Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Trip on Uncharted Waters

A belated welcome to 2007. We semi-retired professors need, and take, more of a break than do you more active journalists.

I labeled my last post "A Staggering Year," and 2006 was for most of us in journalism, certainly in the Northeast Ohio newspaper world. But 2007?

Congressman Tim Ryan, in a speech Friday at the Akron Press Club, talked about government being "in uncharted waters." He said we need to get rid of old slogans, both from liberals and conservatives, both from the left and right, both from Democrats and Republicans. Ryan talked about trying to solve 21st century problems with a 20th century bureaucracy (he mentioned Katrina).

Throughout his speech I kept thinking of a 20th century media trying to compete in the 21st century. I am reminded of a mid-90s Associated Press Managing Editors convention where a panel of top industry leaders had virtually no ideas for facing the 21st century. True the Internet was not the ubiquitous entity it is now; the main threat at the time was to the newspaper's bedrock classified advertising income. And, I have to confess, I didn't have any more ideas then than did any other journalist or journalism educator.

However, I'm not totally pessimistic as we start a new year. Like Ryan, I see glimmers of hope. I think 2007 will be another rocky year for much of the media; in Northeast Ohio we have the Canton Repository still looking for a new owner, the Plain Dealer looking for a new editor and the Beacon Journal adapting to the firing of editor Debra Adams Simmons (presumably for money reasons; she apparently isn't being replaced). But finally we are seeing more management groups coming to grips with this changing media environment. Two of many examples are cited below.

Major Shakeup in Virginia

One newspaper undergoing a shakeup is the Richmond Times-Dispatch under Executive Editor Glenn Proctor. Glenn is a member of the JMC advisory board at Kent State and a former Akron Beacon Journal staffer.

American Journalism Review recently wrote about the changes, especially Glenn's management style (think Bobby Knight) and what it called the "reader-friendly revolution" in Richmond, a city linked with the Confederacy and a newspaper remembered for opposing school integration. Naturally the staff seems divided on the changes in what AJR calls a "culture clash." (For those who don't know Glenn, he is an African American and a former Marine.)

Change on the West Coast

The Los Angeles Times, itself facing a potential sale and the aftermath of the highly publicized resignation of Editor Dean Baquet, announced last week a major Web initiative. Following up on a report begun under Baquet, Editor James O'Shea told staff members that it was imperative that the Times begin viewing as the paper's primary vehicle for delivering news.

The Times' own story on the new initiative reports their Web site has only 18 editorial employees compared to 200 at the Washington Post's site and 50 at the New York Times' site. Also from the report: "To put it bluntly . . . we are not Web-savvy. If anything, we are Web-stupid." O'Shea is launching a crash course to teach reporters, editors and photographers how to post content on


Here at Kent State planning has started for the second annual Media Mindsets conference. The first conference, "Where Is My Audience Going? New Media, New Challenges, New Solutions," focused on the many changes taking place in the media world. This year we want to highlight ways the media is changing. Although much about the future is obviously unknown, media managers know that changes are imperative. Or, as Rep. Ryan would say, they must manage in these "uncharted waters."

We want your suggestions on potential speakers and panel topics. We are working with the university to pin down a date for the conference, which we hope to announce soon. Feel free to share your thoughts for the 2007 conference by posting a comment to this blog or by emailing me at

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Staggering Year

Staggering is the word that comes to my mind when I try to sum up the world of journalism in 2006, especially that in Northeast Ohio. Several times I've started a blog only to learn of a major development that sent me back to the keyboard.

The Crain's Cleveland Business Web site started a posting in late October thusly, "Buyouts at The Plain Dealer, the sale and gutting of the Akron Beacon Journal, and now this: The San Diego-based parent company of The Repository in Canton, The Independent in Massillon and The Times-Reporter in New Philadelphia has put the papers up for sale."

The changes have affected many of the friends and alumni of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication but perhaps none more than the news that general manager Mike Hanke and special projects editor Rick Senften are taking buyouts from the Rep and will be ending their careers at the end of the month. The lessened payroll is supposed to make the Rep more attractive to buyers. I'm not sure how a paper without Mike and Rick can be more attractive to anyone.

Mike and Rick, both Kent State journalism alums, have meant so much to the school and to Canton. In October the two appeared in Jeff Fruit's media management class; I set in on the class just to learn from two experts. Interestingly one theme that evening was how well the Rep had been doing in recent years under Copley's ownership. As almost every newspaper in America has been losing circulation over the last decade, the Rep has had one circulation increase after another. It's clearly been a love affair between a city and two guys who have spent their full careers at the only paper they have ever worked for.

For anyone who knows Rick or cares about journalism or Canton, Rick's column this weekend is a must read.

A Lively Academic Discussion

One of the most successful events for the still relatively new College of Communication and Information has been the Distinguished Scholar Series. Dr. Paul Haridakis of Communication Studies kicked off the second year of the series Dec. 1 with a presentation centered on his research on government control of access to information.

Once again the presentation touched off a interesting discussion with remarks and questions from, among others, fellow lawyer Tim Smith of Journalism and Mass Communication; Fran Collins, also of JMC, whose research interests include commercial speech; Dean Jim Gaudino and Stan Wearden of Com Studies. Rick Rubin and Mary Stansbury did a nice job of tying the access issue to librarians' concerns.

There will be two more presentations in the spring semester: Ken O'Grady, Visual Communication Design, on Feb. 2, and Mary Stansbury, Library and Information Systems, on March 2. I'll have details on their presentations later.

Incidentally Ken has recently had a book published: A Designer's Research Manual: Succeed in Design by Knowing Your Clients and What They Really Need by Rockport Publishers. The book was written with Jenn Visocky O'Grady. As a one-time layout and design teacher, I wish I had had the book years ago. It's an easy-to-use manual that relates basic research principles to problems in design.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

'. . . and I Approve This Message'

I suspect I'm not the only one who will be glad when the election is over, partly because we can't stand to hear this phrase repeated a hundred times a day. Perhaps one of the reasons U.S. voting participation falls behind other countries is the campaign "noise," especially that coming from negative TV ads.

One report from, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, studied more than 200 congressional ads from the top 101 TV markets. Their findings:

Of 115 National Republican Campaign Committee ads, 91% were judged to be purely negative and only 6% were purely positive.

Of 104 ads by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 81% were judged to be purely negative and only 2% purely positive with the rest a mix of positive statements about the supported candidate and negative statements about the opponent.

Why so many negative ads? Simple: They seem to work.

Every major election year, pundits are heard saying this is the most negative election in history. But as director Brooks Jackson said, "This time it might be true. It's hard to see when over 90% of the Republican ads are negative how you could go any more negative than this." The report stated, "What stood out in the (Republican congressional committee's) report was a pronounced tendency to be petty and personal, and sometimes careless with the facts."

Reporting from Election Central

Journalists could be in for a long evening Tuesday, especially in many parts of Ohio.

With the importance of the election, the number of races, the increased number of absentee ballots and the probability of voting machine problems, networks may be hedging on control of the House and Senate until late in the evening and a.m. papers may be stuck with "election too close to call" stories.

But as Washington Post media analyst Howard Kurtz notes, "A big political wave can wash away much of the drama. During the Republican sweep of 1994, the networks began talking of a GOP takeover as early as 8:45."

Although most stories I've seen in the last week have focused on a predicted Democratic resurgence, I'd be cautious in basing my plans on that. I am reminded of the Kerry-Bush voting in Portage County in 2004. The Democrats got the heavy vote they expected, but they totally underestimated how well the Republicans would do in getting their voters to the polls.

In fact, Kurtz predicts "caution" will be the byword for election night. He quotes Marty Ryan of Fox News as saying, "House races are notoriously difficult to call. How do you call 50 House races?"

Some areas for media watchers to focus on:

How well are the on-air networks able to compete with cable, which is going to follow the elections full time?

Will Web sites have enough of the latest returns to cut into the TV audiences?

In Northeast Ohio, how well will Cleveland TV stations do on state and local returns? And to what extent will people get their information from the TV and newspaper Web sites?

The addition of two new TV anchors, ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS's Katie Couric, gives media critics another focus. And former anchor Bob Schieffer will join Couric, and at NBC longtime anchor Tom Brokaw will join Brian Williams.

All in all, it should be a very interesting evening.

Portage County Results

TV viewers can check what's happening in Portage County by watching TV-2 on the Kent State campus or tuning to Channel 16 on the cable in Kent. Adviser Gary Hanson says TV-2 will be on the air from 9 p.m. until the Portage County returns are final, barring a vote-counting catastrophe.

TV-2 news director Katie Morse and assistant news director Julie Bercik will host the election night special. Hanson says they will have reporters posted at election headquarters to follow the counting..


Kent State public relations head Bill Sledzik has joined the blogosphere. Bill is writing a blog twice a week on both local and national issues affecting the PR world. With his extensive network of former students and other media professionals, Bill's blog is a must for PR practitioners.

Friday's post dealt with PR battles over smoking including Ohio Issues 4 and 5. Bill says, "Smokers may win one more round in my state, but we all know that tobacco is soon to become a complete social taboo--if not this year, very soon."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Conference Post-Mortem

Thanks to all who joined us for the first Media Mindsets conference on Oct. 13. And a special thanks for all of the presenters. We are collecting comments with an eye toward making the conference an annual event. We would like your suggestions either as a Comment to this blog or an email to

Pearle Bower, who arranged the administrative side, said the conference attendance was around 112 as some people came in after the registration table closed. Putting on an event for journalists reminds one of trying to herd cats--in two words: not easy.

Most of the informal comments to date have been complimentary. Not surprising for a conference with presentations by both academicians and media professionals, the nominations for "best session" varied greatly. Every session seemed to be someone's favorite. What was called too basic by one convention-goer drew comments such as "I'd never heard about that" from another.

One victim of the Friday the Thirteenth jinx was the video conference with BuzzLogic's Bob Schettino in which the audio feed was a disaster. It had to be Friday the Thirteenth; our run-through the previous day had gone off without a hitch. CCI Dean Jim Gaudino is trying to arrange for Schettino to visit Kent to talk about how BuzzLogic is tracking conversational space. I'll keep you posted.

Pros and cons on AEJMC conference

While I'm in a conference mode, I want to wrap up the comments from some Kent State faculty members who attended the AEJMC conference in San Francisco in August. Last month I shared a report from new KSU professor Jeanette Drake (Sept. 11). The conference, by the way, drew a record attendance of 2,369.

Several others who attended passed along their views--not all as favorable as Jeanette's. Fran Collins, veteran advertising professor, had some sharp criticisms, particularly about much of the research that was presented.

One of Fran's frustrations with AEJMC is the emphasis on research that is of interest only to academicians. She said, "From my (admittedly jaundiced) point of view . . . articles aren't being accepted because they're relevant, valuable and/or worthwhile to educators and/or practitioners, they're being accepted so that more articles can be published that only (a few) other academics are going to read."

Fran also noted the seeming bias toward quantitative research. For example, one journal editor suggested articles must contain something statistical in nature to support opinions, i.e., authors who have non-statistical support for their opinions need not submit.

On the positive side, Fran pointed to two "professional" sessions and a visit to "Tribal DDB," the interactive ad agency division of DDB (formerly Doyle Dane Bernbach), San Francisco. The visit included part of the presentation the agency gives to prospective interactive-advertising clients.

Joe Murray, who is making the move from a director in the information services/new media area to the JMC faculty this semester, was attending his first AEJMC conference and compared it to the many information technology conferences he has attended.

One thing that struck Joe was difference in registration costs. AEJMC's $250 included organization membership and a journal while for a recent WebCT conference he paid $795. (But Joe also noted the $16 hamburger, apparently served with guacamole and a lollipop, in San Francisco.)

Joe also pointed to the difference between the noisy and promotion-filled exhibit hall for IT conferences v. the quiet, laid-back atmosphere of AEJMC exhibits. And he was struck by AEJMC holding sessions well into the evening; tech conferences tend to wrap up around the dinner hour.

The benefits of attending AEJMC for Joe included finding a textbook for his Cybermedia Design class this fall. Others: Buying research papers for a quarter, meeting faculty members from other universities with similar research interests, learning about grant possibilities and the range of free teaching aids from the Poynter institute.

Joe concluded: "All in all, a great experience. I think I might even like guacamole now. But not on hamburgers--at any price."

Other comments came from Dean Gaudino and advertising professor Bill Barre. The dean said the thing about the conference that stood out for him was the sense that the academic world is finally coming to terms with the realization that the old media is giving way to a new communications world.

Bill, who presented a paper, "7-UP: The Strategic Story of the Uncola Campaign," based on a video by Bill and Karl Idsvoog, was disappointed that he couldn't show a video clip from the Uncola campaign. The reason, he was told: "The hotel charges extra for a/v equipment, and it was not in the budget."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Conference Update

The first Media Mindsets conference is less than two weeks--it's Friday, Oct. 13--and we have added several speakers and panels since the original invitations went out.

The theme for the conference is "Where Is My Audience Going? New Media, New Challenges, New Solutions." We will explore how changes in the media are affecting content, economics and, most importantly perhaps, media audiences.

Our first speaker will be Bob Papper, who will bring us up to date on Ball State's Middletown Media Studies project. Bob is a telecommunications professor at Ball State and has done a number of research projects for the Radio Television News Directors Association.

Other scheduled speakers are Lauren Rich Fine of Merrill Lynch, one of the top media/ publishing analysts in the country, and Robert Schettino, chief marketing officer for BuzzLogic, a new tool for PR and marketing professionals to track the Internet conversations about corporations.

Two faculty members will be reporting on their recent research. Dr. Stan Wearden, director of the School of Communication Studies, will present his new communication model for studying today’s media, and Gary Hanson, JMC professor, will talk about his research on how college students are using the new media options.

In addition, the noon program will feature two groups of Kent State students. In a focus group moderated by JMC director Jeff Fruit, students will discuss ways the new technologies are changing their use of the media. We will ask them to talk about how they are using cell phones, iPods and other new media.

Student leaders of the Daily Kent Stater and student-run TV-2 will then talk about how convergence is shaping their news reports as they prepare to move into their combined news operation in renovated Franklin Hall.

An afternoon panel will provide three views on the future. Dr. Jung Kim of the Communication Studies faculty at Kent State will talk about developments internationally. She was an online news reporter for one of South Korea's largest dailies.

King Hill, president of DigiKnow marketing in Cleveland, will discuss trends in marketing, especially developments in interactive marketing. King is a Kent State alumnus and a member of the JMC Advisory Board.

The third panelist, Dr. John West, a noted researcher on liquid crystals, will provide a glimpse of what's ahead with the displays of the future. John is vice president of research at Kent State and hold 12 patents related to liquid crystal materials.

The conference, which will be held in the Moulton Hall ballroom at Kent State, is free, including lunch, but we do need to know if you are planning to attend. You can call Pearle Bower at 216.672.1458 or email her at Please respond by Friday, Oct. 6.

If you can't stay for the full day, feel free to come for part of the day. And if you have a colleague outside CCI or off-campus who would like to participate in the conference, please let me or Pearle know so we can invite her/him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

AEJMC: A New PR Professor's Report

Since I wasn't able to go to the AEJMC (that's Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) convention this year, I asked a number of professors who did go to report on it. Three were first-timers.

I asked each one to give me two or three paragraphs. One, Jeanette Drake, a new member of the public relations sequence, wrote three pages that I found especially interesting.

I'll have the views of other Kent professors/conference-goers next week.

Here are Jeanette's comments:

View from a newbie

It was my first time at AEJMC, but I’ve been attending academic conferences for the better part of a decade, so I went to San Fran both a little green and a little jaded. Plopped down during the first week of August, AEJMC is an invigorating intellectual warm-up for the academic year.

Overall impressions?

I was surprised with how relevant the conference was, how well organized the PR Division is and how I found myself shopping for the better part of an hour one day rabidly buying up research papers that fascinated me.

I limited myself to just 32, and at 50 cents each, I could’ve easily kept going but for the luggage problem. Can I help it if everyone and her grad assistant are writing about framing, environmental communications, corporate social responsibility, social change and activist publics?

At the conference, my priority was simple: Network. Secondary goals: Check out current research and look for research ops.

Be careful what you wish for

As a result of the conference, I walked away with an offer to co-author a textbook chapter on service-learning, an article appearing in October’s PR Tactics about why practitioners should consider getting a master’s degree, and a column that will appear in the fall issue of PR Update: “What Business Do Public Relations Students Have in Master’s Programs?”

If you want the answer, you’ll have to read the article or ask me sometime when you’re ready to hear a passionate soliloquy about the “ideal” master’s program. [Hint: Chris Roush stole my thunder with his article that just came out in the latest JMC Educator, “The Need for More Business Education in Mass Communication Schools.” Can you tell I’m a little sage with envy?]

All in all, I was more than satisfied with the conference. Meeting so many other public relations educators was beneficial in that I was able to:

  • Get my hands on a copy of an elusive book that’s out of print and overviews U.S. public relations master’s programs.

  • Pick up several new texts.

  • Have valuable discussions about the “ideal” PR curriculum at the master’s level.

  • Learn about the innovative collaboration between Kent and Tri-C.

  • Chat with members of the PRSA Commission on Education and get a preview of their report coming out in November, the first since 1999 that prescribes undergraduate and graduate curricula.

  • Meet a whole lot of JMC educators for whom I have a great deal of respect.

A Golden Flash

The conference crystallized one thing for me—Kent State has a gem in (CCI Dean) Jim Gaudino. Let me back up and say that Kent State JMC has a lot of gems, but this Jim, it became clear, stands out in a crowd. I suspect he was probably trying to avoid the newbie-glom factor, so I didn’t happen to run into him at all in San Francisco.

More times than not, though, after I introduced myself and my school to someone, the conversation would go like this: “Oh! You have Jim Gaudino there, don’t you? Tell Jim I said hello.”

True confession: I appreciated the way Jim’s name opened doors for me. I guess you could call it gild by association.

Any particularly interesting presentations?

Dean Kruckeberg of Northern Iowa restored my faith in the potential for PR scholarship. He presented an intriguing paper that challenged some of the bedrock concepts of public relations.

Do public relations folks really want to be “part of” the dominant coalition? Kruckeberg argued that we don’t albeit we still need to be a part of the decision-making process. Public relations practitioners who become a part of the dominant coalition, he suggests, are more likely to fall victim to groupthink, which would impair their ability to truly act as boundary managers or to serve as that corrective two-way lens.

Kruckeberg proposes an organic model of public relations which, rather than placing the organization self-importantly at the center, recognizes that each organization is only one part of the social system. However, the metaphor he used at the conference, a three-legged stool, didn’t work so well for me. Kruckeberg explained the legs as government, civil society and organizations that support the seat, which is society. There are some practical problems with the stool.

First, oftentimes, government and industry are more closely aligned than two separate legs convey. In fact, civil society organizations, such as churches, nonprofits or NGOs, are just as likely to be co-opted by government or business in the 21st century, so the model of discrete entities is problematic. Second, are the legs inclusive? From a frames perspective, the media could be one additional leg, particularly in an age where we less and less experience things first-hand. Finally, stools simply are not organic [pun unintended].

Nevertheless, Kruckeberg’s concept is reminiscent of Lana Rakow’s critical perspective of the traditional public relations model (1); she also questioned the self-centeredness of organizations. Rakow suggested turning the model inside out. PR ain’t panties, but could it be done? Her radical model places the public smack-dab in the middle, “directing the actions of institutions,… and not the other way around” (p. 178). Hmmm… enter citizen journalists and social media?

The “duh” factor

I had a great time in San Francisco, but don’t get me wrong. I sat in on the requisite “duh” presentations—it’s all part of the price of admission.

And that’s about the time I realized I couldn’t sit through one more session. So I went out to conduct some market research [Read: Tasting Ben & Jerry’s new socially conscious flavor, American Pie.]

Their cool, young “position paper” sits on tables and fits on a tri-fold no bigger than a postcard. In a colorful, non-threatening way, it shares Ben & Jerry’s thoughts on federal spending: “Our kids deserve a bigger piece of the pie!”

Mmmm… research has its privileges. ~Jd

(1) Rakow, L. F. (1989). Information and power: Toward a critical theory of information campaigns in C. T. Salmon (ed.) Information Campaigns: Balancing Social Values and Social Change (164-184). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Deal of the . . . Week

Usually I haven’t commented on media deals. There are just too many of them, and other blogs such as track them on a daily basis. But one deal this week I believe may be the forerunner of changes in the lineup of major media players.

As you may have seen, Fox Interactive Media, which oversees the Internet business operations of News Corp., signed a $900 million deal with Google to be the exclusive search partner and contextual ad sales provider for FIM, including, and Google will pay a guaranteed minimum of $900 million over three years subject to Fox meeting certain traffic and other commitments. reported (Aug. 8) the deal does not involve video at this point but Fox “will have talks with Google on future opportunities.”

As MarketWatch’s Bambi Francisco wrote, it will be interesting to see the extent to which Google personalizes searches on MySpace. “Now, personal information and search information may actually merge.”

MarketWatch reported Fox had been negotiating with the four major search engines—Google, Yahoo, Microsoft’s MSN and—to find the high bidder. I would look for more deals between media companies and the other three search engines before the end of the year.

Advertising Insights

Two Ad Age articles this week suggest advertising isn’t escaping the shakeup in other parts of the media world

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co., in a study on media proliferation, is saying traditional TV advertising will be only one-third as effective in 2010 as it was in 1990. Ad Age says the report “assumes a 15% decrease in buying power driving by cost-per-thousand rate increases; a 23% decline in ads viewed due to switching off; a 9% loss of attention in ads due to increased multitasking and a 37% decrease in message impact due to saturation.

The report points to a 50% drop in viewers over the last decade while real ad spending on prime-time broadcast TV has increased by about 40%--advertisers paying much more for less, a trend in radio and print as well.

One change needed, according to McKinsey director Tom French, “CMOs have to step up to a larger role and question a host of historical assumptions of how marketing works. They have to continue to build rich, robust and proprietary customer insights, but they have to do it from a bunch more sources.”

In the second article, a review of “What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds,” ad industry veterans Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart suggest 37% of advertising spending is wasted.

One major flaw: marketers’ failure to define success for campaigns at the outset. “Of the 36 marketers the authors researched, only two—P&G and Cingular—had a clear definition of success for each marketing effort at the outset, Mr. Briggs said in an interview,” according to Ad Age.

Blog Explosion

Technorati, the blog-tracking site, reports that each day 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide. That’s just over two new blogs per second. Technorati founder and CEO Dave Sifry has been tracking the blogosphere since November 2002, and he reports the number of blogs is doubling about every six months or about 100 times since he started counting.

English is most popular language (39%), and Japanese is next (31%). Chinese accounts for 12% so there’s lots of room for growth there. Splogs (spam blogs) makes up about 8% of the new blogs.

Not surprisingly news events have a major effect of blog postings. The daily average of 1.6 million posts jumped to 2.5 million with the outbreak of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, according to Technorati.

Technorati Links with the Associated Press

Technorati is strengthening its ties with the news world, connecting bloggers at the 440 AP member newspapers that subscribe to the Hosted Custom News product. Technorati blogger Peter Hirshberg says, “Increasingly what the blogosphere says about a news story becomes part of a more complete story, lending diverse perspectives and often expert commentary.”

AP papers will get a module featuring the “Top Five Most Blogged About” AP articles, and Hirshberg writes, “Additionally, when readers click on an AP article, Technorati will deliver ‘Who’s Blogging About’ that article.”

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Blogosphere

The summer has taken this blogger in many directions—most away from the keyboard. As several of you know, wife Bonnie and I spent 10 days in South America recently, including a week cruise around the Galapagos Islands.

The islands: Incredible. It’s an education in evolution, geology, biology and several other “ologies.” Creationists/intelligent designers have to ignore all of the Galapagos experience, indeed virtually all of science, to dismiss evolution. Interestingly the changes in the Galapagos Islands continue. There is a new island forming underwater 35 miles to the west of the youngest island, Fernandina.

Most of the media excitement we found was focused on the World Cup where Ecuador reached the round of 16. We left Quito, the capital, for Galapagos the morning of Ecuador’s game with England, a match the flight crew was eagerly following. Many of us tourists were wearing the Ecuador team’s bright yellow jerseys, which we had bought from the ubiquitous vendors on the Quito streets.

We knew the score was 0-0 at the half. When there was no report an hour later, I inquired about the game’s progress. A dejected flight attendant’s face told the rest of the story. Watching the World Cup in a foreign country, even if you don’t understand the language, gives you a better sense of why soccer is truly the international sport.

Blogging in the News

In recent weeks, blogging has been very much in the online news. Sort of bloggers blogging about . . . you get the picture.

June’s BloggerCon IV drew a who’s who of blogging. One of the most complete accounts of BloggerCon is posted by ZDNet’s Dan Farber. Separate items discuss videoblogging, blogging ethics (civility v. shock value) and politics and blogging.

Pew Survey of Bloggers

A news story of particular interest is the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s report on the blogosphere.

Among the findings:

--About 12 million American adults keep a blog or 8% of internet users.

--Slightly more than half of the bloggers (54%) say they have never published their writing or media creations anywhere else. Obviously a lot of new voices are entering the public arena.

--The most common reasons cited for posting a blog were “to express yourself creatively” (52%) and “ to document your personal experiences or share them with others” (50%).

--More than half of bloggers (54%) are under 30. They are split between males and females with more than half living in the suburbs. And 40% are not white, considerably more than for all Internet users.

--And 55% say they blog under a pseudonym (unlike this blog), which may account for some of the outrageous postings.

Blog Users

Another survey, this one by comScore Media Metrix and reported by, indicates that blog traffic increased by 56% over the last year and 34% of the total Internet audience now visit blogs.

The numbers are impressive, but what I found interesting is the breakdown of users by age and income. As expected persons aged 12-17 are most often visitors, 21% more likely than average to visit blogs. But persons 45-54 are only 3% less likely than average to visit. Clearly this is one more area in which the Internet is becoming more of a mainstream activity.

And households with incomes of $75,000 and higher are most likely to check out blogs, surprising given the ages on the most frequent users.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Beacon Journal Goes Canadian

After months of agony for staff members of the Akron Beacon Journal, they now know who their new owner will be. It’s a Canadian private, family-owned media company, Black Press Ltd., which is headed by David Black. The takeover is slated for late June, right after McClatchy’s purchase of Knight Ridder becomes final.

The sale price was a reported $165 million. Black Press owns more than 100 weekly and daily newspapers, most in western U.S. and Canada. The Beacon Journal will be Black's largest newspaper.

The Beacon Journal’s Web site,, understandably had the most complete coverage on the sale with a package that includes video of BJ publisher Jim Crutchfield’s announcement to the staff Wednesday. In a letter to the staff, read by Crutchfield, Black stressed his support for local journalism.

BJ editor Debra Adams Simmons said that Black showed the most interest in journalism quality of all the non-local bidders.

“We believe he shares our commitment to high-quality local news. The entire newsroom is looking forward to a bright future,” Simmons said in a story by BJ business writer Gloria Irwin.

No layoffs are planned and existing labor contracts will be honored. Also no immediate changes in the newspaper’s leadership are planned.

In a sidebar, BJ business writer Jim Mackinnon wrote, “Colleagues and critics call Black a tough-minded and honest businessman who holds his papers accountable but lets them operate autonomously for the most part.

“He is known for creative and surprising thinking.

“About six years ago, Black rescued a daily newspaper from extinction in Hawaii (the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, now Black’s largest paper) and along the way showed he's not afraid to duke it out with a much larger competitor.”

The Plain Dealer, whose owner, Advance Publications, was considered to be one on the major bidders, also reported on the sale although the story carried no details about Advance’s bid.

The Canton Repository carried the Associated Press’ story with local comments by Rep publisher David Greenfield. He urged that the new owner be given a chance to produce a quality product before people decide on the merits of the sale.

Greenfield said, “I was publisher here when the Canton newspaper was sold to Copley Press, and it turned out to be a enormously positive thing.”

'Private owners can be positive for newspapers'

In a story Friday, reported on a number of aspects related to the BJ's purchase by a private owner. Northeast Ohio will have no major newspaper owned by publicly held company.

Interestingly Merrill Lynch's Lauren Rich Fine, perhaps the nation's leading media analyst, had made a similar point in a speech to the Akron Roundtable June 1. The Plain Dealer's story on Fine's speech led: "In an era of shrinking profits, newspapers would be better off if local billionaires or privately held companies owned them. . . ."

Referring to Fine's speech, Friday quoted her as having said, "Any company that doesn't need to go public shouldn't."

Both in Fine's speech and comments by analyst John Morton in Friday's story on, it was emphasized that newspapers are still very profitable.

Morton said, "Newspapers are still cash cows. Even those 12 (newspapers) that McClatchy is shucking off have pretty high cash flows; they're just not in growing markets."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ah, Spring Brings New Ideas, New Media

Poets--yesterday's bloggers--have written numerous odes to spring. Many have love, nature and, appropriately, ideas bursting forth. Spring certainly is my favorite time on campus with a wide assortment of events, speakers and performances to stimulate an aging mind.

The annual Symposium on Demococracy, started by Kent State President Carol Cartwright in 2000, has become a spring fixture. Although only the second symposium focused directly on the media, every year we find the topic relates to the media in one way or another. It was certainly true this year with the theme on Democratic Policy Deliberations in Science, Religion and Politics, co-chaired by Jim Gaudino, dean of the College of Communication and Information. Keynote speakers, all covered by the Daily Kent Stater, were
  • David Zarefsky of Northwestern University on the importance of the public forum in a democracy,
  • Philip Kitcher of Columbia University on the division between people who accept the views of the scientific community on evolution and those who prescribe to a religion/creator- oriented view, and
  • John Campbell of the University of Memphis on the need to address the evolution debate through public discourse. Campbell, whose doctoral dissertation was a rhetorical analysis of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, emphasized the book showed Darwin's genius as a persuasive communicator (convincing the doubtful 19th century scientific community) as well as a scientist.
One conclusion: Darwin was, or could have been, a great journalist. Obviously he would have been superb on the science beat, but with his skills of observation, analysis and persuasion, I think he'd have been an excellent editorial writer.

The keynote talks will be published online, and they are well worth reading. I'll keep you posted.

And on the Convergence Front

Meanwhile, new media pioneer Rob Curley brought his traveling cyberjournalism show to Taylor Hall in late April. Curley is director of new media and convergence for the Naples, Fla., Daily News. Journalism and Mass Communication Professor (and blogger) Fred Endres discusses Curley's presentation and relates it to journalism education at the Kent JMC Blog.

Some of Curley's points are traditional: emphasis on writing for journalism students and local news coverage ("hyper-local" as Endres reports) for news organizations.

Curley acknowledges his approach to news/information coverage and presentation requires a lot of staff, both in information-gathering (think more interns) and technology.

Especially interesting is Endres' update on "New Jargon (to accompany New Media)." New terms include "webification," "internization" and "organic convergence."

A Victory for Bloggers

The blogging world is abuzz with the victory of Maine blogger Lance Dutson, who had harshly criticized the state's Office of Tourism and its advertising agency. The agency filed suit against Dutson; his supporters, including the Media Bloggers Association and the Boston Globe, rushed to his defense. Last week ended with the ad agency dropping the suit, saying the battle "had taken a life of its own."

The incident is one more example of blogging (and other new media) climbing toward journalistic credibility.