January 9, 2010

Social media victory? Lost trumps Obama (again)

Lost? Not  after an eight minute video (below) that pulls together everything.for the TV show that will start its final season soon..

Amused? Totally by the chatter that the show's producers were worried that the president's annual State of the Nation address would draw eyes away from the show's Feb. 2 premiere. I'm even stunned that the White House media person assured the creator's that won't happen. In return, came a Tweet offer: Obama can know everything - just ask.

Great publicity move that the White House helped. The speech is traditionally the last Tuesday of January and the worry was out on the web in 2009. TBut witter and Facebook have grown since then and so did the worry. (If only we could get that campaign for a better health care plan.)

The Jan. 8 transcript for the official briefing shows it started with a question about when the State of the Union would be and a suggesting that the president was delaying the speech until health care reform passes. Then:

Q    How about "Lost" issue?  (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS:  You a big fan?
Q    Yes.  (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS:  No, we’ll announce something soon.

Those aggressive reporters came back to the issue later.
Q    None?  And secondarily, is he aware of the Internet storm over those who are begging him not to schedule the State of the Union address on the night of the three-hour premiere of "Lost"?
MR. GIBBS:  I will say this on behalf of ABC Radio.  (Laughter.)  I don’t foresee a scenario in which the millions of people that hope to finally get some conclusion in "Lost" are preempted by the President.
Q    Can we --
MR. GIBBS:  You can quote a senior administration official.

Mmmm. Lost is filmed in Hawaii; President Obama just returned from Hawaii ....

January 8, 2010

Michigan newspaper layoffs hit central Michigan

Looks like the layoffs for Advance Publications in Michigan went beyond the west Michigan newspapers.

Among those posting that they are laid off was Bonnie Raymond, most recently in Human Resources at The Flint Journal. She celebrates 25 years at The Journal on Feb. 5 and is laid off Feb. 6. (Dates corrected Jan. 9)

Also rumored to be affected are some who oversee newspaper delivery at the Booth Mid-Michigan newspapers. Many of the functions already were being handled in Grand Rapids, which is moving its call center operations to Kalamazoo.

Advance, which has offered several rounds of buyouts at most of its newspapers, announced in August that it would no longer guarantee jobs even if newspaper revenue dropped. Some of the employees who are out of a job have said they are getting a severance package although it is not like the earlier buyout packages.

Many thought that The Flint Journal, Bay City Times and Saginaw News would avoid layoffs since the staffs were reduced dramatically when the newspapers went to a Thursday, Friday, Sunday publication schedule.in June 2009.

Advance Publications reorganizing in Michigan - layoffs announced

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with background;)
First, I saw a Tweet reminding me that Paper Cuts has launched its 2010 map showing where newspapers are cutting staff. At 3 p.m., the count was at 431 jobs, but that doesn't include cuts announced at the Kalamazoo Gazette, Grand Rapids Press and Muskegon Chronicle today.

A story just posted on mlive.com outlines staffing and production changes. Those changes include:
  • Printing the Kalamazoo Gazette at the plant now shared by the Grand Rapids Press and Muskegon Chronicle.
  • Moving advertising production for all three news organizations to a the print and digital production center used by another sister publication. (I'm not sure if this is the one setup for AnnArbor.com  or the "Great Lakes group of Flint, Saginaw and Bay City.)
  • Moving all circulation outbound calling and retention efforts for the three newspapers to Kalamazoo.

A Muskegon Chronicle article saiid:
"The Booth organization said the employment changes include a reduction of all printing and production positions and a number of positions in other departments in Kalamazoo. The majority of the positions eliminated in Grand Rapids are in ad production. A small number of newsroom and advertising staff in each market are also affected."
Similar articles were published by The Grand Rapids Press and Kalamazoo Gazette with quotes by the newspapers' chief executives.
“Our commitment to the Kalamazoo community remains strong in many ways, as evidenced by the three region-wide Booth operations centers established in Kalamazoo in less than 12 months," (Gazette Publisher James) Stephanak said. "These investments include the circulation retention call center, as well as West Michigan’s overall marketing headquarters and the regional center for advertising content.”"

The layoffs were expected since the business announced it was withdrawing its "lifetime job pledge"  on Aug. 5. (Also discussed in this reaction post.) Until this year, the Michigan daily newspaper in the Newhouse group pledge that a bad economy or technology would not affect employment of the full-time employees.That change was to become effective Feb. 5.)

The printing change was suggested in a March 2009 Gazette article announcing the closing of the Ann Arbor News, reduced production schedule for The Bay City Times, Saginaw News and Flint Journal and pension and salary changes for most Booth Newspaper employees.
Inn addition, Stephanak said he is currently working on the possibility of consolidating the Gazette's printing and packaging operations with Grand Rapids in conjunction with exploring major changes in the distribution system.""
That same article said that "The Kalamazoo Gazette  The Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot and Muskegon Chronicle, had centralized accounting, technical services, some customer call center functions, advertising production and page editing functions."

It also included this:
"This summer, an editorial production center will be established in Grand Rapids to serve Kalamazoo as well as other newsrooms in West Michigan. This center will serve the page editing and production needs for all news products, page layout and design."

Groan, grin - my reaction to media use of Facebook

Two media outlets' references to Facebook came within minutes of each other as I was multitasking Thursday. I grinned when I learned that AnnArbor.com turned the bra color meme into an online post. I groaned when a TV reporter started gushing over how he used Facebook for on-the-spot weather reports.

I didn't take notes, but it went something like ...
"oh my gosh, when people post on Facebook there's a date and time so you know exactly when the weather was like that .... isn't Facebook wonderful."
I hate weather stories for their predictability and unreliability. (Jim of L-Town goes into detail in "Weather panic back" over on Free From Editors.) It was smart for the TV station to seek comments about the weather on its Facebook page. It was not too smart to ignore them.

David Letterman got me started on this rant with his "Twitter machine." because I really don't understand how competent professionals get away without knowing more about tools like Facebook. Or how some can brag about their lack of knowledge.

Let's see ... a comedian who uses the day's hot topics to entertain isn't immersed in social networking. Does that mean he's after the print-forever crowd, content to let others grab more with it eyeballs?

... Do  news professionals inspire trust when they show how little they know about the community?  (If Facebook were a country, it'd be the fifth largest ... social networking sites are now more popular then porn sites,  ... yes, I just finished another Facebook presentation so  brain is cluttered with cocktail chatter , according to my husband.)

Fortunately, some do recognize the importance of reporting what people are doing and talking about and don't get caught up in the reporting on the tool. The first behavior can pay off - a status update on Facebook reported the AnnArbor.com story on the breast awareness campaign via Facebook is drawing heavy traffic.

The meme itself is drawing a range of reactions, including some labeling it too much information about colleagues and relatives. It's also generating discussion, such as reviving the debate over when and how often mammograms are necessary. I've also seen  a "No bra, no breast cancer" discussion on research showing a relationship between bras and cancer.

January 6, 2010

Oregonian now Stickel-less

The Birmingham News without a Hanson for the first time isn't the only Advance Publication newspaper starting the new year without a long-time family member.

The Oregonian's management is now Stickel-less for the first time in 42 years as Patrick Stickel, who was president retired Dec. 30. His father Fred Stickel retired as publisher in September. (Still working as a writer is Fred's daughter Bridget Otto.)

Also posting about the quiet retirement was The Oregonian and Oregon Media Central. The Oregonian piece

No one said what the 59 year old plans to do, though The Oregonian post did talk about his involvment with the arts so maybe he'll follow the lead of former Grand Rapids Press editor Mike Lloyd.

Patrick is leaving with optimism, telling The Oregonian that a rebounding economy will bring back advertisers to the newspaper's print and Web pages.
"The value of what we're selling has worked for the past 40 years, the past 20 years and it still works today."
No update on what Fred Stickel, 88, is doing.

January 5, 2010

SPJ featuring Frazz cartoonist Jef Mallett

We've missed the reservation deadline, but you can still go  to hear former Flint Journal artist Jef Mallet talk at the Society of Professional Journalists Mid-Michigan Chapter.

Jef is best known for his nationally syndicated Frazz cartoonist and author Jef Mallett, but he worked for Booth Newspapers for 18 years before striking out on his own. He says he's making it up as he goes.

To celebrate the start of a new year, Jef will be the featured speaker at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 (Wednesday) at Harper's in East Lansing.

On the Facebook invite it said:
"Find out how Jef made the transition from daily newspapers to the creation of a popular newspaper comic strip and what inspires him.

In addition, Jef is the author and illustrator of several books, including the recently published Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete. (NPR host Peter Sagal describes it as a 'funny, heartfelt, serious work of evangelism.')
On one of my recent long trips out-of-town, I read more about the book in a City Pulse article, Three-way caling: Artist gives first-hand insight into triathlon mania. Jef did his first triathlon in 1981, up in Traverse City and has done about 50 of them since. Although I enjoyed the article, I won't be following in his footsteps anytime soon. (Check out Bill Castanier's column there if you're looking for good books to read by the way..)

Certain to make most of my days better is reading Jef's blog posts. (The other days I feel guilty for not moving more while reading about his swims, riding and workouts.)

Speaking of guilt, do read Jef's post about "Exit 93, to Hell in a handbasket, recalculating." And then ask yourself as the Dixie Baptist Church's sign does "Are you on the right road?"

(Yes, I had to know more so according to a story in the free library, * the sign went up in 1970 at the urging of Pastor Paul Vanaman, then pastor of the Dixie Baptist Church. The "Hi-way Pulpit" is based on Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ"  and his parishioners pooled $11,000 for the sign on church property. That same year, 50-foot-tall arches with the 16-foot-tall plywood sign of Jesus debuted. In 1991, the church spent $28,000 to replace the sign with a modern replica -- to minimize upkeep and vandalism-related repairs.

(* The article is credited to The Seattle Times, but I suspect it actually was a Detroit Free Press article.)

Family, Internet challenge draws new publisher to Alabama

Family is one reason why Pam Siddall is heading to the Birmingham News, according to The Eagle in Wichita. But an interview on al.com indicates the challenge of a new model of business is a draw.

Her parents, five siblings and their families - live in Phenix City, Ala., three hours from the Newhouse news organization's base in Alabama, Siddall told the Wichita Eagle.
"Recent health issues with my parents kind of tugged at my heart that it was time to come back home."
Family is important, but don't dismiss the challenges waiting in Alabama. In an interview, Sidall told the Birmingham News: about some of her thinking:
"Take a step back, take a blank piece of paper and tell me if you were start­ing this business today un­der the current economic conditions, given the priori­ties that we know need to be in place, draw what that looks like. Let me tell you, that is hard to do. But you have to do it."
She also said
"I think that we will probably be a smaller, leaner organi­zation focused on very, very specific vision and strategy. We're going to feel good about where we are. We're going to be the best. That would be a good place to be in the next 12 to 18 months."
That should get a few more people to consider accepting the buyout offer on the table at the Advance Publications newspapers in Alabama.
"I think you will see a culture here, an orga­nization that really sees it­self as a 24-7 multimedia operation. You will see a culture here where people believe in personal accoun­tability and have a spirit of competitiveness, that we're going to win. I would like to see some chins held up and some pride in what we do every day."
Already, lots of changes in Alabama with a new structure for Advance Publications and new management. Those changes even extended to al.com, the online afflicate for the newspapers, with the resignation of one editor and the appointment of a director of content. (Ken Booth was replaced by Robert Sims, who had been Internet editor at the Birmingham News.)

By the way, some Flint Journal folks might remember Marty Carry, who worked in classified sales from March 2003-June 2004. He became vice president of advertising at the Wichita Eagle in March 2009.

Bouncing back: No retirement in Grand Rapids, some finding jobs, beat goes on

Six months of retirement was enough time for former Grand Rapids Press Editor Mike Lloyd.

The Press has two stories posted about Lloyd's new job as executive director of Broadway Grand Rapids. The first is an announcement, the second focuses on the organization's plan to expand from theater into an arts organization with an emphasis on arts education.

Both remind me of a quote shared in one of the many tributes to Deborah Howell, the former Newhouse News Service editor killed while crossing the street in New Zeeland. "I'm flunking retirement and very busy with consulting....We're headed for New Zealand on Dec. 26 for three weeks!" ," she wrote on a Christmas card to Ken Doctor. (And, of all the columns and postings I've read about Howell I still like Tim McGuire's best with Joe Owen's a close second. Well, obviously I liked Doctor's too since I'm quoting from it. Mostly, though, I'm touched by how many people remember Howell for more then her journalism prizes and hope they told her so.)

Meanwhile, a Tweet from James Briggs announced he was heading back to employment.

"My, ahem, vacation ends today. Starting my gig as online sports producer for The Oakland Press, a rare daily paper with rising circulation."
He had left a job as prep sports reporter for the AnnArbor.com to cover the Detroit Lions and Red Wings for the Detroit Daily Press, which stopped printing almost as soon as it started. You can read Briggs' Detroit Daily Press was fool's gold for more about that. Or read Briggs post about how few challenged anything about the newspaper's plans.) Briggs had taken a two-year leave from journalism before returning to Michigan. I had stumbled across him in March through a blog post about the death of the Ann Arbor News (now deleted!#$!) Meanwhile, Crain's Bill Shea says no sign of revival of the newspaper.

Back to Lloyd, Press editor for 31 years before retiring in July, for a minute. He will head Broadway Grand Rapids, a non-profit organization that signed a management agreement with Michigan State University's Wharton Center for Performing Arts. in October. The Press article says Lloyd will work with the Wharton, which is booking several productions in the Grand Rapids area this season, to improve the western Michigan organization. He'll face an uphill battle as the state of Michigan continues to ax funding for arts organizations and arts education.

Speaking of battles, I'm off to fight several of mine own so blogging may be more like the December pace then earlier in 2009. I'm trying to catch up on some of my Internet reading, so I noticed that Free From Editors had a post about the Saginaw News, Flint Journal and Bay City Times seeking reporters; that the AnnArbor.com shared web traffic insight in response to an anonymous Ann Arbor blog and mlive.com seeks a contract worker to write about employment in Michigan. Oh yeah, long-time business reporter Rick Haglund is blogging on a subject he knows well.

McDermott's 'last conversation' at Republican looks behind, ahead

Larry McDermott, who just retired from his last Advance Publications role, left behind "One last conversation before we go "

No one should be surprised that he anticipated the questions that his retirement cartoon - a man without helmet and his dog on motorcycle - might provoke.

No one should be surprised by what he said his goals over the years were:
  • Go after the truth – don’t stretch it.
  • Don’t be afraid to report the bad news, or to pursue information that a few elected officials and bureaucrats would prefer to keep secret.
  • Hold officials accountable but also recognize their good work. Remind readers that there are many among us who are far less fortunate and need a helping hand.
  • Work every day to make the newspaper better, to shine a light where there is darkness, both as a daily conveyor of local news and as the most effective tool for businesses to reach their prospective customers.
No one should be surprised either by how he ended his column: Praise for the staff.

George Arwady, most recently at the Newhouses' Star-Ledger in New Jersey, will replace McDermott at The Republican in Springfireld, Mass, as announced earlier.

January 4, 2010

Publisher named for The Birmingham News

The Birmingham News will get a new publisher Jan. 11, according to an article posted today at al.com

Pam Siddall has been named publisher of The Birmingham News. The announcement about the Alabama native will begin work in Birmingham on Jan. 11, said Ricky Mathews, president of Advance Alabama/Mississippi newspapers. The group includes The News and The Huntsville Times, as well as The Mississippi Press in Pascagoula and the Press-Register in Mobile, where Mathews serves as president and publisher.

Siddall succeeds Victor Hanson III, who retired as president and publisher of The News at the end of November. It is the first time in the newspaper's history that a Hanson is not in charge.

From al.com:
"Pam Siddall is an excellent media executive," Mathews said Monday. "She is passionate about newspapers and the role they play in society. She has a proven track record of success. She is keenly aware of the mass reach of the combined print and online editions of The Birmingham News and is just the one to lead The Birmingham News into the future, further strengthening its position as a multimedia company.
She has been president and publisher of The Wichita Eagle since November 2007.

Update: Media of Birmingham also posted an item on the announcement, including links to Siddall's previous newspapers as wel as Twitter and Facebook accounts.