Daily Archives: December 1, 2011

While discussing “millionaire journalists” with Omaha World-Herald executive editor Mike Reilly, I recalled how some Kansas City Star editors became wealthy with the sale of that paper to Capital Cities Communications in 1977. Here’s the story from Google News Archives.

Other employees who owned stock in the Star also benefited from the sale, which more than doubled the value of their investment.

Stockholders, including present and retired employees and their families received $139.54 a share. The book value of each share was $68.50 when the New York communications firm made its offer.

> From 1997: How are those 24 Salt Lake Tribune journalists coping with their new millions?

About 275 Omaha World-Herald shareholders — including 80 to 100 newsroom employees — were told to gather at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the performing arts center next to the newspaper’s offices. There was a lot of speculation — “some serious and some humorous,” says executive editor Mike Reilly — about what would be announced. Nobody guessed, though, that Warren Buffett was buying the paper.

“The initial reaction was shock,” Reilly tells me. “This came as a total surprise to everyone outside of the corporate board of directors.”

Buffett then took the stage and got a standing ovation.

The editor, who learned of the deal on Tuesday afternoon, returned to his newsroom and held meetings with staffers on Wednesday afternoon and evening. He says they asked about benefits under the new owner, and how the World-Herald would now cover Buffett.

“We’re going to try to keep covering him just as we have,” says Reilly. “We cover the heck out of him.”

The World-Herald runs a weekly “Warren Watch” column and “it is our plan at this time to continue it.”

Reilly says he’s happy about the sale because it involves local owners — “it’s not Murdoch, we’re not becoming a Gannett property” — and it solves the employee-ownership problem.

Employee ownership was no longer effective, he says, because 95 percent of the newspaper’s shares are owned by people 45 and older, and “because of the way the media environment has changed, there just hasn’t been a lot of interest in our younger staffers to become owners.”

That issue is mentioned in today’s World-Herald story on the sale:

The World-Herald is the last major employee-owned newspaper in the country.
But despite the paper’s profit margins, The World-Herald also faced long-term financial challenges directly tied to its employee-owned structure. Longtime employees who have accumulated significant shares of stock are approaching retirement, and fewer younger workers have been buying into the company.

“Getting that [ESOP problem] off the table, I think, will give us more operating cash to build a staff of great journalists,” says Reilly.

Will some newsroom employees become millionaires with the sale? “I won’t be surprised,” says the executive editor, adding that “I’m not one of them.”

I spoke briefly with Greenville News executive editor John Pittman about the f-word appearing in his newspaper today. “I’m shocked and saddened by it,” he said. “I’m personally calling everyone who complained.” He said 18 people have called so far. (I talked to him at about 12:40 p.m. ET.) I asked him if the Gannett copy desk in Louisville was to blame, but he wouldn’t comment. “We’re the ones who published it. We’ll let other people speculate what happened and how.” Pittman said there’s an investigation to find out who’s responsible.

A memo to the New York Times staff says: “We searched at home and abroad, the foreign desk and all its dominions, and found the next deputy foreign editor in: Phoenix, Arizona. Of course this is less of a surprise than it may seem. The Phoenix correspondent is Marc Lacey, a longtime and close colleague of many of us, veteran of Latin America, East Africa, and Washington before that. We are thrilled to lure him back to foreign.” The full memo is after the jump. Read More

From today's Greenville News

The reporter who picked up the phone in the Greenville News newsroom this morning told me that executive editor John Pittman and managing editor Chris Weston were unavailable. “I think they’re tied up with this issue right now,” he said. I asked if the paper was getting complaints. “We’re getting a few and we’re apologizing to them.” (Thanks to Andy Paras for the image.) || IN THE JIMROMENESKO.COM COMMENTS: “One of the ways Gannett is saving a few million bucks is by creating regional centers for doing things once handled at individual newspapers. That error was made on the copy desk in Louisville, KY. It’s a great system, ain’t it?” || Don’t miss the bloopers submitted by readers in yesterday’s “Conversation Starter.”

Nancy Nall Derringer writes on my Facebook wall:

There was a legend in Fort Wayne, about a sports copy editor who knew the guillotine was coming down. As a parting gift, he sprinkled the agate pages with dozens of obscenities, all of which had to be hunted down with a magnifying glass on deadline.

Bill Oakes writes on my Facebook wall:

Anyone remember the “Shitloads of snow” in Crystal Lake, IL? Still my favorite.

I did a search and learned that shitload appeared in the Crystal Lake Morning Herald in 1984. The full caption read: “Arthur Loy, foreground, and his mother, Judy, used teamwork Sunday to clear their sidewalk of nearly seven inches of snow that fell Saturday evening. Though a sh–load of snow fell Saturday, snowplow crews had most major streets cleared by Sunday. Warmer temperatures should be accompanied by rain the next several days.” Read More

I hate fast food, but I love “The Fast Food Show,” co-hosted by “Jump the Shark” creator and Type 1 diabetic Jon Hein. Chicago radio personality Abe Kanan — a guest on the Nov. 14th show — explained why he no longer goes to Lou Malnati’s, which is often called Chicago’s best pizza joint.

KANAN: I ordered a bacon cheeseburger…

HEIN: That’s your problem. What are you getting a bacon cheeseburger at a pizza place for?

KANAN: They have good burgers there. So I order a bacon cheeseburger. Keep in mind, Lou Malnati’s is a chain restaurant, it’s not like some prestigious restaurant. I order a bacon cheeseburger and the waitress says, Cool, I’ll be right back.

She comes back two minutes later and says, I can’t do it because the chef thinks it’s going to ruin the integrity of the burger. Putting bacon on this shitty burger! It’s not some high quality piece of meat! It’s a shitty burger, right?

So then I said, OK fine, let me get a cheeseburger and a side of bacon. She said that shouldn’t be a problem. She comes back two minutes later — I’m not making this up; I have witnesses who saw this — the chef said, You can’t have it because he knows you’re going to put bacon on the cheeseburger.

HEIN: The reason they did it because you weren’t ordering pizza.

KANAN: I’ve never been back.

“The Fast Food Show” airs on Sirius XM’s Howard 101 channel. Follow Jon Hein for the show schedule. || For Chicagoans who are interested, Kanan told me in email that this happened at the Malnati’s at 439 N. Wells St. I called the restaurant and a day manager had doubts about the story. “We only serve kids’ burgers,” she said.

On one recent day, I checked my RSS feeds and bookmarks and saw these headlines:

* 20 TV Shows With the Most Social Media Buzz (Mashable)
* How 5 Top Brands Crafted Their Social Media Voices (Mashable)
* 3 Things You May Not Know About RTB (AdAge)
* The 5 Types of Stories That Make Good Storifys (Poynter)
* 7 Cheap And Creative Side Dishes For Thanksgiving (Business Insider)
* The 7 Most Overrated Time Magazine Persons of the Year (Huffington Post)
* Here Are 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Lies And Liars (Business Insider)

I asked several people who teach online writing courses about the use of numbers in heds and its effectiveness. Some of the responses:

Writing for the Web instructor
CEO, Visual Editors

It’s a gimmick, and it is not new.

Magazine editors were using “numbers headlines’ to sell magazine covers for decades before the Internet arrived.

How many of these have you seen on newstands over the years?

Five new foods that will burn fat!
10 ways to lower your golf score
Six tips for improving your sex appeal
The five things great parents know about their kids

Of course these examples use AP style because they reference print headlines – and that’s great for “pulp readers.” I can’t explain why AP style is thrown under the bus when writing headlines for “screen readers.”

It obviously is a gimmick that works. Poynter today lured me into reading a story with a numbers headline: “The 5 types of stories that make good Storifys.”

LA Weekly staff writer
“New Media Reporting” instructor at UCLA Extension

I think the “lists” as we call them here are a tried-and-true traffic getter independent of SEO. They really don’t make sense in terms of SEO (using key words, proper names, as early as you can in a headline), but they still work. If anything they’d be anti-SEO (putting “Top 5” at the front of a headline wouldn’t really help you at all). However some sites such as Gawker don’t really need SEO because they get so much front door traffic. All they really need is a catch hed.

I told my students that lists can be good ways to drive traffic and play off the news, but in general I hold fast to a key word rich headline scheme (Jim Romenesko Blog About Media And Journalism Finds New Home).

Assoc. Prof. of the Practice, Multimedia Journalism
Boston University Department of Journalism

My guess is that you’re seeing this number hed epidemic because everyone (including journalists) is picking up these marketing techniques that are primarily geared toward hawking products. They’re following advice from outfits such as Here’s an example:

Mashable, my favorite industry blog, is a prime offender in the “How to …” and “X ways to…” overkill. Presumably it’s working for them, otherwise they’d never see the light of day. Read More