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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Mike Koehler, CEO of Smirk New Media, writes:

Could you please make mention that E&Ps website announcing the Eppy Award web winners is a big web loser.

Collapsible lists, annoying flash graphics.

Ugh, get over yourselves.

Here’s a link.

It is a little bit like having to sit through an awards show. How about offering a quick-read text version? || UPDATE: “Apparently they have an easy to digest list on the site too,” Koehler writes in a second email.

“And you just know the Romenesko-horny reporters smell blood in the water.” — IvyGate, October 26, 2006

The staff at IvyGate got my attention five years ago with that line from a story about the Harvard Crimson firing a columnist for failing to cite sources for a piece about misuse of the word literally. (I did a brief post on it.) I haven’t checked the IvyGate site in years, and wasn’t even aware they were still publishing until I saw a story in today’s Harvard Crimson about Peter Finocchiaro stepping down as editor-in-chief. (The 2010 Cornell grad is now at Salon.com.) Crimson contributing writer Sabrina A. Mohamed reports:

Finocchiaro wrote 35 of the 45 stories published in September.

“At a certain point my responsibilities ratcheted up,” Finocchiaro said. “In October, I told Nick [Summers] that I was planning on stepping down. I’m in the process of finding a replacement.”

“If I could keep the site populated with more content, I would,” he added.

The site is owned by Christopher Beam and Nick Summers. The Crimson says the pair will continue overseeing IvyGate.

USA Today editor John Hillkirk has been moved to senior editor for investigative journalism and national enterprise reporting. “We will begin a national search immediately for an Editor-in-Chief for USA TODAY,” says a memo to staff. “In the interim, Executive Editor Susan Weiss will take over direction of the newsroom.”

Here’s the memo from General Manager Susie Ellwood:

From: USA TODAY Executive VP and GM
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 12:01 PM
Subject: Announcement

As many of you know, John Hillkirk’s passion for watchdog journalism runs deep. John, Dave and I have agreed that this is a good time to make a change in his role and he has expressed a desire to return to what he loves most about journalism, which is being engaged in the day to day creation of investigative journalism that has a positive impact on people and communities.

Today, John has been named the senior editor for investigative journalism and national enterprise reporting for USA TODAY. John will bring intelligence, analytical thinking, and his deep knowledge about business and how Washington works to one of the most critical areas of reporting for USA TODAY. He was the leading force behind the formation of our investigative unit so it’s fitting that he’ll now assume oversight of the investigative reporting team.

I know we are all excited about what John can bring to this important area of coverage for USA TODAY. We greatly appreciate John’s good work over the last thirty years, especially the last two years as editor during this critical transformation phase.

We will begin a national search immediately for an Editor-in-Chief for USA TODAY. In the interim, Executive Editor Susan Weiss will take over direction of the newsroom. Her focus will be on enhancing our capacity to deliver breaking news and coverage that engages our audiences across all of our platforms on a 24/7 basis.

In addition, Lee Horwich is being named Deputy Content Editor, overseeing Federal/Politics/Economics, and the Investigative Team. This will give us more management bandwidth and support our efforts to expand 24/7 coverage. It also allows him to continue oversight of our election plans, extremely crucial over the next 12 months, and to work with John and the investigative team on watchdog journalism.

We’ll count on you to pull together and continue to be the most innovative and preferred source of news and information that Americans know and trust.

Susie

My favorite alt-weekly story of the day comes from Westword’s Mike Roberts, who reports that former Editor & Publisher and Daily Beast contributor Jim Moscou is now running a condom company. (In 2004, he was participating in war reporting discussions.) The self-described “recovering journalist” is donating one condom in developing countries for each one sold in the States. (His product is on the left.) “There is a huge global shortage in the access of condoms,” with less than 17 percent of the contraceptive needs met by organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, he tells Roberts.

HBO Co-President Eric Kessler told a gathering of industry boffins this morning in New York that there is no chance his company will make shows like True Blood or The Wire available to digital non-subscribers. — from a paidContent story posted this morning

Really, Mr. Kessler? I canceled my Comcast cable (including HBO) about a year ago, reducing my monthly bill to $66.95 from $203. (I’m still paying for high-speed Internet.) I opened the HBO GO app on my iPad2 seconds ago and — guess what? — both True Blood and The Wire available to me. (I’m able to watch Bored to Death, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Treme, and just about other series you offer, too.) Go Cord Cutters!

The news that Warren Buffett is buying his hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald, got me digging through the archives to see what he’s said in the past about newspapers as investments. In 2009, he told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that “for most newspapers in the United States, we would not buy them at any price” because “they have the possibility of going to just unending losses.” WSJ’s Scott Patterson reported:

The problem, he said, is that newspapers were once essential to the American public. As long as newspapers were essential to readers, they were essential to advertisers, But news is available in many other venues, such as the Internet, which means a dramatic drop in advertising revenue.

Washington Post columnist Steve Pearlstein then wrote an open letter to the billionaire, urging him to rethink his position:

From an investment standpoint, the better way to look at these properties is to think of buying all of them. In a single stroke, and with a relatively modest amount of money, a strategic buyer could assemble a national syndicate with millions of readers capable of achieving the economies of scale that have, for the most part, eluded our badly fragmented industry.

I asked Pearlstein what he thought of Buffett’s World-Herald purchase. “Don’t think it means anything,” he emailed. “It’s an emotional, personal buy.”

> Shafer: Buffett predicted the decline of newspapers, magazines and TV in 1992

Over a decade ago, I asked my readers to share their favorite news bloopers — on-air screw ups, double entendre headlines, etc. — and received contributions from James Taranto, Nikki Finke, Ken Layne, Eric Umansky, Jason Fry, and many others. I thought it would be fun to update that old list. Check out what was submitted in 2000 (note: it takes a few seconds for the “Wayback Machine” to jump to the page), and add your bloopers in the comments section.

There were many news stories about Brian Williams calmly delivering the news while a fire alarm went off in his “NBC Nightly News” studio, but my favorite report comes from fire/EMS blog STATter911.com, which used this headline:

FORMER VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER HAS HIS NETWORK NEWSCAST DISRUPTED

STATter911 editor Dave Statter tells me in an email: “Saw your Brian Williams tweet on the fire alarm. Don’t forget he was a volunteer firefighter as a teenager.” Statter tells blog readers that when Williams was a reporter at Channel 5 in Washington, DC in the early 1980s and he was a WTOP radio reporter, “we talked many times while covering stories about our days as volunteer firefighters.”

Williams said several times during Tuesday night’s broadcast that “there is no danger to us,” but some of Statter’s readers still wanted to see the studio evacuated. From the blog’s comments:

This is why the general public does not react to fire alarms either. They also feel that their life must go on and just as important as a news cast. He did remain calm but should have set a better example by leaving. It is only news and not worth anyone’s life or the lives of those that watching his complacency may effect. Also how did he know everything was ok when he stated this?

and….

Glad to see Brian takes fire alarms just as seriously as most of the general public does.

Kristina Helfer’s “Mounting Nittany” sex column used to run every Thursday in Penn State’s Daily Collegian — typical fare: “Let’s talk sex, hugs and handjobs” — but it’s been MIA for several weeks now. The last “Mounting” was published Nov. 3; Jerry Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5. Helfer didn’t respond to my email, so I called the Collegian newsroom. A man who identified himself as “a campus editor” linked the column’s disappearance to the Sandusky scandal. He transferred me to the managing editor, and she said she couldn’t discuss this because only the editor-in-chief is allowed to speak to the media. (When did college newsrooms become so bureaucratic?) I’ll post top editor Lexi Belculfine’s email when it arrives.

UPDATE: Belculfine writes:

Initially, I wouldn’t call the absence of Mounting Nittany a decision. During the week of Monday, Nov. 7, the paper — and opinions page — evolved as the story did, often by the second.

Mounting Nittany would have ran in the Nov. 10, 2011 issue of The Daily Collegian. This was the edition that chronicled the removal of former Penn State President Graham Spanier and former football coach Joe Paterno. We ran three opinons pages that day — as opposed to our typical one. One was a full page editorial and two were filled with letters to the editor, reflecting the influx of community input the paper was receiving.

In the week that followed, we offered Kristina Helfer the opportunity to write a sex column on the scandal or sexual assault, but she decided that based on the tone of the previous columns that it would not be “respectful to those who have been affected by sexual assault” to write the column that week. Instead, we ran another columnist’s piece on the importance of not being a passive bystander.

Looking forward, based on the current situation and mood at Penn State, we have decided to remove the column for the time being.

> Critic: “What’s disturbing is how lax Helfer’s attitude is toward sex”

A few months ago, someone asked on Quora: “Why must at least one letter to the editor in every magazine contain the word kudos?”

Forbes managing editor Bruce Upbin replied:

I don’t think it is a must. The most frequently appearing phrases in our letters from readers are:

“Shame on you”
“I expected more from you”
“We expect this error/assertion/omission/confusion to be corrected ASAP”
“I’ve been a subscriber for XX years…until now”
“What a shoddy piece of work that article was”

but kudos to you for asking the question.

Any other popular phrases come your way?