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The GR Press and End of the Year Journalism

December 28, 2009

Yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press even outdid its usual weak journalism by filling its pages with end of the year and the decade in review articles.

The Press has downsized its Sunday edition over the past year due in part to the decline in ad revenues, according to comments given by the new Press editor at a public forum several weeks ago. However, economics cannot be the only factor that determines content. Here is a breakdown of Section A of Sunday’s edition of the Grand Rapids Press.

Section A had a total of 16 pages. Three of those pages were made up of editorials and public comment. Another seven and one half pages were taken up by advertisements, leaving five and one half pages of articles.

Three pages of the news content that was taken up by wire stories. On page 3 there was a near full page devoted to what was headlined as Disaster and Triumph. This wasn’t really a story but a series of pictures with captions looking at everything from 9/11 to Katrina, the economic meltdown and the election of Barack Obama.

Then there were the standard World/Nation in Brief snippets, where we get a print version of what CNN popularized as your world in 30 seconds. The Press has also begun adding its own version of snap shot stories that look at what is happening in Michigan. These “briefs” took up another page of content.

There were four other wire stories throughout Section A. On page six there was an AP story on the top 10 stories of 2009. On page 8 there was an AP story about a two-legged dog working with someone with disabilities. Page 9 brought more in depth journalism with a story about the Top 10 video games of 2009, just in case you wanted to add to your gaming collection.

Then on page 11 there was another Decade in Review piece from the Washington Post entitled, “Bad ideas couldn’t have come at a worse time.” Here the story identifies five bad ideas of the decade; Giving up on bin Laden, Compassionate Conservatism, The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, The Blackberry and Housing prices. Each bad idea is given less little space for explanation, but they layout breaks up the page well.

As for local stories in Section A, there were a total of four. One story was about reactions from Congressmen Ehlers and Hoekstra on the “failed” Detroit airport terrorist attack. Another story focused on what “local leaders” (meaning CEOs, politicians and University Presidents) think about the future economic outlook for West Michigan.

The rest of the local stories were part of what the Press called part of a series where they will explore recent immigrants who have started their own businesses. Interesting, but why not write a series on other achievements of recent immigrants or ways they contribute to the West Michigan community? This series could be followed by the difficulties that recent immigrants face, particularly cultural, social and institutional discrimination? However, it wouldn’t be wise to hold your breath waiting for these kinds of stories.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    December 29, 2009 1:55 am

    When I first read your headline, I thought it said, “The GR Press and the End of Journalism,” which would have been equally applicable.

    The two-legged dog story was my personal favorite of the issue; their editorial judgment is so consistent.

    As for an immigrant series, is there any chance of getting the Press interested in creating print stories inspired by GRIID’s outstanding series of interviews with people working here on immigration reform? The Press people seem to love it when some or all of the work is essentially done for them. If it’s not appropriate to use the actual interviews, they could at least cover the same variety of viewpoints with a series of their own.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    December 29, 2009 1:58 am

    Kate, the Press and any other media is welcome to repost the video interviews or take transcriptions if they want to use them. This is the case with everything on GRIID, since we believe in fair use. However, I don’t think the Press wants to use anything we have posted and their editorial staff wishes that we would just go away.

  3. Kate Wheeler permalink
    December 29, 2009 3:53 pm

    The Grand Rapids Press has not missed a chance, in recent months, to point out that it is The Last Paper Left Standing–one of the last daily newspapers in the state. It would be nice if that went hand-in-hand with higher journalistic standards and an augmented sense of purpose, but that obviously hasn’t been the case.

    On the other hand, if they wish GRIID would just go away, you’re obviously doing something right.

    As you note, we can’t hold our breath waiting for them to actually shift gears, but we can always hope that some of your analysis and criticism is getting through.

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