Saturday, May 30, 2009 announces sports leaders

A Booth retread and an Oakland Press (Journal Register Co.) refugee will head the new sports coverage at

I know nothing about either man so don't know if this is good or bad. Both will undoubtedly be glad to land on their feet (at least for a little while) as they dive off the deck of the two Titanics they are currently sailing on.

Buffalo gas, cheaper than Michigan gas

For the first time ever, I paid less for gas in Buffalo, New York than I did in Michigan. Like 25 cents a gallon cheaper, which really makes me wonder (again) what is going on with gasoline prices.

Usually the gas here (because of much higher taxes) is 25-35 cents a gallon more expensive than Michigan, but not on this trip.

Time to punch some holes in U.S. territory and bring up some black gold, Texas tea and drive those prices down again. We can work on the green technology, but we are never going to be completely free of oil. Might as well dig up our own.

My thought for the day. Home tomorrow.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to Buffalo and FJ party notes

Time to head back to Buffalo and collect my wife and bring her home for a couple of weeks. Things are going as good as can be expected there and we appreciate the concern and prayers of our friends.

Blogging will be light this weekend, but I will be thinking of my friends at the Flint Journal both those leaving and those staying. All good people. Wish I could be at the party tonight at PDs, but alas, I'll be in the land of Beef-on-weck and chicken wings.

Also, I earlier posted a note (sent to me by a Journal friend) that indicated that there might be a gathering on Saturday at 9 p.m. at the White Horse in Flint. In the interim, a lot of people who should know said they didn't know anything about that gathering. So you might check with someone before burning the gas to go to the White Horse in Flint on Saturday night.

The big party is at PDs and it is tonight, so enjoy. Let me know who shows up.

An interesting 'outsourcing' article

A loyal reader sent along this link about the effects of "outsourcing" news coverage.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Newspaper executives 'plotting' new course has an article about a Chicago meeting involving a number of newspaper company executives, including Advance Publications.

The article seems to imply that the executives are in collusion (actually the headline says that) about a common agreement to charge for Internet content.

Some are alleging that would be an anti-trust situation, if true. An embedded link is a really detailed summary of the meeting.

One of my favorite paragraphs:

"There are various ways to go about it, and one size won't fit all. During their days of print advertising plenty, the people in this room, or their predecessors, made the catastrophic, myopic decision to not charge. They gave away their expensive efforts for free. They by and large misjudged the significance of the internet."

Yes they did, and they ignored those of us who questioned the wisdom of such a move. Yet, we are gone and they are still there. Go figure.

A short history of newspaper despair

Although it only covers about 50 of the top newspapers a Wall Street Journal map and chart does a pretty good summary on the travails of newspapers in the last couple years. For the record, I found this item on Newspaper Death Watch.

Flint Journal test fires its new design

Just plucked my Flint Journal out of the box and immediately noticed the redesign.

Apparently ahead of next week's three-day-a-week launch the paper decided to test fire its new design. Design is a matter of personal taste, so take this criticism as such. Yuck.

First of all, this is about the 18,123rd (only a slight exaggeration) redesign of the paper since I've been involved with it since 1989. Management somehow believes that by changing type fonts and rearranging sections readers will come flocking back to the paper.

Change the name of the Entertainment Section from "Entertainer" to "Let's Go" and you're off to the races in their mind.

Hint: It's about news and content. It has always been about news and content. Even on the Internet, it was always be about news and content. Good, clean layouts help, but if there's nothing to read, it won't matter if it's a masterpiece design.

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't see one crime or breaking news story in the paper today. Hopefully that means that crime has stopped in Flint.

I'll digest more of the changes and come back later, but (again this is personal choice) I have never like all-capitals anything and from a first glance it appears that all bylines will be all caps, jump headlines will be all caps and some of the light font headline versions disappear off the page.

They did leave the flag (masthead) pretty much untouched, but give them time.

Brittany Hart Smith - Graduate

While I'm bragging about granddaughters let me just say how very, very proud I am of my oldest granddaughter, Brittany, 17, who is graduating from high school this June.

Too bright for a regular high school, Brittany finished many of her required classes at the local community college - Cabrillo, in Capitola, California.

I love our political discussions and love how she holds her own with her own beliefs. Oh, and for teaching me that hair extensions are not permanent like a tattoo.

Yeaaah Red Wings! Noooo Penguins!

I already bragged about this over on Facebook, but last year I taught my then 2-year-old granddaughter to say "Yeaaaah Red Wings! Nooooo Penguins!" during last year's Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

So let me just say how proud I am that at 3-years-old she is already up-to-speed on this year's Cup Finals and has never forgotten the "Yeaaaah Red Wings! Nooooo Penguins" chant. Of course, it does cause some minor problems when she sees the cute little creature that is a penguin.

It's not like she would club a real baby penguin, or anything.

Showing the love here to my favorite team - The Detroit Red Wings.

And to all my California friends who root for the Anaheim Ducks (bad name for a sports team) and the San Jose Sharks (which is a great name for a team that provides really good practice for the Red Wings annual playoff run), just wait'll next year.

A tough week for Flint Journal employees

Just wanted to note that with the looming layoffs/buyout departures tomorrow, Friday, May 29, that many of my former colleagues are struggling through a tough week. I've seen their countdowns on Facebook and their poignant comments.

Some of them were actually asked to stay, but at such a reduced rate of pay that they made the decision to leave. Good for them. Until management announces what pay cuts they took, there will always be a high level of suspicion over whether the pain is being equally shared. Not saying it isn't, but it should be shared with the staff.

Some familiar columnists bylines will stay on, but on a freelance basis. There has been much talk about freelance pay here in recent days, but I'll bet some freelancers will make a lot more than others.

The paper will pay only as much as they have to and as little as people will accept. Nothing wrong with that from a purely business sense, but the paper will limit the quality of its product by hiring on the cheap. Not because the people left aren't good people, some are great people, but low pay and long hours will hurt morale and that will translant into quality issues.

This is not a business plan for survival, it is death by a thousand cuts. The only constant is that the people who led the company through this decline, continue to lead it. There's an old saying about continuing to do the same thing, but expecting a different result.

Someone from Bay City or Saginaw has been posting this stupidity: (I'll paraphrase) With the departure of so many people and with pay cuts "now we'll see who is just working for a paycheck."

That may be the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Who doesn't work for a paycheck? Has the guy who is posting that nonsense agreed to work for free now? Unless he has volunteered to do his job for nothing, I guess he has put himself in that same category.

Most people at the Flint Journal worked for many more hours than they were paid and worked odd strange schedules that no union organization would ever tolerate. They have done that because they love what they do and want to do it well. They also did it for a paycheck.

I once argued with a Board of Directors member (a publisher of a string of Michigan weeklies) at The State News over his comment that "reporters aren't motivated by higher pay." That's when the maximum pay for student journalists at The State News was $25-$35 a week for about 25-35 hours of work.

I vehemently objected to his premise. I may have even referred to it as solid cow exhaust. While many of us loved our work, we like everyone else, have bills to pay and children to raise. That doesn't happen without a paycheck.

Back to my colleagues. Keep your heads up, the demise of the Flint Journal is the result of a number of factors, the economy, the general decline of newspaper advertising and the incompetence of the Booth/Advance leadership, but you have done your jobs and done them well.

Good luck to you all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Daily Derelict chimes in with customer subscription story

Over on Daily Derelict there is more about the new subscriptions at the Flint Journal.

Cavs Win!

Cavs Win! Somebody lost all objectivity in covering the news and sports.

Happy Birthday William!

My oldest, William, is 39 years old today. Now I officially feel old. William has had to overcome several challenges in his life, for which I am very proud of him. Enjoy your day and your Michigan State jersey is on its way!

That's him giving me the hand at an outdoor, beachfront restaurant in beautiful Capitola, California. And him again sitting in my late brother's chair (his Uncle Mike). That's my sister-in-law Barbara next to him.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Callen Courtemanche a life to remember today

For those who have not been touched directly by the losses in war, I'd like to give you a name to think about today. When I put my flag out this morning, it will be in honor of Callen Courtemanche, a high school classmate and friend, who lost his life in Vietnam on January 31, 1968. (For newspaper editors who love birthday connections, it was five days after his 21st birthday).

The several times I have visited the Wall in Washington, D.C., or the traveling wall when it comes locally, I always look for and pray over Cal's name.

I'll also give a salute to my brother, a Vietnam vet, who died of an infection on New Year's Day. A lot of my brother's medical problems were believed related to his service and he was just days and weeks short of getting his disability payments for them when he died.

My grandfather served in World War I, my uncle, father and stepfather all served in World War II, so service comes naturally to our family.

At the same time Cal was shot and killed, I was aboard the relative safety of a Navy destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin rescuing Navy fighter pilots and providing shore bombardment support for Marines like Cal. Cal and I were not close friends in school, just the kind of friends who had known each other through elementary, junior high and high school. We would stop and talk or each lunch together if our best friends were not available.

My mother and stepfather knew the Courtemanches and I heard the name in our house frequently. So it came as a bit of a shock when I received a letter from my mother, about a month after Cal died (remember no e-mail and only snail military mail - which had to be where snail mail got its name) telling me of Cal's death. He was one of two men (William James Burke was the other) that I knew personally who were killed in Vietnam, but Cal was the one I was closest too. I left a message on a Virtual Wall message board a couple years ago.

Sometimes I think how much Cal missed. He and I were the same age, graduated from high school in 1965. I've enjoyed a short police career and a long newspaper career and have seen two of my boys raised and my two stepchildren grow in to maturity. I have the joy of two grandchildren with another on the way, and a wife to love and grow old with. Cal had none of that. His life ended in an inhospitable jungle in a war that probably should never have been fought, could have been won, but that people and politicians simply tired of.

My fellow Vietnam veterans are universally adamant that our current military will never suffer the disgust and hate we did when we arrived home. But to put things in perspective, I may not have had a big parade or welcome home, but at least I had a life, that's something Cal and 55,000-plus did not have. Give that a thought today.

So when I don my American Legion outfit today and salute, I'll have the names of two men firmly in my mind. If you have someone in your life who was lost due to war, please post them in the comments and let us all remember them today.

The top picture is Cal after his graduation from boot camp. The second picture is his Crescenta Valley High School senior picture and the third image is a tracing down of his name at The Wall.

This will be the only post today.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

FJ Adios Party at Pds on Friday, White Horse on Saturday

I have been asked to spread the word that current and former Flint Journal employees are invited to two good-bye parties for current Journal employees who will work their last day on Friday, May 29.

The first party is at Pds (PDs) Pub, 5153 Fenton Road in Flint starting at 5 p.m. until the last dog has died.

The second party is going old school at the White Horse Tavern in Flint starting about 9 p.m. until the cops (the ones who aren't there already) shut it down. (That was a joke).

Unfortunately, I have to return to Buffalo Friday afternoon so I won't be able to attend either party, but I'll tip a root beer in Buffalo to so many fine journalists now back on the shelf. All of them will be better off in the end, and the Journal will be worse off for their loss.

Just in case you thought you were having a bad day

Probably staged, but still should make you feel like your day is better than the guy in the convertible.
Thanks to my cousin Cynthia for this photo.