Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thing No. 5: the Sunday news meeting

Glancing at the P-I's web site this morning, my eye is caught by a front-page promo: "5 things to do Sunday."

Well, OK, but that strikes me kinda funny. For the past year or so one of the paper's regular features has been "Going Out/Staying In," daily recommendations for things to do at home or around town. The promos for that always crack me up because they're way too much -- "117 things to do on Tuesday night!" Now, with a whole weekend day ahead, we're offered just five things. Must be pretty good.

So I click. Setting aside the lameness of the recommendations (Kid's Karaoke, 4 p.m., Skylark Cafe), it's immediately apparent that there aren't five things to do, only four! The fifth thing, maybe, is supposed to be shake your head in wonder.

Elsewhere, looking around the Internet, it's easier to find a few examples of "WW," what worked.

Coming back on the Southern California fires, the New York Times has the kind of piece I appreciate as a reader and loved to attempt as a reporter and editor: a wonky (but not boring) policy takeout on what's behind the big news event, produced while the event is still unfolding. Not easy to do well.

(New York Times photo)

Today's piece, "Rethinking fire policy in the tinderbox zone," digs a bit deeper into the obviously dangerous factors that stoked the fires: rapid growth in the areas "where open spaces and housing meet." Combine that with an official policy to suppress small natural fires, rather than letting the potential big-fire fuel burn itself out before it gets too dangerous, and you're practically asking for trouble.

I love this quote from a guy who owns a bar in an area that has burned twice in four years, just for its California-ness in attitude and language: "If you're going to live in paradise you're going to have to deal."

It's a smart story, well executed.

One of the best things about this baseball postseason for me has been discovering Will Leitch's terrific NYT blog, Fair and Foul. With the Red Sox now up 3 games to 0, Leitch crafted an excellent post this morning on the bummer that is the sweep. And, paging down, he also ruminates on the likability (or not) of Curt Schilling, the aging Sox pitcher whom I cheered the other day (and Janice booed).

In Neil Young news -- an M&M staple this week -- NYT critic Jon Pareles offers a combo feature/album review that finds a metaphor in an old car Young is restoring, explains a bit about his thinking on the concert tour that disappointed Michelle and me (he really hand-picked the horrible WaMu Theatre?), and gives some interesting background on the current album, "Chrome Dreams II."

Locally, not a lot in the Sunday paper that's worth discussing, although Postman has a good blog item about legal considerations in Dino Rossi's gubernatorial campaign announcement.

For some reason the Seattle Times includes a Fall 2007 College Guide in this morning's paper. I haven't looked at it yet, but the timing seems weird to me, as school just started. Also, not to be too dismissive, but when it's time to research colleges I might want to look beyond the hometown newspaper.

To me, the college guide is a prime example of the kind of commodified content that, in our media-saturated world, local papers can save money by doing without. Locally produced film reviews are another key example. Everything's at the multiplex, it's the same everywhere, and excellent movie critics abound. Save some money, small-town managing editors, and use it to hire another good reporter or editor. That's exactly what happened at the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union, where film critic Matt Soegel was told his services were no longer needed. About time, I say. He writes a boo-hoo farewell column, but as he points out himself, he's lucky: At least he'll get to keep a reporting job at the paper.

Not so for Blair Parker, erstwhile sports reporter at The News Leader in Stauton, Va. As the paper's editor David Fritz explains in an apologetic column, he fired Parker for plagiarizing a bunch of stories and totally making up others. Wow.

One thing: I'll bet she could have come up with five things to do on a Sunday.


Rita said...

Yeah, shake your head in wonder.

Maybe the 5th thing to do is read about the 4 things to do.

I bought a pumpkin today so the other 4 things to do are carve 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth. Better get busy.

Mark said...

As Franny would say, boo to your shoes!

Rita said...

Don't think I haven't already thought of that!