Revolution in Egypt? Pshaw. The Devores Had Fun In Lake Wales

DSCF5569 edit• Approximate number of words devoted to the unraveling of a vitally important–but complicated–U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf region, with major implications for U.S. gas prices, our soldiers deployed in the region, and who-knows-what-else: 1,250

• Number of photos or graphic elements: 1

• Approximate number of words devoted to first person accounts of the muddy voyages of discovery by The Ledger’s managing editor and her husband: 1,300 (This does not count the additional 700 or so words in the entirely appropriate news feature of the same event.)

• Number of photos or graphic elements of the managing editor and/or her husband at the event: 3 of a total of 9.

Some absurdities defy parody.

Helpful suggestion to the managing editor: You should wait until you get the job before turning the paper into your personal yearbook.

I feel for the rest of you guys. I really, really do.

Creative Commons License photo illustration credit: Chuck Welch for Lakeland Local

12 thoughts on “Revolution in Egypt? Pshaw. The Devores Had Fun In Lake Wales

  1. Seems pretty standard. The seven news values are impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, bizareness, conflict, currency.

    The revolution in Egypt? Timeliness, prominence, conflict, currency.
    Warrior dash in Lake Wales? Impact (thousands of LOCAL people/potential readers attended), timeliness, prominence, proximity, bizareness.

    Seeing as it’s a local newspaper, it seems like an appropriate amount of space was devoted to each. It’s great that you’re critical and thoughtful but I think you’re forgetting what the purpose and value of a local news source is, and that’s NOT finding out national and international news that you heard on the radio and saw on TV yesterday.

    • “…thousands of LOCAL people/potential readers attended..”

      Too bad we didn’t get their first person accounts. I might have read one of those, rather than just counting. I do appreciate your lecture on the seven news values, though. Did you read that in a book or come up with it on your own?

  2. You didn’t disagree with me, Heidi. You completely elided my point. And I do not respond well to obtuse criticism that ignores my point. I apologize. It is a character flaw. One of many.

    So no snark this time, I promise. I wrote:

    “Approximate number of words devoted to first person accounts of the muddy voyages of discovery by The Ledger’s managing editor and her husband: 1,300 (This does not count the additional 700 or so words in the entirely appropriate news feature of the same event.)”

    Notice how I called the actual coverage of the event entirely appropriate and excluded it from my count. My point was that it’s patently absurd to have the managing editor and her husband both write front page first person accounts — regardless of the worthiness of the event. If it’s Matt’s feature, plus two random participants, I probably would have said, eh, whatever. My point was that the personal experiences of the top editor and her family are ought not to drive news judgement. If they had gone to PigFest instead, would we have had dueling BBQ schlepping accounts? Does the managing editor’s presence at a local event now dictate its play?

    This isn’t a hypothetical question. We’ve now had two big front-page first person stories from the managing editor in two (or maybe three) weeks. Is this the pace we can expect to continue? I think that’s a legitimate question to ask, because, while I am certainly a jerk, I am also a paid subscriber. I just don’t have to go through the outsourced customer service line to register an opinion on coverage.

    This was the point I was making when I used the managing editor’s name in the headline. You chose not to address that point. Maybe it was an oversight. Maybe it was for obvious and understandable reasons. I don’t blame you either way. But don’t tell me you disagreed with me. You ignored me. So here’s a second shot, with the point spelled out in brutal detail for you. Care to deliver a response?

    As for Egypt, why cover it at all if this is truly the philosophy? Local to the point of exclusion. But I would say that, particularly on a Sunday, this would be a great time to offer more intellectual readers a piece laying out the history of Egypt’s relationship with the U.S., projecting the potential economic and social consequences of a revolution, of providing some general profiles on the players involved. Those are wire stories that you could easily select from the NYT or some other place. You could talk about the significance of Al-Jazeera, and where one might get it when local cable companies don’t provide it.

    On top of that, one of the bartenders at a well-known local establishment — which might even seem like a natural place to inquire about a Middle Eastern revolution, hint, hint — has a pretty fascinating take on this. I’ll bet someone as hip as you can figure out where to find him.

    Now, I hope this has not been too snarky. Trash me all you want. I can dish it out and I can take it, but, please, please, trash me accurately, based on what I actually write.

    • Forgive me for being brief. I had typed a whole response and then clicked the “post as” button, signed in and taken to a blank posting box. Very depressing, especially since I need to get ready for work.

      I appreciate your clarification, Billy. I clearly misunderstood exactly what about the coverage you were criticizing. So you didn’t have a problem with the differences in word count (even though most of your original post was devoted to it). You didn’t have a problem with the first person narrative. You had a problem with the fact that it was Lenore and her husband who wrote them.

      OK. This is more sound ground that we can discuss things. Because I liked the first person narratives. They help a reader connect with coverage better and are a break from reading news coverage of what should be a fun event. First-person narratives are often written by reporters in papers all over the country. I especially liked this one because of the mix – someone who could be considered a professional gym rat and a woman whose fitness level is similar to mine. It makes a compelling read, and I’m not sure it would have been more compelling if it was someone that didn’t work for the newspaper writing them.

      Now, would two first-person narratives about anything be on the front page if the managing editor and her husband hadn’t written them? Probably not. There have been times – particularly with long-term planned projects when it’s possible to get first-person narratives from members of the public who were involved in a particular event – historical or newsy – but I’m not sure that there is time or inclination to secure that sort of coverage on a deadline. For one, people whose business isn’t meeting a particular deadline tend to see deadlines as suggestions. You know that, I’m sure, from your considerable time in several newsrooms. So between securing the narratives, getting them on time and editing them, it might have never even happened. So I have no problem with a staffer being tasked with that job.

      You’re taking two isolated incidents and trying to make a pattern. News coverage is not dictated by what the Devores do on the weekend. We didn’t hear about when the Devores were stuck during the European volcanoes. We don’t regularly read tips on how to quit diet soda.

      As for coverage of the Egyptian protests, many newspapers (even local) find that they should include something due to being a newspaper of record. If I was a managing editor, I probably wouldn’t devote anything more than a column brief to national or international news. (Maybe that’s why I’m not a managing editor, who knows). But I think the news hole is limited enough that we should be devoting our resources entirely to local news. When people find out I work for the local newspaper, they don’t ask me what I think of Mubarak’s reign. They ask me why police were racing down 98 last night.

      In fact – Warrior Dash coverage on the website got more than 10 times the amount of views than the stories about the Egyptian protests (and that’s not including online-only media like the photo gallery). Maybe it’s just knowing your audience?

      • “So you didn’t have a problem with the differences in word count (even though most of your original post was devoted to it). You didn’t have a problem with the first person narrative. You had a problem with the fact that it was Lenore and her husband who wrote them.”

        Correct. I guess I thought that writing: “Helpful suggestion to the managing editor: You should wait until you get the job before turning the paper into your personal yearbook” had punctuated that point fairly strongly, but…oh well.

        For the record, I would love for all of you to write in 1st person anytime it makes sense. I think it’s far more honest, and generally more compelling. I’m for radical experimentation and play in print and online.

        I also do not dispute that 10 times more people clicked the mudracing. And I also agree that you are in the audience-chasing biz, which is one reason I am not anymore. But I was actually talking more about the print product, which does still exist for now. And, even online, how successfully have you monetized those mud race eyes? Do online revenues exceed print? Even now? The logic of your arguments, ultimately, dictate that you ought to turn theledger.com into a porn site. That’s what people click. That and wacky crime. But we already have names for that: FARC and TMZ, etc. etc. But honestly, I don’t have any real suggestion for an alternative to the audience chasing model. If I did, I’d be making lots of money still working with you guys. Which is why I actually try not to be too hard on actual news judgements.

        I don’t like executive abuse of responsibility and authority, though, in any ostensibly public “institution”.

        If the Ledger does not become the Devore personal blog, you won’t hear me peep about it anymore.

        • Unfortunately, we have no way of judging what people read in print or not. That’s why I pulled the online numbers. Also, because online is what I do so it’s what I’m familiar with.

          It seems like we’ve reached at least a little of common ground. Again, please consider writing about the bartender you know. You’ll get at least one page view from me.

  3. I might also add that we’ve now had a long, contentious exchange over Lenore and Bill Devore’s mud race, and we’ve not talked at all about John Chambliss’ meticulous story about questionable behavior by a top-ranking Lakeland Electric dude. Which seems a shame.

  4. Personalities and workplace politics aside, as a subscriber, I wasn’t too happy to see the front page covered with fluff. Is this really the most important thing that happened in Polk County during that news cycle?

    What happened to newspapers that actually report the news?

    It’s not like the antics of local city and county governments couldn’t keep a full staff of reporters busy for the next couple of years by doing what the press is intended to do — informing the public — as opposed to putting puff pieces on the front page.

    If our sainted local governments really are (sainted) and require no illumination in the press, the machinations of the state legislature, the governor, et al, certainly should keep the reporters busy writing exposés that would attract subscribers and provide a huge public service. If only —

    • Al: It’s not a question of workplace personalities, it’s a question of professional integrity, which as you know, is an ongoing hobbyhorse of mine. Those stories were a misuse of the power and authority, in service not to readers but the person leading the newsroom.

      • OK Billy, no disrespect intended to either of you. I defer to your direct knowledge and experience.

        My point is a bit different — that being that we subscribers who choose to pay the Ledger’s bills are ill-served by puff pieces masquerading as front page news. That may well result from the leadership/management issues you cite — but I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of that. Except, that I truly miss coffee and Sam’Ella’s Cafe — a casualty of management decisions during the round of pink slips. I’m still wondering if reading “Zits” and “Doonesbury” with my morning coffee justifies the subscription now that the Raven is gone.

        So, it appears there’s a double whammy here: Leadership integrity and subscriber service?

        What I do know is that there are lots of newsworthy things that don’t get reported — or don’t get the ink they deserve — but we have column inches available for fluff.

        I would have preferred (for example) to see an-in depth article on the 4H Youth Fair. Yes, there was coverage. But most of the community (including our elected officials) have zero understanding of the contribution that program makes to the community; the level of effort invested by the young citizens of the future; or the phenomenal volunteer infrastructure that makes the program work; or the huge number of young folks that participate and benefit thus making Polk County a better place.

        I didn’t mean to get on a soapbox. But from one subscribers’ viewpoint there is a whole range of newsworthy items (I’ve given two examples) that are important enough and (should be interesting enough to the community) to justify the ink that was instead given to a non-story.

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