Friday, January 23, 2009

I want some TARP!

This is the best description and example of the current status of Washington, D.C. giveaways. And if the clowns who we elected continue to think mortgaging our childrens' futures is the way out of this mess, we're all in big doo-doo.

But enjoy the song and it even has a catchy tune.

Food for thought on buyouts

From Jim Carty's blog, this ditty about a buyout gone wrong somewhere else:

A word about information

Just a reminder for those who read this blog: If you are a Boothie and you enjoy coming here, don't do it from work. Any communications with me should be done from your home e-mail or from your cell or home phone.

Some believe there is a real hunger among management to find whoever is providing information to FFE.

This is, has been, and will be as long as you want, a forum about newspapers in general and Booth newspapers in particular. But I don't want anyone to lose their job or be disciplined because of it.

I have plenty of things I want to write about that do not include newspapers and am really ready to move on to those. Most of the folks I knew well at the Journal are now gone from there or will be shortly so the need for venting should soon slacken.

In the very near future I will be returning to California to honor my brother's memory and visit my two grown sons and granddaughter. Not to mention a little down time with my sister and cousin and blogging will drop off considerably then.

Soon after that, my wife will retire and we will be hitting the open road for frequent and extended trips to places that either one of both of us have never been. I hope to write about those travels and may start another blog for those.

My hope and prayer is that the Flint Journal will survive and thrive and that it will remain a life force in and around Flint. As we have discussed here at length I don't believe the current model or leadership will do that, but I'm open to being surprised.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New local editor selected at FJ

I received a flurry of contacts today about the selection of a new local editor. Picked to replace the new editor was his hand selected choice just last year as an assistant editor.

Here's the text of the e-mail sent out to staff:


I'm pleased to announce that MR (per the policy of Free From Editors, I'm withholding her full name) is our new Local News Editor. In that capacity, M will direct our local news efforts, acting as the day-to-day supervisor for reporters and overseeing the daily and Sunday budgets. She will be in charge of editorial operations when I am not available. Since leaving the reporting ranks to become an editor, M (missed the name in the first go round, I have fixed it, sorry) has demonstrated a great news sense, organization, enthusiasm and a strong leadership style. It should serve us well in the future."

I was a desk neighbor of MR for several years when we were both reporters. She was always nice to me and often complained - along with the rest of us - about the poor personnel skills of the now editor. I liked her a lot. To be fair, I have not worked as a reporter under her and can't really offer an opinion as to her skills, or the lack thereof, but I do know a number of folks sent me the announcement of her appointment with not many nice things to say. None which I will repeat here.

What I do know is that an excellent editor, one with two decades of editing experience - actually much more editing experience than the big editor - is being pushed out the door while the editor continues his policy of rewarding those he personally likes. Guess that's just human nature.

Someone also pointed out that another person who had been a Sunday editor for a number of years was also passed over for this new promotion.

Unlike most other businesses, the news business has a secretive and non-competitive process for selecting who gets promoted. There are rarely postings for advancement and the new promotions simply are announced without offering others a chance to apply. If a government agency ran its advancement programs in that fashion you can believe that any good newspaper editorial writer would lambast them for not giving everyone an equal chance.

What I also know is that whatever editors are left after the latest downsizing, they better start grabbing a phone and a keyboard and start helping out with writing stories or the morale will sink even further than people tell me it is today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flint Journal launches new website

The Flint Journal launched its new website today and it is a definite improvement over the old MLive version.

I'm still not sold on the soft blue type, but the information was easier to find and I like the "Most commented" tabs at the bottom of the page.

The logo at the top of the page is a useless distraction, but probably required by corporate types. I still think an identifiable banner completely linking the webpage to the paper would be the best, but at least some of the navigation problems have gone away.

Anyway, here's the link:

How one Gannett executive recovered from giving layoff notices

Found on the Internet:

Good article on blogging versus conventional reporting

A good column on why blogging won't replace traditional journalism:

Here's the conclusion:

"Over the past few weeks, I've watched a parade of top-notch reporters leave the Star-Ledger for the last time. The old model for compensating journalists is as obsolete as the telegraph. If anyone out there in the blogosphere can tell me what the new model is, I will pronounce him the first genius I've ever encountered on the Internet."

More trimming at the Flint Journal

The deadline for taking the buyout came and went last Friday and the results show another major downsizing in the newsroom.

Several veteran reporters, a senior editor, the entire imagining department and members of the Internet team will be leaving the Flint Journal as a result of the buyout offer.
On top of that the Community Newspaper division is now down three reporters. A couple have been let go and another one found a job to parachute into. I don't know if there are plans to replace them.

Those staying have received about a one percent raise plus a one percent bonus at the end of this month. That's pretty good, considering what's going on elsewhere.

Let me just say something about several of the news and imaging folks. I know most of them and they were friends, colleagues and wonderful people. They deserved better, but all will survive and thrive. One of them was my next door neighbor in our newsroom pod and is one of the kindest, nicest people I have ever met in or out of journalism.

The feature writer who is leaving wrote some of my favorite feature stories and used to give me a bad time about my lack of culture.

It does seem as if the Internet team is actually shrinking rather than increasing which is surprising because the mantra is, and has been for several years, that the Internet is the way out of the "troubles."

Many of the reporters left (I don't know some of them because they came after I left) are excellent writers and researchers and no doubt will be beaten like rented mules to produce copy. With the departure of a senior editor who also took the buyout, the level of editing and personnel skills will likely drop. Not sure who is in place to replace her, but her departure will also remove one layer of sanity between the editor and the staff.

I worked for this editor for many years, and she took many verbal beatings on my behalf from those above her, so I apologize to her now and thank her for her strength and perseverance when it would have been easier to capitulate. If anyone is looking for a really good editor, one who knows how to assign, organize and edit stories, contact me and I'll try and get you in contact with her.

I haven't heard anything about other departments, but feel free to chime in with that information.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vietnam, Uganda stop by

Two more countries stopped by Monday to Free From Editors. Someone from Vietnam and Uganda made stops yesterday.

Having been to Vietnam some 42 years ago, courtesy of Uncle Sam, it was nice for at least one person to return the favor.

Just for information, people from 217 Michigan cities and every state except Wyoming and North Dakota have also visited.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ah, the good old days

A video look at the good and bad old days of journalism. Notice that the newsrooms were pretty much all-white and women had to stay in the "Women" and "Society" sections. Also if you make it to the 9:20 mark of the 10-minute video you will see an old platen press. I ran one of these monsters in my high school printing class. With Mr. Carrington's help I could really make that thing hum. In those days I worked on writing the paper as well as printing the paper. (A result of having too many course electives).

Idea borrowed from another blog, video obviously borrowed from YouTube.

Big pow-wow could decide copy desk question

A meeting among the Booth publishers and Newhouse, either just held or just about to be held, will likely decide the fate of the central copy desk idea.

A lot of folks have something riding on this decision and there seems to be some reluctance on the part of Newhouse to the central desk strategy.

You have to wonder if Booth/Newhouse may at some point decide whether they need as many publishers as they currently have as well.

Stay tuned.

An Internet editor hits the road, involuntarily

Another blog, another perspective on online news:

Pakistan checks in

Free From Editors hit a milestone of sorts overnight. A visitor from Pakistan checked in. That makes it an even 50 countries that have sent visitors to this site. Not sure what there is here for someone in Pakistan, but we are glad they stopped by. The Pakistan flag is at right next to the American flag.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Matt Drudge on the Internet in 1998

Found this long read (on another blog) from a speech Matt Drudge made to the National Press Club on June 2, 1998. I'm not a Drudge reader, although I have stopped there a couple times to see what the hub-bub was about, but this speech, given ten years ago is very enlightening.

While I disagree with some of what Drudge said in this speech and in the question and answer session that follows, you can certainly see that this man, who has no formal journalism or media training, saw the future of journalism far clearer than all the high-priced suits in all the top media organizations.

And given that a lot of them were in the room at the time he gave the speech their reticence to challenge the status quo and move forward into the new media is surprising.

Here's a little sample from the Q&A:

MR. HARBRECHT: How many leaked stories do you get from mainstream journalists, and would you speculate on their motivation?

MR. DRUDGE: That's a good question, because what I've been doing lately is breaking news that's about to be broken, coverage of the coverage of the coverage. But that's where we are, since the media is so powerful. The media is comparable to government - probably passes government in raw power.

A lot of the stories are internal. They leak it to me wanting to get attention, wanting to get that headline. More times than not, I will not give it to them. It has to get - has to raise my whiskers. It has to be a good headline. I'm a sucker for a good story. I go where the stink is. I'm a partisan for news. If you got a story, I'll be listening outside when we're done. [Soft laughter]