Monthly Archives: April 2009

New media survey shows brights spots for newspapers

A recent survey on the digital future of the media offers some rays of hope for the newspaper business.
The survey was done by the Center for the Digital Future, part of the Annenberg School of Communications at the Unversity of Southern California.
Two findings are particularly positive.
Readership of newspapers online was up sharply. Internet users are reading online papers 53 minutes a week now, up from 41 minutes just a year earlier.
At the same time, attitudes toward newspaper brands seem stronger.
“A large percentage of Internet users remain loyal to print versions of newspapers,” the study found. “When asked if they would miss the print edition of their newspaper if it were no longer available, 61 percent of those who read newspapers offline agreed — up from 56 percent in 2007.”

News Sentinel ramping up its tweets

Under the guidance of Jack Lail, our newsroom director of innovation, the News Sentinel has been using Twitter to distribute and gather information for a while now. You can follow our news and sports headlines on Twitter, if that’s how you’d like to get them.
To bring the staff more up to speed, though, we’ve been holding Twitter-training classes this week. So look for more from the world of 140-character news.
If anyone’s interested in following me, my Twitter user name is JackatNews. I’ve not been a heavy twitterer, but I’ll be ramping up my tweets in coming weeks.

‘Bad Reporter’ covers newspapers’ woes

One of my favorite parts of our Sunday paper is the Bad Reporter cartoon. I think it’s a wonderfully creative feature that simultaneously pokes fun at newspapers and the news. kent.jpg
And because the newspaper business is also making news these days, we frequently get a double dose of abuse.
Don Asmussen is the humorist who does the cartoon for the San Francisco Chronicle and Universal Press Syndicate. He discusses his work in an interview with Bill Mitchell of the Poynter Institute.
What’s Asmussen outlook for the future of editorial cartoons?
“Material? Awesome. The cockiness of bloggers, the craziness of the GOP, the overconfidence of the left. Tea Parties, for crying out loud! Awesome.
“Paying bills? Not so much.”

SPJ session at Baker Center will address credibility

The Society of Professional Journalists is holding 10 town hall meetings throughout the country this week to talk about how changes in the media are affecting journalistic credibility. The East Tennessee chapter will host one of the sessions, at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Toyota Auditorium of the Howard Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus.
Issues to be addressed include citizen journalism, blogging and reader comments. I’ll be on the panel along with Bill Shory, WBIR-TV news director; Michael Grider, interactive producer; and Glenn Reynolds, UT law professor and Instapundit blogger. The moderator will be Marianna Spicer, CNN’s executive editor for news standards in Atlanta.
The audience will have a chance to pepper the panelists with questions, so come on down. For more information, call ETSPJ President Mia Rhodarmer at (423) 337-7101 or e-mail her at

Is News Sentinel “violating” First Amendment rights?

Commenters on our Web sites like to accuse the News Sentinel of violating their First Amendment rights whenever their comments are deleted, as several were on a recent story about a gay-rights demonstration.
Said one commenter:
.”…it seems that it’s just not the homosexuals who don’t have “rights”…a whole lot of people on this thread have also lost their first amendment rights to the so-called “guardian” of those rights…the KGB…oops…I meant the KNS…”
Let me try to clarify.
The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to speak and to publish their thoughts. It does not, however, require any citizen to repeat what another citizen says or to publish what another citizen thinks.
The News Sentinel is not the government. It is a business. Its owners, through their employees, have their own First Amendment rights to publish what they want to publish.
Granted, the company has dedicated itself to fostering public dialog and supporting free speech and has publicly defended free expression and open exchange of information.
But that doesn’t mean we have turned over to someone else our own First Amendment right to publish — or not publish — what we choose.

UT football contracts still not finalized?

Simple public record requests can be extraordinarily exasperating.
Take the UT Athletics Department — please!
Around the first of the year we made a formal request under the Public Records Act for copies of the university’s contracts with the new football coaches. Simple enough, it would seem. But for weeks we were put off with the explanation that the contracts hadn’t been finalized.
Eventually, in March we received copies of the memoranda of understanding that preceded the contracts. Drew Edwards based a story on them March 17. The athletics department later expressed surprise that we still wanted copies of the contracts themselves.
Today we received another terse response — still don’t have ’em.
So it’s approaching five months and counting to see what the citizens of Tennessee actually committed to these high-profile employees.
If I were a cynical journalistic type, I’d almost start to wonder: Is there something UT does not want us to know?

Turkey hunting story takes off

The hottest story of the week has definitely been the one about the bride who bagged a turkey on her honeymoon.
The story logged more than 18,000 page views on Sunday, got linked by national sites and topped 66,000 page views on Monday. Tuesday it still had enough traffic to make it the No. 4 most popular story on
The article has spawned some complaints. “That was one of the most redneck, disgusting, articles I think I have ever seen,” said one woman who left me a voice message, “and I just can’t believe you would reach out for a story like that in a metropolitan area like this.”
Another woman complained about the story running on the front page. Well, it didn’t run on the front page. It appeared on our hunting and fishing page in the back of the Sunday Sports section.
But online, such a story takes on a life of its own. As of this writing, 135 comments have been logged, about a dozen of which have had to be removed because they violated our standards.
Of course, the picture had a lot to do with it.

PolitiFact is most important Pulitzer this year

The most unusual, and most important, Pulitzer Prize this year was the one awarded to The St. Pete Times for national reporting.
The prize wasn’t for a story; it was for an online initiative, PolitiFact, “a Web site, database and ‘Truth-O-Meter’ that tests the validity of political statements.”
This was the first time the Pulitzer board had invited entries from Web-only news organizations, and PolitiFact was the only prize for Web content.
The site was the brainchild of The Times’ Washington bureau chief, Bill Adair, who believed the Web could be used to check political rhetoric in ways that hadn’t been possible in the past. His team examined ads and speeches and posted their findings on the Truth-O-Meter, which rated statements as True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False or Pants on Fire. Other media soon were referring to PolitiFact during the 2008 campaign.
PolitiFact has moved on to assessing how the new administration is delivering on promises with its Obameter.
Online databases are rapidly becoming one of the important tools of watchdog journalism in the digital age. Identifying PolitiFact as the best national reporting of the year will only speed that trend.

Number of black journalists declining

The American Society of Newspaper Editors issued its annual workforce census today. Not surprisingly, it shows the number of working journalists in the U.S. down, about 11.3 percent, or some 5,900 jobs from a year ago.
The census also tracks the diversity of newsrooms. Minority journalists make up about 13.4 percent of U.S.newsrooms, down very sligthly from a year ago.
The broader trend is the continuing decline in the number of black journalists in America’s newsrooms. The number of African American journalists has dropped by 539 since 2001, while the number of Asian American journalists has risen by 167, the number of Hispanics by 23 and the number of Native Americans by 44.
At the News Sentinel, we have lost several excellent black journalists over the past few years, features writers Chandra Harris and Kevin Cowen, business writer Cynthia Yeldell, religion writer Millete Birhanemaskel, sports writer Jamar Hudson and community news writer Angela Patterson among them. Because our staff has been shrinking, it has been impossible to replace them, and they are missed.

Newsroom “celebrities” strut stuff for good cause

Newspaper journalists don’t take as naturally to being dubbed celebrities as our colleagues in the broadcast media. But we sometimes accept the mantle for a good cause.
That’s the case with food writer Mary “DeeDee” Constantine and Terry Morrow, our TV writer and Insider columnist. They’ve volunteered to participate in a local Dancing with the Knoxville Stars contest to raise money for Children’s Hospital.
The event is April 23, 6:30 p.m., at the Academy Ballroom in the Downtown West Shopping Center. Call the Children’s Hospital Development Office at (865) 541-8441 for ticket info. You can “vote” for DeeDee or Terry by making a contribution online.