Road Signs: Journalism R.I.P.

Newspaper autowriters have long walked the line between news and advertising, striving for journalistic credibility while avoiding affronts to their publisher’s auto advertisers. The credibility part has become more difficult at the Dallas Morning News after editor Bob Mong and Sr. Vice President of Sales, Cindy Carr, announced, “To better align with our clients’ needs, we will be organized around eleven business and content segments with similar marketing and consumer profiles including: sports, health/education, entertainment, travel/luxury, automotive, real estate, communications, preprints / grocery, recruitment, retail / finance, and SMB / Interactive.”

Tearing down of the wall between news and advertising brought a storm of Internet reactions ranging from “Another Death In Dallas” by acanuck on DagBlog to “cautious optimism” by “Newsosaur” blogger Alan Mutter, as reported by Terry Box, who has covered autos and the industry at the paper for 15 years reports that so far nothing has changed for him. “I will continue to report to my editor in Business News, Laura Jacobus, and the editor of the department, Dennis Fulton. The general managers will be over advertising people and have considerable lateral power as I understand it. Jim Moroney, our publisher, sent out a clarification of sorts late last week that said editors will continue to have final authority over all news — which is all fine and good. But you have to wonder why they set the system up in the first place.” Mong said the move is, “the next step toward becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content.”

After 108 years, Editor and Publisher is being shut down by its publisher, The Nielsen Company. The company sold eight other titles in order to “focus on businesses with the highest potential for growth”, according to a story in The Huffington Post. . . .Wooden Horse News reports USA Today, which now trails The Wall Street Journal in circulation, plans to cut 5% of its newsroom staff and 11 people from the USA Weekend staff. Also, that ESPN plans to open local websites in 20 or more cities, starting in Los Angeles.  The newsletter also quotes former Business Week executive editor John Bryne on why he started his new company C-Change Media: “I passionately believe that the future of media is digital and that newcomers have tremendous advantages over incumbents.”

As tough as the past three years have been for traditional media, the next three are going to be nothing less than brutal: more closures, greater losses, increasing layoffs of highly talented journalists and editors. “AOL plans to axe 2500 employees and use robot news gatherers (an algorithmic system that trawls the internet) to find stories its visitors will most prefer.” This, according to FastCompany, as reported by Gavin O’Malley on Media Post. He continues to quote, “It’ll then advise the humans in the loop which stories are likely to do well, and when to run them–particularly pieces like seasonal or sporting-interest ones.” O’Malley says the system will, “parse out article assignments among a large freelance staff, screen submitted pieces for grammar and spelling and calculate the freelancer’s pay.  . . . O’Malley  also reports in another piece that Twitter Japan has introduced a tiered payment model that will charge audiences to view tweets from premium Twitter accounts.  

The New York Times’ twice weekly Chicago edition is underway  staffed by many former Chicago Tribune journalists supplementing Times material with Windy City news. . . .  The new Detroit Daily Press called a halt after a week’s production but plans to re-start in 2010 after resolving problems in sales, advertising and distribution, according to . . Automotive News has renamed its daily newscast Automotive News TV.

Journalism professor Bret Schulte, writing in the American Journalism Review:  “All this focus on Facebook friends and Twitter followers and sowing stories and links across the Web is dramatically altering a side of the business that the newsroom never much thought about: distribution. What was once the province of doorsteps and homepages is now about the hustle of networking, the savvy application of technology and the dark art of promotion and marketing. And, increasingly, it’s everyone’s job. The imperative for newsrooms to push stories far and wide is redefining the work of reporters and editors and prompting even more questions about the future of audiences, news brands and that standard-bearer of online journalism: the good old homepage.”