Category Archives: Community journalism

Charts of the day: Financial fall of U.S. newspapers


First, via Reflections of a Newsosaur, a somber depiction from the Newspaper Association of America of the collapse of American newspaper revenues in the last five years:

Next, via The Atlantic, another NNA chart showing pattern of decline since 1950:

Finally, via the Project for Excellence in Journalism, graphic evidence of online advertising’s failure to boost declining revenues:

Another major attack on newspapers underway


For folks who care about the survival of community newspapers, this one’s a biggie.

From The Rural Blog:

Paid-public notice advertising, or “legal ads,” in newspapers are “under threat,” Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues Director Al Cross wrote for Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. Cross, who also publishes The Rural Blog, said SPJ members and chapters “need to help defend” public-notice laws from lobbying by local governments who tell state legislators publishing the notices on government websites would be just as effective and cheaper for taxpayers. Cross disputes that, citing lack of Internet adoption (especially in rural areas) and research that shows citizens aren’t likely to surf websites to find notices.

Cross says the notices are an important part of the business side of journalism, while informing citizens and helping reporters find stories. They “encompass a wide range of important information,” including government budgets, financial statements, audits, local ordinances, hearings, environmental permit applications, water-system reports and foreclosure sales, he writes. They are also “a necessary leg of the three-legged stool of open government, along with open-records and open-meetings laws.” They are also a “significant source of revenue” for county-seat weekly newspapers, and cutting them would “lead to fewer jobs in journalism, and less journalism.”

State newspaper associations are lobbying against the move, but have not always been successful, Cross writes, noting new laws in Ohio. They will likely be a greater target as governments face more pressure to make cuts, he writes. Reporters with no knowledge of how public notices work compounds the problem, he adds, noting that SPJ chapters should educate journalists about their importance and function and join newspapers in lobbying against elimination or reduction of them.

Read the rest.

Such advertising, referred to in the newspapers as “legal ads,” include mandated filings of everything from fictitious business names [DBAs] to property foreclosures, notices of bids and major projects undertaken by governments, public meeting announcements, and much, much more.

You’ve seen the ads, usually printed in that tiny type called agate in the trade.

Legal notices are last remaining strongholds of classified advertising, which was once the primary source of income for community newspapers, a dependable revenue stream which was largely killed by the advent of the Internet, with Craigslist being the arch villain in the eyes of most publishers.

One can make a decent argument that with the steady decline of newspaper circulation, print is becoming irrelevant as the go-to source for news and information. But if you feel that skilled reporting about events of local importance is vital to a healthy democracy, you should be worried when governments call for cutting off a major revenue stream.

It works out well for politicians and bureaucrats, who will have less scrutiny of their actions as already sadly diminished reporting staffs are cut even more, but it won’t serve the community well.

Yes, we know that American journalism is in sad shape, but the public won’t be better served by making it even more irrelevant.

And if you think other sources will fill the gap, think again. As we noted in our last Blood on the Newsroom Floor post, nonprofits created to fill the gap are starving and dying from reduced funding.

Just remember that the authors of the Constitution thought a vibrant press so critical to the functioning of a healthy democracy that they enshrined it in the First Amendment. In that light, killing off its last dependable source of revenue is an ominous move indeed.

Blood on the newsroom floor: And lots of it


The bodies are falling fast, as American journalism goes through another round of contractions. We’ve also got another closing of a non-profit, and allegations of censorship and of age discrimination in layoffs.

The Philadelphia toll: 37 journalists

We have two stories out of Philly, our first and last in today’s roundup.

Here’s the first bad news from the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, dated 15 February:

Newsroom combination at Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com to result in elimination of 37 positions.

Dear Guild member,

This afternoon Guild leaders met with Philadelphia Media Network officials including the editors of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com to hear the company’s plans for “One Newsroom.”

These plans include the devastating reduction in force of 37 positions.

The company identified that its combined newsroom functions could result in layoffs in the following classifications: Reporters, Writing Reporters, Rewrite, News Artists, Photographers, Photo Printers, Copy Editors/Readers, Make-Up Persons, Desk Assistants, Cartoonists, Editorial Writers, Editorial Clerks and Philly.com Multi Media Content Producers.

Before any individuals would be targeted for layoff, the company is first instituting a Voluntary Separation Program. Details of the buyout package will be distributed soon by Human Resources. The more members who step up for voluntary buyouts, the less involuntary newsroom layoffs there will be.

The buyout window is open from Feb. 16, 2012 to Feb. 29, 2012. On March 1, 2012 PMN will notify the Guild of any members who have been targeted for layoff in any category. As per our contract layoffs in any category would be handled by seniority with the least senior person being first affected. In most cases, part-time employees would be laid-off before the dismissal of full-timers in their group.

The last day of work for either volunteers or those laid off would be March 31, 2012.

The company’s decision to decimate our already-shrunken ranks is hard to comprehend given the ever-competitive 24/7 nature of today’s media landscape.

However, PMN has the contractual right to reduce the work force, and the Guild will work to make sure any job eliminations are conducted in accordance with our Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If you plan to apply for the voluntary separation program, you are to do so through Human Resources, but please first contact Guild Executive Director Bill Ross at the Guild office 215-928-0118, cell 267-240-8540 or BRoss@local-10.com.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

In solidarity,

Dan Gross, President,
Bill Ross, Executive Director,
and the Executive Board of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America Local 38010

New Haven Register: 30+ press operators

From Victoria Sanchez of The New Journal, New Haven Connecticut:

1981. The New Haven Register moved from a small office on Orange and Audobon to 40 Sargent Drive, a former shirt factory. Busloads of people came to tour the new state-of-the-art Goss Metroliner printing presses. New Haven was the industry showroom. Rockwell International, the company that manufactured Goss Metroliners, featured the Register’s pressmen on the cover of its 1982 catalogue with the headline “Winning Team in New Haven.” In the picture, you can see the men’s reflections in the gleaming floors.

Today, the floors are black and slippery, covered in ink. According to the Register’s press manager, Frank Malicki, the custodians stopped cleaning the floors about three or four years ago, which is how he knew the Journal Register East Company (the Register’s corporate owner, known as the JRC) would close down the printing press. “How did I know? The same thing happened on Orange Street.” Thirty-odd jobs at the press will be outsourced to the Hartford Courant’s plant over the course of four weeks. The press’s last run will be on March 4. Malicki started working for the Register as a sixteen-year-old delivery boy in 1970. When I asked him about the future, he said, “I don’t know. I need a job.”

This closure is one more sign of the transition from print to digital media, which has thrown the traditional news industry into chaos. But the Register has been struggling for a long time. Since the Jackson brothers, Richard and Lionel, sold the newspaper in 1986, there have been three corporate takeovers, a bankruptcy filing, and dozens of layoffs. The 200,000-square-foot building at 40 Sargent Drive is now mostly empty. Last August, the trouble also affected editorial management. Longtime editor Jack Kramer, a thirty-year veteran, was replaced by Matt DeRienzo.

Read the rest.

Indianapolis Star: 6-8

This move results from one of the hottest trends in corporate journalism, consolidation of editing functions from several locations in one newsroom..

Stepping up the workload on a smaller number of editors looks good on a spreadsheet, but it transforms key decision to people with no ties to the community, adding yet more alyer of alienation between a troubled medium and its readership.

From Al Yates of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild:

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild has won pay raises for most of its workers but was unable to stop The Indianapolis Star’s plans for outsourcing, which could ship up to eight jobs out the state.

The Guild’s contract negotiating team reached a tentative agreement Thursday with representatives of The Indianapolis Star in a deal which must still be ratified in a vote by the Guild’s membership.

The agreement was the definition of a compromise.

In an industry still cutting jobs and cutting pay, the deal would award the Guild’s workers raises of 2 to 4 percent, with the highest raises going to some of the Guild’s lowest paid workers. But it was only a small step toward restoring the 10 percent pay cuts the Guild took two years ago.

Despite making it a focal point of the Guild’s “Save the Star” campaign, the Guild’s team found that outsourcing the page design work was an area where The Star was unyielding. We made a strong case — in leafletting efforts, a street protest, a media campaign and at the bargaining table — that this could damage the local news product. But it became clear that this was an edict from Gannett, The Star’s parent company, and that the quality of the product was a secondary consideration to saving money.

The Guild knew this was an uphill battle going in. We were told this was one we couldn’t win. But we felt it was worth trying. And if Gannett attempts future outsourcing in Indianapolis, they can be assured we will wage an even more ardent campaign to resist such an effort.

At present, The Star hasn’t specified exactly what pages will be designed in Louisville or how many journalists in Indianapolis will be displaced. The last estimate we were given was six to eight.

Read the rest.

Massachusetts massacre: 64 Wooster press operators

Another economic move even practiced by family owned papers is the outsourcing of printing. And when chains owns a number of papers in relatively close proximity, printing in one locale allows individual papers to shed one of their most cost-and-equipment-intensive functions.

From the Worcester Massachusetts  Telegram & Gazette:

The Telegram & Gazette has decided to shift most printing operations from its plant in Millbury to The Boston Globe’s facility in Dorchester in a cost-saving move that will cause 64 layoffs.

Though the T&G will be printed nearly 50 miles away from Central Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Massive job cuts


The death throes of American journalism quickened this week, with news of two major layoffs in the work, as well as smaller scale cuts either underway or in the works.

And there’s also bad news abroad, but with start with the most serious hemorrhages.

Washington Post prepares to gut newsroom

The paper of record in the nation’s capital is about to lose a big chunk of its reporting staff, in part because the company’s for-profit college business took a big hit after other media began taking a closer look at the way it’s run [previously].

From Andrew Beaujon of Poynter’s Media Wire:

[N]ews of a new buyout offer began circulating in The Washington Post newsroom. This is the paper’s fifth round of buyouts since 2004. Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton tweeted this afternoon that the buyouts would be capped at 48 people or 8 percent of the 600-person newsroom.

The Washington Post Company, which owns the Post, Slate, a community newspaper group, and an educational unit, had a dismal third quarter. Its report from that time period was filed last November (PDF). It said that newspaper revenue was down 9 percent from the same period the year before, advertising revenue shrank 20 percent, online revenue was down 14 percent, and circulation had declined (down 5.4 percent weekdays, 4.4 percent on weekends). The company’s newspaper division lost $9.9 million in the third quarter alone.

The Post Co.’s Kaplan unit saw its revenue fall by 79 percent following an unexpected government interest in the for-profit college sector.

Previous buyouts were financed by the Post’s gilded pension assets. As the company’s 2010 annual report (PDF) stated, “unusually for an S&P 500 company, we continue to have an overfunded pension plan. We haven’t had to contribute to the plan in decades. There’s almost no chance we’ll have to contribute in the near future.”

Read the rest.

Nation’s largest publisher warms up the chainsaw

Gannett, which controls the most daily newspaper circulation in the United States of any media chain, has announced it’s slashing hundreds of newspaper staffers, offering buyouts to their most senior and experienced staff.

The move follows two major payroll cutbacks last year, one of 700 announced in June and a second round of 200 in December.

From Gannett Blog, which is run by former USA Today editor Jim Hopkins, who writes:

Gannett is suddenly dangling buyouts before a pool of nearly 800 qualified U.S. newspaper employees who are 56 years old with at least 20 years’ service — a deal they have 45 days to accept or reject, the company said today in a memo. A maximum of 665 buyouts will actually be granted.

The offer is being made “instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future,” the memo says — leaving open the possibility of layoffs if an insufficient number of people step forward.

Read the rest.

Here’s the memo, sent to all 20,00 employees of the Community P:ublishing division:

CONFIDENTIAL

TO: U.S.C.P. Employees
FR: U.S. Community Publishing President Bob Dickey
RE: Voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program

Dear colleagues:

Today we are offering a voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program to 665 eligible U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories. Eligibility by department or job category varies by each operating unit depending on its needs.

This offer was designed to be as attractive as or better than others in the industry. The Early Retirement Opportunity Program also is the first offered by Gannett since 2008. The offer provides for salary continuation of two weeks’ pay for each complete year of service, capped at 52 weeks, and ongoing health, dental and vision coverage during this period.

Employees who are eligible will have 45 days to accept. At the close of the offer period, Gannett will review acceptances and make final decisions based on the terms of the offer.

As mentioned – the program is completely voluntary for these valued, long-term employees. They have helped steer a strong and steady course for the company for many years, including through recent challenging economic times, and their work is deeply appreciated.

It’s worth noting that while 785 employees meet the criteria, the offer is being offered to 665 employees due to ongoing operational needs at the company. The offer is for U.S. Community Publishing employees only.

The Early Retirement Opportunity Program is one part of our ongoing strategy to transform the company with a focus on remaining the top news and information provider in your market. To accomplish this, it entails a ground-up assessment of our overall structure and resources. At this time we are offering this program instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future.

Please look for a separate letter today from your publisher, who will provide more details about this program and your location.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me or your publisher.

Bob Dickey President/U.S. Community Publishing

Age discrimination plagues newspaper layoffs

Gannett is restricting its latest round of buyouts to it’s oldest employees, a perfect example of an issue raised in an email to journalism analyst Jim Romenesko:

From R.G. RATCLIFFE:

Perhaps I’ve missed it, but has anyone done a story on how the newsroom layoffs of the past decade have been one of the greatest exercises in age discrimination in U.S. history?

This doesn’t count me because I quit in disgust after 33 years in the business. But every round of layoffs at every newspaper I’ve been personally familiar with have focused on the oldest of the employees, those between 50 and 65, with just a smattering of young people thrown in. Now, I know the argument is these people are targeted not because of their age but because of their high salaries. However, the result is that thousands of journalists who are beyond prime hiring age are being pushed out onto the streets. Some land well, some don’t. It just strikes me that if this was any business in America other than Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: Hemorrhage resumes


The newsroom layoff scene began the year quietly, but no more.

The cuts are coming fast and heavy, from coast to coast.

Job ax falls at former Times papers

The Halifax Media Group brought the New York Times chain of smaller papers last year, and now up to 50 staffers may lose their jobs — 30 for certain and 20 more if they don’t move to corporate headquarters in Florida.

One of the papers sold is the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, located north of San Francisco. So far no word how many positions may be offed there.

From Julie Moos of Media Wire:

About 30 employees of the former New York Times Regional Media Group were notified Friday that their new employer, Halifax Media Group, has decided to lay them off and offer severance packages. The other 20 were offered positions, but only if they relocated to Daytona Beach, Fla., where Halifax is headquartered.

A letter accompanying documents distributed Friday said Halifax “has reviewed the company’s Tampa operations to see where additional efficiencies can be achieved by eliminating or consolidating certain job functions and operations.”

Employees “who were offered a package were told that they wouldn’t be given severance if they speak to the media or publicly discuss the situation,” said one source. A second source confirmed the confidentiality clause, which reads, in part:

Employees agree to hold confidential both the terms of this agreement and the circumstances underlying it, except [to] the extent that he is required to reveal information under legal process. Employee may also reveal the details of this agreement to employee’s immediate family, accountant and attorney, but only if those individuals agree to keep confidential the information revealed to them.

The severance offer also includes a non-disparagement clause that prohibits signees from making “any disparaging or untrue statement about the company, its affiliates, owners, stockholders or about any employee of the company.”

Read the rest.

So I guess you can’t say “The assholes fired me after 20 years.”

San Francisco Examiner lays off at the top

The editorial chop comes after the paper laid off lower-level employees; just how many positions were axed remains a corporate secret.

From Erin Sherbert of SF Weekly:

Examiner Editor in Chief Deirdre Hussey has left the newspaper after more than 10 years. Initial reports say that Hussey resigned from the paper amid a change in ownership, however, the new owners say that her departure was a “mutual decision.”

Todd Vogt, president and publisher of the Examiner, told SF Weekly on Wednesday that after speaking with Hussey, the two decided to part ways effective immediately. Her abrupt departure included a nice severance. “Her institutional knowledge will be missed, but I think a fresh start and some fresh ideas in the Editor-in-Chief chair will be good,” Vogt said.

The staff was informed of the decision Wednesday afternoon. The paper has started a search for a new editor in chief.

“Everyone is personally sorry to see her go, but professionally, everyone agrees a change is welcomed,” Vogt told SF Weekly.

While the SF Appeal reports that sources claim Vogt asked Hussey to stay on as an editorial consultant, he denied that offer was ever made.

“We wish her the best,” Vogt said, offering no more comment.

The news came just a few days after the paper laid off an undisclosed number of employees as part of a major restructuring of the newspaper under its new ownership. In November, the former owner, Phil Anschutz announced he would sell the notoriously conservative newspaper to a consortium of shareholders. After the sale closed on Nov. 30, the new owners announced not only would it scrap all the crazy right-wing screeds, but there would be layoffs, too (in full disclosure, I once worked for Hussey at the Examiner).

Read the rest.

Oregon paper loses a quarter of its staff

It’s the result of yet another managerial takeover, reported by Hannah Hoffman of Willamette Week:

The Oregonian has taken over management of the Hillsboro Argus, according to Oregonian Editor Peter Bhatia.

Bhatia announced the change in Tuesday’s issue of the Argus.

Four Argus employees were laid off during the takeover, a nearly 25 percent cut to the newspaper’s staff.

The Oregonian and The Argus are already owned by the same company, Advance Publications, and share the OregonLive website. Bhatia says the takeover is merely “that relationship becoming closer.”

Read the rest.

On the East Coast, jobs fall in Connecticut

From the Danbury, Connecticut, News-Times:

On Friday afternoon, the Journal Register Company, parent company to the Housatonic Times and Litchfield County Times, laid off seven employees in the small New Milford operation. That leaves Continue reading

The view from the Gunfighter’s Seat


Nikon D300 16 January 2011, 20mm, 1/250 sec, f4.5

Two phrases from the days of the Old West still resonate in modern speech. The first, of course is “Shotgun!,” the call made when claiming the front seat next to the driver.

The term originates from the days when folks traveled by stagecoach. When passing through dangerous country or when the stage contained a valuable cargo, an armed, shotgun-toting guard as assigned to sit up top on the bench beside the driver.

The other term, less well known, is “the gunfighter’s seat.” It’s the chair in the corner of the room farthest from and facing the door. It’s name comes from it’s preference by ever-vigilant armed men who lived in daily expectation of violent confrontations with other armed men.

Sitting in the gunfighter’s seat gives a panoramic view of everyone in and entering the room.

We snapped this shot the other day while waiting for a friend at a local tavern. The Stetson belongs to esnl. Appropriate to our theme, it’s the Gun Club model.

Back in the 1970s, we had a friend who’d been a Los Angeles Police officer before signing up with the Central Intelligence Agency, then retiring to take a job in private security in the corporate sector.

We took him to a nice little French restaurant in Santa Monica, and planted our posterior in the gunfighter’s seat, which left him, the former cop and spook, seated facing the corner of the room.

We talked a few minutes, and then he stopped. His eyes lit up, followed by a grin, then a quick shake of his head. Then he fixed me with a bemused smile and intense gaze, followed by a laugh as he shook his head again.

“Brenneman, you son of a bitch, you did it on purpose!” He didn’t have to say what “it” was. I’d put him in the one seat in a crowded room certain to make to make him the most uncomfortable.

I smiled. He nodded.

We’ve always picked the gunfighter’s seat, a lesson our children quickly learned, sometimes to our disadvantage, as when they prankishly plant themselves in our chair of preference, forcing us into the blind seat because they know it’ll bug us, just as it did our ex-spook friend so many years before.

The journalist and the gunfighter

In many ways, the mindset of a journalist shares many traits with the gunfighter of yore, most particularly a peculiar sort of hypervigilance, attuned to changes and anomalies in the environment.

Because of our life circumstances, we’re particularly attuned to environmental changes and out-of-the-ordinary events.

We’d like to think that we turned what might have been a handicap into an asset, as is the case of many of the best journalists we’ve met during the course of the decades we spent behind first a lens and a typewriter, and later, a lens and a word processor [what an infelicitous pair of words].

Some of the best journalists are misfits. Why else would smart, perceptive people work at a craft where they earn much less than they might had they opted for law, medicine, business, or countless other “careers”? We suspect a lot of good reporters heard the same phrase we heard from our mother more than once: “Why a reporter? You could’ve been a doctor!”

Journalism, at least for us, is a calling, an engagement with the world that evokes the fullest possible use of our abilities, knowledge, and experience, turning an innate and potentially enervating vigilance into a positive force engaged, hopefully, for the benefit of the larger community.

But such is life in the Gunfighter’s Seat.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: 2012 cuts begin


The 2012 body count is adding up, though some numbers are in dispute.

San Diego Union-Tribune layoffs

When rich local investors shelled out $110 million for the San Diego Union-Tribune [U-T] last month, we predicted the bodies would soon fall, and they have.

Pat Maio of the North County Times [NCT] reports on the latest in an article which notes that the NCT is on the wish list of future acquisitions by the same team that bought the San Diego paper:

[T]he U-T on Friday laid off about 10 employees who were associated with the old signonsandiego.com website, mostly technical and marketing-related jobs, [co-owner John] Lynch said. Some of the marketers were housed on the print side, as well, he said. The layoffs weren’t editorial workers, but generally those who didn’t possess the skill sets needed for the U-T as it shifts to the digital world, Lynch said.

Maio also gives us a grim reminder abut just how bleak it’s become for the newspaper trade:

The U-T has seen its average paid circulation with branded editions go from 319,606 in 2005 to 227,872 for the six months ended Sept. 30, 2011, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Branded editions, besides home deliveries and single-copy sales, include Newspapers in Education copies, alternate-language newspapers, commuter newspapers and community newspapers.

The ABC branded figures also show that the Orange County Register fell from 302,110 to 270,809 over the same period, the Los Angeles Times from 905,107 to 572,998, and the North County Times from 91,097 to 74,168. The Riverside Press-Enterprise did not have a branded circulation figure in 2011, according to ABC. It saw its “unbranded” circulation fall during the same period as the other papers from 185,344 to 112,084.

Read the rest.

Major layoffs coming in North Carolina

It’s a paper owned by Sacramento-based McClatchy.

WRAL broadcasting in Raleigh reports:

The News & Observer is preparing to lay off about 10 percent of its newsroom staff and will announce other cuts affecting its news operation, sources inside the N&O tell WRAL.com.

A formal announcement may not come until next week, however. The N&O is part of the McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) newspaper chain, and the group reportedly is planning to announce corporate-wide cutbacks, one newsroom source said. McClatchy also owns The Charlotte Observer.

The nation’s third-largest newspaper chain is based in Sacramento, Calif. It reported May 21 that revenues for the first four months of 2008 were down 14 percent from the same period in 2007. McClatchy stock hit a 52-week low of $7.59 on Tuesday.

>snip<

The layoffs could affect as few as 15 or as many as 30 newsroom staffers, the sources said. Numerous people had expected the layoffs to be made Monday following an announcement by John Drescher, the paper’s senior vice president and executive editor, at a recent staff meeting that layoffs would take place.

Read the rest.

Printers bombed in New Haven

Though they’re not newsroom workers, in these days of ribbonless word processors, press operators are really the last group who really are ink-stain wretches.

From the New Haven Register:

The New Haven Register plans to outsource its printing operation to Hartford, laying off 105 people, and is planning to move key operations to new office space in downtown New Haven.

Publisher Tom Wiley said the move will enable the Register to launch an “open newsroom” where the public will be invited to participate in and observe local journalism. The Register’s new office will be modeled, in part, after the open-to-the-public Newsroom Café in Torrington that was launched by The Register Citizen, a sister publication of the Register.

“We’re excited to be opening our newsroom to our community,” Wiley said. “We have launched our Community Media Lab and community conversations and this is the next step in serving our community.”

Plans call for the Register, along with Journal Register Co. sister publications including The Register Citizen and The Middletown Press, to be printed in Hartford by the Hartford Courant beginning in February. The company is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the Courant for printing operations, Wiley said.

Read the rest.

Virginia bodies to fall, numbers in question

While there are conflicting reports about the ultimate body count, there’s no doubt that significant layoffs are coming, and 30 have already fallen in Newport News.

Daniel Curran who blogs at James River Journal writes:

The Daily Press will over the next few weeks lay off 150 of its remaining 300 employees, reducing its workforce by half.

Some of the employees losing their jobs are long term, having been with the paper for up to 33 years.

The paper has been steadily reducing its workforce Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: The video


A VOCER interview with City University of New York journalism professor and columnist Eric Alterman succinctly sums up much of what we’ve been saying about the the dismal impact of the ongoing destruction of American journalism.

H/T to Walled-In Pond.

Another California newspaper sale pending


After the recent sales of the San Diego Union-Tribune to a conservative hotel baron  and the San Francisco Examiner to a Canadian media chain, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat is about to change hands.

Amy Chozick of the New York Times reports:

The New York Times Company said on Monday it was in advanced talks to sell 16 regional newspapers, another indication the company was divesting itself of assets to concentrate on its core newspaper business.

Halifax Media Holdings of Daytona Beach, Fla., is currently negotiating the purchase of the Times Company’s Regional Media Group, a division that includes newspapers across the country like The Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida; The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif.; The Star-News in Wilmington, N.C.; The Gainesville Sun, also in Florida; and The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama.

Combined, the papers have a Monday-through-Friday circulation of 433,251 and 1,755 full-time employees. Analysts estimated that the sale of the regional papers would be completed later this week and priced at around $145 million. Robert H. Christie, a spokesman for the Times Company, declined to comment.

Read the rest.

Now for the really bad news.

No, we’re not talking about the layoffs that inevitably follow takeovers. We’re talking something much worse, at least for those of us who cherish the journalistic tradition of the absolute separation of commercial sales and reporting.

If  Halifax CEO Michael Redding follows the same course he took after taking over the Daytona Beach News Journal, reporters may soon find themselves doubling as subscription and advertising peddlers.

FlagerLive dished the dirt in this 31 March story:

Daytona Beach News Journal Publisher Michael Redding marked the one-year anniversary of the newspaper under his co-ownership with an offer to most of the 400-some remaining employees of the paper, including editors and reporters: Anyone selling a three-month subscription to the paper would get a $25 bonus, or $50 for a six month subscription. Anyone selling $100 worth of advertising would get $50.

Redding described the arrangement—highly unusual in news-gathering operations, and forbidden, for ethical and journalistic reasons,  in many that maintain a strict separation between news-gathering on one side and advertising and marketing on the other—as an “incentive,” rather than a requirement: no expectations were set. But staffers have had no raises in four years and were promised none this year. Redding offered up his human resources director, Patty Morris, as an example of what others could do: Morris, he said, netted about 200 new subscriptions through her church.

Read the rest.

Quote of the day: The Bay Area ‘news desert’


In an essay posted by the website of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, journalist Tom Stites writes of the emergence of “news deserts” as the result of the ongoing devastation of community-based journalism, a phenomenon we’ve been tracking in our “Blood on the Newsroom Floor” series.

One example he cites of an emerging news desert is one frequently featured in our posts here at esnl, the unending rounds of downsizing at the Bay Area News Group [previously], which controls most of the newspaper circulation in the San Francisco Bay Area:

The Bay Area News Group, which had been 13 dailies published by the Denver-based MediaNews chain, last month cut 34 newsroom positions across the group and combined five of its titles into two; in total, more than 100 employees lost their jobs. In one stroke, three papers died and the 10 survivors were all wounded. Readers will find the papers less reflective of their communities — they’ll have local news sections and most will have familiar nameplates, but their general news, sports, and comics pages will be more uniform. And, with the shrunken staff, original community reporting, which has been drying up for years as newspapers laid off reporters, will become even more parched.

Eric Newton, now senior advisor to the president of the Knight Foundation, was managing editor of The Oakland Tribune 20 years ago. In a posting to the Knight Blog, he recalled that he’d supervised a staff of 130 full-time journalists; after years of attrition the newsroom was home to only a dozen reporters — and this was before the newest cutbacks.

Read the rest.

Stites is the creator of the Banyan Project, which is exploring new ways to provide communities with the news lost as papers downsize and vanish.

Blood on the newsroom floor: Carnage galore


And today’s report is another coast-to-coast edition, starting with layoffs right across the Bay in San Francisco.

Surprise, surprise: Layoffs at S.F. Examiner

Looks like we had this one figured right.

From Erin Sherbert of SF Weekly:

As expected, the San Francisco Examiner’s new owners trimmed its newsroom yesterday afternoon, laying off half the copy desk as well as other editorial staff.

We called Todd Vogt, publisher and president of the Ex, who told us layoff notices went out yesterday. However, he would not confirm who lost their jobs or how many positions are being cut.

However, inside sources at the Ex told us that at least seven editorial positions — likely more — were cut, the bulk of them coming from the copy desk.

Read the rest.

And job cuts in San Diego

Though not at an ink-and-paper newsroom.

From Kevin Roderick of LA Observed:

Voice of San Diego, now seven years old, has been Southern California’s best, most accomplished example of innovation in non-traditional news media. But today the site laid off three journalists and said the budget is going down, not up. From the editor’s note:

Today was a difficult day of change for voiceofsandiego.org.

Last year, we raised more than $1.1 million and drew up a budget for 2011 at $1.2 million. We’re projecting lower revenue for the coming year and set the budget at $1 million.

There’s no one cause for the change. No major donor has dropped out. Our sponsorships are consistent and our membership is growing rapidly. But in the past, we’ve relied on grants from national foundations to make up a large part of our funding and we can’t be sure they’ll be there for us again. We’re in the process of building a thriving membership program to reduce our reliance on foundations, but we need time to fully establish a diverse donor base. Quite simply, like many of the agencies we cover and many families across San Diego, we have to be realistic about our prospects for the New Year.

In reducing our expenses, we prioritized what we feel we can do best as well as what our readers have told us is important to them. As a result, we will focus our resources on having a greater impact through a full investigative reporting team and a daily engagement and analysis team focusing on politics, public affairs, education and the arts.

And a big resignation in Smogville

The Los Angeles Times has lost yet another editor, and just like his three immediate predecessors, the vanishing act comes in advance of yet more newsroom cuts.

From Lucas Shaw of The Wrap:

The Los Angeles Times was rocked by more turmoil Tuesday when editor Russ Stanton resigned in advance of another round of cutbacks.

Stanton, whose last day is Dec. 23, has presided over a tumultuous period of near-continuous layoffs since becoming editor in 2008. He is the fourth editor in a row – after John Carroll, Dean Baquet and James O’Shea – to leave amid demands for cuts.

“It’s kind of a tradition –  a sad tradition — but it’s definitely the case. Budget cuts, staff cuts, they take only so many staff cuts and it’s time to go,” one individual said in reference to the succession of editors who gave up on the place. (O’Shea then wrote a scathing tell-all about the Times and Tribune culture, “The Deal From Hell.”)

During his tenure as editor, Stanton’s staff shrank from 900 to about 550, with veteran columnists like Mark Heisler and Tim Rutten among the recent departures. New cuts are on the horizon, with 12 to 20 staffers to be laid off sometime after the first of the year, according to one individual with knowledge of the situation. Deeper cuts may well follow after the final numbers for 2011 are in.

Davan Maharaj, managing editor for news since May 2008, will replace Stanton, becoming the latest to try and steward the paper as it seeks to turn around falling revenue.

Read the rest.

And another digital newsroom pared

This time it’s the Center for Public Integrity, based in D.C..

From Alicia Shepard of Media Wire:

The Center for Public Integrity laid off staff [this week] to try to compensate for a $2 million budget shortfall.

Ten positions were eliminated, and five people lost their jobs with Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: More bodies


Lots more to report on the ongoing decimation of the American newspaper.

All the announced layoffs are on the eastern side of the Rockies, but a just-announced bankruptcy filing will likely mean more jobs lost in California.

Colorado Springs journos get the ax

There is a California connection to our first layoff story. The paper in question is owned by Freedom Communications, a chain based in Irvine.

From the Denver Post:

The Colorado Springs Gazette confirmed on its website Thursday that editor Jeff Thomas was resigning at the end of the year. Carmen Boles, currently senior director of interactive content and audience development has been named director of content.

The Gazette said the moves were part of a reorganization and digital-first initiative.

A person familiar with the move told The Post about a dozen employees — several from the newsroom — were laid off . Others said Thomas resigned in face of the layoffs, which took several of his top managers.

>snip<

The Gazettes’ website story said the moves were all made to better connect with readers and to better use social media. Other than Thomas, no staff departures were mentioned.

>snip<

The Colorado Springs Independent reported that several affected staffers were escorted from the building prior to the layoff announcement.

Read the rest.

“Escorted out”? Well, that’s one way of “connecting.”

There’s gotta be a country song for it

Our next tale of newsroom woe comes from Memphis, where an nine employees are waiting for the chop.

From the Memphis Business Journal:

More layoffs are coming at The Commercial Appeal, according to a letter written to Memphis Newspaper Guild members by guild president Wayne Risher.

Memphis Flyer published a copy of the letter from Risher, which details some of the layoff plans. Nine guild-covered employees will be terminated, according to the letter, including one in editorial, two in accounting, two in online services, one in advertising and three in operations.

The jobs will be lost by Dec. 20 and are being eliminated to “cut expenses and achieve efficiencies in the business,” according to the letter.

Read the rest.

More layoffs coming in Chicago

Not the Tribune, which is run by Berkeley’s biggest privtae sector landlaord, Sam Zell, but the Sun-Times.

From Crain’s Chicago Business:

Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other suburban newspapers, is cutting workers in another round of reductions aimed at slashing costs as the company finishes its move to a centralized editorial and billing system.

Sun-Times CEO Jeremy Halbreich confirmed that some editorial workers and possibly other employees are losing their jobs, but he declined to say how many. This is the “final piece” of the 18 months of reductions, he said. He declined to say whether all employees had been notified at this point.

“It takes awhile to implement everything onto this new centralized platform,” Mr. Halbreich said.

There were three employees cut at the Sun-Times, a photographer, a graphics artist and a feature writer, said Dave Roeder, who is treasurer of the Newspaper Guild of Chicago, which represents some of the company’s editorial workers. He wasn’t sure how many were cut across the company. Mr. Halbreich also declined to say how many employees the company now has.

Read the rest.

More job cuts coming in Florida

How many and precisely when may be uncertain, but they’re coming in Tampa Bay.

From Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times:

For several weeks, staffers at the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8 have been buzzing about rumors of impending new layoffs at the local outlets owned by Richmond, Va.-based Media General.

Last week, emails and buzz indicated layoffs might come Monday. Now, some staffers fear job reductions could come early Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: A paper dies


Reader Luce Kanon tips us to the latest California newspaper closing, this time in the state’s far north, where a paper owned by MediaNews, the Denver-based chain which controls the largest share of California’s newspaper circulation, is calling it quits.

No word yet on how many jobs will be lost.

From Thadeus Greenson of the Eureka Times Standard, which is also ceasing print publication of its Monday edition, a practice already implemented here in the San Francisco Bay Area by some of MedNews’s papers:

The Humboldt Beacon newspaper — a local institution that has informed the Eel River Valley for more than a century — will cease publication next month, Times-Standard Publisher Dave Kuta announced Monday. The Beacon’s last issue will be Dec. 8.

The Times-Standard will also cease publication of its Monday print edition after Jan. 2. The two cost-saving moves will be accompanied by the layoffs of a Times-Standard photographer and the Humboldt Beacon editor.

”None of these decisions were made easily,” Kuta said in a company-wide memo announcing the decision to staff Monday afternoon.

”The next few weeks will be difficult ones, but I’m confident we will be able to move forward in a stronger position to face the challenges ahead.”

Kuta cited a down economy that has led to sagging advertising revenue and increased costs associated with production and distribution as reasons for the decisions, which he said were made over the last month.

Both the Times-Standard and the weekly Humboldt Beacon are owned by Denver, Colo., based MediaNews Group, a privately-owned company founded in 1983 by William Dean Singleton that operates more than 55 daily newspapers in 11 states with a combined daily circulation of approximately 2.5 million.

>snip<

Kuta said Monday’s decision was made locally and not handed down by MediaNews Group.

Read the rest.

The Humboldt Herald news blog adds more:

When the Humboldt Herald started in the spring of 2006, a rich local media environment appeared to be thriving — but then again, so did the housing market. Eureka had two newspapers, the T-S and Rob Arkley’s Eureka Reporter.  Competition gave the T-S a badly needed kick in the keester, and for a while there seemed to be reporters on every little story.

But the Reporter was supported almost entirely by Arkley’s pocket book and therefore doomed to fail. ER reporters have gone back to bar tending or left the area in search of journalism jobs.

Is the loss of the Beacon and the Monday Times-Standard another step toward total annihilation of newspapers as we know them? It seems unlikely that these changes will right the listing boat.

Or perhaps these cutbacks in addition to the T-S paywall will spare us from a paperless future. But don’t hold your breath.

Quote of the day: All the news that’s gone AWOL


Via media blogger Dan Kennedy at Media Nation, a quote from recently laid off reporter James Craven, late of GateHouse Media’s Norwich [Connecticut] Bulletin on the devastating community impacts of radically downsized newsrooms:

The thing about reduced community coverage is that you do not notice it while it is happening. It is, if I may be so bold, like a cancer. It works below the surface, until one day when suddenly it becomes all too apparent. There will be referendums that may not be covered as fully. Some school functions — that first grade play that in the past featured your son or daughter — will be bypassed. On holidays, like Veterans Day, decisions will be made to forfeit coverage in some communities because there just is not an extra reporter.

Read the rest.

Mainstream media furious at Bloomberg, NYPD


Okay, first off, we thought of leading with a headline with something like this:

MSM bosses furious their reporters
treated like blacks, browns, Muslims

Because, let’s face it, the treatment dealt out to the star reporters of the corporate media aren’t much different from the way minorities are often treated by police.

That said, we’re glad the media bosses are righteously and rightfully angry at the way their reporters have been beaten, abused, and arrested while covering the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

And they’ve expressed their outrage in a letter to the Deputy New York Police Commissioner in charge of media relations.

Joining them in their outrage are the New York Civil Liberties Union [NYCLU] and a newly formed organization, the Coalition for the First Amendment.

We bring you the texts of the letters and the first statement by the new coalition, via the NYCLU website.

Letter from mainstream media organizations

From George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel of the New York Times Company to NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul J. Browne, the document is posted online here [PDF].

Dear Deputy Commissioner Browne,

The signatories below wish to express their profound displeasure, disappointment and concern over the recent actions taken against the media during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations near and around Zuccotti Park. Over the past few months we have tried to work with DCPI to improve police-press relations. However, if anything, the police actions of last week have been more hostile to the press than any other event in recent memory. Indeed, in vivid contrast to the spirit and substance of our meeting in August, the credentialed press were targeted and subject to increased scrutiny and greater restrictions than members of the general public.

According to reports from our clients, credentialed media were identified, segregated and kept away from viewing, reporting on and photographing vital matters of public concern. A press pen was set up blocks away and those kept there were further prevented from seeing what was occurring by the strategic placement of police buses around the perimeter. Moreover, there have been numerous instances where police officers struck or otherwise intentionally impeded photographers as they were taking photos, keeping them from doing their job and from documenting instances of seeming police aggression.

The following are but a few of many examples of police behavior that clearly violates NYPD policies and procedures as concerns the media. Upon request we will provide many other similar examples of police overreaching their authority.

  • On 11/15 during the “eviction” of Zuccotti Park, a member of DCPI called out to all members of the press. He asked “who had credentials?” and then instructed those who did to leave the park immediately or be subject to arrest. At this point there were several hundred people and police officers inside the park. After making his announcement a Community Affairs member grabbed one newspaper photographer and dragged him from the park. At the same time this Community Affairs officer also threatened to arrest another credentialed photographer for being inside the park.
  • A female photographer, who was carrying clearly visible DCPI-issued press credentials, was taking photos of protestors near the corner of Pine and Williams Streets about 9AM on 11/17/2001. At one point, an officer (recognizing that she was a member of the media) advised her to move to the sidewalk to avoid being caught up in the police action. As she moved towards the sidewalk, another officer told her to move to the sidewalk on the other side of the road. A short time later, before she got to any sidewalk, she was grabbed by a third officer and thrown to the ground, hitting her head on the pavement.
  • A female reporter, also displaying DCPI-issued press credentials, was standing with a group of photographers at a barricade on Cedar Street, between Broadway and Trinity Place, about 12 PM on 11/17/2011 when a group of police officers moved towards them and started pushing the group back. One officer, described by the reporter as very tall (approximately 6’5″), shoved the reporter with both his arms, forcing the reporter to fall backwards, landing on her right elbow, and resulting in her yelling in pain. The reporter said the officer then proceeded to pick her up by the collar while yelling “stop pretending.” The reporter went to Bellevue Hospital for treatment of her injuries.
  • Another incident occurred that same day near the west end of the park where a photographer, standing on the sidewalk on Trinity Place, was photographing a man the police were carrying from somewhere in the park who was covered in blood. The photographer was standing behind a metal barrier 20 to 30 yards from the scene. As he raised his camera to take a picture two other police officers came running toward him, grabbed a metal barrier and forcefully lunged at him striking the photographer in the chest, knees and shin. As they did that they screamed that he was not permitted to be taking pictures on the sidewalk — the most traditionally recognized public forum aside from a park.
  • There are numerous other reports of DCPI-issued credentials being seized from reporters and photographers, others being interfered with, detained and arrested. That they were never formally charged still does not mitigate the fact that their detention prevented them from carrying out their journalistic functions.

During our August meeting you promised to review our complaints regarding certain incidents that were provided to you in writing. You also agreed that additional training to reinforce media guidelines, for newer officers on the force, would be beneficial. In order to avoid verbal discrepancies over DCPI-Press issues you requested that both you and Lt. Whyte be immediately notified by email of any future incidents. Our first attempt to follow that procedure during Hurricane Irene was met with silence. Despite three followup letters there has been no action on your part — not even the courtesy of a reply. We firmly believe that had such agreed upon training occurred, it may have helped avoid the numerous inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, actions and abuses the police heaped upon both credentialed  and non-credentialed journalists in the last few days.

Therefore, we request an immediate meeting with you and Police Commissioner Kelly so that we may have full and frank discussions in order to resolve these issues and prevent further deterioration of the police-press relationship which is so critical to an informed public.

Thank you for your attention in this matter, I look forward to receiving your timely response.

Very truly yours,

George Freeman

Michael Cameron, The New York Post
George Osterreicher, National Press Photographers Association [NPPA]
Anne B. Carroll, The Daily News
Shmuel Bulka, Thomson Reuters
Karen Kaiser, Associated Press
Townsend Davis, WABC
Steve Chung, NBC Universal WNBC
Nicholas E. Poser, WCBS-TV
Lucy Dalglish, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Gabe Pressman, The New York Press Club

The letter from the Civil Liberties Union

Here’s the text of the letter from the NYCLU sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and posted online here [PDF].

Re: NYPD Mistreatment of Journalists

Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly:

On behalf of the New York Civil Liberties Union, we write in conjunction with the letter sent today by major media organizations to NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne objecting to the serious mistreatment of j ournalists seeking to cover the policing of the Occupy Wall Street protests. We believe the Mayor’s Office must become directly involved in this matter, given the serious First Amendment issues raised by the media organizations and given the Police Department’s failure to address those issues since learning of them many months ago, We therefore request that Mayor Bloomberg convene a meeting with the media organizations, Commissioner Kelly and Mr. Browne, and the NYCLU.

As you undoubtedly are aware, there have been many public accounts of reporters, photographers, and other journalists being mistreated and subjected to physical force during OWS protests and further of over 25 journalists being arrested, We also have received many direct reports from journalists describing mistreatment that Continue reading

Major changes underway in California mediascape


Two of California’s oldest newspapers have been sold, and a reclusive Canadian media mogul is at the heart of both deals.

We’ll look at the sales of the San Francisco Examiner and the San Diego Union-Tribune, and finish up with the sale of a smaller paper.

San Francisco Examiner sold

Once home to such legendary scribes as Mark Twain, Jack London, and Ambrose Bierce and the flagship of the Hearst chain, the 148-year-old Examiner was sold off in 2000 as part of the deal that allowed the Hearsts to buy the longtime archival San Francisco Chronicle.

The paper was bought by the Fang family of San Francisco, which made the paper a giveaway in 2003.

In 2004 the Examiner wound up in the hands of Denver-based Clarity Media, owned by Philip Anschutz, a zealous theocon and a leading funder of creationist propaganda.

Mark Harden of the Denver Business Journal reports on Anschutz’s strategy and its outcome:

The Denver billionaire distributed the San Francisco paper daily for free in high-income neighborhoods of the city and its immediate suburbs. Anschutz’s Clarity Media introduced a similar paper, the Washington Examiner, in the nation’s capital later in 2004 and followed with the Baltimore Examiner in 2006.

Clarity also trademarked the Examiner name in nearly 70 other markets, including Denver, leading to speculation that Anschutz was planning a nationwide chain of free newspapers.

But the national chain never materialized. Eventually, home delivery of the three Examiners was cut back, and the Baltimore Examiner was shut down in early 2009.

Read the rest.

Calculating the circulation of the Anschutz-era Examiner would take someone with a doctorate in statistics, given the way the paper is distributed and the lack of indepent verification. They claim [PDF] a total of 255,527 on Sundays, 199,088 on Thursdays, 101,369 on Fridays, and 75,009 Monday through Wednesday.

To boost their advertising revenues, the paper distributes its freebie only to higher-income census tracks.

Now the paper is being sold again, this time to a consortium headed by Black Press Group Ltd. of Victoria, British Columbia, which owns some 170+ papers in the U.S. and Canada, including the Akron Beacon Journal and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. According to the business website Manta, the company most recent revenue report listed an income of $113,351,680.

The new corporate owner, Canadian David Holmes Black, has managed to keep a singularly low media profile, and has largely escaped the attention of Wikipedia, which offers only a 93-word profile.

The best article we could locate is a Don Ward article in Seattle Weekly, written after Black’s takeover of a 60-paper chain of community papers in the Puget Sound region.

The Associated Press reports that the terms of the sale haven’t been disclosed, adding

Clarity CEO Ryan McKibben said it no longer made sense for the company to own the Examiner, its only newspaper on the West Coast. The publisher is now focusing its resources on the Washington, D.C. market and its recent acquisition of The Oklahoman newspaper, he said.

“In Black Press we found a publisher with a successful track record, and a strong commitment to highly localized reporting,” McKibben said.

David Black, president of the company based in Victoria, British Columbia, said: “We are delighted to become involved with such a strong newspaper. Readership is second to none in San Francisco and on the peninsula.”

The deal is expected to close on Nov. 30.

Read the rest.

Buying one California paper, Black Group sells another

When ensl first started reporting in the Golden State back in 1968, San Diego had two newspapers, the Union and the Tribune, both owned by the mossback conservative Copley family.

The papers were later consolidated into a single entity, then sold by the Copleys to a private equity firm, Platinum Equity, in 2009.

Now the paper — with a weekday circulation of 218,614 at last report — has been sold again, this time to a company owned by another mossback who was a major funder of Proposition 8, the successful statewide ballot initiative to ban gay marriage, as noted in this from the New York Times report on the sale:

The Manchester Financial Group, its Web site says, has a range of investments including two of the largest hotels in the United States: the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina. Mr. Manchester’s hotels were the target of a boycott in 2008 over his $125,000 donation to support a ballot initiative in California to prohibit same-sex marriage in the state.

And now for the sale. First up, the story on the sale from Ron Davis of voiceofsandiego.org

Hotelier Doug Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday, returning the paper to local ownership in a sale that would appear to turn a big profit for a private equity firm that bought it two years ago.

In a brief interview, Manchester said he paid “above” $110 million for Continue reading

The parallax problem: Cal, cops, and credibility


Via Wikipedia

In one of our earliest journalism jobs, we toted around a wonderful camera, a Rolleiflex 120, that yielded some of the most stunning photos we’ve ever captured.

There was just one problem. The Rollei was a twin-lens reflex camera. The photos were taken through the lower lens, while you saw your images through the upper lens, projected onto a ground glass screen.

For photos taken from six feet or more away, there wasn’t a problem. But for closer work, the image your eye saw and the image that made it onto the film were different. Photographers called it the parallax problem.

In effect, the same instrument provided two different views of the same event.

Director Alan J. Pakula would incorporate the notion into a famous film about a journalist, The Parallax View, starring Warren Beatty.

The reason we’re thinking of parallax is a pair of items appearing reflecting parallax views of the UC Berkeley Police violence last week.

Through one lens, the scent of history

First, the take on events from UC Berkeley law prof Jonathan Simon, writing at his blog Governing Through Crime:

UC Berkeley’s leadership has once again over reacted to student demonstrations by calling out not just the campus police, but the infamous Alameda County Sheriff’s officers (the Blue Meanies of the 1960s) who as so many times before marched in like the Imperial storm troopers in Star Wars and beat students for no apparent reason. What possible reason was there for this senseless creation of disorder that outstripped the disorder it was intended to prevent by a significant degree? Why was preventing a tent encampment on Sproul Plaza deemed a matter of urgency sufficient to risk the injury or even death of students and other protesters? What better place is there for such an encampment than Sproul plaza, a space dedicated to free speech? It is also a space where students can easily participate in a potentially historically important moment of democratic awakening in this country, and without having to miss classes (and which prevents no one else from attending classes or getting to their lab or library as building occupations do).

Our students (as well as everyone else here) are facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, and the rapid disappearance of a public higher education that was delivered to the generations of Californians. The protest sought to tie the rapid decline of public higher education to the disastrous financial crisis brought on by the casino capitalism promoted by the financial industry for its own benefit. They deserve our sympathy and our support, not a boot or a baton in the face.

Read the rest.

The second lens, seen from the top

And in case you missed it, UCB Chancellor Robert “Grinnin’ Bob” Birgeneau has staged a tactical retreat from his own police department, announcing an amnesty for most of those arrested during the Great Police Raid of 2011.

Here’s the text of the letter posted to the campus NewsCenter website Monday:

Dear Cal Campus Community:

I returned to Berkeley yesterday after a week-long trip to Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai where we successfully advanced some important new partnerships that will benefit our campus.

While away, I remained in intermittent contact with Provost George Breslauer and other members of our leadership team and was kept informed, as much as possible, about the Occupy Cal activities on campus. However, it was only yesterday that I was able to look at a number of the videos that were made of the protests on Nov. 9. These videos are very disturbing. The events of last Wednesday are unworthy of us as a university community. Sadly, they point to the dilemma that we face in trying to prevent encampments and thereby mitigate long-term risks to the health and safety of our entire community.

Most certainly, we cannot condone any excessive use of force against any members of our community. I have asked Professor Jesse Choper, our former Dean of Law, and current Chair of the Police Review Board (PRB) to launch immediately a review of the police actions of last Wednesday and Thursday morning. As is normal process, University Police Chief Mitch Celaya is concurrently undertaking an operational review of last week’s events. He has requested that it be conducted by a senior member of the command staff at one of our sister UC campuses. This report will be provided to the PRB. I am confident that Professor Choper will provide a fair and balanced judgment as speedily as possible.

We believe that we can best move forward by granting amnesty from action under the Student Code of Conduct to all Berkeley students who were arrested and cited solely for attempting to block the police in removing the Occupy Cal encampment on Wednesday, Nov. 9. We will do so immediately.

I believe that as a campus community we can and must join together and focus on our common goals – inducing the state to reinvest in public education, working to repeal Prop. 13, finding a way to reverse Prop. 209, and instituting reforms that will help California regain its status as the door to the American Dream through public higher education. Thanks to the efforts of our students who worked effectively with Assemblyman Cedillo, myself and other members of our campus community, we were able to ensure that the legislature in Sacramento passed AB 130 and AB 131 which Gov. Brown ultimately signed. This example of successful and peaceful activism with students and campus leaders working together can guide us in how we can collaborate to effect real change that will benefit us all. We share the aspirations of the Occupy movement for a better America. I am confident that as a campus community we will find a peaceful and productive way forward.

Robert J. Birgeneau
Chancellor, UC Berkeley

Amazing how he strives to distance himself from the department that’s under his own jurisdiction, just as did Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, right down to the “Oh, that? I was out of town” excuse.

Birgeneau has created his own parallax universe, in which he strives to literally and figuratively distance himself from the consequences of his own actions.

But as a witness to and subject of campus police violence during the time we reported on the Memorial Stadium tree-sit and other campus demonstrations, we find it hard to believe that Birgeneau didn’t anticipate what might happened when he unleashed campus police.

Journalists’ union protests abuse by Oakland police


It.s not just protesters who are being abused by local police. The news media have been taking their share of lumps, too.

Consider the following from the website of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, a unit of the Communication Workers of America:

JimWeitkamp, a regional vice president for CWA and the union’s top officer in California and Hawaii, took Oakland authorities to task after police harrassed working press covering the Occupation Movement.

In a letter to Mayor Jean Quan and interim Police Chief Howard Jordan, Weitkamp urged police be trained to deal properly with members of the media as street actions escalate.

“Clearly, by all accounts I have seen and read, the police leadership on the ground lost both perspective and control,” Weitkamp wrote.

The letter came after BANG-East Bay photographer Ray Chavez (photo) was roughed up by police during last week’s Occupy Oakland melee.

Photo: Karl Mondon/Media Workers Guild

We’ve experienced the heavy hand of the law ourselves, in the person of an officer of the UC Berkeley Police Department.

Here’s the account published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on 18 June 2008 about what happened when we were on the paper’s staff and photographing campus police as they tried to take down treesitters protesting the planned [and later carried out] cutting down of an oak grove at California Memorial Stadium:

This Berkeley Daily Planet reporter was threatened with arrest after he questioned an officer’s order to leave the rim of the stadium, the only place where activities of the officers could be monitored.

As the reporter was leaving, he was shoved in the back by a university officer and would have fallen down the concrete stairs had not he been grabbed by Doug Buckwald, one of the long-time supporters of the tree-sit.

Officer C. Chichester, badge 36, told this reporter, who was carrying valuable camera gear, that if he were arrested, “Who knows what would happen to your camera equipment when you’re in jail?”

The stadium rim was the only place from which a journalist could have a view of the events unfolding in the grove below. It was from the rim that the reporter saw one of the cranes brush a support line, from which a tree-sitter was suspended between two evergreens at least 50 feet apart.

Millipede, the treesitters suspended from the line, screamed in terror. She was the same tree-sitter arrested hours later. University spokesperson Dan Mogulof said she had bitten one of the workers.

Zachary Running Wolf, the first of the tree-sitters, said she and other protesters had been terrified when the arborists placed a saw next to the lines from which the tree-sitters were suspended between the trees.

Had the line snapped, the protesters would have been hurled to the ground in a potentially fatal fall, and for that reason the reporter objected to the forced move.

Asked why the reporter and spectators were being moved, Chichester said, “Well, there are people down below and perhaps they feel threatened.”

The stadium rim was blocked by police crime scene tape during the encounter.

Asked the grounds for a potential arrest, Chichester said simply, “You’re trespassing.” He declined to cite a statute, and said, “You’ll be informed of that when you’re being booked at the jail.”

Read the rest.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: And lots of it, too


First, two items that reflect on major changes underway at California newspapers, both likely to lead to more layoffs, then a look at the death of a newspaper in Florida, jobs cuts in the Big Apple, Connecticut, and Michigan, plus an also-ran in the Headline of the day competition.

Another California real estate baron publisher?

Sam Zell, one of the nation’s largest landlords, became a media mogul when he took of the Tribune Corp., publishers of papers that include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. [He’s also Berkeley’s biggest private sector landlord, too.]

After Zell’s takeover, job cuts followed in Los Angeles.

Now another real estate tycoon is eying a California paper, this one already owned by investment bankers.

From FishbowlLA’s Newspaper Deathwatch:

Former San Diego Union-Tribune editor David Ogul tweets that real estate developer and Prop 8 backer Douglas Manchester making serious motions to buy the U-T. This certainly seems to confirm the suspicions of CounterPunch’s Frank Green, who wrote back in October that Manchester was sniffing around the paper. Counterpunch and sources we spoke with say Manchester is interested in the paper’s real estate. Which, at this point, is probably far more valuable as a potential redevelopment site than the paper itself. Could this be the beginning of the end for the Union-Tribune?

Whatever the outcome, we can be sure it doesn’t bode well for San Diego’s ink-stained wretches, nor for the community dependent on their reporting about critical events that impact their lives.

MediaNews orders more SoCal consolidation

The Denver-based MediaNews chain, which controls the largest share of newspaper circulation in California, has been relentlessly hacking away at its papers in the Northern California Bay Area News Group [BANG], invariably following up with similar moves at its Southern California coutnerpart, the Los Angeles News Group [LANG].

The name of the game for MediaNews is consolidation, stripping papers of their community context while effectively merging them into single entities dubbed “newsblobs” by Southern California journalist Gary Scott.

After the latest round of BANG consolidations, new moves are afoot at LANG, as Kevin Roderick reports for LA Observed:

When Daily News editor Carolina Garcia was named editor last month over the Daily Breeze and Press-Telegram as well, it seemed pretty clear more moves were coming. Now they have come. Today’s memo from Garcia stresses that the three papers will retain their own identities, but there will be key senior editors who oversee all three papers. In most cases, it’s someone at the Daily News who gets elevated to manage the other papers’ staffs too. For instance, the DN’s Mariel Garza becomes the senior editor over the opinion pages that all three papers will run. Also: Harrison Sheppard becomes city editor of the Daily News and Kerry Cavanaugh becomes assistant city editor.

Read the rest, including the relevant memo.

The imminent death of a Florida paper

Bad news for folks in High Springs Florida and vicinity who’ve depended on the North Florida Herald for their weekly dose of news.

According to the Gainesville Sun:

The weekly newspaper, known as the High Springs Herald until 2009, had been in print since 1952. It has a print circulation of 3,300 and an average of 2,000 unique daily visitors to its website, covering news in High Springs, Alachua, Newberry, Fort White and Jonesville in Alachua, Columbia and Gilchrist counties.

Here’s the poignant announcement of the impending demise of a 53-year-old publication:

This may be the final issue of The North Florida Herald, the one that is in the stands now.

The following is a column written by North Florida Herald editor and publisher Ronald Dupont Jr.

***

As the publisher of The North Florida Herald, this is something I never thought I would write.

Unless a financial angel comes through our doors in the next two days, The Herald will close. No issue will be published this week, and without a financial angel, no issue will be published again.

We need $120,000 to survive until December of 2012. If we could survive to then, we would have published through the very profitable months of election advertising.

Even better, maybe the economy will have started changing by then and we would be back on our feet.

That is my hope.

It’s hard to believe that High Springs elections are next week and that The Herald will not be covering them for the first time since 1952. The Herald is the second oldest operating business in town, with only Jim Douglas Sales and Service having operated longer.

I keep wondering how people will learn about what their city leaders are doing in Alachua, Newberry, High Springs and Fort White. How will people learn of proposed laws, tax rate increases, donations, fee changes, you name it?

Who will tell the people?

Read the rest.

New York Daily News slashes jobs

The Daily News isn’t exactly a shining exemplar of the best ideals of the Fourth Estate, but at least it’s been an alternative to the great grey news machine that is the New York Times.

As a so-called subway tabloid, the paper depends on splashy, well, trashy, headlines to catch the eyes of readers as the scurry to catch their morning rides. But it’s a newspaper, and as such we share the agony of the ten folks who are losing their jobs.

From the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly:

In the latest turmoil to rattle the Daily News, about 10 reporters were axed today as the Mort Zuckerman-owned paper tries to stanch the flow of red ink.

Zuckerman invested $150 million in new four-color presses in New Continue reading

Another vet seriously hurt at Occupy Oakland


And where do we go to get the details? Why, a British newspaper, The Guardian, which has much more information than any of our radically downsized local papers about the injuries sustained by an El Cerrito tavern owner.

Hmm.

From The Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt:

A second Iraq war veteran has suffered serious injuries after clashes between police and Occupy movement protesters in Oakland.

Kayvan Sabehgi, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in intensive care with a lacerated spleen. He says he was beaten by police close to the Occupy Oakland camp, but despite suffering agonising pain, did not reach hospital until 18 hours later.

Sabehgi, 32, is the second Iraq war veteran to be hospitalised following involvement in Oakland protests. Another protester, Scott Olsen, suffered a fractured skull on 25 October.

On Wednesday night, police used teargas and non-lethal projectiles to drive back protesters following an attempt by the Occupy supporters to shut down the city of Oakland.

Sabehgi told the Guardian from hospital he was walking alone along 14th Street in central Oakland – away from the main area of clashes – when he was injured.

“There was a group of police in front of me,” he told the Guardian from his hospital bed. “They told me to move, but I was like: ‘Move to where?’ There was nowhere to move.

“Then they lined up in front of me. I was talking to one of them, saying ‘Why are you doing this?’ when one moved forward and hit me in my arm and legs and back with his baton. Then three or four cops tackled me and arrested me.”

Sabeghi, who left the army in 2007 and now part-owns a small bar-restaurant in El Cerrito, about 10 miles north of Oakland, said he was handcuffed and placed in a police van for three hours before being taken to jail. By the time he got there he was in “unbelievable pain”.

He said: “My stomach was really hurting, and it got worse to the point where I couldn’t stand up.

“I was on my hands and knees and crawled over the cell door to call for help.”

A nurse was called and recommended Sabehgi take a suppository, but he said he “didn’t want to take it”.

He was allowed to “crawl” to another cell to use the toilet, but said it was clogged.

“I was vomiting and had diarrhoea,” Sabehgi said. “I just lay there in pain for hours.”

Sabehgi’s bail was posted in the mid-afternoon, but he said he was unable to leave his cell because of the pain. The cell door was closed, and he remained on the floor until 6pm, when an ambulance was called.

He was taken to Highland hospital – the same hospital where Olsen was originally taken after being hit in the head by a projectile apparently fired by police.

Read the rest.

And when it came to their own story, the Oakland Tribune could only quote The Guardian:

The Guardian is reporting that he told them he was beaten by police during a clash with law enforcement following the strike. But his claims have not been verified by authorities.

“The Oakland Police Department is conducting an investigation regarding Kayvan Sabehgi and the circumstances of his arrest on Nov. 3, 2011.” Police ask anyone with information to call 510-238-3821.

Erin Allday’s San Francisco Chronicle account also relies on second-hand quotes, and no mention is made of The Guardian‘s story.

And only The Guardian has the details.