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« War on Christians | Main | Final salute »

Mar 31, 2006

Comments

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Lex

It's the culmination of our secret plot to delude people into thinking that our news and editorial sections don't really coordinate with one another. Can't you tell?

John Robinson

Or this could date back to the day we played the lottery higher on the page than Katrina and we know what gets you riled.

Ed Cone

I like Lex's answer better, JR.

My post includes a link to the Katrina-coverage embarassment, which continued past that first day, as you decided that articles about local gas prices deserved higher priority than the drowning of New Orleans; some of the outraged emails I got then about your front-page priorities, by the way, came from within your own building.

But I digress. I think I've asked a reasonable question here about news judgment and priorities. As noted previously, one of your own opinion editors has blogged the same question -- and that was before today's paper.

If the quick flip comment is a prelude to a serious response, fine, we all appreciate a chuckle, but if it's the best we'll get from one of the nation's most-respected champions of editorial blogging and transparency, then it's just a little disappointing.

Spirit

What bothers me most about the hype is that both in the N&R and on Channel 2, two out of three in the pictures above and the only buyer on the television last night, purchasers of lottery tickets are African-Americans. Isn't there a subtle message in that?

Already the lottery is being sold as a 'get rich quick scheme', the state being a player in a sordid game of lost hopes and spoiled dreams. Now the media is becoming a player as well by both assisting in the reinforcement of negative stereotypes and promoting a gambling system which has questionable benefit for education and does demonstrable harm to those who lose.

John Robinson

Well, Lex was first and he took the best one.

If you look at front pages of the major newspapers around the state, they all played the lottery story big. It's a big story and has captured the imagination of many people, more, I believe, than a lot of the stories we devote a lot of space to. (Two pages inside sports on high school sports all stars. Debate about that?)

We're trying to tap into that interest. Promotional hype? Nah, but helping readers understand the game and helping readers who don't play understand the interest is worth it.

Would it have helped you had we saved room for another unrelated story on the front page? Yeah, OK, it's an arguable point. News judgment differs, as a look at any of the non-lottery stories on the front pages of other state papers shows.

Mark Binker

As the guy whose written a fair number of the N+R’s lottery stories, I can speak at least to the amount of attention we have paid the lottery. (You can argue about design with others – that’s really not my bag.)

Long before the Internet, journalists develop ways - all be they primitive - of gauging reader interest. Those ways (eg: how many times your phone rings after a story) are still effective today, and sometimes they even match up with those who inhabit the blogsphere.

But once in a while, people who are not inclined to be active online (or at least, are not inclined to pipe what they're thinking to the whole world) take an interest in something that bloggers don't.

The lottery is one of those cases.

Barring very few topics or stories, I've received more reader phone calls about the lottery than just about anything else I've written about in the past decade. I've yet to write a story on the lottery without at least one reader weighing in or asking a question by phone. By comparison - I've written some Jim Black and Richard Morgan stories and the phone will never ring but the e-mail box will fill up. I chalk that up to different audiences being interested in different stuff.

And it has been years since I've covered any broad topic over a period of weeks or months (drought, elections, Billy Yow, government budgets, etc...) and not been turned down for at least one interview. In the dozens of notebooks and electronic files where I've taken notes for the lottery, I've never once had to make a "DECLINED" notation. That's really rare – especially given that many of those interviews were cold calls or people approached on the street - and to me, that is a better indication than anything else of the amount of awareness and interest in the topic.

If we are to presume our readers know more, if we are to be guided by their interests, then the amount of coverage we give the lottery makes sense.

My guess is that we’ll taper off coverage from here on out, dipping back in when the news warrants. But I have little doubt those stories will continue to be well read.

Ed Cone

Thanks, Mark, for the insight.

I do think the coverage, including the presentation, has veered into cheerleading, but I appreciate your context on reader interest.

JR, I never said it wasn't a big story, but it is possible to overplay even the big ones. As you suggested, I looked at the coverage by other leading NC papers. Charlotte overdid it, too, in my opinion, but there were plenty of papers who played it on the front page without making it seem like a cure for cancer.

Beth

I think it is an important story, but not in the way you think probably. For me it marks a change in North Carolina thinking. Laws that have prevented things such as the Lottery, or alcohol, primarily due to religious reasons have lasted for a long time in this state even though the rest of the country has moved on. I remember when stores in North Carolina couldn't open before noon on Sunday when I first moved here. It's the curve in the road, and I think we are seeing the other end of the corner now. For me, I'm grateful our red state is showing a little blue coming through.

Cara Michele

I wouldn't have thought to measure progress in terms of drinking all day on Sunday and gambling. Hmmm...

Mad Dog

Cara,

How do you equate stores being open on Sunday to drinking all day? The Blue Laws to which Beth was referring were not connected to alcohol sales. Even now no alcohol can be sold before 1:00pm on Sundays, at least not in Guilford County. So sleep tight, Cara, because the heatherns have not yet taken over the state.

MD

Cara Michele

Thanks for the correction, MD. (You have educated me.) But anyhoo, my point was... Hopefully libs or blues can take credit for more constructive change than "stores open during church" and "gambling." That was what I was trying to say. (Although apparently I didn't say it very well. *grins sheepishly*)

Anonymous

While I am impressed that the chief editor of the News & Record took the time to address these complaints, I am somewhat concerned when a story on scratch-off game tickets gets higher billing than the article on kids getting sick in local day-care centers.

Even if Charlotte, Raleigh, or wherever ran the same headline, it does not mean it was the best story for such a bold headline. I can remember when earth-shattering events occurred decades ago that didn't even warrant such a big title, much less a glorified state-sponsored bingo contest.

Perhaps if there were some competition in Greensboro, there would be some improvements in coverage. In New York, there are several daily newspapers to choose from, giving editors an incentive get out the local news and to dig deeper than just the "flavor of the month". Granted, not every market is that large, but it seems to me that competition raises the level of coverage.

I have seen that according to the Raleigh News & Observer website, their area is getting another daily newspaper.
http://www.newsobserver.com/104/story/423834.html
(Please forgive me if I'm not sure how to make that a correct link.)

I'm sure Mr. Robinson has seen that as well since I e-mailed it to him. Perhaps it is time for North Carolina to use some of those great economic incentives I have been reading about to lure another paper to Greensboro as well. Maybe then we can start to see deeper coverage of local news, instead of cheerleading for our citizens to throw their money away by becoming addicted to gambling.

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