MediaFile

Wall Street Journal finds friend in Chicago

…And we’re not talking about Tribune Chief Executive Sam Zell. We Mean Coleen Davison, private citizen, and resident of Chicago, Illinois.

The Wall Street Journal turned a letter from Davison, a former Chicago Tribune subscriber, into an advertisement — that it tried to run in the Trib. Trouble is, that paper declined to run the ad. Now, it’s running in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Trib’s rival.

Here’s some of her letter:

Our growing discontent with the Tribune’s diminishing quality became intolerable after their redesign last fall, and led us to explore other news options. We settled on the WSJ after perusing several different newspapers, even though neither my husband nor I are particularly involved in the financial world. … While the focus is obviously on the business sector, there is so much to be gleaned about our world from your reporting. Your journalists/contributors clearly know their subjects. Articles are presented articulately and coherently. Your coverage of world news and your human interest pieces are insightful, engaging and thought provoking. And I LOVE your editorial pages-just when I had begun to think common sense was a lost art, I’ve discovered the WSJ!

The ad then offers readers two free weeks of the Journal, along with a 75 percent discount.

A Chicago Tribune spokeswoman declined to comment on the ad. I asked Sun-Times spokeswoman Tammy Chase what she thought about the paper agreeing to run an ad knocking its competitor, but not even mentioning the Sun-Times as an option. She said it’s a business transaction, but in the spirit of good business, asked us to deliver this message to Ms. Davison:

Happy trails, Rocky Mountain News

EW Scripps Co’s decision to shut down Denver’s Rocky Mountain News as of Friday offers an interesting lesson about the value of news.

But first, a bit of background: It is not the first U.S. daily to fail as the economy falters. Scripps already put down two other papers in recent memory (Albuquerque, New Mexico and Cincinnati, Ohio, its home town). Having said that, it’s the biggest daily that I can think of to go under since the newspaper apocalypse crept in like Death in the Bosch painting. Not just bankrupt like Tribune’s papers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune or The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and the whole Journal Register stable — and not just threatened with closing like Hearst has done with the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It’s really over.

When it goes, William Dean Singleton’s Denver-based MediaNews Group will still publish the Denver Post. Still, half the printed news that Colorado residents have been used to reading will be gone.

Baltimore Sun feels Tribune cost cuts

Suburban bureau reporters at The Sun in Baltimore, Maryland, are about to learn the true meaning of the word “mobile.” The Tribune Co-owned paper is shutting down the last of its three suburban bureaus and bringing their reporters back to the main newsroom in Baltimore proper, sources told MediaFile on Tuesday.

The paper will outfit them with laptops and Blackberries and will send them back into the field to do their job by car or however else they can get to the story. It is part of wider changes going on at Tribune Co, which is in bankruptcy proceedings because of some $13 billion in debt that it has been unable to deal with because of the increasingly grim advertising sales plaguing newspapers.

Tribune’s chief executive, real estate magnate Sam Zell, was unhappy with the amount of empty space that The Sun has in downtown Baltimore, especially when considering all the space that the paper was renting in the suburbs, one of our sources says. The three bureaus that The Sun will shut down are in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties. The Sun’s bureaus in Carroll and Harford counties already closed in the past year. It’s not clear if the two are related, but the three bureaus shutting down now are traditional turf war zones with The Washington Post, which recently said it will begin cooperating with The Sun on some coverage in the counties.

In DC media, newspapers sink, niche outlets swim

The interests of the paranoid and the preservers of the free press are converging: Mainstream media’s coverage of Washington, D.C., has shrunk to the point where big stories are being left uncovered. Meanwhile, more “niche” media outlets are moving in, but catering to the interests of the wealthy few.

That’s the essence of a 28-page report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which says that the number of journalists covering D.C. at the beginning of the Obama administration “is not so much smaller as it is dramatically transformed.”

You can read Howard Kurtz’s narrative in Wednesday’s Washington Post, or you could take a look at the main points we found in the release, presented bullet-point style for busy folks.

Bold steps for helping newspapers (seriously)

Another good reason to read lots of newspapers: You end up coming across all sorts of crazy ways to save the newspaper business. One of the most interesting that we’ve found so far comes from The Dallas Morning News, where Lazard executive John Chachas lays out some bold steps that the U.S. government could take to help save the press. (No, we’re not talking about financial support or “bailouts”.)

As he says in his introduction:

By the end of this year, some of America’s biggest dailies may well be run by their lenders. There is little evidence that banks would serve us well as the chroniclers of the nation’s news.

That’s because ad revenue is diving, costs are fixed, debt is threatening to shut down publishers and the papers have not yet found a way to make more money. So what can the government do? Wake up, Chachas suggests:

Murdoch wants newspapers, just not The New York Times

Michael Wolff, author of the recently published Rupert Murdoch tell-all, “The Man Who Owns the News,” says that the News Corp chief executive would love to buy The New York Times. The only thing standing in his way is the Ochs-Sulzberger family which controls the Times. If they’re anything like the Bancrofts, former controllers of Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, only an insane amount of money might persuade them to let go of the prized but struggling newspaper publisher.

Or maybe Murdoch himself. Whatever the scuttlebutt is about Murdoch’s plans for the Times, he told reporters on Thursday that he’s not interested in buying it. Speaking on a conference call after the company reported dismal second-quarter results, he said it might not be good for his image:

“I’ve got no desire to be an even bigger public enemy.”

This, of course, refers to the charge leveled at him from London to New York to Hong Kong that he uses the papers and other media that he owns to advance his personal business interests.

Saving newspapers: The PR campaign

Brian Tierney doesn’t dispute that U.S. newspapers are in trouble; he just wants to know why they can’t tell the good side of the story. That led to this article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper he owns along with a group of investors:

The pundits and cynics who believe that newspapers are dead are dead wrong.

So says a small group of newspaper executives who this month organized an ad hoc group to alter perceptions and get the facts out…  Dubbed the Newspaper Project, the grassroots effort includes the CEO and publisher of Philadelphia Media Holdings, Brian P. Tierney. [And executives from Parade, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc and others --ed]

Acknowledging that the newspaper industry faces challenges, the group roundly rejects the notion that newspapers have no future.

Dark days in Hollywood

 If that notion of a recession-resistant entertainment industry hasn’t already been debunked, just get in touch with one of your pals out in Hollywood. They’ll tell you how bad it is — how jobs are disappearing.

Warner Brothers Entertainment is the latest to cut staff, announcing 800 jobs would be lost, or 10 percent of its worldwide staff.  NBC Universal and Viacom have already cut jobs, and industry watchers expect more job cuts to be announced by Walt Disney and Sony Pictures.

Perhaps more than other layoffs, the Warner Bros cuts send a signal of just how bad business look, The New York Times points out.

How much are those front-page Times ads?

Don’t ask The New York Times how much its new front-page display ads cost. The paper won’t say. That didn’t stop the New York Post from asking ad buyers. Here’s the answer based on anonymous sources:

$75,000 on weekdays and $100,000 on Sundays.

Assuming that the Post counts Saturday as a weekday, and assuming no discounts or other special deals (and assuming this blog post is not written by a reporter who nearly failed at least one high school math class), this works out to $28.6 million a year: $23.4 million for 52 weeks of Monday through Saturday and $5.2 million for a year’s worth of Sundays.

Despite the TImes’s silence, the ad cost sounds about right. The Wall Street Journal charges $90,000 for its front-page ads, not counting special discounts. Other details sound similar too. Here’s the Post:

Springsteen popping up in newspaper ads

How bad is the economy? New Jersey’s largest food bank is in danger of running short of groceries for the low income individuals and families who need them. How do we know this? A new advertising campaign featuring home-grown rock star and activist Bruce Springsteen.

The Springsteen advertisement for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey will be running in The New York Times, The Star-Ledger, The Bergen Record, and the Daily Record on Sunday, Nov. 16th.

The campaign is titled “We Can’t Let This Bank Fail” — a play, of course, on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and others — and comes amid worries that the current economic crisis will take a toll on charitable giving even as more folks need some help. The FoodBank says the sickly economy has driven a 30 percent state-wide rise in those needing food.