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Daily Archives: February 22, 2012

Media General says several parties have expressed interest in acquiring its print assets. “We cannot say that any particular transaction will or will not take place,” CEO Marshall Morton tells his employees. The company owns 23 daily papers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Tampa Tribune, and the Winston-Salem Journal.

* Media General exploring potential sale of newspapers

February 22, 2012

Dear Fellow Employees,

This afternoon Media General issued a press release announcing that the company is exploring the potential sale of newspaper operations. A copy of the release is posted on the Meganet.

Several times over the past few months, we have stated publicly that to reduce total debt outstanding over time we would consider asset sales if we could obtain valuations that reflected the strength of our properties. In the latter part of 2011, a number of transactions were completed for local media properties, including newspapers, at valuation levels that have not occurred in a number of years, certainly not since the economic downturn began. This is a positive development for the industry. This new marketplace compels us to consider various alternatives.

As we undertake this exploration process, we cannot say that any particular transaction will or will not take place. What we can say is that we will consider various options as we work to increase overall cash flow and reduce total debt outstanding over time.

Any decision to part with any of our properties and their associated employees would be difficult. These are people we value. At the same time, we are mindful that we have sold eight television stations since 2006 and created new opportunities for those properties and employees, and our own acquisitions have done the same.

As we evaluate options, the best course for all of us is to stay focused on continuing to execute our strategy of increasing audience, revenues and cash flow. Your hard work and dedication as we strive to achieve the best outcome for Media General are a key part of accomplishing that goal.

Marshall Morton

I just got off the phone with Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley, who said he’s calling the Romney campaign “right now” to complain about its handling of today’s News endorsement.

The Romney camp removed this paragraph before sending the endorsement to reporters:

We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan — his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.

“They should have run the complete, original version,” says Finley. “It’s a bit inappropriate to edit out the mild criticism.” While the edited version has ellipses, “the reader has no idea what they removed.”

* The editorial, as presented by the Romney campaign | The full editorial

UPDATE: A Romney campaign spokesperson called me after getting Finley’s call and said that “because of copyright laws, we’re required when sending something out that it’s less than half the original article.” Any copyright experts care to chime in?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Maria Amante emails:

The campaign’s use of the complete editorial, without subtractions or omissions would be considered fair use.

According to the US Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html#permission

How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?
Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

“I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to convince the people that it was in their own interest to modify the way in which the business ran, so as to be profitable.

“I [attempted] to create at The Tribune the same kind of collegial environment that’s been so successful in everything else we’ve done. But it takes two to tango.”

* Delusional Sam Zell blames Tribune failure on greedy journalists

Jim O'Shea

Chicago News Cooperative editor Jim O’Shea has responded to Geoff Dougherty’s claim that the MacArthur Foundation-CNC relationship soured because the nonprofit news outlet “had enough reporters and know-how to cause problems with MacArthur buddies at City Hall.” He writes in an email:

Even a cursory amount of reporting would show that to be totally untrue. No one at the foundation ever complained or interfered with our coverage in any way. At all times, MacArthur and everyone involved in our relationship acted with integrity and professionalism. Any inference to the contrary is completely wrong. MacArthur never reneged on any commitments to the CNC. The decision on the kind of funding the foundation would consider for us was motivated totally by our tax status.

Chicago journalist Geoff Dougherty claims the Chicago News Cooperative and MacArthur Foundation relationship went sour because CNC “had enough reporters and know-how to cause problems with MacArthur buddies at City Hall.” He writes:

If the president of the MacArthur Foundation wants to give you half a million dollars, he’s got enough lawyers to find a way to do it legally, whether it’s as a grant, a loan, a program-related investment or a happy birthday present. Conversely, when you find out that you’re not getting $500,000 from MacArthur, you can be pretty sure it’s because the foundation has decided it doesn’t like you, never mind the claptrap about the IRS.

The foundation was clearly uncomfortable with funding a news organization that had enough reporters and know-how to cause problems with MacArthur buddies at City Hall, and didn’t have the integrity to say so directly.

I asked Dougherty, who received a $340,000 Knight Foundation grant for his Chi-Town Daily News in 2007, to tell Romenesko readers more. He says in email: “MacArthur has very close working relationships with top brass at CPS [Chicago Public Schools] and the housing authority, which are major grantees of the foundation. The former head of another MacArthur grantee, New Communities, is [Rahm] Emanuel’s Housing and Economic Development Commissioner, and served in that role under Daley too. You can get a sense of the foundation’s love for City Hall here.”

* O’Shea’s response

* MacArthur Foundation’s response:

Statement of Elspeth Revere, Vice President for Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

February 22, 2012

The MacArthur Foundation supports the production and distribution of news and documentary programs for television, radio, and the Web that help inform the American public about important domestic and international current affairs and policy issues. We provide grants to about 15 national news organizations ranging from NPR and the PBS NewsHour to Investigative News Network. None of these organizations receives all of its support from MacArthur; many receive far less than $500,000. In no case do we monitor or get involved in any editorial decisions at these organizations.

We provided early support to the Chicago News Cooperative (CNC), awarding its first grant very quickly in order to help it make its deadline to start publishing in The New York Times. We did so because we believed it was important to back an experimental new model for substantive local news coverage, however risky that model might have been. Since CNC started in 2009, we provided a total of $1 million in grants. We were working on a renewal grant to CNC when it notified us that it was closing. While we had not yet recommended a specific amount, whether our funding came in the form of project support or general support would have had no bearing on the size of our grant.

CNC had other funders, both national and local. We do not know whether any of them were asked for emergency support. We do know that CNC was testing different approaches to raising revenue in addition to foundation grants. The slow economy may have contributed to the lack of immediate success of some or all of those efforts.

We are sorry to see the CNC come to an end in its present form and hope that it is successful in maintaining some elements of its work in the future. MacArthur is committed to continuing our 30-year history of support for non-profit journalism because informing the American public matters as much now as it ever has.

-- from Teri Buhl's blog

I’ve asked New Canaan Patch editor Paul Devlin to tell Romenesko readers more about his complaint to police about reporter Teri Buhl. I’ll post it, of course, when/if it arrives. || Here’s the story that prompted the editor’s harassment complaint

Anne Gearan

In what AP calls “a significant move in our Washington operation,” a national security and foreign policy expert will now be reporting from the White House. Anne Gearan, who was AP national security correspondent, becomes national security writer assigned to the White House.

From Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee’s memo:

Anne Gearan has moved to White House reporting, focusing on national security, reporting to [Deputy Washington Bureau Chief] Terry Hunt and coordinating closely with [Assistant Bureau Chief] Wendy Benjaminson on foreign affairs/national security. As Chief White House Correspondent Ben Feller and his team focus on the campaign and economy this year, it’s critical we keep a strong focus on issues like Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thanks to Anne for holding the interim foreign affairs editor spot this past year. It was great to see the nice beat she and Julie Pace had on Iran and SWIFT.

Rick Santorum

David Fahrenthold went over the columns that Rick Santorum wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer and found they “returned often to the social issues that had made him famous — and infamous — in the Senate.”

He mentioned abortion in at least 18 of them, and same-sex marriage in at least 11. In 2008, Santorum said he had not regretted “sounding the alarm” on gay marriage in 2003, referring to an interview in which he compared homosexual acts to bigamy, adultery and “man on dog.”

* Santorum’s columns offer window into his mind