GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Posts Tagged ‘San Diego Union-Tribune’

LA Times morphs again

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 2, 2010

Newspapers are loath to make reference to their competitors, lest their readers flee their own pages, but for the record this development might be of interest to readers who occasionally pick up a print edition.

Last fall the LA Times changed its layout by moving its California news section into the main “A” news section which became considerably thicker as a result; today the California news moved back out into a new LATEXTRA section. According to the blurb on their front page, the new section will contain not only California stories but also “the latest possible reporting from throughout the nation and world” and “showcases our 24-hour newsroom.” I can’t see a big difference overall though; I think they may have decided the main news section with the embedded California section was just getting too thick and wanted to break them back into more easily-handled sections.

Meanwhile, the SD Union-Tribune devoted a full-page ad to its thinning paper the other day to proclaim how much effort they are putting into publishing better-quality news. Since an earlier piece I wrote about the U-T last fall, I’ve seen little change although there has been a slight trend towards putting more local reporting on the front page and an insertion of a new “Bright and Early” column on the front page to highlight inside stories, weather, and a random tidbit or quote. [Update Feb 4: today the U-T announced a revamp of their ” Night&Day” entertainment guide. I don’t see any change in the printed version but online looks jazzed up with slideshow headlines and full-color animated advertising]

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We can’t emphasize this enough…

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 18, 2010

 

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News websites – appearance makes a difference

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 12, 2009

The website design of online news services may not be a big deal if you keep up with news via feeds from specific sites or from aggregation services, which I do, but I also like to visit particular news sites. One thing that bothers me about some news sites, though, is their layout. I wish they wouldn’t find it necessary to use glitzy, gimmicky designs. If I want show and sparkle, I’ll visit an entertainment site.

HuffingtonPost

Speaking of entertainment sites, I can’t decide if the Huffington Post is news or entertainment. It opens with a large sensational headline/picture combo. Scrolling down you find a cluttered razzle-dazzle three-column layout (in theory nothing wrong with 3 columns–my blog uses three as well. Anyway, I’m just a hometown blogger using a standard WordPress theme).

Left-hand column headlines for featured blog posts get varied colors; until recently, the right-hand column jumped up or down a line every ten seconds! (click images for larger size).

HuffingtonPost2

The comment links below each story periodically flash yellow (shown in the second shot); I’ve seen the entire page background flash yellow momentarily from time to time. Lots of pictures and video, pictures and video. The chaotic hopscotch multicolor design makes the site not only unappealing for finding news, it makes me want to leave as soon as possible.

SignOnSanDiego

Locally, SignOnSandiego (which just rolled out a major site redesign intended to “rock the town” according to an earlier U-T tweet) doesn’t look very newsy when you first reach the page. It presents a selected main story accompanied by a few additional headlines, followed by a popular (and superfluous) technique of embedding a large picture/headline slideshow looping 4 or 5 stories every 8 seconds. The navigation bar at the top has rollover pulldowns to various topics, a technique which provides reasonable coverage. Still, to me the overall layout and commercial focus feels like a billboard. I hope they phase out the recurring nagging popup window asking for feedback.

SignOnSearch

As an aside, SignOn’s search function is seriously broken; a search for “Sanders budget” pulls up nothing for 2009. A search for “San Diego budget” pulls up listings, but the entries listed show incorrect publication dates unless you click through to the article. When I did the search today (Nov 12), the first page of results included 14 entries all dated Nov 12 but a click through to the articles reveals a wide variety of actual publication dates (the Nov 12 date on the search screen entries appears to come from the date you did the search. Other entries show no date at all.

 

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Opinion: local media sends confusing message on San Diego’s water conservation efforts

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 22, 2009

More confusion.

Today on KPBS Radio’s These Days program, Maureen Cavanaugh interviewed Mike Lee, reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune, to discuss whether outstanding water conservation efforts in the community means success or if there are unintended consequences.

Ms. Cavanaugh pointed to the relaxation of rules on reduced watering schedules that begin in November and offered the premise that water departments may be doing that because conservation has reduced revenues needed for operating costs. For the most part, Mike Lee went along with that assessment. The implication being that water departments may be forced to increase the price of water if consumers don’t use more water. Catch-22.

In the city of San Diego, that’s just not the way it works. The San Diego Water Department charges a fixed ‘base’ fee for operating expenses. The water ‘used’ fee is separate and by law goes only toward the cost of the water. If the water used fee goes up, it’s because the the water department has to pay more for it. On the other hand, you can use no water at all but you’ll still pay the fixed base fee for those operating expenses.

The San Diego Water Department will face increased water prices in January 2010, which is when their suppliers (Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and California San Diego County Water Authority) will raise their price for water, so San Diegans can expect to see bills go up again. The fixed water base fee may go up too, due to increased operating expense. Almost certainly both fees will go up, but not because people have reduced their consumption.

Athough some water districts do draw operating expenses from their water fees and consequently their operating budget is squeezed when consumers reduce consumption, the San Diego Water Department doesn’t do it that way.

If the San Diego mainstream news media wants to suggest that reduced water use affects revenues for operating expenses, they should explain the intricacies and be specific to which agencies they are referring.

Click here to listen to the KPBS These Days interview.

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SD Union-Tribune’s identity crisis

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 7, 2009

At $.75 per issue (same as the LA Times), I expect the San Diego Union-Tribune to distinguish itself by doing a significant amount of original reporting, not just reprint wire service stories on the net.  Long before David C. Copley sold the newspaper to Edward R. Moss [Correction: it was sold to Platinum Equity (thanks Joe).  Also I should have written that Copley Press sold it] , the U-T was already going in the wire services direction, shedding reporters and cutting back on original coverage.  The paper has grown thinner and thinner.  Its approach to local news seems half-hearted. Under the new ownership, so far I haven’t see any sign of that changing. [Aug 12: More layoffs have been announced]

Meanwhile, I have seen the LA Times improve with the merger of its California section with the main ‘A’ section (with regional coverage becoming more substantive) and a noticeably reduced reliance on wire service reports.

I decided to do a brief informal comparison between the two papers to look, specifically, at how much original reporting the LA Times and SD Union-Tribune publish. Below I’ve itemized a working week’s worth of original reports in the main sections from each paper.

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