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Writing for the Media

Writing for the Media

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Writing for the Media

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  1. Writing for the Media Paul McGrath

  2. About Paul McGrath • Native of Clute, Texas (Brazoswood High) • Graduate of Texas A&M University • Been at the Chronicle since 1982 • Worked previously in Conroe, Lubbock, Lockhart then back in Conroe • Have taught writing and editing at UH, A&M and now UH-CL since 1990 (at UH-CL since 2005) • Contact info, office hours

  3. Name Where you are from Where you went to school (HS, colleges) Any media experience Any publications you have worked for Where you see yourself in 5 years Anything else interesting? E-mail address (this is a must; many assignments will be given to you via e-mail and can be turned in the same way) Now … a little about YOU Write a paragraph or a page with some background information about yourself. Include some or all of the following:

  4. Here’s a little story…

  5. Moral of the story… • “George” was an information gatherer, and he used that information to benefit others as well as himself. • He kept his focus when confronted with a stressful situation (cool under fire!) • He didn’t miss his deadline. • He took a situation that was potentially harmful and made it useful. In other words, he created his own happy ending.

  6. Getting started • Class schedule: Note the writing project -- a profile -- and the crime victims session. More on the profile in the next class. • TURN OFF PAGERS AND CELL PHONES PLEASE. Stay off of MySpace, Facebook, etc. during class. • Grading – There are a possible 2,000 points (divide your cumulative scores by 20 for end result). The (7) story assignments and (6) AP exercises are 100 points each. The (10) news quizzes are 20 points each. The profile “project” is 200 points. The final is 300 points. • Absences and bonus points day • Textbook and AP stylebook. Supplemental texts and reading

  7. Getting started The course Web site can be found at: The syllabus, class schedule, AP exercises, contact info, extra credit exercises, class assignments and presentations can be found on this site.

  8. Where are we going? The changing face of the media and the “C-words” that will affect you

  9. Media landscape: J-school enrollment

  10. Meanwhile … The communications field, particularly in newspapers, has constricted. There is even a newspaper death watch Web site now. • Newspaper layoffs/buyouts for 2008 have topped 6,000. Papers affected include the Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Antonio Express-News, Dallas Morning News and those in St. Petersburg, San Jose, Cleveland and Akron. • Newspaper ad revenue, circulation, stock prices and page counts are declining. • Outsourcing has increased. Some California papers have outsourced copy editing to India. A Pasadena, Calif., Web site is using two Indian reporters to cover local news.

  11. Yet … The paradox is that more people than ever read newspapers, now that some major papers have several times as many readers online as in print. And papers sell more ads than ever, when online ads are included. But for every dollar advertisers pay to reach a print reader, they pay about 5 cents, on average, to reach an Internet reader. Newspapers are trying to narrow that gap, but the rise in Internet revenue slowed sharply in 2007. Another economic force affecting the job market: corporate takeovers of media companies have left fewer and fewer independents. How so? Just look and see …

  12. Who Owns What? One type of convergence: Corporate consolidation

  13. Media landscape: Consolidation TOUGH JOB MARKET HANDOUT About 10 companies -- Disney, News Corp. (Fox), TimeWarner, Clear Channel (which owns 1,500 radio stations worldwide), Viacom, General Electric, Hearst, etc. -- own more than 50 percent of the media outlets in this country. Take a look at what happened when AOL merged with TimeWarner …

  14. AOL AOL-TimeWarner Corporation (AOL) owns the following companies: Basic cable TBS Superstation Turner Network Television Cartoon Network Turner Classic Movies Turner South Boomerang TCM Europe Cartoon Network Europe TNT Latin America Cartoon Network Latin America TCM & Cartoon Network Atlanta Braves AOL Service AOL Anywhere AOL International AOL@School CompuServe Digital City DMS ICQ iPlanet MapQuest Moviefone Netscape AOL Music MORE…

  15. Cartoon Network Japan Atlanta Hawks Court TV (TWE-owned) Atlanta Thrashers News CNN/U.S. CNN Headline News CNN International CNNmoney CNN/Sports Illustrated CNN en Español CNN Airport Network CNNRadio Network CNNRadio Noticias CNN Newsource CETV The Goodwill Games Network television The WB Television Network Kids' WB! HBO HBO Plus HBO Signature HBO Family HBO Comedy HBO Zone HBO Latino Cinemax MoreMAX ActionMAX ThrillerMAX HBO Independent Productions HBO Downtown Productions AOL MORE…

  16. Time Popular Science Sports Illustrated Outdoor Life People Field & Stream Entertainment Weekly Golf Fortune Yachting Money Motor Boating & Sailing In Style Salt Water Sportsman Real Simple Ski Time For Kids Skiing ON Freeze Sports Illustrated For Kids Snowboard Life Sports Illustrated For Women This Old House Teen People AOL • TransWorld Stance • People en Español • TransWorld Surf • FSB: Fortune Small Business • TransWorld Skateboarding • Business 2.0 • TransWorld Snowboarding • Mutual Funds • TransWorld Motocross • Southern Living • Ride BMX • Progressive Farmer • Snap • Southern Accents • Skiing Trade News • Sunset • TransWorld Skateboarding Business • Cooking Light • TransWorld Snowboarding Business • Coastal Living MORE…

  17. Warner Publisher Services Little, Brown and Company Little, Brown and Company UK Warner Books Time Warner AudioBooks Warner Bros. Pictures Warner Bros. Consumer Products Warner Bros. Television Warner Bros. Studio Stores Warner Bros. Animation Warner Bros. International Theatres Looney Tunes Warner Bros. New Media Hanna-Barbera Warner Bros. Online Castle Rock Entertainment DC Comics Telepictures Productions MAD Magazine Warner Home Video AOL • TransWorld Surf Business • Parenting • BMX Business News • Family Life • Baby Talk • Time Life Inc. • Bébé • Leisure Arts • Healthy Pregnancy • Media Networks, Inc. • Health • Oxmoor House • AsiaWeek • First Moments • Wallpaper* • Sunset Books • Who Weekly • Targeted Media Inc. • Time Inc. Custom Publishing • Time Distribution Services • Time Inc. Home Entertainment • New Line Cinema • New Line New Media • Fine Line Features • New Line Television • New Line Home Video • New Line International • The Atlantic Group • Elektra Entertainment Group Inc. • London-Sire Records Inc. • Rhino Entertainment • Warner Bros. Records Inc. • Warner Music International • Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. • Warner Bros. Publications • WEA Inc. • Ivy Hill Corp. • WEA Corp. • WEA Manufacturing • Alternative Distribution Alliance • Warner Special Products • Giant Merchandising

  18. AOL • Time Warner Cable-Clusters of more than 100,000 subscribers • RoadRunner Cable-Clusters of more than 100,000 subscribers • Local News Channels • Bay News 9, Tampa, FL • Central Florida News 13, Orlando, FL • NY1 News, New York, NY • News 8 Austin, TX • R/News, Rochester, NY

  19. Who Owns What? Hearst Corporation (Why I salute Patty Hearst)

  20. Hearst Corporation Magazines Cosmopolitan CosmoGIRL! Country Living Country Living Gardener Esquire Good Housekeeping Harper's BAZAAR House Beautiful Lifetime Marie Claire O, The Oprah Magazine Popular Mechanics Redbook Seventeen SmartMoney Town & Country Veranda Newspapers Albany Times Union Beaumont Enterprise Edwardsville Intelligencer (IL) Houston Chronicle Huron Daily Tribune (MI) Laredo Morning Times Midland Daily News Midland Reporter Plainview Daily Herald San Antonio Express-News San Francisco Chronicle Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  21. Hearst Corporation Television WCVB-TV (Boston) WMOR-TV (Tampa) WTAE-TV (Pittsburgh) WESH-TV (Orlando) WBAL-TV (Baltimore) WISN-TV (Milwaukee) WLWT-TV (Cincinnati) WMUR-TV (Manchester, NH) KMBC-TV (Kansas City, MO) KCWE-TV (Kansas City, MO) WYFF-TV (Greenville, SC) WDSU-TV (New Orleans) WPBF-TV (West Palm Beach) KOCO-TV (Oklahoma City) WGAL-TV (Lancaster, PA) WXII-TV (Winston Salem) WLKY-TV (Louisville) KOAT-TV (Albuquerque) KCRA-TV (Sacramento) KQCA-TV (Sacramento) KCCI-TV (Des Moines) KITV-TV (Honolulu) KETV-TV (Omaha) WAPT-TV (Jackson, MS) WPTZ-TV/WNNE-TV (Burlington, VT) KHBS-TV/KHOG-TV (Fort Smith, AK) KSBW-TV (Monterey)

  22. Hearst Corporation Business Media Black Book IC Master Collision Database Diversion Electronic Engineers Master Catalog Electronic Products Magazine First DataBank Floor Covering Weekly IDG/Hearst Motor/AllData Motor Books Motor Magazine NOVA Electronik Stocknet StructuredContent TL Publications Used Car Guides

  23. Hearst Corporation Cable A&E AETN Enterprises Cosmopolitan TV ESPN The History Channel History International Lifetime Lifetime Movie Locomotion NECN Tevecap Brazil Radio WBAL-AM (Baltimore) WIYY-FM (Baltimore) Interactive Media Investments include: XM Satellite Radio MetaTV Circles Mobility Technologies Cymfony Referral Networks Scene7 StarMedia Tavolo Medscape iVillage, Inc. Brandwise LiveWorld Exodus E Ink Zip2 I Pro NetscapeOther King Features Reed Brennan

  24. Media consolidation: How did we get here? The communications industry is relatively devoid of “regulation,” save for libel and slander laws, of course. Folks in broadcast are still bound by portions of the 1934 Communications Act (overseen by the FCC) which: • Says the airwaves belong to the people and that broadcasters are mere custodians of the frequencies licensed to them. • Prohibits profanity and obscenity. (Hello Janet Jackson, Don Imus and Howard Stern) • Gave political candidates and competing views of issues equal time under the Fairness Doctrine.

  25. Media landscape: Consolidation Recent decisions have engendered the era of media consolidation, allowing media companies to reach wider audiences for less cost (often meaning fewer staffers) and maximized profits. During the first Reagan administration, the Federal Communications Commission (a five-member panel) put on the cloak of capitalism and let the Fairness Doctrine fade, saying that the marketplace rather than the government should determine “fairness.” The FCC decision was upheld by a federal appeals court on a 3-2 vote -- of which Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia sided with the majority.

  26. Media landscape: New rules In 1996, the Telecommunications Act was passed, putting cable TV under the same rules that govern broadcasters and the telephone industry. It also allowed phone companies, long-distance carriers and cable systems to enter each other’s markets. In 2004, the FCC weakened cross-ownership rules, allowing media conglomerates to increase their penetration -- or share -- of a particular market. What this means to you as an information gatherer is that the pool of potential employers has gotten smaller. What this means to you as an information consumer is that there are fewer voices in print and broadcast from which to choose.

  27. From consolidation to convergence Handout on Crossover Training Here’s another C-word: convergence. Technology has done much to shake up the newsroom / PR agency culture. “Convergence” is broadly defined as the consolidation of print, broadcast and online reporting in a news operation. Since many media owners now operate multiple mediums in the same market, they now want their employees to have multiple skills. Reporters in Tampa for instance, may have to file a story for the Tribune, another story for the TV station it owns and another story for the paper’s online service. More and more mediums are becoming information platforms, getting information out in different ways. Blogs, podcasts and vodcasts are becoming more and more common. Additionally, the reporter might have to provide digital photography or video.

  28. From consolidation to convergence Cross-over reporting for multiple mediums has become more common (Roy Bragg’s dilemma). At the Chronicle, we often put breaking news on the Web site before it’s in the paper. Cross-over reporting lends itself to cross-promotion: the breaking Iraq story on the Web site can stir interest in the print or broadcast story to come. Certainly, convergence is not without its obstacles -- it requires additional training, and deadlines can become confusing and hectic. But convergence simply makes common sense for news mediums trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse audience, one that not only has a variety of tastes by also has a variety of informational entry points to choose from.

  29. From consolidation to convergence One of the demographic groups that is the hardest to attract is the 13-21 crowd – a recent survey indicates fewer than a quarter of U.S. youths read a newspaper or news Web sites (meanwhile, book reading among teens is up). Research also shows that teens who avoid news consumption are likely to continue that behavior in their adult years. So how do folks in the communications business counter this trend? Here’s one attempt: (How John McClain saved the newspaper business) But is it information or infotainment?

  30. More “C-words” As the communications landscape evolves, particularly for newspapers, new strategies have emerged in an attempt to maintain coverage levels while, at the same time, cutting costs. Some newspapers – such as the Detroit News / Detroit Free Press and Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram have merged or joined forces in collaborative or cooperative efforts. The two Texas papers, who once competed fiercely for the emerging Arlington market, are now sharing coverage. Cost savings are fine, but what does shared coverage portend? Would Texas news consumers be well-served by having only the Austin paper cover the Legislature?

  31. Credibility factor As we peruse the list of “C-words” that can have a major impact on your career, here’s another: credibility. An information provider can be successful only if the product that is provided can be trusted. Credibility and consistency build trust. You expect one Snickers or Twinkie to be the same as the last don’t you? You trust the product. As an information gatherer / provider, you want your audience to have similar trust in your product. Anyone know what newspaper has the biggest circulation on the planet?

  32. Credibility factor Yep, the National Enquirer. Why? Because there is little expectation, if any, that what is in its pages is credible. You face a different expectation. You have to get information in a timely fashion and you have to get it right. Otherwise, your reputation -- and the reputation of the entity you work for -- can be irreparably damaged. Do the names Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass mean anything to you? Even the simplest errors can affect credibility – a Swiss newspaper now actually fines reporters and editors for spelling errors that are published.

  33. Credibility factor HANDOUT: Checklist on how and what to fact-check It matters not whether you are going into news or PR, print or broadcast, the mainstream media or the Web – the fundamentals of gathering and providing information are the same. You simply have to get it right. This is why I deduct 40 points for name errors. Your people skills and computer skills take a back seat to plain ol’ accuracy.

  34. Consumers, customers and clients It is helpful to know the demographics of your target audience. If you have a blossoming 21-35 population, perhaps you will tailor some products for that age group. Knowing how people process information can also be helpful, as you recall from all your media theories class. People often develop informational filters -- because there is so much information to choose from, they make a choice as to what they will be exposed to according to our backgrounds, our interests or our biases. Pearl Harbor, for instance, likely carries more significance to your grandparents than for you.

  35. Consumers, customers and clients People hear want they want to hear, and they also remember what they want to remember. Some information passes the gate unquestioned, while other information is kept out entirely. People often don’t let in what they disagree with. Quick test: How many Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers on 9/11? You also have to deal with how people perceive folks in the media -- and generally that’s not very highly. Just above lawyers in fact. We’ll talk more about why that in our classes on ethics and libel.

  36. Facts about Newspapers Demographics: The changing face of newspaper readership in the U.S.

  37. U.S. Daily and Sunday Newspaper Readership Demographics

  38. U.S. Daily and Sunday Newspaper Readership Audience The percentage of adults reading newspapers has steadily declined since 1970, although 1995 was an exception. Can you say Monica Lewinsky?

  39. U.S. Daily and Sunday Newspaper Circulation Expenditures While the adult readership is going down, what it costs you to buy a daily or Sunday paper has steadily gone up. Folks in 2002 were spending nearly 10 times what the folks in 1960 were spending on a Sunday paper.

  40. U.S. Daily Newspaper Circulation Note how the decline of afternoon readership mirrors the drop in afternoon papers. Also note how overall newspaper subscriptions has dropped consistently since 1985. Can you say “Internet”?

  41. U.S. Daily Newspaper Pages or Sections Usually Read The main news and local news sections are still big draws. After that, men like sports and business; women like entertainment and the food section. Note the disparity on business section readership according to race.

  42. What is News? It’s not the same to everyone

  43. What is news? For those of us in the communications business, information is what we sell – that is why the days of getting information for free from the Web are coming to an end. News and information are the products that roll off our conveyor belt. “Old news” doesn’t sell, at least not as well as “new” news. This applies to those in the PR / advertising / marketing fields as well. News releases have to have some news in them or they will be ignored; ads have to have some new products / ideas / prices or they won’t be noticed. Today’s news mediums often place a higher value on local news – the news you have a franchise on – over “commodity” news – the news everyone has already.

  44. What is news? • Timeliness – immediacy is perhaps the most important criterion for news, other than accuracy. • Proximity – if it’s Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) then who cares. Well, the globe is so intertwined now, you can argue that all news is local or you can find a local news peg in most “foreign” stories. • Prominence – Who’s involved makes a difference.

  45. What is news? • Consequence – How many folks are affected? The bigger the number, the bigger the news. You need to know your local demographics as well; for instance, stories on immigration have greater import in areas with a high Hispanic population. • Conflict – Us against them has great news value, whether it is sports, politics or wars. • Suspense – It’s somewhat related to conflict, but focuses on the unknown element. Who gets to play in the national championship game? Who will win the next election? Will we ever find Osama?

  46. What is news? • Human Interest – We like to read about other people and the crazy things other people do. We like stuff about human nature. • Novelty – Has it happened before? Will it happen again? • Progress – The accomplishment of goals or marketing achievements have great value for news gatherers and PR types alike, especially in small to medium markets.

  47. What is news? You might add these to your list: There are also diversity and competitive issues that can add weight to a news item. A breast cancer treatment story appeals to women. Houston winning a Mexican pro soccer team appeals to Hispanics, which are almost 50 percent of the population. In the competition wars, you might emphasize news from Katy because a new daily newspaper has started up there (and since disappeared). Anything considered a “scoop” may get better play than stories the competition will have as well.

  48. What is news: Telling it in a new way With all of this convergence and consolidation going on, you might find yourself telling stories in different ways – or having to decide what format is the best way to tell a story (provide the information). Some choices combine some or all of the following: • Traditional story or news release, perhaps with photo(s). Might require a different approach (breaking news vs. news feature, etc. • Blog • Video / audio story • “Charticle” – a text graphic; or chronologies, bio boxes etc. • Photo gallery

  49. What is news? No matter what field you choose in the communications industry, you will have to do some degree of writing. One of the primary purposes of this class is to provide you with some the writing skills necessary to be able to work on a small paper -- in fact, that is what you will actually be doing in your later course work at UH-CL, working on the school paper.

  50. Exercise What is News? For extra credit