Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Beacon May Fade To Black Thanks To David Black

If Things Were Bad At Akron's Newspaper, Now They Really Suck; An Aging Newsroom Is Picked Off One By One

It's bad enough that David Black, the new owner of the Akron Beacon-Journal, is cutting a quarter of the newsroom staff.
What's especially revealing in a piece from Cleveland Scene is an observation by Beacon columnist David Giffels that because of these and previous layoffs, the paper has no young reporters, which in this case, is not a good thing.

"When we had cuts five years ago, I watched the next generation of exciting reporters depart before they got a chance to blossom here," he says. "We don't have any young reporters, not anyone left in their 20s, and not very many left in their 30s. We can't reinvent ourselves unless we have fresh young people who think about journalism in a more modern way."

Which poses a larger problem for the newspaper industry as a whole. How do you get J-school undergrads to go into newspapers, when they see layoffs at newspapers large and small nationwide? And if they do get a job, inevitably the starting pay is often paltry -- to put it generously.
Even the widest-eyed ideologues who still want the experience the frisson of a newsroom might find $25K a year to start hard to stomach what with all those student loans. All of a sudden that career in PR or advertising doesn't sound so bad.

Some of you might say, well, that's the union for you. Last hired, first fired, regardless of whether some geezer on the city desk has been doing a spot-on imitation of a useless slug since the first Bush administration.
But that's not what's in play here, and these latest cuts went right to the paper's muscle, with a lot of veterans, who built the Beacon-Journal into the Pulitzer Prize-winner it was under the previous Knight-Ridder ownership, now collecting unemployment.
It's all about the money, and for a paper's owner to do anything it takes to prop up the 20 percent or more profit margins they've become accustomed to. It doesn't matter whether what's left will be a paper worth reading.
At least it's in the black. Right, Mr. Black?

Linda Greenhouse Finds The Supreme Court Justices In A Talkative Mood

Catching up after a few days in the ether, it was remarkable to see yesterday's account in The New York Times by their Supreme Court doyenne Linda Greenhouse about how female law clerks are few and far between.
The story went beyond Greenhouse's usual more-than-workmanlike reporting on the justices. What was truly startling was that she got three of the justices --- Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer -- to be interviewed on the record about the lack of distaff staff. Plus, retired Sandra O'Connor also briefly weighed in.
These are people who aren't prone to make public statements beyond the occasional commencement speech or keynote address at an ABA convention.
Greenhouse has enough cred in chambers because of her longevity at the Court. But that doesn't necessarily translate into access.
Give her credit for trying to get justices to talk, rather than assuming they wouldn't. And give them credit for opening up about what's become a rather vexing issue in their midst.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hankie Alert: StoryCorps, NPR Team Up For Unforgettable Katrina Stories

When Radio News Still Matters
Sometimes the best radio comes through the door. It's not a news event, it's not a crafty piece of edit or voice-of-doom broadcaster who by virtue of his intonations, let us know something is important.
Often, the most absorbing radio experiences are courtesy of just plain folks talking about life, talking about themselves.
Which is why the StoryCorps project championed by NPR is so great to listen to. The mobile recording booths allow people to spin compelling yarns about pivotal moments in their lives. StoryCorps has been in the Gulf Coast and New Orleans and they found people unburdening themselves emotions still raw from Katrina a year later.
Today's "Morning Edition" had two stories that break your heart and make you want to hug someone you love in a hurry. More can be heard at
Think good thoughts for Douglas deSilvey, who tells of losing his wife, daughter and wife's parents in Gulfport, Miss. His family was lost, and now his is too.
Then there is New Orleans cop David Duplantier, who is heard with his wife Melissa. As he recalls his thoughts from sleepless nights spent at the Superdome, he realizes this is the first time Melissa has heard him speak this way.
"I'm sorry for not talking about this with you before," he says, his voice tinged with both love and regret.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Understatement Of The Day: "Challenges" At The Akron Beacon-Journal

Union leader says things may get difficult now that paper's new owner is getting rid of 25 percent of the staff. Ya think?
Andale Gross, a reporter at the Beacon-Journal, and unit secretary for the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, is on the wrong side of the news now that a chunk of the paper's union brethren are getting the ax.
At least the reporters there have a contract, which runs until 2008. Good luck getting the next one.
"We expect there to be some challenges," Gross told Editor & Publisher about future talks. "Negotiations with a new owner. We don't know what that will bring forward. I don't think it is going to be easy."
Gross doesn't know the half of it, given the state of recent contract negotiations at other media outlets, which have been drawn-out and usually unsatisfying to the rank-and-file who hold their noses when voting yes, e.g. San Francisco, Youngstown.
As for "challenges." I guess that's one way of putting it. But the Akron Guild will need more than euphemisms right about now.

Cal Thomas Need Not Worry: Bloggers Think Andrew Young's An Idiot, Just Like George Allen

Young Says He's The Victim of His Own Hate Speech
Normally, I wouldn't be jumping on any bandwagon that conservative columnist Cal Thomas would be riding on.
But he wondered whether all the bloggers as well as Jon Stewart -- who blasted away at Sen. George Allen for calling an opposition campaign worker a "macaca" will similarly get their girdles in a swing over Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor turned Wal-Mart shill.
You may have read how Young, who was helping Wal-Mart improve his public image, told the Los Angeles Sentinel that, yes, Wal-Mart may have been responsible for running mom-and-pop stores out of minority neighborhoods, BUT:

"[T]hese are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bred and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they ripped off our communities enough. First it was the Jews, then it was Koreans, and now it's Arabs; very few people own these stores."

So, yes, Young is an idiot. Maybe at age 74, and his neurons are heading to the exit at a prodigious rate. Which would explain how he tried to weasel out of his remarks by saying they were "misread and misnterpreted."
All those years of goodwill built up as a civil rights leader and he pisses it away, perhaps finally saying out loud what he's felt all along.
Which was Thomas' point. Would there be sufficient outrage in the blogosphere for Young, as was reserved for Allen?
At least judging by Technorati, Thomas need not have anything to worry about. There's plenty of outrage to go around among bloggers, from the left and right. Jon Stewart? Well, give him a few days, Cal. There are few sacred cows at The Daily Show.
Meanwhile, if you want to hear Young continue to try to dig himself out from under his rhetoric, click here as he flagellates himself with the assistance of Anderson Cooper.
Now he says he's sorry. You be the judge.

Brian Williams Wants To Stay The Course. Does He Know Something We Don't?

In this week's New York Observer, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams opines:

"Walter Cronkite called us a headline service. He called us the supplement to a good daily newspaper. Well, add to that a good selection of Web sites and other sources of information and he’s still right.”

Agreed. But that's part of the problem plaguing the network newsies. Williams is staying the course as far as his broadcast is concerned, easy enough to do when you're number one. But he's at the top of an ever-shrinking heap, even if it still contains 9 million or so viewers.

At one extreme is Williams' status quo. On the other end is the "destroy the village in order to save it" approach. It's broke, let's fix it, and hope for the best. Katie Couric and CBS aren't striving for that radical a show-ectomy when she hits the airwaves again in two weeks. But she's sending visible smoke signals that business will not be as usual, a sound strategy when you're running a solid third in the Nielsens.

Still, the time may well come a lot sooner than later for Williams & Co. to embrace a new reality, if Couric's ratings don't do that for him. Some of the operative words in the above quote are "headline service" and "daily newspaper."

To be sure, a lot of the audience these newscasts are after -- as opposed to the graybeards and retirees who now make up most of the viewers -- have been surfing the Web checking headlines and news updates from any number of sites, which will provide a helluva lot more depth and context than one 23-minute newscast.
As for daily newspapers, sure 58 million of them are still sold every day. But that number keeps dropping every year, and fewer of us have the time to sit down and read more than a few stories. The rest we scan or skip entirely. Tragic but true.
So, the mission of the network news shows -- on days when there is not a momentous news event that consumes all coverage -- is an anachronism whose time is gone. Couric realizes this. Williams will eventually have no choice but to follow suit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cable News Says Thanks To John Mark Karr

CNN and Co. Were Getting Real Sick Of The Middle East, Anyway
All JonBenet just about all the time, as if we expected anything less.
But with the blanket coverage comes hours of speculation, useless sidebars, along with the usual innuendo, half-truths and distortions, much as we were used to over the last decade.
Particularly desperate to try to advance the story today was CNN's Kyra Phillips, who tried to get correspondents in the field to read tea leaves.
Ed Lavendera, to his credit, was among those who didn't take the bait. He was covering the cryptic press conference by Boulder D.A. Mary Lacy, who was revealing little and for good reason.
Lavendera was happy to tell Phillips he really didn't know the answer to her speculative, what-if questions. Lesser reporters would've vamped. Lavendera chose to deal with the facts.
Dan Simon, a recent CNN hire via the now-defunct "Celebrity Justice," was at a California courthouse looking at Carr's divorce records, and sounded more desperate to give the ravenous Phillips something, anything.
At one point he quoted "unconfirmed reports" about some nugget of Carr's alleged sordid past with children.
So, Simon was giving viewers what was at best third-hand information that may not have been true in the first place.
It was better than nothing, right? Actually, no. But that hasn't stopped the cable newsies, especially CNN, which distinguished itself for its Middle East coverage and has spent the last 24 hours cashing out that journalistic goodwill.
If nothing else, the coverage allows John Roberts, Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper to continue catching up on their sleep. And for the rest of us to watch something else.

When Bad Things Happen To Bad Airlines

Northwest Becomes Early-Line Favorite For PR Boner Of The Year
Every writer needs an editor, loathe as we often are to admit such a shortcoming.
But for that naturally adversarial relationship to have any chance of succeeding, both sides need to have a clue.
Suffice to say, Northwest Airlines is lacking in said clue. Ditto the chuckleheads at alleged "employee-assistance" firm NEAS, the company that wrote a handbook for airline employees being laid off on how to cope with their diminished lives now that they were being restructured.
Word that the handbook had such helpful hints as using old newspapers for cat litter, asking friends and family for hand-me-down clothes and pull stuff you like out of the trash, in order to save money, spread fast and furious for obvious reasons.
And what makes for great copy makes for humongous headaches for companies. NWA said they were sorry, although a company spokesman tried to pass the buck to NEAS, which didn't take the bait and clammed up.
What's both amusing and sad is that when you visit the NEAS Web site, it proclaims:

When life or work become a balancing act, a helping hand provided by highly skilled and compassionate professionals, not just technology, can make all the difference.

Forgive Northwest employees if they engage in a collective guffaw over that whopper.

And NEAS might have gone amok with its good intentions, but remember, it was Northwest that paid for this missive.
It's hard to believe that someone at Northwest -- which doesn't deserve much credit for anything nowadays, especially labor relations -- actually read this thing before it was sent out. Or, it could have been the latest episode of the airline giving its employees the finger during its extended stay in Chapter 11 protection.
Either way, it tells you something about Northwest and why it teeters with extinction. It doesn't deserve better. Their employees do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

EW's Box-Office Crystal Ball On The Fritz

Pointless Prognostications A Waste Of Time And Space
Entertainment Weekly normally puts out a more-than-workmanlike product, providing both an insider's edge, along with enough bark and bite when the subject warrants, which is often.
For those of us who by sheer dint of the media covering them so thoroughly, have become absorbed by box-office grosses, EW runs the numbers and then some.
But what is the point of predicting what a movie will rake in before it actually happens? Why can't we just wait for Sunday to find out who scored big with the popcorn set? All of this supposed psychic ability to see into the hearts and minds of moviegoers can turn into sloppy journalism.
To wit, EW.Com's number cruncher Joshua Rich, who predicted that "World ade Center" would be tops at the box office over the weekend, with $25 million in tickets sold. It actually came in third with $18.7 million.
"Talladega Nights" was number-one for the second week in a row with $22.1 million, which Rich said would come in second with $24 million. The real runner-up was the surprising "Step Up," which grossed $20.7 million. Rich slotted it number four with $11 mil.
Detecting a pattern here?
Maybe Rich should put his crystal ball back in the closet, and be bothered to take time out from his busy schedule on Sunday to analyze the real numbers and actually give readers something worth reading.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Larry David Already In Mid-Season Form As New Season of "Curb" Announced

Good news for those of us who find Sunday nights just aren't as cranky as they used to be. HBO and Larry David are bringing back "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for a sixth season, though an air date has not been announced, according to USA Today.
Judging by this item on Page 6, looks like Larry is rarin' to go, and may have even gotten some inspiration for a future episode.
It's rare that gossip columnists can help their targets make lemons out of lemonade, but what the heck. Props to Richard Johnson and crew for getting it wrong.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Emeritus, Schmeritus: Mike Wallace Nabs Interview With Iranian Prez

Semi-Retirement's For Pussies
Mike Wallace is a journalist who just happens to be Jewish, rather than a Jewish journalist. At least in the mind of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's Zionist-hating, Holocaust-doubting president/Hezbollah best pal.
Which is why Wallace nailed an interview with Ahmadeinejad after cooling his heels for a week in Tehran, always lovely this time of year.
A preview of that chat will be on Thursday's CBS Evening News, followed by a longer session on "60 Minutes," which gets woken out of its summer repeat slumber with this scoop.
Wallace told the AP's Dave Bauder that Ahmadeinejad came across as "more rational than I had expected."
Israel might beg to differ on that account.

N.Y. Times Turns To Bloomberg To Fill Sports Section

Mayor Mike's Money Machine Migrates From Business Day As Gray Lady Tries To Do Sports On The Cheap
CJR Daily reports today on Bloomberg News' obsession with how often its dispatches appear in The New York Times biz section.
Wonder if Matt Winkler and his minions are as concerned about how their sports writers (yes, they do have them) make it into the Times, which has occasionally used Bloomberg for briefs, but little more.
So, it came as a bit of a shock to see most of the sports section's second page taken up by a long Bloomberg takeout about where the Achilles tendon implanted in Bengals QB Carson Palmer came from.
It was a nice piece of shoeleather from football beat writer Curtis Eichelberger [who got his byline knocked off in the Web version], the kind the Times might do if it wasn't being a big-time Scrooge with its sports budget.
This could be the next step in the ever-so-gradual shift by the Times to tap other sources besides the AP for news. Sometimes, the International Herald-Tribune scribes make it into print. Ditto, more sporadically, for reporters from the NYT regional papers in Florida.
As the belts get ever-tighter on West 43rd St., it wouldn't be far-fetched to see Boston Globe or Worcester Telegram product make its way south.
Which only bodes well for the Bloombergers, especially when they can provide the Times with a story nobody else has.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Air America Springs More Leaks In The Corporate Suite

A Good Idea In More Danger Than Ever Of Becoming Irrelevant (Or Extinct)
Another exit from the upper ranks of progressive talk network Air America, this time COO Carl Ginsburg, who judging by recent events may have had his job relegated to arranging the sheet music for the radio equivalent of the dance band on the Titanic.
Recently, the network announced its shifting its New York flagship signal from the spotty signal of WLIB to even-weaker WWRL, which has rarely made an appearance in the Arbitron books since its heyday as a soul station 25 years ago.
Nice move.
Do you listen to AAR? Do you want to, but can't pull in a signal? That many people answer no and yes, respectively, to those questions is something Al Franken need to address, and in a hurry.

Joe Francis Gone Wild

Or How A Soft-Porn Kingpin Could Use A Good P.R. Man (Not Woman) In A Hurry
I'm not sure whether to offer Claire Hoffman of The Los Angeles Times kudos or my sympathy for a riveting profile of "Girls Gone Wild" guru Joe Francis, complete with her being manhandled by her subject.
Whether the guy was serious or just in love with his public party-all-the-time persona is hard to tell.
Hoffman declined to press charges, which in hindsight may have been a mistake, after you read exchanges like this:

He rubbed my shoulder. His gestures were oddly gentle—even fond. I felt sick.

"I'm sorry," he said, reaching over to tousle my hair. "We love our little reporter. Don't we guys? We love our little reporter."

I stared down at the dirt as he whispered in my ear, "I'm sorry, baby, give me a kiss. Give me a kiss."

She felt sick. And so did we.