Monday, June 23, 2008

The descent from news

In its heyday, the TV show Seinfeld devoted an arc to developing a show "about nothing." The Enquirer gives you a newspaper about nothing. It seems more and more of the stories in the Enquirer aren't news. Today's newspaper, for instance, gives you a story about rising food prices and its effect on horses. Compare that to the Columbus Dispatch, which on Sunday gave us a story about rising food prices and its effect on food banks -- in other words, food for people.

I am slack-jawed browsing the Enquirer's new terrible web site, looking for news. Graeter's gets new packaging; on the web site, the story is a cheap excuse to run a photo of three little girls licking ice cream cones. A story about a local company trying to stop domain name theft makes it to the front page.

I have been seeing non-news stories in the paper day after day. This is a newspaper that is short on staff, short on time and other resources, and sadly short on common sense. Gannett's revenue is shrinking, and though daily circulation at the Enquirer is up slightly since the Post shut down, Sunday circulation is down 10,000 from a year earlier. The dire state of the newsroom means no one should spend five minutes working on a story about Graeter's new packaging. The Enquirer editors seem unable to prioritize stories, and work on news that matters and report it in depth. Newspapers are faced with the choice between what they can do with limited resources, and what they should do. The Enquirer makes the wrong choice day after day, and it's costing them.

I defy any Enquirer editor to explain their news philosophy. I would reprint it here, without comment. I don't believe it exists.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no news philosophy. There is, rather, a warm-and-fuzzy philosophy. Kind of like the recent self-esteem movement.

Both attempt to make us feel good.
Both leave us with a deep and abiding hunger for something, anything, of substance.

The new TV weathermen are not that anymore--they are the protectors of our safety, protectors of our lives.

So too, the newspapers no longer define themselves as bringing us the information of the day. They rather function as an agent to make our lives better, to make life more fun.


4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new websites is awful. I can't believe they did to the whole online edition what they did to the blogs. It is so illegible, and about as user friendly as LexisNexis.
Why can't the headlines reflect what's in the articles? I know in the print edition, it's hard for copy editors to get it right each time in the same provided. Online, there's no excuse. A little summary of the article should appear just below the headlines. The worst example I've seen of this was an article that was about "downtown." I clicked on it, and it turned out to be about downtown Lebanon. Lebanon! Life is too short for that kind of crap, I hate having my time wasted.
--Nasty, Brutish & Short

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cincinnati Expirer's new web site is a disaster. It attempts to cover a multitude of reader interests, while avoiding any semblance of current news which might be valuable to the community. Who needs the latest headlines from police reports? The good old Post was a refreshing contrast, for a while. Goodbye to journalism in our town.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a relief to leave the Web site today. Just too slow and difficult to use.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Government agencies -- particularly those in Northern Kentucky -- are beginning to realize that no one is watching them. The Enqy seems to think that the real news is the silly deer hunting in Fort Thomas and wineries in Campbell County, but it chooses to ignore government policy, police issues and major court cases. (Not that it would make much of difference if it did cover such issues, because it historically has done so quite poorly.)

And we know TV news has never been much of a watchdog.

It's beginning to get wide open for those with less than the public interest in mind. They must be glad to see The Post gone.

Former Postie

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonight was the first opportunity I've had to sit down and check out the Enquirer's new website.

My take: It is a disaster. Much, much too difficult to find what you're looking for. The way they've got the articles organized is unfathomably stupid (especially the letters to the editor section).

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The way they've got the articles organized is unfathomably stupid (especially the letters to the editor section)."

I'm not crazy about the look of it either, but I don't see what's so stupid about the organization. From anywhere on the site you just go to the Opinion menu and click "Letters." What could be simpler than that?

I think all these complaints about how the new site isn't "user-friendly" are hogwash. The new site is simply chock full of new tools to enhance the user experience. Take a few minutes and learn how to use some of them. It's OK, it's not 1998 anymore, you can come out now! Geesh!

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon 11:22, Enky Editor!

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 11:22, I've not run into a SINGLE person, not one, who thinks the new Enquirer site is anything but difficult and confusing. So please, don't insult us with your sarcasm...

Most that I know are simply avoiding it.

We're not antiquarians, we just don't want to work that hard on the net.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Disaster is putting it mildly. Wonder what the hit was on viewership. It is confusing, pandering and was put together with little or no input from the newsroom. The reception was so bad they began redesigning it less than 24 hours after its launch.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All those new "tools" simply slow the site down. It now rivals ESPN, with all its bells and whistles, in slowness, ensuring people are turning away.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it's Gannett's push, but giving the same look and feel to sites that were at least somewhat a little more different before is, well, showing that there's really only one news voice in Cincinnati - Gannett's. And, that's not good.

At least Firefox continues to blow the ads off the page like before.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Enquirer's news philosophy? Well, gee, it's pretty obvious to anyone taking just a casual glance at their pages. They publish what's popular, or what they guess might be popular. They go for lots of hits on their website, which means lots of pictures of cute pets and kids, and lots of Marcus Fiesel-type stories that will draw a gazillion comments. They avoid stressing too much negative, because their surveys constantly tell them their readers hate that.

It's widely known that their target audiences are basically the burbs, where the money is. (Big surprise there, huh?) And much as we'd all like them to, they're just not gonna do really hard-hitting stuff very often, because they lack both the horses and the cajones. Also, investigative stuff pisses off most readers, who prefer feel-good stories of all kinds, and awww-ing at photos of puppies and kitties and kids at lemonade stands, and talking on CincyMoms about what's on sale at Kohl's. That's just Cincinnati for ya, and the Enquirer knows its market ... or at least thinks it does.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to switch my home page from Enquirer news to something that loads faster (like Google). It's getting annoying to have to wait, and that makes me want to skip Enquirer content. But I do like the features that let you pick what news sections you want to see up top....

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, there are all kinds of ways you can customize the site to your tastes. I find that the site loads pretty quickly for me both at home and at the office, although I have seen a number of complaints on that end as well, so maybe the Enquirer is on a bad path for them.

A little perspective is needed by some people on the issue of ads, etc. "Ooh, I don't like how it gets in my way, clutters up the page!"

Watched any television lately? Read a print newspaper? Listened to the Reds game on the radio?

I don't like how the ads in those media get in my way either. But I've learned to live with it (or get TiVo, heh).

No, the Enquirer site isn't a pristine, ad-free experience, and it's never going to be. "But they're in my way!" Yes, I suppose they could put all the ads on one page and call it the Ad Page, but nobody would ever look at it, which kinda reduces the effectiveness of the ads doesn't it. Might be a tough sell, that.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Page views are down 25% since the launch of the new site.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Page views dropped at every Gannett paper that went to this design, though I heard most of them bounced back once people got used to it. Who knows if it will happen here? What's the alternative?

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but why would you read Enquirer, anyway?

It's mostly old news, by internet standards. I get the best up-to-date news at Yahoo! News.

And while it doesn't write it own stories, I always go to CincyNation were there's always something interesting.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Places like Yahoo news, I assume, don't get much usage from the locals, because they like to keep it local.
But I find it very useful and check it a couple times a day. While Cincynation has its issues, I get more info from that site than I ever could from The Enquirer.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ 3:16 and 3:27 --

The Enq site is indeed a headache to watch and a disaster to navigate, but at least they still have some reporters gathering some news. Where do you think Cincynation gets that "interesting" material? It's just links to the Enq and local TV -- places where stories are reported and written.

Same way with Yahoo. They don't report anything, they just pick up links to stories produced by paid reporters are working news outlets.

Once those outlets go away (and that day will come, because nobody wants to pay for what they do), what will Yahoo and Cincynation have to give away for free? Press releases. Government propaganda. Blogging of unknown provenance. And pictures of puppies and kittens. Get used to it.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cincinnatians have got to stop being loyal to local products, simply because they're local.

You don't have to read the Enquirer. There's plenty of news online, as noted.

I marvel how residents devotely go to Kroger despite data showing Kroger in Cincinnati is 20% more expensive than its stores in other cities. Kroger's reward for loyalty: Higher prices.

I marvel how people use sort-of local Delta despite its high prices while they routinely rebuff cheaper airlines. Delta's reward for loyalty: Higher prices.

I marvel how people use Cincinnati Bell, despite better telecoms out there.

I marvel how people claim that they love Skyline, even though taste tests show they really like Gold Star better.

I marvel how they love the Bengals and Reds, when there are much better teams out there.

Just because it's local doesn't mean we have to support it, or use it.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous mr. whig said...

^^^^ ha ha buddy, you clearly don't know much about Cincinnatians. It takes three Cincinnatians to change a light bulb: one to change it and two to talk about how great the old one was.

Hell, I'll bet there are some Enquirer readers who are still hoping the Times-Star makes a comeback.

(and, oh, yeah, news has definitely taken a back to seat to fucking whatever on the Enquirer's website)

1:17 PM  
Blogger Kevin LeMaster said...

Anon 8:26 sound like Rick Hines. In fact, I recall seeing almost the exact same post on the LOL Blog not too long ago.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're thinking provisional, Lemaster. Like Rick Hines has the time to play on blogs in Cincinnati.

Mr. Hines owns USNationNet, a national company with websites for cities all around the country.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

provisional = provincial

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 7:11 AM – Your comments about Hines and the pedestal that you’d like to place him on are too funny. He has played on local blogs (including trying to bring one to print) and I’ll bet he still does, including on this one.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psst...what's wrong with it all isn't that news can't connect in some way. It's that advertising can't sell in the mass needed to make the web profitable and keep the paper printing. If there is a lost horizon, it's in the ad department and news should be really pissed at that because they are paying the price.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it really true three columnists are gone at the end of the year?

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There won't be any columnists "gone" per se. But, look for the softer beats to get reassigned. Hint - it's not a good time to be in the arts/entertainment area.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As of today, July 2nd, their site still blows to such an extent that a place I used to visit twice a day is now visited once a week just to see if it has gotten better.
Considering their dwindling paper sales and their continued disinterest in a well run website, is a lay-off announcement going to be unexpected?

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we all at least agree that the new site does provide one good service: the ability to comment on Bronson's hate-filled bigotry.

I cannot understand why this guy still has a job.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the problem lies, not with the slowness of the pages on the site loading, but with the lack of patience people possess. And if the new site really bothers people that much, the answer is quite simple....don't look at it!

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 1:10 PM - It's that take what we have or don't use it attitude that's driven the company's share price below $20 per share.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:30 p.m.: I am curious about why you consider arts/entertainment to be "soft" beats. They are not. The reporters on them consistently cover hard news about attendance, money, expansions, etc.

The "soft" beats are family, fitness, pop culture and g.a. lifestyle. Those Life section reporters are far less productive than the arts/entertainment staff - of which there are only four left to begin with.

You could argue that the theater reporter should cover all performing arts (stand-up comedy, dance, etc.) and not just theater, especially since she often covers marginal theater to the detriment of other things.

You could also argue that the classical music reporter's coverage also should be broadened to all music, after all, who has a PhD in musicology. Why limit her to one elite form?

You could also argue that the paper is shooting itself in the foot by covering its competition via its TV/radio reporter. But again, why not broaden that beat to include all forms of media, with more focus on local web sites, web casting, etc. - maybe even film, since it is media?

I am not sure that you could argue that the visual arts reporter's beat could be expanded since it already has books and architecture tacked onto it and includes a fair amount of historical stuff.

Whatever you argue, though, these are not "soft" beats.

And they have been modified over the years into purely local/regional beats - not the national arts/entertainment beats that have been realigned at other newspapers throughout the country. If these reporters don't cover this news, there is no "wire service" to get it from. It is the essence of local-local news in a city with a rich arts & cultural history - and at a company that claims it is all about local-local news.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 10:55,

I respect your response. It is well-crafted and makes several reasonable arguments.

My post is simply based upon the rumored research.

Anything other than neighborhoodcentric is not worth pursuing. And, crime and hard news top the lists.

I linger for the days when the paper seemingly covered every aspect of our lives.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Cin Weekly done?

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's left there, anyway?

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty quiet on this blog recently. Interesting to note that under the "100 African-Americans of influence in our area" in the forum section Sunday, July 13, the Enquirer named Sharon Zealey under the legal profession. Didn't she leave for Atlanta a few years ago? Is there a Tammy Barnett in Federated Department Stores' legal department (in fact, is there a Federated Department Stores anymore)?

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty quiet on this blog recently. Interesting to note that under the "100 African-Americans of influence in our area" in the forum section Sunday, July 13, the Enquirer named Sharon Zealey under the legal profession. Didn't she leave for Atlanta a few years ago? Is there a Tammy Barnett in Federated Department Stores' legal department (in fact, is there a Federated Department Stores anymore)?

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Anon 4:21 got this string rolling on a positive note!

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surprised Newsache let Krista Ramsey’s latest editorial question go without comment as it has me ROFL….”Are boss-bullies tolerated at your workplace?”

Please, is she really that unaware of what’s gone on in her workplace or just unwilling to risk her own professional development by outing the acts of someone just a few floors away? Though, if she did, she could easily prove her points about bullies.

So, since Ramsey asked others to share, it seems only fair that she go first.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krista is all too aware of the bully boss 50 feet from her desk. His fallback management style is to upbraid those under him, both in meetings and by email. There's a bipolarity at work too, because he can turn on the charm when he wants to. It must depend on how his last job interview went. Callinan will never leave. He has no future anywhere else. That frustrates the bully even more because he wrested the executive editor title from Callinan but still reports to him. The bully desperately wants out of Cincinnati, but it's hard to find a better job when his paper's biggest achievement is CincyMoms and he had nothing to do with it.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an excellent article from The Nation about the future of the newspaper industry.

I think it contains some valuable truths.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rep. presidential candidate John McCain was in town Wednesday to speak at the NAACP national convention. He made a platform statement about education reform. I dunno, this is probably a big story.

Thursday morning, the three top stories on the Enquirer site were baseball, Batmobiles and boner pills.


10:44 PM  
Blogger saran laihas said...

I just can't wait until Groeschen's fascinating, newsworthy report on gas prices and prep sports! This is the kind of mess that pops up on my Enquirer RSS feed all day long. It's as embarrassing as the front page.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saran: I'm with you. Today's top of front page story: gas prices vary within a brand? Duh. Heard them talking about the series on WVXU and Korte saying that they were "bowled over" by this discovery. Where have these guys been buying gas, another planet? Prices have always varied within a brand from station to station. Maybe they don't drive?

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! This just in from highly-paid, crack investigative Enquirer team: gas costs more at stations near Interstates. Who knew?!

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hollis Towns strike again.

Journalism at the Enquirer reaches a new low in its blatant insult to the reasoning ability of a not poorly educated metro area.

At this point there is no doubt in my mind that the Enquirer braintrust thinks its readers are morons who have to be told the sun is shining. Moreover, it believes it is doing a public service in the process.

What's next? No more trading stamps at gas stations? Oops. Those went out 30 years ago, but who knew?

Disappointing, discouraging and surprising considering there is talent on the Enquirer staff.

Then again, they are only doing what the organ grinder tells them to do.

Sad, sad, sad.

9:40 AM  

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