Can a daily newspaper actually turn things around in this day and age, or are they simply doomed to managing their decline and eventual extinction?

According to a current article in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), a daily newspaper just next door is offering its readers a reinvigorated editorial approach even as it deals with the financial realities of modern publishing.

(Photo/ Executive editor Lisa Nellesen-Lara and Advertising Director Jodi Bell cut the ribbon at the Pensacola News Journal’s new home last September.

(Photo/ Executive editor Lisa Nellesen-Lara and Advertising Director Jodi Bell cut the ribbon at the Pensacola News Journal’s new home last September.

The CJR reported the Pensacola News Journal (PNJ) is having a renaissance of sorts — one that’s giving readers the type of journalism they probably never would have expected from a Gannett-owned newspaper, particularly in the days when so many in the industry have thrown their hands up and declared “print is dead.”

According to the article, the PNJ has adopted the novel approach of allowing journalists to tackle more in-depth stories and have more input into what they’re covering. The result was the paper winning 16 awards — the most in its division — at the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors Awards this year.

Another side effect, according to the CJR, is that the newsroom is a much happier place. Journalists who have worked for decades under the leadership of the company that gave us McJournalism with USA Today, and who have watched dailies all over the country cut staffs and reduce reporting, now say they’re happier than they’ve been in a long while.

“I don’t remember it being this good, not since the ‘90s at least,” veteran features writer Troy Moon, who has been with the paper nearly 30 years, told CJR. “There’s a lot more freedom to do your own thing. We’re having fun. The editors aren’t telling us, do this, do that. [The editor] is trusting us to use our instincts.”

Of course the bottom line in the newspaper business is, well, the bottom line, and the paper is doing more with less, but finds turning journalists loose on “real” stories is not only getting them better quality, but more involvement from readers.

Imagine that, putting editorial quality first. Will it lead to better revenue for the paper? The CJR article doesn’t answer that question, but it’s hard to imagine how a newsroom full of inspired journalists won’t create a publication the public wants to read and, eventually, advertisers want to buy.

The article points out some of the “fill the hole” attitude that has driven newspapers for decades has been given up. I’m still a firm believer that the modern state of journalism will probably mean most dailies will end up weekly or die — at least until that magic day when the web really becomes a place where advertising can support a full-blown news organization.

But it sounds like the PNJ at least has a new zest for life that hopefully will help it no matter what turns newspaper publishing takes over the next few years.

Channel 5 takes awards
WKRG-TV landed several awards at the recently announced Alabama Associated Press Media Editor Awards.

At a ceremony held in Birmingham in July, WKRG ended up with three winners and seven runner-up awards.

Reporter Allen Carter took first place for Best Sports Feature; Chief Meteorologist Alan Sealls’ work on Hurricane Ivan’s impact brought him a first-place award for Best Documentary; and J.B. Biunno took first in the Best Specialized Reporter category.

The station was a runner-up for Best Regularly Scheduled Newscast and Best Spot News Story. Peter Albrecht finished second in the Best News Anchor category, as did Sealls for Best Weather Anchor. Runner-up for Best Reporter was Chad Petri, and Jason Garcia finished second in the Best Photographer category. Garcia joined Devon Walsh in taking second place for Best News Feature.

WKRG was the only Mobile news station to take a first or runner-up spot in the contest.

P-R raising rates
Though its circulation continues to fall, the Press-Register is going up on what it charges for a subscription, according to letters sent to subscribers.

The amount of the increase is being decided by ZIP code, so some subscribers are seeing more of a jump than others. In some instances the increases are less than a dollar a month. Others will be more.

In Birmingham it has been announced prices at the racks will jump to $1.50, a 50-percent increase from the current price. Whether that will follow in Mobile isn’t clear yet.

The subscription increases are expected to hit Mobile in September.

Lipford building record ratings
It seems more and more people each week are tuning in to watch Danny Lipford’s home improvement show, “Today’s Homeowner,” so much so that the syndicated program hit a best-ever 1.75 million weekly viewers during May’s Nielsen sweeps.

The show’s new high-water mark beat the old one by 17 percent, according to Lipford public relations manager Stephanie Greenwood.
In a statement, Lipford attributed the show’s growth to a realistic approach that makes home improvement easier for viewers to grasp.

“Homeowners are looking for good information from a trusted source to help them maintain and improve their homes,” Lipford said. “With its 17-year history of delivering practical, easy-to-understand advice, ‘Today’s Homeowner’ is a natural fit. We’re very excited about launching the 18th season of the show and think our viewers will enjoy some of the creative topics and on-air shenanigans we have in store.”

According to Greenwood, “Today’s Homeowner” is the highest-rated syndicated home improvement television show in the country. More than 450 episodes have been produced in Mobile by Lipford’s production company, 3 Echoes Productions, over the past 17 years.
It is currently broadcast on 205 stations across the U.S., covering 86 percent of the country.

Wigfield to Semmes
Former Citronelle Call News Editor Jimmy Wigfield has taken a position as economic development manager and public relations director for the city of Semmes.

Wigfield recently left the Call News and was replaced by Tommy Hicks. Both were longtime sports reporters and editors for the Press-Register. Hicks recently contributed to Lagniappe.