What’s an Editorial Board Good For?

Here’s a member of the D&C editorial board telling us that “Maggie Brooks’ silence on national issues is deafening” two days after City Newspaper reported that Maggie has taken a stand on Obamacare.

Apparently, the role of the Editorial Board is to manufacture the opinions held by the Democrat and Chronicle. That’s silly on its face–on the Internet, if there’s a surplus of anything other than porn, it’s opinions. But if you’re going to take on this fools’ errand, you should at least procure some of the raw material from which opinions are manufactured:  facts.

By the way, there’s definitely a legitimate issue here, since Brooks is happy to tell a subscription-only DC insider publication her position on the issues, while staying mum about it on her website and in her public statements. In this case, the legitimate issue was obscured by bad execution on the part of the Editorial Board.

D&C Caught Red-Handed, Again

Over at Mustard Street, Rich Tyson has some screenshots of redacted D&C comments showing the inability of D&C management to deal effectively with criticism, as well as their naïveté about the Internet.

To make a long story short, Rich added a comment to a story about property tax scofflaws that pointed out that Jim Lawrence, the D&C editorial page editor, also had a property tax judgment against him. Lawrence reacted by huffing and puffing about a personal attack. Then, D&C editor Karen Magnusen (who has a track record of being touchy) got into the comments and defended Lawrence, as well as announcing her intent have the comments stricken, which they were (today, the story has no comments at all).

The smart move for Lawrence would have been to calmly tell readers that his $1,500 obligation was satisfied long ago, and to point out that there’s a hell of a difference between one small oversight and the multi-million-dollar scofflaw behavior described in the story. Magnusen’s smart move would have been to back Lawrence, and to defend her paper’s credibility by pointing out that Lawrence had nothing to do with the story, since it was news and not an editorial.

Instead, we have another demonstration of the D&C’s mistaken belief that they can flush Internet unpleasantness down a memory hole.

Down the Memory Hole

This morning, one of the D&C’s Rochester bloggers, Andreas Rau, wrote a post about Louise Slaughter’s broken leg that included the tags “Alzheimer’s Disease”, “infirmity”, and “black eye”. The post included the rumor that Slaughter had gotten a black eye last month (which is not in evidence in floor speeches from the last month on C-SPAN, some of which are posted on her YouTube page). It also contains a veiled accusation that Slaughter is losing her edge, again without evidence:

Advanced age might bring wisdom with it, but it also brings physical (and in some cases, mental) frailty, something we have seen all too often in elected officials of both parties. Louise is well past retirement age, and there should be term limits for any elected office, Washington’s seniority system be damned!

I’d like to post a link to Rau’s piece, but it, and some negative reader comments, were deleted without explanation or even acknowledgement sometime this afternoon, probably after Christine Carrie-Fein at City posted a “shame on you” item. Of course, Google does not forget, and if the D&C somehow gets the story purged from their cache, I’ve saved an image for all to see.

Apparently this is another difference between online and print at the D&C: when an online piece is wrong, it just disappears. At least a mistake in print gets a tiny correction in the next day’s edition.

Some Animals are More Equal than Others

Roger DeMott, who’s “a member of the Democrat and Chronicle’s Sounding Board”, whatever that means, has an opinion piece in today’s D&C about the race in NY-25. His basic point is that Rochester hasn’t seen a competitive Congressional race in a long time, and that will be a new experience for Rochesterians. That’s right as far as it goes, though the Rochester media market has seen contested races in the current NY-29 (which includes the southeast suburbs) in 2006 and 2008, a competitive race in the current NY-25 (northeast suburbs) in 2010, and a special election in the current NY-26 (western suburbs) last year, which means a good number of the residents of the new NY-25 know exactly what it feels like to experience a competitive election.

Setting aside the content of Roger’s piece, here’s my question for the D&C, which just laid off another 18 reporters, including some long-time columnists. Why doesn’t this contribution merit the gigantic disclaimer attached to all of you local blogs:

Is DeMott an employee of the D&C? Or are you just wanting to maintain some kind of artificial distinction between community-contributed content that only appears online and the same type of content that appears in print? We already know that you consider online a dumping ground for “inappropriate” content. Yet, in May, you’re going to ask us to pay to sort through the trash in your dump. Perhaps you can enlighten us with seven commandments, or three, or even one, that explains the difference between online, print, blogs and opinion.

Welcome to Twitter, Hope Your Resume Is Up-to-Date

Consider this my official welcome of D&C Publisher Mike Kane to Twitter. File it under “never too late”, which is apparently the D&C management’s attitude about the Internet in general.

Mike, when you kill your newspaper by instituting a paywall, perhaps that will give you time to reflect on why nobody wants to advertise in the D&C in the first place. Let’s start with the basics. Do you realize the utter commercial failure embodied in splitting up stories so I have to page 3 times to read a few hundred words, while burying your ads at the bottom of the page? Here’s an example from today’s D&C. There are 12 ad positions and four sponsored links below the place where I click “next page” to see the next page of the story.  In other words, most of the ads are in places I’ll never look, by design. You make readers click three times to expose them to ads they’ll never see.  Do you think they’ll be lining up to pay to click 3 times to read that story?

As has been the case for the last decade, most of those ads they’re not seeing are the usual Internet junk, at best fake-localized:
That’s not an ad about Fairport, its an ad that figured out that my Internet connection is near Fairport (I’m actually in Pittsford, but good try) to try to sell me some scam.  Why would any Rochester advertiser want to put their brand next to this kind of crap?

Speaking of our home town, let’s look at the Pittsford page of the D&C. There are five ads on this page. Two of them are from MacDonald’s. One’s from a city charter school, one’s a sponsorship link from Cars.com, and one’s a house ad for Careerbuilder.  There’s a new bakery in downtown Pittsford, and there are lots of new businesses opening and closing in Pittsford Plaza, yet not a single one of these businesses has chosen to advertise on your local landing page or on the Pittsford blog.  They’re spreading the word via social media, they’re posting their new business on RocWiki, Yelp and Google, and they’re advertising in the Brighton-Pittsford Post and the Penny Saver.  What they’re not doing is spending any money with you.

Howard Owens, who publishes The Batavian and sells a lot of ads, is right about your paywall — it’s going to open up opportunities for your competitors.  You should read his stuff carefully, because he’s making money where you aren’t.  But even without a paywall, your competition is already beating you, because your company is apparently unable to do what newspapers have done to support themselves for a couple hundred years:  sell ads to local advertisers.

So, Mike, welcome to Twitter, and good luck with your paywall.  One piece of advice:  fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Update:  Apparently Karen doesn’t like criticism.