A Tale of Two Leads

Two different things seem to have happened at the same place and time, according to the “spin” placed on two different reports from competing local papers.

Post-Gazette to seek wage concessions (Tribune-Review, reporting on its competition)
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is gushing red ink, prompting workers to vote today on wage and benefits concessions designed to save the newspaper from insolvency, union officials said Sunday during a special meeting.

Vote on contract adjustments by PG unions (Post-Gazette, reporting on itself)
Leaders of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s 1,100 unionized employees urged the workers yesterday to approve contract adjustments that would help the company avoid a projected loss of $6.5 million in 2004.A Tale of Two LeadsTrib-Review/Post-Gazette)

Thanks for the links, Jess T.

Interesting comparison of stories… the Post-Gazette competes with the Trib-Review, so according to the Trib it is “gushing red ink”. The Post-Gazette, reporting on itself, emphasizes the sacrifices its union employees are willing to make.

Competition is good for the public, because it keeps journalists on their toes and makes them accountable for their little mistakes (I presume that the Post-Gazette, which calls its owners “Block Communications Inc” is probably right, and the Trib, which calls the company “Blade Communications Co.” is probably wrong) and biases (such as the Post-Gazette’s privileging of the union leaders’ plea to the rank-and-file union members).

When I was an undergrad at U.Va., there were two competing daily student papers, the Cavalier Daily (or rather the “Cavalier Five-Day-A-Week-And-Weekly-During-The-Summer) and the University Journal (which was three days a week during my freshman year and gradually worked up to five). A few years after I graduated, I learned the UJ went under, which was really too bad. Reading someone else’s version of the story you covered, or seeing the photo someone else took at the same event, is really a great learning experience, even if it is sometimes humbling.

I remember when I used to cover city council meetings and other dry stuff for a local radio station, if three things happened that night and I write radio stories on two of them, no matter what, the next day at noon, the local paper would be out on the stands, and the third thing — the thing that I didn’t cover — would be in the headlines. Being a very green intern, I was convinced that my news sense was completely wrong — until the wiser, saner folks at the radio station pointed out that the newspaper was trying to reach the very same audience that listened to our radio station on the way to work in the morning.

Oh, I should note that the city desk editor of the local paper was married to the news director of my radio station; they were extremely professional about their work, and would try to scoop each other all the time. Once I worked hard on a 20-year anniversary story (on the destruction caused by Hurricane Camille), and had produced a half dozen stories, one or two minutes long; they were scheduled to run, one per day, in the week leading up to the actual anniversary. The local paper published a beautiful, in-depth report the weekend before the anniversary, which pretty much exhausted everyone’s interest in the subject. Each of my little jobbies looked pathetic and lame, limping along five or six days after everyone had already clipped out the paper’s big spread and saved it in their scrapbooks.