Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another LA Times Advertisement Draws Fire

A day after it ran a front-page advertisement for an NBC show that resembled a news story, The Los Angeles Times faced more questions Friday for another promotion designed to look like news.

This Sunday’s Calendar entertainment section will be accompanied by a four-page advertisement for the movie “The Soloist” that is laid out like a news section. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tribune ESOP Leads to Subpoena

The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Department of Labor has subpoenaed Tribune Co. in an investigation connected to the media company's employee stock-ownership plan, a key but controversial feature of real-estate mogul Sam Zell's 2007 deal to take Tribune private.

Tribune disclosed the investigation in a bankruptcy court filing on Thursday. The company, which publishes the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers and owns a string of local television stations, tipped into bankruptcy protection in December under the weight of $13 billion in debt related to Mr. Zell's $8.2 billion buyout of Tribune.

Tribune on March 31 turned over an "extensive range of documents" in response to the subpoena, the court filing said. The probe concerns Tribune's employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP. Mr. Zell's buyout deal involved a complicated structure under which the ESOP became the majority owner of the company, a feature that helped Tribune avoid corporate taxes.

"We view this as a routine inquiry and we are responding by producing the requested documents concerning the ESOP," Tribune said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the Labor Department declined to comment, in line with agency policy to neither confirm nor deny investigations.

The court filing said the Labor Department probe concerns the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law that aims to safeguard participants in employee retirement plans by, among other things, requiring disclosure of funding details and risks.

The Tribune ESOP played a crucial and unusual role in Mr. Zell's deal for Tribune. The plan borrowed the billions of dollars used to finance the deal and in turn received all of Tribune's common shares. The company has said the value and fate of the ESOP will be determined in bankruptcy court, though stock is typically wiped out in the bankruptcy process.

Tribune's ESOP already is the subject of a lawsuit filed by current and former company employees. The lawsuit, filed in September, alleges Tribune and Mr. Zell failed to uphold their fiduciary duty to the ESOP.

On top of its bankruptcy filing, Tribune has become embroiled in other matters. The company has been caught up in the criminal probe of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who allegedly sought to pressure Tribune to fire Chicago Tribune editorial staffers in exchange for help with a state-financed deal to sell Wrigley Field.

Tribune owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team and Wrigley Field, the team's home stadium. Mr. Zell, Tribune's chairman and chief executive, has been interviewed by federal prosecutors building their case against Mr. Blagojevich.

Jenner & Block LLP, a Chicago-based law firm helping Tribune respond to the Labor Department subpoena, also is representing Mr. Zell in the Blagojevich probe.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Lays Off Entire News Graphics Department

Or, at least, what was left of the department. There were only four staffers remaining in the News Art department of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as of Thursday. We seem to recall there were a total 15 or 16 in that department when we last counted, back in 2002. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

How Technology Is Killing Newspapers (1969 Version)

We all know how a newspaper is supposed to look. But today, newspapers are forgetting their proud traditions and letting electronic computers ruin the way they look, not to mention upsetting well-established newsroom and pressroom traditions.

Doing page makeup in a type case is an art, and it's one our readers appreciate. Every time they pick up their newspapers, they subliminally hear the "clunka--clunka" sound of a Linotype machine, the "thlick thlack thilck DING" of a reporter's typewriter, and the combination of hums and clanks a two-story-high web press makes as it rolls a continuous stream of paper over the printing mats.

There's also the "whiirrr-THUD" of a pneumatic tube full of typewritten sheets being delivered to the proofreaders for a final check before that copy goes to the typesetters in the next room.

But now, more and more newspapers are yielding to the phantom benefits of technology. News departments look and feel more like computer rooms or TV production offices than like proper newsrooms. Where there was once a low wooden railing with a swinging gates separating the newsroom from the foyer, now the first thing visitors to the newspaper see is a security guard, and they must get past this gatekeeper before they can meet with the computerized, college-bred, buttoned-down "journalists" who have replaced yesterday's street-smart reporters and editors.

Linotype machines and the proud, apron-wearing men who run them are being replaced by computer operators who speak in gibberish. Editors and art directors approve page makeups on light tables or giant computer screens, with nary an ink smudge or bit of oil on their fingers from handling fresh galleys.

And the newspaper itself? It is becoming a cold, unyielding mass of computer-aligned color pictures and words written by journalists who all write in a measured, unemotional style that will never lead to the creation of great writing the way Hemingway's newspaper experience led to The Sun Also Rises, Charles Finney's work as reporter and proofreader led to The Circus of Dr. Lao, and Max Miller's work as a waterfront reporter led to I Cover the Waterfront.

The worst thing of all, though, is that with this cold-type computer junk replacing real hot-metal typography, and soulless self-registering offset presses replacing real printing machines, almost anyone will soon be able to have a newspaper printed for next to nothing. You just watch. Before you know it, every large city is going to have a dozen underground and neighborhood weeklies that will siphon off ad revenue and reader loyalty from the dailies.

I know. Technology is the coming thing, and we can't fight it. And today's journalists are far better-educated than old newspapermen like Bret Harte, Mike Royko, and H.L. Mencken, none of whom could get a job with a major newspaper today.

But I still miss the crowded pages, intricate masthead engraving, and dark wire photos that have defined a newspaper's identity for a dozen generations of Americans. I miss the quirky ramblings of self-trained writers like H. L.Mencken. I miss the rhythm of the printing press and
the tobacco-and-sweat smell of a reporter who is typing the final words of a 2,000 word expose three minutes before deadline while a frantic editor, eyes bleary from 14 straight hours of cheap rye whiskey and thick newsroom coffee, leans over his shoulder.

Instead of trying to write in a computerized world, I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

I have heard the modems singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

-- Author unknown
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The Best Damn Job in the Whole Damn World

By Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

One of my editors at the Sun-Times once asked me, "Roger, is it true that they used to let reporters smoke at their desks?" This wasn't asked yesterday; it must have been ten years ago. I realized then, although I'm only writing about it now, that a lifestyle had disappeared. When I entered the business in the autumn of my 16th year, newspapering seemed the most romantic and exciting thing I could possibly do with my life. "But honey," my mom said, "they don't pay them anything." Who cared? It involved knowing what was going on before anyone else did, and putting my byline on top of a story telling it to the world. "Roger Ebert" is only a name. "By Roger Ebert" are the three most magical words in the language, drawing my eye the same way a bulls-eye attracts an arrow. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

How Much Is the Front Page of the LA Times Worth?

Page-one advertising — unthinkable just a few short months ago but now standard in many newspapers — took another huge leap this morning on the cover of today’s Los Angeles Times. Yep: That’s an L-shaped ad for the premiere of a new NBC television series. A thick border surrounds both the display and and the faux editorial content, making it clear both belong together. [Click for MORE]

How Much Is the Entire Front Page of the Daily Bruin Worth?

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Journalists as Entrepreneurs

True/Slant allows journalists to become entrepreneurs. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

AP Cuts Newspaper Rates,
Moves to Protect Web News

The Associated Press unveiled rate cuts on Monday to help member newspapers reeling from declining advertising revenue and said it would sue websites that use its members' articles without permission.

Changes announced by the AP at its annual meeting in San Diego include $35 million in rate assessment reductions for 2010 on top of $30 million it already instituted for 2009.

The 163-year-old newswire service also will allow member newspapers to cancel their membership with one year's notice instead of two, while offering a discount to papers that stay on a two-year cancellation notice.

Jim Kennedy, AP's vice president of strategic planning, said in a telephone interview that AP would have to reduce its costs to compensate for the rate cuts. That includes not filling vacant jobs and possibly buyouts. [Click for MORE]

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Your Career in Printing (1947)

Hat Tip / Ed Padgett
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