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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Journalism 101 with Eric Chiles

Last night, a group of unsuspecting Northampton Community College students made the mistake of attending a 2 1/2 hour journalism class despite the good weather. Their reward was something even more horrifying and sinister than swine flu.

Me.

Just last week, I really screwed up a story about LC Exec Don Cunningham. He was pretty good about it. I only have to wash his car for the next year. That's better than Capitol Ideas' John Micek, who also screwed up, although not nearly so badly as me. He has toilet detail. More readers.

Eric Chiles, a former member of the Morning Call's editorial board, knows all this. He asked me to speak to his Journalism 101 class anyway. Teaching common journalism errors, he thought of me immediately. So I spent about an hour dealing with "Just how dumb are you?" and "Your fly is open, jackass." When it was all over, I got a coffee mug. Eric is very thoughtful.

After I was done, the class allowed me to remain for Eric's lecture. I probably should have attended a few of those before I started blogging. But I learned some things, and want to share them with you. He paints a dark forecast.

1) The Morning Call reports its most recent circulation figures in a factually accurate article that contains a very misleading headline. The headline screams, "Morning Call readership rises by 9.2 percent." The reality? "The paper's daily print circulation, a measure of people paying for the newspaper, dropped 8.9 percent to 99,111 compared with a year ago. Total Sunday print circulation, which is typically the most profitable day for newspaper advertising, dropped 7.2 percent to 130,693."

2) The daily circulation is under 100,000 for the first time in 38 years.

3) Coverage of important local issues, like the Bethlehem City Council race, is wanting. "I'm still waiting to find out who Eric Evans is. I see yard signs all over the place, but don't know who he is." (The Morning Call did cover Evans' announcement in a blog.)

4) Newspapers are going away. Chiles predicts that, like news carriers and ad salesmen, reporters will soon be converted into independent contractors.

5) Newspapers are going away. The Internet is taking over. He believes citizen journalists will pick up the slack, assuming the role of Colonial era citizens who published pamphlets that bashed the King.

6) Editors will be replaced by algorithms in search engines.

17 comments:

Al Capwell said...

you're THAT bad tonight.

Al Capwell said...

you weren't THAT bad is what I meant to say.

Anonymous said...

For an interesting discussion speculating on the fall of newspapers see this:

http://volokh.com/posts/1240852864.shtml

and the related post, and the comments thereto.

Catharine

Anonymous said...

O'Hare as guest speaker at a former Morning Call editorial board member's class on journalism really brings new meaning to the phrase "sad commentary." I wonder if O'Hare did a powerpoint on his Troll Parade blog?

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
If the Call 15 years ago had decided to tell the truth about Allentown's increasing crime issues, readership would not have gone away.
Having attended many council meetings only to read the Call's
accounting the next day, realized reporters and the Call did not care about citizen issues.

If papers are going away, why is Chiles encouraging young people to pursue Journalism? Where
will these young people find jobs?

Please let us know.

Maureen said...

Bernie -- RE: Eric Evans www.evansforcouncil.com -- I think its listed on his yard signs.... this should provide information about him.

Anonymous said...

The reason why the Call featured you in their Editorial page the same week you were invited to speak at Nicnac is because what you write gets readers, gets attention because you're good at it no matter what your views are. Even the anonymous hecklers that bug you every day check your blog out first thing,I'm sure, after they settle themselves into their cubicles at their miserable jobs. As for the Call, I think they are losing young readers because they are stuck in the 50s as far as their format and style. I suspect the editors stifle the writers to keep things non-controversial and mundane so as to not offend the Lehigh Valley bluehairs while the younger readership is off to the Internet (Huffington Post or Drudge Report for national news or blogs like yours for local) to get more biting modern commentary and news while poor Bill White is relegated to writing about the "Shad Tournament a perfect place to play hooky" to satisfy the Gracedale and Cedarbrook readership.

Anonymous said...

what you write gets readers

99.9% Male
Majority Age 50+
Majority Neocon
Majority NorCo
Numerous Politico Agenda Spoon-Feeders
Trolled by Clueless MC and ET staffs + Sadists

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If papers are going away, why is Chiles encouraging young people to pursue Journalism?" - Because while newspapers may be going away, journalism will always be necessary.

And I disagree w/ Eric's view that newspapers are going away. he's the professor, but I think newspapers will change, not disappear.

Erdman seems to think that stories about deep fried pizza are what readers like most. That's what his sitementer tells him. So he serves those up to the exclusion of a story about Eric Evans.

A good lawyer tells his client the truth, not what the client wants to hear. Same with a doctor. So it should be w/ a newsman. You can get some superficial attraction w. stories about deep fried pizza but are not doing your job in the long run. Most of the newsmen at The Morning Call already know this. It's the Erdmans who don't. He's finally at the helm, but at a sinking ship.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bill White is relegated to writing about the "Shad Tournament a perfect place to play hooky" to satisfy the Gracedale and Cedarbrook readership." --

I hope that is not true. His writing always meanders. One day it may be some school board and the next day it may be a shad tourney. I just assumed he was losing interest in politics over time and getting totally fascinated by American Idol. You could ask him on his live chat at noon. I would do it myself but I have a luncheon engagement with a bunch of pretty women and that hardly ever happens.

A.J.C. said...

Anon 8:58, the URL doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, If you wanted to know about Evans, you should have went to the "debate" on Tuesday. He was there with the other candidates for Bethlehem City Council.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, will you let the women go when you are finished with them?

Anonymous said...

Eating cheez-its in your room, surrounded by nudie pictures is not a date.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Those are low sodium Cheez-its.

Anonymous said...

Memo to Morning Call staff from editor David Erdman

I'd like to share more details of an upcoming newsroom reorganization and redesign.

RESTRUCTURING
As you know and we have discussed before, we are facing business conditions and industry changes that are causing us to restructure, become a smaller and more streamlined operation, not only in the newsroom but across the whole company. As part of the May 5 format change, there will be corresponding page reductions. In this punishing economy, unfortunately this will mean additional expense reductions, including job changes for some and job eliminations.

This restructuring will better position us to endure economic conditions and continue to serve the Lehigh Valley with the best journalism from the top news organization in the region. As we implement this change, we will remain true to that mission, focusing on journalism and information on which our readers and the community rely on us most.
We already have begun talking to some individuals about new roles they will assume as part of this restructuring. We will be talking to more next week.

We will be notifying those who will face job elimination early next month.

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

I should read your blog more often.

I'm one of the illustrious "former employees." Cut in the second round of cuts.

My husband told me of that headline--reporting that "circulation" was up 10%, which really puzzled me. I tried telling him that it must be that they are giving away more papers for free...which doesn't count for advertisers.

He didn't believe me.

Funny that he didn't tell me upon reading the actual article that circulation is actually DOWN. LOL!

I also wanted to mention...I think the reason you couldn't reach Vicki Mayk (a really wonderful woman) is because I think she got cut. Her name is no longer listed on the website, and she was the "PR Manager."