Penelope Trunk Is Ready For Calibration

    January 8, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Journalism has changed, from something doled out to paperboys and bought for a dime on the way to the office, to world where writers may need to calibrate themselves for popularity.

Penelope Trunk Is Ready For Calibration

‘Brazen Careerist’ author and now-former Yahoo Finance careers scribe Penelope Trunk has been highlighted in a discussion about modern journalism. Trunk lost her gig with Yahoo when executives claimed her column brought down the CPM of the finance package they sell to advertisers.

Edward Wasserman of Washington & Lee University said in the Miami Herald that Trunk’s experience in late December 2007 highlighted a trend:

If she’s right about the reasons for her dismissal, Trunk has become an early casualty of the new order of online news — calibrated journalism.

The problem with online Popularity Pay is it that it mistakes journalism for a consumer product, and conflates value with sales volume. Journalists don’t peddle goods, they offer a professional service, a relationship. The news audience renews that relationship to get information and insight on matters it trusts journalists to alert it to, even though the news may be disquieting or hard to grasp.

Though Wasserman got the reason for dismissal wrong, as Trunk told WebProNews she enjoyed plenty of traffic on Yahoo Finance, his assessment of page views uber alles and Trunk’s firing drew this rebuttal from Lucas Grindley:

Trunk was fired because the advertising department couldn’t sell the page views generated by her very popular column. At least, that’s what she said in a statement that anyone can go read for themselves right now.

Remember what journalism professors say about getting the names wrong? If you can’t spell a name right, then why should readers believe anything in the story. I wonder what they’d say about getting the entire lead wrong.

If it becomes a popularity contest, Trunk said she would not have a problem with this."I think it’s fair, and as a writer, it is good for me to be able to point to measurable statistics to show my value," she said.

"If journalists are not in the business of selling a consumer product, then what are they? Academia?"

She also made an observation of Wasserman’s description of the newspaper and its relationship with readers.

"If you take that to be true, then I think the problem with print journalism is that the audience is not renewing their relationship with many newspapers. The audience is going online instead. And newspapers have to decide how to respond," said Trunk.