Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

To all my family, friends and readers I wish you a wonderful and prosperous 2012. Look at it this way, it can't get any worse than it has been for the past few years.

Oops forget my friend Kim's favorite saying: "It can always get worse."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quick reminder

Just a quick reminder to folks that if you send me information do so only from home. While newspapers and media groups thrive on folks feeding them information they are not so kind when the tables are turned.

Thanks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The exodus from MLive Media Group continues

Looks like at least three more Boothies who were picked to stay with the reincarnated MLive Media Group have decided to abandon ship.

In a message to staff, Publisher Paul Keep notified staff that Darin E., a key component of the ‘new’ copy desk, had decided to leave and take a job with a non-profit agency.  His wife, a part-time reporter has also chosen to leave as well. Not sure if she was part of the new company’s plans.
His new job will require him to commute more than an hour each day, but apparently still more attractive than remaining on the Titanic. The business editor, or what used to be the business editor in Grand Rapids, Chris K., has decided to turn down an offer with the new company and is taking a job in PR in Grand Rapids.

There is an unconfirmed report of at least one additional reporter who had been tapped to stay on deciding to take a severance instead. Hmmmmmm.
So the reshaping of the new MLive Media Group leadership team continues.

Free From Editors will be dark for about a week. I have appreciated your support of this blog over the past four years and look forward to a better new year for my former colleagues in the news business. Enjoy the Christmas holiday and may you have a  Happy New Year’s. I will be checking e-mails, so feel free to continue to send me information.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another manager says 'no' to MLive Media Group

The last ever Jackson publisher has declined an offer to take a position with the new MLive Media Group.

In case the story is changed, I've pasted in the copy below. Things are not looking too optimistic for this new venture.

Copy of story as it appeared today:

Sandra Petykiewicz, who led the Jackson Citizen Patriot through an era of change and challenge since 1999, will retire as publisher Dec. 31.
Petykiewicz, 58, of Clark Lake, is the last publisher of the Citizen Patriot. The position will no longer exist following a sweeping corporate restructuring announced in November.
She was offered a management job with a newly formed company, but chose to “step aside” instead.
“I am proud of what I’ve done to lead us to this point, and now I think it’s time for a new generation of leaders to take over,” said Petykiewicz.
She guided the Citizen Patriot through arguably the most turbulent years in the newspaper’s 173-year history and kept the business profitable.
“She was publisher in the worst of times to be a financial leader of a newspaper,” said Eileen Lehnert, former Citizen Patriot editor. “But I think she has risen to the challenge.
“She was someone who really cared about journalism and really wanted the paper to survive in some form,” said Lehnert, who retired two years ago.
A native of metro Detroit, Petykiewicz graduated from Central Michigan University in 1975 and worked at newspapers in Big Rapids, Midland, Saginaw, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
She joined the Citizen Patriot in 1983 as metro editor, overseeing local news coverage.
“Sandy was demanding as an editor and a publisher. You didn’t get a free pass for what you wrote,” said Ken Wyatt, retired editorial writer who helped shape the voice of the Citizen Patriot with Petykiewicz for 20 years.
“You always know where you stand with her,” said Sara Scott, associate editor for content. “She is very direct and honest as far as the job you do.”
No-nonsense leadership was also characterized by respect for the opinions and abilities of subordinates.
“She’s always willing to talk to people,” said Wyatt. “She listens, then she does what she thinks is right. Somewhere along the line, she ceased being just my editor and publisher and became my friend.”
“I couldn’t have had a better boss,” said Lehnert. “There were times when we disagreed, but we always respected each other.”
Petykiewicz was promoted to editor of the Citizen Patriot in 1987, becoming the first female editor in the chain then called Booth Newspapers.
She was promoted to publisher in 1999, with responsibility for all editorial and business functions.

Margaret Parshall, advertising director of the Citizen Patriot, said Petykiewicz fully mastered the challenges of the “business side” of the newspaper.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, our advertisers had very limited choices on where to spend their money,” Parshall said. “Now their options are almost limitless.
“The challenge for us is to help our advertisers reach their audiences. She understands the dynamics of these changes. I learned a lot from her. She was not a micromanager and she gave me the tools I needed.”
Her tenure coincided with industry upheaval that forced newspapers to find new ways of doing business in order to survive.
Circulation of the Citizen Patriot peaked in 1993, Petykiewicz said, and declining readership and advertising revenue accelerated through the recession in the 2000s.
“The low point was in 2008,” Petykiewicz said, “but we turned that around.”
The paper became smaller, reflecting a reduction of advertising revenue. So did the staff, as certain functions, including printing, were consolidated with other Michigan newspapers owned by Advance Publications.
Management was “flattened” by elimination of jobs once seemingly indispensable, including the editor. Since 2010, Petykiewicz has been publisher and editor.
Two years ago, Petykiewicz also became president of Ann Arbor Offset, a commercial printing business that prints the Citizen Patriot.
“We were doing a lot of things other papers were not doing,” said Scott. “She had to make some tough decisions, but I have always thought she has done her best to protect her people.”
“Sandy is a rare person who manages well in crisis, keeping her head,” said Wyatt.
Lehnert said, “She has been out in front in putting the newspaper in a good financial position.”
No previous restructuring is as far-reaching as the one now coming.
Advance Publications announced in November that online and print news operations of its Michigan newspapers will be placed under a new company called MLive Media Group.
The transformation, to be completed in February, is intended to boldly position the company as a “digital-first” news source.
Jackson will become one “hub” of MLive Media Group, with a smaller staff and management structure than a traditional newspaper. Scott will lead the news side of the hub and Parshall will lead the sales side.
Petykiewicz said the new structure is created “from a position of strength” so the company can thrive in the future.
The Citizen Patriot, she said, will become an around-the-clock online information source like “the CNN of Jackson.”
“The changes we are making now will guarantee a future for journalism and advertising solutions in Jackson for a long time to come,” she said.
She has a long list of professional and community accomplishments.
Petykiewicz said she will continue living at Clark Lake, and probably winter in Florida. She is married to Ed Petykiewicz, retired editor of the Ann Arbor News. Their daughter, Kendall, is a senior at Lumen Christi High School.
The retiring publisher does not despair for the future of the Citizen Patriot.
“Right now, between print and online, we reach 70 percent of our audience. Nobody else does that,” she said.
“So I feel very confident we have a future. But it will be a different future.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I'm boycotting the boycotts

I’m boycotting boycotts. It’s been awhile since I had an off topic rant here and today is the day for the next one. I’ve tried to avoid the rants because it usually pops a vein in “Inky” but here goes. They are usually off topic, so that’s the other reason I’ve steered away from them.

In the past couple years we’ve been encouraged to boycott a number of places, people and corporations.
As the readers of Grandma’s Recess know I completely ignored the “Boycott Arizona” crowd and spent a wonderful three weeks there with our trailer in the fall. We spread our money around visiting tourist venues, local stores, hair salons, gas stations, restaurants and other places.

Arizona, like many other states, is continuing to suffer from the lingering effects of a long recession and frankly the people there need the work. Why punish them over the issue of immigration enforcement? Besides, while we were there, the locals told us since the state passed the controversial law the feds have picked up their efforts on enforcing the laws on illegal aliens in Arizona.
Heck we were caught in a federal border patrol random check about 25 miles north of the border during our wine tour outing. So maybe Arizona had a point after all. I’m sure a lot of Arizona folks were happy that we came down and spread the wealth a little.

Besides my Navy reunion was scheduled precisely during the boycott talk back in 2010 and although I don’t know it for a fact, may have played a role in the decision to hold our reunion there for spite. If that’s the case feel free to boycott the USS Cogswell Association, which will be hard for 99.999999999 percent of the country because the requirements to join have something to do with having served on the World War II destroyer to begin with.
Along with boycotts of Jane Fonda, I’ve heard folks tell me I should avoid anything with Charlie Sheen in it. I’ve no love lost for either person, but I’ll watch or not watch whatever they are in based on the subject matter they are portraying, not who they are. Besides it appears that studios and producers are pretty much boycotting both of them for me.

Just during this Christmas season I’ve received messages on Facebook telling me I should boycott Target and Lowe’s stores. The reasons were completely different. Target was being boycotted for “making” its employees work on Thanksgiving night and Lowe’s for pulling its advertising from some show I had never heard of before.
As for the Target boycott, get a life. You’ll get no sympathy for working on Thanksgiving night from a former Navy sailor, police employee and newspaper reporter.  I’ve worked as many Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s Eve/Labor Day/Memorial Day/Fourth of July/Veteran’s Day holidays  as I ever had off. Besides, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve shopped at Target anyway.

Just be happy you have a job. Many people don’t. If you are really upset about having to work a holiday, quit and find another job. Please don’t belly ache about having to earn time-and-a-half for working.
Ditto for Lowe’s. I’ve been inside a Lowe’s store less than I have visited Target stores. Apparently there is a low-rated cable show that Lowe’s pulled its advertising from that deals with a Muslim family and how normal it is. Gees, can’t imagine why that show wouldn’t be a hit. Some of the people who encouraged me to boycott Lowe’s had to admit to me they had never even seen the show themselves.  Its ratings are so low they may be watched by fewer people than CNN. OK, that might be a stretch. Sure I know a kooky right wing group encouraged their own boycott (equally silly) but Lowe’s wasn’t the only company to pull its advertising from the show due to its poor ratings. Apparently the kooky right wing folks were the only people watching the show to begin with.

If you are a big fan of the show and want to see it continue you should donate millions to PBS and convince them to put it on their network where I can also not watch it.
All my home improvement shopping is done at Home Depot. So don’t even think about telling me to boycott them.

And just to really pop all of Inky's veins here's another thing I'm not boycotting: Harry Reid's glasses.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

When the walls come tumbling down

This story on MLive from the Gazette illustrates what happens when the walls between advertising and editorial come down, which is something the new management at MLive Media Group boasted about recently.

Maybe they should put one of those 'Deal' monikers on these kinds of stories.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Poynter: Another cartoonist in the crosshairs of stealing work

Hard to believe in the day of the Internet that these things keep happening. The Poynter article has plenty of interesting links.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More photos from the past

Here's another fun Journal photo from the past (three publishers ago). Once again Tom Cheek makes the photo. He's the one behind Shrek. It's a small size photo and won't get bigger if you click on it.

A geezer photo outside the soon-to-be former Flint Journal building

(l-r) Tom Cheek, Kim Crawford, Steve Kleeman, Dan Shriner,
Larry Gustin, Ron Krueger, David Graham, Ed Backus and Dick
Noble.
After lunch last Thursday a group of retired Flint Journal geezers gathered in front of the building to snap a group photo. It actually took two photos to get us all in, because a couple folks went inside to visit while the first photo was being taken.
(l-r) Tom Cheek, Ron Krueger, Jim Miller, Ed Backus, Dean Howe,
Kim Crawford, Dan Shriner, David Graham, Jim Smith, Steve Kleeman, Dick Noble.

In total there was about 450 years of journalism experience photographed above and at lunch Thursday. Missing from both photos is Gene Mierzejewski, whose name I always believed should be the spelling test for all new reporters.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On their own: Former colleagues working on new ventures

Had a great lunch last week with some of my old Journal 'geezer' pals. Among those who came were Ron Krueger, the Journal's former premier food writer and critic. Ron is no longer with the paper, but is continuing to publish reviews on his new website "live2eat."

Stop by and visit and make your own suggestions and comments. I know Ron will appreciate the patronage.

Also, one of the Journal's finest photographers, Tom Cheek, who prowled the mean streets of Flint with me during the early part of my career there has his own website where he can be reached for photographic work. And, if you need photographic work, it would be hard to find someone better.

MLive Kalamazoo touts its new "hub"

This news story about the new Kalamazoo "hub" (this would be the new name for a newspaper office) is probably the first of many such articles around the state. I have a favorite paragraph (actually two) but I'll reserve them until I see what your favorites are.

Still no transparency on how many of the "77 laid off employees" will be included in the new hub.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Media fails when reporting on itself: AJR

I'm posting a link to an article in AJR that talks about a particular pet peeve of mine: Why don't newspapers cover their own stories like they do every other business in town?  Thanks to an FFE reader for the link.

One of my favorite paragraphs in the long piece:

"My sense is that media organizations [in North America] are so financially anxious now that they want to please their audiences rather than inform them," Dvorkin says. "They want to be friends" with their readers and viewers. ONO's surveys suggest that having an ombudsman fosters great credibility among readers and audiences. "This is a very easy way to help restore confidence in the media," he says.

MLive chosen are also abandoning ship, tidbits from the newsroom and pickets are gone

There are reports that one or more of those pegged to stay on for the transition from Booth to MLive Media Group may be abandoning ship along with those thrown overboard.

Word from some newsroom meetings on the west side of the state indicate that the circulation director for Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Muskegon, who was pegged to lead the distribution process for all the papers in the new structure has opted to depart rather than take the job, as did the assistant.

There are other reports which I am trying to flesh out about another top level person who was offered a post in the new company, but has chosen to leave.

Have also gotten reports that the new salary structure for reporters will be in the low 30s with cash incentives for meeting story quotas. It will be interesting to see what kind of journalism is produced when reporters have story count quotas that are connected to financial incentives.

Salary for experienced reporters at the papers just four years ago was in the low to mid 50s. Wonder what kind of salary reductions the bosses have taken?

Just a follow up to the picket story from last week. Was downtown Flint today, even had my picture taken out in front of the current Journal building with a group of former employees (pictures to follow at a later date) and found that the pickets were no longer out in front of the Rowe Building.

We went into the Rowe building and found work ongoing in a relatively small first floor space that may be the new Journal offices.

It was also sad to look into the old press room in the old building and see the dismantling of the old press. A friend sent along the attached photo of the press room. We were remembering today that on the weekend shifts, when the building was nearly empty and quiet you could feel very subtly the building vibrate with the start of the press run.

Those old presses were like the building's heart beat. Not nearly as loud a heart beat as the old linotype machines, but there was just something about walking out the door on a Friday night, early Saturday morning and see the trucks lined up waiting for the first editions to come out the windows.


Glad I was there for that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The future of the newspaper

Guess you won't need a big building, or an expensive printing press if the future of newspapers is what this video is proposing. Also, from the look of it, news won't be a requirement either.

Hello Little Printer, available 2012 from BERG on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Off topic: Destroyermen

I'm posting this "Destroyermen video here so it will be easily accessible to some of my shipmates from the USS Cogswell. Those of us who served in the tin can Navy share a bond that is hard to explain. As I find more Fletcher class destroyer videos I will also post them here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pickets at new Flint Journal offices in downtown Flint

Drove through downtown Flint this morning and there were "Shame on MLive" pickets in front of the Rowe Building, the planned new headquarters for the Flint Journal.

Did just a little crude reporting as I didn't have time for more and it appears the local union officials are upset that work being done on the offices for the newspaper is using a Grand Rapids electrical firm instead of a local union one.

Good start for the new company here in depressed Flint. If you know more, feel free to chime in. If I'd had my camera with me I would have taken a photo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More news from Advance

Here's another new venture from Advance Publications.


Newspaper owners team up in deal-finding venture
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A group of newspaper publishers and other media companies are teaming up to sell more advertising aimed at people looking for online deals.

Eight companies formed a joint venture that has acquired Find n Save, a search engine focused on discount offers made by merchants in cities across the U.S. The venture acquired Find n Save as part of its purchase of Travidia, an online shopping service. Financial terms of that deal weren’t disclosed in Thursday’s announcement.

The joint venture’s initial owners include: Advance Digital, part of Advance Publications Inc., whose newspapers include The Plain Dealer in Cleveland; A.H. Belo Corp., owner of The Dallas Morning News; Cox Media Group, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more than 100 radio and TV stations; and Gannett Co.; owner of USA Today and more than 80 other newspapers as well as more than 20 TV stations.

Discussions are being held with other media companies interested in joining the venture.
Find n Save is tapping into the coupon craze that helped turn Groupon’s daily-deal service into a hot commodity. Although it’s still losing money, Groupon Inc. is growing so fast that the 3-year-old company already has a $15 billion market value.

Unlike search engines such as Google, Find n Save specializes in showcasing discounts offered by advertisers within local markets. A consumer can type, say, “burrito” into a search field, and receive a list of nearby Mexican restaurants and the deals they’re offering.
 
The search engine makes money from the advertisers in its database. Other ads can be placed by companies looking to connect with people whose search engine requests have signaled their interest in certain products and services.

The participating newspapers will share in the revenue and contribute daily deals covering their markets to Find n Save’s index.

Find n Save currently tracks local deals in 19 of the top 50 U.S. markets. The joint venture plans to add 21 more top markets to the list during the next month. By the end of 2013, the joint venture expects more than 400 newspapers to be affiliated with Find n Save.

Newspapers have been mining the Internet for more revenue to offset a steep decline in print advertising that has triggered bankruptcies and massive cutbacks during the past three years. The drop has been driven by the Internet’s appeal to advertisers looking for less expensive — and in some cases, more effective — alternatives to print advertising.

The joint venture overseeing Find n Save will be run by acting CEO Christopher Trippe, who helped newspapers put together a partnership with Yahoo Inc. that began five years ago.

The venture’s other partners include Hearst Corp., whose newspapers include the San Francisco Chronicle and 14 other dailies; MediaNews Group, owner of the San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post and more than 50 other newspapers; McClatchy Co., owner of The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, The Miami Herald and 28 other dailies; and The Washington Post Co., publisher of the largest newspaper in the nation’s capital.

A final salvo from a downsized reporter

What he said. Apparently this reporter posted this blast against his newspaper's downsizing on his way out the door. It was removed from the newspapers website fairly soon, but in today's world, it will last forever in these caches.

Thank you to an alert FFE reader for the link.

Just in case the link disappears I'm saving a copy of the text. Let me know if the link breaks down.

Some news makes me want to barf

If this is the 'new' journalism, I'm glad I'm not around for it. Admittedly, this is the opinion of an ancient curmudgeon who still prefers old school reporting.

And there will be a lot more of this kind of reporting with this 'new' model.

What will they think of next? Perhaps giving cash bonuses to reporters who produce tons of meaningless copy to create as many "hits" on the Internet as possible. Watch for it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday story about the changes in the Flint Journal

The Sunday Flint Journal had a story on the move to the Rowe building downtown and another story on the layoffs. The story did answer the question about the Muskegon Chronicle layoffs. In the article it was reported that there were layoffs at the Muskegon Chronicle but none that required public reporting.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More bad news for the Sunday papers?

If this trend spreads to Michigan, it will not be good news for the Sunday revenue stream for daily newspapers. I know in my house the Sunday Vlassis coupons are one of the major reasons we still subscribe.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Editorial losses statewide at Booth

So far no indication of any job losses at Muskegon or Ann Arbor in the latest round of layoffs at Booth, but monitoring of the State WARN site will continue.

The State site also lists duplicate reports under the separate headings of Booth and for The Grand Rapids Press. Not sure if that is a mistake or if the numbers are combined. The Booth listing has 55 layoffs and Grand Rapids lists 146 layoffs. So the total layoffs for the State are either 488 or 543. At this time I am unable to reconcile those two numbers.

Here's what I do know about editorial. Layoff notices to reporters (including sports) of all grades were as follows: Grand Rapids (15); Kalamazoo (6); Bay City (12); Flint Journal (12); Jackson (10); and Saginaw (6). That's a total of 61 reporter positions lost. Currently the MLive Media Group is advertising for 9 news reporters, but it is unknown if the individual ads for each paper represent just one job or a series of positions. There are listings for a "Sports Reporter - Engagement," whatever the heck that means and Ann Arbor is advertising for a "Sports Reporter - Buzz" which I guess means they are looking for some kind of bee.

Two of the reporter positions are for slots in Lansing and Detroit, which would seemingly be new positions, although Booth once had an active and full Lansing bureau.

Right now there are 81 job listings on the MLive Media Group site. Editorial accounts for a minor percentage of those positions right now.

A total of 12 editor positions were among those receiving layoff notices. It appears there will be one sports editor (or something akin to that) for the whole chain. That person is a former Michigan State sports info flak who apparently helped start a pro-MSU blog site. That will bode well for coverage for my alma mater, but not sure what credibility that will have with readers from that other school.

A total of 9 photographers received layoff notices in the chain.  Although already consolidated, it appears that 12 copy editors also received pink slips in this latest round.

There are also additional editorial losses from the layoffs of 7 "content specialists" in Bay City and 1 from the Flint Journal.

Many folks have contacted me and asked what I thought about what will be the number of new editorial jobs and starting salaries with the new company. The short and honest answer is that I have no idea.

But it seems clear that if the company wanted, it could have simply moved everyone over to the new company seamlessly at their current salary. So my speculation is that there will either be far fewer editorial positions at a comparable salary or more jobs (but less than now) at a reduced pay scale.

As folks apply for these positions and let me know what the pay scale is, I'll pass that along.

It appears the layoffs come from every department and many are folks who were hired in the wake of the first round of buyouts a few years ago. My focus here is on the editorial departments but feel free to review the documents through the links and send me your reflections on the non-editorial areas.

A business mag's perspective on Booth changes

An FFE reader sent this article along about another person's perspective on the Booth changes.

More Booth layoff notices

The link to the State WARN website has been restored. Here are some additional layoff notices to the State.  The total, as close as I can figure it on the fly, is 543 statewide layoff notices.

When I get a chance later today I'll review the sheets and put together a more concise look at the editorial positions, but that will have to wait until tonight as we are in Buffalo taking care of family business today.

Valley Publishing

Grand Rapids Press

Kalamazoo Gazette

Bay City Times

Fancy new digs for MLive Media Group

Here's the MLive story on the fancy new Grand Rapids digs for the MLive Media Group company.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Detailed layoff numbers for the Jackson Cit-Pat

Here are the total layoffs as reported to the State for the Jackson Cit-Pat. I will post links (the link to the Grand Rapids corporate layoffs is broken) as they come. It is a total of 71 for the Jackson paper and many from the newsroom.

A total of 91 of the current 142 employees at the Flint Journal received the layoff notices. The positions lost are listed here.

Saginaw News is reporting 12 positions gone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Official State layoff notices are posted for Grand Rapids, Flint

Thanks to a FFE reader there is the first of what promises to be more WARN postings (this link, which worked yesterday is taking me to the page, but the information that was on there Monday is not on there today - the links to the information in the above posting still seems to be working) on the State website. So far Booth is reporting 82 Flint Journal employees received layoff notices and 55 Grand Rapids Press employees (a poster said those 55 employees are Booth corporate employees not Press employees) received layoff notices.

Previous layoff notices to the state were:

1/11/2010 - Kalamazoo Gazette - 105 employees

3/23/2009 - Flint Journal - 82 employees
3/23/2009 - Ann Arbor News - 85 employees
3/23/2009 - Valley Publishing in Bay City - 63 employees

Obviously, these numbers do not include those who accepted buyout packages which certainly number in the hundreds.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crain's: An analysis of recent Booth moves

A couple folks, one here and one by e-mail have sent me this link to a Crain's in-depth article on the recent changes at Booth.

It's a pretty good look at what has transpired, although they, like me, can't get a handle on what the total layoffs are across the state.

Flint news via blogspot by an 'old' pro

Thanks to an FFE reader I received a link to a blog by former(?) Channel 12 news reporter Cathy Shaffran who always did a professional job in her work for WJRT-TV.

I met Cathy on the street at crime and accident scenes and bumped into her (not literally) over the years on the police beat.

Hopefully she will make more money on her blog than I have on this one ($46 here so far, not even enough for Google to issue a check). She has some interesting breaking news from City Hall today.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yeah, probably needed a correction

A friend of the blog - Kevin McKague - sent along the following newspaper correction:


And as a point of reference I used to live very near to San Carlos, California where the Enquire-Bulletin is published.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More reflections (and info) from Chattering Teeth

There's more interesting stuff about the changes at Booth at "Chattering Teeth."

Welcome to the future of local journalism

Here's a story that shows what the future will be like with freelance "content producers," fewer copy editors and a reliance on non-paid staff.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What took the media so long in Joe Paterno story?

Interesting Reuters story on the initial reluctance and slow response of the media to the Penn State scandal.

Annarbor.com rankings

Here are some graphs and information about the current popularity of Annarbor.com. I'm no Internet guru so I'm not even going to try to pretend what these numbers mean. On the Alexa site it rates the Ann Arbor site as "very slow" in loading. In the bottom 18 percent of all sites.

And just to be fair my site is way down the list.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Job listings up at MLive Media Group

There are currently 72 job postings for the new MLive Media Group. They are heavily weighted toward sales, but there are some reporting positions and other "content producers."

None say what the starting salaries are, but with the experience and job requirements listed those positions should be worth at least $50,000 a year or more.

If someone applies for those jobs, please let me know what they are offering in salary and benefits so I can let others know.

Also, there are "content production" positions in all the properties except Bay City. The only jobs listed (so far) in Bay City are sales positions. Not sure if that means anything for the Bay City Times, but perhaps they are planning to have the Flint or Saginaw reporters fill that hole as well.

Maybe there are more jobs coming, but right now that's the list.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A look back at one round of cuts at the FJ

This former FJ boss outlines the awful choices he had to make in "downsizing" at his former employer.

This is Part I, I'll link to part 2 when it is available.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

MLive Media Group: Your Town. Your State. Your Way


MLMG_Video2 from MLMG on Vimeo.

And in case you've forgotten this classic.

There is just something about this clip that reminds me of the current MLive Media Group leadership team.

The Booth changes by another person who has experienced it

This blog post by a former Flint Journal reporter and editor says it better than I could.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Community Engagement Specialist: Are you good at goobledygook?

I think this is related to journalism, but this new job description, listed on the new MLive Media Group site had to be written by a marketing guru. I had my techno savvy youngest child translate the following job description because I don't speak technobabble and she says what they are seeking is someone to find people to write news for free in each community and to post questions and prompt people to respond to items on the website. What the job description doesn't describe is how much this person will make. The job is full-time but does it come with benefits. Kind of important info for a job applicant, doncha think?

Job Details

ESSENTIAL PURPOSE OF THIS POSITION
The Community Engagement Specialist will work with editors and content producers to keep consumers and user engagement at the center of all efforts while engaging users directly across all platforms. This position will manage and maintain news hub’s presence in social media and emerging platforms; work with community editor to develop and articulate institutional opinion pieces for web and print; conceive and execute public-facing events or other social opportunities to encourage public interaction with local news hub; and recruit and manage a network of local community reporters in a variety of subject areas.
REQUIRED EDUCATION, EXPERIENCE AND SKILLS
  • Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations or related field required
  • Minimum of 3 years experience working in communications, marketing, social media or a similar customer facing role required
  • Editorial/Media, Marketing, Customer Service experience, a plus
  • Strong project management, multi-tasking & organizational skills
  • Excellent writing skills and content creation/curation capabilities
  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of online community platforms including social media and online presence
  • Ability to effectively communicate information and ideas in written and verbal
    format, and build and maintain relationships
  • Team player, with the confidence to take the lead and guide other departments
  • Demonstrated capability in capitalizing on high-value topics by engaging audiences in frequency and urgency
  • Understanding of the methods and tools used to deliver content across a variety of platforms such as Moveable Type CMS, SCC Budgeting and Archiving System, Smartphones
  • Understanding imperatives of multiple platforms – print, mobile, Internet, etc.
  • Proven ability to utilize a broad set of tools to tell stories and engage the audience
  • Mastery of social media and digital interaction
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Duties and Responsibilities, work schedules and/or location may change based on evolving business needs
  1. Work dynamically with editors and content producers to maximize traffic around posts through interaction and engagement techniques:
  • Commenting in stories
  • Elevating comments to comment posts
  • Watch competing media for link-posting opportunities
  • Monitor media – local, mainstream and social -- for trending topics with local impact
  • Reader polls
  1. Manage and maintain news operation’s presence in social media and emerging platforms, in concert with overall state editorial strategy and protocol.
  2. Engage in comment streams as “voice of the organization,” in concert with established engagement protocols and editorial mission.
  3. Probe comments for use in opinion pages/blogs or for other situational content purposes and curate conversations that are of community interest.
  4. Work with community editor to develop and articulate institutional opinion pieces for web and print; budget and communicate with production center to meet print demands.
  5. Maintain engagement statistics for use by local market management and staff, and prepare analytic reports as required by Director of Metrics/Community Engagement.
  6. Conceive and executive public-facing events or other social opportunities to encourage public interaction with local news office.
  7. Conduct regular staff training sessions on community engagement techniques.
  8. Collaborate with community engagement specialists statewide on best-practices techniques, projects, staff training programs and other initiatives.
  9. Create engaging, interactive and optimized product offerings, leveraging the relationship between technology and customer data and insight
WORKING CONDITIONS AND PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
General office environment. Extensive computer use required. Some travel may be required. Ability to work flexible schedules.
The Company is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, physical or mental impairment, or any other category protected under federal, state or local law.

There is also a posting for a reporter position in Grand Rapids that is more straight forward. Unlike the above job description this one does not whether the position is full-time.

My favorite MLive.com comment so far on the changes

Below I'm posting my favorite comment from the 125 so far on Publisher Dan Gaydou's announcement of the changes. Most entertaining are the frequent responses from the company about how they are going to amaze everyone with the new product in just three months. They are pleading for people to wait and see the magnificent product yet to come. This sounds vaguely familiar doesn't it? Let me think, what was it? Oh, AnnArbor.com promising to give us something we've never see before two years ago.

Remember what we received from that promise. We received crap, but most of us had seen crap before.

If you have a free half-hour check out all the comments on the post here. Remember that because of the wierd layout of MLive, you have to scroll down aways from the article to see the posted comments.

This from commenter Litterateur:

litterateur
LitterateurNovember 04, 2011 at 10:58AM

The comments here about costs, home delivery and medium of delivery are entirely beside the point.
If the final product was worth it, I'd pay more. If the delivery medium of delivery changes, and the content is worth worthwhile, I'd adapt to it.

Restructuring is about downsizing. Downsizing is about eliminating people. If you have bad employees, you fire them. Period. If you're restructuring and downsizing, you're eliminating good people and working out ways to get more work from fewer people while doing your best to conceal that from your customers.

I've read every single comment up to this reply. If I read one more pathetic post from Bernie or Jeff from Booth, I'm going to cancel my subscription just for spite.

Bernie keeps posting "give us a chance" and "we think you'll be pleased." Really. Why? Spell out your intentions, and then I'll decide whether to give you a chance. And what part of "I want a daily newspaper on my front porch" is confusing you?

Jeff keeps posting about these popular features -- TV listings, puzzles. Really. You're thinking I can't buy a book of puzzles at the grocery story? Or get TV listings online? Besides, who really watches network TV anymore?

If my reason for subscribing is to get local news and information, how exactly is the MLive Media Group going to provide better content if you intend to layoff dozens of people?

You're guessing the local school board president will text you the dirt on the superintendent, and you'll hide it in the word jumble? That I'll get the latest on a serial rapist in my neighborhood, but only after I solve No. 2 across and No. 7 down?

I'm guessing that the point of the TV listings is to direct me to local TV news where, for the very first time ever, I might actually get news from the idiot box than from blank (editor's note: The spelling error was in the comment, not in my translation) ink on white paper.

How about being honest? You're laying off people because the economy is bad, you're restructuring in hopes of staying in business, and you hope readers will hang in because you're doing the best you can with the resources you have?

I'd take a chance on that. Really I would. But your pathetic attempts to sell the sizzle while replacing the steak with spam is a poor way of convincing me that I can trust your content for truth and accuracy.

Another view: Technology is the savior

Not sure I agree with much of what is written in this blog, but here it is for your reflection.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Job opening at The Center for Michigan

Someone sent me this link to a job opening at The Center for Michigan. Looks like a think tank group and don't know much about it except it is headed by Phil Power, who owned a chain of newspapers that I once worked briefly for.

In looking through the staff and the "Truth Squad" link there are a couple former Boothie writers and writers from several other newspapers in the area involved in the project.

Just an FYI for those now looking for work.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The new MLive Media Group leadership

Here's a link to a photo of the new MLive Media brain trust.

Follow some of the links at the top of the page, especially the job listings, which are right now heavily weighted toward sales. Didn't see any writing jobs, but perhaps those will come later. You wonder how long this has been in the works without anyone letting the troops in on the pain to come.

Links to news on the changes

Thanks to a reader here's some news links to the latest changes.

A television news report on the changes in West Michigan.

From News and Tech this story.

Another television news report on the changes on the west side of the state.

Reflections on a 'blood letting'

My e-mail and blogger account have been alive in the past 24 hours with staffers, former staffers and soon-to-be former staffers letting me in on what is happening in Booth World. Nearly 800 people, mostly from Michigan checked in overnight on the blog.

If it weren’t for the “Jim Smith” clause in the buy-out contracts I would have had many more on-the-record comments. But when people take the buyouts now, Booth requires them to sign a contract that prohibits them from saying anything negative about the company. Pretty incredible coming from a company built on the First Amendment of the Constitution.
I think a good lawyer could poke a large hole in a clause defining what negative comment is. Is the truth, negative? Are the facts, negative?  But who wants that hassle after losing a job? So the company’s attempt at intimidation of its former employees has worked to a large degree. That is why I’m pretty liberal with my anonymity policies on the blog.

Besides many of the folks who are posting anonymously I have talked to via e-mail and on the phone so I am confident they know what they are talking about.
More than one called Wednesday’s announcement a ‘blood-letting.’

All of this was more difficult that previous bad news announcements, the writers said, because for a year they have been hearing nothing but the mantra “we’ve turned the corner,” “ things are better,” and “we’re making a profit” from the suits.
Some folks aren’t waiting for the January date to leave. At least one apparently decided to quit on the spot after being told their job was gone.

At Kalamazoo, the estimates are that 20 newsroom employees are gone. That leaves 7, which is both editors and reporters on the staff. The losses apparently include the metro editor (who has been at the paper for 25-plus years) , the business editor, the public editor, the editor, the photo editor, the publisher and the sports editor.
That’s not all, four full-time writers and two full-time photographers also got lay off notices. The marketing department is no more and a lot of part-time and other support staff are gone as well.

Sounds like a bloodletting to me. Similar situations are described at other properties as well.

People inside the company are not buying this “there will be many new jobs that you can apply for” stuff that the company is putting out. Here’s what one person wrote:
“…everyone knows that those jobs will pay much less and offer little or no benefits. No one will come back to apply for the same job, working more, for less money. No one.”

The suspicions are that the new jobs will be largely paid interns and part-timers.
This blog has tried to avoid getting personal. As people, I like many of the current bosses at Booth. When I knew them closer they were good family people and friendly folks to work for, but something needs to be said about their leadership skills.

They stink.
I’m familiar with both military and civilian organizations (I was in the Navy during the Vietnam War as most of you know), I worked for two police departments in California and a few corporations, including Booth, in my civilian life.

I like the military model best. When a ship runs aground, it doesn’t matter if the captain of the ship is asleep in his bed and didn’t make one decision that led to the ship hitting land, the captain is responsible. In that scenario, his career as a Navy captain is effectively over. Most Navy captains don’t get a second chance at running a ship aground.
They either retire or they get shuffled into a dead end shore job that also ends their chance at promotions or honors.

Military responsibility runs from the top down, if things go badly in a battle, the soldiers who carry out the orders don’t get blamed, their officers do.
"To whom much is given, much is expected," Luke 12:48 (partial quote but one of my favorite).
Things at Booth, are completely backwards. Every time the captains screw up, more and more of the folks at the bottom get blamed and punished.

In 2008, after the folks in my buyout group left, the remaining staff was told that with all the high priced dead weight gone, the company was poised for a bright future. So it was full steam ahead into the future. For awhile anyway.
Then when the ship ran aground again, the same bosses who ordered the new alignment decided more folks had to leave so they could get younger and more agile minds into the mix. Oops, wrong again.

Only in corporate America is the strategy to shoot the wounded again and again.

Most of the folks commenting to me privately are astonished that the same folks who have led this disaster time after time, continue to get to lead this company and the new manifestation that comes after it.
No one disagrees that a new model is needed, but at what point does the captain and his leadership go down with the ship? I don’t think that’s a negative question, but a fair one.

A reminder on names

Other than reposting names already in circulation through news reports, etc. Let's be careful about using the names of potential lay off folks in our comments. To be honest I don't know specifically who has been laid off and who has not. Let's not make things worse by speculating with names. I was a little lax on that in accepting today's comments, but I don't want to have to edit or delete comments (pro or con) that use the full names of current employees. Thanks.

Business Week on the changes

Business Week has chimed in on the changes at Booth/Advance.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More on the layoffs

Information continues to arrive on today's Booth job massacre. Apparently, Dan Gaydou (who I always liked and respected) stood in front of folks, I believe in Grand Rapids, and explained that the company had to make a bold move and had to do it now. Next year, would have been too late. That kind of talk seems to indicate that all the positive talk about profitability we've been hearing for the past 8-9 months was corporate crap.

Actually the time to do something bold was 12 years ago, but none of the management was smart enough to see it or do it then. Why the same folks that were asleep at the switch 12 years ago think they are able to fix it now escapes me.

The layoffs seem very extensive throughout the chain. What also seems apparent is that the severance packages are not nearly as generous as in the past. Some of the folks getting the layoffs and severance will have a chance to apply for the new jobs, but I'd bet dollars to donuts the wage and benefit packages will be much reduced when they are offered.

There are reports of editors resigning and other editors being laid off. At least one sports editor is gone, according to sources. It is all very sad.

The Flint area editor is apparently defending the company's actions on Facebook, at least according to these comments I received.

Here's the whole Q&A about the Flint Journal as published on MLive. com.

And the video of Publisher Dan Gaydou is here at AnnArbor.com.

More info from some folks who know

Here is the link to some comments that shed more light on today's announcement.

Seeking info

I understand that some layoffs at the Journal may have been announced today. Haven't been able to confirm but sounds like at least one full-time long time reporter may have received walking papers. Sounds like there are plenty of layoffs, but they are not effective until the end of January. At least that's what I'm hearing so far.

If you can help with the info, please let me known anonymously and NOT from the office.

Security reminder for current Booth/Advance employees

Do NOT send me information from work. First, it's not ethical to do so, but even more importantly the company has a history of checking computers to find out where information is coming from. There is plenty of information coming my way from good sources who are not risking their jobs by doing so.

I wish you all well and want you to land on your feet, do NOT jeopardize that by posting anything to this site or to my e-mail from work.

Also, a lot of you were visiting here yesterday, probably in anticipation of the announcement. I had heard a large and mostly negative announcement was coming from Booth, but I simply didn't have enough confirmation yesterday to publish anything.



Thanks.

Letter from the Head Publisher

MLive has a letter from Dan Gaydou that outlines the changes, with the appropriate corporate spin. In other words, no mention of layoffs, coming online fees, etc.

Update: Just received information that the circulation call center work is going to move to Florida and perhaps another vendor. Many more local jobs are gone, although there is little mention of that in the official releases.

The closure of the Flint office and printing facility will be huge for downtown Flint.

All the talk coming out of Booth/Advance in recent months has been how they have turned profitable, blah, blah, blah. Maybe it hasn't been a big enough profit, but can't imagine huge changes like this if they were really on the right road.

Here's a tidbit from Poynter on the changes.

More Booth developments

Things are breaking quickly on the Booth/Flint Journal/Advance front: Here are a few Q&As from inside:

Sounds like the Flint Journal buildings will be sold, but a smaller office will be established in downtown Flint. And, of course, more layoffs. Sad for my friends still there.

Here's what I have from inside:

: Where will the papers be printed?
 A: The Flint print production facility will be closed starting February 2, 2012 and all Flint Journal print operations and full-time jobs will be shifted to the Valley Publishing facility in Bay County.
 Q. Will the local newspaper office remain open?
 A. Yes, but The Flint Journal plans to move from its existing building to a new, state-of-the-art digital media facility in a downtown location. That news will be announced when lease arrangements are completed.
 Q: What is going to happen to our local newspaper employees?
 A: Many of our newspaper employees will have a place in the MLive Media Group and will still work in your local community.  Many others will have a place at Advance Central Services Michigan. Some circulation call center jobs will be moved to an outside vendor. While we believe these changes will create growth opportunities for our current employees, the reality is they will also lead to reductions in our work force. We will provide as much notice and consideration to our employees as possible. We'll strive throughout this process to treat all our employees with the professionalism and respect they deserve.

Breaking News from Booth/Advance Newspapers

This is an announcement made today from Booth/Advance: This is either a press release or it is a Business News outlet's account of what is taking place: (There are huge changes, not the least of which is the end to a physical newspaper building and print shop in Flint staring Feb. 2.)


'"One of Michigan's largest media companies is restructuring into a digital-first company that its president says will better serve the needs of consumers and advertisers in Michigan.

Two new companies, MLive Media Group and Advance Central Services Michigan, will take over the operations of MLive.com, AnnArbor.com and Booth Newspapers, which operates papers in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, Ann Arbor and Jackson. The changes take effect Feb. 2.

MLive Media Group will handle news and advertising, while Advance Central Services Michigan will handle production, distribution and human resources.

Modern media companies need to move aggressively into the digital world, offering news on phones, laptops and tablets, even as they continue printing newspapers, said Dan Gaydou, publisher of Booth Newspapers and The Grand Rapids Press. Gaydou will be president of MLive Media Group.

Those new demands for digital content, reflected in steady growth at MLive.com, require a new structure, he said. MLive.com is Michigan's largest news and information site, with 2.7 million monthly unique visitors.

"We are focusing where our audiences are telling us they are living," Gaydou said.

The restructuring will include some employee layoffs and cutbacks in newspaper home delivery in four markets, starting in February.

At the same time, MLive Media Group will open new offices and hire people to produce content for MLive.com and the newspapers, and those jobs are open to employees affected by layoffs and others interested in working for the new company, Gaydou said.

"If you're a typical citizen these days, you are monitoring news around the clock: reading us on MLive.com, in paper editions, in morning newsletters delivered to your email boxes, and on apps for your mobile devices," Gaydou said.

"We will deliver on every platform."

Four newspapers, The Grand Rapids Press, The Muskegon Chronicle, The Kalamazoo Gazette and The Jackson Citizen Patriot, still will publish seven days a week, but starting Feb. 2 will change to a three-day-a-week home-delivery schedule: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The newspapers will be available seven days a week at newsstands and by e-edition, which is the printed newspaper's digital edition for computers and tablets.

The Flint Journal will retain its current four-day home delivery schedule of Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. That same schedule will apply to The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times with the addition, beginning Dec. 13, of a home-delivered Tuesday newspaper. That edition currently is available only on newsstands in Bay City and Saginaw.

In Ann Arbor, Thursday and Sunday home delivery of AnnArbor.com's print edition will remain unchanged.

The number of employee layoffs is undetermined, Gaydou said, because he expects many displaced employees will seek jobs with the new company. The new company, however, will employ more local and state content producers overall, with less spending on structural costs, he said.

"Our digital-first company is going to be a smaller company, but it will be a highly effective communications and marketing solutions company," Gaydou said.

"We will be a growth-oriented company, more innovative and more engaged with the community."
MLive.com will add new features and its website will be redesigned. The company will invest heavily in product development in partnership with Advance Digital (formerly Advance Internet), an affiliated company that is a leader in the digital news and information space.

Media companies must innovate to serve a growing online readership, even as print circulation declines across the nation, Gaydou said.

"This is a new path that has promise. It offers growth opportunities for our employees, and a new way of reaching audiences," Gaydou said. "It's what's right for communities. We're making these changes to do our job better."

Gaydou, who has worked for the Booth family of newspapers for 36 years, also announced these changes:

-- New newsrooms, or hub offices, will be opened in downtowns of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Flint and Muskegon, on or around Feb. 2. The current newspaper buildings in those four cities could be sold. "We're looking at properties and negotiating leases," he said.

-- Hub offices will continue in their current locations in Saginaw and Ann Arbor, as well as in Bay City and Jackson, where offices will be remodeled.

--Job openings at MLive Media Group will be posted in the coming days at mlivemediagroup.com.

-- The four newspapers moving to three-day-a-week home delivery will add new features and be larger on delivery days. The Sunday paper will include a new section with TV listings, puzzles and other popular features for the entire week.

-- Some statewide accounting services for the Michigan newspapers will be moved to a related company office in Delaware, and the Grand Rapids, Flint and Jackson circulation call centers will be moved to an outside vendor.

-- Newspapers will be printed in three locations: Walker, Ann Arbor and at the Bay City-area plant called Valley Publishing. The Flint print production facility will close Feb. 2, and full-time press employees will be transferred to Valley Publishing.

-- The Grand Rapids-area Advance Weeklies will continue to be published. The Flint community weeklies and Kalamazoo Hometown editions will be discontinued early in 2012.

-- The weekly West Michigan Business Review print product will end Jan. 1, and its content moved to MLive.com.

-- MLive Media Group's other top officers will be Matt Sharp, vice president of sales and marketing, Mark Hauptschein, chief digital officer; and John Hiner, vice president of content.

-- Advance Central Services Michigan will be led by Mike Ply, who will be vice president and general manager. It will oversee all production, distribution, purchasing, accounting, human resources and other support for MLive Media Group.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Plagiarism: The original sin of journalism just keeps on going

Poynter discusses the latest episode of plagiarism in the media. You just have to ask how people, in this day in age, believe they can get away with this when everything is so easily checked.

And then this latest example.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Yet another reason I am no longer in the news business

The new AOL online service is apparently adding a few new duties to its editorial reporters. The article at the link shows how difficult it is to be a news person today.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This is why journalism experience matters

Journalism experience does matter and this story illustrates it very well. That said, any Journalism 101 student should know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Another take on the story is here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Off to the land of Tombstones and a Great Canyon

Not that I have been posting here all that much anyway, but Joan and I are leaving on our next great adventure today so most of the writing and blogging will occur on the Grandmas Recess blog.

Happy trails!

p.s. I finally got around to posting the story of our trip to California back in May on Grandma's Recess.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spin worthy of a national politician

In announcing its "progress" toward the digital future, the Savannah Morning News buried the fact it is laying off more employees.

Photo chief resigns rather than layoff co-workers

Love a person with principles. Of course, it won't likely save any of his co-workers jobs, but at least he didn't have to do the dirty work.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sad news, Tom Kowalski, longtime Detroit Lions beat reporter dies at 51

This should have been up on the blog yesterday, but I have been in the Internet darkness for 36 hours because of a "tower" problem. That fixed I need to mark the passing of a great sports writer and a good friend.

Tom Kowalski, who I first met in 1984 when I went to work for the Oakland Press died unexpectedly Monday. No word yet on what caused his death.

I haven't seen Tom much since I left the Flint Journal, but we always joked together when he worked at the Oakland Press and I would see him occassionally when he worked for Booth. While most affectionately called him "Killer" my pet name for his was "Homer," which was a joke about some of his coverage of the Lions.

Of course he was not a "Homer" but he knew I was kidding when I would call him on a positive column about the Lions.

Here's another nice tribute from the Free Press.

RIP, my friend.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Every so often someone just gets fed up enough to tell the truth about newspapers

Poynter has a good story about a managing editor who went public, quite undercover, to expose the new owners of his newspaper. Make sure, if you are interested in this topic, to read the links in the Poynter article to the actual essay in the newspaper.

As you can guess the managing editor did not last long at his job after this was published.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Better late than never, charging for the news online

Looks like a decade after they should have started this, newspapers have decided the online content has value too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pot, meet kettle

This one is pretty funny. The Huffy Post has indefinitely suspended a blogger for borrowing too much from a story. I thought the Huffy Post was all about "borrowing" the work of others - for free - as its business model.

AnnArbor.com puts the clamps on its columnists

The new breed of Booth/Advance editors can't stand controversy. They buckle under the pressure of "offended" readers. Now they have decided to formalize that "buckle."

There are days when I miss being a newspaper reporter/columnist. And then I read this stuff and I'm glad I'm out. For good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Newsosaur: Print is still king, but the crown is slipping

This article is an look at the print versus digital debate and specifically why newspapers can't go digital, at least not now.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July

Marching this morning in the Fourth of July Parade with my American Legion Post. Guess I can mark the parade marching off my bucket list after 11 a.m.
Happy Fourth everyone! Be safe.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Can't wait to read this book

The NY Times reviews a book - "Deal from Hell" - that sounds like my kind of story.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Branding" and why it sucks

This column is probably the best response to the ludicrous recent trends in journalism. Mr. Weingarten, who I have quoted here before, has it exactly right.

During my last few years at the Flint Journal there was a big push at the Journal emphasizing our "brand." Which was, I think, In Touch, Involved and some other "In" that I can't remember right now. We reporters used to joke - privately - that we should have "Incompetent, Inert and In Trouble." There were a few others, but you get the idea.

We were all told to embrace this new promotion. Well, we see how that all worked out. Don't forget that many of those who thought this was the solution to our problems are still around, or running AnnArbor.com.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ah corporate America in the new Millenium. The bosses get bonuses for their failure

The Indy Star is the latest victim of backwards journalism thinking. The bosses who lay off the employees get bonuses and raises for their dirty deeds.

Not surprising, just business as unusual.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The story of the "Greatest Paper" and how it died - and squandered $150 million

Received a link via e-mail about the rise and fall of "The National" an experimental national sports newspaper that burst on the scene about two decades ago and then faded into oblivion about 18 months later.

It took with it a number of some of the best sports writers in the country. Except for the short opening, the story is told entirely through the voices of the people who experienced it. For the faint of language there is some infrequent use of obscenities in quotes. If you are offended by strong language, don't click on the link.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The unpardonable journalistic sin claims another writer

Paige Wiser a reviewer/columnist in Chicago has lost her gig over an ethical violation. The older I get the more I wish we could cut folks a little slack over a one-time issue.

Here's another link to information about the story.

Let's not forget that Mitch Albom, an award-winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press got a pass from doing pretty much the same thing when he wrote a column implying he was at an event when he was actually somewhere else.

Like Albom, I think Wiser may have deserved a reprimand, but a second chance.

Here's another link that mentions that she only agreed to cover the event after she got an agreement from her editor to take her children. It was one of her children getting sick that forced her to leave the concert early.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The "Green" thing, then and now

I really loved this.

In the line at the store, the cashier told the elderly woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."

Her response: "Do you think you are right because our generation didn't have the green thing in its day? Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the green thing back then.

"In my day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. You are right - we didn't have the green thing in my day.

"Back then, they washed and dried all the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. Maybe that's why we didn't have the green thing back then.

"Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

"Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They
exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. You see, they didn't need the green thing back then.

"They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a throw-away cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water.
They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn't have the green thing back then."

"Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

"Isn't it sad… the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the green thing back then?"

Friday, June 3, 2011

A2Politico looks at AA.com nearly two years in

Former Ann Arbor News reporter Tom Gantert re-visits the success, or lack thereof, at AnnArbor.com some 22 months into the experiment on A2Politico.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

One example of what I was talking about

One of the key newspaper delivery folks for the Journal gave his two week notice (found this on Facebook) with the new policies at the Journal.

In his Facebook posting the driver noted that when the three-day-a-week Journal started back in June of 2009 he had 859 customers. A year later that number had fallen 154 customers to 705 and as of last Sunday was down 230 customers to 629.

I don't think newspaper management can blame the folks who deliver the newspaper for the decline, but they are paying the penalty for yet more poor business decisions from the folks who yet survive.

This is just my guess, but a lot of those drivers hustle and work hard and over the years have done pretty well financially, many of them have incomes - due to their own efforts - higher than the bosses in the office. There may just be a tad bit of jealousy going on there as well.

In any event, they all deserved better.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One more home delivery day brings bad news for drivers at the Flint Journal

On June 14th the Journal will begin home delivery of the Tuesday newspaper (currently available only at stores). But the change also brings some really bad news for some veteran single copy drivers, some who have been with the paper for more than four decades.

The change will see the end of the careers of many really wonderful people who have loyally delivered the paper. These delivery drivers are the unsung warriors of the newspaper business and they work long and awful hours and back in the day sometimes worked seven days a week.

Termination letters have gone out to about 18 of the single copy drivers and when the Tuesday change occurs the home delivery drivers will also be responsible for bringing the single copy issues to the stores.

You probably will hear a lot about the Tuesday delivery, but you will likely not read much in the paper about the effect it will have on this unique group of workers.

From the best information I have the current situation is that the single copy drivers make 17 cents profit for a daily paper and 49 cents for a Sunday paper. Now the home delivery drivers will get 8 cents a copy for every paper they deliver, even if not sold.

So here's what will happen:

Say a driver gets enough stores to deliver 120 Sundays and the stores sell 100 of them.

Driver gets paid $9.60 to deliver and may have to pick up any unsold and take them back to the FJ.

In the past the same situation the driver would have paid the store its cut, paid the FJ $133, and then made $49 profit for all the work.

Now after the stores gets their cut the FJ collects $1.82 per paper sold or $182 and then pays the driver their $9.60.

Hardly worth the gas at current rates. And there are no buyouts for these long time newspaper delivery folks.

Some of the home delivery folks have already seen drops of up to 1/3 of the subscribers they had when the Journal ended daily publication.

More as I get information.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thank you U.S. Military

Props to the U.S. Military and President Obama for finishing the task started almost ten years ago under President Bush. If you see a soldier, airman, Marine or sailor tell him/her "thanks."


You all know I'm a Navy veteran of Vietnam so I feel an immense pride that it was a group of Navy Seals that ended bin Laden's life and reign. So many men and women have sacrificed to bring about this day and I choose to remember them tonight.


Notice, we will be traveling for the next two weeks and posting will stop probably for the duration so you can save your time and return about May 23.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A discussion of the 'new' journalism

Follow this link to a online discussion on the Lucy Ann Lance Show (WLBY 1290) with Larry Eiler, Eiler Communications; and Charles Eisendrath, Director of the University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellows / Former Foreign Correspondent for Time Magazine.

It is about a 40-minute discussion of the status of journalism and journalism education today. As the timer counts down at about 24:30 you will hear a critique of AnnArbor.com and later a defense of print journalism. At about 4:30 there is an additional critique of Newhouse and AnnArbor.com.

When you get to the page at the above link you'll need to scroll down to the April 19, 2011 item and click on the "Click and Listen" tab.