American Pie 25.03.05

Two
stories for the price of one – that’s the offbeat plan Associated Press
is about to unveil. The 156-year-old news agency is preparing to offer
its 1,700 subscribers around the world two different intros to some of
its stories. The reason?

Many newspaper readers get their basic
news these days, the AP believes, either from TV, radio or websites.
When they open their paper they expect something different. On major
stories, said an AP spokesman, the wire service will provide two
versions. One will be the traditional ‘straight lead’ story. The other
will offer an alternative, perhaps breezier, more creative account. In
other words, a more tabloidish – one might even say British-style –
version. The AP spokesman insisted the idea is not to turn a hard-news
story into a feature. After giving editors the choice of intro, the
story will usually pick up the balance of the traditional story. It’s
expected the idea will be popular among papers seeking a younger
audience. As the chairman of the journalism department at New York
University put it: “The notion that the audience is just waiting around
to be informed doesn’t exist any more.”

 

The
comment by 23-year-old Garrett Graff, the first blogger to officially
attend a White House Press briefing, that he found the briefing room
“cramped and dilapidated” (Press Gazette, 18 March)n seems to have
stirred some action. There is talk now of a “major renovation”. After a
walk-through, inspectors reported the press quarters, located in the
famous West Wing and built some years ago over the White House swimming
pool, originally built in 1933 for the special use of FDR who suffered
from polio, were not just cluttered but a potential firetrap. Adjacent
storerooms, for reporters’ equipment, they found were a tangle of video
cables, tripods, ladders and miles of wire. The briefing room, with its
48 cinema-style seats, may also get a major facelift, including new
robotic cameras and individual microphones. Work is expected to start
in August when President Bush usually disappears to his Texas ranch for
several weeks.

 

The investigation of alleged rigging
of newspaper circulations – which has hit several big newspapers here
and, in some cases, resulted in a reappraisal of circulation figures –
has spread to the magazine industry. Magazines whose circulations are
said to be under scrutiny include Time, Newsweek, US News and World
Report, New York magazine, National Geographic. Travel and Leisure,
Food and Wine and even the Harvard Business Review. At the centre is a
major New York distributor. For at least a decade, it is alleged, the
company, which claims to be the largest distributor of magazines and
newspapers in the world, has bought millions of weekly and monthly
magazines to distribute to airlines and other customers around the
globe – with the implicit understanding they would be reimbursed by
what was known as a “swap cheque”. All made possible, it is said,
because of a loophole that allows publishers to count magazines that go
to “third parties” as paid sales. So far none of the magazines have
admitted any wrong-doing.

 

All
sorts of things are sold on the web these days. So why not news? That’s
what many newspapers here are beginning to ask. Among them the NY Times
(NY Times Building pictured) .whose website has become so popular that
the number of people who read the paper on-line now surpasses the
number who buy the paper.

It sticks in the craw of some
publishers that they are giving away their content for free. But the
big question the Times is considering – charging for its news – could
have a backlash. It could lose them “web readers”, and drive away web
advertisers who are making a contribution to the newspaper’s revenue.
Of America’s 1,456 daily papers only one national paper, the Wall
Street Journal, and about 40 smaller papers charge readers who log onto
their web sites. A few charge for special features. The NY Times which
clocks in l,400,000 visitors a day to its site compared with the
1,124,000 readers of its print edition, is debating what to do. A
decision is expected shortly.

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