Saturday, April 30, 2005

Here's BJ's new freebie 77 South

The new BJ tabloid first edition

Here’'s the first issue (April 28, 2995) of the BJ freebie weekly tabloid 77 South, serving Lakemore, New Franklin, Springfield, Coventry, Green and Manchester. The BJ announced the publication when the Leader which has long served the area said it would cease publication. Later the publisher decided to continue, so there is now a little competition there.

77 South got off to a rousing start with a front cover column by Steve Love and a story by BJ staffer Stephanie Warsmith on the Green Schools levy on the May ballot. There also was a color ad spread across the bottom for Beiler’'s Dutch Penn Market in Uniontown. Inside was a welcome letter by managing editor Mike Burdich and an impressive staff box listing Charlene Nevada, news; Bill Lilley, sports; and Kimberly Barth, photography. Ralph Paulk and David Lee Morgan each had a byline and George Davis, BJ retiree, had three. There was a double-truck color ad from Bedrooms Today and two full-page ads by Fred Martin Chevrolet plus three pages of classified.and 16 or so other ads and a couple of promotion ads in the 24 pages. There were 15 news stories

The South Side News Leader, sitting on the same store shelf, had six news stories and four photos on its front page and 24 items inside its 20 pages. There were more than 50 small ads and three pages of classified , but no full-page or double-trucks. There was one ad seeking freelance reporters for the Leader.

As profit rises, Pulitzer wins decrease

There is an interesting Q&A with Davis “Buzz” Merritt in the CJR Daily, web counterpart of the Columbia Journalism Review. Merritt contrasts winning of Pulitzer prizes vs. profit margins which indicates when profit goes up, the number of Pulitzers won decreases. Merritt retired in 1999 after 43 years working for Knight Ridder, including 23 years as editor of the Wichita Eagle. Over those years, he watched as the news business generally, and Knight Ridder specifically, became increasingly driven by the bottom line. Earlier this month, his book about this change, Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism is Putting Democracy at Risk was published by AMACOM.

The Q&A below was by CJR Daily staff writer Susan Q. Stranahan who worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a Knight Ridder paper, from 1972 until 2001.

SQS: In the book, you compare the number of Pulitzer Prizes won by Knight Ridder papers with profit margins recorded. As profits went up, prizes went down.

BM: First of all, we know that politics sometimes influences who wins a Pulitzer. That said, here are the numbers: In the decade of the 80s, what I call the Big Five -- the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and AP won 26 percent of the 136 Pulitzers awarded. Knight Ridder newspapers won 23 percent, and all other newspapers won 51 percent. Between 2000 and 2004 [with 70 Pulitzers], the Big Five won 60 percent, Knight Ridder 6 percent and all others 34 percent. During the 80s, the operating return at Knight Ridder averaged 11 percent. Between 2000 and 2004, the operating return averaged 19 percent.

As soon as Knight Ridder began to reach into 18-20 percent [profit margins], they virtually stopped winning. This is ominous, and not just for Knight Ridder. The Big Five are relatively protected from market forces, except for AP, which is a different category. The numbers aren't just the decline in Knight Ridder's performance. The scary thing is that all other newspapers also are being hurt [by profit pressures]. It doesn't prove anything, but it is interesting to look at.

To read the complete interview, click on the headline above.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Medical coverage

I've gotten an email that some folks are having trouble with their KR medical coverage. Has anyone gotten different, worse coverage in 2005 compared to previous years? I know that some of us who retired after 1996 are more susceptible to coverage changes than others. But if something serious is going on, we'll need to get to the Guild folks in Cleveland to see what can be done about it. I have only had prescription refills and there are no changes in that ($2 co-pay) once the January flurry of errors was straightened out. But I haven't had anything, fortunately, involving doctors except what Medicare covered.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Debbie Van Tassel named Assistant ME

Debbie Van Tassel has been appointed assistant managing editor/administration for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. She has been business editor since 1999.

Before going to the The Plain Dealer, Van Tassel was business editor, special-projects editor and Sunday magazine editor at the Akron Beacon Journal. She also was business editor at the Seattle Times. Three projects she worked on won Pulitzer prizes.

A New Jersey native, she graduated from Seton Hall University and began her journalism career at the now-defunct Woodbridge, N.J., News Tribune. She and her husband, Stuart Warner, a Plain Dealer editor, live in Hudson.

Paul O'Donnell has been named the new business editor, Managing Editor Tom O'Hara announced..

O'Donnell previously was deputy metro editor. He is a 24-year veteran of the news business and has worked at The Plain Dealer since 1990. He begins his new job Monday.

"Debbie and Paul did great work in their previous jobs, and they'll continue to excel in their new assignments," O'Hara said. "Both of them are pros."

O'Donnell takes over a talented staff who thrived under Van Tassel and her assistant editors, O'Hara said.

Debbie replaces Ted Diadiun, the paper's new reader representative.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

BJ to launch weekly 77/South

On Thursday, April 28, the first issue of 77 South, the Akron Beacon Journal’s foray into weekly publications, will reach more than 26,000 households in Green, Coventry, Lakemore, Manchester, New Franklinand Springfield. The name, 77 South, refers to the interstate highway that passes through the weekly publication’s circulation area and plays off the fact that Summit County is No. 77 of Ohio’s 88 counties. 77 South will compete head to head with the Suburbanite, which is owned by La Jolla, Calif.-based Copley Press Inc., the parent company of the Canton Repository. Suburbanite officials announced April 4 that the weekly newspaper would cease publishing with its April 25 issue. By April 9, Copley officials had reversed that decision, announcing that the
Suburbanite would continue publishing on a paid-subscription basis or under new ownership. Within two days of the April 4 announcement that the Suburbanite would close, key managers at the Akron Beacon Journal decided to launch 77 South, a weekly publication that would serve the same area as the Suburbanite. The Beacon Journal will move forward with that decision, said Publisher Jim Crutchfield, despite the April 9 announcement of the Copley Press.In a related development, Leader Publications, parent company of the Green Leader, announced plans to expand its coverage into southern Summit County May 6. “77 South will strengthen our competitive advantage in that segment of the community,ö said Editor Debra Adams Simmons. The Beacon Journal newsroom will coordinate news for 77 South with help from correspondents. Beacon Journal advertising representatives will handle advertising sales.”7 South will bring accuracy, fairness and credibility to coverage,” said John Kovatch, vice president/finance and administration, “qualities that some readers say are missing in other weeklies.” Staff members in advertising and marketing have been preparing sales materials and advertising contracts and calling on potential advertisers. Staff members in other areas are pounding out the plans for news and information on a cross divisional task force headed by Kovatch and Andrea Mathewson, production director. ”We expect the newspaper to have the voice of the southern Summit County communities,” said Crutchfield. 77 South will be distributed free to homes, schools, libraries and other community locations.
[Reprinted from Hot Type]

Three win Dotson scholarships

Three students won John and Peggy Dotson Scholarships for school year 2005-2006. They are: Anna Springer, daughter of Bob Springer, newsroom editorial; Monica Taylor, daughter of Jeffrey Taylor, production; and Rebecca Vicars, daughter of John Vicars, information technology. Anna Springer is a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, where she has pursued a college preparatory advanced placement education. Monica Taylor is a senior at Central-Hower High School, where she has studied a wide range of college preparatory classes, including honors, advanced placement and post-secondary courses.Rebecca Vicars is a senior at Wadsworth High School, where she has pursued a college preparatory and gifted student program, including advanced placement courses in history, local government and economics. Rebecca is considering a career in social work. She will attend the University of Akron in the fall.
[Reprinted from Hot Type]

Bloom's art quilts on display till May 1

Connie Bloom, BJ newsroom features, is the guest artist in a one-person show at Weathervane Community Playhouse, 1301 Weathervane Lane in Akron. Twenty of Bloom's art quilts will be on display now through May 1 in the Banc One Gallery. The theater is open during regular business hours Monday through Friday and during performances of The Allergist's Wife, which opened Wednesday, April 13.
[Reprinted from Hot Type]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The post-journalism age

The age of big media may be over for good
(A George Will Column in the BJ Tuesday, April 26, 2005)
The circulation of daily U. S. newspapers is 55.2 million, down from 62.3 million in 1990. The percentages of adults who say they read a paper “yesterday” are ominous: 65 and older, 60 per cent; 50-64, 52 per cent; 30-49, 29 per cent; 18-29, 23 per cent; Americans 8 to 18 spend an average of six hours and 21 minutes a day with all media of all sorts, but just 43 minutes with print, The combine viewership of the network evening newscasts is 28.8 million, down from 52.1 million in 1980. Hence the sponsorship of Metamucil and Fixodent. Perhaps we are entering what David T. Z. Mindich, formerly of CNN, calls a post-journalism age.”

Newsroom ranks keep dwindling
(News Round-up in the Guild Reporter, April 15,2005)
As go newspaper circulation numbers, so go the numbers in the newsroom, according go the latest census of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the number of full-time journalists declined 4 per cent over the past four years, to 54,134 from 56,383 in 2001.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How profit became king. Books on KR

New books on Knight Ridder

Two new books by Knight Ridder veterans examine how the company -- and the industry -- demoted journalism from first to second among their priorities.

The here-and-now hot topic in newspapers these days is, as Richard Reeves has put it, "the future of journalism -- if any."

Read an excerpt from "Knightfall" by Davis Merritt:
After the book (about public journalism) was published and I returned to the Eagle in 1995, my world was totally changed. Jim Batten, who had been the rock behind KR's support for public journalism as well as a great friend, was dying.

Read an excerpt from "The Vanishing Newspaper" by Phil Meyer:
In (Knight Rider CEO's Alvah) Chapman's view, Wall Street's preoccupation with quarterly earnings growth was not all bad. "There's some discipline there that a well-managed business needs to be aware of at least to protect itself....
Worthy questions all. But the companion story of how newspapers may have weakened themselves by weakening their commitment to news and public service remains highly relevant. It was not so very long ago -- the 1970s and 1980s -- that a high-minded commitment to quality and business success seemed entirely compatible. The Knight-Ridder chain was exemplary back then, a coast-to-coast enterprise that grew and prospered and consistently produced first-rate journalism.

What has gone wrong since is chronicled in Phil Meyer's "The Vanishing Newspaper" and Buzz Merritt's "Knightfall." The excerpts here go straight to the time the troubles began, the recession of 1990-91 and the prosperous, but oddly pressured, balance of that decade.

The perspectives are quite different. Meyer, who left the business for scholarly pursuits 20-plus years ago, stylishly weaves personal memoir and a perspective on industry history into a series of empirical studies of news quality and business results. Merritt, who has a hand in academia too as a practitioner and theorist of public journalism, is first of all an impassioned in-the-trenches editor. While seeking to avoid nostalgia or score-settling, he can't conceal being frankly teed off at what happened to the company and the newspaper (The Wichita Eagle) where he spent his career.

There is overlap in the accounts. Meyer quotes Merritt on the jolt to Knight Ridder editorial culture when the beloved Jim Batten died and was succeeded by the comparatively frosty Tony Ridder. They don't paint Ridder as a callous villain but argue that he has been unable to articulate an engaged commitment to journalism in the language of the editorial side.

Merritt's account of his final wrenching round of budget cuts at Wichita ends with a decision to discontinue service to 10,000 subscribers in outlying rural areas. That made business sense since advertisers didn't particularly value this readership, but it was a giveaway of the statewide influence The Eagle had built through the years. That matches a favorite Meyer theory -- that the true product of newspapers is influence, and they fritter it away at their peril.

* * *
It should be noted that both books cover a broader turf than these excerpts might suggest.

Meyer's, in particular, is a rich collection of studies that suggest how quality and commitment of resources have eroded over the years, leaving newspapers with plenty of profit but a straight downward trend in circulation and trust.

His studies show a clear correlation between measures of quality and capacity and business success. The trouble is that the relationship appears to be a reinforcing loop in which causation is hard to nail down. It may be, in many cases, as executives and publishers will say privately, that successful papers, especially in growing markets, can simply "afford" a somewhat higher level of journalism.

Further, the evidence suggests that small differences in journalistic quality and news-editorial investment don't make a quick or meaningful difference to the bottom line. It is big departures from the norm, especially in competitive situations -- like those Knight-Ridder approved for The Fort Worth Star Telegram when it was directly challenged by The Dallas Morning News -- that pay off in territorial control and increased revenue.

So the temptation for newspapers companies is to pinch and whittle on news staff and news space. Understandable, maybe, but Meyer doesn't give the executive fraternity a free ride for a collective strategy that is destructive of the core of the newspaper -- its daily report and the influence a good one exerts in a community and confers on advertisers.

The chapter, "How Newspapers Were Captured by Wall Street," points to the element of voluntary surrender as companies chose to go public, either as a device to preserve family control with two classes of stock or to raise a pool of cash for acquisitions. Crusty patriarch Jack Knight told analysts at his first meeting with them in 1981 that "we did not intend to be regulated or directed by them in any respect." But as analysts often point out, you voluntarily join the Wall Street game, you're exposed to the rules of the game, and you're competing for capital with all the other players.

Perhaps the business had been too easy for too long. As Meyer's capsule account of Alvah Chapman's tenure as Knight-Ridder CEO suggests, smooth sailing continued on well into the public ownership era. But when times got tougher newspaper companies went right on "harvesting" available profits; to this day only a minority have been gutsy enough to reinvest in the core franchise or nimble enough to create substantive new media spin-offs.

Merritt tells a version of the same story with a bit less shading and a minimum of theory. He holds up Knight-Ridder as the industry in microcosm, ending up in an unhappy present and future, where places like Wichita get little by way of public service and newspapers are in partial default on their traditional role in informing the democratic process. (Ridder conceded as much at an industry conference a year ago. Asked how he would grade his company's newspapers on public service, he replied, "Some of our larger papers have the resources to do a lot more, but I would say it wouldn't be any higher than a C").

The big point is valid, timely and troubling -- who will do the tough stories and complicated reporting if newspapers don't? Still, many of Merritt's readers, including the legions of Knight-Ridder alumni, will find the spicy particulars of the company history especially engaging. Merritt's research uncovered the disorderly collection of "duchies" that was the Ridder empire pre-merger and the reasons the Knight brothers failed to build a controlling class of family shares into their public offering.

The books end in a very similar place -- the authors expressing a confidence that there will somehow be a continuing market for journalism in electronic formats supported by business models to be determined. The languid pace of book publishing leaves both authors trailing events. The story has ripened in the year since these manuscripts headed into the editing pipeline, and the threat to a traditional newspaper business model and hold on readership is all the more apparent with a host of identifiable non-newspaper protagonists. To my mind, though, that only makes the question Meyer and Merritt pose all the more urgent: doesn't the industry have a more compelling story to tell and invest in than continued profit-taking?

Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Connie Schultz wins Pulitzer prize

Connie Schulz

When the Beacon Journal reported on April 5 that Connie Schultz won the Pulitzer prize there was no mention of the fact that her prize-winning work was edited by Stuart Warner, a former BJ managing editor who now coaches writers at the PD.

Here is Connie's Pulitzer biography:

Connie Schultz, 47, is a columnist at The Plain Dealer. She was a freelance writer for 15 years before joining The Plain Dealer in 1993. Schultz grew up in the working-class town of Ashtabula, Ohio, near Cleveland. She was the first in her family to go to college, and graduated with a journalism degree from Kent State University in 1979.

She was a 2003 Pulitzer Prize finalist in feature writing for her series, "The Burden of Innocence," which chronicled the ordeal of Michael Green, who was imprisoned for 13 years for a rape he did not commit. The week after her series ran, the real rapist turned himself in after reading her stories. He is currently service a five-year prison sentence.

Schultz's series won numerous honors, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Social Justice Reporting, the National Headliner Award's Best of Show and journalism awards from both Harvard and Columbia universities.

She previously won a National Headliner Award (third place) for commentary and was an American Society of Newspaper Editors finalist for commentary, which resulted in the publication of one of her essays, about a girl's coming to terms with her homosexuality, in the book "2002 Best Newspaper Writing."

Last year, Schultz won the Batten Medal, which honors "a body of journalistic work that reflects compassion, courage, humanity and a deep concern for the underdog."

Schultz is married to Sherrod Brown and is the mother of two children and two stepdaughters.
Posted by Hello

BJ to limit sick days

Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, Knight Ridder will be implementing a new policy stating that staff members may use only the vacation and sick days they have accrued. The current policy at the Akron Beacon Journal allows staff members to ôborrow ô up to two weeks of vacation with the approval of management. KR is making the change to accommodate a new payroll time-keeping process that will be administered by Fidelity, KRAs payroll vendor, at all Knight Ridder newspapers. To the extent a collective bargaining agreement is contrary to the new practice, the policy will have no
application to the employees covered by that contract. To prepare for the conversion, Beacon Journal staff members must show positive balances in their vacation and sick-time ôbankö by Dec. 31, 2005. Employees who need assistance calculating their vacation and sicktime balances should contact Aaron Burr, human resources.
[Info from Hot Type]

Edna G. Morgan dies at 86

Edna G. Morgan

Edna G. Morgan (Unkie), 86, passed away in her sleep at the Arbors of Fairlawn.

Born in Pennsylvania, Edna lived most of her life in the Akron area. Edna served as a WAC during World War II. She retired from the Akron Beacon Journal in 1984, after many years of dedicated service. She was known as "Miss Carr" in the Automobile Classified Department.

Edna was preceded in death by her parents, Frank L. and Esther M. Morgan; her sisters and brothers, Lois Mallison, Jean, Frank Jr., and Jim Morgan. She is survived by niece, Deborah (Daniel) Ellebuch; nephews, Jeffery (Karen) Mallison, Timothy Mallison, Floyd Mallison, and Jay (Kelly) Mallison. She also leaves several great-and great-great-nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held Monday, April 25, 2005 at Adams-Mason Funeral Home, 791 E. Market St., Akron, at 11 A.M. The family will receive friends on Sunday, April 24th from 4 to 6 p.m. at the funeral home. Interment will be at Rose Hill Burial Park. Donations may be made in her name to the charity of your choice. (ADAMS- MASON, 330-535-9186.)

[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Wednesday, April 20, 2005, page B7, col. 1]
Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Charlotte Earll dies

Charlotte Earll

Charlotte M. Earll

Charlotte Maxine Earll, 77, died April 11, 2005, in the loving hands of Hospice Care.

Born July 24, 1927, she lived her first 28 years in Washington, Iowa; 10 of those years were spent employed as a linotype operator at the Washington Evening Journal. In 1955, Charlotte relocated to Akron, where she spent 34 1/2 years working at the Beacon Journal. Before retiring in 1990, she was a linotype operator, proofreader, and compositor.

An active member of High Street Christian Church for 49 years, she became a faithful participant of the sanctuary choir, the church board, Francis Allen Circle, and Harry E. Smith Sunday School class. She also was an H.A. Valentine Library volunteer for 14 years.

Charlotte was a lifetime member of the Akron YWCA and enjoyed her 6:30 a.m. swim class, where she made many dear friends. She also sang with the Mogadore Village Belles Sweet Adelines for 10 years.

She was preceded in death by an infant brother, Robert, and parents, Gladys and Virgil Earll. Survivors include two brothers, Duane (Jean Ann) of Gold Canyon, Ariz., and Donald (Beverly) of Hiawatha, Iowa; half-sister, Janet Jennings (Ray) of Jamestown, Colo.; long-time dear friend and housemate, Joan Kennedy; plus six nieces and nephews.

Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 16, 2005, at the High Street Christian Church, with special atten tion to personal remembrances by Rev. Dorothy France and Mrs. Jamie Gump; Dr. Tom Madden will be officiating. Calling will be one hour prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, dona tions may be made to VNS Hospice and Palliative Care Services or High Street Chris tian Church Sanctuary Choir.
[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH Thursday, April 14, 2005, page B7, col.5]

Posted by Hellol

Only dozen attend Retirees Lunch

There were only a dozen BJ retirees at the monthly luncheon on Wednesday, April 13, 2005. Among the stalwarts were Sandy Levenson, Tom Moore and Tim Hayes. Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

John paying homage at a temple

Here is John at the foot of steps to main temple in Tulum Posted by Hello

John's escape from nasty Ohio weather

John at the edge of a cliff... Posted by Hello

John on formal night on the ship

Here are John's pictures of his recent cruise to Cozumel and the western Caribbean. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Caribbean cruise

I went on a Western Caribbean cruise March 27-April 3.

The Star Princess took me to Princess Cays, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas, for beaching, swimming and snorkeling.

At Montego Bay, Jamaica, I took a 2-hour air-conditioned bus ride to Dunns River Falls, where I climbed over rocks through the center of cascading water. The Falls is more than 900 feet above sea level, and a human-chain ascent reduced the chances of bashing my head against the rocks.

At Grand Cayman, which hasn’t recovered fully from the hurricane that staggered it last September, I walked on a sandbar in ocean water to touch and inter-act with stingrays. Because I was directed to the wrong boat, I had to carry my belongings atop my head in chest-deep water to traverse the 120 feet from the wrong boat, and across the sandbar, to the right boat. The hurricane shoved treetop-high water onto Grand Cayman, unceremoniously plunking yachts in the midst of forests.

At Cozumel, Mexico, I tendered ashore to the mainland of the Yucatan peninsula to visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum, and learn how the Mayans came up with the binary code used in today’s computers, by creating the numeral zero. And how the Mayan calendar, eighteen 20-day months followed by a five-day festival, is off by two seconds per year. Our calendar, of course, is off by nearly six hours per year, which is why we had to invent leap year.

I met folks from England and Nigeria and a woman whose next stop will be to visit her friend Father McCann at Immaculate Heart Church in Cuyahoga Falls, a teen girl from Green, and an immigration security officer who is a Copley High graduate. And endured hundreds of teens from Ohio and Michigan who were on spring break from school.

And I ate and ate and ate on the Star Princess. Which probably explains why I went from using Hole No. 3 on my belt to Hole No. 2 and, at the end, somewhere between Hole No. 1 and Hole No. 2. Give me another four days and I would have had to buy a larger belt.

-- John Olesky, 1968-96 Beacon Journal newsroom, the final 16 as TV Editor