Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Falling for Internet rumors

In follow up to a comment on my previous post it amazes me that in these times of fake storm photos and news items that you can still catch large news organizations re-reporting these Internet troll items without making a simple phone call or other verification before trotting out the news.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

So much for the death of newspapers

I guess there may be more of a demand for a daily newspaper in New Orleans than people may have thought.

Friday, October 5, 2012

On vacation: If that's possible for a retiree

I'm headed out with my son Tim for a great West Virginia - Virginia adventure on the Appalachian Trail and some back packing. So Free From Editors will be unmanned until next weekend (Oct. 12).

Go hug a tree, we will be.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A couple items worth reading

Thanks to a loyal FFE reader for the links, I post for your reading the following two links:

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/09/baseball_and_news_online_life.html

By the way, I was one of those kids who snuck a transistor radio into school during the World Series, especially when my favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were there. I miss the daytime World Series games.

And this from the newspaper war that is about to commence in Louisiana:


http://theadvocate.com/home/4012182-125/advocate-picayune-wage-rare-fight


Monday, September 24, 2012

Advance joins Louisiana newspaper battle

When a Baton Rouge paper stepped into the newspaper void in New Orleans I guess the Newhouse family decided that they would join the battle and open a bureau in Baton Rouge.

What's that old saying about throwing good money after bad?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An interesting article about newspaper brain drain

The subject of experienced newspaper vets departing at the same time is something we have been pondering for awhile.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dave Poniers obit and funeral info

The Flint Journal (MLive.com) has another obit on Dave Poniers and the funeral arrangements are at the end.

Dave Poniers: Rest in Peace

Earlier this week I learned that Dave Poniers was gravely ill in hospice. I knew Dave through my years as a reporter at the Flint Journal. I would often get the good-natured Poniers needle when I wandered into sports during my afternoon shifts at the paper. "Good to know there's no crime tonight," he would bark at me when I would stop to visit. But I couldn't write anything better today that former sports reporter Bill Khan wrote on his Facebook account this morning:


Dave Poniers
"I didn't just lose a former boss tonight to cancer. Dave Poniers, the sports editor at The Flint Journal for most of my 30 years there, was a friend and was also one of the two people most responsible for any success I had as a sports writer. (The other was former Mott journalism instructor Cy Leder, who sadly also died from cancer a few years back.) I will be forever grateful for how Dave went to bat for me to get me a full-time job back in 1988. Even back then, full-time jobs weren't just created out of thin air on newspaper staffs. He had enough faith in me to stick his neck out for me. Who knows what would have happened had he not persuaded editor Al Peloquin to hire me full-time once I completed college? Jobs aren't easy to come by in this industry. Thanks to Dave, I had a fun job that sufficiently paid the bills. I had some great experiences, met some great people. The last time I communicated with him via e-mail back in the spring, he agre
ed to be a reference on my resume and told me he had lobbied on my behalf when he heard I was being laid off at the end of December. Dave proved you could be a good guy and still have the respect of your employees. As a member of his sports staff, one of my motivations was wanting to do a good job for him to reward him for everything he did for me - hey, even he had bosses who were judging him based on the productivity of his staff. We had a great staff, a great work environment and put out a heck of a sports section! For most of my 30 years at The Journal, I could honestly say I had the greatest job in the world. Working for Dave had a lot to do with it. I was sickened to hear earlier Wednesday that he was dying of cancer. Then, just 12 hours later, I got the sad news that he died peacefully, surrounded by his family. He wasn't that old - maybe his late 60s. I just wish I would've had a chance to tell him what he meant to me. A lesson learned, the hard way ...

Here's Brendan Savage's take on MLive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are political foundations "buying" the news

A link to a story about large grants from foundations with political influence and leanings to newspapers are causing concern. This article is pointing to left-wing groups, but the same could be said if the money was coming from the Heritage Foundation or a right leaning organization. Is this good for journalism? Or is this just a glimpse into the future?

Remember that newspapers grew out of a tradition of publications with strong political views that rose almost immediately after the invention of the printing press. Maybe this is just back to the future.

Thanks to a loyal FFE reader for the link.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A lesson for an intern

This young reporter learned a valuable lesson, and learned it early enough to make changes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Never joke in an obituary

One thing most of us learned early in our career is that while there is a First Amendment Right to say just about anything, joking in an obituary is never a good idea.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The story of newspapers told through the buildings

A sad, but true, tale of what has become of both newspapers and the grand buildings that once housed them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sad news: Former publisher Dave Sharp dies

Dave Sharp's brief battle with pancreatic cancer ended today. Among the leaders at the Journal during the latter years, I always thought Mr. Sharp was a pretty straight shooter. It's sad he didn't have more time to enjoy his retirement.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Your chance to help one of the "new" journalists

In the new world of journalism resourceful reporters are on their own to  try and gather the funds to do what a newspaper company once paid them well to do.

I am somewhat familiar with Chris Killian, he has written for the Kalamazoo Gazette, among others, and has that passion and desire to do the work that reminds me just a little of some of the fire I used to have for the work.

So I found this article on Jim Romenesko as well as Kickstarter and if you feel like helping this young man, please do so. I'm debating how much I can afford to kick in myself. He is already about 1/2-way to the $2,500 he is looking for to do his election year project.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Former Publisher ailing: Notes of encouragement requested

A friend sent me a link to a support site for a former Flint Journal publisher.  A lot of folks will want to encourage Dave Sharp and his family so I'm including the link here with best wishes to the family.

Follow the prompts and you can leave a message for Mr. Sharp and his family.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three approaches to saving the newspaper business

Reflections of a Newsosaur has given us an outline to the current three approaches to "saving" the newspaper business. Advance's approach is one of the three. There are a couple links included in the Advance part of the story you may want to follow.

One of the links is to a June 3 NY Times story that has some interesting reflections about the success, or lack of success, of AnnArbor.com. Advance protects its business information so some of the speculations is just that. However the loss of 20,000 newspaper subscribers in just three years is hard to hide.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Advance is sued over "job pledge" and buyout promises

This will sound familiar to a lot of folks that I know.

A city pleads (unsuccessfully) for its daily newspaper

A group of prominent New Orleans citizens sent a diplomatic, but pointed letter to the Newhouse family pleading for the survival of its daily newspaper. It's an interesting read.

The entire letter is at the end of the post and includes some pretty recognizable names.

And just as a refresher go back and read the give and take over the original announcement for the move.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

TP staffer rants about the changes

This letter to NOLA.com executives from a fired employee is about as good - and accurate - as it gets. She'll probably pay for her honesty, Advance hates honesty, but the rest of us can certainly appreciate it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A view of newspapers from the inside: Not good

Thanks to a loyal FFE reader who sent along this link to a good New York Times column about our favorite industry.

In case you don't have time to read the whole thing, here is a section that refers to the Advance efforts, particularly the recent ones in New Orleans:

"Given that context, it's not hard to see why Advance Publications is making huge moves in some of the 25 cities where it publishes newspapers, most notably in New Orleans, where it is spending the summer reducing the staff.
Advance's regional Web sites have generated traffic and have active forums, but they are a miserable place to consume news. Balky and ugly, with a digital revenue base below much of the rest of the industry, they seem like a shaky platform on which to build a business. Some recent traffic trends are not encouraging. According to Nielsen, The Times-Picayune's site, Nola.com, had 639,000 unique visitors in May, compared with over a million in that month a year ago.
Once upon a time, the Newhouse family kept unions at bay by promising lifetime employment, but now the company wants to shed people, and legacy costs, as quickly as it can. The plan is built on accounting, not strategy, which is why some of the newspaper's heavy hitters have declined offers from the newly reconfigured enterprise.
David Hammer, who played a large role in The Times-Picayune's coverage of the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, took a job with the New Orleans CBS affiliate, WWL-TV, doing investigative work; he will be joined by Brendan McCarthy, one of the newspaper's young stars.
Stephanie Grace, a former statewide columnist, declined a job as a reporter, and Bill Barrow, a longtime reporter who covered health care, is going to work for The Associated Press. Bob Marshall, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the newspaper's outdoors editor, took a pass as well."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reporter sues over "press release" firing

There is little in this reporter's defense of his firing that makes sense to me. On the other hand, I think it would have been ethical (but lazy) to use chunks of a press release as long as you were clear to the reader that you had done that.

Things are shaking at the Detroit Free Press

Had a couple of calls and e-mails urging me to report that the Detroit Free Press was on its last legs. As always I held off until I got better info. Not sure this is great info, but it at least confirms why the rumor mill was griding out grist.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More on the copy "farms"

A FFE reader sent along a link with more information about the pathetic use of copy "farms" to fill out local content in some newspapers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Advance touts its Online market

These numbers sound good for Advance. What I don't know, and what is not explained, is how this is translating into dollars for the company. I do notice that they have hired back some pretty decent writers (at least on a free lance basis) who I used to work with. So that is good.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The new journalism: It's worse than I thought

If you wondered where "journalism" is headed in the new age, just read this story.

And a little more on this from the Chicago Tribune.

Confession: Good for the soul, but not for the boss

A Monroe reporter is dealing with the aftermath of a confessional column he recently wrote. Follow the links to get the whole picture.

Friday, June 29, 2012

At least one Advance site pays attention to comments

Apparently the MLive "yellow" was not so popular down south either. Difference, they changed.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

More on the recent Advance moves

Poynter has a little more (with additional links at the bottom) on the changes at AnnArbor.com and NJ.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Advance musical chairs

The deck chairs are being moved around again down at AnnArbor.com. Also out west Oregon is using the basic MLive format for its coverage.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Another journalist falls to the temptation of faux sources

By now you'd think even the greenest reporters would realize in today's world it would be impossible, or nearly impossible, to get away with making up sources out of thin air. But here's yet another example.

It was always unethical and wrong to fabricate sources, but with sources so easily checked, you'd think that would be the biggest deterrent.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Poynter: Advance is re-inventing journalism

Here's another view on what Advance is trying to do. I do wish them well, but obviously disagree that they are going about it the right way.

New venture from some old Boothies

A few "departed" sports folks from the western papers have started up a new sports site to cover the local sports that MLive Media Group now leaves to inexperienced writers to cover. Best wishes to them in this venture.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The other Advance shoe drops down south

More bad news for newspaper employees.

From the New York Times.

My favorite line from the NY Times story:

"Mr. Amoss did not deny a concern raised by returning reporters that they would be compensated based on page views or other gauges of online popularity, emphasizing only that their base salaries would be comparable to what they earn now and “they’ll be operating in a digital world, and how they do will be evaluated.”  "     

Hat tip to two loyal readers for the links.

Today there is too much of one and not enough of the other

More bad news for the Detroit Free Press

Crain's is reporting that more bad news is on the way for the Detroit Free Press.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clueless ewspaper CEOS are the problem

If there was any doubt that newspaper managers were out of touch, this article certainly makes it abundantly clear.

And here's an update on the recent MLive.com news.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Orleans Newhouse property prepares for heavy cuts

Thanks to a couple FFE readers for the link to a story about looming cuts at the New Orleans daily, or should I say, former daily newspaper.

And this from yahoo.com.

And from Forbes.com.http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2012/05/24/what-new-orleans-can-expect-when-its-newspaper-goes-away/

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Print drops, online improves for MLive.com

MLive.com is reporting mixed, but expected numbers in the first stage of their new business. I'll leave it to others to analyze the numbers. But give credit where it is due, they did report the numbers for folks to read and that's a positive thing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New posting platform coming to MLive.com

I'm just betting the "flag" will be the most used part of this new forum. Judging by the comments they get now with moderation, it will be really interesting to see what happens when they completely open the forum.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kim Crawford's book gets front page coverage (in Pontiac but not in Flint)

(Update 7 p.m. May 14 - My friend Kim, who was never as upset about the non-invite to the book signing as several of his friends, called me to let me know he had heard from the Flint Journal and assured that any slight was unintentional. When the next Art Walk comes to town, he was told that he would certainly be invited to that event. Like Kim, I'll take them at their word that they didn't intentionally leave him out of the book signing event. So we'll move on to other things, for now).

Kim Crawford is a friend of mine, let's just get that out of the way at the beginning, I hired him for arguably his first job in journalism at The State News in Michigan State back in the late 1970s. What I saw in him was a fire that is necessary in any good reporter.

At the time I was Editor of the The State News. As an editor, I immediately fell under the heading of "goat brain" as far as Crawford was concerned after he was hired. Later we would work together as colleagues at the Flint Journal.

What some editors, especially young ones, don't understand is that with passion and fire for writing and reporting comes combativeness over the process. What a good editor learns is not to take it personally. Good editors learn how to use that fire and passion rather than trying to subdue it.

Unfortunately in the latter years that I was with the Flint Journal that fire and passion was not appreciated, but rather they unsuccessfully tried to subdue it. It seemed there was more concern over the neatness of a reporter's desk than the end product of their efforts.

Anyway, last week the Flint Journal hosted a book signing party at an open house. Invited were current and former reporters with books to sell. Those invited are good writers and have reason to be proud of their achievements.

Not invited was Kim Crawford, who has recently published a book, "The Daring Trader: Jacob Smith in the Michigan Territory, 1802-1825"  through Michigan State University Press that deals with the founding of Flint. It is much more than that, it is a history of early Michigan and a great tale of the role of a controversial fur trader named Jacob Smith.

It is well researched and written and I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in the history of our country.

Why would the Flint Journal not invite Crawford to such a party? After all, the heart of the book involves "Flint."

There is speculation that he was not invited because the current editor is not really a fan of Kim's. I simply don't know, but because she is not a fan of mine either, so I'm not going to ask.

As someone said on Facebook, it might say something about the coverage or bias of the current management of the paper that they use how they personally feel about someone when they make news judgements.

On the other hand, the Oakland Press, Macomb Daily and Royal Oak Tribune did a large piece on the book just today.

One former staffer at the Flint Journal suggested a big story on the book a couple months ago (they did do a short piece on Kim's appearance at the Sloan Museum) but was told "We don't write about former staffers."

That's true, except when they do write about them or invite them to book signings.

Friday, May 4, 2012

AP apologizes to reporter - 50 years after he died

The Associated Press apologized to a reporter it fired in 1945, but it came a little late.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"No comment" on comments

Jim Romenesko posted a big "No Comment" on this item from MLive.com

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some posts from around MLive Media Group land

A few notes on MLive Media Group that have come my way in recent weeks.

Talk about good luck, the Victorian home near the Michigan Capitol housing the ‘new’ Lansing offices of MLive Media Group was supposed to be sold when the old Lansing bureau was eviscerated a couple years ago. The housing slump resulted in the house not being sold and for some time only one person was working out of that office.
The company, of course, continued to pay the heat, electric bills for the large house that was really home to just one person. Now with the new bureau occupants the office space may now justify its expense. Sometimes it pays not to sell.

Also in MMG news:
A former GR Press blogger whose 21st century job at the new MMG was to scan for topics pricking the computer keys of readers and then turning those into “hits” on the website has apparently decided the grass is greener at the Detroit Free Press. The blogger was a longtime Grand Rapids Press employee and was part of the new team that was to help transition the news group from dead tree to Internet.

Don’t know if that is a good or bad sign for the new venture that folks are already leaving.
Reportedly, six advertising folks in Grand Rapids have been parted from the company since the restructuring in February. That’s two a month, if my math is good. I’m told that three or four of those were new hires and others were legacy employees, which is what they call folks who made the transition from the newspaper to the new group. Some were long time employees.

It seems to be another dubious sign of a difficult transition for the new company. Wonder what the costs are to hire and fire that many employees in so short a time?
Then there was the comment when the old managers in discussing the new company said: “You’ll be happy to know we’re streamlining  management” as they canned a number of middle managers in the restructuring. Well, I’m told they have added a couple more management levels. Maybe it took more time for self-promotion and the promotion of the new company then they first realized.

There’s also some word that a couple folks, one or perhaps two from the centralized copy desk, are currently on medical leave due to stress. More veteran copy folks, people who were asked to stay on during the transition, have been let go which has put more pressure on those who remain.
Some folks are being pushed to do 20 or more pages for the dead tree editions in one night. The attitude is one of “just get it done” without too much concern about what is going into the print product.

From more than one source I’ve been told that the new attitude is that the newspaper product is no longer the central focus. In fact, managers have been told not to “think newspaper” anymore. What is being manufactured into the print product is just whatever the centralized copy desk finds that has already been published on the website.
From my personal observation the delivered papers are very thin and if I go back I can find that all the stories were published online the week before they appeared in my home delivered version.

When the readers eventually discover how little attention is being paid to the product that they actually have to pay for, and the one that is bringing in the lion’s share of the revenue it may leave a bad taste.
The numbers for home delivery, at least on a couple routes that have been reported to me continue to fall in numbers.

To be fair, on the rare occasion that I visit MLive.com I do find things that are worthwhile to read and I do check in for sports, but at home I can read the delivered paper in about 10 minutes. If I wasn’t a former employee and feel a sense of loyalty to the folks still working there I would be inclined to cancel.
Actually, we’ve tried to do several vacation stops in the past few months while we traveled only to come home to piles of newspapers in and around our Journal box. Whatever system they are using for calling in vacation stops, it’s not working. My wife says on one occasion she talked to a human and the other times it told her to leave a message and that they would call back, which they never did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Congratulations to Liz Shaw on her new book

Although I haven't read it yet, I know Liz Shaw from years of working with her and I am looking forward to reading her new book, which she wrote with another author. It is exciting to watch former colleagues succeed in new writing arenas. The link will take you to an Amazon page where you can buy the book. Enjoy!

I did just finish Kim Crawford's latest book (his third) and it is really good. If you are a fan of history this is a book that should be a textbook simply because it doesn't read like one and yet tells a fascinating story that Americans should know about our dealings with Native Americans.

If all textbooks read like Crawford's books we'd have a lot more young people interested in history.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Paul Keep chimes in on 'new' Lansing bureau

Nothing like reinventing yourself. There was a time that the old Booth Newspaper Group had a pretty effective Lansing bureau. Many local reporters were rotated through and cut their teeth on statewide coverage.

Then hard times hit and the same folks who are now touting the 'establishment' of a Lansing bureau disbanded and neutered it and sent many good reporters packing.

Obviously that was a mistake as shown by the realization that there was, and is, a need for such a bureau.Fortunately for those who made the mistake there seems to be little penalty for living in the rarified air of upper management levels.

That said, I know some of the folks who will be involved in the coverage and they are good.

Enjoy the comments, as long as they remain, at the bottom of Paul's column.

And just in case it gets pulled here's a brief segment from one of those comments:

"Isn't it just a little tasteless Mr. Keep seems to have this penchant for self promotion? How about just doing a great job and letting us be the judge? Does he have to judge it for us? Does Paul Keep really think he gets to judge it for me?
I don't agree with Fenster the paper is Liberal, that would be a step up, it is just more about incompetence and arrogance more than anything else. Heck, as I point out in the first comment, I emailed one of the reporters about a story they started and dropped. The reporter could have picked it up and covered it, even late. Instead, I got no answer, at all. No story. Nothing."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Alex Trebek

Who was the famous celebrity that my father recently guided around the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center?

I'm pretty proud of my father. He is a World War II Army Air Corps veteran, he was a great father and now in his "golden years" he is a first class docent at the Air and Space Museum based at Dulles International Airport.

My Dad and Alex Trebek
In my humble opinion he is the best docent they have, but I'm obviously biased and have only had tours given by him so it is probably not fair for me to judge.

Recently he drew the enviable assignment to conduct a museum tour for Alex Trebek.  At the end of the tour my Dad had his picture taken with the Jeopardy host, but I'm almost 100 percent sure he never asked for an autograph.

He has also done VIP tours for an ambassador and some other notable dignitaries. He is as comfortable with those folks as he is with the third graders from a Virginia elementary school.

My Dad, who is a very humble man was involved in an advertising agency during his real life work and I recall times when he had contact with celebrities. Although my memory is dim I recall asking him once after learning that he had met a celebrity if he had gotten an autograph.

"He didn't ask for mine and I didn't ask for his," my father answered. In his own way, my father was not impressed with celebrity and frankly that trait was passed on to me. During my career I have met a number of famous people and except for Chris Chelios, who signed my Red Wings jersey, I have never felt compelled to ask for an autograph.

Mr. Trebek offered my Dad two tickets to a Jeopardy taping, which my father declined.

It reminded me of another lesson my father taught me that served me well in life. One time he came home from work and told my stepmother, brother and I that he had been offered a free trip to the Caribbean for the whole family by a client.

"When do we leave?," was my immediate thought.

My father told me he didn't take the trip because if he did, despite the client's protests to the contrary, he felt that would put him in a position of 'owing' the client something and he didn't want to be in that position.

Maybe the best gift and lesson my father taught me was integrity. Anyway, enjoy the photo of my father and Alex Trebek.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New reporter fired for having a little fun

This whole thing seems a little over the top.

Here's what the reporter wrote about the incident. Probably better off not working for such jerks.

Newsosaur: Why newspapers are failing at digital

Interesting article on the failure of newspaper companies to adapt to digital.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kim Crawford's new book is really, really good

OK, I'm biased, but I'm nearly finished reading Kim Crawford's latest book "The Daring Trader: Jacob Smith in the Michigan Territory 1802-1825" and I'm calling it a hit.

For those of us who know Kim, he is a great story teller and an even better writer, so this is not a surprise.

Further, for those of us who heard bits and pieces of his research over lunches during our time at the Flint Journal, this puts it all together and without the interuptions caused by all Kim's and David Graham's friends who stopped by during lunch hours to chit chat.

The story is more than that of a fur trader in Flint, but of government influence over the planned settlement of the west and the treatment and dealings with Indians at that time. It is also a tale of early U.S. espionage and intrigue.

Some of the key events take place during the War of 1812 and so if your are a fan of that war this book is also a great read. Kim is a meticulous researcher and the book reveals that.

This is Kim's third book and the other two, which are also in my collection, are Civil War regimental histories that although are completely factual, read like a novel.

To buy the book go here.

For his 16th Michigan Regimental History you can purchase that here.

And for the 4th Michigan (which I saw for sale at the Gettysburg park library) the book can be purchased here.

Newspaper reporting was once a great job

A study puts newspaper reporter near the very bottom of the list of jobs.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Two views on the same problem

Gannett and MLive have differing views on the future of how to save media outlets.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gene Weingarten strikes back for all the "old-timers"

This column from Gene Weingarten pretty well sums up my feelings about what is going on in journalism today.

Another 'great' file photo use

This MLive story was pretty good about a person who walked into a lake while texting. The file photo selected almost made me laugh out loud. I guess David Copperfield is in charge of the photo desk as the new company wants to have the illusion of news photography without actually having it.

(Note: As of today (3/23) the photo has been replaced by a "courtesy photo" of the heroine. It appears that the news organization simply had the heroine send in their own photo. Better, but not great.)

Here's an idea from an old cop reporter: If you missed the event, you could at least take a photo of the hero in the story. Just a little suggestion.

(Thanks to an FFE reader for forwarding me the link).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some of us knew the "free" Internet thing was a problem from the start

Financial Times has put together an article (thanks to reader Jeff for the link - also a free registration is required to read the whole article) about the future of newspapers. Among other research the article confirms a suspicion that many of the "dinosaurs" like me had from the beginning. That giving away the product for free online was a huge mistake when you were trying to sell the print product.

Here's an excerpt  from the article:

"Even the business magnate Warren Buffett, a long-time investor in the Washington Post – which does not charge online – has backed digital payments. Sitting in front of the printing presses at the Omaha World-Herald, a local paper he bought last year, he told CNBC last month: “You shouldn’t be giving away a product that you’re trying to sell.”

By putting the same content online for free that they were charging for in print, Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman said newspapers had been competing against themselves. Now, he added, “you’re seeing throughout the industry a reaction to that problem and an answer to it”.

At the time (as I have reported several times before) we were brushed off about our concerns, me personally by the genius that helps run AnnArbor.com, who told me that a free presence online was necessary and that we would see its benefit in the long run. Yes, I guess we have all seen the benefit in the long run.

The funny thing, not in a ha-ha way, is that the same people who totally screwed up the business by giving the product away for free are still there and those of us who questioned the free model are now mostly gone. The Peter Principle is alive and well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MLive group honored for juvenile series

The MLive group was recently honored for a November series on juvenile justice. Although, I'm not a big journalism award guy, this is a good example of what newspapers should do.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

File photos, the new rule of the day

My Kalamazoo reader sent me another link to a breaking news story with a really silly file photo choice.

Come on, hire a photographer or two.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A note from an FFE reader

A member of the Kalamazoo public - and a faithful reader of this blog - sent along a recent link to coverage of a Kalamazoo City Commission meeting with this question: "Was the reporter even at the meeting?" Well, I don't know, but there are certainly a lot of unanswered questions, one that a good reporter, dogged by a good editor would have certainly answered before this story would have seen the light of a laptop.

Also notable is that to illustrate the story, the online version anyway, the Gazette used a file photo of the City Commission saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Hope all the same City Commissioners were there.

One of the commenters on the story asked a great question, one that could have been fleshed out by a reporter at the scene.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Another blog chimes in on the Pew Study

If the only thing that newspapers are trying to do is survive as profit making businesses (and who can blame them) then maybe the Hail Mary to "digital first" is the way to go, but in the end journalism and its role as the watchdog is over.

The new model is only aimed at driving people to stop by and view the website, so news is generated that will bring the eyes there. That's understandable, but when "citizen journalists" and bloggers replace good old shoe leather government reporting the game is really over as far as journalism is concerned.

I'm a dinosaur, and I recognize I'm a dinosaur, but when the day-to-day (and expensive) business of watching over government is gone I think the Republic is in peril. Too dramatic, maybe, but the future doesn't look good.

Dirty little secret

And here is that "dirty little secret" explained.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A reader chimes in about changes

This is an interesting letter to the editor about the changes at the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Paul Keep chimes in on sports coverage, readers chime right back

Paul Keep recently wrote a column touting the new sports line up at the MLive Group. Now that Paul doesn't have to worry so much about what cartoons the company buys for the printed product he has moved on to big time sports.

Actually I liked Paul Keep as a boss. He pretty much stayed out of the way and news reporters still were able to cover a beat in his days at the Flint Journal. He's a personable guy too. But as a corporate guy he has learned how to spin.

Sports reporters love covering big time sports and it looks like MLive has a good line up of people to cover the local big teams. But with the tremendous downsizing of the sports departments what you have now is that local high school sports are essentially being 'covered' by the coaches of the various teams who directly submit stories into the website.

For Hiner to say that they are covering local sports more now is to be charitable, a joke. But it does not appear that the readers are laughing. But they are calling them on it.

I am told that a recent print Thursday sports section had an AP feature on the front page, five AP stories inside and a full NASCAR page produced elsewhere. The scoreboard page was all wire as well. And it was basically cloned for all regions.

All this while MLive had two reporters in Florida with the Tigers, the Pistons are improving, the Red Wings are making noise in the NHL active and the NFL combine was just held. Where was all that vaunted big time sports coverage in the print product?

What's the big deal about that? It is still the print customers who are bringing in the lions's share of the money for the company (that's the dirty little secret) and yet they are getting screwed on the coverage while those free Internet lurkers are getting the best the company has to offer.

In the meantime, local readers of both print and online will have to be satisfied with a high school coach's take on what happened in the big game Friday night. I've read some of those accounts and they are pathetic.

In my opinion, and to be honest it's probably not worth a lot in the area of sports, readers can go a lot of places to get big time sports news.  What they can't find elsewhere is extensive coverage of their local high school, minor league and college teams (except for MSU and U-M which are well covered by MLive). The company, again in my humble opinion, is doing exactly the opposite of what it should to attract local readers.

Or maybe they don't care about local readers, just hits? If that's the name of the game, then maybe they are doing the right thing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A file photo for a recent windstorm?

A friend sent me this link to a story of recent wind damage in Flint. The photo (which is given as a "file photo") appears to be out-of-date because the officer and police car in the picture are dated.

Can't imagine using a file photo for an on-going news event. If someone has more info, please advise.

I learned early in my journalism career that file photos of current events are dangerous. If you want more information on my own experience in file photos, let me know.

In the story comments the reporter chimed in that a "real" photo will be used when one is obtained. So you use an old unrelated storm photo? Sheesh.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A couple interesting newspaper links

This chart will give any newspaper junkie some pause.

Someone was kind enough to send me a link to a new Booth venture to shore up some state coverage.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some more (non-Booth) newspaper buildings for sale

Apparently newspaper buildings are worth a lot when they are no longer producing news.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Poynter chimes in on recent sports correction in the Flint Journal

An anonymous commenter asked me if I thought MLive.com would aggregate a link to this Poynter story about a recent Flint Journal article. I don't think so, I said.

I do know this, I am well acquainted with Gary Oyster, head of the Flint Metro League, and although I have not spoken to him, I'll bet he had a busy day when the initial story was published.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Another Booth property is sold

The Kalamazoo building has been purchased by a downtown development group.

My favorite paragraph from the story:

"Taylor would not say how much he and business partner Alan Sylvester will pay to buy and redevelop the Kalamazoo Gazette property. The acquisition and redevelopment includes the former Business Review West Michigan building just south of the newspaper building on Burdick Street, which is also owned by the Gazette."

Well, here's an idea, work your sources inside the newspaper because somebody at Booth or the Gazette must know what they are receiving for the property? The sale amount is pretty important info for a business story, is it not?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Flint Journal building: The rumors were not off

The Flint Journal is reporting today what I reported on Monday. Scooped 'em again.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A time lapse video of people walking and sitting in a newsroom

The Grand Rapids Press put up some photos of its first day, which included a time lapse video that shows reporters and, I assume advertising folks, sitting at desks, standing up, walking around and otherwise working.

Link to online chat about the new format

Here's a link to the replay of the online chat this morning with the new community engagement whatever they call an editor these days.

New, and improved, MLive.com

Here's a link to the new MLive.com.  Also here is a link to the Flint page. I'm going to reserve comment until I negotiate it a little and see how easy it is to use and what the quality of news is. One thing should be for sure, it can't be any worse than the old site.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What becomes of the Flint Journal library? And the buildings?

One of the things I was most impressed with when I came to the Flint Journal in 1989 was the extensive paper and photo library maintained in the newsroom.

It was an incredible resource that slowly withered as people were laid off and the morgue converted to a computer file.

Quite a few of the 'veterans' have wondered to me, both in person and by e-mail, what is to become of all that impotant history. The short answer is, I don't know.

One would hope that maybe someone from the local historical society or library would move in and take care of the newspaper library.

A former editor, now long retired, saved a bunch of old photos when a previous regime wanted them all tossed in the dumpster.

Here's another 'rumor' being circulated to me by e-mail based on "informed sources," which admittedly I don't know personally.

The word is that the Mott Foundation is planning, or in negotiations, to purchase all the current Flint Journal property with plans to hand it over to Michigan State University for use in the medical school.

Again, to be clear, this has been sent to me twice from folks who remain close to those still at the Journal.
Feel free to chime in.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kalamazoo readers chime in on changes

A story on the new job obtained by the former Kalamazoo editor prompted some back and forth between the reporter and readers on her story.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New FJ editorial leadership lineup

I'm going to ask folks to be direct, but not personal in any comments to the following links. Thanks to a number of folks who sent me links to the new editorial line-up for the Flint Journal and the leadership of the corporate wide copy desk.

A number of folks have already commented on the non-Flint nature of the leadership, which is fair comment.

I will say that I worked with a couple of these folks and Bryn has earned his chops and, like the Shafran pick, bodes well for the new company.

For the sake of Flint and the future of journalism let's hope that this new model, despite my expressed doubts, will work to continue the important work of government oversight and some good paying journalism jobs for young reporters.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New FJ offices nearly open

Thanks to an FFE reader (my news viewing is sporadic while I am here in Texas) I received a link to a story about the new Flint Journal offices written by Cathy Shafran, a former Channel 12 reporter who seems to have a full time reporter's byline at the Journal.

If Cathy is working there it is a great hire for the paper as she is a real working journalist who did some great hard hitting reporting while she was with Channel 12.

Recently she has published a blog with breaking city news in it. She will fit in well with the new model.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The news lending library is wide open

A loyal FFE reader spotted what the new MLive Media Group will probably be like as a Flint Journal reporter simply linked to a competitor's sports story instead of doing the appropriate leg work.

Back in the day this would have been unthinkable, but today is apparently completely appropriate. On the one hand the reporter did the ethical thing by crediting the work to his competitor, but this would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

To be clear this is not a rap on the reporter as this is what the business has become in just a very short time. I'm sure there is little time to do original reporting when it is just as easy to link to someone else's work.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remember the Alamo!

Our annual winter escape is underway. We are leaving behind Michigan for the friendly confines of Texas. WiFi and sources willing I'll continue to post here during our stay down south.

Actually our departure was delayed by 24 hours due to a little snowstorm that blew through.

If you are interested you can follow our adventures at Grandma's Recess.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Newsroom changes announced at the Kazoo Gazette

The Kalamazoo Gazette has announced its new leadership team.

Home newspaper delivery: An endangered species

An interesting article about the demise of the home delivered newspaper. Note it specifically refers to the 30 percent drop in home delivered subscriptions in Ann Arbor since the big change. The article is from Editor and Publisher who apparently aggregated it from Newsosaur.

Note to Booth:  If you want to compete online you better do something about your goshawful MLive.com site and soon.

And then there is this not-so-good news about the business in 2012 as well.

Hat tip to anonymous FFE reader for the link.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The new model: Don't worry about facts, grammar or spelling

In case you’ve been wondering about the hiring process currently underway for the new MLive Media Group one of those interviewed was nice enough to send me an outline of what is being asked of reporters and editors in the ‘new’ company.

This particular job applicant is from the west side of the State and was interviewing for a full time reporting position in the new company.
For obvious reasons I’m not going to reveal here whether or not the person got the job.

The new reporting positions will require a lot of Internet posting with lots of freedom and very little editorial oversight. While that might seem to be an ideal situation for a reporter, no good reporter wants no backstop or a good set of eyes looking at their work before publication, or in this case posting.
In other words, reporters are going to pretty much be Lone Rangers. This applicant was told that driving web traffic is paramount and editing, well, not so much.

The interviewer, an editor, made it clear that mistakes in stories were to be expected in the new model, including grammar, facts and misspellings. That’s an incredible change from old school journalism and to me a total surrender to mediocrity.
In one of the few direct quotes sent to me by the source this is what the interviewer/editor  said:

"Reporters will self-edit."
Yes, an editor actually said that to a prospective reporter, which will reduce the reporters to nothing more than bloggers.

Reporters in the new MLive Media Group will receive a backpack, a smartphone, a laptop and will move out from the new “hubs” (I guess that is the new word for newsroom) and will interact with the community and posting online what they see hear and find out without much interference from editors.
Reporters will be expected to put a smartphone in the face of sources and interview them on video.

The source is not an old curmudgeon like me either, the source is one of those 30-somethings with a good handle on technology and who knows the way around blogs, aggregation and RSS feeds and even to them it sounded like a muddled plan. Or in their words “a nightmare, honestly.”
It is clear that reporters will be expected to work themselves to the bone without an appropriate compensation to go with the expectations. As the source said – “the stress level is through the effing roof up there.”

And what about all the work for the print product? The interviewer  was dismissive of any extra work for the print product, adding that  “we believe that the paper will just end up filling itself."
Really, a newspaper that just fills itself up.  In the words of the source:

“Take a minute to think about how foolish that sounds. Papers don't "fill themselves" any more than my jalopy fills itself with gas.”
Sounds like the newspaper will simply be a dumping ground for the stuff that is pumped into the online product. And without proper layers of editing one can only imagine the poor quality that will result.

In the opinion of the source there is not much passion among those who have accepted new positions or those who have turned them down.
And in a final comment from the source:

“But you know as well as I do that the issue has never been the grunts on the ground, it's been the suits in GR. It always comes down to leadership.”
Or, in my words, the lack of it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Another former Boothie chimes in about the changes

A former Booth reporter blogs about his reasons for leaving the company a few years ago. Also a nice reflection on some recent changes at the Grand Rapids Press.