How bad have things gotten in the world of journalism? Once upon a time the University of Missouri was considered one of the top two or three journalism schools in the nation. Last week during the protests that led to the resignation of the school’s president, a professor in that very communications department called upon protestors to remove a reporter from covering the event in a public space.
When we wonder why journalism has taken such a turn towards fluff and click-bait, it becomes easier to understand when you realize tomorrow’s reporters are being taught by people who either don’t understand or don’t care about the First Amendment Rights that are the very underpinnings of our free press.
As media descended upon Columbia, Missouri to cover the protests that led to President Tim Wolfe resigning, many of those organizing in the public quad decided they no longer wanted the media present — the very media that had made their protests successful. Suddenly they were chanting, “hey, hey, ho, ho, reporters have got to go,” pushing reporters and trying to block photographs.
Many students wrongly thought they have a right not to have their photos taken while they were protesting in a public place, something they should have learned in a media law class. It would have been a great time for professors at this elite communications school to come forth and teach the students a thing or two about life in these United States, but instead it was assistant communications professor Melissa Click who was shouting for “muscle” to help get a reporter out of the quad.
I suppose some relief could be taken in the fact that her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is in popular culture texts, but one would assume a Ph.D. would have at least taken a media law course or two. If the irony wasn’t thick enough, Click had just two days before on Nov. 7 sent out tweets trying to figure out how to get the national media to pick up the protest story.
Maybe Click should join Wolfe in leaving the school. It’s hard to imagine how the program hasn’t been greatly damaged by such ignorance of basic media law as well as her lack of leadership.
Help! I can’t find my car keys…
Continuing under the heading of “What passes for journalism these days,” al.com provided a couple of head-scratchers earlier this week when reporter Cassie Fambro posted two stories about people losing personal items at the Alabama-LSU game Saturday night.
First was a story about someone losing a money clip and some cash at the game. The next came a post about another person losing his wedding band.
Fambro was able to reunite the money clip with its owner and let readers know her story had generated 21,000 shares in two days. With that number of clicks it’s hard to imagine we won’t be seeing more lost-and-found stories on Alabama’s biggest website.
NOLA moves help Advocate
In the ongoing battle for the New Orleans newspaper industry, there was a pretty major move that took place several months ago that sort of flew below the radar.
In April, The Advocate dropped a story claiming it had taken a good bit of weekly circular advertising by two major grocery chains from the Times-Picayune. The Advocate is a counterpart of the Baton Rouge Advocate that began publishing daily in the wake of the T-P being cut back to three days a week a few years ago.
According to The Advocate story, both Winn-Dixie and Rouses had decided to move circular advertising from the T-P, although in Rouses’ case they were only discontinuing running in free, non-subscription papers. The move was a big one, as circular advertising now constitutes a good bit of the print revenue among all the Newhouse-owned papers in the newly formed Southeast Regional Media Group.
In October we ran an article an article in this space detailing the findings of Jay Schiller, who has decades of experience in the newspaper circulation business, including writing about it for Editor & Publisher magazine and consulting with advertisers. Schiller said circulation at many Newhouse newspapers — including the Press-Register — has fallen sharply over the past two years. For the P-R, he said, it’s been 40 percent for home delivery and single-copy sales.
The Picayune has also seen a drop and is at the same time fighting the advances of The Advocate. But one of the bigger issues consultants like Schiller, and trade associations like the Association of National Advertisers, are bringing up is whether some newspapers are being truthful in telling media buyers and advertisers about their circulation.
The issue is not a new one, as there have been highly publicized cases of newspapers knowingly overcharging customers — particularly pre-print clients — and getting caught. The ANA, which represents more than 700 advertising buyers, recently hired two major firms to look into questionable media buying tactics.
In Schiller’s case he says he represented an advertising client with the T-P concerning pre-print overruns. He said the T-P ended up issuing that client a $150,000 credit. It’s a claim Ricky Mathews, who oversees the T-P and now runs the SRMG, denies.
But with falling circulation, any potential overbilling issues could only add to the possibilities of pre-print advertisers jumping ship.