Humor Just for fun

When social media takes over the news

U will ROTFL when you and ur BFFs from the paper check this out. It’s a CWOT, but it’s GR8.


Using Google Fusion Tables for investigative reporting

Andrew Chavez, associate director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism, speaks at a TCCJ Watchdog Workshop on Web applications that can be useful in investigative reporting.

Rural journalism

Center for Rural Strategies publishes interesting research on rural areas

Typically we point to specific articles in Around the Web. But here’s something different: The Center for Rural Strategies in Kentucky publishes some fascinating research in its online newsletter The Daily Yonder It’s all about rural counties in the United States and much of it applies to Texas. The latest, for instance, is about the serious lack of university degrees in rural areas and what that means for economic development. To keep abreast of the latest research, much of which you can localize for your newspaper if you’re located in a rural area, go to the Daily Yonder’s Twitter page and follow their work. You’re almost guaranteed to come away with good story ideas and sources to interview for those stories.


Counting readers: What’s happening in newspaper circulation, and what it means for community papers

(Editor’s note:  In this thinkpiece, Jerry Grotta, associate director of TCCJ, reacts to the news that the Audit Bureau of Circulations has changed the way newspaper circulation is counted, beginning Oct. 1. The changes include newspapers now being able to count subscribers more than once — a subscriber may be counted once for a print subscription, once for an e-reader subscription, etc. This also includes online, mobile and other subscriptions. Also, newspapers may include products published under a different name in their total average circulation.)

Several years ago I heard the following at a conference on newspaper circulation:

The owner of a newspaper was hiring a new publisher. He narrowed the candidates to three current employees — the advertising manager, the editor and the circulation manager. As a final step, the owner conducted a three-hour interview with each candidate. His final question was: “How much is two and two?”

The advertising manager answered: “Two and two is four. Never less, never more.” The publisher said, “Very precise.”

The editor said, “Well, two plus two is four. But two twos side-by-side is 22. And two divided by two is one.” The publisher said, “Very creative.”

The circulation director leaned toward the owner and whispered, “How much do you want them to be?”

And that sums up the history of newspaper circulation.

Here’s how Timothy Hughes reports on what John Campbell said about a competitor’s circulation:

The earliest comment on newspaper circulation in America was by publisher John Campbell in his Boston News-Letter of 1719. He notes that “… he cannot vend 300 at an impression, tho’ some ignorantly concludes he sells upwards of a thousand…”

Did newspapers really lie? Here is why the Audit Bureau of Circulations was formed in 1914:

For more than 90 years, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has served as the trusted industry standard in audited circulation figures. This commitment began at the turn of the century, a time when unscrupulous business practices dominated the publishing industry and made it difficult for advertisers and publishers to form effective partnerships.

As long as circulations were growing through the first half of the 20th century, newspapers were reaping big profits. However, the household penetration had been declining, from 100+ percent in the 1950s to about 30 percent today.

And then actual circulation began to decline. In just the past decade, weekday circulation has fallen 28.4 percent between 2000 and 2010, while Sunday circulation has declined 30.4 percent.


While television still dominates overall as a source of news, it has declined from more than 70 percent in 1991 to less than 60 percent in 2010.

Radio declined from 54 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2010.

And newspapers dropped from 55 percent in 1991 to 31 percent in 2010. That’s a 44 percent decline.

Where did all the viewers, listeners and readers go?

To the Internet.

Online as a news source was first measured in 2004, with 24 percent. In 2010, it has risen to 34 percent — or higher than newspapers and radio.

However, 44 percent get their news from some form of Web and mobile media, second only to television and 30 percent more than from newspapers.

So what are newspapers doing? Trying frantically to find new ways to measure circulation and readership, such as including hits on their websites, such as “requested” verified circulation, and “targeted” circulation (where people do not object to having newspaper products delivered to their homes).

How will this affect newspapers? For one thing, it will make “audited circulation” much more complicated. The overall effect on “circulation” numbers is still uncertain.

But one thing is certain. The old newspaper model is broken.

Nearly 40 years ago, Richard Maisel said in an article in Public Opinion Quarterly:

The (traditional) mass media are actually shrinking in size relative to the total economy.

And I wrote in an article in Journalism Quarterly in 1974:

If the newspaper is to survive in the decades ahead, it must do so on the basis of offering the consumer a product which fulfills the needs of the consumer.

We can see in the continued decline in the circulation and readership of major daily newspapers that the industry hasn’t done a very good job of producing a product “which fulfills the needs of the consumer.”

But how are community newspapers doing?

A whole lot better than the big dailies!

Here’s how the National Newspaper Association describes the situation:

Today, the distinguishing characteristic of a community newspaper is its commitment to serving the information needs of a particular community. The community is defined by the community’s members and a shared sense of belonging. A community may be geographic, political, social or religious. A community newspaper may be published once a week or daily. Some community newspapers exist only in cyberspace. Any newspaper that defines itself as committed to serving a particular community many be defined as a “community newspaper.”

Despite the emergence of new information technologies such as the Internet, community newspapers continue to play an important role in the Information Age. Over 150 million people are informed, educated and entertained by a community newspaper every week. Moreover, the value of community newspapers continues to grow as they seek new ways to serve their readers and strengthen their communities.

Why does the future look brighter for community newspapers? People are interested in community news, but television, radio stations, and large daily newspapers can’t give comprehensive coverage of every community in their markets.

Community newspapers can . . . if they:

  • Focus their coverage on the local community – who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • Offer people in the community a variety of well-designed sources for their local news and advertising from your newspaper (the printed version, a web version, etc.)
  • Talk to – and listen to – the people in the community. How do they feel about your newspaper? What do they like and dislike about it?

If you do not do this, somebody else will!



Community journalism thrives at the San Angelo Standard Times

For The San Angelo Standard-Times and its on-line version,, newsgathering in the Internet age is not show business. However, technology has put the newspaper in a closer competition with traditional electronic media. While metro papers are suffering, the San Angelo paper is attracting new readers — despite a sluggish economy

Tim Archuleta, editor of The San Angelo Standard-Times and, said, “Being able to serve up content in lots of different ways gives us a new platform to reach audiences, but in the end, we’re going to succeed by being true to our traditional values. It’s about serving our communit

Archuleta has worked in journalism for 25 years, with stints in New Mexico, Michigan, California and Texas. He said the immediacy of news — with reader feedback — is the biggest change in newspaper today, with the advent of online versions and no more waiting 24 hours to break a story.

“When you look at the transition from just being print to going online, and becoming true multi-media journalism, you have to remember that it’s not about perfection.” Archuleta said. “Especially online, it’s about progress. You want folks (reporters and editors) to experiment.”

Some things don’t change. The Standard-Times reporters serve a mid-size, somewhat secluded West Texas city and the 16-17 surrounding counties, just as they have in much of the paper’s 125-year history. Although a San Angelo reporter may travel 200 miles one way to cover his or her beat, two stories with worldwide interest practically fell into their lap

The State of Texas raided a polygamist compound south of San Angelo in Eldorado, taking hundreds of children from parents in the sect after allegations of child abuse and underage, arranged marriages. In effect, the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) case became the nation’s largest child custody case, with more than 400 children displaced.

See coverage:

“We were driving the story, and I am proud of our team for that.” He said. “You will hear me mention the FLDS time and time again in our story of making the transition from print to being also online. What that showed us was we had to go online first. We had lots of media competition. The story was developing so quickly …”

The paper’s stories were picked up by news organizations, including the Associated Press, and distributed worldwide in other papers, in addition to direct readership at the paper’s site.

“We just celebrated our second month going over two million page views,” Archuleta said. “We hit two million views earlier, but it was really driven by the FLDS investigation.”

A second story struck a chord with a special-interest audience, and soon readers around the world were talking about the logistics of long-distance lactation because of a San Angelo story.

“You can be first with breaking news. You can provide video. You can do things that you couldn’t do before,” he said. “If you don’t do it, someone else might.”

When the paper began its on-line version, five years ago, it didn’t know what to expect. In fact, management ran a full-page ad in the paper, touting when GoSanAngelo first hit one million page views — just two years ago.

“Think about the role that newspapers have traditionally played in communities. We’ve shaped our communities and this (on-line news) is just another example. Think about what it would be like if we didn’t have a way to help our readers move into a digital format. Our community won’t be left behind.”

The Standard-Times has not announced plans to monetize its content to date, although Archuleta predicts that is something all news organizations will explore. Archuleta and team are focused on providing an interactive experience, with many choices to attract and satisfy more readers — seven days a week. The print version includes five sections and typically 50 pages on any given Sunday, with an emphasis on local new

In Texas, football is king and the Internet is yet another means for The Standard-Times to feed that hunger. GoSanAngelo this year launched “Blitz,” a multi-media football guide teeming with data, statistics and photo gallerie

The paper also started “Morning Chat,” an online comment forum for readers to discuss topics of the day – with a strict set of guidelines, self-policed by the readers. It is not uncommon for a single discussion or “thread” to include 200 reader comments and/or contribution.

“We went through a period during the FLDS raid where we got a lot of bizarre comments on the website and it was to the point where it was sort of out of control. News agencies are still struggling with how to control comments,” Archuleta said.

The Standard-Times was also one of the first papers to shut down on-line comments and impose a time-out. The service began anew, after guidelines were posted beside the registration form.

Community journalism, by definition, is a vital part of a social community, so The Standard-Times also has social media visibility on Facebook — delivering shorter versions of stories and links to full stories. The paper’s Facebook page is followed by an impressive 25 percent of its readers.

The story on breast milk — with its tie to military — spread virally on Facebook and via the paper’s site, attracting readers all over the world.

“For the year, it was our top viewed story.”

Online news

What would it cost my Internet competitor?

So let’s assume somebody wants to set up an Internet-only competitor for your newspaper. Something that could deliver the same types of news you do, just online. A competitor for advertising dollars. Someone who would offer the news and photos and videos of your community, and probably at no cost to readers. You know how much it might cost another newspaper to come into town and set up a duplicate version of your operation – but how much would it cost an Internet start-up to come in and do exactly what you do, but do it online? Warren Webster, president of AOL’s Patch, which is doing just that, has a figure: 4.1 percent of what you are spending now, to duplicate everything you’re doing on the Web. Aaaarrrrgh! Check out this article. (And by the way: I talked with an editor at Patch last month, and she said they are already in the initial stages of getting ready to enter the Texas market.)


A commercial for newspapers

Here’s something you might want to link to on your website. It’s a several-minute ad for reading newspapers in general, in the voices of all kinds of folk who love their papers. It’s a feel-good piece for us, too, in a day when so many people are claiming they can cut newspapers out of their information diet. Give this video from the Newspaper Association of America a few minutes – you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll want to share it.