Daily Archives: May 25, 2012

Audio: Veteran Times-Picayune reporter on how staff heard the news (NYT)
Video: Carr on what’s happening with papers in New Orleans, Michigan (NYT)
More on newspaper changes in New Orleans, Alabama (

UPDATE: The editor of the Birmingham News — one of the Newhouse papers that’s cutting staff and print editions — is stepping down this fall.

-- Different headlines on the same Huffington Post story

Guess who’s coming to dinner — FDR or Teddy?

(NPR has it right — it’s Teddy)

* Franklin Roosevelt’s Controversial Dinner with Booker T. Washington
* Theodore Roosevelt’s Controversial Dinner with Booker T. Washington

A jury on Thursday awarded $3 million to an assistant principal who sued the Virginian-Pilot for libel after it reported that his son wasn’t disciplined by the school system after the boy was arrested for felony assault.

“This is frustrating,” editor Denis Finley says in his newspaper’s story. “Everything we wrote about Mr. Webb was accurate and true.”

Finley sent this email to his staff earlier today:

Denis Finley to NEWS [and others]

As you all know by now, we lost the second Webb case to the tune of $3 million. I’m at a loss, to be honest. I don’t think this case could have been any clearer for us. I still don’t understand why it ever even proceeded to a jury.

This isn’t over of course. We are petitioning the court to have the verdict set aside. That process should take two to three months. We think we have a very good case and hope that reason will prevail. If the judge does not set the verdict aside, we will appeal.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, allow me to remind you:

* Be careful what you say in an email about any story. Emails, even innocuous ones, are discoverable in a lawsuit and can be used against us. For example, I called Lou’s story a “yarn” in an email recognizing him for the story. I was not called to testify in this case, but I could have been called to explain what I meant by the word “yarn.” Webb’s lawyer called me in the first case and tried to make the point that “yarn” meant the story was made up. Of course it was not, and “yarn” was simply another word for a good story.

* If you are writing a story that references court testimony, be sure to attribute to court testimony.

* If you are quoting a report or testimony, use the exact words. For example, if a report says a teacher demanded that students do something, use “demanded” in the story, don’t change it to another word, like “coerce” for example.

Please be aware this is no reflection on Lou Hansen, who did everything a good reporter is supposed to do. We never imagined that the father, (who is a public official), of two young men who beat up the parent of another student at 1 a.m. could win a defamation suit despite the fact that no damages could be proved and nothing in the story indicated that the father did anything to get one of the sons preferential treatment at school. Apparently, the jury saw this, but I am bewildered as to how they did.

I can answer any questions any of you might have. Just email me or stop by.

Thanks, Denis

* Man awarded $3 million in Pilot libel suit (Virginian-Pilot)

UPDATE: St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter David Hanners writes on my Facebook wall:

I remember the Dallas Morning News’s lawyers always told us to refer to what we wrote as an “article,” not a “story,” out of fear jurors might hear “story” and think “fairy tale.”

Ed Sherman did a Q-and-A with USA Today sports group editor-in-chief Dave Morgan about this week’s sacking of many veteran sports journalists at the paper. One question:

What was behind what you did this week?

It’ll show itself with how we’re defining new jobs going forward. I’m basing a lot on breaking news with a specific level of expertise. You look at the NFL. We’re looking to break news in a (highly) competitive setting. We want people setting the agenda for the sport they’re covering.

What about charges that the paper was simply getting rid of higher-priced longtime staffers? “If you look at the make-up of our staff going forward, that’s not true,” says Morgan.

* USA Today sports editor: We’re expanding, not cutting (Sherman Report)

The stolen bike

A Seattle Times’ story about her bike being stolen moved the mayor’s wife to cancel the paper.

“I don’t want to make a big deal about this,” says Peg Lynch, wife of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “We didn’t do it. I just did it myself. I kind of run the household stuff. But for me, my bike getting stolen, and the coverage of that, was just kind of the last straw.”

* Why Mayor McGinn’s wife cancelled her family’s Seattle Times subscription (The Stranger)

Eric Simons

Eric Simons lived at AOL’s Palo Alto campus for two months, “hiding out at night on couches, eating the company’s food, and exercising and showering in its gym,” reports CNET’s David Terdiman.

“I couldn’t afford to live anywhere,” says 20-year-old Simons.

His free-rent deal ended this way:

One of the guys who manages the building came in at like 5 or 6 in the morning, and he scoured the entire place to find me. And he ripped me a new one. He was pissed that I was treating it like a dorm. Which was reasonable.

* Meet the tireless entrepreneur who squatted at AOL for two months (CNET)

The Chicago Sun-Times, which has a daily circulation of 422,355, aims to add 100,000 new subscribers over the next two years by beefing up sports, celebrities and business coverage.

“We’re becoming the No. 1 local newspaper in U.S. — we can do it,” Michael Ferro, chairman of the company that bought the paper last December, told a Chicago City Club lunch crowd on Thursday. “We’re not buying the Tribune, by the way.” (An earlier Crain’s story “hinted” that Ferro might purchase the rival paper once it exits bankruptcy.)

Crain’s Lynne Marek reports:

With regard to his digital strategy, Mr. Ferro said he’s trying to create a “great user interface” for a tablet application that is in the works. On that front, he praised the example set by the New York Post tablet application.

And in his goal to make the paper “credible, colorful and charitable,” he said the company will also make a multimillion-dollar contribution to a new Sun-Times Foundation to be affiliated with the Chicago Community Trust.

Chicago Tribune Editor Gerry Kern, who was at the luncheon, declined to comment on Ferro’s plans.

* Sun-Times owner: We’re not buying Chicago Tribune (Crain’s)
* Sun-Times to bolster sports, business entertainment content (Chicago Tribune)
* Earlier: Will the Sun-Times buy the Tribune? (

(Credit: Ted Jackson)

@johnmcquaid Says it all: photo of Times-Picayune staff meeting yesterday, by Ted Jackson

Letter to Romenesko

From BRUCE VAIL: Photo of the Times-Pic staff getting the bad news is grim indeed.

It also struck me how white this crowd is. I thought NO was a city with a lot of black and brown people?

Another example that America’s old-fashioned newsrooms never took the diversity idea seriously (except to bring in a lot of lower paid females).

[Anyone from the Times-Picayune care to share some newsroom diversity stats?]

-- Mobile Press-Register

I asked Press-Register editor Mike Marshall if he wanted to explain/defend his paper’s widely criticized headline. He wrote:

I helped write that headline and guess I got caught up in the moment. The reduction of publication days to three per week had been the storyline all day Thursday. I wanted to make sure our readers got that we are also building a digital future. In my mind, that’s the big story.

* “This is a forced march to digital,” says Ken Doctor (New York Times)
* Times-Picayune changes bring strong reactions from subscribers, others (
* Dear Mr. Newhouse: New Orleans needs a daily Times-Picayune (Capital New York)
* Rieder: If ever a city needed a vibrant journalistic presence, it’s New Orleans (AJR)
* The whole state of Louisiana is corrupt; why would it need journalists? (
* Some public officials tweeted support for Times-Picayune, others were silent (Gambit)
* A digital medium can’t do what the Times-Pic did after the flood (Chicago Reader)
* Editor at Buffett-owned paper on Times-Picayune and boss’s memo (Buffalo News)
* Times-Pic and the completely logical collapse of the newspaper industry (Gawker)