‘We have a lot of boring stories’

Req: A, E, G

This probably won’t come as news to most younger readers, but even journalists themselves realize that a lot of what newspapers publish is pretty boring, according to Lee Abrams, chief information officer of the Tribune Company.

Abrams recently told portfolio.com:

I was in South Florida doing the redesign, and somebody raised their hand and said, “You know, I read our paper every day, and a lot of the stories are kind of boring. I hope I don’t offend anybody.” Then the publisher got up and said, “Really? Who agrees with that?” And the entire room, 150 people, all said, “Yeah, we have a lot of boring stories.” And even the guy who wrote the story that person was referring to said, “Yeah, I wrote that story and I thought it was boring.”

[Continue reading Abrams Speaks]

That’s just one of what Abrams sees as “newspaper secrets” — things that journalists know but are often afraid to speak about.

Abrams has been particularly hard on journalists who have been unable or unwilling to adapt to changes underway in the newspaper business, telling portfolio.com:

Some people didn’t get it, and they’re gone. They were just really adamant about, ‘No, I don’t want to change or evolve.’ So we had to find the people that did and put them in a room and just liberate their thinking.’

Sometimes that means using developments from the Web to improve the print copy of the newspaper rather than the other way around, as he told paidcontent.org:

We’re importing more from the web into the paper. I was in one market and was looking at their website, which featured a crime map, detailing where the most activity was happening. I thought this was great and asked if it was in the paper as well. ‘No, that’s just a web thing,’ they told me. It seemed like we were penalizing the Luddites who weren’t using the web. So while you can’t import everything back to the paper, we’re looking at what’s important and what fits.

[Continue reading Abrams on Redesign]

Abrams is loved by some and despised by others in the newspaper business. However, his observations have become “must read” for aspiring journalists. You can read more in Columbia Journalism Review’s profile of Lee Abrams this month.


1 Response to “‘We have a lot of boring stories’”

  1. 1 btenazas October 19, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Does this entry mean that even journalists succumb to their own news values? I don’t exactly get what they mean by “boring stories.” Is the topic not interesting? Is the location too far away? Not everything can be interesting, but if this is a career choice, I wonder what the boring/interesting ratio is for these people.

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This blog is maintained by Dr. Matthew M. Reavy as a service to journalism students at the University of Scranton.



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