Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guild recruiting 'foot soldiers' to fight for journalism

The Newspaper Guild labor-union affiliate of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is stepping up its efforts to guarantee that journalism survives despite changes in how it's presented.

The fight for journalism in many ways is the fight for a representative republic, obviously.

TNG-CWA is planning a May strategy session in Cleveland and is encouraging broad attendance from U.S. and Canadian Guild locals.

Free Press founders John Nichols and Robert McChesney, authors of the new book The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, have been invited to be a part of the discussion, which will focus on ways the Guild, organized labor and other groups concerned about democracy all can help maintain the vital role of a free press.

“This should not be a discussion about journalism," said Nichols, who's a co-founder of the nonprofit Free Press advocacy group and a writer for The Nation magazine and an editor at the Madison (Wisc.) Capital Times. "It should not be a discussion about newspapers, or a discussion about media. This is a discussion about democracy.

“The founders were very, very blunt: Freedom of the press meant not just a free press but a ‘press’ — something real.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Discuss the Future of Journalism

The Journalism Program in the Department of English and Journalism and the University Libraries invite you to attend "Journalism Beyond Print" this Wednesday, March 24, in Malpass Library Room 180.

This discussion begins at 11:45 a.m. and brings together three professionals to describe and share examples of how their news organizations are delivering information and news "outside of their legacy platforms of newspapers or broadcasts" to the digital realm (to computers and smart phones or with podcasts or RSS feeds).

Mark Butzow, assistant professor of journalism, and other WIU journalism professors will augment the presentations by these guests: Jason Piscia, a web editor from Springfield's State Journal Register; Erin McCarthy, a reporter/photographer for Macomb's McDonough County Voice; and Rich Eggers, the news director for Tri-States Public Radio and WIUM-FM (NPR).

We see this is as a wide-ranging discussion of the directions that journalism is taking in the wake of digital media, and we invite your participation. For more information, contact Mark Butzow at or 298-3171.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Content and its vehicles

The next time some Internet guru (or broadcaster) snickers "Print is dead," you might reply: "Everything's dead.

"And, everything's alive."

According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, more than 25% of American adults now get their news on their cell phones.

True, what they consider "news" consists mostly of weather reports and sports scores, but the point is made.

Content is key.

It matters less that a soup is delivered in a bowl or a mug than its ingredients and preparation are tasty.

Just wait 'til the iPad price comes down.

"TV, phone home."

WGN radio boss muzzles announcers

The CEO at WGN-AM recently annoyed staffers and listeners by issuing an edict forbidding announcers from saying certain words and urging them to report those who utter them, according to a memo shared by longtime Chicago media reporter Robert Feder.

The heavy-handed memo is reminiscent of a comment from a priest friend who recalled parishioners complaining about some Masses varying ever-so-slightly from others: "When you can't control the Big Picture, you tend to get really bitchy about the little things," Father said.

Some of the words are tired, cliches or journalese, sure. But prohibiting "alleged" seems a bit much. And "really?"


You'd think a chief executive would have other things to do.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Todd Frankel Today

Todd C. Frankel, an award-winning metro general assignment reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, will be the keynote speaker for Western Illinois University's 2010 Journalism Day Wednesday, March 10.

Frankel was a key reporter in the Post-Dispatch's daily coverage of the "Missouri Miracle," the kidnapping and rescue of youths Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby. He was a finalist for the Livingston Award in 2006 and won a Sigma Delta Chi award for feature writing and a Casey Medal for coverage of families and children in 2002. When the St. Louis Riverfront Times named him the best newspaper reporter (Sept. 29, 2004), he was praised for his ability to report with equal comfort and enthusiasm on events including a horseradish festival, a fiery car crash, a double murder or a flu epidemic.

A graduate of the University of Delaware, Frankel previously worked at The Herald in Everett, WA; The Daily Mail in Charleston, WV; and The Gleaner in Henderson, KY. He often speaks on three main topics: making sense of the Missouri Miracle; bringing pizzazz to mundane topics; and telling compelling stories in 20 inches or less.

At Western, Frankel will speak about "How to Tell Compelling Stories on Deadline" to journalism students at 4:30 p.m. at the Western Courier office in the Heating Plant Annex.

He will present "Breaking Away From the Pack: Finding and Telling the Overlooked Story," at 7 p.m. in the University Union Sandburg Theatre. This presentation is open free to the public.

Frankel's visit is sponsored by the WIU Visiting Lectures Committee, the English and journalism department and the WIU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Broadcast journalists aren't escaping media 'transformation'

The press for more than a year has trumpeted the lousy news of big-city daily newspapers' financial woes -- brought on more by ridiculous business decisions and outrirght goofy assumptions than by Internet competition. But even as small dailies and weeklies survive and even prosper, other media sectors are suffering, too.

ABC News will cut between 20% and 25% of its news-division employees -- some 300 jobs -- on the heels of CBS News' recent layoffs of about 100 employees.

ABC News president David Westin (above) in a memo inexplicably wrote about the potential of growth even as in the same breath -- or, paper -- he announced the cuts.

"The digital age makes our business more competitive than ever before," he writes. "It also presents us with opportunities we couldn't have imagined to gather, produce, and distribute the news."

He lays out his plan for the network'a news operation's transformation by promising to "dramatically expand our use of digital journalists" and "move to a more flexible blend of staff and freelancers," which sounds like the short-sighted management axioms "Do more with less" or "Use cheap help."

Westin buries the lede, too, finally mentioning, "When we are finished, we will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News. To ease the transition, we are offering a voluntary separation package to all full-time, U.S.-based, non-union, non-contract employees."

Unionized journalists and other workers will have separate "voluntary separation offers," he adds.

Like the Tribune's Sam Zell or other media moguls, he doesn't address how such a gutted endeavor will be expected to do more work.