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John Cook, who was named Gawker Media executive editor on Tuesday, tells his staff he wants to “expand our influence; professionalize; [and] expand the spectrum of editorial offerings.” His memo:

From: John Cook
Date: Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 4:24 PM
Subject: OK So Here We Go
To: Edit

Well, yesterday’s announcement didn’t quite go as planned, owing to the leaky ship upon which we sail together. We’ll be having an edit all-hands on Thursday at 4 p.m. where I will talk a bit about what I have in mind going forward, and take your questions — including anonymously submitted ones.

But for now I will say this about what I want to do:

Expand our influence. What we say matters. We are already good at focusing the attention of our peers and of the world on the things we care about—witness today’s New York Times, which cites Bobby Finger’s reporting by name in an op-ed on Texas’ educational standards, and finally, at long last, and clearly against its will, weighs in on the effective end of accused child abuser Kevin Johnson’s political career at the hands of Deadspin’s Dave McKenna. We are good at this. But we can be better. I want to encourage and help launch set-piece posts—stories and arguments and jokes and images and videos that lodge in the public consciousness, and change the way people think or behave. Not just scoops. Arguments, opinions, critiques, observations, reviews—oh hell, even memes—that make a splash. Sometimes, like Scocca on smarm, they take months of labor, and sometimes, like Scocca on Cosby, they are dashed off in a huff. But they matter. I want us to matter even more./CONTINUES Read More

A Romenesko reader and Cleveland Plain Dealer staffer sends this email: “[In a memo to staff], Editor George Rodrigue summarizes the number of seconds readers spent on online posts on average, broken down by type of story. Note that Watchdog stories ranked highest — two minutes. Sports remain popular.

“The big picture here is this: when are advertisers going to start caring more about these numbers – seconds per story – rather than just clicks? As [a PD journalist] who has listened to all of management’s demands about quotas, etc. during the last two years, I would argue that they’ve dug their own grave. [Rodrigue became PD editor in January.] The editors focused on the quantity of posts with sometimes sensational headlines, but not much on substance. They’re currently pushing everyone to increase their number of posts and page views by 25% compared with last year.”

From: George Rodrigue
Sent: Monday, August 03, 2015 11:10 AM
To: pdeditorial
Subject: This week’s digital report

Folks,

I did an unusual thing with last week’s Omniture report. I measured time spent reading, then sorted the list according to that. I’ve posted that list on the door to Thom’s old office. [He’s referring to former M.E. Thom Fladung.]

These measurements are not perfect. People can wander away from their computer or leave a window open, and it looks like they’re still reading. On the other hand, they’re all we have, and they might teach us a few lessons. For instance, the headline’s what gets readers to spend their first few seconds with one of our articles. The content’s what keeps them around. Time spent reading is a good index of engagement with our material, and engagement is what produces loyalty./CONTINUES Read More

Letter to Romenesko

A GateHouse Media employee writes:

The attached shiny new employee handbook does a lot of shitty things, but most deplorable are the reduction in the number of paid holidays from nine to six, and the increase in the threshhold for calculating overtime. [Non-management employees] are paid for 37.5 hours; now they can’t get overtime unless they work 40 hours.

Update – A former GateHouse manager writes: “GateHouse has recognized just the 6 paid holidays for years, and the OT policy has applied for years as well. Looks like some properties acquired by GateHouse are just getting the GateHouse Handbook implemented and are experiencing changes from what they’re used to. The link to the letter is addressed to Cape Cod Media Group and SouthCoast Media Group employees, who fall under the GH umbrella as of 2013.”

* GateHouse Handbook reflects policy changes (Google Drive)
* Earlier: GateHouse papers cut coffee service and office supplies (jimromenesko.com)

Gawker staffers started their week with this note from the editor-in-chief:

From: Max Read
Date: Monday, July 13, 2015
Subject:
To: Gawker Writers

Between Food Babe, O’Reilly, the Duggars, and the recent Reddit storms, we’ve had a good few months, but we’re coasting on our successes and slipping at the margins. Cucumber season is here, and it’s easy, in the wake of good stories and solid traffic, to get lazy and let the day-to-day work decline in quality. It’s also the worst time to do so. Keep the following in mind as you work:

1) Headlines — as I said in Slack the other day headlines are slowly getting lazier and more boring (on the one hand) or too cutesy and self-amused (on the other). If they’re too straightforward, they’ll put readers to sleep; if they’re too ironic or in-jokey, they’ll drive readers away. We can be descriptive and also intriguing, challenging without being alienating.

Headlines should inspire a reaction, tell a good story, express an opinion (ideally, all three!); as much as anything else, they’re a good gut-check to make sure your story has an angle or a point. If you can’t come up with a good headline for your post, you need to ask yourself why you’re writing it.

2) Glibness — is our worst and most frequent sin. You can be blunt and candid without being glib. Gawker is a very loud megaphone, and its history means it’s accompanied by set of often unfair expectations about tone and angle. When people assume everything you say is meant to be cruel or mean-spirited, a small amount of sarcasm goes a very long way.

This is as much a rhetorical strategy as anything. We can subtly and correctly acknowledge that Christian Audigier’s clothing was worn by horrible people, or that Reddit is a hive of scum and villainy (to name two recent examples we talked through in edits), without overburdening posts with weak or overwrought jokes. Commenters will always make the bluntest and most obvious jokes; let’s leave those to them.

3) Obsession — Our most recent big, excellent, smart stories–Allie on the Duggars, Ashley on Reddit and Victoria Taylor, Andy on the subway shooting, Keenan on Buzzfeed–have come because writers became obsessed–they came across a big (or small) story, dove deep, wrote it all down, and asked every question that came up–blogging the whole time. Even in cases where we aren’t able to break the news or get the scoop, obsession leads to the kind of smart, comprehensive, popular, can’t-find-it-anywhere-else stuff that we’re all proud of.

This kind of story-hunting obsession is the first that goes when we start feeling ourselves too much. (Or when we spend too much time dicking around in Slack.) Allow your obsessions to carry you; whatever you do, don’t ever throw up your hands and figure someone else will do it, or that we’ll get it next time. If you’re having trouble prioritizing, talk to me or Leah B and we’ll help. And generally, on all these points, avail yourselves of your editors and Politburo! We’re here to help.



“It’s really touching!” my tipster says of Wall Street Journal reporter Nick Casey‘s farewell note to colleagues. He’s right.

No matter what war zone or rich potentate I’d been writing about, when I came home to the trailer park for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t a Wall Street Journal reporter — I was my mother’s son, living in place she’d raised me in. Those trips home kept me from getting a big head.

From: Casey, Nicholas
Sent: Thursday, July 09, 2015 6:56 AM
To: WSJ All News Staff
Subject: The House the Journal Bought

Hi everyone. It’s been eight years, but it’s all done now. I’m finishing my time at The Wall Street Journal this week. I’m heading to The New York Times.

I want to ask you to watch over some of the great leaders this paper produced like Bruce Orwall, Rebecca Blumenstein, Matt Murray. They were my guiding lights, and they can be yours too if they aren’t already. And keep an eye on what the great writers at this paper are up to, like Miriam Jordan and John Emshwiller; Joe Parkinson and Nour Malas; Bill Spindle and David Luhnow; Meg Coker, Jose de Córdoba, Gary Fields, Charles Forelle, Adam Entous, Gordon Fairclough.

It’s a hard time at the Journal now with many people suddenly going away this summer for all sorts of reasons around the Empire. I just want to say before I leave that even if it takes the gestation period of a llama to report your story, sometimes that’s the time it takes. I believe that llamas are noble creatures and it’s those llama-length stories that are remembered. Find new ways to write them!/CONTINUES Read More

Memo to the Gawker Media staff:

From: Nick Denton
Date: Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 3:06 PM
Subject: Gawker financials ahead of Hogan trial
To: All Staff

Hey, a heads-up that there will be a negative story on Gawker’s financial position by Keith Kelly in Monday’s New York Post. Kelly is the same guy who wrote of the “disgrace” of the hacking of Gawker in 2011. And the Editor of the Post owes us no favors, especially after John Cook [Tom Scocca, actually] called him a pig-fucking drunk. It’s payback time. We dish it out; sometimes we have to take it.

Anyway, we got out ahead of the slam by releasing company financials that would have come out in trial anyway. The more facts that are out there, the harder it is to twist the story.

The information has gone out widely, but here’s the Observer pickup.

Breaking: Despite Hulk of a Lawsuit, Financials Show Gawker Making Money, Moves

By the way, I know I’m deluging people’s inboxes with all this press pickup. I assume you’d all rather know more than less.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Nick

——–

Update: Here’s Keith Kelly’s story

Denver Post editor Greg Moore sent the memo below to his staff earlier today. Some key points:

* No one should assume he or she will be doing in the future what they do now. We are going to have to reassign some people after the buyout is completed.

* Beginning July 6, you’ll notice the Monday and Tuesday newspapers are smaller. These days were our weakest in terms of circulation and revenue.

* We want to create an Audience team that will sit (figuratively) between Digital and the content departments. This will include an expanded social media team that will also dig into our analytics in real time.

Colleagues:

When we announced the buyout, I mentioned there would be changes to the print product, our work processes and new assignments. I also said that there would be dialogue about some of these changes. We will start some public meetings to share ideas the week of July 13.

In the meantime, here is where we are so far.

Beginning July 6, you’ll notice the Monday and Tuesday newspapers are smaller. These days were our weakest in terms of circulation and revenue. Denver and The West will start on page A2 Monday through Saturday. It will remain a stand-alone section on Sunday. On Monday, we will go to a two-section newspaper. The A section will have DTW, Nation/World, and editorials and weather on one page. The B section will have Sports, comics, puzzles and a single page of TechKnow. We are eliminating the $mart pages.

Tuesday’s newspaper will be similarly slimmed down. It is already a two-section newspaper. We will keep Fitness to one page on the back of the Sports section. The editorial page and weather will remain where they are.

These “quick read” newspapers will require much tighter editing of stories and virtual elimination of jumps. We imagine fewer jumps off Page One and Sports with maximum lengths of about 20-25 inches on stories. The space savings are significant but these changes also allow us to realign people and processes. We are beginning to think about that./CONTINUES Read More

Last Tuesday, the union representing journalists at the Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones properties asked members if they wanted to extend their contract with a small raise, or negotiate a new one. “The results are in,” the union says, “and your answer is clear: extend the contract.” The memo:

From: IAPE TNG/CWA Local 1096
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 8:01 AM
Subject: IAPE Contract Update: Survey Says . . . !!

IAPE members – thanks to all who responded to our survey request last week.

To refresh your memory, we asked whether you would prefer to extend our current contract for another year – keeping all terms, including the Company’s flexibility to modify healthcare – or negotiate toward a brand new agreement with Dow Jones.

The results are in, and your answer is clear: extend the contract. That’s the message we received in 497 responses, while 148 told us to negotiate and 17 were undecided./CONTINUES Read More

Update: Tentative agreement reached.

Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News human resources chief Keith Black tells Guild members that, in case of a strike, they can continue working and “we will make arrangements for security to protect everyone’s safety.” He adds that “at your manager’s discretion, you may be permitted to work from home or from another remote location.”

Journalists who choose to strike are welcome to return to the newsroom when there’s a settlement “if there is still work available … [but] if there is not work available for everyone, then some of the striking employees will not be able to return at that time.”

The Philadelphia Newspaper Guild says the HR boss is trying to scare journalists into settling with management.

From: Guild Bulletin
Date: 06/25/2015 11:04 AM (GMT-05:00)
To:
Subject: GUILD BULLETIN: RESPONSE TO KEITH BLACK EMAIL

Guild members,

Keith Black’s memo regarding strike–related issues is a rather clumsy and predictable attempt to frighten our members to accept the Company’s inferior contract offer. His ‘helpful advice’ in the FAQ on how you can work in the event of a strike, that he claims the company “created” is a disingenuous blueprint on how to become a scab, that has been used by union busting employers for decades. Plagiarism in its purest form. As your bargaining committee can assure you, Black’s absence of credibility and incompetence has been consistent throughout these negotiations./CONTINUES Read More

The union representing Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones employees is asking members if they want a new contract or extend the current contract, with a small raise. The memo:

From: IAPE TNG/CWA Local 1096
To: [Union members]
Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 8:13 AM
Subject: ONE QUESTION: 2015 IAPE Contract Survey

IAPE members – this morning, we’re asking you to answer one question: would you rather have the Union engage in full negotiations for a new contract with Dow Jones, or agree to an extension for one more year? Weigh in here: [Survey link]

Late last month, Dow Jones negotiators approached IAPE representatives with an offer to extend our contract for another year, just as we did in 2014. The IAPE Board of Directors has been wrestling with the choice: take the extension and a guaranteed raise for all (knowing that the Company will have the same flexibility to modify healthcare as they did in January of this year) or demand negotiations for a new contract (knowing that anything we take from Dow Jones – in cost-cutting mode – will only be achieved by membership action and visible support in every workplace)./CONTINUES Read More