Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Skewering the metrics

The curmudgeon in me loved Michael Kinsley's WaPost opinion piece,
My Most Productive Column Ever
Measuring value by word count: What a brilliant idea!

"Randy Michaels, who is described as chief operating officer of the Tribune Co." reportedly said that staff productivity will be measured by column-inches of words. Apparently, Tribune Co. discovered that "while the average journalist at the Los Angeles Times produces 51 pages of words each year, his or her counterpart at the Hartford Courant, which is also owned by the very same Tribune Co., produces 300 pages of words each year. This is six times as many words."

So forget research, fact-checking, analysis and the in-depth investigations that has won so many Pulitzers for the LA Times. From now on, they will write for tonnage.

Furthermore, management wants to achieve a "balance" of 50% editorial content and 50% advertising. Why stop at anything short of 100% advertising?

I have a cost-cutting idea. They can just print PR marketing news releases verbatim in lieu of reporting. Better yet, they can cut out local staff completely by letting PR agencies submit their press releases directly without vetting. I am sure that their IT department in India can build the appropriate web-based press release entry system.

I will be contacting Tribune Co. shortly to discuss payment for this consulting session.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Krugman says:

    "Memo to management: if you decide to follow the Tribune Company and measure productivity by looking at the “column inches of news produced by each reporter“, I’m sure, quite sure indeed, that I can find a way, possibly many ways, of padding out my columns with very, very, very long sentences that may contain very, very little substantive content, but have the very, very pronounced effect of using up a lot, really a lot, I mean truly a very, very large number of highly, highly rewarded column inches (which are equal to 2.54 centimeters, I am obliged — indeed would be paid — to point out.)"

    I think he should have also used bigger margins and 11 point font. Because news reports are so much better when they are written by fifth-graders whose grade depends on filling up two pages.

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