Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flint Journal, Saginaw News duped by woman

For veteran reporters, people with a sob story so sad it seems perfect should always ask a few more questions before they publish. Most recent case in point:

What could you do when you were 7?

At 7, I think the most creative thing I did was make a cabin out of Lincoln Logs. This kid is amazing and he is only 7 years old. There's plenty more of this wonderful child, Ethan Bortnick, on You Tube.

We're dreaming of a green Christmas!

Well, so much for a green Christmas. On Friday we got dumped on. Somewhere between 8-10 inches of snow is piled up in our yard. It took my more than two hours to clear my driveway and the one belonging to the lady who lives across the street.
What is worse is that we live on the main drag for the Road Commission and the snow plows pass by here every ten minutes scraping more and more snow into my driveway entrance.
This morning (and early) afternoon I spent a couple more hours using my roof rake to pull tons of snow off the roof of our house. For readers in warmer climes, there is a condition called snow dams that cause roof damage if snow melts and then freezes and backs up under the roof shingles.
So anytime we get more than 4-inches of snow I pull as much snow off the roof as possible to avoid the problem.
Anyway, I'd love for Al Gore to come here right now and explain global warming to me once again. This winter looks to be worse than last and that was a record one.
I could have a little more Booth news on Monday, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Go figure, statistics on a cold day and a Merry Christmas

Just wanted to stop for a minute to acknowledge a tremendous increase in traffic on Free From Editors since late October. My Google analytics program shows that more than 2,000 new folks have found their way here since Halloween.

A slow day on the site is now 400 hits, compared to 80-90 back in March and I have regular readers from 205 Michigan cities. Understandably most of the traffic comes from Booth cities like Saginaw, Bay City, Flint, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids and the suburbs surrounding those cities. For example, Flint area readers frequently check in from Grand Blanc and Burton.

But I also receive a fair share of visits from Waterford, Lansing and even regular visits from someone in Marquette. As I said previously, I have had visits from every state in the country except Wyoming and the two Dakotas. Not sure any of those states knows what a computer is anyway.

Since starting this project more than a year ago, I've learned how to embed videos, upload photos, link to other blogs, set posts for later publication and other computer skills I would never imagine I could learn. Hey, maybe, Newhouse would hire me to work with their new Special Projects guy. I know at least as much as he does about working online.

All that to say that I appreciate all of the folks who stop in here and comment (positively or negatively) and your patience with my occasional lapses in judgment.

To be honest there isn't much left to say about the current state of Booth/Newhouse. They seem to be on a trek to slowly bleed to death with no real leadership in sight. But as new things come up, and certainly they will, I will post them.

For example, I'm compiling a list of former colleagues who are now either set on taking the buyout, those on the fence, those being pushed and those who are safe for the next round. As soon as I have a clearer picture (one very good copy editor just signed her papers for the buyout on Monday - a huge loss for the Journal) I will post them.

Blogging may slow a little over the Christmas holiday as we, like all of you no doubt, are very busy with family, church, activities, travel and the other range of things people do during the holidays. Tonight my wife and I and members of my church are hosting a discussion of Rick Warren's "Purpose of Christmas" and a party following for a group of senior citizens in a Davison senior living complex.

As always, if I see something interesting (newspaper related, or not) I will post it.

From me to you: Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Towels, and how to throw them in

For the past several hours I've been digesting the news about the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News decision to limit daily newspaper delivery and move to an online delivery program.

While I understand the desperation and the gloom of the impending journalistic train wreck, it just seems that almost universally the brains who run newspaper organizations are, well, without brains.

From what I understand, even in today's plunging market, the only part of any newspaper's operation that is making real money is the print side. Oh sure, managers brag about the number of hits and page views, but what they don't mention is how that relates to incoming revenue.

So on the one hand, the Free Press and Detroit News have it right, the product is news and to the extent you can save your news gathering organization you can still market that side of it. But going to mostly online begs the question of how that will make more money.

I see where the online edition will cost $12 a month and will come to readers in a printable format. So now, we're giving people the newspaper, but making them print it at home. Sounds a little like going to Burger King where they will supply the meat patty, but you have to bring the bun and condiments and still pay the same price for the burger.

It may not take long for some sharp blogger to figure out how to take the online version and then distribute to an e-mail list of their own for free or a much cheaper price. Articles will be ripped off, copied and distributed as they are now.

People are too used to getting their online news for free and I don't see a lot of people willing to pony up the new online subscription rate. But again, at least the Freep and Detroit News are trying to keep the main thing, the main thing.

Besides when I go out to breakfast, I don't want to take my laptop with me to try and run through computer pages while I eat.

Then you have the Booth model. The one that says, people don't care what's in the paper or who gets the news so you eviscerate the news gathering staff and lean on the same poor, incompetent leadership that brought you to this point. This is the model I really don't understand.

Imagine an airline that had one airline cockpit crew that every time they were assigned a flight it crash landed and everyone but the crew was lost. At some point you would think that the CEOs of that airline would say, I think the flight crew may be the problem and not the passengers.

But Booth is taking off on a new flight, but again with the same flight crew that brought down the plane the last time. Someone smarter than I said you can't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

Then you have the Journal Register Co. model that plans to replace much of the reporting staff with hobby journalists working for free. Sort of like a car repair garage turning over its business to a bunch of weekend car warriors.

Everyone thinks they can do another person's job better than they can (just ask any football or baseball coach) but despite what people think, doing a reporter or editor's job is not as easy as it looks and requires a certain skill set. So turning over the steering wheel of a newspaper to an unlicensed, underage driver is really insane.

But all this flailing around is a product of having incompetent people at the top who are more concerned about keeping their jobs than improving the product. With the obvious impact their incompetence is having on many decent young people with careers on the line, I frankly don't know how they sleep at night.

The one thing all three models have in common is they are blowing a big kiss-off to the biggest group of their loyal readers, the ones who have bought and purchased their dead tree product for years. They are consciously writing off a large, profitable segment of their readership without a clue as to how to attract the young readers they desire and need.

Who knew that the eventually newspaper model would be for the newspaper to be the one to cancel the subscriptions of loyal readers. All of this looks like a strange way to throw in the towel.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Alice in Journalismland time

It's really getting stupid out in journalism land. Jim Carty on his blog referenced the Free Press and Detroit News situation, but added some additional information about my former employer, The Oakland Press.

While the Free Press looks like it is launching the Hail Mary and putting all its eggs in the online basket, at least they realize that "content producers" should be retained. Whether this works or not remains to be seen, but at least they realize what their product really is.

Not so for the Journal-Register Co., the new and highly unprofitable owner of the Oakland Press and a number of other newspapers who in exchange for real journalism is now offering short courses in journalism - taught by Press editors (at least a couple who know what they are doing) - for some of its readers. The rewards for that, well, read it in editor Glenn Gilbert's own words:

"For those who complete the instruction, we offer the opportunity to get your work published online or in the print edition. This experience would be especially helpful for high school and college students viewing careers in the communications field. In addition, others can work toward becoming members of our freelance stable of journalists."

Great experience and clips for more non-existent journalism jobs, who does this clown think he's kidding? Emphasize the "free" in freelance. You can read the whole tripe filled column here:

The next link is a little old, but has some very prophetic information in it from August:

And if you want to read what Jim Carty had to say about all this, go here:

Flint Mayor Donald J. Williamson

What follows is the obviously edited highlights from Flint Mayor Don Williamson's deposition involving his demanding the arrest of a Flint Journal carrier for peddling newspapers at City Hall.
I'm posting this because several of the out-of-state freefromeditors readers have asked me off line about Flint's colorful mayor. This just about says it all. If you want more go to and search for Mayor Donald J. Williamson. All of the depostiions are there.

Ever heard of a webinar, cyber conference?

The editor of the Flint Journal and soon-to-be one of the head gurus of Newhouse's Advance Internet team has been busy traveling to New York via carbon wasting air transportation recently. Reportedly at least three times.

So the guy who leans on "guys wearing their hats on backwards" to lead the way into the new Internet world, apparently is unable to figure out how to use the Internet to save a few bucks for the company by meeting online.

Having the editor stand up in front of a bunch of employees crowing about his exciting, new Internet job while they struggle with major life decisions on whether to take this buyout or cast their lots with the possible remaining jobs in a downsized Booth is more than some of them can take.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Admit it, it's funny.

"We're not the best team in the NFL"

"We know we're not the best team in the NFL."

That was the line Detroit Lions Quarterback Dan Orlovsky said to a group of reporters after the team's latest loss bringing them to 0-14 on the season.

I may stop laughing by tomorrow. But don't count on it.

Just a little "I told you so"

A couple months ago, I wrote the following:

Didn't seem to work, did it?

A library of Booth downsizing spin

So far, I can find four columns by Booth editors about the looming cuts (only three weeks for folks to make up their minds whether they are staying or taking the buyouts).

There seems to be a consistent theme (Booth talking points) in all the columns. "We're getting smaller, but more local so stick with us, readers."

Here are the columns (and please do read the reader comments where applicable).

Ann Arbor:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More on Booth from the Ann Arbor perspective

Jim Carty has some reflections on a column by the Ann Arbor editor in this morning's paper reference the continuing Booth downsizing.

You can read it all here and follow the links to more: