Journalism’s new (not really) vehicle for delivering news — email newsletters

CATEGORY: JournalismI don’t read The Washington Post any more. I don’t see a hard copy. I don’t go prowling around its website.

Instead, I read four of its newsletters delivered by email every day. In fact, WashPo offers 68 newsletters culled from the work of its journalists and pundits. So it’s easy to select the kind of news anyone might want (rather than have an algorithm do it).

These newsletters are well-crafted and not necessarily hastily churned-out hodgepodges of factoids. For example, the Daily 202 (all about news from the American capital), begins like this today:

10 important questions raised by Sally Yates’s testimony on the ‘compromised’ Michael Flynn

Sally Yates’s Senate testimony in three minutes

THE BIG IDEA: Sally Yates’s riveting testimony Monday raised far more questions than it answered. Most of all, it cast fresh doubts on Donald Trump’s judgment. [boldface in original]

Each Daily 202 from WashPo is designed to be quickly read. Each item is one or two paragraphs and contains a link or two for further consumption.

WashPo’s not alone in the newsletter game. Continue reading

Five reasons why soccer will eventually surpass football in the US – #3: Soccer is already blowing up in America

Part three in a series.

Thanks to expanding TV deals, smart entrepreneurs in the MLS and a Millennial-fueled supporter culture, soccer is the fastest growing spectator sport in the country. 

There has been a good bit of talk over what pro soccer in the US will do now that Becks has departed the Galaxy. It is a little hard to fathom how much he did for the visibility of MLS, but there’s no question they got good value for their $250 million (or whatever insane sum of money they invested in him). Overnight it went from being a third-tier league to respectability. No, MLS can’t yet attract top world stars in their prime, but it can attract outstanding developing talent and established world stars who aren’t yet ready for the glue factory. Beckham, as we saw, still had some good years when he came over (and will probably be viable for a couple more, depending on where he goes).

Thierry Henry is playing the back nine of his career, but again, is nowhere near done. Robbie Keane is a right Spurs bastard, but there are a lot of teams in Europe that would love to have him right now. The rumor mill says that Kaka, just a few years removed from being the most terrifying attacking midfielder on the planet, is on his way to LA to replace Beckham. Or maybe it will be Chelsea’s Super Frank Lampard. Who knows? In any case, while MLS isn’t yet a top league, it has certainly become a credible league in a nation not driven by a long, deeply entrenched culture of proper football. Considering that it’s not yet 20 years old, that’s significant, if not outright remarkable.

While nobody is yet doling out NFL-type dollars, the major TV networks are clearly interested. In recent years FOX and ESPN have fought it out for rights to televise both MLS and European matches in the US (and both have been recently blindsided by new entrant beIN Sport. None of these deals holds a candle to the latest, though, as NBC has jumped into the fray with a $250M bid for the English Premiership. Whereas previous packages have offered American viewers a game or three each week (on one channel, for the most part), NBC plans to use all of its properties to show most, if not all the Prem games (and this, it is expected, might even include live matches on NBC proper).

Give this piece from ESPN FC a read, and as you do, pay attention to something. The jewels of MLS are obviously the two biggest clubs in the two biggest cities: Galaxy in LA and the perennially underperforming Red Bulls in New York. But that’s not where the backbone of the league’s future necessarily lies. It will avail nothing to build a couple of rich sides if everybody else is the Washington Generals, and it’s the emerging entrepreneurship in places like Portland and Kansas City that are shining the light forward.

But in towns like Portland and Kansas City, soccer has become a cacophonous totem of local pride. Young fans attracted by an intoxicating supporter culture and intimate soccer-specific stadiums have themselves become symbols of the self-confidence and momentum surging behind the game in the United States.

Whereas pioneering owners Lamar Hunt and Anschutz Entertainment gamely propped up a gaggle of teams in the league’s early days, the new energy in MLS has been catalyzed by the arrival of a new breed of young entrepreneurial investors — hands-on leaders who fuse strategy and vision with a passion that reflects their teams’ rabid supporter cultures.

Would you like to go see a Portland Timbers game? Good luck. They seem to be permanently sold out, and that supporters club – the Timbers Army – is the equal of anything in Europe for enthusiasm. (Sit next to one of them on a cross-country flight sometime, like I did earlier this year, and make sure he knows you like soccer. Let me know what you learn.) Pan around the crowd on game day – you’d be hard pressed to tell much difference between them and all but the largest clubs across the pond.

In July, several of us from the Rocky Mountain Blues Chelsea FC Supporters Club tripped up to Seattle to see our beloved Blues take on the Sounders as part of their pre-season tour. It was quite an event. Wherever we went the day before the match, the locals were clearly clued in: “are you here for the Chelsea match?” Everyone in town knew, not just the diehards. And we were well represented. I’m not sure how many of us Chelsea interlopers there were in the north stands, but we acquitted ourselves pretty nicely.

Still, the total attendance at the game was in excess of 53,000, mostly Seattle loyalists. The game was held in CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks play, a remarkable showing for an exhibition match. The Sounders feature some of the best organized fans in MLS, and it’s worth noting that very few stadia in England are large enough to hold that many attendees.

Sporting Kansas City’s Robb Heineman is ambitious: “Our business plan will allow us to be one of the world’s four or five best leagues within the course of the next eight years.” Hmmm. Well, based on current realities, that means behind England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, but ahead of Holland and Portugal. Seriously ambitious. But maybe not out of the question, depending on what criteria you use to define “best.”

Tomorrow: The children are the future…

Image Credits: The Roar, Rocky Mountain Blues

The real #NBCFail

by Brian Moritz

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter this weekend, you know about #nbcfail.

NBC has been so roundly and soundly (and rightfully) criticized for its coverage of the London Olympics – primarily its decision to run the marquee events on tape-delay rather than live.

In previous Olympics, tape delay was less of a big deal. I can sort of understand tape delay if the time difference is so great that running events live would put them on in the middle of the night. But London is just five hours ahead of the east coast. There’s no excuse except for greed (and if NBC continues to pull strong ratings like it did over the weekend, what incentive does it have to change?). Continue reading

Pekar Tribute 5: Mike Keefe

Continue reading

Bode Miller, Lindsey Jacobellis, and an Olympic-sized lesson on what to do when opportunity knocks

Complete this sentence: “When opportunity knocks, ___________________________.”

I was pretty hard on Bode Miller after his no-show in Torino four years ago, about as hard as I’ve ever been on anyone who wasn’t in a position of political authority. Looking back, I don’t regret a word of it. He established himself as the archetype of American sports marketing, and his all-hype no-results performance was about as embarrassing as anything in the history of the US Olympic team.

And while I didn’t write about her, my friends certainly heard some choice words on the subject Lindsey Jacobellis, who decided that showing her ass was more important than winning. Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

Today at 11 EST: the most important story in the entire world, live

Finally, after all these months, Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods is going to apologize. To you, to me, and to all the other people around the world that he cheated on. I know, I know, it’s not really his fault. He has an addiction. To cocktail waitresses (I think this is on page 486 of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual V, due out in 2013).

Most importantly, his apology will be carried live by CBS. By NBC. By ABC. By CNN, CNBC, HLN, Fox News, Fox Business and MSNBC. That makes it a bigger story than health care. It’s bigger than the guy who crashed a plane into the IRS building in Austin. It’s bigger than Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It’s even bigger than the Winter Olympics, which are offered on tape-delay.

And it’s sure as hell bigger than this assortment of crybaby hippie socialist bullshit. Continue reading

Nota Bene #94: Bear Vs. Ninja

“Overture, curtain, lights Continue reading

Why American media has such a signal-to-noise problem, pt. 2

Part 2 of a series; Previously: What Bell Labs and French Intellectuals Can Tell Us About Cronkite and Couric

The Signal-to-Noise Journey of American Media

The 20th Century represented a Golden Age of Institutional Journalism. The Yellow Journalism wars of the late 19th Century gave way to a more responsible mode of reporting built on ethical and professional codes that encouraged fairness and “objectivity.” (Granted, these concepts, like their bastard cousin “balance,” are not wholly unproblematic. Still, they represented a far better way of conducting journalism than we had seen before.) It’s probably not idealizing too much to assert that reporting in the Cronkite Era, for instance, was characterized by a commitment to rise above partisanship and manipulation. The journalist was expected to hold him/herself to a higher standard and to serve the public interest. These professionals – and I have met a few who are more than worthy of the title – believed they had a duty to search for the facts and to present them in a fashion that was as free of bias as possible.

In other words, their careers, like that of Claude Shannon, were devoted to maximizing the signal in the system – the system here being the “marketplace of ideas.” Continue reading

Our latest tragic shooting: who's to blame?

Another church shooting, this time in Knoxville. By now you’ve probably read the accounts and know that the shooter, Jim Adkisson, was motivated by, among other things, an apparent hatred of “liberals.”

Before diving too much deeper, there are a couple things we can probably safely say about Adkisson. First, these weren’t the actions of a rational man. Rational people don’t wade into crowds of people attempting to kill as many as possible.

So whatever else may have been at play, and no doubt the causes were many and complex, let’s be clear that we’re dealing with a disturbed individual. Continue reading

Something else to learn from Tim Russert's death

by Brad Jacobson

Whatever issues people had with Tim Russert’s political coverage during the George W. Bush years (and I and many others outside the Beltway intelligentsia had many), I don’t wish to raise them now. First, I’d like to extend my condolences to Tim Russert’s family and friends. After watching the extensive and ongoing memorializing at MSNBC and NBC, it is clear that, despite what anybody thought of Russert as a journalist, he obviously had an incredibly positive impact on those closest to him – as a loving husband, father and son, as well as a supportive, good-natured and inspiring friend and colleague.

After days of eulogies on MSNBC and NBC and the subsequent response by some who feel the near 24/7 memorializing for Russert was overblown, I’m neither going to defend nor criticize the coverage. I’ll only say that I’m not sure how one dictates how others should mourn a loved one. On the other hand, it also seems natural that an overwhelming public display of mourning, such as what Russert received, might be viewed as excessive by those who were not close to him and/or who thought his overall contribution to society and the world at large was less than spectacular.

I’d prefer to offer a different perspective entirely, one that impacts all of us no matter how we received news of his death and what we thought of its coverage. Continue reading

ArtSunday: "The Thirteen American Arguments"

The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country
by Howard Fineman
Random House, 320 pp.

Americans love to argue. In fact, we would not be Americans if we didn’t.

So says journalist Howard Fineman in his new book, The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates that Define and Inspire Our Country. Arguing, Fineman says, is what we do and who we are. “We are the arguing country, born in and born to debate,” he writes. “We are an endless argument.” Continue reading

Quarterlife crashes and burns: what does it mean?

Opening night for NBC’s new Millennial-targeted series, Quarterlife, was an unparalleled disaster.

The drama series which made headlines about its transition from internet to TV, “Quarterlife,” succeeded in being a flop in its NBC debut Tuesday night, having the worst ratings in at least 20 years, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The brazilian-dollar question now becomes: what happened?

More at Black Dog…

S&R Poll: the press and trust

The results of the latest S&R poll are in. Readers were asked “Which major press entity do you regard as the most credible source of news?”

1. Other/None of the above (70)
2. BBC (64)
3. PBS (39)
4. CNN (15)
5. New York Times (11)
6. Washington Post (6)
NBC/MSNBC (6)
Wall Street Journal (6)
9. FOX News (4)
10. ABC (2)
USA Today/Gannett (2)
12. CBS (1)

Our new poll, which asks you about important issues that have not been adequately addressed, is now posted in the column to the right.

A pox on 30 Rockefeller Plaza

So NBC has announced plans for its Fall schedule, and it smells like a trainwreck.

They’re leaving Thursday night alone – which is good, although I’m baffled at the idea that there’s “critical” acclaim for 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin is good and Tina Fey is likeable, if not actually funny. And if there’s a writer in America who can make Tracy Morgan funny, we know this much for sure: that person did not work at SNL and does not now work for 30 Rock.

My main beef lies with the network’s cancellation of “high-profile failure Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Two things, NBC execs. 1: Bite. 2: Me. Continue reading