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Archive for June 2010

Tallahassee Democrat and Gannett try bold and necessary revenue model

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Cheers to the owners, editors and staff of the Tallahassee Democrat. It has taken the savvy and courageous step of beginning to charge for online content starting July 1. Subscribers to the newspapers get full access to all the online content. For less than $15/month, full access to the digital product including the e-edition, and for less than $10/month web content. The Democrat is even offering online day passes for just $2.

This is smart and gutsy. Hats off to Gannett corporate for green lighting this bold and long overdue move.

Of course, some folks are going to be unhappy and unwilling to pay for news. I am not sure anyone was ever happy when the local newspaper’s box and home delivery price was increased way back in the day when print was the main source for news. That news organizations have been allowing free access to their sites and their stories for years now is well established, but it is a practice that must end.

I hope Gannett and the executives at the Tallahassee Democrat give this revenue model enough time to prove itself. And I hope the readers of both the print and online sites decide to partner with their hometown news source and invest in journalism in their community.

The model is similar to one being used elsewhere internationally, including smart and courageous publishers like Alejandro Junco of Grupo Reforma in Mexico.

It is a model that can work. Perseverance is key. Sadly, the story of a lifetime is continues on and off Florida’s shoreline. Though Tallahassee itself is not located directly on the gulf, the BP oil disaster is an ongoing story of major import to the community, the state and the region and is being covered extensively by the newspaper both in print and online. The oil, on Day 65, keeps gushing and now the containment cap is off at least temporarily. Another setback for BP, the government, and the victims both human and environmental of this spill. Plus oil swept ashore on the Pensacola Beach overnight and more washed in during the day. A young dolphin stranded in the shallow water coated in oil may be Florida’s first victim. More marine, marshland and shoreline injuries and deaths are sure to follow.

The ongoing disaster may spur folks to subscribe. The news site and the print product are providing the essential coverage the community needs, just what a news organization should be doing.

This revenue model is one I have long advocated in the classroom and at professional media conferences. I will watch this experiment with interest. Ironically, my Google news journalism alert linked me to the story on the Tallahassee.com news site.

I am not sure how they will deal with aggregators like Google, but, frankly, aggregators should start paying for content they scrape off the web or beginning launching full-blown news sites.

The recent FTC proposals of how government could “save” journalism should scare the heck out of anyone who understand and values the role and need for a free, independent watchdog press.

Over the years, newspapers evolved and expanded to include business, sports, entertainment, features, comics, crosswords, Sudoku, ads and other info. The web is a wonderful venue to continue this evolution. And just like any product at Lands End, Amazon and other online vendors, there is a price tag for journalism, and it is more than worth the modest cost the news site will be charging.

It took quite awhile to get to the heart of the story on this change since the authors felt the need to justify how important the news coverage provided by the paper and its website, tallahassee.com, is to the subscribers. They made their case announcing the “historic change in how (they) do business, becoming one of the first community news outlets to take decisive steps toward protecting the journalism so vital to the social and economic well-being of our community, now and long into the future.”

Congratulations for the courage and leadership in addressing the absolutely necessary changes needed to preserve and protect journalism in the digital age.


In other news, Detroit’s former and now imprisoned mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was indicted by a federal grand jury today on  income tax charges involving his civic fund which may allegedly may have been little  more than his personal piggy bank.  Stay tuned. The Kwame saga continues. As usual, the Detroit Free Press coverage was aces. The Free Press broke the original story that led to the mayor’s arrest, resignation and subsequent guilty plea in the best tradition of watchdog journalism winning a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.


Written by jrnjbb

June 23, 2010 at 11:28 pm

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Michgan State Coach Izzo is a class act

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MSU coach top pick for Cleveland Cavaliers

MSU's Tom Izzo has coached the Spartans to solid performances

Michigan State Spartan fans are in fight and fright mode. Legendary basketball coach Tom Izzo is being courted by the coach-less Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s likely a tough decision for Coach Izzo, and, if he leaves MSU,it will be a terrible loss for the Spartans.

I’ve met Izzo, and I can tell you he’s one of the good guys. He has standards and he holds his athletes to them. You screw up on campus or in your classes, you won’t be playing. He knows that most of these young men may have dreams of playing in the NBA, but only one or two standouts will ever get the chance, so a good education is important to him.

The Monday the Cavs are offering has got to be attractive not that Izzo doesn’t make good money in his coaching job at MSU. He makes more than the university president, the football coach and the athletic director, and he certainly makes more than any member of the faculty. Then there are the additional perks like the income from product endorsements, summer camps and TV appearances, not to mention extra for tournament money.

Hopefully, part of his decision will weigh the following. In the NBA the players, from LeBron down to the little known bench warmer all play because it is their job. And employees, can get frustrated on the job. In college basketball, the players do so for a love of the game and for some, the hope of a job like those NBA players have. College teams can change significantly every year when the senior graduate. And at the collegiate and high school levels, coaches are also teachers and the lessons they provide can be life changing. I doubt any NBA coach has that kind of impact.

Good luck, Tom, whatever you decide. You are a class act. MSU really can’t afford to lose you. The Cavs would be lucky to get you. Aside from that $30M salary, though I suspect coaching in the NBA won’t nearly be as much fun.


Day 53. No surprise. BP and the government grossly underestimated the amount of oil gushing up in the gulf. Now it is said to be up to 40,000 barrels a day before the cap was put on. Mr. President, members of Congress, please reverse course on the proposed leases along the Atlantic coast and the Northwest Pacific Coast, and don’t even think about messing in the Great Lakes. The Gulf Coast states might still be willing to risk the oil drilling. But I for one would hate to see similar messes soiling the coastlines from sea to shining sea.

Written by jrnjbb

June 11, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Oil and tornadoes don’t deter small town folks

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Day 51. The oil continues to pollute the waters, wildlife, marshes, beaches and people in and around the gulf region.

The networks and major news outlets have given it lots of coverage though, for the most part, they’ve been chasing the story not anticipating (anymore than the government or BP) where the story is going.

The oil gusher as viewed through the remote cameras is sickening as are the photos of oil-drenched pelicans and gulls.

I can’t understand why more communities are not doing what little Magnolia Springs in Alabama is–not waiting for permission or battling through the morass of federal and BP red tape  but simply drawing the lines, literally in the water to block the oil from coming ashore.

Mayor Charles Hauser has said he will apologize later but they have hired barges and boom lines to block the oil now lurking off the entry to their bay–and they’ve been thinking and doing this since May 20!! The lesson from Katrina was the feds and the state were hopelessly inept at handling the magnitude of that crisis. The lessons from the BP oil spill are the same. But the mayor and fire chief and the people of Magnolia Springs are aggressively tackling the looming catastrophe to their way of life.

It’s the people, the everyday citizens who make a difference.

That was evident again in the small Michigan town of Dundee. This rural community was hit hard by tornadoes overnight on Saturday. Since then, the residents and hundreds of volunteers from around the state of Michigan and elsewhere have been chipping wood, clearing debris and trying to put the place back to rights as best as they are able. Meanwhile Michigan’s governor is reviewing the state of emergency request as is the federal government, and both will move at glacial speed.

Cheers to the spirit and initiative of these small communities. It’s their attitudes and actions that will beat back the oil and resurrect a town.

Written by jrnjbb

June 9, 2010 at 8:23 pm

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Tiger pitcher robbed, but Major League Baseball should change

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I’ve seen the replays numerous times now, it was the call heard round the world of baseball, at least. Umpire Jim Joyce got it wrong. He admitted it to reporters. Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga did get the out in the bad call at first in the 9th inning in the game between the Tigers and Cleveland Indians.

Now here’s the bottom line: if the umpire says he blew the call, and the instant replay proves he blew the call, why doesn’t the safe get changed to out. Galarraga gets his perfect game, and Major League Baseball becomes the poster child for good sportsmanship just as Galarraga reportedly did in interviews in the dugout after the game where he did not blame the ump for the bad call.

Baseball is a game. This isn’t about world peace or even stopping the devastating oil spill in the gulf. But it may teach kids and even adults a valuable lesson. Be responsible and accountable for your actions and decisions, and if you make a mistake, admit it and correct it. Because that’s the right thing to do.

Okay, Bud Selig, it’s your call now. Make Major League Baseball the one professional sport that calls ’em like it sees e’m and is honorable enough to correct a glaring mistake.

Written by jrnjbb

June 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized