Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

UN blasts Trump for his war on the press


Donald Trump’s war on the press comes at a time when American journalism is dying, its ranks radically thinned as giant chains, many of them owned by investment banks interested only in profit rather than community service.

He ramped up his attacks Thursday night [2 August], devoting most of the evening’s rally to a relentless attack on the Fourth Estate, as the Associated Press reports:

“Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?” Trump asked, pointing to the media in the back of the hall. “They don’t report it. They only make up stories.”

Time and time again, Trump denounced the press for underselling his accomplishments and doubting his political rise.

>snip<

“Only negative stories from the fakers back there,” the president declared.

With each denunciation, the crowd jeered and screamed at the press in the holding pen at the back of the arena.

His assault on journalism came on the same day that two leading United Nations officials spoke out against his escalating assault on the free press.

From the United Nations:

Human rights experts denounce Trump’s attacks against media

The United Nations expert on free expression has condemned President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the press, warning that the US leader’s rhetoric is eroding public trust in the media and could spark violence against journalists.

“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and Edison Lanza, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Mr. Trump has labelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people,” “very dishonest” and “fake news,” the statement said. Moreover, he has accused the press of distorting democracy and spreading conspiracy theories and blind hatred.

“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” the experts said, expressing concern that the attacks risk increasing targeted violence against journalists.

The experts stressed that over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and his administration have sought to undermine reporting that had uncovered fraud, abuse, potential illegal conduct and disinformation.

“Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavoured outlets,” the experts continued, “he suggests nefarious motivations or animus.” However, they pointed out that not even one time was he able to show any specific reporting that was driven by untoward motivations.

“It is critical that the US administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation,” they underscored.

To this end, they urged President Trump to not only “stop using his platform to denigrate the media” but to condemn the attacks, including press threats at his own rallies.

Affirming that media attacks go beyond Mr. Trump’s language, they encouraged his administration, including the Justice Department, to “avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources,” saying that it undermines the media’s independence and blocks the public from accessing information.

The experts also appealed to the Government to “stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act.”

“We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide,” they asserted. “We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”

The experts encouraged all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of President Trump to favour some outlets over others.

“Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks,” they concluded.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

As someone who’s devoted his working life to practicing the craft of journalism, we are deeply alarmed at the state of the American press.

Trump wants what any tyrant wants: A silencing of opposing voices.

And with the press now own by those seeking profit over principle, the prognosis is bleak,

Chart of the day: America’s dying journalism


From the Pew Research Center:, a graphic accompaniment to a recent post:

From the accompanying report:

From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – worked in five industries that produce news: newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and “other information services” (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.

This decline in overall newsroom employment was driven primarily by one sector: newspapers. Newspaper newsroom employees dropped by 45% over the period, from about 71,000 workers in 2008 to 39,000 in 2017.

Of the five industries studied, notable job growth occurred only in the digital-native news sector. Since 2008, the number of digital-native newsroom employees increased by 79%, from about 7,400 workers to about 13,000 in 2017. This increase of about 6,000 total jobs, however, fell far short of offsetting the loss of about 32,000 newspaper newsroom jobs during the same period. (A separate Pew Research Center analysis of reported layoffs at newspapers and digital-native news outlets found that nearly a quarter of the digital outlets examined experienced layoffs between January 2017 and April 2018, despite the overall increase in employment in this sector.)

Newsroom employment figures in broadcast television were relatively stable, remaining at about 28,000 between 2008 and 2017. Employment also remained relatively stable in cable television, at about 3,000 over the same period. In contrast, radio broadcasting lost about a fourth (27%) of its newsroom employees, dropping from about 4,600 workers in 2008 to about 3,300 in 2017. Percentage-wise this places radio behind newspapers as the industry with the greatest decline, though the overall number of jobs lost – about 1,250 – is 25 times smaller than the loss in the newspaper sector.

The decline and fall of American journalism


Community newspapers across the U.S. are dying, slain by a combination of greed, changing public media habits, and indifference.

We begin with a story from Monday’s BBC News:

The New York Daily News, one of the city’s two tabloid papers, is halving its editorial staff, the latest sign of trouble in the local news business. The cuts will leave the newsroom with about 40 people, according to former employees.

They come less than a year after the paper was bought by Tronc, which has a reputation for low newsroom investment.

The New York Daily News started in 1919 and has won 11 Pulitzer Prizes, one of them last year.

Tronc faced backlash from staff at the Los Angeles Times, who formed a union and cast a spotlight on the cuts at Tronc-owned publications, despite high compensation going to top executives and other insiders.

Tronc is paying Merrick Ventures, a private equity firm led by Tronc’s biggest shareholder, $5m (£3.8m) a year for “management expertise and technical services”. The newspaper company, which also owns the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, subsequently sold the Los Angeles Times.

And it’s not just the Big Apple tabloid’s newsroom on the chopping block. Heads are rolling  today at the chain’s other papers,across the country, as reported by CNNMoney:

The newspaper publisher is laying off staffers at some of its other papers “today and tomorrow,” according to a Monday afternoon memo from Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.

The announcement immediately spooked staffers at papers like The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune.

Dearborn said the cuts will not be as severe as in New York.

“The Daily News is unique in that local leadership determined a complete redesign of its structure was needed post-acquisition,” he wrote. “We do not expect reductions of this scale in any of our other newsrooms.”

“With that said, several newsrooms and business units are implementing much smaller reductions today and tomorrow to reduce expenses and contain costs,” he wrote.

But it’s not the gutting of papers that should concern a citizen in a deomiocrayc; it’s also the closing of papers by the giant chains that now control most of the nation’s community journalism.

From PBS’s Independent Lens:

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled most of the American media, including magazines, books, music, news feeds, newspapers, movies, radio and television. By 1992 that number had dropped by half. By 2000, six corporations had ownership of most media, and today five dominate the industry: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom. With markets branching rapidly into international territories, these few companies are increasingly responsible for deciding what information is shared around the world.

There are also major news organizations not owned by the “big five.” The New York Times is owned by the publicly-held New York Times Corporation, The Washington Post is owned by the publicly-held Washington Post Company and The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times are both owned by the Tribune Company. Hearst Publications owns 12 newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as magazines, television stations and cable and interactive media.

But even those publications are subject to the conglomerate machine, and many see the “corporatizing” of media as an alarming trend. Ben Bagdikian, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley and author of The New Media Monopoly, describes the five media giants as a “cartel” that wields enough influence to change U.S. politics and define social values.

Newspocalypse Now! in three easy graphics. . .

Three images capture the sad story of the decline and fall of community journalism.

First up is a graph by Clinton Mullins, a Twitter exec who formerly held a senior position at old school media legend Conde Nast, showing the steady decline in American newspapers:

Next, from a January Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the state of journalistic employment across all platforms:

And from the Pew Research Center, a global look at the percentages of folks who believe their media are doing very/somewhat well at reporting the news:

One could argue that new media journalists are filling some of the decline seen in print newsrooms, but we would argue that in one very critical respect they are not.

Once newspapers were mostly locally owned, and their journalists and their publishers live in the communities they served.

And most significantly , community newspapers served as platforms for democracy, since providing information for a broad range of the public reflecting wide diversity of activities and opinion and thus constituting m modern version of the ancient Greek agora, the marketplace where both business and democracy took place.

And that’s why the changing nature of media ownership is of such vital importance,

The worst of the  predators stake out their prey

There’s an increasing probability that if you’re reading a U.S. newspaper. It’s owned by that most rapacious of predators, an investment bank. One such outfit, New Media Investment Group, was created as a shell to control the assets of Gatehouse media, with 144 daily newspapers and 333 weekly newspapers in 27 states, with the New Media itself being, according to its website, “externally managed and advised by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC, a global investment management firm.” Fortress, in turn, owns everything from casinos and retirement homes to other investment firms, a mortgage company, and a railroad.

From The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts, a two-year study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media:

Much attention has been focused in recent years on the country’s largest and most revered national newspapers as they struggle to adapt to the digital age. This report focuses, instead, on the thousands of other papers in this country that cover the news of its small towns, city neighborhoods, booming suburbs and large metropolitan areas. The journalists on these papers often toil without recognition outside their own communities. But the stories their papers publish can have an outsized impact on the decisions made by residents in those communities, and, ultimately, on the quality of their lives. By some estimates, community newspapers provide as much as 85 percent of “the news that feeds democracy” at the state and local levels.

This means the fates of newspapers and communities are inherently linked. If one fails, the other suffers. Therefore, it matters who owns the local newspaper because the decisions owners make affect the health and vitality of the community

>snip<

Over the past decade, a new media baron has emerged in the United States. Private equity funds, hedge funds and other newly formed investment partnerships have swooped in to buy — and actively manage — newspapers all over the country. These new owners are very different from the newspaper publishers that preceded them. For the most part they lack journalism experience or the sense of civic mission traditionally embraced by publishers and editors. Newspapers represent only a fraction of their vast business portfolios — ranging from golf courses to subprime lenders — worth hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars. Their mission is to make money for their investors, so they operate with a short-term, earnings-first focus and are prepared to get rid of any holdings — including newspapers — that fail to produce what they judge to be an adequate profit.

Here in California, Alden Global Capital — another vulture — owns the great majority of Golden State newspapers [38], accounting for an equally large majority of the readership.

Alden runs them through a shell, Digital First Media, which in turn has no less that three other shells to run their California papers. And Digital First President Joe Fuchs has his priorities, as he told a recent press conference: “Alden or any of their peers, doesn’t get involved in something to lose money.”

Alden’s capture of the California Fourth Estate and the ensuing ruthless and repeated downsizings play a leading role in the decline of California print employment reflected in this stunning graphic from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

Alden and its principal are so vicious in their attacks on the newsrooms that a 26 March Bloomberg News report on the company carried this headline:

Imagine If Gordon Gekko Bought News Empires

The reality is even worse: This raider sinks decimated newsrooms’ revenue into bad investments.

In an 17 October 2016 report, the Poynter Foundation charted the ownership types of the top 25 newspaper companies. Those gray malignancies dramatically illustrate the metastatic grasp of investment banks in the dramatically downsized dead-tree trade where we spent the most fulfilling years of our life:

The accompanying text reveals one of many things that happens when the hedge-funders seize control:

Because they own so many newspapers, they can absorb the loss if an individual newspaper fails. If investment firms cannot sell an underperforming newspaper, they close it, leaving communities without a newspaper or any other reliable source of local news and information.

As newspapers die, large areas of the country are transformed into news deserts, counties with few or no paid reporters covering the local communities in black and white.

From Columbia Journalism Review, a look at the news deserts in the contiguous 48 states, with the palest areas representing counties with no remaining papers:

One map reminded us of another, this county-by-county reflection [Wikipedia] of the relative proportion of the winning votes for Hillary Clinton [blue] and Donald Trump [red]. The reason for the blue in the news deserts of Atizona and New Mexico is accounted for by the presence of tribal reservations:

More from an 8 April Politico report:

President Donald Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media may be rooted in statistical reality: An extensive review of subscription data and election results shows that Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in counties with the lowest numbers of news subscribers, but didn’t do nearly as well in areas with heavier circulation.

POLITICO’s findings — which put Trump’s escalating attacks on the media in a new context — were drawn from a comparison of election results and subscription information from the Alliance for Audited Media, an industry group that verifies print and digital circulation for advertisers. The findings cover more than 1,000 mainstream news publications in more than 2,900 counties out of 3,100 nationwide from every state except Alaska, which does not hold elections at the county level.

The results show a clear correlation between low subscription rates and Trump’s success in the 2016 election, both against Hillary Clinton and when compared to Romney in 2012. Those links were statistically significant even when accounting for other factors that likely influenced voter choices, such as college education and employment, suggesting that the decline of local media sources by itself may have played a role in the election results.

That gives new force to the widely voiced concerns of news-industry professionals and academicians about Trump’s ability to make bold assertions about crime rates, unemployment and other verifiable facts without any independent checks. Those concerns, which initially were raised during the campaign, were largely based on anecdotes and observations. POLITICO’s analysis suggests that Trump did, indeed, do worse overall in places where independent media could check his claims.

The White House declined to comment for this story, but Trump and his campaign officials have made no secret of their preference for partisan national outlets and social media to mainstream outlets of all types.

Newspaper closings lead to higher taxes

Close of local newspapers carries another cost for the impacted communities.

From “Financing Dies in Darkness? The Impact of Newspaper Closures on Public Finance,” by three finance professors, Pengjie Gao of the University of Notre Dame, and Chang Lee and Dermot Murphy of the University of Illinois at Chicago:

Newspapers play an important monitoring role for local governments. Other papers have shown that the loss of a local newspaper leads to worsened political outcomes in the region, and we illustrate that there are worsened financial outcomes as well. In particular, we show that long-run municipal borrowing costs increase by as much as 11 basis points following a newspaper closure, and we utilize several identification tests to show that these results are not being driven by underlying economic conditions in the region. We also show that government efficiency outcomes are substantially affected by newspaper closures. In particular, we find that government wage rates, government employees per capita, tax dollars per capita, and the likelihoods of costly advance refundings and negotiated sales all increase following a newspaper closure. From a finance perspective, our results suggest that local newspapers are important for the health of local capital markets.

For counties that have experienced local newspaper closures, we do not expect these newspapers to return, nor do we think that they should, per se. Online news outlets are fundamentally changing the way that people consume news, and they are very likely to remain the dominant source for news consumption. However, these paradigm-shifting news outlets do not necessarily provide a good substitute for high-quality, locally-sourced, investigative journalism. In the long-run, perhaps an equilibrium will be reached in which these online-based organizations contract out work to local reporters and tailor their news to the local areas. In 2009, former Baltimore Sun reporter and famous television producer David Simon stated the following: “The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore Zoning Board hearing is the day that I will be confident that we’ve actually reached some sort of equilibrium.” We concur, and our evidence suggests that economic growth at the county level will be better off in that equilibrium.

Just how much a paper’s closure costs local taxpayers whe n their government seeks bond funding is summed up in a graphic from co-author Murphy:

BLOG News bonds

The Trumpster delivers a coup de grâce

And now the biggest beneficiary of the decline of community journalism is dealing Ameirca’s newspapers another deadly blow, forcing papers to cut back even more, writes veteran press-watcher Ken Doctor noted in a March report for the Nieman Lab:

Now the battle is heating up on Capitol Hill over tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on Canadian groundwood paper earlier this year.

The tariffs increase the cost of newsprint by as much as 30 to 35 percent, though the impact on publishers is highly uneven, with some chains in better shape and the dwindling independents most at risk. The predictable impacts already in motion: more newsroom layoffs, thinner (and reshaped) print products, fewer Sunday preprints, and an overall further diminishing of the value proposition newspapers are offering their readers.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will reduce its printing days from seven to five next month. The Nevada Appeal in Carson City, Nevada, moves from seven to just two days, while its parent cuts frequency on three adjacent papers.

Within the industry, there’s talk of “dropping Mondays” and replacing print editions with e-editions on other days as well. It looks as if newsprint tariffs will force more publishers to take the path Advance Publications first took six years ago, swapping daily print for digital.

And so it goes. . .

We started in print journalism doing volunteer reporting for a Colorado mountain daily, beginning with a byline and photo on the front page banner story of the 9 November 1964 San Luis Valley Courier, heading next to Arizona for a $50-a-week gig in Arizona at the weekly Winslow Mail, moving next to Nevada and hitch as crime, civil rights, poverty, and radical politics reporter [the last three beats by our own devising and the first such beat assignments in the history of Silver State journalism] on the staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal — then as now the state’s dominant newspaper.

Our next job was back in Arizona, where we’d spent 30 days covering schools and general for the Tucson Daily American, a newspaper with the temerity to close before we got our second paycheck.

After starting our journalism addiction at 7600 feet above sea level, our first California gig put us om the Pacific Coast, two blocks from the beach at the Oceanside Blade-Tribune. The town’s main industry was the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, where Vietnam War-bound jarheads got their field training before they headed out to combat.

The next newspaper gig was in another coastal town at the superb family owned Santa Monica Evening Outlook, the finest job we ever held. Then it was on to the Sacramento Bee, the dominant and then only newspaper covering the capital city of the nation’s most populous state.

Our final newspaper job was at the Berkeley Daily Planet, the California city that gave rise to the legendary Free Speech Movement.

Of those newspapers, the Winslow Mail, Tucson Daily American, Oceanside Blade-Tribune, Santa Monica Evening Outlook, and the Berkeley Daily Planet were owned by families or individuals and have folded, vanishing from front porches and newsstands, their communities left without local news produced by committed journalists who, despite by their own inevitable personal biases, work hard to fairly and accurately report differing views.

Each of the communities they once served has become a news desert.

New York Times editor: Trump gives us a boost


Yep, in our Blood on the newsroom floor posts, we’ve tracked the slow death of American newspapers as subscribers abandon dead tree journalism for the wilds on the online world.

But print has been undergoing a revival, at least at the New York Times, where subscriptions for the digital and print versions are on the rise, and one man is responsible: President Pussygrabber.

Every time the execrable occupant of the White House tweets something nasty about the Gray Lady, subscriptions soar.

Here’s Times editor Dean Baquet talking about Trump, anonymous sources, and Agent Orange in an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter:

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .a building lost


This time it’s the newsroom itself that’s the latest victim of the ongoing radical downsizing of the American mainstream media.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles has sold to a Canadian developer, paving the way for the redevelopment of a historic property the paper has called home since 1935, according to a person familiar with the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Onni Group of Vancouver has explored plans to turn the property at 202 W. 1st St. into a collection of creative offices and retail and residential units.

The Times reported in June that Onni had signed an agreement to buy the building, but the deal with Tribune Media officially closed Monday night, the source said.

Tribune Media in Chicago declined to comment. An executive at Onni Group did not return messages seeking comment.

Terms of the sale were not available.

The Times building is an icon of Art Deco architecture, designed by Gordon Kauffman and opened in 1935.

Perhaps the building’s most impressive feature is it’s lobby, a testimony to the sense of exuberant power that once marked America’s leading metropolitan papers.

The Los Angeles Times building lobby, a testimony to the global ambitions of the paper's global ambitions under the reign of its founders. Via Wikipedia.

The Los Angeles Times building lobby, a testimony to the global ambitions of the paper’s global ambitions under the reign of its founders. Via Wikipedia.

The newspaper has been diminished in recent years, most notably under the brief reign of Sam Zell [previously], the self-styled “grave dancer,” and one of America’s most ruthless landlords.

Zell gutted the paper’s pension fund, money he looted to bankroll his takeover, a short, brief reign marked by mass layoffs and reportorial rage.

The sale of the building  trend across the country, as headquarters buildings are sold off to buttress faltering bottom lines.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .a body count


And note the sheer idiocy of that corporate statement.

From the Poynter Foundation:

Less than three months after acquiring The Bergen Record, the (Passaic County) Herald News and other assets of North Jersey Media Group, Gannett is trimming the newspapers’ headcount dramatically.

In an unbylined story that was skewered on Twitter for trying to put a positive spin on the news, North Jersey Media Group announced that more than 200 employees would be laid off from sales and news departments in mid-November as part of a “bold, ambitious vision to make North Jersey Media Group even more competitive.”

A source in the company told Poynter Wednesday afternoon that employees will discuss the decision at an off-site meeting at a banquet hall in Paramus, New Jersey, about 20 minutes away from the Record’s newsroom.

Tom Donovan, Northeast Regional President of Gannett East Group, said the reorganization will “position us to remain that content and advertising leader” in a statement to Poynter. (Disclosure: Poynter has a training partnership with Gannett.)

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .dying papers


John Oliver’s brilliant dissection of the problems facing America’s newspapers, the bedrock of the national press, finds confirmation in two charts from State of the News Media 2016, the latest annual report on the state of American journalism from the Pew Research Center.

First up, the bad news about the news business as reflected by the falling numbers of folks who pay to have the news deilvered to the front doorstep:

BLOG News circ
And then there’s this grim graphic on the vanishing American newspaper reporter, especially journalists who are women or belong non-Anglo ethnic groups:

BLOG News jobs

Chart of the day: Quicker way to kill newspapers


With aa growing number of newspapers now in the hands of investment bankers, it’s no surprise to discover that papers are hiving off their most lucrative holdings into separate companies.

By splitting print from television and radio, the profit electronic money spinoffs aren’t freighted down with the burden of having to carry their dying former partners, the subject of today’s Chart of the day, via the Pew Research Center:

BLOG media companies

From Pew:

In the past two years, several media companies that own both print and broadcast properties have spun off their newspapers and other print products into separate publishing companies to isolate this troubled sector from their more profitable broadcast stations. And this strategy has largely paid off.

Gannett Co. Inc., Tribune Company, and E.W. Scripps Co., which together own more than 100 newspapers and more than 70 television stations, all made the decision in 2014 or 2015 to spin off their print properties into separate companies. An analysis of the spinoffs shows that the broadcasting components of the original companies (which also retained many digital properties) have mostly outperformed their publishing counterparts in terms of operating profit margins and stock prices.

Needless to say, the trend is bad new for folks who love the news, given that, as John Oliver recently and reasonably pointed out, its the newspapers that account for much of the news carried by the electronic media.

Oliver’s brilliant commentary aroused the ire of David Chavern, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, the industry’s trade organization and lobby.

But then Chavern isn’t a newspaper sort at all. His last job as as COO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .Another ax falls


The publisher controlling the greatest newspaper circulation in California is based out of Denver, where its flagship publication is the Denver Post.

And a story from Westword about the Post has to be sending chills down the spines of journalists at the chain’s California papers:

Last week, as we reported, the Denver Post announced the names of twenty employees who’d accepted buyout offers, including prominent personalities such as longtime TV columnist Joanne Ostrow and editorial page editor Vince Carroll.

This number fell short of the Post’s buyout goal of 26 members of the newsroom, and observers immediately feared that layoffs would be implemented to make up the difference.

And so it has come to pass.

According to the Denver Newspaper Guild, the Post has announced its intention to lay off three members of its newsroom by July 8. In addition, we’ve learned that numerous part-timers have also been let go in addition to three workers in the paper’s IT department.

The names of the full-time editorial staffers being let go is unofficial at this point, but Morgan Dzakowic, a sports writer and digital producer, confirms that she’s received a termination notice. She places the blame for the buyouts and layoffs at the doorstep of Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that controls the Post’s owner, Digital First Media.

“They’re basically milking the Denver Post for all it’s worth,” Dzakowic says. “The Post is extremely profitable, but these corporate people are gutting the paper — and there are a lot of talented people in the building.”

If the ax is falling in Denver, can blows in Oakland, San Jose, Marin County, Los Angeles, Yolo County. . .and more be far behind?

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .faith edition


Or rather lack of faith.

From Gallup, the latest grim news about the American disillusionment with their newspapers:

BLOG Papers

From Gallup:

The 20% of Americans who are confident in newspapers as a U.S. institution hit an all-time low this year, marking the 10th consecutive year that more Americans express little or no, rather than high, confidence in the institution. The percentage of Americans expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers has been dwindling since 2000, and the percentage expressing “very little” or “none” finally eclipsed it in 2007. The percentage with low confidence has only expanded since, tying a previous high of 36%.

One in five U.S. adults now say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers — the all-time low for newspapers in Gallup’s trend dating to 1973. An additional 42% of U.S. adults say they have “some” confidence, meaning that the institution still sparks at least a measure of confidence in a majority of Americans.

However, the days when more than twice as many Americans expressed high rather than low confidence in newspapers are long gone. While this was common from the inception of Gallup’s confidence in institutions trend through 1990, it has only been achieved once since — in 2002, during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when Americans rallied around most major U.S. institutions.

Blood on the newsroom floor, pension edition


From the San Diego Reader, some very bad news for folks who retired from the San Diego Union Tribune as well as those planning to hang it all up any time soon:

The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s pension/retirement deficit rose to $96.2 million at year-end 2015, according to the parent Tribune Publishing’s 10-K annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The deficit was $85.4 million in May of 2015, when Tribune Publishing bought the U-T.

Tribune Publishing (which is changing its name to “tronc” — with a lower case t — later this month) lists the pension deficit among risk factors that potential investors should consider before buying the stock.

The deficits of other Tribune Publishing newspapers are not listed as risk factors in the document.

The numbers are alarming. As of yearend 2015, the amount the company owes over time to employees and former employees is $235.6 million. But the value of the pension plan’s assets is just $139.4 million. Tribune Publishing contributed only $3 million to the fund last year, according to the filing.

The return on the plan’s assets was minus $10.2 million last year.The company paid out $9.9 million in benefits, according to the document filed with the securities agency.

Blood on the newsroom floor: Layoffs, a ban


UPDATED, after the jump. . .

Two major developments today.

First, the New York Times announced major layoffs in Paris as emphasis shifts from print to digital, with job losses concentrated in printing and editing. And then there’s the resignation of a Nevada journalist specializing in casino reporting after his boss barred him from reporting on the paper’s owner, a thuggish Right-winger and GOP megadonor who just happens to be the state’s leading casino owner.

The Paris layoffs affect production of the International New York Times/International Herald-Tribune.

Here’s a key section of the memo sent to staff announcing the cuts, via media blogger Jim Romenesko:

Readers today, particularly our highly traveled international readers, have different needs and expectations of print publications than even a few years ago. Our goal with this proposed redesign is to increase the breadth and depth of analysis, opinion and other coverage on topics that are most meaningful and pertinent to international audiences.

Another goal of the proposal is to simplify our production process and enable us to produce the paper far more efficiently than we do today, a step that is critical to its financial viability. Without these proposed changes, we do not believe that an international print New York Times is sustainable over the long term.

Stephen Dunbar-Johnson and Joe Kahn, who are leading our international efforts and overseeing the proposed redesign, will share more details with our colleagues at the INYT, but the proposal we announced today would result in the closing of the editing and pre-press print production operation in Paris, with those responsibilities moving to Hong Kong and New York.

France remains a vital market for us and we will maintain a robust news bureau in Paris as well as a core international advertising office there.

We regret that the proposal includes the elimination of jobs in Paris and we want to express our appreciation to colleagues – past and present – who through their hard work, have contributed to maintaining a tradition of excellence in global journalism at the IHT and INYT.

We believe that the proposal we have put forth today is necessary to sustain our global journalistic mission and best serve our valued international print readers and advertisers well into the future

Next, and more troubling, is the resignation of Nevada’s most able journalist covering the casino beat.

John L. Smith has worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal for decades, covering the casino industry and its often shady players.

The Review-Journal was where we landed our first job on a daily newspaper at the ripe old age of 19 covering, among other things, racial discrimination in the city’s gaming palaces, stories for which we won the state’s highest journalism award, one Smith himself would win a couple of decades later.

The handwriting was on the wall for Smith last year when the city’s biggest casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, bought the paper, in part, we suspect, because it was the only way he could shut Smith up.

And now it’s over.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

SF Bay Area papers eliminating critical editors


Back when esnl got his start in the newspaper game, our stories were subjected to at least three levels of editing, sometimes more depending on the size of the newspaper.

The first level came from the supervising or assigning editor, usually a deputy city editor. The story then went to the city editor, then to the copy desk, where the story was checked for grammar, style, typos, and continuity problems by a copy editor. From there it went to the slot man, the final check in the editing process, who examined the story for content and placement.

If the story was sufficiently significant, the vetting might also include the managing editor and his boss [all the editors of that level were male at the papers where we worked], plus a lawyer if any legal issues were raised. Then, after the story was set in type, a proofreader gave it the final once-over for typos and dropped lines of type.

That’s why you rarely if ever saw misspelled words, misattributions, incorrect tiles, and so much more.

But with the waves of downsizings we’ve reported over the years, typos flourish, facts go astray, and stories have grown choppier — and so much more.

And now the Bay Area News Group [BANG], the company that owns almost all the newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area, is getting rid of the last vestiges of editorial review.

Here’s the memo staff members received today, via Romenesko:

From: James Robinson
Date: Apr 22, 2016 6:02 AM
Subject: Some changes to our editing and production processes
To: &BANG News All

We’re launching a series of changes to the assigning and copy editing process in an attempt to manage a planned loss of approximately 11 FTEs. We are choosing this course, as many papers have across the country, rather than cutting more deeply into the ranks of content producers or neglecting our digital needs.

The bottom line is that we will be eliminating a layer of valuable editing across most of the copy desk — what is known in desk parlance as the rim. The result:

  • Staff stories that go inside sections will not be copy-edited. The assigning editor will be the only read. (In sports, late stories that do not go through an assigning editor will continue to be read on the desk, once.) Stories for our East Bay weeklies will not be copy-edited.
  • Staff stories for section covers will receive one read on the desk rather than the current two.
  • Proofreading will be reduced. This is going to place a new level of responsibility on reporters and, especially, assigning editors. Many of the ways in which the desk bails us out — often without us noticing — will disappear. That will mean:
  • All assigning editors must run Tansa on stories before moving them to the desk, and all proper names will have to be cq’ed. Grammar mistakes that make it through an assigning editor are highly likely to appear in print.
  • Reporters and editors will need to be more familiar with AP and BANG style.
  • Budgetlines will need to include accurate deadlines and lengths. Desk folk who receive overly long stories will not have time to redo page designs; they will be instructed to cut from the end (on some occasions, early notice to the desk that a story is running long may avoid this fate). When deadlines are blown, the desk may need to grab a web version of the story and move on.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .Orange County


The Santa Ana Register,  later renamed the Orange County Register, was California’s preeminent voice of Libertarian conservatism when esnl moved to California back in late 1967 [God, was it really almost a half-century ago?].

The paper’s editorial pages could be relied on to promote the John Birch Society party line, while the news pages harbored some good journalists who secretly loathed the editorials.

But the paper was beset by the same woes afflicting all other forms of dead tree journalism, plus some ownership familial infighting.

Finally, the paper went up for grabs, and the latest sale, to the same company that owns most of the once-independent newspapers in California’s two most populous regions [the Los Angeles County basin and the San Francisco Bay Area], was greeted with trepidation by folks who have watched what happens when Media News took over other California newspapers.

Massive downsizing invariably followed, and in the Bay Area, Media News has folded its papers into amorphous blobs while gutting staffs.

And just as we expected comes word that within days of the sale of the Orange County paper [the Riverside Press-Enterprise was also part of the deal], Media News took out the ax and began chopping.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Rob Curley, editor of the Orange County Register, confirmed on Thursday that it would be his last day leading the paper.

At the conclusion of a bankruptcy auction just over a week ago, a judge in Santa Ana approved the sale of the Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise — which had been owned by Freedom Communications — to Digital First Media.

Curley was among some 70-plus Register employees who, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing the paper, were being targeted for layoffs. He joined Freedom in 2012 and, before becoming editor, served as deputy editor of local news, leading a relaunch of the Register’s 22 community newspapers.

Meanwhile, the wacko beliefs once largely restricted to the editorial pages of the Register and a few other papers across the country are now the prevailing orthodoxy of the Republican Party.

Bay Area daily newspapers bite the dust


After 140 years of publishing as a daily newspaper, the Oakland Tribune — a newspaper which has seen its reporting staff downsized repeatedly from a 1960’s era 125 to less than a handful — will become a once-a-week supplement to the new East Bay Times, which will also include the dominant Contra Costa Times, the Fremont Argus, and the Hayward Daily Review, with the latter two also ending their runs as daily newspapers and appearing as once-a-week simulacra.

The Bay Area News Group, the umbrella organization for the San Francisco region newspapers of the MediaNews Group, has witnessed dramatic downsizings over the past two decades, and the new consolidation will be accompanied by yet more layoffs.

We haven’t heard if similar moves are afoot in Southern California, where MediaNews operates as the Los Angeles News Group.

It’s yet another sad day for the ink-stained wretches of the Gutenberg era.

Chart of the day: More signs of the death of print


Bad news for newspaper in a new survey [PDF] from the Pew Research Center, which reveals that print media are far down on the list of news sources folks of all ages turn to for information about the current presidential election circus. And as might be expected, the last of the flagging support for print comes from the Boomers, and the news is especially bleak for local newspapers.

Indeed, it’s arguable that print shouldn’t even be labelled as a mainstream medium:

BLOG News

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .


Bad news just keeps coming for stalwarts of the Fourth Estate north of the border.

First, CBC News covers the latest layoffs, this time in Halifax, Nova Scotia:

Eighteen Chronicle Herald staff have received layoff notices on the first day of their strike [Friday] at Canada’s oldest independently owned newspaper.

Frank Campbell, vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union, said Saturday layoff notices had been issued to four photographers, 12 editors and two page technicians. He said the union’s lawyers are analyzing the legality of the move.

“It wasn’t on our radar that people would receive layoff notices while we were on strike,” Campbell told CBC News.

And from the Toronto Globe and Mail, specifics on layoffs by Canada’s media giant:

The country’s largest newspaper chain, Postmedia Network Canada Corp., is merging once-competing newsrooms and cutting about 90 staff as it tries to cope with declining revenue and a heavy debt load.

In Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa – cities where Postmedia owns two daily papers – editorial staff will be joined together to work under one senior editor, filing stories and images to both publications. But the company is not closing any newspapers, promising to continue publishing two in each city, albeit with less distinctive content and fewer rival reporters working local beats.

Last April, as Postmedia closed a deal to buy 175 newspapers and digital publications from Quebecor Inc., executives from the company were promising that the newly acquired Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun and Ottawa Sun would remain competitors with the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal and Ottawa Citizen. The consolidation of written media that resulted was unprecedented for Canada, but Postmedia stressed that newsrooms would stay separate, pointing to its existing control of both the Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun.

And some interpretation from a rabble.ca post headlined “Right-wing newspapers take over media markets in four more cities”:

Recent developments surrounding Postmedia’s layoffs and restructuring are particularly unsettling. Postmedia, which is largely U.S. owned, prints both the National Post and the Toronto Sun separately. But in its restructured form, newspapers like the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun will have one editor with roots in the Sun news side. Good newsrooms with balanced editorial policies will likely be replaced with right-wing automatons like Lorne Motley, the figure responsible for transforming the Calgary Herald into an attack dog for the oil and gas industry.

This same structure will be replicated across Postmedia-owned newspapers in Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver. The Province, the Citizen, the Herald, the Journal will now be in essence the Sun, Sun, Sun and Sun, respectively.

None of these corporate-backed media chains were ever known for their progressive views. But it’s bad news for democracy when Canadian news ownership is even more concentrated than in 2012: when Canada ranked first place in the G8 for concentrated media ownership.

Finally, on this side of the border, some specifics on a notable shutdown of a cable news network from TVNewser:

Winding down an entire cable news network takes time–and plenty of paperwork. When Al Jazeera America announced earlier this month it would end operations in April, hundreds of employees learned they would be losing their jobs.

>snip<

The mechanics of laying off a workforce estimated at around 700 people across twelve U.S. bureaus includes government-mandated reports that must be give at least 60 days notice of layoffs. The first of those reports was filed in New York State the day of AJAM’s January announcement on January 13, giving 90 days notice.

The New York Department of Labor filing discloses that 197 employees will be laid off, beginning as early as April 13. In the filing, Al Jazeera lists the reason for the layoffs as a “plant closing.”

And finally, via Mediaite, terrorism in the newsroom:

The backlash is mounting against Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for a horrible joke she attempted to make recently at a companywide meeting, and now many in her presumably deflated workforce fear for their jobs.

Mayer reportedly told the company that there will be “no layoffs… this week,” and although her comments were intended to be humorous, many who call the tech giant home are left wondering about their employment status within the company. “This is the reason employee morale is so low,” said one employee to the New York Post, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution.

According to reports, the comment in question from the CEO came at a January 8 meeting known as the “Friday FYI”. Mayer has served as President and CEO of Yahoo since June 2012, though many have questioned the direction of the company under her leadership.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .


Most of the action is happening north of the border, but there’s one especially notable set of layoffs south of the line, and we’ll begin with that one, via PetaPixel:

There’s more bad news in the photojournalism industry today: Sports Illustrated has laid off Director of Photography Brad Smith, Photo Editor Claire Bourgeois, and Photo Director John Blackmar. This comes almost exactly 1 year after the magazine laid off its entire roster of staff photographers.

Smith, who joined SI in 2013 after spending 6 years as the senior sports photography editor at the New York Times, confirmed the layoff news to PetaPixel in an email today.

The layoff comes as Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Time Inc, continues to try to convince photographers to sign its controversial photography contract. The timing is also curious due to the fact that one of the biggest annual sporting events in the US, the Super Bowl, is just around the corner.

The layoff of the SI photo team is breathtaking, given the magazine’s once prominent role as a home for some of the country’s best photographic talent.

A decade ago one of our oldest friends, a photographer whose work has graced the pages of the nation’s leading newspapers and magazines, predicted the demise of his craft, given the vast proliferation of digital cameras capable of executing by program the skills a film photographer took years to hone.

Still, the news is tragic, and marks the passage of an age.

Now to go north of the border, first with CBC News:

Newspaper chain Postmedia today announced sweeping changes to its operations, cutting 90 jobs across the country and merging newsrooms from multiple newspapers into one each in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.

“We will continue to operate separate brands in each of these markets,” Postmedia CEO and president Paul Godfrey said in a memo to staff Tuesday afternoon. “What is changing is how we produce these products.”

The chain says two papers in those markets — the Sun and Province in Vancouver, the Herald and Sun in Calgary, the Journal and Sun in Edmonton, and the Citizen and Sun in Ottawa — will share newsroom resources, but continue to operate.

“Each city will have one newsroom,” Godfrey said, and the two papers will be run by one editorial team.

And still more layoffs, this time from Canadaland :

Thirteen Toronto Star employees have been laid off today, CANADALAND has confirmed. In a memo to staff, editor-in-chief Michael Cooke said ten tablet employees and three digital employees will be leaving the company in light of the Star closing its print centre. The Star will also be outsourcing customer service and administration work, which will affect about 15 staff according to an email send to the newsroom by publisher John Cruickshank.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .


Time to catch up on the latest grim news from the Fourth Estate.

First, the big news, and this time it’s television where the downsizing axe is falling.

From Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera America will shutter its cable TV and digital operations by April 30 of this year, the company announced Wednesday. The decision by the AJAM board was “driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace,” said AJAM CEO Al Anstey.

“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey wrote in an email addressed to all the company’s employees. The decision was no reflection on the work of that staff, he said. “Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled. We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest. And you are the most talented team any organization could wish for.”

The announcement of AJAM’s closure coincides with a decision by its global parent company to commit to a significant expansion of its worldwide digital operations into the U.S. market.

Next up, a notable magazine sale is in the works, and layoffs are inevitable.

From the New York Times:

“If you really care about an institution and want to make it strong for the ages, you don’t walk out. You roll up your sleeves, you redouble your commitment to those ideals in a changing world, and you fight.”

That’s what Chris Hughes, the 32-year-old billionaire Facebook co-founder, wrote just a little more than a year ago about The New Republic, the century-old magazine he acquired in 2012. On Monday, Mr. Hughes, said, in effect, “Nah, forget about all of that.”

He put the magazine up for sale, throwing up his hands in frustration. “I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate,” he wrote.

And layoffs are on the way at a major metropolitan newspaper, reports Capital New York:

After a painful fall in which the Daily News was recovering from a downsizing that claimed the jobs of numerous longtime newsroom employees, has the tabloid been hit with cuts yet again?

Three sources familiar with the matter told POLITICO as much on Friday.

The details are fuzzy and a spokeswoman for the News declined to comment.

But the sources said the cuts appeared to be concentrated within a digital unit working out of the paper’s printing plant and administrative headquarters in Jersey City, where the News had assembled a team of around 30 or so web writers to produce traffic-friendly articles for nydailynews.com.

And a magazine downsizes, via the Boston Business Journal:

Boston magazine has cut a number of positions as part of a restructuring at its parent company.

The glossy publication, best known for its Best of Boston rankings and long-form features on the city’s power players, has cut senior editor S.I. Rosenbaum, one of three positions to be eliminated today [5 January].

>snip<

“Very sadly, three members of our Boston magazine team lost their jobs today as a result of our restructuring,” said Metrocorp president Rick Waechter in an email. “It hurts to lose dedicated team members and this was no exception. We wish them the best.”

Sheldon Adelson stirs up a journalistic free-for-all


Since this is an intimately personal essay, I’ll resort to first person [maybe someday we’ll offer a post on why we typically opt for the third person].

My very first job at a daily newspaper was as a cub reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, then and now the largest paper in the Silver State.

I was 19 when I started, hired on a fluke because I was owed a favor. There wasn’t an opening, and while I was assigned the night cops assignment then standard for newbies, I had six other hours a day to cover other things, five when two minor beats were added.

Since all beats were filled, the editor, Jim Leavey, asked what else I’d like to write about [a really remarkable option for a teenager]. So I said “How about civil rights, radical politics, and [Lyndon Johnson’s] war on poverty?”

A year later, I had won the paper the state’s highest journalism honors, the Best Community Service award from the Nevada State Press Association for my coverage of Sin City’s African American community — which had previously been covered, if at all, with brief statements from “black leaders” essentially picked by the establishment for their politically “safe” opinions.

The paper was then owned by Don W. Reynolds, an Arkansas old school libertarian and a man who let the paper alone, save for an occasional editorial. Some of the other editorials were written by me, and were notably provocative.

But that’s what the R-J was then.

As for now, let’s begin with a quote from a 10 April 2012 profile by Rick Perlstein for Rolling Stone about Sin City’s preeminent casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, now 82 and worth nearly $30 million, give or take:

Right before the grand opening of the {Adelson’s Venetian hotel and casino], in 1999, the Culinary Workers staged a demonstration on the public sidewalk out front. Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: “I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn’t move they’d have to put me under ‘citizen’s arrest.’ I ignored them.” The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow.

Marvels Arnodo, “Here you have a sidewalk that 12 billion people walk down, [and] the only people who can’t use it are the union!” The Culinary Workers argued before the National Labor Relations Board that Adelson’s attempts to keep them from demonstrating violated federal labor law. Adelson’s lawyers countered that their client’s First Amendment rights were being violated – because his threats of arrests were an instance of “petitioning the government.” The union won the right to protest; Adelson refused to comply with the settlement, copies of which the union passed out on that very same sidewalk. That was “fraudulent use of the seal of a government agency,” the Venetian argued, further claiming that union workers had “impersonated” NLRB officials, and that the volunteer labor activists had been coerced. The great civil liberties attorney Alan Dershowitz got involved – on Adelson’s side. “The Venetian has no property rights to the sidewalk,” a federal appeals judge told them in 2007. Unmoved, Adelson tried, without success, to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.  After all, Adelson told the Wall Street Journal, radical Islam and the right to more easily join a union were the two most “fundamental threats to society.”

Did I mention Adelson is nuts? But don’t take my word for it – it was George W. Bush who called him “some crazy Jewish billionaire.”

Adelson has one cause above all other, Israel, one he approaches from the zalous perspective of the Likud.

Consider this from an Adelson Family Foundation press release issued in Jerusalem on 29 April 2009:

The Shalem Center and the Adelson Family Foundation, today jointly announced the creation of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. The Institute will be funded by the Foundation with a gift of $4.5 million. The gift launches an academic and research institute that will develop, articulate and build support for the strategic principles needed to address the challenges currently facing Israel and the West.

The newly named Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies is part of the Shalem Center, a research and academic institute in Jerusalem. The Adelson Institute, whose founding chairman and head is Natan Sharansky, includes as fellows Lt. Gen (Res.) Moshe Yaalon, Martin Kramer, Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi. The institute will explore topics ranging from democracy and security, to nationalism, terror and identity.

“Long-term strategies have to be built on values, not short-term interests. Real, lasting interests are always connected to values like democracy, respect for identity, religious tolerance, and freedom. The gift and vision of Sheldon and Miri Adelson will enable us to tackle the most serious challenges facing the Middle East and the West and to build long-view approaches and plans that will ensure the stability and peace of Israel and of the free world,” said Adelson Institute Founding Chairman Natan Sharansky, a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center.

Now why do we mention Adelson?

It’s because he has just bought the R-J, paying a price that’s probably what it’s worth just so he can have a platform to advance his own interests, most notably destroying political enemies and ensuring that Nevada sends neocon Republicans to Congress instead of Democrats like Harry Reid.

Otherwise, journalism doesn’t really matter to Adelson.

From A 2014 report in the Israeli paper Haaretz:

Adelson already owns Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper widely seen as reflecting the positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered close to Adelson, and, more recently, news website NRG and religious newspaper Makor Rishon.

“I don’t like journalism,” Adelson said, highlighting what he said was the media’s insistence on focusing on the empty half of the glass.

And while Adelson contends he won’t endanger editorial independence, he’s already belied that claim, as reporters from the Las Vegas Review-Journal were able to document in a story published 19 December:

Just over a month before Sheldon Adelson’s family was revealed as the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, three reporters at the newspaper received an unusual assignment passed down from the newspaper’s corporate management: Drop everything and spend two weeks monitoring all activity of three Clark County judges.

The reason for the assignment and its unprecedented nature was never explained.

One of the three judges observed was District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, whose current caseload includes Jacobs v. Sands, a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., by Steven Jacobs, who ran Sands’ operations in Macau.

The case has attracted global media attention because of Jacobs’ contention in court filings that he was fired for trying to break the company’s links to Chinese organized crime triads, and allegations that Adelson turned a blind eye to prostitution and other illegal activities in his resorts there.

But all their story didn’t make it in print, as noted by Newsonomics the same day:

In a cascade of curious events, the paper’s own reporters and editors attempting to report on the sale — and to question the potential editorial impact and brand damage of the “secret” sale — reportedly saw their online-first story significantly changed, and the presses subject to a brief halt, as the paper re-plated with a new version of the suspect story.

According to the Huffington Post, “[Jason] Taylor, the paper’s publisher, stopped the presses Thursday night to remove some noteworthy quotes from the paper’s story on the sale, as The Huffington Post reported Saturday. For instance, the edited version no longer included Review-Journal editor Michael Hengel asking who is behind the company and what are their expectations. Eric Hartley, who covers Clark County for the paper, tweeted the HuffPost story on Saturday night and wrote, ‘This is simply wrong.’”

Mike Hengel, the editor who allowed those reporters the freedom to report the actual news, was soon for the chop, as noted in a 23 December MediaWire report:

Hengel, who has led the Review-Journal since 2010, will be succeeded by an interim replacement selected by newspaper chain GateHouse Media. In the meantime, Adelson’s management will search for a long-term editor.

Earlier today, Hengel told the Los Angeles Times he first realized he’d accepted a buyout offer when he read about it in a front-page editorial written by Adelson’s new managers.

“I figured, I may as well see what the offer was,” Hengel told the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s his message to the newsroom announcing his replacement:

Subject: It’s been a privilege and a pleasure

To: Newsroom

All:

I may not get around to see all of you, so I’ll hope you’ll accept my thanks through this email. I admire you all and thank you for giving the RJ your very best while I was the editor. I leave here knowing that won’t change. You are professionals.

I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to work with all of you. And I was fortunate to be involved with a newspaper that breaks stories, not just news. The aggressiveness you have shown in covering the stories revolving around our new ownership has been inspiring. I am very proud of James, Howard, Jennifer, Eric and Jim for the their great work. I say that knowing that there are many others in this newsroom who would have performed just as admirably had they been asked.

I never imagined I would go out while working one of the great stories of my 40-year career. Yet, it happened. How lucky can an editor get?

I have no idea what I will do going forward, but I plan to stay in Las Vegas, so I’ll probably see you around. Until then, thanks again for everything.

Onward,

Mike

Next up, there’s this from a 27 offering from Dave Danforth, a columnist for the Aspen Daily News in Colorado:

We wanted to escape attention on billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s quiet purchase of Nevada’s largest paper in the last two weeks, but we can’t. It’s just too riveting. Two shoes dropped. Then, came a third when the paper dug up the identity of its new owner. Now comes the fourth, about a mystery writer and a Las Vegas judge whose performance was slammed — in a Connecticut newspaper 2,200 miles away.

Our lesson comes first. If you ever buy a newspaper in order to control what it prints, don’t follow the Las Vegas road map. Though Adelson has denied any intentions to make the Las Vegas Review-Journal a mouthpiece for his Republican leanings in an election year, practically no one in the outside world — or at the newspaper — believes him.

Now, we come to what simply must be a fictitious story. It involves a small daily in Connecticut taking a sudden interest in a Las Vegas judge who apparently sorely irritated Mr. Adelson, a billionaire casino owner whose Sands Company runs the Venetian in Las Vegas.

More after the jump, including a notable cartoon. . . Continue reading