By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

“An aggressively bad website”

I’ve complained about the Eagle-Tribune papers’ Web sites before, especially with respect to Media Nation’s local daily, the Salem News.

Now Seth Mnookin, author of the Red Sox book “Feeding the Monster,” unloads on the E-T’s lack of Web savvy in the course of praising the paper’s baseball writers.

He’s right — notwithstanding the fact that the sites are actually somewhat improved following a recent redesign.

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  1. Intheknow

    As a former Salem News staffer (who has tremendous respect for the paper, I might add), let me say that this was a constant source of frustration. Among the problems: Stories are routinely put online by accident days before they run on the paper; the placement of stories on the web bears almost no resemblence to what led that day’s paper; URLs for stories aren’t static, so no one can link to them; and on and on. Anytime I did a story that involved talking to someone outside the area, I would dread that they would look at the web site and think that I was some high schooler running his own online “newspaper.”All of that said, I think the E-T’s new (new-ish) editor, Karen Andreas, is finally committed to fixing this. She recently announced plans to hire a web-editor with content background (the site was previously run out of the paper’s IT department, and was more or less beyond editorial control). The paper also started offering internet-only subscriptions. I don’t know that the coming changes will make much more available for free, but it should at least be a much more navigable, usable site for those who do have access.

  2. Valley Correspondent

    Local newspapers that survive on local content are justifiably slow to give their product away for free. You want to know who got arrested last night,what’s on the school lunch menu or what the appeals board is doing about the guy that wants to open a junkyard on the next street,there’s one place to read about it. Until local advertisers get the bang for the buck from web ads that bigger advertisers do they’ll continue to buy print and inserts. The E-T papers provide unique content; just because people who proclaim themselves “web saavy” think they are entitled to free content does not mean a private business needs to give away the store. As for the E-T generally, the quality of its reporting has plummeted markedly in the past two years. It does absolutely no enterprise reporting — for example, a recent meeting in which state Education officials brought a local school board on the carpet to ask why the schools were so bad, the E-T went ballistic over alleged but disputed of the open meeting law. The open meeting violations should have been pursued, but it’s a sidebar; there has been very little reporting of substance on the issue raised, just running commentary over whether the meeting should have been open. A good paper would have reconstructed the meeting, provided background, told its readers who was involved and why and what the future holds, But not the E-T. It filed a suit and rolled over and went back to sleep. In particular since it flipped to an AM (sort of), the paper’s reporting has been very thin and basically confined to quickand dirty on-deadline write ups on government meetings with no folo, one-day coverage of administrative decisions and fluff features that can go over to other papers in the chain.Fighting for the open meeting law is noble, but the Eagle Tribune doesn’t realize that’s part of its mission, not its reason for living. That fundamental misunderstanding probably expains its lousy job reporting on the issues raised when state officials called in the school board in one of its communities for a some brisk words about the lousy education it offers.Then there’s the paper’s obsession with admittedly “inappropriate” e-mails sent by a former mayor of Newburyport to a friend, which editor-in-chief Ketter wants to convert into public documents. What’s next, should we wiretap public employee’s phones so we can print transcripts of them telling the kids to make sure to take the dog out? It there wasn’t the hint of steaminess, Ketter would have no interest. Better he puts his energies into restoring aggressive reporting at his papers, because there sure isn’t much of it happening these days.

  3. Liam

    In the four years I have been living and teaching in the Salem area, the Salem News web site has been one of my biggest media disappointments.I really don’t think a paper that size can effectively charge for content.I know and like Karen, and I hope she can solve the problems.IUt also fristrates me that their stories do not show up on google news searches.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Liam — I agree with everything you say. I also know and like Karen. But I absolutely do not believe that giving the paper away free online would cost it more than 0.001 percent of its paid circulation.

  5. Anonymous

    Believe me, the staff still at the Salem News (and other Eagle-Tribune papers) are just as frustrated as readers about the profoundly flawed Web site. It’s our not-so-secret shame.

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