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How many stories in the print edition?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Jay Rosen is collecting story counts of local newspaper’s print editions. I grabbed the past week’s Journal & Courier’s (March 24-30) and am posting my findings here. I counted 143 total local stories, for an average number of 20.4 local stories per day over the past seven days.

Overall, I have to admit the number was lower than I expected. I’m not saying it’s bad low, just less than I would have guessed. I was surprised also by the proportion of local to wire content, but as I note at the very end, my standard for counting wire was lower than for counting local stories. Still, my perception I think is skewed because the only section I read cover-to-cover daily is local, which usually had one or two wire stories at most. Really, glancing through the comments on Jay’s post, I’d say our team is doing a pretty good job. Maybe it just seems since we’re always working so hard, it should be more. But that probably has more to do with what isn’t counted in the print edition — all our blog posts and web updates, photo galleries and videos, for example. Also, the qualitative measure doesn’t scratch the surface of quality of stories. But that’s another day’s discussion.

The Local news section, which has the most reporters and includes myself, produced about as many as I’d expect but the number definitely ranged greatly daily — depending on space in print. There were more sports stories than I expected, but that may have something to do with it being March madness; both Purdue men and women were competing. There were fewer local features stories than I expected. That’s probably because I rarely read our features pages, or maybe that’s why I rarely do? I do not know.

Another factor affecting the numbers may be some people were off a day here and there for furlough. I myself was out a day and a half with the flu. It would be interesting to compare this to a week without furloughs. But that would require going back to like December or fast-forwarding to at least July, so it’d be hard to really compare.

Hometown: Lafayette, Indiana
The name of your newspaper: Journal & Courier
The url for its website: http://jconline.com
Circulation: about 33,000 daily and 40,000 Sunday

Tuesday, March 24

Number of pages: 28
Number of local, biz, features: 13+2+2 = 17
Number of local sports: 5
Total number of wire stories: 31
Total stories in the paper: 53 (local 41.5%)

Wednesday, March 25

Number of pages: 24
Number of local, biz, features: 12+3+1 = 16
Number of local sports: 7
Total number of wire stories: 25
Total stories in the paper: 48 (local 47.9%)

Thursday, March 26

Number of pages: 28
Number of local, biz, features: 12+2+3=17
Number of local sports: 6
Total number of wire stories: 25
Total stories in the paper: 48 (local 47.9%)

Friday, March 27

Number of pages: 20*
Number of local, biz, features: 10+1+?=11*
Number of local sports: 3
Total number of wire stories: 21*
Total stories in the paper: 35 (local 40%)*
* not counted: TGIF tab

Saturday, March 28

Number of pages: 24
Number of local, biz, features: 11+2+2=15
Number of local sports: 8
Total number of wire stories: 26
Total stories in the paper: 49 (local 46.9%)

Sunday, March 29

Number of pages: 40
Number of local, biz, features: 15+1+4=20
Number of local sports: 5
Total number of wire stories: 35
Total stories in the paper: 60 (local 41.7%)

Monday, March 30

Number of pages: 14
Number of local, biz, features: 7+0+3=10
Number of local sports: 3
Total number of wire stories: 25
Total stories in the paper: 38 (local 34.2%)

I know this was a bit more than Jay actually wanted, but I was curious. I’d be curious to see how it stacks up to another paper of similar circulation.

To understand who was writing this copy, here is the number of reporters in the newsroom.

Local desk: 1 communities/religion, 1 business, 1 county government, 1 city government, 1 k-12 education, 1 higher education, 1 courts and 2 ga/cops.
Features: 1 features/health and 1 arts/entertainment.
Sports: 5 reporters, but some with desk duties.
Total: 16 reporters.

Final thoughts to consider in weighing the numbers and their relevance:

  • Our paper is a Berliner format. At most we run three-story fronts. Quite often, we run A1 with just two stories and other refers. This also means, our paper has less actual column space than many. We have four sections most days, including a local front, nation & world, opinions; local; sports/biz; and features that vary by day. On Mondays, we have two sections.

  • I did not count ANY opinions page copy, including local editorials, letters, guest columns or columns by editors.
  • I did count local freelance columns/stories in the other sections. There were few of these during the week.
  • I did not count briefs, even those based on meetings/events/games/trials/etc. actually attended by a reporter. Likewise, the sports agate; business, schools and communities notebooks; and things to do calendars were not counted. Some of each of those items are from releases and others from original reporting.
  • I counted all wire stories that were distinctly set apart, not packaged as briefs even though some were short enough to be briefs.
  • I did not count stand alone photos.
  • I counted stories packaged together as separate stories if they carried distinct bylines on each.
  • I counted bylines, taglines and “staff reports” all as one story, even though in our actual byline counts they aren’t counted equal. This means a short charticle counted the same as our Sunday A1 package. I also counted staff & wire reports as one.
  • Not counted are obituaries and our weekly “records” pages with police blotter, meetings list, marriage licenses/dissolution, restaurant inspections, property sales, home permits, etc. Those items don’t carry bylines but do require reporters to actually go out and collect the records and then input them.
  • I did not have a copy of our Friday entertainment tab at home. So I didn’t count the entertainment stories that day.
  • I also didn’t count inserts/classifieds/etc. in the page count. Those are strictly news pages.

What were your top news stories?

Friday, December 21st, 2007

It’s that time of year when journalists reflect on the top stories of the year. Today, I saw Time’s edition on the newsstand blasting its top picks. And the J&C exec. editor’s Sunday column this week was about how the top story really differs from person to person.

The top picks we have were up for debate via a poll at the bottom of jconline. My vote — in agreement with more than 50 percent of the about people to vote by the time I did (I can’t find the polll or its results now to compare) — is the Wade Steffey story.

That story began just as I started here. He went missing the day I moved to this town. Though my part in the ongoing coverage wasn’t much, I do feel proud of all our efforts and the work we did on that story and my own work on it. I just think it touched so many people here in so many ways — from volunteers to friends to Purdue policies to just casual readers, students and strangers — and went on for so long, that of the list it probably left the biggest impact.

It’s not that I don’t think property tax is a big issue. It’s huge. Even though I don’t pay the taxes, the delays here are wreaking havoc on the schools I cover. Plus it’s just an ongoing mess. I just don’t think we’ve actually gotten to the crest of that story. There’s a lot more to come. I’d keep it on my list of stories to watch in ’08 — which is where I’ll throw Iraq — which would, for the record, be my No. 2 pick among the list. (I would place it No. 1, except that by this point many people have sadly become immune to the news.)

I also think a change in leadership at Purdue is a big deal for the school and I guess the community at large. But really, not as big a deal as we and many others made it out to be. And the ongoing financial troubles at area non-profits is sad, but isn’t financial trouble for non-profits practically the norm? Ditto on the health insurance debacle.

Local municipal elections, eh. Though there were some interesting results and some changes worth watching, it’s not such a big deal to me. Vote centers and a smoking ban, likewise, seemed much ado about nothing.

And the snowstorm in February that practically shut down everything in the county except the J&C was a huge inconvenience at the time, but it came and went. No lasting impact. As evidenced by this weekend’s wintry blast, no lessons learned either. It will go down as nothing more than a punchline to tales of “This is nothing compared to the blizzard of ’07” during future storms.

In considering the top stories the J&C covered and also thinking about what the heck I did this year worth even mentioning (it’s hard to remember all the stories I wrote even in the past week!) I’m going to list what I think are/were my 10 biggest stories (or more so issues since it’s hard for anything to be taken alone) I covered this year on the education beat:

  1. School funding issues: A new state formula meant some districts (big, growing ones — like TSC) benefited and saw more money, but left others (ones with stagnant, declining enrollment — almost everyone in this region except TSC) to adjust to less state money. Also, the property tax delays are going to cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of additional dollars.
  2. Changes in school leadership: West Lafayette has a new superintendent, who has come in and recently proposed some ideas that could be construed as radical. That will be fun to follow. The search for him was not so much fun on my end. Likewise, Benton’s superintendent has just a few weeks left before his replacement steps up to bat. And the county’s largest district is searching for the perfect new guy to fill the very big shoes of the current 18-year incumbant when he retires this summer.
  3. Consolidation talks: The three Tippecanoe County districts commissioned a study to look at whether it would be feasible, cost-effective or in their best interest to consolidate resources. Pretty much what came out of it is a collaboration committee to meet annually. This year they met, rehashed what they already work together on and discussed the possibility of a joint charter school. Schools in White County have commissioned a study to look at the same issues. And a recent state report is encouraging these discussions, even suggesting such consolidations (for districts smaller than 2,000 at least) ought to be required. Definitely a trend to follow in 2008.
  4. Full-day kindergarten: The legislature offered it to more students than ever this fall as the governor pushed it through. More implementation is on the way. This has caused a glut at some of our local space-starved schools. But generally has good support. Will be an ongoing issue.
  5. ISTEP/NCLB/PL221 fall-out: Seems every month or so someone was failing at something according to these numbers/results. I’m working on a few bigger stories that look at some of what the numbers mean — achievement gaps, how poverty/transiency/race affect them, etc. The implications of these numbers, what they say about the schools and the community and what they may mean for both’s future, is interesting and telling about how well students are being reached. Again, something to keep an eye on.
  6. Teacher contracts: Benton and WL both finally came to an agreements after a few years of ongoing disagreements as teacher’s finally backlashed. TSC had a relatively minor (compared to those) scuttle with its teachers, approving a contract they rejected, but it did take state intervention to settle 3/4 through the first semester.
  7. Graduation rates: Too low in this city, according to the state’s formula which was used for the first time in the rates released in 07 for 2006. Disparities not just between our city high school (which posted a 65 percent) but surprisingly also among two otherwise equal and pretty similar county high schools.
  8. School construction, renovation, reuse, demolition: To build or not to build. If not, to put portables outside growing schools or renovate and add another wing. To consolidate schools and close some or restructure/redistrict. To refinance old bonds or not to. What to do with buildings no longer of use/when to just tear them down. What old schools are being/can be used for. What to name new schools as they come on line. Etc. I wrote all those stories, mostly within this county but also in some outlying counties. I suppose this is an always ongoing issue. But taken all together, it is crazy to think how many different hands are being played all at once and how vast the differences between each player (i.e. district) is in their approach.
  9. Private/charter schools gaining traction: The one charter in this county is growing. So are all the private schools — especially one of the high schools which of late has become a major player. Another small private school is seeking a charter — from a school district that’s never done it before. Virtual schools were OK’d, then denied, then … well who knows where they’ll end up eventually.
  10. School safety: “Hit lists”, accidents and more sprinkled the year. Additional security cameras went up in several schools. Grants for more sidewalks and cross walks were won. Crossing guard times were reconsidered after a fatal accident on the way to school.

So as you can see, I would say I got a pretty amazing schooling on the education beat this year. (That pun was entirely intended, how could I resist?) I’m looking forward to following these and other stories this coming year with a little less “Wait, what does this mean? I’ve never covered this before can you start at zero?” and a bit more in-depth probing on my part.

In addition, I could write a novel of “firsts” I covered this year off my beat — from bank robberies to court sentencings to county commissioners and enterprise looks at some of those non-profits’ issues. I won’t, but the point is, I have grown a lot this year. In a good way.

Enough about me: What were your top stories or projects this year?

ABJ’s car jumping video

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I hate to pick on the Beacon Journal. I really do. But it happens to be one of the news sites I frequent, so I see it at its best and worst, and a lot of in between.

Tonight, I happened to click on the story 22-year-old hopes talents will take him to new heights. Even before I clicked it, I was hoping there’d be video. (There was no indication on the story list. Come on, guys, you should advertise this to entice me to click!)

I spent the first minute or so — I actually have no idea how long it was because there’s no timer on the video, but it was more than halfway — wondering, OK, when do I get to see him jump the car?

I am not a videographer. I’ve never actually produced a video for a news Web site. (This is going to change soon, as when school lets out later this month I’m going to have more time for that and they’re going to train me, even though I have a solid grasp now from my classes/fiddling around. And I’m pretty happy about that. But, another day.)

But as a video consumer, I can tell you this video fails in pretty much every critical area except for the fact that they did have the foresight to capture video to help tell the story. And yes, they get brownie points for that.

Other than that I found myself wondering what the person shooting and editing the video was thinking. Or if they were.

First of all, zooming in and out of the man crouching by his car — not cool. Focus please. Take a few of those wide shots and alternate them with a few close ups and a medium one or two. Also, what is up with the lack of tripod? I can tell it’s a windy day (because I can hear the wind on the guy’s lapel mic as he’s talking and, btw, that’s pretty distracting, too). I can also tell when the videographer gets tired of crouching because you can watch him stand up mid-quote. It’s even shakier from there.

Second, the sound is mediocre at best, barely audible at worst. As I mentioned, you can hear the static from the wind, etc. And the reporter off to the side asking the questions is distracting. Edit these out please, they’re unnecessary.

Third, why is he crouching by his car for the entire first half of the video? If I hadn’t been watching to see if it got any better, I would have closed the browser about 10 seconds in. Also, what’s up with the jumpcuts/quick transitions? It’s jarring.

It seems like the video has all of the, to be honest, boring interview up front. Then at the end it’s like a fireworks display where they have a grand finale and just set off everything they have left. You suddenly see some cool angles and creative shots. You finally see him talking not on bended knee. You get to actually see him jump his car about a dozen times, which would have been way cooler if the videographer had used all these ample opportunities to catch him from different angles instead of sticking to his spot on the sidewalk. (It’s not like there was a unwieldy tripod holding him back).

I wish I could pull this out of flash and try to edit it in a way that I think would have been more appropriate. That shot of him running toward the car as seen from below the car? That could have been an interesting opening shot. At least you had some action. And when he talks about everything else he can jump, why not get him showing off some of those skills? Or a shot of him making a slam dunk on the basketball court? And why don’t we have a shot of him bracing himself for the run? Or a shot of the faces of the onlookers as they watch him perform his trick? Even if they had only spliced some of those “fireworks” from the end into the middle, it would have eased the transitions and held the viewer’s interest better.

If it wasn’t 1:30 a.m. and I didn’t have my alarm set for 7:30 a.m. I’d go through and try to find a positive example of video on the site. But again, their video list is daunting and I don’t have the paitence to sift through and watch it all. I should probably get to bed so I’m not running on empty tomorrow.

But I will say this, it’s pretty cool that the guy can jump over cars. And I am glad I got to see it not just read about it. So I guess a poorly executed video is better than none at all.

Kent Ward-By-Ward … Idea: A+, Execution: B-/C+

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

OK. I know I talk a lot about the Daily Kent Stater, even now. For a long time, my life revolved around it, and watching StaterOnline continue to bloom is a favorite hobby of mine, especially as I watch students I worked with, and in many cases hired and trained, grow into awesome journalists.

I also know many of them are reading this blog, and therefore I’m going to preface my discussion below with the disclaimer that my criticism is only to help me understand what I did and didn’t like about the Ward By Ward project, and also perhaps give you a little guidance on what could be improved upon for next time.