Thursday, May 29, 2008

News-Press--Where Contract Is All Verb, Never a Noun

Craig Smith performed such a good take-down of Travis Armstrong's latest ridiculous anti-union screed that I was going to ignore it, but the other day I saw on my counter that someone from the esteemed law firm Cappello & Noel had been visiting INOTBB, and I felt bad there hadn't been any recent items about the News-Press for them to look at. So this is for you, whoever you are. It's good to know someone can bill $600 an hour and read my blog.

The tricky part is to know where to begin, as the editorial is the usual Travis mishmash of half-referenced claims--"the Internet contains sites...," well, it contains sites saying pretty much everything, that doesn't make them true--and unsubtle innuendo--"opinions reporters snuck into their stories," [emphasis mine] since, of course, the News-Press editors were all looking the other way, probably down the hall to see if the Angel of Death Yolanda Apodaca was coming to fire them.

There's also his love of the one-sentence paragraph, sort of the writing equivalent of saying something quick and staring at the person incredulously as if to say, "c'mon you have to get this." For Armstrong acts shocked that in negotiations: "The union last week refused to include the offense of writing biased stories as a cause for disciplinary action." Anyone knowing the News-Press saga and not named Travis, Wendy, or Nipper can't be surprised that the union would think this way. For here's how such disciplinary action would work if contractually permitted:
Steepleton: This story is biased. That goes in your file as a black mark.
Writer: Who says it's biased?
Steepleton: I do.
Writer: But how do you define bias?
Steepleton: Bias is what I say it is.
Of course a good editor would work with a writer to deal with bias--a good newsroom is a place of collaboration where a good editor can help a story get better by suggesting other sources, other ways to phrase something, other ways of seeing a topic. But the News-Press barely has editors anymore, let alone good ones.

Which gets me to another issue about editing--is there anything more tedious than Dale Ernest seems like a nice guy, so I hate to slag his work, but the live feeds on this site take internet video back about 40 years (yes, to a time before the web). Probably the worst offenders are the Table Talk segments featuring Arthur Von (of Physiology) Wiesenberger--there's a reason radio doesn't have pictures. The real problem is these live-streams almost don't have sound, for the mics in the shots are for 1290AM broadcast and not to pick up what guests are saying for the video feed. And while sometimes the guests are in studio, sometimes they're on the phone. That makes for even more compelling "tv."

Alas Armstrong himself writes, "Daily newspapers across the country are paring back as they try to adapt to the era of electronic news and advertising." Hiding all your local stories behind the pay wall doesn't seem the way to go--if it doesn't work for big papers like the New York Times, how could it work at the much smaller News-Press? Then again the N-P website is about as ugly and unfocused as a news site can be. Of course it's possible with all the recent firings, on top of previous firings and resignations, that no one is really putting the website together. That would be a brilliant adaptation that Wendy would surely love: journalism without journalists.



Blogger Dick said...

I think you've captured the situation very nicely.

Our community is missing the benefit of shared experience -- which could exist IF the NP were to publish local news and IF people subscribed to it. Since neither of these seem to happen, it looks as if NP will continue to lose circulation.

3:39 PM  
Blogger George said...

Sometimes they are watching--who came through at 3:09 pm this Monday but someone from Cappello Noel, via Craig Smith's link today.

You'd think they had something better to do.

3:41 PM  

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