The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Page A9?

I have struggled with the decisions made by our local newspaper, the Rapid City Journal. Part of a newspaper's job is to grade the news. That's what the copy desk does and I did it for many years at the Journal.

The news of Ted Kennedy's death appeared on page 9 of today's dead tree version. Page 9.

I don't care what anyone thinks about the late senator from Massachusetts. If you loved him or hated him, news of his death belonged on page 1 above the fold. But Kennedy died late in the evening and re-working page 1 was likely too inconvenient at that hour to do the right thing.

The Journal will, if they address it at all, tell you that it was impossible to make the change at that late hour. That's not true. It would have been inconvenient, and perhaps expensive to do it. But it was not impossible.

I was at the Journal when the change to a.m. delivery was made. Final edition (the one you get on your porch) deadline was Midnight. News of Kennedy's death hit CNN and Fox at about 11:25. That's more than enough time in the old days of sending type to camera and re-doing page 1. Pagination technology available today makes it even faster.

This was more likely about the convenience of the copy desk. The Journal's philosophy of local and state news domination of page 1 may have come into play. But that's no excuse. I've made many late-night phone calls to awaken a local source to get their reaction to national news. Possible sources for reaction to this story: Jim Abdnor, George McGovern, Tom Daschle, Bill Janklow, John Thune, Tim Johnson, Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, prominent local Democrats and Republicans.

In any event, local spin or no local spin, burying (pardon the pun) Ted Kennedy's death on page 9 was symptomatic of why newspapers in this country continue to lose circulation.

Such decisions make it difficult to take seriously a newspaper in which I once took great pride. This decision makes them a laughingstock.


Bob Newland said...

The mere fact that Rasmussen still draws a Journal paycheck says all anyone needs to know about the Rapid City Journal.

Taunia Adams said...

Why would you people in SD want to know about Ted Kennedy's death?

The small, one line article with no picture should have been in the weekly advertiser. In two weeks. And only if there was left over ink.

Anyone wonder why the newspapers are dying?

unidentified said...

Welcome to the way newspapers have treated news about conservative issues for a long time. You don't like it much, it seems. Well, we don't either! And haven't for a long time.

Bill Fleming said...

Hey, "un" don't look now, but my esteemed colleague Mr. Sandborn IS a conservative.

So is Newland (...well, sort of.)

I'm the only liberal around here.

Michael Sanborn said...

Hey Un...
There wasn't much about Ted Kennedy that I liked. I thought less of his brothers. Still, Mr. Kennedy was well known as a consensus builder, a statesman and an American political icon for more than 4 decades. His passing was page 1 news in any newsman's book as would be the death of McCain, Bush, Cheney, or any of a number of conservatives.

It's about grading the news and putting the important stuff where it belongs.

Douglas said...

I don't know what deadlines are for Mitchell Daily Republic or Argus Leader that got here this morning in Winner, but so far I have found nothing in them about Kennedy's death. The RC Journal gets to me by mail and is always a day late.

Our local Winner SD paper years ago when McGovern was a US senator, and he was going to speak in Winner, put a photo the size of your thumbnail with a terse note on his coming appearance. In the same paper or one a week later, I don't remember for sure, was a photo perhaps 3 columns wide and six inches high of Louise Humphrey from White River, SD who was going to speak to local Republicans.

Other South Dakota papers printed photos of McGovern picking his nose. The RC Journal back in the 60's allowed an ad that had McGovern's photo under the cross hairs of a a rifle scope.

Burying Democratic news in the gutter of the paper or at the bottom of the page or not in appropriate sections of the paper is old news in South Dakota.

The ARGUS on the other hand recently put a discussion of policy positions of Johnson, Herseth-Sandlin, and Thune in a Sunday paper. The three color photos of them covered nearly as much of the page as did the actual text information on the medical insurance issue.

There is much room for improvement in nearly all South Dakota newspapers. Failing to maintain news at least somewhat objectively will destroy the paper credibilty in many other areas.

Wayne Gilbert said...

I don't think this is RR, probably Mr. Steinley: This morning's RCJ editorial quotes Wes Storm as saying that the next school board meeting will be "ripe" with decisions on the issues facing the board. While that may in fact prove to be true, I believe that they probably meant "rife." Just one of the many little and charming RCJ usages. Watch for them.