Saturday, August 1, 2009

BUI wants to know, "Will the beat go on, AJC?"

I admit, sometimes I get lazy and rely to heavily upon David Hale's blog, but the "Syracuse Scribe" really earns his keep covering the Bulldogs for McClatchy. Haven grown up reading The Ledger AND The Enquirer, and the variety of beat writers that covered Georgia back in the day, I really appreciate quality and quantity of work produced by David Hale. This got me to thinking, as dangerous as that is.

I believe it was Charles Odum covering the Dawgs during my most formative years (I could be wrong as I was not able to prove it via Google). Whoever it was, had my full attention every morning, along with Guerry Clegg's coverage of high school football. I would run to get the paper, setting my alarm clock much earlier than needed in hopes I would beat my Dad to the paper. On the days I won, out came the sports page, and into my morning routine it went. Sadly, there were not always stories on the Bulldogs, and Clegg rarely mentioned me. On a good day, the Ledger-Enquirer would provide about 5 paragraphs of info on my beloved Dawgs. On the best of days, Dad would come home with an Atlanta paper.

Dad later explained the economics of the paper to me. Basically, he said all of the paper cost money to print, those Tire King and Freeway Ford ads bring money in, that Odum piece sends money out. But Dad, if he writes more about the Dawgs they can put more ads in the paper. No son, the demand for advertising is limited to the cuirculation of the paper, the circulation of the paper is pretty much limited to the size of the market. Huh? Basically son, they do not even need to put a story on the Dawgs in the paper, just the prospect of there being one is enough to make you buy it. Then there was something else about what a publisher really was.

The Sports Page was vital to life back then. That name in the byline wasn't just the name of some stranger, that was your man on the inside. Over the years, we as Georgians have been treated to some really outstanding journalists covering our beloved Bulldogs. Many are alums who cut their teeth at the Red and Black, and The Banner and/or Herald. Some went onto the AJC others have bounced around. This makes me wonder what kind of information they may have shared with us if not for limitations on column space, or had covered the beat in the digital age.

Today, much like in my youth, I browse the Bulldog news with my coffee as I wake up, still searching for that nugget of information from my man on the inside. I have more choices than I even realize. By simply typing "Georgia Bulldogs" into my little Google thingamagiggy I have more stories on my team than I can possibly read. Just like in my youth, I have my favorites; unlike in my youth, I now have a choice. Choice is a bitch for a publisher with a political agenda that outweighs a profit incentive.

Not to sound too much like a Hoilday Inn Express commercial, but no, I have never worked in the newspaper business, but I have read some Lewis Grizzard books. The problem with today's newspapers is the politics that permeates the decision making process. Mark Bradley of the AJC tweeted about being in a three day brain storming session. My guess is there were a lot of great ideas voiced in that meeting, but politcal agendas will not let them off of the ground.

Newspapers have been run in the same idealistic way the editorial boards push on our politicians. Meritocracy and Individualism are despised, capitalism is the essence of evil. The thing is government survives with its poliitical ideals due to a lack of competition. When newspapers could simply buy their cross town rival and operate as a monopoly within a market, socialistic virtue was an ailment that they too, could survive. That is no longer the case.

The supply of talent and demand to read the product of that talent remains in equilibrium at a very high rate. Just like the readers of newspapers 20 years ago, todays readers in the digital age need tires and new cars and consume all kinds of goods. People want to advertise to them. In fact, digital content provides a wealth of knowledge about the reader a newspaper subscription simply cannot match, let alone a newsstand. Marketers love the information the digital age provides.

Newspapers have learned this. If you are technical, examine what happens when you load into your browser. Then watch what happens as you navigate through the site. View the source HTML. They are gathering as much as they can about you and are partnering with companies that track you when you leave the site. The no your likes and dislikes and are selling advertising intended for an audience of one. You. This is a profitable business model.

A not so profitable business model is a fleet of printing presses located centrally in a highly taxed urban area manned by a union workforce, supporting a fleet of delivery trucks driven by union drivers. This is nothing against the fine men and women of those unions, but by definition, those unions are advesaries of management. Management's goal is to turn a profit, the unions goal is to reduce that profit and enlarge their take. I realize the unoins have made many, many concessions. In my mind, this is akin to a man dying of lung cancer agreeing to cutback to one pack of ciggarettes a day.

When I am on or and my wife ask me what I am doing, my response is, "reading the paper." The paper is alive on the internet. Writers like David Hale are proving it by getting their content out on as many "channels" as they can. Technology allows writers like to interact with his readership and this not only leads to a more satisfied readership, but also may contribute to the qulitry of his work.

Please contrast this with what is happening at the AJC. The sports department alone is full of talent, or it was. The Sports Columnist are no longer in the sports department. Bradley gave a decent reason for this in his very interactive blog, but my beef is not with the columnists. I love Tim Tucker's work, especially his COLUMNS, but he is now a beat writer, covering a team an hour away from him. Perhap's this is Tim's punishment for not accpeting a buyout. Perhaps I shouldn't have used Tim as an example.

The real point of my entire diatribe is, with all those trucks, and all those printing presses, all those unions, all that diversity and political correctness, and the genius Julia Wallace at the helm, why the hell were they so late breaking the Braves trade yesterday. Why is Bill King, a great fan and seamingly a very nice person with a lot of great anecdotes, the most productive person at Why is the AJC always late. recently ran a headline citing Yahoo sports on the Marvin Williams resigning.

Why the hell doesn't the AJC get out of the socially responsible jobs-program business and get back in the news gathering business. Bloggers should be blogging about AJC stories, not AJC staff blogging about the coverage provided by the smaller cities' papers and other bloggers. I can assure you the AJC will not aggregate its way to profitablity.

The market has changed and the AJC had better change with it. It may not be politically correct but it is capitalistically sound, you cannot be loyal to your unions/employees if you are not loyal to your marketplace. A newspaper, whether online or in print needs reporters. Reporters that eat, drink, and sleep their beat. You can survive without alot of things, but quality reporting, actual feet on the ground reporting, is an essential element to your primary function.

A good start would be to make an offer to David Hale.

2 reasons why:
Georgia’s line poised to shine - University Of Georgia -
It’s one of those things that may still keep Mark Richt up at night years after he has moved on from Georgia. The potential of a brilliant quarterback and running back matched with an experienced, physical offensive line is something coaches dream about their entire careers. For Richt, he’ll simply have to wonder about what might have been.
Five ways to Saturday: A college football primer - University Of Georgia -
Georgia finished 10th in the SEC in sacks last season, and things didn’t improve much over the offseason. All but two defensive ends missed all or parts of spring practice with injuries, and one of the healthy ones — Justin Houston — will be suspended for the first two weeks of the season. When the Bulldogs open against Oklahoma State, they’ll do so without a single defensive end who recorded so much as half-a-sack in SEC play last year.

1 comment:

Bernie said...

I have it on good authority that Hale has agreed to continue work for just beer money as long as we ship in cheesesteaks three times a week. I sent a check last week to the Ledger that should cover us til the end of August.

Unless Pat's increases the price of his specialty...or the damn paper finally goes under.