MediaFile

Tribune Co papers hit where it hurts, Baltimore Sun slashed

Tribune Co keeps the layoffs coming at its newspapers as the media company moves through the bankruptcy court process.

The Sun: Over in Baltimore, we heard from a source that 21 editors — including most of the metro editing staff and two top editorial editors — were herded into offices and told they had to exit the building immediately. Editor & Publisher confirms this report and says more cuts might be coming as soon as today. Perhaps there’s a strategy in there, but it’s hard to tell what it is when most big-city dailies have abandoned their ambitious overseas reporting goals, saying their real value to the community is their local reporting franchise. UPDATE: Looks like at least 40 more people are getting laid off as we speak, according to two sources I just spoke to at 3pm eastern.

And another UPDATE: A Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild memo says a whopping 27 percent of the Sun’s staff is getting laid off.

Excerpt from the memo:

“Tribune, through careless management practices, has saddled itself under $13 billion in debt and now Baltimore is paying a price,” said Cet Parks, Executive Director of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. “Tribune is siphoning good jobs from Baltimore and sending work that talented editors, reporters, photographers, copy editors and designers have done here to its home base in Chicago. That is not right.”

Tribune plans to lay off the 40 newsroom employees by May 27. Targeted employees, who include four columnists, photographers, critics and copy editors, received hand delivered letters Wednesday afternoon signed by Monty Cook, senior vice president and editor. Also, in the last two weeks The Sun has laid off seven employees in other departments including advertising and customer service.

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.

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 Portfolio.com 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.”

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.

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.

L.A. Times staffers fume over front-page ad

The decision by the Los Angeles Times to run a front-page ad that looks like a news story has raised eyebrows in media circles. LAT staffers, meanwhile, are raising their pitchforks.

Horrified by what they see as a deceptive blurring of the line between paid advertising and news stories, some 100 employees at the paper have signed a petition to Publisher Eddy Hartenstein “strenuously” objecting.

“This place already had horrible morale problems with decimating layoffs, but now to have our publisher whore out the front page is more than we can stand,” one editorial staff member told Reuters. “It blurs the line between paid content and content that our reporters are producing.”

Tribune gets on Connecticut AG’s bad side

I’ve written before about the government extending aid of one sort or another to newspapers, particularly in Connecticut. Today’s semi-flip entry also takes place there.

Media-friendly state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is threatening Tribune Co with a reading of the media ownership rules riot act over its decision to consolidate its television operations in Hartford with the Hartford Courant. He’s none too happy with the bankrupt publisher/broadcaster’s plans because they could result in job losses. He asked Tribune Chief Executive Sam Zell some pointed questions about Tribune’s plans in Hartford, Here is a PDF of the letter:

Tribune Letter Publish at Scribd or explore others:

How much is Google to blame for newspapers’ woes?

The Web is abuzz over Eric Schmidt’s speech on Tuesday at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual meeting in San Diego — a speech, as the New York Times points out, in which the Google leader sidestepped any controversy and instead delivered “a lengthy discourse on the importance of newspapers and the challenges and opportunities brought about by technologies like mobile phones.”

So why all the fuss? Because newspapers are in deep trouble, and Google is an easy target for blame. The web search leader is weathering the recession relatively well and some have argued that Google News is making money off the back of newspaper publishers.

As Reuters puts it, “Some journalists have complained that search engines run by Google and Yahoo Inc make millions of dollars off their news, and that it should belong to them instead.”