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January 17, 2012

To: My Times Colleagues
From: Paul Tash

We need to extend the temporary 5 percent pay reduction – and the extra days off – a while Ionger. Last September, when this trade­off took effect, we said it would last through this month. Since then, we have made strong financial progress. The expense reductions have clearly worked, but as 2011 came to a close, signals about revenue were mixed.

When it is clear that Times’ revenues are growing again, our pay as staffers can grow, too. To me, general economic signs seem a little more encouraging, and I firmly believe that the Tampa Bay Times will command a steadily greater share of newspaper publishing revenue. The launch is off to a terrific start.

We will take stock of our position again in May, when we have results for the first four months of 2012 (including Easter), and will report back to you then. Despite the extension, we still regard this measure as temporary. While it continues, you will keep getting an extra day off per month.

I thank you deeply for your patience, and I pledge that we will not draw upon it any longer than necessary. As staffers, the best thing we can do is take every possible dollar of revenue for the Tampa Bay Times. That is the route to success for the company, and for ourselves.

Dear Mr. Romenesko,

We at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. saw your blog post today on the consulting fees paid to Dr. Drew in 2010 and 2011. We worked with Dr. Drew to develop content and speak about Smart Moves, Smart Choices.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has been very pleased to collaborate with the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and Dr. Drew on Smart Moves, Smart Choices, which is a program aimed at educating teens, parents and educators about the prevalence and serious risks of teen prescription drug abuse in the U.S., which–as you probably know–is a serious and growing problem impacting our young people today.

In fact, in 2010, 1 in 4 teens reported having abused a prescription medication, which is up from the 1 in 5 teens that reported in 2009. Read More

Today’s tweets to @romenesko followers:
* Horsey’s hitting his stride at LAT, thanks in part to “freaked out” Limbaugh drawing
* Politico’s print edition for NY readers will be identical to DC version
* Wemple: Gawker “committed sleaze” when it ran Brian Williams’ private email
* Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman explains relationship between HuffPo and Patch
* Twenty-two cents for a year of Baltimore Sun home delivery? Now that’s a deal!
* PandoDaily is funded by the very same VCs whose startups it aims to cover
* A musical based on Craigslist ads is about to premiere in Vancouver

A Romenesko reader writes: Please don’t credit me. I’m an ex-newsie in a related field who can’t afford to alienate anybody!

After watching Stephen Colbert tonight [Monday] announce his brilliant scheme to have his supporters vote for Hermain Cain in South Carolina, I took a look at the online buzz. I found stories in a lot of places. I realized I was getting no Google News results from South Carolina newspaper sites. I checked The State and the papers in Greenville and Charleston. Zero on the story, even though The State and Greenville News have turned over much of their home page to primary news.

I don’t think this is a conspiracy or that these papers’ political reporters are too dumb to watch Colbert or read political blogs. I suspect one of these two newspaper-killers:

1. It broke late. Newspapers don’t do late news in print anymore. They don’t want to pay late “desk” reporters, and they have pushed their print deadlines absurdly early. And I’ll bet their websites each have one lowly paid shoveler to post stories on the web at night. Try calling that person and pleading with him/her to post something.

2. It wasn’t on the budget that the top editors approved at 3 p.m., shortly before they went back to their conference calls and committee meetings on finding a catchy motto to win back the readers.

I just checked the State and the Greenville News websites and still don’t see any mention of Colbert’s “brilliant scheme.” Please let me know if you spot stories. || Update: I’ve sent emails to editors at both papers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greenville News posted Colbert=”Herman Cain” late this afternoon.

As many journalists know, the deadline for Pulitzer entries is next Wednesday.

This morning I got in touch with the journalist who reported and wrote one of my favorite 2011 investigations — “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse” — to see if he’d submitted his series yet.

Morning Call's Pulitzer contender

“The Morning Call plans to submit the Amazon investigation for consideration,” Spencer Soper wrote in an email. “We’re proud that we were able to shine a spotlight into Amazon’s warehouse to show how the company keeps costs down and delivers items so quickly, and we’re humbled that so many employees trusted us to represent their accounts fairly and truthfully.”

Spencer Soper

This is the first time my work has been nominated, and it’s a real honor to be considered. I was once nominated for a rather coveted prize within Tribune Co., though, Lee Abrams’ mystical pineapple. Don’t think they give that out anymore.

(I believe that was the Electric Pineapple Award; scroll down for a reference to it.)

He adds:

The attention the story received has been surprising. A story like this about another warehouse likely would not have spread so far and wide. Amazon is transforming how the world shops without much exposure of how it treats its workers, which made people interested. I was surprised to get emails from readers as far away as Asia who had seen the story, including business professors who encouraged their students to read it and had classroom discussions about profits and ethics.

Over the weekend, I asked my Facebook friends and a few other journalists to name their Pulitzer favorites. Their picks:

* “The Patriot-News’ breaking coverage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal should win hands down, imo.”

* Sarasota Herald Tribune on bad cops.

* “The LAT buy-here-pay-here car sales series. Junk cars sold (and resold) to the poor.”

* “The Watershed Post here in New York did fantastic coverage and offered an amazing liveblog during Hurricane Irene and the flooding in the Catskills.”

* The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage of the Atlanta Public School’s cheating scandal.

* “The Joplin Globe has done an amazing job on coverage of the May 22 tornado and aftermath. What’s not widely known is they did it with one-third of their 27 news staffers’ homes destroyed and a page designer killed. The Globe deserves the recognition.”

* Seattle Times’ series on methadone.

* “Amy Harmon of the New York Times on autism, notably these two pieces:
Austistic and Seeking a Place in the Adult World and Navigating Love and Autism.”

* California Watch’s “On Shaky Ground,” seismic safety in public schools.

* Pro Publica’s Dollars for Doctors.

* New York Times Soft Prosecutions (“Prosecutors are Lenient as Companies Break the Law”).

PLEASE ADD TO THIS LIST IN COMMENTS SECTION

Donessa Aldridge

Medill News Service reporter Donesha Aldridge couldn’t make a Lincoln Park Redistricting Meeting but still wanted to write about it, so she turned to the Everyblock Chicago online community for help. “I need a few residents’ perspective of how the meeting went for my story,” she wrote.

The you-know-what quickly hit the fan!

“Bob from Lincoln Park” and others went after the Medill grad student for her post. “Please excuse me if I question the professionalism of your journalism,” he wrote. “Why were you not there?”

Another person….

“Donesha made herself a target by openly admitting she was not at the hearing. …The bottom line is that [the] reporter did not do a good job of soliciting comments. I read her request and it could easily be interpreted to be a request for help from someone who was not interested in attending the hearing.”

And this…

“Whoa! I just saw this thread. In the words of SNL’s Cheri Oteri, “Simmer down now!!” : )”

Marcel Pacatte

Medill professor Marcel Pacatte joined the fracas and defended his student. He told Bob in Lincoln Park:

“Spare me your conclusion-jumping and condescension. It’s quite frankly none of your business why she wasn’t there — she answers to me, her editor, not to you. If you care so passionately about this important issue, maybe it would behoove you to help her tell the story rather than be so inappropriately critical of her in a public forum. The only good journalism lesson that comes from your post is proving to my students how ridiculous and prickly some people can be.”

I asked the professor about using Everyblock to get information about the meeting, and what he thought about the heated discussion over his reporter’s post:

This is certainly not the first time reporters at Medill have attempted the use the Internet as a way to reach sources. I’d be embarrassed if it were. The Internet exists and it thrives as a place where people communicate and interact and find and receive information.

Everyblock is almost immaterial to it, other than it is a place where people of a community can reliably exchange information and interact.

Same goes for email. People use it as a means to communicate. So should reporters. To expect them to do otherwise is patently absurd.

The unasked question, unless you’re someone like Bob in Lincoln park, is whether electronic gathering of information is the primary means or the only means or the best, safest, most reliable means of reporting. That answer, of course, is a resounding no. But it’s a valid tool, as sure as walking into a room filled with informed, active people would be.

The only thing I’ll encourage reporters in my newsroom — my students — to do is understand that the Internet, like life, is filled with agendaed, unreasonable, bullying jerks like Bob in Lincoln Park, and to be mindful of that.

I also emailed reporter Aldridge for comment, but Pacatte told me: “I’ve asked Donesha not to comment — on the thread or anywhere. I’m the one who picked this fight, even though it was her post, and I’m the one with the responsibility, so I prefer to be the talker on this.”

* Read the Medill News Service reporter’s post and the 48 comments that followed

Last Friday PR News publisher Diane Schwartz posted her “six indicators that a journalist just doesn’t like you” — you being a PR person.

1. The reporter returns your call – but after you’ve gone home, to ask you to take him off your media list.

2. You email the reporter a story idea and she emails you back: um, who are you?

3. The reporter refuses to have you present during an interview with your senior executive.

4. She tweets a negative comment about you – not your company.

5. The reporter calls you a flack.

6. You invite the reporter to your Vermont ski house, all expenses paid for him and his wife, to be used at anytime, and he declines, every time you ask.

I forwarded Micki Maynard’s tweet to Schwartz and asked her: serious or parody? She responded:

The blog was an exaggeration to make an important point about the necessity of fostering strong media-PR relations. The blog itself has garnered a lot of comments as you can see, and there have been many tweets and re-tweets about it. Mostly people are responding about that Vermont ski house, and I concede that it’s unlikely a PR person would be offering that up to the typical media connection, but it is not unheard of for companies to wine and dine journalists and send them gifts or tchotchkes.

As the publisher of PR News for nearly 16 years and a former journalist, I’ve seen great progress among media relations professionals and their journalist partners. In the past two years, with the lines blurring between citizen journalist and media professional and the definition of “content provider” changing, it is beholden on PR professionals to understand who their key influencers are and to make the time to build
meaningful relationships.

* Six indicators that a journalist doesn’t like a PR person

Charles Seife tells me he’s been doing some work on pharmaceutical-company payments to physicians and recently came across an interesting name Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of VH1′s “Celebrity Rehab” and the nightly HLN show, “Dr. Drew.” Seife writes in an email:

Turns out he took roughly $115,000 from Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 2010 and 2011. Documentation:

$40,000 in 2011

$74,500 in 2010 (search for Pinsky… David D.)

Both payments are for “consulting.”

(And hat tip should go to the ProPublica DollarsForDocs database, which puts some of this info in an easier-to-read format.)

I asked Dr. Drew via twitter what the payments were for and whether they violated any conflict-of-interest rules at CNN.

I’ll let you know if I get any response.

UPDATE — A medical reporter emails me with her guess about the Janssen payment.

When they launched in late 2009, Texas Tribune’s founders had the goal of raising at least $9 million by 2013. CEO Evan Smith tells Adweek that his nonprofit news organization has already raised almost $11 million. “We couldn’t have imagined it would be this good,”he says.
* Texas Tribune ropes in funds and readers