Saturday, May 3, 2008

Assignment for May 5

  • Be sure to attend ... class on Monday for important announcements about the final examination. Bring your questions for a review session.

  • Extra credit ... stories are still being accepted as well as rewrites of stories if you are interested in raising a grade.
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    American Media On the Brink

    Venerable newspapers face extinction

    The New York Times once epitomized all that was great about American newspapers; now it symbolizes its industry’s deep malaise. The Grey Lady’s circulation is tumbling, down another 3.9% in the latest data from America’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Its advertising revenues are down, too (12.5% lower in March than a year earlier), as is the share price of its owner, the New York Times Company, up from its January low but still over 20% below what it was last July. On Tuesday April 29th Standard & Poor’s cut the firm’s debt rating to one notch above junk.

    At the company’s annual meeting a week earlier, its embattled publisher, Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, attempted to quash rumors that his family is preparing to jettison the firm it has owned since 1896. Carnage is expected soon as dozens of what were once the safest jobs in journalism are axed, since too few of the staff have accepted a generous offer of voluntary redundancy. [Click for MORE]

    > AP source says Murdoch won't raise bid for Newsday

    > Cablevision submits its $650 million bid for Newsday

    > Cablevision is being advised by ex-Tribune CEO FitzSimons

    > Newspaper jobs on the move -- over the ocean

    > Journal Register says it's through as public company

    > Is the housing market the final nail in the coffin for newspapers?

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    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    May Day Massacre at News-Press

    A lightning round of layoffs took place at Wendy McCaw's [Santa Barbara] News-Press on Thursday morning with as many as 16 employees of the troubled paper receiving pink slips.

    The most recognizable names of those getting the axe are sports editor Barry Punzal, an employee of 20 plus years, and Life section editor, Mindy Spar. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

    What Could Go Wrong...Go Wrongh...GWrng...WoGonh...

    Apparently the switchover to a faster Internet server has wreaked havoc across Singleton's SoCal empire. All* of the papers carry a version of the following note to readers on the front pages of their websites (this one is from the Daily News):

    To our readers - Due to technical problems, some sections and regular features of the of the Daily News do not appear in today's paper and your edition may arrive late. We apologize for any inconvenience.

    Indeed, it looks like the server was knocked completely off-line last night and continues to be down this morning. I'm told the morning papers look they were written on typewriters and that Unisys, the database reporters and editors use to actually create the paper, continues to be off-line as well. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Is an era ending? Media mogul sells blogs

    It didn't rank up there with Alan Greenspan's famed caution about "irrational exuberance" a decade ago, before the dot-com bubble burst and wiped out trillions in paper wealth, but Nick Denton's warning the other day caused people to take notice.

    Denton is a new-media mogul -- an Oxford-educated former financial journalist who's become fabulously wealthy off his collection of popular blogs. The Sunday Times of London estimated his wealth last year at about $290 million. His New York-based Gawker Media operates several of the most busily browsed Web logs, whose daily readership would rank among the top newspapers in the country.

    So news this month that Denton was selling three blogs raised eyebrows. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

    Cablevision to Bid Up To $650 Million for Newsday

    Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC) plans to bid as much as $650 million to purchase Long Island daily Newsday, according to sources familiar with the thinking of Cablevision executives. A bid for the newspaper, which is being sold by Tribune Co. (TRB), could come as soon as within 48 hours.

    Cablevision's bid would be the second offer to challenge an informal agreement reached 10 days ago by News Corp. (NWS), owner of the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, which valued Newsday at $580 million. Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman lodged a $580 million offer for the paper late last week. [Click for MORE]

    > New York Observer drops out
    > Newsday: The sale that isn’t a sale Sphere: Related Content

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Tribune Buys the L.A. Times...Again *

    Tribune Co. has completed the purchase of property that includes sites used by four of the media company's newspapers: The Hartford Courant, Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Baltimore Sun.

    The newspaper properties had been leased from TMCT LLC, an entity associated with the Chandler family, the former longtime owners of Times Mirror Co., which was acquired by Tribune in 2000.

    Tribune has an option to buy the TMCT properties for $175 million, and said it would use the proceeds from the sale of real estate in Los Angeles and of the former sites of The Advocate of Stamford and Greenwich Time in a "tax-efficient" transaction. The deal will eliminate $24 million in annual lease payments, the company said.

    The Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers were sold last year to Hearst Corp. for $62.4 million. The properties formerly used by the newspapers were sold last week to Summit Development LLC of Norwalk for $30 million. []

    > Cablevision may make joint bid for Newsday
    * Thanks and a hat-tip to LAO for the hed

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    Assignment for April 30

    Read the media law section of the AP Stylebook on pages 335 - 337. Sphere: Related Content

    L.A. Times Journalists Denied Access
    to Nurse at L.A. County Public Hearing

    Los Angeles County civil service employees last week physically blocked Los Angeles Times journalists from interviewing and photographing a county nurse as she appealed her suspension from Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital at a public hearing.

    When Times photographer Francine Orr tried to snap a picture of Perpetua Okoh before the proceedings began, the nurse was moved by county hearing officer Judy Gust to a nearby room where she could hear the session but not be seen by the public.

    According to civil service rules, a person making a disciplinary appeal must be at the hearing or the appeal is automatically dropped. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    O.C. Register to Cut 80-90 Jobs Immediately

    The Orange County Register and its affiliated publications are laying off between 80 and 90 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, because of declining advertising revenue, President and Publisher Terry Horne said Monday.

    Horne said declines in real estate and classified job advertising have created a short-term financial problem that forced the cutbacks, which are scheduled to be completed on Wednesday. He did not provide any financial details other than to say "if you take out the impact of those categories, the Register is still a growth company."

    Newspapers nationwide are making cuts in the wake of a 23-year decline in circulation and more recent losses of advertising to the Internet.

    "Fundamental shifts have occurred in how people acquire and use information, and this affects how they conduct business on the Internet and with newspapers," Horne said. "If we don't make large-scale changes now, there's no promise of a continually profitable and sustainable enterprise in the future."

    This is the third round of layoffs in a year for Orange County Register Communications, the umbrella brand for the Register newspaper, web sites, magazines and other community publications. The company also completed a voluntary severance program to cut staff in 2006. [Click for MORE]

    > Raleigh N&O offers buyouts to 230

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    Newspaper-Circulation Drop Sharpens

    Most of the nation's biggest newspapers saw circulation tumble at an increased rate, a sign that the migration of readers online may be picking up speed.

    The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported Monday that average weekday circulation at 534 daily newspapers fell 3.6% for the six months ended March 31, compared with the year-earlier period. The rate of decline is accelerating: ABC had reported an average weekday circulation drop of 2.1% in the year-earlier period and 2.6% in the six months to November.

    Sunday circulation fell even more, losing 4.6% on average.

    Newspaper circulation has been falling for more than 20 years amid increasing competition for advertising dollars and readers' attention. The latest results were grim but unsurprising, said John Morton, an independent newspaper analyst. "Big-city papers are suffering right now, and this is just reflective of that."

    [newspaper circulation]

    Average paid weekday circulation of the 20 largest U.S. newspapers for the six-month period ending in March. The percentage changes are from the comparable year-ago period.

    1. USA Today, 2,284,219, up 0.3%
    2. The Wall Street Journal, 2,069,463, up 0.4%
    3. The New York Times, 1,077,256, down 3.9%
    4. Los Angeles Times, 773,884, down 5.1%
    5. New York Daily News, 703,137, down 2.1%
    6. New York Post, 702,488, down 3.1%
    7. The Washington Post, 673,180, down 3.6%
    8. Chicago Tribune, 541,663, down 4.4%
    9. Houston Chronicle, 494,131, down 1.8%
    10. The Arizona Republic, 413,332, down 4.7%
    11. Newsday, Long Island, 379,613, down 4.7%
    12. San Francisco Chronicle, 370,345, down 4.2%
    13. Dallas Morning News, 368,313, down 10.6%
    14. The Boston Globe, 350,605, down 8.3%
    15. The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., 345,130, down 7.4%
    16. The Philadelphia Inquirer, 334,150, down 5.1%
    17. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 330,280, down 4.2%
    18. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 326,907, down 8.5%
    19. Star Tribune of Minneapolis, 321,984, down 6.7%
    20. St. Petersburg Times, Florida, 316,007, down 2.1%
    Source: Associated Press

    Newspaper publishers have also seen worsening drop-offs in print-ad revenue over the past few months, at least partly because of the economic slowdown.

    Nearly all of the 10 biggest newspapers in the U.S. posted circulation declines. Circulation at the Los Angeles Times -- which has struggled with turnover among its newsroom management as real-estate magnate Sam Zell took effective control of its parent, Tribune Co., in December -- fell 5.1% to 773,884. The New York Times' average weekday circulation fell 3.9% to 1.08 million. It saw an even steeper drop in Sunday circulation, which was down 9.3% to 1.48 million.

    "This was a decline that we planned and budgeted for," said New York Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty. The company has eliminated "bonus days," in which the Sunday paper was delivered to weekday subscribers, and has cut back on discounted and advertiser-paid distribution as it attempts to grow more-profitable circulation, she said. In that shift, she added, "We do expect to see some copy decline."

    A Los Angeles Times spokeswoman said it too has cut bonus-day issues, which lowered circulation. She also noted a price increase for home-delivery subscribers and competing pressure from other media outlets.

    Of the top 10, only two newspapers saw circulation growth. Gannett Co.'s USA Today, the largest paper in the U.S., posted a 0.3% increase in weekday circulation to 2.28 million. At The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp., the number of subscribers inched up 0.4% to 2.07 million, a figure that includes print subscriptions as well as about 352,000 online-only ones that qualify under the Audit Bureau's rules. The year-earlier figure included 340,618 online-only subscriptions. Other papers also offer electronic editions that qualify as part of their circulation, but the Journal has a far larger number of such subscriptions. [Click for MORE]

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    Murdoch’s ‘Head of Content’

    In a long career, Robert Thomson has left a trail of happy reporters in his wake — at The Financial Times and more recently at The Times of London, where the newsroom under his guidance was, in the words of a former colleague, “the happiest place to work on Fleet Street.”

    He’s got his work cut out for him at The Wall Street Journal. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

    Reluctantly, a Daily Stops Its Presses, Living Online

    With print revenue down and online revenue growing, newspaper executives are anticipating the day when big city dailies and national papers will abandon their print versions.

    That day has arrived in Madison, Wis.

    On Saturday, The Capital Times, the city’s fabled 90-year-old daily newspaper founded in response to the jingoist fervor of World War I, stopped printing to devote itself to publishing its daily report on the Web. [Click for MORE]

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    Aaron Brown Returns to TV on PBS' `Wide Angle'

    Aaron Brown, the former CNN anchor who found cable TV an awkward fit, is joining PBS' "Wide Angle" series and ending his on-air absence of more than two years.

    "If I was going to do broadcast journalism again, be a public person again ... then it had to be something different from what I'd done," Brown told The Associated Press. "You can count on one hand how many gigs there are like this."

    Anchoring "Wide Angle," a weekly public affairs series with a global focus, offers the chance "to work in an environment where people just think about making good TV and good journalism," Brown said.

    "By the end (of an episode), you understand the world you live in and how it's connected to you," he said Saturday. [Click for MORE]

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    Sunday, April 27, 2008

    Jill Freedman: The Power to Shock

    Love Kills, 1979

    Back in the 1970s, a gutsy
    blonde named Jill Freedman armed with a battered Leica M4 and an eye for the offbeat trained her lens on the spirited characters and gritty sidewalks of a now-extinct city.

    Influenced by the Modernist documentarian André Kertész, with references to the hard-edged, black-and-white works of Weegee and Diane Arbus, this self-taught photographer captured raw and intimate images, and transformed urban scenes into theatrical dramas.

    Her New York was a blemished and fallen apple strewn with piles of garbage. Prostitutes and bag ladies walked the streets, junkies staked out abandoned tenements, and children played in vacant lots.

    “The city falling apart,” Ms. Freedman said one day recently in recalling that era. “It was great. I used to love to throw the camera over my shoulder and hit the street.” [Click for MORE]

    > Video

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    The King of Visceral Design

    George Lois, one of the most influential admen of his generation, is the sort of person who has a dozen brainstorms an hour, at least half of them good and only a few really harebrained. Among the better ones were the early Xerox commercials showing a chimpanzee deftly operating a photocopier, the “Think small” ads for Volkswagen and the “I want my MTV” campaign. He also dreamed up Lean Cuisine and the “I want my Maypo” slogan.

    But among certain groups of people — magazine collectors, veterans of the 1960s, admirers of brilliant design — Mr. Lois is best known for the covers he created for Esquire from 1962 to 1972. [Click for MORE]

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