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« Commentariat | Main | Consequences »

Sep 14, 2007


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cara michele

Of course, I was thrilled by it. :)


As a back-sliding Baptist, the only word that comes to my mind is "bizarre."

Jeffrey Sykes

I believe JR is on record saying they will strive for an overtly local front above national and even state stories one can find on the web.

In that aspect, the front placement makes sense.

Aiming for the type of newspaper that will exist 10 years from now could be seen as innovative, in contrast to the N&O's more traditional mix of local, state and national on A1.

Danny Wright

I would think that an overtly local front on the issue of the drought affecting the local area and the entire state -- as the N & O has done -- would be a bit more compelling than tent revivals. VERY suspect decision-making on this one.

Danny Wright

However, the tent revival story could be a sign that we really have run out of water for good and should perhaps be considering next steps . . .

Ed Cone

As I had hoped my post stated clearly, it's not the article itself but the placement and size of the article that is problematic.

A local front is indeed the stated strategy of the N&R, if one that is pursued on a seemingly ad hoc basis.

The subject at hand is the decision to let a soft feature that take up more than half the front page, and dominate the valuable above-the-fold real estate with a photo and non-news headline.

Jeffrey Sykes

I left that business two years ago, but this may explain some of what drives the GNR decision making process.

Big pics, tons of promos and teasers, and less hard news every once in a while are all hallmarks of the Star Tribune Experience Study.

Ed Cone


John Robinson

Well, it's no larger than the story we published on Temple Emmanuel on Sunday. We consider the tent revival as interesting and relevant to many people around here. Is it overplayed? Not really when you consider the alternatives that day. (We've done plenty of large A1 centerpieces on the drought.) We used the same amount of space on the front this week on empty food banks and Friendly Ave. redesign. They are things that affect some of us, but not everyone.

We make news judgments every day about the front page. It may seem ad hoc because that's the way the news business is. We only have a small amount of control over what happens when. And we don't always have the local art to play big. It's not just us; every newspaper operates the same way.

Joel Gillespie

I think it would better belong on the local section front. It's not only not hard news, but it's not really news at all, is it - I mean it's more personal interest? A tent revival meeting, wow, that's news. I personally would like hard news on the front page, especially top front - world news and national news, but maybe that's just me. Are they trying to suck up to the likes of me (:-), that is, to assumed disaffected evangelicals, who otherwise they think may have given up the N&R for dead?

Ed Cone

The Temple article was also iffy fodder for A-1 (although it was a long, researched piece, and lacked quite the level of pandering in its headline), but N&R readers have long since resigned themselves to the featurization of the Sunday front page.

For anyone holding out hope that the weekday front might be held to a different standard, having the editor compare one to the other is discouraging stuff.

I do appreciate JR's willingness to enter this discussion, and (I hope) to listen to his readers.

David Wharton

I agree with JR. Bush's speech is already old news, and the drought's been well-covered.

As an aside, I've really been enjoying Richard Barron's coverage of real estate development. The Kernersville story last week, and today's story about Roy Carroll's green apartments were great.

cara michele

That a church is still holding big outdoor revivals in the year 2007 (God bless them) and that 900 people attended (hallelujah!) actually is news (and good news!) to some of us. And FYI: There's more than one kind of drought happening around here. And one of those can only be quenched with "living water." Amen, y'all. :)


I saw that headline, smiled and shook my head, then went straight to the 2nd page of the paper without looking at anything else on the front page. That headline made me think there wasn't any real news on the front page, so I didn't bother. That may have been an incorrect assumption, but I'll blame the headline. ;-) I think that headline would have been fine in the local section, but I've always thought that the headline on the front page of a daily newspaper (especially in a medium or large city) should be more national, or at least about a state issue or local issue that has an effect on everyone in the area. Tent revivals just don't do it for me. Now, were this a weekly paper, then fine, but it's not, so I thought it was an odd placement.

Ed Cone

There ya go, DW, those really are the only choices: either the drought and the speech, or a half-page article with a huge above-the-fold photo headlined "Praise the Lord."

It's such an airtight case that even your own mention of the Carroll article, which some might argue deserved a spot on A-1, suggests no alternatives in layout or content. Nope, two news stories -- one about musicians helping a family in Reidsville -- and a half-pager on the revival. Solid, solid stuff.

Michele, I'm not suffering from a spiritual drought, nor am I looking to my daily newspaper to proselytize me.


Not to change the subject, but Wednesday night around 5:30 I was getting onto 29 heading south, entering from Summit Ave near Reedy Fork. On the off ramp from 29 at the Summit Ave exit, I saw 2 or 3 guys in handcuffs on the ground, and 4 or 5 police cars. While continuing down 29, I saw maybe 6 or 7 more police cars traveling at what appeared to be a high rate of speed, north towards that area. They all had their lights flashing. I looked all over the paper and the N&R website on Thursday in an attempt to figure out what on earth was going on, but there was NOTHING! I even went to the GSO police website but found nothing on that, either. Does ANYONE know what was going on? With all that activity I thought for sure that would be in the paper.

David Wharton

The B1 placement of the Carroll story seemed right. Most people aren't as into that stuff as I am.

It was news to me that people still hold tent revivals, and I thought Nancy covered it very well.

Jason Hardin

Why wouldn't we want to use that space for a well-written story on a subject that has a lot of resonance for many Triad residents?

Or that, for other residents, might open a window into a tradition they might not be familiar with but might nonetheless find interesting?

I don't see any reason why the top of the front page should only be the province of "hard" news. In fact, much of that kind of news is ephemeral, something that seems important today but in a year or a decade proves to be no more memorable or significant than a preseason football game.

Conversely, sometimes we let the more important aspects of life slide by unnoticed, their significance obscured by their familiarity. We take for granted what we see every day.

News, at least to me, isn't just "hard news." It's everything that goes on in our world, whether it's happening in City Hall or in someone's backyard. A newspaper, and a newspaper's front page, should reflect life.

The paper is trying to move beyond the time when arbitrary distinctions dictated that one kind of story went in one place, and another kind went somewhere else.

In a lot of ways, newspapers are following the lead of historians.

For most of human existence, written history focused on decisions made at the highest levels of government. History was largely made up of stories of declarations of war and ascensions to the throne.

But increasingly, historians realized that style of history didn't do a good job of explaining why things happened. They began to focus more on the rhythms of everyday life, on the jobs that ordinary people did, the foods that they ate, the clothes they wore and the churches where they worshipped.

That provided a much more finely grained picture of a society and, when combined with the traditional high politics, added up to provide a much richer form of history.

That's what the paper is trying to do when we run these kinds of stories in prominent places.

Certainly, this involves judgment calls. What one reader finds interesting, another finds a waste of space. But that's the case with all stories, and I would bet that many found this story to be compelling.

Of course, running a story like this in that spot leaves us vulnerable to a comparision with another newspaper's judgement on that day.

The argument would go that we neglected an important story in favor of a non-essential one. But the fact is, the "hard news" that these stories bump from that spot usually isn't gone. It's just somewhere else inside the paper. Or it's something we wrote about the previous week. Or will write about again the next week.

And, in fact, if you compared two newspapers on a different day, the decisions might be reversed.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that there's room for a lot of different kinds of stories on the front page.

Sometimes there is a deeper significance in something that might initially seem trivial, or routine. And sometimes, an "important" topic might prove to be less so with the passing of time.

Sometimes we might get it wrong. We don't always make the right call, and there's room for debate and disagreement.

But I personally enjoy reading newspapers that look at "news" as something that's as broad and varied as life itself.

Plus, it would have been a crime to bury that photo, and a beautifully written story, somewhere else inside the paper.



I'm surprised you didn't know there were tent revivals still going on in this area. I'm not a church going person, but I notice signs for tent revivals fairly often. Look around sometime when you're out and you might see the signs announcing them. Or, if you see a large tent up near a church, slow down and take a look...chances are it's a revival.

Ed Cone

At the risk of repeating myself, let me repeat myself (from the original post):

"Nothing wrong with the article itself, which nicely captures the spirit of the event and ties it into a deep Southern tradition. Maybe it belongs on the local front, maybe below the fold on A-1. But unless it scoops the world on the Second Coming, the placement and emphasis on a busy Friday morning are baffling."

Joel Gillespie

Wow, heady stuff! Out of my league. Cara, the fact that I would prefer "hard news" on the front page doesn't mean of course that I don't think a successful tent revival to be "good news." Jason, your points are very interesting. Maybe I am just an old fart. But there is a LOT going on in the world, even today, that is newsworthy to me, more than just our droughts, and the old fart in me likes to read about China/Russia vs. India/Japan/US groupings in the far east, or the Korean-Syrian-Iranian nuclear connection, or other big world/national news on page one. I love local coverage but for some reason like that in section 2 or 3. Why? I have no idea really! Habit? Probably. I suppose it is hard to have fresh hard news on the front page in the day of "insta news" online. And nobody can cover local stuff like a local paper.

David Wharton

With the NTY and WSJ online, and news streaming in to me on the web through editors like Ed and Glenn Reynolds, I don't really use the N&R for national news.

Nancy's story is the kind that I look to the N&R for, especially on a slow news day. (The electronic Times's current headlines are about Bush pumping his speech, a UAW strike, and the Yankees.)

Count me unbaffled.


JR, there's one "m" in Emanuel, when it's the name of Temple Emanuel. The 2-m versions are usually Christian.

The TE story was strange and religiously shallow. Historically, the N&R has published what I consider tantamount to Jew-baiting on or near the Jewish high holy days (Fall) or Passover (Spring). It happened for so many years we just sat back and waited for it and were rarely disappointed. If the records that long ago are searchable, I can point some of them out - they involved blood libel, "Messianic" Jews, and Jewish/Christian families and how they dealt with holidays.

The timing of the TE story last week seemed it could have turned into a half-apology for the historical baiting and half-"what a great thing to do to help GSO folks understand the high holy days." It turned out to be neither. It was a story of some families who are both important to GSO and to the Temple; however, there are 560+ families that were hardly mentioned and they're the crux of the Jefferson Road campus and thriving life at TE. It was a story of TE in the community through a small group of influential families; it wasn't a story of Temple Emanuel and it hardly mentioned being Jewish. (And the photo of kid/family with the Torah? C'mon. Just a little posed and out of sync with the religion.)

It seemed like an opportunity lost. (I was part of Joe Rodriguez's great photoshoot for an earlier Jewish in Greensboro inset (circa 1988-ish) and had hoped the N&R story would have paralleled that indepth-ness. It did not.

As for the tent revival, my now-big-city son (who's a journalist) smirked when he saw it. None of us read it. It is Rosh Hashanah in a lot of homes in this burg yesterday and today and we had hoped for more (but we'll get candle-counting on Chanukah, a minor holiday, won't we?).

This is one of few times I'm really disappointed in the content of a story (the one on TE) and miffed at the inclusion of tent revivals on the front page during the high holy day season. IMO, a bad juxtaposition. They should have switched the dates of the stories, ya think?

John Robinson

The inference we don't listen to readers isn't supported unless you think that Ed's our only reader. We pay a great deal of attention to readers. This comment strand suggests the diversity of news judgment. Readers "resigned themselves" to the featurization of Sunday? Sorry, Ed, but you're in the minority in that assessment of resignation.

Everyone has a lot of interests. They're different. That's why we have several stories on each of four fronts. You didn't care for the placement of that story? Hate to tell you but that happens somewherer in our readership every day. I guarantee you others liked it. We heard from many today.

David Wharton

I misattributed today's story about the Carroll project -- it was Donald Patterson's.

Ed Cone

You heard from several people in this thread, too, JR.

They've said things like "bizarre," "suspect decision-making," "not really news," "made me think there wasn't any real news on the front page, so I didn't bother," and "none of us read it" (different person each time).

So, no, I'm not your only reader, or the only person who has discussed the questionable placement and proportion of that story, and I'd guess the other commenters don't feel great about your blithe attempt to say "Oh it's just Ed."

I'd guess also that they represent some larger number of readers; obviously they represent some of your online-adapted readers.

We're writing this stuff because we care about our local newspaper, and we want a good one.

Joel Gillespie

I had more or less just ignored the article this morning because it didn't interest me as a front page kind of thing, but I read it more careful tonight. Tent revivals have sort of seen their day because they generally aren't effective, and conversions made under such conditions generally don't stick - even in Billy Graham Crusades, despite the hundreds of people for whom it did stick. I did appreciate the human level pathos of the story toward the end. Kudos to Nancy for that. And of course being an evangelical Christian I believe in that stuff. But, after reading the piece I am more convinced that it just should not be a front page newspaper story. It really is a local interest story about Mt. Zion Church. Perhaps a story to honor pastor Brooks and his wife would have been the better lead in, given their long standing service in our community.

Even though as a more historic orthodox Christian I do think much mainstream media has generally put historic orthodox Christianity in a bad light, and thus would seem to welcome front page attention, I still think this belongs in a different section. I never would have thought about Sue's point, and I am sorry that I would not have, but I think she is right also about the timing.

I think Nancy McLaughlin means well, and is probably a very nice person, and I appreciate the News and Record wanting to offer better and broader and inclusive religious coverage, but somehow it all feels so patronizing to me. It reminds me of why I don't want school sanctioned prayer or the government teaching my kids about religious matters.


JR, I agree with Ed, as does my entire family (which happens to be 8 concerned readers). The huge pictures, extra large font, soft niche stories above the fold on A-1, focus on Britney on A-2, and one or two line blurbs on important international stories are all disappointing, and all are changes that have occurred incrementally over the past 5-10 years. No one expects the N&R to be the NY Times or WSJ, but the quality and quantity of the content have declined. The tent revival story, if it is going to be page 1 news, should should dig deeper; whether that is about the role and status of religion in the country today (beyond saying "Evangelists find far larger audiences on cable. And Baptists and Pentecostals, who fueled the tradition, now have big buildings."), or telling readers about the contributions and history of Pastor Brooks, those should be the decisions that the N&R's editors and journalists make if they want to run an article like this in the most prominent spot of the paper. Jason, adding a layer of complexity would help this piece qualify as a richer form of journalism.

On a related topic, Charles Davenport's presence on the op-ed pages is a continuing source of embarrassment for the paper. His column from two weeks back on "Intolerance as a Virtue" (see link below) was ignorant of the facts and absurdly incendiary.(http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/AdolescentReproHealth/)


John Robinson

My response was not intended to be dismissive, Ed. I thought I made the point that there were diverse opinions voiced here. I also wanted to make the point that we know our readership very well. We have much research and pay attention to it. We also offer a lot of choices on our fronts every day. We have no expectation that everyone will agree with every choice.

Ed Cone

Thnx, John. It's good to see the editor of the paper in the mix when these issues pop up, even if we disagree. I do hope that the comments and blog posts of readers are counted in your research.


I didn't read the revival article but I did pause over Jerry Wolford's always excellent photos. That guy can shoot - I don't like it when he nudhes into my frame on scenes, but I am in awe of his eye. Wonder how much stellar pictures have to do with story placement decisions?

Oh, Wharton - I covered the green apartments presser too and thought of you the whole time I was there, You should grace us with an extended review. Carroll's shrewd to have called a press conference for what its obstensibly just another apartment complex. Now if he'd only stop offering me elevator rides up to the top of Center Point...

cara michele

Sometimes the local blogosphere feels like a parallel universe to me, and this is one of those times. I keep coming back to this thread out of curiosity, to read the comments, most of which are negative, while in the real world, I've been hearing (multiple)comments like this from my extended family and friends: "Oh my gosh, did you see that cover story on the Mt. Zion revival? Wasn't that just awesome? I'm so glad they ran that!" (Yes, I did and it was. And me, too.)


Great headline and great placement!

Keep up the great work JR!


".....while in the real world, I've been hearing (multiple)comments like this from my extended family and friends: 'Oh my gosh, did you see that cover story on the Mt. Zion revival? Wasn't that just awesome? I'm so glad they ran that!' (Yes, I did and it was. And me, too.)"

You obvious frequent different circles than those whose opinions are negative.

It has to do with disparate values of the different circles.

Beau Dure

At the end of the day, this just goes to show the challenge of running a newspaper, particularly in today's wildly fractured marketplace. It's really, really hard to be all things to all people.

That, more than anything else you can name, is why newspapers are struggling.

(All that said, the "Praise the Lord" headline strikes me as something less than detached. "A Day of Praise" or "Revived Spirits" would've conveyed the spirit without giving the appearance that the N&R is issuing a command from A1.)

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