found. Yet, the Enquirer happily charges readers more each time they do it far more often than should be allowed.

The only thing missing in the Enquirer’s promotional efforts is the remake of a U2 song to celebrate their questionable efforts – Sunday, Bonus Sunday.

6:59 AM  

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