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by Craig Fehrman

11 Jul 2009

Two bits of news reminded me of a story I wrote last summer for PopMatters. In the first, CBS Sports reported that, after Xavier’s Jordan Crawford threw down an ostensibly hellacious dunk on LeBron James, Nike operatives confiscated all videotapes of the event. Predictably, the Internet uproar over this has reflected far more poorly on James than even the worst dunk could have.

But even more predictable is the fact that James would fuss over his image. James is, by all accounts, a supremely decent person and a positively extraterrestrial talent, but, as I wrote in “LeBron James and the Beat Book”, which surveyed the surprising number of books about LeBron James, he’s also “the most hands-on athlete today—remember, he created his own sports marketing agency.”

Which brings us to the second piece of news: Buzz Bissinger just co-wrote a new book with (and about) LeBron. Do you suppose it will have any Friday Night Lights-like revelations?

by Colin McGuire

9 Jun 2009

Twelve votes.

That was the difference Monday night when The Boston Newspaper Guild voted 277-265 against a new contract with the New York Times Co. that would have, if nothing else, guaranteed The Boston Globe a lifeline for a little while, at least. Instead, the paper now stares at the possibility of shutting its doors more intently than ever, considering the Times Co. said it needed at least $20 million in annual savings from Globe unions — half of that number slated to come from the Guild.

From the Associated Press:

The Times Co. demanded the concessions amid an increasingly dire financial situation at the Globe. The newspaper like others has struggled as readers migrated to the Internet, advertising revenue declined drastically and circulation fell. The Globe had $50 million in operating losses in 2008 and had been projected to lose $85 million this year.

Six other Globe unions have approved concessions — but they hinged on the Guild’s ratification of new terms.

The Times Co. had said that if the Guild rejected the proposal, it would try to impose a 23 percent wage cut. It also has threatened to close the newspaper, which would require giving 60 days notice to employees and the state.

In a statement released after the vote, the Globe said it was disappointed with the outcome and had no “financially viable alternative” but to declare an impasse and impose the deeper wage cut to achieve the necessary savings.

“This evening we have sent a letter to the Guild stating that as a result of the rejection of this proposal, we have reverted to our alternative Final Record Proposal which provides for a 23 percent wage reduction for all Guild members,” the statement read.

The cut would take effect next week. The Globe said the newspaper would be willing to meet with the union this week to review implementation of the cut.

The story continues to quote a bureau chief who makes the obvious point by saying a 23 percent decrease in pay would cost the paper “a lot of very talented journalists.” Another reporter is quoted as saying the Times needs to “take away the gun pointed at our heads.” Naturally, he voted against the contract. 

This is rough, but monumental nonetheless. If The Globe goes down, having already seen the Rocky Mountain News fold and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer move to online-only content over the course of the past year, the demise of The Boston Globe might just be the proverbial white flag the newspaper industry has been trying so hard to avoid through these incredibly hard times.

And it’s utterly impossible to point fingers at this point, too. Workers need to get paid and companies need to make money. Both of those things have become increasingly hard to achieve in the world’s flailing economy, let alone a business that has been doing all it can to simply keep its head from being completely submerged in water.

Is this the end? Can something be worked out for both the Times Co. and The Globe? Can advertising dollars rebound in the second half of the year? Even more so, when the global economy happens to be fixed, will the newspaper industry benefit from that at all, or will it simply be too late? Is there hope?

If nothing else, these two parties need to come to an agreement when they sit back down later this week in order to salvage the humungous hit the industry’s morale would take should The Globe have to go under. Because while this problem may seem to come down to the mere value of dollars and cents, there is so much more at stake here than simply money.

by Colin McGuire

21 May 2009

When I approached PopMatters about what has turned into somewhat of a revitalization of “Sources Say”, I already had in mind a few people I wanted to talk to about the issues this particular blog was slated to tackle. One of those people was Jason McIntyre, the man behind The Big Lead, a sports blog that also does a pretty good job at keeping an eye on both print and broadcast media.

McIntyre, a former assistant news editor at Us Weekly, started the blog along with his college friend David Lessa in 2006, and has since achieved somewhat of a superstar status within the sports blogosphere. The Big Lead has been cited numerous times on various ESPN platforms, has been profiled by—among other publications—Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Sun-Times, and, on average, welcomes in over two million visitors a month and around 25,000 visitors a day.

So for the man behind it all to take some time out of what must be a busy, busy schedule, and answer a few questions about the current state of blogs, newspapers and the like, is awfully kind. Should you have an extra five minutes to spare sometime within the next day or two, and you happen to love sports, you may want to venture over to For now, though, the following is the culmination of a Q&A e-mail exchange I was lucky enough to partake in with him about where he thinks this mess we call print media may end up. The following is both introspective and suggestive, and it all comes from someone who really is quite accomplished in the media world.

I will try and do this more as we go along with different individuals from all walks of media. But for now, please enjoy a quick interview with The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre.

by Colin McGuire

15 May 2009

Well, this is sort of interesting. Remember a long, long time ago when a public outcry roared louder than police sirens in Baltimore on a Saturday night about the proposition of bailing out huge, corporate entities? “Oh, no. We just absolutely cannot afford to watch the government give out money to the auto industry time and time again. Those loan companies? Insurance agencies? Goodness, gracious. When will it stop?”

Well, as has been profiled throughout various media outlets recently, one place it isn’t going to stop at is the newspaper industry. Grumblings have recently surfaced that a new bill has been introduced to congress regarding the possibility of bailing out newspapers.


by Colin McGuire

30 Apr 2009

The Newspaper Association of America announced Wednesday that it is cutting 50 percent of its staff and halting the print edition of its magazine, Presstime - a magazine that has done a fantastic job of taking a good, hard look at the ever-so-fickle world of newspapers. The last print edition is slated for May 2009. All is not entirely lost, though, as the NAA also promised that it will continue to publish the magazine in an online form. A total of 39 positions will be cut from the NAA staff.

Great. As if newspapers weren’t getting their own throats slashed enough, now entire associations that dedicate themselves to the industry are dying a heartbreaking death, too. Why don’t we all just cancel our subscriptions today and move USA Today’s Web site into the No. 3 position on the “favorites” feature Firefox so eloquently provides.

Anyways, Presstime recently took the time to speak with various experts on the state of newspapers and where they may be going. The piece itself is highly-informative and certainly worth a click should you have an extra 10 minutes to spend reading about what the hell is happening with print media.

One thing in particular stuck out when reading over some of the answers these experts provided. The following question was posed: “You’re starting a newspaper print product from scratch. What stays, and what goes (sections, beats, days published, classified ads)? How do you rethink the parts you keep?”

One answer stuck out like a lone cloud on an otherwise cloud-less Sunday afternoon. Kenneth A. Paulson, the president and chief operating officer of Newseum, as well as the former editor of USA Today and, offered up some dialogue that is certainly worth taking a look at.

Most newspapers have an extraordinarily loyal core audience that has been doing the crossword puzzles, reading the obits and scanning the stock tables for years. These are generally older readers who will need and read our content for decades. The challenge is to weigh whatever changes you may have in mind against the expectations of this core readership. Yes, you can drop TV listings and replace them with new content to try to attract younger readers, but at what price? Will the gain offset the loss?

That’s a good question, isn’t it?

Why doesn’t a major metropolitan daily give the notion of new content a shot? One of the biggest gripes anyone has with newspapers is its proposed abundance of ignorance toward what it is people gravitate to when it comes to getting their news. It seems as though many publications haven’t taken the time to think about suggestions that could make their print product better. They seemingly ignore that option while spending the majority of their time researching ideas for how to make their online product better.

How about incorporating new features into newspapers that somehow mirror the attributes that attract the readership newspapers get online? There was a time when those aforementioned TV listings were non-existent in print media. It wasn’t until someone came along and thought, “Hey, there is this neat new thing called television and I bet the people who read this publication would like to know when to find what and where. Let’s see what happens if we can help them out by answering those questions with a couple pages dedicated to numbers, times and show titles.”

If print media decided to embrace the online forum more by incorporating certain aspects of the Internet medium into its print product - maybe more interactive features, reader-response forums aside from the customary “Letter to the Editor,” unique, out-of-the box niche section pieces on subjects newspapers haven’t paid as much attention to in the past, etc. - then who knows what could happen?

Paulson brings up a great point when he asks about the gain offsetting the loss. But his question is centered around the notion that newspaper readership has become strictly dependent upon division. He even mildly suggests that the difference between the print media audience and the Internet’s audience is purely generational. That notion doesn’t have to hold true.

It may be hard, but the newspaper can be a universally accepted thing, should publishers and corporations decide to put a little more effort into targeting more than simply just demographics and age groups. Instead, if they concentrate on improving the quality of their paper as a whole - targeting on not one specific group, but merely setting their sights on everyone so to speak - maybe they could begin to answer some of the questions no one has been able to conquer yet.

Sometimes, not everything has to have a price. And if some major newspapers would decide to take a chance on embracing the Web forum through the notion of combination rather than division, maybe the idea that some of the best things in life come free can hold true.

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