Journalism: "All the news that's fit to fund"

Oct 22, 2006
Tripping the light fantastic
Here is a very interesting article about news print, magazines will soon follow, some magazine have bigger online readership than they sell print. In some Doctor's office you no longer even find old print magazines but "admags" put there but the drug giants... Where am I going with this, just a reminder we are in the 21st century and that the old 'print' base business model of news organizations is (I would say has changed) ... is changing specially that most watered down news people now read in major cities are the throw away free news magazines (papers) which can be found everywhere - they don't even pretend to have content - just filler to hold the ads together, just long enough to distract you on your daily commute to work.

Talking about advertising here is one I saw in an Arts magazine called "Juxtapoz" the Sept 08 issue a 'Vans' ad none the less where they take these two page ads on one side you have a handwritten note from the artist who's picture appears on the opposite page:

"I would guess in a world of billions of people conformity is a necessity to run a smooth functioning culture. Everything is directed at sameness. Uniformity is security. But sometimes polyps develops in the colon of mankind and I might just be one of these distracting anomalies. I wouldn't dare hide behind the cloak of artistic priviledge myself, and especially classify all other artists as mavericks. Being an artist and associating with artists for more than fifty years I would have to confess many artists are closet followers.

Artists tend to huddle together under the safety of movement and trends, they milk the prevailing crazes dry. Of course this isn't true of all artists, but the rare original few are generally sidelined until they eventually surface.

With all due respect, I myself can't avoid non conformity. It's not an affection with me, it's my psychosis. I am born recalcitrant, and unfortunately an unrepentant miscreant. 'Recalcitrant' is the military term for those who cannot be brought into line, a reactionnary malcontent.

I know this because I faced this problem in military school as a child. If that wasn't enough I show all the symptoms of being an unbridled miscreant, an incorrigible person.

I don't revel in my personal anomalies, I just keep them in check. That is until a pencil or brush gets in my hands. At this point I seem to exalt through my compulsion (in my mind anyway).

I see this in other artists. This is the malady of true bohemians such as painters, sculptors, writers, poets, musicians, actors, and other people who are driven to do things that aren't socially accountable, In my opinion however, one thing to be cautious about is that the nonconformist mind is only two degrees away from the criminal mind. And in many cases they overlap. This is not a chance coincidence. Irregularities in any system causes problems. Problems that work out accidentally for the good is in fact evolution. Evolution grants its favors only through the benefits of mistakes.

I would say if it had been a perfect world we would never have gotten here.
" - Robert Williams

This goes to show a perfectly made advertising for its medium and how to you get those advertising dollars... by standing out and how does your ad stand out... by not looking like an ad... Now in a perfect world we would pay the true value of our news and have very little advertising (for those who don't like advertising) and everything would be perfect however time change, and the new ways replaces the old ways, we are in a very exciting as well as frightening time because what we are used to, is not what we will have to get used to in a few months, few years, etc., ... Anywho without further ado here is the article in question.

All the news that's fit to fund

by John Honderich
Toronto Star
February 01, 2009

Analysts ponder deeper meaning of president's meeting with editor
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has expressed his "deepest sorrow and compassion" over the Jan. 19 murder of a cub reporter for Novaya Gazeta , an independent newspaper that has established itself as one of the Kremlin's sharpest critics.
If traditional news outlets could no longer afford to do the investigative stories that inform public debate and influence a community's quality of life, who could? The former publisher of the Star explores five options

Whither serious print journalism?

Five years ago, such a question might have intrigued only news junkies. Today it should concern us all.

That same five years ago, newspapers were still flourishing. While the Internet was making its mark, there was no talk of print Armageddon. Yet today the industry is in turmoil. Cutbacks and layoffs are the order of the day, and some are questioning whether newspapers will be around. Indeed, some aren't. Some are only online; others don't publish Mondays anymore.

While there is much talk of the decline of the newspaper industry, yet to occur in Canada is a serious dialogue on the effect of this decline on serious print journalism.

In my view, that time has come, for every week the evidence mounts that new thinking is required.

Just last month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a plan that would see the government offering all 18-year-olds a free year-long subscription to a newspaper of their choice.

A whisker of time ago, the idea of the government handing out free newspapers would have been laughed away. Yet today in France, there is a serious debate on the plight of that country's newspaper industry.

South of our border, various free-enterprise philanthropic models have emerged to ensure a flow of serious print journalism. So the debate has begun elsewhere; what is required in Canada is a similar dialogue.

Why should we care?

For me, it relates directly to the very quality of our democracy. In order for all of us to live meaningfully and participate in our community, we must be appropriately informed.

In this regard, the quality of public debate, if not the very quality of life in any community, is a direct function of the quality of media that serve it. Indeed, the functioning of a healthy democracy is predicated on a well-informed populace.

If the media don't function well, a society can suffer. This is why noted American essayist A. J. Liebling once called newspapers "the weak slat under the bed of democracy."

Newspapers have always played a unique role in this informing process. Through groundbreaking investigative projects, searing features, hard-hitting crusades and biting editorials, newspapers have most often set the agenda for public discussion. They provide, when well run, the means for a community to examine itself, a channel to ferret out abuse and corruption, and a vehicle to give a voice to those whose voices are not often heard.

This in no way denies the impact of the electronic or digital media. Their cumulative impact is indisputable.

Yet when it comes to the exploration of a new idea, the exposure of an unknown travesty or the elucidation of a new approach, newspapers in my view have played the leading role.

Greater Toronto has been well served by what is probably the most competitive newspaper market in North America. In this newspaper alone, the record of serious journalism is considerable; it includes advocacy of a "New Deal" for cities, a war on poverty, and many exposés: of questionable charities, of poor conditions in nursing homes and on aboriginal reserves, of inadequacies in the child-welfare system, and racial profiling in our police force. This kind of journalism comes at a significant cost and demands a significant allocation of journalists and resources.

One of those I am most proud of is the Star series on racial profiling. Those landmark stories were three years in preparation, and the ultimate legal case, won by the Star, went all the way to the Supreme Court. The total cost to the paper in reporters, photographers, editors and lawyers ran into the millions.

Was it worth it? No question.

But as newsrooms shrink and editorial budgets collapse, it is precisely this type of in-depth and costly journalism that I fear will disappear.

So what are some of the new models and the new thinking on this issue? The first, as exemplified by the Sarkozy initiative, is simply to have governments fund or subsidize media.

In Canada, we have the obvious example of the CBC, where it is still seen as in the public interest for there to be a state-funded broadcasting company. The same applies in Britain, where every resident owning a TV pays a tax to help support the British Broadcasting Corp.

Newspaper proprietors in Canada have ferociously fought any government involvement in their operations for decades. They worry it would compromise freedom of the press.

There are other options on the table. The most noteworthy American initiative is an independent, non-profit newsroom called ProPublica.

It is led by a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a former investigative editor of The New York Times. Its stated goal is to work exclusively on truly important stories with what they call "moral force."

Based in New York, ProPublica has 28 seasoned investigative reporters; they started producing stories about six months ago. ProPublica calls itself the largest, best-led and best-funded investigative journalism operation in the U.S.

At this point, it is operating on grants of $10 million from various foundations. There is a regular board of directors and a journalism advisory board.

Every story is distributed in a manner to maximize its impact. This usually means they are offered exclusively to a traditional news organization free of charge. The reporting is also posted on ProPublica's website, and an aggressive marketing scheme is undertaken for all stories.

ProPublica's hope is that once more stories run and its brand is better known, it will attract more funding.

A second model sees serious journalists applying for grants from private foundations or charities to pursue their work.

Perhaps the most famous is The Fund for Investigative Journalism, started 40 years ago by the late Philip Stern. A noted philanthropist, he dedicated his life to "balancing the scales of justice."

In this model, reporters apply directly to the Fund for grants of $5,000 to $10,000 (U.S.).

The most famous recipient is noted American journalist Seymour Hersh, who was given a grant of $2,250. That was all he needed to investigate the infamous My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.

"Think of it," Stern later wrote. "A mere $2,250 in Fund grants enabled Seymour Hersh to leverage a whiff into a colossal stink and contribute mightily to the change in how Americans viewed the war in Vietnam."

The Fund has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to reporters, authors and others that have resulted in the publication of more than 700 stories, broadcasts and books.

As an aside, it is worth noting that legendary Star publisher Joseph Atkinson had a similar idea in mind when he left this newspaper in his estate to the charitable foundation that bears his name. A subsequent provincial law made that transfer illegal. However, for the past 20 years, the foundation has sponsored the Atkinson Fellowship, which has allowed senior journalists to pursue a year-long study of a public-policy issue.

Another model, also emerging in the U.S., is what might be called participatory investigative journalism. It is exemplified by a group known as Spot.Us. Spot.Us is a non-profit, pioneering what its founders call "community-funded reporting." They say their project is based on the concept of "crowdfunding." In essence, the public votes with their money for the stories they want investigated.

The project received a grant of $340,000 from the Knight News Challenge to test the concept with investigative reporters in the Bay Area of California. Under this plan, any citizen can enter a story idea or controversy that he or she wants investigated; anyone can create an idea as long as it is local.

Investigative reporters then develop an outline of how this might work based on the ideas that are submitted. Spot.Us endeavours to raise as much outside funding as possible to support these efforts.

But if your idea is selected, then citizens are also encouraged, if not expected, to help contribute to the cost of doing the work.

Once it is completed, Spot.Us promises to run the story on its blog and also provides the content to traditional media outlets – for free. It is probably too early to gauge how well this might work in the longer term.

Another variation on this theme might involve journalism students working in tandem with established investigative reporters. Media organizations could join with journalism schools on projects that could be funded by foundations dedicated to aiding education. Not only is this a cost-efficient way to do top quality work, but it would involve a beneficial learning component.

Undoubtedly the list of models will grow. But, in my view, the important need is for the dialogue to begin.

At stake could be nothing less than the vibrancy and health of our society.
Mar 31, 2005
Toronto Canada
Well written, Dude.

I read the Star every day for the investigative journalism, the seemingly unbiased reporting (yes, some will argue) and the exposure to what is wrong (or right) with our city, province, country and world. It certainly seems to support the underdog in so many of its series, and yes, their investigative journalism has actually forced some of our laws to change, for the better!

I read the Globe&Mail for the biz, to find out who is going under this week!
Oct 22, 2006
Tripping the light fantastic
Well written, Dude.

I read the Star every day for the investigative journalism, the seemingly unbiased reporting (yes, some will argue) and the exposure to what is wrong (or right) with our city, province, country and world. It certainly seems to support the underdog in so many of its series, and yes, their investigative journalism has actually forced some of our laws to change, for the better!

I read the Globe&Mail for the biz, to find out who is going under this week!

Sandi, here is another good one from "The Star"

The unlikely lexical countdown to a million

by Kenneth Kidd
Why one word lover thinks English could hit that mark on April 29

Katherine Barber, the country's self-styled "Word Lady," is giggling into the phone. It's as if she's just been told a whopper for the ages, one with enough surface plausibility to make any seasoned prankster arch an eyebrow in admiration.

This would be the claim, by a certain American with a flair for software, that the English language will reach 1 million words on April 29. Give or take.

"It's so farcical that someone would say, `on April 29' ..." says Barber, drifting into giggles again.

"You just can't count them," says the editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. "There are probably already more than a million."

And if you are counting, what exactly is a word, anyway?

Do you count a verb once, or all of its conjugations separately? What about words with multiple meanings, or techno-babble and slang?

Should you include words that English has picked up from other languages, such as shampoo and bungalow (both from Hindi)?

"Once you start looking at specialized vocabularies, it's enormous," adds Barber, pointing to the names of chemicals and drugs. "It just goes on forever."

Enter the dauntless Paul Payack, who runs something called The Global Language Monitor out of Austin, Tex.

The firm's website features what it calls "The English Language WordClock," a kind of electronic tote board. On a recent weekday, it claimed there were now 998,773 English words, meaning we're just a handful of Hollywood novelties and blogosphere buzzwords away from the million mark.

Really? 998,773?

It depends, of course, on how you define the linguistic universe. In Global Monitor's case, that means you dump the best-known dictionaries (Oxford, Merriam-Webster, etc.) into the computer, mix in words from Chaucer, Shakespeare and the Bible, and then flavour the lot with all the additional words a proprietary algorithm picks up from the Internet and media, provided they surpass 25,000 citations and meet certain criteria for frequency and longevity.

Words with multiple meanings get counted only once, as do verbs. But forget about chemical names or the countless varieties of fungus – they occupy a kind of parallel universe and don't figure in the Global Monitor tally.

"You can't be precise," concedes Payack. "We're talking from a poet's perspective. I'm a word lover, not a linguist."

The whole point, apart from the obvious publicity, is to celebrate the richness of the language.

And he notes that standard dictionaries are often slow to include recent coinage. One example: "dark energy," the term used to explain how the universe seems to be expanding at an accelerating rate. The idea has been taught in schools for years but is only now starting to show up in standard dictionaries.

Also neglected by traditional tomes: "words" such as "staycation" (a holiday sans travel) and any number of Bushisms, which (alas) can't be misunderestimated.

But what about words that are used only in some parts of the world? Does Payack count them?

Most Canadians would instantly recognize poutine, double-double, loonie and depanneur as words unique to this part of the world. But there are actually thousands of others. It's just that we assume the rest of the planet uses them, too.

A sampling: butter tart, cube van, eavestrough, grow-op, parkade, parkette, pogey, two-four.

As it turns out, all of those words are part of Payack's universe, since they appear in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, which, for the record, contains only 130,000 words in bold face, the ones that top an entry. If you counted all of the definitions, though, you'd be up around 300,000. (The full Oxford English Dictionary has about 450,000 words in bold face.)

Then there are all the regional expressions, such as Newfoundland's ballicatter (ice formed by water spray), Eastern Ontario's snye (a side channel that bypasses rapids to form an island) or English Quebec's subvention (subsidy, borrowed from Quebec French).

Of course, if the weather is mauzy (damp and misty in Newfoundland), you might want to pull on your Cowichan sweater (made from homespun, un-dyed wool in B.C.) and fill up on some Digby chicken (dried or cured herring in the Maritimes).

All of those words make it into the Canadian Oxford, as does "gotchies," which most Canadians know as slang for underpants. It's a corrupted version of a Ukrainian term for long johns, but few outside this country would know what it means.

In all, there are more than 2,000 Canadian words listed in the Canadian Oxford, but those are just the ones that Barber & Co. deemed common and widespread enough for inclusion. Extreme localisms need not apply, which means they also don't figure in the global count.

In Toronto, a popular schoolyard game involves painting (or chalking) a rectangular strike zone on a wall. There's a pitcher, who aims for the strike zone, and a batter, who stands in front of it. It's called "burbee" in Toronto's east end, "french" in parts of East York, and "wall ball" in other areas of the city.

None of those expressions made it into Barber's book, Only in Canada, You Say, a treasury of words unique to the great dominion. Nor does "squared," a Torontoism of ancient coinage that means, well, kicked in the groin.

But if those terms don't rate inclusion in dictionaries, are they still words? If you define "word" as something that conveys an understood meaning, then the answer is clearly yes, even if they don't count as one in a million.

So does that great Canadian elocution "eh" pass muster? Yes, but with a twist. Canadians tend to think it's uniquely ours, since Americans don't use it. But the truth is more complicated. English speakers throughout the Commonwealth use "eh" as a so-called "tag ending" to sentences, as in, "Nice day, eh?" To which the hearer is expected to answer in the affirmative.

What's uniquely Canadian is the other way we use the word, as a filler or "narrative eh" in the middle of sentences. Barber's example: "I'm going to Winnipeg for Christmas, eh, so I'm packing my long johns."

Which means that, this being Canada, "gotchies" will also be making the trip.
Apr 12, 2006
Central Georgia, USA
Excellent Patrick.
After reading the article, I have hope for the future of news and the country.

In this area of the country, newspaper readership, and for that fact any other periodicals readership, has been falling for 20 years. I have bright grandchildren, don't we all, but reading a newspaper everyday is not for them. They stay busy with productive things, but I sense they are not as aware of their world close at hand, as they are of more distant countries and problems.

I have probably read a newspaper everyday of my adult life. Getting a major newspaper in the country has never been easy, 24 mile trip on the weekends. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution dropped 20 counties from their distribution area, then raised the price 50%. I know they are in hard times, but this really seems like it hurt the situation more.
I have been wondering when I would hear that they were for sale, or what would happen if they folded. It is good to know there are others striving to focus the light where it is needed most. These efforts are comparable to Ben Franklin's and Thomas Paine's broadsides.
May 5, 2005
SW Virginia
This column appeared in yesterday's Roanoke Times

Newspapers are killing themselves

Darrell W. Craft

Craft, of Roanoke, is a local attorney and owner of North Roanoke Assisted Living, L.L.C.

I write this commentary because, while I do not always agree with your articles, I do think that The Roanoke Times, like other newspapers around the country, does a good job in getting to the bottom of a lot of stories. It troubles me that so many newspapers are losing readership and the papers are either going under or laying off individuals.

We rarely seem to hear the question: Why?

For years people have spoken about the slant of print media as the reason support has eroded. I don't believe that.

I have a better theory to explain the loss. Why buy the paper when the paper will give you content for free?

While my household supports The Times daily with a subscription and my business spends about $1,000 per month on advertising in the employment classifieds, I know many people who simply get their local news from

This week I was talking about this subject with someone in his early 30s who said he gets his news from exclusively. He hasn't bought a paper in years.

I suspect The Times gets some form of revenue from the online advertising, however, does it equate to the loss of actual papers? I would like to know readership numbers now as compared to before launched. I know the daily newsstand price of 75 cents has increased along with classified costs, but has that offset the loss of actual papers that used to be sold?

Granted, the argument could be made that if people didn't get their news from they would get it from the, The New York Times Web site or something similar. They also give away their material and wonder why they are losing money.

The record industry faced this problem 10 years ago. Napster was killing record sales. Free downloads and sharing meant no one was being paid for what they created. Granted, music sharing still goes on to a degree but not nearly on the same scale as before.

What did the recording industry do? It stopped illegal downloads. Now almost all material is paid for if it is downloaded. The recording industry is still trying to recover.

I know some may question me, but think: If something doesn't change with readership or income, a lot more papers will stop their presses for good. If that occurs, who will investigate the stories, dig for information, keep us advised of what is going on, etc.?

Granted, local TV will survive longer. However, due to the time constraints imposed on local television, will we simply get an overview if the paper is forever gone?

Now I see that The Times has fallen to mandatory days off for the next few months. After this period, what will be different? Income will probably still be down and, contrary to official statements, I believe the economy is not The Times' biggest problem and source of revenue shortfalls. It is the paper's decision to pay people to do a job only to give the product away for free or next thereto.

While I know a lot more is involved than covered here, my suggestions for The Times (and to a degree all papers) is twofold.

n Limit the content or access to (or similar page as it relates to other papers). That way local people would be more inclined to purchase the paper.

n If you can't or don't feel comfortable limiting the content, charge for it. Have people buy access to it on a monthly or yearly subscription basis for something comparable to the print version. Surely this could be done with minimal costs.

I, for one, hope The Times is always around. While I do not always agree with everything printed, I appreciate the job the paper does. Without it, Southwest Virginia would truly lose out.
Oct 22, 2006
Tripping the light fantastic
I write this commentary because, while I do not always agree with your articles, I do think that The Roanoke Times, like other newspapers around the country, does a good job in getting to the bottom of a lot of stories. It troubles me that so many newspapers are losing readership and the papers are either going under or laying off individuals.

We rarely seem to hear the question: Why?

For years people have spoken about the slant of print media as the reason support has eroded. I don't believe that.

I have a better theory to explain the loss. Why buy the paper when the paper will give you content for free?

That is half the equation, the other half is really those free dailys you see everywhere, I seldom see people connected to the Internet on a Subway or Regional train ... They hold those free newspapers.

Before any news outlet can charge they have to be the one and only place to get the news, all newscast be it on print or televised refer to their website... Why? Eventually they will all go online, for a couple of reasons, one - when they purchase a news story for print, it is a one time deal - they get it for that day and can't re-print it without paying the author - the Internet works differently and journalist have no other choice or very little alternative as to giving away the Internet rights to be in print.

The business model is changing so are the ways corporate news center pay for the news they get and how they distribute it, of course they will give it away for free, they paid for it once and if like the New York times you want an older article, then you have to pay for it ... and the writer will see nothing of that money...

What to do? :confused:
Jul 21, 2008
Sevierville, TN
Important point

and will not labor the point of declining newspaper sales, let me expand it to the photographic world.

On another thread it occurred to me that when some people take pictures they light and compose the subject with a thought to how it will look when printed on photographic paper, including me. I suspect that younger camera users tend to think of how their pictures will look on their computer monitor, not to say that there isn't a lot of crossover. And yes there is a difference in how they look, IMO.

Eventually the distribution of images via electronic means will be the norm and at that point people will not care if a "print" looks the same as the image does on a display. People will only be concerned with how the image looks when electronically displayed. It is not too hard to imagine competent portable imaging devices which replace photo books, books, magazines in doctors offices, even "Bus Stop ADDS." The interesting thing for me is that electronic images are not static, they can be edited at any time so they don't really have the "integrity" of traditional film and paper. Don't mean to cry "Big Brother" but as peoples perceptions of events change, it will be easy to alter historical documents and images to re-inforce those perceptions.

Will society change because of a predominance of electronic imaging and publications? How will professional photographers deal with a market that demands electronic only images? If I printed this on a manual typewriter, would it make more sense, ...don't know?
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