Help The New York Times save $$!

An investor at Thursday’s 2009 New York Times annual meeting came up with a heck of a way to save money. But first, a recap of all the serious stuff that executives brought up at the meeting (Read the whole thing on the wire):

    We will stay public. We will not be sold. There is no one solution to what ails the newspaper business. We’re trying everything. Stop asking about us closing The Boston Globe or selling it. We won’t tell you until we’re ready. (By the way, it only took the Times nearly a month to reveal what the Globe has reported for ages: It is on track to lose $85 million this year.)

Now for money-saving tips for the struggling TImes, courtesy of an investor whose name I didn’t get a chance to catch. Here’s what she said to Times Co Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr during an investor Q&A:

As to savings on newsprint, I see belabored articles taking almost full pages on obscure topics… perhaps [about] someone in the Brazilian forest I cannot do anything about. So if you’re trying to save newsprint, perhaps you could edit these things to a more reasonable size… [Then] there is the expense you incur editorially in aspects that are really not necessary. [Times food critic] Frank Bruni had to go to Texas to write about a pork restaurant which most of your readers will never go to… Cathy Horyn had to go to the Dominican Republic to interview Oscar de la Renta who is here 90 percent of the time.

Tough call for a reporter like me. Who doesn’t love traveling to interesting places and writing about them, preferably at 5,000 words a pop? Then again, if it’s all about readers first…

Meanwhile, another investor complained that the Times does not offer enough local coverage, but seems to have the budget to send reporters all around the world. “Send these people to Brooklyn! Send these people to the Bronx!” he said of Times reporters. “You will increase circulation.”

2009 Pulitzer Prizes: Arts

Here are the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winners for the arts:

    Awarded to “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout (Random House), a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating. Drama:
    Awarded to “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage, a searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness. History:
    Awarded to “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company), a painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson. Biography:
    Awarded to “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” by Jon Meacham (Random House), an unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat, but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life. Poetry:
    Awarded to “The Shadow of Sirius,” by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory. General Nonfiction:
    Awarded to “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II,” by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday), a precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity. Prize in Music:
    Awarded to “Double Sextet” by Steve Reich (Boosey & Hawkes), premiered on March 26, 2008 in Richmond, VA, a major work that displays an ability to channel an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event, built with masterful control and consistently intriguing to the ear.

2009 Pulitzer Prizes: Journalism

Here at Columbia journalism school for the 2009 Pulitzer Awards, I and the other reporters have asked administrator Sig Gissler several questions about accepting online-only entries for prizes. (None won this year). There will be more postings on that subject later, but in the meantime, here are the prizes.
(UPDATE: Our wire story, which ran a little while ago, notes the interesting nature of the Pulitzer gang gradually accepting online-only journalism as legitimate. It also notes that the financial crisis, arguably one of the biggest stories in the past year, failed to garner any nods. Not only that, The Wall Street Journal has not won a single Pulitzer since Murdoch bought parent company Dow Jones & Co. And in one final, bitter note: two winners have been laid off since they did the work that won them their prizes, Jeff Bercovici at reports.)

Pulitzer Prizes 2009 — journalism:

    Public Service:
    Las Vegas Sun — and “notably to the courageous reporting by Alexandra Berzon, for the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions.” Breaking News Reporting:
    The New York Times – Coverage of the sex scandal that resulted in the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Investigative Reporting:
    The New York Times – “Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.” Explanatory Reporting:
    Los Angeles Times – “Awarded to Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times for their fresh and painstaking exploration into the cost and effectiveness of attempts to combat the growing menace of wildfires across the western United States.” Local Reporting:
    Detroit Free Press – “And notably Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick for their uncovering of a pattern of lies by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick that included denial of a sexual relationship with his female chief of staff, prompting an investigation of perjury that eventually led to jail terms for two officials.” Local Reporting:
    East Valley Tribune – “Awarded to Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin… for their adroit use of limited resources to reveal, in print and online, how a popular sheriff’s focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of violent crime and other aspects of public safety.” National Reporting:
    St. Petersburg Times – “For PolitiFact, its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaing that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters. International Reporting:
    The New York Times staff – “For its masterful groundbreaking coverage of America’s deepening military and political challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, reporting frequently done under perilous conditions.” Feature Writing:
    St. Petersburg Times – “Awarded to Lane DeGregory… for her moving, richly detailed story of a neglected little girl, found in a roach-infested room, unable to talk or feed herself, who was adopted by a new family committed to her nurturing.” Commentary:
    The Washington Post – “Awarded to Eugene Robinson… for his eloquent columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focused on the election of the first African-American president, showcasing graceful writing and a grasp of the larger historic picture.” Criticism:
    The New York Times – “Awarded to Holland Cotter… for his wide ranging reviews of art, from Manhattan to China, marked by acute observation, luminous writing and dramatic storytelling.” Editorial Writing:
    The Post-Star, Glens Falls, New York – Awarded to “Mark Mahoney… for his relentless, down-to-earth editorials on the perils of local government secrecy, effectively admonishing citizens to uphold their right to know.” Editorial Cartooning:
    The San Diego Union-Tribune – “Awarded to Steve Breen… for his agile use of a classic style to produce wide-ranging cartoons that engage readers with power, clarity and humor.” Breaking News Photography:
    The Miami Herald – “Awarded to Patrick Farrell… for his provocative, impeccably composed images of despair after Hurricane Ike and other lethal storms caused a humanitarian disaster in Haiti.” Feature Photography:
    The New York Times – “Awarded to Damon Winter… for his memorable array of pictures deftly capturing multiple facets of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.”

Join MySpace, be a journalist

When News Corp appointed a senior executive last week to oversee a project to share news among its various properties, we didn’t realize that it was including MySpace. Well, maybe “including” is a bit too expansive a word, but check out this announcement that came from the online social network on Monday:

MySpace, the world’s leading online social portal, together with Fox News, today announced an exclusive partnership for the launch of the official MySpace uReport community at The partnership, the first between MySpace and Fox News, gives the global MySpace community the ability to share their citizen journalist-produced content with the MySpace community, as well as have the chance to be featured on Fox News.

Members of the MySpace uReport community can become “uReporters” by uploading video and photos tagged by specific news categories including USA, World, Entertainment and Politics. This content could be featured in relevant programming on Fox News Channel and, with Fox News maintaining editorial control of the MySpace page. The community will also feature profiles of Fox News anchors and hosts, allowing members to link to their favorite network personalities.

J.G. Ballard, 1930-2009: A man of modern media

Like many other 35-year-old readers, I discovered British author J.G. Ballard when Steven Spielberg directed a big-screen adaptation of his 1984 novel “Empire of the Sun” with Christian Bale and John Malkovich. One reason the movie was less than successful, I thought then and think now, was because of a salty, morbid tang that ran through the 1987 film’s depiction of Ballard’s semi-autobiographical memoir about growing up in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. This was not Spielberg saccharin, though it did shine through with the best aspects of his directing style.

It was David Cronenberg’s 1996 ice-cold film adaptation of Ballard’s 1973 novel “Crash” that really caught my attention. I still can’t tell if the book and the movie — an extremely non-erotic portrait of people who derive sexual thrills and much, much more profound satisfaction from smashing into each other in vehicles traveling at high speed — are nihilistic, fetishistic or a simple, violent story of science fiction happening right now. From there it was on to a series of images that haunt his fans to this day: drained swimming pools, nightmare auto collisions, dead astronauts waiting patiently to return to earth.

Cronenberg’s movie prompted me to start buying up Ballard’s novels and short stories over the next few years. In them, I discovered themes of psychological alienation in the modern world that persisted from his earliest short stories to his latest novels, written in the past decade. Many media outlets are discussing those themes elsewhere on Monday after Ballard died of cancer on Sunday, so I’ll leave them to it. Ballard’s themes — and there are too many to count here — are easy to pin down, but sometimes so simple that they elude easy understanding. He thrived on vague recesses of the human mind that require, thankfully, multiple readings of his books.

Big changes at The Washington Post

You could read the whole memo about changes at The Washington Post at Romenesko, or you could read the important parts more quickly here.

The bottom line, courtesy of the memo sent to employees on Thursday from Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and his top deputies, Liz Spayd and Raju Narisetti: Get stories out more quickly. Don’t worry about how you do it — on paper, a Blackberry or whatever. Just get it out there. And don’t slack on the writing and editing, please.

Excerpts from the memo:

Today, we are beginning a reorganization to create new reporting groups, streamline editing desks and anticipate the impending integration of our print and digital news operations. …  [W]e want to simplify the handling of words, pages, images and new media, building on the prescient move to “two-touch” editing under Len and Phil. Decisions about space and play must happen faster, both in print and online, and in a way that pulls together our now-separate newsrooms. A single editor ultimately ought to be able to oversee all versions of a story, whether it appears in print, online or on a BlackBerry or iPhone. Space in the newspaper and editing firepower in general should be allocated based on a day’s news priorities, not a predetermined formula.

Pay old-media execs to help you charge for new media

Three of the traditional media world’s brightest stars have a bright idea: Start a consultancy to help old-media companies charge for their content online. (And announce the venture in an old-media publication.)

From The Wall Street Journal’s website on Tuesday afternoon:

A trio of media executives is starting a firm to guide efforts by newspapers and other publishers to charge for content posted on their Web sites as advertising revenue tumbles.

The venture, Journalism Online LLC, is being led by Steven Brill, the founder of the American Lawyer magazine and Court TV; Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal; and cable-television veteran Leo Hindery.

USA Today: Paper goes well with Kindle

Before we get to the point of this blog post, let’s see what’s up with Gannett lately.

Its stock rocketed some 40 percent last week, something many experts and news outlets said was because a big investor doubled its stake because it thinks that Gannett’s newspapers might have a future. It rocketed again on Monday, though it’s down 20 percent today (Tuesday). Some of that’s likely because of short sellers covering their bets on the stock’s movements.

Not only that, the company rejected the latest overture from a possible buyer on its Tucson, Arizona paper, prolonging the agony over whether the paper will close or not. Quarterly earnings are on their way this week too, which the company already said would be less than hot. Finally, USA Today is going to show up in fewer hotel rooms now that Marriott said it will start offering customers the option to get no paper at all.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution needs its D.C. bureau

If you’re one of the biggest papers in the American southeast, not to mention the whole country, it’s good to have a few people in the nation’s capital. Just months after parent company Cox Newspapers ditched its D.C. bureau, much like many other newspaper publishers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is sending two of its people north.

The AJC — the 22nd-largest U.S. daily by weekday circulation and 13th largest by Sunday circulation — said on Monday that it named Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker as political columnist in Washington, D.C. Her job starts this summer. She will join Bob Keefe, who covers national politics and other Washington news that is relevant to Atlanta.

A quote from the release:

“Our nation is facing historic changes and challenges, and decisions made in D.C. and those who make them hold great interest for our audience,” said AJC Editor Julia Wallace.

Did *anyone* like the Los Angeles Times ads?

You have to hand it to Sam Zell and his band of outsiders at bankrupt media company Tribune Co. They are going to remake the newspaper business if it kills them.

The gang got broiled for a front-page ad that the Los Angeles Times ran last week that looked like an article. After that outcry, the Tribune-owned paper did it again, this time with another an ad supplement for Paramount’s movie, “The Soloist.” That one includes an interview with Steve Lopez, the Times columnist who wrote the book that became the movie. The ad also ran under the LA Times’s own banner.

As it turns out, nearly everyone who cares enough to talk about these ads in public despises them. You could have said that LA Times employees were just kvetching when they circulated a petition voicing their opposition to the ads — broke down and dispirited by bankruptcy, and repeated waves of layoffs, they stuck to the old line that there needs to be a distinction between ads and editorial copy for various ethical reasons.