Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More scut-work, less ‘news’

I’m not going to join the gathering of people who feel compelled to trash Journatic – an entity designed to do the “scut-work” of putting together local information so it can be published in newspapers.
Will more and more of these boxes be empty?

It’s not that I think much of the type of information the company says it produces. If anything, the company has been fairly honest about what it intends to produce – which isn’t anything of any real substance.

THEY’RE TRYING TO make a profit off the production of all that routine information that readers might want, but is so labor-intensive (and costly) to produce.

And they’re taking advantage of the inherent laziness of some publications in wanting to have people do real work (at real pay) by offering to do it for them.

Among those publications is the Chicago Tribune, which for about a month had a contract with Journatic to produce much of the information that fills the pages of those TribLocal sections that the newspaper inserts into the copies of the paper that sell in the suburbs that they deem worthy.

They used to have a combination of staff and freelance writers to produce the sections, until the Tribune thought it could have the sections at a discount.

SO THE FACT that the techniques by which Journatic operates to produce scut-work sound borderline sleazy doesn’t really reflect poorly on that company – since I never expected much of anything from them to begin with.

I’m bothered by the Tribune management that was looking for a way to cut corners and reduce their costs while pretending to offer some improved journalistic benefit.

And now that they’re trying to be all high-minded and holier-than-thou by saying they will no longer use Journatic content, that is what really offends me.

Tribune-types should have known exactly what they were getting when they signed on with this company. If they didn’t, they were clueless. If they did and went ahead with the deal anyway, that makes all this outrage the company now expresses just a bunch of bunk.

AS FAR AS I’m concerned, phony outrage is more appalling than the idea of Philippines-based “writers” putting Anglo-sounding bylines on their copy to make it look like it was produced in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

It will be intriguing to see what becomes of those TribLocal sites (which some Tribune readers never see if they happen to live in a community or neighborhood that marketing-types believe is unworthy of such an effort), since the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Tribune has no plans to hire more people to do the work.

Which means we’re talking about existing staff having to take on a larger workload. More scut-work for swamped staff – which means less “news.”

Of course, we’re also getting less access to “news” because of the loss of WIQI-FM as a news-format radio station. The news format never caught on with listeners, causing management to dump all the talk on Tuesday and convert to an “adult hits” format.

BUT I WONDER if anyone is even going to notice. The ratings for the radio station were really that low. The most attention they ever got may have been for those nonsensical billboards they ran using Rod Blagojevich’s picture (then pasting over a smiley-face with a funky blue hairdo when Blagojevich’s attorneys objected).

It seems the station had counted on the idea of a clear-sounding FM signal as their gimmick to get people away from long-running newsradio WBBM-AM. Except that the CBS station got its own FM simulcast.
No more!!!!

Which made the self-described “FM News” sound like a flightier take on real news. I heard some people claim the station was “news, with a hip-hop flava.” Although on the few occasions I heard the station, it struck me as a pop station stuck in the ‘80s and thinking it was “hip.” The kind of people who think that "cutting edge" is Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo in Michael Jackson's hit song, "Beat It."

Maybe the radio station’s fate is merely evidence that more serious information will always prevail, and that the real problem is those executives who believe the problem with modern-day “media” is that it wastes so much time on “news.”


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