Daily Archives: December 18, 2012

UPDATE: “The real estate brokers told [executive editor Rex] Smith they wanted to see stories that portray agents favorably. One said [publisher George] Hearst’s letter should be published as an editorial in the paper.” From the Albany Business Review’s story on the agents who are upset with the Times Union.


Two weeks ago, Albany Times Union reporter Kristi Barlette solicited anecdotes for a quickie Real Estate section item about agents. “What advice did he or she give that you ignored?” she asked. “Why did you decide not to take their advice, and how did it turn out?”
Albany-area agents saw the responses in last Sunday’s paper — here’s one: “They want the fastest sale more than the highest price” — and were furious.

“This story was totally out of line,” says Anthony Gucciardo, who claims to be the top real estate agent in upstate New York. “I emailed my sales rep and canceled a $10,000 advertising contract.”

On Monday, Times Union publisher George Hearst III interrupted his 3-week vacation to apologize to the real estate community for what he calls a “one-sided …unfortunate article.”

In a letter to area realtors, (Gucciardo read it to me), Hearst says the Times Union will run full page ads touting the value of real estate agents; the campaign started today and ends Sunday.



“Our intent is to show how important realtors and agents are to our community and how important you are to us,” writes Hearst. “We’ll right this wrong any way we can.” (He wasn’t available for comment this afternoon.)

Three Times Union representatives, including executive editor Rex Smith, met this afternoon with 20 members of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors. James Ader, who is CEO of that group, tells me that Smith “was apologetic” and said “the article should not have appeared as it did.”

Ader says his members’ “feelings were hurt” by the piece. (Realtor Gucciardo felt better though on Monday morning when “they called with a fabulous incentive [to restore his advertising contract] and I accepted. I believe mistakes happen.”)

Asked for comment, editor Smith writes in an email: “We’re not going to have anything to say about this one. Sorry.” (I contacted Barlette, but she declined to say anything without Smith’s permission.)

* Just skip it: Sometimes it pays to follow your own instincts

The Chicago Newspaper Guild says it was “dismayed” to see Sun-Times owner Wrapports’ three demands in its three-page offer for a three-year contract. They are:

Creation of a new, lower-paid classification of reporters, photographers, designers and copy editors, to work at units for up to two years, for as low as $13.50 per hour. Up to five of these so-called interns could work at any Guild unit, in hopes of being hired permanently;Unknown-1

Establishment of a 10 hour day before overtime is paid. Pioneer Press employees already labor under this extraordinary requirement, and the Company wants to impose it on all Guild-represented units that now operate under more reasonable overtime parameters;

Maintenance of the existing Memorandum of Understanding, which in 2009 cut our pay a minimum of 15 percent through various mechanisms, and which cut our job security by eliminating most of the jurisdiction and seniority protections embedded in our contracts.

Read the Guild bulletin after the jump:

Read More

Robin Fields has been promoted to managing editor at ProPublica, succeeding Stephen Engelberg, who becomes editor-in-chief. He replaces Paul Steiger, who becomes executive chairman.

Umansky and Fields

Umansky and Fields

Also, senior editor Eric Umansky has appointed to the new position of assistant managing editor. He’ll be in charge of recruiting and overseeing ProPublica’s more quick-paced coverage, says the news release.

“He will also be playing an expanded role in spotting and recruiting the next generation of investigative journalists.”

Read the full release after the jump. Read More

Letter to Romenesko:

From RYAN HOLEYWELL: Here’s why algorithms will never replace editors:

I went onto today, and one of the lead “stories” was something suggesting that the Connecticut shootings were a terrorist attack, and Adam Lanza was just a patsy. Kind of embarrassing. I attached a screen shot. Second email: I didn’t even notice that there was another story on the page blaming the attack on Israel.

The Paducah (KY) Sun received a letter Monday from a high school student who claimed a classmate “has brought weapons twice” to school and “has yet to be punished for anything.”
The newspaper shared the letter with the sheriff’s department, but didn’t reveal the author’s name.

“The letter does not contain any specific threats of violence, just the student’s observations,” the Sun notes, but still the Paducah middle school and high school are closed today.

The sheriff put out a press release late Monday claiming the letter “contained a serious threat” and that “when myself and a detective requested the letter, as well as the authors [sic] name and phone number which was attached to the letter, our request was denied, citing ethical obligations to protect the newspapers sources.”

The sheriff’s release continues:

It was decided for the safety of the students, that school will be cancelled and the school will not be in session until the threat has been adequately investigated. The closure includes the Reidland Middle School only as an extra precaution due to the two school buildings being attached.

Efforts to obtain the much needed information from the Paducah Sun will continue.

The newspaper is getting slammed in the comments below the sheriff’s release on Facebook: “Wow! Talk about ethical obligations! Everyone should cancel their subscription to the Paducah Sun!” Another person wrote: “Obstruction charges should be filed if legal and the powers that be over the sun should be jailed.”

The paper says it’s consulting a lawyer about identifying the letter-writer’s name.

I’ve asked editor Duke Conover for comment.

* Letter to Paduch Sun questions high school security (
* Schools closed on Tuesday due to threat (
* Read the sheriff’s department news release

Andrew Hyde wrote on his blog last week: “It appears that the long fought battle to drop the hyphen in the word “startup” has won an important victory today: The Washington Post. December 10th appears the last time they used the hyphenated bastardization of an industry I love.”

Sorry, Andrew, but the Washington Post’s Bill Walsh tells me in an email: “There has been no such change.”

* Washington Post Style Guide now includes startup as a word (

Letter to Romenesko

From JASON FEIFER: I’ve been poking around recently, and just came across this great nugget from a 1694 dispatch called Account Of The Publick Tranasctions in Christendom.



I call your attention to the second page, the last paragraph before Advertisements [image below], where the reporter announces “no considerable News, except that the Emperor of China, his Court, and a great Part of his Kingdom have embraced the Christian Religion; but this is too extraordinary to be believed without farther Confirmation.”

It got me thinking about the media conversation in the wake of the Newtown shooting—about how, like during so many breaking stories, reporters were too quick to report details that turned out to be incorrect. As we look at what went wrong, we often blame technology like Twitter, and reporting protocols that haven’t caught up to our instant news cycle. And yet, the Account reminds us that there has long been an instinct to report before confirmation. Though, the writer in 1694 did at least hedge the news. Who knows how fast it spread before he could issue a correction.

Photo: Mike McGregor

Photo: Mike McGregor

Out magazine “Person of the Year” Nate Silver tells the magazine that “to my friends, I’m kind of sexually gay but ethnically straight.” He adds: “For me, I think the most important distinguishing characteristic is that I’m independent-minded. I’m sure that being gay encouraged the independent-mindedness, but that same independent-mindedness makes me a little bit skeptical of parts of gay culture, I suppose.” (

* Charles Lane: Journalism needs “a genuine rededication to the values of accuracy, skepticism and prudence with which we already claim to operate.” (
* Steve Buttry believes says (sorry, Bill Dedman!) journalism is improving, not declining. (
* A choked-up David Letterman spends about six minutes discussing the Newtown shootings. ( | Video (full show) (
* Can you get PTSD from reading too much news about the Newtown shootings? (
* Networks scramble to be sensitive: “American Guns” isn’t renewed; “Best Funeral Ever” premiere postponed. (
* Video of NBC’s Richard Engel before he was freed is now on YouTube. (
* 87% of magazine and newspaper publishers have an iPad app. (
* Did a reporter’s return to a 1967 Newsweek story cause more harm? (
* Brian Richards: My playbook for making local journalism viable. (

NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his team have been freed and are safely out of Syria after being held for five days.

engelEngel said on the “Today” show that they were traveling with Syrian rebels when about 15 gunmen “jumped out the trees and bushes” and captured them.

“We weren’t physically beaten or tortured,” he said. “It was a lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused there were mock shootings. They pretended to [producer] Ghazi [Balkiz] several times.”

NBC News reports:

Early Monday evening local time, the prisoners were being moved to a new location in a vehicle when their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued.

Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped, the network said. The NBC News crew was unharmed in the incident.

* Richard Engel and NBC News team freed from captors (
* How NBC News kept Richard Engel’s disappearance secret (
* Earlier: Engel is missing in Syria; NBC News enforces blackout (