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Daily Archives: December 29, 2011

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…

Sheriff Mike Scott


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.

The 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.

Andrew Rossi

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.

Dick Babcock

“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 Amazon.com’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.”

The New York Post calls yesterday’s New York Times email screwup “a comedy of errors” and once again uses its nearly decade-old photo of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. sporting a black eye. (A few other uses: In 2009, for story about the Sulzberger clan’s financial woes; and in 2007, to accompany a story about the paper killing TimesSelect.)

NYTer Michael Roston tweets: Why yes, New York Post, I bet your readership really does consider our Wed. e-mail fuck-up to be front page news

The story behind the black eye: Sulzberger was the victim of a bike-by punching, according to an April 21, 2002, Associated Press story.

Recalling when New York Post fell for Heywood Jablome: Romenesko reader Randy Dotinga reminded me yesterday of my 2001 story about “a priceless howler” in the Post (second item): the tabloid ran a man-in-street quote from 41-year-old Manhattan real estate agent who identified himself as Heywood Jablome.

In other Times news, Cornell professor Daniel Schwarz, who says he’s had “a lifelong love affair with the New York Times,” is coming out with a book titled “EndTimes? Crises and Turmoil at The New York Times, 1999-2009.” Ann Marie Martin writes:

Dan told me he conducted about 45 interviews starting in 2004 and continuing into 2008 when he began to write the book. Then he went back in 2010 “for a retrospective view.”

“I interviewed every living executive editor of the Times,” he said, “as well as a good number of the masthead figures and a good number of the section editors.”

Along with a good overview of the Times’ history and recent past, Dan focuses on an issue facing all newspapers in the digital age: Will there still be a print edition in 10 to 15 years?

Read more about Schwarz’s book, which comes out in March.