Monthly Archives: November 2011

Just a few of the items I posted on November 29, 2001:

* Steve Brill is named Newsweek columnist. “This is a great opportunity for me to return to writing and reporting full time,” he says in a release.

* Time managing editor Jim Kelly confirms that Osama bin Laden is among the half-dozen candidates being considered for Person of the Year.

* Brattleboro Reformer photographer Jason Henske is threatened with arrest for treason after he’s seen taking a picture of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant while on assignment.

* Ted Turner predicts the consolidation of the cable industry will result in only two operators still standing by 2003.

* The New York Times Co.’s interest in the Boston Red Sox raises conflict of interest concerns.

PLUS: More Romenesko posts from November 29, 2001.

Howard Stern show regular and notorious media prankster Captain Janks called CNN on Sunday, pretending to be Cairo University exchange student Gregory Porter. He did a fairly lengthy interview with Fredricka Whitfield and wasn’t cut off by producers until he made reference to “Baba Booey’s Monkey Nuts.” (Whitfield continued to ask questions even after the Baba Booey reference.)

On his Monday Sirius XM show, Howard Stern discussed the prank:

I’m amazed by this. Captain Janks not only made a phony phone call to CNN, where he posed as that kid who was Egypt who was thrown in jail for a while but they let him out. I think Janks was booked as a guest like 12:30 in the afternoon. So from 12:30 to 5:30 at night, when he got on, CNN doesn’t even check their sources [to make sure their guest is legitimate]. It’s kind of crazy.

Stern show producer Producer Gary (“Baba Booey”) Dell’Abate added:

Janks emailed me at 11:30 yesterday and said, I’m booked on CNN at 5:45. Then he hits me back about one and says, my call time is moved up to 5:10, and all I can think of is, so he’s been booked for six hours; what was the process to check if you’re talking to the actual guy?

Janks told the Stern show listeners:

This took about four hours to set this up. I got myself booked through their booking agent early in the morning. I’m not too far from where that real kid lives, so I knew a bunch of things about him — where he lived, and the street, and the phone number is the same — you know, the prefix. I just was on the phone trying to talk like a 19-year-old kid. …I said [to CNN] I’m that kid, Gregory Porter, and that I just got back from Egypt and I heard that you wanted to interview me. So I just wanted to tell you that I’ll do it. I figured CNN had already had tried to reach out to him, so I just bascially said I was calling back.

I’ve asked CNN to comment.

UPDATE: CNN sent me this:

Below is the statement that was
read by Ted Rowlands on air Sunday evening regarding the prank call.

Earlier tonight we had planned an interview with an American student who
returned home after being held in Egypt. Gregory Porter was one of three
students arrested during pro-democracy protests. We did not talk to him.
Instead, a prankster made it on air. CNN regrets this mistake and we
apologize to Mr. Porter for any confusion that arose from this incident.

Watch Capt. Janks prank-call Fredricka Whitfield

Josef Stalin’s daughter, Lana Peters, who died in Wisconsin last week, spoke with Wisconsin State Journal columnist Doug Moe in April of 2010, because she wanted to clarify a comment attributed to her in an Associated Press story about a documentary film on her life. Moe wrote last year:

According to the Associated Press story on the film, Peters talks in “Svetlana About Svetlana” of how, in retrospect, she might have been better off living in a neutral country, like Switzerland, rather than coming to the United States.

This week, Peters said she’s glad to be here.

“I am quite well and happy,” she said. “Richland Center [Wisconsin] has a hospital and good social services for seniors.”

Moe wrote another column about Peters in today’s State Journal. He tells readers:

The last time we spoke was Nov. 13, a Sunday night. Lana sounded confused. She had called my number but was looking to reach someone else, a name I didn’t recognize. She ended the call quickly.

Three months earlier, Lana had phoned and requested we do another interview, which she said would be her last. Her health was failing, she said. There were things she wanted to say.

Naturally, I said yes. It turned out she mostly wanted to talk about money. People still thought her father had left her millions, she said, and that was ridiculous.

“He would never leave money for anyone, including his children,” Peters said. “He believed money was evil.”

David W. Dunlap’s story about the Cypress Hills Cemetery lots reserved for “friendless journalists” who died without money for a proper burial is getting a lot of buzz today. The New York Times reporter tells readers the story behind that story:

I found the journalists’ burial ground in Cypress Hills doing research work for The New Yorker. Yes, The New Yorker.

You would think that the newspaper of record had a record of its own chief news executives over the years. The New Yorker evidently thought so, because it asked for such a list to accompany “Changing Times,” Ken Auletta’s Oct. 24 profile of Jill Abramson, the newest in a 160-year-old line.

But there was no such list. If there ever had been, we’d lost it. And it was no easy thing to construct. In most histories of The Times, the period between its founding in 1851 and its acquisition by the Ochs-Sulzberger family in 1896 is treated merely as prelude (with the exception of its exposé of Boss Tweed).
There was the further complication that masthead rosters weren’t printed in the 19th century. And The Times of that period didn’t discuss changes in management publicly. And titles often didn’t tell the story: “Editor in Chief,” for instance, was what we now call “Editorial Page Editor.”

It fell to me, as unofficial Times historian, and my colleagues Jeffrey P. Roth and Danielle Rhoades Ha, to compile as comprehensive a list as we could. I started by following the trail of George Jones, the first publisher, whom I’d profiled a few months earlier.

That brought me to a clipping from 1886 in which Jones was shown as one of the top benefactors (Joseph Pulitzer was another) of the “Press Club plot in Cypress Hills Cemetery” where “friendless journalists are buried.” A reporters’ graveyard? I was astonished. I’d never heard of this place and, at 59, thoughts do start straying in the direction of — ahem — future arrangements.

I was lucky at Cypress Hills to reach a cemetery official, Stephen C. Duer, who is also an amateur historian and co-author of a pictorial history in Arcadia’s Images of America series. He readily confirmed the existence of the Press Club plot and welcomed me to come out and visit. Groundskeepers were just finishing tidying the grave sites when I arrived on the morning of Oct. 20.

The modern New York Press Club is no relation to the New York Press Club that oversaw the friendless journalists’ plot. But my inquiries clearly piqued the interest of Peter O. E. Bekker, consulting director of the club, who had the last word after my piece appeared online Sunday, when he wrote me:

“I suppose we’ll now have to form a committee and endure endless meetings and strident exhortations about duty, honor, obligation., etc., etc., as we select a Visiting Friends contingent for periodic trips to ‘the plots’ to commune with our dearly, nearly forgotten.

“Wait! We might be able to fast-track the process. Based entirely on merit, familiarity and demonstrated interest, perhaps you would like to become the Press Club’s official Periodic Visitor? Could mean a huge break on dues and possibly a free tee-shirt.

“Only kidding. We start giving away tee-shirts, there goes the budget!”

“I’m not in the news business and won’t tell people how to do their job. I’d like to restore trust in the news business, though, and feel that restoring fact checking will really help. News business realities mean that such fact checking has to be practical, it has to be fast and cheap.” — Craigslist founder Craig Newmark in in last Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle

This email is posted with Craig Newmark’s permission:

Craig Newmark

to [six journalists]
date Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 4:32 PM
subject Making bigtime factchecking real

Recently, Jeff Jarvis at the City University of NY held an event on restoring factchecking to the news business. He did a really good job getting a bunch of players in this arena to play well together. Special thanks also the to the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. (My contribution has been overstated, mostly prompting the event and tagging it as #factfest.)

Here’s my very brief attempt at getting my head around what happened and what’s happening with big deal factchecking. I’m biased, mostly wanting to have news again that I can trust, while figuring that I’m not in the news business and I’m not going to tell people how to do their job.

I’m subject to confirmation bias as well, wanting to see what I hope’s happening. Politically, I’m what I call a “libertarian pragmatist.”

1. Most people also want news they can trust again. That’s true of most journalists, but most find that their publishers find factchecking too lengthy and expensive. It’s like most publshers feel that if everyone else is cheating, it’s okay for them to cheat.

2. Specifically, people want news and opinion to be factchecked, that is, evidence and reality based. Even pundits should operate on the evidence.

3. There already exist independent networks of factcheckers, at,, and There are also partisan “factcheckers,” some of which operate in good faith, and some which deliberately seek to deceive. Read More

Salt Lake City Weekly was the first to write about the Deseret News’ hyphenated hed trailing off the page, which the alt-paper claims “points to an appalling inattention to detail.” How did it happen? Page design manager Heidi Perry returned my call over the weekend and left this voice-message:

You called to ask to me about the headline and how that happened. Quite sad. The person who did it felt horrible. They said “Prop 8″ and they added a period at like 11 o’clock after Prop and it forced everything to the next line and they were on deadline and didn’t notice that it hyphenated everything, so then they lost the last word and it made the headline bigger. Usually when you add a period or something and you see that, you just make the headline smaller. He did it quickly on deadline …it happened late at night, [and they were] shorthanded.

I called Perry back and was told an overworked “duty editor” was responsible for the headline flub.

* Aug. 2010: A third of Deseret News staff expected to be let go
* Dec. 2010: Deseret News layoffs reportedly include all designers
(Thanks to Charles Apple for the image)

AJ Daulerio has been promoted to Gawker editor-in-chief, and Tommy Craggs is succeeding him at Deadspin. Here’s the memo announcing the promotions:

From: Nick Denton
To: [Gawker editorial staff]
Sent: Monday, November 28, 2011 9:05 AM
Subject: Reshuffle at Gawker and Deadspin

We’re making a change at Gawker. Remy Stern is stepping down as editor in chief. His replacement is Deadspin’s AJ Daulerio. Tommy Craggs — currently AJ’s deputy — is taking over at the Gawker sports site.

Remy will be consulting on new editorial initiatives — including a model for biographical and product pages on both Gawker and other sites in the group.

You’re probably wondering: “What the hell?” It’s not as if Gawker in crisis. Since Remy took over some two years ago, the site’s US audience has grown from 3m a month to nearly 5m.

The flagship Gawker Media site has broken stories such as Christine O’Donnell’s Halloween adventure, brought down a Congressman and got under the skin of Fox News with exposes of exurban bullying by both Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. The site is more professional than it’s ever been in both set-piece exclusives and visuals.

But we need to release the full potential of the site’s excellent roster of writers — and fill out the team with new hires. AJ has proven himself as both developer and recruiter of editorial talent. That’s what the site needs right now. Hence the switch.

I’m around this week if you want further explanation of the reshuffle. Whether you’re at Gawker, Deadspin or one of the other sites, email me or just walk over and grab me for a coffee.



New York Observer reports Daulerio “had been lining up opportunities outside Gawker media” before today’s promotion.

Here are a few things we know about Gov. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag (left), who reported 18-year-old Emma Sullivan for tweeting, “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”:

* She was last quoted about Twitter in September when someone started tweeting — with curse words — as @sambrownback. “Unfortunately there are others who try to portray the governor in a negative light,” complained Jones-Sontag.
* She owns Ad Astra Media Solutions, but it appears her website hasn’t been updated since 2009.
* She’s a former A&W drive-in car hop, “but I didn’t wear skates; too clumsy,” she says.
* The hardest part of her job, she’s said, is trying to correct a misquote or inaccurate information. “Most journalists pride themselves on being accurate and get a mistake corrected immediately, but there are a few who pass it off and say they’ll correct the next time they write about the issue,which could be months or never.”
* She’s also served as Kansas House of Representatives Speaker’s Office communications director, and Kansas Attorney General’s Office communications director.
* She worked at KSNT-TV in Topeka from 1998 to 2006, finishing her career there as morning news anchor.
* She attended Ohio University from 2005 to 2008. (She writes on LinkedIn that she studied Broadcast Journalism, Journalism, and Latin America Studies.)
* She chose journalism because “I found the evening news fascinating — especially the stories done by foreign correspondences [sic].”


Follow Emma Sullivan on Twitter || Read the Kansas City Star’s profile of her older sister, a poli-sci/communications major at Wichita State University.


Rooted Cosmopolitan blog has more on Jones-Sontag.

A front page editor’s note says:

The Daily Orange publication calendar did not include a paper for the Monday after Fall Break, but because of the developing stoy about Bernie Fine, former associate head coach for men’s basketball and the allegations of sexual abuse against him, the editors at The D.O. felt it was important to have one. No advertisements appear in the paper to focus on content. We hope our readers will continue to follow the story through The D.O. and, as always, feel free to voice their opinions about the news happening on campus with a Letter to the Editor. Send any comments, concerns or questions to

Gregg Doyel of tweeted Sunday night: “Just wrote 1,000 words on Jim Boeheim. Did it in 45 minutes. When I’m angry, I’m fast. Will post ASAP.” || Here is what he wrote.

* Former player and trustee still defends Fine | Full coverage Daily Orange coverage
* Read the Syracuse Post-Standard’s coverage of the Fine allegations and firing

David Newhouse, editor of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based Patriot-News, criticized the New York Times on Wednesday for its Victim One story, which he said was so detailed that, even though the paper doesn’t name the boy who was allegedly abused by Jerry Sandusky, “googling certain information in the profile results in the young man’s name within seconds.”

David Newhouse

“I read the Times story and immediately wanted to write something – to our readers – about the approach we were taking in reporting this scandal,” Newhouse tells me in an email. “Remember that, here in central Pennsylvania, The Patriot-News has taken a lot of heat for dogging this story. Just read the comments on our web site. I simply wanted to say to local readers that protecting the victims always was and remains a high priority for us. Remember, this may be a national story to the national press but, for us, these are local kids. People are deeply disgusted by the allegations against Sandusky but rightly concerned that the story not hurt innocent people in the process, whether they are alleged victims, their families and friends, or Penn State students.”

Reaction to Patriot-News editorial has been “amazingly passionate,” the editor says. “Not too many people saying ‘mmmm, I kind of agree’ or ‘hmmmm, not sure I agree.’ Instead, many people who disagree have taken the tone of Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple, who attacked the piece hammer and tongs.” (“From petty, Newhouse goes hypocritical.”)

Newhouse adds: “At the same time, I have heard from numerous readers and fellow journalists who felt just as strongly the other way. I’ll give you just two examples — without the senders’ names since they didn’t say I could share these. They’re both from nationally known journalists working for major publications:

I’m so upset about this thing I can hardly breathe. Literally. I support you 100%. Been working on an (unrelated) investigative story for 7 months… the last 2 months we’ve been vetting and re-vetting to remove and alter details so we can protect the identity of a criminal informant who – if you read it – you’ll probably agree isn’t worthy of being protected at all. And NYT couldn’t similarly protect the victim of the most publicized sex abuse case in recent memory? A polite apology from them would help matters. Should we expect one? I feel like they’re weighing public opinion right now and thanking their lucky stars that you called them out at holiday/travel time as opposed to a normal workday. Stand your ground.


I want to say “bravo” to your statement regarding the unconscionable reporting of details about Victim 1 by other media outlets. Where the editors at the New York Times were on that one is beyond me. Bottom line, your newspaper’s reporting has been both extraordinary AND responsible.

Newhouse hasn’t heard from Times — “I never expected to. They have every right to print what they want” — but I emailed the paper’s PR department on Friday to get reaction to the editor’s piece. Here’s what the Times says:

We had extensive discussions about the story before it was published. We believe it was careful and sensitive and gave some important insight into the victim’s ordeal. By not publishing his name, we hoped to preserve some privacy for him in the wider world, despite the fact that his identity is already widely known in the college community.

“By the way, I love the New York Times,” Newhouse tells me. “It’s a great newspaper (I read every day) which normally exemplifies the highest journalistic ethics. That’s one reason I was so surprised – and disappointed – by this story.

“I also love and celebrate good journalism wherever I find it. People like Wemple attacked what I wrote on the grounds that it was some kind of sour grapes because we didn’t get the story. That’s just silly. Pennsylvania has a robust newspaper community and I have good friends and respected colleagues at papers that beat us all the time – folks like Stan Wischnowski and Mike Days of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dave Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jim Cuddy of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and so on. I have no problem getting beat with a good story. I’m quite used to it! And with the media now swarming State College, plenty of news organizations, including the Times, have done excellent reporting. Bravo.

“My point was that this could have been a very powerful story about how Sandusky befriended boys like Victim One without revealing details that had nothing to do with the allegations but helped to identify him even more widely.

“And to those who said he was already outed locally – which was true, thanks to misguided earlier reporting by various news outlets – I would only say that at least one major newspaper emailed the boy’s attorney on Wednesday to say they had identified Victim One from googling details in the Times’ story and wanted to know why they shouldn’t now name him. In fact, seeing that was one of the things which really pushed me to write. At the very least, the Times story seemed to make a bad situation worse.”

UPDATE: I alerted Erik Wemple to Newhouse’s sour grapes/silly remark. He emailed:

As to the “silly” question, it’s good to hear Newhouse’s assurances that there are no sour grapes here. Because that’s the impression that the first part of his essay casts. It’s a good debate and, again, the Patriot-News has done much good work on the story. I just thought this piece wasn’t the P-N at its best.