Daily Archives: February 4, 2012

New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane says the paper’s story on Yale star quarterback Patrick Witt was unfair to the young man because it reported a sexual assault claim based on anonymous sourcing, and didn’t have comments from the accused or accuser.

This was a compelling story, and The Times was motivated to publish it. But when something as serious as a person’s reputation is at stake, it’s not enough to rely on anonymous sourcing, effectively saying “trust us.”

* The quarterback’s tangled saga
* Earlier: Yale paper sat on Witt story for months

“The business model that had fueled the golden age of American newspapers broke somewhere around 2005. Total advertising revenues began dropping, and, at least at this writing, it seems unlikely they will rise appreciably again, at least until print newspapers have literally disappeared and been replaced by some digital future that is still emerging.”

That’s how ProPublica general manager and former Wall Street Journal assistant publisher Richard Tofel begins his 30-page e-essay, “Why American Newspapers Gave Away The Future,” which will be available on and other sites beginning Wednesday.

Tofel asks: Why did nearly all newspaper publishers decide in the mid-1990s to put their content on the Internet free of charge?

How, as a visitor from another planet might ask, did a large industry that had successfully charged customers for its product for more than a century come to decide to give that product away and thus threaten its very existence? The answer can be found on any number of levels, though I think it ultimately lies in an understanding of the culture of newspapers and newspapering.

He explores that in his essay, and makes these observations:

Richard Tofel

* Newspapers feared they’d be regarded as “Square” if they asked readers to pay for content. (“Simply put, the notion that information wants to be free had become Hip.”)

* “The economic future of newspapers depends on their maintaining a near-monopoly on high-quality local news and on achieving a substantial level of circulation revenues, ideally online.”

* Most people think newspapers “succumbed to a stealth attack from Craigslist,” but the newspaper-owned CareerBuilder and predecessors CareerFinder and CareerPath were online first. However, Tofel notes they “failed to compete effectively with a single geek working out of his apartment.”

Tofel says the business model of newspapers has been broken irretrievably for about seven years now, but…

We should care not about newspapers themselves but about the highest level of quality journalism that they have represented for a century or so. The future of that kind of journalism will depend largely on our ability to create new institutions, and adapt old ones, so that we can respond to technological change with business creativity, entrepreneurial determination, self-confidence, and common sense.

For more comments on this post, go to

Tofel’s e-essay is $1.99, and can be pre-ordered here.

— Chicago Tribune staff photographer’s tweet

The Sacramento Bee says it reviewed longtime photographer Bryan Patrick’s work after suspending him earlier this week for altering a bird festival photo, and found two more digital alterations.

In one image published in a photo gallery at in September of a lone person in a sunflower field, Patrick removed the shadow of his camera and arm from the photograph, inserting sunflowers in its place.

In a 2009 photograph of the Auburn wildfire that was published unaltered in the newspaper, Patrick subtly enlarged the flames in the photograph submitted for a winning entry to the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association annual contest.

* To our readers

Chicago Tribune ran this Note to Readers on Friday:

“The ‘Doonesbury” cartoon is not running Friday. The comic strip broke from its satirical mission in order to deliver a direct fundraising appeal for a specific charity [] that the author favors. The Tribune’s editorial practices do not allow individuals to promote their self-interests.”

-- @brianboyer

Here’s the strip the Tribune refused to publish:


The Tribune’s decision was questioned by the Chicagoland Radio and Media website:

Any controversy surrounding has been an incredibly minor one. Until today. By removing the Doonesbury comic mentioning today, the Chicago Tribune has tossed fuel on what was a small fire, which has suddenly become a much larger fire. The newspaper, long accused of having a conservative lean to its editorial decisions, faces those accusations once again.