Sunday, April 20, 2008

Their hidden news judgment

I wasn't going to bother posting anything about today's installment of "Our Hidden Communities," until I saw the self-congratulatory rail across the bottom of pages E4 and E5 of the Forum section -- headshots and short biographies of the eight journalists who put the package together.

This is good journalism, but it's not great. The Enquirer's packaging would like you to think it's great. The influx of immigrants from Central and South America has going on for a long time, certainly more than a decade, but the Enquirer acts like it is only through their commitment of journalism that you, the reader, is learning about this. The story combines several themes that could be good stories on their own -- the impact of immigration on crime, or the impact of the raid on illegal workers at Koch Foods, the impact on schools, the immigration stances of local elected officials. For reasons barely evident to someone reading the story, the Enquirer combined these themes into one story, giving each of those themes short shrift. Once again, the Enquirer opts for the strategy that's a mile wide and an inch deep.

There's much about this presentation I don't understand. Why was the story limited to Butler County? Surely these effects are also being seen in Hamilton County and Boone County. Past Enquirer stories have mentioned extensions of Mexican organized crime. Why wasn't that covered in today's stories? I don't understand the online presentation. I can't find the printed version of the story online, only the Flash audio and video. I can't find the story connected from the Local page or the Forum page. If anyone finds it, please email me.

For all of 2007 I only found 11 stories in the Enquirer that dealt with the region's Hispanic population -- stories that didn't deal with specific crimes, food or festivals. It's less when you take out the two stories about the Butler County sheriff sending Mexico a bill for the cost of drug busts, and less still when you take out the stories about WLW's tasteless campaign.

Do those eight journalists deserve a medal for this? I'm sure the Enquirer meant well, but this is a token effort to cover all the ground it has neglected to cover in the past. A real newspaper would have someone covering Hispanic issues full time, not writing stories once in a while. The Enqurier needs to do much better, but they thought this was so good they had to publish the names, photos and biographies of the eight people who put this together. This shows you how low the bar is for "great" journalism at the Enquirer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are dead on. My husband picked up the paper and said "this is news?" The story itself even said it wasn't "news" when it noted that an Hispanic population had been established 30 years ago in Hamilton.

It was soft and lacked focus. It would have deserved the "prize entry" packaging if there had been more than the overview story. It looked like the rest of the "special section" was missing. But maybe the ratio of editors and graphic/presentation support to reporter, seven to one, speaks to that.

Mr. Horn is generally an excellent reporter but with more reporters on the team, it would have been a richer package and delved beyond the we've-already-heard-it language and job issues.

Speaking of soft, the Sunday Local News section has become a marshmallow.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well-put, Senor Newsache. If immigration (legal and illegal) were important - and it is - the Enquirer would be doing regular stories about it all the time, from all over the area, not just Butler County. And they'd hire at least one person (preferably several) who can speak fluent Spanish. They're gonna need them.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your points are spot on - nothing new, nor any depth.

Part Two did little more than show the Enquirer's desire to drive newspaper sales in Butler County, as well as in exposing its public relations bench strength.

10:20 AM  

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