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Business columnist: It's time to reinvent myself -- and I need your help

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WolvEagle, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. WolvEagle

    WolvEagle Active Member

    Tom Walsh, the Detroit Free Press' lead business columnist, wrote this for today's paper:

    http://www.freep.com/article/20120624/COL06/206240425/Tom-Walsh-Reinventing-Tom-need-your-help?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE


    While Tom is highly respected, I wonder if this column is the right approach, especially for a big-city paper that's dying a slow, painful death. Don't be surprised in five years to see the Detroit News and Free Press merge into one paper. They already share a building, business operations and printing operations. The News doesn't print on Sundays - it has one op-ed page in the Freep.

    Should we, as journalists, look around and figure out on our own what we have to do to survive? Asking a question like that to readers is akin to raising the white flag, in my book.

    What do you think, fellow SportsJournalists.commers?
     
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I think reinventing your career is a good topic in this economy, especially in old industrial cities like Detroit, but we shouldn't appear to be seeking pity and it would benefit more readers if he used that space to write about how people who worked in manufacturing have reinvented themselves. Have to go with the late Spnited on that whole "we are not the story, we are the story-tellers."
     
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Also, I usually have found little useful help when we've asked readers what they want us to do.
     
  4. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    The columnist didn't mention quitting as an option.
     
  5. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not a fan either. You'll get half snark, half helpful stuff -- but you'll never be able to do everything readers suggest, so you'll knowingly disappoint. And you're supposed to know how to do your job.

    A better approach would be to ask a handful of your most trusted sources.
     
  6. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Frank, it might have been you or it might have been Double Down or Alma. Can't remember. I know it was a regular Journalism Board poster.

    Anyway, when readers get asked what they want in their paper, the answer is something along the lines of (and this is using sports as an example): More local. More pro sports. More college. More big colleges. But also more small colleges. Oh yeah, more agate. More opinion. But also more hard news. And more features. But not at the expense of more explanatory coverage. More previews. But more event coverage, as well. And more photos. And bigger photos. And, lest I forget, longer stories. And shorter stories. ...
     
  7. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Who here has had to conduct reader board meetings where we have to ask for suggestions? If I didn't get fed at those meetings, I think I'd have to bang my head on the floor after a majority of "suggestions."
     
  8. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    God bless him, but his column seems like an exercise in futility.

    Problem is, this readership that is going to "help him" .. is down to the 85-and-over crowd and/or those in the psychiatric ward.
     
  9. Mystery Meat II

    Mystery Meat II Well-Known Member

    I don't see the problem, really. Most businesses at least put up an artifice that they care about their customers' input and give them multiple outlets in which they can voice them. If the columnist slavishly adheres to every single suggestion put in his inbox, or the executive staff mandates it, then you're facing a larger problem anyway.

    One of the problems of today's newspaper business is we're still trying to wrap our heads around the two-way communication model that more interactive newsgathering organizations use. Newspapers are by and large one-way products -- we produce it, you consume it, and that's the extent of our relationship. Calls can be ignored at will, and letters to the editor are usually chosen carefully and edited for a variety of reasons; even if they don't, it's because they choose not to. That's getting to be less and less viable. Treating the column or the rest of the paper as if it was a made-to-order hamburger is a bridge too far, but an attitude of "hey, WE'RE the experts, so get out of the cockpit and don't talk to us unless you want to thank us for landing the thing" isn't the answer either. Besides, a columnist at a major newspaper has the ability to pick out the shit from the shinola.
     
  10. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    If he gets 90,000 insults, 50,000 bad ideas and one good idea, then, hey, he got a good idea. Costs him nothing. Heck, he even got paid to write the question. I don't think every reporter in the nation should do this, but one? Knock yerself out.
     
  11. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Active Member

    “I worked in newspapers for eight years, right when that industry was starting to disintegrate. As such, we spent a lot of time talking with focus groups, forever trying to figure out what readers wanted. And here is what they wanted: everything. They wanted shorter stories, but also longer stories. They wanted more international news, but also more local news. And more in-depth reporting. And more playful arts coverage. And less sports. And more sports. And maybe some sports on the front page. When it comes to mass media, it's useless to ask people what they want; nobody knows what they want until they have it.”

    -- Chuck Klosterman
     
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