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Newspapers: More American than Apple Pie

March 10, 2009

“Extra! Extra!  Read all about it!”

It’s a phrase that immediately conjures up in my mind a picture of a little boy, maybe 11 or 12 years old…circa late 1800s or early 1900s…standing on the street corner, trying to earn a penny.

That scene is long gone and remembered only with pictures and words in the history books. But I wonder if (and probably more accurately, how soon) a similar fate lies in wait for that Norman Rockwell picture-perfect moment many of us experience each morning as we read the paper with a cup of coffee.

Is the era of the newspaper disappearing completely?  It certainly seems so. Just this morning, I read of McClatchy’s plans to cut yet another 1600 jobs at wonderful papers such as (among others) The Idaho Statesman, Sacramento Bee and Kansas City Star. I have emotional ties to all three of these.

No doubt you’ve seen the countless stories as well.   Here are a few a quick Google search pulled up for me:  San Francisco Chronicle, Rocky Mountain News (watch the video documentary), multiple Philadephia area newspapersBellingham Herald,  Sacramento Bee… and the list goes on and on and on.

Maybe you don’t subscribe to a paper – or even read the one laying on the table at the coffee shop.  Maybe you’re thinking “I really don’t care.”  But you should. Did you know newspapering is more American than apple pie?

The first American newspaper appeared more than 300 years ago in Boston – in 1690.    It is a “patriotic” profession, and lest you want to argue that point with me consider this…it is protected by Article One of our constitution:   “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…” Not Article 2, 3 or 4…Article ONE!

Newspapers were considered so important to our country’s founding fathers, that in 1787 Thomas Jefferson went as far to say: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Now, granted, they didn’t have television, radio or the Internet back then, but I suspect our founding fathers would have felt the same about those methods of communicating.  Regardless, the fact remains, newspapering, has a critically important place in the history of our country. 

Ironically, we are consuming more news than every before.  Yet, we seem to think we are entitled to freely receive it. But what happens when every newspaper in our country, like soldiers in a losing battle, falls?  One…by…one. 

And after them, what happens to our local television news stations, who are also struggling to make ends meet?  Where does the content come from for your beloved GoogleNews?  Who will keep a watch dog perspective on our public servants?  Who will hold our country accountable?

Citizen Journalists?  Perhaps, but we also run a serious risk of listening only to certain channels of information that align with our personal view points – leaving us in a dangerously precarious – and devisive position. 

We are losing countless talented and award-winning journalists at an an alarming rate.  One journalist friend of mine recently commented “I don’t know what I’ll do when I lose my job.”  It wasn’t IF – but WHEN.  There are no other newspaper jobs to take – because the are all disappearing.  One…by…one.  Sure, you can write a blog…but who will pay you for the content?

I don’t have the answer, but it’s clear that news agencies – if they hope to survive- will have to become more creative than ever before as their entire infrastructure shifts…ONLINE.  As my good friend and colleague Jeri Cartwright in Salt Lake City recently observed, they will have to become a newspaper, radio station, blog, podcaster and more.  And they’ll have to figure out how to do all this while containing costs and making money….somehow.  I just hope the rest of us will be bright enough to support their efforts as they figure it out because the cost to all of us is far too great.



Counterfeiting Free Speech

March 9, 2009

I don’t know how many of you have followed the tragedy unfolding in Florida. If not, here’s a quick synopsis: A couple of NFL players and their friends went out on a fishing excursion about a week ago. When beautiful weather turned vicious, their 20 foot boat capsized and all were tossed into the sea. After two days of searching, one man was found suffering from hypothermia and clinging to the overturned boat.The Coast Guard has since called off the search, leaving loved ones and family members to continue the search on their own.

Marquis Cooper, an offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders was the owner of the boat and is among the missing. I knew Marquis as a teenager. His father, Bruce (Coop, as we all call him) is one of the sports anchors at my old TV station in Phoenix. Coop is one of the all-around nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He is currently in Florida, desperately trying to keep volunteers and hired help searching for any signs of his son and his son’s friends.

The media has been all over this story. It’s made national and international news. But here’s where I get disgusted… If you go onto any of the websites of the newspapers in Florida and start reading the comments posted after the news reports; you’ll quickly learn that racism, ignorance and downright venom are all alive and well in the good ol’ USA. From website-posters questioning whether black people should be allowed to own boats because they don’t swim as well as white people to claims that there is only one survivor because the others weren’t smart enough to hang on to the boat. How ludicrous!

As a journalist, I’m all for the first amendment. Where I draw the line is the practice of allowing people to post anonymous comments on a newspaper or television’s website. All this does is foster vicious and malicious comments that few people would dare to post if they had to identify themselves. This is not truly free speech. Its counterfeit speech—hidden behind a cloak made up of cowards. C’mon Scripps, Belo, Gannett and all the other big media conglomerates— raise the bar, lead the way and cut the anonymous posting. What are we really protecting?

I’d love to hear what you think.



February 25, 2009

In this day of Tivo and Instant Messaging, you have one chance to get it right – and that one chance can happen in a split second. The new “word of mouth” electronic communication tools like Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon create, capture and cement images in an instant. Every company needs a plan and every employee needs to be familiar with that plan. Without one, you run the risk of being torpedoed by one overlooked detail or by one slip of the tongue. And lest you think your reputation lies solely in the hands of your PR department, guess again. Every employee in your organization holds your reputation in their capable (or incapable) hands. Here’s a prime illustration. Click the link below and listen in as a Verizon customer tries (tries being the operative word) to get some answers on his cell phone bill.
After you get over your shock, you’ll realize how important it is to have EVERY person affiliated with your business; educated, primed, knowledgeable and articulate about every aspect of the job. Otherwise, your blunder may just end up on the World Wide Web for all to see negatively impacting your reputation and bottom line.


Tomorrow Can’t Wait

February 13, 2009

If you watched the news coverage regarding the Buffalo plane crash late enough into the evening, you may have experienced first hand how the methods news organizations use to gather news are evolving – FAST!

Some of the first video we had of the crash came to us through  Then, scrambling for an eye witness, FOX News Channel anchor Julie Banderas went onto and found Keith Burtis – and called him up.  Burtis, a social media guru for, agreed to the interview and was was thrust center-stage into the middle of the tragic story, sharing what he saw, felt, and knew about this small community.  Before the end of the phone interview, the national news organization asked him to see if he could Skype them so they could interview him via live computer video feed.


Back in the “good ol’ days” a national news organization relied on local news networks to deliver the video, photos, interviews, press conferences, and first person accounts of what had occurred in the early hours until they could get their own reporters and photographers/videographers there.  Bringing it down to a more micro-level, local news crews scrambled to try to find someone who has something relevant to say and is willing to be interviewed – often going door-to-door and making dozens of cold calls. 

The emerging new technology, or Social Media, is quickly changing all that, reducing the news gathering lag time by delivering solid resources and information in real time.  A few quick strokes on the key board, and you not only have a knowledgeable person willing to be interviewed, but video as well. 

People frequently say to me “I don’t get the value in Twitter, or Facebook, or <insert other social media site here>.”  I was among the greatest skeptics just 2 years ago and initially resisted jumping into the social media game.   Sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others have now become an important part of my work day, and I’m convinced companies can not afford to operate without a presence on such sites any longer – at least if they want to stay relevant and be included in tomorrow’s conversation.

-Jeannette D.

PS – follow me on Twitter at jkduwe