Sunday's Morning News Was a Beast, In Case You Missed It, Which You Probably Did

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Instagram was totally built for nostalgic stories about newspapers.
I had one of my newspaper moments yesterday. I have them every so often, usually when the Giants win the World Series and I get all trashed on nostalgia, looking up all the front pages of my hometown rags. Yesterday's was different. Yesterday's moment was of the Serious Journalism bent, the kind that makes me fret for the future of our democracy for 30 seconds before I go back to staring at fantasy-football scores in my phone.

The moment started where most newspaper moments do these days: online. I was on the New York Times' site, reading about the war in Gaza. It was a story about a probably wayward bomb that flattened a shop owner's home, killing his entire family:

Mr. Dalu was at a neighbor's when the blast wiped out nearly his entire family: His sister, wife, two daughters, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren ages 2 to 6 all perished under the rubble, along with two neighbors, an 18-year-old and his grandmother.

The story went on from there, providing a portrait of the war from vantage points wide and narrow. For the budget-conscious editor, it's the sort of piece that makes you start doing math in your head. Halfway through reading it, I slipped to the end and started counting reporters. Here, you can count with me:

Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren reported from Gaza City, and Alan Cowell from London. Reporting was contributed by Isabel Kershner from Ashkelon, Israel; Ethan Bronner, Myra Noveck and Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Jerusalem; Rina Castelnuovo from Ashdod, Israel; Peter Baker from Bangkok; and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo.

That's 10 -- 10! -- with no mention of the editor(s) who pulled it all together, the copy editor(s) who caught misspellings and wrote headlines and photo captions, the photographers, the layout guys -- you get the point. It took a small army to produce a story about the Israel and Hamas battle, and it's just one story in a barrage that will appear in the weeks to come.

I'm not sure how many, if any, news organizations still have access to that many boots on the ground. And I'm not sure how much longer the Times can keep it up. The paper paints as happy a portrait as it can on its quarterly earnings calls, but those earnings keep slipping, and paid subscriptions aren't making up enough ground.

I fear the same is true for Belo and the Morning News, which provided my other newspaper moment of the weekend. Actually it came this morning, 5 a.m., when the house was finally quiet enough to pick up Sunday's paper. The front page was a powerhouse. Aside from a wire story about the Gaza conflict, these were the stories, all pay-walled, produced by six reporters and God knows how many other people:

- A fine little shot across the bow of our esteemed governor, who, as Brantley pointed out a while back, has been generous to his political cronies.

- A detailed breakdown of how the FBI believes an information technology vendor funneled cash to John Wiley Price in exchange for a massive contract with Dallas County.

- A long, nicely written portrait of families in Pelham working to preserve its history as a refuge for former slaves after emancipation.

- A detailed look at out-of-town investment companies that are snapping up foreclosures by the handful in Dallas' suburbs and turning them into huge portfolios of rental properties. (This one was by our former reporter, Leslie Minora, who despite her awesomeness was the victim of budget cuts here before securing a temporary gig at the News. Synergy! Really depressing synergy!)

Maybe that was an average Sunday for the News some number of years ago, but still: That's a solid lineup. I hope, you hope, everyone hopes that the News -- and the Times, and everyone else -- can figure out a way to combine digital subscriptions with creative advertising solutions and other new revenue streams to make enough money online to keep putting out work like that.

But I'm not optimistic. I fear a dark age -- a darker age, I guess -- when the gap between the big dailies' declining print revenues and the ascending digital ones is too great, and the Gaza story is the work of one desk-bound correspondent in Jerusalem, and my Sunday News isn't enough to keep me from new-tabbing away to whatever empty Internet calories await.

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16 comments
RomeoPathicMedsun
RomeoPathicMedsun

But wait, if the DMN fails, then where will I obtain 'news' written by scared white people for scared white people with scared white people concerns? Well shit, I'll be forced to watch Faux News from the comforting ambiance of a VFW hall now.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

I cannot see what I see in DISD and read what I read in the DMN and subscribe to that paper.

 

I feel for the reporters.

Unfortunately, I feel for the DISD kids I see every day even more.

 

DMN is the propaganda mouthpiece for the people who want to appropriate the tax money meant  for children.

Contentfree
Contentfree

The DMN goes for weeks without a story of any substance. Many of us would pay double our current subscription rates if there was anything to read. Instead, we are subscribing only because of a sports nut in the family. The digital content and format is even worse. Ads run down the the front page for paid subscriptions. Wilonsky has made no impact on the sorry content and format, but he is no longer a competitor. When our sports boy goes to college, the print subscription goes. The right wing nutcase newspaper dug its own grave because it is in total denial about the new demographics in Dallas and Belo's place in the world. Hold on to sorry reporters, deny the corruption in Dallas and DISD and refuse to dig, and die.

Bremarks
Bremarks

I actually started subscribing again last spring (delivery only on Sunday, with digital) just to get the Sunday Sports section to follow Evan Grant's Rangers reporting.  But yesterday I actually read the main and metro sections before hitting the real news in the NY Times.  Was shocked and thrilled to see a Texas newspaper finally focusing on the CPRIT fiasco -- that's a gold mine if you spend some time and money to investigate.  And the JWP IT piece was good solid reporting.  Hope this is a good sign for the future.  They have a long way to go to get back the reporting cred that they had over a decade ago.  But at least they seem to have staunched the bleeding.  Texas desperately needs a good strong urban paper.  The Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Stateman now suck just like the San Antonio Express-News always has.  And the Texas Tribune can't do all the heavy lifting.  

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

Yes, the DMN Sunday paper was good reading this past week.  I spent a great deal reading the stories on the front page.  I hardly ever find anything interesting enough to keep my attention.  The JWP story was what I used to expect to find in the Observer when I picked up the hard copy.  I miss those kind of stories the  fact finding and investigative articles about local happenings.   That's what I find interesting;  I want to know what's going on around me that I can't find out on my own.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

The problem at DMN is they gave up intrepid journalism a long time ago. That's why they lost subscribers, Then the constant price hikes drove away more. Why pay for a few wire stories that are available online?

How do they plan to regain lost subscribers?

Even today I was on the Chicago Tribune sight where I read about a Dallas bound Southwest Airlines jet that lost cabin pressure midflight, had to drop the oxygen masks, and spend 20 minutes descending to a safe altitude. I didn't see that on the DMN homepage. Odd since it's a Dallas based company and a plane full of Dallas bound passengers.

bifftannen
bifftannen

 @Contentfree Then use Firefox, Chrome, or (on a Mac) Safari and run an ad blocker. Fuck places that charge, and still run ads.

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

@Montemalone DMN(Belo) hates to print anything negative related to Dallas unless it's JWP.

Bremarks
Bremarks

 @Montemalone

 In flight issues are a dime a dozen these days.  News organizations don't pay any attention until something crashes, someone dresses inappropriately, or is too fat to fly in a single seat.

Chuck_Schick
Chuck_Schick

 @Montemalone The issue to me was not monetizing the website before they had to lay off/force out so many talented reporters and editors. The Sunday paper always has great stuff, but there aren't enough resources to provide that kind of content every day. Instead, they kept the print product alive by jacking up subscription rates and hanging on to the remainder of readers loyal to the dead-tree edition.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @bifftannen Do you also not go to the movies, or buy magazines, or to concerts -- all of which have a cost of admission and also make money from ads?

whatadick
whatadick

@joe.tone @bifftannen Tone-You're a dumbass with a dumbass excuse.The Dallas Morning News runs an ad right down the middle of the front page story covering the story. Their content is already pathetic for the most part and putting an ad over content when the subscriber has already paid is just poor practice. Don't mind the ads in the NYT which still practices journalism. Will pay what the NYT charges. The DMN looks like a provencial, hick newspaper that walks wide circles around local corruption and the powerful. Why not admit the DMN is over. If consumers were interested, they would pay for the content. It's just not timely, not deep, and not interesting.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @bifftannen At least you're willing to pay. A lot of people seem to feel oddly entitled to free, ad-free journalism.

bifftannen
bifftannen

 @joe.tone I don't buy magazines. I prefer timely information, not something delayed a week or month. I do purchase subscriptions to newspapers because where I live, there is no other source for that type of information. But only if they provide an online subscription. What am I going to do with a paper copy?

 

As for movies, you can skip the ads. No, don't show up 10 minutes late like a jackass, but usually the actual ads are within the first two minutes. Concerts I see very little ads for anything more than what I've already paid for.

 

The difference between your examples and this is internet ads have a very good chance of inflicting actual damage. The majority of these ads come from ad networks. The sites that display these ads have very little control over them. The ad networks don't vet the ads, and lots of drive-by attacks are from malicious ads. Ad block is just another form of malware protection on top of a virus/malware scanner. If you really want to be picky about it, people that have transfer caps have both the up and download counted against them.  Internet ads add up against that cap. It is not a significant amount, but it is just like SMS spam.  You pay either way.

 

Raise the subscription cost and go without ads. I'd happily pay the increased cost.

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