Overzealous sergeant at arms boots pressman

Posted: March 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments

Press corps represent!

Ruh roh.

Looks like a North Carolina House of Representatives official got a little uppity today with seasoned News & Record political reporter Mark Binker. A member of the sergeant at arms’ staff had the courtesy to provide Binker with an armed escort straight out of the room Tuesday after the reporter refused to sign in.

As Binker points out in his post, there’s no law that says he, or any member of the public, has to sign in at all.

He was only kept out of the room for about 10 minutes and the sergeant at arms apologized, but Binker denounced the “thuggish behavior” not on the basis that it harmed his ability to report, but because of the potential repercussions on the public’s right to transparency in government.

Residents of this state should feel that they can come and watch their government in action without being coerced to sign in. What if some little old lady from the hinter lands wanted to come and hear about a bill that might affect her, but didn’t want to subject her name to the public record?

Hopefully this will turn into a teachable moment for the staffers at the General Assembly, which should understand their responsibility to the public they serve. But just in case, I’ll keep the T-shirt screen printer at the ready.


Will pay walls make news orgs irrelevant?

Posted: June 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , | View Comments

box_kittensAs a follow up to Tuesday’s post, I contacted John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record, to get his thoughts on the fact that 75 percent of the N.C. Press Association‘s newsroom leaders are at least thinking about charging for online content.

Robinson has fully embraced social media. He sports about 800 followers on Twitter and frequently uses the microblogging service to create a dialogue with his community as well as fellow journalists. I figured that makes his opinions particularly salient, since I feel like its social media that will be impacted by a news organization’s decision to placed their content behind a pay wall.

Robinson agreed to answer a few questions via e-mail about his perception of pay walls and the future of online content for the News & Record. Read the rest of this entry »


Combating the myth of the 'free giveaway'

Posted: June 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments

Pay walls will solve all our problems!

The North Carolina Press Association just released the results of its May survey on charging for online content. Although the response rate was 86, the group was mostly made up of publishers, editors and general managers.

It seems the talk of shoring up pay walls to keep the Internet Huns at bay is beginning to influence some of the state’s newsroom leaders. More than 75 percent say they’re at least thinking about charging for their news content online. Read the rest of this entry »


When the Observers fall silent

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | View Comments

twotowersIf I was a gambling person, or had any luck, or any money, I’d start making my bets now on when The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer will close their doors for good.

The fatal blows at the newspapers have already begun. Like a bully hastily overcompensating for his own inadequacies by demanding milk money from the nerdy kids, parent company McClatchy has put the squeeze on both organizations, forcing 160 people out of the job. Almost 60 of those layoffs come from the newsrooms of the N&O and The Charlotte Observer.

All of this, of course, is in an attempt to defy a continuing recession and make up for McClatchy’s $2 billion of debt by cleaving into the bone of these two still profitable newspapers.

It’s an effort to become a leaner organization, according to McClatchy Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt. In his words, the cuts will “realign our workforce and make our operations more efficient.”

That’s funny, since it didn’t seem like McClatchy was too interested in efficiency when it bought Knight-Ridder Inc. (and The Charlotte Observer) in 2006, weighing the company down with another 20 papers — oh, and that $2 billion in debt it’s now so eager to pay down at the expense of its employees’ livelihood.

But the other effect of the buy was more foreboding for the future of North Carolina.

The purchase consolidated the state’s two largest and most powerful watchdogs under one company.  Success — the unlikely scenario in an age of declining readership and ad revenues — would mean great things. Failure would mean the collapse of the Two Towers of North Carolina journalism.

In that single irresponsible act — committed apparently while Pruitt twirled his thin mustache with a dastardly grin –  the McClatchy Co. doomed North Carolina to a crippled ability to hold its government accountable. Read the rest of this entry »