Monthly Archives: May 2012

Are journalists contributing to “societal idiocy?”

From this morning’s Muck Rack Daily regarding the recent controversial TIME magazine cover:

“The ridiculous and sensationalist magazine covers selected by the editors…are little more than glossy representations of a disturbing trend away from quality ‘Fourth Estate’ reporting, toward attention-grabbing gutter journalism – focusing less on thoughtfully objective coverage, and more on controversial grandstanding. It’s bad enough that the private individual is still caught up in the insecure desire to garner Twitter followers and Facebook fans, regardless the source or durability of said acquisitions. Now that journalists (some accredited, others self-anointed) are fighting for the same short-term attention, instead of working toward long-term acknowledgment, our entropic descent toward societal idiocy is all but assured. When you suck at a bitter teat, the milk is guaranteed to curdle in your stomach.” – Nicholas De Wolff, freelance writer

Oh really? I don’t disagree with the knock against the cheap sensationalism on display on that cover, but what exactly is wrong with a journalist accruing Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc?

Do some people do it solely to boost their egos? Yes. Do some also do it to spread an important message, educate others, etc? Yes and yes. At its best, this is actually what reporters do. And this being the 21st century, they know that their audiences might not be seeking them out. So they have to seek out their audiences. And while social media can definitely be a place for attention whores and sycophants, let’s not conflate the medium with its users. We use the technology, it does not use us.

Journatic starts to take over TribLocal

If anyone is keeping track, the first TribLocal edition put out exclusively by Journatic is the Homewood/Flossmoor one. What’s Journatic you ask? Here you go.

If you click on any story on the Homewood/Flossmoor site, you’ll see that each byline has a name followed by “South Suburban News Service.” Presumbaly in a northern suburb, it will read “North Suburban News Service,” etc. In any event, this is how you can distinguish a Journatic byline from that of a Tribune staffer. 

Other differences I’m noting between this and my suburb’s edition (for the town of Northbrook), still run by Tribune:

  • My edition still offers the option (up top) to sign in and create an account. This is presumably a holdover from the days TribLocal was using a lot of community content i.e. content not entered by Trib staffers. Also one needed an account in order to post a comment on a story. The Homewood/Flossmoor stories don’t appear to have commenting enabled. Will this stay that way forever? Will comments no longer be welcome on any TribLocal site since there will be no one to moderate them? Stay tuned.
  • Peculiarly, Flossmoor includes a Contact Us link at the top while Northbrook does not. Northbrook has the info elsewhere though and it sends you to the same place that Flossmoor does: a page that looks like this. Some of the people listed here are among the staffers laid off by Tribune as a result of the Journatic deal. However, they haven’t departed yet and are still at their posts as far as I know.
  • My edition still offers a link to sign up for a daily email newsletter. Flossmoor does not. Will there no longer be email newsletters? Again, stay tuned.
  • My edition lists many more top level categories than Flossmoor; nine in all. Flossmoor only has six: News, Crime, Sports, Real Estate, Education and Athlete Tracker (an impressive-looking database of all active college athelets who hail from Homewood-Flossmoor). Conspicuously missing is the Government category. Will it and other categories be reinstated as soon as Journatic can get that coverage up and running? Time will tell.
  • Homewood-Flossmoor has several things my edition lacks. On the right rail there is a police blotter, campaign contributions, the athelete tracker and, ala EveryBlock, new business licenses. These are clearly Journatic innovations as this stuff comes from raw data that is publicly available through various government bodies. The campaign contributions links are potentially quite useful though I’m not sure regular citizens would take the time to wade through them, much less come to any conclusions based on them. A typical item reads like this:


On March 27, William Davis For State Representative made a $600.00 transfer to Miller for Senate.

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, William Davis for State Representative’s address is P.O. Box 704, Homewood, Ill.

Miller for Senate is a PAC created on December 20, 2011. Its stated purpose is “to Support the election of Donna Miller.” The address listed is 20340 Joy Drive, Lynwood, Ill. 60411.

Donna. Miller, of 20340 Joy Lane, Lynwood, Ill. 60411, is chairperson of the organization. Donna. Miller, of 20340 Joy Lane, Lynwood, Ill. 60411, is treasurer.

As you might imagine, I have a lot to say about all this and I have quite a few questions, but it’s still very early. I’m going to keep an eye on all this and see how things progress. The next suburbs to be turned over to Journatic are Geneva/Elgin, Hinsdale,Crystal Lake and Bolingbrook.

If you or anyone you know lives in Homewood/Flossmoor and can give me a read on how authentically local this page feels, please let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me at tooter2 (at) gmail (dot) com.

UPDATE 5-5-12 I am told that Journatic will eventually be doing government stories.




Big media has one narrative

From a recent Chicagoist interview with the founder of online-only Rebellious Magazine:

Big media outlets that churn out stories on quick deadlines and have to appeal to broad audiences tend to fall back on certain ways of telling stories that I was never comfortable with. There’s one narrative that’s told about poor people, people of color, immigrants, the incarcerated, members of the GLBT community, single moms, people with disabilities—anyone who isn’t a white, married, middle-class reader of a certain age.