Friday, June 29, 2007

More iCrap

Look at the Enquirer's iPhone blog. I'm sure the headline on the final post of the day, "Drama winding down ... ," wasn't meant to be in any way ironic. They send two reporters onto the streets to report from the front lines, they have their No. 2 editor in the newsroom posting on the blog all day, they even post photos from the lines, and in the end -- THERE'S NOT A SINGLE PHOTO OF SOMEONE HOLDING AN IPHONE!! How stupid is that? They waste the day of three employees and never once show a picture of somebody who finally got their hands on a phone.

The extent of the Enquirer's naivete and stupidity in incomprehensible. I'll allow that the iPhone might be a story. But the Enquirer doesn't comprehend why it's a story. Every bit of their reporting was second- and third-hand. Reporting on technology is a hands-on thing. Not one of the five Enquirer reporters who worked on this story (Lauren Bishop and Mike Boyer blogging today, Alex Coolidge, James McNair, and Cliff Peale on his blog) this week ever got their hands on the device. The reporter has to see and touch the device to tell us how it works, and to tell us why it's important. The Enquirer is taking the only approach it seems to know how to report a story -- it only reports on what people say about something, and not anything seen first hand. Not even the reviews it published on the front page Thursday were its own. Apple fanatics are already getting their iPhone news off the web, and because the Enquirer doesn't cover technology seriously, no one looks to it for any expert coverage.

The cell phone has already become ubiquitous and changed how we live. That revolution has already happened. The impact of the iPhone is that it's going to change the way we use cell phones, maybe. The Enquirer has already missed reporting the revolution, but is trying to make up for it by over-covering the iPhone. The only thing this coverage sheds light on is the Enquirer's ineptitude and lack of sophistication about technology.


How much is Apple paying the Enquirer for this blanket coverage of the release of the iPhone? The sad part is that Steve Jobs probably isn't paying a dime for it. The Enquirer editors are just this stupid. They're drunk on the Apple Kool-aid, and they think that by doing this they're covering technology.

I mean, for God sake, the Enquirer is even blogging from the line of people waiting for the fucking phone. I pity the poor reporter who's forced to do this, and as a sign of how much time is being wasted on this, the metro editor herself, Julie Engebrecht, is posting the messages to the blog. Can you imagine how much real news out there isn't being covered because the Enquirer has tied up the time of at least two reporters and one of its top editors with the iPhone? This is pathetic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You get what you pay for

The opinions expressed on this blog are available for free, and so, they're worth nothing. Tom Callinan explained his grand strategy for rescuing the Enquirer's dead tree edition, and it's pretty much the same thing: Get readers to give you content for nothing. And that's what it's worth.

I find no use for the Enquirer's Get Local section, which is the result of Get Published. The section for Batavia has not a single user-submitted item, and has such can't miss news as "New breakfast items at Wendy's". The Hamilton section has this item submitted by "user" Sue Kiesewetter, wife of Enquirer TV writer John Kiesewetter and also a long-time stringer for the Enquirer. (Tag line for the item is this clumsy line: "Contributed By Sue Kiesewetter | Enquirer contributor".)

Does anyone else read or use Get Local? It doesn't even register on the web stats I've seen for the Enquirer, and the Enquirer just moved the editor responsible for starting Get Published, Ron Liebau, back to Metro, to supervise reporters again.

What's another name for stuff you give away for free that you get for free? I'd call it garbage. The article, describing Callinan's appearance at a panel discussion on the future of newspapers, says "Get Local" traffic actually fell in May to 157,619 page views, which is miniscule. The stuff that the Enquirer is getting for free is about library hours and church events. It is not real news or anything that looks like watchdog journalism. Gannettoids love to talk about crowdsourcing, but the Enquirer can't point to two or three projects it's done involving crowdsourcing. It's a novelty unless you're doing one of those every week.

Callinan said, "We realize we've got to change or die." The change he's calling for, however, is to make lots of money by getting people to read stuff the Enquirer gets for free. That's just not going to happen. The change I'd like to see is more news, better reporting. The Enquirer has cut its staff and is now producing less news. The Gannett dictum of doing more with less is not going to result in a product people will want to view 10 years from now, whether or not they're asked to pay for it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A change coming?

It appears that Enquirer publisher Margaret Buchanan has put her house up for sale, 8065 Brill Road in Indian Hill. She paid $1,255,000 for it in 2003, according to the Hamilton County Auditor web site. She is now asking $1,399,000.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Boring stories of glory days

In "Glory Days," Bruce Springsteen sings about old friends getting together to talk about old times, but while it starts out nostalgic, it turns into a rumination about lost opportunities:
Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

That's what I think about when I see the center of today's Enquirer front page devoted to the 2002 Roger Bacon High basketball team, which beat LeBron James five years ago in the state final. Another boring story of glory days. Is this the best the Enquirer can do on its front page? Put this story back in Sports where it belongs, and put some real news on the front page.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday's NFL Insider column

The Enquirer's NFL writer, Mark Curnutte, is an NFL insider. Says so right on his Sunday column, NFL Insider.

Apparently, all you need to do to be an "insider" is read the web sites of other newspapers, because that's all Curnutte is doing in putting the column together. Each item was reported somewhere else first. The Brady Quinn item was reported by Cleveland area media (the Plain Dealer and the Warren Tribune Chronicle) midweek. The item about the Pittsburgh Steelers' search for a new center was in Saturday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and has been reported before. The item on Samari Rolle of the Baltimore Ravens was reported by the Baltimore Sun on Friday. The item on Buffalo Bills' ticket sales was reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Thursday.

And the item on St. Louis Ram Marc Bulger? Curnutte writes:
Bulger, 30, said he tries "to stay out that stuff" when it comes to contract talks.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote on May 26:
Bulger, 30, said he tries "to stay out of that stuff" when it comes to contract talks.
Curnutte dropped the word "of" in the partial quote, but otherwise it's the same sentence.

At the end of the NFL Insider column, the Enquirer is thoughtful enough to put this tagline: "Written, in part, from notes provided by other NFL beat writers."

In part?
I would say that 100% is a big part, and not a single item is properly attributed to its original source. Writing "Rolle ... told reporters who cover the Ravens" is totally inadequate. There doesn't seem to be a shred of original reporting here, and it even appears Curnutte has engaged in a little cutting and pasting.

Every sports writer does this, re-reporting for readers in one city something previously reported in another. Attribution rules are always a little loose. But you should never pass off others' work as your own. Putting your picture on a column of old news and calling yourself an "insider" takes this to a very high level.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Real journalism alert

"The Tragedy of Trustin Blue" showed up on the Enquirer's web site this morning, a tale of how seven children died of abuse while their cases were being monitored by Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, written by Sharon Coolidge. This was not published in today's paper, and it seems too big for Saturday, so we might see it on Sunday.

This is a major effort for the Enquirer, with four stories, video and a library of documents linked to the case, and it smells like a mea culpa for the over-coverage of the death of Marcus Feisel. Trustin's death originally was a brief of on the front page of the Local section on January 24, 2006, followed by a longer story inside Local on February 2, 2006. Coolidge previously wrote about this case in a Sunday story on August 22, "Moms' choices put kids in peril," about four kids who died due to abuse by their mothers' boyfriends.

I give it a B. This is a very good review of documents. It names the names of police and social workers linked to this case. It reads clinically at times, though, and it fails to point to any big systematic problem at Jobs and Family Services. The department has too many cases and too few workers for a city with so many low-income single moms.

It's probably just my dirty mind at work, but a video for this story, where a child died after being horribly sexually abused, is on the same page as a link to "The making of 'Cornhole'." Somebody should fix that.