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Archive for the ‘Newspaper’ Category

Editor and Publisher has put together has put together a list of top 30 US news websites. New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Online and Los Angeles Times are on top, in that order. All these have gained traffic over the past year. More

While traffic has gained, the average time spent by a reader on the NYT site has decreased from 44 to 36 minutes during Jan 2007 to Jan 2008. More

It’s well acknowledged that print media in the US has been losing circulation. But how well has the online versions of the newspapers been doing?

An analysis by Scarborough Research says that the online audience has been making up as much as 28% of the loses in print readership. More

But, on the contrary, Outsell Research says that online newspapers aren’t attracting eyeballs fast enough. More

I guess, the disparity is because of the types of newspapers covered. For a still fledgling medium like online communication, it’s very difficult to generalise.

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This is not something the media in India do — openly backing a candidate in an election. The first two editorials in today’s New York Times are about who the newspaper’s editorial board thinks should be the Democratic and Republican candidates for the Nov 8 US Presidential election.

“As Democrats look ahead to the primaries in the biggest states on Feb. 5, The Times’s editorial board strongly recommends that they select Hillary Clinton as their nominee for the 2008 presidential election,” the newspaper says. “The next president needs to start immediately on challenges that will require concrete solutions, resolve, and the ability to make government work. Mrs. Clinton is more qualified, right now, to be president.”

The second edit on the Republican Party, the NYT says, “We have strong disagreements with all the Republicans running for president. The leading candidates have no plan for getting American troops out of Iraq. They are too wedded to discredited economic theories and unwilling even now to break with the legacy of President Bush.”

Backing McCain it says, “Still, there is a choice to be made, and it is an easy one. Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe.”

Opinionated media & blogs

This is quite a normal feature in the US. But in India, though the media might editorially endorse or criticise the stand taken by political parties on specific issues, they (particularly big media houses) rarely openly declare its backing for a particular candidate, that too in a parliamentary or assembly election.

I guess the highly opinionated feature of mass media in the US is an indication of the highly evolved state of its society that makes elaborate use of multimedia to access, process and disseminate information. The society is not only highly literate but also has the benefit of sophisticated technology.

There is an argument that blogs have flourished in the US mainly because of the “bias of the mainstream media”. Probably. But in no way can blogs claim a “holier than thou” tag, since there is nothing to show that the blogs themselves aren’t biased and they themselves don’t have any agenda?

I feel the best indication of a well-evolved society is the diversity of opinions. To that extent blogs are only complementing in their own way the multiplicity of opinions in the society.

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This week it’s my turn to take leave. Last week it was my wife’s. Reason: To be with our son during his studies as he prepares for his exams. No longer people take leave only for going on holiday tours. Thanks to modern-day lifestyle, dictated by long and unusual working hours, parents have less time to spend with their children.

Journalists, like us, are among the worst hit. When children are at home in the evening, we are in the office. Even though people on Sundays follow news on radio and TV, and on Mondays read newspapers, few of them realise that journalists work on Sundays too. Yes, both of us work on Sundays, and our Sunday is on a weekday! Besides, most public holidays too are working days for us, with the result, in a year, there are very few days when all of us are at home through the day!

There’s an opinion that such work schedules aren’t good for the family. In fact, people do ask us: “How do you manage?!” There are also parents, faced with their children’s dream to be journalists, who ask us: how good is the career, is it safe, is there family life for a journalist?

My answer: we manage just as others do. It’s not journalists alone who lead such lives. Families where parents have the perfect 10 to 5 job aren’t free of problems, are they? I know a family: the husband and the wife are officers in banks; but they are in two cities and their daughter stays with her grandmother. If that you think is the worst part, the best part is the daughter is so much smarter than some other girls whose parents are always with them. I am sure there are many such examples to show how generalizations aren’t true.

Of course, more time with children does have its benefits. It’ll be quite wrong to say that our son doesn’t miss us. The same holds good for us: we too miss the evenings with our son. Family life of most journalists isn’t the same as of many others. We do miss the usual weekends; but we do find time to go out as a family, relax, unwind and recharge ourselves. There are lot of advantages when you are a little different and you aren’t following the crowd! That’s the fun! One example, as we work from afternoon to night, we never get caught in the rush-hour traffic.

It’s a tough job, no doubt. However, I believe adversities do play a positive role in shaping our lives; they make us a little harder and more prepared to face challenges in life. The trick, I guess, is not in ducking problems, but in working around them. And, it’s not the problems we should be worried about, it’s the way we tackle them.

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One of the ways journalism has changed is in the length of stories. Newspapers and magazines now a days carry shorter articles and news reports. There are more of graphics, illustrations and photos. One reason is that people have lesser time today to go through long-winded articles, two, the printable area of newspaper itself has shrunk.

The Editors’ Weblog is reporting on how Washington Post has asked its reporters to write shorter articles. “Len Downie, executive edior of The Washington Post, has made it clear: writers will have to write shorter stories if they want to go on writing them. Downie’s memo is representative of a trend to trim and trim more. The memo also discusses the Post’s new policies for the structure of its content.”

Washingtonian.com has the full text of the executive editor’s memo.

And there is a comment on the above site welcoming the move. A good observation:

“This is good news, not bad news. Kudos to Downie. Based on the memo, I believe he’s trying to get articles in the Post that people actually will read and that maintain journalistic excellence. Young people – our future market – like shorter articles, and succinct writing has greater impact than bloated writing. The Post has figured out that long-winded journalism is all but dead, putting the paper far ahead of most.”

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This is probably against conventional wisdom in a tech-driven world; but not surprising. Technology has replaced some devices with newer ones, but not all. We still have pencils, pens, inks, white paper to write on, radios, television sets, cassette players, cinema halls, theatre, bicycles, motorbikes, grinders and mixers (though precooked food is available)…

We do get excited over the theoretical possibilities that technology offers. At the turn of the century, during the dotcom boom, one of them was how we would all shop online and we would see the slow death of retail markets. The other was how we would all stop reading the newspaper and just be content with what we got on the mobile devices.

I guess our love for the written and printed word is very innate to human nature. So, it’s not surprising that newspaper circulation around the world has gone up.

Look at these latest figures put out by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. (Source)

  • Circulation of Indian dailies jumped 33 per cent.
  • Global newspaper circulation increased 9.95 percent.
  • Daily newspaper titles surpassed 10,000 for the first time in history.
  • India has 1,834 dailies (in 2005) up 22.8 per cent from 1,493 dailies in 2001.
  • The circulation of India’s dailies consistently increased from 5,91,29,000 in 2001 to 7,29,39,000 in 2003 to 7,86,89,000 in 2005.
  • More than 450 million copies of newspapers are sold daily world over.
  • Even in North America and Europe both circulation and the number of new titles have increased.
  • A previous posting, on June 9, on the same topic

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    Washington Post on January 9 hosted a meeting of bloggers; perhaps the first of its kind*. Only 100 attended, though anybody who has “a blog about DC” was invited.

    The Post‘s Marc Fisher reported: “This was a chance for all sorts of local bloggers to hear from Post news executives about how the paper is not equipped to cover the micro-local events and issues that bloggers specialize in, and to explore ways in which the paper, its website and bloggers can collaborate, at least by referring readers to one another’s work.”

    Company executives talked about sharing revenues with local bloggers from ads sold by the Post’s sales staff, which must be exponentially bigger and effective than any bloggers’ effort. The meet-up, coincidentally, came just a few days after Backfence, a local news/blog-like effort co-founded by an online WashingtonPost.com veteran announced a staff cutback and reorganization.

    Just an indication of how the mass media landscape is changing.

    * Update following Dinakaran’s comment: … perhaps the first of its kind organised by a media organisation.

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    The Supreme Court dismissed yesterday a petition seeking a ban on publication of obscene photographs in newspapers. Delivering the judgement, a Bench comprising Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Justice Tarun Chatterjee, came out with a number of observations pertaining to freedom of the Press and choice of media for people in a democratic country like India.

    The text of the entire judgement of the case can be read here.

    Here are some the observations:

    On blanket ban:

    • “Any steps to impose a blanket ban on publishing of such photographs, in our opinion, would amount to prejudging the matter… An imposition of a blanket ban on the publication of certain photographs and news items etc. will lead to a situation where the newspaper will be publishing material which caters only to children and adolescents and the adults will be deprived of reading their share of their entertainment which can be permissible under the normal norms of decency in any society.”

    On choice of media for people:

    • “In addition we also hold that news is not limited to Times of India and Hindustan Times. Any hypersensitive person can subscribe to many other Newspaper of their choice, which might not be against the standards of morality of the concerned person.”

    On publication as a whole:

    • “We are also of the view that a culture of ‘responsible reading’ should be inculcated among the readers of any news article. No news item should be viewed or read in isolation. It is necessary that publication must be judged as a whole and news items, advertisements or passages should not be read without the accompanying message that is purported to be conveyed to the public. Also the members of the public and readers should not look for meanings in a picture or written article, which is not conceived to be conveyed through the picture or the news item.”

    On nudity and obscenity:

    • “Where art and obscenity are mixed, what must be seen is whether the artistic, literary or social merit of the work in question outweighs its obscene content. In judging whether a particular work is obscene, regard must be had to contemporary mores and national standards…

    • “Articles and pictures in a newspaper must meet the Miller test’s constitutional standard of obscenity in order for the publisher or the distributor to be prosecuted for obscenity. Nudity alone is not enough to make material legally obscene…

    • The definition of obscenity differs from culture to culture, between communities within a single culture, and also between individuals within those communities… Many cultures have produced laws to define what is considered to be obscene and censorship is often used to try to suppress or control material that is obscene under these definitions.”

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