Archive

Daily Archives: October 25, 2012

The headline that ended a journalist’s career

Tony Persichilli, who received unwanted national attention a decade ago for this ROASTED NUTS headline on a story about a psychiatric hospital fire in Trenton, N.J., died Wednesday after battling cancer. He was 59.

The copy editor and columnist left the Trentonian after apologizing a decade ago for the headline that, according to his obit, he did not write. I assume he just approved it. [See the update below] Does anyone have more information? Please let me know.

One of Persichilli’s friends tells the Trentonian that the flap over the headline threw the newsman into a depression that he never recovered from.

“He loved to write,” says the friend, former Mercer County Executive Bob Prunetti. “That’s what he was about. He wrote a couple of books that never were published. He’s got a few manuscripts out there.”

Persichilli wrote in his apology:

I didn’t do it to be mean-spirited. I didn’t intend to hurt anybody’s feelings, upset anyone’s sensibilities or make fun of anyone’s handicaps.

But obviously I did.

I was wrong.

Because, as my management team and the many readers who called, faxed and e-mailed to express their outrage and displeasure pointed out, the headline was inaccurate (no one actually got burned) and insensitive (mental illness is nothing to be made fun of).

They were right.

I was wrong…

John Strausbaugh was sympathetic to Persichilli. He wrote in a New York Press column:

What copy editor at any smalltown newspaper, faced with the often dull and usually daunting chore of dreaming up yet another pithy hed for the umpteenth-million police blotter dispatch on a fire at the orphanage, the busload of schoolkids coming back from choir practice that ran off a bridge, the small plane that crashed through the roof of the bingo hall full of senior citizens, has not fantasized that they were at the New York Post in the good old days?

* Former Trentonian columnist Tony Persichilli dies at 59 (trentonian.com)
* National Alliance for the Mentally Ill criticizes “Roasted Nuts” hed (NAMI)
* It was a “gem” of a headline, according to John Strausbaugh (nypress.com)

UPDATE: Charlie Webster writes

“The real story about the ROASTED NUTS headline was that Tony took the fall for it because he was a stand-up guy and a straight shooter but he was not a rat. Another “copy editor” wrote it as a joke and moved it over to Tony who didn’t flinch because he figured this guy (somewhat a superior) felt it was good because he put it there … so off it went all the way to the doorsteps of readers.

“Tony was a great writer, editor and all-around super guy to know and I’m honored to have been his colleague.”

Rupert Murdoch as Tribune boss?

Pulitzer-winning Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich says: “My first response was simply, ‘Hey, at least he’s a newspaper guy.’ He has a good eye for what works for different markets. I like his version of the Wall Street Journal. Things could be way worse than Rupert Murdoch, at least theoretically.”

A writer who didn’t want to be named tells Michael Miner: “[Murdoch’s] certainly capable of owning and running an upmarket paper — the Sunday Times and Wall Street Journal to wit — and with the addition of columnist Jenny McCarthy to complete the Splash-eriffic degradation of the Sun-Times I don’t think a canny businessman would try to compete in the downmarket newspaper race in Chicago. So I’m not filled with despair.”

I suspect Murdoch doesn’t seem so bad to Tribune Co. journalists after working for Sam Zell, who a few years ago said FU to an Orlando Sentinel photograper who asked about his journalism philosophy and mentioned reader interest in puppy stories.

Zell’s response:

You’re giving me the classic what I call journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don’t count. I don’t know anything about puppies. What I’m interested in is how can we generate additional interest in our product and additional revenue so we can make our product better and better, and hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq.

Here’s the video of Zell’s 2008 exchange with the reporter, and here’s the Sentinel ombudsman account of it.)

By the way, Zell’s F-bomb target — Sara Fajardo — identifies herself on Twitter as a “Tribune Refugee now working as info. officer for humanitarian aid agency.” I’m told that she’s with Catholic Relief Services in Kenya.

* Murdoch or Jenny McCarthy: Who’s the greater menace to the dignity of Chicago journalism? (chicagoreader.com)
* Chicago Tribune, LAT veterans fear possible Murdoch takeover (mediamatters.org)
* Jack Shafer: What happens to Tribune after bankruptcy? (reuters.com)


* Potential New York Post Cannibal Cop headlines (nymag.com)
* “Stop and Bisque,” suggests a New York Post staffer (facebook.com/jimromenesko)
* NYPD cop held in plot to cook women and eat them (nytimes.com)
* First look inside cannibal cop’s apartment (nydailynews.com)

Left: Norman Rockwell’s “The Tattoo Artist,” 1944. Center: “Skin Deep” by Barry Blitt, New Yorker, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, 2012; Right: Angelina Jolie by Victor Juhasz, New York Observer, May 16, 2005.

The New York Observer’s Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke writes: “We are not saying Barry Blitt (who, as a side note, used to draw for our paper) copied us — both Mr. Blitt and Mr. Juhasz were no doubt inspired by one of the more perplexing Norman Rockwell paintings, “The Tattoo Artist.”

* New Yorker cover gives us deja vu (observer.com)

Jim Heaney, who worked at the Buffalo News for 25 years before taking a buyout in the summer of 2011 and starting a non-profit investigative reporting center, writes about Mike Connelly replacing Margaret Sullivan as editor. “His pending arrival — Connelly starts next Monday — has generated a sense of excitement and hopefulness that has long been missing from the newsroom,” he says.

But the best parts of Heaney’s post aren’t about the new newsroom boss; they are these tidbits:

* Warren Buffett has recouped his purchase price many times over. …A decade or so ago, the paper was clearing a million dollars a week. Of late, it’s averaging less than a million a month.

* Factoring out the three-year tenure of Paul Neville, who died while editor in 1969, the News has had a grand total of three editors since 1927.

* The saying that trends come late to Buffalo is especially true when it comes to its daily newspaper. Consider that the News was perhaps the last major daily newspaper in the country to switch from typewriters to computers back in the early 1980s, and the last to transition from a static to a live website in 2007.

* The News has a tradition of having its new presses turned on by the president —- as in, of the United States — remotely from the White House.

Margaret Sullivan and Jim Heaney

I asked Heaney if he cared to tell Romenesko readers more about the Sullivan era at the News. (She, of course, is now New York Times public editor.) He declined, but writes in his last paragraph: “I often told Margaret Sullivan during my tenure at the News, going from 20 to 40 miles an hour isn’t sufficient when industry changes demand 80 mph. Let’s see if Connelly puts his pedal to the metal.”

HEANEY SAID IN A 2009 INTERVIEW: “About a half-dozen reporters and critics [at the Buffalo News] have take up blogging in a serious way. But the News, like the local television stations, isn’t producing much full-blown multimedia work that the web lends itself to.” (Heaney points out that “the News has made strides in doing more digitally” since that interview.)

* Not the same as the old boss at the Buffalo News (investigativepost.org)
* Heaney was one of the few reporters who argued with management, including Sullivan (buffalospree.com)

New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. tells his staff: “We will cover the Savile story with objectivity and rigor. [Incoming Times Co. CEO] Mark [Thompson] endorses that completely as do I. Both of us believe passionately in strong, objective journalism that operates without fear or favor, no matter what it is covering. We have dedicated a significant amount of resources to this story and this is evident by the coverage we have provided our readers.”

The full letter that Sulzberger sent to employees this morning:

October 25, 2012

On the Record — Third Quarter 2012

Arthur writes: Dear Colleagues,

Our third-quarter results announced this morning reflect a challenging advertising environment in both print and digital, which was affected by a number of factors including uncertainty in the global economy, the rapidly changing habits of consumers and the increasing complexity and fragmentation of the digital advertising marketplace. We expect overall advertising revenue trends to be similar for the fourth quarter.

Mark Thompson

On a better note, our results also reflect continued growth in our circulation revenues led by the ongoing expansion of our digital subscription base, both at The Times and the Globe. As of the end of September, paid digital subscriptions across our Company totaled 592,000, up 11 percent from the end of the second quarter.

When you put it all together, the Times Company had an operating profit of $8.5 million in the third quarter of 2012 compared with $21 million in the same period of 2011. Excluding depreciation, amortization and severance, operating profit was $34 million in the third quarter of 2012 compared with $47.7 million in the third quarter of 2011./CONTINUES Read More

The subject line on the email to Romenesko that included Teva footwear’s junket invite: “We give you a trip to NYC and liquor you up; you write nice things about us.”

Read the Teva Media Trip invitation and requirements after the jump. Read More

* New York Times Co. reports third-quarter profit, but revenue slips on advertising weakness. Circulation revenue was a bright spot. (nytimes.com) | (Times release)
* The ad slump is hitting both NYT’s print and digital operations. (allthingsd.com)
* McClatchy says third-quarter profits fell to $5.1 million from $9.4 million a year earlier. (sacbee.com)
* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel parent reports profits up 73% in Q3, thanks to political advertising. (jsonline.com)
* Mobile sign targets Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff. (statter911.com)
* NYT spokesman says incoming CEO Mark Thompson “has the confidence of management.” (washingtonpost.com) | (nytimes.com)
* CNN pulls story about how hormones influence women voters. (theatlanticwire.com)
* WNYC exec addresses complaints about Radiolab “Yellow Rain” report. (minnesota.publicradio.org)
* More on the Stanford Daily and Daily Californian rivalry: “The future of this [Ink Bowl] tradition is cloudy.” (dailycal.org)
* Manhole explosion temporarily knocks out power to Boston Globe. (boston.com)