Daily Archives: April 26, 2010

More on Civil Beat, Bob Jones on what local media are missing, and more media comment

Several follow-up items.

An entry in Westworld, a Denver blog, takes an outside look at Honolulu Civil Beat.

Paid subscribers will be asked to support the operation — a concept that, on its face, sounds quite similar to the approach floated by INDenver Times, an ambitious project assembled in the wake of the Rocky closure featuring around thirty former RMN staffers. The site subsequently shelved ambitious expansion plans when it fell short of its 50,000 subscriber goal by about 47,000.

But Temple thinks any comparisons between Civil Beat and INDenver Times are absurd.

“I don’t understand how you could think the concept is similar to INDenver Times,” he writes via e-mail. “Have you read Pierre’s piece and my piece about what we’re doing?”

PaidContent.com goes over the same question of civil beat’s substantial subscription/membership price.

The result is a very mixed message. An aura of openness—Temple explains that the site went live ahead of the news service launch so they could hear from members, the reporters are called “reporter-hosts”—and the reality of a paywall that would seem to stop some of the discussion before it even begins.

But former Honolulu resident Alex Salkever, writing in DailyFinance.com, has a different take. “Not so absurd,” says Alex.

Skeptics say no one will pay such a princely sum (in Internet terms) to participate in a local journalism site, and a lack of participants could doom the online “civic square” to failure.

But Omidyar’s new startup could be timing the bottom of the paid-content market perfectly. For starters, the subtle reeducation of Web users that not all content is free is well underway. The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times are all on paths to paid content in their online forms. Since these are “must read” publications that drive lots of other news coverage, it’s hard to ignore this trend.

This from a reader in response to yesterday’s entry:

Interesting you noted that your “almost relative” Sam Toomey replaced James Hakuole. Hakuole is a very interesting person in Hawaiian History.

Either he or his father “was sent to Japan as a member of King Kalakaua’s Hawaiian Youths Abroad program. Hakuole studied with members of the Japanese imperial family.”

Hakuole, by the way, is the great grandfather of Henry Peters of all people.

Henry once said that his mother Hoaliku Drake did not know she was related to him until she was I think in her 20s or so. She had grown up in another household but didn’t know she was hanaied to them. She had always thought she was related to that family. But when she was told this and shown the paper work, Henry said his mother broke down in tears because she was not aware that she was related to someone so close to royalty.

You’re not going to get this kind of historical context when we become a one newspaper town …

And from retired Star-Bulletin news editor Chuck Frankel:

“Shame on KITV news for airing segments posing as news but that in reality are commercials promoting “Lost” and “Dancing with the Stars” on its station.”

Meanwhile, Bob Jones follows on his own earlier comment about the news business.

I talked about rich and dedicated news media owners last time out.
Now, let’s look at what can be done better, given the current-time restraints of stockholders and profit expectations, and the changes in what the public wants from newspaper and TV news.

Newspapers are nice. I buy both dailies, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. I like a newspaper in my hands. But newspaper news is old. That Gulf oil rig fire is a good example. Dailies that morning said it might create an environmental disaster. Internet was saying no oil leak. Dailies said next morning “no oil leak.” Internet headlined that the well head was leaking. So dailies and those 6 p.m. TV newscasts have a timeliness problem. Their news is perishable because it’s not constant like CNN.

So we need mainly local news, but with great depth so it’s not old at delivery time. Haunt lawmaking corridors and tell us who is selling out, changing votes, making deals, being influenced by lobbyists. That means 3 or 4 people at the State Capitol and 2 or 3 at City Hall five days a week. Tell us what’s on tap to maybe pass, and what’s crap we should ignore because it likely won’t pass.

We need more news about how to pick a local mortgage and a locally-issued credit card. What companies have been zapped by the biz regulation people. Should I tent or use sodium borate to expel termites (I’ve not seen zip on that except in my MidWeek columns, even though everyone has termite problems.)

Lastly, commentary. On TV, we’ve had owners/managers drone on in the past for ego reasons. The subjects and the deliverers were boring. MidWeek has made itself a 500,000 eyes read with commentary. Our newspapers just dip their toes in that and local TV news pretends it doesn’t exist. It does exist. Think Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Beck. It does not have to be radio-stupid but it must connect with local people.

I’m amazed that media people trying to survive and make money ignore ways to survive and make money.