Saturday, February 21, 2009

More on The Oklahoman: A good review and explanation on what a newspaper is not doing well; 'Oklahoma City deserves better'; I agree

My friend and colleague Tony Williams offers more of an explanation on his criticism of a family-owned newspaper where we both worked, and it is something all newspaper executives no matter the publication ownership should read and heed.

Just being amid the technological advance in the distribution of information does not mean having a website simply can suffice.

Quality is demanded.

My friend writes:

Shame on me.

A long time ago, I learned to sit on a... Shame on me.

A long time ago, I learned to sit on a letter (or e-mail) overnight before sending it, if I was angry.

The fact is "The Oklahoman" website got under my skin, and I dashed off e-mails while my skin was still crawling.

Tony Lyndell Williams

Years ago, I also worked at what was then called "The Daily Oklahoman". Why management changed the name of a paper that had been around for decades is still a mystery to me.

Unfairly, I jumped on Ed Kelley because, frankly, he was the only management type that came to mind. Ed is a good man, and a fine journalist.

All this began several days ago when I tried to watch one of Kelley's video editorials. He was complaining about delaying the start of digital television transmissions.

So I will digress a moment.

The fact is the delay is voluntary. In Hawaii, all stations have converted strictly to digital transmission and have shut off their analog transmitters.

All a station needs to do if it wants to end analog transmission is ask the FCC for a waiver. More than 100 TV stations in the nation as of Friday have been granted that waiver.

In the Dallas area, where I live, all the major stations have voluntarily agreed to broadcast in analog and digital despite the expense of running both transmitters. But the stations have left open the possibility of converting to strictly digital before the new June deadline.

In reality, most stations have been broadcasting in both modes for years and have touted digital telecasts in endless promotions.

Well, enough of that. As I said, I tried to view Kelley's video on "The Oklahoman" website. I said I tried. The video stopped in the middle of his commentary each of the five times I tried to view it.

That is exactly an example of the product you see on "The Oklahoman" webpage regularly.

Tonight, I read an editorial about the race for governor in Oklahoma in 2010. To the left of the story was something called a "featured gallery".

When I clicked on, a photo appeared with a number of people attending some sort of meeting. No caption, no identification or anything.

However, the paper invited comments on the picture. Well, I would say that one woman on the front row wore a bright, red dress that reminded me of Nancy Reagan. Other than that, I had no idea what the photo was about.

Oh, by the way, are you kidding me when the editorial mentions J.C. Watts as a candidate for governor. Another story, I know.

Back to the website, one headline read: Oklajoma troops await word on Afghanistan. For 25 years, I've lived in north Tejas, but I still remember how to spell Oklahoma.

And in the era of broadband, why does the website perform like an old, worn-out dial-up service.

When I attempted to find out why Kyle Cannon was kicked off the OU men's basketball team, the search gave me more than 15 items, none of which had anything to do with OU basketball or Kyle Cannon.

Once I found it buried in the search, I found a three-paragraph story that told the who, what and when but no how or why.

Why not ask other players for their feelings about his dismissal if the coach will not comment beyond the typical "we wish him the best" comment?

"The Dallas Morning News" had more on the story than "The Oklahoman". But the fact is, "The Morning News" is by far a better newspaper than "The Oklahoman".

Tim and I may disagree about the paper's reputation. In the last few years, the paper has improved. My father, who headed the Texas Press Association for 25 years, and I had many discussions about how disappointing it was to read the sorry product that Gaylord published for many years.

But in his last years, he was glad to see some improvement in the long morbid paper.

For in the past, "The Oklahoman" was an embarrassment to the community it was supposed to serve and even to the employees who worked there.

And when I worked there, no matter what story I was working on or how many hours I put in, I was never paid more than 39 hours a week. The paper simply wanted to avoid any overtime and prevent me from receiving any benefits.

Despite that, one city editor, Richard Brake, had the gall to tell me to choose to work in newspaper or radio, not both. Frankly, I had to do both as well as attend school to provide for my son and me.

When I worked as a teen disc jockey at WKY in the 1970's, the radio station was still owned by OPUBCO which also owned "The Oklahoman" and WKY-TV. In my years at WKY, I earned far more money on the air in one week than I made in a month at "The Oklahoman".

Every disc jockey on the staff brought home a bigger paycheck than any "Oklahoman" reporter. One reason was Danny Williams was the program director, and he always stood up for his employees with management -- something I never witnessed by an editor at "The Oklahoman".

Kelley may not have anything to do with the website, but if he tapes editorial for it, surely he looks at it. And, if he does he will see the same things others see -- a sloppy website.

Now, instead of improving the product, "The Oklahoman" has decided to layoff employees with years of experience.

Oh yeah, I know about the economy and how newspapers are suffering. But does management really think firing its talent and watering down the product is the future of newspapering.

Oklahoma City deserves better.

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