Monthly Archives: April 2012

* Tribune chairman Sam Zell gives $70K to Romney SuperPAC and $50K to Midwest GOP SuperPAC. (Daily Herald)
* Woodward and Bernstein respond to Bradlee biographer Jeff Himmelman. (Washington Post)
* Jack Shafer: What did Ben Bradlee know and when did he know it? (Reuters)
* Columbia University to distribute $2M in grant money to find “best practices” in digital media. (Capital New York)
* Arkansas Democrat-Gazette executive editor Griffin Smith to step down Tuesday, says it’s the “right time.”
* Voice of San Diego editor Andrew Donohue to resign Sept. 1, head to Stanford for fellowship. (Voice of San Diego)
* American Prospect could close in May, needs $500,000 to fill current funding gap. (Huffington Post)
* College newspapers feel financial pinch. (USA Today)

Twin Cities Business editor Dale Kurschner was recently asked by a radio interviewer if Tom Petters — convicted of a massive investment fraud — was allowed to read the 14-page story about him before it ran.

Kurschner’s reply: “I did send him a copy for factual purposes ahead of time, but we had an agreement in writing before we even did anything that he would not have final say over what the story says. He could tell us if there was an inaccuracy, but it was totally our call on how that story ran.”

MinnPost media reporter David Brauer writes:

Getting a sensitive source to cooperate is often a matter of flattery, diplomacy and pressure; the challenge is not to sell out in pursuit of the story. Although Kurschner wrote a full-page editor’s note detailing the six-month saga of securing Petters’ cooperation, he did not disclose to readers the unusual provision that might have been the deal-clincher.

Kurschner tells Brauer that “normally, we don’t do” pre-publication review, but Petters’ “hypersensitive” lawyers advised him not to do the story, and pre-review was needed get the interview. “Part of it is going into situations where people aren’t willing to talk to you and earn their trust. Having him take a look at the story was part of earning that trust.”

* Business magazine lets Petters read story before publication (
* TCB gets exclusive interview with Ponzi schemer (Twin Cities Business)
* Ponzi schemer gives rare interview to business magazine (Star Tribune)

Snaggy at gives me permission to repost his comic and writes in an email:

Although the comic was inspired by the recent Times story, it certainly isn’t just about the NYT, as I think we’re all guilty of jumping on bandwagons of various kinds to pump stories.

New York Times reporter Alan Schwarz and his longtime friend Dr. Elissa Brown were driving to their kids’ bowling play-date in February when Brown casually mentioned a family friend who pirates DVDs for the troops.

Hyman Strachman (credit: Todd Heisler)

“I don’t remember why he came up,” Schwarz said in a phone interview, “but as soon as she said, he’s a 92-year-old guy bootlegging DVDs for the troops, I knew it would be on the front page of the New York Times — that is, if he was willing to go public about it. I think people in this business know, it’s like pornography: you can’t define [a front page story], but you know it when you hear it. I knew this would be on the front page.”

Schwarz was right. His story, “At 92, Movie Bootlegger is Soldiers’ Hero,” appeared on the Times’ A1 on Friday.

“It wasn’t exactly gumshoe journalism,” says the reporter. “It was luck on some five-year-olds’ play-date.” (Schwarz and Brown — friends since high school get together about once a year — both have kids that age.)

Before meeting 92-year-old Hyman Strachman, Schwarz had a conversation with bootlegger’s son, Arthur, a tax accountant.

“He told me everything that his dad did, with the understanding it was completely between us. I said, ‘This is a perfect story.'” Schwarz also pointed out to the son that it would be “the worst PR ever” for a movie studio to go after a 92-year-old man who appeared in the New York Times for sending pirated films to U.S. soldiers.

Alan Schwarz

“I told him that the story was going to acknowledge it was illegal, but that I would have some fun with it because it’s a fun story.”

(He adds: “I did this story to keep sane because the thing I’m doing now is very unpleasant.” Schwarz is working on a major project about health problems with children.)

About six weeks ago, Arthur Strachman gave Schwarz permission to talk to his dad; the interview was a month ago.

Hy Strachman, says Schwarz, “welcomed me in. He was nothing but a delight. He was charming, he was a fun story teller. He acknowledged what he did was illegal — he wasn’t oblivious to that.”

“He was somewhere between flattered and starstruck. The photographer [Todd Heisler] had won a Pulitzer Prize and when he found that out, he started to grasp that, oh my — this is the big leagues.” (Strachman also learned that Schwarz was a Pulitzer finalist.)

“He was flattered that somebody would care and he was very sweet.”

The reporter has yet to hear from his story subject, but “I emailed with his son because I knew on Friday the phones would be blowing up. I told him it was a lot of fun and I’m getting lots of calls wanting to interview Hy — ‘The Colbert Report,’ the BBC, and lots of other places. I forwarded [the requests] to his son.

“I know what a story does to a household: it turns it upside down. I got a note back from his son, saying thank you for a great job, basically — we had fun. Hy is taking lots of calls and getting tired.”

Schwarz has received about 100 emails about the story, many from other journalists praising him for the piece. He’s modest about what he wrote and reported, and pooh-poohs the fact that it made the most-emailed list.

“There are 365 of those a year,” he says.

“If I don’t want to get blamed for the unpleasant stories I do, I think I have to forgo credit for the fun ones.”

Number 6 on the list of “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You”:

Read obituaries. They are just like biographies, only shorter. They remind us that interesting, successful people rarely lead orderly, linear lives.

* 10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You (

* Where did Gawker Media get the idea for branches? (New York Times)
* Dan Rather’s still battling CBS News. (Daily Beast)
* David Carr asks: Has the WHCA dinner become a nerd unity conference? (New York Times)
(New York Times)
* “I never miss ’60 Minutes’ or ‘Meet the Press,'” says comedian Kathy Griffin. (Adweek)
* Dan Abrams to launch The Braiser, a site covering celebrity chefs. (New York Times)
* Dallas Morning News parent A.H. Belo reports loss of 18-cents/share for Q1 vs. loss of 31-cents in Q1 ’11. (Belo release)
* Tribune: Chicagoans who won’t miss the giant Marilyn Monroe statue downtown won’t miss Playboy, either. (Chicago Tribune)

Jeff Himmelman reports in his new book about Ben Bradlee — an excerpt runs in this week’s New York Magazine — that the legendary Washington Post executive editor once said that he had “fear in my soul” that Bob Woodward had embellished some details of his Watergate reporting. In 1990, Bradlee told Barbara Feinman, who was helping the editor with his memoir:

Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? … and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage … There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.

On Sunday night, Woodward told Politico’s Dylan Byers:

There’s a transcript of an interview that Himmelman did with Bradlee 18 months ago in which Ben undercuts the [New York magazine] piece. It’s amazing that it’s not in Jeff’s piece. It’s almost like the way Nixon’s tapings did him in, Jeff’s own interview with Bradlee does him in.

Woodward told Byers that he has an Oct. 7, 2010, interview transcript in which Bradlee mentioned to the author that he’s confident about Woodward’s Watergate reporting.

The Washington Post says in its story about the Himmelman book:

Although Woodward’s harshest critics spent years questioning whether he concocted the character of Deep Throat, Woodward’s reporting has been repeatedly confirmed over the past four decades, notably with the 2005 disclosure that his secret source was W. Mark Felt.

* The Red Flag in the Flowerpot (New York)
* Woodward rejects new Watergate claims (Politico)
* Book says Bradlee doubted some Woodward details (Washington Post)
* “Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee” (

* Classic New Yorker magazine covers