Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Of paper and pen

Criticizing the Spa City’s media is becoming akin to playing a broken record. No matter how many times the vinyl rotates, the needle is going to keep striking the same crack over and over again. And in the case of the newsprint media, the crack seems to grow a bit larger every day.

Take the Post Star for instance. Publisher Rona Rahlf has finally realized the importance of keeping the Spa City in the fold of coverage after nearly two years on the job. But her solution to improving coverage is just as trite and meaningless as the “do more with less” mantra every other news agency has adopted in recent time. This week, the paper unveiled its “Saratoga” addition, which looks much similar to the regular edition, only with its Spa-centric articles shifted into more prominent areas.

After spending a pronounced period of time with just one reporter manning the Saratoga Bureau and after scraping its prominent Broadway office, the Post Star is allegedly reinvigorating efforts to compete with other city media outlets. In a peculiar entry in the paper’s fledgling Saratoga Springs blog, a reporter claims the paper is “ramping up” efforts to cover events transpiring in the city.

However, the stories the reporter lists as evidence of this so-called ramping up are very similar to ones appearing in two of three other papers covering the area; with the third –the Albany Times Union –having little if any interest in covering anything outside of police or political scandal. The other part of the augmented coverage includes efforts by the paper’s other news reporters to incorporate Saratoga angles into their articles. For example, a broad business article might include a quote from a Saratoga Springs shop owner. Bravo.

So nothing has really changed other than a few letters at the top of the masthead and an effort to “zone” the paper, or print multiple editions with the articles rearranged and sometimes omitted according to circulation zones. Even this move is nothing new. For years, the Daily Gazette of Schenectady has printed multiple editions; something that can be utterly flummoxing for any Saratoga County reader that happens to pick up the paper at Stewart’s located the other side of a zone line.

To sum this up: no new news, no additional coverage, just the same reporters reporting the same things; only repackaged so that the more fickle of advertisers will believe boasts of additional coverage. The whole affair smacks of a crackpot scheme dreamed up by the advertising department, something that’s probably not far from the case given Rahlf’s extensive background in ad sales.

What Rahlf can’t seem to figure out is that more coverage in any given region requires more bodies working there. With just two warm bodies in the city, the paper will never get the leg up they need to top the Gazette, which staffs an equal number in Saratoga Springs alone and triple this amount region wide; or to finally vanquish the wayward Saratogian, which maintains its tenuous hold as the “local paper” with its paltry staff of four. Even the Times Union’s staff of three is larger, even though they generally ignore the news minutia most local readers crave.

This is not to disparage the coverage the Post Star’s spa reporters contribute to the mix; they both do a more than adequate job given the task at hand and the budget they’re afforded. And the fact that the paper manages to get its news online in a somewhat cohesive fashion automatically thrusts it well beyond the Saratogian.

More than three months after launching its redesigned Web site, the Saratogian still hasn’t been able to pull things together. Real-time online updates are sporadic at best, the site remains slow as molasses and top stories often slip into anonymity, thanks to the ludicrous manner in which news is posted to the site, especially when the Web editor is not working.

Amazingly, editors at the Saratogian and the corporate heads with the Journal Register Company don’t seem too interested in lifting their site out from the fetid gutter of Web journalism. Instead, it’s the same old “we’ll get to it eventually” philosophy that has kept the paper locked beneath mediocrity for decades.

In summation, it’s the same old song and dance for these papers. Despite clear and definitive methods to improve their quality, they continue to sniff out circulation answers where the sun don’t shine. And if they don’t start looking elsewhere soon, it’s going to take an even-keeled surgeon to extract a fair amount of rectally embedded heads.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Post Star actually did a decent job of Saratoga coverage a few years ago, but it's been off since then... If they want the ad revenue they need to step it up again.. That means more than news (arts, sports, business)...

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree 100%

And its all Tom McTygue's fault.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I've discovered the reason why Saratoga has been so difficult to cover by all of the numerous papers salivating for a piece of the pie:

This town just isn't that interesting!

26,000 people going through an identity crisis doesn't deserve a full blown paper... or even a fully staffed bureau from a bigger daily.

Move beyond the tourism teat, then we'll talk.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few retreads around the local media review - I guess it is helpful to do this once a year...

The Times Useless is amazing - you have to love the Post calling them to task... I think the only difference between the relationship between Client #9 and Kristen/TU is that Kristen knew what she was and got paid for it. I think it is amazing that they still trying to justify that Spitzer just used them. On the local level - a staff of three certainly generates less story per week than Jim Kinney did in an average week. But I understand that the publishers and editors would rather generate income from the Irish Sports Page rather than covering local issues. I think the focus is the blog and becoming their very soft news - focused on dogs - blog. (The 4th of July for Dog's festival should get some great coverage - that is a brillant idea!)

The Post Star certainly enterprises a number of stories - but their on-line is trailing in a zoned coverage of Saratoga compared to the print version. It is hard to find the Saratoga County stories. To look at the PS on-line version you have to wonder how many drunk drivers GF has and why the only SS drunk driver arrested of note was the former PS Commissioner. (Note to the current deputy PS Commissioner - start doing a press release every morning about the DWI arrests from the night before and how you need an increased jail - police station to hold the DWI arrests. Imagine the fun if you did a second release every morning about the night's action over at the casino - if you make a big enough stink - I think Delaware North will stop calling you and take care of problems themselves - note to an enterprising reporter - are the racino profits going to help the Boston Bruins win the Cup?).

You have to say that the Gazette is out there trying - how many reporters do they have covering the county - 4 or 5? Lots of stories from outside SS with great coverage of Malta. Now they have a nice on-line version.

Then there is the Saratogian... well the new guy (Andrew) is trying - he has some talent - one wonders when greener horizons will have him move on.

I think if we all listened to Tommy we would have been better off - the parking lot would be nice where the 'togian is now and it would serve a better public purchase - maybe that could also host the new Whole Food store... There are so many Troy stories in the 'togian now - it just makes sense to move the whole operation to the Collar City and purchase a small office space in Malta or Wilton (there are some open spaces at the mall - maybe they could follow the county clerk to the mall - set up right in the Food Court with Subway and Trustco).

Now an enterprising reporter could ask "What Client # was from SS and who was it. I think Bonner might have been client #13 but I have to listen to the wire taps taken out at the horse farm.

Oh yea, when where the Feds going to send Bruno to jail? (Nice job TU)... and when were the Feds going to send McTygue to jail? (Nice job 4th estate)... where are the big DEC indictments? (Nice job 4th estate) ... and when was Elliot going to jail? (guess everyone missed that one until Elliot's people leaked it the NYT) I think the 4th Estate is 0 for 4... When are we going to get the apologizes for the assaults on these outstanding local people's character. Thank goodness ISaratoga is here to keep the press honest.

There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile:
He bought a crooked cat,
Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a crooked little house.

Have a nice day,
Just an observer

5:35 AM  
Anonymous kyle york said...

5:35

Newspapering is a tough line of work. The best way to express your two cents is to spend or not-spend your fifty cents. A good reporter works as hard as a coal miner except you don't get to come up for air. One of the biggest challenges is to place a news item in context. There's a lot of background digging to be done both before and after any interview. Take the plans for our "July 4 Dog Festival." I'm pleased and honored to be the volunteer Chairman for this 3-day event. Today's story was wonderful writing by the enthusiastic newshound you've bedecked in green. Any dog-gone blame for this "brilliant idea!" can be hurled at me and our committee. The specific events are all in a formative stage so we could not offer any details to Mr. Bernstein. But the events will be... for want of a better word- FUN! To get some idea of what joy we're trying to unleash, please put down the newspaper and visit "Sloppy Kisses," "Lazy Dog Cookie," or simply wander through any large Pet Store. Pets and their owners seem to enjoy their company...to say nothing about our local Llama farms. But do not fear that our town is going to the Dogs. We're just a community that enjoys our fun, whether it's the Travers or the Parrots. Come on up on July 6 and stop by the City Center on the street dedicated to Mayor Ellworth Jones, a man who loved his city, enjoyed every moment of life, and when his Mayoral Secretary was asked to describe his five-term tenure, she simply smiled and said "We wanted to make people happy."

See you on the Glorious Sixth!

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do we need a newspaper when we have idiots right on this site that think they know everything. Maybe we should believe all the bullshit that is spread here rather the paper.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle -

It is hard to express expressions on this medium... No need to be defensive of your idea...my comments about it being a "brilliant idea" where honest - you got a really fun idea that I think will generate an amazing coverage - you have a great marketing concept - I hope my comments about the press does not take away from your coverage.... Although I think your puns will help out a lot... sort of like using ladies night to attractive guys...

You just might see me on the Glorious Sixth - although I normally use those long weekends to catch up on my newspaper reading.

Just an observer

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Why do we need a newspaper when we have idiots right on this site that think they know everything.”

So dipshit you finally figured it out.
You are correct we don’t need newspapers. Where you are wrong is in your assessment that we know everything. We don’t. But one thing for sure we know more than the rag the Saratogian. Our other great bastion of journalism the TU has proven itself in the words of The New York Post to be the “whore of Eliot Spitzer”

So I ask you who do you trust more our malignant press or this blog?

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading the last comment I find it fair to say the Saratogian in its malicious and malevolent treatment of Tom McTygue in the last election should be called “The Whore of Valerie Keehn.”

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, it's March, it was again a slow news day because no one knows what is going, (a daily occurence) and you tapped an energetic young reporter..Not a hard sell..for an annual event four months away.
Coming in June, things ramp up for Victorian Stroll, exclusive in The Saratogian...

P-Star - They smell blood in the water. Won't it be an easier transition when JRC sells The Saratogian to Lee Enterprises and the public has already been introduced to a Saratoga version of the Post Star.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous kyle york said...

My Observant friend-

My Bad. I inFURred sarcasm and I was clearly barking at the wrong tree. I hope to see you on the 4th, 5th, 6th...heck, anytime.

Speaking of time,
if 9:32 is speaking well of me, I thank you. If I am getting a cybersmack, 'tis but another day in my own personal "Apocalypse Meow."

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's really get down to business! John Tighe for Mayor! With this we will be sure the democrats are all the way in the toilet.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Anonymous 7:49 PM been hitting the crack pipe at Jefferson Terrace again.

5:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Post Star sucks! They didn't cover anything worthwhile for this city. Just more of the same complaining.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:11 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

7:11 AM

You should delete that comment.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shotinthedark

The truth can be painful.

3:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:11 is used to making these comments. FYI he was added to the City democratic committee, unfairly I might add this past fall. He is part of that problem inside the committee that keeps shooting itself in the foot. Look up who was insalled into that dem committee to replace a fine member. He's part of that Boyd team that is ruining the party.
You know who you are J.T.

3:54 AM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

shotinthedark

"The truth can be painful."

Whether that particular comment was true or not is not the issue.
The issue is fairness.
What two consenting adults do is only their own business.

If you start going down that path of publicly naming everyone who has either given or received a blowjob on this blog I am sure that would soon need Carpal Tunnel surgery.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point taken

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please i like leaving opinions on this site but it should never replace any newspaper anywhere at anytime. as we are beginning to see and find out the bloggosphere has its limits and problems. mostly concerning the dissemination of accurate information.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the coverage of the tom mctygue "invetigation was accurate". the pissing and moaning from the mctygue-alongs like, just an observer, is just great. lets see, the FBI was/ is doing an investigation. how do we know, they came around andstarted asking people question about improper dealings. hence they were investigating. i don't remeber any of those news articles actually convicting him.... but after he got his ass kicked you all can't except the fact that most people didn't trust him. that most people heard stories of their own throughout the years, about the guy and his running the DPW and were able to conclude that he just wasn't trust worthy.
he had actually lost the elction way before that

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least it can be said the present council is trustworthy.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous mamie said...

Yes! Being around him on a daily basis was quite hectic when the investigation broke! Let's just say he was doing plenty of scrambling and was in contact quite often with someone known as Uncle Joe! From what I hear is investigations tend to go away if the person goes away. The election loss was probably a blessing in disguise for him. It was most certainly a blessing for all of us.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it should never replace any newspaper"

The Saratogian is not a newspaper it is a rag.

3:10 PM  

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