Has The Post Ceased Internal Critiques?

Deb Howell wonders about that in her own internal ombudsman column:

    CRITIQUES _DEAD OR ALIVE?

    Just wondering whether the critiques will continue. They have one (maybe many) good purpose right now. They give the far-flung staff members a chance to communicate, to vent and to bounce off each other when there are no other easy venues. That can be good as The Post (and journalism) navigates new waters. That leads me to…

More when you click below.


    HARD TIMES IN NEWSPAPER LAND

    I’m presuming that you all read Frank Ahren’s horrifying piece on Page 1 Monday about Gannett’s plans and how they are being implemented at the Ft. Myers News-Press. If you didn’t, do so now.

    Yes, nothing seems certain about the future of the business we have chosen as our way of life. But it’s worse at almost every place else. The Philadelphia Inquirer is in the pits. My old paper, The Saint Paul Pioneer Press, has lost most of its experienced reporters. If you work at the San Jose Mercury News, you were told to stay by the phone to hear if you still have a job. I keep thinking I’m going to see a headline on Romenesko that says, “Bring out your dead.”

    Journalists tend to be pessimists, so here is some news. I don’t hear anyone saying layoffs here. I also do not hear: Don’t do good journalism. I spoke last night to a journalism class at the University of Maryland. Those eager, bright eyes are dying to go to work in journalism and they don’t see the problem with much of it being on the Web.

    Some thoughts on a world changing faster than we can anticipate:

    * Hold fast to what got you into this business _ good journalism that enlightens readers and that can change a street corner or the world. Witness Marc Fisher’s column this week that was able to get the District bureaucracy to let one retarded man stay in a room of his own. From Fairfax to Iraq, Post reporting makes a difference.

    * My grandmother had a wonderful saying: “The Lord never shuts a door but that (s)he opens a window.” That has been true in my journalism life more times than I can count. The trick is to find the window and not jump out of it.

    * Listen to readers. They often make a lot of sense.

    * Hard vs. soft. No one ever went wrong putting news in the newspaper. Readers tell me constantly that they prefer hard news to features, especially soft, timeless features. I love long-form feature journalism (and have a couple of St. Paul Pulitzers to prove it), but features need to be based either on something newsworthy or to have a higher purpose. If there is no higher purpose, is it an irresistible read? To the end?

    One of my city editors (in the days of paper) came up to me with a huge pair of shears, cut my story in half and said: “This is all I want to read today.”

    Which leads me to…

    STORIES IN TWO SIZES?

    There’s no doubt many of our readers are time-starved. Yet I have gotten a few complaints lately from readers who thought important information had been left out of stories. In talking to the reporters, I found they had the info, but space constraints either forced them to leave facts out of the story or they were edited out of the story.

    So if you think the story truly needs to be longer, and an editor agrees, why not put the longer version on the Web site and the shorter version in the paper? These means extra editing work and there obviously can’t be two versions of every story.

    In January, when I wrote about reporting in Iraq, I wrote my regular column and then wrote a 90-inch column for the Web. I said at the end of my column: “My research on Iraq coverage have gone on for months with interviews with experts in journalism and the military. Readers are invited to see some of that research in a much longer article” (on the Web site).

    A standing sig could be dropped at the bottom of a story telling readers they can read more on the Web. This lets readers have it both ways. Journalists have to respect readers’ time. When was the last time any of us read every word in the newspaper? But working up a protocol for two versions of a story holds promise, especially for more complex stories.