Jul 8, 2012

Sunday resurrection and roundup

Billionaires to the rescue? 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an opinion piece calling on the deep pocketed to assist daily newspapers in their struggle to keep communities informed. 

I don't know. This feels too late and short sighted, since newspaper owners who think they know how to survive the game are usually the first to find out how little they really know.

Just ask the people working there: Romenesko

At this point, big checks would seem to do more to stave off the inevitable than rescue an industry that for too long lacked the humility to break up bad management structures. Instead it gutted newsrooms to ensure those at the top got their legacy pensions.

As scary fast as changes are coming now, it feels as if the corporate lamentations that pitted bottom lines against journalistic values have started to quiet. The stagnant business culture is starting to face its mortality. New lines of thought are sprouting.

Our job is to keep pushing the principles of good journalism (SCOTUSblog has gotten well-deserved attention today for doing just that) and hope the new business models coalesce around them.

Because with the big-check largesse of a single person or foundation comes demands. Look at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, which must contend with the singular benevolence of billionaire businessman and art (institution) collector Eli Broad: WWLA

Does this mean the L.A. Times should turn the $1-million grant from the Ford Foundation? No. But the survival of news gathering institutions is going to depend on the largesse of lots of little checks: donors, members, subscribers, listeners, readers, watchers. 

Dec 4, 2011


When I began blogging in late 2007 it was to keep writing.

I was leaving the newspaper world of my own volition and wanted to keep my mind nimble and learn the medium that seemed to be at the heart of an increasingly fragmented media. I also wanted to stay abreast of issues that I might not otherwise come across being outside a newsroom.

The early content was a grab bag of politics, pajamas commentary, and occasional analytical pieces about changes in the practice of journalism. If a few dozen people decided to read the blog each month, all the better.

Then came the axe men.

Every few months the budget cutters came through the shrinking newsrooms and hacked away at what was left. It wasn't just about an industry in contraction that gripped me, it was that the ideals that were being trampled by mediocre businessmen addicted to the grubby impulse to make profit out of pink slips. It was a cheap and mindless time and I couldn't help but talk about it.

As axes gave way to buzz saws, and board rooms embraced bankruptcy, a choke of huckster visionaries started to form around the carnage. I felt compelled to do offer my best perspective on who was saying smart things about the future of journalism, and who was selling snake-oil remedies. It felt useful, even if most of my audience seemed more interested in using the comments section to vent than to bask in my wisdom.

Years have passed and I have moved into management at a public radio station. I don't have time to offer the frequency of updates necessary to keep the blog moving.

Instead, I'm going to take what I learned from in the last few years, including from work on this blog, to do my job better. I'll continue to write here and would appreciate hearing from my readers what they think should come next. But I won't be a reliable repository of job cut updates anymore.


Dec 1, 2011

Press-Enterprise editor heads to Tennessee

Maria De Varenne will become the executive editor of The Tennessean after 10 years as editor of the Press-Enteprise in Riverside. Nels Jensen will takeover duties at the P-E.

Nov 17, 2011

Union-Tribune sold

Platinum Equity has turned around and sold the San Diego Union-Tribune two years after buying the newspaper. The new owner will be a real estate company MLIM, owned by Doug Manchester, reports The Wrap. Now, real estate entrepreneurs and newspapers don't always mix well (see here), but Manchester does have the advantage of being local.

Voice of San Diego had this to say in a story presaging the sale:
If Manchester bought the newspaper outright, he'd get a key piece of property that local real estate analysts have said was a valuable part of the Union-Tribune's 2009 sale to Platinum: The company's main building, which sits on 13 acres in Mission Valley, just south of the Fashion Valley mall.

Nov 8, 2011

Fake news written by fake people

Scandal stories about water districts in Southern California (and maybe everywhere) often involve the cloistered ways in which the boards do business - and the generosity with which they pay themselves for doing shady business.

The Central Basin Municipal Water District has found an original way to make scandal news. The public body hired a "news" outfit to write favorable articles about the district and then got them posted on Google News as though they were legitimate. Essentially, the stories were thinly disguised public relations pieces.

Now the Los Angeles Times, which broke the Google story, has discovered that the hired-gun journalists being paid to write the water district's PR weren't really journalists - and, in fact, weren't really people.

Mike Adams, the lead writer for a company calling itself News Hawks, appeared to be imaginary. From the Times:
News Hawks also presented a picture of Adams, showing a stoic man with a gray beard and a black cowboy hat. A reader notified The Times that the photo was a stock image used to demonstrate editing techniques on websites such as deviantart.com.

From there, the picture was traced to photographer Leroy Skalstad, who said he took the shot at a Milwaukee food bank last year and posted it to several photo-sharing websites. He said the subject of the picture is a man nicknamed