Daily Archives: February 16, 2012

Credit: Chicago magazine

Roger Ebert has teamed up with the Daily Illini — the University of Illinois paper that he edited as a student — to raise money for Illini Media Company, the paper’s parent company. It owes $250,000 in back printing payments to Champaign News-Gazette and is overdue on mortgage payments. Ebert writes in his appeal:

After 140 years, it is possible The Daily Illini could cease publication. This would break the hearts of many of us. Several factors have contributed to Illini Media’s plight, including many of the challenges facing media across the country. …

For over 100 years, Illini Media has been providing outstanding professional development for aspiring media professionals. Each year, the majority of their approximately 300 students are placed in jobs at many of the top media companies and related businesses throughout the nation. Many, including myself, would say that they owe their careers at least in part to their experience at Illini Media. It’s now time to give back.

* Ebert joins effort to save University of Illinois student paper
* Illini Media Company asks students, alumni for help

Brian Stelter

New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter is working on a book about morning TV, so “I have four TVs in my bedroom right now — one big TV that’s cable, and that’s tuned to NY1, because my girlfriend Jamie is a traffic reporter there. The other three TVs are smaller — 20-inch flatscreens, basically computer monitors hooked up to rabbit ears.”
* Brian Stelter: What I read | What others read

What I’ve tweeted so far today to @romenesko followers:
* Taping of “Colbert Report” suspended due to family emergency
* New from Narrative Science: Twitter + robots = instant stories with no humans involved
* Indianapolis Star union wins 2%-4% pay raises for most workers
* Refrain of conservative pundits is virtually the same: Romney doesn’t talk to us, doesn’t get us
* Chicago journalist writes about his voting booth regrets
* Center for Investigative Reporting receives $1M MacArthur Award
* Analyst on Pinterest: “I haven’t seen another stand-alone site that has reached 10M visitors faster”

After posting the link to “The lowly life of the lonely copy editor,” I received this note from Robin Sterns, a former copy editor who is currently out of journalism:

I’m sure the below (a piece on my recent experience as a “copy editor”) is more than you want to read, but I assure you that the column rings 100% true in my experience.

Anyone with any real knowledge was gone at my paper and the kids who were left not only had no experience/training as copy editors but resisted/rejected input from someone who did. They/we were treated like pond scum by the entire newsroom, and – most stunning to me – bypassed completely when it came to posting online content, which isn’t copy edited at all and doesn’t even have the same headline as the hard copy paper.

I’ve excerpted her piece, which Sterns says hasn’t been published anywhere else.


My first day as a newspaper copy editor/page designer was a shock.

Let me just say that I am the child of an early feminist. When it came time to sign up for typing in high school, my mother counseled me not to take the class, observing from her own experience that “men will hire you based on how fast you type.” What they would hire me for if I didn’t know how to type, neither of us apparently considered. But I happily took an extra art class or whatever at the time and eventually adopted a style using three fingers, left forefinger to do most of the typing, a thumb to space and right forefinger to hit the shift key. And I’ve written a couple of books using those three fingers, okay? So what the hell, right?

Except here at the newspaper I noticed right away that not only could all of my colleagues type at warp speed with all of their fingers, they also knew a billion keyboard shortcuts, like apple-shift-control-6 (but the 6 on the side of the keyboard, not the top).

How did I get here? We were moving to a new town and I thought it would be fun to apply for this job. I’ve been teaching writing and Associated Press style forever, worked at a few newspapers and started doing desktop publishing in maybe 1985, so I thought I had some skills to bring to the table. But my newspaper page-design experience was limited to sketching the St. Croix section on a piece of paper and faxing it over to St. Thomas, where they actually made the Virgin Islands Daily News. And my only newspaper copyediting experience was when I was sitting at my computer in Chicago posting copy for the Virgin Islands Source online. So I thought it would be a fun challenge learning how to make a great page on deadline and how copy editors interact in a real newsroom. And they have a beautiful paper. Read More

Anisha Frizzell writes me on Facebook:

“This columnist’s perception of the copy desk is so off base, aside from the fact that they’re not appreciated, that I almost thought this piece satire at first.”

Your thoughts on it?

* The lonely life of the lowly copy editor

Tom Scherberger

Tom Scherberger has been with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times) for nearly 20 years and, he tells me, “I used to joke that they would have to put a bullet in my head to get rid of me, it was such a great place to work.”

Tomorrow is his last day at the Poynter-owned newspaper.

Why is the 56-year-old newsman leaving the place now? “The bullets got a little too close last year,” he says. “It was suggested to me several months ago that I should look around because I might not make it, and so I began a job search in earnest (I had been keeping my ears open for a couple of years, but very quietly and very informally).”

While I survived the last round of layoffs, I figured I could be next if there is another round. I switched to business reporting at the start of the year, but continued looking for other work. While you never want to hear that you should be looking for work because you might get laid off, it turned out to be the push I needed. So in some ways it was good advice and I’m happy I took it.

In eleven days, he starts his new job as communications director at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

While the school has been around for about 45 years, “it has the feel of a start-up, a place that is really on the move,” says Scherberger. “I see this as a chance to tell that story, using all the skills I have developed as a journalist (I spent the past four years as the breaking news editor for and am particularly proud of helping to lead the newsroom toward a web-first mentality to news-gathering).

He notes that there’s been “a distressing number of departures in recent months” at the St. Petersburg-based Times. “It’s hard to blame anyone for leaving; they have bills to pay, after all. And when an editor I greatly admired, who had been with the Times for some 40 years and had schooled literally hundreds of us over the years, was laid off last year, I figured no one was safe.”

The Times, he says, is still “a great paper, one of the best in the country, and the excellence of its journalism has continued partly because of the sacrifices the staff has made – layoffs, buyouts, no pay raises in four years, a 10 percent cut in pay, frozen pensions, a health insurance plan that many find inadequate. The old saw about people working harder for less is certainly true at the Times.”

I have been in the newspaper business almost 34 years, which is as long as my dad served in the Army. The timing seems right, the job seems to match my skills and the chance to help a growing university seems too good to be true. …

It’s been interesting to hear people at the paper joke about my going over to the “dark side.” Sometimes I think such that is journalism’s way of keeping people in the fold. But the more time I spend on the USF St. Petersburg campus and feel the energy and optimism of the students, the more I think: It’s not so dark after all!

The passage on the right is from and Amy Chozick and David Carr’s New York Times story on the Philadelphia newspapers saga.

New York Times reporters David Carr and Amy Chozick started working on their Philadelphia newspapers story on Sunday, and heard “persistent reports” of a meeting taking place during which Philadelphia Media Network CEO Greg Osberg told editors that he’d be overseeing articles about the impending sale of the Inquirer and Daily News.

“I got in touch with [PMN spokesman] Mark Block on Tuesday,” Carr says in a phone interview. “He was spinning some, but he was helpful and direct and he was also trying to keep his boss’s exposure sort of at a minimum. I knew Osberg from his time at Newsweek and had always had good dealings with him. I heard some bad things [from Philadelphia sources], but I had an open mind about talking with him.”

By Wednesday morning, Chozick and Carr had multiple sources confirming Osberg’s meeting with editors, and the two knew they were going to use it in their story. “So that was one of my first questions [to Osberg]: ‘Did you hold the meeting with the three editors?’ and he said no. I said, ‘You know this is going to be in the newspaper, so I’m going to give you one freebie. I’m going to give you a chance to amend that answer.'”

Greg Osberg

Again, Osberg denied there was meeting.

Just before ending the interview, Carr gave Osberg yet another opportunity to admit that the meeting took place. He wouldn’t do it.

Carr says: “I asked Amy afterwards, ‘Do you think he choked? Why did he do that?’ We really couldn’t figure it out because word of that meeting was all over the building.”

Later Wednesday afternoon, Philadelphia Daily News editor Larry Platt said on the record that the meeting took place. “He wouldn’t go into details,” says Carr, “but those we already had.”

Carr then told Block in an email that Platt confirmed the meeting that Osberg said never took place.

“He said, ‘What time are you closing?’ I said 7:30, and so at 7:50 he sent me a 200-word statement from Osberg acknowledging that the meeting had taken place.”

Here is Osberg’s statement to the Times reporters, time-stamped 7:56 p.m.:

I made it very clear in this February 7 meeting, that I was not suggesting ever taking control of the editorial process, nor was I planning to change any reporting policies going forward. Any suggestions to the contrary of that position are categorically denied, as I stated to you during our interview this morning.

What I did tell the editors that attended this meeting is that I would like to be advised before any articles are published on the subject of Philadelphia Media Network’s possible sale, so that as Publisher, I would not be blind-sided by a story publicly, without receiving advance notice. In view of the sensitive subject matter of the sale, as Publisher, I would have the prerogative to make such a request and it would not be uncommon to receive such notification.

Carr called the desk — after his deadline — and told editors about the statement. They were able to add a sentence to the story.

“It made me angry,” says the reporter. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been through something like that before: No, it didn’t happen; no, it didn’t happen; no, it didn’t happen; and then, yes it did.”

“I was angry.”


From my Facebook wall:

“The memes are funny and should be allowed their five minutes of viral fame,” says Deepa Arora, the communications director at Santa Clara. Thank you, sir. | Internet memes go viral