Friday, July 04, 2008

Conservative Liberal Media

I awoke to an NPR story reporting that Hawaiians buy more Spam per capita than people in any other of the United States. The story went on to describe a Spam sushi recipe.

No wonder it was two-and-a-half hours later before I wanted breakfast.

Later the news reader promoted a story by Robert Krulwich. What was novel -- to my ears, anyway -- was that rather than coming up later in Morning Edition, the story by one NPR's most well-known correspondents could be heard only on its web site.

News outlets often refer people to their web sites for details and other features of a story that they couldn't fit into their broadcasts. But I had never heard one say, "We have this story but even though we're a radio network, we're not going to air it on the radio. You must go to our web site to hear it." That's how hard news organizations are trying to drive traffic to their web sites, hoping, I suspect, to get people in the habit of visiting their site when looking for news.

They can't be sure that's where their audience is going; they just know that's where their advertising (called "underwriting" in NPR's case) dollars are going and that they better work to get their piece of the online pie.

Times are indeed changing in media. A media-related blog in the St. Pete Times, probably not entirely without glee, reported that the owner of rival Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV will be laying off more staffers. The ones left will be adding duties.

According to WFLA news director Don North, both the Tribune and WFLA will work to create a single pool of photographers who can shoot video and/or still images for television, online and print.

"In essence, we will be operating as a single entity," said North, who admitted managers hadn't yet quite figured out how it all would work. "There's still a lot of details we're talking about."

They don't know if how it will work; they just know it will cost less. And the people who survive will have to wear more hats. If photographers are shooting both video and still photographs, it can't be long before reporters go into a similar pool of people who can tell stories for television as well as text.

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