Saturday, August 1, 2009

Something fun for a Saturday

How would you ever recover from this?

An interesting perspective on reporting and reporters

This LA Times column did a nice job of talking about an issue not usually discussed.

Chevy XI

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another journalism jobs site

Thanks to Inside Out for yet another link for folks looking for journalism jobs.

Reporter John Clark and gangster Mickey Cohen a story from the "Front Page"

My father, no slouch in the writing department, sent along a newspaper related story from his past. His father and mother (my grandfather and grandmother) rented a small apartment in Los Angeles to John Clark, a newspaperman.

Most of what follows is in my father’s words. (photo at left is Mickey Cohen)

“John Clark and Mickey Cohen”

Location: A small downtown office at the Los Angeles Daily News.

The time: Early to middle 1950s.

John Clark: John was an excellent newspaper man who had at times, held positions of city editor, but his hard drinking would get him fired or demoted from time-to-time. He would dry out and get his job back. At the time of this incident John was a rewrite man at the Daily News and a feature writer. Don’t imagine newspapers hire rewrite men any more. A good rewrite man could take the basic five W’s from a reporter in the field calling from a public pay phone (are any of those left?) and create a major front page story continued on inside pages. As I already said, he was an excellent writer. John was assigned to create a week’s feature on local mobster, Mickey Cohen.

Mickey Cohen: Mickey was a well known mobster with close ties to the Mafia. As a front Cohen operated a men’s clothing store on the Sunset Strip just east of Beverly Hills. His office was in the back of the store (never heard of anyone actually buying men’s clothes there) where he took care of his business. At one time while leaving a Sunset Strip night club, a sniper from across the street took a shot at him with a rifle. The shot missed Cohen but blew away a body guard. Cohen always insisted he was simply a small business man selling men’s clothes. Right, a small businessman who needed a body guard. Another time his armored Cadillac had been ambushed and there were five or more bullet holes in the driver’s door. None of the projectiles got through the outer steel. Another question, why would a simple small business man need an armored car? Anyway, when asked about the holes in his car door, Cohen shrugged and speculated that the damage was the result of vandals with a drill.

OK, so now you know the players – or almost all of them in this saga. The series on Cohen began in the Daily News on a Monday and continued each day through Friday. In the articles that were anything but flattering to Cohen, John Clark made reference to Cohen’s age and almost each time there was a different age published as no one actually knew his real age.

After three installments, John received a personal call from Cohen who complimented John on the “excellent” feature, but complained about the incorrect references to his age. Cohen told John he would send a couple associates over to show the reporter his birth certificate to clear up the confusion.

That afternoon, two guys straight out of central casting, for gangsters and hit men entered John’s small office at the paper. These were the days when anyone could walk off the street and enter any office or department in a newspaper. Heck, when I was a young “tub thumper” (Note from Jim: A public relations person in the old days, it's meaning today is quite different) I would enter the offices and deliver my stories directly to the city editor.

Back to the story, the two men sat across the desk from John, said nothing for a long pause, then one leaned across the desk and with his face close to John’s said, and these are the actual words, “Mickey wants you should take a vacation to Bermuda!” At that they rose and walked out of his office and the newspaper. One of the two never said a word. Oh, by the way, John never did see a birth certificate.

John lived in a small apartment in Los Angeles owned by my mother and father (Note from Jim: My grandfather and grandmother) where my brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Mona, also lived. We had become friends with John and heard all this first hand from him. At the time he was divorced from his wife due to his drinking.

Epilogue: Not too long after this “event” John drowned in a fishing accident, falling from his boat in a lake up in the Sierras. It was considered simply a case of a drunken fisherman falling out of his boat and never connected to Mickey Cohen.

Jim’s Note: Found the following in a clip that I googled from another reporter at the Daily News who also interviewed Mickey Cohen:
“JONES: People used to cook stuff on a hotplate back there, their lunches and stuff like that. And there was always coffee going. When I was first there, I used to have to come in at 4 o'clock in the morning and start the coffee. Well, there one guy, a great rewrite man named John Clark, but he was a drinker. And you'd have to call him and wake him up, because you couldn't depend on is alarm clock to wake him up. You'd have to call him and be sure he was alert and on his feet so he could get to work. That was part of my job, to start the coffee and get a hold of John Clark, so he could come in on the early shift. He was due in at 5 on the early morning rewrite.”

There’s another long Los Angeles Times story that mentions the above and includes this great description of the Daily News. (Sounds like a place me and a lot of my friends in the business would have loved to work at):

"There were five papers," says Joe Saltzman, a journalism professor at USC. "At that time, you would get drunk and screw up and get fired, but it wasn't a big deal because you would go to another newspaper. But to get to the Daily News was what everybody wanted to do. Everybody who wanted to be a hard-drinking, tough newspaperman--and that included women--would go to the Daily News. It was a newspaperman's paper. These people were in the mold of the 'Front Page' kind of reporters. They drank a lot, they cursed a lot, they worked all kinds of hours. They didn't care about any authority. They were out to get the L.A. Times, which they considered the conservative enemy of newspapers."
Any paper of the era could have made the "Front Page" claim, but few were a self-styled champion of the downtrodden, the irreverent enemy of blunderbuss authority.
"The Daily News loved to find ways to make fun of the Los Angeles elite, the power brokers," Wagner says. "I don't mean bring someone down with investigative journalism or a big expose. It was almost as if there was a competition among reporters and staff--'How can we embarrass so-and-so today? What can we do to humble this arrogant person?' So if they caught some city official picking his nose, I can assure you that that photograph would be in the paper."

On another search I found the following short segment in a story about the history of the Daily News:
RINGER: Have you heard of John Clark?
RINGER: He was a rewrite man, and absolutely wrote the cleanest copy you ever saw. He drowned himself in MacArthur Park, in about four feet of water, falling out of one of those little boats. He was a very strange guy. (A little different story than what my Dad recalled).
From another website on Mickey Cohen: Mickey Cohen, head of Los Angeles gambling rackets, maintained a host of powerful friends, including Frank Sinatra - who once appealed to him to get mobster Johnny Stompanato to stop dating Ava Gardner. Depicted by Harvey Keitel in the 1991 film "Bugsy" and by Paul Guilfoyle in 1997's "L.A. Confidential."

Nieman Journalism Lab checks in on

Turns out we all misunderstood the content czar when he said that the new site would be "something we had never seen before."

He didn't mean it would be spectacular or ground-breaking, he actually meant it would be the opposite of that.

I think he was successful then.

Second job gets sports reporter in trouble

A New England newspaper sports writer is facing charges for allegedly running a prostitution ring.

His bosses will no doubt be upset that he used "Craig's List" for advertising his services. See how Craig's List is killing newspapers. Even newspaper employees use the free online services.

This morning at

When you try to access this morning this is what you get:

" is temporarily unavailable. is temporarily unavailable. During routine maintenance, we experienced a problem with our servers that we're working to resolve as quickly as possible. Please check back for additional updates. For those of you who have signed up for the newsletter, we'll send you an email as soon as the site is back up. We apologize for any inconvenience."

A wise person once said you only get one chance to make a first impression. This first impression is not good. You have to wonder if anyone at Advance or Booth is now regretting the choices of who they put in charge of this endeavor.

Don't say we didn't warn you. (Update: 10:20 a.m. - back up)

Chevy X

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This child has been raised right!

Notice how the child laughs and enjoys "Mary Had a Little Lamb" but cries when she hears the University of Michigan fight song. These parents are doing a great job. Found this on Facebook.

Some journalism job resources

A hat tip to Inside Out for the following journalism job sites. An answer to a poster's recent plea.

The Write Job
Paid Content
Media Jobs Daily
Michigan Press Association
Media jobs
Media pro
Use Twitter for next job
Journalism crossing
Journalism jobs on Career Builder
Inside Out

Some notes

Some problems over at has readers concerned. Also there is a little dissatisfaction with the comment moderation policy, which seems to be in flux.

First they said they would simply delete comments without notice, but now appear to be leaving behind a bunny trail of notes where comments were removed.

It's beginning to look like we have a premature launch.

On break-ins and professors

Yesterday, someone who knows that I worked for a California police department back in the 1970s asked me what my thoughts were on the whole Professor Gates business in Cambridge.

I have no clue what happened in Cambridge last week between Sgt. Crowley and Professor Gates. Yes, it sounds like police may have over reacted, but on hearing the 911 tapes there may be more to the story.

Our President stepped into the controversy with both feet, even though, 1, he was not there, and 2, he probably has no idea of what police procedures are when one is sent to a breaking and entering in progress call.

So, while I'm not going to weigh in on the Cambridge controversy, let me give you a real life example of why police may have done what they did, from my own experience and those of my former officer colleagues.

When I worked in Atherton* (California) we worked in a very rich environment. Million dollar homes, and remember this was the 1970s, were the norm and the residents were primarily multi-millionaires or even a couple billionaires.

During absences, the residents would leave a "vacation check" at the police department which required officers to check the homes on each shift to make sure they were secure. Early one morning (about 1 a.m.) I was riding with a sergeant and we pulled into a "vacation check" driveway and noticed a side door open that had not been noted as open during the last shift.

We radioed the dispatcher to make sure no one had arrived home early and learned no one had called. Walking through the door with our flashlights we were almost immediately confronted by a man coming down the hall in the dark. The sergeant pulled his weapon and ordered the man to the floor while I radioed for additional help.

Once the lights were turned on we quickly learned that the man we had just spread eagled on the floor at gunpoint was the CEO of a very successful company that if I used the name you would know.

"I was going to call first thing in the morning to tell you I was home," the man said sheepishly. Then he said something about how he really didn't believe that we closely checked the homes.

In the end he learned a lesson and the sergeant and I later shook our heads at how close we came to a more serious situation. Like what if the homeowner mistook us for a burglar and picked up his gun and we saw that first thing as we walked through the door.

So stuff happens.

Also, there were many times in my police career where officers confronted someone in a house where they supposedly lived only to learn that a wife or girlfriend had a restraining order keeping them away due to domestic violence. All that has to be checked out before you simply dismiss a breaking and entering call and move on to the next call.

So when Professor Gates went off about being questioned in his own home, that is understandable. But when Sgt. Crowley insisted on investigating further before dismissing the call as unfounded, to me and other police officers that is also clearly understandable.

Life behind a police windshield or badge, looks much different than it does from the outside.

The best advice I always give people is that when a police officer asks you to do something, even if you think it is outrageous, just go with the flow and deal with the outrageous later.

*Sorry about the wikipedia reference, but only source I could find in a hurry today.

I love it when Congressmen are honest

Rep. John Conyers (about 2:30 into this video) admits he not only hasn't read the health care bill, but doesn't want to because not even two lawyers could make sense of it. Wow! (This speech has a very Sarah Palinesque quality to it). This will make you very glad you didn't have a ticket to the Press Club yesterday.

Chevy IX

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Little help for an unemployed journalist

Tonight I received the following comment:

"I have a question. Where is a good place to go to look for journalism jobs - the few there are? I know about and MPA. Are there any other good places to look? Jim, since you have a lot of followers here who are looking for work, maybe a post suggesting some places to look? That would be great for everyone."

The temptation for many will be to dismiss this comment and encourage this person to consider a career at Applebee's, but if you know some way to help or can offer some direction to this person it might help more than just one person.

I haven't been looking for journalism work, frankly that fired has been extinguished, but my first bit of advice would be to look outside of Michigan, if possible. The market here for anything, especially newspapers, is poor and will be for a long, long time. But journalism now covers more than just newspapers, so if you have a suggestion, please leave one.

Sarah Palin: A poet

I think Conan and Shatner are on to something. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech was poetry. You'll have to suffer through a 30-second commercial first.

Chevy VIII

Inside Out: Interesting post

Maybe I'm just becoming a link list for Inside Out, but there is a pretty good post over there this morning on the tale of a newly hired journalist who replaced a popular veteran one.

Also a story about another newsman who was "laid-off" but the paper was vague in its announcement leaving the impression he had "retired."

Read them both here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

From my Dad: A new computer virus

I think he may have gotten this from someone else.

Even the most advanced programs from Norton or McAfee cannot take care of this one. It appears to affect those who were born before 1955.
1.. Causes you to send the same e-mail twice. (Done that.)
2 Causes you to send a blank e-mail. (Done that too!)
3. Causes you to send e-mail to the wrong person. (Yep.)
4. Causes you to send it back to the person who sent it to you. (Duh!)
5. Causes you to forget to attach the attachment. (Darn!)
6. Causes you to hit SEND before you've finished. (Oh no, not again.)
7. Causes you to hit DELETE instead of SEND. (I really hate when that happens.)
8. Causes you to hit SEND when you should DELETE. (Rats!)

(Have I already sent this to you?)

With love,
Dad draws good, bad comments

Still reserving my own opinion of the new site, but here are the mixed reviews, so far, from folks who have checked in.

Some salary and staff info received over the weekend. FJ odds and ends

Early Friday I asked for some info about who were full and part-time staff members at

So far it appears that three of the sports writers are full-time, two are part-time and I’m still unsure on the other two.

As for pay, it sounds like the going rate for part-timers is between $16.50 and $17.50 an hour. The ex-Ann Arbor News folks come to with significant trims to their former salaries. One or two of the employees may actually be making more based on their move from part-time status at the News to full-time status at

One of the lucky ones, is probably the sports writer who came from my former newspaper home, The Oakland Press, because it would be hard to pay lower than the Press does.

Remember top salaries at my Booth paper and others for reporters were in the $55,000 to $60,000 range. I can personally attest to that. Sources say the new highest salaries are in the high 30s or low 40s based on a couple sources.

As I have blogged about before, Booth and Advance were able to attract good talent in the past by offering top wages and benefits to hand-picked reporters from other news organizations. When I came to the Journal in 1989 I got a $100 a week raise from my pathetic OP salary. It also kept the Newspaper Guild at arm’s length.

Back at the Flint Journal, after the paper scaled back to three days and ended its long-standing job pledge, several reporters were offered positions at the paper, but with pay cuts in the range of 25 to 60 percent. The 60 percent is not an exaggeration.

To their credit, most of those folks told Booth/Advance to shove the insulting salaries and opted for unemployment benefits instead. We’re all still waiting for Booth to announce the cuts and reductions for top managers, who continue to hang on. It would be nice for the troops under them to know that their captains and lieutenants are also sharing in the sacrifice. But don’t hold your breath.

One of those laid off reporters, now apparently back as a free lance writer owned the July 26 Sunday paper. As soon as I arrived home from Buffalo I picked up the Sunday paper and found four bylines by this freelancer in one newspaper. One is the lead story on Page 1, two others lead the front page of the Sports section and there is another inside feature.

Update: Just finished going through the 2009 Buick Open supplement in the Sunday Flint Journal and found three more bylines by the former FJ golf writer, now back as a freelancer. That's seven bylines in one newspaper. For a freelancer.

Yeah, they didn't need that guy. I thought Sunday's paper was the strongest effort so far, since the three-day-a-week thing started.

Also, for those of you hankering to weigh in on the new "Flint Journal" you can talk to a group of the paper's editors from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. According to the front page article, current (but soon to be departed) editor John Foren, Community Editor (and future editor) Marjory Raymer, Assistant Community Editor Katie Bach, Features Editor Carol Zedaker and Community Voices Editor Clark Hughes, will take your calls at (810) 766-6280 (I think this was the old circulation number) or toll-free at (800) 875-6300.

Executive Editor John Hiner, who signed the article, apparently won't be on hand. It did say the discussion would focus on the features mix, but heck what are they going to do, hang up on you if you ask about something else.

I know one former copy editor who has been trying to get delivery of the FJ stopped, so this might be a chance to get some help doing that.

Ann Arbor News laid off employees make video

A few employees used their last day(s) to make a video documenting their departure from the newspaper. Tom Gantert is a sometime contributor here. Found this on

Update: As per the comments attached Jordan Miller asked that I also credit her on this work of art I found on My apologies, I thought the Jordan Miller credit at the end of the video was sufficient, but apparently not.

Inside Out: All things Flint Journal

Inside Out has an extensive look at the changes, some delayed, at the Flint Journal. There are links and photos.

Just back from Buffalo so it'll be a day or two before I get back to serious blogging.

Chevy VII

Sunday, July 26, 2009