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Posts Tagged ‘David Carr’

Here’s a truism from Newspaper Reading 101….from which I took a “withdrew passing” grade:

If you read the paper with a close eye and an open mind, you will almost always stumble upon something that sticks with you, at least for a day or two.

Reading the paper the last few days — with no agenda and no axe to grind — I have culled the following odds and ends, which struck a chord with me. See if you agree.

:: Headline at the top of Tuesday’s sports page: “The Royals’ joy of six.”

The “joy of six” headline — a play on the 1972 book “The Joy of Sex” — is the most overworked headline in journalism, seen primarily on the sports pages.

The morning after the Chicago Bulls won their sixth NBA championship (1998), the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, MN, used that headline in letters that covered about half of the sports front. I was at the newspaper’s offices at the time for a conference, and even the newspaper’s editor at the time, Walker Lundy, was aghast. “Could you have made the headline any bigger,” Lundy sarcastically asked the sports editor at the morning news meeting.

:: Notable quote: “Somebody once asked me if our officers have a quota they have to meet regarding tickets. And I told them no, they can write as many as they like.”

That from Police Chief John Simmons of Mission, KS, where ticket writing pays for a lot of the city’s bills.

:: Patty, Brooks and I were at the Royals game on Sunday afternoon, when Patty pointed to I-70 and said, “I wonder why the traffic is backed up on the interstate?”

Frame from YouTube video

Frame from YouTube video

The lady is observant — could have been a reporter, but she comes from a line of entrepreneurs (thank God).

In Wednesday’s paper, police reporter Christine Vendel reported the whole thing. A group of about 40 motorcyclists blocked traffic while videotaping each other performing various stunts. One biker was arrested after he crashed into the back of a police car on U.S. 40, while the officer was trying to pull over a truck containing several people who were recording the stunts.

Those bikers rank very high in the “lacking grey cells” category, and some of them undoubtedly are going to lose all their grey cells when they fly out of the saddle.

:: “Wreck leads to fatal shots” — Page A7 headline in Tuesday’s paper

OK, I want to know more about that…Tell me what happened?

A minor wreck in which a moving car struck a parked car occurred Saturday night on Kansas City’s East side. On one of the streets, either College Avenue or 58th Terrace, two large outdoor parties were taking place. The driver of the car that struck the parked car was related to one of the two men who were subsequently shot to death.

Got it. So what happened after the wreck? Well, this quote from Police Capt. Tye Grant says about all we need to know:

“Things went downhill from there.”

:: Those baseball guys love to tag nicknames on each other. The Royals’ first-round draft choice, a 6 foot, 4 inch shortstop named Hunter Dozier, was at Kauffman Stadium for Monday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers and got to meet the Royals players and coaches. 

In the course of the day and evening, somebody tagged him “Bull”…as in Bull Dozier. Now that’s a nickname.

:: Kevin Collison, The Star’s outstanding development reporter, wrote in Tuesday’s Star Business Weekly about the controversial proposal to build a new $1.2 billion terminal at KCI.

As you know, I firmly believe we need a new terminal, if for no other reason than we deserve a lot better than what we’ve got with those three enormous funeral parlors grouped together off I-29.

Collison

Collison

Amid the hysterical war of words taking place on this issue (see “Letters to the Editor), Collison called for “a clear-eyed, thoughtful discussion about the future of KCI.”

“The answer,” he said, “is probably somewhere between the Aviation Department’s billion-dollar vision and the knee-jerk, populist reaction of the current ‘Save KCI’ petition drive.”

I’m willing to take a deep breath and consider that.

(By the way, because of the issue’s importance and the amount of money involved, hysteria might be the appropriate tone for this conversation…My late father, quoting from some philosopher or wiseacre, used to tell me, “If you can keep your head while everyone around you is losing theirs, you probably don’t understand the issue.”)

:: When a reporter or columnist gets “hot,” he or she often becomes the rage, and you start seeing their stuff everywhere.

And so it is with David Carr, The New York Times media columnist, who has been smoking hot the last few years. He even was the focus of a 2011 documentary movie, “Page One: Inside The New York Times.”

David Carr

David Carr

But no columnist can hit it out of the park every week. Carr’s most recent column, which The Star picked up on Tuesday, was a goofy piece about two Hollywood gossip columnists — Nikki Finke and Sharon Waxman — who have been flailing away at each other on their respective Web sites. (The battle kind of reminds me of my days on active duty in the Army Reserve, when we would go at each other with padded “pugil sticks.”)

Here’s my point: There can’t be more than a couple of hundred people in KC who know or care about the Finke-Waxman face-off. So, why is it in The Star? And, why, even, was it on the front page of Monday’s New York Times business section?

It was in The Times because Carr is Carr, and he can write about whatever he wants, and The Times will run it in his usual spot — on the front page of the Monday business section.

The Star picked it up because…well, a big, fat hole was sitting there on the “Business Forum” page of Tuesday’s business section, and something had to fill it. So, why not the red-hot David Carr?

***

Editor’s Note: This is my 300th post since starting JimmyCsays in March 2010. It’s been a great run of three years and three months. Thanks for your patronage. I hope to remain “At the juncture of journalism and daily life in Kansas City” for at least 3 1/4 more years. 

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David Carr, media reporter for The New York Times, has had two intriguing pieces within the last week — a front-page news story about the implosion of the Tribune Company and a column in which he explored the “vanishing journalistic divide.”

In the column, Carr deftly used his experience in reporting and writing the Tribune story to help make his point about the ever-hastening confluence of new media and old-school journalism.

Let’s take it from the top.

Phase one.

If you think The Kansas City Star has fallen a long way, consider the plight of The Chicago Tribune and the other papers in the Tribune chain, including The Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun and The Orlando Sentinel. As recently as about 10 years ago, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times were considered to be among the country’s premier newspapers. 

Like other newspaper companies (it also owns TV stations and WGN America), Tribune fell on lean times and began unraveling financially. Publicly owned, it was sold in 2007 to a group headed by Sam Zell, described by Carr as “a billionaire deal maker,” for a price of $8.2 billion. Thing is, though, the way Zell structured the deal, he only put out $315 million of his own money.

Then he brought in some radio-industry executives to run the show. One of those executives, Randy Michaels, showed some of the old Tribune hands early on that it was a new day and a new game. As Carr tells it, Michaels ran into several other senior colleagues at a hotel next to the Tribune Tower in Chicago. Shortly after he sat down in the bar, Zell said “watch this” and proceeded to offer the waitress $100 to show him her breasts.

“The group sat dumfounded,” Carr wrote.

Michaels proceeded to conduct a management make-over, putting more than 20 former associates from the radio business in key positions. One of the management team’s first moves was to rewrite the employee handbook.

“Working at Tribune means accepting that you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use,” the new handbook said. “You might experience an attitude you don’t share. You might hear a joke that you don’t consider funny. That is because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process…

“This should be understood, should not be a surprise and not considered harassment.”

They might has well have put out a sign that said, “Let it all hang out!”

It didn’t take long for the boss himself, Zell, to throw at Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski one of those words that she, personally, probably would not use.

In June 2008, while urging her to more aggressively pursue a story that he was interested in, Zell told Lipinski, “Don’t be a pussy.”

Lipinski, who had been the editor since 2001, resigned a month later.

Before 2008 was out, the company sought bankruptcy protection, listing $7.6 billion in assets and debts of $13 billion. And the financial woes continue. In the first half of this year, The Chicago Tribune’s weekday circulation was down nearly 10 percent, while The Los Angeles Times lost nearly 15 percent of its weekday circulation.

Zell remains chairman of the board but is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.

Phase two.

David Carr

In his column on Monday, Carr talked about the migration of print journalists to Web sites. His peg was the announcement that Howard Kurtz, long-time media reporter for The Washington Post, had resigned to become Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast, which Carr described as “a two-year-old toddler of the new digital press.”

“More and more,” Carr wrote, “media outlets are becoming a federation of individual brands like Mr. Kurtz. Journalism is starting to look like sports, where a cast of role players serves as a platform and context for highly paid, high-impact players. And those who cross over, after years of pushing copy through the print apparatus, will experience the allure of knocking some copy into WordPress and sending it out into the world to fend for itself.”

And yet, despite its surging popularity, Carr said, digital journalism doesn’t generate a thimbleful of revenue, compared to newspaper companies. 

“The reason that newspapers put all the white paper out on the street is that we get a lot of green paper back in return,” he said. “Put out all the pixels you want, even ones that render scoops, and you will still receive pennies in return.”

Then, Carr proceeded to talk about the thrill involved in piecing together the Tribune story, working on it for months, and finally seeing it “land hard,” lighting up Twitter accounts and generating hundreds of online comments.

The ability to “land hard,” he went on, isn’t limited to The Times: “All over the country, daily regional newspapers in very diminished circumstances similarly still manage to set the civic agenda even as they struggle.”

In Kansas City, of course, The Star — beleaguered and buffeted, scorned and dismissed by many — continues to set the local civic agenda. Not Tony’s Kansas City, not KC Confidential and most certainly not JimmyCsays.

“Yes, you can make news working in your pajamas and running stuff past your cat and now one else,” Carr concluded. “But even in 2010, when a print product is viewed as a quaint artifact of a bygone age, there is something about that process, about all those many hands, about the permanence of print, that makes a story resonate in a way that can’t be measured in digital metrics. I love a hot newsbreak on the Web as much as the next guy, but on some days, for some stories, there is still no school like the old school.”

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