Saturday, June 19, 2021

RIP David Klement

Klement, a Pulitzer Prize winner with the Detroit Free Press, and for many years, editorial page editor of the Bradenton Herald, has passed away at 81.

As editor of the Muenster Enterprise, I appreciate getting to know David by phone and email, as well as through his book, over the past year. His thoughts and skills as a journalist, as well as his personal insights, were all appreciated.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

My connection of sorts to Bill Hartman

I saw a week ago that the founder and owner of Hartman Newspapers had died.

I'm not really an "ear to the grapevine" person on Texas newspapers. I'm here in a job and if a non-Texas newspapers, or non-newspapers, position comes along that's better, sign me up!

Anyway, this goes back to 2009.

Suburban Dallas' Today Newspapers was not long for the world and I knew that.

The Fort Bend Herald (and Texas Coaster!) had an opening. Kind of a hybrid position. And, a "too much" position," to be honest.

It was hybrid between the newspaper and some planned new magazines AND hybrid within the newspaper.

The first half? In addition to doing semi-regular work for the then-daily Herald (six-day daily back then), the person/position was responsible for producing three quarterly magazines, one a month for each of three different upscale, presumably gated, communities on the west side of Fort Bend County. No writing involved, but editorial solicitations, copy editing and proofreading of submitted material, photo solicitation or shooting or assigning to the paper's staff photographer, and all the layout. And, that was hybrid with work for the newspaper.

The hybridization within the newspaper? Doing a couple of pages of copy editing/layout every day plus a news beat.

It was a newly-created position, and, IMO, a "too much" position. Look, COVID has dumped shit on all of us, but not by choice. And, this was long enough ago, even in the early part of the Great Recession, though I hadn't realized yet how bad it would get, that, I wasn't ready to volunteer for "too much."

In addition, if I recall correctly, the ME said it was salaried and one of Fred's beancounters said hourly. On a "too much" position that's helluva different. If salaried, they WILL beat you like a rented mule. If hourly, they'll not pay overtime but yell at you for not doing more.

Besides, it's greater Helltown.

Hard pass. I eventually came out all right but not great, like a cat with nine PTSD-ed lives.

Anyway, I did meet Bill himself, and being a big baseball fan, ogled his office memorabilia and shot the shit with that on him a bit.

I can't remember how much, if at all, we discussed Roger Clemens and roiding, given his having covered the Astros long ago as well as being a BBWAA voter but my general impression of Bill on that was that he was totally "old-school" and opposed him, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, etc. getting into the Hall.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Dear newspaper publishers: About those postal rate hikes

Per the poll at top right, let's dig in.

First, I know the periodicals mail rate hikes aren't likely to fully stand as is. But, they're likely to at least 50 percent stand. The old days are over. (Note that first-class mail, for the first ounce, faces approximately the same hike.)

So, per that poll, if this truly improves service on out-of-county delivery, will you accept it?

That said, in challenging the Postal Regulatory Commission, what will they actually do with that nearly 7 percent other than just cut a deficit?

Third, are you continuing to challenge Congress to end the pension prefunding requirement? (Actually bipartisan legislation could do just that, but Postmaster General Louis DeJoy facing a subpoena over campaign finance violations at a former private business of his could screw the pooch.) If not, why not?

Unfortunately, no amount of Googling will reveal the cost to mail newspapers as a percentage of a non-dailiy newspaper's overall expenses. 

I know from my own experience as an editor-publisher at two small papers, though, that mailing expenses are not THAT much of a newspaper's overall budget.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Once again, yes teevee folks, you're in trouble too

 I've said this myself, starting three years ago, on the ratings decline of local teevee news. Now, Dick Tofel of Pro Publica says that national teevee network news, which can be a big anchor for the second of the two local evening network news broadcasts, has been and continues to be in even bigger trouble. What I, via Pew, noted for local TV and Tofel for national, has one other commonality with each other and with newspapers: the younger the person, the more likely they've tuned you out.

Tofel offers some suggestions for them to avoid the print world's head-in-the-sands decades of mistakes. Whether they'll be adopted is anybody's guess.

And, as with papers, the reader/viewer decline has one other decline: ad dollars.

And, with that, plus, the possibility of bots taking your job, comes staff declines.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The ambulance chasing gets personal, but the story winds up hollow, abetted by bad editing

OK, last month, Pocket gave me this story from The Atlantic: "We Should All be More Afraid of Driving."

Summary? Joshua Sharpe works for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Reports on "police scanner news," to put it bluntly.

That includes car wrecks.

Of which he's had two himself.

The first? Hit a woman standing in the middle of I-75. Here's the intro: 
I thought I saw something in the road.
Meth addict, as it turns out.

Much later, he makes contact with her. The accident allegedly scared her straight, but it's unclear whether that lasted or not.

OK, for a while afterward, Sharpe peeled back on ambulance chasing. We're being blunt, remember. But eventually, he picked it back up again.

Two years later? Second accident:
I thought I saw a car veering toward me. 
It was a bright morning in February 2018. I was driving to work on Clairmont Road when a car suddenly appeared to be merging into my lane from the right, bound to hit me. This time, I did swerve. I wrenched the wheel and turned into oncoming traffic.
Note the parallel in the opening?

That said, as he eventually did after the first accident, he contacts the others involved. (Well, some of them.) The driver of the truck basically half hates him. The passenger fully hates him.

What's missing from the story?

No attempt to contact the swerving driver. No attempt to find out who it was, in fact. (Hold on to that idea.)

So, I DM'ed Sharpe on Twitter after tagging him, then seeing his account was open to messages.

Here's what I asked:
One thing about your Atlantic piece on accidents I just DON'T GET! You said the 2nd accident was caused by a swerving driver, but ... you never talk(ed) to him. Did you never even try? Or was the "thought I saw" not actual, and itself an artifact from PTSD from the first accident? (I've been in one wreck bad enough to have a plate in my left forearm, so I get the background.)
No response yet, for three-plus weeks.

To me, beyond the basic warning of the story, not having this information just leaves it limp to me.

Maybe Sharpe did "hallucinate" a swerving driver? Maybe he's afraid to say that, even though that could be part of his message? Or even, arguably, "should" be, not "could" be. Or per highway traffic engineers, there's the lack of mention just how big today's pickups are. Whether the accident was his fault due to a PTSD episode, or an actual swerving driver's fault, it might have been less severe had he not swerved into a monster F-250.

And, that's why I've posted it here.

The tale is designed to be cautionary, but for whatever reasons, Sharpe pulls multiple punches on that. And, it can't be him having a journalistic concern about "personal involvement," as Sharpe mentioned his having PTSD early on. 

It's also bad editing. This IS Atlantic Monthly, after all. And, it's a journalistic magazine, not a repository of modernist or post-modernist short stories. Either Sharpe really saw a driver swerve (and was unable to identify him or whatever), or he thought he saw a driver swerve due to PTSD. Sharpe's editor should have insisted on Paul Harvey's "the rest of the story" or else rejected it.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Dear TPA: Was there nobody local?

 I recently saw this year's Texas Press Association directory.

I noticed two things when I turned to page 1.

First is that they got a Texas Parks and Wildlife staff photog to do the cover picture. I looked back and see that it's been at least three years now since TPA's been doing that, and abandoning the old cover photo contest among member newspaper staff.

I stopped entering it after whoever the judges were chose a picture of an OK but not great sunset with a silhouetted Prick of Huntsville (you know what I mean, Texans) in the foreground. (I had entered a picture from a recent Big Bend vacation that year.)

Second, I noticed this year's directory was printed by a company headquartered in ...

(drumroll)

(dramatic drumroll)

Ontario, Calfornia!

OMG, the TPA directory has been Californicated!

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Wrecking two newspapers

 This is a follow-up to my previous post about Dennis and Theresa Phillips and a sidebar of Jim Moser.

Just saw the latest TPA directory.

I knew Marlin and Rosebud had been bleeding subscribers, but didn't realize it was THAT bad.

One-third of the level of when I was there six years ago.

Yes, all newspapers have lost subscribers, but most small-town papers haven't lost them like THAT.

 Sadly and interestingly, I got a call on my cell a month ago. A lady thought it was still the phone number for the Marlin Democrat. Dunno if she had that from my original time there, or my brief return. I vaguely remember the caller by name, having web-searched the number.