Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pitcher killed in crash, media here adds his game performance

While driving back and forth to Louisville today we heard several news reports on the hit-and run accident death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22.

All the broadcasts included in the lead of his death that Andenhart had just pitched six scoreless innings the night before his death.

Would his death be less tragic if he had given up six runs and been pulled from the game after two innings?

Trust me, I've been involved in stories like this over the years and it has always bothered me when a death is connected to a some non-essential or ridiculously mundane tidbit to make it seem worse.

I once covered a man who was shot to death on his birthday. That fact, of course, made it into the lead although in the end does it really make the death worse that a person was killed on the anniversary of their birth?

Boston Globe: Another newspaper on the ropes

In the newspaper bizarro world here is the New York Times story on the New York Times Co.'s concession demands by its Boston Globe property.

More on

If you are interested in Booth or Advance news, you'll do yourself a favor and stop over on Jim Carty's blog today and read this piece on the most recent forum.

A very funny "Stupid Pet Trick"

A cute Letterman video sent to us by reader Chris from California. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another "you'll be sorry when we're gone" column

A frequent reader sent along a link to the following Leonard Pitts column form the Miami Herald.

Green and white turns blue

So I stayed up and watched to the bitter end of last night's championship game. What can I say? Too much North Carolina, too little MSU.

All-in-all a great season by a great team. Like all the know-it-alls said, it would have taken a perfect game by MSU and an average game by NC to make it even and just the opposite happened with the predictable results.

Wait 'til next year. Thanks for a great run Mr. Izzo.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tom Izzo 'interviewed' by Ron Burgundy (Will Farrell)

Found this on Facebook. Pretty funny and a side of Tom Izzo you don't see very often.

What went wrong?

So they've done it. Booth announced the shuttering of one newspaper and neutered three others. It is sad, infuriating and frustrating all at the same time.

When I started at the Flint Journal it was a great place for a reporter to work. When you were hired, in my case to be a night police reporter, my editor turned me loose and simply asked that I find out everything newsworthy on my beat. It really was that simple.

In return, the reporters prowled their beats daily and turned in great news and feature stories.

The most frequent assignment I received from my boss was: "Go do what you do."

A couple things happened that changed that. The paper got 'sensitive.' The fad was to reach out to groups of readers - focus groups - and in kind of a group think find out what we were doing right or wrong.

These polite groups of readers told editors they wanted more uplifting features and not so much 'bad' news. So we started backing off on some crime news and coverage. We stopped listing the number of each homicide. At one time we kept a running tally of homicide victims and would let the readers know this was the 15th homicide of the year.

Good accident and crime photos were rejected because they were "too graphic." Focus group think again. In a word the newspaper went 'soft.'

Forget that any realistic readership survey indicated that the subscribers want blood and gore and lots of it. Everytime we had a major news event, the best survey you could ask for was newstand sales and they were always good when news was bad.


In the first five years of my career at the Flint Journal I maybe went to two staff meetings.

In the last 14 years I probably went to six staff meetings each month. Sunday story meetings, recognition meetings (until I stopped going), special anniversary section meetings and others so stupid I've forgotten what they were about. The bottom line was that is was six hours a month I was away from my phone and sources and getting news.

But it provided more control for those in charge and a theater of the absurd.

Let's talk for a moment about what is still wrong.

The same people who have engineered the destruction of a once proud and profitable company, remain in control. One or more who are leaving are taking a small king's ransom with them. The incestuous Newhouse management is a breeding ground for mediocrity.

Most obvious is that the architect of the new is the same old, tired Booth manager who once help lead the newsroom in Ann Arbor and then captained the newsroom in Flint until just recently. His incompetent leadership at those two places has now been rewarded with a new venue for incompetence.

No one lower than a Booth/Newhouse captain apparently had any say or was asked for advice in the recent catastrophic decisions for the newspapers. That speaks volumes about the type of management that has taken over Booth/Newhouse.


If I could put a date on when the demise began it would be: December 12, 2000.

That was the date that our fairly new publisher, a refugee from the business side, made the fateful, national-news-headline-grabbing-decision, not to publish because of heavy snow.

Most of us had reported for work, were ready to trek through the snow to bring the news to our readers, document the event, when the editor told us we weren't publishing. It was mind-boggling news to those of us who live and breath news.

It's not like the Journal hadn't published in worse storms in its history.

Not publishing was unheard of, it was not even thought of, but here we were watching ourselves on CNN. Our journalism friends from around the country were calling and taunting us. It was a wear-a-bag-over-your-head kind of day.

But that's what happens when you turn a news organization over to the bottom line folks. And that's precisely when we learned it. It wasn't important to publish, only important to save paper, ink and personnel costs on a day when it would have been difficult to deliver the paper.

It was the beginning of the end.


Then came the Internet intrusion. We were called into meetings where the suits told us that there was this new Internet thing and that we had to be part of it. That would mean more work, posting stories during the day and continually revising stories for the online venture, that we came to know as MLive.

Some of us boldly asked: "How will we make money from this?" Which shows that while we may be ink-stained wretches, we knew where our paychecks came from and we couldn't see how posting all these stories for free would work to our advantage.

The suits patted us on the head and told us not to worry about that, that the presence was what was important and not the money, and that "we simply had to be there (online)." So we left scratching our heads and talking behind their backs about what a stupid business model this was.

What we did do was start producing online content as we were told. It was put up on MLive, but some of us openly wondered and asked again, how would MLive have any identification with the Flint Journal (or the Kalamazoo Gazette, Saginaw News, etc.). We wondered why each paper would not have its own, profit producing website.

Again, the suits told us not to worry, this was all under Newhouse control and the suits all knew what they were doing. How does that look in retrospect?

When we realized that some newspapers (Detroit News and Free Press) were actually producing a fine online product, we again wondered aloud and at meetings why we weren't going in that direction instead of the goshawful MLive. Again, the suits told us not to worry.

Then the tsunami hit, Craig's List and any number of online advertising sites ate our lunch with free advertising. We were caught flatfooted and still tied to MLive, which can best be described as an anchor tied around our leg. The suits sat around, wrung their hands and didn't have a clue what to do about it. Nor did they reach out to their veterans for help.

Their egos were too big to look to the subordinates and ask them for help. That's what happens when you concentrate leadership in a tight little clique.

Mix into this a middle management editor with total control who believed the salvation of the newspaper lay in such mundane features as "Making a Difference" and "Golden Apples" instead of hard news.

We backed away from hard news stories like a robbery victim from a man with a gun. Lawyers took over the newsroom and mediocrity ruled the day. Features were the order of the day and none were more valued than the Sunday features.

We spent hours in meetings, as opposed to being on our beats looking for stories, feeding the ego of one editor who loved planning the newspaper weeks and months in advance. Even when breaking news would come up, the editor would insist that reporters leave a breaking news story to finish some lame feature he had planned for a Sunday two weeks away.

Weekly recognition meetings became a forum for the top editor to feed his own ego by holding court with the staff and rewarding reporters with his glib prose: "This story was written with authority," whatever the heck that means. Or he would compliment an editor for overseeing a breaking news event, even when the editor had been clueless about what to do or what we were doing to cover his butt.

Once he complimented a reporter for using a reverse directory to find someone at a house near a crime. Sheeesh, any first year college reporter would know to use a reverse directory. It wasn't a compliment it simply pointed out how devoid the editor was of reporting experience.

Fortunately, the recognition meetings were voluntary and I quit going early on. It involved an hour of my life each week that I knew I could never get back. Besides when everyone is in a meeting, phones ring and no one answers, tips come in that no one gets and time is wasted.


I hope it's not too late to turn the ship around. There are many good reporters and other employees still at the Journal who, if given the chance, and the room to succeed will.

I've always believed that the best bosses are the ones who make sure they hire good people and then turn them loose. What's the point of having a winning thoroughbred if you hitch it to a hay wagon?

If the new bosses will simply get out of the way, there's enough folks left that can make them look good. Heck, if I were them I'd drag a couple of the folks back who they sent out the door. If you really want to make the place work you're going to need some of the talent you've already dismissed.

Tom and a couple other posters here aside, I still believe that the print product has a loyal audience, one worth keeping, at least until the transition is made to the Internet. Giving up on the money side of the business seems foolhardy to me.

Sure, it's time to really go forth into the Internet and find a model that works, but don't flush the loyal customers you already have.

In the two weeks since Booth announced its big changes I couldn't tell you the number of times folks here in Lapeer (and remember the FJ barely covers Lapeer any more) have said how disappointed they are that they will no longer get the paper seven days a week.

I try to explain to them about advertising, newsprint costs, etc., but they simply want their daily newspaper, the one they can hold in their hands and read.