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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Thanks, But No Thanks, Sen. Cardin*

US Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, has proposed a way for Washington D.C. to assist in the recovery of the American newspaper industry.

His idea is to exempt newspapers from that most American of burdens — tax payments on everything from revenue to charitable contributions (should anyone happen to be so civic-minded as to donate money to save a newspaper). To take advantage of this offer, however, a newspaper would have to operate as a non-profit.

Although newspapers could continue most of their primary functions (like keeping a watchful eye on U.S. Senators like Cardin), they wouldn't be allowed to make political endorsements. That's a no-no in the tax code.

Of course, even if they were allowed to editorialize as non-profits, they'd best abstain, at the very least, from editorializing on issues involving taxation (considering the obvious hypocrisy).

The following quote from Cardin's statement appears at AdAge.com:
"We are losing our newspaper industry," Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D.-Md., said in a statement. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."

Sure, there are already a couple non-profit newspapers in operation without the aid of such a law. Besides that, Cardin is not the first elected official to express concern for the threat posed to democracy by dying newspapers, and with good reason.

Much as politicians love to complain about "the media," they know full well that without ethically bound, professional newspaper journalists, the ability of elected officials to communicate with constituents would be limited to two-minute TV reports, radio talk show blather, and an Internet so full of pundits and patent lunatics that it's damned hard to find serious news bloggers (or whatever the term is this week for unaccredited, unaffiliated, smart, reporter-like writers who publish online).

Surely all of Washington is wondering where officeholders will turn in the future when their complicated piece of legislation is being misconstrued and misunderstood in 30-second sound bites. Or, perhaps more importantly: Who do you sic on a crooked opponent if not a newspaper reporter willing to invest weeks digging through records and receipts?

Seriously. The CBS program 60 Minutes only has 60 minutes a week (less than that if you discount the air consumed by Andy Rooney). And lest some think Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are capable of carrying such water, think again. Both come with far too much of their own baggage to carry anything for anyone else.

As much as Americans love to hate their local newspaper, deep down most people (especially the ones seated near the center of the aisle) have always believed that they could trust the paper more than any other source.

Which is precisely the problem with ideas like this.

As I've said before, government assistance of any kind won't wash with the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics, particularly the sections of the code that call upon journalists to:
* Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived ...

* Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility ...

* Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity

I have no reason to doubt that Sen. Cardin's intentions are anything but honorable, but that doesn't matter. Should he succeed in saving newspapers this way in the short term, he will most certainly kill them in the long run.

Should this legislation pass, all subsequent non-profit newspaper coverage of Cardin and his Congressional colleagues would be tainted by a public perception of reciprocation.

No bad news would be bad enough, and good news would always be considered a quid pro quo.

It matters little that no such thing is being requested, nor offered. Perception in this situation is reality (and I haven't even addressed the First Amendment issues).

It's easy to guess where all this is going.

So, thanks, Sen. Cardin, but no thanks. The newspaper industry can only be hurt by government assistance.

* Post updated/corrected 10:30 pm PDT

More at Fitz & Jen.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Thursday, March 19, 2009


President Barack Obama in the OC

All Photos by TJ Sullivan © 2009 -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

As noted at LA Observed, I've uploaded 23 of the photos I shot Wednesday during President Barack Obama's visit to Orange County, CA.

Visit the index page at this link. Once there, click photos to view larger version.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Monday, March 16, 2009


Pelosi Says Frisco Paper Must Survive

San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, is troubled about the potential loss of the San Francisco Chronicle, so much so that she's reportedly urged the US Department of Justice to consider being more flexible with regard to merging or consolidating business operations.

In addition, she said the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy will soon hold a hearing on the newspaper crisis and the potential for antitrust laws to complicate possible solutions.

Here's the gist from the Chronicle's Web site, SFGate:
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, released by Pelosi's office late Monday, the San Francisco Democrat asked the department to weigh the public benefit of saving The Chronicle and other papers from closure against the agency's antitrust mission to guard against anti-competitive behavior.

"We must ensure that our policies enable our news organizations to survive and to engage in the news gathering and analysis that the American people expect," Pelosi wrote.

The speaker said the issue of newspapers' survival and antitrust law will be the subject of a hearing soon before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, chaired by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.

Pelosi's spokesman, Brendan Daly, said the speaker was moved by the recent announcement by the Hearst Corp., the parent company of The Chronicle, that it would be forced to sell or close the paper if it could not achieve major cost-savings quickly. Hearst has said the paper lost $50 million last year and that this year's losses will likely be worse.

Read the rest of the story at SFGate.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Saturday, March 14, 2009


Government Aid ... for Newspapers?

Graphic by TJ Sullivan
MediaFile at Reuters lists several different attempts at providing government aid for newspapers, which sounds a little like the Woodsman taking a loan from the Big Bad Wolf.

Watch out, Red.

Here's a snippet from Robert MacMillan's post:
The last time I mentioned the word “bailout” in connection with newspapers, I caught my fair share of flak from the conservative blogosphere for even entertaining the notion. I also caught a few rounds from Connecticut lawmakers who thought that I was suggesting their attempt to help secure tax breaks for struggling newspapers amounted to a bailout.

Having said that, it looks like Washington state is getting into the aid game as Hearst Corp weighs killing its Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

Read the rest at Reuters.

*Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Friday, March 13, 2009


Eli Broad: 'You Can't Afford to Lose'

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad explains why "you can't afford to lose newspaper journalism."

(via 92Y, MediaMemo and Fitz & Jen)

*Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Thursday, March 12, 2009


'NPR is Cancelling All Newspaper Subscriptions'

If this is an early April Fool's joke, it's not very funny.

Romenesko at Poynter.org posted a copy of a memo Thursday from National Public Radio.

The subject line — "saving money."

The gist:
"As of April 1 NPR is cancelling all newspaper subscriptions."
Not that newspapers mind serving as tip sheets for radio and TV, among others, but, as observed by LA Observed, now these guys are going to be taking it for free.

Read the full memo at Poynter.org.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Paper Cuts Put Boxers On the Ropes

The decline of boxing is a side effect of the newspaper crisis.

So says Kevin Iole, a columnist for Yahoo! Sports, and I'm inclined to agree.

As Iole explains, the fight game is in decline despite the existence of several thriving boxing Web sites.

The reason — Never underestimate the power of a good sports section.

Newspaper sports sections aren't simply popular because they cover sports. They're popular because they employ skilled professional writers who know how to speak to all readers, not just sports fanatics. Of course, not every sports section is good at this, but most of them are, and the ones that do it well not only look to feed the fans, but to educate new ones.

Much as the dictum "no cheering in the press box" has become a cliche, it's as true as it ever was. Sports writers can't be cheerleaders and reporters at the same time. Without a doubt, for every reader attracted by boosterism, hundreds more are put off by it.

The same is true for movie reviews, music reviews, theatre reviews, etc ...

Readers love to hear about a genuine winner, and good newspapers love to tell those kinds of tales. Stories like that generate excitement. They entertain. They can even bring communities together. It's just one more example of the crucial role newspapers play in American life.

It's also another good reason to spread the word about why we should all care about the crisis facing newspapers.

But don't just take my word for it. Here's a snippet from Kevin Iole's column:
“It’s hard to have a star when the sport is almost completely neglected by newspapers,” said Michael Katz, late of the New York Times and New York Daily News and one of the finest boxing writers ever. “Most newspaper sports editors don’t have a clue about boxing and don’t even consider it when they’re planning their coverage.”

The sport has a thriving following on the Internet, where there is more information available than ever before. There is a website in which you can access the fight-by-fight record of nearly every boxer ever. There are websites that breathlessly deliver even the most mundane boxing news.

There are tremendous amounts of video of boxing available on the web and there are forums where fans can chat about it all day and all night.

The problem is, most of the fans who go to those sites are already hardcore fans.

“The websites are basically preaching to the converted,” said Katz, who is semi-retired and living in Las Vegas.

There aren’t, though, newspaper reporters who are spending the time to learn the fighters and who make the boxers larger-than-life figures to the readers of the paper. It was common many years ago for beat writers to stay in a fighter’s camp the entire time he was in training, just as baseball’s beat writers now make the annual trek to either Florida or Arizona to chronicle spring training.

Read the rest at Yahoo! Sports.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Big Cuts for Calfornia 'Bee' Papers

The Miami Herald, which is owned by the McClatchy Co., announced Wednesday that it plans to cut 19 percent of its staff -- that's 175 positions -- as well as require weeklong, unpaid furloughs and salary reductions for those who remain.

Salary reductions are planned to be as high as 10 percent for employees earning more than $50,000 a year.

The Herald's publisher, David Landsberg, is reported to have said the following in an e-mail to employees:
''About 175 employees will lose their jobs as a result, and we will eliminate another 30 vacant positions, for a total reduction of 205. Reductions will occur in all areas of our operation and at every level in the organization ...''

[Snip ...]

"While there will be tightening of news pages on various days, we have worked hard to maintain our newspapers at the quality level our readers have come to expect.''

Meanwhile McClatchy Watch has been keeping tally of the layoff announcements at several other McClatchy papers, including The Fresno Bee, which reported Wednesday that it will lay off 63 staffers, reduce salaries, eliminate management bonuses, and make other unstated changes to reduce newsprint costs.

Other McClatchy cuts in California include those taking place at The Sacramento Bee, where 128 jobs will be eliminated -- about 11 percent.

The Modesto Bee expects to cut 11 newsroom employees, and wages will be cut by 2 percent to 10 percent for most of the remaining staff.

Another McClatchy paper, The Kansas City Star, reported that it expects to cut about 150 positions, or 15 percent of its workforce.

The Telegraph, a McClatchy paper in Macon, Georgia, plans to cut 18 staffers and reduce pay.

Many other McClatchy papers also are making cuts. See the list at McClatchy Watch.

Also see the post at Romenesko.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Monday, March 09, 2009


LA Times Not on 'Endangered' List

Jennifer Saba, of Fitz & Jen, wants to know "What's with Time's obsession with the newspaper industry?"

For the second month in a row [that's last month's cover story pictured at right], TIME magazine has dedicated space to the crisis facing the newspaper industry, this time with a list of "The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America." Making the list means these publications are, in TIME's estimation, the most likely to close or go paperless (digital-only) in 2009.

Most surprising -- the Los Angeles Times isn't on it.

Here's the list in the order in which the names appear in TIME:
1. The Philadelphia Daily News

2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune

3. The Miami Herald

4. The Detroit News

5. The Boston Globe

6. The San Francisco Chronicle

7. The Chicago Sun Times

8. NY Daily News

9. The Fort Worth Star Telegram

10. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

More about the list, including the reasoning behind each newspaper selected, is online at TIME magazine.

(Twitter This)

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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Meadow was a 'Writers Writer'

Journalist James B. Meadow died this weekend.

A writer for more than 25 years at Denver's recently shuttered Rocky Mountain News, Meadow was badly injured Friday in a bicycle accident, possibly after suffering a heart attack.

Meadow's friend Brad Bawmann sent an e-mail to friends and colleagues Sunday evening.

Here's a portion:
Thank you for your prayers, warm thoughts and love for OUR friend James B. Meadow.

Sadly, he has left us for a better place.

It is likely that James suffered a massive heart attack during his Friday afternoon bicycle ride in Chatfield Reservoir and was unconscious or nearly that before he hit the ground.

A hard-body cyclist and exercise beast, James had undergone heart valve replacement a few years back. In fact, earlier in the week, his cardiologist had told James not to ride in this year's upcoming "Triple Bypass," some crazy spin up and down Colorado's mountains that isn't easily accomplished in a Range Rover much less an 18-speed.

Perhaps this contributed to his fall and subsequent death. I don't know.

What I do know is how privileged I am to have known him. A great writer, a big thinker and a kind soul -- James always made me laugh and always made me get out the damn dictionary to look up some word he'd used in story or

As one friend put it, James was a "writer's writer." He never settled for less, and during the course of this weekend I told many folks James probably forgot more about the English language than I will ever know. He was meticulous to a fault and insightful to cause pain and tears. As you may have seen from his colleagues' comments on Facebook and in the newspapers James gave a lot of people a lot of gruff for wanting more ...

More information is available at the Facebook group Pulling for James B. Meadow.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA


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Saturday, March 07, 2009


A Journalist in Need

A Photo of Meadow is in Rocky Mountain News slideshow.
See Photo No. 35 by Judy DeHaas at this link*
Please keep journalist James B. Meadow in your thoughts this weekend.

Meadow, a writer for more than 25 years at Denver's recently shuttered Rocky Mountain News, is reported to have been badly injured Friday in a bicycle accident.

Jeremy Story, a Denver PR professional, has posted online the text of an email from one of Meadow's friends, Brad Bawmann, who appears to have been the first person contacted by emergency responders.

Here's a portion of Bawmann's e-mail, as posted by Story:
Early Friday afternoon, James crashed during a bicycle jaunt at Chattfield Reservoir. I suspect he was celebrating the completion of his hardscrabble work for renowned photographer John Fielder and their upcoming book about Colorado’s ranching royalty.

Moments before James jumped on his bike, he wanted to read to me one last version of how the Salazar family profile should end. After hearing both versions, I told James he was Picasso with words and to stop fretting the difference. Beautiful either way, I cared less what ending he settled upon but asked that he continue to write — even without his day job at the Rocky.

Then, around 5-o’clock in the evening, I received a call from the emergency department at Swedish Medical Center. Did I know whose phone this was they were using to call me from? Beats me, I said, you’re calling me. Back and forth we went..someone was hurt and they didn’t know who it was..with a little help from Verizon we discovered that it was James.

James had been in a terrible accident, twice revived and air-lifted to the trauma center. This morning James lies in critical and unstable condition at Swedish with tubes and monitors and chords wrapped around his bruised body. As family and friends gather we hope and pray for a miracle.

So I ask you, whether you know James or not, whether you’ve read his daily glimpses into human life or not, whether you are a faithful person or not, give me this one prayer for James. Heal his seemingly insurmountable injuries. Let his life continue, selfishly, so that we may read more of his mindful observations and raucous ruminations and that our friendship will live another day.

Read the entire e-mail at Denver Public Relations Blog.

And think good thoughts for James B. Meadow.

* Photo pictured in screen grab is by Judy DeHaas, Rocky Mountain News.

** Cross posted at Know Newspapers.

— TJ Sullivan in LA


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Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Even a US Congressman Doesn't Get It!*

Photo from polis.house.gov
How can you expect the average reader to understand where news comes from when even a US Congressman appears clueless about the importance of newspapers?

Check this out ...

Speaking at a neighborhood event near Denver this past weekend, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis seemed to dance on the grave of the Rocky Mountain News and the demise of newspapers in general as he extolled the virtues of citizen journalism and "new media," despite having recently sought the endorsement of another member of the old media, The Denver Post.

Polis, a newly elected Democrat from Boulder who's known for being tech-savvy, put it this way (listen online):
"So, the Rocky Mountain News published it's last edition yesterday. And, I have to say, that when we say, 'Who killed the Rocky Mountain News,' we're all part of it. We truly are, for better or worse, and I argue it's mostly for the better ...

"Newspapers are dying ...

"Media is dead, and long live the new media, which is all of you. And really, this is a new age of citizen journalism."

I'd love to quote from the Congressman's personal Web site, but his Terms of Use ban anyone from quoting his content without written permission. If only newspapers could enforce such terms, maybe people would actually have to go to the newspaper Web sites to get that newspaper's news and ... Now that's an idea!

(via Romenesko)

* UPDATE: Polis laments.

** Audio of the speech is available online from Pulse Productions and The Colorado Progressive Voice.

-- TJ Sullivan

*** Cross posted at www.KnowNewspapersPetition.com

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Sunday, March 01, 2009


David Foster Wallace's Unfinished Work

The March 9 edition of The New Yorker includes a story about the late author David Foster Wallace and an excerpt from his unfinished novel, "The Pale King."

One portion of the story describes how Wallace's wife, Karen Green, found him the day he took his own life:
Green returned home at nine-thirty, and found her husband. In the garage, bathed in light from his many lamps, sat a pile of nearly two hundred pages. He had made some changes in the months since he considered sending them to Little, Brown. The story of “David Wallace” was now first. In his final hours, he had tidied up the manuscript so that his wife could find it. Below it, around it, inside his two computers, on old floppy disks in his drawers were hundreds of other pages—drafts, character sketches, notes to himself, fragments that had evaded his attempt to integrate them into the novel. This was his effort to show the world what it was to be “a fucking human being.” He had not completed it to his satisfaction. This was not an ending anyone would have wanted for him, but it was the ending he chose.

There is much more to the story. Find it at The New Yorker.

(via The Washington Post)

— TJ Sullivan in LA


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