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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Netflix is taking the bull by the horns while newspapers wait for their base readers to die

September 20th, 2011 Comments off

In a recent blog post, I found it interesting what one media observer related about the newspaper industry in a comparison with Netflix …

Unfortunately for newspapers and other publishers with legacy businesses, they have to make the transition somehow, and the glacial pace that most of the industry has taken — which amounts to waiting for existing print subscribers to die of natural causes and thereby solve the problem — isn’t really cutting it. They can change quickly and risk the kind of customer uproar that Netflix is experiencing, or they can move slowly and be disrupted. At least Netflix is trying to disrupt itself instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

You can read the entire blog post here.

Barbour’s horse needs a trip to vet before he bets our money

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off

From the MBJ staff

Solar energy may be the wave of the future, but Mississippi should be careful where it comes to being an investor in new companies promising the moon — er, sun.
Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts went bankrupt last month, leaving that state hanging after an investment of more than $40 million of taxpayer dollars in the business.
Then, last week, solar panel maker Solyndra’s bankruptcy left stakeholders and industry observers wondering what the firm’s dramatic collapse will mean for the solar industry. At the same time Solyndra was announcing its bankruptcy, Gov. Haley Barbour was announcing his proposed deal to invest $75 million to bring Calisolar, of Sunnyvale, Calif., to Columbus. He said the company will create 951 direct full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits. Calisolar’s Columbus facility will produce solar silicon.
Stion, which will make make thin-film solar panels in Hattiesburg, was awarded a $75-million loan from the Mississippi Legislature and plans a Sept. 16 ribbon cutting. The company says it feels comfortable in the marketplace with its thin-film technology.
By all accounts Solyndra was doing well, building a 1-million-square-foot factory and employing 1,100 workers to make its cylindrical CIGs solar panels.
But, while the company that “had been hailed as a poster child for the cleantech economy” fell apart, “its failure doesn’t spell the end for a robust solar market,” say investors and solar officials.
However, the company’s failure should make Mississippi officials much more leery about the millions of dollars they have doled out trying to bring jobs to a crippled Mississippi economy.
Mississippi has also awarded a large loan — $50 million — to solar company Twin Creeks, which will manufacture crystalline silicon solar panels in Senatobia. If Calisolar’s $75-million loan is approved, Mississippi’s total solar investment will come to $175 million.
You could say Barbour and other industry recruiters for Mississippi are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Yet, there are still many serious questions that must be answered as we loan piles of money into alternative energy startups.
Alain Harrus, a venture capitalist with Crosslink Capital, which is invested in another government-backed solar company, Abound Solar, told the San Francisco Business Times that Solyndra was a well-run company, whose demise was inevitable.
“They executed as well as one can be expected to on this type of scale,” he said. “The technology — it’s a success. Commercially, they got caught in a down-slope on the pricing. At the end of the day you can’t ship things if it costs more to ship than what you can get money for.”
The fact that Solyndra did nearly everything correctly and still went bankrupt should be terrifying for Mississippians.
Investment in solar power shouldn’t stop, but we have to be very careful to make sure the money of all Mississippians is spent well and that government can see the forest for the trees.
The real question is, what is the forced liquidation value of these companies? Mississippians have a right to know. If these companies fail and a fire sale occurs, how could taxpayers recover compared to what they put in? If the numbers are close to the loans amounts, these might not be bad deals. If not, then we could be in serious trouble.

Phil Bryant does it again

August 3rd, 2011 Comments off

In a video interview with the Mississippi Business Journal, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, whom we endorsed for governor, said he would like to see a new nuclear power plant at the Grand Gulf site in Mississippi.
Really?
Well, I would love to see a NASCAR track built in Mississippi, but I don’t have a plan in place to make that happen, and even if I did, it would take 20 or 30 years to get it done.
Oh, that was Phil that said he wanted a NASCAR track in Mississippi but offered no specifics on how to get it done?
Sorry.
Hey, I’ve got a great idea.
Since Monsanto is all about changing the natural order of seeds to make money, maybe the world’s largest loan shark would manipulate a seed so that it only produces money. Then, Mississippi could just grow money and not worry about anything else.
Oh yeah, Monsanto already did that.
It’s called the corn plant.

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When all is said and done, ‘Snarky’ Planet Money got it right

July 14th, 2011 Comments off

Adam Davidson, an NPR reporter on “Planet Money,” has received a pile of criticism for his look into the economic development industry, in which he finally concluded, “They are not creating jobs. They are just moving jobs around.”
From there, everyone became defensive and lost perspective as the story received a rebuttal by International Economic Development Council president Jeffrey A. Finkle and pointed criticism by NPR.
“This American Life” senior producer Julie Snyder and Davidson attended a meeting of the International Economic Developers Council in San Diego and came away saying, “Now we have this race to bottom: Who can cut back government services the most? Who can eliminate the most regulation?”
In his rebuttal, Finkle said, “I feel even more hurt by the piece as I rolled out the red carpet for you guys. It is as if I held a dinner party, invited you as guests, told everyone how important you were and then had you insult all of my guests.”
Ira Glass, the show’s host and one of its editors, lamented that the tone in the report had gotten out of hand and “that the tone was a bit snarky.”
But was the report accurate?
It is not the job of a reporter to make people feel warm and fuzzy; it is to report accurately with insight and perspective.
In this case, Davidson and Snyder lost their audience with a “snarky” tone, but when you dig beneath the surface, they had a point.
It did a great job discussing the “numbers” gaming aspects, short-term focus, and special interests of economic development organizations.
One urban planner commented that over years in the business, she is “frankly weary of boosterism.”
Many ED organizations out there are doing a fine job and in some forms in a tough economy, but the planner pointed out the she has experienced, “first hand the spin and lack of substance to many of the claims made in the field. I have been astonished at reports to the community claiming this or that ‘win.’ ”
My thought is there was a point made in the story, even if it was lost in the hurt feelings of those involved.
But the overwhelming point, which no one rebutted, was the conclusion of the report where Davidson noted, “education is the key and we are cutting off our legs by de-funding it from K to college.”
Sound like any place you know?

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018

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Homebuilders endorse Reeves for Lt. Governor

July 13th, 2011 1 comment

The Home Builders Association of Jackson has endorsed Tate Reeves’ candidacy for Lt. Governor. In an e-mail statement, President Wade Quin is credited with noting Reeve’s “experience as a conservative money manager” and his success “in protecting taxpayers as Mississippi’s State Treasurer.”

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Dupree charges, takes lead in MBJ Poll

July 13th, 2011 1 comment

You can decide whether it has anything to do with Congressman Bennie Thompson giving his endorsement yesterday, but Hatiesburg mayor Johnny Dupree has charged ahead of Clarksdale businessman Bill Luckett in the Mississippi Business Journal poll, which asks “Who will be the Democratic nominee for governor?” … Click here to see the results

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Luckett leads MBJ reader poll

July 12th, 2011 Comments off

Despite Johnny Dupree receiving an endorsement today from Congressman Bennie Thompson, Clarksdale businessman Bill Luckett leads a MBJ reader poll asking who will be the Democratic nominee for governor. Click here to see the results and vote.

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Endorsements are a lot like pickled cucumbers

July 8th, 2011 Comments off

My wife understands that my brain works differently than most people’s. It could be the reason she loves me, or she could just be taking pity on me.
Either way, she keeps me around despite the random questions and statements I have and make.
Lately, the questions have been more frequent. She just rolls her eyes and keeps on moving.
Like last weekend. I was watching the Red Sox play on TV on July 4. I was horrified at the god-awful ugly hats my team was wearing that captured the American flag inside the “B” on the hat. I get it. It’s Independence Day. It’s patriotic, I guess. It’s an opportunity for Major League Baseball to make more money on the sales of the alternative hat. It’s still ugly.
But why were the Toronto Blue Jays wearing a similar-style hat? Toronto is still in Canada, right?
Will American teams wear ugly hats with a maple leaf imbedded in the logo for the Canadian independence day? When is Canadian independence day?
Another of my questions is why is a pickle named a pickle? I mean, it’s a pickled cucumber.
We have pickled okra and pickled beats and pickled eggs and even pickled pigs feet. So, what’s up with pickles. Was it the first thing ever pickled?
This may all seem silly, but all of this random thinking fits well in an election year.
Everyone has been, particularly in the governor and lieutenant governor’s race, endorsed by someone.
Both Dave Dennis and Phil Bryant have been endorsed by The Tea Party, which is odd.
A press release from the Dennis camp didn’t make it much clearer … The “Official TEA Party of Mississippi” (although others claim to be THE statewide TEA group) has endorsed Bryant. The Gulf Coast 912 Project and Alcorn County TEA Party Patriots have endorsed Dennis.
Uh, OK.
When the NRA endorsed Bryant, Dennis followed up by saying he had been a member of the NRA for 20 years. Then he ripped the endorsement, calling it “politics.”
Uh, yeah.
Bryant gets the nod from “several law enforcement” groups.
Dennis gets the nod from the Madison County Journal newspaper.
Former Sen. Trent Lott endorsed Billy Hewes for lieutenant governor while Tate Reeves has endorsements from just about everyone else.
My favorite though, came on June 27 when Bryant’s camp announced it had received the endorsement from “Bully Bloc.”
The Bully Bloc, according to the press release, is a non-partisan political action committee, not affiliated with Mississippi State University.
So, let me get this straight.
An endorsement was given from an organization whose main claim to fame is that it is not affiliated with Mississippi State University.
Why even point it out?
I would rather contemplate the origins of the pickle.
It makes more sense.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018

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Who really is quoted in that press release you just sent?

June 8th, 2011 1 comment

Press releases and e-mail quotes are like nails scratching down a chalk board to me. In many instances, they are a necessity, but there are limits to what you can do with them.

In some cases, the Mississippi Business Journal just will not accept them. There are so many limits on their effectiveness.

>> WATCH THIS VIDEO: HAS THE PRESS RELEASE KILLED THE NEWS?

In email interviews, you can’t do follow-up questions based on the subject’s answers, and the reporter can’t take body language into account. Then, in a statement, how are you to know the quotes are the quotes of the person they are attributed to?

The media is already getting a bum rap too many times about not getting it right, when taking a quote from an e-mailed statement is a guaranteed way not to have a guaranty of who authored the quotes.

Veteran journalist Jim Stasiowski preaches on this subject often.

“What I tell reporters and editors all the time is, we get our best responses the closer we get to our sources,” said Stasiowski, writing coach for The Dolan Company, which owns the Mississippi Business Journal.  “We get better information if we can be there in person to ask questions; if that’s not possible, then the telephone is the next best way to interview because even though we’re not physically right next to the person, we’re communicating with him or her in real time, and we can sense from voice inflection, pauses, laughter, etc., what that person’s mood is.”

The point is email separates us from the person, both in time – he or she can answer an email whenever – and in the experience of being together.

“Think of it this way: If, as a tornado was roaring through a neighborhood, if a reporter could get on the telephone a resident, frightened to death and huddled in a basement, would that interview be dramatic?

“OK, now, let’s say we emailed that person when the tornado was approaching, but he or she already was in the basement, far from the computer,” Stasiowski continued. “If, two hours later, he or she found that email message and responded, yes, the response would be thoughtful and worthwhile, but it would lack that very human element of wondering what was about to happen.”

The list of difficulties with email interviews should scare every reporter, but he says the truth is, “Some reporters like the easy way to get information, and email exchanges are easy.

“I want reporters who treasure the difficulties inherent in the in-person or over-the-telephone interview. And I want reporters who get as close as possible to the people they are interviewing.”

It’s important to remember that email is not terrific for sorting out issues of great complexity. In this respect, an actual conversation can do wonders. So, when at all possible, getting the news from the horse’s mouth is the best avenue to take.



Media: We are easy targets

October 11th, 2010 Comments off

Somewhere along the line, it’s lost that I am a member of the media. Either that or the e-mail lists I wind up on are meant to send a message.

In actuality, I suspect, neither is the case. But I get a chuckle out of the stuff that gets sent around with particular venom and general mean spirit about the media.

We in the media, according to most of the e-mails, are anti-America, anti-military, anti-business, anti-family … basically, just “anti.”

One I got not so long ago referenced the death of a Medal of Honor winner, who lived in Boise, Idaho.
The e-mail goes into great detail about his experience in Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War.
Ed Freeman, against orders, flew his helicopter into a firefight to save pinned-down infantrymen. Actually, he went back and forth 13 times for men that would have perished otherwise.
Then, the kicker … “I bet you didn’t hear about this hero’s passing in the media.”

But the e-mailer was sure we had all seen lots of reports of celebrity antics and brushes with the law.
The final line read, “Shame on the American Media!”

Lazy and presumptive

Well, this kind of stuff drives me crazy. So, I immediately began to look up Mr. Freeman with this new, fancy technological tool, called “Google.”

After exhaustive research of the woeful American media archives, and with my (media-hat-wearing) head hung low, I responded to the e-mail:

Just a quick search shows that the media did a fine job in covering this story, below are three stories that I found. I am sure there are more, including local television and radio, which I did not look for.
Even a Mississippi post office may be named after this war hero, I read in a newspaper account.
I believe people are too quick to jump on the media. If folks will take about three seconds to look for it, generally you will find that the media has done its job.

And yes, this is a great story about a great American that served his country well, and I am glad the media did a good job in reporting it. Best, Ross.

I included several links to the stories. Three seconds. That’s all it took.

I know the media is an easy target and sometimes rightfully so as Howard Kurtz pointed out in his book “Media Circus: The Trouble with America’s Newspapers.”

Kurtz, the long-time Washington Post media critic, who last week jumped to the web’s “Daily Beast,” points out a bias toward bad news, and an emphasis on scandal.

But, by and large, the media — the middle-of-the-road media — does it right most of the time.
While we might not like everything we read or see, the media serves a great purpose in our society, which we would miss dearly were it not available in an objective form. I only hope we at the MBJ can live up to the other great journalism being practiced in every form of the profession.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.