Posts Tagged ‘newspaper’
21 Feb

NENPA: My #realtalk presentation to newsroom leaders

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I was invited to speak at the New England Newspaper Publishers Association in Boston to talk about industry challenges, pulling no punches. “We would be quite interested in your views on what most newspapers appear to be doing right or wrong, and the best path forward,” the invitation said.

I had been invited to speak at a different newspaper publishers association in the past.

It didn’t work out. (I got uninvited when I told them my topic.)

But NENPA was committed and even wrote a piece on what I was going to say in my talk.

This talk, for me, was years in the making… one that I imagined giving when I was in the newsroom and one I wanted to give if I have a newsroom leader asking for advice.

Here, for those interested, is my talk*:
[ Hour and 15 minutes ]

Direct link:

* Sadly, the projector changed the color of the slides… it’s not perfect, but it’s the content that matters, right? Right??

For those not interested in watching the entire video, here’s an animated GIF of the nutgraph from my talk:


17 Aug

My response to The Hartford Courant’s “Spanish-language strategy” with Google Translate

Como una cortesía para The Courant, por demostrando ignorancia y falta de respeto a su propia comunidad, déjeme decir: lo cagaron.

If you were to translate this using Google Translate, guess what… it would be wrong. Anyone who is bilingual wouldn’t be surprised. But they would be surprised in hearing that a news organization would solely depend on using this primitive service as their “Spanish-language strategy.”

Sadly, this isn’t a joke: Hartford Courant’s Spanish site is Google Translate by Poynter

But, instead of just being disgusted or insulted by The Courant’s “strategy,” let me offer some tips for an actual strategy:

1. Hire a diverse staff, and in this case, a Spanish speaker. Listen to them. Anyone in their right mind would have told you this was a bad idea.

2. I know resources are tight, as an affordable alternative to hiring more staff, partner up with the local Spanish-language news organizations. Believe me, they are there. And they’d love to help you inform the community. (Hey Courant, have to tried working with Connecticut’s Latino News Source:

3. No Spanish-language news organization in your town? Look again. Think radio, newsletters or neighboring towns. Any of these will be better than an automated site.

4. Still confused? Reach out to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to find local members in your area, including Spanish-language news organizations.

5. But, let’s say there are no Spanish-language news outlets. Partner up with the largest, Spanish-language local business. They know their community and are fully aware of the information network that is functioning now.

Lastly, apologize to the fastest growing demographic in your community for treating them with such little respect. It’s not a smart business move to belittle them, especially if you want to tap into their growing influence.

I preach experimentation, risk taking and embracing failure. You experimented and took a risk… and you failed. Oh, did you fail.

Learn from your big mistake and start genuinely engaging with your own diverse community.

Do you have any tips for The Courant or any other news organization trying to serve its Latino community? Please share them in the comments.


Oh, and if you are wondering, here’s how I’d translate my statement:

As a courtesy to The Courant, for displaying its ignorance and lack of respect to its own community, let me say: you fucked up.

05 Mar

Los Angeles Times: One edition, lots of great photojournalism (and stories)

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NOTE: Republished on Online Journalism Review:

Los Angeles Times' frontpage 3-5-11My wife and I recently decided to subscribe to the newspaper again. We’re ‘weekender’ subscribers to the Los Angeles Times. Like most papers, the size is a fraction of what it use to be, but the content is as diverse as the city it covers.

I, like most modern news consumers, have not had much time to actually sit down with the paper product, even through we only get it Thursday through Sunday.

But today, over the breakfast table, we get our fingers dirty with ink print (which I love) and dug in.

I could not ignore the great, diverse photos that filled the paper – the majority of the great shots from staff. So much so, I had to write this post.

In this one, random edition [Saturday, March 5, 2011], I found great photos throughout the sections of the paper. Check them out below… all of them, but one are available online.

Back in Libya after decades in exile, a dissident takes on Kadafi

Since his return in late December, a longtime opposition group leader has become more vocal in his denunciation of Moammar Kadafi. But some experts say such groups have been gone too long to be of much help to the rebels in the streets.

Back in Libya after decades in exile, a dissident takes on Kadafi

Anwar Magariaf fought from abroad against Moammar Kadafi's rule for more than 30 years. (Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)

[NOTE: Looks like the photo was removed from the site.]

Founder of Crescendo charter schools fired

John Allen is accused of promoting cheating on standardized tests; L.A. Unified closed all six schools in the group.

Just after the charter group’s governing board decided unanimously to fire him as executive director, John Allen, founder of Crescendo schools, leans against a wall. Shortly thereafter, he left the meeting. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)

Just after the charter group’s governing board decided unanimously to fire him as executive director, John Allen, founder of Crescendo schools, leans against a wall. Shortly thereafter, he left the meeting. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / March 4, 2011)

As L.A. tourism rebounds, tour buses bring noise and gridlock

Residents of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills complain that an increase in tour buses — crowded with photo-snapping visitors — is clogging narrow residential streets.

Reflected in a bus mirror, visitors Sharon Butchart of Uxbridge, Canada, left, and Miriam Leiser of Ramsey, N.J., use headphones to listen to their tour guide. (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles Times / February 23, 2011)

Reflected in a bus mirror, visitors Sharon Butchart of Uxbridge, Canada, left, and Miriam Leiser of Ramsey, N.J., use headphones to listen to their tour guide. (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles Times / February 23, 2011)

Aaron Liberman hopes to lead Valley Torah to a first for Jewish schools

Aaron Liberman and his brother Nathaniel earn kudos for their work ethic as Valley Torah prepares for 6AA Southern Section basketball championship game against Bishop Diego on Saturday.

Brothers Aaron and Nathaniel Liberman after a recent Valley Torah practice in Burbank. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2011)

Brothers Aaron and Nathaniel Liberman after a recent Valley Torah practice in Burbank. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2011)

Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Don Bartletti

Only part of portrait photo, taken by Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times, of ornithologist Peter Harrison is seen in the archive and sadly not available online version: Scientists announce discovery of new species of seabird, the first in 89 years

To be fair, there were some great stories too, especially the ones paired with the photos. From the latest on Libya to California having the highest gas prices in the country to LAPD’s dilemma with Charlie Sheen, a good mix of stories that caught my (limited) attention. My favorite, though, was this piece my wife spotted inside business: Spiders in Mazda cars still a mystery (print headline)

I have to say, this experience reminds me of an incredibly powerful piece by Robert Niles in OJR a few months back: Letting go of the rope: Why I’m no longer a newspaper subscriber.

In it he used the strong imagery of letting go of the rope while someone, who asked for help but failed to do anything to improve their situation, was still holding on. The person on the rope was the newspaper/news industry.

Personally, I think Niles forgot something.

Yes, the news industry needs to do more to get itself out of the situation. But, the only person he saw on the rope, in my opinion, was the leadership.

What I think Niles missed are the hundreds of people trapped under that leadership … the ones that are passionate and believe in the value of their craft… the ones that — even after layoffs, furloughs and bad pay – come to work every day, working long hours to tell the stories of the community in text, photos, videos or whatever form the best they can.

Journalists that are as frustrated as Niles, but are trapped under that leadership. Journalists that choose not to let go of the rope. Journalists that are trying to do what they can with what they have … in most cases, “more with less.”

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of crap too (Check out There is a long way to go to make this better. I’m also as frustrated as Niles is with the leadership.

But I can’t lump the great, good or even mediocre work journalists do across the country every day and night with the bad leadership and poor business decisions that have undercut them and our industry.

I’m just a weekender, and for this one edition, I’m glad we re-subscribed.

16 Mar

For many, Clay Shirky’s doomsday scenario is already here

NOTE: This piece is also running on OJR: The Online Journalism Review: “For many, the local newspaper isn’t dying – it’s already dead

The dooms day scenario has been on everyone’s mind, including some at SXSWi, since the revenue/circulation has dropped through the floor and the brilliant mind of Clay Shirky articulated “thinking the unthinkable.”

The scenario, in short, is what will happen to a city when the last major newspaper dies?

Who covers our city? Who becomes our watchdog? What happens to our community? Who tells our story?

I would propose that this scenario, in many aspects, has already happened.

NOTE: I’m not saying this to offend or be rude or for shock value or to make anyone feel guilty… I just felt that someone should state what seems obvious.

Okay, here goes: If you are white, and probably a male, you may not have noticed that we’ve been living in this doomsday scenario for years, if not decades.

For African Americans, Native Americans, Asian, Latino… or gays… or under 25… or female… they know that their communities have been, and continue to be, routinely left out of their newspaper. They typically make the news for holidays, crime or food.

For many of them, newspapers aren’t dying… they’re already dead.

At SXSWi, attendees of the Online News of Tomorrow session couldn’t help but notice that all the panelists were white males.

Look, here’s the reality. If your news gathering staff does not reflect the diversity of your community, then you made it nearly impossible for them to accurately cover that community. That’s the thinking behind NAHJ’s Parity Project.

Let me give you an example:

I worked at a small newspaper in a agricultural town that was predominately Mexican. I believe something like 80 percent. The staff was 95 percent white at the time… they knew the diversity of their community and did everything in their power to try to report/reflect it in their pages… this included hiring translators.

When I joined the staff for the summer, my “ability” to speak Spanish easily open doors that they often could not. And, to be less than modest, I think my stories beat the snot out of the competition by the simple fact I could relate to the community and do better reporting.

So, if the community doesn’t routinely see itself in the paper, why would they bother to read it, let alone buy it? For that community, again, newspapers aren’t dying… they’re already dead.

Think about this:

Let’s say the great Seattle paper and my former home, The Seattle Times, decides to reach out to the large Latino community. Many people know that diversity is highly valued at The Times.

Let’s say that for one day, to reach out to the Latino community, The Times publishes an all Spanish-language edition. Hell, let’s say five days.

In addition to pissing off its readers and getting a ton of canceled subscriptions, the experiment would be a total failure. Why? The Latino community would never know The Times was publishing in Spanish. The community already knows they haven’t been in the paper’s pages before the five days, and probably won’t be there after the five days.

To the Latino community, the largest city paper isn’t dying… it’s already dead to them.

So what does that mean? What has happened in this scary scenario?

The last time I visited a local taqueria in Seattle, I found about four Spanish-language newspapers chock full of ads. That’s not including the one mailed to me in a plastic sleeve.

The community didn’t wait for the newspaper to tell their stories or cover their struggles, they did it themselves. Throw in the Web, and you’ll see more coverage pop up.

Think about this:

The industry recently applauded Mission Loc@l, the hyper-local project by UC Berkeley, the Ford Foundation and other donors. In their mission statement they say they “believes that by covering a neighborhood fairly and thoroughly, we can build community and a sustainable model for quality journalism.”

Without a doubt, this is a innovative project and certainly worth supporting. But before we praise them for swooping in and covering this “ignored” community, let’s put it in some context.

For some 40 years, the Latino community in the Mission District has had its stories told, not by the San Francisco Chronicle, but by El Tecolote. The ethnic paper was there before the gentrification of the Mission and hopefully they survive to continue to tell their community’s stories. It’s even possible that they survive the Chronicle.

For many in our diverse community, the newspapers aren’t dying… they’re already dead. And while one can argue whether or not they are missed, it’s undeniable that the community has adapted on its own.


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