Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Could students save newsrooms?

On October 18, the New York Times announced it will be cutting 100 newsroom jobs due to "industrywide declines in advertising revenue."  The announcement came today from a number of sources, like this article from the Huffington Post: "New York Times To Cut 100 Newsroom Jobs."  The Times has the largest staff of reporters and editors of any newspaper, but now 8 percent of jobs will be cut.
Photo Courtesy George H. Mow at AMEC Construction Management
The announcement came on the same day that David Carr, of the New York Times wrote an article about options for newsrooms to survive the current crisis.  Carr's article, "A Newsroom Subsidized? Minds Reel" discusses six recommendations made by Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of the Washington Post for 17 years, and Michael Schudson, a professor at the Columbia University Journalism School, to save newsrooms.  The report is called, "The Reconstruction of American Journalism" which they say is necessary since, "the current advertising model won't continue to support the so-called accountability of journalism."

A shocking statistic brings light to just how bad a turn newsrooms have taken: in 1971 there were 40,000 newspaper editorial employees in the United States.  Now, almost 40 years later and after newsroom positions reached 60,000 in 1992, newspaper editorial employee numbers are "back to 40,000 in 2009, with no real bottom in sight."

Because newspapers can't earn the same amount of money from advertising on the web as in print, profits are nonexistent and more and more people are unsubscribing, instead turning to the web for free news.

That's why Downie and Schudson propose these six solutions:
1. tinker with the tax structure to accommodate nonprofit status for news-gathering organizations
2. persuade philanthropic foundations to fill the funding gap in more permanent ways
3. involve universities in news gathering
4. open up databases to make them more useful for both pro and pro-am efforts
5. reorienting public radio and television to provide local news
6. government could fund local news

The last two suggestions are the most shocking to me, while the idea of involving universities in the news gathering process seems like a pretty solid idea.  I know firsthand that journalism students are eager and competitive.  Even though the numbers show we may not have jobs to apply for when we graduate, journalism remains a desirable major full of passionate students.  Upper level students could compete for internships that would allow them a more hands-on experience than some internships offer.  Instead of getting coffee and simply witnessing, student interns could serve as real, temporary employees, working for free but trying to impress the newsroom for a chance at one of the rare available jobs.  This is similar to the competition that already exists, but newsrooms would be able to select candidates based on their samples and could work with them for a semester or even a year, instead of just a summer.  Real-world experience is extremely valuable for the student and the employer would benefit too by getting essentially free labor.

Students in the newsroom could work for both the print medium and the broadcast medium.  I think this option is a lot better than having the government financially support local broadcast news, even if Downie says, "it can be done with safeguards to ensure that the government doesn't become the yard boss of what constitutes worthy news."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

VO Patrol: Columbia Man Stabbed After Jukebox Dispute

On Wednesday I completed my first shift at KOMU.  Although I arrived with three stories to pitch for my VO Patrol, overnight breaking news happened: a man in Columbia was stabbed 6 or 7 times before being taken to the hospital.  50-year-old Mark Hamlett stabbed the unnamed victim and was taken into custody by the Columbia Police Department at the scene.  I called the Columbia PD for more information before I headed out the newsroom door.  The stabbing happened at a bar called the Black and Gold Bar.  I had never heard of it and couldn't find an exact address online and nobody answered the phone at the bar, probably since it was only 9AM.  I hopped into a KOMU car after carefully checking that all of my camera equipment worked properly, and went to the area where the bar was supposed to be.  I spotted a small building that had no sign, but was painted black and gold.  I assumed this was the building but first checked with the Police Department to be sure.  After getting some shots of the outside of the building, I went to the police station to interview Detective Jeff Westbrook.  You can watch Angie Bailey and Sarah Hill anchor the story I wrote and edited for the 5 o'clock newscast:

Columbia Man Stabbed After Jukebox Disagreement from Paige Hansen on Vimeo.
This is from my first VO Patrol shift at KOMU-8 News.

An unnamed Columbia man ended up in the hospital this morning after being stabbed in a bar fight.

Columbia Police arrived at the Black and Gold Bar around 1 o’clock this morning.  The Black and Gold Bar is located on the East end of the Business Loop. 

According to Detective Jeff Westbrook, a fight broke out after two men began arguing over music playing out of the jukebox.  Mark Hamlett, a 50-year-old Columbia man stabbed the victim six to seven times, police say.

When police did arrive on the scene, witnesses pointed to Hamlett who was sitting in his car in the parking lot next to the bar.  

Hamlett was arrested and charged with three counts, including first and second-degree assault and armed criminal action.

The victim is currently in stable condition.  
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This week I also anchored the morning cut-ins on Friday, October 16:

KOMU-8 News, Cut-Ins Anchor 10/16/09 from Paige Hansen on Vimeo.