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Daily Archives: January 10, 2012

A tipster tells me:

Following a 45-minute meeting this afternoon between Michael Redding, chief executive officer of Halifax Media Group, and Sarasota Herald Tribune staffers, publisher Diane McFarlin announced that the controversial non-compete clause in new employment agreements would be scrapped.

From: McFarlin, Diane
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 6:04 PM
To: !STHQ-Sarasota Users
Subject: good news

Everyone:

Michael Redding has decided to waive the non-compete clause and the family relationship policies for all existing employees.

Diane McFarlin

In other words, you have been “grandfathered in.” This means you do not have to sign the non-compete agreement and, if you are working in the same department as a spouse, sibling or other immediate family member, you can continue to do so.

I am sure there will be more information forthcoming, but I wanted you to receive this news immediately.

It should be noted that these policies will apply for all new hires going forward.

Thanks to all of you who participated in today’s town hall. Clearly, Michael heard your concerns and considered them carefully.

Onward!
Diane

The tipster goes on:

According to a reporter at the paper, Redding met with the Sarasota staff for 45 minutes and plans to visit the three other Florida papers now owned by Halifax tomorrow. The first question he took up, as relayed to him by Publisher McFarlin: What about the non-compete clause?

“We want to pour money into your career,” Redding said, “and as you get better, what we are not interested in is you becoming our competition. We want you to have long careers . . . and I’m sure many of you have been here 10, 20 years. It isn’t that you don’t trust us, that isn’t it at all. To the point that someone who is here now, and let’s say in the next 30 days or the next 60 day you sign the non-compete and then for some reason your job isn’t here, the last thing we’re going to do is tell you that you can’t go get a job here. We’re going to rescind that non-compete. That’s just not fair, that’s not how I would do it, that’s not how we think.”

Half an hour later, clarification was sought that the contract would be waived for the first 60 days (Halifax is also installing a 60-day probation period for all employees). “We have agreed with the [New York] Times that anyone no longer with the company within a certain period of time that they will receive a severance package paid in the same manner as the folks that we didn’t hire at close. So that piece is there. The second part is, as we are evaluating this, we’re getting questions and we want to be responsive to those questions. We want to re-evaluate if 60 days is the right number, maybe it is 90 days, maybe it is 120 days. We’re looking at that. We want to make sure that you have confidence in what you are signing. This is not a grab people, pin them to the ground and take advantage of them — that’s not the purpose of this document. I’m looking for feedback . . .”

Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigations editor Matthew Doig emails me:

The deadline to sign the [Halifax Media] non-compete has been pushed back to a yet to be determined time so the language can be changed. Too early to tell how much it softens up, but there’s no doubt there will ultimately be some sort of non-compete to sign. And that’s everyone — advertising, news, management, etc. But at least everyone has some more time to consider options.

* Earlier: Halifax Media employees told to sign non-compete by today


What I tweeted to @romenesko followers today:
*The New Republic explores possible sale
* LAT veteran Lisa Fung is named executive editor of TheWrap.com
* Oakland Tribune wants Occupy Oakland Tribune to drop its name; “tarnishes and diminishes” paper’s value
* Huffington Post managing editor Nico Pitney quits, cites family reasons
* Twelve California news orgs chip in for trip to Spain for bullet train report
* ABC News boss rejects “hard” and “soft” news labels, says yardstick is relevance to viewers
* Charlie Rose’s understated, cerebral style isn’t exactly the stuff of get-up-and-go morning TV
* Stivers on Columbia j-students: “Amazing amount of optimism & enthusiasm. ..a real sense of possibilities”

The Publishers Information Bureau reports the number of ad pages in consumer magazines declined 8% in the fourth quarter; total print ad pages declined 3.1% in 2011 vs. the year before.

Fourth quarter gainers:
Reader’s Digest (up 29.7%)
People StyleWatch (up 26.3%)
Playboy (up 24.6%)

The steepest declines:
The Week (down 45.1%)
US Weekly (down 32.6%)
Better Homes and Gardens (down 26.4%)

New York Times ad columnist Stuart Elliott points out that advertisers have been reducing spending in newspapers much more than they have in magazines.

* 2011 overall magazine advertising revenue flat

* Magazine ad pages fell 3.1% in 2001, with a weak end to the year

* Magazines lost ad pages in fourth quarter of 2011

Kent State University had plans to name its basketball court “Cope Court” during a ceremony before this Saturday’s game, in honor of alum Jason Cope, who gave $1 million to the school.

The event was called off, though, after the student newspaper’s enterprise reporter dug into Cope’s past. Doug Brown reported:

Cope was the branch manager of a financial firm that defrauded 190 investors of $8.7 million in late 1999 and early 2000. Cope was one of four defendants required to pay a total of more than $19 million in penalties, according to litigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission and court documents.

Asked about the $1 million donation and Cope’s SEC violations on January 4, athletic director Joel Nielsen said that “it was an action that was 12 years ago, it was fully litigated and he abided by the letter of the litigation.

“Obviously we were aware of the litigation of 10 to 12 years ago,” he said about Jason Cope, who was to become the namesake of the basketball court.

The Daily Kent Stater editorial board wrote on Monday:

We’re wondering why Kent State would knowingly accept money from someone with a disconcerting financial background.

At first glance, it makes us question the athletic department’s ethical standards. Sure, the university can accept the money, but should it? It doesn’t quite seem right.

The Plain Dealer reports Brown spent two weeks working on his Cope story and editors planned to run it on Monday. It was posted on Friday, though, after Cope announced that he was withdrawing his gift.

* “Cope Court” donor withdraws $1 million gift

* Kent Stat alumnus withdraws $1 million gift

* Our view: Fraudulence shouldn’t be overlooked

* Doug Brown rounds up stories about his investigation

UPDATE: I asked Doug Brown to tell my readers about his investigation. His email is after the jump.
Read More

One veteran journalist says in an email that this “incredible two-year non-compete contract that Halifax Media Holdings is forcing on the employees of what had been the New York Times’ Regional Newspapers …. clearly [is] a strategy to allow Halifax to fire a bunch of people who don’t sign ‘for cause’ so Halifax won’t have to pay severance.”

I hear that at least one-well known journalist is refusing to sign the agreement and expects to be fired by the end of the day. I’ve emailed this person for comment. I’ve also left a message for Halifax Media corporate communications director Lori Catron.

ANOTHER EMAILER:

It was shameful enough that the New York Times Company dumped thousands of employees when it sold the 16 newspapers in its Regional Media Group to Halifax Media Holdings with no provisions about job security.

Now comes word that Regional Media Holdings is requiring those employees whom it deems highly enough to retain to sign “non-competition agreements” that provide (1) that “the Company is free to terminate the Employee’s employment with the Company at any time for any reason” (so-called “at-will employment”) and (2) that bans terminated employees for two years from working for any media outlet that sells advertising — whether print, television, radio or Internet — in any city or county in which Halifax does business. In other words, it bans journalists from working as journalists where they live.

Employees have until tomorrow — Tuesday, January 10 — to sign away their rights or be fired. Oh, and forget about applying for a job at the New York Times. The deal bans The Times from hiring any of its marooned former employees for at least two years. Journalism in the age of leveraged-buyout artists.

[gview file="http://jimromenesko.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/NonCompete-1.pdf"]

A reader sends this email:

Hartford Courant Rips Businessman as Shady, Hires Him as Ad Director

Except for being true, it’s practically Onion copy.

Michael Guinan

In 2008, The Hartford Courant ran a detailed story about a local vanity publisher who chronically stiffed creditors while leading a flashy public lifestyle (“Hartford Magazine’s Guinan: Legacy of Debt”). Over time the paper cheerfully followed up with new reports of the man’s talent for alienating business partners and racking up allegations of business malfeasance.

Now somebody at El Courante has decided Guinan isn’t so bad after all: he’s been hired as the new director of advertising.

It’s a strange world. But you can’t say America’s Oldest Continuously Published Newspaper doesn’t believe in second chances.

HERE’S THE TIMELINE:

January 2008: The Courant runs an investigation headlined, “Hartford Magazine’s Michael Guinan: A Legacy of Debt”

October 2010: The Courant reports Guinan is fired as Hartford Magazine co-publisher following an investigation into financial irregularities at the publication’s parent company.

January 2011: The Courant reports Guinan is accused of diverting funds.

October 2011: Michael Guinan is named Hartford Courant director of advertising.

December 2011: Hartford Courant buys Hartford Magazine.

I’ve invited Guinan and Courant publisher Richard Graziano for comment (check your Facebook emails, gentlemen), and will post any responses that come in. UPDATE: A statement from the Courant’s communications director Jennifer T. Humes is after the jump. Read More

Some on Twitter criticized NPR for plugging its new voice-controlled app for Ford vehicles on its news programs, but I also saw tweets from people who were excited about the product. (“COOL!” “May have to buy a new car now.”)

Here’s the “Morning Edition” report on the new app.