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Friday, February 27, 2009


The Rocky's 'Final Edition'

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

The decision to put the Rocky Mountain News up for sale was made two months ago.

That day, Laura Frank, an investigative reporter at the Rocky, observed the following:
"That was a difficult and shocking announcement. And do you know what the reaction of so many people in the newsroom was? To whip out a notebook and a pen and start taking notes. Now a few of us were writing about it, but not all of us. But that's what we do. It's in our DNA."
As has been said before on this site, we understand and admire that journalists have this sense of service, and these ethical boundaries that keep them from helping themselves. At every turn newspaper people are focused on serving the readers.

We also understand and admire why journalists are averse to signing petitions.

So we ask that you do the next best thing.

Do the thing you're best at.

Pass on what you know.

Teach your family and friends and neighbors why newspapers matter.

Explain to them that this is not about the medium of paper, but rather that it concerns the preservation of the news-gathering organizations we call newspapers.

Educate everyone around you about the crucial role newspapers play in democracy.

Help people see that newspapers are the tip sheets for every other form of media.

Show them that nobody else does what you do, and why our society will be lost without it.

Please help us spread the word.

And please, pass on our URL.

And, by the way, Laura Frank, you're now one of my heroes.

* Thank you to Matthew Roberts and everyone who put together this very well-done video tribute to the Rocky. As noted, it's hosted at Vimeo.

** Cross posted at Know Newspapers

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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- 30 -

Download pages from today's final edition at this link

— TJ Sullivan

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Thursday, February 26, 2009


Another Major Newspaper Closes

Graphic by TJ Sullivan
Sorry to say that our friends at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver will no longer have a newspaper after Friday's edition is put to bed.

The Rocky is closing.

From the Rocky Mountain News:
The Rocky Mountain News, less than two months away from its 150th anniversary, will be closed after a search for a buyer proved unsuccessful, the E.W. Scripps Co. announced today.

"Today the Rocky Mountain News, long the leading voice in Denver, becomes a victim of changing times in our industry and huge economic challenges," Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of Scripps, said in a prepared statement. "The Rocky is one of America’s very best examples of what local news organizations need to be in the future. Unfortunately, the partnership’s business model is locked in the past."

The Rocky has been in a joint operating agreement with The Denver Post since 2001. The arrangement approved by the U.S. Justice Department allowed the papers to share all business services, from advertising to printing, in order to preserve two editorial voices in the community.

However on December 4 Scripps announced it was putting up for sale the Rocky and its 50 percent interest in the Denver Newspaper Agency, the company that handles business matters for the papers, because it couldn’t continue to sustain its financial losses in Denver. Scripps said the Rocky lost $16 million in 2008.

I wish all my friends at the Rocky well and will keep them in my thoughts.

Among those I know who will lose their jobs tomorrow are several former Ventura County Star staffers: M.E. Sprengelmeyer, David Montero, Matt McLain and Chris Schneider.

Unfortunately, this is yet another sad reminder of why we need to educate people about what we're losing, and to join together in search of a solution before any more papers close. Please consider signing the petition at Know Newspapers

— TJ Sullivan in LA

*Cross posted at www.KnowNewspapersPetition.com.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


LA Times Headquarters Off the Market

— Photo by TJ Sullivan —
First of all, since the Los Angeles Times headquarters was never really ON the market it's hard to justify saying it's now off.

Secondly, I'm no expert on bankruptcy law, but, having reported at length on a few sizable BK filings, I have to ask how in the world Tribune Co. could have hoped to legally liquidate any significant assets at this point in its bankruptcy proceedings.

Nonetheless, Chicago Business is reporting that the Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co. has shelved its plans to sell the LA Times headquarters downtown and the Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago "because of cratering real estate prices and the company's late-year bankruptcy protection filing."

Here's a snippet from the story at Chicago Business:
Even in a good market, it would have been difficult to value the properties. Tribune Tower was completed in 1925 and contains about 526,000 square feet of usable office space. The five-building Times Mirror complex totals about 750,000 square feet and was built between the 1930s and the 1970s.

(via Romenesko and LA Observed)

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Last Rites for Frisco's Last Paper?

— Photo by TJ Sullivan —

It looks like San Francisco could lose its only remaining mainstream daily newspaper.

LA Observed points to a report published Tuesday on the Chronicle Web site that details an announcement by The Hearst Corp. warning of possible closure.

From the story in the Chronicle:
In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished "quickly" the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle. The Chronicle lost more than $50 million in 2008 and is on a pace to lose more than that this year, Hearst said.
Read the rest of the story at the Chronicle Web site.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers

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Monday, February 23, 2009


Los Angeleno Now Blogging From NYC

James Sims, a native Los Angeleno and CSUN alum who recently lamented the dearth of Los Angeles theater critics, has begun a blog of his own.

Currently a grad student in New York City at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Sims has begun blogging mostly about entertainment news at The Scoop. Having grown up on Hollywood backlots and movie sets, Sims ought to bring an informed perspective, and I'm not just saying that because he's one of my former students from CSUN.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
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Sunday, February 22, 2009


Are Newspaper Journalists to Blame?

Dear Newspaper Journalist,

You're misunderstood, not just in terms of how vital your newspapers are as news-gathering organizations, but for what you do, or, rather, what you don't do, or maybe just what people think you don't do on purpose.

Seriously, people don't get you.

Never mind what you know. Of course, you consider media conspiracy theories ridiculous, if only because your ranks are teeming with so many Type A personalities that even the mere whiff of a newsroom plot would result in a stampede for the exits with everyone vying to be the first to blow the whistle and win the Pulitzer.

Out there in the World Wide Web, however, it sounds like you're in cahoots to dupe the universe.

And that's not all. A lot of people also appear to believe you've got some mad desire to continue killing trees by maintaining paper as your primary news-delivery method, as though you're secretly addicted to those nauseating chemical solvent smells that so often waft from the press into the newsroom, as though you enjoy the added deadline stress of having some desk editor admonish you with statements like: "Those are union drivers waitin' out there, mister." As if ... as if ...

Paper? Good riddance.

No doubt, the Internet is both your industry's present and future, and you dominate the Web as much as you dominate the airwaves. Regardless of the medium, the overwhelming majority of mainstream news is first reported by newspapers, then followed by everybody else. Newspaper journalists mine the gold, and now you're getting the shaft.

The latest grim predictions are all but foregone conclusions. The former editor of The Des Moines Register Geneva Overholser, who is now the director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism, recently stated her best bet during an appearance on the KCET program SoCal Connected:
"We're going to have major American cities with no daily newspaper within the next year. I'm willing to bet quite a bit of money on that. We have newspapers for sale around the country in cities from Miami, to Denver, to Seattle, to San Diego, and no one wants to buy them."

You and Overholser surely see the colossal domino effect to come, not just for newspapers, but for all the other news organizations that harvest newspaper content, as well as for the democracy over which all you journalists keep watch.

Still, there are countless other bright people blissfully waving you goodbye.

"Shut up."

That's what Wonkette said a couple weeks ago in response to the petition launched to highlight your plight.

If it's sympathy and understanding you seek, you probably won't find it at blogs like Wonkette:
"What you’re so pathetically grieving is your fading culture, a masturbatory profession of over-educated overpaid typists who had a stranglehold on American journalism for 30 years or so ..."

The reader comments on that one were even less flattering.

Yet, as unreasonable as all that may seem to you, it's not the reason so few signatures have appeared on the petition that calls for a week-long blackout of all free-access newspaper Web sites.

The effort to emphasize your importance to society and democracy has gone viral.

The YouTube video explaining the petition's intent has logged more than 2,400 views. In addition, more than 45 different Web and print publications have either reported or opined on the petition's merits.

Some comments have even been favorable, though perhaps the most telling observation came from a journalist who blogs as scoopgirl. She says she expects to soon be counted among the casualties of budget cutbacks:
"Sadly, the people who run this industry (from the WSJ to the NYT to my own bosses) appear to be thinking in the short term for a new business model. The layoffs will help the bottom line, for now.

But with fewer reporters, there will be less news. We will lose those necessary eyes, for both our advertising purposes and our information purposes. It's a vicious cycle.

So, at the end of the day, I just don't know that I believe that a day without online news is the answer. Or maybe it is, for calling attention to a service many people take for granted.

Yet another point of view comes from Just Journalism, a blog that observes the "online petition has only attracted 163 signatures."

The current total is displayed in the box at right.

So, why so few signatures?

It's certainly possible that the idea proposed by the petition is more ridiculous than, say, asking people to work for free.

Or the reason could be you -- newspaper journalists.

From the onset, the petition effort was sure to be a difficult sell simply because journalists are so averse to putting their mark on anything resembling a petition.

Admirable as that standard may be, it's nonetheless a stumbling block for those seeking to draw attention to your cause.

If you're waiting on the suits and CEOs to save you ... well ... the layoff rolls are filled with the names of former newspaper journalists who were waiting on the same thing.

You must get actively involved in this, but, rather than ask you to go against your own code, how about this: What if all you had to do was what you do best?

What if all you had to do was to take the time to communicate this complex issue to those closest to you, to explain why newspapers matter to your wives and husbands, your mothers and fathers, your brothers and sisters, your best friends and neighbors?

That's it. Just explain and encourage them to pass on that wisdom to their friends and family. And, of course, it couldn't hurt to point all these people in the direction of the official petition Web site at KnowNewspapers.blogspot.com.

No ethical standards stand in the way of any of that. And, no doubt, you've probably been doing plenty of that for years already.

Do more of it.

Of course, the alternative is to let everyone else sort it out, including those who don't want anything more to do with your sort. Unlike you, however, they don't seem to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

— TJ Sullivan

Cross posted at LA Observed.

* KnowNewspapers.blogspot.com is the official site of the Web blackout petition.

"No News" logo by Will Sweat.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009


'Major Cities ... No Daily Newspaper'

*** Read about the Web blackout petition at this link ***

An interesting report about the online newspaper Voice of San Diego aired last week on the KCET program SoCal Connected.

Reported by Judy Muller, the segment included an interview with Geneva Overholser, former editor of The Des Moines Register and now director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism.

Newspaper journalists in particular ought to be interested in Overholser's prediction for the year to come:
"We're going to have major American cities with no daily newspaper within the next year. I'm willing to bet quite a bit of money on that. We have newspapers for sale around the country in cities from Miami, to Denver, to Seattle, to San Diego, and no one wants to buy them."

Related: The Web blackout petition.

* Cross-posted at LA Observed.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Murder of Russian Reporter Still Unsolved

The New York Times reports that a Moscow jury has acquitted three men accused of having a hand in the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

The murder of Politkovskaya was particularly brazen and, considering the evidence, likely tied to her reporting. Another reporter from Politkovskaya's newspaper was shot this year, on Jan. 19.

From The New York Times story:
Ms. Politkovskaya was a strident critic of the Kremlin, and her killing in 2006 underlined the shrinking freedom allowed dissenters in Russian society. Investigators and colleagues concluded that someone had ordered her death to silence her, and some suspected the hand of state officials in the crime.

But the three men who were tried on murder charges in a cramped courtroom this winter were peripheral figures: two shaggy-haired young Chechen brothers accused of acting as a lookout and a driver for the suspected triggerman, who has never been arrested, and a former police investigator accused of organizing logistics for the killing.

Read the rest of the story at The New York Times.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Theater Without Critics ... Absurd

— photo courtesy James Sims —
James Sims, a Columbia University journalism grad student and a native Los Angeleno, laments the loss of theater critics at some of LA's largest newspapers in a piece at BroadwayWorld headlined "Death of a Theatre Critic."

Sims, who attended one of my journalism courses a couple years ago as an undergrad at CSUN, brings an interesting perspective to the issue, having grown up on the backlots and production sets of Hollywood, as well as having worked as a theater critic in LA for an online publication before heading east to further his education at Columbia.

Here's a snippet from his piece at BroadwayWorld:
The three stalwarts of Los Angeles theatre, Sheldon Epps of the Pasadena Playhouse, Gilbert Cates of the Geffen Playhouse and Michael Ritchie of Center Theatre Group, recently took to the airwaves and discussed the loss of critics at local papers. While many fine points were made, it was Cates' suggestion of resorting to peer-review amongst his lot that was troubling. Lending a critical voice to those that stand to financially profit from a commercial success begins to look like a slippery slope. Would Jack Warner writing reviews of MGM's films have served the public? I can picture it now. "'The Wizard of Oz' is a competent piece of celluloid, but you would be better served saving your money in these hard times, as we have a real hit coming your way next week."

A critic must stand alone, unaffected by any controlling interests or pressures to valiantly inform their reader. "It is only by remaining collected, and refusing to lend himself to the point of view of the practical man, that the critic can do the practical man any service," wrote Matthew Arnold.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Monday, February 16, 2009


New Mexico in Black & White

— Photo by TJ Sullivan —

I've been scanning in the negatives of photos I shot back in the early 1990s in New Mexico. A few are online at this link.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Press for the Petition

*** Read about the Web blackout petition at this link ***

The Web blackout petition is scheduled to be discussed Wednesday afternoon on Crosstalk with host Jim Rondeau at KCLU 88.3 FM. The show airs from 1-2 p.m. and the segment about the petition is likely to occur during the last quarter hour.

[Listen online]

Also scheduled to appear on Crosstalk Wednesday is Judy Muller, a correspondent for the KCET program SoCal Connected. Muller is expected to discuss her upcoming report, set to air Thursday evening, about the online newspaper Voice of San Diego.

Regarding the petition ...

Several publications have requested interviews. One published its story Wednesday at Journalism.co.uk, an edited Q&A conducted via e-mail by London-based reporter Laura Oliver.

Many other blog posts about the petition have also been published, though the variations are extreme. Online publications that appeal to the American journalism industry have represented the effort accurately. But some sites that write for a more general audience have misrepresented the petition's purpose as an effort to save newsprint, which is not the case. The goal of the petition is to raise awareness about the crisis facing the news-gathering organizations we call "newspapers." It's got nothing to do with saving the medium of paper. Clearly the future of newspapers is the Internet.

Such misunderstandings only serve to underscore the need to make online readers aware that newspapers account for the bulk of online news content, which is the goal of conducting a week-long blackout of all non-pay-access Web sites run by newspapers and The Associated Press.

Because most people access newspaper content online, where it's often stripped of its brand and repackaged by countless unassociated providers, the public perceives the news it consumes as being free, when, in fact, more often than not, a newspaper reporter either wrote the stories, or reported the original versions that some other entity rewrote. The news, like the water that comes out the taps in people's homes, does not inspire those who consume it to determine from where it comes, unless it is tainted, or fails to flow. I'd prefer not to wait until more newspapers fail and the news stops flowing.

More about the petition is at this link, including a list of links to the many other posts that have been published in response.

Related: Save your newspaper via 'The Daily Show'

Related Event: SPJ/LA Panel Discussion, 6:30 pm Wednesday Feb. 18 — Imagine a City Without a Newspaper

— TJ Sullivan in LA

*Cross posted at LA Observed.

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Monday, February 09, 2009


Save Your Newspaper via 'The Daily Show'

*** Read about the Web blackout petition at this link ***

Walter Isaacson, author of this week's TIME magazine cover story about saving newspapers, appeared as a guest Monday on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Isaacson makes a similar case to the one made in the petition to persuade newspapers (and the AP) to pull the plug on their non-pay-access Web sites for one week this summer. It's not about saving "newsprint." It's about saving newspapers as news-gathering organizations.

Jon Stewart's intro:
I couldn't think of a more worthy cause. I love the newspaper. There's nothing better ... but how do we do it?

A potential solution:
Jon Stewart: What about giving it more of a cable TV or a radio model ... because the aggregators are the ones. The Huffington Post ... the Drudge Report ... Those ones that link to the reporters, that don't do reporting of their own, but link.

Walter Isaacson: Right. The aggregators are getting the bulk of the ad dollars right now.

Jon Stewart: Right. Why not do licensing deals, like they're 'a radio station' and you're 'the artist.' Do it like 'hits' are 'spins,' and make those deals. Like it's a cable model. Or it's a radio model.

And that may explain why Web entrepreneurs like Ken Layne at Wonkette appear to be so upset that we're talking about this.

("The Daily Show" via The E&P Pub)

Related Event: SPJ/LA Panel Discussion, 6:30 pm Wednesday Feb. 18 — Imagine a City Without a Newspaper

— TJ Sullivan in LA

*Cross posted at LA Observed.

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Friday, February 06, 2009


What if Newspapers Didn't Exist for a Week?

The Petition ...

Thomas Jefferson did not wish to become a wolf.

Odd as that may sound today considering all the good he did his country, Jefferson worried about the possibility, so much so that, while on a trip to Europe in 1787, one of his letters home became a kind of dissertation about the people he'd seen transformed into "wolves and sheep" along the way.

Cloaked in the garb of government, Jefferson wrote, the leaders of Europe had managed to divide their nations into two distinct classes -- "wolves and sheep" -- with the ruling class preying upon everyone else.

It was, Jefferson figured, the result of the public's inattention, an inevitability wherever government was permitted to exist absent a free press.
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Those words appeared in Jefferson's letter to Edward Carrington, a Virginia statesman who was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In it, Jefferson went on to say that, without newspapers, he feared the American public would stop paying attention to their government. Once that happened it was only a matter of time before Jefferson, the Congress, and the whole of the American government turned into a pack of wolves preying upon sheep.

Wolves and sheep. You don't have to be a Jeffersonian scholar to comprehend what it means.

Yet, here we find ourselves more than 222 years later in the midst of a newspaper crisis that TIME magazine says has reached "meltdown proportions," meaning our transformation into wolves and sheep may soon be a foregone conclusion, and still the majority of the American public appears oblivious.

Many newspapers have closed. Buyouts and layoffs have decimated once great institutions of American journalism. And despite all that, some of the craziest last-ditch efforts you ever could have imagined are being implemented in the effort to stave off death.

- The Los Angeles Times has killed its local news section.

- The Gannett newspaper chain has put its newspaper employees on mandatory five-day furloughs.

- The Detroit New and The Detroit Free Press have ceased daily home delivery.

These aren't sane measures. Indeed, had anyone suggested such things two years ago they'd have been branded a lunatic. But as we approach panic mode, even remotely plausible ideas seem worth a shot.

TIME magazine's cover story this week, a very thought-provoking piece written by Walter Isaacson (a former TIME managing editor, and president and CEO of the Aspen Institute), suggests the solution may be to charge readers for access:
"Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for an article or a dime for that day's full edition or $2 for a month's worth of Web access. Some surfers would balk, but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough."

Simple enough, except that, as Isaacson points out, it's not new. Writers have been charging readers for news since paper put cave walls out of business, but, despite that, prior attempts to make readers pay in the wired world of the World Wide Web haven't gone over very well.

Which brings us right back to where we've been for years while, in the meantime, another newspaper (Denver's Rocky Mountain News) rages against the dying of the light.

No more.

It's time to do something drastic.

It's time to do more than join another Facebook pledge group, or promote a campaign like National Buy A Newspaper Day, or to purchase some overpriced t-shirts emblazoned with the message "Save a journalist, buy a newspaper."

It's time to admit that, regardless of how many readers may be clicking through newspaper content for free on the Internet, newspapers don't matter to those readers because Jefferson's concerns aren't on their radar. They've got enough to worry about. They've got jobs of their own. They've got this much time to read blog X, Y and Z, and click their way over to the paper and back, or not, or whatever, but there's no compelling reason for them to stop and think about what would happen if the newspapers providing all that news ceased to exist.

To the average reader wolves and sheep are little more than characters in a fairy tale.

It's not that Americans don't care. It's simply a matter of human nature. Until the discomfort reaches the readers -- at which point it will be too late -- there's no motivation for them to get involved in finding a solution.

Clearly newspapers can't solve this alone. They've had years. They're lost. And, at this stage, asking for directions isn't enough to put them back on track.

Now is the time for newspapers to do something proactive; time for them to demonstrate what life would be like without them.

It's time for every daily newspaper in the United States, in cooperation with the Associated Press, to shut down their free Web sites for one week.

Yes. Shut it down. Blank screen. Nothing.

Of course, news would still be reported daily in every newspaper's printed product. No editor, or reporter or publication would dare shirk their watchdog responsibilities. This isn't about stopping the presses.

But the Web? People can do without news on the Web for a week. They won't like it. They'll complain about it. But, that's exactly what has to happen before they can be expected to care.

Pulling the plug gets their attention.

So, here's the proposal: At the stroke of midnight on Independence Day, Saturday July 4, all daily newspapers ought to switch off their Web sites until Friday, July 10.

Call it "A Week Without a Virtual Newspaper." Call it crazy. Call it costly. Call it whatever you want, but it's no more drastic a measure than asking people to work for free. [The petition is available online at this link.]

A move like this puts the crisis where it ought to be, front and center at the top of every newscast. It makes it impossible for anyone to deny where the majority of news content comes from, and why it matters. For without virtual newspapers, what would Drudge report? What would Huffington post? What would Google News and Yahoo News and all those cut-and-paste blogs that get so much of their material from newspapers have to offer if newspapers went away?

Not that there's anything wrong with public affairs blogs, aggregate news sites, or any other online entity that makes use of newspaper reports. The point of pulling the plug for one week isn't to harm them, but to emphasize the origin of all that news content, and why everyone should care about protecting that source.

Pulling the plug is perhaps the only way to make people outside of journalism sit up and take notice that this isn't about jobs in journalism, but American Democracy.

It's about wolves and sheep. Wolves and sheep.

-- TJ Sullivan

*Cross posted at LA Observed

** Update: Similar thoughts from Jay Smith, former CEO of Cox Newspapers.

***Related Event: SPJ/LA Panel Discussion, 6:30 pm Wednesday Feb. 18 — Imagine a City Without a Newspaper

51 Posts About the Petition:

- Romenesko at Poynter.org

- Fitz & Jen

- Editor & Publisher

- Columbia Journalism Review - The Kicker

- Media Musings - Claudia Meléndez Salinas

- News Me Baby

- Jay Rosen

- David Hauslaib's Jossip

- Parent Talk Today

- Wonkette

- Jon Slattery, A Freelance Journalist ... London

- JoshShear.com

- Matters of Varying Insignificance

- The American Scene

- Karen Pierce Gonzalez

- Journalista, The Comics Journal Weblog

- Blogstipated by Audrey

- Crook's Shadow

- Journalism.co.uk

- Journalism.co.uk -- Q&A

- Elizabeth Nolan Brown

- Prof. Kobre's Guide to Videojournalism

- Randi Rhodes Message Board

- Typos & Tribulations by Mikel LeFort

- Andrew Sullivan/The Daily Dish

- Scooping the News

- The Same Rowdy Crowd

- Editors Weblog

- Someday, all jobs will be Odd Jobs

- Random Mumblings

- Vin Crosbie

- Virtualjournalist

- Brian Blum @ Aim Group

- Society of Professional Journalists: SPJ News

- Darren He

- Just Journalism

- Ink-Drained Kvetch

- Agence France-Presse (AFP)

- Les Jones: A Bouquet of Weeds

- milne media

- scoopgirl

- Angelswin.com

- The Exception

- What's New in News

- Pasadena News Weekly


- The Heights

- Newspaper Death Watch

- Craig Smith

- Bangkok Bugle

- Huffington Post

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Clay Owen, A True Southern Gentleman

Clay Owen was an accomplished photojournalist who worked at the Knoxville News-Sentinel for the past 17 years, a truly rare commitment for someone so talented in an industry that rewards those who leave far more often than it does those who stay put.

To those lucky enough to have known him at any point in his life, Clay Owen was an upbeat, generous, and truly kind human being. A southern gentleman of the highest caliber.

Clay died at home unexpectedly Tuesday of an apparent heart attack. He was 47.

I had the pleasure of working with Clay and his wife Jackie while we were all student journalists at UK in the 1980s.

He will be greatly missed.

As far as Clay's history in Los Angeles goes ... He won a coveted summer internship at the Los Angeles Times in 1987, along with fellow photojournalist Alan Lessig, and sportswriter Todd Jones, all of whom were University of Kentucky students at the time.

A blog has been set up by a friend of Clay's in the hope that friends will post memories of him there. It's at FriendsOfClayOwen.blogspot.com.

From the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
In more than 17 years at the News Sentinel, Mr. Owen's work was honored in numerous professional competitions. Last fall, his photograph of an Army National Guard helicopter pilot greeting a young pen pal won a regional award from the National Press Photographers Association.

His talents provided readers with images ranging from feature stories (such as last week's Knox County Spelling Bee) to project work (last year's look at hunger in East Tennessee and an upcoming examination of efforts to relieve homelessness) to artistically executed images for our Food & Home pages.

Mr. Owen also was the regular partner of now-retired senior writer Fred Brown in the Appalachian Journal series, in which they roamed East Tennessee to bring readers a peek into life off the beaten path.

"It was Clay Owen's kind smile and gentle way that was the key to our success," Brown wrote in a tribute for knoxnews.com.

Projects editor John North was perhaps the last colleague to consult with Mr. Owen, reviewing his photographs for the homelessness series Tuesday evening.
Also, NPPA has an article up on its Web site.

Clay also had a Facebook page, though you must be a member to view it. Not sure if it can be viewed by those outside his network, or outside his approved friends list.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Shandling: Weathermen Never Say 'Sorry'

Garry Shandling was interviewed on Tavis Smiley Tuesday night, an exchange that nearly had me laughing on the floor. Of course, it's impossible to synopsize a 30-minute interview with someone as creative (and, therefore, as tangentially impaired) as Shandling, especially when the interviewer is as adept as Smiley (who's so skilled at heading off the boring tangents and letting the promising ones run themselves out).

One of my favorite comments was a criticism of the lack of accountability among both Los Angeles weather forecasters and the administration of former US President G. W. Bush.

Although the weather bit is not part of the clip above, it is in the transcript and also available online in audio form at this link. Here's the gist of it from the transcript:
... You have Bush saying, "Mission accomplished," as he's landing on an aircraft carrier in a camouflage suit. It's a cartoon. I'm sorry; I actually get upset with hypocrisy like that. I don't even like when the weather man on TV gets the temperatures wrong and he doesn't the next day say, "Sorry." (Laughter)

Because I'm prepared for whatever he says. They don't take responsibility.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009


First I've Heard Anything Like This ... Ever

A US president who admits a mistake, takes personal responsibility for it, and emphasizes why the appearance of impropriety is a serious matter ...

Good God! This is better than last night's dream about biting into a gold coin as Padma Lakshmi spoon-fed me Colcannon on a bed of wild Irish roses.

Don't you dare wake me!

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Did Costco Scanners Save Me?

I had a nice talk with Los Angeles Times Daily Dish reporter/blogger Mary MacVean today about the robo call I received a couple weeks ago from Costco about the peanut butter recall and some energy bars I purchased.

From the LA Times Daily Dish:
One Costco customer who got an automated call was T.J. Sullivan, a writer and blogger (who has been published in The Times). He said he bought some energy bars about five months ago for his car earthquake kit and didn't think about them when he heard about the recalls.

So he was grateful for Costco's calls. But he also said he has worried about all the information that's collected. What if, he said, Costco is someday owned by a healthcare provider who bases its premiums or coverage on the amount of alcohol or cheese or dairy he buys?

"I am concerned about how it could be misused one day, but in this instance it's a good thing," he said.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Monday, February 02, 2009


What I'm Listening To ...

Satin Sheets
By Willis Alan Ramsey (Cover by Shawn Colvin)

I wish I was a millionaire
Play rock music and grow long hair
Tell ya boys
I'd buy a new Rolls-Royce

Pretty women callin' me
Give ‘em all the third degree
Give ‘em satin sheets
And keep ‘em off the streets

Hallelujah! What's it to ya
Praise the Lord, and pass the mescaline
Praise Jehovah
He'll come over
As soon as you see me boogie-woogie across the silver screen

Hang ‘em high, hang ‘em low
Put ‘em in the ceilings wherever I go
And they'd swing all the night
From the rafter light

Hallelujah! We'll sock it to ya,
You got your coffee and me I got my Spanish tea
Praise Jehovah,
Maybe he'll come over
As soon as you see me playing my calliope

I wish I was a millionaire
Play rock music and grow long hair
Tell ya boys
I'd buy a new Rolls-Royce

— TJ Sullivan in LA


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Budget-Cuts Humor Falls Short

Maybe this isn't a good time for cryptic tagline jokes like the one that appeared at the end of a Super Bowl story in Monday's Los Angeles Times:
(Editor's note: This review has been ended because of cutbacks. We wish the writer success in his future endeavors.)

Apparently, as explained at LA Observed, it references a gag in a Bud-Light commercial that aired during the game, and is mentioned at the end of the story.

Some readers, however, might have assumed otherwise after the massive staff cuts that the newspaper has endured, including the recent elimination of the local-news section.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Beverly Hills Values Down Nearly $1 Mil

— Photo by TJ Sullivan —
Homeowners on the Westside have started to lose some of the tremendous values they've built up during the past 10 years, according to a story in Monday's Los Angeles Times.

Anecdotally, I've noticed many Westside properties sitting on the market since the start of fall, most of them condos, and some despite price reductions of more than 20 percent from when they first listed.

The report in the Times says the latest data indicates values dropped 26 to 30 percent in the last few months of 2008.

From the story:
The median price of a single-family home in Beverly Hills was $2.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, down from $3 million in the second quarter, according to data prepared for The Times by research firm MDA DataQuick. Pacific Palisades closed the year with a median price of $2.2 million, down from a high of $2.6 million during the second quarter, and Santa Monica's median was $1.6 million, down from $2.1 million last winter.

Even among the merely well-off in Culver City, prices have come down, to $647,500, 17% below the peak. In ZIP Code 90035, just south of Beverly Hills, the median sale price had been more than $1 million for most of 2007 but fell in the fourth quarter of 2008 to $800,000.

Some of the quotes from the real estate industry in the story would be funny if the subject matter wasn't so sad. Many Los Angeles real estate agents long considered much of the Westside immune to economic downturns and would dismiss anyone who suggested otherwise as simply ill-informed. Now, however, they're connecting the dots, or dominoes, as one tier of the market affects the one after that, and the one after that, and ...

It's bad news all around.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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