The pet food story has been chugging along for a couple of weeks now, and Friday’s news that the recall has been extended to dry cat food finally prompted me to vent: If you are a newspaper editor who has not been playing every single one of these stories on your front page, you’ve been missing a massive opportunity to connect with your readers.
Attorney general? Not as important to your readers.
The latest calamity in Iraq? Not as important to your readers.
Australian Taliban? Not as important to your readers.
Even the Final Four: Not as important to your readers.
As others have pointed out, this is THE story that your readers are talking about. As I write this, “Pet food recall” is currently the second most searched-for term of the past 24 hours, and third of the past seven days, at NYTimes.com. (Not surprisingly, though a little bafflingly given the source, “sex” is the top search term.)
Short of the very air that we breathe turning toxic, no other story affects a greater number or range of people than news about our pets. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association estimates that there are 90.5 million cats in 37.7 million U.S. households, and 73.9 million dogs in 43.5 million households.
Have I made my point?
The neighborhood of the week real estate feature is about New Haven in Jupiter. New Haven is part of the multi-neighborhood, New Urbanist community of Abacoa, where yours truly also lives.
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Remember what I said about the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner? And vomit? Of course you do, you’re a loyal reader. In case you missed the take of a slightly more obscure source, The Daily Show, here it is:
>German classes cut from last school (Palm Beach Post)
The only public school in Palm Beach County still teaching German will drop the class next year. Why would students take German in a metro area where more than one-in-three people 5 and older speak Spanish at home? Well, why not?
My very own wife, in addition to attending middle school with high-achieving self-asphyxiation enthusiasts, spent unaccountably vast stretches of her years in suburban Atlanta public schools studying German. Now, hardly a day passes during which she does not find herself happily conversing in German.
That’s obviously not true. She never speaks German, and, as it turns out, learning the language was a rather massive waste of time. Which is not to say I won’t be grateful for her German skills should we find ourselves in Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the two-thirds of Switzerland where the language is spoken, or, indeed, Germany itself. Then again, I rather rarely find myself in that circumstance.
The real question, I suppose, is this: Would you like to touch my monkey? Touch him! Touch my monkey!
>Correspondents’ dinner features fun, frolicking, and MC Rove (LA Times)
Does the very idea of journalists and politicians, regardless of political affiliation, carrying on together in the manner described in the story above cause vomit to rise ever so slowly into the back of your throat? That’s what it does to me, anyway.
>Want to Write for Wired’s Business Blog? (Wired)
(Via Ryan Sholin)
Wired is looking for a writer to join its business blog, and soliciting a topical blog post of 200 words or less instead of the usual resume.
This brings to mind the time I created an interactive mapping web site specifically for a single job interview, using that paper’s own circulation data. (Sadly, it doesn’t live online these days.) I didn’t get the job.
Instead, they hired a copy editor and a guy who, to date, has written 75 print stories with an average length of 520 words. NOT THAT I’M BITTER ABOUT IT. Nope. Definitely not bitter. Did I mention that, in the meantime, I’ve been racking up plaques, building one of a kind databases and generating mad revenue with custom mapping products?
Not bitter … not bitter …
Charles Petit over at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker calls our attention to the accumulating anecdotal evidence that “the decline in daily US newspaper science writers seems to be trudging along.”
It’s mental, really, that newspaper science writing is, by all appearances, dying. Aside from The New York Times, scarcely any paper in the country can be relied upon to consistently deliver science news. Quite apart from being incredibly important, science journalism is flat-out fascinating. So much of what we serve up every day is so unbelievably useless, trite or otherwise boring, but we can’t be bothered to deliver interesting science news.
Journalists on the business beat, meanwhile, are sufficiently concerned about their fate in the current newspaper climate that the Society of American Business Editors and Writers distributed this open letter at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention.
The value of business reporting is unquestionable, when it’s done well, anyway. Fine, fine, fine. But can someone tell me why most newspapers of a certain size continue to maintain separate local news and local business news departments? Would anyone designing a newsroom from scratch make this choice?
I’ve read some of the pro-separation arguments, but I still don’t get it. A health reporter on one side of the room and a business of health reporter on the other? Real estate reporters in business, government reporters covering taxes and development policy in metro? Most newspaper people seem to think we’ve cost-cut to the bone, but consider, really consider, all the structural and bureaucratic inefficiencies in our newsrooms that are nothing more than remnants of what I like to call newspapers’ Era of Delusion.
>Why Would You Skin a Kangaroo? (Slate)
Slate’s Explainer column never fails to come through with the facts that you really want to know, that you need to know, when the newspaper stories let you down. I’ve been curious about kangaroo skinning since hearing the “Australian Taliban” David Hicks described on NPR as a “former kangaroo skinner.”
The Explainer not only delivers all your basic kangaroo skinning facts (Dog and cat food frequently contains kangaroo meat? For real?), it introduces us to the Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos, which I expect to find every bit as useful as the title suggests in the months and years ahead.