Saturday, December 27, 2008

Prayers requested for my brother

My younger brother, my only brother, Mike (with me in 2007 photo at right), is in a California hospital in intensive care in critical condition.

He entered the hospital in critical condition a week ago, improved enough to be moved out of ICU a couple days ago, but has been transferred back in after a serious infection he has regressed.

We are praying that the doctors will find what is ailing my brother, a fellow Vietnam veteran who has suffered from ill health from nearly the time he left the service, and that he can be restored to full and complete health.

For now, he has asked that I not come out there as he doesn't want visitors, and his wife, Barbara, is taking good care of him.If you are a praying person, and we believe that prayer works, please put Michael on your list.

Thank you.

Booth spin is widespread, apparently

See these two columns from former Ann Arbor News folks now writing online:

From Jim Carty:

http://papertigernomore.blogspot.com/2008/12/former-newsie-mary-morgan-what-news.html

From the online Ann Arbor Chronicle:

http://annarborchronicle.com/2008/12/26/column-what-the-ann-arbor-news-needs/

Make sure you read the comments, especially on the Ann Arbor Chronicle article.

Shame on a news organization that demands accountability and honesty from everyone else, to not model the behavior when the finger points at them.

A sad tale with a happy ending

My stepdaughter in Boston forwarded the following news article:

Detroit, MI (AP) - A seven-year-old boy was at the center of a Detroit courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the greatest degree possible.
The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him.
After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.
After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the Detroit Lions, whom the boy firmly believes is not capable of beating anyone.

Friday, December 26, 2008

With a week to go, the newsroom is halved again

Several editors, including the features editor who has already taken the buyout and left, will be leaving the Flint Journal, some at the end of April with the rest sticking around until August when the central copy desk puts Flint into the Grand Rapids mix.

A veteran features reporter is expected to leave by the end of April. She has done some of the best and most noticed work at the Journal as far as features. Two newsroom full-time reporters, including my desk mate for six years are also taking the buyout. One is leaving by the end of January, my desk mate's date is undetermined at this point.

Two copy desk folks are for sure leaving, including a young man (a former State News alum like me) who toyed with last year's buyout so he could go back to school then. Maybe he will continue those plans now. The other copy desk person I'm not as familiar with, but both have undetermined dates of departure.

It appears my favorite editor, the one who unquestionably has the best touch with reporters and knows how to actually edit a story to improve and better organize it, as well as the only one who has had the strength to stand up to the incompetents who run the place, is also apparently departing. Good for her, she never had a chance with the women haters who run the place. I understand she may be gone by April. Her loss will undoubtedly show up in the reduced editing quality of the newspaper.

The sports editor is also on his way out, he's new enough that I don't remember him. His date is, as yet, undetermined.

Three imaging folks with a long history with the Journal are also taking the buyout (read pushed out) at an undetermined date. The TV Guide paginator is leaving along with the entire advertising production staff.

A number of the departing reporters, imaging and pagination folks are African-Americans. At one time the Journal made a good and conscious effort to increase the representation of blacks in the newsroom to reflect the community of Flint. Looks like that effort is pretty much over now. Sad, very sad.

Two copy desk folks, including a former reporter and veteran Journal employee and a newer female desk employee are seeking a spot in Grand Rapids. Two sports copy desk folks are seeking similar spots in Grand Rapids.

The former photo editor, who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident months ago, looks to be reassigned to Saginaw or Bay City when he is able to return to work.

Safe and staying in Flint as reporters are five reporters with more than five (and in some cases much more time) years experience, while four reporters with less than five years news experience are also staying. That's a pretty thin number of reporters to, in the words of the current, but soon to be gone editor, "continue to do everything we've done before."

Two features columnists with wide name recognition were not offered buyouts so presumably they are safe as well.

The Metro editor and his faithful sidekick, a design editor, were not offered buyouts and for reasons known only to those in charge are going to continue on with their work that has brought the Journal to this point.

With the emphasis on Internet media, none of the current Internet team were offered buyouts and two full-time photographers were also left out of the buyout offer and are presumably safe in Flint. At least three longtime sports reporters are also safe as well as the editorial assistant.


There's a long list of those who have an uncertain future: The current business editor, a woman copy desk employee, two designers, both who were hired after the last round of buyouts. One left a job at the Oakland Press to take the job at the Journal last year. Talk about jumping from the fire into the frying pan.

At least one part-time features writer will leave at the end of the year, but there are a list of part-time copy desk, page designers and copy desk folks and regular and sports part-timers who have an uncertain future. Some of them have been long time part-time employees. Supposedly they will receive some type of severance, but nothing close to the buyout offers, I am told.

There are three employees who are on 10-hour a week contracts (former retirees) whose status is unknown, but likely safe because of the small amount of money they cost the company.

So for the second straight year, the Journal will reduce by about half its content producers. Presumably this is being done to help the bottom line. In the end it will simply accelerate the slide into oblivion for the newspaper, but it will save, for a year or two the comfy positions of a few at the top who should have been the first ones shown the door.

With the new year, I will reduce my blogging about Booth. I mean really, what more can be said. The lame management that has brought the company to the brink, remains. While there are many good folks remaining to produce the copy, there are not enough of them to really make a difference and it appears the die is cast.

So, as I learn of new things, I will post them, but maybe one of the new buyout recipients will continue the coverage through their sources on a more consistent basis. Free From Editors will continue on, but just won't be as focused on the Flint Journal and Booth.

Heading to sunny Buffalo, NY for the weekend

We're off on one of our monthly excursions to the Queen City, Buffalo, NY, to help the folks.

As always, if I can pirate a wireless signal, blogging will continue, but likely at a reduced rate.

So enjoy 'boxing day' as we will be passing through Canada during their big after Christmas holiday. Through the magic of the blogpost time machine there will be some posts that I have already completed that will show up over the weekend.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Remember the reason for the season. "Unto us a child is born....."

From my family to yours, God Bless you and have a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Booth News on Friday

Finally have a nearly complete list of those at the Flint Journal who are leaving, those who are staying and a number still on the fence. It will take me a little time to put it together in a form where (1), names are not used, and (2), a form that will make sense and will give an accurate count of how many are leaving, how many are vying for positions at Grand Rapids and those who are kind of left out in the cold. Right now I have a pile of packages to wrap.

I understand that the editor has been having a second round of meetings with certain people giving them that added little push to take the buy out.

What I have learned is that the paper's two lead columnists were not offered buyouts as well as a couple other key folks. That is a major change from last year's offer. But take Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off and come back Friday for the news.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In limbo on Booth news

Still waiting for some final numbers on who stayed and who left at the Journal. I understand there is a great deal of consternation among copy editors who must make the difficult choice of taking the buyout or hoping for a chance at a smaller pool of jobs in Grand Rapids.

There is also word that the annual profit and subscription numbers are even worse than anticipated which does not bode well for the future.

No word yet either on how many part-timers will be invited to stay or shown the door.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This former publisher asked and answered the question I have been asking for the past 8 years, both in and out of the newspaper business.

"How can the newspaper charge one group of subscribers a fee and yet, give the same information away on the Internet for free? The answer was always: "We have to have a presence there." Well, yes, but don't you need to charge for it?," I would ask.

Well here's a column that sums up how I felt and still feel about that issue.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/the-slow-death-of-america_b_152591.html

A singing Christmas Card for you




Sung by The Drifters. Cartoon by Joshua Held.
Featuring Bill Pinkney on lead bass and Clyde McPhatter on tenor.
An animated Christmas Card, and a homage to a great song, a great band, and a great Holiday.

South Dakota checks in


OK, with the visit from someone from South Dakota there are only two states left who haven't visited Free From Editors. Wyoming and North Dakota where are you?
I hope the blue flag below Old Glory is actually the real South Dakota flag.