Whig Wakes Up (Sort of…)

September 30, 2008

    It is long overdue, but the Cecil Whig is finally waking up to the fact that it has online competition from local news bloggers that have frequently written about issues that the Whig either did not cover at all or did not publish in print or put online until a day or more later.

   In the past few days, the Whig is starting to post, by mid-afternoon, an online summary of the stories its reporters are working on for the next day’s print edition.  The Whig is also being more pro-active about posting online Associated Press items throughout the day. That’s not original reporting on the Whig’s part, but at least the updates give an impression of timeliness, even though one could easily obtain the same news from a constantly updated website like www.cnn.com

  And, it is a measure of the Whig’s sudden, and belated, recognition of the increasing online competition in the current news/online marketplace, that they are starting to post news articles online before the next day’s print publication.

   An important example– although, in fact, a rather slow posting in the “news now” world of the Internet– is the Whig article, written by editor Terry Peddicord, on a candidate’s forum in Rising Sun. It happened on Monday, and he didn’t write it online until mid-day Tuesday. But it would appear that the print/ink on paper version won’t make it into the newspaper until Wednesday.

   Better late than never. And anything that this, and other news blogs in the county, are doing to wake up the Whig is a good thing.

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11 Responses to Whig Wakes Up (Sort of…)

  1. […] Cecil Times – “Whig Wakes Up Sort of” […]

  2. CanalSide Editor on October 1, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    haha – yes, we noticed. 😉

  3. Interested Cecil Countian on October 4, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Your commentary seems a little harsh. I attended that Candidate Forum in Rising Sun – it did not even begin until 7:00 p.m Monday evening….and ended around 9:30 p.m.

    I am not familiar with the details of newsprint schedules, but given the fact the Whig is on my doorstep by no later than 7 a.m., I would imagine meeting that deadline for Tuesday’s newspaper would have required the article to be written before the meeting was over Monday night.

    And you characterize the on-line article that was available by mid-day on Tuesday as being a “rather slow posting”? Who is the one here that really needs to wake up?

    The reality is that news blogs and print media are not the same thing.

  4. ceciltimes on October 4, 2008 at 10:07 am

    We commended the Whig for taking what is, for them, the unusual step of putting a full article online before it appears in the print edition. Yes, by that time of night the Whig’s print deadline would have passed for the Tuesday edition. But there was nothing to prevent Mr. Peddicord from posting at least a brief update online that night. Remember, the Whig is charging a hefty subscription fee for its online editions.

    Not to toot our own horn here, but the Cecil Times managed to cover the Board of Appeals meeting recently that had the same evening time frame and still get a pretty detailed report on the web the same night. We do not charge a subscription fee. I don’t think it is too “harsh” to expect the Whig to give its paying online customers at least a bulletin. Reporters are supposed to be trained to write on quick deadlines.

  5. Mike on October 4, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    The more coverage of local government that we have from as many vantage points as possible the better. There was a time not too many years ago that Elkton town meeting had four journalists present (Whig, News Journal, WSER, and the Cecil County Times [an earlier weekly]). Not too long before that there were two main-stream weeklies, the Whig and the Democrat. Citizens seeking to stay informed could get real perspective on what happened at a meeting by scanning all of those sources. Moreover this real competition kept each paper and its reporters focused on making sure nothing was missed. If you did, the competition was going to scoop you.

    But once competition faded, the executives stopped investing in what made their product strong, original news and features, which is one reason why the industry is in the state it’s in. It’s all well profiled in business papers and websites such as http://www.newspaperdeathwatch.org.

    By-the-way, the Whig has some of the finest editors and writers around. Management just needs to let their writers write and editors produce insightful columns that challenge things just a little, just a little. I know those pros are capable of fine work for I well recall many of their outstanding columns and editorials over the years, all focused on local issues. If it’s not local I don’t want it from the Whig. Most of the non-local news is a commodity, which is old by the time it arrives on my door step. I’ll get the deeper more insightful pieces from papers like the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post.

    To anyone considering advoacacy, wanting to cover local government, or simply their community, I say come on in the blogosphere is just fine. The barriers for entry in this new media is virtually non-existent now and I hope to see many more bloggers so I can have lots of perspectives to consider. It’ll cause executives in old media to reconsider what they’ve done to this fine industry and profession.

    We used to get four newspapers a day and now we’re down to one. I can see the day when we’ll not have one subscripition, unless it has lots of original local content.

    But I do check out those bloggers as on source for consideration. I remember when I first discovered CanalSide and though I don’t live in Chesapeake City, I surfed over there to check get a deeper understanding of canal town happenings. Now this summer product a great crop of weblogs.

  6. ceciltimes on October 4, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    As always, Mike offers thoughtful comments and insight on Cecil County and the state of the news world. Gee, Mike, do you think that “Interested Cecil Countian” has a day job in the employ of Chesapeake Publishing?

  7. Interested Cecil Countian on October 5, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    No, this interested Cecil Countian does not work for Chesapeake Publishing. There are a number of other reasons why a person might take exception to your opinion.

    I agree with Mike that the more perspectives we have to consider, the better. The more informed and educated the citizenry can be when it comes to the important issues and challenges Cecil County faces, the better the decisions will be.

    But what I’m most interested in hearing is common sense perspectives and solutions. Sarcasm just diminishes the message.

    The internet has changed the way we do business, how we view life, and the method/speed we receive information – among many other things. But I still maintain print media and news blogs aren’t the same and shouldn’t be judged the same way.

  8. Crazy History Teacher on October 5, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Interested Cecil Countian,
    LIGHTEN UP and learn to take a joke!

  9. ceciltimes on October 5, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Dear ‘Interested CecilCountian:’

    We totally agree with you that traditional/ MSM (mainstream media) outlets are very different from blogs. We think that if you have read all of our posts in our very brief two weeks or so of existence, you would see that much of what the Cecil Times has reported/written is really not all that different from what a solid, reputable news outlet would have reported. But the key difference is that the Cecil Times is free to its readers and the Whig is not.

    Our issue is that the Whig is charging a whole lot of money for both print and online subscriptions and the question is: are we getting our money’s worth? When we paid for an online subscription to the Whig a year ago, as one of the first online subscribers, we were assured that we would have ALL the same content online as we would get in print. We were also assured we would have access to the Whig archives.

    Not true. For many weeks, the Whig did not put online all of its print content, especially its ‘letters to the editor,’ which is some of the most interesting content in the paper. And suddenly, in the past 2 months, the Whig is now demanding that we pay highly exhorbitant fees for access to its archives older than 30 days. Frankly, this is a consumer rip off. Our one year subscription is not yet expired, but the Whig has unilaterally altered the terms of its contract with us by denying access to its archives.

    The Whig is now owned by a global media conglommerate, as reported by the Baltimore Sun, the News Journal, and every media outlet EXCEPT the Whig. It is appropriate that readers, and paying customers, of the Whig inquire about just what they are getting for their money.

  10. Mike on October 12, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    It is interesting how we’ve started to come full circle with local news as a sought after commodity, the product that causes thousands of people to read a paper so they’ll see ads that create shareholder value. Once competition faded from the Cecil County marketplace, the corporation with its monopoly on news was safe in pulling back from investing in valued content and they’ve certainly done that over the years. When Elkton, Chesapeake City or whatever had three or four news people covering meetings, each journalist had to rush council dealings into print or get scooped. Moreover, they couldn’t stay silent on items for the others would run with it.
    That rivalry created competition in the marketplace.

    But once it dwindled down to the point where there was only one publisher, the corporation had complete gatekeeper power. Either through failure to invest in their product (content), simple neglect or fear or stirring things up, they decided what got covered. In Cecil County the gatekeeper function is more significant because for large parts of our area, there is no other place to turn, but this is a national scenario too. But here we don’t have television or radio broadcasters as alternatives.

    By-the-way, things are different on the Susquehanna. Port Deposit and Havre de Grace have three newspapers (Record, Whig, Herald) covering those town meetings. I purchase copies of the Herald and the Record every week to get my range of western county news perspectives. In fact, one of the things I particularly appreciate about the Record is its plucky editorials. They’re not afraid to take on sacred cows and in fact I think they go looking for them. It adds value for readers and shareholders.

    But in the 21st century due to changes in technology, a new medium is beginning to puncture the news monopoly for if legacy media doesn’t address it, anyone can launch a blog, covering happenings inexpensively and in near real time. I just have to look at the three bloggers paying attention to what’s happening south of the canal. While my morning paper is still one source, I surf over to those blogs to get a more in depth perspective, which is a lot more opinionated, in accordance with the norms of the blogosphere. But that’s okay for if someone will report, I’ll decide.

    In my case at Someone Noticed where the situation started last March, I’d never given blogs a thought for citizen journalism or advocacy, but when I just couldn’t get the story to gather any traction in print, what alternative did I have. I’d talk to the reporter, the commissioners would argue about it, I’d even do an outline summary in my allocated five minute remark time to help provide an orientation for coverage. But then when I’d follow up, I’d hear the politicians said it’s over. They aren’t going to do anything with the land! There’s no sense running the story, we just talked with Mayor Fisona and others. Well, of course, the politicians didn’t want the story to run for why would they want coverage on something that opposed their plan and was also embarrassing. It was all designed to go quietly by. Finally by late summer I’d given up on traditional media and launched Someone Noticed on Aug. 10. To the Whig’s credit, once the story caught their attention, they did an excellent editorial saying don’t sell it and began providing coverage.

    We’ll never again return to the world when one newspaper will be able to serve as the gatekeeper, since anyone will be able to now launch a blog. In fact, I’d encourage more people to do exactly that. The more the better. It’ll be good for those in the journalism profession too for it’ll make the corporation pay attention to its product, once again.

    While bloggers aren’t professional journalists, readers need to recognize what they are and evaluate the angles and perspectives of the various bloggers. But at least the information monopoly is greatly alleviated and anyone can spread the news..
    It really is all about the content, either in print or in new emerging mediums. I can only speculate on the changes in the years ahead as this new technology develops more and more and a younger generation grows up without the newspaper reading habit.

    Just my thoughts as the journalism world changes locally and across the nation, and a new medium begins to mature.

  11. ceciltimes on October 13, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Mike, most MSM (mainstream media) outfits have a policy to prohibit their reporters from doing off-time blogs if they pertain to news or issues that they might have to cover during their paid journalism jobs. Some reporters have been suspended or fired for doing so. Most newspaper web sites are adding blogs like mad, but they often suffer from the same problems as the print product: too cautious, no investment of resources and time for more in depth reporting, etc.
    I was dismayed to see that the Baltimore Sun recently ended its engaging “Mutts” blog, written by a former Pulitizer Prize winning reporter who came to the Sun from the Phillie Enquirer. The blog was about dogs and animals, but it included original reporting, humor, and great writing. But its author was the latest casualty of more than a decade of “buyouts” to cut staff and costs. But the good news is that the reporter is starting his own independent blog and website and is writing a book about the human/canine bond.

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