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Daily Archives: December 7, 2012

Connecticut Post reporter Anne Amato has filed an age discrimination suit against her employer. The 64-year-old journalist contends the Hearst paper is trying to “rid itself of its older reporters” while letting a young staffer take what the New Haven Independent calls “surfing sabbatical.” (I’m told that she’s taking unpaid time off and that there’s no guarantee she’ll have a job when returns home.)

Amato says she was put on a “personal improvement plan” in October 2011, and that three other reporters over the age of 40 “were given threats of termination.” Post executive editor Barbara Roessner writes in an email: “Hearst does not discriminate on any basis.”

Brittany Lyte on the surfboard

Attorney John Williams compares his client with 25-year-old reporter and surfer Brittany Lyte:

It’s pretty appalling. You have a reporter whose commitment to the paper extends no further than that, then you have somebody like Anne, a dogged reporter from the ground level up, and you treat her like they did.

Journalism professor and media critic Dan Kennedy isn’t surprised the paper gave Lyte time off to surf. “I would imagine that in this incredibly challenging environment, if one of your people came to you and said ‘I would like to leave the paper for a year and not get paid,’ that is attractive for a whole host of reasons.”

One labor attorney wonders what Amato’s damages are since she’s still at the paper. “I’m not sure she’s been harmed at this point,” says Jonathan Orleans. “That’s part of her burden in the case.”

What happened to your fun tweets, Brittany? I checked Lyte’s Twitter page when I started writing this post and began following her.

The deleted tweets

I returned to her page before publishing this post to get the URL and noticed that some of her “fun tweets” were missing. Fortunately I had left her page open from my first visit so I was able to see what she deleted: tweets about an airport bar tab, surfing, and spotting Diane Keaton. Go ahead and have fun, Brittany — and tweet away!

* Connecticut Post reporter sues her employer (newhavenindependent.org)

As contract negotiations begin at the Star Tribune, veteran reporter Steve Brandt tells his bosses about “the impact of the company’s pay policy on my well-being and that of our family.”

Sign in the Star Tribune newsroom

Journalists at the Minneapolis paper haven’t had raises since 2007, and the cost of living has risen 11.8% in the past five years, according to Brandt. “In fact, most of us are earning less than we have in years, due to reductions in merit pay,” the 61-year-old education reporter writes in an open letter posted today on the Strib Guild website.

That has had a negative impact on my family’s well-being. My wife and I now differ more over financial matters than we have at any time in our 37 years of marriage. We strive to live by a relatively conservative financial standard, paying off credit card bills monthly and incurring no long-term debt aside from our mortgage. We now find our paychecks straining to cover our monthly bills.

Brandt’s wife works for a nonprofit, “but even that organization has been able to squeeze out a percent or two raise each year,” he writes. “I believe that this company has the capacity to grant similar increases to its workers. That would truly signal a respectful workplace.” (His last sentence is a reference to this week’s “respectful workplace” training sessions at the Star Tribune.)

Brandt tells me he got a reply from publisher Mike Klingensmith that “expressed some sympathy, but stated their position …I regard it as a considerate letter.” (“I consider it a personal exchange,” Klingensmith said when I asked for his email to post here. Brandt declined to forward it without the publisher’s permission.)

Bargaining begins in two weeks. In the meantime, Strib journalists have been wearing green on Fridays and have desk placards that read, “Show Us the Green in 2013.”

* A letter to management from a Guild member (stribguild.com)

Ask yourself if it’s more or less the same that’s freely available at a million other places online. “If so, you should not put your content behind a paywall, because people will just click somewhere else for it,” writes Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan. “When a media outlet evaluates itself in this way, it is necessary for its editors and executives to momentarily suspend their egos.”

Hamilton gets extra points for honesty:

Gawker Media — a fine, fine company that entertains millions of readers online every month — would not be a good candidate for a paywall, simply because no matter how good our content is, a paywall would immediately cause readers to go and seek out similar (lower quality, of course) content elsewhere online, where it is freely available.

Who can get away with charging for online content: “High quality national newspapers (NYT, WSJ, probably the WaPo, and… ?), sites that offer quality financial news to an audience for whom a paywall’s cost is negligible (WSJ, FT, Bloomberg), sites that cater to very specific niche audiences with highly specific news that can’t be easily found elsewhere (Politico, trade publications of all types, small local newspapers), sites offering very high quality proprietary longform journalism published on a frequent basis.”

* A few hard truths about paywalls and the future of media (gawker.com)

Boston University College of Communication graduate student and aspiring photojournalist Christopher Weigl was killed Thursday when his bicycle collided with a tractor-trailer.

“He was a terrific young man who would have made a spectacular photojournalist,” BU journalism professor Mitchell Zuckoff tells the Boston Globe. “He wanted to tell the human stories. He was someone who really cared deeply about people and storytelling.”

Christopher Weigl

A tribute to Weigl in the Community Advocate, which used the student as a contributor, says “he was curious by nature, and so affable people would open up to him, and he had an ‘eye’ which allowed him to artfully capture a subject or event with his camera.

“His family has lost someone irreplaceable and journalism has lost a sure-to-be shining star.”

The 23-year-old man wrote his own obit three months ago for a class assignment, and joked in the piece that he “passed away September 5 after protracted complications stemming from obituary writing.” He got serious:

An avid outdoorsman, Christopher obtained the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14 and remained an active member of Boy Scout Troop 1 till his 18th birthday.

In addition to scouting, Christopher was an accomplished clarinet player throughout his years of schooling, and played in a variety of ensembles including the Central District Band and Orchestra, MetroWest Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Worcester Youth Symphony ­Orchestra. …

Christopher leaves his parents, Bonnie and Andy Weigl, his brother Dustin, and cat Ivy.

Weigl tweeted on Tuesday: “Heading to Cuba next semester with Essdras Suarez! And just got an internship at Harvard University Press! A good day.”

* “Incredibly well-liked” BU student killed in bicycle accident (boston.com)
* Brian McGrory: BU student wrote his obit in September (bostonglobe.com)
* “It seemed like he was born to his profession. It came so easily to him.” (bu.edu) | His twitter feed (@WeiglPhoto)

In 2006, The Economist asked in a cover story: “Who killed the newspaper?” The magazine said “it is only a matter of time” before newspapers “shut down in large numbers.” In fact, “over the next few decades half the rich world’s general papers may fold.”

One threat to newspapers, the magazine said six years ago, is “a new force of ‘citizen’ journalists and bloggers [that's] itching to hold politicians to account.”

New online models will spring up as papers retreat. One non-profit group, NewAssignment.Net, plans to combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the internet. Aptly, $10,000 of cash for the project has come from Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, a group of free classified-advertisement websites that has probably done more than anything to destroy newspapers’ income.

The piece went on to say that for hard-news reporting, “the results of net journalism have admittedly been limited … but it is still early days.” (What happened to NewAssignment.net? It hasn’t been updated since 2010.)

Six years later, the Economist reports “things have started to look a bit less grim, particularly in America.” Here’s why that is, according to the magazine:

* “At some papers, such as the New York Times, circulation revenues this year are forecast to offset the decline in advertising for the first time in at least five years.”
* “Tablets and other mobile devices have also been a boon for news organisations, because they make paid digital subscriptions more attractive.”
* “Newspapers have been heartened by evidence that pay systems can work.”

This cheery report comes out as The Huffington Post Media section headline screams “BLEAK WEEK,” citing The Daily’s demise, New York Times buyouts, Plain Dealer layoffs and other bad news.

The Economist’s piece is, tweets Raju Narisetti of the Wall Street Journal, “a premature toast to newspapers.”

* Newspaper industry finally has some good news (economist.com)
* Economist in 2006: Who killed the newspaper? (economist.com)