Sunday, December 31, 2006

Giffels takes leave to write memoir

Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels announced today that he is taking a leave of absence to write his memoir. The book is being publlished by William Morrow/HarperCollins and is scheduled for release in spring 2008.

Click on the headline to read the Giffels column.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Blog visits increased dramatically in 2006

Visits to the BJ Retirees blog increased dramatically in 2006 with the sale of Kinght Ridder which was approved in June, the subsequent sale of the Beacon Journal and the big staff cuts at the newspaper.

Visits to the blog increased from 8,883 at the beginning of the year to 32,245 on our December report. The average number of visits increased from 36 a day at the beginning of the year to 73 the week ending December 27. There were 129 the week ending November 8.

The number of visits each week increased from 245 at the beginning of the year to 508 the week ending Decemvber 27. The highest was 900 the week ending November 8,

In the 29 months since the blog was established in July, 2004, there have been 824 articles posted or an average of more than 28 a month. The number probably will top 1,000 in the next couple of months.

A web site was opened September 18, 2006 to allow use of articles too long for the blog and for storage of informatin files such as our list of postal addresses of retirees. A Commentary section also was added. There are links on the web site and on the blog so you can jump easily from one to the other.

A Christmas bedtime story

You won’t want to miss a nice story by Nick Coleman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the sale of the newspaper.

Some quotes from the story:

When the McClatchy Co. got the keys to the Star Tribune in 1998, McClatchy's patriarch hailed the merger. James McClatchy called it a wedding of two newspaper traditions that shared "a deep-rooted commitment to building a just society." You now are permitted to laugh derisively.

Eight years later, hardly anyone in the newspaper business talks about anything other than building profit margins that would choke a robber baron.

Mercifully, Mr. McClatchy passed away in May and did not live to see the Sacramento-based company that bore his name disgrace his legacy by dumping its largest newspaper -- the most important one between Chicago and the West Coast, the one that serves 5 million Minnesotans and that can be a conscience, a scold, a cheerleader and an interpreter of life on the tundra.

On the day after Christmas, the McClatchy Co. took the Star Tribune to the return window and sold us to a company that removes medical wastes, drills for oil and (quoting its website) "operates four off-shore jack-ups, three mobile off-shore production units and one self-propelled completion and work over rig" in the Gulf of Mexico. Not to mention a newspaper in flyoverland.

Maybe we're an on-shore jack-up.

There are two possibilities:
1) A private equity firm with no newspaper experience will show the newspaper industry how to save itself, or
2) A privateer thinks the Star Tribune, with 2,000-plus workers, is ripe for plucking and pillaging.

Despite lip service to the cause of quality journalism, in the end McClatchy folded like a cheap lawn chair under a steady gale of Wall Street demands.

McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt did not bother to come to Minneapolis on Tuesday to say he surreptitiously had sold the paper and to kiss us goodbye.

"The Star Tribune is one of the best newspapers in this country," Pruitt said in 1998. "The Twin Cities is one of the most attractive newspaper markets in the country. And it was a near-perfect fit in terms of values and traditions."

We didn't change. But you, Mr. Pruitt? We don't recognize you anymore. So long.

Don't bother to write.

Nick Coleman ●

Click on the headline to go to the story

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Black closes King County Journal

The King County (WA) Journal, purchased by Black Papers Ltd. in November, will put out its last issue on Jan. 21, the newspaper's new owners told employees at a meeting Thursday.

Black Press bought the Journal and its nine sister publications in November from Kent-based Horvitz Newspapers Inc. Circulation of the Journal, which has been losing money since 1994, has fallen to 39,100. It is the region's fifth-largest daily paper.

Don Kendall, general manager of Black's newly created King County Publications Ltd. division, made the announcement in the newsroom in Kent, reading from a prepared statement. Forty full-time employees will be laid off.

Kendall, vice president of Sound Publishing, said in a report published on this blog November 28 that he sees "virtually unlimited potential" in seven local non-daily sister publications of the Journal, and plans to expand them next year. They include; two weeklies, the Mercer Island Reporter and Snoqualmie ValleyRecord; and seven papers published twice monthly and distributed by mail: the Auburn Reporter, Bellevue Reporter, Bothell/Kenmore Reporter, Covington/Maple Valley Reporter, Kent Reporter, Redmond Reporter and Renton Reporter.

Employees were encouraged in December to apply for about a dozen jobs at the Journal's weekly sister publications. The Journal Newspapers employ about 330 people.

"I am saddened by the closure of the King County Journal and by the loss of valuable employees," Kendall wrote in a letter that was handed to staff. "I wish you the very best in your pursuit of other job opportunities."

Doug Margeson, a 24-year veteran reporter at the paper, said before the announcement that he hopes to become a reporter at one of the sister publications. He will take a more than 11 percent pay cut.

"On the other hand it's either that or unemployment, take your pick," he said. "What can you say about the death of a newspaper? It's never good."

Click on the headline to read a story by Andrea James in the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Harte gets new role in Minneapolis

Former Beacon Journal publisher Chris Harte, who becomes the new chairman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, says he's driven by public service.

Harte, a resident of Texas and Maine, will be advising an investment group that has never owned a daily newspaper.

A day after McClatchy announced the sale of the Star Tribune to Avista, a New York private equity group, there are more questions than answers about how the deal will reshape the newspaper and its community, and whether it will serve as a template for an industry in transition.

Harte says he's still trying to figure it all out himself.

"This whole transaction came together so fast, really in just the last week or so," Harte said. "At this point we just don't know about things like my schedule."

Harte will be diving into a media market that, in less than a year, has become emblematic of the uncertainty facing the newspaper industry.

Minnesota's oldest newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, was sold this year after the McClatchy Co., the California-based owner of the Star Tribune, bought Knight Ridder. The Star Tribune, meanwhile, will be sold for $530 million less than half of what McClatchy paid for it in 1998.

[Like other papers sold by McClatchy, the Pioneer Press is also a Guild newspaper.]

Avista has promised to invest in the Star Tribune and to retain its publisher, Keith Moyer, and its top management. But industry observers worry that it might have to cut costs if advertising or circulation revenue don't improve.

"I would expect nothing to change right away, and we will have to look at all of this stuff and see what makes the most sense going forward. We want the product to stay at least as it is today and, if possible, improve. Our objective isn't to cut things out of the paper, it is to increase things in the paper."

Though this is Avista's first newspaper investment, Harte brings some media credentials. He's part owner of Current Publishing, which publishes eight weekly newspapers in Maine. He's a director and large shareholder of Harte-Hankes Inc., a San Antonio-based publisher and direct-marketing firm founded by his grandfather, Houston Harte.

Ford's daughter as a photo intern

In all of the coverage of President Ford’s death, one of the nice stories is about his daughter Susan as a photography intern at the Topeka Capital-Journal. The other photo intern the summer of 1975 was Chris Johns, who is now editor of the National Geographic. Rich Clarkson, then director of photography for The Capital-Journal, said from his office in Denver on Wednesday that he still sees Johns occasionally and still calls him "the other intern."

Click on the headline to read the Capital-Journal story by Mike Hall.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

McClatchy sells Star-Tribune

The McClatchy Co. capped a year of dramatic changes in the newspaper industry Tuesday by announcing the surprise sale of the Star Tribune, its largest newspaper, to a private investment group.

McClatchy Co. said Tuesday it will sell the Star Tribune newspaper to the private equity firm Avista Capital Partners for $530 million, a sharp drop from the $1.2 billion it paid to acquire the flagship property just eight years ago.

Former Akron Beacon Jouranl publisher Chris Harte will be chairman of a board of directors who will oversee the newspaper for Avista.

The $530 million sale will place the future of Minnesota's dominant newspaper in the ha
nds of Avista Capital Partners, a New York-based partnership of former investment bankers. It also continues a trend that accelerated this year in which large newspaper companies, such as McClatchy, Knight Ridder and Tribune, either winnowed their holdings or put themselves up for sale. Private owners have emerged to bid for many of the big-city papers that have come into play as a result.

McClatchy has played a major role in that change, agreeing to buy all of Knight Ridder Inc. last spring. Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy then sold a number of the Knight Ridder papers it considered to be less desirable, including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which is now run by privately held MediaNews Group Inc. of Denver.

While the sale price is far less than McClatchy paid in 1998, the company will also realize $160 million in tax benefits as a result, making the total benefit to McClatchy closer to $700 million.

The sale, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007, will mark the entry of Avista into the newspaper business. The private equity firm, which has holdings in media, health care and energy businesses, was among the firms that had been interested in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News before McClatchy sold the former Knight Ridder papers to another group earlier this year.

The Avista partners did not disclose any specific plans for the Star Tribune, saying those discussions have not yet been held. Speaking to a handful of reporters after the announcement, Harte said the sale came about quickly.

We just saw an opportunity here to take a historically strong asset in an industry that's clearly out of favor right now," Harte said. "The long-term goal is to provide great content."

Some observers of the industry believe that newspaper readers will continue to migrate to the Internet, leaving fewer readers to support the printed product that remains the main source of revenue for publishers, although most are aggressively beefing up their Web content and advertising.

However, Harte indicated that his group believes the printed product will remain in demand and profitable for many years.

"We believe strongly that there will be a Star Tribune printed and delivered to hundreds of thousands of customers every morning for decades to come, probably for generations, maybe for centuries."

The Star Tribune has a paid circulation of 361,172 daily copies and 596,333 on Sunday.

While layoffs and other staff reductions have occurred among a number of the papers that have been bought by private groups this year, Avista officials said they are not eyeing major staff reductions or a quick sale.

Click on the headline to read coverage in the Star-Tribune which includes a number of related articles and history of the newspaper.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

David Bonar dies at 81

[Bonar was the former husband of Nancy Yockey Bonar, a former BJ staff member]

David Troyer Bonar, 81, born in Akron, Ohio, October 13, 1925, to Boyd and Lula (Troyer) Bonar, died peacefully Friday, December 22, at Bath Manor Special Care Centre, Akron, from Alzheimer's complications.

Among survivors are his loving and caring son and daughter, Timothy C. Bonar of Bath Township, and Julie Bonar Baughman (John) of West Palm Beach, Fla. He's also survived by former wife, Nancy Yockey Bonar of Granger Township, Medina.

Arrangements by the Ohio Cremation and Memorial Society. Details to come.

[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Saturday, December 22, 2006, page B7, col. 2]

Friday, December 22, 2006

BJ shrine in John Olesky's den

John Olesky got three lights and a brick from the old Beacon Journal tower in the Layoff Raffle for those who lost jobs at the Beacon Journal. He also got two "courtesy of Fran Murphey" matchbooks and a "Frances B. Murphey" bookmark. John used photos of the BJ tower and building as a backdrop for a BJ shrine in his den. The years 1966-2005 and RIP are on the tower.

You can find photos on the retirees web site at or just click on the headline to go straight to the shrine photos.

Knight Ridder is No. 1, not No. 3, Potts says

Mark Potts who writes a blog he calls "Recovering Journalist" is taking issue with the choice of Editor & Publisher Joe Strupp's picks for the top 10 stories in the news media in 2006, Here's his dig:

Strupp's pick for the top development affecting the newspaper industry in 2006: "The Web Comes of Age." Uh, it did? In 2006? Nope. Certainly not in the rest of the wired (and wireless) world, where the Web came of age years ago—and has been pounding newspapers ever since. And it's not even true in the newspaper industry, where most of the Web trends that Strupp heralds (24/7 Web newsrooms, substantial gains in online audiences) have been happening for years. I'd argue that there are a LOT of things newspapers still aren't doing on the Web (Citizens' media? Social networking? Google mapping? Liberal use of video?), but that's not the problem with Strupp's No. 1 pick.

No, the problem with Strupp's list is that the biggest story of the year in the newspaper industry is that everybody in the industry seems finally to have figured out that the industry is in very serious trouble, and the upheaval that's resulted from that realization in the past year has been nothing short of massive. Hints of that upheaval, in fact, are all over Strupp's list: The dissolution of Knight Ridder, continued job cuts, Tribune Co.'s problems—all of those are symptoms of the greater story, which is an overall decline in the industry's fortunes.

Click on the headline to go to Potts blog. See Stroup's list in post below.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Questions, Comments on health coverage

From Dave White:

How is it possible that the Beacon Journal can just ignore the retirement letters that were given to retirees guaranteeing their benefits for life??

And how can they force the retirees to use Aetna for their Medicare provider? I signed up for my Medicare without any help or advice from the Beacon Journal. What is this all about?

Dave White
Venice, FL

From Regina White:

When we sign up for this Aetna to be the Medicare provider, does that do away with our supplemental insurance? Now, we submit a claim to Medicare and then resubmit the balance due to United Healthcare? How is that going to work under this new plan????

Also, does this effect our life insurance?

Also from Regina:

I talked to Aaron Burr's assistant Lisa yesterday, and from what she said I don't believe there is going to be any supplemental insurance. The example I gave here was that if there was a $100,000 hospital bill, and Medicare paid $80,000 who would pay the other $20,000. And she didn't have an answer.

So, if you would, please ask in the meeting if there is any supplemental insurance? And even though, the BJ is paying the prescription cost, there is still the donut hole after $2500 where only generic drugs would be paid for. That is from Aaron Burr.


I talked to Aaron Burr yesterday and he did confirm that there will be no supplemental insurance once this change takes place. I don't know about anyone else but I think this is a big deal! That means they are taking away Dave's $2 prescription card, forcing him into a different Medicare provider and also taking away the supplemental insurance.

I don't know what the answer is but surely there must be some recourse???????

From Ott Gangl:

Quoting from letter: "Second, the Beacon Journal's retiree medical plan is changing from the PPO plan administered by United Healthcare to the Medicare Advantage Plan administered by Aetna. This means that Aetna will administer your Medicare Part A and Part B plans instead of Medicare. Retirees must continue to pay their Medicare Part B premium. The new plan will be effective February 1, 2007. More details of this new plan is also enclosed. "

Now after I switched my Medicare A and B to the Aetna Medicare, what happens if Aetna closes up or something else happens, will the US government take me back into their Medicare?

Also from Gangl:

One reason, actually the main reason I decided in 1992 to retire at age 60, two years before I was eligible for Social Security and 5 years before Medicare was that I could retire WITHOUT any co-pay. I believe the following contract had 5% co-pay.

The life insurance was halved to $15,000 which is OK with me. I thought I read somewhere that there will be a difference in the new Aetna plan depending on when you retired, I may be wrong and all of us get the same deal.

From John Olesky:

The premiums listed $52 for prescription coverage and $11-something for medical coverage. I guess the $11-something will be a de facto secondary coverage.

I looked at the Aetna Medicare plan for the Akron Beacon Journal and I saw these things listed for "employee." I hope that includes "retirees":

$250 deductible per calendar year, which is a heckuva lot better than the $2,000 deductible under United Health Care.

Coinsurance of 15% on all medical expenses unless otherwise stated (there are things covered 100%).

Payment limit per calendar year, however, is $5,000. That would be about two days in the hospital, if that long.

Lifetime maximum is unlimited except where otherwise indicated.

Routine physical exams are covered 100%, which is an improvement over UHC.

100% also applies to gynecological care exams, routine mammograms, routine digital rectal exams and prostate specific antigen tests (PSAs), colorectal cancer screening for those 50 or older, bone density testing.

And 100% for routine eye exam (retirees lost vision and dental coverage when they retired) and routine hearing screening.
Up to $500 every 36 months for hearing air reimbursement.

But 15% co-pay for primary care physician visits, allergy testing treatments.

And a bunch of other stuff.

Including diabetic supplies covered 100%.

We really need someone to go to the meeting and ask questions and find out what's really happening. I would go, but I'll be in China when the meetings are held.

Until we find out what's what from the Canadian, it's hard to have a strategy.

32 journalists die in Iraq in 2006

With murder the leading cause, at least 32 journalists have been killed in Iraq in 2006, the highest one-year toll ever in a single country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report Wednesday.

The Middle East nation, torn by war and bloody sectarian violence, was the world's most dangerous for the news media for the fourth straight year, according to CPJ, a New York-based advocacy group.

The committee said its latest yearly count brings to 93 the total killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003, with another 37 drivers, messengers and other press "support staff" also slain.

Source: Richard Pyle. AP via Yahoo! News

Demise of Knight Ridder is No. 3

Editor and Pubisher senior editor Joe Strupp's ranked the demise of Knight Ridder as No. 3 on his Top 10 Newspaper Industry Stories of 2006. Continued job cuts was No. 5

Here is the summary for No. 3

3. Knight Ridder Dissolves: We knew it was coming, but when the McClatchy Company took over Knight Ridder it set in motion one of the biggest cross-chain effects yet of a major news
paper deal. While McClatchy held on to 20 of the 32 former KR dailies, it sold off a handful to MediaNews Group, which in turn brought Hearst, Gannett and Stephens Media into the deal. Meanwhile, other buyers took over the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Akron Beacon-Journal, and the remaining properties from South Dakota to Pennsylvania. It seemed everyone short of Charles Foster Kane and Donald Trump were in the mix. But don't think this is the last of the big chain buyouts, with Tribune likely to make a move in 2007.

The others:

10. Loss of Stock Listings and TV Books (Among Other Things): There was a time when some people bought newspapers just for these specials. But with Internet competition and space cutbacks mounting, the traditional stock tables and TV grids are becoming less and less relevant.

9. Upheaval at The Miami Herald: It wasn't enough that the South Florida daily changed hands with the sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy this year. But the longtime circulation leader also got into a tussle with sister paper, El Nuevo Herald, over coverage of the Spanish-language daily's semi-scandal involving some staffers' paid appearances on a government-supported broadcast outlet. When the dust settled, Publisher Jesus Diaz was out and Editor Tom Fiedler soon announced his retirement

8. Jill Carroll: A year ago she was a little-known freelancer covering Iraq for The Christian Science Monitor. But when the brave correspondent was kidnapped in Baghdad and held for 82 days, her abduction sparked an international movement to free her, while also drawing some controversy when major U.S. news outlets agreed to a news blackout of the kidnapping for the first 48 hours.

7. The New York Times Reveals Bank Records Monitoring Program: Reporter James Risen, who months earlier had uncovered the Bush Administration domestic wiretapping program, teamed with staffer Eric Lichtblau to expose the federal government's SWIFT program that kept watch on thousands of banking records.

6. Subpoenas: That ugly word continues to rear its head, most prominently in San Francisco where San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada were found in contempt for failing to reveal their source in the award-winning BALCO steroid scandal coverage. They face a possible jail cell in February.

5. Continued Job Cuts: The year continued a downward trend in job security, with papers from the Los Angeles Times to The Washington Post either announcing such cuts or implementing them. The same old causes, declining ads, circulation and growing competition, were the usual culprits.

4. Labor Battles: Newspaper unions felt the brunt of management angst more than ever in 2006, with contract battles at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, The Boston Globe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and even the York (Pa.) Daily Record, among others.

2. Dean Baquet Firing/Tribune Problems: It seems like it was just a year ago that the hiring of Dean Baquet, the first black editor of the Los Angeles Times, was big news. That's because it was just a year ago. When Baquet and former publisher Jeff Johnson stood up to Tribune Company calls for even further cutbacks, they received praise, accolades and platitudes. Unfortunately, Tribune honchos did not see the courage in their convictions, dumping both in a matter of weeks.

1. The Web Comes of Age: Hands down, the online growth, both for and against newspapers, was the dominant story in 2006. The daily miracle became less daily and more, well, minute by minute. Not only did numerous papers, from USA Today to Chicago Tribune, either combine their print and Web newsrooms or establish a "24-hour news cycle," but nearly every paper saw their online audience surpass their print readers.

Blogs exploded, with dozens sprouting at many papers' sites. Podcasts became common. Amid Youtube mania, sites feverishly added more and more video.

Click on the headline to read the full story.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday letter from the Hertz family

This letter came in a card from the Hertz family: (click to enlarge the photo)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy 2007! Hope all is well. Weare good - we had one of those hectic but fun-filled, kids-growing-up years that busy people everywhere know causes gray hair.

The big news is that David left the Akron Beacon Journal on Sept. 29 (his 45th birthday!).Yes, he crossed over into the "dark side," also known as public relations, accepting a position as vice president of media relations at the downtown Cleveland firm of Dix & Eaton. He's finding he has a lot to learn but is enjoying it immensely. He misses daily journalism but the Beacon was looking to reduce staff at the same time this opportunity came up, so he decided it was time to try something new.

Beth continues to work in the communications department at the Cleveland Clinic, and her favorite part is the work she does supporting the Cole Eye Institute. In fact, she availed herself of their services in October when she got LASIK. She still reaches up to take off her glasses every night but they aren't there! She also is active as a Girl Scout leader and with the BG News Alumni Society board, and is in deep denial about the impending arrival of her 40th birthday in 2007.

Alyssa is doing great in second grade. She loves art and music and is becoming such a good little reader. She does gymnastics, swim lessons and Girl Scouts, and recently got her own e-mail address.She’d be thrilled if you dropped her a line:

Joshua has blossomed into little Mr. Personality and enjoys most everything about life.
He's 3 1/2 and idolizes his sister, unless she has something he wants. He likes super heroes and trains. "All aboard!"

The highlight of our summer vacation was a trip to Niagara Falls. The kids LOVED it.

Everyone in our families is doing pretty well. Beth's mom moved to Dallas in May and is still recovering from being hit by a truck last year. She lives near Beth's sister now.

Well, we know everyone's busy so we'll stop here! Hope all is well with you and that you have a peaceful, blessed holiday!

Love, David, Beth, Alyssa and Joshua Hertz

Reporter gives up politics for food

Lisa Abraham will replace Jane Snow.

In her first Food section front column, Abraham says covering government prepared her for new role. But she never really says how.

Her personal collection, however, contains the recipe for hamloaf that Nancy Petro used to woo her husband, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.

‘’Writing about government and politics has been my job for more than 20 years. Food has been my passion.” Lisa writes. “For me, the chance to turn my passion into my career is one of those heady, once-in-a-lifetime-did-I-just-win-the-lottery experiences.

“Most of all, I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity.

“Look for me to get cooking shortly after the first of the year. And tie on your aprons,
Akron, because cooking, like politics, can be sticky business.”

Click on the headline to read Lisa’s nice column.

Blogger addend: Perhaps to be politically correct, Lisa refers to herself as food writer. When Food editor Jane Snow left the Beacon Journal, she reported (Oct 29) that there would be an open house with her the following month to introduce the new food editor. She also said she
would continue to write her BJ e-mail newsletter, Second Helpings. Is anyone getting it? Neither Snow nor Mickey Porter left the BJ happily.

Craig Wilson back in hospital

Craig Wilson is back in Barberton Citizens Hospital for his fifth time in 2006. Must be some kind of record.
[Report from Craig's wife, Elizabeth]

Contract violation?

What the Guild contract states

Guild contract covering July 23, 1993 to July 22, 1996.

Article 25 Insurance and Pension Provisions:

Section 3. Retired employees of the Beacon Journal newsroom will be
provided with group hospitalization-medical and life insurance to the
extent in existence on December 31, 1989. This provision shall apply to
any employees who retired during the life of this contract.
So how is it that the Beacon Journal can change our insurance coverage, including drastically changing prescription coverage which will cost me hundreds of dollars more a year? Isn't this a violation of the Guild contract? For the moment the BJ, and its Canadian owner, will pay the retirees' Medicare Part D premium, but we all know that will change down the road. We had no premium payments and $2 co-pay for prescriptions when I retired and, indeed, till the Beacon was sold to Black Press. And the medical deductibles have been changed, even under United Health Care, from $300 to $2,000 a year out-of-pocket, for one thing. I certainly don't have the same hospitalization-medical coverage that I did the day I retired, which was pegged to "usual and customary care."
John Olesky

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sharyn Surface dies at 68

It was in December two years ago that we told of the plight of Sharon Surface who was gravely ill in a West Virgnia nursing home.

We got an e-mail today from her sister, Shelva Pettit, that Sharon died. Here is her obitu

Sharyn L. Surface, 68, of Richwood, died on Dec. 10, 2006, in Richwood Area Community Hospital after a long illness.

Before her illness, she lived in Akron, Ohio. She was a typist for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company from 1963 until 1970. She worked from 1970 until 1983 at the Akron Beaco
n Journal. She later worked from 1983 until 1999 at the First National Bank of Ohio where she was a secretary from which she retired and later moved to Richwood. She volunteered at the Children's Hospital for five years, for political candidates, and the United Fund through Summit County Medical Society. She was of the Methodist faith.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Gayle J. and Dosha Russell Surface; sist
er, Gail Diana Surface; and brother, Russell J. Surface.

She is survived by two sisters, Shelva Pettit and husband, Joe, of Sutton, Hallie Moose and husband, Roy, of Fenwick, three nephews, and three nieces.

Graveside service will be held at a later date.

Arrangements by Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Blogger Notes:

Sharon Surface came to the BJ when we changed from the Linotype keyboard to a typewriter keyboard. She came about the same time as Regina White, Rita Stapleton and Ruth West, along with a couple of others.

In a note to retired printer Bob Bell in December, 2004, Shelva wrote:

Sharon is in bad shape. She can't walk or feed herself or care for herself in any way.
Our sister Hallie and I don't think she knows us every time we see her, but there are times she seems to know me . She doesn't talk...other than to answer a question with "yes" or "no ". She started having small strokes and then a massive one. This all started happening around 1990, beginning with uterine cancer. She is cancer free. It's the stroke that is the cause of her condition. The doctors told us about 5 years ago that she would not improve but get steadily worse which has been the case. It's hard on us to see her as she is and remember the way she was.

Send condolences to:

Shelva Pettit
625 Appalachian Corridor
Sutton, WV 26601

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pruitt to earn $1.1 million next year

The McClatchy Co. chief executive officer Gary Pruitt will earn $1.1 million next year, a 4.8 percent increase from his salary this year, according to documents filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Pruitt, the highest-paid chief executive of a publicly traded company in the Sacramento region, could earn another $1.38 million from an annual bonus if he reaches specific performance goals that have not been determined.

The Sacramento-based company bought Knight-Ridder this past summer, adding 20 newspapers -- and selling off a dozen others, including the Akron Beacon Journal, San Jose Mercury-News and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The deal made McClatchy the nation's second-largest newspaper chain. Its publications include The Sacramento Bee, Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the Miami Herald.

McClatchy's compensation board also detailed the base salary and maximum bonuses for other senior executives this week. Vice presidents of operations Bob Weil and Frank Whittaker will each earn $600,000 next year, with a 60 percent of base salary as a maximum bonus -- or $360,000 each. Vice president and chief financial officer Pat Talamantes' salary is $500,000 with a 55 percent maximum bonus, while vice president of news Howard Weaver will earn $400,000 with a 50 percent of salary bonus target.

Shares of McClatchy inched up 4 cents to $41.20 in trading Friday.

[Source: Sacramento Business Journal]

John Zajac, father of Andy, dies

John Zajac, a former linotype operator at the Plain Dealer and father of Andy, died Thursday. Here is the notice in the PD

JOHN F. ZAJAC. Beloved husband of Theodosia (nee Lada). Loving father of Mary and Andrew (Barbara, nee Hueter). Dear brother of Elizabeth English (PA). Family will receive friends at the KOLODIY-SOBCZYK FUNERAL HOME, 3136 WEST 14 ST., where funeral services will be held on Monday, Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. and at St. John Cantius Catholic Church at 10 a.m. Interment Holy Cross Cemetery. VISITATION SUNDAY 4-8 P.M.

Published in The Plain Dealer on December 16, 2006

Craig needs help

Interested in the inner workings of government.

The Akron Beacon Journal is now looking for qualified candidates to bolster its paid corespondents ranks.

Openings are now available in many areas, including Fairlawn, Bath Township and Norton.

If interested, send a resume to Craig Webb, Night Metro Editor, Akron Beacon Journal, 44 East Exchange Street, Akron, Ohio 44328 or by email to

[Published in the Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Monday, December 18, 2006, page B4, col. 2]

Sunday, December 17, 2006

An answer for Virginia O'Hanlon

Outside the Nativity story, there is no better sentiment on Christmas than the answer Francis Pharcellus Church wrote in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897 in answer to the question from 8-year old reader Virginia O’Hanlon.

Click on the headline above to see Church’s answer on our web site:

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.

A copy of the Sun nameplate, the original letter from Virginia, a photo of Church and the clipping from the Sun are included.

Merry Christmas

from me and Helen,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Recalling recycle plant explosions

Sidebar, the old BJ employee publication, ran a series of articles called “We Were There” in which staffers recalled some news event. The December 1993 issue featured an account by Ed Suba

An interrupted party

Ed Suba, staff photographer, recalls deserting his first Beacon Journal newsroom holiday party to cover the explosions at the Akron Recycle Energy System plant on December 20, 1984.

“I had just come to the Beacon Journal from the Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette, so this was my first Christmas party. There were a lot of people from the newsroom and everyone brought covered dishes, so there was a lot of food.

We had just started eating when one of our reporters heard about the explosion at the Akron Recycle Energy plant and called the newsroom with the news. The odd thing was that exactly one week prior, at the same exact time, I had been in the plant for a media tour. So my first thought when I heard about it was, man, I was just there.

Everyone on the whole staff dropped their food and took off--we all ran out to the site and went in different directions. We were in constant communication with the newsroom and each other by radio, but I remember spending the whole day out there.

It had been a really bright, sunny day, without a cloud in the sky, which made the heavy black smoke from the explosion even more prominent and ominous.

The damage and the smoke was really overwhelming. I remember circling the place several times looking for the best shot, and running into the authorities who were trying to keep us away. It was definitely an interesting introduction to the Beacon Journal.

Toward the end of the day we all went back to the Beacon. We were all in the dark room printing stuff like crazy. It was so crowded, everyone was walking all over everyone else.

I never did get back to the food. Someone brought in food for us later that night, . but I don't know if it was left over from the party or what.”

Blog Notes: Two persons were killed and seven injured by the two explosions and fire. Ohio EPA tests confirmed that waste containing three volatile paint-related chemicals – xylene, toluene and methyl ethyl ketone – was dumped at the plant the day of the explosions. O.H. Materials submitted a bioll of $37,000 for the cleanup. Until the plant’s boilers were fired up on December 31, steam customers got their heat from a temporary system provided by B.F. Goodrich.

Printer Marvin Hunt dies

Marvin R. Hunt, 71, born March 29, 1935, passed away November 20, 2006.

Marvin was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He graduated from Manchester High School in 1953 and retired from the Akron Beacon Journal [composing room]..

He was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Mona and his son, Gerald. He is survived by his loving wife, Deanna and his daughter, April Hunt of Florida.

A military honors service will be held Tuesday, December 19, 2 p.m. at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, 10175 Rawiga Rd., Rittman, Ohio 44270. A wake will be at the American Legion Post 611, 657 N. Howard St., Akron, Ohio 44310 at 4 p.m., Tuesday, December 19.


[Published in the Akron Beacon Journal December 16, 2006, page B6, col. 6]

Publisher lays out vision

Beacon plans `hyper local' coverage, with full page of bites
of news from communities to add readers

Beacon Journal staff report
Local, local, local.

That will be the Akron Beacon Journal's focus in the new year, Publisher Ed Moss told the Akron Press Club on Friday.

The newspaper will roll out its ``Neighborhood Express'' initiative in January, which includes a full page devoted to bites of news from as many communities as will fit.

The new community-news page will appear on Page B3 five times a week, Moss said, with the editorial and op-ed pages returning to the newspaper's A section. There will be related advertising and circulation efforts as well.

``It's a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to growing our readership and growing our advertisers,'' he said.

Moss said he'll work internally to ``break down the walls between departments'' so that all staffers are focused on providing ``hyper local'' news coverage and ``outstanding customer service.''

Moss acknowledged that the Beacon Journal has been through difficult times. Profit has fallen 60 percent in six years, he said, and to align the company with that new reality, the staff was cut from 715 to 630.

But he disagreed with one questioner who suggested that cutting the newsroom staff by a fourth hurts the quality of coverage.

``We still have 130 people in our news operation. One hundred and thirty people,'' Moss said. ``I will tell you there are newspapers all over the country with that kind of staffing level that put out outstanding quality newspapers... and I believe we're doing it today.''

He added that he is less interested in winning state or national awards for journalism than in adding circulation, which is a more important ``win'' for the Beacon because it indicates reader satisfaction.

Just as reporting beats had to be redesigned and redistributed among the newspaper's remaining reporters after the staff reductions, the Beacon must rethink every aspect of the business, Moss said. ``We need to evaluate each and every thing we do and ask ourselves, `Is there a better way?' '' he said.

The paper's recent partnership with is an example of something that would never have happened a year ago, he said. The mega job-search Web site, once seen as a major drain on newspaper classified advertising revenue, has been turned into a ``win-win'' situation for the Beacon, Moss said, as it combines the Beacon's local resources with Monster's national reach.

Meanwhile,, the Beacon's Internet site, will be reinvented over the next year to make it a ``true destination point'' for all of Ohio, Moss said.'s success will be key to the Beacon's future, he said. In 2006, it generated more than $10 million in advertising revenue and is growing at 38 percent a year.

Moss wouldn't define a specific profit goal sought by the Beacon's new owner, David Black, but he said that clearly the decline of recent years needs to be reversed so the company will be around to serve the community for years to come.

He said more layoffs ``are not in the plans at this point.''

Moss said he's optimistic about the industry and the Beacon Journal, despite the ``gloom and doom'' coming from Wall Street.

He also emphasized that although circulation has declined in recent years, the Beacon still reaches 44 percent of homes in its readership area daily, and 56 percent on Sundays. That's a solid market to build on, he said.

``We are committed to being at the forefront of innovation and change in our industry,'' he said. ``We believe the key is to understand what our customers need and want, and to be the best at providing information and solutions that meet or exceed their expectations.''
[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Saturday, December 16, page D1 business front]

Blogger Note: There was no byline. Click on the headline to see story on

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ibarguen named Newseum chairman

Alberto Ibarguen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will become of chairman of the Newseum Jan.1, 2007 and four nationally known people will join the Newseum board.

The new trustees include three media executives and a former director of the National Park Service:

-- Gary L. Ginsberg, executive vice president, corporate affairs, News Corp.

-- George B. Irish, president, Hearst Newspapers and senior vice president, Hearst Corp.

-- Robert Stanton, former director, National Park Service

-- David Westin, president, ABC News

"These moves broaden the base of active support for the Newseum," said Charles L. Overby, who continues as chief executive officer. "When we open in the fall of 2007, the Newseum will have the benefit of both a strong management team and an outstanding board of directors."

Other Newseum trustees include educators, authors, and business and civic leaders.

The Freedom Forum's largest-funded program is the Newseum, a museum of news nearing completion at Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street in Washington. The $435-million project is expected to open in September 2007.

Ibarguen leads one of the nation's largest private independent foundations. With assets of $1.9 billion, the Knight Foundation makes grants of more than $90 million annually to promote excellence in journalism. Ibarguen has been a newspaper executive for more than 20 years, first at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant and then at Newsday in New York before joining Knight Ridder. He was publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald until July, when he assumed his current position at the Knight Foundation. During his tenure at The Miami Herald, the newspaper won three Pulitzer Prizes.

Ibarguen is on the Trustee's Council of the National Gallery of Art, the Advisory Council of the Public Accounting Oversight Board and is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is former chairman of the board of the Public Broadcasting Service and has served on the boards of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.

A graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Venezuela's Amazon territory and in Colombia.

Click on the headline to read the news release.

The Newseum web site provides a daily look at the front pages of a large number of newspapers

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Youngest 'Ann Hill' yet

The reading of the Ann Hill letter, which has been a hallmark of Guild Christmas parties for more than three decades, had its youngest practioner this year. Rhebbekah Yoder, 10, step-niece of the newsroom's Paula Schleis, did an expressive reading of the outraged Ann Hill.

In the audience of two dozen or so, fittingingly, was Ted Schneider, who has done the Ann Hill letter in nun habit and in rap style and who is the most memorable Ann Hill letter performer.

For those new to BJ lore, Ann Hill was an Ohio State University magna cum laude graduate with a masters in journalism/PR who came to the Beacon for a one-day tryout. After wading through enough work to bog down Woodward and Bernstein, the last straw was being sent to cover a Canton sewers meeting. The only thing Ann wrote was her memo to Managing Editor Bob Giles complaining of the Army-like discipline and "shitwork" and reminding B.G. that she was a superstar at OSU. And thus the legend began.

Ted met Ann Hill in California and tried unsuccessfully to persuade Ann to return for the Guild Christmas party and do the 25th anniversary reading in person.

Ann's biography says that she was a feature writer and investigative reporter with the Dayton Daily News and other daily newspapers and founded her first marketing and public relations agency, Hill & Zoog, in Columbus in 1978, primarily as a political consultant for Ohio politicians.

Ann went to California and started the Ann Hill Communications company in 1985 in San Rafael. She is the principal owner.

As he has for years, after the reading of the Ann Hill letter John Olesky stood up in reference to the Canton sewers assignment and exclaimed: "Englehart made me do it!"

For those who are really out of the loop, that would be another legend, the late Patrick T. Englehart of Mogadore, who was State Desk Editor when Ann Hill strolled into and stormed out of the Beacon Journal.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

18 at retirees' lunch

There were 18 at Papa Joe's for the BJ retirees' lunch today, the most in a while. Attending were Tom Moore, Cal Deshong, Sandy Levenson, Bill Canterbury, Don Roese, Carl Nelson, Dick Gresock, Bob Pell, Art Cullison, William Byrd, Gene McClellan, Watson Blanton and wife Rosetta, Ed Hanzel and wife Norma, Tim Hayes, Al Hunsicker and John Olesky.

As you might expect, the main topic of conversation was the Beacon Journal’s changes in prescription coverage.

Click on the headline to view an album of luncheon photos. You will have to give your e-mail address and choose a password for the site.

BJ to pick up monthly premium.

A fact not made clear in the Beacon Journal letter about health benefits coverage:

The Beacon Journal will pay the monthly premium which is about $52.

This fact should ease some of our concerns about the changeover from United Health Care to Aetna. The information was provided by Karen Jones of the HR department of the Beacon Journal to at least two of us who have called for information.

Phila Guild reaches tentative pact

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News and The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia reached a three-year deal on all issues Tuesday night. The union announced the deal in a statement, while the company reported the agreement on its Web site.

The union planned to discuss details at a membership meeting Wednesday night. Under union rules, a ratification vote would not come before the weekend.

"It's a package requiring a lot of sacrifice from our members," said Diane Mastrull, the unit chairwoman who led the Guild's negotiating team. "But it is a package that is far less devastating than what the company originally proposed."

The three-year pact, which extends until Aug. 31, 2009, includes no pay increase for the 900-member Guild in the first year. Employees will get a $1,500 bonus, paid in two parts, in the second year, and receive a $25 per week raise in the final year of the contract.

"There's no sugar coating this contract. It is a disappointing, giveback deal," Mastrull said.

Philadelphia Media Holdings bought the dailies from McClatchy Co. in June in a deal valued at $562 million.

From 1975 to 1990, the Inquirer won 17 Pulitzers, the Daily News two.

Click on the headline to read the full story by AP

Monday, December 11, 2006

Send your questions on letter

Send us your questions on the letter and we will try to see that the publisher gets them before the meeting. We will put them in a post here and/or non the web site. Please make the questions brief and specific.

Send to

Should we discuss the BJ health care shift on this blog?

I am so unclear about everything after receiving THE LETTER, I wonder if we should discuss OUR understanding of what is going on. For instance: I thought that the Federal Government was my Medicare provider and now I am asked to change that to Aetna, what are the advantages of that? As to the drug program, United Health Care was our provider and the BJ advised in a letter to stick with UC instead of going with Medicare D, now Aetna wants us to join Plan D and pay for that just to pay $5 for generic drugs when we can buy them for $4 at Walmart, and some of the stuff starts Jan. 1 and the form are to be in Jan. 15, etc. etc.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Iraqi Study (Baker) Report

The Iraqi Study Group (Baker report) is now available at the Penn State University documents site in an 84-page PDF file. Click on the headline or paste the following url in your browser

Media News to run Daily Breeze

The Copley Press Inc. plans to sell the Daily Breeze in Torrance, CA, to Hearst Corp., which would in turn allow MediaNews to operate the newspaper, according to a court filing.

Hearst, which owns the San Francisco Chronicle and other media holdings, will pay $25 million for the Breeze, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, which is owned by MediaNews. Harold Fuson, Copley senior vice president, confirmed that Hearst is the expected buyer of the Breeze, and MediaNews would operate the paper after the sale. The paper’s real estate will be sold separately.

[Source: The Breeze and San Jose Mercury News]

Friday, December 08, 2006

You thought you got benefits for life?

The first of the “Dear John” letters (or substitute your own first name to make it sound cozy) are arriving from new BJ publisher Ed Moss–or to be formal–Mr. Edward R. Moss.

The crux of the message is “your retiree medical benefits were not vested for life and can be changed:” Your prescription benefits under United Health Care have been dropped. The publisher suggests you become a ward of Aetna.

The BJ, the letter indicates, is offering you a new prescription card under Aetna.

Coverage may vary, depending on when you retired, but you will pay $50 plus a month for the plan. Then after a $250 deductible, you will get generic drugs for $5, drugs on Aetna’s preferred list for $20, and “non-preferred drugs” for $40. But that’s until you reach an initial coverage limit of $2,400 and then you pay all until you reach another plateau of $3,850.

Please do not ask us to explain the technical jargon written by the publisher or Aetna. If you have questions, call 1-800-307-4830 Monday throguh Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST and listen to some elevator music.

Also you apparently you will be able to ask questions at information sessions in the John S. Knight room at the Beacon Journal at 2 p.m. Wednesdaty, January 3, or at 10 a.m. on Thursday, January 4. Please call 330-996-3181 to reserve your seat.

If you have other questions, call Aaron Burr at 330-996-3184 or Karen Jones at 330-996-3183.

Remember, though, the forms you got must be returned no later than January 15.

Staff cuts hurt the Need to Know

Big-city newspapers aren’t telling citizens the things they need to know.

That’s the headline on an article in Governing magazine that criticizes news media. Akron is mentioned a couple of times. Governing is a monthly magazine published by Congressional Quarterly whose primary audience is state and local government officials. Governing serves 85,000 subscribers and more than 275,000 readers each month.

Former Beacon Journal reporter Peggy Rader, who is now Communications Director for the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota, called our attention to the piece.

Here are a few graphs pulled from the article:

It is hardly unusual for politicians to lash out at the local newspapers that cover them. But a few months ago, when Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis took aim at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he skipped the standard complaints about bias or sensationalism. Instead, he charged in his blog that staff cuts and other changes at the newspaper were hurting the city itself.

”The P-D’s spotty and often inaccurate coverage of local, state, national, and international news has made opening the hometown newspaper a chore fewer and fewer St. Louisans are willing to face each morning,” he wrote. “The paper’s current struggling fiscal health and demoralized voice are drags on our own civic renaissance.”
A few weeks after Slay aired his feelings, a group of prominent Los Angeles residents made a local and national stir by raising a similar alarm. In a letter to the chairman of the board of the Tribune Co., the Chicago media conglomerate that owns the Los Angeles Times, 20 community leaders urged the company not to pursue further cuts to a newsroom that already had lost 260 reporters, editors and photographers and trimmed the space devoted to news.

In Los Angeles and St. Louis, as well as in Akron, Hartford, Baltimore and an increasing number of other communities, a line is being drawn between corporate decision making and the role the newspaper plays in civic life.
“Our younger city employees don’t read the newspaper,” says David Lieberth, chief of staff to Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic and a former radio journalist. “I’ll be in a meeting with 10 people and say, ’You saw the stories in today’s Beacon?’ and everyone says, ’No.’ ”

It is the loss of those other stories, and the nuanced view of community life they offered, that particularly troubles political and civic leaders. In Akron, where the Beacon Journal used to give unstinting coverage to community affairs, city government is now covered only sporadically, with drama substituting for amplitude. “In the absence of having coverage on a daily basis, people seem more suspicious of government,” says Lieberth. “When people read only about conflicts, when television news only comes to the city to cover the murders or because the city council is going to explode that night into a shouting match with the mayor, if that’s all they’re seeing, then it’s an incomplete picture of city government, and people think all we are is dishonest and confrontational.”
If the people who live in a community are going to understand the way city hall or the county commission or the school board shapes their lives, they need journalism that is there for the long haul and not just the occasional shout in the dark.
It was a similar concern about coverage in the Los Angeles Times that motivated civic leaders there to write what amounted to a manifesto on journalism in the city. The group, which included John Mack, who chairs the city’s police commission; former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher; and United Way President Elise Buik, shared a feeling that under Tribune management the Times had lost its ability to cover the region well and that further cuts would enfeeble the one entity able to tie the vast, diverse Los Angeles Basin together. “These are people who are active on committees, who help chair the political campaigns, who are the do-gooders, and they’ve become increasingly unhappy with the quality of local reporting in the Times,” says Kevin Roderick, a former Times reporter and editor who now runs, a Web site devoted to covering the local media and community affairs. “It has to do with the savviness level of reporting, a sense that local coverage has become much more surface-oriented and not grounded in expertise.”

Click on the headline to read the Governing magazine story.

Peggy adds her own thoughts about the newspapers in the Twin Cities:

“Another 20 reporters are being laid off in St. Paul. [Pioneer Press] So far, the Strib [Minneapolis Star Tribune) remains fat and happy. And exceptionally lazy. They wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them in the a**. All they can focus on is the scandal of the lesbian fire chief who is an alleged sexual harasser. Well, okay, that’s a pretty good story, but it’s the first news out of the city hall reporter in months. I do not exaggerate.

“No one knows how to cover meetings anymore. When I tell people I used to cover township hearings on sewer line expansions they give me looks of great pity. Shows what they know. So then I have to impress them by telling them I covered Mt. St. Helens’ eruption. The sewer hearing was more challenging.”

Giffels on BJ 'no smoking' edict

Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels notes in a piece on page B1 on Friday that the BJ now “prohibits employees from smoking on sidewalks adjacent to the building, which happens to occupy an entire city block. Which means they will have to cross a busy four-lane street for a smoke, and cigarette breaks will now take three or four times as long,

“Plus once they cross the street, won’t they be smoking on someone else’s sidewalk."

Giffels say a potential amendment to the surgeon general’s warning might be “Quitting smoking now reduces the possibility of being hit by a car.”

Giffels, who quit smoking previously, then notes “I’d have preferred the mere discomfort of crossing the street for a cigarette break. (I’d walk an eight-mile for a Camel.)”

Click on the headline to read it all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Honoring R.W. Apple in Words and Food

Some graphs from Frank Bruni in the New York Times about the eulogy for Johnny Apple, the former Beacon Journal copy boy:

There were those at the Kennedy Center memorial on Tuesday for R. W. Apple Jr. who contended that he would have been touched most by what the current and former leaders of the free world had to say — or rather how many of them said it.

Of the five living American presidents, all but Gerald R. Ford, who is ill, sent letters of admiration to be read from the stage in honor of Mr. Apple, who died of complications of thoracic cancer on Oct. 4 at 71 after an extraordinary journalistic career at The New York Times.

There were those who contended that Mr. Apple would have been moved even more by the relatives and friends, including the journalists Charlie Rose and Morley Safer, who showed up in the kind of checked dress shirts for which Mr. Apple, no sartorial giant, was famous.

But many of Mr. Apple’s admirers, about 1,000 of whom turned out for a funny, sad and immensely caloric tribute, agreed that it was the Island Creek oysters that would have brought him the greatest delight.

Like his life, Mr. Apple’s memorial was a feast, with dishes donated by 20 of the Washington area’s most celebrated chefs. The oysters came from Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington.

Mr. O’Connell said he had initially planned to bring 300, then tripled the count. Mr. Apple, he acknowledged, could never get enough of the good things in life.

Read the full story
in the New York Times

And Joe Klein of Time magazine took some notes at the memorial service for the late New York Times reporter, one of journalism's great note takers:

I brought a reporter's notebook to the memorial service for R.W. Apple of the New York Times this morning at the Kennedy Center, here in Washington. It was a primal act, a totemic offering — like my son bringing his glove to the ballpark when we go to see the Mets, I brought my notebook to celebrate Johnny, the most voracious of reporters. I even took a few notes.

Johnny was eulogized by eight friends, two stepchildren, four Presidents (Carter, Clinton and both Bushes sent written notes), 22 restaurateurs, 20 wineries and a piano player. The over-stuffedness of it all was, of course, appropriate — although I must say that while the food provided by the grieving restaurateurs was delicious (especially the oysters), it was on the skimpy side. Apple would have wanted more. He was more gourmand than gourmet, as a journalist as well as an eater, and his antic enthusiasms provided plenty of grist for the eulogists.

See all of Klein’s notes

Day that will live in infamy

It was 65 years ago.

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of American was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." President Franklin D, Roosevelt.

This was the front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin which now is owned by Black Newspapers Ltd.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

San Jose reaches tentative pact

The San Jose Mercury News [Tony Ridderr’s old newspaper] reached a tentative agreement with the San Jose Newspaper Guild on Monday for a two-year contract that significantly reduces the number of layoffs the newspaper was planning.

Under the agreement, reached Monday morning after a 20-hour bargaining session, management will lay off up to 27 positions represented by the Guild, including 15 in the newsroom, rather than the 69 previously announced. The layoffs were set to happen Monday evening..

The contract would also resolve key jurisdictional issues so the paper can use the resources of the Mercury News' new owner, MediaNews, which owns eight other Bay Area dailies and several other groups of publications, including the Palo Alto Daily News Group and the weekly Silicon Valley Community Newspapers. The new contract would also allow the company to shift finance, advertising and other business-side jobs to a new shared services center in San Ramon.

``I think we did the best we could in a very tough strategic environment,'' said Luther Jackson, executive officer of the Guild.

A date has not been set for ratification by the union's membership.

The Mercury News, like many other papers, has seen ad revenue decline sharply in recent months, increasing pressure for cost-cutting measures. In October, the Mercury News said it would lay off 101 employees, including the 69 represented by the Guild.

The proposed contract would provide annual 2 percent wage increases for the next two years, while requiring employees to pay a portion of health insurance premiums and replacing the pension plan with a 401(k) plan that includes employer matching.

The contract would allow the company to plan and coordinate news coverage and to use that coverage in the Mercury News. A provision would require that use of such content would not result in layoffs of Guild employees.

It also will allow coordination of advertising sales with other MediaNews papers.

MediaNews acquired the Mercury News and three other former Knight Ridder papers this summer from McClatchy.

Click on the headline to read Pete Carey’s story in the Mercury News

Monday, December 04, 2006

The bad news continues

This front page of the Guild Reporter indicates the layoffs are continuing almost everywere. Here are some other items about new media.

PHILADELPHIA - The largest union at Philadelphia's two biggest newspapers has reached a tentative agreement with management on non-economic issues of a contract after
a second day of marathon negotiations, union officials said early Monday.

Henry Holcomb, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, cautioned that critical economic issues, including management's proposal to freeze pensions, remain unresolved.

The sides met for 12 hours, ending talks at 12:40 a.m. Monday, after a 14-hour session Saturday in which both sides reported some progress.

"I'm not going to be relieved until we get a complete agreement and get the memb
ers to ratify it," Holcomb said.

See Phila Strike News by AP

If you picked up the New York Times on October 18, you'd have had little reason to think it was a particularly significant day in American history. While the front page featured
a photo of George W. Bush signing a new law at the White House the previous day, the story about the Military Commissions Act--which the Times never named--was buried in a 750-word piece on page A20. "It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives" was the first of several quotes of praise from the President that were high up in the article. Further down, a few Democrats objected to the bill, but from the article's limited explanation of the law it was hard to understand why.

But if you happened to catch MSNBC the evening before, you'd have heard a different story. It, too, began with a laudatory statement from the President: "These military commissions are lawful. They are fair. And they are necessary." Cut to MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann: "And they also permit the detention of any American in jail without trial if the President does not like him."

See story in the Nation.

The Wall Street Journal, is about to shrink.

Starting Jan. 2, The Journal, the nation’s second-highest-circulation daily after USA Today, will shrink in width by 3 inches, to an industry standard of 12 inches, reducing the space devoted to news by 10 percent.

The move has alarmed some journalists there, but executives say it will save millions of dollars and that the reconfigured Journal will offer more information, not less. They are unveiling the new design today.

On the front page, the column of news that runs down the left side will be gone. This thrusts the shaded, double-column "What's News" summary columns, the best-read part of the paper, into even greater prominence. With the front page already displaying advertising, the redesigned version will have room to begin only three or four articles.

Inside the paper, items that Journal editors deem "yesterday's news" will be condensed into brief text bits and graphics. Articles will include summary boxes.

See: Katharine Seelye’s story in The New York Times

The St. Petersburg Times is perhaps the finest daily newspaper south of The Washington Post and east of The Dallas Morning News.

The St. Petersburg Times and its owner, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, provide a shining example of how a newspaper can be run without corporate bean counters ruling the day. The Times is a for-profit enterprise, but Poynter is not. That means the paper is better equipped to get through difficult financial times without having to resort to the slash-and-burn tactics all too commonly deployed by newspapers owned by publicly traded media companies.

Newspapers everywhere are losing readers, and the Times is no different. The paper's circulation in its home base of Pinellas County has deteriorated in recent years, largely offset by readership gains in other parts of the Tampa Bay area. But average weekday circulation slipped 3.2% year-on-year during the six months ended Sept. 30, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The Times has also been forced to cut costs in ways that will sound familiar to journalists elsewhere, such as by shrinking the size of the paper to save on newsprint costs; eliminating the quarterly cost-of-living increases once granted regularly to all staffers; and ditching the paper’s traditional pension plan for new hires and replacing it with a less costly 401(k).

And things are about to get a lot rougher. Executive Editor Neil Brown warned recently in the Times' in-house newsletter that the paper’s profits this year “if there are any, will be dangerously low.” As a result, the paper plans to eliminate 80 to 90 jobs companywide by the end of 2007, mostly through attrition.

See story in Forbe Magazine

Go to the Guild Reporter web site.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

San Jose to lay off 40

If news breaks out and there are no reporters and photographers to cover it, did the news really happen? We may find out the answer to this Zen-like question on Tuesday morning in the South Bay. That’s because all union editorial employees at the San Jose Mercury News [Tony Ridder's old newspaper] have been ordered to not come to work on December 5 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Merc management told the reporters and photogs earlier this week that they should remain at home, waiting by their phones for a call that will tell them whether they’ve lost their jobs.

Merc managers plan to lay off forty editorial staffers on Monday night and Tuesday morning, along with another 61 workers in the newspaper’s other departments. Union employees plan to wear all-black outfits on Monday and Tuesday or black armbands. Management has remained tight-lipped about who will be getting the phone calls, and the secrecy has put the 446 employees who received layoff-warning notices on edge. “It’s the largest layoff in Mercury News history – that I’m aware of,” said Luther Jackson, executive director of the San Jose Newspaper Guild.

Once the laid-off employees receive the bad news, they will be given a time on Saturday and Sunday December 9 and 10 to come into the office and collect their belongings. But they won’t have access to their computers. Merc managers plan to immediately turn off the laid-off employees’ computers and change their passwords. This plan has prompted dozens of staffers in the past few days to begin downloading or printing out their phone numbers, source lists, and key work they don’t want to lose. “People are e-mailing stuff to their private e-mail accounts or downloading stuff like crazy,” said one Merc source.

Merc executive editor Susan Goldberg told employees that she decided to call people at home instead of doing it at the office to avoid publicly embarrassing the laid-off employees. But her plan has some people wondering whether her real motive is to avoid possible major disruptions at the paper when staffers learn who gets the ax.

Plans for the layoffs steamed ahead on Thursday after the union refused to capitulate to MediaNews’ demands. The company that owns the Oakland Tribune and several other East Bay dailies purchased the Merc in August, along with the Contra Costa Times , and then demanded that the Merc union employees agree to wide-ranging cuts. One of the major sticking points in the bargaining talks centered on MediaNews’ demand that it be allowed to assign work now done by Merc reporters and photographers to lower-paid staffers at the company’s other papers.

The laid-off employees’ official last day is to be December 19, but they will not be allowed to come to work after the 5th. They will be paid for staying home the two weeks in between. — Robert Gammon.

Click on the headline to read the full story.

[Source: East Bay Express news blog., December 1, 2006]

Friday, December 01, 2006

BJ refuses letter from O'Connor

The Beacon Journal refused to print a letter by former veteran BJ reporter Bill O.Connor, so he has now written a letter to the new owner to protest Mizell Stewart’s dumping of Porter’s People “in a manner so callous it was cruel.”

Here’s O’Connor’s letter to the editor:

Date: 10/26/2006

To the editor:
I was saddened to see the end of Porter's People. Mickey is my friend, but I am sad for me, for I will miss his impish wit in my Beacon Journal each morning. I spent many happy years at the Beacon and will always be a defender of the paper, but here I must squabble with you, my own tribe.

\You see, I am not the only reader who feels this way. Porter's People was the most read thing in the paper. It was laughed about and commented on around office water fountains, construction sites and high schools.

I understand why a new management would want to put its own stamp on things. There is much to be said for that. But in this case, you have chosen internal maneuvers over universal reader interest I once was standing with Mickey in your very newsroom and a recent editor, in a time of circulation trouble, told Mickey he better not leave because, "I need that column."
Of course times change, and new approaches are needed. But, in this case, you have forgotten where you came from.


Bill O'Connor
1108 Rambling Way
Bath, Ohio 44333

A blog item on October 18 reported that Mickey Porter wrote his last column for Thursday, October 19, but did not get the Final Word.

Here’s what Porter wrote:

The Final Word
Because of the newsroom staff reduction, this column is being discontinued after today. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for your support through the years.
~Mickey Porter

Here’s the word he got from features editor Mitch McKenney:

hi mickey,
mizell's going to use your last word in a handoff sunday, so the column running thursday ends with the AARP item. sorry we're losing you. we'll cobble together a column to fill the space, but it won't be the same -- mitch

Porter asked Mizell why the end was cut and here’s Mizell’s reply:

I'm going to say exactly that - and offer a few kind parting words of my own
- in my Sunday column. On another topic: Are you ready to return to work in your new classification of reporter?

The final word was not published in a column by Stewart.

Click on the headline to read O’Connor’s letter to David Black

Lynne Sherwin wins $23,301 on Jeopardy

Big winner: Akron Beacon Journal deputy features editor Lynne Sherwin took in $22,301 on Jeopardy's telecast Thursday, winning the night and knocking off a three-time champion in the process.

Sherwin sealed the win in ``Final Jeopardy'' by knowing the play character based on an English philologist who wrote History of English Sounds and a Handbook of Phonetics.

The answer: Henry Higgins of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. Sherwin is known for her love of theater, especially musicals. She said she and Jeopardy host Alex Trebek sang You Did It from My Fair Lady after she won.

[Source: The HeldenFiles in the Akron Beacon Journal, Friday, Dec. 1, 2006, page A2]

But she fades on Friday:

Akron Beacon Journal celebrity contestant Lynne Sherwin said she was rooting for categories on blimps, Devo and sauerkraut balls on her return to Jeopardy! Friday night.

Failing that, the Beacon Journal deputy features editor continued to endear herself to Akron-area fans with a few good lobs -- answering correctly about Cleveland's burning river and the Hoover vacuum cleaner company -- before fading into television history.

The trivia that did her in in Final Jeopardy: ``In 2005 at New Mexico State, Cuyler Frank made history by being the first to call a football game in this language.''

Sherwin said Spanish, but the correct answer was Navajo.

Even so, she won a wad of cash: $23,301 for her two appearances before she rode off into the sunset.
[Source: Names in News, Beacon Journal, Saturday, December 2, 2006, page A2]