Major Publishers Forge New Ways to Make Content Profitable

Four major publishers Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to print and discussed revenue ideas that strengthen their product.

This discussion came out of an executive roundtable at the Key Executives Mega Conference in New Orleans.

The publishers of Star Tribune Media Co., USA Today, The Omaha World-Herald and The Dallas Morning News conferred the revenue opportunities of their content.

The Dallas Morning News is blazing trails in modern media by bringing in new revenue by selling access to story archives. Companies in Dallas have been seeking out content to fill company newsletters, websites and blogs, so the paper is making its archives available through its digital agency. Clients pay an average of $4,000 a month for services that include access to the archives.

“Marketing has become a content war and nobody is better positioned to win a content war than a content company,” Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, told the more than 500 attendees at the national conference. He urges other news organizations to try his model. “I think it can work on any scale in all markets,” Moroney said.

The publishers also discussed how they are acquiring revenue from their digital content. Each of the publishers, except USA Today, has some sort of paywall.

Do you think that these new ways to bring in revenue for content will be sustainable and profitable? How do these efforts to increase revenue affect news consumers?


Closeted Gays and Public Office

It would follow logic that if one is gay that person would promote gay rights and health in the gay community, that is, unless the person is in the closet and in public office. Ed Koch was the seated mayor of New York City when the first lethal wave of the AIDs epidemic hit the gay community. It was not until after Koch’s death that the public voiced their anguish over Koch’s absent public policy on addressing the AIDs epidemic and most attribute Koch’s stance as that of a closeted gay man trying to “eliminate any whiff of homosexuality from his profile.”

Although Koch never publicly came out as a gay man, his sexual orientation remained suspected his whole life. Since 1977, Koch put energies towards squashing any rumors on his sexuality and reporters and activists in the gay community withheld publicly outing Koch because one’s sexual orientation is his or her’s privacy. Koch garnered near equal attention for his failure in taking public action on the AIDs epidemic. The gay community had no outlet for risk reduction or health education, let alone fair access to hospitals and treatment. Koch’s New York City spent $24,500 on AIDs compared to San Francisco’s 4.3 million.

The Society of Professional Journalists states that journalists should be accountable to the public but still minimize the harm of their subjects. The question, only debated in public after Koch’s death, was whether his suspected hidden sexual orientation affected his public policy towards the gay community. As a journalist, would you have published opinion on Koch’s sexual orientation in order to address an epidemic ravaging a community with no public voice? Or, is one’s sexual orientation private and therefore should never be published on?


MSNBC Hiring Professional Politicos

MSNBC’s recent hiring of David Axelrod, a major insider in the Obama administration, highlights the increasing trend of news networks as mouthpieces for partisan politics.

In the past month MSNBC has hired two former senior members of the Obama Administration. The network has been called blatantly soft on the White House, and this is only another piece of evidence for those who call it that.

Some organizations, like Pew, have recorded MSNBC’s ideological bent. The Pew study noted that MSNBC’s coverage was even more extreme than that of Fox News. In the week before the election MSNBC did not air a single positive story about the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

MSNBC anchors and pundits refrained from criticizing the president time after time. In an interview on 60 Minutes almost 2 years ago, MSNBC host Al Sharpton vowed to never publicly criticize President Obama. To some MSNBC’s lack of balanced coverage and the generally partisan tone of the network demonstrated a lack of accountability and even journalistic integrity.

MSNBC is not unique in hiring former political operatives and insiders. News networks, papers, and really every form of political news media have their own political operatives reporting from within. While this trend is pervasive and popular, it may not be positive. The credibility of the news media continues to shrink in the eyes of many consumers.

Is the trend of professional political operatives in a journalistic position a positive one? Are we simply skipping the tedious step between press conference and reporting? Who is better to report and comment on the news than political insiders? Or does this make news media merely another form of partisan propaganda demobilizing voters and lessening the legitimacy of the democratic process as a whole?


British Journalists Compromise News

The Times in Britain are changing, as journalists for Rupert Murdoch‘s newspaper are being convicted under suspicions of hacking into private phone-lines. In addition to the 32 reporters arrested so far, Police detained six more journalists last week in efforts to protect private conversations by famous individuals. Phone lines of celebrities, politicians, sports figures, and even the British royal family were targeted and breached for the sake of making headline news out of scandal. Mike Darcy, chief executive of News International, describes these heinous incidents as a “huge burden on journalists in the daily challenge of producing Britain’s most popular news.” Police are also investigating further allegations, such as bribing of public officials and computer hackers, in order to prevent further obstructions from the media. This is a huge setback for public journalists everywhere as it compromises the relationship of its viewers, and confuses the public when deciding what issues are actually important to the paper.

Especially in these modern times, a proper journalist must stay loyal to all its citizens by avoiding methods to illegally exploit and unofficially document others. Papers need only to provide news that is relevant so that citizens can make democratic decisions and, in turn, govern themselves. In an ironic sense, the muckrakers compromised their own standing once they used dishonest methods of finding the truth. These journalists must be detained and questioned by police as a way to assure the reader’s trust, as well as the integrity of all newspapers. For if people should ever begin to doubt the validity or ethics of their newspaper, its citizens will stop reading, and the public circulation as we know it will fall to corruption. Daily news would rely solely on how the government wants to inform the governed, rather than a source such as a public journalist or reliable reporter. Papers need only to provide news that is usable to its citizens, not gossip, so that they can make democratic decisions to freely govern themselves. Although there have been few similar cases of this happening in the past, in 2006 and in  2007, Murdoch’s reputation and of his paper are relatively clean; allowing readers some time between scandals to build trust with public reporters.

Do you believe the British government was fair to arrest these reporters? Would you publish a story that was deemed true although the methods of finding it were dishonest? Are journalists conflicted between demands for better news, and the lengths they should go to beat technological media?

Source:

Burns, John F. “Six More Journalists Held in British Hacking Case.” The New York Times 14 Feb. 2013, International News. sec.: n. pag. Print.


Twitter and the Hunt for Two Cop-Killers

Social media site Twitter has revolutionized the way people communicate online. From the outbreak of the Arab Spring to breaking news of Beyonce’s pregnancy, Twitter has captivated and connected millions of people with only 140 characters. However, how the media uses Twitter to inform citizens of highly visible criminal cases may be changing in light of a recent Los Angeles manhunt for a cop-killer.

In 2009, ex-convict Maurice Clemmons gunned down four police officers in a coffee shop in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The two-day hunt for his capture dominated coverage in The Seattle Times. Notably, Twitter was used to connect and inform a fearful and vigilant community. Everyone from average civilians to journalists to media outlets mobilized under the hashtag #washooting to share their updates, express sympathies for the victims, and keep the public informed of law enforcement’s progress. The Seattle Times was praised for its coverage, even winning the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Coverage. Portions of their Twitter stream were included in its entry to the Pulitzer Board.

In spite of Twitter’s successful role in uniting a community in the search for Clemmons, police officials asked the media to stop tweeting about the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, an ex-cop suspected of being involved in the deaths of four people, two of which were police officers. Law enforcement worried Dorner might have access to the Internet and news and hoped to prevent any release of information about police strategy from enabling him. Since news outlets granted the request and Dorner has been killed, speculation of police misbehaving has persisted. While keeping police strategy secret is a legitimate concern, problems arise when the news is censored. Rumors lingered over whether police deliberately set the cabin which hid Dorner on fire in an act of vengeance, rather than for the purpose of driving him out. Also, instead of a unifying Twitter hashtag, information was more spread out under varying hashtags such as #manhunt, #dorner and #bigbear.

Silencing Twitter may provide a valuable strategy for law enforcement but it created a cloud of doubt and mistrust over police actions. The media’s first loyalty is to the public. When asked to self-censor, how can journalists keep a watchful eye over authority or does censorship protect the public for the greater good? Why was the use of Twitter successful in the 2009 manhunt but was discouraged in 2013? Should there be standard procedure for Twitter and live reporting regarding public criminal cases like manhunts or does each case differ on its own?


Can Social Media Be Helpful?

Investigative journalists have started to use social media websites to gather information, but others are debating if these sites can in fact be trusted as reliable sources.

We carry the instincts to know more information then we already do. We crave for the truth and the 5W’s (who, what, when, where, and why). Talking to a variety of people and digging for the truth are some of the reasons why investigative reporters love their job. It’s a secret mission that they want to accomplish and reveal to the public, but they can’t do it alone. The help of the people is needed, so investigative reporters can get different perspectives and reasons of why things happened the why they did.

Talking to people via phone and in person are the usual ways reporters get information, but what about the Web? In recent years, social media and the internet as a whole has helped reporters get information at a faster rate. The Web has grown to be more than just a chatting source, but also as a way to attract people to a story as it develops.

Facebook and GoogleDocs have become some of the nation’s most useful social media websites and journalists are taking them to their advantage. ProPublica, a non-profit, self-governing newsroom that produces investigative journalism for the public, has used these two websites to gather data and information through questionnaires on GoogleDocs and personal stories through Facebook groups. “ProPublica Patient Harm Group” is a Facebook group created so victims and their families, healthcare professionals, and many others could write posts about their personal experiences and problems with the recent medical errors that have been occurring.

Even though the Facebook group and the GoogleDoc questionnaires are being used as reliable information for their investigation, ProPublica still has to be open-minded and see if these sources are valid ones to trust. Unfortunately, posts are regulated and guidelines have to be set, so that people are not disrespected. They have no problem deleting posts that are harsh in tone and they pick out stories that suit their stories best.

Another news organization that has uses social media as an investigative tool is Talking Points Memo Media. They are a digital political news organization that uses the help of social media to interact with its readers. The readers have even  helped TPM Media go through thousands of documents for an investigation. Investigator Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, mentioned that using the help of readers lowers investigation costs and saves everyone a headache. TMP Media may have gotten help, but keep in mind that these readers are followers of these journalists and stories may have a bias twist to them.

Do you think these social media websites are reliable when it comes to investigative reporting? Keeping in mind that posts and questionnaires are regulated, do you think ProPublica is showing a good example of keeping an honest Facebook group and pulling out truthful posts for their stories? Is TPM Media doing the right thing by using the help of its readers or should they do the investigation all by themselves? Should investigative reporters rely on these websites for information or should they be avoided?


Social media used for investigative reporting

The current trend toward an online-oriented world has changed the way journalists gather and present information. Two reporters for ProPublica, an online journalism blog, suggest social media can function as an important investigative tool.

At a recent social media conference hosted by the Columbia School of Journalism, Blair Hickman and Amanda Zamora presented ProPublica’s success using social media, such as facebook, to gather sources and leads for sensitive investigative pieces.

Three reporters for ProPublica used these methods to further their investigation into common health care liabilities. They began by using the questionnaire function of GoogleDocs to create a form they could then send to potential sources. To follow up, the reporters posted calls for relevant information in highly trafficked social media sites that related to their investigation. The group also created their own facebook page to field questions and comments.

ProPublica reporters found that using social media as an investigative tool made less room for anonymous sources and shady reporting while opening a larger field of potential information.

But social media reporting does not come without compromises. The reporters’ calls for information required them to present their topics under investigation to the public before the story was fuly developed, something many reporters are not comfortable doing.

The pages and posts required constant surveillance to prevent sources passing them by. Hickman noted a new form of courtesy had to follow their innovative interactions with sources. The group of reporters strove to keep their postings interactive and up-to-date by monitoring public comments and personally responding to posts.

How strongly should reporters rely on new media for sources? Is social media a credible outlet for information gathering? Should other news outlets integrate these methods into their reporting?