Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Randomness Begins With Patrick Reusse

It's not easy for me to criticize Patrick Reusse. I grew up in the Twin Cities suburbs reading Reusse and Dan Barreiro. I fell in love with newsprint, so much so that in some high school English class, during your typical "What do you want to do as a career" lectures, I was called upon to state what I wanted to do professionally.

"I want to be a sportswriter," I said quickly.

The teacher in question grasped on to that and tried to use it as a way to engage me. (The high school days for me were spent neglecting class work, my talents and instead binge drinking and chasing skirts). She would repeat what I said to the class often. "You want to be a sportswriter..." It became kind of a joke among friends.

Anyway, it was my appreciation for what Reusse and Barreiro produced in the Star Tribune every day that made me take journalism classes, and yes, upon graduation, take a job in journalism. Four years later I've left the newspaper business. It's a business that is indeed dying. Sadly, it's a business that is actually killing itself. And that's why it is distressing for me to see a columnist that I admired write so ignorantly about new media.

In a column titled "Who'll gather news when Internet is all there is," Reusse bemoans the rise of online news, punditry and blogs. It is this attitude that will expedite the demise of the industry Reusse loves.

There are a couple points I want to rebut here. The first is something Steve Aschburner nailed on the head in a column at MinnPost.com. Aschburner, it should be stated, was the STrib's Timberwolves beat writer who agreed to take a buyout from the paper, then reconsidered and wanted his job back but, alas, the job wasn't there for him. So, while Aschburner might have a personal angle to his rebuttal column, he's spot on in this area.

Now, worrying about his — and his cronies' — livelihoods is a legitimate hand-wringer. Sweating out buyouts, layoffs, newshole and travel budget cuts, and even potential wage givebacks has become part of the daily grind for newspaper people, as routine as sharpening a pencil, changing a typewriter ribbon or slipping out for a cigarette break was for previous generations of journalists.

After all, an industry that essentially gives its core product — its news coverage — away for free in one form (its website) while moaning about the declining interest in its paid version (newsprint) is complicit in its own demise. Add to that a business model reliant on advertising revenue — once "owned" in near-monopolistic conditions by daily metros but now fragmented across hundreds or thousands of Internet options — that clearly is broken. Then prop it all up, not with the deep pockets of family fortunes and civic sensibilities of founders and heirs ... but with the bottom-line demands of shareholders in a public company or, apparently worse, absentee landlords and private-equity profiteers. Result: A perfect storm for journalism in crisis.

As a former reporter I'm asked about the newspaper business a lot. I like to use a simple anecdote. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, I will say, one could buy a cup of coffee for under $1.00. A newspaper could be purchased for a measly $.25. Today, a cup of coffee costs $4.00. A newspaper can be purchased for $.25. Now, there is something genuinely high-minded about delivering such an important service like the news at a price anyone can afford. But it's also a ridiculous business plan.

And with the rise of niche Internet sites, online advertising for newspapers has never taken off. Some reporters bemoan the immediacy the Internet demands. Instead of adapting, newspaper publishers are giving their product away online free, without a advertising base online to support it. The industry was flat-footed during the Internet revolution, and because of that the days of gray newsprint staining peoples' hands are behind us.

I'm 27. I get all of my news, for free, online. I read Politico.com. Daily Kos scours the Web so I don't have to. My Google alerts keep me up to date on Al Franken. I don't read the now useless game-stories written by LaVelle E. Neal III or Joe Christensen. It's 2008. Game stories are essentially obsolete. With ESPN highlights, mobile-phone tracking, your pyramid style AP game story isn't highly coveted. What is? Insightful analysis, with or without access. So, I turn to Aaron Gleeman for a different sort of take. Or to Seth Stohs for minor league coverage. They are producing a more useful product on most days.

But Reusse would argue that Gleeman, Stohs or any other blogger won't actually report "news." Well, that's changing. Out in Northern Virginia a popular progressive political blogger has flown around the state with a US Senate candidate, on the same plane with the Associated Press, Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch and others. It's simple math for the campaign in question here. The blog's readership is on par with the big mainstream media boys. And it's a more focused medium. As the STrib's and Reusse's readership slips away to more savvy consumers, so too will your access. Soon, Terry Ryan, Brad Childress and Tim Brewster will look to the niche sites on the Web to get their message across.

The point is, the last line of defense for papers, their access, is slowly going away, perhaps more slowly, than their subscriptions. And while some bloggers don't want access, others will gladly take it.

There will come a day when Reusse, or his successor, is going to need to adapt and build an online brand. Otherwise, the the Twin Cities won't be a two media outlet market anymore. Instead, it will have a more focused media, probably with 20+ outlets ranging from Gleeman and Stohs to Pacifist Viking, Rivals and Gopher Nation.

It's coming Patrick. The time is now to adapt. Well, actually, that time might have passed.

Whew....That was a rant. Now on to other things.

*** Ohio State blog Our Honor Defend continues its "Better Know a Buckeye" series by taking a look at Eden Prairie product Willie Mobley. It's a very extensive, thorough and well-done look at the ups and downs of Mobley's recruitment, replete with a section on "shenanigans" surrounding his recruitment. Here's a glimpse of the "shenanigans" section:

"someone, or some entity, sent phony letters to Willie Mobley, on Ohio State letterhead and with a forged Jim Tressel signature, encouraging him to take a look at the Gophers. Why, you ask?"
Read the post for the full story. Excellent, excellent post, guys.

*** In more forward-thinking football recruiting news, the Gophers' recruitment of Michael Carter (Tyrone's cousin) seems to be picking up. A Florida defensive back, and top 100 (#66) Rivals player in the Class of 2009 is reportedly down to Minnesota, Miami and Georgia and maybe Auburn and West Virginia!

*** A Wisconsin blog titled Hoops Marinara put together an excellent post this week about how Big Ten basketball recruitment for 2008 stacks up against the rest of the country. Quick answer? Not so good, though Tubby Smith and the Gophers do get a fair share of props in the post. But in the seemingly always "down" Big Ten, the blogger wonders if we're in for more hard times. Only three of the Rivals top 25 are coming to the conference.

*** Back to football, the mainstream media reported this week that would-be sophomore wide receiver Tray Herndon was released from his scholarship by Brewster's staff. It was just last August Herdon was named the Gophers' starting slot receiver. Nonetheless, the talent level at the wide receiver position should increase this season, so Herndon might have just been reading the tea leaves.

*** I've received a couple emails about doing more football coverage. And it's coming. I swear. I'm going to do something similar to what Our Honor Defend is doing that I linked to above. We're going to concentrate more on impact players, however. I'm going to do this in part because Tim Brewster really does deserve to be applauded for the job he's done in the recruiting department. Here's a snippet from ESPN's college recruiting analysts:
It might be early, but Tim Brewster is certainly off to a great start on the recruiting trail in '09 and building off his surprising No. 23 class from a year ago. The second year head coach with a reputation as a fierce recruiter has landed another talented offensive prospect who by most accounts, was a reach for the Golden Gopher program that went 1-11 in 2007.

That running back is, of course, Hasan Lipscomb, a 4-star product out of Texas that picked Minnesota over LSU, Nebraska and others. His quote about why he picked Minnesota is telling in that it gives us a window into exactly what Brewster's sales pitch is now. Here's Lipscomb:

"They told me I can come in and start like every school tells recruits, but I believe them," Lipscomb explained. "At some of those other schools like LSU I would be like the third running back -- in just the freshmen class alone."
Brewster is using Minnesota's decades-long futility to his advantage. You have to acknowledge your problem before getting passed it, right?

10 comments:

Hawkeye State said...

OK, so I haven't been here in a while (I keep up with the goings on through my RSS feed), and so this may be a little late, but I LOVE the new banner. It's no Journey logo, to be sure, but it's friggin' great looking.

PJS said...

Thanks for stopping in, HS. Credit for the banner goes to reader Erik Herberg, who unsolicited sent the banner to me a few months ago. I only put it up this week, however.

When we doing to fake IM conversation with Tim Brewster?

Clem's Nuts said...

PJS,

I enjoy your blog as you keep me posted and ahead of the game when it comes to Gopher BBall (my main focus), but I did enjoy your rant on Reusse. I have noticed on multiple other Gopher blogs that he is taking A LOT of heat for his handling of R.White/Hopkins/DeLaSalle situation. I could care less where R.White plays HS ball so long as he is as advertised and then wears the maroon and gold.

But I do want to comment as a news consumer (read: not a journalist) of similar age to you and my usage of news, and news related products.

-I do not subscribe to any daily in MN (meaning other than the SW Journal, which is free, no newspaper hits my front doorstep).
-My home page is Google News.
-I have man-love for Newsgator Online (probably more manlove than one person should have). I have folders that collect politics, environment, technology, Fantasy (sports), Gophers and Twins articles from various blogs and papers (yessss, I get Myron's blog...).

I clearly do not know the newspaper industry as well as a former paid journalist, but what I can tell you as a consumer is I DO want news when I want it--sometimes breaking, sometimes at my leisure, I want it electronically--mostly on my laptop, but sometimes on my phone and I rarely am willing to pay for it (sans a subscription to a few political rags which gets me free online access). I refuse--and I mean I turn it OFF--local news and I am increasingly tuning out CNN. I get most of my news tips from the Daily Show and ESPN with my laptop in tow for more detailed analysis.

What, I think, this all substantiates is your claim, that at least my generation is seeking our news from non-traditional sources, and that Reusse is a crotchety, raspy, out of date complainer. My only defense of Reusse is this...there was a time, maybe 2004-2006 when I avoided blogs...it seemed to me every a$$-hole and their brother was blogging and detailing their stupidity online. I think the blogoshpere has gotten more sophisticated, weeded out the truly incompetent and BECOME a legit news source. Reusse has missed the boat. I am interested in your take, but I would bet that a lot of this sophistication has come from not just any a-hole is getting to blog, but rather that actual trained journalists have begin to blog along with their regular columns, pushing down or out the crap.

My 2 cents on a slow Friday.

PJS said...

Clem's Nuts: Your point about how our generation gets its news is well-taken and spot on. Look at Hawkeye State's comment above. He gets PJS and other news sources through a reader, thus getting his news when he wants it in the manner he likes best.

As far as a more sophisticated blogosphere, I'm not sure. Like Will Leitch said to Buzz Bissinger, blogging is very much a meritocracy. And I also think bloggers have worked to find not only their niche coverage wise, but their voice. I'm not like the bloggers at Black Heart Gold Pants. They are laugh out loud funny. I have my moments, but when I stray from what I think I do best--mostly serious coverage and analysis--I swing and miss.

I'm a big consumer of Virginia political blogs because I do some political consulting. There are probably 100 or so of them. How many do I read? Four or five. So, I guess my point is there is still probably a little bit of "every a$$-hole" trying it out. But most blogs don't build an audience and then don't last long because of that.

Lazy Friday here too, btw. Rainy, cloudy and a perfect day to read blogs!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words and links to OHD. To be honest, though, when I saw PJS linking to the Willie Mobley post, I thought it wasn't going to be good :P

btw, and though my knowledge of recruits is mostly limited to Buckeye targets, you guys in the Twin Cities are going to like Hasan Lipscomb. Legit top 250 recruit from an established HS program in Cypress Ridge, but you already knew that. I'm a little skeptical of his reticence to run between tackles, but that can be coached. Good pickup for the Gophers.

Regards,
vico

PJS said...

Hey Vico, As a blogger who tries to do in-depth stuff once in awhile, I could tell that post took some time, thought and research. Well done. That said, Mobley would have been better off in maroon and gold!

Anonymous said...

PJS,

Very good read. I agree with some of what you say, and disagree with other points. What I agree with is I think it is ridiculous for professional journalists like myself to ignore or discredit bloggers. You offer a very good idea, why don't newspapers work with those niche blogs for the content?

I had a big idea that by 2009 I was going to aggressively blog the Richmond Braves, purchase season tickets, and be the AAA writer for that team. The dream crashed when it was announced the team was leaving Richmond. But I bet you that if I had that opportunity, eventually, I could quit my real job that, as you point out, will eventually die.

But I've embraced multi-media reporting. And although it hasn't made the paper any more money, it could. It also offers a new avenue for people to pick up the news, in maybe a more interesting way, but this doesn't seem to be the answer that is going to save newspapers.

I think the only way newspapers can be saved is if 1. they opine more. This whole "objective" thing is impossible and although us good journalists do our best at writing fair stories, it is absurd to think we don't have our own opinions and beliefs. So many newspapers offer you just one form of opinion. And it is taboo for journalist to do so, yet the bloggers are stealing the show by using this exact format.

--TheLandryHat.com

Mike said...

good post

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