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Daily Archives: May 2, 2012

From JOHN REINAN: In light of your item today on the paper that’s charging 10 cents a word for political endorsement letters: a couple months ago, I sent a routine news release to the Grand Forks Herald. This is a former Knight-Ridder paper now owned by Forum Communications, based in Fargo.
I got back an email letting me know that the Herald now runs paid business briefs every Saturday, and my brief could run for $70. I sent them another brief just last week and got the same note:

Good Afternoon John,

The Grand Forks Herald publishes business briefs on a paid basis to ensure your company’s news items are published in a timely manner. The business briefs will publish in the business section of Saturday’s Herald. As an added value, your brief will be included on GrandForksHerald.com. The deadline is Tuesday at 5 p.m. to run in the Saturday edition for $70 (up to 75 words), additional words are 10¢ per word and photos are $5 each.
Did you still want to proceed?

Thanks
Paula Walden
Classified Advertising Manager

So far, I haven’t chosen to pay for a brief. They’ve gotta make a living, so I don’t begrudge them the effort. But I can’t help but think it cuts their business readers off from a potentially useful stream of information. Those little briefs often are about who got promoted, who got a new piece of business, who’s expanding their building. Things that don’t rise to the level of a staff-written story, but are useful little bits of business intelligence. And now, like me, many people will probably choose not to pay $70 to put their little bit of business intelligence out into the world.

Syracuse University Daily Orange staffers Kathleen Ronayne and Beckie Strum worked six months on their two-part series on Chancellor Nancy Cantor, which claims the administrator has created an atmosphere of “futility, fear, and distrust” during her eight-year tenure.

The two-parter “has sparked a conversation on campus,” reporter Strum tells the Post-Standard’s Sarah Moses.

Boy, has it! One letter to the Daily Orange — signed by 70 faculty and staff members — says the articles “were attacks poorly veiled as investigative reporting and paint a significantly skewed and inaccurate portrait of the community as a whole.” The letter continues:

It should come as no surprise in a university this size given Chancellor Cantor’s bold vision that the student reporters found a dozen faculty who are disgruntled, or were able to identify three dozen anonymous people who are critical of the chancellor. We would expect this in any large organization.

Kathleen Ronayne

Series co-author Ronayne writes on her blog that her skin has thickened as she’s grown as a journalist.

Two years ago, I would have read all of these letters and been incredibly upset for a few reasons:

1. I didn’t realize then that criticism and personal attacks are a BIG part of journalism. I’ve since learned to deal with that. and

2. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have done enough reporting to be convinced that was I did was true and fair. Now, there is no doubt in my mind of what I’ve written.

Point is: Two years ago I was an amateur. Now, I consider myself a professional.

I’ve asked editor-in-chief Dara McBride for comment.

UPDATE: Here are my questions and McBride’s responses:

What’s your response to the letter-signers who called the articles “examples of irresponsible journalism that does not represent the best of what a student newspaper should exhibit.”

It’s upsetting to hear that we have readers who believe we would publish “irresponsible journalism,” but these articles would not have run if the reporters behind the pieces did not do all reporting they did.

Dara McBride

I am confident that what they wrote is true and responsible journalism and it would not have run if otherwise. As their editor, Kathleen and Beckie were as open with me as they could be throughout the process and we trusted each other. Being a journalist means sometimes publishing works that may be truthful but doesn’t make everyone happy, and that’s something you have to learn to take in stride. Sometimes it can be hard as a student paper because we may not be taken as seriously as a national newspaper or because we go to class with our readers and sources. But we take ourselves seriously and being a student journalist allows us to look at the campus differently than a student or a journalist would. We always want to show both sides of the story and work for all the reporting, and I hope our readers know that and feel they can trust us.

Is the reaction to your series what you expected, or a greater firestorm than anticipated?

We were preparing for various reactions to the pieces. I think the end result was somewhere in the middle of what we expected. Within minutes of the articles being posted online, two anonymous comments were already on the website. Throughout the day many people were picking up the paper and talking on Twitter and on campus. At first it was a quiet response and we did not receive any letters to the editor about the piece until late in the day Thursday, but then they started picking up over the weekend. The articles did create the most traffic we have see on the website all semester and quickly became the most-read articles on daiyorange.com.

Since we are a college newspaper everything we do becomes a learning experience. The entire staff has learned a lot from this one, whether it is for the reporting/editing process or how the articles were designed. It has also made us think about the relevance of The Daily Orange on campus. Ultimately, the goal of these pieces was to print the truth from both sides and create a conversation about it. Throughout the day on Thursday Beckie was retweeting every Twitter comment on the articles, both good and bad. If readers feel we printed irresponsible journalism, they are welcome to write a letter to the editor about it.

We just finished our last print edition on Tuesday and many of us will be leaving at the paper for the summer or graduation. I hope the staff will continue to learn and think about these articles and what else we can do in terms of reporting and creating a campus conversation.

* Daily Orange stories about chancellor draw response (Syracuse.com)
* Cantor squashes dissent in pursuit of goals, creates chilly atmosphere (Daily Orange)
* Heavy-handed leadership has cultivated fear, resignation faculty (Daily Orange)
* “We do not recognize the person the article profiles” (Daily Orange letter)
* Dozens of faculty and staff criticize the chancellor profile (Daily Orange letter)
* Lessons learned: My final story (KathleenRonayne.com)

An Austin American-Statesman staffer posted this on Facebook Tuesday:

I’m very sad for the newsroom tonight. We’ve been battered and bruised. I remember in 1981, when we said that everything would be better in the new building. And now we’re entertaining offers of selling it. I really am about to cry. I love the paper, but this upheaval is too much. Hugs to my colleagues.

The Statesman reported this morning that its owner is considering “several” unsolicited offers for its prime 18.9-acre lakefront property. The company says in a statement that “no decision has been made at this time,” and that “Cox Media Group remains committed to the Statesman, the Austin community and our employees and has no plans to sell the newspaper.”

Statesman publisher Jane Williams tells her paper that if Cox were to accept an offer, “we would look to relocate the Statesman” elsewhere in Austin because “we’re an Austin newspaper, so I would think Austin would be where we would be relocated, not Buda or Dripping Springs.”

A reminder to publisher Williams: Cox didn’t have any problem moving the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the suburbs when it abandoned its downtown newsroom.

ALSO: A Statesman employee posted on Facebook: “Yesterday, we got the timeline for the consolidated copy desk, which means that our copy desk is disappearing Oct. 1 and moving to Dayton and Palm Beach.”

* Austin American-Statesman weighs offer for property
* Statesman political reporter quits to become House Speaker’s press secretary

The Santa Clarita (CA) Valley Signal has had it with people using its letters-the-the-editor column to endorse their favorite candidates. It “has been used at times by some campaigns as merely a place to ‘get the word out’ about a particular candidate, and not a venue for discussion of issues,” the paper says.

Well, those days are over.

The Signal is now running endorsement letters on a special page and charging 10 cents per word.

The small charge is used to pay for the cost of adding pages to the newspaper to accommodate the letters that, in the past, have been a substantial number. When such letters are received, someone from the Signal staff will contact the sender for confirmation, details on prepayment and when the authorized letter of endorsement will be published.

I’ve emailed a few questions about this to opinion page editor Julian Williamson and will post any response I get.

* Change to endorsement letters policy

-- from today's Lufkin Daily News editorial page

Lufkin Daily News publisher Greg Shrader explains what happened: “A copy editor inexplicably picked up an editorial we had run last December regarding the significance of Pearl Harbor. Her email program had a couple of emails [containing editorials] and she picked the wrong one. I said, ‘Did you read it?’ She said,’Yeah, I wasn’t very good at history.’ I said, ‘No shit.'”

Shrader tells me that he got so many phone calls on Tuesday that he just started picking up the phone when it rang and said before the caller spoke, “Yeah, we ran the wrong editorial.”

* Toasts and Roasts (last item)
* An earlier Lufkin Daily News editorial about Pearl Harbor Day

Toni Momberger, editor of the MediaNews Group-owned Redlands (CA) Daily Facts, describes herself as “a rule follower from way back,” and says “I get my back up when others break rules.”

What’s bugging her lately are the people who break a city council rule limiting public comments to three-minutes per person. She was especially irked by one man’s plan to give his 15-minute presentation by rounding up four others to assist.

Momberger says she likes the idea of “coffee with the council” or something similar to replace comments at meetings. One reason:

My city reporter, Kristina Hernandez, must get their stories turned in by about 8:30 p.m. to make it into print the next morning, and public comment has more than once delayed the meat of a meeting right out of our morning edition.

* Editor’s comment leads to series of meetings

* How the media almost blew Obama’s secret trip to Afghanistan. (CNN.com) | (MSNBC.com)
* UK panel says it was misled by NYDN editor Colin Myler. (New York Times)
* A rough quarter for Time Inc.: operating income down 38%. (All Things D)
* Diller, Welch and Trump offer support for Murdoch. (New York Times)
* “Sarah Phillips has been let go by ESPN.” John Koblin’s investigation does her in. (Deadspin)
* Why is Dan Rather’s book so depressing? (Capital New York)
* Photographers at Occupy Wall Street May Day events attacked by so-called Black Bloc Occupy protesters. (Metro)
* Things are looking up for once bankrupt Minneapolis Star Tribune. (NiemanLab.org)
* Newport News-based Daily Press – a Tribune paper – outsources printing and lays off 85. (Daily Press)
* Gannett and Hilton Hotels sign multi-year deal. (Gannett Blog)