Monday, June 30, 2008

Looking for help

Andres Cardenas is looking for your help. I'll let him explain:

Hey everyone,
I'm trying to figure out ways to pay tribute to James and thought about all the stories we have. I'd like to put those stories in a publication and have it ready in time for his memorial. So if you can e-mail me the stories at, that would be great.
Please forward this to other people that are not on this list that know James - like Pam, Sarah Ciston, Minal, Stephen Carr to name a few - to see if they have stories they would like to share.
I also need some copy editors to help clean these up as needed. Please let me know if you want to help there.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Farewell James

James Melroy passed away this morning. It's a tragic loss for everyone that knew him, and for the Press-Telegram. He will be missed tremendously.

He was an "extraordinary person," as one of his friends put it. We all suffer the loss of a hardworking, kind, and loyal friend and co-worker. Please keep James and his family in your thoughts.

I'm not the right person to say goodbye to James. I didn't know him well enough to do justice to a guy that was universally loved by everyone in the newsroom. Some of you can. If you have a memory of James you'd like to share, we would love to hear them.

Thanks to Stephen Carr for the photos of James and his friends in the Sports dept.

* According to Stephen, night city editor Jody Collins took the newsroom photo, and the other pic is a staff mug.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Monster-ous idea announced Monday that the company has launched a new local-media partnership with several daily newspapers, creating localized recruitment sites.

Through the alliances, audiences reached by these respective outlets will get a comprehensive online career search and management solution, with a local focus and industry-leading search and match technology. In addition, an array of award-winning expert career advice will be available to consumers, regardless of whether they are currently looking for a new job or not. A resume builder, a salary information center, and a portfolio of other tools will also be accessible.

Employers will benefit from the easy availability of a more comprehensive recruitment solution that utilizes print and online advertising components as well as access Monster's resume database.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Huffington aims for local news

For a while now, many experts have been urging newspapers to focus on their communities and return to a local-oriented format. Even the Newspaper Association of America tried to promote the idea. But opportunity, as they say, is a matter of timing - and so far most daily newspapers have failed to capitalize on the underserved local news market. The bad news? In the Internet era, fertile markets don't remain untapped for long.

That's right. Online vendors are now viewing that space and making plans. ReadWriteWeb has a report from the folks behind The Huffington Post (a self-described "online newspaper"), who have announced plans to bring their aggregate service to the local news sphere.

We've written about the rise of hyperlocal information on ReadWriteWeb before -- Huffington and company are seeking to take advantage of this trend. They want to turn the Huffington Post into a national, virtual newspaper group -- think Gannett or McClatchy but completely online.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The shrinking newshole

Sources inside LANG have confirmed that the page cuts implemented at the L.A. Daily News will indeed affect the Press-Telegram too. "The same thing is happening at our paper. When it happens to one it happens to all."

The unofficial consensus is that the loss will equal about 12 pages, and will likely be implemented for the next fiscal quarter, sometime this July.

A comment from Reporter-G's blog sums it up:

Pretty soon the DN won't have to have the Times deliver them, it will be cheaper to mail it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And so it begins

People have made jokes about it, but it appears that outsourcing newspapers to India is moving one step closer to reality.

Freedom Communications, owner of the Orange County Register and other local publications, is purportedly launching a pilot program that sends copy-editing duties for some of its weekly publications to India.

This, hot on the heels of an Elegy for Copy Editors in the New York Times.

A hard look

Rick Edmonds has been listening to the reasons for MediaNews' ever-growing layoffs and cutbacks, and he's not buying it.

Yes, times are tough. But the latest draconian cuts they are imposing on employees and readers are going largely to service the ridiculous levels of debt they had the bad judgment to take on.

The Poynter media business analyst argues that public statements simply blaming the changing face of journalism are part of refusal to acknowledge their own culpbility for the economic woes facing giants like MediaNews and the Tribune Co.

Still, I think operators like Zell and Singleton are squishy where others are forthright on the concurrent need to keep heft and quality in the print product and invest aggressively in new digital operations. Frankly, I don't think they have the money to do it -- because the banker has to be paid first.

Comparing, for example the Washington Post Co., Edmonds finds that the Post generated more than three times the revenue of MediaNews, yet their debt payments were less than one-sixth of the $80 million paid out by MediaNews in 2007.

Clearly, there's no easy way out of this mess. But it would be refreshing, if not encouraging, for the powers-that-be to take an honest look at the situation, instead of constantly blaming the rank and file workers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BANG party

Thanks to CWA 9400 president Micheal Hartigan for sending a link to this video from the BANG folks, celebrating their victory and discussing just what they think it means for the future or journalism in Northern California.

It just goes to show what can be done when we unite for a common goal.

Taking stock

Comments, bring on the comments! We love it when we get a conversation going here. Maybe we don't love all the comments, but we're happy you're checking in because when you leave a comment, we get a better sense of what you're thinking about and what you're looking for, right? And there's a couple we want to highlight and give you our two cents.

In response to our post "... and then there was one" a reader said, "Great, now the union can finally focus its energy on Southern California." We are really excited about the BANG-EB organizing win. We're not alone: take a look at some of these comments from journos from across the country. The MN organizers up north worked really, really hard to bring their colleagues along to the realization that they really can stand up together and exercise their right to have a say in their newsrooms and about their wages and working conditions — take back control of their future. They did it. They decided to be union. No one came in from the outside and did it for them. Another one of our readers got it: "We should try something down here. Let's have a LANG-wide guild ... and soon."

"Ok, so what's the plan?" asked another reader. Well, if you're already a guild member you already know how this works, right? But if you're not yet Guild, give us a call because we can help. You know where we work. You know how to reach us.

So think about this: can we afford to do nothing while our newsrooms are downsized out of existence by a corporate parent who requires on-going cuts to resources and staff so it can squeeze out enough cash to meet it's debt payments? Can we afford to do nothing while our papers shrink to nothingness and our readers go elsewhere for news and information we know they want and need? Do we remain silent when we know that what we really should be doing is consolidating ourselves so we can together meet the challenges inherent in the consolidated news desks and universal copy desks that are already in place and most probably, are here to stay? Dean says we're whiners, barking at the dark to "make the night go away." He believes we "remember the past as if it will suddenly re-appear and the staffing in newsrooms will suddenly begin to grow again." Let's prove him wrong.

Under his headline "BANG papers choose the union", Kevin Roderick on LAObserved wrote yesterday "The Bay Area vote to unionize Dean Singleton's newspapers could have pretty big ramifications down here in LANG land."

Let's prove him right.

Living on the edge?

From Reporter-G and our own Steve Carr comes the following:

Standard & Poor analyst Emile Courtney suggests that newspaper titans like MediaNews may have have saddled themselves with too much debt, and face the very real possibility of defaulting on their massive loans by as early as December, according to

The problem is that these empires were built like a house of cards, fueling their growth by amassing billions in debt. The article cites Mark Young, president of Grist Mill Advisors, who offers a sobering warning for media watchers.

"These companies built their portfolios using leverage and executing a strategy with an investment thesis that was clearly flawed," Young said. "Almost all of these are going to have to go through a restructuring or bankruptcy to come out the other side."

According to the article, MediaNews is facing two problems - reduce it's debt levels, and stabilize revenues. If they can't, the consequences may be dire.

On June 30, if MediaNews has the debt-to-cash flow ratio of 6.53 times it reported on Dec. 31, 2007, it would be in violation of its loans, according to S&P.

Friday, June 13, 2008

...and then there was one

Well, it's official. Guild organizers in Northern California have succeeded in undoing a carefully wrought plan for their obsolescence, and voted to establish a single bargaining unit, representing a "cluster" of newspapers instead of a single newsroom.

There's more information on the One Big BANG Web site.

It sounds like hyperbole, but this event just might represent a turning point for our industry, which has seen journalists marginalized and bullied into quiet acquiescence as their newsrooms and communities were torn asunder by corporate looters. The hard part isn't over yet - not by a long shot. But that crucial first step has been taken, and with time and effort, the rest will follow.

It can't happen soon enough.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

6/10 bargaining update

According to the bargaining team, little progress was made today.

There are rumors that Monday's session - which saw no real progress, and had MediaNews rep Jim Janiga asking questions that have already been answered several times in the past - were part of a ploy to stall the team and keep them from attending Tuesday's rally. If there was such a plan, it didn't hurt the bargaining team's morale any. They tell me they expected a long session, and even predicted exactly how the meeting would go. Although they couldn't attend, they tell us that they knew we were down there, and appreciate the enthusiasm and support. Members of our city council, and local community groups like the Gray Panthers, who came out to march with us, prove just how vital local journalism is to Long Beach. No one wants to see our newspaper outsource jobs.

The bargaining team wants to extend their thanks to everyone who showed up, the support they're getting means a lot. They've got a tough job, and knowing we're behind them makes it a little bit easier.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rally shows community support

Today's rally brought out community leaders, civic groups, and supporters from throughout the community to stand beside us. The community showed their support with a steady stream of honking horns and friendly waves from passersby.

Greg, Diandra, Steven, Phillip and Al came down to walk with Tonia Reyes Uranga and representatives from SEIU, the Gray Panthers, ILWU, IAM, Teamsters, and the California Federation of Labor.

Local president Micheal Hartigan led a delegation that included 9400 members, and CWA District 9 reps Mark Bixler and Janinne Munson.

Thanks to everyone's support, the rally was definitely a resounding success!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rally for us, rally for you

We're holding a noontime rally tomorrow (Tuesday) in front of the Press-Telegram at 300 Oceangate in Long Beach to demonstrate our commitment to negotiating a fair contract that will provide the best quality journalism for Long Beach. Though we've been at the table for sixteen months, we've made progress but one major issue remains: a company proposal that would give it the right to outsource all Guild-covered jobs – reporters, columnists, photographers, circulation district managers – all of us could face layoff if we give in to the company's demand.

No matter what it takes, we're holding firm to our ideals, because we know that our members and our community deserve nothing less.

We've received support from city leaders, the local business community and many of the city's residents. Now it's your turn. Please join us for an hour at noon tomorrow and show your support for local journalism and the hardworking men and women that do an absolutely amazing job every single day. Help us tell MediaNews there is community support for our shared goals of good community journalism and a fair deal for newspaper workers.

Quantity, not quality

Hot on the heels of Sam Zell's pronouncement that column inches are what matter at the Tribune - a sentiment that bodes ill for anyone in the Tribune empire that's ever won a Pulitzer or done any sort of investigative journalism - comes word that MediaNews' San Jose property is considering their own means of further cutting newsroom costs.

So far, the Merc's big plan is to reduce the Monday and Tuesday editions into "quick read" papers. Another idea is to minimize the size of their articles, presumably so they can try to shrink the paper further.

Editor Dave Butler also left an ominous warning for his less-productive staffers, promising that employees "who could do more are likely to hear about that from me and the other editors."

There's also news of a new computer system, along with a plea to "to hold down the complaining." Perhaps Butler is worried that the Merc staffers have heard about how problematic the "latest technology" can be?

As far as Zell and Co. are concerned...the Tribune's new methodology is certainly bad news for journalists, not to mention the communities that these papers serve. The Los Angeles Times for example stands to lose somewhere around 82 pages of news copy every week.

“If we take, for instance, The Los Angeles Times to a 50-50 ratio, we will be eliminating about 82 pages a week,” Mr. Michaels said, leaving the smallest papers of the week at 56 news pages.

Most galling are comments suggesting that cuts like this are exactly what his readers want.

“We’re in the business of satisfying customers, and we will respond to what they say they want.”

When did any reader suggest that the Times, or any other paper for that matter, was just too darn big?

Watergate, Enron, voting fraud...those stories were the result of solid investigative journalism, sometimes taking weeks or months of research. What kind of effect will it have on America when there are fewer journalists to take a hard look at corporate or political malfeasance? What sort of scandals are we going to have to endure, because there was no around to tell us about them in the first place?

Content Bridges has a somewhat confused analysis of the Tribune situation, first calling the move foolish for driving more readers away from the paper, then lauding the Tribune for expediting a shift from print to Web operations. Despite supporting a wholesale dismissal of print operations (if 24/7 instant news, online's greatest strength, is the only metric for evaluating a news organization, then ALL other mediums fail to make the cut) they make several good points on the ramifications for the Tribune organization.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

WAN rebuts demise of print

Dead? Not so fast. World Association of Newspapers CEO Timothy Balding and president Gavin O'Reilly aren't quite ready to give up the ghost just yet. At the WAN 2008 conference, both made it clear that they don't think print is a dying medium.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A wan effort

Printed newspapers are a dead industry, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

That's the informed opinion of William Dean Singleton, who knows a thing or two about newspapers on their deathbed.

Singleton, speaking at the World Association of Newspapers 2008, blamed the woes of his industry on reporters and other staffers.

"They fondly remember the past as if it will suddenly reappear." But he is adamant that there is no going back. "It's time to get over it and move to a print model that matches the times."

Of course that doesn't acknowledge the fact that MediaNews brass have been so desperate to preserve obsolete, pre-Internet profit models that they've been cutting expenses with a butcher's zeal - cuts that have seriously impaired MediaNews' future earnings, because those cuts have gone beyond prudent, past excessive, and now fall squarely within the realm of the suicidal.

But maybe that doesn't matter. MediaNews isn't banking on print anyhow. Their vision for the future is digital. But one should consider the following:

As well as boosting newspaper websites, the company has created a series of online marketplaces that have little to do with newspapers., are hubs for newspaper content but operate as much more, servicing local areas.

Lest you forget, is that Web site that everyone is talking about. And not in a good way.

In light of that kind of leadership, it should come as no surprise that some industry experts believe media moguls like Singleton are killing the industry on purpose so they can buy up more newspapers on the cheap.

"Newspapers and journalists themselves are slipping," says Feeley, "and most have adapted ineptly to the succession of electronic media. The public companies have become hysterically responsive to the 'expectations' of Wall Street.... [News] is a mature industry, and a profitable one, and it isn't going to have growth like Microsoft or Crocs or Google before the bubble burst. I think it is managing for the short term, not the longer one.