Daily Archives: March 8, 2012

New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal recently spoke to Stephen Dubner for his Freakonomics “How Biased Is Your Media?” podcast. Here’s what he said about his late father, Abe Rosenthal, who was Times executive editor from 1977 to 1986.

For him, the New York Times was the beginning and the middle and the end of his existence and he was dedicated to it entirely. You know what it says on his gravestone — “He kept the paper straight.” I have a thing on my desk, which most people don’t know what it is, but it’s that reverse lead type, and he hired a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer and discovered after he hired her that she was sleeping with one of her sources at the Philadelphia Inquirer and fired her, even though it had nothing to do with the New York Times.

Someone said to him, “Why do you care who she sleeps with?” and rather memorably — and it’s there on my [desk] — he said, “I don’t care if you fuck an elephant, just so long as you don’t cover the circus.” And that was my dad; I really truly believe that you could do that to an elephant and he’d be OK with it, but no circus coverage. It sounds goofy, but it’s the core of journalistic principle.

* The Freakonomics “How biased is your media?” podcast

What does 80-something Grand Forks Herald veteran Marilyn Hagerty think about her Olive Garden review going viral?

“She’s tickled pink,” says publisher Mike Jacobs.

Everyone from Gawker to Fark to Boing Boing has noticed Hagerty’s story on the just-opened Olive Garden, which she calls “the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks.”

Marilyn Hagerty: The nation's hottest food critic

Hagerty tells her paper: “I don’t get it. I’ve been doing this for 30-40 years. Why all of a sudden now?” (I couldn’t get her on the phone this afternoon, but interviews she did with the Village Voice and City Pages are linked below.)

Hagerty, who is in her mid-80s, joined the Grand Forks Herald in the 1950s. (The paper’s personnel records were destroyed in the 1997 flood, so Jacobs isn’t sure of the year.)

“In the old days, her title was society editor and she wrote about comings and goings in town and she continues to do that” even though she officially retired about 20 years ago.

When Hagerty’s husband died of a stroke during the flood, she took over his column, “That Reminds Me,” and she now has three columns at the paper, says Jacobs. (“Her output at 85 in retirement is at least equivalent to some of the youngsters on the staff.”)

Her Eatbeat column has run on the Wednesday food cover for decades, says the publisher, “and any editor who killed that column would — well, that would be a crazy, crazy thing to do.”

Jacobs points out that Hagerty isn’t really a restaurant critic.

“She generally visits new eating places as they develop in the city. It’s not her goal to criticize the food or the service or the decor. It’s more her mission to let people know the place is there, what it’s going to cost them to go there and what kind of experience they’re going to have.” (She occasionally mentions what kind of people frequent a place. Her review of The Newsroom restaurant in Minneapolis noted that “the clientele was eclectic” and included “some swishy” types.)

Jacobs says the Olive Garden write-up in Wednesday’s paper was “a classic Marilyn Hagerty restaurant item” but “it did not occur to me when I read it that it would get the attention of Jim Romenesko and others around the country.”

“We have gotten probably close to 100,000 additional hits on our site just in the few hours since this thing has gone viral, so we’re very happy about it.”

The publisher says Hagerty has “both a devoted following of people who love her stuff” and some readers who think her work is a bit too quaint.

Longtime subscribers know how to decipher Hagerty’s reviews, says Jacobs.

“If she tells you about the parking lot, you probably don’t want to eat the food. That’s her way of being ‘North Dakota Nice.'”


How is the Olive Garden doing after being mentioned by Hagerty?

“We’ve been busy,” says manager Amanda, who asked her last name not be used. “We haven’t slowed down since opening” on January 23, so it’s difficult to say if Wednesday’s story brought in customers.

Amanda says Hagerty visited the Olive Garden about a week ago for her column “research,” asked a few questions about the place and mentioned that “everything went well” with her meal.

The manager has known Hagerty for several years. “I used to manage the Red Lobster here, and she used to come in all the time.”

Amanda, who hasn’t gotten around to reading Wednesday’s Olive Garden review, says she knows that Hagerty will call it like it is if she needs to.

“I know that if something goes wrong, she’ll put it in there.”


Sam Burrish, a Facebook friend from Sioux City, writes on my wall: “The arrival of Olive Garden also shook up Sioux City, Iowa. Readers might also enjoy this 2006 Sioux City Journal review that went viral at the time.”

* Marilyn Hagerty talks to the Village Voice
* She also did an interview with City Pages in the Twin Cities

We all know about the layoffs and buyouts, but the journalism jobs market is still strong, according to founder Dan Rohn.

“Surprisingly you can still find a great job with a newspaper,” he says in a phone interview. “Most of the jobs on our site are for newspaper jobs. We don’t get a ton of TV jobs, just because TV stations are notoriously cheap. They don’t like to spend money on recruitment.”

Rohn has been running his site for 14 years now, “and we’ve had revenue increases every year,” he says. “The site has been wildly successful — it’s been one of those dot-com dream-come-true success stories. It combines my passion for journalism and entrepreneurship, which I’ve always loved.”” remains a one-man operation, and it’s let 45-year-old Rohn and his family live comfortably in the Bay Area. He won’t give specific numbers for, “but I’ll say the revenue is substantial and I have very little overhead. ..Everything is automated: the billing is automated, users can post their ads, delete the ad, or edit. The site runs itself.”

He adds that he’s “hands-down we’re more profitable than Mediabistro on a dollar per dollar cost-basis.”

What does he do in the meantime?

“I basically keep an eye on it,” while raising three children, ages 3, 7 and 9. (His wife, Janice, formerly a CNN producer, now works for investigative journalist Lowell Bergman.)

Rohn launched in 1998 after working for the Washington Post and AOL.

“Within a year I had taken about 80% of Editor & Publisher’s business and by 2002, pretty much the industry had shifted to us. My site and Mediabistro now dominate.”

Over the years, he’s fielded acquisition offers from three public companies and “I’ve had other small operations approach me, but they didn’t realize the revenue figures for the site so they weren’t in the ballpark with their offers.”

Dan Rohn

He writes in an email:

As far as selling, approached me 2-3 times in 2004/05. The second company was Demand Media (now publicly traded on NASDAQ). They had $300-400 million in venture funding and were looking to buy up a bunch of niche sites with solid revenue and traffic. (My friend, btw, sold to them in 2006). I recall the third company being Internet Brands. I believe they made an inquire about the same time they were looking to buy mediabistro in 2007. In the end, we couldn’t agree on a price and I really didn’t need to sell.

Over the phone, Rohn said that “if someone came along with a great offer, I’d definitely entertain it. It would have to be a strong number — definitely in the seven figures, and eight would be great.”

In a follow-up email after our phone interview, Rohn wrote:

You asked what I do since a lot of is automated. I provide consulting to journalists and other entrepreneurs who want to launch their own sites. One editor, who used to post reporter ads on my site, approached me about doing a job site for the transportation industry, since that’s what he covered. I did, and his site became really successful. I helped another person do a job site for the law enforcement industry. Ditto on the success. I could have done these sites myself since I own the programming code, but I really didn’t want to jump back into the frenetic pace of launching and running another dot-com. I have a TV blog that I may launch that has the potential to be much larger than JJobs. If I do, I’ll probably need to hire someone to run it.

Rohn says he remains a “T-shirt and jeans kind of guy,” and that his “nice German sports car” — he declines to name the model — “is my only indulgence. …You’re not going to see me at a fancy restaurant in San Francisco.”

“I don’t need a fancy Park Ave. office. I have an Ikea desk [at home]. For years, I used a table for a desk. I don’t get carried away.”

* Post-Intelligencer globe to be given to Museum of History and Industry. (
* Yahoo sets out to “remake” Yahoo News. (
* Editor: “We’re living in a dream world if we think we’re influencing people who to vote for for president.” (The Atlantic Cities)
* How Sun-Times Media left Chicago News Cooperative behind. (Chicago Reader)
* BBC to launch online corrections page, recruit new chief complaints editor. (
* Katz/Lenfest group enters into exclusive agreement to negotiate for purchase of Philly papers; Rendell role unclear. (
* Bosses at Chicago’s WLS radio won’t discuss Limbaugh brouhaha. (Time Out)

“Wow, relaunched as a crappy version of the & sites,” Ian Adelman, digital design director and former New York magazine web designer, tweeted on Wednesday night.

I asked Chicago Reader editor Mara Shalhoup about her redesigned site looking a lot like She replied in an email:

Any similarities are purely intentional. Talent might borrow, but . . .

To be fair, though, while was a large source of inspiration, there were others:,, Yann Legendre (who graciously worked with us on the site’s styling), House Industries’ fonts/icons, and even old print versions of the Chicago Reader.

I look forward to other sites stealing – but hopefully not one-upping us on – some of our better ideas, particularly Old Movies to Watch Now. I also suspect we’ll see a lot more photo booth head shots supplanting awkward journalist mugs. I’m betting we were the first to come up with that one.

* Introducing the new

Tony Grossi

The Cleveland Plain Dealer took Tony Grossi off the Browns beat in January after he sent a tweet that he thought was private that bashed Browns owner Randy Lerner. (“He is a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world.”)

Grossi announced on Twitter Wednesday that “after more than 30 years, I am leaving the Plain Dealer.” He added: “And thanks to Peyton Manning for stealing my thunder.”

Grossi’s Twitter bio now identifies him as Browns analyst for SportsTime Ohio. (He did work for them while at the Plain Dealer.) Multiple reports say WKNR-AM ESPN 850 will announce on Monday or earlier that it’s hired Grossi as its Browns beat reporter.

Grossi tells Romenesko readers:

I was fortunate to have an extraordinary career opportunity come my way at about the same time the Plain Dealer saw fit to “reassign” me. The timing was simultaneous and crazily coincidental. I can’t confirm what I’ll be doing and where at this time. But I will say it is so compellingly good that I would have leapt at it regardless of what happened at the PD. It will allow me to grow professionally in ways that are not possible in the newspaper business.

I want to take issue with something said by the PD ombudsman in one of your previous posts. He said at the time he got fewer responses about my “reassignment” than when the paper pulled a comic strip. All I will say is that person never wrote anything in his career that generated anywhere near the volume of mail that his company line column about me received. And 90 percent of it was negative.