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Oct 08, 2007

Comments

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Anthony

"The target demographic would seem to reside at Well-Spring."

Just speculating, but I wonder if that's the crux of the issue right there. Their core readership probably skews towards older folks. That might influence the feedback they're getting from "readers", and their actions reflect this.

Which is fine, if their goal is to keep their current (dwindling?) readership happy. But if they want to attract a new audience, they need to be listening more intently to other sources - such as feedback from the blogosphere - and maybe ignoring some of what their regular readers are asking for.

Ed Cone

A-yup.

Certainly the change-management part of their job is not easy. One example: the decision to drop stock tables -- it didn't matter at all to readers on the web, but angered some traditional consumers of their product.

It bears repeating: there are lots of good, hardworking journalists at the N&R, who didn't ask for an industry-changing moment to arrive, or for short-sighted corporate ownership to chop jobs at a time when investment and creativity and optimism are required.

IMHO, none of that explains or justifies the A-1 flufffest.

cara michele

They also filled a third of the page on A4 with an article about homeless families -- in Massachusetts! (Ah, how about the ones in North Carolina... Guilford County... Greensboro...) What the heck?

Ed Cone

If they want to cover homeless issues outside of Guilford County, there's interesting stuff to consider a little closer to home.

Eric

I think the paper is great. They deliver it to my door every day and I use 3 wadded up pieces to start my charcoal grill at night. It doesn't matter which section I use, it all burns great. Paper is much better than the fluid lighters, no petrochemicals, burns cleaner and no aftertaste. I also use it for washing windows.

cara michele

Thanks for the link, Ed.

Kim

I read the comics. The comics are good. :-) As for the news, most of it I had already know having read it online the night before. Much as I love the feel of the paper in my hand, they just can't be as up to date as the web.

Ummm. I agree about the fire...I use the paper for making fire in my firepit. :-)

Elizabeth Wheaton

Blaming the dearth of News in the N&R on the older generation of readers is, in my opinion, waaay off the mark. I doubt that I'm alone among the 60-somethings who still mourn the loss of 2 daily papers in GSO. Heck, as a Chicago-born kid I used to read three of them. Those were the days, indeed.

Here's a thought I expressed on an earlier thread:

Is it possible that giving weight to the Sunday-only readers has skewed the poll results? Seems to me that those folks are more likely to be interested in non-news stuff--comics, Parade, coupons, real estate ads. And, um, lists of things to do other than spending a few hours savoring a good Sunday newspaper.

The CA

Ed, unless they are leading the charge on accusations of racism, the N&R has largely become reactive to events and news stories broken elsewhere. They don't seem that interested in investigating anything unless it involves accusations of racism or the next mega condominium/office project downtown.

Joe Killian

Here's the thing I think the whole industry is struggling with: people who actually buy the paper every day and have for years want one thing. People who are web-savvy and less likely to buy the paper in the first place think those people are stupid, not interested in news, old and out of it or just not representative of what they'd like to see themselves but given too much weight in decision-making.

Staff cuts are bad. They hurt our ability to do what we'd like to do and even to take good suggestions when we hear them. But with actual paper circulation slipping all over the country (and in other countries, come to that) the idea that you should buck what your paying, subscribing paper readers say they want because people who are less likely to buy the paper than read things online are telling you what should be where and what shouldn't be there in the first place. Could be a chicken and egg problem -- more people who get their news online might buy the paper if it weren't so geared toward the traditional news subscriber and weighted with what interests them. But I don't know about that. Most of the people I know who prefer to get their news online wouldn't buy a paper copy of just about any daily paper for any reason -- it's the format itself, not what's in it, that turns them off. And I can see why -- the web has its many advantages and the things I love about print newspapers are largely sentimental and not practical.

But I can see the trouble editors and those marketing newspapers have. You get a good cross section of people who actually buy your newspaper (or are the demographic you're going after) together in a room and ask them what they'd like you to provide. You provide that and people snipe at you from the web about being too old school, caring too much what those people say and not enough about what people on the web are telling you. You're caught between the past and the future and every time one of those daily readers picks up the paper and finds you're not doing what they've said you should (which irks younger readers, and the hipper and the more web savvy) someone tells you that you've just lost some daily readers and are going to have to cut some reporters and editors and try to do better with fewer resources.

It's a struggle I don't know what to do with, really. What the traditional reader tells us they want is often completely the opposite of what younger or more web savvy readers want -- and, as I've said to cringes a few times, one of those groups is closer to dying out than the other. But one of them pays the bills and the other would like you to put it all online for free -- and you're not doing it quickly enough or with enough style.

The whole thing is journalism's heartburn nightmare and though I'm always open to hearing suggestions on it I don't hear a lot of good ones these days.

Joe Killian

Also -- I like the N&O, but I don't think the front page in the link is a "hard news" front page. Less fluffy, maybe -- but "people get scammed on the phone," "teen drivers crash their cars a lot and that's sad" and "It is so freakin' hot and dry out here, ya'll" don't really seem that hard hitting to me.

They're good stock news features, but they're not rocking anybody's world and though they've been localized they don't seem terrifically local. You could (and do) see them in any newspaper in the country. We all can and should do better -- and many of us are trying. But it all comes back to (as I said above) the fact that newspapers aren't deciding what goes on the front page with a magic 8 Ball. They're responding to what readers say they want. The argument about which readers they should be listening to and why -- that goes on.

Gate

We didn't get out paper - again, so we can't comment.

Morgan Josey Glover

Ed,
While I generally agree with you about the placement of stories on the front sections of the newspaper, I think one should be careful about coming off as arrogant about what doesn't deserve A-1 treatment. The truth is, often the subjects of these stories are thrilled to get on the front page if for no other reason than they feel important (and while they are at it they go pick up a dozen single copies to give to their friends and family). They are not sitting down with a cup of coffee to Monday-quarterback the N&R's decision-making process.

And while our staff has suffered from the cutbacks, the traditional methods of reporting still stand: sometimes you have to scratch off a lot of "fluffy" cash cards to hit the jackpot. I'd like to tell you that all the time I've spent contributing to the education blog, The Chalkboard (and it's cohort of 5 named and 15 anonymous posters), has paid off with a lot of good story ideas, but that is just not the case. And it's not always the FOIA requests that do it either. Often, it's being out reporting on some festival or ribbon-cutting-type events where you hear the rumors and pass out the business cards. So even while I'd like to think I'm above all the "fluffy" stories now, the truth is they do serve a purpose and let readers know you don't have to be the city manager or the superintendent to make the paper (or the front page). And to tag along with Joe on the Web-saavy demographic: I consider myself part of that demographic and I don't pay for anything, unless it's a product getting mailed to my door. I rarely post on blogs. So should my voice count as much in decision-making as those bringing in cold cash? I wouldn't feel offended if I'm not.

cara michele

Joe, I guess I fit in both categories. We buy the paper every day and always have. But I also consider myself to be "web savvy" and I'd say that I get the majority of my news online. I look to the web for breaking news and to local papers, like the N&R, for broader and deeper local coverage.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that my morning newspaper is shrinking. I assume that has to do with profit-related cuts, but it also seems that some other, smaller local papers are doing more reporting with (what I assume must be) smaller budgets, so I don't fully understand it.

It's disheartening. I feel nostalgia for what the newspaper used to be. [Sigh.]

P.S. I do appreciate you, Joe. You're a gifted writer and reporter.

Ed Cone

Thanks for the comment, Morgan. I appreciate your willingness to join the give and take in this space.

I have no problem with the paper doing community news and features, and I agree that reporters can learn a lot while reporting such stories.

I just don't think they should dominate the weekday A-1 of a serious regional daily.

A picture and a reference to an article inside the paper or on the local front? Fine. A big package that crowds the traditional news hole? Nope.

Not sure how it's "arrogant" for a reader to express an opinion on this subject, especially given the rather mundane desire expressed -- to see news and analysis on the front page of the newspaper.

Joe Killian

Thanks, Cara. It's not that I don't feel appreciated -- I just think a lot of reporters, especially young reporters, feel this pressure.

You can't be a reporter without developing a thick hide -- but while most of us are happy to take the occasional (or more than occasional) hit, it's something of a headache to take it from all angles all the time.

We know the industry is having trouble. We know what younger, hipper readers want isn't what established, older, paying readers want. We know people on the web think their opinions are more valid than people in reader focus groups and vice versa. We know we're not yet getting online to pay to keep us employed. It's not that we aren't listening -- it's just that the solutions aren't easy to find.

Tony Wilkins

Here is what I especially like about our local.
85,000 visitors in town, during a furniture market that High Point is fighting to keep, and what does the local headline read?
"Las Vegas market: We'll be the best"
I'm sure HP thanks the N&R for that headline during furniture market. It was a great service to the community.

BrendaBowers

Hey guys, just to let ya’ll know it is we older folks who are still buying the newspaper because old habits are hard to break. But we do not, repeat: do not enjoy “fluff”. We want NEWS from our newspapers.

In our household we have one involved individual who reads several news papers from around the world every day including the N&R, and weekly The Rhino and YES!WEEKLY. (And I confess I often read cereal boxes too. Hey! There’s sometimes so good stuff on cereal boxes.) Anyhow, to continue, we have one smart cookie and one old “I couldn’t care less” goat in our household and this morning he finally followed me in reading the comics and then getting thru the rest of the N&R in 3 minutes flat. A broken finger has made his page turning ability a bit slow. Then we discussed continuing our subscription. Well, Felix the Rabbit does like to tear it up. In fact it is a big part of his day so we have decided that for the comics and Felix’s well being we will continue for now.

All of the above just to tell you I resent the snide remark about Senior Citizens. You just wait, you're gonna be here some day too. That is if God is willing and some offended elder doesn't take a rolled up N&R to you first.

Scratch that "rolled up N&R" bit as I doubt today's paper would even put much hurt on a kitty cat, let alone a bone headed youngster! BB

Joe Killian

Tony: we did a number of Furniture Market stories last week. I did some, Gerald Witt did some, Dick Baron and Michelle Jarboe too. If you think the coverage was overwhelmingly negative you need to go back and read the rest of it.

If you think a paper shouldn't print even one story or one headline the city wouldn't like or wouldn't be beneficial to business in the city (which would mean ignoring the Vegas market competition and that city's determination to best the High Point market) you don't actually want a newspaper. The IHFC puts out some press releases devoid of almost anything negative. Have them send you some.

John Nagy

For all the hand-wringing about fluff and lack of quality journalism, Ed, no one, least of all you, has mentioned Michelle Jarboe's tremendous work in Friday's paper -- and a follow-up on Saturday -- to scoop everyone on the Starmount buyout by CBL & Associates. A $600 million real estate deal under everyone's nose? That's news you found no where else other than in the N&R. Why? Because of Michelle's professionalism and determined nature to land the story. So flail away at us about community stories on A1 if it makes you feel good -- and it probably does -- but how about the occasional recognition for the hard-working journalists who spend countless hours trying to satisfy their editors, their readers and, most importantly, themselves.

The CA

Ed, I think the cover you speak of is just another example of the N&R using soft news to show how multicultural they are. They have such a big chip on their shoulder on the subject of multiculturalism that they are willing to sacrifice hard news to promote their enlightenment.

I have no problem with the fine folks at Temple Emmanuel and I think their 100th anniversary is worthy of coverage, but it's only front page so the N&R can tout how tolerant they are. They do the same thing with Black History Month or anything else that has a multicultural aspect to it. It's patting themselves on the back and a desperate attempt to say "see, we're not like the rest of the rednecks in North Carolina." Funny how the N&O and the Charlotte Observer don't feel the same need and are able to put out a newspaper as opposed to a "feel good" paper that also contains some news. The N&R's obsession with all things racial/multicultural continues to be its undoing because those considerations seem to be the primary focus of the paper rather than reporting the news.

I wonder how long it will last.

Ed Cone

I've made mention in this very thread of the good, hardworking journalists at the N&R, John.

Criticism of editorial decisions, including front-page fluff, is not about making me "feel good," or, for that matter, about making anyone else feel bad. It's not personal; I know a few people at the paper, respect the work of many more, and empathize with you all over the pressures facing your part of our beleaguered industry.

I'm a consumer, commenting on a newspaper I buy, hoping to engage other readers and the people who produce the paper in a useful conversation. Concerns about fluff and features in the place once occupied by news and analysis did not begin with this blog.

Part of the new media reality is that your readers can talk back to you in their own forums and without your mediation.

I continue to believe that newspapers are important, and I'd like for the one in my hometown to be as good as it can be.

Sam, I find your "analysis" lacking in several ways. You project a lot onto the paper that I don't think is there.

The CA

I have to disagree of course. The N&R makes no secret of its focus on multiculturalism. The problem is the style overcomes the substance. It's fine that they have a desire to report on news that effects a wider variety of people, but when it comes down to essentially a quota driven concept, fluff is what you get. Not enough news happening that might be of greater interest to Hispanics? Put out a fluff piece. John Robinson is the Christopher Walken character from the famous SNL sketch crying "I need more cowbell!" where "multiculturalism" is the cowbell. Doesn't matter if it actually adds anything to the conversation or is newsworthy at all, the reward is that you put it out there in the first place. Somehow that is supposed to be redeeming and make up for past ignorance. The problem is that is entirely for self gratification and becomes a hollow gesture.

Write about more news that affects or impacts a more diverse group of people, but don't push fluff as news simply to draw attention to your efforts.

Mark Sutter

Thank goodness "The CA" is here to lecture on diversity. I can't wait for his (or her?) follow up, "Using My Real Name." It's bound to be revealing.

Ed, I think Nagy has a good point. I seem to recall this is the same forum where, after we had a great Sunday A1 filled with hard-hitting stories, I breathlessly signed on to find....absolutely no comment by anyone. Luckily, that same day we did manage to inspire a 5 week complaint-fest because the N&R left out the Minj Grille from its chicken wing-testing feature on the Life front. Thank god everyone hates fluff!

I had nothing to do with it, but I thought this Sunday's A1 was very good. You had an attractive new design by a talented designer, Ben Villereal, and some great stories - an interesting examination of our growing light pollution problem, Taft's story on RMA, and Becky Smothers, for goodness sake!, bravely baring her soul to discuss her cancer. And the latter piece was coupled with a knock-out online piece.

Any mention here? Nope. Somehow I thought it deserved better than "why is there a calendar rail on the Ideas front? Musta been a consultant' and a review the next day of the Monday paper.

Oh, wait I forgot, Taft - a gifted journalist and as nice a guy as you'll ever want to meet - was accused of being on the take from, um, somebody, in the name of, um, fairness. What a wacky world.

You're right, of course, Ed, everyone is entiltled to critique us. And constructive criticism is good and we shouldn't have a thin skin about it.

But on the other hand, I also think that if someone is so inclined to find fault - and many are - we are an easy target, and they bravely don't even have to sign their real or full name. A1 was great? Yeah, but what about that chicken wing feature? OMG!

And no, for those who wonder, OMG isn't my online "handle."

Ed Cone

We live in a multicultural society and a diverse county, Sam. Exploring that reality can be done in a sound journalistic way, and the N&R is hardly alone in trying to do it.

Local newspapers are going to cover church fairs, and in this country and at this time, some of those church fairs are going to happen at temples and at hispanic centers and so on. (As this particular city was boosted into modernity more than a century ago by, among others, the founders of Temple Emanuel, I'm not sure that even counts as looking outside some mythical mainstream for stories.)

The problem isn't writing about a broad range of people and groups, which is reasonable from a journalistic and business POV, it's confusing local-front and life-section content with front-page news.

Mark, I linked to Taft's article. I link to N&R stories all the time. I plead guilty to singling out things I don't like more often, or at least more explicitly, than things I do. Journalists get criticized for reporting bad news, but "Plane lands safely" is not much of a headline. Same principle applies to reader critiques of publications.

Mark Sutter

Wow. I'm going to have to mull that one.

But at least you signed your real name :-)

Roch101

Mark,

We tried to have a serious discussion about the N&R's invetigative reporting on JR's blog last week, but after a few attempts at dodging questions, he turned comments off. Took his ball and went home.

Also, I'm curious what you thought made Taft's article on RMA noteworthy. Did it answer any of the persistent and lingering questions the community is asking?

BTW, where was Taft "accused of being on the take from, um, somebody, in the name of, um, fairness."

Roch101

Oh, and Mark, some people use handles on the internets, but are happy to divuldge their real names if asked.

Ed Cone

I thought Taft's article was noteworthy because it moved the ball forward on a question I have seen asked but not answered: who are these RMA guys? The piece provided detail on what kind of work RMA has done, and for whom. I found that valuable.

The CA

Mark, everyone knows who I am. It is posted on my blog.

Ed, I don't have a problem with reporting on news affecting/involving different cultures. I think the Temple Emanuel story was worth reporting, but like you mentioned before, it's not A1 "news" because it isn't really "news", it's a nice story about a planned event. My point is that I believe the N&R put it on the front page so they could essentially claim "look how progressive we are- we put a story about Jews on the front page!". They do the same thing with other minorities whether it is front page news material or not. It seems calculated, patronizing, and hollow to me.

Next week, not enough real news stories involving Asians? More cowbell! Put a fluff piece on the front page just so the Asian readers will know that you haven't forgotten about them in the midst of reporting on all that white people Christian male oriented news.

Here's an idea- just report the news in the front section. If it affects Jews, report on it. If it affects blacks, report on it. If it affects caucasians, report on it. But don't put stuff in the front section just to hit a self imposed diversity quota. The news is the news.

Roch101

Ed,

Yeah, okay, there was some insight into a side-line question, but wouldn't you agree that the bulk of the story simply continued the narrative the N&R has established without revealing any new information about the core issues?

Ed Cone

"I believe the N&R put it on the front page so they could essentially claim 'look how progressive we are- we put a story about Jews on the front page!'"

I think that sentence says more about your worldview than the N&R's, Sam.

In the specific case of the Jews and Greensboro, it also ignores the history, social life, and institutional nomenclature of the city.

Fluff is fluff. It doesn't belong on A-1, at least on a regular basis, and in packages that squeeze more serious news off the front page. That's true if it's about a tent revival, or a new shopping center, to choose two other examples I've hit before.

Roch, I haven't done a word count, but it seemed to me that the bulk of the story was spent reporting on the stuff I was curious about -- who are these guys, what kind of work do they do, what do people say about them. That's what interested me, and that's what I took away from the article.

Bubba

"Fluff is fluff. It doesn't belong on A-1, at least on a regular basis, and in packages that squeeze more serious news off the front page."

Yeah, reserve A1 for things like imaginary hate crimes at our institutions of higher education.

bert VanderVeen

I think the overriding issue for me is not the fluffiness of the news but the depth of the story. Someone brought up the Furniture Market coverage, which I feel pretty intimately associated with, working for a couple of the major publications covering the home furnishings industry. The story about Vegas just galled me, because one of the mags I work for, based out of NY, NY and without a dog in the fight, had the same story, but instead of reporting the World Market Center Las Vegas press release nearly verbatim, which the N and R did, they looked into the survey and asked some questions--which revealed that Vegas had a really shallow survey, of less than 900 "buyers" only, for which they paid over $250,000. High Point Market also has a new srvey, of over 9000 market-goers, which predictably has a lotdifferent result. Which is the truer gauge, and why should I care if I were just an average reader? This was not dealt with in the N and R. It was just shallow, shoddy, and a PR piece.
Ironically, up in the mountains this weekend I heard a really great, in-depth look at the Market from the local Asheville NPR station. I can't figure why a non-profit radio station 200 miles away could do a better story than the local paper here can.
And it isn't just the "news"--the sports section is weak, lacking any insight, and the life section is a short and vapid read.
But I will still buy the paper, as I have since I moved to GSO 18 years ago. You can't beat it for starting a fire.

The CA

Not quite, Ed. A few weeks ago, the N&R ran a very informative story about the 100th anniversary of Temple Emanuel which provided quite a bit of background on Jewish roots in Greensboro. I thought it was a good news piece and I even blogged about it and linked to the N&R story.

Don't read into my argument here more than what I am really saying. It isn't about Jews or blacks or any other minority. It's about how the N&R tries to create or push stories that wouldn't otherwise be classified as front page news to bolster their claim to diversity.

Editor: "Gee, we haven't done a front page story on (fill in the blank) group in a while."

Reporter: "That's because there really hasn't been anything in the news involving someone from (fill in the blank) group lately that is front page material".

Editor: "But we have to show we are committed to diversity. I know, let's send someone out to talk to someone from (fill in the blank) group about anything, and we'll put that on the front page even if it isn't really news".

Ed Cone

Yeah, that explains the shopping center stories, Sam.

Fluff and the location of the fluff, not the race or ethnicity of the fluffees, is the issue I see.

Your leap to "multiculturalism" and conflation of front-page fluff with a particular genre of front-page fluff strike me as off topic.

Bert -- interesting breakdown of the Vegas/Mkt article. Thnx.

Mark Sutter

Roch101, I understand people use the monikers, but what's up with it in the first place? Why? You may all know who each of you are, but I don't. Do I really have to go to your blog to find out who you are, The DA? That's crazy. Can't you see that? And how does the average person even know you have a blog? It only makes it seems like this is a small club.

These fake names only seems to contribute on these blogs to people treating other people like dirt from the safety of their computer (I'm not saying any of you specifically). It seems to me any conversation is better when it is rooted in at least some mutual respect, and being upfront about who you are and standing behind your comments seems to me to be an important step in that. It doesn't ensure civility, but it contributes to it.

I have no great love of the spotlight, or putting out my views. But you have this solemn promise from me: I'm not going to call myself the Silver Pen. Or Jediknight0928. Or fuzzybunny.

Well, maybe jediknight0928. It's kinda catchy.

Roch (may I call you Roch?), my reference to being "on the take" was at once both a tongue in cheek general comment -- referring to the tone of many of the comments toward Taft - and at least one specific one - an early comment wondering if was a "paid advertisement. " There is so much comic irony in that comment, I can't even begin to tell you.

The CA

I just ask you to inventory the fluff over a period of time and tell me if you see a pattern emerge as to the nature of the fluff.

On a side note about RMA, I am interested in the communications between the City and RMA regarding the press conference two weeks ago. The City won't release the RMA ostensibly because it is a "personnel matter", yet seems to have no problem allowing themselves or others acting at their behest from characterizing its contents. If it is personnel, then it should be no comment period. You don't get to claim privilege while you are purposely releasing materials that would otherwise fall within that privilege for the purpose of bolstering your case.

The City won't release the RMA but they will coordinate with Longmire to tell us what it essentially says. That should not be their right. Instead, it should be released so people can draw their own conclusions instead of being forced to accept Johnson and Longmire's. "Trust us" just doesn't get it.

The CA

Mark, the people I throw "dirt" at know who I am, too. I only use the moniker to promote the blog. I don't like anonymous posters, either. That's why you can easily find out who I am on my blog, and I always use my real name when posting on traditional media sites.

Jonathan Jones

Sam,

Your leap to 'multiculturalism' conclusions about why a Jewish festival is on the front page is way out of whack. Frankly it shows how little you understand about the way decisions are made at the newspaper you love to critique -- and hurts your credibility as a critic of the N&R to those who do understand.

Here's how it goes: By Friday afternoon you need to have most of your news copy for the Saturday, Sunday and Monday editions flowing in. Immediate stuff goes to Saturday, best stuff goes to Sunday and Monday gets the best of the rest. Unless people have had some free time -- a hard thing to come by in a newsroom that is much smaller than it was a year ago -- you're probably not going to have an extra story with good centerpiece quality photos for your front page.

But ya gotta have a local centerpiece, right? So an assigning editor looks at what events are happening on Sunday afternoon and picks from the best of the lot for a nice, yet-to-be-written fluffy feature and accompanying photo. And voila, staring back at you nearly every Monday morning is whatever community event happened the day before. You can debate the value in that all you want, but I'd be shocked if anything like your silly, fictional reporter-editor exchange ever happened.

Like many reporters I used to duck for cover when it was my turn to work a weekend shift because I didn't particularly enjoy covering those community events. But I also knew the answer was to get an extra story, with art, in before the end of the week.

Ed drew a comparison to the N&O in his original post. Sure, its Monday edition is newsier because it has more resources, which means more copy rolling in on a Friday afternoon. Those community events get bumped to the B-front. But Joe is right: the local A1 topics today were fairly cliche, and when I got the paper this morning, I skipped right past them.

Anthony

I think the N&R should let Sam do a "ride-along" at the paper. Have him follow some editors and reporters around and sit in on meetings for a week. That would be fun.

Joe Killian

Sam:

I'm not sure that it matters to you, but I've spent a lot of time in the N&R newsroom, I've had a lot of conversations with editors and heard a lot of reporters do so.

I've never heard or been a part of a conversation that's even remotely like the one you dreamed up and offered as what must be happening in the newsroom. If I did, I'd quit.

If the News & Record is trying to push "diversity news" out front and not look like a newspaper aimed primarily at older white Christians they're not doing it very well.

There was a conversation on this blog some time ago about how rabid and aggressive the N&R's multiculturism was in their hiring practices and how talented white people (and especially talented white men) couldn't get hired there because of these awful quotas. This talk was coming primarily from people who'd never set foot in our newsroom or hadn't set foot in it for a decade or more.

As a straight, white male who'd just been hired I sighed with relief at having somehow made it through. Then I began looking around the room. I had a straight white male on every side of me. And that's all there was, as far as I could see. I had to get out of my seat and walk around the newsroom to find anyone who wasn't a straight white male. My boss was a straight white male. His boss was a straight white woman. Everyone from me the entire way up the chain to the publisher was white. At the time I think there were two black employees and one hispanic in the entire newsroom -- two reporters and a designer. One editor at the entire paper was black. None were hispanic. None were Asian. None were gay. All were Christian. And the last two people to be hired as reporters were me and another straight white male.

Someone had somehow forgotten to tell the newsroom about the "no white males allowed" hiring policy at the N&R and I've since learned that most of the theories about what goes on in the newsroom are just about as sound.

I've often offered to answer any questions I can about how things actually work -- as far as I can, anyway. Every now and then someone takes me up on it --but the theories devoid of input from those actually there seem to be more popular.

The CA

Joe, I haven't made any comments on the N&R hiring policy. I've discussed that with JR & Allen Johnson before. I have some disagreement with the rationale behind it considering the N&R isn't too concerned about diversity as it applies to ideology. The idea that a black person will write "like a black person" or bring a "black perspective" solely based on skin color makes far less sense to me than say a Democrat might bring a Democratic perspective. After all, political beliefs are much more subjective than skin color because they represent a persons thought process. Whereas you can have black Democrats and black Republicans, but you can't have Democratic Republicans or Republican Democrats. What a person believes is a lot more likely to effect what they do and how they view things than an immutable characteristic because they have a choice in what they believe.

In any event, I'm not going to rehash that here. I have no problems with the N&R wanting to bring a wider variety of people in, I just think the rationale offered is wrong and if that is going to be the rationale, why stop at race, religion, etc.?

But on the subject of fluff, I could be wrong in my perception. I'll pay closer attention to the fluff and see if I'm way off base. But even if I am wrong, there doesn't seem to be any denying Ed's original assertion.

Amy Dominello

I’m joining this conversation late, but a couple of points.

- Jonathan is dead on. Monday papers are traditionally hard to fill with good, newsy stories because staffers are faced with getting stories in the paper for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We don’t always get an ideal mix of stories for Monday. Sure, we’d like it be better. But we’re strained with fewer resources and a Monday paper can be an easy target for criticism in any newsroom of our size.

- At the risk of being on topic regarding fluffy news coverage:

I spent two months reporting and writing an in-depth story about Becky Smothers and her fight against breast cancer. I received one e-mail from a reader praising the story I wrote and the video Jerry Wolford did.

But a short - some might even say “fluffy” - story that ran online Friday and in the paper on B3 Saturday about a mysterious “thing” attacking animals in Davidson County? Four e-mails and a phone call urging me to keep investigating this story.

My point? One man’s fluff may be another man’s hard-hitting news story. While people commenting here may think otherwise, there are probably some people in Greensboro who were thrilled to see the Temple Emanuel festival receive the coverage. Fluff? Probably. But it all depends on your perspective.

Jeffrey Sykes

Ed: Do you know what RBS is in newspaper jargon? I think that drives a lot of what you find disappointing in GNR.

Ed Cone

Amy, your article on Smothers was a good one. I'm sure it meant a lot to many readers, whether you hear from them or not. And mysterious animal deaths don't strike me as fluff.

JS, I don't know the jargon, but I have a guess on the "S."

Amy Dominello

Thanks, Ed. I know people don't usually comment when they're pleased with a story, so I don't take that as a shot to the quality of the story and video. It was just interesting to compare the reader responses I got.

And I don't think the animal story was fluffy. Maybe more tabloid-y than anything. But I'm sure there were people who read that story and thought, "So what? That's what happens in rural areas." However, to those who are concerned, it is a big deal.

Again, depends on perspective.

Jeffrey Sykes

RBS is reader behavior score and is replacing circulation as the gauge by which a newspaper's print product is judged. It is heavy on lifestyle news and much debated among traditional hard news junkies.

Joe Killian

Amy has an excellent point about the readership of a large circulation daily.

You just have no idea which stories are going to be important to which people.

When I was contributing to the "Fast Forward" transit column I thought that most of the stuff that could be produced for it would either be dry transit stuff no one would want to read or fluffy commuter stuff not many would want to read.

But like two weeks in I realized A LOT of people read, enjoyed and responded to that stuff.

As I sometimes talk about on my own blog -- some of the stuff I'm convinced is fluff ends up being very important to a surprising number of people.

Other days those same people are calling you up to ask why you wrote that story on the front page when you should have chosen this, or given this more coverage. There are a lot of people out there and trying to produce a general interest publication that pleases everybody even most of the time is difficult.

cara michele

"If the News & Record is trying... not [to] look like a newspaper aimed primarily at older white Christians they're not doing it very well."

Any thoughts on why the old-white-Christian-lovin' paper didn't cover Life Chain? There was plenty of room for a photo and a story in my skinny Monday paper. And you'd think we'd be all up in their demographic.

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