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Monthly Archives: December 2011

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.

What I tweeted to @romenesko followers today:

* Online shopping while intoxicated has long benefited high-end specialty retailers
* Dave McKenna – author of “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder” – leaves Washington City Paper
* Best & worst of 2011 sports journalism (TV, radio and online), according to @richarddeitsch
* Milwaukee daily’s $2.35/week “JS Everywhere” digital subscription plan launches Jan. 4
* Daniel Pearl’s father, a UCLA prof, is a leader in the field of artificial intelligence
* George Vecsey: “There may not be much future for the kind of sports column I did” at NYT

Statement from New York Times corporate communications (3:35 p.m. ET):

An email was sent earlier today from The New York Times in error. This email should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their email address to The New York Times. We regret this error and we regret our earlier communication noting that this email was SPAM.

* The email was supposed to go to about 300 people, but went to over 8 million

Follow-up email to readers

From: The New York Times
To:
Subject: CORRECTION: Important information regarding your subscription
Date: Dec 28, 2011 3:17 PM

Dear New York Times Reader,

You may have received an e-mail today from The New York Times with the subject line “Important information regarding your subscription.”

This e-mail was sent by us in error. Please disregard the message. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Sincerely,

The New York Times

——-

Reader Jeff Prescott sends this email:

Major New York Times snafu!

I don’t know how many subscribers were told they requested their home delivery subscriptions to be cancelled…but it seems to be many..

i just spoke with exasperated phone operator….

Not sure if it is computer problem or hack!!

I also received the email this morning and figured it was a glitch because I stopped home delivery about a year ago in favor of a digital subscription. I’ve called the Times for an explanation and will post it when it arrives.

UPDATE: “It appears to be spam,” tweets Timesman Robert Christie.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s what the Times has told employees:

From: NYT COMPANY MAIL
Date: Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Regarding spam note about New York Times subscription
To: [ALL EMPLOYEES]

Dear Colleague,

Please be aware that a spam message was sent broadly today with the subject line “Important information regarding your subscription.” This e-mail was not sent from The New York Times. If you received it, please delete it. We will be alerting subscribers immediately.

Corporate IT

ANOTHER READER SENDS THIS EMAIL:

the strange thing is their claim that this was spam. the sending/return email address certainly looked legitimate. seems like the more plausible explanation is either A) a mistake by an employee in the circulation department or B) an in-house attempt at mischief-making by one of the disgruntled employees who signed the angry Robinson manifesto the other day.

Steve Yelvington tweets: “Read the email headers. SPF certifies NYT arpproval. IP address belongs to Epsilon, an email firm that was hacked last spring.”

Here’s the spam message:

From: The New York Times
To:
Subject: Important information regarding your subscription
Date: Dec 28, 2011 12:03 PM

Dear Home Delivery Subscriber,

Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription. Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access to NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps.

We do hope you’ll reconsider.

As a valued Times reader we invite you to continue your current subscription at an exclusive rate of 50% off for 16 weeks. This is a limited-time offer and will no longer be valid once your current subscription ends.*

Continue your subscription and you’ll keep your free, unlimited digital access, a benefit available only for our home delivery subscribers. You’ll receive unlimited access to NYTimes.com on any device, full access to our smartphone and iPad® apps, plus you can now share your unlimited access with a family member.†

To continue your subscription call 1-877-698-0025 and mention code 38H9H (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. E.D.T.).

-- tweet from Bellingham Herald's executive editor

After Occupy Bellingham protesters were told to leave a public park, the group’s legal advisor insisted that Occupy is “a first-amendment-protected activity” and that city officials are “encroaching on their first-amendment rights.” Meetings about this were held Tuesday afternoon, but…

The protesters refused to let a Bellingham Herald reporter in the meetings and tried to keep the reporter out of the area, claiming they were private meetings even though they were being held in a public park.

* Occupy Bellingham campers to be evicted from park Wednesday morning

The New York Times Co. announced this afternoon that it’s selling its Regional Media Group newspapers to Halifax for $143 million. (Earlier post.) From NYT RMG’s FAQ:

4. What is the process for determining who will be hired?

Halifax has decided who it will hire. Again, you will be notified within the next 48 hours whether the buyer will be offering you employment. The New York Times Company has not been involved in that decision.

Here’s the letter that Regional Media Group employees received along with the FAQ:

December 27, 2011

Dear Regional Media Group Colleague,

Today The New York Times Company announced that it intends to sell the properties within the Regional Media Group. Since it is understandable that this change can be cause for concern regarding your future employment with The New York Times Company, we prepared this letter and the attachment, Frequently Asked General Questions for Regional Media Group Employees, to assist you. Please review the attachment and feel free to contact the Shared Services Center with your questions by calling 800-900-8698.

You and your family members may also contact the Company’s Work/Life Assistance Program through Corporate Counseling Associates by calling (800) 833-8707, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and speak with a professional counselor confidentially.

Sincerely,
Susan Murphy

December 27, 2011

Frequently Asked General Questions for Regional Media Group Employees

1. Why are you selling the Regional Media Group?

While it was not planned, we were approached by Halifax Media Holdings LLC. We are pleased that the newspapers will be sold as a unit and that Halifax Media Holdings anticipates offering employment to the vast majority of employees. The sale of our Regional Media Group will enable The New York Times Company to continue our transformation to a multi-platform media company and further sharpen our focus on the development of our brands nationally, globally and in the northeastern U.S./CONTINUED Read More

* Chile Supreme Court tells newspaper to pay $125K to 13 people burned while trying faulty churros recipe
* NYT sells 16 regional papers to Halifax for $143M | Earlier: Halifax jumps the gun
* California Bar should be so lucky as to have Stephen Glass as a member, says Joe Nocera
* NYT promotes longtime design director Tom Bodkin to deputy managing editor
* Newseum parent Freedom Forum cuts expenses, but still reports $59 million deficit

Does your news organization credit YouTube or the video creator?

A Twin Cities journalist who asked not to be named sends this email:

The Minneapolis Star Tribune did something that is one of my biggest pet peeves in the journalism world. Up here yesterday, we had a 200-person brawl at Mall of America. Being 2011, someone took video of the melee on their phone. And being 2011, someone posted it to YouTube. The Star-Tribune posted it to their site, but instead of embedding the video via YouTube, they imported it into their own player. One can only assume this was to put ads in front of it. I think that’s tacky, but not terribly so.

But where they really screwed up, in my sometimes-humble opinion, is they credited the video to “YouTube,” rather than to the creator of the video. I think that’s analogous to the Star-Tribune being credited as “The paper.” I think a lot of journalists think anything that’s on YouTube or Flickr is their’s for the taking and there’s no need to credit the actual creator of the work. It smacks of that whole idea that anything on the Internet is fair to use. Ask Judith Griggs how that turned out for her!

I did some searching and found that most news outlets credited YouTube for their Mall melee images. The screenshot above — from Google Images — was also credited to YouTube.

I’ve invited the Star Tribune – check your email Stan Schmidt! – to respond.

UPDATE: Terry Sauer, Assistant Managing Editor/Digital, sends this response:

Regarding the YouTube videos on the Mall of America violence Monday, we probably could have crafted a tighter credit line, but the reasons behind going this route included our wanting to grab a compilation of more than one video since none on their own were all that great, being able to dub out the foul language and also not subject users to the racist comments on YouTube. In addition, crediting users on YouTube generally only yields an anonymous user name, and not their real name. I’ll also point out we do not have any preroll advertising on this video.

“The New York Times has decided to get out of the podcast business,” listeners of The Caucus podcast were told last week.

That’s not exactly right, I’m told.

“Yes, we’re re-evaluating our podcast schedule for the coming year,” a Times spokeswoman tells me. “Some will continue, but many will be discontinued. Among those that will continue: Book Review, Science Times and the Front Page.”

John Geddes, managing editor for operations, says in a statement:

We’ve been producing podcasts for more than eight years. We’ve learned a lot by doing them and many have a loyal following. But a recent assessment of where the newsroom puts its resources came to the conclusion that there may be other venues and programs that may be more advantageous in connecting with our audience.

Boston Globe editor Marty Baron says in a tweet that his paper dropped podcasts years ago. “Big time commitment, little gain,” he writes.