Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Former USATer Huffman: 'People value content'

J. Ford Huffman, the former USA Today deputy managing editor, looks to European newspapers for examples of how to balance print and digital journalism.

Speaking this week to journalism students at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he says those papers have gone down paths that many American newspapers are now beginning to negotiate.

Huffman isn’t pessimistic about the outcome, so long as attention is paid to what is presented, so long as local news organizations work hard to be thoughtful and original. “People value content,” he said. “It’s the story that matters.”

Earlier: Amid USAT buyouts, the farewells include Huffman.


  1. Amen. Quality content and how it is presented (written, designed, etc) is everything, whether in print or online. I am afraid that many news organizations, including Huffman's old paper (USAT), have lost sight of that.

  2. 12:36 - not the NYT and WSJ. They look great everyday. Two companies that let content lead and revenue follow.

  3. J. Ford was excellent at USAT, and the departure of talented people like him is a measure of how far USAT and the Big G have fallen.

  4. USA TODAY went through a 2-3 year period where it recklessly gave the boot to some talented people on several levels, the kind of employees who got the job done and made sure quality was always to the highest of standards. Like J. Ford, these were loyal employees who helped build the brand and who saved USAT from the embarrassing errors and mishaps that I currently see. The way in which these folks left USAT, after years of service that was often under some very trying circumstances, was a crime committed by managers who apparently have ice in their veins. How they sleep at night is bewildering to me.

    The end result of all of this is that the content at USAT has suffered in just about every way imaginable. There's less of it. What there is wouldn't have made it into print or online just five years ago. The content is usually late in being posted compared with the competition. Creativity and originality are running on fumes.

    What good are all the digital efforts if what goes online is old, inaccurate and sometimes downright embarrassing?

    As far as print goes, well, we all see what that has turned into - a second-rate publication living off its reputation from the late 1990s.

    Question is, when will the public see that the USAT brand no longer possesses the kind of credible content it once did since people like J. Ford left the building?

  5. Among the L.A. and N.Y. Times and my own local Gannett paper, I always picked up a copy of USA Today. Each and every morning, reading all thoroughly, before arriving at work where too many of my colleagues didn't even bother to read our own product.

    As Dylan sang long after even his nasal voice was gone, "Things have changed."

  6. It is amazing how many editors don't bother to read their own paper. Ideas routinely come up in meetings that already have run. Wake up boys and girls,

  7. Martore & Friends care not about content. They think an iconic brand can run on reputation alone. Why else would they allow USA Today to sink as much as it has?

  8. Five years from now, all the UCSPs will be nothing more than bureaus for USAT.

    That's where you're headed.
    Or so I've been told.

  9. Martore needs to know what it's like to reapply for a job. Hers.

  10. Ken Paulson sleeps and sits very comfortably on his $563,000 a year ugly butt in Nashville.

  11. People value content.

    Too bad newspaper today don't.

    All media companies value is the advertising dollar and revenue. I am not talking about the big metro papers. I am talking about the smaller papers like the Gannett papers in places like Indiana and Ohio, where content has become a throwaway because of the layoffs and staff reductions.

    All the companies care about is putting anything atop the paid adds... quality content, trash.... all the same to them.

    Readers have taken a back seat, and they know it. All the Gannett newspapers value are the advertisers and major corporations in their communities.

    Newsrooms and readers be damned.

  12. Interesting that two comments into a thread about content, someone talks about how two papers look.

    Sad. You don't get it, 1:54. We're talking about content.

    This illustrates a big part of the problem. Too many people and newspapers don't understand content or how to improve it.

  13. 10:37: Readers quit mattering when corporate started calling them consumers.

  14. Every time the so-called leaders gather what is left of the troops at USA TODAY, they talk proudly of all these shiny new products and apps being introduced as if that alone is enough. But without content -- meaning well-written, researched and unique stories and graphics -- these vehicles are empty shells. Advertisers and users aren't that stupid. And a bunch of underpaid college kids typing like monkeys isn't going to provide the kind of journalism that can compete with outlets that still value reporting.


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