Monday, September 04, 2017

The 'eastern front' may be hitting headwinds in France

What would people think about a six-day daily regiment that

Is looking (again) for an editorial captain.
That’s after promoting the city news First Louie to the position in May.
Hired an exercise, athletics and competitions First Louie at the start of fall competition season.
That is after a possible fall competition First Louie from another army company decided not to go there.
And, turnover in editorial non-coms.

Interesting, no?

Been there once myself.

Eventually, the top general got rid of the regimental commander at the outpost, but it took  more than a year of the local marching staff describing command problems before action was taken.

And, no, no secrets. These are all publicly known openings. 


Turns out the regimental commander has been gotten rid of at this post, too. Wasn't handling the troops correctly in some cases, and may have wanted to "handle" them in others.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Morning News and Star-Telegram JOA five years off? Less?

The Morning News recently announced it was outsourcing most of its advertising graphics work to Gannett. That's with a layoff of 45 people.

That, in turn comes just six months after the Snooze said it was outsourcing its page-building to GateHell. That got rid of about 20 jobs.

The Snooze cited "declining revenue," but didn't say how bad the decline was, whether the paper or the Belo parent is still profitable, if so, by how much, etc.

Speculation about the Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram entering a joint operating agreement has run rampant for several years, starting when they started divvying up, and sharing the packaged product of, pro sports coverage in the Metroplex.

Of course, that was before Belo split TV and newspaper sides, followed by the newspaper successor half selling all non-Dallas print properties. Oh, and Belo sold off its share of for short-term money, but what's a long-term revenue hole that's soon starting to hit. More on that here, on the deal, and here, on the five-year preferred treatment that has has two years left.

During the previous speculation, everybody figured the Snooze was operating from the side of strength. I didn't totally think that then, and certainly don't know.

McClatchy is a pretty strong newspaper company, and has held the StartleGram long enough to develop some stability there. If anybody is in a position of at least relative strength, it's the StartleGram, in my book.


In all of this, the smugness of the Snooze, year after year, is part of why I blog about this. I have a friend who works there, and his girlfriend used to. I don't know that she still does, as she was a copy editor/paginator, per the outsourcing to Gatehouse. No schadenfreude against them, but the company's smugness stinks.

Plus spinning off the graphics to Gannett? I guess Belo's alternative biz of providing graphics, advertising and PR services in Dallas isn't working, else these people would have been moved rather than shit-canned, right?


Update, Sept. 19: The Snooze must be getting closer to packing it in .... I saw help wanteds for SIX different intern slots. Yes, they'd be taking interns anyway, but with fewer staff to supervise them, how much do they learn? Or are they replacements?

Monday, August 07, 2017

Goodbye to Granite

It's been six-plus months since I left the last newspaper I worked at for Granite Publications, one of three people downsized as the paper planned a switch from semiweekly to weekly publication.

I'm not one to talk too much out of school, but other former editors and publishers there, in some cases even before ever starting there, talked about the "Granite gossip," or "Granite gallop," or similar.

In the case of my previous paper, it was, in my opinion, a series of bad publisher hiring (and firing) decisions that led to that point.

The publisher who was there when Granite bought the paper was let go before I got there. I've heard various versions of why. As best as I can guess, steering between Scylla and Charybdis, is that he was adamantly resistant to pages being built at Granite's mini-Gatehouse pagination hub. (And, speaking of Gatehouse, this, as part of this story.) That was probably in part about editorial control and in part about finances, as he would already have known how he was being build for Granite's hubbed graphic art services.

(Newspaper companies are like insurance companies. Everybody's independently incorporated, but with incorporation structured in such a way that you're required to follow most home office dictates while most burden of blame, failure, etc., is on your own local publishing shoulders. The independent incorporation, as well as independently incorporating graphics and pagination services, is also done for tax reasons.)

The company then hired someone without one day of newspaper experience to be a publisher-in-training and shuffled other staff around, thorough pissing off the then-senior ad salesperson.

That soon enough didn't work out. They then hired someone with previous publishing experience, who was nice enough personally, and with some ideas, but just ... not a go-getter, etc.

They then canned him without a replacement lined up. That's when my arm was broken due to an on the job accident caused by another driver. I appreciate corporate filling out workman's comp's initial claims papers for me — even if it was in part due to other worries. I less appreciated, with an in-and-out interim publisher there, nobody from corporate springing for flowers, a get-well card or two, etc.

No, I resented it. And still do. The owner had done a couple of other good things in the past, but this sets the needle back to zero.

They then finally hired the person they should have hired three years ago, if they were determined to can the publisher in place at the time of purchase. (BUT ... more on other aspects of his background in another piece.)

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that the owner,  who is the daughter of the founding owner, bought this paper on nostalgia. It was the first one her dad, the founding owner, owned, though later selling it. It was the town where she grew up. Nostalgia as a basis for financial decisions in general and business decisions in particular is usually not that smart.

On the resentment side, add to that my downsizing, and them not trying to find room for me, or immediately moving me to the front of the line, or even officially automatically considering me for relevant positions — they had two publishers' spots open, both of which involved a fair degree of selling, but not sales-only. It would have been an adjustment, but, it was certainly doable.

True, they have offered me, when they sold the company paper I worked at before, to give me the open editorial job at their nearest paper, and keep the same rate of pay for me, which was more than the normal salary for that slot. I wound up, because they asked, pinch-hitting at the Center paper for three weeks, and then asked if we could make this permanent. It was yet more money, but it did them a big favor, too.

Since then, Granite has split, as well, with founder Jim Chionsini hiving off the majority of papers after taking over again as boss man from daughter Brandi, and giving her a few that I think he wanted to axe.

At a paper now, a daily, that also does a magazine, I have to say that her idea for magazines in general wasn't all bad — but it was far from all good.

First of all, the rigidity of saying that such a magazine should have the same theme, issue after issue, is stupid. Sorry, Brandi, but no other word for it. (Being at a place that has a magazine, but does it like an actual magazine, I have personal reasons to say that.)

Second, your expectations should have been tapered back. Most your newspapers, a 32-page mag every quarter was heavy enough lifting. Actually, 32 pages 3x a year would be about right for the more rural papers. (I know that 24 pages quarterly would be the same number, but, a 24-page magazine would be its own stupidity.)

Third, without paywalls, you're still floundering in other ways.

Fourth, as I look at publisher hires at multiple papers ... erk???


Update: Since this has been posted, Big Jim Chionsini sold Center, and the Mount Pleasant paper that a previous publisher there wrecked, to Moser Community Media.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

More vampirism in the newspaper industry

I've seen it outside the forty-fourth estate, but it is apparently starting to catch on inside, too.

"It" is a newspaper trying to get as detailed a past salary history as it can from you as early in the process — as in as part of the application — as it can.

Via Journalism Jobs, I believe it was, a while back, I saw a Virginia newspaper saying that W-2s from previous work were part of the hiring process. I found that paper's Twitter account and told it what place it could find to file those W-2s.

Then, the growing Community Impact group. Its web-based application asks for salary at each previous spot. I had had two jobs with it pop up off of one of my job search engines. I had started applying for the higher-level one when I saw this. So, I put in $1 per week/month/year on each job.

And didn't apply for the other position.

These folks are relying on a mix of a still weak job market (don't listen to Janet Yellen at the Fed), an ongoingly weak newspaper market, slick branding of "we're new and different" (with Community Impact), and masochists in the biz who don't want to leave.


But, that's another story.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The publisher as projectionist

Picture that your community-sized daily paper, which you joined just recently out of necessity, it not being "your" community until you moved there after being downsized elsewhere, is bought from its family owner by a small chain.

Picture the new chain's nearest paper is less than 40 miles away, in a community and county somewhat bigger but not too much. Picture the managing editor of your paper is bumped to publisher. Picture the publisher of the next paper over figures he'll take this new publisher under both the publishing and editorial wing of his.

With me?

Picture the next-door publisher has what he thinks are some great design ideas.

Picture that ...

He doesn't always practice what he preaches at his own paper, and you have the publisher as "projectionist."

Not the movie-theater guy. The Freudian psychological projectionist.

Next-door publisher thinks you should always have a vertical picture on the front page.

Problem? A 12-issue sample of front pages, riffing through issues at the next-door town's library, says he broke that one-third of the time.

Yes, it's a small sample. But, it's not tiny, let alone infinitesimal.

The projectionist.

Other things? Yes, it might be nice to run less AP content. Or it might not. And, it would be easier to do that with one more editorial person. And with a half-point bigger font that looked like wider Century Schoolbook or similar, rather than Times, to boot. And with all stories run ragged right. And on a narrower web.

And, with a five-column double deck header on the front page (yes!) that ... looked like ass or something.

The projectionist.

Nuff ced for now.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Fake news, thy name is Associated Press

Mainstream media has caviled about so-called "fake news" for the last year or so.

Of course, there's a high level of hypocrisy here.

The New York Times ran Judith Miller's fake news, nay, PUSHED it, then, if that contribution to the Iraq War wasn't enough, it spiked for a full year a story about Bush's warrantless snooping, which helped him get re-elected. Not that John Kerry would have done much different on Iraq, and judging by Dear Leader four years later, wouldn't have done much different on spying on Americans.

(And, I haven't even covered the fake news that's increased on the Times' op-ed page with hiring Bret Stephens.)

And, earlier this year, after it decried "fake news," the Washington Post then Tweeted repeatedly for a third-party group called "Prop Or Not," which made the Democratic Party's, and Clintonistas', "Putin Did It" claims about the presidential election read as soberly as wallpaper drying compared to Prop Or Not's McCarthyism — McCarthyism which later turned up to have seeming connections to Ukrainian fascists.

And, now? Per that screenshot up top?

It's the good old Associated Press, with the screenshot coming from this story.

The issue of posting crap from a place like Taboola has become even more decried in the last year or so, even as "digital dimes" in the online ad world become ever more "mobile nickels." (Thanks, Dean Singleton, and the 1990s AP board of directors, who touted the "TV model" of the Internet while ignoring that pay TV channels like HBO had already existed for 15 years or more.) Indeed, Taboola itself is one of the worst of the "sponsored links" folks, and most the news, or "news," you'll find off those links is sketchy at best, skeezy at worst, and almost certainly native advertising in some way, shape or form.

But, that's not all.

AP is writing, and photographing, its own clickbait as well, as shown above.

If American media dies, it will be from self-strangulation in its own crib.

Friday, June 02, 2017

NYT kicks Liz Spayd to curb as cover for continuing ad struggles

Liz Spayd has been neutered
So, the Old Gray Lady has decided to can its public editor position, apparently in part as a way of canning its current public editor, Liz Spayd, who didn't do the job as well as predecessor Margaret Sullivan.

That said, the position, created in the wake of Jayson Blair, was always about forward-looking PR for the paper at bottom. And, when the paper gives you shit, sometimes, shit-tasting lemonade being made at the end still isn't that good, if you're the public editor, no matter the seriousness of your lemonade-making endeavors.

That said, per a Salon overview, on paper, Spayd had the chops for the job. But, she not only appears antiquated in relation to social media, but in relation to ways in which the Times could be, and sometimes was, different in a good way.

In hindsight, she strikes me as "earnest." Like a fourth-grade schoolteacher from the 1950s. And, generally, that's not that good.

On the other hand, predecessor Margaret Sullivan was by no means perfect. I once both emailed and Tweeted her about staff "pre-writing" a weather storm in anticipation of a snowpocalypse that didn't pan out. Never heard back. How she would have handled Stephens, I have no idea. That said, per Nieman Lab, Sullivan's defense of the position, and by extension, her prior inhabitation of it, is kind of laughable.

But, back to the headline of this post.

The decision to eliminate the public editor comes a day after the Times announced the creation of a “Reader Center” led by editor Hanna Ingber. One role of the new “Reader Center” is to improve how the Times “respond(s) directly to tips feedback, questions, concerns, complaints and other queries from the public,” according to a Tuesday memo.
This is the TrumpTrain punking part of the headline. Have fun with THAT, Times! Because you will get it. You're probably already getting it with your idiotic "say something nice about Trump" schtick. I know that, if there's others like me, you're getting punked from the other side, too. Well, actually from the nonduopoly left-liberal third side.

Then, there's this, from the memo to staff from Punch Sulzberger:
We are dramatically expanding our commenting platform. Currently, we open only 10 percent of our articles to reader comments. Soon, we will open up most of our articles to reader comments. This expansion, made possible by a collaboration with Google, marks a sea change in our ability to serve our readers, to hear from them, and to respond to them.
Lemme see how interesting that is. Will readers try to Google SEO their own comments? Will Google AdSense try to sell Google ads into those comments?

What else will this involve? Google bots helping edit comments?

And, while the PE role was allegedly designed to address, or turd-polish, the Blair issue, it never did allegedly do that for Judith Miller. Or for the Times holding a 2004 story on President Bush spying on Americans until after the election. Or its sanitized photo coverage of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Couple of other notes, coming primarily from the Times' own piece. One, Spayd is getting kicked to the curb today, just two days after the announcement.. Wow. Second, this is part of larger buyouts. Third, they're going to hire some new journos. They claim that the moves are to hire journos who don't think in "legacy" ways, but what it really is, is younger people they can pay less.

Overall ad sales are still down. It's unclear if the post-election circ rise has come close to offsetting that. It's also not reported if the backlash over the Stephens hiring has ixnayed that rise or even reversed it.

In any case, getcha popcorn! And remember Spayd by this interview earlier in May.