Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More awards the Enquirer didn't ... Jesus Christ, who gives a rat's ass?

I haven't been blogging much lately, and there are several reasons for this. First, my rich and fulfilling private life leaves me little time anymore for this blog. Isn't the new season of American Idol the best ever?

Second, the Enquirer has become very, very dull. The staff cuts and the budget cuts have taken their toll. It's not just that there aren't enough people and resources to do good journalism. There just isn't any spirit in the Enquirer anymore.

There are only two writers I consider must-reads. One is John Fay, who does a great job covering the Reds. The other is Greg Korte, the only staff member at the Enquirer who resembles a full-time investigative reporter. The work of Dan Horn, Howard Wilkinson and John Erardi still catches my eye, and I still look for Janelle Gelfand and Polly Campbell in Life.

The front page is at be workmanlike, but what do they have to work with? The best local stories most days don't deserve front-page play, but are put there because there's nothing better. The Enquirer does almost no enterprise, aside from Korte's work. The "Hidden Communities" article? Oh, please. I'll give the Enquirer kudos for sending a reporter to Mexico. But the only people local Mexicans are "hidden" from are the Enquirer editors, who need to leave the newsroom more often. Are they seriously trying to tell us that nobody knew there were Mexicans in Cincinnati until four were found murdered in a hotel room? The resulting story was leaden with cliches (the headline: "They came in search of a better life") and edited to death. But my big pet peave is that you could read the Enquirer front page for a month and not know this country is at war. Iraq has been on the front page just once since January 1.

The Business section these days seems to be all about which restaurants are opening and closing. This is a section that has suffered the most from the cuts. It's lost staff and space and its position in the newspaper. There's not as much business news on the front page as there used to be.

The Life section is just eye candy, little pictures and graphics and one-paragraph items that add up to nothing. The features section is a destination section for any good newspaper, something every reader must look at for things that are quirky and fun and entertaining and enlightening. This section in the Enquirer doesn't seem to have a clear purpose.

And the Editorial page? It is truly awful and embarrassing and they should just shut it down. I can't think of the last time an Enquirer editorial made a difference. I've noticed how the Enquirer won't editorialize on an issue until it's settled -- the economic stimulus package, for instance. The Editorial page seems to exist for one purpose: to drive readers to the web site, to have a "community conversation" that never reaches any conclusions. When the Editorial page is so terrible, why would you think the web site would be worth visiting? This is an abomination.

My third reason for blogging so little is that I hardly care anymore. The turning point for me was the Slaby coverage, when it became clear the Enquirer was on a campaign to milk the deaths of children for web traffic. When I wrote about that, I wondered whether I should cancel my subscription. I didn't, but I might as well have. I realized only recently how dramatically that coverage soured me on the Enquirer. I read the Enquirer maybe three times a week now. I look at it on the web occasionally, but I'm not reading it often enough anymore to have an opinion.

I started this blog because I was angry -- angry that a big city newspaper could be so terrible and apparently not care. 2007 was a historic year for newspapers, a year when a number of trends -- all of them bad -- converged, and the people running newspapers had important decisions to make. Gannett and the Enquirer have made a lot of bad decisions. The result is a newspaper as bland and flavorless as the paper it's printed on. The Enquirer is almost totally reactive today. A church burns, a soccer mom is run over by her car, and it becomes the lead story. There's very little digging, very little that we don't see on Channel 9 the night before. Why bother?

It used to be that the Enquirer was reliably the voice of the city's establishment. That wasn't good, but you knew what it was, and it gave you something to argue about. Today, I can't believe the city establishment wants anything to do with the Enquirer. The Enquirer isn't pro-business, pro-Republican, pro-anything. It's a nonentity. When was the last time you read something in the Enquirer that was impactful, that made a difference, that people talked about the next day and that didn't read like a nomination for a Darwin Award? I read it now and then to keep tabs on the people I know who work there, not to get the pulse of the city. Whatever feelings I had for the Enqurier, good or bad, are almost totally gone.

So I'll blog when I have something to say. Some input would help. Some of the discussions here have been very good, better than what I have to say, and that's what made this blog rewarding to me. If you have something, email it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. My sentiments exactly. I ache -- oops, no infringement intended -- for stories that tell how things click, how deals are cut in backrooms, who's on the take and who's sleeping with whom, in Cincinnati, not Hollywood. Why else do newspapers exist?

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you haven't already, you should tune in this season of The Wire on HBO. One of its plots is how corporate-owned newspapers basically don't have a chance with all the cutbacks. Made me think of you.

1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cutbacks are sweeping the media nation. Newspaper, radio, television. How many reporters and photographers has the paper lost?

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buchanan’s cut so many positions in the last year that it would make front page news - if it wasn't Gannett. Then again, she did it in "a thousand cuts" so few would know the totality of it all. More will go as Gannett “aligns its expenses with its revenue.”

This blog at least brings sanity to those who know that the Enquirer is on a fast, slippery slope to being truly insignificant. And, now that Gannett basically dominates the print market, they can get away with it. Cincinnati deserves better.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are the cuts occuring?

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Enquirer wants to find illegals, all they need to do is find a Spanish speaker to communicate with the Guatemalans that clean the building every night.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Kevin LeMaster said...

Newsache...have you considered adding guest bloggers or contributors?

I fear that if you only post very sporadically that you'll lose your readership and become irrelevant.

This City needs a media watchdog!

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fay? really?

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget about John Fay. John Daker is actually the best thing that ever happened to the media.

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NEW YORK The New York Times announced Thursday that it would cut 100 newsroom jobs this year, according to a story on the paper's Web site, which cited a need to "bow to growing financial strain."

"The cuts will be achieved primarily through attrition and buyouts, but layoffs are a real possibility," the paper quoted Executive Editor Bill Keller as explaining. It also said the paper currently has 1,332 newsroom staffers, adding that is "the largest number in its history; no other American newspaper has more than about 900."

"There have been scattered buyouts and job eliminations in The Times’ newsroom in recent years, but the overall number continued to rise, largely due to the growth of its Internet operations," the story added. "The New York Times Company has made significant cuts in the newsrooms of some of its other properties, including The Boston Globe, as well as in non-news operations. Company executives say the overall headcount is 3.8 percent lower than it was a year ago."

The announcement comes a day after Tribune Company announced plans to cut up to 500 jobs companywide, including as many as 100 at the Los Angeles Times.

The New York Observer, at, reports the following: "Keller said he didn't imagine any sections (like Travel or Escapes or City) getting eliminated, and that the newsroom cuts would therefore come on a person-by-person basis. According to our sources, Keller also left the open the possibility of saving some jobs. He said that 'The leadership of the newsroom will share in the sacrifice.'

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. Enquirer is "bland and flavorless". Exactly!!!

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I typically don't respond to your comments/suggestions. However, your comments reading "Our Hidden Communities" are off the mark. Yes, the title is too Gannettoidish. However, the assignment developed from a comment made by residents of the apartment complex in Sharonville. "They were known as The Mexicans."
OK. Who were these dead men? Put a face on them.
That's what the reporter did and she did it with skill and grace. Did you read the piece? It wasn't cliched and it wasn't over-edited. Ask the reporter.
Immigration is nothing new to the Enquirer and most editors don't view it as something that the Enquirer just discovered. Don't paint all Enquirer jouralists with the same brush.

10:52 AM  
Blogger LargeYam said...

re: anon 1:05's post about The Wire, be sure to check out series' creator and ex-Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon's fantastic Esquire essay about the changing newsroom culture:

Newsache--sorry to hear that you've lost your sense of mission. Kind of ironic that the Enquire's increasing suck is inversely proportional to your give-a-shit-itude.

12:46 PM  
Blogger LargeYam said...

the url to Simon's essay ends with

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't stop blogging. Yes, Gannett sucks badly and is not going away anytime soon. Or maybe it will -- Gannett has been known to sell "properties" when they stop favoring their bottom line and future vision, so maybe some day the sun will shine on the Cincy Inquirer and Gannett will sell it to a good company. Hang in there. Keep calling that effing company on its shit coverage. You speak for frustrated readers (and Gannett staff) in all the Gannett markets.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heres the current front page
"Babyface is back"

Fricking disgrace. And as far as the Mexicans, was the crime ever solved? How about investigating that Einstein, instead of vacationing in Mexico.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with your reporters worth reading. Another is Janice Morse, best cops reporter around. Not page 1 stuff but still a reason newspapers exist. But her best work comes when she's allowed to get out of the office and dig beyond the police report. That seems to happen less and less. And separately, Tim Bonfield was wonderful on the health care beat, but sadly moved into an editor job.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Editor said...

Please don't stop blogging. I read your blog regularly; I'm sorry I haven't written more comments, expressing my appreciation.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon@6:58 pm obviously knows nothing about journalism. The Mexico story did what newspapers are supposed to do: It told a story. It isn't a newspaper's job to solve crimes, that's the job of police. Maybe you should be complaining to them instead of tearing down an actually pretty good story.

11:23 AM  

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