Media Musings

A blog for students and stalkers of Brian Steffen, centering on issues of concern in media studies.

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Location: Indianola, Iowa, United States

Hello all... I'm a professor of communication studies at Simpson College and a junkie of all things media. I'm blogging on life on the faculty at Simpson and working with some of the best young future professionals in the world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cold Coffee for Starbucks

Paul McCartney's much-ballyhooed summer CD, Memory Almost Full, wasn't really a flop, but neither did it bring in much in profit for Starbucks, whose Hear Music label put out Sir Paul's latest album in a one-off deal that launched a foray into exclusive music sales.

The idea was that Boomers, patiently waiting for their coffee, would snap up what's really a good album (total disclosure: I bought my copy on iTunes) in big numbers, reversing a long-term downward trend in music-industry sales. Industry analyst Bob Lefsetz reports that, two months after release, Memory Almost Full, sold a paltry 6,821 copies last week for a total of 511,488 units since release.

Doing the math, that's less than $10 million in sales -- not bad, you say, until you figure in the no-doubt mammoth advance paid to the artist along with the advertising and marketing costs. So it's back to the record-industry drawing board.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Breaking News! Pretty Women's Disappearances are Overplayed!

Larry King's been in the biz for 50 years now, and while I'm not a fan at all it's at least comforting to here him tell the Chicago Sun-Times that he's been guilty of overplaying stories -- such as the Laci Peterson and Natalee Holloway disappearances.

"I understood the girl (Peterson) was very pretty, and it was Christmas Eve, but I didn't understand devoting that much time to it. We did it at least two nights a week," says the Kingster. "Aruba, I had no interest in. It was one girl who went missing."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Journalism Students, Now and in the Future

Romenesko has a couple of items today that speak to where journalism students are today and where they're going tomorrow. In one story, Sonya Huber-Himes, now of Georgia Southern but last year the student newspaper adviser at Ohio State, says that too many students are going too fast in trying to become expert policy analysts without really understanding much about policy. Maybe it's better to chase car accidents for awhile:

While I am heartened by journalism schools' new emphasis on subject-driven, in-depth reporting, I worry that the focus on advanced analysis encourages students to think they know everything. Yes, reporters must be able to wrestle with complex subjects, but too often the role of expert that reporters tend to adopt results in patronizing news coverage that distances itself from and even disparages the events and people being reported on.

Memo to students: You'll have plenty of time to get cynical as a professional journalist, but don't bite off more than you can chew too early in your career.

Over at Innovation in College Media, Bryan Murley has an interview with Harold Owens, director of Digital Publishing at Gatehouse Media, and Owens says the printing press may not be dead but will be issuing lots of unemployment notices. The good news for the Simpson crew? Owens says to keep doing what you're doing:

Every student journalist should spend at least six months totally immersed in blogging. Start a blog and try to draw an audience. Do the things that bloggers need to do, read other blogs, create a blog roll, link to other blogs, post frequently on topics relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach (and read those blogs in that category), comment on other blogs. Learn to be a participant. That’s my advice to pro journalists, too: if you want to learn this culture, become a participant in it. It will totally change the way you think about media and online publishing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Making It in Journalism

OK, stressed-out journalism students worried that there are no jobs out there that'll be worth having when you have your Simpson sheepskin and five figures of debt: Danny Sanchez says there's lots of demand, and he's even been kind enough to provide perspectives from several observers on what it'll take for you to get ahead.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

College students who actually like reading newspapers? Surely, something's amiss here...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nonprofit Journalism

Looking for a way to do good journalism without having to pay the piper, in the form of corporate owners who are simply bottom-line oriented? There is a model in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the local Times newspaper is making a profit -- albeit a "mere" 20 percent margin per year -- and the owners are happy.

In fact, says editor Paul Tash, the Times doesn't want to post more than a 20 percent margin because that would likely mean that the ownership group isn't investing enough into the core business.

So who's the forward-thinking owner? Time Warner? Gannett? McClatchy? Actually, the Times isn't owned by any media giant, and there is no publisher-baron at the helm. Rather, St. Petersburg's newspaper is owned by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism-education organization started by former Times owner Nelson Poynter in 1975. Poynter bequeathed all his shares in the newspaper to the institute he founded so that it might serve as a training group for journalists and educators.

And it's succeeded on that count. So when you visit the Poynter Institute (I highly recommend a January-February seminar so you get out of the snow for a few days), make sure you thank the memory of Nelson Poynter for offering us an alternative model of running a newspaper. (And you, in fact, can do just that. There's a battered underwood typewriter at the institute where you can record your thoughts.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

'Daily Show' Goes Legit

This is either a great compliment to Jon Stewart or a gross insult to network news: A new Indiana University study shows that news coverage on "The Daily Show" is as substantive as the news being provided by the television networks. IU Professor Julia Fox notes that some political figures, such as John Edwards, use the program to announce candidacies or initiatives on the program that airs four nights a week on Comedy Central.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Blogging and Libel

Watch what you say online. Bloggers are attracting libel suits by the bushel basket, reports USA Today. During

the past two years, more than 50 lawsuits stemming from postings on blogs and website message boards have been filed across the nation. The suits have spawned a debate over how the “blogosphere” and its revolutionary impact on speech and publishing might change libel law.

Richard Jewell's Libel Suit

Libel suits don't much more high profile than the suit brought by Richard Jewell, wrongly accused by several media outlets 10 years ago of being the Atlanta Olympic Park bomber. (It later turned out that the bomber was Christian terrorist and consummate nut Eric Rudolph.) Now a Georgia judge has agreed to let one of Jewell's libel claims go to trial. That leaves 21 claims as dismissed.

Jewell's already won more than $500,000 in a libel settlement with NBC.