Thursday, December 10, 2009

Firefighters Battle Blaze North of Uptown - The Charlotte Observer's Death Spiral

The headline proclaims Charlotte firefighters "battled" a fire. So you can imagine my surprise when I read the following:

Firefighters battle blaze north of uptown

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 09, 2009

It took 23 firefighters a little more than 15 minutes to extinguish a house fire just north of uptown this afternoon.

The fire, at 816 E. 20th Street in the Belmont Community, was extinguished just before 4 p.m.

Firefighters were called out around 3:40 p.m.

As they approached the home, they saw heavy smoke coming from the windows, according to Capt. Rob Brisley, spokesman for the department.

The home is near Parkwood Avenue and North Davidson Streets.

The Charlotte Observer is in a death spiral and nothing is a better indicator of that fact than the headlines that scream drama to attract readers when there is no story. The above headline is not only total hype but the story lacks depth.

But is reminds me of the Shipping News and the wonderful interchange between newspaper editor Billy Pretty (played by Gordon Pinsent) and reporter Quoyle (played by Kevin Spacey)

Billy: It's finding the center of your story, the beating heart of it, that's what makes a reporter. You have to start by making up some headlines. You know: short, punchy, dramatic headlines.

Billy: Now, have a look, what do you see? [Points at dark clouds at the horizon]

Billy: Tell me the headline.

Quoyle: Horizon Fills With Dark Clouds?

Billy: Imminent Storm Threatens Village.

Quoyle: But what if no storm comes?

Billy: Village Spared From Deadly Storm.

I'm old school newspaper, and prefer "Start Case" or Title Case in headlines where the dying Observer uses "Sentence Case" in an effort to be more "modern".

With declines in readership, circulation, ad space the Observer continues to cut staff and has failed to understand the change in the market or embrace the technology.

If you are reading this chances are you came here from the Observer web site. You might think you are one of a 100 thousand who hit the Observer web site everyday and that the future of the paper is strong since you are reading the online version.

The sad truth is that is a huge black hole sucking money down the drain at a stunning rate.


Anonymous said...

And I guess we should get our new from you?

Yeah Right Moron!

Anonymous said...

I think its a good post. The Observer has lost so many good people in the last two years I don't know how they put out a paper everyday. Maybe they have outsourced the adcopy and wordprocessing to Bombay?