Monthly Archives: May 2006

Defining diversity

My apologies for lagging on postings. I spent a week traveling with my 19-year-old daughter, and I’d intended to keep blogging durng the trip. But laptop difficulties prevented me from doing so. Anyway, I’m back.
One note I returned to was a comment from a thoughtful observer in Knoxville’s Jewish community, who wrote: “I was both surprised and disappointed that the article in Saturday’s paper only included Christian references. I was surprised because Ina Hughs is generally wonderfully inclusive in her writing. Disappointed because we [and I include you in this ‘we’] are working so hard to educate our community of the multiple and diverse groups in our area and this article sends a tunnel vision of what this world looks like.”
The article was part of our series about the Millennial Generation, which, as a father of three teenagers, I found fascinating. But the comment reflects the importance and varied dimensions of the diversity issue. We are working hard at the News Sentinel to produce a newspaper that understands the diversity of the community and doesn’t give any group of people the impression that the newspaper isn’t theirs.
The American Society of Newspaper Editors has focused its attention on diversifying the race and ethnicity of newsroom professionals, and the Knight Foundation produces a report on the diversity of the newsrooms of major U.S. newspapers. Here’s the link to the latest assessment of the News Sentinel.
Of course, as the note above indicates, diversity involves more than race and ethnicity. We don’t want readers to feel excluded from the pages of the newspaper on any basis. Wags will quickly point to political philosophy as an area in which the “liberal media” feel free to exclude opposing points of view. There’s validity to that concern, just as there is to the other dimensions of diversity. Newsrooms are mostly made up of college-educated employees whose salaries are similar to those of teachers and nurses. That socioeconomic group undoubtedly tends toward particular viewpoints. Developing intellectual diversity must be a priority for newsrooms as well.

More on circulation

To my earlier post about circulation, questions were raised about what we refer to as “third-party sales,” newspaper circulation that is paid for by someone other than the person receiving the newspaper. These may include copies distributed to hotel rooms, to school classrooms, to non-subscribing homes or as “microzoned editions” at sporting events, graduations and the like. These copies are paid for by sponsors — often advertisers — who benefit by the additional circulation.
Third-party sales are subject to strict rules and are included in the annual audits by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Most, if not all, American papers have some of these sales. Although the bulk of our circulation still is through individually paid sales, we believe third-party sales are valuable because they present the newspaper to a fresh set of readers who otherwise might not see it. Detailed information on our distribution is made available to all our advertisers through the ABC, so they know what they are getting.
To answer the questions in more detail, I asked Jmi Boyd, our circulation director, for a copy of the newspaper’s latest circulation audit. It is for the period ending June 30, 2005. Under the latest ABC rules, circulation is now reported as averages for Monday-Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here’s how “third-party” sales break out:
Day’s average Mon-Thurs / Friday / Saturday / Sunday
Schools 5,291 / 4,881 / 212 / 2,727
Home deliveries 3,159 / 5,896 / 5,426 / 3,242
Hospitals, etc. 218 / 222 / 179 / 174
Hotels, etc. 201 / 182 / 114 / 87
Social functions 321 / 6,242 / 2,385 / 2,205
The total paid circulation by day in the audit was: Monday-Thursday (114,054), Friday (137,686), Saturday (129,001), and Sunday (152,822). So third-party sales make up an important part of our circulation, but the individual buyer is still our primary customer.

Dialing up the past

I had lunch yesterday with Dave Carlson, an old friend from my days at The Albuquerque Tribune. Dave is a professor at the University of Florida specializing in online journalism. He’s also national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, and he was in town to speak to the annual awards banquet of the East Tennesse chapter of SPJ.
Dave and I had plenty to reminisce about, but our talk inevitably turned to The Electronic Trib. The ET, as we called it, was an early experiment in online newspapering. Dave and I collaborated on its creation in 1990. We launched the E-Trib on a PC-based bulletin board system. Readers dialed in, originally on 1,200-baud modems, and were able to access stories and databases. We also used the E-Trib to let families with loved ones in the Gulf War convert their snail-mail letters to e-mail and shave several days off delivery.
Dave has constructed The Online Timeline, “a capsule history of internet news and information systems.” Having added a notch to that timeline — albeit a small one — is something I’m proud of.

Major discrepancy

There is no more fiercely competitive news beat in Knoxville than UT Sports. Radio talk shows, Internet sites, TV stations and newspapers all vie to be first with any tidbit of news. The Tennessean has a full-time UT reporter in Knoxville, Chris Lowe, and he’s a good one. Here at the News Sentinel we gnash our teeth anytime he beats us, and we celebrate when we’re first with the news.
The most recent story to break went our way. Mike Griffith got the scoop on Monday that Major Wingate had been suspended from the basketball team for a violation of team rules.
Pearl suspends Wingate
But what was the violation? What did Wingate do? Lowe came back the next day with a story quoting “multiple sources” as saying Wingate had tested positive for marijuana use.
Vols suspend Wingate
That’s a serious accusation, one we would hestitate to attitribute to anonymous sources, even multiple ones. But our reporters pushed hard to match Lowe’s information, if it could be confirmed.
As it turned out, though, we came away with a different story, that Wingate was suspended, not for testing positive, but for missing a scheduled drug test.
Wingate was suspended after not taking drug test
Who’s right? Naturally, we believe we are, or we wouldn’t have published the story. But the bad thing about anonymous sources is that they make independent verification impossible. Without them, though, some news would never come out.

Circulation figures

In a comment on the previous post, 50 Cents Wasted made reference to the News Sentinel’s “dwindling circulation figures, rumored to be falling below 100,000 for weekdays and below 125,000 on Sundays.” Like most newspapers in this era of vast media choice, our circulation is not at a historical high. It’s still pretty healthy, though.
Newspaper circulation is audited each year by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. According to the 2004 audit, the last one that’s finalized, our daily circulation was 120,088, down from 123,372 five years earlier. Our Sunday circulation was 152,177, down from 160,324 five years earlier. Happily, preliminary figures show some growth since then, and circulation is doing well this year. Though until those figures are audited they aren’t official.
Besides circulation, we measure readership, which ultimately is more important. On average, each paper we distribute is read by at least two people. We use phone surveys by Scarborough Research, the market leader, to measure readership. In the most recnet survey — which covered the period from October 2004 to September 2005 — our average daily readership in the Knoxville primary market was 240,718. Our average Sunday readership was 312,701.
It’s humbling to keep in mind that, when you run a correction on a mistake you made –as I did this morning — some quarter-million people will have a chance to read it.

(Star-Spangled) Banner headlines

The Poynter Institute in Florida is a leader in professional develop for journalists. It has a very active Web site that includes an industry gossip blog by Jim Romenesko, and a daily tip sheet by Al Tompkins called Al’s Morning Meeting.
Al’s Morning Meeting had some fascinating leads and background related to “Nuestro Himno,” the Spanish version of the national anthem, which triggered such a furor. He recapped the many controversies that have surrounded renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner through the years, from Jimi Hendrix to Roseanne Barr. (Anybody remember that radio stations stopped playing Jose Feliciano music after the musician performed the first, public nontraditional version of the anthem before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series?)
Should The Star-Spangled Banner be sung only in English? The federal government hasn’t always thought so. In 1919, the Federal Bureau of Education paid for a translation into Spanish. There also are versions in German, Yiddish, French, Navajo and Morse Code. This year is was translated into American Samoan.

Slap happy

We’re running a story tomorrow on “happy slapping,” a trend that’s big in England and elsewhere. It works like this: A punk walks up to a complete stranger and slaps him, recording the attack on cell phone video. Then the assault is posted on the Internet.
Some fun, huh? The twist to the story, which came over the wires, is that happy slapping traces its origins to “Jackass,” which, of course, traces its origins to South Knoville’s own Johnny Knoxville.
An ethical/taste question arose. Should we post links to examples of happy slapping (and maybe contribute to the glorification and spread of this delightful pastime)? I opted not to. But I figure this blog readership is mature enough to remember the caveat: don’t try this at home. So, here’s a sample. In this case, the slapper takes on more than he can handle.

Blog on

Christian Southern, one of our bright and talented young page designers, launched her own blog today called SouthernBell, where she’ll write about motherhood, career, family and faith.
That brings to a lucky 13 the number of active News Sentinel blogs. Before Christina, our newest blogger was Roger Coffey, a Knoxvillian on an Everest expedition who’s doing a Hillbilly in the Himalayas blog.

Agony of de foot

I’ve certainly stuck my foot in my mouth a number of times, but this is the first time I’ve been told I’m a fool for sticking a foot in other people’s faces.
A number of readers called or e-mailed to complain that they were gagged, grossed out and disgusted by our Sunday A1 photo of a hiker tending to a blister on his foot. The photo directed readers to a terrific story in the Go section by Morgan Simmons and Cathy Clarke on the first way station on the Appalachian Trail, where struggling hikers learn how to keep on trekkin’.,1406,KNS_336_4655698,00.html
Several editors discussed the photo before publication, and I signed off on the treatment. We’ve discussed it quite a bit since then, too. The argument in favor of the photo is that it is visually compelling, tells the story and grabs readers. The argument against is, well — yuck!

Too close to call

Nowadays it’s not often the newspaper gets the first whack at breaking news. But thanks to voting machine snafus, it looks like we’ll be in that position Wednesday morning — sort of. Problems downloading results from electronic ballot boxes meant TV had to go with quite incomplete results at 11 p.m. As of this writing about 1:09 a.m., most of the machine tallies are now in.
Morning readers will get stories informing them that venerable county commissioners Wanda Moody and Mary Lou Horner have almost surely lost. Things are not looking good for Mike McMillan, either. Lumpy Lambert promises to add color to the 6B commission race in the general election. Old Hickory’s descendant Andy Jackson IV seems like he’ll slip into a hard-fought judgeship.
Still too close to call are a couple of school board races. Thirty-four votes separate Lee Martin and Thomas Deakins. Robert Bratton and Jim McClain are 17 votes apart. Those races will turn on the 4,278 paper ballots that are yet to be tallied.
Looks like that will be sometime Wednesday afternoon, when the news cycle will once again favor the electronic media.