Saturday, May 9, 2009

A comment on a comment

Great comment on by someone named Steve Thorpe. Responding to the bachelor's degree requirement for job applicants at the online site, Mr. Thorpe placed the following comment:

"Steve Thorpe in May 1, 2009 1:44 PM
Bachelor's degree? I guess Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Paul Allen need not apply. Very 21st century. But then I presume you only intend to be unconventional in SOME ways."

As someone on this blog noted, this requirement will also probably disquality a number of those "hat-on-backwards" types as well.

The want new and unconventional, but only if they have a conventional degree.

A little more on

It beginning to look like is trying to slowly leak out what it will be. So far it sounds like it's going to be a link list.

The example the new content czar has provided, a popular, closed restaurant, wouldn't give me a reason to be excited about this new venture. And as he points out, there are already many sources of the information they will be providing. (By the way, if it was a 'popular' restaurant, why did it close? That would be a story for a good reporter).

If what they are going to provide for me is a Google shortstop, I don't need it, maybe some people do, but I don't.

When he says, "we'll have reporters," I guess what most people want to know is how many and what will they cover. Will they spend the money to fly reporters to away sporting events? Will they spend the money to fly reporters out-of-state on a hot angle to a local story? Will they have an experienced court reporter spend days in a courtroom giving us the gory details of a interesting court case?

A closed restaurant is one thing, a commitment to heavy duty daily reporting, is quite another.

Random thoughts for a Saturday morning

Just saw the Friday front page of the Flint Journal and the lead story is a huge feature story on one of the American Idol finalists.

Turns out the kid, Kris Allen, one of the three finalists, has a great-uncle living in Linden. Just when I had gotten the last American Idol-Flint Journal orgy out of my head, here comes another one.

When I expressed concerns, as an employee, the last time the Journal devoted a full-time reporter and extensive resources to covering a local contestant in the 'Idol' show, I was told that this was the kind of story that would bring 'thousands of young people' to the paper and perhaps dig us out of the hole.

Not so much, as it turned out.

On a completely unrelated topic, when I had my cereal this morning I discovered that I had forgotten to run the dishwasher yesterday and so was forced to use my granddaughter's "Strawberry Shortcake" spoon to eat breakfast.

I think the cereal tasted just a little bit better today.

All things Red Wings at Kuklas Korner

A Free From Editors reader, I think from L.A. or who is visiting there for the hockey playoffs, sent me a tip on where to get more Red Wings news.

It was in a post about the lame coverage of the Red Wings game in Friday's MLive that prompted the comment.

But the poster sent me to Kukla's Korner and the compilation of links to all things hockey. I know there are a number of Detroit Red Wings fans who stop here and you will find a one-stop shop for links to the Red Wing coverage by the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News and, if you are really desperate, MLive. Plus many, many more.

There are links to bloggers and pre-game, in-game and post-game coverage. It's now listed in my favorites. The poster recommended the "Abel to Yzerman" link, especially on game days.

So thanks to the poster and enjoy. I know I will.
p.s. Last night I got home from dinners with some friends and finally gave in and spent an extra $10 a month to add the television package to my Dish Network that provides Versus and more hockey coverage.

A plea for more information

Recently, I've put up a number of comments from people who obviously work in the distribution part of one of the three newspapers that are going to three days a week.

Unfortunately, when I post comments I can't see what article they are being posted to, so when they go to an article I posted a long time ago, I can't find them. Your observations are interesting about the new contracts being offered to drivers.

If you can, and feel free to continue to do so anonymously, please repeat the information in your previous posts here. It would also be helpful to know how the new contracts compare to the old contracts. If it won't compromise or reveal who you are give us a ballpark of the difference between what you made delivering the 7-day-a-week paper to what you will be paid to deliver the three-day-a-week paper.

Advertising sales people, feel free to do the same.

At this point, a little transparency would be a good thing for the company. I think it would be helpful to all if the company pulled back the curtain and let people know what everyone makes, publishers, editors, reporters, etc., then people could assess if everyone was fairly sharing in the pain.

Friday, May 8, 2009

No Star Trek review

Offline, I frequent reader of this blog wrote to complain that the Flint Journal ignored the opening of the new Star Trek movie.

A big movie like this should have rated a review, the commenter said.

I haven't seen the dead tree version today, so can't verify it myself, and I took a cursory look at the MLive site without success.

A working newspaper model

An opinion piece by the Christian Science Monitor on the many newspapers who continue to make money using the old model.

An example of why Mlive is so lame

This morning I got up early and clicked over to MLive to read the Detroit Red Wings game story. As of 7:30 a.m. there is no picture or story on the Flint Journal home page. (That may change later for all the links I've put up).

I finally found the game stories after I clicked on a tiny Red Wings tab near the bottom of the page.

Just for comparison I headed over to the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press sites and both have a picture and game story right up front.

The MLive home page for the Flint Journal is still showing a column from a sports writer that has been up since Tuesday afternoon and a homicide story up since 9:30 a.m. Thursday. If you're going to be in the online game, get in the darned game.

Grand Rapids and Muskegon and the only MLive sites that had the story up immediately after the game ended. Looks like Bay City put it up about 7:47 a.m.

A Wikipedia hoax that caught a number of MSM outlets

My stepdaughter, who is quickly becoming one of my best blog reporters, sent along this story on a hoax that took in a lot of main stream media folks.

It is why when I was working as a reporter I never used Wikipedia as a primary source. Sometimes as a back-up source, but never, ever as a sole source.

I will admit to using it for information on Navy ships, countries and their flags, but I would never use a quote I found on a site that can be accessed and edited by literally, anyone.

While I will not excuse this kind of sloppiness, it is understandable that when reporters are being pushed for more stories, even quotas for stories, that short cuts will happen. No longer is there the leisure time that I, and other reporters had, to spend the extra time looking for back up or corroborating information.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Time to charge for news websites: Rupert Murdoch

A reader sent me a link to a Guardian story about Rupert Murdoch saying that News Corp. will start charging for access to news websites within a year.

For now, the link to the Guardian is down, but here is another story on the plan.

When the Guardian link works, I'll put it up.

Swine Flu, another fading media panic

File this under Y2K, Avian Flu, SARs, etc. Maybe it's just me, but the media panic over the Swine Flu seems to be going away. Guess we can go back to sneezing and coughing without covering our mouths and we can also quit washing out hands.

Just for fun

With all the news about Elizabeth Edwards recently, couldn't help but put this favorite YouTube video up.

I feel pretty!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Try this with your Internet news site

Found this informative YouTube over on Reflections of a Newsosaur.

Fired by phone, while on a sports assignment

I was fired once. Not because I had done anything wrong, but because the weekly I worked for at the time was sold out from under me.

I hung around for a couple weeks, but realized I could never work for the new owners and one day a pathetic lady showed up at my office and told me to publish something in the newspaper that was so far beneath what a newspaper should do that I refused.

The lady told me if I didn't publish it, I would likely be fired. Well, she was right. I didn't print it and I was fired. But at least she was "man" enough to do it in person. No hard feelings.

But look what happened to this sports reporter.

I also knew another newspaper employee who was once fired in the middle of the Arizona desert via cellphone while he was on an assignment.

A new Pearls Before Swine

Click on the cartoon for the full panels.

Pearls Before Swine

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

President Obama to newspapers: Drop dead!

OK, that may be a little over the top, but I will never forget the New York headline about another President's failure to bail out a whole city.

Anyway, here's the brief give and take about newspapers at a White House press conference.

By the way, I agree that the government should not bail out newspapers, or any other media for that matter.

"Scare Force One" photos are not to be released

Photos taken from Scare Force One (an ABC term for the stupid low altitude flyover of New York City last week) are apparently not going to be released.

The public, which apparently paid more than $325,000 for the photo op, certainly deserves to see the photos, don't you think?

Certainly the Freedom of Information requests for the pictures must be piling up on the White House desk.

Here's the CBS story on the White House decision to keep the photos under wraps.

The President, who has promised transparency, will do himself a big favor by just releasing the photos and getting it over with. It's a one-day story at best.

It's not like there's a "Mission Accomplished" banner across the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Pension is frozen, not terminated

Received the following comment this morning on the pension letter that I was getting some comment on yesterday:


Just talked to Mike Ply. (Thanks, anonymous for the phone number, I left my letter at home.)

Nice guy. Very helpful. Answered my questions directly and succinctly.

The plan is NOT being terminated. (It IS being frozen.) This is new paperwork the government requires. The paperwork must outline what COULD happen, not what WILL happen.

The plan stands, he said.

It is continuing to be funded, he said. It is not being terminated, he said.

This is not a termination letter, he said.

He said we can expect the more "normal" 5500 form, etc, in the fall.

From my past knowledge, 81 percent funding isn't the greatest, but as he pointed out with a rueful chuckle, it is better than most of our 4019(k)s are doing.

Hope this helps.Todd Seibt"

Todd is my guru on all things financial, so I think this should put this to rest. Sorry about the folks who now have their pensions frozen. Wonder if the freeze applies to the editors/managers/content directors/etc.?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Executive Editor podcast outlines new newspaper sections

The new executive editor of the Bay City Times, Saginaw News and Flint Journal talks about the exciting new sections coming to the three-day-a-week Flint Journal.

He also answers some tough questions at the end of the comment sections, including an admission that a number of employees who the company hoped to keep, declined to accept the large pay cuts that the company offered them.

Make sure you read all the comments. I'll reserve mine for now.

Pension letter leaves confusion, ??

I received the following comment. I too, received the retirement letter today and wondered what it all meant:

"Hi Jim,I've been lurking for a long time, reading your blog.

Thanks for being the consummate news man.

I got the Booth letter about our pensions. I have always known my Advance pension would be pitiful, if indeed, it will even exist by the time I can draw on it.

It says Booth is giving the plan up to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC).

In 2008, the fund was 81% funded and less in 2007.

The only way a company can terminate a single employer defined pension plan is that it is fully funded or it can show the PBGC that it can pay the money owed to all participants -- or through "distressed termination."

However, the employer must prove to a bankruptcy court or the PBGC that the company can't stay in business unless the pension plan is terminated.

I now will have to wait to get my measly Booth pension until I am 62 or 65; I was going to draw at 55.

I hope I am reading it wrong, but we've never received notice from the PBGC before. I called the PBGC, which indicates our plan is not yet managed by them. Guess I'll start calling tomorrow."

End comment.

If the lump sum payout was large enough, I'd jump at the chance to take a lump sum payment that I could invest and draw off rather than worry annually about the health of my pension. In fact, when I retired I asked personnel if I could just take a lump sum payment and was told that option was no longer available.

I'd welcome anyone who has, or gets, more information on the letter.

Less than half the newspapers at 90 percent of the price

Some folks are reacting to the announced new delivery rates of the 3-days-per-week Flint Journal over on Andy Heller's blog.

It appears the paper wants to charge more, for less. One commenter mentioned the price has gone from 40 cents a copy to 90 cents a copy with the change.

Also, Andy, who really is the face of the Flint Journal, has announced he is leaving full-time employment for the paper, but will continue to write on a free lance basis.

Don't know where he will be working, but his departure would be a big blow to the newspaper. Probably why they are keeping him on as a freelancer.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Next round of jobs up at

An ad for copy editors is now up on

A not-for-profit online newspaper

Reader Kevin sent me a link to a story about a not-for-profit news organization that has made some waves in San Diego.

Here's the link to the site itself (nice looking site). Check out the list of donors on the "donate" page.