A couple of yin and yang notes about The Boston Globe this morning.
First, the paper has expanded its Rhode Island coverage by adding a podcast, “Rhode Island Report.” The guest for the debut is former Gov. Gina Raimondo, now the U.S. secretary of commerce.
It’s good to see the Globe doubling down on Rhode Island, which has really been underserved by Gannett’s Providence Journal. But I’ve been noticing more and more Rhode Island coverage making its way into the Globe’s print edition. I thought the idea was to leverage digital. If this continues, I hope there will be some consideration given to replating so that there are separate print editions for Greater Boston and Rhode Island.
I also hope John and Linda Henry are giving some consideration to expanding in Worcester, which is a virtual news desert these days. You may recall that employees at the city’s daily, the Telegram & Gazette, said John Henry promised to sell it to local interests or keep the paper after he acquired it from the New York Times Co. as part of the Globe deal. Instead, he sold it to a Florida chain, and it eventually was passed off to GateHouse Media, now Gannett. (When I asked Henry about it several years ago, he told me he believed he had only promised not to sell to GateHouse.)
Second, the Greater Boston Labor Council, the Greater Boston Building Trades Union and the Communication Workers of America have purchased a full-page ad in today’s Globe in support of the Boston Newspaper Guild’s long quest for a new contract. You can see the ad here.
2 thoughts on “The Globe adds a R.I. podcast; the union pleads its case in a full-page ad”
So, first impressions of the RI Report…
I’m inclined to give him a lot of slack, but Ed needs a lot more work before he’s really ready to be a host on what is essentially a radio show. In the parlance of public radio, it’s not “conversational”. You can hear that he’s reading a script and/or that he’s forcing his anecdotes into the discussion. Sure Ed’s got a wikkid Vo’Dyeland accent going on there, but that’s not enough to keep someone interested for 15 solid minutes of listening.
Rookie mistake: you have to sit through two full minutes of filler intro and advertisements before you get to the actual interview. Sure it’s the first episode, but you already had an “intro” episode. Tighten it up and get right into the interview in 10 seconds or less. Then go at least two or three minutes of the guest before you stop for a break.
Related: keep the ads SHORT. 15 seconds, tops. Learn from Youtube; most people watch maybe 5 to 6 seconds of the ad and that’s because they can’t tap “skip ads” until then. People will accept a helluva lot more advertising in TV or Radio than they will when consuming content on a mobile device. Or to parse it a bit more: the longer the audience listens, the more you can get away with longer ads because the more invested in listening to the whole story the audience is. That means really short ads in the first half, then gradually longer stuff.
Gina Raimondo is a nice “name” guest to get for the debut episode but most any politician above the hyper-local level almost always makes for a boring listen. Especially a reasonably skilled one like Raimondo; you’re not gonna push her off talking points. You’re not gonna get any of “the real story”. Hearing Raimondo rah-rah-rah her administration’s plans isn’t very interesting to listen to. I can get that summary in the accompanying print article (https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/06/03/metro/rhode-island-report-raimondo-china-bidens-infrastructure-plan-leaving-her-home-state/) a lot faster and with a lot less fluff. I would’ve much rather heard someone (or someones) who was an expert on the census, or about commerce, etc. Having Raimondo one just felt like fifteen minutes of talking head style interview. If you’re gonna have a politician of this level come on, you’ve got to either go for the jugular on a gotcha (which I personally think is a bad journalism) or you should put them in a place where they’re talking freely about something that’s way outside their usual realm so you can learn something new and interesting about them. Like when Raimondo was a guest for “Not My Job” on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and she tells the story about how her now-husband first met her family and discovered how important food was to everyone. It’s stupid and cutesy, sure, but at least it was pleasant and different.
That said, Ed missed a chance to do a deep dive on something lesser-known: at about 8 minutes Raimondo comes right out and says “I didn’t think we were gonna lose a house seat” when it came to the Census and I could’ve sworn she was part of the chorus warning that RI was likely to lose a seat. (I know Rep Cicilline was) Unfortunately, all the news stories now are about how RI surprisingly didn’t lose a seat, so I can’t easily find any evidence that I’m correct here; anyone with a lexis-nexus account that can prove me right/wrong? Either way, she said she knew it wasn’t likely because she saw the numbers. What numbers? That was a great opportunity for a deep-dive and it was just brushed off. Similarly, I think there’s a big problem with people not understanding just what it is that the Department of Commerce actually does; it’s not really all that much about Commerce. It’s mostly about *data*, weights & measures, standards, and – especially – weather data. NOAA/NWS is a gigantic piece of what Commerce handles, and obviously accurate weather forecasting is important to Rhode Island. And there was a lot of controversy about NOAA/NWS and Barry Myers of Accuweather under Trump; what’s happening now with Raimondo in charge? Oh well. I can question editorial judgments here but I can’t fault them much since it’s really a difference of professional opinion; that’s Ed’s right and responsibility and I won’t begrudge him that.
And give Ed credit: asking about the semiconductor shortage. That’s a really under-rated and under-reported problem. And give Raimondo credit: she let her inner policy-wonk/data-nerd out a bit on that answer and it was actually a bit informative. I wish they’d talked more about that. And I readily concede that while the interview wasn’t very interesting, it also wasn’t off-putting, either. Sure, Raimondo has her haters, but she’s a pleasant enough interview. It’s just really….vanilla.
I’m obviously a little biased here, given my background in public radio, but one thing I think pubradio podcasting has proven over and over is that podcasting works best when whatever content you’re delivering is delivered in a form of storytelling. This American Life, obviously, does that better than almost anyone. Think about the “Giant Pool of Money” series, which took what would ordinarily be a dull and dense subject matter….high finance….and turned it into an informative, fascinating, and mega-hit podcast series because they did the whole thing in a storytelling format. Granted, doing big stories in a storytelling format takes a LOT of work; you can’t just tack it on to one person who’s already working a fulltime job. So if you’re not gonna go down the storytelling road, it makes more sense to keep things VERY tight. Shorter, more frequent podcasts. Something more like NPR’s Up First but perhaps scaled down (since instead of a national audience, it’s just Rhode Island) to 4 to 7 minutes each day; just the headlines of the news and maybe a little bit more on one topic. But you gotta do it every day. Something posted early so people can listen on the drive to work or while they’re making breakfast and getting the kids off to school.
In conclusion: it wasn’t a great debut but it *IS* a debut. I’m a big fan of reminding people that despite all his expertise and history with The Daily Show, the first six months of The Colbert Report were REALLY rough. A lot of missed jokes, blown cues, screwups, etc. It lasted 11 seasons and won nine Emmys, two Grammys, and three freakin’ Peabody Awards. So don’t ever judge a new show too harshly by its debut. I look forward to what the Globe does with this!
Huh. This puts an interesting spin on my thoughts about the ad being too long in the RI Report podcast. The length of the ad matters less than what the GOAL of the ad is.
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