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The Media

Chicago Tribune Reporters Don't Want Readers' Pre-Approval 176

Posted by timothy
from the that-could-certainly-be-annoying dept.
theodp writes "Irked by the Marketing department's solicitation of subscribers' opinions on stories before they were published, 55 reporters and editors at the Chicago Tribune signed an e-mail demanding the practice be stopped. 'It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers,' the e-mail read."
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Chicago Tribune Reporters Don't Want Readers' Pre-Approval

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  • Imagine that, having your readers decide the content. Unheard of. /.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:38PM (#27801713) Homepage Journal

      No, it's not just having your readers decide the content. It's a stupid marketing idea from people who don't understand the Internet.

      Let's say there is some public corruption by a popular political figure. Should an organized group of partisan poll voters be able to spike the story just because they don't want to hear something bad?

      If you remember the purpose of newspapers, and journalists generally is to "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" you'll understand why you really don't want readers to be able to choose which stories get published any more than you want some multi-national corporation that owns the media outlet to squash a story that shows one of its cronies in a bad light.

      Can we agree that not all "Social Network" ideas are worthwhile just because they happen to involve the Internet?

      • by digitig (1056110) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:56PM (#27801797)

        If you remember the purpose of newspapers, and journalists generally is to "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"

        Goodness, you have a long memory! For as long as I can remember, the purpose of newspapers has been "Make as much money as you can, by any means you can get away with".

        • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @07:03PM (#27801839)
          ..yeah, but there's a niche in the market for an honest news-reporting newspaper, which they've settled into nicely in Chicago. If they start going pop then they'll find themselves competing with tabloids for less money. It's in their interest to stay quality.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            honest news reporting in the most dishonest city? I'm calling bullshit.

            Remember BlagoJockoffovich? The chicago tribune spiked stories at his request.

        • pfft, most of the history of newspapers has been to do precisely as you mention. Only in the past 50 years or so has a thin veneer of "bringing out the truth" been touted as the job of newspapers. But newspapers are profit driven enterprises, just like any other business - always have been.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jbengt (874751)

            But newspapers are profit driven enterprises, just like any other business - always have been.

            I disagree. Newspapers have sometimes been propaganda driven instead.

        • by evanbd (210358) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @09:18PM (#27802747)
          That's the goal of the owners and marketers. I suspect most reporters hold with the older ideals. And take a look at who implemented this idea, and who spoke out against it...
        • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday May 02, 2009 @10:13PM (#27803041) Journal

          For as long as I can remember, the purpose of newspapers has been "Make as much money as you can, by any means you can get away with".

          There was a period before that, when the purpose of any newspaper was to advocate a political agenda. Every party or movement had its own newspaper, and they were quite up front about where they were coming from.

          This idea of the "impartial" journalist was mostly a 20th-century affectation.

          -jcr

        • Newspapers all around the world have a long tradition of bringing the powerful to account, very often when the rule of law doesn't.

          No question that there are plenty of newspapers whose only reason to exist is to make money, but saying that all newspapers are like that is showing monumental ignorance and intellectual laziness.

      • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @07:10PM (#27801889)

        If you remember the purpose of newspapers, and journalists generally is to "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"

        And here I was thinking it was to "Report the news."

        I guess that's why my newspaper subscription expired last week.

        • Given the fact that most news is about people, it tends to focus on those who suffer and those who are in a position to make changes but don't really care.
      • by kmac06 (608921)

        Let's say there is some public corruption by a popular political figure. Should an organized group of partisan poll voters be able to spike the story just because they don't want to hear something bad?

        No, that should be left up to the partisan editors of the media, such as in the Monica Lewinsky scandal [drudgereportarchives.com].

        Now of course the media should be free to publish what they like, but don't fool yourself into thinking their only agenda is getting the truth out.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oh_bugger (906574)
      They shouldn't let the readers decide the content in this manner. Readers decide the content by not purchasing the publication and buying one which does provide them with what they want.
    • ...and the papers can't figure out why they are dying of low subscribership!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • by fractalVisionz (989785) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:02PM (#27801509) Homepage
    Hey, I didn't approve this story, why was it released?
    • You approved it, but the men in dark suits zapped your memory of that event, leaving you to grasp in the dark as to the true meaning behind this editorial. It will get worse.
    • by wdr1 (31310) *

      Oh the irony of this comment & the story editor being timothy...

  • Yeah, wouldn't want anything to be changed, as the present system works so well. Better keep up the tradition of deciding to publish the same bad articles.
  • by EWAdams (953502) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:06PM (#27801533) Homepage

    WTF do they think a newspaper is for? The minute you try to "democratize" is, politicians and PR types will try to game the system to make sure that only stories beneficial to them will get published.

    • by aztektum (170569) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:15PM (#27801599)

      Are there many non-PR types in "journalism" these days anyway?

      • by schnell (163007) <meNO@SPAMschnell.net> on Saturday May 02, 2009 @09:19PM (#27802753) Homepage

        Are there many non-PR types in "journalism" these days anyway?

        Yes! Actual journalists - as in the people who write the news stories that you read in a newspaper or online, hear on the radio or ... maybe ... see on TV - are actually highly dedicated professionals who (for the most part) care deeply about truth and accuracy. Spokespeople, flacks, talking heads and gibbering mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann etc. are not journalists and represent a very tiny fraction of the "journalism" industry; they are just more visible, especially if you only watch TV news and don't read a newspaper.

        Don't let the fact that FOX News is 99% eye candy or asinine talking heads fool you, since 99% of actual news published comes from real professional journalists. And these selfsame people you disparage are among the very best guarantors of your constitutional liberties and right to know what your government is up to.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@@@beau...org> on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:33PM (#27801679)

      > The minute you try to "democratize" is, politicians and PR types will try to game the system...

      Too late, the politicians and PR types are already gaming the system.

      Do I think stories in newspapers should be blindly moderated like slashdot comments? Oh hell no. But getting some outside feedback into the editorial loop certainly can't hurt a system to obviously broken. So yes, if the editors see a very negative reaction to a story they should take a look at WHY teh readers are saying ixnay on it, take a look into their complaint and see if they have a point. There should be a human editor in the loop though, if nothing else to stop the Colbert troll army, the 4chan troll army, etc.

      Which of course brings me back to something I have said many times on many forums including this one. This is all moot because for the most part human editors NO LONGER EXIST. We all have this mental picture of the grizzled old editor ruthlessly marking up the poor reporter's copy and throwing it back to him for a rewrite. But they went out during the rounds of endless belt tightening in the MSM over the past decades. Look at the NYT, CNN, any major news website. Don't look at their blogs, look only at the real news copy. Bet you find a groaner spelling or grammer error within ten minutes even if you read at a below average speed. And if you read an article in a area where you know poo from shinola you will find a factual error in almost every story these days. And everyone interviewed will say at least one of their quotes got mangled between their mouth and the final copy. So much for the fresh faced right out college interns doing fact checking and following up on double checking the quotes. All that is gone. The average newspaper or TV network journalism is about as accurate as the better blogs. And increasingly the blogs are doing a better job because the blogs will mercilessly fact check each other.

      If somebody could get a real old fashioned news organization back in the game I can't help but believe there is enough pent up demand for real journalism that it would find a revenue stream somehow. Ya know, journalism: where you report who did what, where and why they did it. Reported in depth, with extensive quotes and background and every quote and fact checked with a high enough accuracy rate to quickly gain a reputation as the fracking Voice of God. Then leave the opinions and analysis to the talking heads on cable news shows and blogs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Hate to break it to you, but for the most part reporters no longer exist. Give you an example (and you'll quickly see why I'm posting anonymously): if a company I own wants to have an article about it in run in a newspaper or magazine, I call my PR person and have them write the story. That's right, WE write the stories about OUR company. We then "shop" them to reporters. Sometimes they'll "buy" because they find the content genuinely interesting (this actually happens), sometimes we resort to incentives. T

        • "There are other reasons, of course - dead tree format can't keep up with our favorite series of tubes, nor with the highly partisan and more entertainment-driven cable news channels."

          The truth is we really don't care about the truth and we aren't willing to pay the money, that and too many people are too ignorant and uninformed to be even opening their mouth let alone giving such people 'equal time' or a voice that spreads misinformation, propaganda, and all other sort of socially toxic BS via the media.

    • Their marketing people?
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >politicians and PR types will try to game the system to make sure that only stories beneficial to them will get published.

      Its already gamed by the ownership and editors. The trib runs right-wing in Chicago and endorsed Bush in 2004. Their slant and editorial is a force of its own. Adding a democractic element will off-set this.

    • The journalists aren't idiots, however: they are going to continue to trade stories and (un)favorable coverage for benefits, like access to the rich and powerful, power trips, and book deals.

      If you think that journalists at commercial newspapers have your best interests at heart, or that they give you unbiased coverage, you're a fool.

    • WTF do they think a newspaper is for?

      Journalists and the press are for uncovering and delivering news to the populace.

      Newspapers are for making money.

  • 'It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers,'

    Of course, they want to spin the news they way THEY want - both by how they report and what they choose to report or not. How could they stand it if people wanted them to report negative stories about Obama and positive stories about Bush?

    • How could they stand it if people wanted them to report negative stories about Obama and positive stories about Bush?

      Suppose all press outlets were run democratically, plurality vote, right now.

      Given the current popularity of Obama [yahoo.com] and unpopularity of Bush, how many news outlets do you think would be publishing stories critical of Obama and positively reviewing the policies of the Bush era?

      • How many are?

        Generally, a newspaper writes what its readers want to read. For obvious reasons: If it didn't write what they want to read, they wouldn't buy it.

        So, essentially, what this stunt is about is taking out the guesswork: I.e. finding out what your readers want to read before putting it into the paper. And it's all covered up by making the news "more democratic". Kinda clever move, if you ask me. Instead of racking your brain over the question what your readers want to read so they buy your newspape

  • On one hand, you have the reporter's (note I do not refer to them as journalists) bias.

    On the other hand, you could have them deep-sixed by someone else's biases.

    In a case like this, there just isn't a "lesser" of two evils.

  • by Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:32PM (#27801675)
    The Tribune's expose on Anonymous will not be published, after receiving 50 billion no votes.
  • by ewhac (5844) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @06:38PM (#27801707) Homepage Journal
    Unless and until the reporters and editors of the Chicago Tribune are prepared to denounce the "reporting" of flagrantly biased "news" organizations, unless they are prepared to say, "We are not like them. We are better than them, and here's how we're going to continue to be better than them..." Then I'm afraid they're going to have to accept the necessity of someone looking over their shoulder, checking their work.

    This "review" process is already taking place -- it's why subscriptions are falling off a cliff. The product is crap, the readers know it's crap, which is why they're not buying it. Solution: Stop printing crap.

    Clearly, their feedback mechanism has gotten seriously out of tune. I think also that they recognize this, and that the idea of allowing direct reader feedback on stories in the queue was born out of some desperation to correct their editorial priorities.

    Here's a hint: Try to keep ideology at bay, and follow the facts wherever they take you. Yes, it's often uncomfortable. I imagine Woodward and Bernstein had many sleepless nights. Yet we are the better for their work. Emulate that. Oh, and spike any "story" about Paris Hilton.

    Schwab

    • Yep, everybody thinks the press is biased. I happen to think it's biased in a conservative direction. I also think that the reason newspapers and magazines are in trouble is not because their product is "crap." I think it's more because there is such a plethora of stuff to read on the internet that coincides precisely with readers' own biases that they gravitate towards that. Why bother with real news when you can fulfill your sense of outrage by reading Drudge?

      Also, your first sentence doesn't make any

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Wrong, subscriptions are falling off because it's much easier and convenient to read the paper on-line; and on-line papers are free and generate 1/10 the advertising rates.

    • "It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers."

      Read that again. It has nothing to do whatsoever with reporting, and everything to do with control. You see, editors control the news, by picking which stories get covered and how much. These editors allow their personal political feelings dictate this process, leading to a great be

  • AP, April 22: "The Chicago Tribune cut 53 jobs on Wednesday as part of a newsroom reorganization designed to help it weather an economic downturn that has forced its parent company to seek Chapter 11 protection from creditors..."

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @07:54PM (#27802259)

    What a democratically decided newspaper would put on the front page today (via Yahoo search traffic):

    Swine Flu
    Christina Applegate
    American Idol
    Kristie Alley
    Jon and Kate Plus Eight
    Sarah Jessica Parker
    Twitter
    Hi-5
    Lady Gaga
    NBA

    Source: http://buzzlog.buzz.yahoo.com/overall/ [yahoo.com]

    Three observations:

    1) There are media outlets that cover pretty much exactly this list. Good for them. I don't read those and never will. I question their contribution to democracy.

    2) I get news from a variety of social media filters, and almost none of the information I get from these very useful selection processes are from this list (the flu outbreak is the exception). That's not to say that my information is better than yours - just that it's what I happen to want.

    3) Therefore: A more useful "democracy" strategy might be to help readers select from the vast array of information coming out of organizations like the Tribune and put that on the "front page" akin to Amazon's personalized homepage metrics.

    As a journalist, I will say that allowing anyone outside the organization to spike a story pre-publication opens to the door wide open to self-censorship. Critical journalism requires independence, or it becomes PR. Critical journalism is rare enough as it is without this.

    • What do you mean with "would"?

      That is pretty much what a newspaper looks like today: Hype over some catastrophe that wouldn't be one without the hype, some celebrities that wouldn't be any without the media, some freaks, some lifestyle and sports.

    • anyone can copy CNN's top stories!

      On the serious side, you should have seen the number of pages devoted in the AJC to some RAP star's problems with the law and handguns. You would have sworn he was the most important person in the country.

  • Maybe those reporters and editors should also send the letter up the chain to their owners. How many times has a Murdoch or Packer dictated what can & can't be published?

    It doesn't take much effort to determine the bias of the reporting source and adjust accordingly to the news being presented (*coff* Fox News *coff*). We shouldn't have to, but it's the way it is.

    • The reason that Fox news appears biassed is that everyone is used to the left-wing vitriol that's been spewing from CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and NPR for as long as most of us have been alive. If you consider the standard air media as truthful because they're in agreement, it's no wonder that the only one who stands out seems biassed.
      • by grantdh (72401)

        Actually, I was just using Fox News as an example so people would understand what was being meant by a "slant" on reporting. I don't watch TV and the news sources I know about are from down here in Australia (News Corp vs FairFax vs ABC vs others :)

        Figured I'd use Fox 'cos most of you lot are yanks - don't want to have people going "What's Fairfax????" :) :)

      • They try to hide a slant and call it "fair reporting".

        Bias fail on your part.

  • With so many comments already posted, I doubt this will see the light of day, but in the hopes someone will read it:

    I read Daring Fireball [daringfireball.net] pretty regularly and its author has stated he doesn't want comments on his site because he feels it distracts from his own articles.

    When I read a newspaper article, I am looking for a reporter's writing. While there is a lot wrong with journalism today, reading the comments on any newspaper website is like mucking through the dregs of human society. The anonymous natur

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      The anonymous nature of the Internet allows (and seemingly even encourages) people to post stupid comments.

      It has less to do with the nature of the internet and more to do with the nature of the people on the internet. For the most part they post stupid comments because that is the best they can do.

      I would especially like to thank AOL for its many years of contribution in this area.

  • I think the journalists are underestimating the intelligence of the readers. To avoid the no-nothings for the most part, all they need to do is to count the readers who want a story and discount the readers who do not want a story. Just pick the stories who have the votes for them. You'll get a lot of nonsense, but that happens anyways.
  • But this is Chicago. Everybody knows that we don't operate by the same rules as everyone else. How else can you explain Blagojevich and Obama?
  • I'm not a populist and wouldn't necessarily want community standards censoring publication.

    The internet is the thing anyway by now. Just make sure there is a blog specifically designated as the "Wall of Shame" where readers can ridicule the stupidest, laziest, and fluffiest work. Not just the usual comments to editorial essays. All stories, as in, "Oh, Geez. The thousand-and-first story on the perfect cherry pie. Nothing important happened in the world today?"

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