Media Matters

How I Would Change Newspapers

How I Would Change NewspapersNewspapers may be a dying breed of mass media, but I have one certainty about newspapers: they aren't dying because people don't want the news anymore. The journalism industry may be falling apart because the world has changed and it's now the older folks who are reading the morning paper with their cup of coffee.

Steer Away from Advertising

The biggest reason newspapers are failing is because advertising revenues are down. People are no longer paying for classified ads when Craigslist is available for free. Businesses are no longer paying for ads when everyone is hopping online for their news. If advertising revenues are down, then newspapers need to find a new source of revenue. My suggestion would be advertorials, articles from businesses that relate to their products and services while offering something of value to readers of the newspaper. No, these things won't be press releases, but simply informative and feature articles that happen to be written by companies instead of freelance writers or journalists.

Do More Multimedia

I would suggest that newspapers engage in some of the content marketing techniques that businesses are using, such as infographics, videos, slideshows, ebooks, and whitepapers. No, this content wouldn't be promoting the newspaper, but would be supplemental content to the journalistic article we are used to. For example, coverage of President Obama's inauguration could be accompanies by an infographic outlining what he's accomplished in his first term. An article on the latest in Syria or Israel/Palestine could come with an e-book or whitepaper that goes into the history of the situation or the two countries. I'm not necessarily saying the coverage of the Super Bowl or the State of the Union should be in a slideshow. I'm simply suggesting that newspapers can get a little more creative here in order to draw readers in.

Granted, they are already trying with online techniques such as video and social media, but newspapers need to do more than to promote their own content. They ought to create content no one else is creating, utilizing the knowledge that their reporters have built up over the years.

Hold Government Accountable

As the only industry protected by the Constitution, newspapers have the responsibility to hold government and its officials accountable. For newspapers, this would primarily be local government and state government, since national government would be of the purview of national newspapers and perhaps the newspapers in Washington D.C. It's tough work, and not everyone wants the press or a journalist talking and asking questions, but that's the job of the press and a journalist. This is an incredibly responsibility because if newspapers don't do it, it's hard to figure out who will.

Put the Feature Stuff Elsewhere

Okay, I grant that sports, editorials, opinion and what not are more popular than the hard news stories. Because they are more popular, I think these sections shouldn't go into the main newspaper but be given their own platform, whether that's strictly online or as an insert or even as a smaller tabloid that could be purchased separately. This would give both the hard news and the fun stuff more column inches, increasing the coverage of both topics. This would also make the hard news less reliant on advertising. Folks are advertising to be seen next to the report on what President Obama is doing or on what's happening halfway across the world.  Folks are advertising to be seen next to the sports or arts sections, which might have stories more relevant to what's being advertised.

Perform More Investigative Journalism

With the budget cuts, newspapers don't do this as much as they used to, although newspapers are one of the few institutions that can be trusted to do investigative journalism well. This may be easier to do once the feature stuff is moved around and maybe more revenue is coming in and all of that good stuff. Or, perhaps a newspaper could go change things entirely and only do investigative journalism. After all, there's tons of other people and publications covering much of the other stuff.

A Proclamation to Do This

I can do it. It's 11 days into this project and I already want to quit. I have two and a half hours to get this done, I am in the middle of a poker tournament, and I am down for the day so all that doesn't leave me wonderful and relaxed this Friday evening. Blogging every day is tough (which probably explains why so few companies do it, and why professional bloggers work way too hard). I considered dropping down to three times a week, but I don't want to break the rules of the blog or to give up! I can do it! I can commit to blogging for one year and then, measuring the results and hopefully create something really awesome in the process!

Topics, Topics, Topics!

Okay, I am tired of writing about whatever comes to mind because I still don't have any topics to pursue (will fix this weekend!). I'm tired of the stress of having to do my blog post for the day and then putting it off because I don't have anything to write about. Before I know it, there's less than two hours left in the day and I haven't written a single word yet. Oh, and I need to catch up on "The West Wing". But, if I can be as cool as those guys I wouldn't have any problems in the blog (perhaps a good idea for a post or two in the future, but not necessarily for this blog. Sorry to bum you out).

Although, I Have Yet Another Aspiration

If you don't know, Andrew Sullivan is a leading political columnist in this country, most recently writing his column The Daily Dish at the Daily Beast. He's just decided to take his venture solo, charging a $20-a-year subscription fee, and accruing the $900,000 he needs to run his operation for the year in one day. Wowza. Considering that he started his popular column in 2000, it'll take a long time for anyone to replicate such success and to add a personal touch to journalism and to political analysis the way that he does. I really hope to do the same. I don't know if I have the luxury of 10+ years to get it done (Sullivan did get paid to write his column for a long time, and this is still just an experiment) or the time to make something happen (what he's done is nearly impossible to do again), but the personal brand is becoming more and more powerful in today's inter-connected society so the fact that blogging and journalism will rely more and more on the personal brand only makes perfect sense. The real trick will be monetizing the blogging in a way that doesn't wear people ought or force them to write for the hits and the exposure.

If Andrew Sullivan can do it, then anyone can.

I'm Not Going to Quit

I can do this and run my business as well. I can provide substantial content that's of value to people every day, or at least regularly. I have things to say that are meaningful, and are much more than what I did today and what I need to get from the grocery store and how well I am doing at poker (I ended down, but it happens. I got lucky a few more times than I should have). I want to contribute to the dialogue of important issues, and not just tout brands and promote products. I want to write something original, not just rehash old news or comment on what happened or what someone else said. It sounds overwhelming, but I don't think it's too much to ask.

10 Stories Fox News Falsely Reported as News

media mattersIt should be noted that I originally wrote this article in early 2011 for a site called The site ended up getting infected with malware, and was taken offline and all its articles with it. It was a great site, and this article actually went viral the month it was published. It is being republished here, as it was published way back when, since it fits the bill of what this blog is all about. Late last week, Media Matters for America spoke with a Fox News “insider”, who said that things are made up all the time at the organization. This “insider” also said that it is the M.O of Fox News to “undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats.”

Whether or not this insider is actually an insider, or whether or not Fox News has such an M.O. or not is another story. This story should make us question how valid the statement is about Fox News making things up, or reporting stories that just aren’t true. Have they ever reported something that was just plain false? Well, here are 10 stories for you:

The Shirley Sherrod “Scandal”

In July 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her post as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. Blogger and conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart first posted a video on his website that “shows” Sherrod telling a story of how she discriminated against a white farmer, and how that action was approved up by the audience to whom she was speaking. The problem was that the video was actually one small snippet of a 45-minute video, where Sherrod ends up helping that white farmer and fostering a friendship with him.

But the full video, and full story, was not what circulated the mainstream media, including Fox News. As of this week, Sherrod has sued Breitbart, with no more comment from either party.

Watch the snippet

Watch the full speech

The Nuclear Security Summit Logo

Also in the summer of 2010, made a lot of fuss about the “resemblance” between the Islam crescent and the logo of the Nuclear Security Summit. Not only is this one of least newsworthy things in the whole world, but also it was a similarity first interpreted by right-wing bloggers, who are always looking for a conspiracy theory. Besides a bunch of pictures, there was nothing substantial that proved that the Islam crescent served as the inspiration for that logo.

Fox’s Coverage of the “Conspiracy”

Where the idea really came from

A Ban on the Declaration of Independence

For two weeks toward the end of 2004, Fox News falsely reported that an elementary school in Cupertino, Calif. banned the Declaration of Independence because it mentioned God. The idea came from an erroneous headline of a Reuters article covering the same story, but the story specifies that the school was banning handouts from fifth grade teacher Stephen Williams, who had selected only the certain parts of the Declaration of Independence that make reference to God. The school was not banning the document itself, nor was it imposing any sort of ban on the entire school, but just the handouts from Williams, which happened to contain words from the Declaration. Though Williams, and Alliance Defense Fund attorney Jordan Lorence, also said on Hannity & Colmes and the school was banning the Declaration of Independence, Hannity and Colmes were not the only pundits to cover this story. The other pundits didn’t necessarily have Williams and Lorence either. On top of that, it took a correction from the school itself to straighten the matter out.

See who else failed to check the facts on this one

Paul Begala and the Clinton Campaign

In January 2008, Fox News reported several times that CNN political commentator Paul Begala was joining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Only was that false, and that Begala told at least 11 news organizations (including Fox News) that the rumor wasn’t true. Yet, Fox News continued to report it anyway, and to also report (falsely) that Begala had made conference calls with the campaign. Not sure if this every got rectified.

Read the full discourse between Begala and Fox’s Major Garrett

The LAPD Gets Jetpacks

In October 2010, Fox & Friends reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had purchased 10,000 new jetpacks, at $100,000 a piece. Except that the entire thing is false, as corroborated by the Los Angeles Times. Fox & Friends retracted the story about 40 minutes later.

Watch their hilarious coverage

Where the story really came from

How Many People Attended that Rally?

That’s a good question, especially when you are asking Fox News. There have been a few instances where the number, or footage, that Fox News syndicates reported on a crowd or rally was disputed, such as the crowds for Sarah Palin’s new book, the 9/12 protest, or the Tea Party protests against Barack Obama.

Watch Sean Hannity admit yet another footage error by the network

No One Covered the Washington Tea Party

In the Washington Post of Sept. 18, 2009, Fox News took out a full-page ad that said, "How did, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?" The ad refers to the 9/12 protests and insinuates (or at least can logically be interpreted to insinuate) that these other networks didn’t cover the march at all. However, this is not the case, and there’s numerous evidence to show otherwise. In fact, here’s a report card grading how EACH NETWORK covered the march.

View the misleading ad

A sample of CNN’s coverage

Terrorists Just Loved it When the Dems Took Over Congress

Keith Olbermann in November of 2006 got his hands on some documents from Fox News officials that tell reporters and producers to talk about how the War on Terror is still going, and how Muslim extremists love the fact that the Democrats took over Congress in this midterm election. Granted, this is Keith Olbermann, but it’s definitely food for thought.

Watch Olbermann in action

Felons Vote, Troops Don’t

Just before the November midterm elections, our good ole pals over at Fox & Friends reported that Cook County, Illinois hand delivered ballots to inmates, while it sent the absentee ballots for soldiers serving overseas a little bit late. There were just a few problems with this one:

  • Cook County did not send their absentee ballots late. In fact, the county had sent them almost two weeks ahead of schedule
  • Inmates are not hand delivered ballots, but must request them just like anybody else.
  • An inmate only gets a ballot if they are not yet convicted in a court of law. An inmate also doesn’t get a ballot if they are convicted any time between the day they request and Election Day.

Watch the full Fox News report

Read a little bit more about the truth

“We’re not making this up!”

This one led to a lawsuit of Fox News, when Fox & Friends reported a fake news story and repeated false information. The story involved a middle school prank in Lewiston, Maine, when a student tossed a slab of ham onto a table of Somali Muslim students, knowing they would be offended. Fox & Friends reported a parody of the prank, where quotes attributed to superintendent Leon Levesque were repeated, such as teaching the students that “ham is not a toy,” and that the district is developing an “anti-ham” response plan.

To clarify, the story about the prank is completely true. The quotes attributed to superintendent Leon Levesque, were completely falsified.

To report on the story and to those quotes once before a retraction may be excusable, but to do it twice in a before realizing the mistake is simply poor journalism. On top of that, the mistake wasn’t acknowledged until three weeks later! In their defense, Fox & Friends did tell the truth in that they were not making it up. The problem was, somebody else made it all up. But is that really any excuse?

Hate crime, or just a ham sandwich?

Read how Fox & Friends escaped the guilty verdict

An Introduction to Trademarks defines a trademark as a “distinctive name, symbol, motto, or design that legally identifies a company or its products and services, and sometimes prevents others from using identical or similar marks.” There are many words in the English language that are, in fact, trademarks, but aren’t commonly known or recognized as such. This is a list of trademarked words, which should only be used when its certain that the specific brand or product is used or references. These words are not to be used a generic terms, and the generic terms are provided in each entry. This is not an exhaustive list, so if you are uncertain if a word could be a trademark, it’s best to look it up in either an AP Style Handbook or Wikipedia's list, which is a lot more comprehensive.

The only correct time to use a trademark is if you mean that particular brand of item (if someone is actually using Kleenex brand tissues, for example). But, if you mean generic facial tissues, then "facial tissues" needs to be said. Here is my list of some of the more commonly used trademarks, with the generic terms that ought to be used instead.

Band-Aid (bandage or adhesive)

ChapStick (lip balm)

Clorox (bleach)

Hoover (vacuum)

Jacuzzi (hot tub or whirlpool)

Kleenex (facial tissue)

Onesie (infant bodysuit) - Yes, this is still trademarked by Gerber

Photoshop (Photo manipulation)

Ping Pong (table tennis)

Post-It (sticky note)

Q-Tips (cotton swabs)

Realtor (real estate agent) - The word actually refers to members of the National Association of Realtors, not real estate agents in general. The Association goes through great lengths to prevent the word from becoming generic.

Saran Wrap (plastic wrap)

Scotch Tape (clear adhesive tape, or simply tape)

Sharpie (permanent marker)

Speedo (swim briefs) - Yes, this one is also trademarked.

Vaseline (petroleum jelly)

Xerox (photocopier, or to make a copy)