Monthly Archives: April 2012

Last Thursday, the New York Times Magazine asked readers to help identify people in photos from the 1960 Democratic National Convention. There were a lot of names tossed out in nearly 100 comments. What’s the Times going to do with them? I asked Samantha Henig, and she responded:

There were a lot of thoughtful responses to the post. Exciting to see crowd-sourcing work so well. We’re doing some additional research now to see if we can get to a point where we’re confident that any of these suggested IDs are correct. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

* Help us identify who’s in these photographs

Lee Enterprises execs just can’t stop giving the finger to employees.

In 2011 — the year the newspaper chain filed for bankrupcy — CEO Mary Junck and Co. got 30%+ raises.

Then in March, Lee’s executive compensation committee decided Junck and CFO Carl Schmidt deserved a total of $750,000 in bonuses for doing their job and refinancing some loans.

Over the weekend, Lee employees received this notice from the company about their Pulitzer Pension Plan: “The employer [Lee] sponsoring your pension plan has made an election permitted under Federal law to delay funding for the plan. The election applies to the plan year beginning on January 1, 2011 and ending on December 31, 2011.” Lee’s union has told members:

What appears to be occurring is that Lee seems to be taking advantage of some delayed-funding mechanism under the law in order to hang onto cash a little longer (gotta find SOME way to pay for those bonuses, right?).

Obviously the Guild is disappointed that the employer would delay fully funding pensions – something our members spent a lifetime earning and something that needs to be there for them at the end of their careers – and wishes they wouldn’t engage in such financial sleight-of-hand but they are within their rights, it appears.

On Monday — shortly after receiving this news — somebody sent me a link to a Lee website about “the downsides of unions.” It states: “We do not believe union representation is necessary, desirable or in the best interest of our employees.”

According to one former employee, the company threatens to fire staffers who even mention union.

* After paying big bonuses, Lee delays funding pensions
* Lee editor threatened to fire me for union talk

* James Murdoch begins testifying about his role in the phone-hacking scandal. (Washington Post)
* Jim Kirk leaves Crain’s to become Sun-Times Media editor-in-chief. (Chicago Sun-Times)
* MSNBC’s Jeremy Gaines named Gannett communications vice president. (New York Times)
* Seattle Times Pulitzer winners donate prize money to IRE training. (IRE blog)
* Rick Bragg gives “Last Lecture” at University of Alabama. (Tuscaloosa News)
* Columbia Journalism Review to move off campus, expected to land in offices off Times Square. (Capital New York)
* is free now through May 6. (You give your email address for access.) (Boston Globe)

It was announced earlier today that the Chicago Tribune has invested in Journatic and will be using it to cover hyperlocal news.

A Romenesko reader writes:

I’m a former Patch editor who worked in a town also covered by TribLocal. The Tribune put considerable resources into TribLocal in advance of Patch’s mid-2010 launch into the Chicago suburbs. Prior to that, it was mainly a bulletin board for UGC [user-generated content], with the occasional staff-written story.

In summer/fall 2010, the TribLocal site was redesigned, additional staff hired to beef up news coverage and a weekly print version launched. TL even contracted a few freelancers to write columns and sports stories–something it rarely had done previously. For a while, coverage was robust, but it dropped off around the time Patch cut its freelancing budget last fall. In recent months, it appeared TL staffers were covering wider areas and had less time to focus on more in-depth coverage.

Coincidentally, I talked to Journatic after leaving Patch in 2011 and was told it was piloting a program for TribLocal. (It looks like the Oak Lawn TribLocal site is one of those currently being produced by Journatic.) I could find little online information about the company, beyond its origins in BlockShopper. I found Journatic to be very disorganized, as if it were growing faster than the folks at the top could handle. It has been running ads for writers and copy editors almost continuously for months. It resembles a content farm, with writers and editors paid on a piecework basis equating to $12 or $14 per hour.

Visitors to started asking questions about Journatic last December. Here’s what one person wrote:

This is a group from the same people that run BlockShopper. I think they started this Journatic stuff because BlockShopper is getting pounded with complaints about printing people’s personal information. What they do is take public records and print them. Perfectly legal, but ethics wise, not a good sell for public relations.

They also do real estate Sunday sections for newspapers looking for cheap help.

I did a Skype interview for one of these positions last year, and didn’t get the job. At that point, most of their page designers were in the Philippines. They only would have a handful of people in the US who would proof the work from the outsourced jobs.

You can google “Blockshopper” and “BlockShopper complaints” to get a better idea of who they are.

* Here is Journatic CEO Brian Timpone’s Twitter feed
* Here is Journatic editorial director Kathryn Swartz’s LinkedIn resume.

Tommy Tomlinson

Longtime Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson is leaving the paper to cover sports for the new USA Today Sports Media Group/Major League Baseball Advanced Media website. (Joe Posnanski is leaving Sports Illustrated to work for the same venture.) Pulitzer finalist Tomlinson writes:

This is hard. I still love the Observer, and always will. My wife, Alix Felsing, will still be working for the paper. We’re staying in Charlotte. I’m not running away from the Observer. I’m running toward this new thing, with the hope that one day it’ll make me as proud as I’ve been to work 23 years for this great newspaper.

* Tommy Tomlinson: Well… I have an announcement
* Read the comments from his Facebook friends
* Earlier: Tomlinson on making words work for a living

Press+ said today that it will grandfather at no charge the subscribers for any publishers that had used Google One Pass. “We will maintain subscriber accounts for whichever publishers might have signed on with Google without charging our usual revenue share,” Press+ Co- founder Steven Brill says in a release. “We’ll only charge for all the new customers we generate going forward once our seamless transition is completed.” Google announced late Friday that it shuttered its online payment platform for news outlets.

The full release is after the jump.

Read More

Letter to Romenesko

From SETH THERIAULT: This one is just sort of fun.

The Times has an article in Saturday’s paper about caretakers who live
rent-free in the city-owned historic homes:

Back in 1999, the Times ran a similar article. Same person in the lede. What are the chances?

P.S. The Van Cortlandt House caretaker also makes a return appearance, this time with a name for the record.

* NYT’s 2012 story on caretakers who live rent-free
* NYT’s 1999 story on caretakers who live rent-free

The Chicago Tribune has invested in Chicago-based media content provider Journatic, and will use that outfit rather than TribLocal for its hyperlocal news reporting. Most of the 40 TribLocal staffers will lose their jobs. (UPDATE: “The number you have is a little off,” says a Tribune spokesman. “At the end of the day, about half of the people covering hyperlocal news will lose their jobs (20 or so), and not all of them are reporters—some reporters are actually being re-assigned at Chicago Tribune.”) “We’ve made an investment in this company because we believe that it is a more effective way of providing hyperlocal news, and we think we can do more of it in this way,” says Tribune Editor Gerould Kern. || Meanwhile, there are reports that the Tribune-owned Hartford Courant is offering buyouts today. If you have a memo or information to pass along, please email me at

* Chicago Tribune replaces TribLocal with Journatic content
* Blogger hears of new buyouts at the Hartford Courant

At least Chicago Tribune editor Gerry Kern has some good news:

UPDATE: A Romenesko reader writes:

I have seen Journatic advertising jobs at barely-above minimum wage without benefits occasionally since the fall. The only good side is you can work from home. The first time I saw a Journatic ad at I noted their address was the same as Trib Tower, but I couldn’t find anything else tying Tribune and Journatic together. Now it’s confirmed. It’s very interesting the name ‘Journatic’ has been scrubbed from their postings. wish I had the frame grab of the original job postings.

* Here’s a cached version of Journatic’s ad on

This kid is the next Bob Edwards!

That was my first thought after hearing 14-year-old Jake Foushee do his movie-trailer guy impression. So what does Edwards think? He emails me:

I have NEVER sounded that good, Jim, so I’m flattered by the comparison. Too bad we can’t pair him with Don LaFontaine, who died last year. Don was the “In a world…” movie trailer guy. Tell Jake to get his SAG AFTRA card and NEVER work non-union.

You can’t blame Foushee for trying to make a few bucks off his fame. He tweeted on Sunday: “For $5 ill record you a voicemail and send it to you as an .mp3 :D” One of his followers responded: “‘Fame’ and money has already gone to your head.”

Jake Foushee

* Listen to Jake Foushee’s movie-trailer guy impression
* Deep voice brings quick online fame for teen
* @JakeFoushee reveals what he’ll be wearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”