White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
Shrinking the general
Media General, a Richmond, Va.-based company that owns the Winston-Salem Journal, announced plans last week to cut its workforce 11 percent to reduce operating costs. Shares in the company rose more than 10 percent after the announcement. Media General’s other holdings include more than 120 community newspapers and 23 network-affiliated broadcast stations across the Southeast. The company will achieve its targeted staff cuts by leaving some vacancies unfilled and by laying off employees. The reductions will trim the company’s staff by 750 by October, the deadline mentioned in the announcement. It is unclear how many of the cuts will come from the editorial departments of Media General’s news properties.
Combat fatigue on the home front
No, dear readers, news stories are not always assigned according to their significance. The dirty secret is that much of the news media menu is determined by reporters’ and editors’ perceptions about what the public wants to read, so we’re engaged in a mutually degrading pact. In an article published on Memorial Day, “The Wars We Choose to Ignore,” New York Times writer David Carr tries to figure out “how a war that had cost thousands of lives and over $1 trillion was losing news salience.” He cites statistics from the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, indicating that coverage of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “has slipped to 3 percent of all American print and broadcast news as of last week, falling from 25 percent as recently as last September. An answer provided by the Times’s executive editor, Bill Keller, should give us no comfort: “There is a cold and sad calculation that readers/viewers aren’t that interested in the war, whether because they’re preoccupied with paying $4 for a gallon of gas and avoiding foreclosure, or because they have Iraq fatique.”
Blogging the train wreck
I’m not going to lie to you: I like Gawker, that cheeky, snarky, titillating website that keeps my jones for NY media gossip at bay. Yeah, it’s pretty trashy and definitely a guilty pleasure, but some good writers have passed through the company, notably Alex Balk, who now works at Radar which is the heir apparent to the old Spy magazine I loved so well, and Choire Sicha, an honest-to-god journalist who was slumming over on the bloggy side of the fence before leaving and picking up at The New York Observer. But I think I liked Emily Gould the best, a self-proclaimed “femilady” with wit like a straight razor, a literary bent and a big tattoo on her bicep. After she left Gawker, her life went into something of a tailspin. I know this because it has been the subject of a piece in New York magazine – one which ultimately inspired her to leave her post – and another by her illicit lover, fellow Gawker alum Joshua David Stein, in Page Six Magazine. And now Gould has penned an 8,000-word confessional about their romance, her inner thoughts about personal blogging and… oh, I don’t know, a bunch of other silly crap. And it ran as the cover story in New York Times Magazine. For realsies. I just… I can’t… I don’t know why… I mean…. I don’t get it. People in their twenties have a lot of drama in their lives, yes, and now that these kids can blog about their experience, it does give that drama another dimension, yes. And I can even see how it can possibly be construed as interesting to read about something like this. But a cover story in New York Times Magazine? I didn’t know we cared.