Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Quake: Being There for the Big Story Has Its Price

Post-Katrina Pattern of Personal Reporting the Order of the Day. NPR's Jason Beaubien Offers a Textbook Example

No doubt, when a big story breaks most journalists want to be where the action is, even if they never leave the newsroom. Resources, experience, maybe even a little chutzpah, often determine who hits the road.
So, you have your cadre of reporters who show up in war zones and natural disasters. They want to be there, not because they're paid to, but because that's where the story is, where what their work can be a game-changer, misery and reward worked into one.
Yet, it is the Haiti quake that has been a game-changer for some, who have seen some of the worst that fellow man and Mother Nature can dish out. This one is different.
That was evident yesterday in a report on All Things Considered, when NPR's Jason Beaubien was doing a Q&A with anchor Melissa Block outside a hotel, talking about a badly wounded girl bandaged but otherwise lying untended. As he looked at her and described her condition, Beaubien began to cry.

"She keeps lifiting her head and her lips are shaking .... Sorry, Melissa," he said amid tears.
"That's OK," she quietly replied."
"It's heartbreaking, what is happening here," Beaubien continued, quickly regaining composure. "There are people just in the streets everywhere."

This is no journo-tourist. Before becoming Mexico City bureau chief, Beaubien spent four years in Africa for NPR, reporting from 27 countries, where war, famine, and AIDS were a prominent part of his landscape. He's also been to Haiti before, covering the aftermath of hurricanes.
It was interesting that Beaubien was interviewed by Block, who filed report after gripping report from China, following the earthquake that devastated Sichuan province in 2008. She was a human being first, a reporter second. And that's how you get the story right, not to mention a shower of awards that came her away, along with co-anchor Robert Siegel and their team.

Beaubien's the father of two boys. When he gets home, there are bound to be lots of hugs.

It's hard to say who will need them more.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Evening Newscasts Not Dead Yet

Still, Don't Expect Metamucil and Depends to Stop Advertising Anytime Soon

From TV Newser comes good news for those who toil in and around the likes of Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, and Brian Williams.
Some 27 million people watched the network newscasts in the first week in January, with ABC/Sawyer putting up a good fight against NBC, though Brian Williams is still top dog by a good margin.
That's not to say those numbers will be as robust throughout the year, especially as the weather gets warmer. But still extremely decent by any measure.
A caveat: only 8 million or so of that number is linked to the 25-54 demo. So, the bulk of the audience is still older boomers and/or their elderly parents. And contrary to advertising myths, they still spend money, and not just on the prescription drugs that account for so many of the ads between 6:30-7.
The tough part will be finding new viewers as the old folks start aging out, something newspapers have failed miserably at. The nets have an advantage in that they don't charge for their product. The larger question remains how many will continue to need it. Short-term, that's not a worry for the news divisions. Twenty-seven million viewers have seen to that.

Now It's Being Called the Muff, Instead

Dam it, Canadian magazine The Beaver Changing Its Name

Canadian history magazine The Beaver was founded in 1920, back when a beaver was just, well, a beaver.
Ah, how times and dirty minds have changed.
Seems double entendres take their time making their way across the border, hence a belated name change of the magazine to, yawn, Canada's History.
Love this quote from editor Mark Reid:

"Market research showed us that younger Canadians and women were very very unlikely to ever buy a magazine called The Beaver no matter what it's about. For whatever reasons, they are turned off by the name."

It must have been a serious problem as Reid used "very" twice, which I take as the Canadian equivalent of Defcon 4 in the publishing business. The women part I can understand. Younger Canadians? Not so much. If anything they'd just be pissed off when they find out the magazine is about history and not, um, you know, wildlife.