Daily Archives: February 8, 2012

Former Philadelphia Daily News reporter Dave Davies on the Philadelphia Media Network sale saga:

There’s a really troubling implication here for all of us.

It’s widely believed among the newspaper staffs that the current owners favor the bidders that include Rendell, South Jersey power broker George Norcross, Flyers owner Ed Snider and others.
When Rendell spoke to reporters last week, he praised Philadelphia Media Network’s current CEO, Greg Osberg.

If the region’s largest media organization is bought by politicians and businesspeople with wide-ranging interests, and the management in charge will abandon journalism without a second thought to shill for the owners, we got trouble.

* Philly newspaper bosses embarrass themselves — and us

Roland Martin

* CNN takes Roland Martin off the air “for the time being” for his homophobic tweets
* What happened to the SF Chronicle’s paywall?
* AJR editor to WP & others: “Cut if you must. But spare us the bogus happy talk
* Chicago Tribune trying to come up with “creative way” to charge online readers
* “Yes, it’s true: We are joining GigaOM,” write paidContent editors
* Developer Blatstein and partners want to bid on Philadelphia newspapers
* Boston Phoenix: New York Times just stole our column. Should we sue?
* The Week’s Felix Dennis has throat cancer; “chances of a full recovery are good”

New Haven Independent editor Paul Bass says he’s turning off comments “while we reexamine our role in convening civic debate.”

We’re calling a time-out. A hiatus in posting readers’ comments. Just so we can all catch our breath and start anew.

Readers’ comments are integral to the Independent. Over the years they have enlivened our stories, taken them to new places, and most importantly brought together people in conversation who would never have shared ideas otherwise. …But without civility, without respect, a free forum turns into a soul-destroying free-for-all. A few people can foul that forum. Lately it’s been far more than a few. And we’ve failed to prevent that from happening.

The news site’s “time-out” has Journal Register Co. group editor Matt DeRienzo asking: “How can the community be part of your journalism if you don’t even allow them to comment on what you do?”

* Time out! Commenting has been closed

From R.G. RATCLIFFE: Perhaps I’ve missed it, but has anyone done a story on how the newsroom layoffs of the past decade have been one of the greatest exercises in age discrimination in U.S. history?

This doesn’t count me because I quit in disgust after 33 years in the business. But every round of layoffs at every newspaper I’ve been personally familiar with have focused on the oldest of the employees, those between 50 and 65, with just a smattering of young people thrown in. Now, I know the argument is these people are targeted not because of their age but because of their high salaries. However, the result is that thousands of journalists who are beyond prime hiring age are being pushed out onto the streets. Some land well, some don’t. It just strikes me that if this was any business in America other than journalism, there’d be exposes done on it.

Anyway, just a thought.

R.G. Ratcliffe
Formerly of Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Florida Times-Union, and Beaumont Enterprise

Before switching to a digitally encrypted radio signal, Pasadena officials said they’d look into giving media outlets a scanner capable of picking up the police department’s secure signal. One month later, reporters still can’t hear police calls. “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of,” says Pasadena Star-News senior editor. “I am continually amazed by the Pasadena Police Department’s disregard for the right of the public to be aware of what they are doing.”
* Pasadena continues to deny access to police radio traffic

Patch spokeswoman Janine Iamunno says in response to today’s post about the sites:

There are no layoffs planned.

While we don’t discuss budgets, we’re more confident than ever in our business model and in our editors’ ability to serve their communities with the content they care about most. We’re used to intense media scrutiny and speculation, more often inaccurate than not, but we remain focused on our mission, our employees, our users and our advertisers.

Meanwhile, Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham sent this email to his staff after reading this morning’s post. My comment: We’ll see in a bit who is giving out “bad information.”

Big sigh from me on this one. Romenesko is reporting bad information he got from someone at Patch who sadly thinks he/she knows what’s “really going on”.

So, let me try to clear this up: we’re not doing cookie-cutter anything. We are, of course, doing programming, which we’ve always done, and which can be defined as repeatable, relevant content for your audience. And all the ideas we’re doing came from editors in the field who had proved they worked, not from HQ! But programming is part of the mix, not all of it.

And we’re still very much committed to the “One Team” approach we just kicked off. We’re creating a structure where the field is given the power and responsibility to really drive their own businesses — from a unified perspective of Sales and Edit. Editors still have to judge what to cover and how for their towns. Those decisions will ALWAYS be constrained by resources, be they money or people. The same way they are at every media company in the universe.

I’m with you Mark on the PIP noise in this piece — no idea what that’s about. (I’m guessing the leaker might be on one actually). This is another thing pretty much every respectable real company in the world does, and it’s a positive — a structured way of saying to an employee, “You need to work on these areas so let’s create a plan to do so.” It’s focus is IMPROVEMENT. Yes, we just went through reviews and some people didn’t do well. That’s a reality. Getting them to improve is in everyone’s interest. And people who don’t improve may not be a good fit here, but that’s up to managers to decide. None of this is exactly radical practice.

I’m really sorry that we all have to deal with people in our own editorial family who think Romenesko is somehow a good person with whom to share their half-baked, uninformed opinions about the business at large.

As with all the other leakers we’ve had to deal with, they’re not helping their colleagues, they’re bad teammates, bad employees, dishonest people and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Jessica Levco’s tips for being “a dream PR intern”:

1. Work later than everyone else.

2. Ditch the millennial crowd.

3. Pick out an office role model.

4. Invite someone out for coffee.

5. Learn new skills in social media.

6. Keep up with your selected industry.

7. Don’t just be an intern. Be the intern.

8. Wear appropriate clothes.

9. Interact.

10. Say goodbye.

(I’m flattered to be mentioned in #6, but check that spelling!)

* 10 ways to be a dream PR intern

Here’s what Washington Post staffers were told about the just-announced buyouts at this morning’s newsroom meeting:

Staffers who aren’t eligible for the buyout: National politics, National enterprise, National security, Foreign, the Sports columnists, Capital Business, the Style critics, digital designers, graphic designers, Outlook and Weekend.

Those who qualify: Business, Metro, the Magazine, Style, news designers and copy editors on the Universal desk.

Editors didn’t disclose exact numbers. About 200 positions are eligible.

The buyout is limited to the newsroom. If enough people don’t take the buyout, the paper will continue to eliminate through attrition. The offer is available to all age groups.

The buyout will come as a one-time lump sum. Those who take it cannot return on a full-time basis. Upper management reserves the right to reject any volunteer offers.

Executive editor Marcus Brauchli noted that this will be an expensive year considering the election and the Olympics.

* Washington Post union “in shock” over news of more buyouts

A Patch insider tells Romenesko readers that the AOL-owned hyperlocal news sites plan to cut staff and freelance budgets and start producing “easy, quick-hitting, cookie-cutter copy.” Examples: Best Ofs, and features like “What’s happening to this vacant storefront?”

The Patch source adds: “This morning we just got word of the hiring of Rachel Fishman Feddersen in the newly created position of Chief Content Officer. She was editor in chief of and held leadership posts at Ladies Home Journal, Disney’s and was, most recently, editorial director of The Parenting Group. Brian Farnham, our Editor In Chief, now reports to her.”

That hire, says the source, “feeds so logically” with the changes described below.

Patch has implemented a new “One Team One Goal” strategy, with a budget that effectively eliminates anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of freelance dollars, depending on the Patch region and how the supervising editor and regional ad director choose to allocate dollars.

The editorial emphasis is now on “easy, quick-hitting, cookie-cutter copy,” including mandatory “Best Of” features (i.e., best coffeeshop, best burgers, etc.) that compel businesses and readers to visit and participate in the Patch directories. (Each Patch has a directory of local businesses, organizations, churches, etc.)

“We’re going so far, in many of our Patches, to host ‘Pizza Playoffs’ — a tournament-style bracket that pits all the pizza parlors in town into showdowns to attract the most comments and star-ratings. Features like this could go on for weeks at a time, and when one ends, another will begin.”

Every Patch is adopting other, similar features. One example: “What’s happening with this vacant storefront?” — a photo-driven feature that asks readers for comments about what they’d like to see in the space.

Also, I’m told that this is in the works: Every Patch employee given a rating of “Developing” on the recent 2011 Employee Annual Review will likely be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) that begins a 30-day countdown to either improve or lose your job. (“Developing” is the second-lowest on a five-tiered scale; there’s Top Performer; Exceeding Expections; On Track; Developing; and Off Track.) Managers have been asked to write a three-page letter supporting why this employee should stay; otherwise, the employee will be placed on a PIP. The Patch insider estimates this will affect anywhere from 100-150 employees Patch-wide, and people will be let go by the end of March.

“My guess is this is a way for Patch leadership to enact layoffs without saying it’s laying anyone off — it’s merely ridding itself of employees who ‘aren’t working out’ — while also showing AOL’s board it can shave a lot of overhead while building toward profitability.”

I asked the Patch insider about AOL’s commitment to the sites. “I think AOL is committed to Patch at least through this calendar year,” the source says. “Arianna Huffington will make sure we’re all charging up to having a big impact on coverage of the elections in November. But if we haven’t shown real moves toward profitability by then, I can’t imagine AOL will put another penny into Patch in 2013.”

I’ve invited Patch to comment and will post the response when/if it comes in.

Largely | Probe | Altercation

People are tweeting their suggestions, which include: reeling, risible, mercurial, opaque, kin, hoard, nix, scuttle, loggerheads, reeling, lauded, traded barbs, pivoted, salvo, slated and mull. || There are more great ones in the comments.

* Words journalists use that people never say | “You slay me”