April 25, 2009

Company Confidential Reporters Jobs in Ann Arbor, Bay City, Flint, Saginaw MI - MLive.com

Free From Editors found the Valley Publishing jobs ad online if you want to see it.

The post headline is the ad's online head.

Sent via iPhone (which 'corrects' me all the time ...and I don't
always catch ... sorry)

April 24, 2009

Why is Valley Publishing seeking help?

Updated 5/3/09

I am very confused about what's happening with three Michigan newspapers. See, in March I read The Flint Journal to lay off 82, and reorganization plans for the Flint newspaper, Bay City Times and Saginaw News.

The April 24th Flint newspaper has an ad (see thumbnail) seeking full- and part-time reporters, part-time sports reporters, sales representatives, classified sales professionals, and customer support representatives. The same ad, which includes the logos of the three newspapers but asks that replies be sent to hr@valleypublishing.com, seeks a full-time interactive media manager and a full-time interactive media coordinator.

I can't find an online version of the ads as of 11 p.m. Friday or I'd let you see them for yourself. I think that's wrong on two counts. First, if you're seeking people with online skills shouldn't you look online too? Second, the company that asks firms to pay extra to put their jobs online should model the desired behavior by putting their ads online. (The ad was found the next day, with a publication date saying it was published April 24. It's was not up on May 3, most likely because such ads are usually 7 day buys.)

The company is described as a "Mid-Michigan Publishing and Internet News Company." Based on the hr email address, I assume it is Valley Publishing, which was created in 2003 when Advance Publications' Saginaw News and Bay City News decided to share a printing press. The building is in Bay City. A published report said 141 employees worked there in 2008.

By the way, a Great Lakes Bay Area publishing company has been advertising for nearly a week for a graphic designer(s). The headline says designer, but the first line says immediate openings for creative individuals, so I am not sure how many positions. The replies go to a blind box at The Saginaw News.

My favorite line in that ad is the one saying be comfortable working "with shifting priorities and schedules." Isn't that necessary to get any regular paycheck these days.

Oh well, I'll send off a few emails and try a few calls because I am curious. It is times like these I wish the industry was more transparent, or at least covered by a reporter.

About the updates: I published this entry before I added links to supporting articles. Those are linked now.

About the deleted comments: That's a whole 'nother post. Basically, I don't believe in anonymous slams and I do believe in fairness.

Daughter blogs on happy dance

My daughter gives her update in happy dance as she inches closer to the end of another round of the cancer fight. She describes her mood as cheerful, but I have seen better cheerful.

She did smile a bit at the news that a five-month job search may have landed her boyfriend a 20-hour a week job. Not easy in a market where jobs disappear faster then lemonade on a hot Michigan day.

Big week coming up - the tumor board reviews her case Monday to determine how much of the breast will go. Tuesday is chemo day plus new job day. I have 2 deadlines for freelancing jobs, a need to unscramble the latest online mess that ended my eight prescriptions nine months early and a date with more financial forms for a parent and daughter. (Yes, the joys of paying for health care in America. But I am trying not to rant, so I will stop)

MacLeese, Moore pops up in Cavanaugh's blog

The colorful language and life of Al MacLeese crops up in the latest post on Peter Cavanaugh's blog.

The line describing him as "a grizzled old time newspaper rogue" was so true and sent me down a memory lane. But it's late and the day was long and bumpy so I'll share another time.

The Radio Free Flint post also talks about Michael Moore. Pure coincidence that it was posted on Moore's 55th birthday.

And Moore and MacLeese together. Well, as Cavanaugh says:

"In terms of chemistry, there was one additional perspective. Al MacLeese thought Michael Moore was an “ignorant punk” and Michael regarded Al as a
“typically untalented Flint Journal lap-dog.” Both had often expressed their views in print. For what more could I hope?"

Perhaps it's time for a scotch on the rocks.

April 23, 2009

Childhood can prepare you for anything

"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."
- Andy Warhol, 1968
Some answers are unexpected. The question was why is Howard Bragman so good at crisis management and helping people become famous. The answer:
"I grew up fat, Jewish and gay in Flint, Mich. It made me a very empathetic guy."
Who knew that was a career preparation path?

But that childhood sent Bragman into a successful career as a publicist and author, according to an article in JewishJournal.com.

And, since the world has changed so that anyone can be famous for 15 minutes, the man whose clientele includes Stevie Wonder and Ed McMahon is working to ensure people know how to build the right image.
"If you do something stupid in public, somebody’s going to capture it on their phone and it’s going to get out there."
That's just one of the reasons why Bragman cautions folks to learn to whisper before shouting out on Twitter or Facebook.

He's learned:
"A publicist no longer has the luxury of control; what a publicist can do is manage."
And, if you can't afford a publicist at least buy his new book, "Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?" It isdesigned to help everyone build their own images - in Hollywood or out.

"I have lots of examples for people who might be a lawyer, or a community activist, or own a small business. You still need to get your message out. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the Flint Journal or you do it on Twitter."

Read the Jewish Journal article for more background and advice from the Flint native who founded Fifteen Minutes, where he specializes in entertainment, crisis management and the gay/lesbian market. Here's another bio and a link to a Flint Expatriates post on him.

That post also has a Flint Journal story you'll like, especially if you've ever tried to tell your grandmother what you do for a living.

And that unexpected answer? A search of the Internet shows it is a line that Bragman has used countless times. Still, now I know a little bit more about Flint.

California project another one for the radar

I should have known when I checked out the New Voices grants issued the other day that the Oakland Local had transplant Susan Mernit involved. It's just one more reason I'll be watching the updates on the hyperlocal journalism efforts in this grant-funded program.

Susan worked with Jeff Jarvis back in the mid1990s, designing the first "newspaper" site for Advance Publications. I put newspaper in quotes because nj.com was a pretty independent effort despite the Advance-owned New Jersey Star-Ledger right there.

In web time, the 1990s was a long time ago so don't expect aother nj.com. Here's how Susan described her Knight Foundation-funded project in a blog post:

"So what's the funding for? It's to kick start Oakland Local, a new site for Oakland.
Oakland Local will be a daily-updated Web site and mobile service with a focus on environment, climate, transportation, housing, local government and community activism in Downtown, Uptown, North Oakland, West Oakland, Fruitvale, Lake Merritt, and the Dimond District.

We will have an editor, a publisher and three paid part-time reporters who will produce content, along with community contributors. We'll be very mobile-friendly and the site will geotag content to an XML data map, encourage users to interact via cell phones and employ a range of social networking tools to surface, share and make discoverable so much of the amazing organizing and activism in Oakland."
She describes the goal:
"The vision here is to marry a deeper aggregation of community and non-profit content with more considered, analytical coverage of a narrow set of issues that have huge resonance for so many people in the O--and see what we can learn from the mix.

"There is so much happening that needs to be better surfaced--and an opportunity to blend organizational work from so many of the groups engaged in creating change and policy--and to actually cover it as well."
You can get an idea of why I'll watch what Susan does in this post "Being a generalist, staying focused" (though if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I've been watching Susan and her inspiring work for awhile)
Possible related posts:

April 22, 2009

News not dead, only newspapers - panelists

Update: A video of the discussion is posted with the article.

A student at Central Michigan University covered the panel discussion on newspapers in Michigan. Catch the article online to learn that news isn't dead. Here's background from a previous entry from me.

Michigan experiment in hyperlocal gets grant

A Michigan effort at community journalism grabbed a New Voices grant today. Only 8 of 204 possible projects aimed at news in specific geographic communities were selected for grants up to $25,000 over two years. (No, I'm not missing a any 0s.)

The press release describes the Michigan project:
GrossePointeToday.com - Wayne State University’s journalism program has recruited more than 20 displaced, retired and otherwise available professional journalists to write and edit content from citizen contributors and online journalism students at WSU and the University of Michigan-Dearborn for a full-service news and information site about Detroit’s five Grosse Pointes.

Professionals have pledged $20,000 in seed money to support the first year of the program. The site will receive a 30 percent commission on all advertising sold by a 35-year-old, highly successful community directory called “The Little Blue Book.“
It's a project headed up by Ben Burns and Nancy Nall Derringer, who has been blogging some about her efforts in posts like Boats against the current and V.2.0. Oh, even My plea.

Another grant goes to what could be a competitor to an Advance Publications effort.

Bill Bostic
, who was a free-lancer for the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, and founder of the Linglestown (Pa.) Gazette, will expand his model to develop a network of four to six independently operated hyperlocal Web sites, to be updated daily, for communities in suburban Harrisburg, Pa. Backyard News will seek joint ventures to provide local content for the region’s daily newspaper and radio and TV stations. The project will also work to deliver content to cell phones.

Who can "reboot the news" or create a supply store that will survive financially?

An earlier version of this post appeared on Wired Journalists

Can the geeks and the last remaining news organizations create something new?

It's a question that Robert Scoble asks in a blog post that lists 15 things newspapers gave away for free and another 12 that they probably will.

Geeks and journalists are not a new combination. Northwestern University's journalism program got a grant to train programmers to be journalists. Techies and journalists are propelling projects like Spot.us and Printcasting and everyblock.com

It's the tools of the net that let even those who can't travel to learn what's happening around the world and drop in on conversations like the "Rebooting the News" conversation between Jay Rosen and Dave Winer and follow some of the resulting discussion in the FriendFeed room Rebooting the News. The podcasts are much more satisfying then the 140-character limits of Twitter or even FriendFeed conversations between Jay and Dave.

Rosen has been a journalism professor since 1986 at New York University, involved in projects like NewsAssignment.Net and on the Wikipedia Advisory Board. He's written about civic journalism and blogs at PressThink.

Scoble describes Winer as "a geek that helped either birth or bootstrap all sorts of publishing technologies including blogging, RSS, OPML, XML-RPC." And Winer has had a long time interest in the news business, especially in how it develops online. Check Winer's post "how newspapers tried to invent the web or "blogs have a job" or check the reboot of journalism for a good catchup.

The series of Winer-Rosen conversations now has a name, Rebooting the News, "because it's got the technical side with rebooting, and boot is the first part of bootstrapping. And news is what it's all about," Winer says.

This week the two talk about the digital migration of journalists, and curmudgeons. Also Max Headroom and Oprah on Twitter. (Isn't everyone?)

Catch up on the previous podcasts:
"Just as modern professional journalism was optimized for low participation by the users, readers, viewers, modern professionalized politics was optimized for low participation by voters."
Scoble follows up his listening to the April 19 podcast with a list of what newspapers gave away:

Classified advertising to Craig’s List, photography to Flickr and the distribution of news and the ranking. Most of all, the industry gave away News. News of all types - local and business; front page and small-community information like births, deaths and birthdays; new like crowd-sourced and fun like astrology, comics and restaurant reviews. Oh, and traffic reports.

Scoble even links to what replaced the items newspapers gave away before sharing what they still have to lose: Distribution system, understanding of local community, journalists with time for long-term projects/stories; objectivity and accountability; sources and resources; relationships, and systems for archiving & aggregating.

He also suggests newspapers have:

Meal left #6 (partially eaten): they have brands that many people who are older, and therefore understand politics, business, sports, news, influence, wealth, and many other topics, love a lot more than Facebook or Twitter.

He even praises curators, known in some circles as editors:
"People who understand the news. Understand their communities. Who pick the top stories and who add understanding onto them with photos, graphics, headlines, etc. Believe me, I’ve been watching most bloggers and most of them suck at packaging their stories."
Unfortunately, Scoble does not think they will hang on to their resources long. He'd like to see the geeks and newsies get together to plan something better - and monetized - than Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, Tim Windsor on the Nieman Lab also shares what he got from the latest recording.

Ignore Windsor's post title, though, as Winer says in the comments:

"I don’t want to save journalism, I want to reboot it. That’s why I got started blogging in 1994 and podcasting in 2004 and RSS somewhere in between.

As I said above, I don’t think the current system is functional, it lets too many things through the cracks and encourages a kind of footsy between the reporters and the people they cover and it exempts too many influential people from coverage (e.g. the employers of the reporters).

The people you serve want to save journalism , not me. I want a fresh start."

David Muir listened to the latest, liking the way Rosen described community and agreeing that change is needed, but disliking calling all of this the downfall of journalism. In Probate of the Fourth Estate, Muir says:
"Things do change, so roll with it."
His comments on community and even journalism are not surprising giving previous posts like "Local content means high touch" and "the news is dead; long live the news!" and "Comfort in media."

John Zhu listened to two podcasts and blogged about it, finding the discussion on suggested Twitter users amusing.

But back to Scoble, who has zeroed it on one of the challenges: How to make money online. In his post, he suggests looking at the buying process and how news business might effectively intersect with that.

He gives suggestions for what a good local search engine could do, why movie feedback in real time would work, how to really share news (actually archive it) and give product feedback in a meaningful way.

His post reminds me of a recent one from Chris Brogan who suggested supply stores I need right now. There was the Storyteller Farm, the Stat Hunters and Promotion Swarm. He was careful to point out he didn't need a particular person with those skills; he needed "
pirates who come complete with their own sailing ship, crew, and battle tactics. "

I'm off to listen to those Winer-Rosen podcasts again.

April 21, 2009

Flint Journal makes it to Pearls Before Swine

Did you see Pearls before Swine on Monday? Here's a glimpse. Click on the strip and you can see the rest online.

I found it online because a comment about The Flint Journal's plans to go to three times a week was left on the strip's online home. Check out the discussion after seeing the comic.

April 20, 2009

AnnArbor.com editor on panel to discuss newspapers

This item was first published on WiredJournalists.

Tony Dearing, content guru of the evolving AnnArbor.com, and three others involved with emerging journalism trends in Michigan, will talk about newspapers Tuesday at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant.

Dearing joins Lonnie Peppler-Moyer, past president of the Michigan Press Association and publisher of Monroe Evening News and Bedford Now; Laura Varon Brown, Audience editor and columnist for the Detroit Free Press and member of its digital transition team; and Mike MacLaren, executive director of the Michigan Press Association.

In a CMU Life article today, David Mrozinski quotes Dennis Jeffers , a journalism professor who will moderate the "Michigan's Newspaper Industry: Our Past, Present and Future" discussion, praising the panelists for being leaders in finding solutions to the problems of producing and publishing newspapers.
"The journalists on this panel will highlight what these solutions entail, as well as what the changes mean for Michigan citizens.
The university's journalism department and Clarke Historical Library are sponsoring the panel discussion from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Baber Room (room 109) of the Charles V. Park Library. The discussion ends with a reception and tour of Clarke Historical Library's current exhibit "Celebrating Two Centuries of Michigan Newspapers." (Same building)

Interesting mix of people involved with several evolving projects in Michigan's news industry so it could provoke an interesting discussion. Let's hope the students, or someone, records it for those of us who can't make it to the actual event.

Dearing, who graduated from CMU in 1979 and was editor of the student newspaper, has been back to CMU on panel discussions on ethics and other subjects. He's heading up the content side of AnnArbor.com, which is a new media outlet with a web site and print products starting sometime in July. The long-time Advance Publications employee been the editor of The Flint Journal and Bay City Times, worked at the Ann Arbor News.

Moyer's Monroe Evening News is employee-owned. In a recent article, the incoming president of Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association, talks how that ownership model affects grassroots innovation.

Yes, there have been layoffs. But there's also been new products and innovation, put together by employee task forces. There's FindMonroe.com and MPDesign, which creates web sites, and Monroe Talks. a community conversation place that buzzes. In fact, MonroeTalks was a case study for API's NewspaperNext project. See page 49.

Monroe Evening News's site also is one of the easiest ones to read. It separates the local and wire news out and makes it easy to scan quickly.

Brown also knows about change professionally - the former feature writer and editor is now audience editor and served on the digital transition team; she was the editor of Twist, a Sunday magazine about and for women, works on MomsLikeMe - and personally - losing a husband at age 28, seeing a daughter severely injured.
"That's the thing with change. Sometimes we ask for it, and sometimes we don't. But through all of it, it's important to set your sights on something worthy. Something good. Without that, and without a little kindness along the way, change is an impossible journey. Or an accident waiting to happen."
Brown has been at the Free Press since 1990. She was hired at the Detroit News by George Rorick as one of three word people for his graphics team. She has run the satellite Oakland County newsroom, been news editor for the Free Press and has been graphics director and director of the national children's newspaper, Yak's Corner.

MacLaren has been with the state press association since 1991. In an article on the closing of the Ann Arbor News, he called the closing a "tough and disappointing" decision that had to be made in a rapidly changing newspaper industry as people are "growing more accustomed to getting it (local news) in different ways."

He predicted the transformation from newspapers to Web-based news services could mean fewer news stories. He said the revenues and profitability newspapers enjoyed in the past allowed for the creation of news-gathering operations that exposed stories that served the public, and online publishing doesn't generate the same amount of revenues.

With diminished resources, MacLaren said, "The possibility exists for less coverage of some things that people looked to a newspaper to provide and cause some real problems for our society."

Wish I could be there Tuesday for the discussion.

Possible related posts:
Exhibit celebrates centuries of Michigan newspapers

Annarbor.com evolving
What's being said about Adance, Annarbor.com
Advance execs share outlook on TV

Will Mr. Jeeves come back here too?

Oh happy day. The helpful butler may be coming back into our lives. Mr. Jeeves has been gone for three years, but is returning to his rightful place, serving up answers to those who ask in the UK. Let's hope he returns to American soil, too, as soon as he's done with his Facebook page and his Twittering for the day. Mashable didn't have the answer, but I hope Mr. Jeeves soon will.

April 19, 2009

Oh my! LaKisha Jones is pregnant

There was a time when I would've been a lot faster to publish this news: American Idol finalist LaKisha Jones is expecting her second child, her rep confirms to Usmagazine.com.

That would've been back in the day when The Flint Journal's Idol Chatter blog barely let Lakisha Jones sneeze without reporting about it online. The woman of three cities - Flint, Baltimore and Houston - garnered a lot of space online and in print during season six. I tracked down all sorts of links and "news" - from her first audition in Houston, through New York, on the show in February 2007, March,, April, May and ever after.

The Idol Chatter blog grew out of discussions in my former employer's features department, which wanted to cover the popular TV show American Idol with overnight updates for print and online before 6 am. That was before the newspaper knew Jones, who finished fourth, was on the show.

The Journal's entertainment reporter Doug Pullen headed up the print coverage, that included comments from local Idol experts. Since in those days, I was the newspaper's Internet team, I got to push what was then new blogging software - MovableType - on mlive.com site, The Flint Journal's online home.

I tried lots of things - embedding videos; adding music, photos and a variety of widgets, plus linking to other things on Mlive on Advance and other web sites.

It seems routine now, but the online effort was groundbreaking for the newspaper. We used online comments in print stories. We published first on the web, and sometimes web only. On performance nights, we had something online within 5 minutes after our Flint connection performed or was judged.

A highlight was the Wednesday we had 23,800 unique users . For four months, the blog's traffic ranked up with the highest on mlive.com, even squeezing a sports blog out from its top spots from time to time. Better yet, Google News frequently had us as the number one source for news on Idol.

It helped to read comments like this:
"I would like to let the editors and readers of the Flint Journal know that the readership of your paper has been extended to the entire nation, like myself who searches for Lakisha news from California daily. While I surely understand that the resources of this local paper could be used for other pressing issues, the reality is, if you guys don't cover her, nobody else would. For many Lakisha fans, or for me anyway, your paper has become THE place to be for getting a daily dose of Lakisha. This will continue only until she finishes in the competition, so please please keep her coverage for now."
I recently ran across a conversation I had with an Mlive.com editor who had to report on the blog at an AdvanceInternet meeting. Here's some of that:
"What did this tell you or the Flint Journal about blogging and real-time updates?

... it showed us that the right content will draw people in. Folks expected something daily during the show and we heard from them if we didn't give it to them. Then, they started expecting we'd always have copies (or links) of the performances.

Do you believe this blog opened the eyes of others on staff about the power of blogging?

Yes. (Editor) Tony Dearing (now heading up AnnArbor.com) regularly shared what was being done at his weekly staff meetings so that helped.

Do you think it may have contributed to your current online approach?

Yes. What we were able to do with Idol Chatter using MovableType as the blog software helped more people realize the power we had to shape our coverage on Mlive. We got comments, we could marry photos with stories, we could have fun and we could seriously cover important news for our area online as it happened.

It also showed many the power of RSS feeds - the only way to keep up with the hundreds of Idol blogs.

It showed the power of Google and Yahoo search feeds, which alerted us to what others were writing; and the experience showed us the flexibility of presentation.

The biggest surprise - and compliment - for me was how many other newspapers were reading it to see what we would turn up. I think when other reporters and editors heard that when they were at events or conferences that helped make online and the efforts it takes legitimate.

Personally, I learned again how much I love blogging as a way of storytelling, although I still think American Idol is a waste of time and money."
Anyways, back to Lakisha whose Let's Go Celebrate single is currently available on Amazon.com. It is from her debut album So Glad I'm Me due out in May.

It's the first baby for Jones and financial adviser Larry Davis, whom she wed in Beverly Hills last October. The infant, due in August, is the second for 29-year-old Jones, 29. People magazine reported that Lakisha was thrilled that her 6-year-old daughter Brionne started calling Davis "Dad" even before they married.

Here's a quote from LaKisha:

"I may not have won American Idol, but I have won because I'm able to provide a better life for me and my daughter and that's all I've ever wanted."

And me?

I won because I learned so much from the experience. Even better, now I don't have to watch American Idol and can blog about anything.