April 17, 2018

by Roger Pynn

One thing you can look forward to when you die is that you won’t have to read the news.  After all, it is pretty depressing.

However, one thing you won’t read about is something many find depressing while they are still alive … death.

After monkeying with their publication of the news of death back in 2013 when it did away with the tradition of printing “Deaths in Central Florida,” the Orlando Sentinel brought back a limited version … but instead of treating it like news, they charged for even the simple three-line notices that include the deceased’s name, age, city and the name of their funeral home so friends could at least call to inquire about funeral services.

Last week they simply buried the whole thought that the dearly departed might matter to the paper’s readers, trading the space for large display ads.  The classified ad department told me that the average obituary takes up 36 lines at a cost of $505.  They do have a handy tool that allows you to write your loved one’s story, paste the text into a template and find out what it will cost … if you don’t die from the sticker shock yourself.

I’m an old news hound.  I made my living as a journalist for a long time.  I wrote a lot of obits in my day.  And I’ve read them every day of my life ever since … not out of morbid curiosity, but because if a friend has passed, I want to know it.  My bet is that I’m not unlike a lot of people … especially when they reach their 60s and 70s and going to funerals becomes a more routine part of life.

A quick check at doesn’t seem to show it, but the print edition has had at least a couple of passionate letters to the editor on this subject, including this:

I understand it costs a lot to run a newspaper.  It also costs to lose subscribers … whether it is due to their death or the disgust of families who dump their subscriptions … offended by decisions like this that choke every last dime out of the readers that real advertisers are trying to reach.

Where’s the News?

April 2, 2013

by Kim Taylor

When I was younger, “Where’s Waldo?” was hugely popular.  I was probably a smidge older than the typical demographic, but I had every book and would spend hours thumbing through the pages looking for the red-and-white-striped character.

Save for the red and white, I felt an instant feeling of nostalgia when I opened today.

I get it; ads pay the bills, but where’s the news?


Its That Prufreeding Thyme Agin

November 16, 2010

by Dan Ward

Now that copy editors have gone the way of the Dodo bird, I find myself reminiscing about college proofreading exercises every time I read a news story.

No, I’m not picking on my hometown paper (again). It seems like any news article I read, in print or online, contains more and more mistakes.

I realize that there are fewer people to edit copy nowadays, but proofreading and editing should be the job of everyone in the news business (and in any communications field).

Each grammatical error, each spelling mistake, each missing word kicks the reader out of the story. You find yourself focusing on the writer rather than the subject matter he or she is trying to describe.

Proofreading is so important to us that we often have applicants complete a proofreading exercise during interviews. From now on, we might just hand them a red pen and a newspaper.

Why Today’s News Matters

October 21, 2010

by Dan Ward

While attending a dinner with several area communications professionals, I struck up a conversation with a senior executive for a newspaper group’s interactive division.

I mentioned that, as a dinosaur, I still enjoy reading the hard copy of my local newspaper each day, and I expressed that I often find the online version confusing because I can’t tell which content is “today’s news” vs. news from a week ago or longer.

Her response:  “why does that matter?”

It matters because understanding current affairs … what is right now impacting our community, our businesses, our families, our country’s global interests … is important.  It’s why I subscribe to a newspaper, why I turn to the network news in the evening, and yes, why I click to a news website.

It matters because “online newspapers” should still serve as sources of news (defined as “a report of a recent event,” or “the presentation of a report on recent or new events”), rather than aggregators of content that generates revenue-creating click-throughs.

Oil and Water: Science and the News

August 27, 2010

by Dan Ward

Christopher Reddy’s opinion piece “How reporters mangle science on Gulf oil” appearing on is a great example of how the drive to “get the story first” can sometimes result in getting the story wrong.

Reddy is an associate scientist and director of the Coastal Ocean Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which gained worldwide attention last week after reporting that it had discovered a plume of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

News reports were quick to use this report as evidence that a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimate of oil in the Gulf was wrong.

But as Reddy points out, science doesn’t work that way.  The Institute’s report was meant to add to the wealth of scientific data available, not to suggest that any previous research or estimates were right or wrong. Despite Reddy’s attempts to share this with more than 25 journalists, the story was turned into a “duel between competing scientists.”

The fact that Reddy felt compelled to set the record straight should encourage us all to avoid jumping to conclusions when future scientific reports are released.

Science takes time, a commodity in short supply in many of today’s newsrooms. Transcends our Concept of “The Newspaper”

August 6, 2010

by Dionne Aiken

Visited lately?  Maybe you logged on during the World Cup

or to track the oil spill.  Well if you haven’t logged on lately you’re missing out.

In such a dynamic information arena, where consumers can get “info-on-demand,” via the Web, smart phone and tech devices in a matter of seconds, some newspapers continue the struggle to keep up – others, like The New York Times, remain forerunners by taking advantage of this dynamic platform.  They grab the reigns and race ahead transcending our concept of the newspaper and news delivery.

In a recent interview, Steve Duenes and Archie Tse from The New York Times graphics department talk about the extensive work that goes into creating all the graphics on the news site.  When you think about the size of the site, the amount of information and small window of turnaround time, this begins to look like a daunting task fit only for a magician.

Duenes & Tse say that starting with a simple (yet sophisticated) foundation is critical in creating graphics that are sustainable but also expandable so that as information is added they hold up over time.  This process involves a lot of painstaking work and sorting through data to effectively communicate data, stories and messages in the clearest manner possible.

The end result?  Their graphics direct in amazing story telling.

From climate changes timelines, to carbon dioxide emissions

interactive tours though Broadway

or the number of Frisks in NYC.

For journalist, editors, and designers alike message delivery and how we tell our story is an important task.  It’s just data but it really all depends on how you look at it.

Old-School Newspaper Reporting Still Matters

December 3, 2009

by Ashley Pinder
As media giant AOL announces it now seeks short, tweetable and colorful search engine optimized stories from freelancers not necessarily written from original content, it’s important to remember that old-school newspaper reporting still matters.

Stories of community service might not make headlines or drive ad click-throughs, but they do make a difference.

Several weeks ago the Junior League of Greater Orlando provided an Orlando Sentinel reporter armed with a notebook and a pencil, a chance at an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a little-known program at the Orange County Regional Juvenile Detention Center aimed at providing mentoring to detained young girls.

It required several levels of approvals by the state department to grant access to a member of the media to enter the JDC for a Girls Advocacy Project “GAP” session due to security restrictions, but it was well worth it. By attending the moving session in-person, interviewing League volunteers and observing the evening’s events, that reporter was able to write an original story that is now making a difference.

The story sheds light on an ongoing program managed by Junior League volunteers that may not be glamorous, but is a lifeline to young girls in custody, who don’t normally have a chance to interact with strong women who can show them right from wrong.

The same day the story was published in the Sentinel; concerned members of the community contacted the League, asking how they could support GAP and get involved as the program’s state funding is in jeopardy.

By shedding light on issues that need community support and sparking community action it should be very clear – newspaper reporting still matters.

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