The Fighting 29th - Media Analysis of media outlets in the 29th District. en Facebook Killed the Blog Star? A new Pew report showing that young people aren't blogging as much is getting headlines like "Study: Blogging is so 2006" and "Adults Ruined Blogs for Kids Study Shows".

This spin is just stupid. Blogs are one mode of self-publication on the Internet. Four years ago, blogs were used for personal diaries as well as sites like this one, even though blogs make poor personal diaries because everyone can read a blog. When Facebook and Twitter came along, those who wanted to keep a personal diary online, or stay in good touch with friends, moved there.

Facebook and Twitter, like Blogger and Typepad, are just further perfection of software used to communicate on the Internet. As time goes forward, Internet software will continue to be perfected. Every time a new Internet platform comes on-line, bloggers who like the new platform better than a blog will move there. This has nothing to do with "Adults killing blogging", and everything to do with the way that technology works.

]]> Analysis Media Sun, 07 Feb 2010 19:32:52 +0000 Rottenchester 6099 at
Morning News Anyone who's wondering whether Gannett's recent cuts are affecting their coverage of local issues can take a look at today's web coverage of Massa's Mendon town hall. Politico has a report from the meeting. It's about 30 paragraphs long. The Democrat and Chronicle devoted three paragraphs, each containing one sentence, to the event.

The Politico reporter thought that healthcare opponents outnumbered supporters. That wasn't clear to me. The crowd was large, so it was hard to judge.

WHEC's video of the meeting includes a clip of the guy who was so upset about abortion. 13 WHAM also has a report on the event.

Update: Actually, the D&C has more on the meeting, but it's buried in their editorial board blog. The title is "Civility Rules at Massa Town Hall Meeting". Compared to some other meetings, where arrests were made, I guess this meeting was civil. But it sure wasn't the calmest town hall I've ever attended.

]]> Media News Fri, 07 Aug 2009 10:48:34 +0000 Rottenchester 5779 at
Smugtown Followup The Smugtown Beacon's Aaron Wicks has responded publicly to the City Newspaper story mentioned in the last post.

Aaron gives reasons why he doesn't think there's a conspiracy afoot by Republicans in petition gathering in LD-21. While doing so, he reports the facts left out of his last LD-21 story, which were reported by City and Moonbat over Monroe, and repeated by me: Wicks did circulate petitions himself, and Republicans were active in circulating petitions in LD-21.

It's a good thing whenever someone responds to criticism. In addition to his recent post, I had a cordial email exchange with Aaron, who seems like a reasonable person. But I still think my main point from the last post stands: revealing your real name and some biographical facts is no guarantee by itself that what you report is more accurate than what can be found in an anonymous blog.

]]> Analysis Media Sat, 01 Aug 2009 22:20:26 +0000 Rottenchester 5770 at
It's What You Do, Not Who You Are A couple of days ago, I wrote a post critical of the Smugtown Beacon. Philip at Stop the Cap wrote a takedown of the same post. I contacted the publisher of the Beacon to see if he had a response to either of us, but he refused to engage on the issue on the grounds that I'm an anonymous blogger.

Smugtown's position on anonymity is detailed in this post by Aaron Wicks. Wicks says that "we find most blogs (the anonymous ones, at least) to be accountable to no one", and that "we always strive to be as blunt and honest about what we observe and conclude". Wicks argues in that post that Smugtown is more trustworthy because it's possible to contact the authors of the post in real life. He says that efforts of anonymous bloggers are "akin to a whispering campaign by Klan members or Nazis".

I disagree, but instead of giving an abstract argument, I'll use a couple of Wicks' posts from the Beacon to illustrate that, despite using his real name, he's been less than transparent with his readers. Begin with this Wicks post, titled "As Summer Approaches, The Grassroots Grow ... Angrier". Wicks says that he has a "personal bias toward more political competition rather than less" and warns that "it does appear that there is objective evidence that the leadership of the Democratic party in Rochester is in for a bumpy ride over the next several weeks."

In a post this month, Wicks' prediction of a bumpy ride seems to have come true. Titled "With Friends Like These ... Dems Implode in LD21", the post details a primary challenge filed by Jan Bowers in Monroe County LD-21. Wicks makes fun of Democratic leadership for having to scramble to get some petitions filled. He ends his post on this note:

The good news? Someone who is willing to work hard and who has a handful of solid supporters can still compete with an established political party. Competition is a wonderful thing in a democracy. Democrats in LD21 learnt this recently (and may yet learn more such lessons).

Wicks is clearly trying to establish a narrative of a grassroots Democratic uprising in Rochester, and his posts make it sound like he was simply a witness to these events. The truth of the matter is that Wicks was a participant in the LD-21 petition drive, and it wasn't a Democratic uprising. According to City Newspaper, "There's one aspect of Janice Bowers' candidacy and campaign that Democrats have been quick to draw attention to: the majority of her petitions were passed by Republican operatives." According to Moonbat over Monroe, Wicks himself circulated petitions for Jan Bowers in LD-21. I contacted John Locke, who writes Moonbat, to confirm his story. Though he's clearly a partisan, he seems to get his facts straight, and he confirms that he saw those petitions himself.

None of this was disclosed by Wicks in his posts. In an earlier post on the site, Wicks does reveal that he worked for Jan Bowers' husband on a 2007 campaign, but there's no mention of his earlier relationship with the Bowers in his current work.

If I started reading the Smugtown Beacon in June and trusted that Aaron Wicks to give me the facts on the Democratic primaries, I'd have been completely misled. I'd have mistaken what appears to be an effort by Wicks and the Republicans to embarrass the MCDC for a real grassroots uprising.

So what does it matter if I know Wicks' real name and bio if he decides to mislead me? That's my point on anonymity.

(By the way, anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I have a low opinion of the MCDC, so this has nothing to do with the politics in LD-21. )

]]> Analysis Media Thu, 30 Jul 2009 12:12:57 +0000 Rottenchester 5766 at
Another D&C Gem Couldn't resist posting this one:

In this age of e-everything, the thank-you note is the unicorn of communication — a rarity.

Apparently the D&C's cost cuts have prompted them to start hiring six-year-old girls as staff writers, because that's the only group that thinks unicorns are "rare" rather than "nonexistent".

]]> Media Sun, 19 Jul 2009 16:04:07 +0000 Rottenchester 5749 at
Typo of the Day I opened up my D&C RSS feed this morning and found the following:

The story doesn't repeat the claim about the character of the shooters.

]]> Media Fri, 12 Jun 2009 13:19:09 +0000 Rottenchester 5700 at
D&C Publisher''s Letter Ali Zoibi, the publisher of the Democrat & Chronicle, has an item in today's edition describing the cuts and challenges facing the D&C.

It contains this ominous line:

Look to this page tomorrow for more information on the impact of these cuts on the opinion section.

Reading between the lines, the 680 headcount that is used for the D&C is apparently total Gannett headcount in Rochester. In other words, the Insider, Conxion, MetroMix, HerRochester, RocMen, RocPets and all the other ancillary publications are part of that count.

Zoibi is also proud of the 87% "reach" of Gannett publications in the area. That means that 87 of 100 Rochesterians look at some Gannett publication online or in print at least once per week. While impressive, the number is meaningless unless Gannett is making money from that reach.

Take a look at the front pages of most of Gannett's online publications, and you'll find that much of the space is occupied by cross-promotion of other Gannett publications. Also in the mix are some local ads, yet Gannett often features national ads that are completely irrelevant to the section content, and a lot of the ad load today was charitable ads. After a decade on the Internet, Gannett's online local ad inventory is still poorly stocked, and that they haven't figured out how to target advertising on different pages.

Gannett has also built uses "Pulse 360", which is an attempt to replicate Google text ads. Google allows advertisers to purchase ads that are pushed to specific types of sites or matched to different search keywords. Google makes big money when it pushes an ad relevant to what the user is searching for, because it's only then that a user will bother to look at the ads on a page. Google also has low overhead because the advertiser uses a self-service web page to enter and purchase the ad.

Judging from the Pulse360 ads pushed on the D&C today, either Gannett has few advertisers in Pulse360 or they're unable to correlate the Pulse360 ad with the content of the page. On sports, I see the usual generic Internet junk: "teeth whitening", "lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks - no diets", and "Laser back surgery alternative".

Gannett can have 100% of our eyeballs every day but, like the rest of the newspaper industry, they're just burning electrons if they don't figure out how to deliver relevant, useful ads to their readers.

Update: Pulse 360 is not a Gannett operation. They have a major deal with Gannett, but they're an independent company. Sorry for the confusion.

]]> Analysis Media Sun, 07 Dec 2008 16:56:40 +0000 Rottenchester 5225 at
More on the Gannett Layoffs Gannettblog's count of Gannett Layoffs pegs the count at the combined Elmira/Binghamton operation at 40.

Also, WXXI says that the D&C's cut of 59 positions hit 12 in the newsroom (via Rochesterturning).

Yesterday, one of the sports reporters laid off at Gannett's Courier-Post property, which covers South Jersey, revealed in his last blog post that the newsroom there had shrunk to 107 70 people. That newspaper now employs about 425, according to Gannettblog. That means that the D&C newsroom has about 160 106 employees, if staffing patterns at both papers are comparable.

I'd link to that blog post, but it's been removed from the Courier-Post's site.

Update: But Google never forgets. I used the wrong number, and fixed the post.

]]> Media Thu, 04 Dec 2008 19:27:30 +0000 Rottenchester 5221 at
Huge D&C Layoffs Reader Elmer sends a Gannettblog item on today's D&C layoff announcement. Fifty-nine jobs were eliminated today.

What's more interesting is that the D&C still employs 690 in Rochester. It's not clear if other Gannett properties such as The Insider, RocMoms, etc. are included in that count.

What is clear is that maintaining a print plant while trying to grow an Internet site is a tall order when you're laying off 8% of your staff. The Rochester market is ripe for a TV station or a startup to hire 69 people, or even 39 people, and take a big run at the D&C online.

]]> Media Tue, 02 Dec 2008 21:24:10 +0000 Rottenchester 5220 at
Gannett Sidelight The recent layoffs at Gannett seem to be showing at the Star-Gazette. Every other media outlet covering yesterday's press conference led or featured the Kuhl/Massa confrontation. Yet, reading the Star-Gazette story, one gets the impression that it was a run-of-the-mill press conference.

Comparing that story with Kuhl's press release, it's pretty clear that the S-G story was just a re-write of the release. That's pretty common practice.

What's strange is that nobody at the S-G reacted to the television coverage of the early afternoon, or even to the campaign press releases. No editor tacked on another paragraph acknowledging that the press conference didn't go as planned. I wonder if that would have happened before Gannett's recent layoffs.

Because the S-G allows comments, the commenters are now filling in the gaps in the story. Well, somebody has to do it.

]]> Analysis Media Fri, 22 Aug 2008 17:02:59 +0000 Rottenchester 4928 at
Sean Carroll Throws A Slow One Right Over the Plate Sean Carroll's raw video of a Kuhl interview shows some surprising bias. At about 13:35, Carroll lobs this softball:

I also spoke with somebody just the other day who said that "I think Randy's going to win the 29th, because Mr. Massa, his message is tired, he's now been out there three or four years, and people may just be getting annoyed with him." I know that may be an unusual question to pose to you about your opponent. How do you respond to that?

This question did not make the highly edited WHAM report, which carefully balanced Massa's and Kuhl's answers. But it was posted on their site, so it's part of the record, even if few will watch the interview to the end.

Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa are perfectly capable of campaigning on their own. Carroll's job is to put them through the ringer, not to inject partisan opinion into the story.

13WHAM's policy of posting backstory, raw video of interviews, and supporting documents is something every TV station should emulate. The TV news "hole" is mercilessly tiny, and those of us who like to learn more appreciate the extra effort WHAM takes to tell us the rest of the story. It's too bad that it sometimes makes them look pretty bad, but this is one of those times.

]]> Analysis Media Sat, 09 Aug 2008 01:43:40 +0000 Rottenchester 4905 at
Compare and Contrast Larry Wilson of the Elmira Star-Gazette has a story covering the same territory as today's Corning Leader story on energy. So does Bob Clark at the Hornell Evening Tribune.

Both Clark and Wilson are good reporters. But in this case, I think Joe Dunning's Leader story is a fair bit better than the pieces they filed. The reason is simple. Rather than structuring his story as a he said/he said, and using Massa and Kuhl quotes to tell the story, Dunning summarizes the positions of both candidates and presents those positions in a dispassionate, factual way.

In other words, Dunning writes it as a policy story. Wilson and Clark write it as a controversy story. They use transitions like "The congressman criticized his opponent" or "Massa fired back". Those transitions take up space and also commit the writer to look for quotes that fit the controversy narrative. Dunning doesn't have to push the controversy rock up the hill, so he's free to put more facts and less friction into his story.

Some might argue that the controversy angle makes the story more interesting and therefore will sell more newspapers. I disagree. I think readers who aren't inclined to read about politics aren't going to read political stories, no matter how they're written. By focusing on the controversy and shorting the reader on facts, newspapers turn off the readers who want to learn more about policy.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not holding myself up as a shining example of good writing. And I realize that being a local newspaper reporter is a very hard job. These guys have to cover a wide variety of stories, and they do so under deadline pressure.

So, I'm not running down hard-working professionals. I'm just saying, "more of this, please."

]]> Media News Wed, 06 Aug 2008 19:51:16 +0000 Rottenchester 4899 at
The Batavian: An Interesting Experiment In the past few days, some local blogs have been linking to pieces in The Batavian, a new media experiment from local media company Gatehouse Communications Media. Gatehouse launched The Batavian four months ago, and it's been slowly growing into a fascinating example of what can happen when a newspaper company throws the old rules out the window.

The Batavian has a number of differences from traditional newspaper Internet properties. First, it has no printed counterpart. Batavia has a daily newspaper, the Daily News, which has no real website. The Batavian leaves the more lucrative print market to the Daily News, but it also avoids the expensive investment of a printing plant.

More importantly, The Batavian lets any registered reader contribute posts, and it treats all registered readers as equals. One full-time reporter, and a couple of other Gatehouse employees who contribute occasionally, make sure The Batavian has new posts every day. The rest of The Batavian's content comes from residents.

Even the pros at The Batavian approach their stories differently from traditional print journalists. For example, one of the most commented stories concerned Jack Davis' fake Jon Powers website. The story was reported by Philip Anselmo, The Batavian's lone full-time reporter. Philip's story links liberally to local blogs that first broke the story, but it also includes some research about the political consultant behind the site, Erick Mullen. (Mullen produced some ads for Eric Massa in 2006. Massa has a new, local consultant this cycle.)

Philip invited Mullen to respond to the story, which he does in the comments. Other commenters have it out with Mullen in a respectful, yet pointed argument. The whole experience is refreshing. Philip doesn't pretend blogs don't exist, he expresses his opinion (while stating the facts), and Mullen has an opportunity to respond completely to the charges made in the piece. This isn't "traditional" journalism -- it's better.

There are other things to like about The Batavian. Locals post videos of spot news events, like fires. When everyone has a cell phone, it makes sense and saves money to let town residents report breaking news themselves.

The Batavian makes little effort to cover news from outside the area. It includes a number of feeds from area news sources, which means its staff doesn't have to duplicate the effort of others. Traditional newspapers, which have to fill a certain number of pages every day, run the same wire stories as every other newspaper in the state. The Batavian's list of links avoids that cost entirely.

The big question for The Batavian is how it will make money. It doesn't have ads, though an "Early Bird Special" offer indicates that they're coming. The good news is that The Batavian costs a tiny fraction of what a "real newspaper" costs, so it can afford to charge less for advertising. Traditional newspapers are struggling mightily to make money from cheap Internet ads. Perhaps The Batavian won't struggle so hard.

Like every other media company, Gatehouse has its share of financial troubles. We'll see if they're able to get past those and launch more sites like The Batavian. Here's hoping.

]]> Media Fri, 01 Aug 2008 10:00:00 +0000 Rottenchester 4892 at
The Longest Union Dispute Evah - Is Over Following up on yesterday's Gannett story, the local Newspaper Guild has reached a contract with the D&C. Guild members had been working without a contract for 16 years.

According to the Guild's press release, Gannett, like a lot of large corporations, wanted to get rid of its pension plan. In order to do that, it had to seek union approval. Negotiations began last month, and the new contract was approved on Tuesday.

Ironically, the sticking point from 16 years ago was retirement benefits. Union members wanted access to the 401(k), and Gannett refused. Last month, Gannett reversed their position in order to unload manage their pension liability.

]]> Media Thu, 17 Jul 2008 11:59:57 +0000 Rottenchester 4868 at
Another Media Giant in Trouble Other than the Star-Gazette and Democrat and Chronicle, almost every other paper in the 29th is owned by Gatehouse Communications. This week, Morningstar Financial released a report speculating that Gatehouse stock might be "worthless".

Last year, Gatehouse acquired 70 media properties and took on $1.2 billion in debt. Gatehouse may have trouble servicing that debt, which might trigger a situation where it becomes due immediately, which may lead to liquidation. Yesterday, Gatehouse stock closed under $1, down almost $17 from one year ago.

The Gatehouse papers in the 29th are often staffed by long-time residents who understand the Southern Tier political landscape. It would be a real loss if issues at the parent company disrupted those properties. It would also be an economic issue in Fairport, part of the 29th district, where Gatehouse has its corporate offices.

]]> Media Thu, 17 Jul 2008 10:00:00 +0000 Rottenchester 4866 at
As Good as it Gets Gannett Corporation, which owns the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Elmira Star-Gazette, announced its second-quarter earnings today. Profits at Gannett are down 36 percent from the same period last year, and Gannett's president offered no indication that things were getting any better.

In today's conference call, Gannett management pointed to Rochester as a bright point in an othwerwise dim picture. Rochester's readership penetration is 70%, which means that 70% of Rochesterians are reading some Gannett publication regularly.

Things are so great here that the publisher of the D&C, Michael Kane, was promoted today to the job of Interstate Group President and Publisher of the Indy Star.

]]> Media Thu, 17 Jul 2008 00:38:12 +0000 Rottenchester 4865 at
Room 8 Follow-Up Ben Smith, one of the founders of Room 8, has an op-ed in today's New York Daily News. The Daily News also has an editorial (2nd item) about the Bronx DA's attempt to intimidate the Room 8 bloggers.

]]> Media Wed, 16 Jul 2008 11:14:38 +0000 Rottenchester 4862 at
Blog Intimidation Room 8, which covers New York City and surrounding region politics, was recently the target of what sounds like gross prosecutorial misconduct. They were served a criminal subpoena by the Bronx District Attorney, who wanted to know the identity of one of their anonymous bloggers and commenters, "Republican Dissident". The subpoena was accompanied by a gag order, so the facts of the case were hidden from public view until today.

Luckily, Room 8 was able to get free legal counsel from Public Citizen, and, as the New York Times tells it, that solved the problem:

The district attorney eventually withdrew the subpoena and lifted the gag requirement after the bloggers threatened to sue. But the fact that the tactic was used at all raised alarm bells for some free speech advocates.

As blogs grow in influence, we'll probably see more of this type of legal harassment from those who have the resources to launch a suit. It deserves the attention of anyone who thinks that free speech is important.

]]> Media Tue, 15 Jul 2008 14:48:23 +0000 Rottenchester 4859 at
Justice Arthur Kennedy Mustard Street catches the D&C editorial board's inability to fact check the names of Supreme Court justices in their latest editorial.

It's not a big deal, but whenever that high-and-mighty bunch has a blooper, it's worth pointing out.

]]> Media Fri, 27 Jun 2008 15:08:07 +0000 Rottenchester 4831 at
Gannett - Hot Chicks, Lower Circulation City Newspaper, Rochester's so-called "alternative" paper, has a story about Gannett's Insider. For their Mothers' Day edition, the Insider ran a story on "Rochester MILFs". MILF stands for "Mother I'd Like to Fuck", for anyone who missed American Pie and/or the last decade of American culture.

City makes the obvious point that a newspaper company that rails against gangsta rap and the coarsening of our culture is being just a teensy bit hypocritical when they front-page fuck-worthy single Moms. City fails to note that a publication from a company that wins diversity awards wasn't able to find a single MoCILF (Mother of Color I'd Like to Fuck) in Rochester.

I would have thought City, which is a bastion of complacent baby-boom liberalism, would want to advocate for MoCILFs. I guess an "alternative" weekly that is too timid to even print the word "fuck" can't be expected to comment on this obvious omission.

Even though Gannett is getting a little heat on this, expect more of it in the future. A new reader sent me some historical D&C circulation rates, and they are grim. The D&C lost almost 10,000 Sunday subscribers in the last year. I don't know if MILFs can reverse a hemorrhage like that. Maybe the D&C should start featuring Page Three Girls.

]]> Media Thu, 15 May 2008 19:38:03 +0000 Rottenchester 4776 at