Daily Archives: December 7, 2011

Here’s what I tweeted to @romenesko followers today:

* Gannett CEO: We’re extending our paywall “to capture added revenue and profitability from our newspapers”
* San Diego Union-Tribune’s new slogan: “The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City”
* National Punctuation Day organizers announce winners of their annual paragraph contest
* Roger Ebert’s blog and site won’t be a part of the Sun-Times’ paywall plan
* Centre Daily Times says courtroom rules for Sandusky hearing may shock national media
* “CBS Evening News” with Pelley as anchor still in 3rd place, but execs tout program’s recent growth
* Growing number of theaters and performing groups are setting aside “tweet seats,” reports USA Today
* Nick Lemann: “Journalism has to move from being a commodity profession to a value-added profession”
* WSJ managing editor accuses rivals of advancing their own agendas in their hacking coverage
* Most popular online stories for 2011. (No surprise that WSJ’s was “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”)
* McClatchy shares up on news that Oct./Nov. ad revenue fell 5.6% vs. 10% drop in first 9 months of ’11
* AP Sports Editors pick the top newspaper sports websites | Full list

The Chicago Tribune has responded to this morning’s post about a subscriber’s 13-week rate going from $42.25 to $95:

In the past five months we have made some important changes to the Chicago Tribune, including the addition of more than 40 pages of news coverage every week. We have made significant investments in content based on reader feedback resulting in increased coverage of important issues such as pension abuse.

We are asking our home delivery customers to pay a new rate based on the value we provide and the increasing cost of doing business. All home delivery subscribers will still enjoy a discount off of the newsstand price.

Home delivery rates are determined by a variety of factors including the number of days a customer subscribes and whether Sunday delivery is included. While some customers who had an extremely low introductory rate may have seen a larger increase, they are still receiving a savings off of the newsstand price.‪ Longer term subscribers are seeing more moderate increases, which also remains a savings off of the newsstand price.

Thank you,

Kate Fotenos
Chicago Tribune


I wrote in my story about the “Blue Ball Three” that I couldn’t track down fired USA Today staffer Karen Allen. Lisa Hoffman sends this email:

Happy to say Karen Allen is alive and well and living in a house she’s building in Colorado. After her firing, Scripps Howard News Service was lucky enough to hire her. She was the features editor with us for about five years, then left to bag it all and move to the mountains. She now is a freelance editor for SHNS, working virtually, and, again, we’re thrilled to have her.

Artist Gaelan Kelly’s “How the NPR voices look in my head” blog post from early summer was such a hit that he did a follow-up in September that included sketches of “Click and Clack,” Steve Inskeep, Diane Rehm and other NPRers. Kelly told readers:

It’s probably no surprise to anybody that after I had finished with the drawings I needed to go online to find the correct spelling and fill in the names. This was (for the most part) the first time I actually saw what these NPR personalities really looked like. Turns out their photos are all over, huh, who knew?

Justin Kaufmann of WBEZ radio in Chicago learned of Kelly’s sketches this week and did an email interview with the artist, which was posted yesterday. Kelly told him:

With the possible exception of Terry Gross, I think I may have come closest to capturing what Ira Glass looks like in reality. I can hear his thick framed glasses and tall lanky frame through my ear-buds.

I also sent the artist a few questions. He told me:

My contact with the actual NPR personalities has been pretty limited aside from seeing my work promoted on their various program’s websites. Which I take as a ringing endorsement! Those that have responded have mostly done so through Twitter and have said nice things, Peter Sagal sharing it with Steve Inskeep was pretty great. The one that really made my day however was Bob Edwards who left me a comment on my site in response to my post: “I was not retiring. I have hot retired. I likely never will.” Beautiful.

So far I haven’t offered prints because I can’t see other people wanting my interpretations of the NPR voices. Everyone has their own mental image, which in my opinion is kinda the fun of it. But that said, if Terry Gross or Click & Clack or any of the others wanted a print I would certainly do it!

What kind of traffic is he getting from social media? “There is a lot of activity from Facebook and Twitter though… G+? Eh, not so much.”

NEW: USA Today uses a blue ball for its new logo.

They were dubbed “The Blue Ball Three.”

USA Today sports department staffers Karen Allen; Denise Tom, and Cheryl Phillips were fired 10 years ago this week after scrawling “Kilroy was here” with their fingers on a Lita Albuquerque sculpture near the offices of then-Gannett CEO Douglas McCorkindale.

“Everyone is horrified,” a USA Today staffer told Howard Kurtz for his Dec. 5, 2001 Washington Post story. “Everyone is thinking this is an insane, ego-related firing.”

Even the artist was stunned by the dismissals: “Oh my God! Are you kidding?” Albuquerque told Kurtz. “This is crazy! I think it’s a terrible thing, firing people from a lifetime job for what is essentially graffiti.” A legal defense fund (“The Blue Journalists Fund”) was started, and USA Today staffers pledged to boycott the newspaper’s Christmas party.

My letters page was filled with protests from journalists.

Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News wrote:

The USA Today firings are simply flabbergasting. I’ve spent years boring people with rants about the toxic decline of fun in the newsroom, and how much more delightful work used to be in the days of yore when there were colorful fistfights over women, banter that would now be considered harassment and delirious watergun battles on deadline, but this is taking the insurance-office ethos to a whole new level. Somebody wrote “Kilroy Was Here” with their fingertip in DUST? Was there even a sign saying keep off the dust? What’s the penalty for magic-markering clever limericks about the publisher in the toilets? Execution?

Gail Gedan Spencer wrote in her letter:

Re: the firing of the USA Today staffers: Good thing they haven’t fired anyone who had ever stuck pennies in the eyes of the Al Neuharth bust — there’d be no one left. (Is that still at the HQ? I haven’t been there since the late ’80s — when I stuck pennies in the eyes.)

Daryl Lease, then with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, sent me his “Top 10 back-up protests at USA Today, just in case the Christmas party boycott doesn’t work” for posting on the Romenesko MediaNews letters page:

10. Begin answering the phones with a chipper “USA YESTERDAY”!
9. Connect all the paper clips on management’s desks.
8. File stories six, maybe even seven, paragraphs long.
7. Start a rumor that the paper is really owned by Moonies.
6. Refuse to write a lead or headline in the first person plural, except in extreme polling emergencies.
5. Switch the office decaf to caffeine, and the caffeine to decaf.
4. Start a rumor that the paper is really owned by Tony Ridder.
3. Three words: Black and white graphics.
2. Stage a marathon reading of Al Neuharth columns in the lobby.

And the No. 1 back-up protest, in case the Christmas party boycott doesn’t work…

1. Add ellipses to the sculpture and blame the whole thing on a disgruntled Larry King.

Gannett CEO McCorkindale never discussed the Blue Ball firings, but his spokeswoman told American Journalism Review that there had been “an act of vandalism involving a piece of artwork at Gannett headquarters…it was investigated, there were security tapes. Criminal charges were considered, [but] we’re not going to do that.”

In that same AJR piece, Linda Mathews — then USA Today’s cover story editor — said that what the women did to the sculpture “was stupid and thoughtless, but it wasn’t malevolent.” The three dismissed staffers, she said, were “not troublemakers, and they’re very conscientious.”

Mathews added:

“I would have thought that everything we knew about their character would’ve been taken into account before they were fired.”

What the Blue Ball Three are doing now: Denise Tom is Program Associate at California Community Foundation, according to LinkedIn, and Cheryl Phillips is Seattle Times Data Enterprise Editor. I couldn’t locate Karen Allen. (Anyone know? Contact me at

UPDATE: Lisa Hoffman tells me — “Happy to say Karen Allen is alive and well and living in a house she’s building in Colorado. After her firing, Scripps Howard News Service was lucky enough to hire her. She was the features editor with us for about five years, then left to bag it all and move to the mountains. She now is a freelance editor for SHNS, working virtually, and, again, we’re thrilled to have her.”

* Read more Blue Ball Three-related letters (Note: The Wayback Machine pauses a few seconds before going to the letters page)

He was warned about the Chicago Tribune’s home-delivery price increase.

But the bill was still a shock, and Larry Kart tells me he “tossed it in anger.” Here’s what he writes in an email:

I’m one of many (I assume eventually all) Tribune home subscribers who have been informed that the price for my 13-week, seven-days-a-week subscription has been boosted from (in my case) $42.25 to about $95 (don’t have my new bill in front of me; I think I tossed it in anger). A friend who called about this was told, after a long wait, that this doubled price was to pay for the new, supposedly “better” paper. When my friend expostulated, she was eventually told that they’d give her a “deal” — something like $56 for 13 weeks instead of $95.

One hardly knows where to begin, but either this is a form of corporate suicide, or sheer stupidity, or a plan to get rid of most the paper’s home subscribers (but why would that be thought a good idea?). Especially nefarious here is that many home subscribers are billed automatically (having been urged to sign up for this by frequent offers from the Trib), and thus those subscribers may not notice that their rates have doubled for some time, if ever.

In any case, I won’t pay my bill and will wait for them to contact me with a “deal.” If they do, I might think about it. If they don’t, good-bye.

Best, Larry Kart

I’ve invited a Chicago Tribune spokesperson to comment.

“You’re doing something right when Apple SVP Phil Schiller compliments you on Twitter,” Business Insider’s Jay Yarow tweeted early Wednesday.

His story notes that the Apple Worldwide Marketing senior veep‘s Twitter timeline “shows that he doesn’t randomly praise iPhone apps” and with the exec’s support, Flipboard “might have a chance to be one of this year’s ‘iPhone Apps Of The Year.'”

John Paul Titlow reviews the just-released Flipboard for iPhone at

The functionality of Flipboard for iPhone is pretty consistent with what users have come to expect on the iPad, just in a more compact package. There are a number of pre-curated content sections that can be added or users can plug in just about any publication with an RSS feed. Like its tablet-based predecessor, the new app hooks right into Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Google Reader and other social media services to provide a truly personalized reading experience.

* Rafe Needleman: “It’s what you want to show your mother to explain to her why she should get an iPhone”
* July 10, 2010: Flipboard for the iPad launches, “transforms the social media experience”