Transparency: Don't look at me...
Speaking of things ‘a la’. Richard Titus over at the BBC internet blog has been thinking flattery rather than theft as a number sites pop up bearing an uncanny resemblance to the new BBC web design. The post has a boat load of useful information about some of the thought processes behind the page design and is a pretty mature response to the issue. There is also a great link to the BBC’s open source project with some nifty flash libs amongst other things.
Whilst I’m on the BBC blogs site I would recommend a quick scan of Steve Herrmanns blog about the physical shifting of journalists to their ‘new’ multimedia newsroom. A nice level of transparency.
And transparency (see what I did there) is a word that pops up in newspaper land. A nifty bit of video from the The Spokesman Review about their efforts at transparency gives the US perspective and, in the UK, the recent efforts by the Liverpool Echo Daily Post,(sorry Alison) and now one or two others, has given pause for thought. Joanna Geary asks just how open should newspapers get and gets some interesting comments back.
A lot of the discussion seems to be around trust and image. Or let’s put it another way, if we look like idiots (as you do on camera) then people will trust us less. Others worry about nutters – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. And others worry about placing the journalist at the heart of a story – erm, isn’t that where they should be in a community focused local newsroom.
Inching to success
Maybe another reason for not liking an all-seeing-eye in the newsroom is to avoid the bosses being able to get a handle on the amount of content you are creating. A number of pixel/inches have been given over to Sam Zells 50/50 equation for editorial and ads. A good Fortune article outlines the broader issue. But it’s an article in Slate that extrapolates the equation and applies it to Zell’s plans to measure productivity based in word count.
The Slate article picks up on a Editor and Publisher article by Jennifer Saba which highlights just what an accountants wet dream this policy seems to be. Worse still just how preriously close to ‘never mind the quality, feel the width” this is. Saba quotes Tribune Chief Operating Officer Randy Michaels:
Chicago Tribune is typically 80 pages per edition, and then compared that count with the Wall Street Journal — which is around 48 pages on average. “If we take the Los Angeles Times to a 50/50 ratio eliminating 82 pages a week, the smallest papers would be Monday and Tuesday at 56 pages. It’s still larger than the Wall Street Journal. … We can save a lot of money by producing the right size newspapers.”
You might say, Oh, those crazy yanks. But I guarentee there are some UK newspaper execs looking at the logic, and thinking hard.
And finally, whilst some might see measuring word-counts as a step backwards, transparency as too brave a brave new world, Ryan Sholin reminds us that the good old day’s and the past are different things.
If you can’t be bothered to post a breaking news story online after your print deadline, try yelling “Stop the press!” sometime. (Good luck with that one.)