Really? That is what you are covering?

Today established another low point in the long decline of the American news media (television primarily). With all the events in the world to cover, a small sampling of which includes Egypt, new Israeli settlements, criminal investigations into Wall Street, Republicans threatening to derail the economy over healthcare and new NASA data that shows the US running out of water, what do they spend precious resources and time reporting? I’ll let CNN provide the headline:

‘Bachelor’ contestant Gia Allemand dies after apparent suicide attempt

I feel bad for this woman’s family, however her death in no way merits the attention it is getting. In this reality television obsessed culture, the media just couldn’t keep its pants on.

Meanwhile television news isn’t spending every waking moment on this story, as explained by Salon yesterday:

A newly unsealed lawsuit, which banks settled in 2012 for $95 million, actually offers a different reason, providing a key answer to one of the persistent riddles of the financial crisis and its aftermath. The lawsuit states that banks resorted to fake documents because they could not legally establish true ownership of the loans when trying to foreclose.



Could this pay model work for bloggers?

My effort to start this blog has been greatly impacted by Andrew Sullivan. His groundbreaking Daily Dish blog has been terrific reading for years and I was happy to pony up $20 for a subscription in January.

Business Insider has published its intriguing interview with Andrew which covers taking his blog independent and the pay meter model he has implemented. One particular answer caught my eye because it relates to my earlier post on the future of newspapers:

BI: How do you wrap your head around the meter concept?

AS: Back in the day I would go to Harvard Square bookstore. When I was there in 1984, having left England, there was no way for me to know what was going on back home except in the British papers. I would go there and flip through the newspapers. At some point the dude had every right to say “Either buy the magazine or put it down.” That’s basically what the meter is. At some point, the owner store says to you “Thanks for coming in, but either buy something, or leave.”

Another answer grabbed me because as I begin to blog more often I’m experiencing the same thing:

BI: And how do you go about figuring out how to do that – creating an experience worth paying for and worth renewing?

AS: What happens in this process, since the first post I put up, this medium kind of tells you where to go. You just need to listen to it. Stats help, so do reader letters…. You try things, if they work great, if not, you let it go.

Three years ago, when it wasn’t in our interest, we installed the “Read On” button and our pageviews were halved. We made a decision that the reader experience was more important than the monetization. That wasn’t such good news for Barry Diller [laughs]. But it was a wise decision to treat those people right and give them what they want.

The surprise is being there first and establishing that consistency and building that audience that’s sticky, it works online. The thing is you have to deliver every day. If you do not give them their drugs, they’re going to fucking kill you. It’s addictive.

The horrible thing is – it’s as addictive for me to produce as it is for them to consume…  My social life has collapsed. It’s my blog, my husband, and Breaking Bad at this point. And that’s not good for me.

I know PR when I see it

I’ve worked in communications long enough to know good public relations and Sunday’s Yahoo “article” on Michigan basketball coach John Beilein is a prime example.

Yahoo “expert” Dan Wetzel does an expert job of playing hand maiden to the PR folks at UofM. Check out this journalistic tour de force:

. . . Through the years, the one constant has been Beilein. Even when West Virginia and Michigan allowed him the chance to coach elite talent such as Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, he remained the same. Now paid about $1.7 million annually, in charge of a large Big Ten operation, he’s still the one who cuts up the game and practice film. That’s how he did it at Erie, that’s how he’s still doing it.

“We’re talking about every practice, plus games,” said assistant Bacari Alexander. “He cuts it personally. He’s an old football coach from his high school teaching days, reel to reel.”

. . .

They might not all know his back story or understand the lessons he learned on those bus rides through snowstorms home from Saint Anselm or Niagara County CC or someplace they’ve never heard about. They realize the wisdom he imparts, however. They never question the strategy.

“There is a humility about John Beilein that is something to be admired,” Alexander said. “He is just a guy who really benefitted from sweat equity. He is a guy who has coached at every level and, regardless of the roster he had, he maximized it. Every stop. Here at Michigan, it’s just more of the same.

I’m a Michigan fan and John Beilein appears to be a good person as well as an excellent basketball coach. I just can’t get past the PR fingerprints all over this story. There is the detailed back story of all the little places Beilein coached, how he still does his own yard work, and how he cuts his own game film, all very old school. There are the quotes from friends and family, swooning in their praise. All of this could very well be true, but why write it?

You don’t have to knock people down, tear them apart, but to me this story could have gone so many other more interesting directions. For example, Beilein is getting paid $1.7 million a year and the NCAA signed a 14-year broadcast deal in 2010 (for just the tournament) with CBS and Turner Broadcasting for $10.8 billion. Tell me again why players don’t get paid? College sports are huge business, and everyone seems to making out like bandits except the players, you know, the ones who do all the work.

And with Kevin Ware’s injury, Coach Beilein’s pay and benefits package could have been a great segway into talking about how players are treated after an injury. Do they get workers comp? Are they kept on scholarship? Are all their medical expenses covered? We know there have been instances where “student-athletes” have gotten shafted after getting hurt, as Chris Hayes discussed in a segment on his new show last night.

Isn’t Beilein a more complicated figure than this? I would love to learn how this working class guy who gets paid a ton of money connects with his players. Does he feel that Michigan and the NCAA are exploiting these kids? What does he do to ensure that his kids graduate?

Just like Coach Beilein, I’m sure Mr. Wetzel is a good person, he just shouldn’t write up the stuff the PR flacks at Michigan give him.

The Wall

Like millions of others, each morning I read the news. Unlike generations past I consume it online. Until a few years ago newspapers put their content online for free, however today is the era of the pay wall. This morning, for the first time in a year, I hit my 15 article per month limit with the Los Angeles Times and was hit with the banner asking me to subscribe. The New York Times erected their wall back in 2011 and the Washington Post has announced they will be doing the same.

Is this good for newsrooms as well as a paper’s bottom line?

What I’ve read suggest papers have been pretty happy with the results. For readers of one or two newspapers, online subscriptions are a pretty good deal, better if you’re already a print customer because the material online is free. But for those of us who love to read news from around the country and across the world, who like to share information, and dig into policy issues, it isn’t so great. I love the New York Times so I pay for an online subscription, but I’m not going to shell out money for 10-20 newspapers a month.

Despite this complaint, I agree with Matthew Yglesias in Slate who commented on PEW’s recent State of the Media report:

What’s true today is that with more news outlets available, there is greater diversity in what people are seeking out. People interested in the Cyprus crisis have learned much more about it since Saturday than would have been possible in a comparable four day period 30 years ago. And the same is true of people interested in the 2013 NCAA tournament. People interested in celebrity gossip know much more about that. People can find out much more about what they’re interested in much more easily than they used to be able to.

I hope that some day media companies will agree to some kind of universal subscription that gives us news consumers access to far more news at a reasonable price.

What I’m reading this morning

Pennsylvania Study Finds Halfway Houses Don’t Reduce Recidivism – New York Times

What Drought? Just Don’t Tread on Our Green Grass – New York Times

Supreme Court has menu of options in gay marriage case – Los Angeles Times

Howard Schultz to Anti-Gay-Marriage Starbucks Shareholder: ‘You Can Sell Your Shares’ – Forbes

Rand Paul: Don’t send kids to jail for drug crimes – Washington Post

Why Your Skyrocketing Rent Is Bad for the Economy – The Atlantic

Iraq’s New, Dysfunctional Democracy – The Atlantic

Washington Post Defends Not Running Article On Iraq Media Failure – HuffingtonPost

Insight: Silent or supportive, conservatives give gay marriage momentum – Reuters

What secret e-mails from Enron teach us about influencing politicians – Wonkblog

Wikileaks Was Just a Preview: We’re Headed for an Even Bigger Showdown Over Secrets – Matt Taibbi

An American role-reversal: Women the new breadwinners – USA Today

Green tech shows progress but not prosperity – USA Today

Relief and anger after late-night Cyprus rescue deal – Times of London

What I’m reading this morning

Harvard upsets New Mexico 68-62 in NCAA tourney -CNNSI

Once Few, Women Hold More Power in Senate – New York Times

As Pollution Worsens in China, Solutions Succumb to Infighting – New York Times

The Sexual Fetish of Gay Marriage Opponents – Slate

The U.S.’s Low Standards for Teacher Training – Slate

Big Bang’s afterglow reveals older universe – Washington Post

Alabama sex education law requires teachers to say that being gay is illegal – Salon

The Seven States Running Out of Water – 24/7 Wall Street

WHAT HAPPENED TO WAGES? – Visualizing Economics Blog

Arne Duncan wants to fine basketball coaches whose players don’t graduate – Politico

Why Twitter Can Increase Television Ratings For Shows Like ‘Scandal’ – Think Progress

Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity – The Atlantic

How We Waste Time at Work – Forbes

Grass-Roots Lobbying Tactics Evade Public Eye – Roll Call

Obama to Israelis: ‘Put yourself’ in Palestinians’ shoes – Christian Science Monitor4

What I’m reading this morning

Library of Congress makes 25 additions to National Recording Registry – Washington Post

Big banks engaging in payday lending, report says – Washington Post

House defeats alternative budgets – Los Angeles Times

Tom Coburn Amendment Limiting National Science Foundation Research Funding Passes Senate – Huffington Post

The Face of Future Health Care – New York Times

Where’s Voyager 1? That Depends. – New York Times

Weapons Experts Raise Doubts About Israel’s Antimissile System – New York Times

Freddie Mac Unaware Of Homeowner Complaints, Inspector General Concludes – Huffington Post

YouTube now serving videos to 1 billion people worldwide – Associated Press

 Private sector parasites – Salon

Facebook Followed You to the Supermarket – Slate

Exclusive: Euro zone call notes reveal extent of alarm over Cyprus – Reuters

Weather Service chief: We face ‘new normal’ of extremes – USA Today