Friday, December 07, 2007

Local dog chases local cat over local fence

Let's review the bidding at the top of the front page here. More (and lurider) details on that "high-end prostitution ring" (sex, like so many other things, is apparently a lot more interesting when rich people have it). Conclusion to truly bizarre process of selecting a sheriff. And what could possibly be more important than that high school football eligibility dispute?

Um, if it please the court, could we enter a couple of candidates from inside the paper? I was sort of thinking of "Videotapes of CIA questioning destroyed" (OK, to be fair, it did get a small downpage reefer). I know it's only eight grafs, but that last one -- "Hayden's message was an attempt to get ahead of a New York Times story about the videotapes" -- looks kind of interesting. Wonder what the Times was going to say about the videotape?

Sorry. The other one was "White House seeks to clarify comments" (yeah, from a hed clarity perspective, it's right up there with "Board Approves Plan," but let's try to stay on topic here). The "comments" would be the president's assertion on Tuesday, summarized thus:

The president added that "nobody ever told me" that he should back down on heated rhetoric about Iran as a result of the potential new findings.

You can see how that kind of murky language -- "nobody ever told me" -- might want some clarifying. And?

... White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday that McConnell did tell Bush in August that Iran may have halted its nuclear weapons program and that, if confirmed, it could result in a new Iran view from the intelligence community. The only thing Bush didn't get then, she said, were "the raw detail in terms of the sources and methods" and what sort of checking was going to be done.

"I can see where you could see that the president could have been more precise in that language," she said. "But the president was being truthful."

You know, when you put it that way, I can see it too. But considering that the first-day coverage of the Iran backtrack couldn't get to the front page either, my question is really for the folks making the news decisions at the Foremost Newspaper of the Carolinas:

What, exactly, does this administration have to do to get your attention?

Thank you. I'll take my reply offline.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Thomsen said...

I can't agree with you.

These days, it's smart to go local. There are better, faster ways to get the stories you suggested — notably TV news and probably the Observer's own Web site. I support the newfound mission of most papers to make their priority delivering stories that readers can't get elsewhere.

You sneer, seemingly, at their comparative lack of importance. Lack of importance to a reader outside the Observer's circulation area, to be sure. Lack within it, though? I wouldn't bet on that.

The Observer may be a metro paper, but that shouldn't saddle it with the same mission as The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Local is good. And usually better.

3:10 AM, December 08, 2007  
Blogger Old Word Wolf said...

Local is good when it's good; but when it's bad, it's awful.

Here at the DeSoto Sun, a zoned editon of the Charlotte Sun, readers occasionally write letters to the editor asking for more good news. Apparently in response to such pleas, the publisher, a family enterprise, accommodates friends and cronies by ordering "reporters" to report only good news. (Actually, I don't know why readers write such letters when all we've had for the five years I've subscribed is parades, proms, and middle-school football) Today's local news, for example, is a column that recycles five local reports from yesterday's paper (visit the Christmas light display, eat at the new Italian restaurant, what a wonderful parade downtown we had, etc.) Crime reports are soft pedaled; commissioners are regularly praised for wisdom and never, never criticized. Government and school district meetings are covered as bland agenda-item reports.

The irony is even as I'm spouting off here, this morning's editorial is all about "our job in the media" (Sun Pundit doesn't actually use the word "journalist") is to watchdog public officials and they'd better understand this! Well, the citizenry waits.

10:15 AM, December 08, 2007  
Blogger Old Word Wolf said...

P.S. The Sun isn't carrying the CIA interrogation tapes story either. The front-page national news is TV Guide's sale.

And even that is overshadowed by a monument to Pearl Harbor: it's not actually a story, but a reefer on 'roids -- photo, two decks of display type, live-in-infamy quote from FDR -- all to direct readers to observance stories on the local fronts.

(Please don't question my credentials as a citizen for hinting this is overplayed)

10:53 AM, December 08, 2007  
Blogger fev said...

Always nice to welcome a new visitor from the ACES board, but -- nah, I have a lot of problems with the "local is better" philosophy.

Small stuff first, it's inconsistently applied. If the guideline is where news can be gotten better and faster, then it's time for daily papers to throw all college and professional sports coverage overboard (the very definition of stuff that anybody-who-cares-about knows shortly after the game is over). And nobody's ever suggested that a major regional paper needs to have the same mission as the WashPost or the Times; you don't need a couple dozen foreign bureaus to do a creditable job of international coverage.

The problem here isn't that the stories are low-bore. The sheriff selection is an obvious 1A call, the football scam worth considering (not because of the sport, but because of the damn grownups). The prostitution story strikes me as the sort of pedestrian stuff that usually flows out when the warrants are opened (and, again, as getting the play it does because it involves rich people).

And -- as you'll recall from another post that you commented on -- the paper obviously _does_ run national news in the 1A lede spot: this week alone, a bad horse-race story and a mall massacre.

I think the problem is that the Obs doesn't have any consistent mechanism for reliably judging international and national coverage against the rest of the "mix." There's nothing in the news-judging process to distinguish a half-ass campaign story from genuinely important developments in how the country relates to the rest of the world, or serious revelations about the conduct of the people who run the place. Thus there's no way of telling when such a story might be a better 1A candidate than another high school football piece.

I'm not _actually_ sneering. I'm really kind of spewing coffee over the monitor in dismay. But eventually I'm going to be another person who decides that newspapers that can't tell news from schlock aren't worth my time or money.

10:48 PM, December 09, 2007  

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