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Are Schools Really “Failing” — And Are They Being “Reformed”?

A very interesting, cautionary opinion piece from American Journalism Review about how the media covers schools.

http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=5280

We’ve spent a lot of time covering the schools in recent years in the paper and on the Behind the Headlines show. The reform efforts of Superintendent Kriner Cash, the Gates Foundation efforts, the rise of charter schools, and of course the pending consolidation of city and county schools, all have occupied a lot of space. For good reason, I think.

After reading this, though, I’m frantically trying to think about where, when and how often I’ve fallen into some of the easy lines described by Farhi.

Two items from the story that stuck out to me:

ā€œ’The discussion [of the state of schools] is quite simplistic. I’m not sure why exactly. My suspicion is that the media has trouble with complexity.'”

ā€œIn 2011, the percentage of parents who gave their children’s school an A grade was at its highest ever (37 percent), whereas only 1 percent of respondents rated the nation’s schools that way. Why the disparity in perceived quality? Gallup asked people about that, too. Mostly, it was because people knew about their local schools through direct experience. They only learned about the state of education nationally through the news media.ā€

 

Bigger Than Your Head

I still don’t know what the title means, but Fredric Koeppel’s blog has been nominated for an American Wine Blog Award 2010. Fredric writes about wine and the restaurant industry for us in our weekly edition (and online).

His blog is www.biggerthanyourhead.net.

The voting for the award is taking place here.

Congratulations, Fredric.

When Does The Daily News Go Live?

Readers may have noticed a change in the timing of our Web edition today. As of today, we’ve started publishing tomorrow’s print edition on the Web at roughly 4 pm the day before the print edition is distributed. (Email Edition subscribers have had early access to tomorrow’s edition for a few years.)

In the past, we waited to update the editorial until midnight. In other words, tomorrow’s print edition would go live at midnight tonight. (Breaking news has always gone online as soon as possible.)

There are a number of reasons for the change, but the simplest is that we have the news ready and done so we should publish it. I could use a lot of buzzwords to describe this philosophical strategic shift, but I can maybe best summarize this change with the phrase: “Uh, like, duh.”

Put another way, why didn’t we do this sooner?

The main reason for waiting is that I was concerned that publishing the news early on the Web would hurt print subscriptions. This is one of those callous, cautious, monetary decisions that publishers are forced to make (and which cause me no small amount of consternation, given that I’m neither callous nor cautious.)

However, over time, I’ve become convinced that we are best off publishing our news as quickly as possible — in every format possible — and not worrying about one format hurting another. Readers will choose the format that suits them best.

My best example of this is my 72-year-old father, who reads three newspapers every day, all in print. He will never, ever, read a paper online. Meanwhile, his 42-year-old son (aka, me) reads four newspapers every day, all online. The publishers of these papers make money off both of us. (See callous and monetary considerations, above.) They just make that money in different ways.

To my surprise, a part of what has convinced me to make this change has been the growth in the number of our Twitter followers. I don’t particularly like Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize it’s very obvious power to publish content widely, quickly and cheaply. We crossed 1,000 followers this week. We have nearly 800 fans on Facebook. And we’ve done very little to make this happen — little in the way of marketing those avenues, I should say. We have done one thing to promote Twitter and Facebook: We’ve produced many consistently interesting and smart articles about Memphis business, politics, and the issues in between.

There is one thing that will not change on our Web site, however: We continue to publish actual distinct editions of the paper online. If you look down the left side of the Web site, you’ll see links to every day’s edition of The Daily News. The links, if you follow them, go back years. Very few newspapers do this. Instead, they constantly update their home page with new articles, creating an ever-changing yet largely amorphous representation of the current news.

I understand why CNN does this. Breaking news is their schtick.

I don’t understand why The New York Times — and virtually every other newspaper in the country — does it.

Why? Because, since the first newspaper was published, I believe firmly that readers have reserved the right to stack up their newspapers — on their desk, their hearth, or their nightstand — and “get caught up” when they have time.

We make a point of offering you that option. If you miss a day, it is there for you, on the Web or in email, in it’s entirety.

Put another way, go to The New York Times — or The Wall Street Journal or the CA — and try to figure out what the most important news of April 26th was.

So enjoy your news at 4 pm. I keep thinking there’s a name for a newspaper that publishes an edition every afternoon. It’s a radical idea, after all. I might even start calling us an “afternoon paper.” It’s kinda catchy, I think.

Eric Barnes, Publisher

Changes to The Daily News Online

If you’ve looked at our Web site today, you’ve hopefully noticed a series of changes to the look and feel of the site. We’ve cleaned up the articles and presentation of news, as well as moved the data-driven utilities on the site into a more visible and accessible location.

This is the first step in a series of changes. Changes you’ll see in the next couple of months will include:

  • Redesigned Email Edition.
  • More help on the services pages (such as the Name & Property Search).
  • Streamlined sign up pages for paid services such as the Watch Service.
  • A simplified Subscribe page (god knows it couldn’t be more complicated…).
  • Better tools to manage your account and services.

If you have thoughts or comments about changes to the site, let me know at info@memphisdailynews.com.

Thanks to Taylor Wood, lead programmer for www.memphisdailynews.com, and Brad Wilkerson, of 68Comeback, for their work on this update to the site.

Eric Barnes, Publisher

The Rent vs. Buy Calculation

The New York Times did an interesting story on the question of whether it’s better to rent or buy a home now, given the beating that house prices have gone through in the last 18+ months.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/business/economy/21leonhardt.html

The article includes extensive analysis, it seems, including a city-by-city rating of those markets in which you’re better off buying, those you’re better off renting. Memphis is included, and is scored as what I’d call a 50/50 market — neither renting nor buying is high risk. Which would seem like a good thing to me, reflecting the fact that home prices are neither too high or too low.

There’s also a nifty rent vs. buy calculator. I love online calculators.

Dansette

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