Monthly Archives: December 2011

The new owners of the San Diego Union-Tribune have asked employees to help the paper go from “good” to “great” by dressing up a bit and working longer hours for the same pay.

“Employees will transition to a 40 hour work week effective January 2, 2012,” from the old 37.5-hour work week. “Standard office hours will be, 8:30 – 5:30, with an hour for lunch,” says a memo to staff. About the dress code:

We would like employees who work with the public to dress in sharp business attire. …Employees who do not work directly with the public, should keep in mind that we always have visitors, government officials/dignitaries in and out of our building, and the desire is to have a professional workplace appearance. “Casual Friday” will continue, but should be only slightly less business oriented than Monday through Thursday.

* U-T staff to work longer hours, dress snazzier under new management

UPDATE: There are dozens of comments about this on my Facebook wall. Here are some of them:

Katy Moeller
I had lots of knee-jerk reactions to this … I recognize myself that some days I could dress better, but my focus tends to be on the stories I’m doing. I think a friendly reminder about looking professional, rather than a condescending announcement about wearing business attire, would go over better with staff. Forty hours a week would sound like a vacation to many journalists I know.

Judy Israel
I started working at CBS News in 1977. One day when I was still an admin. asst. on the Foreign Desk, an executive needed someone to deliver something to Bill Paley at Black Rock, the CBS corporate headquarters. Because I wasn’t wearing a dress or a skirt I actually couldn’t go. Women could wear pants at the Broadcast Center but not at corporate back then. Hard to believe now.

Pat Alder
The Hotel guy thinks that by slapping a new coat of paint and changing the furniture people wil come?? Quality brings them, not new furnishings.

Pam Robinson
‎”Standard office hours” in a newsroom? Good luck with that. And I wonder if they’re getting paid enough to afford “We would like employees who work with the public to dress in sharp business attire.”

Peg McNichol
I thought Leona Helmsley was dead.

Peg McNichol
Although … an hour for lunch? Woo hoo! Surely the deadly house fires, barricaded gunmen and near-drowning victims rescued with heart-stopping precision will happily wait to get their photos taken for me to finish a peaceful lunch … Kwame Kilpatrick, to be sure, wishes reporters had daily taken a lunch hour. [CONTINUES]

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Rihanna for Armani

Advertising Age editors were surprised to read in the Daily Mail and elsewhere that they did a sexiest-ad poll and Rihanna’s work for Armani came up the winner.

“After seeing the attention the sexiest-ad survey got, we kind of wish we’d done one.”

The Daily Mail tells Ad Age that it heard about the poll via a press release from TNI Press Ltd. that said “the 23-year-old singer’s daring display was hailed the best of the year in a poll of advertising industry chiefs carried out by U.S. magazine Advertising Age.”

Ad Age’s Nat Ives writes: “We called and wrote TNI but haven’t heard back.”

* Did Ad Age name Rihanna’s Armani ad the sexiest of the year?

“It was almost like a scene out of ‘Spinal Tap’ or something like that.”

That’s how comedian and “30 Rock” star Judah Friedlander describes his “completely ridiculous” book-signing event at the Barnes & Noble at The Grove in Los Angeles. In a podcast interview with Greg Fitzsimmons, Friedlander discusses his fights with the publisher of “How to Beat Up Anybody” and his book tour nightmare.

I’m walking around the [Barnes & Noble in LA] I don’t see any copies of my book on display. Normally when you do a book signing you’re supposed to have a special display set up. … I started looking around some more and I’m like wait, they have no books at all in the whole store — and there’s a fair amount of people there to see the book signing.

I’m like what’s going on? They’re like, ‘Yeah, they’re somewhere in the loading dock at LAX airport, that’s where the books are. They’re trying to locate them now.’

I’ve been in this business over 20 years and I know bullshit when I hear it, and there’s no way they’re actually looking for it on the loading docks of LAX airport. I found out later they’d actually known there was a problem with the fucking shipment of books for two days.

Friedlander went ahead and performed for the crowd — “I do a 30-minute show – slide presentation of photos from the book, and I basically give a fake instructional karate class” — and then was approached by a Barnes & Noble employee.

[He said] ‘I saved one because I knew you were coming, and i wanted to get one for myself, but since there are no books I guess you should sell it.’

So I actually sold one book, and signed one book. So it was literally a book signing, and not a books signing.

Any authors care to share their book-signing nightmares — and successes — in the comments section?

* Listen to the Judah Friedlander/Greg Fitzsimmons podcast

Lee Froehlich (Chicago Reader photo)

Playboy managing editor Leopold ‘Lee’ Froehlich has hope for print: it’s going to change, but it’s not going to die, he says. “Railroads aren’t dead and radio’s not dead — they just changed.” He doesn’t have much hope for Chicago journalism, though:

I think it’s sad now to see the state of the journalism business in this town. This was such a great newspaper town, it was such an interesting magazine town. I could see a point where there won’t be any newspapers or magazines in this town. The trend, it seems to me, is not friendly to Chicago. They’re consolidating a lot of the stuff in New York. It’s really hard to be a magazine journalist in this town considering 96 percent of the jobs are in New York. If you get a good job, you really have to hold on to it because there are fewer good magazine jobs or journalism jobs in the city than ever before.

* The People Issue: Leopold “Lee” Froehlich

* Why the New York Times email blast screw-up wasn’t that big a deal
* Judge won’t hold hearing on plans to end Tribune bankruptcy until May at earliest
* Gawker’s “Ten People Who Should Quit the Media in 2012”
* Over 400 people have signed the Open Letter to Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
* “It kind of stung” to get Tampa Bay Times business cards, says columnist
* Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal is Talking Biz News’ Business Journalist of the Year

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi says Fox News has yet to crown any one Republican candidate as the eventual nominee, even though the network “seemed poised to play a kingmaking role in the 2012 primaries.” Farhi writes:

Campaign watchers are hard-pressed to detect a tilt by the network toward one candidate. Even the two candidates who have worked for Fox News as on-air contributors, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, don’t appear to have had any special access or advantage during the campaign.

A Stanford poli-sci prof says if the GOP field narrows to two candidates, Fox is more likely to pick sides and tout a candidate it believes has the strongest chance to defeat President Obama in the fall.

* Despite kingmaking expectations, Fox News seems neutral among GOP field

The Arizona Republic reported earlier this week that a college student died after jumping off its parking garage roof, but never told readers that the victim was its breaking-news intern. Multiple sources gave me the young man’s name; this is from Daniel Steven Kemp’s obituary:

He loved his entire extended family, all things Bay Area, sports, classic rock, history, and politics. He was a huge fan of all Stanford sports and was often a walking billboard for Stanford. He had an infectious smile, a great sense of humor, and a big heart. …

Casual dress — sports jerseys, Stanford gear or Stanford colors would honor Daniel [at his funeral service].

* Daniel Steven Kemp death notice

* Suicide of Arizona State University student raises questions

Fort Myers News-Press columnist wrote last week about Lee County (Fla.) Sheriff Mike Scott and his associates fraternizing with a felon. After that column ran…

Scott released an email with my criminal history to all sheriff’s office users at 5:39 p.m. Tuesday. That’s close to 1,600 people. Scott’s email followed through on a threat he made earlier that he planned to expose my criminal record via social media and would buy advertisements in local newspapers, including this one.

The columnist told readers this week about that criminal record: twenty-seven years ago, when he was sports editor at the Sanford Herald, he hit a bicyclist while driving home from a bar.

I knew I hit something, but wasn’t sure what. I did a U-turn at the next light and circled back. I couldn’t find the spot, so I pulled into a strip mall to turn around. My right-front tire went flat, punctured by the bicycle.

While changing the tire, a Casselberry police officer approached me. I told him of my dilemma. My worst fears were realized. I was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with injury and DUI, which was dropped.

I was lucky. The victim recovered.

he columnist says the sheriff “can try to change the focus of this investigation to me and my arrests, but it won’t work. It’s about the sheriff’s behavior.”

* Sam Cook: My duty to shine light will never dim
* Sheriff Scott and staff still converse with felon

The History Channel is airing “Page One: Inside the New York Times” at 6 p.m. ET on New Year’s Eve. (It can also be streamed on Netflix.) Filmmaker Andrew Rossi answers a few of my questions about the documentary and Michael Kinsley’s negative review.

What were your expectations for Page One when you started filming? I see that your domestic gross as of 10/16 was $1,067,028. Is that the most current figure?

Yes, that is the most current figure.

When I first started shooting “Page One: Inside The New York Times” I didn’t have a clear sense of whether the film would ultimately scale beyond a small core audience of NYT followers and those interested in journalism to even warrant a theatrical release at all, although of course I hoped it would. So the fact that the film ended up grossing over $1M (which is the holy grail for independent docs, much as $100M is for studio films), was thrilling. That being said, with partners like Participant Media and Magnolia Pictures on board, there were initially comparisons to movies like “Food Inc.” and “Waiting For Superman,” which had spectacular grosses of $4.4M and $6.4M respectively.

My personal assessment is that the excoriating Michael Kinsley review which appeared in the New York Times probably cut our box office in half, at least. The conventional wisdom is that if a small indie doesn’t get a strong review in the Times, it’s an uphill battle at the box office. So to have a Times review which actually instructs its readers to not see the film but to see another one made in the 1940’s instead, well… you do the math.

All in all, ending up with $1M is a real testament to the strong word of mouth for the picture and Magnolia and Participant’s efforts to get the film out there; they did an amazing job. But I think it’s likely that a large swath of Times lovers stayed home because of that astonishing Kinsley review.

How is “Page One” doing in DVD/digital download sales/rentals?

We haven’t gotten an accounting statement yet from activity on Itunes and other on-demand platforms, but the feedback on Twitter from people streaming has been phenomenal.

I asked Rossi about Michael Kinsley’s review, which ran in the Times and said the paper “deserves a better movie.”

Overall the critical response to the film has been very positive; in fact, we were nominated for a “Critic’s Choice” Award for best documentary, among other honors. So to say that Kinsley’s review was an abberation would be an understatement. Many of the people who have commented to me about the review, several of whom work at the Times itself, have described the review as “shameful.” Michael Kinsley may be a Rhodes Scholar, but he’s not a film critic, and the idea that he is objective when it comes to the subject of the New York Times and journalism is preposterous. He would have been a great candidate to write an editorial about the movie, but as a reviewer, not so much.

The truth is that there are several factual errors and misleading statements in Kinsley’s review, even beyond it’s imbalanced attack on the movie as a creative work. The Times chose to run only one of the ten or more corrections that we submitted, which was also upsetting. Specifically, my initial response was shock and finally sadness, not just for all those who put so much work into making the film, but actually for the Times itself. Don’t get me wrong – there’s been credible criticism about the film’s structure, and I appreciate the negative insights as well as the praise. Yes, a multi-pronged narrative with literary digressions pivoting from one subject or protagonist to another is difficult to pull off and not for everyone. But Kinsley’s review is a contrarian rant that doesn’t shed any light. It’s a takedown, which doesn’t live up to the Times’ own standards.

* Earlier: “I turned out to be completely wrong” about the film, says NYTer

After retiring as Chicago magazine editor in March, Dick Babcock came across a story he’d written over 20 years ago and was never able to get published.

“I thought it might find an audience on the web, so I got in touch with David Blum,” the editor of Kindle Singles. (The two had worked together at New York magazine in the 1980s.) “He was very enthusiastic about it,” says Babcock, but there’s a 5,000-word minimum Kindle Singles, and his piece was only 3,500 words.

Blum suggested how the author might add to his story, about a husband “driven to extremes” by his wife repeating the same anecdotal story endlessly.

“At first I thought it was impossible,” Babcock says, “but once I started tinkering with it, a couple of new scenes popped up, and I do think the story ended up being a bit better, richer.”

Blum tells me: “Dick ended up re-shaping the story significantly, and the revised version was just right.”

“My Wife’s Story” debuted as a Kindle Single in mid-November, “and right away it popped very close to the top.” It eventually hit #1 on the Singles bestsellers list and stayed there for several weeks.

Babcock credits a “terrific” cover illustration and’s marketing for the story’s success. Amazon alerted its mystery-loving customers — “including the half-dozen people who bought my previous novels” — to Babcock’s Single, which has had over 24,000 downloads so far.

“It’s sold a lot better than any of my novels.”

(Blum says: “The cover design, by Adil Dara Kim, was terrific, and perfectly captured the Single’s serio-comic tone, but Dick is being modest — he owes his success to his talents as a writer.”)

Babcock is now thinking about digging up other old manuscripts and pitching them as Kindle Singles. “I’ve got a couple other things floating around.”

He adds:

“Not so terribly long ago, a whole portfolio of national magazines published smart, lively short fiction—entertainments. Good writers could make solid livings doing that kind of work. Perhaps my experience suggests a market still exists.”