Five quick thoughts about Star Tribune NewsBreak

I know it’s only the first day, but in the spirit of constructive criticism …

1. It’s not very newsy. There was nothing I didn’t read in my morning paper or on the website prior to noon. I realize I’m a high-info guy, but it just didn’t feel urgent or timely enough. This doesn’t underscore a commitment to newsgathering.

2. It’s long. If high-info folks like me aren’t the point, will mediums-to-lows stay still through a 7:18 video? In Internet time, that’s awhile. Remember, the average user is on the Strib’s website 30 minutes per month.

3. You gotta love Lileks. I mean that literally, for he dominates the proceedings. My admiration for James’ web skills knows no bounds, and the guy is Internet gold in his many incarnations. Still, I’ve long thought TV was his worst medium; he’s a natural show-off, but video amps that up. The whole enterprise seems more about him than it should be.

4. Short fun is better than belabored shtick. My favorite moment came when someone darted on screen holding a Minnesota map to demonstrate which fish houses needed to be taken out. It wasn’t strained like the (hackneyed) lottery bit. More importantly, it got the information across more effectively than in print or on the web. The Twins “prancing” video was also fun.

5. The promos — oy! The inaugural webcast’s “commercial breaks” promote the home team — in the cheesiest possible manner. Aping TV’s saccharine approach, we get new Strib columnists Gail Rosenblum and Jon Tevlin in an antiseptic corporate setting with somewhat antiseptic talking points. It’s stagy and undersells any definable genuineness these people have. The paper in general suffers from this; for God’s sake, don’t underscore it with your “new media.”

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Karl Pearson-Cater on 03/02/2009 - 04:58 pm.

    Is there is no embed code for the video?

    Also, can I not subscribe to it as a video podcast?

  2. Submitted by Mike Vanderscheuren on 03/02/2009 - 04:58 pm.

    Seriously – you are way too nice. What was insightful, entertaining, relevant or informative about this? There’s 900 million other places to get crap like this, if you want it. And who in their right mind would pay to advertise on or around it?

    What a colossal waste of resources.

  3. Submitted by David Brauer on 03/02/2009 - 05:13 pm.

    Mike – I am often guilty of being too reasonable. But it IS only the first day. I think some sort of fast-paced “here’s what’s happening now” that captures a bit of newsroom excitement (such as it is) can work.

    I, too am skeptical about the labor-to-output ratio.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/02/2009 - 05:18 pm.

    Unnamed sources have told me that James is sitting at Nick Coleman’s old desk, and that just five minutes prior to starting to shoot the first video, he cleared Nick’s knick-knacks into a trash can with a spirited sweep of his arm (two spirited sweeps actually…..elfen arms).

    I tried to confirm this with Nick, but he ain’t talkin’ to me either.

  5. Submitted by Stephanie Dickrell on 03/02/2009 - 05:23 pm.

    I’m not sure I understand why they decided to do this. I get that they’re trying to incorporate new media, but I don’t think this is the way to do so. The broadcast stations can do it better (arguably, emphasis on can, not are). Couldn’t the resources for this be better directed elsewhere?

    Lileks reminded me of a “correspondent” on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart–I kept waiting for the punchline.

  6. Submitted by Ed Stych on 03/02/2009 - 05:37 pm.

    They’ll have to make major changes (newsier, punchier, etc.) for me to spend a few minutes ever day watching something like this … BUT I love Lileks and he had me smiling … and that’s a good thing. An OK effort for the first day, and lots of work to do.

  7. Submitted by J E Cook on 03/02/2009 - 07:24 pm.

    David, I haven’t seen NewsBreak but your comment #3 was right on. Some 20 years ago James put together a half-hour public TV show called “Our Mary” concerning the present-day status of all the places shown in the Mary Tyler Moore Show opening credits, and the show turned out to be somewhat too much about him instead.

  8. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 03/03/2009 - 12:21 am.

    It’s not just Lileks performing here. What intrigues me is that yellow pencil…although under the direction of James, it does appear to execute some pretty wild arabesques independantly. It circles, it spins and occasionally rests on point. Pencil almost takes on a life of its own…until Lileks snatches it back and they walk off camera together.

  9. Submitted by William Wallace on 03/03/2009 - 12:45 am.

    James Lileks rocks. Too bad he’s not on the radio anymore.

    What’s with the moderation, by the way? You’re awfully critical of the strib’s web interface, but they don’t moderate comments (on stories they allow comments to be made).

  10. Submitted by Louise Mayes on 03/03/2009 - 08:20 am.

    Lileks needs to lose the pencil.

  11. Submitted by Kristen Montag on 03/03/2009 - 01:26 pm.

    Interesting effort but it did seem to be a bit of theatre over news with a little opinion thrown in. Curious though if the empty desks behind Lileks are all former staffers’.

  12. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 03/03/2009 - 08:10 pm.

    Everything you mentioned apparently occurred after I bailed.

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