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Posts Tagged ‘San Jose Mercury News’

Contact information on a news site is certainly a matter of customer service. I’d argue that it’s also an essential form of community engagement. But what about journalism ethics? Is easy access to journalists a matter of ethics? I think so.

Whatever factors you think should motivate contact information, I hope you’ll agree with me that many news sites make it difficult to contact them. And nearly all should do a better job.

Before I make some recommendations and examine some news sites and report on how easy it is to find out how to contact someone in the newsroom, I’ll make the case that accessibility is a matter of ethics:

Correcting errors is one of the basics of journalism ethics, mentioned in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist and Radio Television Digital News Association Code of Ethics. We’ll correct more errors if we learn about more of our errors. And if we’re easy to reach, we’re going to be more likely to learn about our errors.

The New York Times study of the Jayson Blair case revealed that people who read his fabricated stories didn’t bother to contact the Times because they didn’t think anyone at the Times would care. As much as I believe in corrections and accuracy, I don’t bother to request corrections about every error published about news I’m involved in (and my most recent request was ignored anyway). I think news organizations need to invite access and requests for corrections, or they won’t become aware of many of their mistakes.

I think if you tried to reach many news organizations through their websites today, you might come to the same conclusion: that no one there cares. Readers and viewers shouldn’t have to work to call our errors to our attention. (more…)

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This week I saw a post from a Digital First Media newsroom in my Facebook news feed, and was surprised to see it there. I “liked” dozens of DFM newsrooms during my time there, but don’t particularly care to follow their news that much now.

So I decided to unlike the page. And, while I was at it, I went into the list of pages I liked and decided to unlike a bunch more — at least two dozen, maybe three (it was probably an oversight that I didn’t like all 75 DFM dailies and some weeklies). And most of them, I had no idea I was even following because, well, they never showed up in my news feed. In fact, I’m not sure how that one showed up the other day because I hadn’t seen it in ages. I only recognized two or three of the ones I dropped as occasionally showing up in my feed.*

That illustrates a problem for news brands. I know every one of those newsrooms I unfollowed has staff members faithfully posting all of their stories, or several stories they think have the most appeal, to their Facebook pages daily. And most of their “fans” never see most of their posts.

The most recent estimate I’ve seen of the percentage of fans seeing a typical post was 16 percent, and that was in 2012, and the figure has certainly dropped as Facebook has made several algorithm tweaks, all designed to make it harder for non-paying brands to get their posts seen.

Maybe the number is something like 10 percent these days, but it will frequently be many of the same people, and probably 70 to 80 percent of your fans almost never see a post. They’re surprised when you show up in their news feed, as I was when my former colleagues’ post showed up this week.

But Facebook traffic is growing in importance for news sites. Parse.ly reported last August that Facebook drives 70 million page views a month to news publishers, second only to Google and more than twice as much as Twitter.

In addition, Parse.ly reported this month that stories with a higher Facebook referral rate have a longer shelf life, attracting traffic over more days than stories that don’t get strong engagement. Higher Twitter referral rates also help shelf life, but not as long as on Facebook.

So Facebook is an important source of news-site traffic, but engagement on Facebook is more complicated than simply posting links there (since most people don’t see them). (more…)

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If reports are correct, my former company, Digital First Media, is going to sell to Apollo Global Management for about $400 million.

I’m not going to pretend I can analyze what that means for DFM, my many former colleagues there or for the news business. I hope for the sake of my many friends remaining in the company’s newsrooms across the country that the Apollo’s management will find a path to prosperity that doesn’t involve endlessly cutting staff. I hope the company will genuinely pursue the kind of digital creativity that the future demands and will have the staying power to let good ideas flourish.

Since seeing initial reports about the pending deal, I’ve wondered about the meaning of the $400 million sale price, reached in a long “auction” process that sought the best deal(s) to sell the company as a whole or in pieces.

The reported price tag is a breathtaking fall from what newspapers used to be worth, even in the past few years. I hope this means Apollo’s strategy isn’t to keep cutting staff to maintain profits. DFM doesn’t have much left to cut, and values have dropped as newspapers have been cutting. The best way to maximize this $400 million investment will be to build value by developing new revenue streams.

Comparisons of sales prices of media companies can be misleading. One sale might include more real estate, while another might include more debt or pension obligations. Successful subsidiaries can add value to a company. In a sale such as the DFM deal, which is essentially between two private equity companies, full terms may never be disclosed. You might not be comparing apples and oranges, but apples and lawn mowers.

I was not involved in the sale at all, other than losing my job last year as the company was preparing for the sale. But I understood DFM enough to know this was an extraordinarily complicated deal, with an array of factors that make it unique: (more…)

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We’re getting ready to take some of our Digital First Media newsrooms on the road.

Four newsroom vans will roll into neighborhoods in the coming months, loaded with the equipment and people of community engagement projects.

We will launch the Mobile Community Media Lab projects in Connecticut, the San Francisco Bay area, the Twin Cities and York, Pa.

Digital First Media announced plans today for 12 community newsroom projects that will engage our communities in a variety of ways. In addition to the four mobile labs, we will be launching university partnerships, remodeling newsrooms to provide space for the community and planning special projects in our existing space. (more…)

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Thanks to Lisa Fernandez of the San Jose Mercury News for sending along this example of an update and a tweet by editor Mike Frankel giving an extra boost to a story (lightly edited from Lisa’s email):

We’re all trying here at BANG (the Bay Area News Group) to figure out how to extend the life of a story. And then, voila. Something happened by happenstance today, that made a story dropping in clicks turn into the No. 1 “most read” story today.

On Monday, we wrote about a PayPal executive who was killed after he was struck by a train. Turns out he was suffering from bipolar II, and we had gotten a statement from his family. Colleague Mike Rosenberg wrote the first version, which ran online Monday evening and in the paper on Tuesday. (more…)

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I enjoy watching journalists grow and learn about our profession. I recounted last month how Lisa Fernandez of the San Jose Mercury News tried live-tweeting after a webinar I led on using Twitter to improve your journalism.

Lisa tweeted and emailed recently about another lesson she learned about engaging with the community:

Lisa’s email to me last week told the story: (more…)

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A mistaken matter-of-fact statement in an Associated Press story launched Chris O’Brien on an insightful blog post that had little to do with the original story.

In the same way, a statement in Chris’s post launched me on this post, which will start out in a different direction from his blog.

The AP story, about Microsoft, said, “If it doesn’t make the right calculation, the software maker could find itself in the same position as newspapers that gave online content away and now are struggling to replace print revenue.”

Chris, contributing to the MediaShift blog, wrote: “That second line is almost a throwaway, written with no attribution. That means that the notion has officially entered into conventional wisdom: Local newspapers screwed up by giving away for free the content everyone used to pay to consume.” (more…)

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