Readers Want News Not Fluff

      by Walter Brasch The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid publication that isn’t likely to win a Pulitzer Prize anytime soon, splashed a full page picture of a smiling Jennifer Anniston on its Sept. 21 front cover. In the upper left-hand space it placed all-capitals text: “BRANGELINA 2004–2016.” Inside the Post were four full consecutive pages, and a half page and part of a column deeper in the newspaper, all devoted to one of the most critical social issues facing the country—Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting a divorce. People magazine put the multi-million dollar couple on its cover, and teased us with the text: “WHY SHE LEFT” and “THE REAL STORY.” US magazine had … Continue reading

Downsizing the News Media; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

      by Walter Brasch   (Part 2 of 2) For more than a decade, advertising, circulation, and news quality in both print and electronic media have been in a downward spiral. That spiral has twin intertwining roots. The first root is the rise of social media. The complacent and stodgy print media were slow to catch onto the concept and rise of social media and its influence upon a generation that conducts its life by a fusion of smart phones to ears. When owners figured out they needed to have a digital presence, they first gave away content in a desperate bid to keep readers, and then began to charge for it to those who didn’t have subscriptions. … Continue reading

Downsizing the News Staff; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

  by Walter Brasch   (Part 1 of 2) On Monday, Nov. 2, every National Geographic staffer was told to report to the magazine’s Washington, D.C., headquarters the next day to await a phone call or e-mail from Human Resources. Ever since Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox corporation bought the magazine in September, there were rumors the new owner would maximize profits by terminating employees. Those predictions came through when Management fired 180 people, and told dozens of others they were being offered “voluntary buy-outs.” The corporation also announced it was eliminating health coverage for future retirees and was freezing all pensions. Management told the public there would be no loss of quality, but it’s hard to believe those claims … Continue reading

The 24/7 Election and Media Carousel

by Walter Brasch   The national news media—and their sidekicks, the cackling pundits—had been asking the same questions the past six months. “Will he? Won’t he? Should he? Shouldn’t he? Can he? Can’t he?” The “he” is Joe Biden. The vice-president said numerous times he was still thinking about running for president, but hadn’t made up his mind. The Biden question kept the media busy speculating about an issue that even Mr. Biden couldn’t answer, nor should he have been forced to make a commitment in the media’s time frame. This past week, he decided not to run for the presidency. Although Biden explained his reasons, the media can now spend a few weeks asking the question, “But what if … Continue reading

Questionable Calls in the Sports Department

  by Walter Brasch   With the opening of the high school football season, local newspapers and TV stations have again been running lists of what they believe are the top teams. Most lists rank teams in the “top 10.” One Pennsylvania TV station, whose on-air number is 16, runs the “Top 16.” There are several problems with these lists. First, we don’t know how they got those rankings. We don’t know who makes up those lists or what criteria were used. It could be a sports editor and her grandfather. It could be a bunch of station personnel sitting at a bar, throwing back vodka slammers and team names. Even if we know how the lists are compiled, a … Continue reading

Tragedy in the 24/7 News Media

by Walter Brasch CNN is the 24/7 media trumpet for news about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that is presumed to have crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia. On that flight were 227 passengers and 12 crew members. CNN grabbed every iota of information, pumped it full of digital frequencies, and broadcast it to what it thought was a world salivating for every syllable of thought. When there was news, CNN broadcast it. When there was no news, CNN broadcast it. When there were outrageous theories, CNN was the source to find out who was saying what. When there was a rumor, CNN broadcast that, only to have to retract it hours later. Through chatter and repetition, CNN … Continue reading

The Boozy, but not Newsy, Mass Media

by Walter Brasch   The Big Story this past week was the Golden Globes awards. The Golden Globes, sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and broadcast by NBC, drew 21 million viewers for the three-hour ceremony, preceded by a one-hour Red Carpet gush-fest hosted by “Today” show personalities. There wasn’t one TV or film personality the hosts didn’t fawn over. Tamron Hall several times excitedly told the viewers that last year she watched the Golden Globes on TV, and now was so thrilled to be on the Red Carpet to interview fellow celebrities. Hosts praised the gowns of the women; the women returned the compliments to Hall and Savannah Guthrie. No one said anything about the spiffy tuxes that … Continue reading

Government Should Not Define What a Reporter is—or Isn’t

    by Walter Brasch Sen. Diane Feinstein and a horde of members of Congress of both parties want to decide who is and who isn’t a reporter. Sen. Feinstein says a “real” reporter is a “salaried agent of a media company.” She mentions the usual suspects—New York Times, ABC News. She dismisses part-time staff. She dismisses freelancers. She dismisses those who write, often without pay, for the hundreds of alternative publications, and often break news and investigative stories well ahead of the mainstream media. She dismisses anyone who, she says, “have no professional qualifications.” The reason she wants to define what a reporter is or isn’t is because there’s a federal Media Shield Law that protects reporters from revealing … Continue reading