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Weintraub in new CJR

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by craig.fehrman, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. craig.fehrman

    craig.fehrman New Member

    I haven't seen this link posted. The piece is on the "big-city sports columnist" as an "endangered species": http://www.cjr.org/feature/endangered_species.php?page=all.

    There's an, um, interesting quote from Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com, who actually attacks journalists for not being journalist-y enough:

    If this wasn't my first post at SJ, I'd point out that McIntyre's is the only original quote Weintraub tracked down. But that might be mean.
  2. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    I've been saying this for two years. Opinions and "takes" are a dime a dozen and going down across all media platforms. Newspapers and newspaper sites need to concentrate their limited resources on assets who report and break news. Got an opinion, write a blog like everyone else.
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Sorry, I still say opinion distinguishes a place just as much as breaking news, if it's well done opinion.

    I started to write 50 names, but they're really not needed to make the point. Pick your names of your favorite columnists, giants of the industry from the early 1900s to now, hugely popular with readers -- how many of them broke news consistently?

    Answer: Almost none.

    Opinion done by good writers still has a huge place in our business -- print, web, blogs, whatever.
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    So do the comics, the crossword puzzle, the advice columns, the recipes. They are all -- and I shudder to use the phrase -- "added value." But the idea that any of them ought to be an area of emphasis has no basis in fact.

    And that's the dangerous thing. There are editors who believe spouting off -- whether by columnist or reader comments -- ought to be a primary focus. I say there's no evidence to support that idea.
  5. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Because you do this so well, Frank, I'm not of course going to be able to offer any hard evidence that columnists add to revenue or whatever.

    But you'll also never convince me that Maureen Dowd isn't a subscriber draw.

    And I'll go a little weird on you: I can get pretty much everything I want news/sports/business-wise on the web right now, but I continue to get the daily paper.

    A main reason (not the only one, but key): Aggregated comics, so I don't have to surf around the web finding Doonesbury and Dilbert and Brevity.

    If my paper were to drop the comics page, that might be the last action to drive me exclusively to the web. Seriously.
  6. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Cancel that subscription, SF.


    Seriously, Frank's was the point I was trying to make. Opinion makers will never be as big as they were in the heyday of newspapers, just like TV personalities will never be as big as they were during the networks in the pre-cable days. There will never be another Johnny Carson and there will never be another Red Smith. Way too much diversification and way too many platforms for any individual to gain that kind of audience.

    If newspapers want to live off- or on-line, they need to focus on the only thing that truly sets them apart -- news, their core product.
  7. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Oh, I know that exists and use it sometimes. But one of the things I still enjoy about the daily is just reading them all in one place at one time.

    I'll probably keep the paper for a long time, but as things continue to tighten, who knows...
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    SF, it's not really that I want to win a point (although I do). I just think that as long as the industry is basically saying that we ought to challenge long-held* ideas, why not challenge this one as well? I think people believe that because they want to believe that, but I don't see anything that indicates I should.

    A lot of people seem to believe the answer is for newspapers to become more analytical and magazine-like because they like the idea of being more writerly, that we can win over the masses through skillful wordplay, our incandescent personalities, our insights into the human condition. As opposed to grinding out 10 inches after the zoning board adjourns. I think we've been down that road already. It was supposed to save PM papers or No. 2 papers in cities and didn't. It became a cliche in the dying newspaper's final edition -- tearful recollections of the brave, small staff dwarfed by the giant competition, but by God we were feisty! A writer's paper! We won awards, you fuckers!

    Of course they didn't cover as much news, which is why the people in those cities chose the other paper. There's a lesson there, I think.

    * Spellcheck suggests "lunkhead." I suppose that would work.
  9. gingerbread

    gingerbread Well-Known Member

    How difficult would it have been for the writer to track down at least one of the journalist mentioned for comment or insight? Or perhaps an editor, to explain why they prefer (or don't) their columnists to be multi-media stars?
    That leg work might make sense, considering the piece appeared in a JOURNALISM magazine.
  10. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    The trouble I have with the news, news, news value is that sports leagues and sports stars are actively doing everything they can to block real news. The leagues and teams restrict access, then post things on their own Web sites that reporters have no shot at getting. Now, you might say this will require the newspaper people to dig deeper with their shovels, but I'm not sure how much that is within their control -- or when a little more becomes too much and really alienates the subjects and even the audience.

    Plus, sports news often is just a commodity. Once it is on the ESPN crawl, it no longer is new. At that point, I need to have some writers who either surprise me with their takes or who grab me for 5 or 10 minutes with their insights, context or word play.

    Let's be honest here: If you boiled down what gets produced off the average NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL or NCAA beat coverage, what percent of it would be legitimate breaking news as opposed to off-day filler, squishy features, assorted navel gazing, game coverage and amusing notes? I think the most respected "diggers" in our business still spend a majority of their time painting by the numbers. If we all have to rely on breaking news, most of us will be goners.
  11. henryhenry

    henryhenry Member

    opinion writers are a dime a dozen.
    it's easy and quick and the path of least resistance.

    reporting is difficult. it's tedious, hard work.
    one good reporter is worth an army of opinion writers.
  12. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Not really good ones.
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