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Press Here

This news media blog explores the nexus between the press, the public and technology with two missions. One, to engage citizens in an online conversation about the role of the news media in their lives, in the hope that they will use and critique the media more effectively. And secondly to explore how the press can remain relevant, essential and accountable to citizens and communities.

Mike Fancher is Editor at Large of The Seattle Times.

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April 29, 2008 2:20 PM

It's time for Press Here to press on

Posted by Mike Fancher

I am retiring from the Seattle Times tomorrow. Press Here to check out a report from Editor & Publisher.

Or Here for a brief interview on KUOW's "The Conversation," toward the end of the segment.

I'll post some farewell thoughts tomorrow.

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April 25, 2008 3:55 PM

A "welcome ad"? I don't think so.

Posted by Mike Fancher

In their hunt for revenue, news sites have tried a variety of intrusive gimmicks, most of which really tick off readers. AdvertisingAge reported the New York Times this week "for the first time allowed a full-page ad to interrupt people trying to reach NYTimes.com for their initial visits of the day -- before they could view even one headline."

AdAge quotes Todd Haskell, Times VP-digital sales and operations:

We have been doing full-page interstitials for years. This is just a different placement in the user session.

We collaborate with customers to provide ad units that help them meet their marketing needs, and clients have been asking for a "welcome ad" placement for some time.

Interstitial ads are the ones that creep around on a web page, covering up the other content. My edition of Webster's defines "interstitial" as "of, forming, or occurring in interstices," and "interstice" as "a small or narrow space between things or parts; crevice; chink; crack."

I guess this ad occurs in the space between me and the front page.

In earlier days, the New York Times moved farther and faster than just about any newspaper in allowing advertising to clutter its Web site, including the home page. Commercial messages often were hard to distinguish from news content. It has evolved to be much more orderly and in keeping with the newspaper's brand, although it still has ads that aren't clearly labeled and can be mistaken for news.

Newspapers won't survive without growing their online advertising franchise, but my hope is that they will conclude that an ad covering the entire front page is unwelcome.

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April 11, 2008 3:50 PM

Enough is enough, says longtime observer of newspapers

Posted by Mike Fancher

John Morton, one of the newspaper industry's senior analysts, says newspapers that are cutting costs to maintain high profits are wrongheaded and threaten their own futures.

Morton's comments come in an article entitled, "Enough is enough," in the American Journalism Review.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Journalism trends , Media ownership , News industry developments , The future of journalism |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 10, 2008 8:35 AM

Debating local versus corporate ownership of newspapers

Posted by Mike Fancher

Press Here for a discussion about newspaper ownership that includes Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen and Phil Bronstein, a veteran editor for the Hearst Corp.

Comments | Category: Journalism trends , Media consolidation , Media ownership , Media reform , News industry developments , The future of journalism |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 2, 2008 5:00 PM

Is there a cloud behind the cloud behind the silver lining?

Posted by Mike Fancher

Yesterday I posted an item about the Newspaper Association of America glossing over some really ugly advertising revenue numbers. I said the NAA had presented the silver lining to a dark cloud.

A column I read today suggests there is another cloud behind the revenue cloud. Peter Osnos, senior fellow for media at The Century Foundation, says newsroom morale is a problem at least as serious as falling revenue:

Continue reading this post ...


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April 1, 2008 8:40 AM

There's a cloud behind that silver lining

Posted by Mike Fancher

The Newspaper Association of America apparently feels there isn't enough good news in the world. It put out a press release last week headlined "Spending on newspaper Web sites grew to 7.5 percent of all newspaper ad spending last year."

The upbeat NAA release said:

Advertising expenditures for newspaper Web sites increased by 18.8 percent to $3.2 billion in 2007, according to preliminary estimates from the Newspaper Association of America. Spending on newspaper Web sites has now grown to account for 7.5 percent of all newspaper ad spending last year (up from 5.7 percent in 2006).

That's all true. But Editor & Publisher, an industry observer, studied the data behind the release and found a different story.

The E&P headline said "NAA Reveals Biggest Ad Revenue Plunge in More Than 50 Years."

Continue reading this post ...


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March 6, 2008 3:10 PM

The future of newspapers -- will they ever be the same?

Posted by Mike Fancher

Press Here to read a heartfelt expression about the future of newspapers in American. It is written by Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University, who writes:

I have been watching newspapers like you watch a cherished friend who has a slow debilitating illness. You wonder: Even if they survive, will they ever be the same?

The signs are not encouraging.

It's not that the media companies are speeding toward the edge of a cliff. On any given day, 51 million people buy a paper, and 124 million read one. Just for perspective, the Giants and Patriots set a Super Bowl record with an audience of 97.5 million. Profit margins are still in the high teens, and newspapers are touting their success in moving readers online.

This is not an industry that is going to go the way of carbon paper and rotary phones. It's worse than that. It's an industry with a wasting disease that will rob us of essential benefits that we have forgotten how to appreciate...

...I realized there is nobody to blame because it is nobody's fault. You don't blame cell phones when you can't find a phone booth. It's simply the onslaught of technology and the inevitability of consumer choice.

We've seen it before. But this time there is more at stake.

I worry about the quality of debate. I worry about the truth. I worry about a community's ability to examine itself. I worry about the abuse of power when nobody is watching. I worry about losing the sheer enjoyment of great writing and reporting.

But most of all, I just feel sad.

I suspect many of us share that worry and sadness, even as we work to keep this cherished friend on life support, hoping for a full recovery.

As for the observation that there isn't anyone to blame, the combination of high profits and aggressive disinvestment in content would seem to be one place to point an accusatory finger.

Comments | Category: Journalism trends , Media ownership , News industry developments , The future of journalism |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 29, 2008 7:20 AM

You be the editor -- Prince Harry in Afghanistan

Posted by Mike Fancher

Should news of Prince Harry's deployment in Afghanistan have been withheld or reported?




The British press and Associated Press had known for weeks that he was there, but didn't publish the information for security reasons. Press Here for the story. The AP wrote:

The deployment plan had been disclosed to reporters, with no specific date, but was not reported previously because of an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and all major news organizations operating in Britain, including The Associated Press. The news blackout was intended to reduce the risk to the prince and his regiment.

The Washington Post called that a "remarkable deal between the British military and the news media."

Yesterday the story broke on the Drudge Report. It's not clear how Drudge learned of the deployment.

Now that the story is out, the British military and press are making the most of it, as illustrated by this report in the Telegraph.

And, the debate is underway over whether the story should have been held in the first place and whether it should have been revealed while the prince, third in line to the British throne, was still on the battlefield.

You be the editor.

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February 28, 2008 9:05 AM

Go to the head of the class, Linda Shaw

Posted by Mike Fancher

If a newspaper were a school sack lunch, beat reporting would be the sandwich. Everything else comes and goes -- the apple, carrots, celery, juice, Jello, chips, string cheese, cookies and whatever. But the sandwich is the mainstay.

My admiration for beat reporters went up a few years ago when I judged the beat reporting category of the Pulitzer Prize. This was the best work in country by people covering beats like politics, medicine, education, sports, religion, government, the arts and entertainment. The range of topics was matched by the scope of work within each entry -- breaking news, investigations, profiles, features, analysis. Beat reporters do it all.

So, it's exciting that Seattle Times reporter Linda Shaw has been named the best education beat reporter in the country for 2007 by the National Education Writers Association.

Continue reading this post ...


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February 27, 2008 1:21 PM

No country for old newspaper men

Posted by Mike Fancher

The future of newspapers was discussed by a bunch of gray-haired guys last night at the News Tribune in Tacoma. I was one of them. The others on the panel were:

David Brewster, founder and former publisher of Seattle Weekly and current publisher of Crosscut.com


Jack Hart, recently retired managing editor of the Oregonian in Portland

Alex Tan, former chairman of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communications at Washington State University and currently WSU diversity faculty fellow

Putting us through our paces was Joanne Lisosky, associate professor of communication at Pacific Lutheran University.

"It wasn’t quite dinosaurs discussing the coming meteor," according to a report in the News Tribune. The report continued:

If there was a consensus, it was that newspapers must evolve. But also that changes in technology allow newspapers to involve the community in new and exciting ways.

Another blog report on the session started with an exchange about "What you should expect from your newspaper." Press Here for that report by News Tribune Managing Editor Karen Peterson.

Anything we lacked in being able to predict the future of newspapers was countered by the passion we all feel for the role of the press in society.

Footnote: Brewster and I agreed the Tacoma crowd of about 80 people was far friendlier than any we would have faced in Seattle. That said, I suspect we wouldn't turn down an invitation.

Comments | Category: Journalism trends , News industry developments , News media diversity , The future of journalism |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 16, 2008 1:30 PM

What's ahead for the world's greatest news service?

Posted by Mike Fancher

The traditional business models that bring you the day's news are in flux, including the relationship between the Associated Press and the news organizations that own it.

AP, which began in 1846, is a cooperative owned by some 1,500 U.S. newspapers and run by a board of directors that is elected by its members. But there has been a growing tension in recent years as AP has created new opportunities and revenue sources, some of which involve selling content to emerging businesses that compete with traditional media.

Continue reading this post ...


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February 13, 2008 2:44 PM

"Murder, after all, is the ultimate form of censorship."

Posted by Mike Fancher

With sad irony, yesterday's posting about the death photo of famed WW II correspondent Ernie Pyle coincides with new reminders of the dangers facing journalists of today.

The body of a young Iraqi reporter was discovered yesterday in Baghdad. Hisham Mijawet Hamdan, 27, who was abducted Sunday, had been shot in the head and chest. Press Here to see a report.

Two CBS News journalists, a British citizen and an Iraqi who were also kidnapped Sunday in Iraq, remain missing. They were taken from their hotel in the southern city of Basra. Press Here for a report.

A Pakistani eye doctor who wrote a weekly column for a news magazine was shot and killed outside his home on Saturday. An insurgent group claimed responsibility, saying Dr. Chishti Mujahid opposed their cause. Press Here for a report.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has released the latest version of its annual report "Attacks on the Press." The report says 32 journalists were killed in the line of duty in Iraq in 2007. Worldwide, 65 journalists were killed last year, the highest toll in more than a decade.

A preface to the book, written by CNN's Christiane Amanpour, says most of those killed were not shot in combat. "Seven out of ten are targeted and hunted down, then shot, bludgeoned, or stabbed." She adds:

This fact is chilling enough. What is even more outrageous is that 85 percent of these murders are carried out with impunity. To colleagues left behind, the message is clear: Stop reporting anything sensitive. In too many countries, that message is heeded. Journalists censor themselves and a whole society is the poorer, deprived of vital information and the ability to hold those in power to account...


Impunity is the single biggest threat facing journalists today. Murder, after all, is the ultimate form of censorship.

CPJ is launching a campaign to publicize these murders, investigate them and pressure authorities around the world to seek justice for the slain journalists.


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Recent entries

Apr 29, 08 - 02:20 PM
It's time for Press Here to press on

Apr 25, 08 - 03:55 PM
A "welcome ad"? I don't think so.

Apr 11, 08 - 03:50 PM
Enough is enough, says longtime observer of newspapers

Apr 10, 08 - 08:35 AM
Debating local versus corporate ownership of newspapers

Apr 2, 08 - 05:00 PM
Is there a cloud behind the cloud behind the silver lining?

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