Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Silencing Their Own College Paper: Montclair State Student Leaders Flunk Lesson In Governance

1/31 UPDATE: The SGA came to its senses, at least for the time being.

Ron Playing Chicken With the First Amendment; Newspaper Feud Over Open Meetings Leads to Cutoff of Funds

Maybe the unfortunately named Ron Chicken, president of the Student Government Association at Montclair State University in New Jersey, had read too many obits for Suharto, the former Indonesian dictator.
Maybe he didn't get a good grade in one of his political science classes and decided to enact his own brand of government.
Or maybe he's just an idiot.
Either way, for now he's silenced the college's newspaper, The Montclarion, by yanking funding for the first edition of the semester. The paper's been sparring over access to SGA meetings, while the SGA accused the paper of improperly hiring a lawyer who advised the editors on their rights under the state's Open Meetings Law.
Chicken and The Montclairion are unfortunate bedfellows, in that the paper is actually part of the SGA, and depends on it for $16,500 in funding, according to the Bergen Record. It's a longstanding arrangement, and a dangerous one, as The Montclarion has now found out the hard way.
At the four schools where I had some form of higher education, the newspapers were all independent corporations one way or the other, something editor-in-chief Karl de Vries realizes should now be the case.
"If The Montclarion is to act as a watchdog, then it has to be completely independent of the SGA," he told The Record. "If Richard Nixon were running The Washington Post in 1972, then I'm sure we never would have heard about Watergate." (full disclosure: I don't know Karl, but I did work with his Dad for many years at CBS).
Not surprisingly, Chicken is too chicken to talk to the media, continuing his streak of unaccountability.
Beyond muzzling the media, the larger issue is exactly what does the SGA think it has to gain by not granting access to its meetings. After all, it's spending money paid by students who are going to a state university.
Yet somehow, Il Duce, or should I say, Il Pollo and the rest of the poultry running the government at Montclair State believe they're not a public body and subject to scrutiny.
Which is why, of course, you need a newspaper keeping close tabs on their activities. I suspect the SGA's FUBAR move has been enough of a PR disaster for the school that the administration will lean on Chicken & Co. enough to get them to capitulate. And perhaps, then, also order them to take a remedial civics lesson in the process.

Suharto's Death Gives Wall Street Journal Chance To Sing Hosannas for Genocidal Dictator

Next Up For Hugo Restall: Stalin Wasn't Such A Bad Guy, After All

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page often gives me a good case of the chuckles. Its pundits will do something, anything, to affirm their ultra-conservative cred, no matter how indefensible the position.
Sometimes that means having to ignore the truth in order to make a point.
Exhibit A crawled out from yesterday's page, in a column by Hugo Restall on the legacy of Suharto, the former Indonesian dictator who finally died over the weekend after being hospitalized earlier this month.
Restall, who is editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and a member of the Journal editorial board, lauds Suharto for rescuing the country from the pro-Communist grip of his predecessor Sukarno that made him a close U.S. ally; revived a moribund economy, and improved health and education.
Sure, there was the rampant corruption, cronyism and profiteering that may have made Suharto a billionaire that brought Indonesia's economy to its knees and forced him from office. But:

Like Deng Xiaoping, he rescued his country from totalitarianism and poverty, and put it on the path to prosperity and a large measure of personal freedoms. For all his flaws, Suharto deserves to be remembered as one of Asia's greatest leaders.

As proof that Cold Warriors never have to say their sorry, Restall conveniently leaves out any mention of the reign of terror that gripped Indonesia, when the Suharto-led Army was encouraged to whip up a country-wide anti-Communist witch hunt that may have left up to a million people dead.
Restall apparently views whole families being wiped out as collateral damage to justify Suharto's goal to avoid another Vietnam or Cambodia.
Thankfully, a separate Journal editorial, which appears only online, provides some context, never a given at the Journal.

Suharto oversaw the massacre of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen in the anti-Communist purge of the 1965-66 Years of Living Dangerously. Ethnic Chinese were also targeted, and those who survived were forced to renounce their heritage and take Indonesian-sounding names. The East Timorese suffered brutal repression in the 1970s at the hands of Suharto's military.

But even this editorial praises Suharto for steadying Indonesia and instituting the wrenching reforms needed to make it an Asian economic power, as if to equate genocide with tough love.
The true measure of Suharto's legacy will be the blood he spilled that flowed a lot thicker than the oil he exported that left him a rich, greedy and ultimately disgraced autocrat.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Lost In Beijing" Review Loses Movie's Backstory

Tony Scott Tells Us About The Film, But Nothing About Chinese Censors, Blacklisted Director

The movie "Lost In Beijing" has been making the festival circuits and has now made its way to an art house in New York.
A.O. Scott in The New York Times speaks well of the movie that "in spite of its raw, explicit moments" is "at heart a sturdy morality tale about innocence and corruption, wealth and want, sex and power."
What Scott, surprisingly, makes no mention of, is that three weeks ago, China's film board canceled the film's screening license and blacklisted director Fang Li for two years. The reasons, which Fang disputes is improper promotion, deleted sex scenes making their way online, and showing an unauthorized version at the Berlin Film Festival.
All of this was mentioned in what was ostensibly a review in The New York Sun, where Grady Hendrix took the opposite approach of Scott and focused almost exclusively on the controversy surrounding "Lost In Beijing," rather than the movie itself.
To be fair, Jack Mathews' brief, mixed review in The Daily News, also omitted any mention of the dust-up, as did John Anderson's three-star assessment in Newsday, though Vinny Musetto in the Post alludes to it in his short, thumbs-down review.
Still, these are the kinds of movies that the Times owns the last word on, at least in newspapers. As such, the back story cries out to be mentioned, especially if it appears to be at least as interesting as the movie itself.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Skin and Bones Where A Newspaper Should Be In Vermont

The Burlington Free Press Looks Severely Malnourished on a Day When It Should Be Fat With Copy -- And Ads

Had some R&R in Vermont last weekend, and while thawing out and waiting for the Patriots-Chargers game to start, I spent a little time reading the Sunday edition of the Burlington Free Press. Put an emphasis on little.
This is ostensibly the flagship newspaper in the Green Mountain State. At the very least, it's the largest, with a daily circulation of about 45,000 and 52,000 on Sunday.
Yet, I couldn't help but feel that anyone who plunked down $1.75 for the Jan. 20 edition was played for a sucker.
Not counting the classifieds, comics, USA Weekend and the circulars, there was a grand total of 36 pages devoted to the other sections. Thirty-six pages. That meant you could wend your way through the paper in no more than 15 minutes or so, assuming you read slowly.
Admittedly, I don't see the Free Press on a regular basis, so I don't know whether this is typical, and if this output is duplicated on a more-desultory scale the other six days of the week. But it wouldn't surprise me.
After all the Freeps is owned by Gannett, where mediocrity and underachievement run rampant chain-wide, despite the best efforts of many editors and reporters.
What I saw was prime cannon fodder to justify why people go online rather than subscribe to a paper. Beyond a few local stories, the Freeps is offering little of value.
The paper has been hit, like all others, with downturns in circulation and ads. Staffing and morale has also reportedly plummeted.
But that's still no excuse for what I saw over the weekend, which basically ensures that any ardent news consumer in northern and central Vermont will feel compelled to plunk down more-serious coin for The New York Times or, perhaps, The Boston Globe.
That'll set 'em back a lot more than $1.75, but chances are good or better it'll be money well-spent.

Philadelphia Newspapers See Real Side of Brian Tierney -- Again

Is Situation At Inquirer More Chicken Little Than Cloverfield? What A Difference Two Months Make

The latest blather emanating from Philadelphia Newspapers grand poobah Brian Tierney is that the Inquirer and Daily News need to cut expenses by 10 percent or else he and his investors will be in deep doo-doo with the banks that made his $562 million purchase possible.

So, of course, Tierney -- never a friend of organized labor -- is pointing his fingers at the union and telling them that they need to be a part of whatever draconian solution is agreed to. Forgive the unions if they're weary of this routine.
After all, it was Tierney who cut 17 percent of the newsroom staff in 2006 after threatening worse reductions if the unions didn't cave and give him a myriad of concesssions.
This is the same Tierney who was pumping his chest last April when circulation at the Inquirer inched up 0.6 percent, remarkable at a time when other big-city dailies were hemorrhaging readers.
“It’s about setting out an optimistic vision, it’s about focusing on quality in everything that we do—first and foremost journalistically,” Tierney told the Columbia Journalism Review.
As recently as November, weekday Inky circulation rose 2.3 percent, the largest increase of the 50-biggest newspapers, though Sunday circulation fell. Still, Tierney called the figures "better than I would have hoped."
So which Tierney are we to believe now? He has a long history of talking a good game, but he's given the unions no reason to trust him, and it doesn't appear they will start now.
Indeed, observers like Alan Mutter, who says it's up to newspaper employees to get creative and figure out ways to save money -- and while they're at it, don't kill the messenger -- miss the point.
Tierney and his ilk -- at papers in Minneapolis and San Jose, among others -- have engendered such a high level of animosity in the newsroom, not to mention advertising and circulation departments, where any hope of a collaborative solution is all but lost. So would you if you've been victimized by slash-and-burn methods of expense cutting.
True, it's not Tierney's fault that advertising is down and readership has followed suit. It's an epidemic that's gripped every newspaper. But when he looks to prop up his bottom line he needs to walk past the newsroom and search elsewhere. He's already shed a lot of the reasons people needed to buy his papers. Anything more, and Tierney might as well hand over the keys to the banks.
Instead of simply looking to the unions he despises, it's Tierney who's the one who should be creative. It's time to put all those years he spent as a flack to good use and spin his way out of this predicament.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is Sam Zell Already Speaking With A Forked Tongue?

Giving Tribune Managers Autonomy Could Be Way To Give Him Cover When Tough Decisions Are Made, As James O'Shea Finds Out

The Sam Zell honeymoon may be coming to a crashing thud, now that James O'Shea has been shown the door at The Los Angeles Times.
Zell, the new chieftain of Tribune, said he was firmly behind the decision by Times Publisher David Hiller to replace O'Shea after just 14 months at the helm.
In a rare public bout of he said-he said O'Shea said he was fired. Hiller called it a mutual decision, though he told The Wall Street Journal "at some point it is more semantic. The fact is we didn't see eye-to-eye."
O'Shea lasted 14 months, after coming to Los Angeles from the Chicago Tribune, where he had been a good corporate soldier without eviscerating the newsroom.
But the X factor is ultimately Zell, who said all the right things when he formally took control of Tribune last month.
To wit:

"I'm sick and tired of listening to everybody talk about and commiserate over the end of newspapers. "They ain't ended and they're not going to end. I think they have a great future."

"If you look at my track record, I haven't spent much time disassembling anything, and I've spent my entire career building things."

But Zell also made no secret that he would return local control to Tribune properties, rather than trying to have beancounters in Chicago micro-manage the media empire. Which leads us back to Hiller, who is no dummy and knows that he'll be in charge only so long as he can right the Times' listing ship.
Inevitably, that means even more expense cuts, staff reductions and a shrinking newspaper. That meant exit O'Shea, who knows you don't reverse a paper's fortunes (and don't forget the Times still has a double-digit profit margin) by cutting out its heart.
What remains to be seen is whether Zell -- amid all his bombast -- and Hiller can be persuaded to feel the same way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

You Mean Ms. Magazine is Still Publishing?

Amid Fracas over Magazine Rejecting American Jewish Congress Ad is Reason Why Group Would Rush to be in Title That's All But Irrelevant

The American Jewish Congress has raised a ruckus because an ad it wanted to place in Ms. magazine featuring three prominent Israeli women was rejected.
The AJC said that smacked of anti-Israel bias, a charge the magazine hotly denies, though its reasons are wholly suspect. This is part of a statement from executive editor Katherine Spillar:

Ms. policy is to accept only mission-driven advertisements from primarily non-profit, non-partisan organizations that promote women’s equality... In Ms. magazine’s judgment, the ad submitted by AJCongress for consideration was inconsistent with this policy... [W]ith its slogan “This is Israel,” the ad implied that women in Israel hold equal positions of power with men.


All the ad appears to be trying to highlight is that women, in this case Israel's foreign minister, a judge on its Supreme Court and the speaker of the Knesset, do hold positions of power.
It did not imply, as Spillar asserts, that all is peachy and keen for women in Israel. Nor does it imply an endorsement for any political party, another reason given for the ad's rejection.
Two of the three women are from the same party. If political affiliation was a rationale for rejecting ads, there would be a lot of empty magazines nowadays.
And if Spillar's ever been to Israel, she'd know there are many Israels --- and these three represent just one of many in a country that's a lot more polyglot than it gets credit for.
Spillar tried to show Ms. had Israeli bona fides by stating how the magazine -- now reduced to a
quarterly -- had covered Israeli feminist issues 11 times.
What's more, the current issue has an article profiling Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, one of the women in the ad. So Ms. doesn't really hate Israel, right?
Not so fast, says AJCongress President Richard Gordon:

"....Ms. has run a cover article in the Fall 2003 issue on Queen Noor of Jordan, has featured a number of articles on Muslim women, and even ran an article in the Winter 2004 issue entitled, ‘Images of Palestine,’ which discussed the Ramallah Film Festival and gave sympathetic reviews to films concerning ‘the liberation of South Lebanon’ from Israel as well as numerous films which portrayed terrorism as legitimate ‘revolutionary’ activity against Israel and miscast Israel’s activities to counter terrorism as ‘oppressive.’”

Bottom line: The AJCongress has given Ms. a lot more publicity than it deserves. The magazine has managed to wheeze along for 35 years now.
Gloria Steinem is long gone from the masthead if not forgotten. But apparently relegated to the dustbin of history are Jewish feminist icons like Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug, both of whom would have no doubt been displeased if the magazine that helped define their movement betrayed another cause for which they also held great passion.

John King Has An Email Hissy Fit

Proving Once and for All the Average High-Wattage Reporter Has An Even Thinner Skin Than Those He Covers

CNN's John King should know better. But Salon's Glen Greenwald was happy to show otherwise.
Greenwald wrote a few days ago about what he says was an overly fawning interview King did with John McCain.
King, to his discredit, registered his displeasure with Greenwald via email, which Greenwald didn't hesitate to publish.

I don't read biased uninformed drivel so I'm a little late to the game.
But a friend who understands how my business works and knows a little something about my 20 plus years in it sent me the link to your ramblings.
And it went downhill from there.
I'm not going to dive into the he said-he said contretemps here. Suffice to say, journalists, especially one as visible as King, shouldn't get so uppity all the time when they're criticized.
So many reporters are horrified if they're even remotely subjected to the same scrutiny as their subjects, as if what they do and how they do it is beyond reproach. Just look at all the no comments reporters on the media beat have to suffer through.
It also makes King look bad when he sends an email criticizing what he views as shoddy work that itself has typos and grammatical errors.
By doing that, King could find his glass house is in ruins right about now.

The Wonder Pets Save --- the A-Hed?

Murdoch's Making More Noises About Moving It To The Weekend; This is Serious!

We have a 2 1/2-year-old in the house with definite ideas about what to watch on TV. Which means we often spend time in the morning watching what he wants to keep the peace and our sanity.
One happy accident that's resulted from those circumstances is our collective viewing of "The Wonder Pets," on Noggin, the preschool and commercial-free version of Nick Jr.
In it, Linny the guinea pig, Ming Ming the duckling and Tuck the turtle are classroom pets by day, who after the final bell rings, turn into a trio who travel the world saving young animals -- and the occasional tree -- that are in trouble.
The animation -- the creators call it photo-puppetry -- is nothing short of brilliant, with each episode performed like an operetta complete with full orchestra. We'll save our gripes about Noggin taking its time not showing the newest episodes (I'm sick of saving the calf stuck in a tree, already) for another day.
For now, my hope is the Wonder Pets could temporarily veer away from the animal kingdom and turn their attention to a more dangerous place -- the newsroom.
Specifically, the one at The Wall Street Journal, which is being menaced by a creature named Rupert Murdoch. Which, of course, is especially unfortunate, given that he owns the place now.
Ol' Rupe was making noises about the Journal before he spirited Dow Jones away from the Bancroft family. And now he's apparently clamoring even more loudly about one of the Journal's star attractions, the A-hed, the feature that currently resides in the fourth column on page 1, which can be about just about anything, and often is.
It's not that Murdoch is against enterprise journalism. His beef is that the A-heds are just too darn long for his short attention span. True, they can run well north of 2,000 words, but they're usually worth the time investment, though the Jan. 2 piece on Dennis Kucinich's alleged close encounter with UFOs didn't qualify on that account.
So what does the A-hed have to do with the Journal's mission of being the prime source of business news? Absolutely nothing, which is why getting to write one is the fulfillment of a wet dream for many reporters on the Journal staff. It's the chance to flex the journalistic muscles and bore into a subject without being boring.
Yet, now comes word from the New York Observer that Murdoch and his minions seriously think people only have the time to read these stories on the weekend and want to shunt them off to the Saturday paper.

Big mistake.

The A-Hed is what helps make the Journal the Journal. And who is Murdoch to assume I have more time on my hand come the weekend? I get a lot of my WSJ reading done on the train. As for the weekend, well, I'm usually too busy doing things like watching The Wonder Pets.
Memo to Linny, Ming Ming and Tuck: Forget the pigeons, pandas and skunks. Save the A-Hed!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

WGA and CBS News Strike A Deal --- Finally

Maybe it was the ugly spectre of the WGA having two strikes going at the same time. Perhaps it was the prospect of CBS being without 500 journalists during the peak of primary season.
Either way, the Writers Guild of America and CBS finally agreed to a tentative deal on a contract that runs through April 1, 2010.
Members would get a 3.5 percent raise upon ratification and another 3.5 percent next year. Full-time employees will also get a one-time payment of $3,700. Sounds nice, until you consider that the last contract expired in 2005, and that $3,700 represents -- on average -- only about 60 percent of the lost pay.
But the union held firm on jurisdictional issues the company was pressing, and fought off a two-tier wage scale where local radio employees would get smaller raises.
And it appears they rejected any attempts to encroach on the so-called "no-lunch" hour. Many shifts, particularly in radio, are for eight straight hours without a lunch. The eighth hour is paid at 2.5 times the hourly rate in compensation.
With each negotiation, the company tries to get the Guild to give up that money, which the CBS Guild negotiators have always firmly rejected (full disclosure: I helped negotiate the previous two contracts for the Guild).
Shockingly, ABC News writers represented by the Guild gave up the no lunch in exchange for a $25 payment and agreed to a two-tier wage scale where new employees will be paid less.
The ABC writers have always been a more-timid lot, and in agreeing to the contract they did, began engineering their own eventual demise.
I'm glad to see my CBS brethren didn't trod that path. At the same time, I hope they don't forget the bitter lesson from this contract: don't let a contract expire without first taking a strike authorization vote, which was not held this time until 2.5 years AFTER the contract expired. That meant management had absolutely no incentive to negotiate in good faith.
And they didn't, because no one forced their hand. The Guild leadership should have known better based on past experience. Because they did nothing of substance to move negotiations forward until now, they cost members thousands of dollars in lost wages.
It's a victory in the sense that CBS news writers don't have to endure what would likely have been a protracted strike. But they could have had a better deal and more money, had their union confronted the company a lot sooner than it did.

Reasons Why You Get Into The News Business

Weekend At Bernie's Redux -- Story About Corpse Going Into A Store To Cash a Check Livens Up New York Newsrooms

Let's face it, being a reporter nowadays just isn't as glamorous as it used to be.
Not that, as I can attest from first-hand experience, it ever really was that glamorous. But at least it perked up a few ears at parties when you said what you did. And it sure beat being a C.P.A. or the guy who stamps papers at the DMV.
Reporting also gives you a front-row seat to the world at large, no matter how tragic or comical it may get. Which can make the job as fun as it is frustrating.
Fun, though, is definitely the operative term for this item from the New York Daily News, about two dolts who wheeled a dead guy to a check-cashing store, and then tried to cash his Social Security check before being arrested.
At least the Weekend At Bernie's wannabe had died of natural causes.
This saga wasn't in my edition of the Times -- whose delivery to my door is ever more haphazard -- but it looks like their reporters also got to have some fun -- at least online.

McCain As Lazarus? New York Times Gets Caught Up in Maelstrom of Hype Following N.H. Primary "Upsets"

National Desk: Time To Brush Up On Your Bible

The New York Times lead on the New Hampshire results was bewildering, not to mention inaccurate.
"In the Republican primary, Senator John McCain of Arizona revived his presidential bid with a Lazarus-like win."
Lazarus, in case you never went to catechism, was the brother of Mary and Martha who Jesus raised from the dead. Which is hardly a description of McCain's prospects going into Tuesday's vote.
First off, McCain didn't campaign vigorously in Iowa and basically bet the house on taking New Hampshire, where he bested Dubya in 2000. True, it was supposed to be a close race with Mitt Romney, who desperately wanted to wrap a win around his New England coattails.
McCain's campaign had been on the ropes because of flaccid fundraising and a chilly reaction to his unwavering support for the war. But the fact that he didn't win in Iowa wasn't ripe for a Lazarus allusion in New Hampshire, where polls showed him at or near the lead. And when you're at the top, there's no way you can rise from anything, let alone the dead.
The Times should have saved its Biblical references, of course, for Hillary Clinton. But her victory was merely labeled a "surprise."
Which is true. Not even Lazarus was predicting she'd win last night.
ADDENDUM: To be fair, after writing this I saw how McCain told The Wall Street Journal that he was marveling at his "Lazarus life," which is certainly true of his campaign if you look back at the last six months. But I still believe the Times left the impression they were referring to New Hampshire, rather than the overall campaign. Not a biggie, I realize. But still.

What Does The Future Hold For Alycia Lane, Now That It Doesn't Include KYW

Not to Worry. People -- Particularly Desperate News Directors -- Are Willing To Give Second Chances, Especially When You Look Like This
Now that KYW-TV, the CBS station in Philadelphia has given the boot to popular anchor Alycia Lane -- who's facing felony assault charges involving a police officer in New York -- come the questions about whether she has a future in the news business.
All indications are the answer should eventually be a resounding yes, and not because she's threatening the station with a wrongful termination suit for ending her contract, which had four years left at more than $700K per.
We'll work from the assumption that despite allegedly hitting a female officer in the face and calling her a "fucking dyke," she'll avoid jail time if not the enmity of GLAAD.
Conceivably, that could be smoothed over by lots of apologies, maybe even a visit to the homophobe rehab facility Isiah Washington felt compelled to visit.
If a dinosaur like Imus could be resurrected by the damage wrought by his big mouth, then so can Lane, who at 35, has the looks and the journalistic chops to go with them. In other words, an unbeatable combination for a news director looking to goose the ratings.
Forget the snarky comment The Philadelphia Inquirer got from nonpareil quote whore Robert Thompson, who chirped "I don't think Fox is still doing celebrity boxing."
Lane, after a self-imposed exile following the end of her trips to court, will live to see another day behind an anchor desk. But she'll probably have to relocate and maybe take a paycut in the process.
The spotlight may have gotten too bright in Philly, where her love life and failed marriages are topics of conversation. And since she mixed it up in the Big Apple, that's also a no-go. Maybe Miami? That's where Lane made a splash was working before KYW. Or perhaps TMZ.com, which has labeled her a "news vixen." She could be made to feel right at home there.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Lawsuit That's Not About Nothing

Vegetable Plagiarists Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld Sued By "Nut Job" Cookbook Author Who's Not Crazy About Her Ideas Being Lifted

Missy Chase Lapine's got hand.
Lapine is a cookbook author who's suing Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld, the former for allegedly stealing her idea for a book on how to disguise nutritious foods; the latter for being the good hubby and publicly attacking Lapine.
Lapine might have avoided the litigation route and merely embarrassed Jessica Seinfeld publicly for coming out with a book that was a little too similar to one she'd put out. But what may have prompted a trip to court was comments from the Bee Movie Bad Boy.
Seinfeld was heard on Letterman (click to see clip) in October calling Lapine a "woodwork wacko," while denying his wife ever heard of Lapine.
"She accuses my wife and says 'you stole my mushed-up carrots' ... it's vegetable plagiarism." He kidded, sort of, that Lapine could be an assassin. Har, har.
Sounds like a recipe for lining the pockets of a few lawyers.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Clear Channel Clears Out Last of the Legacy DJs at New York's Lite-FM

UPDATE 1/24/08: After running out of air staff to get rid of, looks like Jim Ryan fired himself. He's leaving Lite-FM to start a consultancy, whose first client will be --- wait for it --- Lite FM.

With "Mixed Emotions," Valerie Smaldone Gets An Offer Too Easy To Refuse

WLTW-FM, 106.7 Lite FM, has long been the perennial ratings leader in the notoriously fractured world of New York radio, with its adult contemporary format.
Program Director Jim Ryan has managed to stay on top by constantly tweaking the music mix and stretching the bounds of a format to capture an ever-fickle audience. It was enough to capture an estimated $68.5 million in revenue in 2005, more than any other station in the country.
But it's apparently not enough.
While few people have turned to Lite-FM for their deejays, the station at one point helped burnish its dominance with an air staff that provided listeners with a familiar, reliable sound. WLTW, at one point, had the same announcers in place for 13 years before overnight host Robin Taylor passed away in 2003.
It was comfortable and predictable, but in a good way.
The deejays were not superstar jocks with seven-figure salaries, but pro's pros who earned an extremely decent wage by radio standards. But it was apparently more than the hard-of-hearing bean counters at Clear Channel could stomach.
In 2005, Stephen E. Roy, who had been at the station since 1983, got the boot. He was followed a year later by morning man Bill Buchner and evening personality J.J. Kennedy, who had worked a combined 34 years at WLTW.
This fall heralded the end of the tenure for mid-morning jock Al Bernstein, who had been with the station since its inception, which meant the silky-voice Valerie Smaldone, who also joined the station in its infancy 24 years ago, would likely be close behind.
That prediction sadly came true. Radio & Records reported on Dec. 31 that she had left her afternoon shift at the station. Ryan said in a statement that it was with "mixed emotions" that Smaldone had decided not to renew her contract.
Translation: We're going to let her stay if she takes a big pay cut. Smaldone likely said a few words she couldn't say on the air.
And mixed emotions? Please. Why were they mixed, Jim? Because you decided to effectively force her to quit rather than outright can her, like you did with the other jocks?
Why would there be any ambiguity over your emotions when you're casting out the deejay who had been number-one in her daypart for a gazillion Arbitron books?
True, Lite-FM will soldier on and will likely remain one of New York's top stations now and in the future.
Ryan and the Lite have succeeded for never taking the audience for granted. In getting rid of all the voices listeners have heard for 24 years, that's messing with a formula that didn't need to be changed, all for the sake of a few more dollars for the bloodsuckers in San Antonio.
You get to be number one for a reason, and when you stay at the top for so long with the same jocks at the mic, it's lame to suddenly deny they played any role in your success.

Hey, Mac! Wanna Buy A Paper Cheap?

Remember When Owning A Newspaper Was A License To Print Money? So Do Many Publishers. Unfortunately, You Can't Pay The Bills With Nostalgia

You knew things were bad in the newspaper industry. But Alan Mutter shows us just how bad, at least in the view of Wall Street.
Bad, as in publicly traded newspaper companies losing 42 percent of their market value since 2004. That's not a typo.
And the carnage would have been even worse, if you discount the premium Foxy Murdoch paid for Dow Jones' stock, which jumped 65 percent.
One persistent thorn in the side in newsrooms has been that until very recently, investors didn't give a crap about increased competition and lower circulation. They were accustomed to 15-25 percent returns, and even if that meant bringing in some trained seals and outsourcing your sports coverage to Bangalore, by gum, that's what they were going to get.
Now such returns are all but unattainable at most companies. The question remains, do investors care anymore? Judging by the market values, it looks like so many have headed to the exits that now publishers can focus more on treading water than appeasing shareholders.
Of course, treading water has never been a solid business model. So, now may come a few spare moments to figure out what to do next.
There are no easy answers. For now, let's just hope there are some answers, period.