September 19, 2009, other Advance Internet sites roll out community features

There are non-working bells and whistles - links, too - but Advance Internet rolled out its community-building  upgrade on its sites this weekend on, and eight other sites.

You - you being anyone who contributes words, video or photos to a site - can create profiles, follow people, recommend a post (see the illustration below).

Plus, comments are now threaded so you can directly reply to one in a long list.You can even subscribe to a profile or  the comments.

There are also "Popular Tags" boxes on many blogs, like the one I show that came from Runners Finish Line.

You  possibly use an Open Id account to log-in. (Updated 9/21/09 - You can.)

Technically, the upgrade is a move to Movable Type 4.2. I thought we were moving closer to the unveiling, once expected in Flint in June, because of a recent column on

Joey Kennedy, who has tackled  the roughness of anonymous commenting recently, shared some of the social networking features coming to and the rest of the AdvanceInternet sites.

Actually, most of the detals come from Matt Cuthbert, a web producer for AdvanceInternet. He had offered up some smart advice earlier:
"I try not to let dumb comments get to me. It's hard to weed them out, but in my mind, the smart commenters recognize the dumb ones for what they are."
Alabama got  peak at the new tools  in late July.I got a peak when a potential employer found my name attached to some community-building tools at, one of the sites in the Advance family. We correctly guessed the work was left from my years of work via The Flint Journal.

Cuthbert expects the ability to create profiles  and the ability to display your real name will improve comments.
We hope, too, that the changes will help dissuade some of the spammers and trolls (though we're not foolish -- we know they'll always be there) because the user profiles will build reputation. If you're always a loudmouth jerk in the comments, people can see it on your page. If that's the sort of reputation someone builds, they won't find themselves with many people listening
Plus, you may discover new things.
"By following the activity of your favorite people, you'll be able to weed out some of the garbage. You'll discover new things that you might not otherwise have seen, based on the recommendations of your peers."
Here's more of his explanation from that column:
"A simple way to explain it is that we're adding social networking to the site. In that sense, we'll have features similar to Facebook or Twitter where you'll be able to follow the activities of your favorite newspaper columnists, beat writers, photographers, etc., and also other users. So if you think AcidReign is a sharp commenter, you can keep up with everything he/she says. Likewise, other users can follow your activity as well."
"But we're not trying to be Facebook. Far from it. We're simply adopting elements of social networking that will hopefully make your experience on better."
I wanted to see if the same user name will work across all of the sites. Unfortunately, I don't remember tge password for the login Advance chose for me and the password recovery system wasn't working Saturday night. I've got two other user names, but both only get me errors. I also wanted to see about using my Google, AIM or Livejournal accounts, options explained in the Frequently Asked Questions.  section.

The upgrade is started at the following Advance Publications Advance Internet sites,,,,,,,,, 

So, I'll try to be patient as the sites hurry to change the generic links to the site links in the how-to pieces and get the rest of the updates pieces working. It's a long overdue improvement.

Anyone want to guess which print-affiliated staff person will put up a photo with their profile first?
(let's make it more of a challenge - the first print-affiliated staff person who is NOT the online person too. That leaves out Bernie Eng in midMichigan, and and Brian Cubbison  (with his two profiles) in Syracuse and Jerry Casey in Oregon and Lynn Cunningham in New Orleans, among others.)

You will find  Donnie Webb and Dave Rahme over at

Always more to say: Following up on Stickel, Cahir, Bronson

A marching band, present and past employees and even some folks from the neighborhood showed up to say good-bye to retiring Fred Stickel in Portland, Oregon. The surprise party for the 87-year-old publisher of the Oregonian included cake and confetti and lots of words. Follow those links and you'll know more of the story that I started to tell in a post.

One employee posted: "Under his leadership, we Oregonian employees have had it damn good -- much better than most other journalists in this country. I truly believe he has fought for us, has protected us and has given us the best he could."

I encourage you to read an article about one of the last gatherings honoring the journalist turned Marine. It starts "Bill Cahir had a gift for using words as weapons of mass persuasion." It's a nice follow to some of my posts on the former Advance Publications reporter.

For a followup to Ex-publisher sues newspaper, Advance Publications read Details on an ex-publisher's lawsuit and some pending cuts in Alabama are the focus of a post on Lagniappe. Rob Holbert says a 46-page document explains Howard Bronson was offered six months salary and tells of a speech Bronson was to give to employees regarding the revocation of the pledge.

September 18, 2009

Ex-publisher sues newspaper, Advance Publications; says forced retirement, pledge change wrong

Howard Bronson, publisher of the Press-Register in Mobile, Alabama, until a month ago is suing the newspaper and its owners.

Published reports, including one on, say that Bronson, 72, claims owner Advance Publications was wrong to tell him last month he was retiring in two weeks.

Bronson's suit, filed Friday in Mobile, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against defendants including Mark Newhouse, a member of the Newhouse family that bought the paper in 1966.

Bronson said Newhouse officials in July 2009 reneged on a longstanding job security pledge for the paper's employees (staffs told in August) and in August told him that he had two weeks to leave.

Bronson's unhappiness with the furloughs and other changes at Advance newspapers has been reported in a number of blogs and Tweets.

For example, one blog post included:
According to inside sources, there have been a couple of developments related to the company’s economic climate. First, publisher Howard Bronson apparently told employees at a company meeting that if he’s forced to do furloughs again he’ll opt for straight pay cuts equivalent to the loss of 10 working days. Earlier this year it was announced that P-R employees will have to take furloughs without pay. Whether this new method of cutting pay will come into play is unclear.

 An article about Bronson's retirement on said that he  joined the Press-Register as publisher in 1992. He supervised the design and construction of the newspaper's present printing plant and office building and introduced the newspaper's Sound Off column, as well as the practice of printing corrections on page one.

The article on Bronson's retirement included this quote:
"The Press-Register has become over the past 17 years one of the best-read newspapers in the country. This is because of the dedicated and hard-working employees, who over these years have made me proud to serve as their publisher. My wife Dorsey and our family fell in love with Mobile, a magnificent, 300-year-old city, and we have put down roots, making it our permanent home. We look forward to the rich future Mobile has earned."

It's hard to leave.

Update 9/21/09: Poynter Online has posted a copy of the lawsuit.  Also see More to say for more about the lawsuit.

I recently wrote about another lawsuit involving Advance Publications, an Oregonian employee who wanted a buyout. I also have written about Howard Bronson before, including his retirement and some speculation about his leaving. I also wrote about him when the newspaper picked up some extra business.

Oregonian employee sues, says Advance Publications wrong to deny buyout

The OregonianA long-time, but not long enough, Oregonian employee heads to court to argue he deserved a buyout from the Newhouse-owned Advance Publications just days after top-guy announced he's ending his 30-plus year stint as publisher.

The ad clerk had 24.82 years but needed 25, according to the lawsuit. There's more involved - a 10 percent paycut, a change in the company pension plan, promises from a former boss - according to the third-generation employee. He wants the buyout offer and more.

In Lawsuit claims wrongful denial of Oregonian buyout we learn The Oregonian wrongfully denied veteran employee James Bixler the company's 2008 buyout offer, a lawsuit against the company claims.

Willamette Week's James Pitkin uncovered the suit, which largely centers on one's reading of this phrase, with The Oregonian's underline:

All salespeople with less than 25 years of service.

That is one item in a list of people to be excluded from the buyout offer. Both parties appear to agree that Bixler was employed in sales for approximately 24 years and 10 months.

But Bixler contends that his service to the company includes his work as a paperboy, which began in the 1970s. He also alleges that the 25-year exemption was crafted specifically to exclude him from the offer.

Willamette Week has PDFs of the lawsuit, the buyout offer and an email to the boss on its web site.

I wrote about Fred Stickley's plan to exit and mentioned The Oregonian before in posts - links on the right. I accepted a buyout offer in 2007 and left the Flint Journal, an Advance Publication in Michigan, in May 2008.

September 17, 2009

Going back: Happiness better then safety

At least three journalists are returning to Advance Publications newsrooms.

Former Star Ledger political columnist and Montclair resident TOM MORAN, who quit the paper in February 2008 for a safe job in PR, is back at the Ledger. The tip came from Journalism gets one back over on the Baristanet.

She refers to "After safe exit, a journalist returns" in the New Yrok Times, where David Carr talks about ways Moran's mood changed while he worked outside the news business and interviewed the editor who hired Moran back. “We are missing a lot after last year’s departures, but one of the bigger things we were missing was a political columnist during a very overheated gubernatorial race," Jim Willse is quoted as saying.

At NJ Voices, Linda Stamato welcomed the political columnist back. Moran's got a post up in NJ Voices - reminding us there are seven weeks until the NJ governor's race is settled.

In Michigan, JENNIFER JORDAN KILDE has returned to The Flint Journal. I first noticed her staff status on a print report on the people who guessed the weight of a Dale Chihuly chandelier in the Flint Institute of Arts. She recently confirmed her return as a features writer.

Also back at The Journal is TERI BANAS, who met her husband John Foren when both were at the newspaper. She's been back in the suburbs but also has had some Flint datelines.

Also going back is another Advance newspaper. The Oregonian is going to give readers more "local daily news" as part of a "strategy by the newspaper to get back to giving readers daily news and information that's more specifically targeted to their part of the world -- where they live, work, have kids in schools."

Also promised are pages specifically targeted to specific cities on

September 16, 2009

Two more publishers leaving Newhouse newspapers

At least one reader of this blog must have smiled when learning that two more publishers in the Advance Publications chain are retiring.

Back on Aug. 29 I wrote about some moving at the Newhouse family's Alabama properties, including the leaving of a 72-year-old publisher. Anonymous wrote:
"72 year old Editor? In Portland, the Publisher is 87? I see a theme here...I understand loving the business, but are these the people we are counting on to take us into the future? to embrace change and new technology? Time to hand over the reigns was about 20 years ago."

Fred Stickel, 87, announced last week that he's done with the Oregonian on Sept. 18. His 59-year-old son Patrick F, president of the Oregonian since 1993, will serve as interim publisher but will not seek the permanent post he's long been expected to get.

Today, we learned the younger Victor Hanson III will retire as president and publisher of The Birmingham News. Hanson, 53, told employees Dec. 1 is his last day. He is the fourth generation to serve as publisher during the 100 years his family has been associated with the newspaper.

There's no mention of a replacement but last month oversight of the Birmingham News was part of a new role in Alabama. Ricky Mathews was named president of Advance Alabama/Mississippi the same day he became publisher and president of the Mobile Press-Register, the Baldwin Register and the Mississippi Press.

The Birmingham Business Journal said that under Hanson’s leadership, the News switched from evening publication to morning with the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald. It purchased the remaining years on the Post-Herald’s joint operating agreement in 2005 and moved into a new downtown building in 2006.

Fred Stickel came to Oregon in 1967 as general manager, moved up to president in 1972 and became publisher in 1975. In The Oregonian article, Stickel said he first thought about retiring at age 65 but Donald Newhouse, president of the private Advance Publications, had talked him out of retiring several times. (Stickel worked with Donald at another Advance newspaper - The Jersey Journal - 58 years ago.)

An Associated Press article quotes Tim Gleason, dean of the University of Oregon's School of Journalism, as saying Stickel is one of the few American publishers with so long a tenure, and that he Stickel was a force for newsroom innovation.
"The Oregonian is and remains today one of the best regional newspapers in the United States, and he's the publisher who built that."
That gets debated throughout Oregon, including on a post with a headline of Buying himself out.

Like most news organizations, circulation dropped during Stickel's time and he's had to implement buyouts, pay cuts, furloughs and other cutbacks. In February, Oregonian employees lose their long-time job pledge.

Oregonian writer Richard Read said Stickel also warned more is coming.
"This newspaper's going to have to restructure. It's too big for the revenue base."
Buying himself out also is where you can read that Stickel is retiring now "to be sure to get my retirement tributes in the paper before it folds" and learn which Michigan resident blogger Jack Bog thinks should replace Stickel.

Check out the comments for more opinions about the Oregonian's place in the community, the Newhouse's Internet strategy and why OregonLive disabled comments on the announcement.

Williamette Week published the announcement sent to all employees.

The Oregonian's editorial board did a piece Saturday - "Fred Stickel, uncommon leader." Among other things, it mentioned he appointed the newspaper's first African American editor, William A. Hilliard, in 1986, and the first woman editor, Sandy Rowe, in 1993.

The Oregonian's Editor Blog also had announced the retirement. No byline as it is almost word for word the press release.

Stickel's age as a hindering factor to success today is suggested in a comment on an article on the retirement by the Portland Business Journal, another publication in the Advance, Newhouse family. Guess they didn't know he is on Facebook, (I suspect he joined to ensure he sees timely photos of his grandkids. His wife died last year. Her obituary listed survivors as daughters Daisy Medici and Bridget Otto; sons, Fred Jr., Patrick, Geoffrey and James; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.)

Despite pressures of the Internet, Stickel is optimistic that the Oregonian will survive.

(Update: The 72-year-old publisher says he was forced out at the Mobile Press-Register and has sued.)

The Oregonian's publisher, Fred Stickel, announces his retirement

I've written about The Birmingham News from time to time. The Oregonian pops up too.

Digital media course a bargain for journalists in Michigan

Gee, I think someone has noticed the high rate of unemployment for Michigan journalists. A second course offering folks a chance to update their skills is set for October.

This one is from the Society of Newspaper Designers and includes an person among the instructors.

Yes, Michigan State University graduate and Mlive vet Shawn Smith will return to the East Lansing campus Saturday, Oct. 10, as part of the lineup for SND’s Digital Media Quick Course.

The description says
"You’ll learn about the best ideas for Web site design, free online tools, the Detroit Free Press’ new e-reader platform and hands-on techniques for using social media, mobile and other internet tools to bring your online content to life."
It will set you back $50 but you'll learn:
  • Where the sites are
  • Where the tools are
  • Where the readers are
  • Where the connections are
Karl Gude, the ex-Newsweek journalist now teaching at MSU put the session together (with help, of course). He is looking for folks to participate in a "lightning round" of presentations of innovations at your company or organization. Send him at email: gudek over at

You can register for the course online - head to the SND post and follow the registration link.

I'm still waiting for details on the free session from the Online News Association.