Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bingham wrote of newspaper demise, daughter says

Emily Bingham, daughter of Barry Bingham Jr. who ran the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.,from 1971 to 1986 and great-grandaughter of the man who bought the newspaper during World War I, wrote an article March 28 for Newsweek with the catch line:

My father, a third-generation newspaper publisher, warned of the industry's demise. None of us listened.

Click on the headline to read her article.

Bingham is a historian in Louisville. Her next book is a jazz-age story about art, money, sexuality and her great-aunt Henrietta Worth Bingham.

[Thanks to Marv Katz who found the article for us.]

What happens when there is no paper on doorsteps

A New York Times story describes what it was like in Detroit on Monday when no newspaper landed on doorsteps:

DETROIT — Maybe once a year, a city has a news day as heavy as the one that just hit Detroit: The White House forced out the chairman of General Motors, word leaked that the administration wanted Chrysler to hitch its fortunes to Fiat, and Michigan State University’s men’s basketball team reached the Final Four, which will be held in Detroit.

All of this news would have landed on hundreds of thousands of Motor City doorsteps and driveways on Monday morning, in the form of The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News.

Would have, that is, except that Monday — of all days — was the long-planned first day of the newspapers’ new strategy for surviving the economic crisis by ending home delivery on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Instead, on those days, they are directing readers to their Web sites and offering a truncated print version at stores, newsstands and street boxes.

“This morning, I felt like something was missing,” said Nancy Nester, 51, a program coordinator at a traumatic brain injury center who is from West Bloomfield and has subscribed to both papers for four years. “There was this feeling of emptiness.”

She did not even bother to pick up the condensed print versions that were offered free on Monday. “I don’t have time to stop at the store,” she said. “That’s why I have home delivery.”

To Carol Banas, a retired city planner and longtime Free Press reader, the idea of not having a printed paper is unimaginable. “I’m at the age where I like my newspapers in hand,” said Ms. Banas, 56, who read a hard copy of Monday’s abbreviated Free Press in an Einstein Brothers Bagels shop in Royal Oak. “I know that’s English online, but it’s not the same.”

On Monday, The News and The Free Press, which share business functions under a joint operating agreement, distributed more than half a million free copies of their condensed print editions, but they will begin charging (50 cents, as always) on Tuesday. The Free Press, the larger of the papers, will still make home deliveries on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and The News, which does not have a Sunday issue, will deliver on Thursdays and Fridays.

They have been heavily promoting not just their Web sites, but also online “e-editions” that look just like the printed papers. The e-editions have been open to everyone, but executives say that soon, only paying customers will be able to see them. For a day, at least, there was no doubt about the demand: the computers delivering the e-editions could not keep up on Monday morning, and many people were unable to load them.

“We had an overwhelming — literally overwhelming — number of people trying to get onto the e-edition site this morning, and it’s gratifying on one hand, but it slowed things down,” said Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of The News, which is owned by MediaNews Group.

The papers went to great effort to prepare readers, printing warnings and guides to the new format, but not everyone got the message. “A lot of people were prepped for it, and yet we’ve also been hearing from folks who were surprised that today was the day,” Mr. Wolman said.

With profits shrinking fast, newspapers are grasping for the formula that will ensure survival, and a few have decided to save on printing and distribution by publishing only on the most profitable days of the week — potentially a step toward an all-digital future. The Detroit papers are not going quite that far, but clearly the impetus is the same. Executives have called it a calculated gamble, but they say that Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays account for more than 80 percent of their advertising revenue.

About 50,000 people tried to click on the e-editions Monday, five times as many as usual, said David Hunke, chief executive of the Detroit Media Partnership. And squeezing all of the day’s news into a 32-page print edition “certainly tested our theories on design and editing.”

Click on the headline to read more.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Newspapers that have cut circulation days

Associated Press

Some of the daily newspapers that have reduced publication days since last year:

-- Douglas Dispatch -- Formerly The Daily Dispatch, went from five to three days a week in August.
-- East Valley Tribune -- In January, suburban Phoenix newspaper scaled back from seven days to Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It also became a free publication delivered to four growing communities, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek; Scottsdale and Tempe dropped from delivery zone.

-- Blytheville Courier News -- Dropped Mondays.
-- The Daily World, Helena-West Helena -- Dropped Thursdays.

-- The Davis Enterprise -- Dropped Mondays.
-- The Gilroy Dispatch -- Scaled back last year to Tuesdays and Fridays, instead of five days a week.
-- Hollister Free Lance -- Scaled back last year to Tuesdays and Fridays, instead of five days a week. Dropped Fridays later in the year.
-- Palo Alto Daily News -- Free newspaper dropped Mondays last year.
-- The Examiner, San Francisco -- Reduced home delivery to Thursdays and Sundays, although free newspaper available in news racks on other days.
-- San Mateo Daily News -- Free newspaper dropped Tuesdays last year.
-- Daily Sound, Santa Barbara -- Free newspaper dropped Mondays in February.
-- Sierra Sun, Truckee -- Scaled back in January to Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It had largely been a weekly until it expanded to twice weekly in 2003 and to five days a week in 2006.
- Tahoe Daily Tribune, South Lake Tahoe -- Scaled back in February to Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, instead of Monday through Friday.
-- Register-Pajaronian, Watsonville -- Scaled back in February to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from six times a week.

-- The Aspen Times -- Dropped Sundays in January.

-- The Washington Examiner -- Reduced home delivery to Thursdays and Sundays, although free newspaper available in news racks on other days.
-- The Washington Times -- Dropped Saturdays last year.

-- Statesboro Herald -- After becoming a seven-day daily in 1982, dropped Mondays in January.

-- Post Register, Idaho Falls -- Dropped Mondays in March.
-- Standard Journal, Rexburg -- Scaled back in March to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, dropping Thursdays and Fridays.

-- Benton Evening News -- Dropped Saturdays in February.\
-- The Carmi Times -- Dropped Wednesdays in March.
-- Du Quoin Evening Call -- Dropped Saturdays in February.-- Eldorado Daily Journal -- Dropped Saturdays in February.
-- The Courier News, Elgin -- Dropped Saturdays and switched to tabloid format in January.
-- The Journal-Standard, Freeport -- Dropped Mondays in February.
-- Kane County Chronicle, Geneva -- Dropped Mondays and switched to tabloid format in March.
-- The Daily Register, Harrisburg -- Dropped Saturdays in February.
-- Star Courier, Kewanee -- Dropped Mondays last year.
-- Macomb Journal -- Dropped Mondays in January
-- The Marion Daily Republican -- Dropped Saturdays in October.
-- Daily Review Atlas, Monmouth -- Dropped Mondays last summer.
-- The Daily Leader, Pontiac -- Dropped Fridays.
-- The Daily American, West Frankford -- Dropped Saturdays in February.

-- The Brazil Times -- Dropped Tuesdays in January.
-- Banner Graphic, Greencastle -- Dropped Tuesdays in January.
-- Daily Reporter, Greenfield -- Dropped Fridays in December.
-- Rushville Republican -- Dropped Mondays last year.

-- The Daily Nonpareil, Council Bluffs -- Dropped Mondays in February.
-- The Courier, Waterloo-Cedar Falls -- Dropped Saturdays in January.

-- Kansas City Kansan -- Went entirely online in January after scaling back to two editions a week, from five, last year.
-- The Southwest Times, Liberal -- Formerly the Southwest Daily Times, scaled back early last year to Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, dropping Tuesdays and Thursdays. The publisher and many employees left in protest and began the High Plains Daily Leader, printing Sunday through Friday.
-- McPherson Sentinel -- Dropped Mondays late last year.
-- The Ottawa Herald -- Dropped Fridays in February.
-- Parsons Sun -- Dropped Mondays in July.

-- Georgetown News-Graphic -- Scaled back in February to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, instead of Tuesday through Friday and Sunday. The newspaper had increased from three to five days a week in August 2006.
-- Appalachian News-Express, Pikeville -- Dropped from five days a week to three days a week in March.

-- The Frederick News-Post -- Will drop Mondays after this week.

-- The Christian Science Monitor -- The Boston-based national newspaper's final issue as a daily was Friday. Subscribers should receive the first weekly newspaper as early as this Friday. The Monitor also is starting a daily e-mail newsletter for a separate paid subscription, while maintaining its free Web site.

-- The Ann Arbor News -- Ceasing operations in July after 174 years, replaced by a Web-focused AnnArbor.com, which plans printed newspaper on Thursdays and Sundays.
-- The Bay City Times -- Will print only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, instead of seven days, beginning June 1.
-- The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press -- Beginning Monday, both papers will reduce home delivery to Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and produce slimmer editions for sale at newsstands on the other days. Because The News does not publish on Sundays, subscribers will get the Free Press that day.
-- The Flint Journal -- Will print only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, instead of seven days, beginning June 1.
-- The Daily Tribune, Royal Oak -- Scaled back late last year to Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, dropping Mondays and Tuesdays.
-- The Saginaw News -- Will print only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, instead of seven days, beginning June 1.

-- The Minnesota Daily, Minneapolis -- The University of Minnesota newspaper dropped Fridays in January.

-- Columbia Missourian. Dropped Mondays and Saturdays in Marc.
-- The Hannibal Courier-Post -- Dropped Mondays.
-- The Examiner, Independence -- Dropped Mondays in January.

-- McCook Daily Gazette -- Dropped Saturdays in January.

-- Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard -- Scaled back in October to Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, instead of Tuesday through Sunday.

-- Burlington County Times, Willingboro -- Dropped Saturdays in February.

-- Las Vegas Optic -- Scaled back in March to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, dropping Tuesday and Thursday editions.

-- The Daily Mail, Catskill -- Dropped Sundays and Mondays in March.
-- Register-Star, Hudson -- Dropped Sundays and Mondays in March.
-- Hoy, New York -- The five-day-a-week Spanish-language newspaper went online-only Dec. 31.
-- Salamanca Press -- Scaled back in January to weekly, from five days a week.

-- The Dispatch, Lexington -- Dropped Mondays in September.
-- Washington Daily News -- Dropped Mondays.

-- Bellevue Gazette -- Dropped Mondays in January.
-- Fairborn Daily Herald -- Dropped Mondays in November.
-- The Galion Inquirer -- Dropped Mondays in September.
-- Greenville Daily Advocate -- Dropped Mondays and Tuesdays in January.
-- Times-Gazette, Hillsboro -- Dropped Mondays in November.
-- The Madison Press, London -- Dropped Mondays in November.\
-- Piqua Daily Call -- Dropped Tuesdays in February.
-- The Sidney Daily News -- Dropped Tuesdays in February.
-- Troy Daily News -- Dropped Tuesdays in February.
-- Van Wert Times-Bulletin -- Dropped Mondays last fall.
-- Wilmington News Journal -- Dropped Mondays in September.
-- The Xenia Daily Gazette -- Dropped Mondays in November.

-- Herald and News, Klamath Falls -- Dropped Mondays in January.
-- Argus Observer, Ontario -- Will drop Mondays after this week.

-- Beaver County Times, Beaver -- Dropped Saturdays in February.
-- The Intelligencer, Doylestown -- Dropped Saturdays in February.
-- Bucks County Courier Times, Levittown -- Dropped Saturdays in February.
-- Herald-Standard, Uniontown -- Dropped Saturdays in February.

-- The Item, Sumter -- Dropped Mondays last summer.
-- The Union Daily Times -- Dropped Mondays.

-- State Gazette, Dyersburg -- Dropped Mondays in February.
-- The Newport Plain Talk -- Will scale back to Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays after this Thursday's edition. Newspaper had expanded from three days to five in 1999.
-- Shelbyville Times-Gazette -- Dropped Mondays in March.

-- Mexia News -- Formerly The Mexia Daily News, went from five to three days a week in January.

-- Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- Ended print publication in March; converted to Internet-only operation with much smaller staff.

-- The Capital Times, Madison -- Became a free publication distributed with its larger rival, Wisconsin State Journal, and given away separately at newspaper racks. Scaled back last year from six days a week to twice weekly -- a news and opinion edition on Wednesdays and an arts, entertainment and culture edition on Thursdays
-- Superior Telegram -- Formerly The Daily Telegram, scaled back last year to Wednesdays and Fridays, instead of six days.
-- The Freeman, Waukesha -- Will drop Mondays after this week.
-- Daily News, West Bend -- Will drop Mondays after this week.
-- The Southwest Times, Pulaski -- Dropped Mondays in October.

Trio blamed for newspapers' demise

And here's a bidt from POYNTER ON LINE

Late Editor Blames Three Key People for Newspapers' Demise

Editor's note: The following essay was written by
the late John Walter, who served as executive editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was a founding editor of USA Today. A few months after Walter died due to complications from surgery last September, his wife, Jan Pogue, found this essay on his computer. With her permission, Poynter has reprinted an edited version of it here.

By John Walter

I read today that big-city newspapers are dead. Well, actually, I didn't read it. I heard it from my friend George, who read it in a blog referencing a St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times article about the topic.

The fact that newspapers are dying discourages me; I will miss the sound of the blue bag hitting the porch, even though it hasn't hit the porch anytime recently. The carrier stopped porch delivery long ago, and for a while the blue bag had been hitting the stones at the end of the driveway.

Of course, the blue bag hasn't been hitting the stones at the end of the driveway for a couple of weeks now; I canceled my subscription. This was because I discovered that I foolishly had been paying full price for a home-delivered subscription and didn't know that if you started a new subscription, you actually got 50 percent off for 12 weeks. So, we canceled our subscription and then started it up again, and had 12 good weeks at 50 percent off.

Then I called to cancel my subscription at the end of the 12 weeks, and they said they really didn't want to lose me as a customer, so I could have another 12 weeks at 75 percent off, and I realized what a fool I had been to take the paper for 50 percent off.

So I signed up for 12 weeks at 75 percent off, and when those 12 weeks ended, I called up to cancel, and they said, sorry, they weren't offering the 75 percent off subscription anymore, but I could have the Wednesday through Sunday papers for the same price that I had been paying for the full week at 75 percent off, so I took that for another 12 weeks.

Then, just the other week, when they said I now had to pay full price again for whatever subscription I wanted -- Sundays only, or five weekdays, or Thursday and Monday, whatever -- I said the hell with it. So there hasn't been any blue bag in the driveway now for several weeks, except, of course, on Easter, when the paper gives free copies to apparently anybody with a driveway.

When we were growing up, it never occurred to anybody that newspapers weren't meant to go on forever, and it never occurred to anybody to think of them, like cars and stereos and Wonder White Bread, as consumer products that could outlive their usefulness and become, well, old and dead. But now that seems to be what has happened.

So newspapers are going to go out of business. Journalism will survive, no doubt, but we'll just have to figure out the economics of it as we go along. Some of it will be painful, and some of the business people who are buying the big newspaper companies these days will undoubtedly help figure out the way.

But big metro newspapers themselves? They are out of here. I want to say that there are three people in the world responsible for their demise, and -- because I have always loved newspapers, even when they weren't on my porch or in my driveway -- I want to say I'm mad at them about it. And, therefore, I want to record for posterity who they are, and why we should be mad at them.

First, there is A.J. Liebling. He is responsible because on Feb. 18, 1949, he wrote
a famous column in The New Yorker called "Toward a One-Paper Town." In this column he called attention to the fact that the number of newspapers in New York was dwindling, and that competition among newspapers was becoming a thing of the past.

At the time he wrote it, there were at least 10 cities in America with three or more newspapers each, and many more cities beyond that with two newspapers -- one in the morning and one in the evening.

These newspapers more or less competed with one another (although some of them were owned by the same company), and it was a healthy thing. A reporter for The Middletown Blat-Times would be at a city council meeting, as well as a reporter for The Middletown News-Press. If the reporter from the News-Press fell asleep at the meeting and missed the debate about the relocation of the city landfill, then he at least stood the chance of being embarrassed by the fact that the next day the Blat-Times seemed to have been at the meeting he had missed.

But once the Blat-Times went out of business (actually, it merged with the News-Press and became The Middletown Blat-Times-News-Press), there was no other reporter at the meeting to embarrass the fellow about the fact that he fell asleep, and this was bad for newspapers.

Liebling was responsible for this merger mania because it was possible to extrapolate from his column that in many of the American cities where competition still existed, it really wasn't a close race at all; the dominant newspapers were the ones getting the ads and readers, and it was inevitable that the second and third newspapers in those towns were going to die.

The existence of these monopolies was a first step in making newspapers as dull as dog poop because when they became monopoly papers there was no chance of offending anyone, and they became bland. Plus, they had too many comic strips because the surviving papers absorbed all the comics from the competition, and now they had three pages of comics and all of them were printed too small.

So Liebling is the first one who killed newspapers.

Second, there was a layout editor at The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal.

This was in the late 1960s, when newspapers were still fairly individualistic and didn't all look like they came out of the same meat grinder.

There was, for example, the Chicago Tribune, whose front-page format had not changed in 50 years, and always, every morning, consisted of one large headline in two-inch-high type, and then eight columns of skinny, one-column headlines, wedged around a color cartoon of striking imbecility.

And there was the San Francisco Chronicle, which had large headline type, too, and a sports section printed on green paper and a classified section printed on bright yellow paper. It also had lots of quirky short stories from around the world, printed in boxes with squiggly lines around them.

When you saw the squiggly lines, you knew you were in for a treat, a hilarious story about the one-eyed sloth from Madagascar that had been bitten by a local resident and died in spite of a blood transfusion. And so on. In those days, individuality ruled, in both look and content of the papers.

Well, in the middle of this individuality came the layout editor, who one day decided that though newspapers had been printing stories in vertical columns for 200 years, there was no particular reason to do so, and he took out his line gauge and talked to the people in the composing room -- who thought he was crazy -- and laid out his newspaper full of horizontal rectangles. Stories stretched over four columns, or even five, with lots of white space thrown in. [Editor's note: Though others were involved,
Ed Arnold was a key figure in this change, which he discussed in a Society of News Design interview (PDF) in 2000.]

And suddenly people were saying the Courier-Journal was one of the best-looking papers in America. "Just like a magazine!" everybody said. And, just like that, newspapers started to abandon the ugly, hodgepodge look of their vertical columns and went into the magazine business.

They lost, thereby, a sense of urgency, and the thing that made them look like, well, newspapers. And it got worse; eventually layout editors were replaced by something called design directors, and design directors took to running pictures of large vegetables, first in black and white and later in color, and newspapering went all soft and squishy as hell.

So that is why that layout editor is the second person responsible for the death of newspapers.

Then there is Al Neuharth, who was general manager of the Rochester, N.Y., newspapers when I worked there in the late 1960s. Soon after that he was head of the Gannett chain of newspapers, which had recently gone public.

Neuharth was a super-slick salesman of the first rank (I say that with absolute affection and admiration; I myself had two or three long and happy careers at Gannett), and pioneered the idea that a public newspaper company could show increased earnings every quarter and result in Wall Street loving you.

He achieved a remarkable string of quarters with increased earnings; I think the string ran up to 22 or more. He did it by buying new newspapers until Gannett owned dozens and dozens of them. He applied tough financial constraints on their budgets and got them to contribute to this ever-increasing bottom line.

It was brilliant, it made perfect sense, and -- particularly if you were going to retire in time -- it carried no threat of ever having to face the day when maybe there wasn't going to be any more growth, a day when Wall Street wasn't going to love you.

Soon everyone wanted to imitate Neuharth, and almost every newspaper company in America went public. The public companies gobbled up more and more papers and created more and more monopolies and stretched their earnings to 20 or 30 percent and ... we know the end of this story. So Neuharth is the third person responsible for killing newspapers.

This morning I heard that Sam Zell, the new owner of the once-mighty Tribune Company, says he doesn't know much about the newspaper business yet, but will know the business inside and out by the time he's done.

Memo to Zell: To know the business, start by reading up on the three guys above. Newspapers are dying. Journalism will go on, but the thing in the blue bag is over. These guys did it.

What will become of news

A report on the CBS News website asks:

Newspapers As We Know Them May Cease To Exist ... But What Will Become Of The News Itself?

And it concludes:

Fusing print, video and the Web is drastically changing what reporters do - and must do.

"What that means to me is not only do you have to know how to report and write, you have to be a wire service reporter, and blog, and you have to know how to use a video camera, you have to know how to appear before a TV camera, be on the radio," said Inquirer editor Bill Marimow. "You really have to be a maestro of the media."

And that, says 30-year Inquirer veteran Gail Shister, comes with a cost, but one that has to be paid.

"I think the big downside of speed is that a lot of times, you don't get the quality control," Shister said. "You don't get enough editing. And you don't get the extra phone call to check something."

And while Shister mourns the potential loss of the printed page, she's a realist:

"I think there's no question that we're losing something, but it's generational," she said. "People under 50 never got into the ritual to start with. They don't know what they're missing because they've never had it. And more importantly, they don't care. I still get excited when I pick up a new paper and open it for the first time."

Ernie Infield and the importance of language

"A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. ~Joseph Conrad.
Ernie Infield died Saturday at the age of 89. Some of us lately are worried that there are too few of his kind left to carry on the burden.

Will we eventually be left only with sound bites and blogging junkies to provide us with with entertainment and no one to dig up the truth needed to sustain civilization?

Ernie taught writing. He was not like some today who describe themselves as “wordsmiths.” He just taught the importance of language and of facts. Some of us have been lucky enough to know the few like Ernie. Hal Fry comes to mind. Our viewers will remember others.

Scribes from ancient times have provided us trustworthy reports of those ideas and events necessary for the upkeep of civilization.

Hopefully in this digital age there will still be those like Ernie who aspire to good writing.

Click on the headline to read Bob Dyer’s column about Ernie in today’s Beacon Journal.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Even historical society is furloughng staff

Ohio Historical Society Closed This Week

Among recent cost-saving measures to be taken as a result of recent cuts to state funding, the Ohio Historical Society will furlough its employees at specified sites for the week of March 28-April 3, 2009.

The following is from the Ohio Historical Society web site:
Sites and Museums
Fifteen out of 58 OHS historic sites and museums normally open to public visitation and/or business will be closed. The sites scheduled to be closed for the week are: Adena Mansion & Gardens in Chillicothe, Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, Dunbar House in Dayton, Fort Ancient near Oregonia, Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, Harding Home in Marion, Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, National Road/Zane Grey Museum near Norwich, Piqua Historical Area in Piqua, Serpent Mound near Peebles, Wahkeena near Lancaster, Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor in Youngstown and Zoar Village in Zoar. These sites will reopen Saturday, April 4.

Sites that will reopen Saturday, April 4 for public visitation include: Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Campus Martius Museum, Fort Meigs, National Afro-American Museum, Ohio Historical Center, and Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor. All other of the above-mentioned sites will open for business Monday, April 6.

The remaining sites that open later in the season or are managed by other groups for the Society are not affected. Before visiting, please check a site’s Web page at www.ohiohistory.org/places for its 2009 schedule.

Additionally, all history-related services will be closed March 28-April 3, including the Archives-Library in Columbus and Youngstown and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office in Columbus. The Archives-Library will reopen on Saturday, April 4 at both locations. The Ohio Historic Preservation Office will reopen Monday, April 6.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

There's good news tonight

There have been enough gloom and doom posts on this blog for a while. It’s time for some good news.

Headline awards come our way
Ten years ago, Regina Brett won the National Headliner Award for special columns on one subject for writing about her own cancer. Now she has won the same award for a special feature column writing about her daughter's decision with breast cancer. Regina is a BJ alum.

The Beacon Journal also got a second for its American Dream series in the 75th annual National Headliner Awards, sponsored by The Press Club of Atlantic City, N.J.

Plain dealer education reporters Scott Stephens and Edith Starzyk won a first for "Putting Teachers to the Test"

The BJ’s American Dream project also won honor mention in the Scripps-Howard Foundation’s National Journalism Awards.
The series was a year in the making and spelled out the financial crisis facing middle America, offered solutions and engaged the community for public action.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers named the same project as a winner for public service and. the Associated Press Society of Ohio picked the series as a finalist for public service.

Click on the headline for the full list:

People still do read the newspaper
A higher percentage of adults in the Cleveland market area are reading newspapers than the national average

A newspaper audience study fby Scarborough Research found 75 percent of adults read a newspaper weekly. Cleveland came in at 86 percent just behind Rochester, the leader with 87 percent. A higher percentage of adults in Rochester are reading newspapers in print or online than in any other U.S. market. Buffalo, NY, also had 86 percent.

“This data begs the question: is the constant negative news feed on the industry warranted when newspapers are actually being read by three-fourths of the adult population? When you look at audience data, it seems irrational that advertisers are leaving newspapers because the numbers speak for themselves,” said Gary Meo, senior vice president, print and digital media, Scarborough Research. “If you are an advertiser seeking to reach a large, upscale audience, newspapers are among the most effective
media for doing so. Further, readership rates vary market-by-market and frequently defy local generalizations about declining audience. In order to obtain an accurate, in-depth portrait of newspaper health, in print and online, one needs to drill down to this local level.”

More than half of the adult population reads the newspaper even in those cities with lower than average Integrated Newspaper Audience. For example, in Bakersfield, CA, and Las Vegas, NV, (the two lowest ranking markets for Integrated Newspaper Audience), 59% of the adult population read a printed newspaper, a newspaper’s website, or did both during the past week. *Integrated Newspaper Audience is the percentage of adults in the market who have read the printed newspaper, or visited the newspaper’s website(s), or did both during the past seven days.

Grumpy Abe agrees that newspapers are still doing their job.
Former BJ political reporter Abe Zaidan who is writing a blog called Grumpy Abe had good things to say about the Plain Dealer’s “relentless” fight against corruption which, he said, is further evidence of the critical need for sustaining the hometown press.

He was not too kind in the same post to the folks who pay his pension. He writes:

“A Page One story in Friday's Beacon Journal reported how the stimulus money will be spent in the Akron area. The headline said the city's Y-bridge will be fenced. And the subhead noted, Some call plan wasteful. Fair enough, so far. But reading the entire report (quite long) to learn who objected enough to merit recognition in the headline, I found the only reference to wasteful spending was near the end of the story which said:
"Some would argue Akron's Y-Bridge project would be a waste. One person, responding to a request for stimulus comments on Akron's Web Site, wrote, 'Please do not build a fence on the Y-Bridge.”
“ One anonymous person snags the headline? You lost me.”

Blog Note to Abe: You just had to spoil our good news post.:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Retired BJ engraver Watson Blanton dies at 87

[Watson and Rosetta regularly attended Beacon Journal retiree luncheons and were last there in May, 2008.]

Watson Luther Blanton, 87, went home to be with his Lord on March 25, 2009.

He was born in Clearwater, Florida, on August 8, 1921. He visited Clearwater every five years to attend his high school class reunion. He received his B.S. Degree from The University of Akron where he wa
s a member of the Alumni Association and the Zip Athletic Club.

Mr. Blanton was a member of the Adoniram Lodge #517 F&AM. He served as master of the Lodge in 1994. He w
as a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. As a member of Calvary Baptist Church, he held the following offices: Deacon, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Financial Secretary, Sunday School teacher, and Treasurer of the Loyal Sons and Daughters Sunday School Class. He attended The Chapel.

During World War II, FCI Officer Blanton served in five major naval battles in the South Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Tingey DD539. He is a recipient of the Purple Heart. After the war, he was a member of the commissioning crew of the U.S.S. Toledo. Watson retired from the Akron Beacon Journal with 22 years service in the engraving department.

Recently the Webelos I Den from Pack 3075 in Akron gathered at Watson's northwest Akron home to perform a patriotic ceremony of kindness and respect to honor him for his military service in the Navy during World War II. Watson was honored and thrilled to hear that the Cubs have voted to make him an honorary member of their Pack.

Mr. Blanton was preceded in death by his parents, James and Effie Blanton; brothers, Lee and Fred; and sisters, Lois and Lucille. He is survived by his wife, Rosetta Evelyn; sister, Mildred Lazo; and many nieces and nephews.

The family wishes to express thanks to Dr. Robert D.Mosteller, Dr. Eric Rodriguez, Dr. Richard Sparrow, Dr. Michael Gideon, and the doctors and nurses in Emergency at Summa, especially Dr. Ugo Gallo who saved Watson's life, the caring and kind nurses in Critical Care at Summa, and also Melissa White and Scott Carter, his heroes, who administered CPR to him when he suffered a cardiac arrest. We owe much appreciation to the Cadiac Rehab Staff at Summa Hospital who provided rehab treatment for Watson that resulted in a prolongation of his life Jim, Clyde, Tom, Kendra, Patti, and Sally. Grateful appreciation is also expressed to Pastor Lynn Warner and Pastor Eloy Pacheco from The Chapel for their faithfulness in ministering daily to Watson and the hospital chaplains, Deborah Damore and Lois Maio and to Melissa Carawick, hospital staff member.

Services will be held 11 a.m. MONDAY at the Billow FAIRLAWN Chapel, 85 N. Miller Rd., with Pastors Lynn Warner, Eloy Pacheco and Steven Sholar officiating. Interment with military honors by V.F.W. Post 7971/American Legion Post 473 at Rose Hill Burial Park. Friends may call at the funeral home SUNDAY from 2 to 5 p.m., where Adoniram Lodge #517 officiated by George Seabeck will conduct services at 5 p.m., and one hour before services on Monday. The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to the Haven of Rest, 175 E. Market St., Akron 44308. His presence will be missed by the family.

(Billow FAIRLAWN Chapel)
[Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Friday, March 7, 2009, page B6, col. 2]

See blog post about visit of Scouts

See photo of Watsons in wedding anniversary post on this blog

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Times to roll back salaries

A New YoekTimes Co. memo sent toJim Romenesko says: "We, regrettably, must take even more steps to lower costs. ...The salaries of all employees at The New York Times Media Group (with the exception of the IHT, which is working on other cost reduction measures), The Boston Globe, Boston.com and Corporate in New York will be rolled back by 5%, starting this April, and these employees will receive 10 additional days off to use before the end of the year." A second memo: eliminates 100 business side jobs.

See the New York Times story.

Brenda Star put on furlough

In Saturday's strip, Brenda Starr is called into B. Babbitt Bottomline's office and given the bad news. "I can't afford to pay you anymore," he tells the reporter. Mary Schmich, who writes the strip, says that "as far-fetched as some of the plots in Brenda are, I do like to keep it topical."

[Thanks to Romenesko at Poynter Online from whom it was stolen.]

Freelance photographer Robert Kamenar dies

[Kamenar was a freelance photographer used by the Beacon Journal]

BARBERTON -- Robert L. Kamenar, 61, passed away March 22, 2009.

Bob was born in Barberton where he was a life resident and owner of Kamenar Productions and Photography for 50 years. Bob graduated from Barberton High School Class of 1965.

He is survived by his mother, Margaret (William) Angst of Barberton; brothers,
James (Linda) of Barberton and John (Luanne) of Brunswick; sisters, Nancy Lynne of Glendale, Ariz. and Linda (Ronald) Schueler of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; and many nieces and nephews and beloved friends. He was preceded in death by grandparents, Julia and Frank Kamenar and Elizabeth and John Horvath; and father, Louis Kamenar.

Bob was a former member of the Barberton Board of Education and former Barberton City Councilman at Large where he worked on various projects to promote growth and help preserve the City of Barberton. Bob was a past member of the Barberton Area Jaycees, Kiwanis Club, Elk's Lodge, member of Summit County Right to Life Society, and a current member of the Knights of Columbus, #1617.

Bob was also a former Director of the Miss World Pageant, Miss Universe and preliminary director for Miss America, holding pageants for nearly 20 years as well as Director for Miss Ohio Hemisphere in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virgina.

He was a professional photographer for the Barberton Herald and Akron Beacon Journal. Through the camera lens, Bob met many well known celebrities, politicians, astronauts and President's.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, March 27, 2009, 10 a.m. at Prince of Peace Catholic Church. Rev. Robert Jackson celebrant. Interment at Holy Cross Cemetery. Calling Hours will be held Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the SILVA-HOSTETLER FUNERAL HOME, 1199 Wooster Rd. West, Barberton, where prayers will be said Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Meals on Wheels or Barberton Beautification Fund.
[Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Wednesday, March 25, 2009, page B6, col.6]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Atlanta J-C to cut 90 jobs, trim circulation area

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Wednesday it will cut its full-time news staff by about 90 people, or nearly 30 percent, to lower costs as it tries to regain profitability amid a severe revenue slump.

The company also announced it will eliminate distribution to seven more outlying counties, reducing its circulation area to 20 metro Atlanta counties, effective April 26. The cutback will pare daily and Sunday circulation by 2 percent.

The AJC’s news staff will drop to about 230 full-time positions, down from about 323 currently. Staff members with five or more years with the company will be offered voluntary buyouts, with layoffs to follow if they don’t achieve the targeted cuts, the company said.

Most of the news staff cuts “will be in production and management, allowing us to keep as many news reporters as possible,” AJC and ajc.com editor Julia Wallace said.

The cuts are expected to be completed in May.

The company laid off 48 part-time news staffers Tuesday and announced the full-time cuts Wednesday morning.

The moves come amid “unprecedented pressures on advertising revenues and the struggling economy,” the company said in a press release.

“The AJC has taken an aggressive approach in changing our business model to ensure long-term viability,” Publisher Doug Franklin said in the release.

“We must reduce costs and become a smaller organization. Today’s announcements are the first in a series of initiatives we’ll announce over the next 90 days to reduce costs,” added Franklin, who was installed as the newspaper’s top executive in January.

It is the third and largest round of job cuts for the AJC news staff, which numbered about 500 in 2006. The first came in 2007 with buyouts for retirement-eligible staff members, followed by a broader buyout in mid-2008.

Counties that will no longer get the AJC print edition are: Barrow, Bibb, Clarke, Houston, Monroe, Oconee and Putnam.

Update from a retired engraver

Here's an update from retired BJ engraver Charles Schmook

I retired in Sept. 1995, WOW! I was in the Engraving Dept. for 14 years, starting in 1981. Since retiring I've kept myself busy being a Co-Director of the Parma Hunger Center. We are open on Tues. and Fri. for a couple hours each day. As you can expect with the economic conditions as they are, we are really busy! Just today we serviced 43 families. A couple of years ago we would average about 15 families per session.

I am still the Secy-Treas. of both the Ohio State Assn. of Allied Printing Trades Councils and the Northeast Ohio Allied Printing Trades Council. Our numbers keep dwindling and I fear the State Assn. is about on its last legs.

For recreation, I have had two motorhomes since retirement and we have done quite a bit of traveling. It's really the way to go! The last few years we have gone to Florida from mid-January to mid-March. We had three daughters and the oldest now lives in Tampa, FL so we do spend a few weeks in that area each year. My son-in-law is an editor for the Tampa Tribune. Previously he was the Editor of the Bonita Banner in Bonita Springs, FL.

A couple of years ago, we did look up Bill Hillsheimer, a former BJ photo-engraver also. He lives in Nakomis, FL.

That's about the size of it from here in Parma.

Take care,

Chuck Schmook

Bill to give newspapers non-profit status

NEW YORK - US Senator Ben Cardin introduced a bill to allow newspapers to operate as nonprofit organizations, following four bankruptcies in the industry in as many months.

Under the proposed bill, advertising and circulation revenue could be claimed as tax exempt, Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said yesterday in a statement. Newspapers would be barred from making political endorsements.

Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Co., the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and two other publishers have sought bankruptcy protection since December. Hearst Corp. last week halted the print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after ad revenue plunged.

"The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken," Cardin said in the statement.

The Newspaper Revitalization Act would grant newspapers so-called 501(c)(3) tax status typically reserved for educational entities.

"This is really aimed at community newspapers," or newspapers that may be bought and turned into nonprofits, said Susan Sullam, a spokeswoman for Cardin.

The proposal doesn't apply to radio or other media, she said. The bill was submitted to the Senate Finance Committee and doesn't yet have a hearing date.
[Source: Boston.com, website of the Boston Globe]

Blogger Note: Thanks to Ken Krause for send link to this article.

Monday, March 23, 2009

10-day furloughs at PD, other Advance papers

Employees at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Newark Star-Ledger, the Portland Oregonian and other Advance papers have been told to take a 10-day unpaid furlough, Editor & Publisher reports.

There will be salary reductions at some papers.

Advance Publications is instituting mandatory 10-day furloughs and a pension freeze at nearly all of its daily papers outside Michigan, according to Steve Newhouse, chairman of Advance.net and a company spokesman.

Word of the furloughs began to spread last week, but formal announcements were going out today at most of the company's Newhouse newspapers.

Newhouse said the furloughs would likely be required within the next 12 months or by the end of 2009, he was not sure. He also did not have specific figures on the 401 (k) increase.

"It is certainly a difficult day. We are facing unprecedented economic challenges," he said. "Especially in Michigan and the ever-growing challenges to the newspaper business have been documented."

The Oregonian posted a story today stating its furloughs would only be for four days, but salary reductions of five to 10 percent would also be instituted.

Click on the headline to read more.

Charlotte Observer to cut work force

Faced with sharply declining revenues in the recession, The Charlotte Observer will cut its workforce by 14.6 percent and reduce the pay of most remaining employees, the company announced this morning.

In addition to the 82 companywide layoffs -- 60 full-time and 22 part-time employees -- the Observer also plans to reduce the hours of some employees. The company's plan to save costs also includes a one-week furlough for employees later this year if economic conditions don't improve.

"We have really looked every place we can," said Ann Caulkins, the Observer's publisher, during a meeting with newsroom employees this morning.

Click on the headline to read more.

Lexington H-L cuts 15 pct of work force

LEXINGTON, KY -- The Lexington Herald-Leader has cut 15 percent of its workforce as 49 full-time and 4 part-time employees were laid-off Monday morning.

"That alone is really tough to deal with, but when that's the fifth round of lay-offs or buy-outs in under a year – our first round of this started last May – to lose that many people in that short of time has just been excruciating," said Scott Sloan, area chief steward for the Lexington Newspaper Guild, a unit of the Communications Workers of America Local 3372.

Sloan lost 14 of his fellow newsroom guild members as a part of the cut back today. Last week negotiations between the guild and Herald-Leader management allowed for the 14 guild covered workers to be let go by accepting 5 percent wage cuts and a possible five day furlough. Had the guild not accepted those concessions, 19 of their employees would have been terminated today.

The same 5 percent wage cut has been extended to the rest of the Herald-Leader staff making between $25,000 and $100,000. Those at or above the six-figure mark will receive 10 percent wage cuts.

On top to of the lay-off announcements Editor Linda Austin, who has been at the helm of the paper for about 24-months, announced she was leaving to take a job at a university. Which university or position is yet to be announced.

Click on the headline to read more

Ann Arbor News to close in July

The Ann Arbor News will close in July after publishing as the city's daily newspaper since 1835, publisher Laurel Champion announced today.

Heavy losses in revenue drove the decision. Champion said the current "business model is not sustainable." Advertising revenue slumped more than 20 percent in January compared to the same month last year.

"This isn't about abandoning local journalism, it's about serving it up in a very different way," Champion told employees, as she visibly fought back tears.

A new Web-based media company called AnnArbor.com LLC will be launched later this year. In addition to publishing continuously online, AnnArbor.com will publish a print edition twice a week.

Champion, who will be executive vice president of AnnArbor.com, told News employees they can apply for positions with the new company, although job losses are inevitable. A total of 272 people work for the newspaper at both its main downtown Ann Arbor office and its Pittsfield Township printing plant. The newspaper has a daily circulation of nearly 45,000.

Click on the headline to read the full story by Stefanie Murray in the Ann Arbor News

Star Tribune's post-bankruptcy loss: $1.8 million

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has posted a $1.8 million operating loss in its first six weeks in bankruptcy, according to court documents filed Friday.

The paper grossed $24.2 million from Jan. 15 to March 1, and spent $26 million. Management also racked up a hefty $2.2 million in reorganization costs, which are not reflected in the operating loss.

Until now, Strib has managed a profit even as its business deteriorated and it stopped paying off $480 million in debt. In 2008, for example, the operating profit was $31 million.

The danger for a bankrupt business is that no one will lend you money to cover losses, leaving only cutting to keep the doors open.

However, the Strib had squirreled away $25 million before its mid-January filing to keep operating, and the new documents shed some light on the bankruptcy move's timing. Despite the $4 million lost to operations and reorganization, the paper's cash position actually soared to $34 million as Christmastime advertising payments came in.

Click on the headline to read the full story in the Minneapolis Post

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Will the bad news ever end?

Charlie Buffum, our New York City correspondent, spotted this timely cartoon and sent it along for your viewilng pleasure.

It's by Eddie Margulies
of the Hackensack (NJ)
Record. If we get sued for copyright infringement, Buffum pays the bill.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Content sharing is increasing

Sharing content with papers nearby or in the same state is just the beginning, according to an Editor & Publisher article by Joe Strupp.

The Northeast Consortium has five papers in New York and New Jersey trading news and photos; in the midwest, the Plain Dealer met with editors from Milwaukee and Pittsburgh in January to discuss expanding an Ohio consortium to other cities.

Click on the headline to read Strupp's article.

Celebrity baggers to work Saturday

Three top Beacon Journa,l news executives may learn about real work from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the Acme store, 3235 Manchester Road.

They will be celebrity baggers at Acme to support the Harvest for Hun
get program of the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank.

Photos of editor Bruce Wnges, general manager Alton Brown and publishe
r Andrea Matyhewson were used in a promotion ad for the event on page B2 of Frdiay's newspaper along with photos of Acme president Steve Albrecht and Food Bank CEO Dan Flowers.

Browser, the BJ mascot, and Buck, the Acme counterpart, will be joining in the fun.


'Doctor' examines San Diego news

Ken Doctor, who has a blog called Content Bridges which discusses news media, weighs in on the involvement of Beacon publisher David Black in the purchase ot the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Doctor’s bio on his blog says he completed a 21-year career with Knight Ridder in 2004, where he served as vp/content services, vp/strategy and vp/editorial for Knight Ridder Digital. We could not google a disinterested bio on him.

Here’s part of what he writes. (Click on the headline for more)

Black Press is a major publisher, but unknown to most in the US industry. Its roots are in Canada and strongly in smaller, community papers. It first arrived on many radar screens when it unexpectedly bought the Akron Beacon-Journal from McClatchy, after Gary Pruitt divested some of the Knight Ridder newspapers it bought in 2006.

That purchase registered surprise. Why was Black Press buying a small-metro daily, competitive with the Plain Dealer and host of other adjoining papers, and what would it do with it?

What's happened in Akron shouldn't buoy hopes for Union-Tribune staff or for its readers.

Mainly, the Beacon-Journal, like most of its brethren, has gotten smaller. At least three rounds of layoffs have reduced the staff by more than a third. David Black himself, in recently visiting the paper, told people the newsroom looked "thin."

In other ways, the Black ownership has been unremarkable. The Beacon-Journal has not distinguished itself in pushing its newsroom to embrace web-first, web-only, blog-friendly reporting. The online sales side is a work in progress.

[Blog interrupt: Are not the last two graphds true of most newspapers today?]

Judging from Akron,we can intuit that the new private equity owners and David Black will look first to "efficiencies." That means less headcount and a concentration on lower-paid, less-experienced reporting staff. Morale -- never a newspaper strong suit -- will take another hit.

We don't see savvy Internet savvy in the new DNA, but we know so little about Platinum here that we could -- and would like to -- be surprised.

Interestingly, if you talk with restructuring firms working with newspaper companies these days, one of their questions is: "Are they cutting too deeply?" Uh-oh. If the restructuring guys, the guys who know how and where to wield the efficiency knife in assorted industries, think that newspaper companies may be cutting too much of their core, then, we see the depth of the problem.

Indeed, since Knight-Ridder hit the market in 2006, numerous PE companies have kicked newspaper tires and eyed their books. The near-universal verdict: this isn't a business we can get into and out of in three to five years at a good profit. Why is this one different?

My best guess: The Union-Tribune will get smaller and much more local-local focused. And that real estate under its building (and the Union-Tribune's other San Diego real estate holdings, which we assume are part of the deal), that may be a real motivator for the purchase. Commercial real estate has seized up in the recession and the credit crunch. But that's cyclical. It will come back -- and far faster than metro newspaper value..

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Barbara Patterson dies at 78

[Wife of retired BJ sports columnist Jack Patterson]

Barbara Ann Patterson, 78, of Munroe Falls, passed away Tuesday, March 17, 2009.

She was born May 31, 1930, to Frank and Bernice Lyntz and raised in Warren, Ohio, prior to moving to the Akron area in 1955.

Barbara and her husband, Jack Patterson, were classmates at Warren G. Harding High School and dated after Ja
ck returned from military service in 1951. They were married in 1954 and raised five children. During their 55 years together one of their favorite activities was attending 31 Kentucky Derby events.

She is survived by Jack; sons, Mike (Michelle) of Boca Raton, Florida, and John (Amy) of Cuyahoga Falls; daughters, Kathy of North Canton, Valerie of Tallmadge and Patricia (Scott) of San Jose, Califor
nia; and grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Kassidy; Zane, Jessa and Joy; Mike, Molly and Nick; Amber; and Andrew and Dan. Barbara will be dearly missed by her family as a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother.

Calling hours will be held Friday, March 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Redmon Funeral Home in Stow, with funeral services Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Northampton United Methodist Church in Cuyahoga Falls. Burial will follow at Silver Springs Cemetery. (REDMON, STOW, 330-688-6631)
[Beacon Journal, Akron, OH,Thursday, March 19, 2009, page B6, col. 4]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Black reported involved in San Diego sale

Beacon Journal publisher Davjd Black is involved in Platinum Equity which has agreed to purchase the San Diego Union-DTribune, according to a story in Editor & Publisher.

After sitting on the auction block the newspzper has finally found a buyer in the Beverly Hill, Calif.-based private equity firm Platinum Equity which has agreed to purchase the daily from The Copley Press. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The San Diego Union-Tribune first reported the sale.

In a written statement to the U-T, Harold W. Fuson Jr., an executive vice president at Copley said, "This is a vital business with a long tradition of public service and a pre-eminent position in one of America's finest media markets. At this important juncture, we believe Platinum Equity is the right partner for the Union-Tribune, its employees and the San Diego community."

Black, the head of Black Press, which operates newspapers in Candada and Honolulu/. as well as the Beacon, is said to be involved with Platinum Equity, reports the U-T's Thomas Kupper.

Also in a written statement, Louis Samson with Platinum Equity, said: "The Union-Tribune is more than a business. It's an institution in San Diego. But it faces enormous challenge in a period of tremendous upheaval for the newspaper industry. We will bring a strong operational focus that helps ensure the Union-Tribune not only survives in this market, but thrives."

Several other parties were reportedly interested in the paper, including the Tribune Co., MediaNews Group, and the Yucaipa Companies.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

Union-Tribune Editor Karin Winner broke the news of the newspaper's sale to the newsroom around 11 a.m. today. "She looked delighted," said one newsroom staffer.

"[Winner's] first words were 'This is terrific news,'" said the staffer....

When asked whether she will be staying on as editor, Winner said: "I don't know." She also said she was not made privy to the final sale price.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Newspapers do matter, Princeton study finds

The shutdown of a newspaper has an immediate and measurable impact on local political engagement, according to a new study by economists at Princeton University.

Assessing the consequences of the closing of the Cincinnati Post at the end of 2007, the researchers found that fewer people voted in subsequent elections, fewer candidates ran in opposition to the incumbents and that, as a result, the incumbents had a better chance of being returned to office.

“If voter turnout, a broad choice of candidates and accountability for incumbents are important to democracy, we side with those who lament” the decline of newspapers, said economists Sam Schulhofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido, who conducted the study.

As a onetime reporter and copyeditor who forsook journalism for a PhD in economics, Schulhofer-Wohl might be accused of having a soft spot for newspapers.

But he and his colleague ran a detailed, hard-nosed analysis of news coverage and voting patterns to determine that the political landscape in the Kentucky counties across the Ohio River from Cincinnati changed significantly after the Post ceased publication on Dec. 31, 2007.

Knight Foundation CEO: Experimentation needed

"What needs to happen is a great deal of experimentation," Knight Foundation CEO and former Miami Herald publisher Alberto Ibarguen said in a discussion on Jim Lehrer’s News Hour on CBS

"Some of it is happening in the industry," said Ibarguen. "I wish a lot more of it had happened when newspaper companies were making considerable profits only a few years ago, but it didn't."

Click on the headline to see more of the discussion with him and other panelists: Lauren Rich Fine, practitioner in residence at Kent State University's College of Communication and Information, and Dave Hunke, publisher of the Detroit Free Press

You can see or download a livestream video of the program

KR destroyer Bruce Sherman retires

Next week, the slow, inexorable decline of newspapers will be marked by another datapoint when Bruce Sherman, the 61-year-old CEO of Private Capital Management, retires. For those who have followed the newspaper industry's financial travails, Sherman was the money manager who forced the merger of Knight Ridder to McClatchy back in 2006, and then, along with Morgan Stanley fund manager Hassan Elmasry, took on Arthur Sulzberger at the New York Times Company.

In the debut issue of Condé Nast Portfolio in May 2007, a profile of Sherman. noted that for months, the press had been labeling the legendary value investor as "secretive" and "shy" since he wouldn't grant interviews even as he forced Knight Ridder to sell itself to McClatchy for $6.5 billion. Sherman didn't follow the maxim that if you're going to invest in media, you better be prepared to talk to reporters.

At the time, Knight Ridder owned the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Miami Herald along with 30 other dailies and Sherman was portrayed as the scourge of journalism, for precipitating the shotgun marriage of the two newspaper chains. As part of the deal, McClatchy put the Inquirer on the market, and also sold off the Minneapolis Star Tribune to raise cash. In January, the Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy, and the Inquirer has continued to struggle under its new owners, Philadelphia businessman Brian Tierney.

For everyone involved, the deal was a disaster. McClatchy's stock has dropped from the $40s at the time of the merger in June 2006, to 55-cents as of yesterday's close. For Sherman, his newspaper investments were one of his few missteps in an acclaimed career. Many investors heralded him for his ability to put money into undervalued companies. His firm made early investments in the telecom firm Qualcomm that returned more than 1500 percent, and he made another fortune in Apple's stock as it surged on sales of the iPod.

He spent more than $1.5 billion of his clients' money on newspaper companies, owning some 10 percent of the New York Times, 3 percent of Gannett and 12 percent of McClatchy. Sherman eventually sold off all of his newspaper investments at a loss. His firm, PCM, once managed more than $30 billion, but saw client money dwindle as his performance suffered.

About those good old days salaries

Gary Pruitt still draws down $935,000 to run McClatchy – a 15% reduction which he recently voluntarily imposed but it’s still too much. Salaries at around $1 million in a business that is fighting for every penny to pay back debt are really not on. Craig Dubow, Gannett CEO, voluntarily took a $200,000 salary cut last November, lasting through this year but he still pulls in $1 million, and that’s too high when Gannett newspapers are being closed (Tucson end of this week) and employees around the country placed on unpaid furloughs.

Sulzberger gets $1 million, so does Times Company CEO Janet Robinson, and yet the company had to do a lease-back of its building and take a 14% loan from Carlos Slim to ensure debt payments are met this year.

Objecting to those numbers is not being mean-minded. A few hundred thousand from this executive and a couple of hundred thousand from this executive – those amounts add up quickly and can all go towards helping with the debt payments.

Salaries of chief financial officers, chief operating officers, and chief whatever they call themselves these days, are all based on the good old days when newspapers were pulling in huge profits after debt. Now profits are down; so keeping salaries as they were in the good old days without increase, or giving up a couple of hundred thousand or so is not enough given what is happening to the business.

Real journalists no longer needed

'In an era where Paris Hilton and Angelina Jolie’s breastfeeding earn the most hits off our website, maybe real journalists are not needed.

"But the public will be far poorer for it — and I worry about the citizenship, educational and democratic implications of it all.'

~ Debera Harrell, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter

From Sleepless in Seattle, thoughts and reglecctions from staffers on the demise of their 146-year old newspaper published in Columbia Journalism Review

From the publisher: Goodbye, Seattle

Here's the goodbye from the Seattle P-I in a commemorative issue:

Thank you for making us who we were


Goodbye, Seattle.

Thanks for everything.

We probably didn't tell you enough how proud we were to be part of you.

We love your saw-toothed Klondiked Boeing-proud past. It's our past, too.

We even love your nervous overcaffeinated undercapitalized Sonics-free present.

And we're sure you'll still be pretty fetching in the future as a bored-tunnel light-railed one-paper joint (or paper-free zone, as the regrettable case may be).

We love your Koolhaas library and your defiant little Edith Macefield house. We love your ratty Pike Place Market and rattier Pioneer Square, complete with the ersatz totem pole standing in for the real one the P-I-backed drunken expedition stole from the Tlingits in 1899 (not our finest move).

Down here on Elliott, we love it when Rainier rolls into view on mystical ball bearings, and we love the way our old globe looks when the winter sun sets behind it about 4 p.m. and lights up the bay with more fire than Hempfest.

We love the Blue Angels and the hydros and the Duwamish and Northwest Harvest and Dave Niehaus and Elliott Bay Books and Tom Douglas' coconut cream pie. We love guys named Warren (Moon and Magnuson), and Jimi Hendrix, and walking around Green Lake and along Alki and Golden Gardens and through the arboretum. We love the Suzzallo and Salumi and the Burke-Gilman and the Fremont Troll and the best women's crew in the world. We love Benaroya Hall, and also the Croc and the Showbox and the Tractor. We love Norwegians, but most of us fear lutefisk. We love taking ferries, and not using umbrellas, and eating lunch at Bakeman's and the Pecos Pit and the Shanty.

All of which is to say, we love you.

We're overwhelmingly grateful to you for supporting us for 146 years -- for buying us on the street, for inviting us into your homes, for placing ads with us, for telling us what you think and helping us be better. And, over the last two months, for telling us how much you'll miss us.

And we're damned sorry we won't be here in print to cover you. When our kids and your kids make this place even better than it is now. When the Mariners win the World Series. When the city and the county and the state step up to their responsibilities to give our youths better schools and alternatives to shooting each other in the streets, to clean up both traffic and Puget Sound, to actually plow snow, to hold cops accountable, to make this a better place to do business and buy a home.

We won't be here to nudge you along in that old traditional newspaper way, so you're going to have to figure all that out, and more, without us.

It's been a hell of a ride, from Skid Road to the SLUT, from the Great Fire to the Kindle, the first edition to the last deadline in a gut-punched newsroom, and we never wanted to see it end.

Remember: We'll continue the P-I bloodline online with seattlepi.com.

Come see us in the pixels.

Rocky crew launches news web

Today the founders of
IwantmyRocky.com and other former Rocky Mountain News staffers announced a subscription drive to launch a new online news site, InDenverTimes.com. The site is mix of free and premium content. The founders need 50,000 pledges / subscribers by April 23, the 150th anniversary of the first Rocky Mountain News, to launch the full site on May 4. Former Rocky writers Sam Adams, Mary Chandler, Lisa Bornstein, Mark Brown, David Milstead, Chris Tomasson, Aaron Lopez, Mark Wolf and Gary Massaro have already joined the staff of InDenverTimes.com. Help us prove that good journalism can still be good business. Subcribe here: http://indenvertimes.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vatican to prepare new document on media

VATICAN CITY - It's been 17 years since the last pastoral instruction on the means of communication, and it's time for an update, according to Benedict XVI's secretary of state.

The pope acknowledged that January's lifting of the 1988 excommunication of the four Society prelates caused a "discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time," and that the situation could have been avoided if the Vatican had paid more attention to the Internet as a source of information.

Referring to the scandal caused by bishop Richard Williamson, who appeared on Swedish television denying the extent of the Holocaust days before the decree was made public, the Pope wrote: "I have been told that attentive following of the news accessible on Internet would have given the possibility of timely awareness of the problem. From it I draw the lesson that, in the future, we in the Holy See will have to pay more attention to this source of news."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said a new document of pastoral guidance for the Church's communicative commitment is necessary, as the last document of these characteristics -- "Aetatis Novae" -- was issued in 1992.

"The 17 years that have passed represent a very long parenthesis for the rate of development and growth of the media: It is the period in which a series of small and great revolutions have matured that, as a constant current, have radically transformed the pre-existing scene," said Cardinal Bertone.

Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will roll off the presses for the last time Tuesday.

The Hearst Corp. announced Monday that it would stop publishing the 146-year old newspaper, Seattle's oldest business, and cease delivery to more than 117,600 weekday readers.

The company, however, said it would maintain seattlepi.com, making it the nation's largest daily newspaper to shift to an entirely digital news product.

"Tonight we'll be putting the paper to bed for the last time," Editor and Publisher Roger Oglesby told a silent newsroom Monday morning. "But the bloodline will live on."

In a news release, Hearst CEO Frank Bennack Jr. said, "Our goal now is to turn seattlepi.com into the leading news and information portal in the region."

The new operation will be more than a newspaper online, Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, said. The so-called "community platform" will feature breaking news, columns from prominent Seattle residents, community databases, photo galleries, 150 citizen bloggers and links to other journalistic outlets.

On Jan. 9, New York-based Hearst put the Seattle P-I up for sale and said that the paper would stop printing if a buyer were not found within 60 days.

Despite community concern, no buyer emerged. The P-I lost $14 million last year.

Click on the head.ine to read the rest of the story and see a video

Raleigh N&O to cut 78 or 11% of force

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer Publishing Co. this afternoon announced it is cutting jobs, cutting pay and requiring unpaid furloughs for its staff as it contends with steep declines in advertising revenue.

The newspaper company, which also owns community publications such as The Cary News and The Herald in Smithfield, will eliminate 78 positions, or 11 percent of its work force. The equivalent of about 27 full-time positions in The N&O newsroom are included.

The N&O will require remaining workers to take a week off without pay between May 1 and Oct. 31.

And it will cut salaries from 2.5 percent for lower-paid employees to 10 percent for the higher paid. Those making less than $25,000 a year won't see a pay cut.

"We are making our way through difficult times by making difficult decisions," N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III wrote in a memo to employees. "It is never easy to say goodbye to so many of our friends and colleagues, but we must make these additional cuts to sustain our company and adjust to new competitive and economic realities."

The cuts were expected and have been telegraphed for weeks after The N&O's parent, The McClatchy Co. of Sacramento, Calif., said it had to pare its business. The newspaper chain is wrestling with a severe drop in revenue as it tries to pay down debt.

McClatchy's borrowings jumped in 2006 after its $4 billion purchase of larger rival Knight Ridder. It has worked to pay down that debt and now owes about $2 billion. But with revenue falling precipitously, it risks violating bank covenants if it can't keep expenses in check.

During the past year, the company has eliminated its dividend, outsourced operations and required several rounds of cuts at its newspapers, which also include The Sacramento Bee and The Miami Herald.

When a 14-year-old can blow up your business

“When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem,.” Clay Shirky writes on his blog.

His take on what has happened to newspapers states:

: "There's no general model for newspapers to replace the one the Internet just broke," " writes Shirky in his widely circulated essay. "With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data,.

"Who covers all that news if some significant fraction of the currently employed newspaper people lose their jobs? I don't know. Nobody knows. We're collectively living through 1500, when it's easier to see what's broken than what will replace it."

There were 285 comments the last tine we looked.

Click on the headline to read Shirky. Thanks to Jim Kavanagh for sending us the link.

Knight Foundation: Reshaping journalism?

Knight Foundation spending millions to reshape journalism

The Knight Foundation is funding innovative journalism experiments, searching for answers to the future of media.

In San Francisco, freelance journalists use a website to solicit your story ideas and donations to do the reporting on them. In Chicago, a team of computer programmers links databases that allow you to find out whether someone was mugged on your street and whether the corner pizza joint has mice. And in Bakersfield, Calif., anyone can publish his or her own newspaper.

Is this the future of journalism? No one knows for certain.

But these initiatives and other journalistic experiments are getting a chance to take root because of the personal fortunes and foresight of two old-school Miami newspapermen, long deceased.

Brothers John S. and James L. Knight were media titans in the era of upright typewriters and gray fedoras -- publishing newspapers, including The Miami Herald, in more than two dozen communities.

Now, their Miami-based charity, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is underwriting an ambitious effort to shape journalism in the digital age, through a five-year, $25 million initiative called the Knight News Challenge.

''We're at a point now, a period of transition, where we need a lot of experimentation,'' said Alberto Ibargüen, chief executive of the Knight Foundation, and publisher of The Miami Herald from 1998 to 2005. ``We're trying to fund experiments that will lead us to answers about the future of media.''


Knight is not the only charity funding media innovation. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, for instance, funds innovative and participatory journalism projects, and the Ford Foundation underwrites research and technology initiatives.

Still, the Knight News Challenge funds dozens of projects, such as Spot.us. Dreamed up by David Cohn, 26, a freelance journalist in San Francisco, it works like this: Journalists and readers propose stories on his website. Then donations are solicited to cover the reporting costs.

If the promised donations reach a preset threshold -- typically $1,000 -- a journalist is dispatched and the story gets done. If not, the story idea is discarded.

It's participatory investigative journalism. The money has to come from a variety of sources, though, and contributions are capped to avoid personal crusades.

The stories, or in some cases video reports, are posted on Spot.us, but they can also be purchased by a traditional media organization. In such cases, the money raised is refunded to the donors, Cohn said, so they can apply it to another story proposal.

''What I'm trying to find out through Spot.us is if journalism can be valued as a civic good that people donate towards,'' said Cohn, whose idea got $340,000 in seed money from Knight last year.

Click on the headline to read more

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mutter weighs in on doomed newspapers list

Alan D. Mutter who writes the Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, weighs in on Doug McIUntyre’s list of 10 doomed newspapers. Mutter, former city editor of the Chicago Sun-Times (1984) who became the N\o. 2 editor of the San Francisco Chronicle before he left the business in 1988, often gets quoted on media matters. Here’s what he writes:.

About that newspaper ‘doomsday' list

Don’t lose too much sleep over the list of 10 supposedly doomed newspapers that made the rounds in the last couple of days.

Although some of the papers one day may succumb to anemic readership and revenues, there is not enough information or analysis underlying the scary list to support the proposition that the publications are more or less doomed than any of 10, 20 or 30 other papers that might have been named, instead.

For the record, the papers on the list are the Philadelphia Daily News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Miami Herald, Detroit News, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Daily News, Forth Worth Star-Telegram and Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The hit list, which was produced by Douglas A. McIntyre at 24/7 Wall St., was rapidly and uncritically republished everywhere from Time Magazine to the Drudge Report. Although Doug is a friend whose ordinarily thoughtful work I have cited on occasion, there is no hard data or deep analysis to support his findings.

Doug gives no evidence why the Plain Dealer is any more endangered than any of the other newspapers published by its parent, Advance Publications. Or why the Miami and Fort Worth papers are more at risk than some of the other McClatchy titles.

Even though weak economies are hardest on the No. 2 papers in two-newspaper towns, Doug predicts the demise of the print edition of the Boston Globe while saying nothing of the apparently fragile financial status of the far smaller Boston Herald.

Two more No. 2 papers, the Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News, indeed are facing steep challenges, as discussed respectively here and here.

Doug joins the many commentators who have been quick to predict the demise of the San Francisco Chronicle, but, as explained here, it is unlikely the Chron will be shut down. Rather, it almost certainly will be folded in due course into the cluster of MediaNews Group papers that encircle it in northern California.

Given that MediaNews, the parent of the Detroit News, is locked into a complex series of financial relationships with Gannett, the senior partner in the Motown joint-operating agreement, it seems unlikely the parties can let the News fail.

While the Strib and N.Y. News face fierce cross-town competition in their respective markets, each has the potential to partner with a rival paper to drastically reduce operating expenses and, thus, enhance profitability. The potential partner in the Twin Cities is the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The N.Y. News could team with Newsday, the New York Post or even the Newark Star-Ledger.

Doug’s doomsday list omits the names of some papers that arguably could be more endangered than the ones he mentioned. Until I have sufficient data to make my case, however, I’m not going there.

Murphey postcard arrives 47 years later

A postcard mailed by Fran Murphey from Montana in 1962 finally arrived last week. A page 1 story about It by Beacon Journal reporter Jim Carney today spurred an avalanche of inquires from the the AP, newspapers and TV stations.

Click on the headline to read Carney’s story. Here’s his lead;

HUDSON: Last week, Dave Conn, a Hudson insurance agent, opened his post office box and found a postcard mailed from Helena, Mont., in 1962 and signed ''Fran.''

He didn't know who Fran was, but he didn't have to show it to very many people in Hudson before he had the answer.

The Beacon Journal's late reporter Frances B. Murphey, a fixture at the newspaper for 55 years, traveled often, mailing thousands of postcards from major cities and remote locatio
ns around the world to her friends back home.

One of those friends was Marion White, a longtime member of the Hudson Village Council. White died in 1988, and Conn took over her post office box shortly thereafter.

Murphey, a legendary character in Akron history, chronicled the lives of people in the suburbs and rural areas, attended fairs, took pictures and covered trustee meetings and fires during her five decades at the paper.

She died in 1998 at the age of 75 with a collection of about 200,000 postcards.

What she wrote to Marion White tells the story of that summer in 1962.

The front was inscribed with, ''Greetings from Montana.''

The back was dated July 5 and carried a 3-cent stamp.

Murphey was traveling across the country by train with co-worker Polly Paffilas, and the card said they were ''eastbound on the NP RR,'' likely referring to the Northern Pacific Railroad.

She wrote: ''Had a marvelous time in Montana.''

''Saw cattle, horses and mountains and water almost in every direction. Fed elk and deer.''

The fascinating story continues. Postal inspectors say they often fine errant mail and mail it whenever it is found.