Tag Archives: Politico.com

Digital Journalism: Another Failed Business Model?

H. Iris Chyi.
University of Texas media researcher H. Iris Chyi says heavy shift to digital news was a mistake. Chyi photo.

By Casey Bukro

Here’s an interesting idea: The rush of newspaper management from print to digital journalism was a terrible mistake.

Cyber media was supposed to be the next big thing, the answer to plummeting circulation, advertising and readership. Soon it became clear that digital journalism got off on the wrong foot with a “bad business model,” this new way to get the news for free. That set an expectation of reluctance to pay for it.

“What if almost the entire newspaper industry got it wrong?” asks Jack Shafer on Politico.com.  He is Politico’s senior media writer.

“What if, in the mad dash two decades ago to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars? What if the industry should have stuck with its strengths–the print editions where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue come from–instead of chasing the online chimera?”

Fascinating speculation, and Shafer admits it’s a contrarian viewpoint, but he bases it on a study of 51 U.S. newspapers by two University of Texas researchers, H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim. They published a paper in Journalism Practice, an academic journal.

That paper, said Shafer, “cracks open the watchwords of the newspaper industry to make a convincing case that the tech-heavy web strategy pursued by most papers has been a bust.” That strategy, Shafer adds, “has been a losing proposition for most newspapers.”

Come to think of it, history shows an “all eggs in one basket” strategy can lead to disappointment. The U.S. economy’s reliance on petroleum led to high costs and disruptions by unreliable sources. The electric power industry relied heavily on coal until air pollution and other problems forced the industry to turn to alternative and cleaner energy sources, like solar power. Nuclear power was heralded as the technology that would turn deserts green, but safety concerns derailed some of those hopes.

Continue reading Digital Journalism: Another Failed Business Model?

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Do Short Attention Spans Lead the News?

By Casey Bukro

The public’s shifting attention has implications across the media landscape, from CBS’ plans to sell its historic radio division to the expanding influence of topical comedy on TV and the internet.

CBS Radio News.
CBS organized its radio network in 1928.

Radio historian Frank Absher appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” to talk about the heyday of CBS radio. The broadcast described CBS as one of the first networks to truly realize the power of news and develop its uses. Established in 1928, the network owns 117 stations and has an illustrious news-breaking history.

Voices were key to that development—the calm, measured and authoritative voices of correspondents like Edward R. Murrow and Lowell Thomas.

What was the state of broadcast journalism when CBS started? “There wasn’t any,” said Absher, a member of the Radio Preservation Task Force and the St. Louis Media History Foundation. “Broadcast journalism did not exist, not even as a concept. In fact, the early, early radio stations would simply grab a newspaper because a lot of them were owned by newspapers. And they would read stories on the air out of today’s edition.”

Ironically, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” argues that much of today’s TV news still depends on what journalists find in daily newspapers. But back to Asher’s perspective.

Continue reading Do Short Attention Spans Lead the News?

“60 Minutes” Trips on Truth

By Casey Bukro

“60 Minutes” built a towering reputation as the TV news magazine that gets it right, but now is apologizing for getting it wrong in its report about the terrorist attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Libyan port city of Benghazi.

Lara Logan, who reported the story, said it was a mistake to highlight a supposed eyewitness account of the attack by a security contractor who later was found to be lying about being at the scene of the attack, and seeing the body of U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens at a local hospital.

“We made a mistake, and that’s very disappointing for any journalist,” said Logan.

The mistake involves an interview with Dylan Davies, a security contractor whose firm worked for the U.S. government, who was identified by “60 Minutes” by his pseudonym, Morgan Jones. He gave Logan a dramatic account of his role in fighting the terrorists, even smashing a terrorist in the face with a rifle butt. Logan appeared to coach him in describing the encounter.

“It was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry,” she is quoted in a New York Times story.

Actually, Davies/Jones told FBI investigators and his employer that he never left his villa the night of the attack because it was too dangerous. He did not visit the attack scene until the next morning. The conflicting government report caused the “60 Minutes” report to unravel.

From a journalist’s point of view, one can wonder about the CBS report, admittedly in retrospect. Why was Davies allowed to use a fake name on camera? And was any attempt made to prove that Davies was at the attack scene or at the local hospital, as he alleged?

The Times reported that CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager called the Logan report “as big a mistake” as “60 Minutes” has made in its 45-year history, but that its televised apology would be its last word on the issue.

This is seen as a “defensive crouch” by a news organization with a hard-hitting reputation and little pity for those caught in its cross-hairs. Fager also is executive producer of “60 Minutes.”

Marvin Kalb, a former CBS news correspondent, said in Politico.com that an apology from CBS is not enough.

“What has CBS learned, if anything?” asks Kalb, a senior adviser to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Following the apologies, said Kalb, “perhaps CBS (and other networks, too) will engage in a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred self-analysis of its reporting standards, starting one hopes with the unholy alliance it has formed with book publishers pushing their hot exclusives,” he wrote.

Davies/Jones had a book deal with Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS’s parent corporation.

If an apology is all CBS News can muster, clearly it is not being as tough on itself as it is on others.

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics encourages journalists to “abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.”

On the upside, “60 Minutes” admitted its mistake and apologized, a rarity in TV journalism.  SPJ says “admit mistakes and correct them promptly.” The admission phase is done; the correction remains to be seen.

Later, CBS announced that Logan and her producer were placed on leave of absence.

In a memo to staff, Fager wrote that he asked Logan and Max McClellan, the producer, to take a leave of absence, which they agreed to do.

“When faced with a such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger,” Fager wrote. “We are making adjustments at 60 Minutes to reduce the chances of it happening again.”

As executive producer, Fager said, “I am responsible for what gets on the air.”