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Daily Archives: April 9, 2012


Steve Buttry says of his post on newsroom curmudgeons: “Few things I have written have received as much praise or as much criticism (the two often go together) … I didn’t bother to engage with a few anonymous shots in comments on Romenesko’s blog, but most of the discussion was civil and enjoyable, even when we disagreed. Participate in the discussion of your work and you will elevate the discussion and benefit from it.”

* Lessons learned from a letter to curmudgeons

Seattle Times editor David Boardman says his reporters spent months working on their Amazon.com series, interviewed hundreds of people, and “ultimately, we were able to shed light on largely hidden aspects of a company that is as secretive as it is successful.” He adds:

In the comments section of our website, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative toward us and positive toward Amazon. Example: “Your trashy take on a local business rock star is shameless.”

But in emails, calls and letters directly to the reporters and their editors, and in other publications both print and digital, it was significantly more positive. We heard from current and former Amazon employees applauding the series, as well as many businesspeople who had had difficult dealings with the company. Typical of the positive response: “Bravo on your article on Amazon. It takes courage and independence to take on a giant.”

I asked Amazon.com spokesperson Mary Osako late last week if the company had any comment on the series. Here’s all she wrote: “Thanks for your inquiry. We don’t have anything to offer but thanks for checking.”

GeekWire's John Cook

John Cook of the Seattle-based GeekWire.com points me to his site’s poll on Amazon and its involvement in Seattle affairs. Cook writes in an email:

The majority of respondents indicated that they’d like to see Amazon do more, and I believe it would actually be in their business interests to do so.

I also believe Anazon’s role has changed in the community or should change as they play themselves in the middle of the city, versus the isolation of their previous HQ in an old art deco building atop Beacon Hill. In many ways, it was symbolically the perfect location for them.

Cook adds in a follow-up note:

It is really an interesting topic, one that delves into the role of a corporation in its hometown. I think it does matter that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos relocated to Seattle not only because of its tech talent but also because its population base was small (giving him an advantage of having to collect sales tax in a small state, versus a big one like California).

In other words, Bezos wasn’t rooted here, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen. And he didn’t come here for the mountains, natural beauty, community sensibility or other reasons that draw so many other folks who like this corner of the world. I get the sense with Amazon/Bezos it is all about business, which is great and Seattle is lucky to have them. But I think that mentality just rubs some the wrong way who’ve chosen to live, work and play here for other reasons.

* Amazon.com series draws torrent of criticism online
* Seattle tells newspaper: Leave our Amazon alone!
* What’s Amazon’s obligation to the Seattle idea economy?

Another day, another buyout offer:

THE PUBLISHER’S LETTER TO EMPLOYEES

April 9, 2012

To all our Journal Publishing Colleagues,

Our company is continually examining our staffing based on business conditions and our longer term outlook, which often means adjusting these levels to align with our revenues.

One way to achieve that is to allow employees to voluntarily leave the company in exchange for a separation package that may be agreeable and appealing and fits their future plans. We have offered these kinds of programs several times in recent years, as have peer companies in the media industry.

Today, the company is offering a Voluntary Separation Program to all departments within Journal Sentinel, Journal Community Publishing and Community Newspapers Inc., including the corporate IT department.

This voluntary offering is available during April 2012, and is not meant to indicate future voluntary programs or other staffing actions. As we look forward, we have and will continue to invest in new products that are important for our future growth. But today’s announcement means we are looking at ways for the company to best match our staffing with the proper expense platforms.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your department head, or Dan Harmsen in Human Resources, or myself.

Thank you,
Elizabeth Brenner
President & Publisher

THE UNION’S MESSAGE TO MEMBERS

From: Tom Silverstein
Date: April 09, 2012 12:15:38 PM
To:
Subject: Guild message on buyout offer from Tom Silverstein

Folks —

If you haven’t seen it by now, the company has sent out a letter informing all members in the publishing branch that it will be accepting buyouts as of today. The letter does not indicate the company has a specific number of employees or a dollar number it needs to shed and it’s possible this is just an attempt to clear some other departments of people who are reaching retirement age. I did speak with [Journal Sentinel editor] Marty Kaiser about the letter and he smartly chose not to predict anything about how this would affect the newsroom, especially in light of previous curveballs the company has thrown at the last minute. I do get the sense that we aren’t being targeted, but I, too, am not going to make any predictions. We will monitor this closely.

Marty has told me to tell all members that if they have any concerns or fears they should come directly to him, George or Marilyn and they will be as forthcoming as possible with you. He said he preferred it come directly from him than from me trying to relay the company’s intentions to you, which I think is prudent. If you prefer not to speak directly to them, feel free to contact me with your questions and I will get answers.

If you’re considering taking the buyout and would like us to help you get answers on pay and benefit questions, feel free to contact your steward, or other Guild leaders such as Karen Samelson, Mary-Liz Shaw or Larry Sandler. The company has retained the right to deny any request to accept a buyout.

I will have a couple more things to say on this later. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to write. I’m working today, but I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Thanks,

Tom Silverstein
Local 51 president
The Newspaper Guild

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* David Pepin writes: The most painful part of being an unemployed journalist is listening to people close to me question my choice of profession.
* University of Kansas prof’s latest study: How newspaper layoff survivors view themselves.

- Jordan Flaherty at a rally last August

Last August, New Orleans activist Jordan Flaherty was leading celebratory chants of “Guilty!” at rally following the convictions of five New Orleans police officers.

Last week, he was contributing to the New York Times story on the cops’ sentencing.

Times deputy national editor Rick Lyman tells the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

When our correspondent, Campbell Robertson, was unable to get into the courtroom to hear the announcement of the sentences, he was forced to ask other reporters, who were in the courtroom, to fill him in on what the judge had said. Jordan Flaherty, who had taken notes of what the judge said, agreed to share them with Campbell, who then confirmed all of them with other people who had been in the courtroom. So we are very confident in what we printed in the newspaper. We were unaware that Mr. Flaherty might have been involved in public protests involving the killings and, if we had known, we would not have used him.

* New Orleans activist becomes NYT reporter for officers’ sentencing
* Flaherty is a Left Turns editor, “Democracy Now” contributor

Rutgers student and Daily Targum columnist Aaron Marcus has filed a bias complaint against The Medium satirical newspaper for running a column under his name titled, “What About All the Good Things Hitler Did?” He told WWOR-TV that “to say anything praiseworthy of someone like Hitler, and to have people actually believe it was coming from me, even in a satirical manner, is just really painful.” Marcus told his publication:

It’s one thing to write a mock article, and The Medium is known for being offensive and being a satirical newspaper, but it’s another thing to take my name, the picture and title of my column and attribute something so horrific to me.

Here’s what The Medium editor-in-chief Amy DiMaria said about the Hitler column in a letter to the Daily Targum:

Through research of Aaron’s work, a Medium writer was able to accurately mimic Aaron’s writing style, from his tendency to have straightforward, provoking titles in his column to the casual, approachable style of writing he prefers to use. ….This brings us to the accusation that the publication of this article was meant to be anti-Semitic. I want to state publicly, in the strongest possible terms, that the only subject we meant to parody was Marcus, whose work The Medium staff has found as something more than suitable for parody. This piece was not an attack on any religious or ethnic group. It was not an attack on defenseless private citizens.

* Daily Targum staffer files bias complaint over The Medium’s Hitler column || Editor defends it
* Rutgers investigating satirical article as anti-Semitic bias incident
* Rutgers newspaper adviser responds to controversy over Hitler article

HERE’S THE COLUMN:

Richard Huff

For some time now, I’ve been reading Richard Huff’s morning tweets about the “lovebirds” he sees on his daily ferry ride into New York City. On Thursday evening, I dropped the New York Daily News TV editor an email. With your #ferrytales (as Huff calls the tweets), “I feel like I started watching a soap opera long after it debuted and don’t know the back story,” I wrote. “For a post, I wonder if you’d give me (and my readers) a little history of this saga, and what the reaction to it has been.”

On Friday morning, it was announced that Huff is leaving the News to become CBS News executive director of communications. “Well, I won’t hear back from him for a while,” I thought.

I was wrong; Huff send this email on Friday afternoon:

Sorry about the delay in responding. As you might imagine, I was a bit
crazed yesterday.

Here it is in a nutshell.

As anyone who commutes for any length of time knows that you find
yourself in the same train, same car, same bus with the same people
every day, though without any contact. It’s like a high school homeroom,
without talking to the people sitting next to you.

What happens in any of those situations is you start picking up on people’s activities, what they read,  where they sit, etc.  When I was taking the train in, I would write Facebook posts about the transit system, and  my fellow riders, where I found something funny. Usually, it’s an observation about a comment or activity.

I switched over to the ferry a year ago and offered similar observations. They might be about the ride, the waves, or the people.

The lovebirds came out of that. Overseeing the activities of folks on my ferry ride in to New York City every day. It’s a love story, of sorts, told in 140 characters at a time.  Pure observations and all true.  I’m careful not to give revealing details because I’m not here to expose anything and this is all pure fun.

Several folks have suggested a book of some sort, and it’s an idea in the back of my head. If anything, some of these snippets will feed fictional ideas I have down the road.

* Follow @richmhuff on Twitter

* To catch up on #ferrytales, do a page-search for ferrytales on Huff’s All My Tweets page.


“We’re at a stage now in the life cycle of the Philadelphia Inquirer that a certain amount of failure is inevitable — and may, in fact, be the only route to ultimate success.” Philadelphia magazine’s Joel Mathis explains that here.

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On his Economic Principals blog, David Warsh sees hope for print: “Successful newspapers will continue to set the agenda for many years to come. Their power is not as great as it was, now that there are so many other voices in the room. But the value of those 240 inches on the front page is greater than ever as a means of organizing civic discourse.”

-- Today's Sun-Times cover

Former Chicago Sun-Times TV/radio columnist Robert Feder says his old paper “is morphing into a garish, down-market tabloid that seems to be edited for people with teeny-tiny attention spans who prefer headlines to be written IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.” There’s no doubt, he says, that the changes are being ordered by Michael Ferro, “the wealthy entrepreneur who heads the Sun-Times’ parent company with ambitions of becoming a modern-day press baron.”

Ferro appears intent on using the Sun-Times to promote his pet charities and the many nonprofit organizations on whose boards he serves. How such coverage of black-tie fund-raisers will mesh with the paper’s decidedly down-market move remains a mystery.

* New Sun-Times takes Chicago to a different place
* “Dear God, @Sun-Times. This homepage is 70% ads”
* Earlier: Ferro wants Sun-Times to be the New York Post of the Midwest

* AOL shares up 37% this morning on news that it’s selling 800 patents to Microsoft for $1 billion. (Reuters)
* David Carr on the return of the newspaper barons. (New York Times)
* Gail Shister: I always had a soft spot for Mike Wallace, and I think he liked me too. (TV Newser)
* Josh Gernstein: The day I was scooped by Mike Wallace. (Politico.com)
* Celtics guard Ray Allen endorses newspapers, paper-and-ink books. (Boston Globe)
* National Society of Newspaper Columnists names contest finalists. (Columnists.com)
* Huffington says there will be clowns and face-painting at her site’s 7th anniversary party. (WWD.com)
* “Good Morning America” is gradually closing the gap with “Today.” Only 119,000 viewers separate the two. (New York Times)
* How the Atlantic successfully spammed Reddit. (Daily Dot)