J101-Newspapers-Ch6

J101-Newspapers-Ch6


DEB WENGER: This is Deb Wenger. This week we’re going to talk
about newspapers and news. Because when we talk
about newspapers, we really are talking about
the history of journalism in this country because
newspapers really are sort of the incubator
of modern journalism as it’s practiced today. So early America
newspapers, and I’m talking about the period of
time from about 1690 or so to the early 1700s, were very
different than today’s paper. They were mostly for what
would be considered the elite. They were expensive and
had small circulations. They were sometimes published
by political parties themselves. So they would focus on a
particular point of view, focus more on opinion than news
as we would define it today. We’re talking about papers,
as your textbook mentions, such as The New England Courant
or Publick Occurrences which tried to move toward a
general public audience but still were very
much opinion driven versus kind of the objective
reporting that we know today. Then came the penny
press and this shook up journalism and set
it really on its current path. So Benjamin Day with The
New York Sun, his idea is that the news
was for every one. That he wanted to reach
that mass audience. So his paper and others were
sold on the street for one or two cents an issue. It was supported
primarily by advertising, a situation that
continues to exist today. And it was really one of the
first papers to focus on news. This idea that you
would report on stories objectively offering
multiple viewpoints as a way to appeal to a larger audience. So previously, if you
reported on a bill before Congress in
a paper that takes a political point
of view, you’re going to certainly
favor your party’s view. In the penny press and in
today’s traditional mainstream media, you’re going to get
what is a more objective method of reporting on that
story, which is seeking out multiple points of view to be
able to paint a bigger picture or hopefully a more accurate
picture of that bill and the impact it may
have on Americans. So this was a change to
advertising-supported media as well as a change in
the way that content was reported, the way
the news was reported. Then came the newspaper wars
between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. So Pulitzer’s New York
World is credited often with the creation of the modern
front page with its banner headlines really screaming about
the big stories of the day. His paper targeted
immigrants and women. Immigrants who were using
the paper learning to read. Why target women? Because they often controlled
the household expenditures and so advertisers were
eager to get their products in front of women. Female journalist Nellie
Bly was hired by the paper and she pulled off what some
would call stunt journalism, basically creating
the story herself. She disguised herself as someone
with mental-health issues and infiltrated
an insane asylum. That kind of reporting
is frowned upon today but still, iterations
of it still do occur. And then there was his biggest
competitor, William Randolph Hearst and The New York Journal. So the two papers
and their competition gave rise to a term called
“yellow journalism.” It actually started
when the two papers were sort of battling over a
comic called “The Yellow Kid” which was very
popular at the time and both papers
wanted to publish it. But yellow journalism
has come to mean sensational-type stories. Like both papers actually spent
a great deal of time and energy promoting the
Spanish-American War in Cuba. Why promote a war? Why would anybody
want a war to occur? Well, because it means big
business for journalism, for newspapers at the time. If any of you have
seen the modern movie Wag the Dog, for example, you
know what I’m talking about. So the idea that war is good
business for journalism. So the modern day newspaper does
have some differences then when Pulitzer and Hearst were
running their competing papers. Few cities actually
have daily competition. New York, of course,
is an exception. I used to work in Tampa,
Florida where there continued to be two daily
newspapers that compete. Most newspapers are
owned by large chains, not by individuals or
individual families. The largest chain
of all is Gannett which publishes USA
Today and approximately 85 daily newspapers. Newspaper revenues are falling. The worst problems
seem to be at what you would call the metropolitan
papers, so The Chicago Tribune or The
Los Angeles Times. That doesn’t mean that
newspapers aren’t still profitable, they just aren’t as
profitable as they used to be. So what are some of the
biggest papers, the most widely recognized papers? Well, we’ve already
mentioned USA Today. It had a powerful influence
on the newspaper industry when it was first launched. It brought color and
design to the forefront. Lot of the images that we’ve
been seeing up to this point, you may have noticed, very
much black ink, white paper, few photographs, dense copy. So USA Today really created a
much more visually appealing newspaper. Something that would attract
people’s eyes and make them want to pick it up
and read it and that’s influenced many other papers. Originally it was
highly criticized. This speaks to one of the
truths that your textbook author talks about, that there’s always
fear when something new happens within a medium. And originally the paper
was called “McPaper” or was criticized
for creating what they called, “News McNuggets.” Sort of saying that
this wasn’t a full meal, it was kind of a
little news snack. By the mid 2000s USA
Today had taken steps to really strengthen
its reporting. It became a much bigger
force in American journalism and had a daily circulation
almost at 2 million people. So made significant
progress and continues to be a national
newspaper here in the US. Also has moved fairly strongly
into the digital world. There’s a USA Today app,
obviously a website. So it’s becoming more than
quote unquote “just a newspaper company” but is trying to
be much more of a media powerhouse. Wall Street Journal,
another what your text calls national
newspaper and its focus of course is on financial news. It’s owned by Rupert
Murdoch’s News Corp now but has not always been. And its circulation is over
two million approximately. It is a highly-regarded paper. Its editorial page is
what many would consider one, of if not the, leading
conservative voice in US journalism. And the model, the Wall
Street Journal model, has been studied by a lot of
people trying to figure out how to save print
journalism, although I’m not really sure it needs saving. It’s just evolving. But they did not
allow their content to be distributed
freely on the internet. They have a very what’s
considered by industry, a very high a
subscription price. So they provide unique content
that people really can’t easily get elsewhere and
they charge for it. And because it’s valuable and
important to the audience, they really know their audience. They’ve been able to remain
very successful despite all the other economic upheaval
affecting the newspaper business. The New York Times, another
national newspaper in my view. This is a newspaper
that you can find. You travel to any
US city and you can find a New York Times
pick it up and read it. You can find a New York
Times, pick it up and read it, in Farley Hall on
the Ole Miss campus. There’s a stack of New York
Times available for students to pick up right inside the
door, front door of Farley. I encourage you to do it. And if you’re not already
New York Times reader, pick up a copy, read it, and
get a sense of what that paper all about. So The New York Times
started as a penny paper but has evolved into
something much, much more. By and large it defines
what is news in the US. I don’t think that that’s
too broad a statement. I think your text talks about
how a good review in the New York Times can make
or break a play. We have an example of that
in the journalism school. One of my colleagues,
Professor Alysia Steele had produced or was
working on a book about African American
church mothers in the delta of Mississippi. She was trying to
find a publisher, and a New York Times reporter
found out about the book that she was working on when
he was visiting here one week. Wrote a story about her book and
her efforts to find a publisher and within hours of that story
being published in the New York Times she was getting
calls from editors who wanted to put
her book in print. It is going to be coming
out this spring in time for Mother’s Day. So that’s the kind of power
the New York Times has. Although some of the
content is tied to New York, it does really have a
national circulation. And even as strong
as its journalism is and as important as
The New York Times is in setting the agenda for
public discourse in the US, it has had a somewhat
difficult transition to the digital world. You may or may not have
heard about the leaking of a confidential internal
report about New York Times journalism and how the company
was transitioning to a world where most people are
consuming their content through a mass-communication
device such as an iPad, or a smartphone, a website. And fewer and fewer are reading
the hard-copy print edition. And one of the things
that they’ve realized is that they have to
change their thinking. And that probably is a
good sort of description of what’s happening in
newspaper journalism in general. That we have to change our
thinking about what it means to be a journalist and what it
means to work in an environment where people may choose,
that really want access to your information, want
access to the news you produce, but they don’t want to have
to pick it up and read it on newsprint. The Washington Post, much
less of a national reach than The New York Times
but still a very important American newspaper. Came to national prominence and
became something of a household name during Watergate
with the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein. You may have heard
that back in the ’70s, a whole generation of young
people decide to go to college and become journalists because
Woodward and Bernstein became sort of modern-day heroes
and they were influenced by what they were
able to accomplish. Holding the powerful
accountable. It’s certainly a prominent
source of government news and is inside the Beltway
in our nation’s capital. It’s a must for anyone operating
in the government sphere to be familiar with what’s
being reported in The Washington Post. In 2013 it was purchased by
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos who really has a lot of people interested
in The Washington Post again. Looking to find out
what in that heck is going to happen
to a paper that’s owned by an entrepreneur,
certainly someone that understands technology, and
how will that paper change under his ownership? Remember we talked about in the
media effects chapter the idea that ownership might have an
impact on the media produced by an organization. So how will the
news of this paper change because of its ownership? So of course there are many
community and suburban papers, actually many more community
and suburban papers then there are metro dailies
or national newspapers. And these of course, like
our own Oxford Eagle here in Oxford, Mississippi,
serve individual communities and suburbs. They publish news that people
really can’t get anywhere else. High school sports,
great example. I bet many of the people
listening to this lecture have actually had their
name appear in the paper because they scored 43
points in a basketball game, or made a touchdown, or broke
a school record in track. So they’re valuable
and important. And in fact, that’s where
most of the jobs in journalism are today, in the community
and suburban papers. There are thousands of them. Here in the Meek
School of Journalism, I would say at least
once or twice a month we get a call from some
editor who says, help, I can’t find anybody
to come work in Brookhaven, or come work in
Marks, Mississippi. If you love to write, and
journalism is your passion, and you don’t mind starting
in Small Town, USA, there is a career path
for you in the community and suburban papers. The other types of
newspapers, your text talks about the
African American press which played a big role
in civil rights coverage for example or even as far
back as espousing freedom for slaves. The Chicago Defender,
which was still publishing well into the 2000s. The gay press, which
before they became professional-looking
publications were sometimes copied
on office equipment and distributed in gay bars. But they’ve sort of
disappeared for the most part, there still are some,
from the newspaper world because gay
advertising is moving more and more into big media. So we’ve been talking
a lot about journalism. We’ve been talking a
lot about newspapers. But we’re sort of making
the assumption here that you already
know what news is. So how does news differ
from information? So if I tell you I drove to
work this morning, that’s information that
I’m sharing with you but that’s not really news. So journalists
have to figure out what information,
of all the things that they learn
on any given day, actually rises to
the level of news. And so they use
a set of criteria to help them decide whether
the information they learn is worthy of putting in the
newspaper, on a newscast, on website, et cetera. So one of the most important
criteria is timeliness. So when did this happen,
when will it happen? Is there some reason
why this information should be reported right now? So in general, the
more timely something is, the more newsworthy it. Proximity. So this speaks to
the idea that if we are covering our
local community, that something that
happens locally is more likely to be
newsworthy than something that happens two states over. Of course there are
exceptions to this. If there’s a major national
or international story, you may take steps to
report on that story for your own community. But by and large,
what happens locally is more likely to be
newsworthy for your audience than something that happens
in another location. Prominence. So who are we talking about? A friend of mine who works
for Bleacher Report told me that at one point,
there was a big furor are overlooked LeBron
James and his obsession apparently with brown shoes. So the fact that LeBron
James was wearing brown shoes was actually getting lots of
traction and lots of interest on Bleacher Report. Now the fact that sometimes
I wear brown shoes has absolutely no impact
on the news world. And so that would be an example
of somebody who is well known does something that becomes
news versus someone like me. Consequence. So what is the impact of this
information on the audience? So if a hurricanes is storming
its way toward the Mississippi coast, it obviously has
significant consequence or the potential for
significant consequence. So that information
becomes news worthy. Rarity. Is it the first time
something happened? Is it the last time
something will happen? Is it the biggest? Is it the smallest? So the more unique the piece of
information is, the more likely it is to be news. And then finally there is
just general human interest. So a story about a
mother’s struggle to get her child the
health care he or she needs is a story that tugs at the
heart strings of many of us, especially those of
us who are parents. If a small-town team comes
out nowhere and wins the state championship, that’s a
human interest story. So stories that speak to
us just on a human level. So our discussion
this week has been about newspapers of course. And certainly newspapers are
synonymous with journalism in the minds of a lot of people. Much of the best reporting
of the last century has come from newspapers. But these fundamentals,
these foundational principles of how we determine what
is news and what isn’t, are relevant regardless of what
platform you’re talking about. So these same
criteria are applied whether you’re reporting
for a mobile news app or you’ve got a story on the
front page of The New York Times. So because newspapers are so
synonymous with journalism, the future of newspapers
gets a lot of discussion because many people believe
that newspapers and journalism as a whole help
preserve democracy, help keep our society functioning. So understanding where
newspapers are headed is critical to understanding
the future of society. So what’s going on
with newspapers? At the national level and many,
many newspapers at lower levels are still profitable. At the national
level they still seem to be holding on
the circulation. And in fact, many smaller
papers are holding steady with circulation as well. Most of the job losses have
been at the major urban papers like The Chicago Tribune,
The Los Angeles Times. As I said, there
are many jobs that go begging at some of
the smaller newspapers. And there’s been a
shift in understanding that if you want to
hold onto your audience, you have to give
them unique content. So if I am an editor for the Sun
Herald in Biloxi for example, I probably am not going to
report on something that’s going on in Russia unless it
has a direct impact on people in Biloxi. This idea of what’s
called hyperlocal news. So I’m going to cover news
that really affects people that live in my coverage area. And that seems to be a way for
newspapers to differentiate themselves from the
myriad of sources that are available in
a digital world. Also, newspapers are
working to figure out how to make money
beyond advertising. Newspapers have lost a
lot of advertising revenue so they’re looking to try to get
paid for their online content. So pick up potentially
digital advertising dollars but also develop
new revenue sources. So can they make
a paid app work? Can they publish things
other than newspapers and make money from that? Can they sponsor events
within communities? So newspapers are
really having to rethink the way they do business. A friend of mine says the least
important part of the word newspaper is paper. So does it really matter if
the journalism that you’re producing is consumed
in a printed product or does it just matter
that it’s being consumed and that you’re making
enough money to continue to be profitable? So newspapers are in fact
moving into mobile and other distribution models, figuring
that the most important part of the word newspaper is news. So as always, log
on to Blackboard and make sure you’re
keeping up with assignments and other tasks. And don’t forget to
tweet #umjour101. Would love to see what you’re
reading about the media industry, about
newspapers in particular, or anything that’s relevant
to our discussions. As I said, I’ll be
tracking who tweets what and if you start to
do it consistently and you put some good
content out there, I promise you a little
bonus on your final exam.

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