Saturday | Sept. 13 | Got news, or a question?

Can’t find the right spot for your comment? Put it here, in this open post. Real Time Comments: parked here, 24/7. (Earlier editions.)

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35 Responses to “Saturday | Sept. 13 | Got news, or a question?”

  1. Jim Hopkins Says:

    I’ve just started this new open-comments thread. You can always return to earlier editions by clicking on the Real Time Comments label in the blue sidebar, to the right.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Question for Gannett folks?
    Do the chat forums at your newspapers often devolve into borderline racist ugliness or just plain mindless nonsense? Do any Gannett managers you know of appear willing to take the bold step to eliminate anonymity on the chat forums, or are they too cowed by the apparent corporate belief that web hits translates into advertising dollars, and ethics and taste be damned? Someone here on another thread made the excellent point, I thought, that it’s ironic that corporate complains about name-calling on this blog while allowing the chat forum invective at their own products to be practically unmonitored (except for the few thankless people who get that awful task).

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Why didn’t Asheville lose their Ad Director. I heard retails numbers have been down for over a year. If I am not mistaken doesn’t advertising revenue cover the payroll?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    to 9:40
    Yes, our forums too often reflect a very ugly strain in our communities. Regardless of the story, usually the same people make tasteless, offensive remarks. It’s truely unbelievable to me how nasty these people get. But of course we don’t want to do anything endanger those clicks.
    The things we post, just to get “hits”, are ridiculous. For instance, we will post an item about a crime in an update, but when you click through, all you get is “see the crime blotter section for more details”. WTF is that about? Just to score another update for our metrics I guess. I think that kind of foolishness just pisses off readers, and don’t even get me started about our “photo galleries”. Those people (staff photogs) used to be respected for the work they did. Not so much now.
    Forget about the video efforts. So much time, so little result.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    9:40

    The posters are outta control. It’s especially bad if some poor soul dies in a car accident, the victim often ends up being trashed online. At APP they DID seem to disable the comments recently on story of a cop who committed suicide by jumping off bridge onto Garden State Parkway, but only after the posters had careened WAY out of control.

    The anonymity IS a cloak, but of course, this blog uses it to great purpose. Maybe the anonymous posts at newpaper sites online should only be allowed on certain topics..for example, it’s far less offensive on political themes than when the story is about personal tragedies. Thoughts?

  6. Shirley Says:

    One of my pet peeves is the vitrol spewed in comments on stories about a person with a Hispanic surname. It doesn’t matter if the person is a crime victim or perpetrator, a person providing community serviced or accepting assistance, the parties are assumed to be undocumented workers, unworthy of human compassion.
    It used to be the public decried even the slightest bad taste from newspapers. Readers recoiled from photos of dead bodies, abused animals and were outraged if victims names were disclosed.
    Today, online newspaper readers can’t get enough and they wallow in speculating in the worst possible way.
    I believe these emotional responses have been lurking in the minds of readers all along. We have just unleashed it by letting people reveal their lesser selves without being held accountable by requiring them to post their true names.
    The old letters to the editor policies were guardians of civilized discourse. We have sacrificed civility to immediacy.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    One of print’s big competitors for help wanted ads has been Craig’s List. This has been posted on the Dallas CL website:
    CL – $25 fee for job ads oct 15th subscriptions

    $25 for ATL/AUS/DAL/DEN/HOU/MIA/PHI/PHX jobs starting October 15
    We have received a lot of feedback over the last couple months, which has generally run in favor of a $25 fee for posting jobs in these eight cities.

    Effective October 15, 2008 it will cost $25 to post job ads in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami (South Florida), Philadelphia, and Phoenix.

    Information on paid job posting accounts is available here:

    http://www.craigslist.org/about/help/paid_posting_accounts.html

    Any billing inquiries can be directed to:

    billing@craigslist.org

    “Gigs” categories will remain free, for posting smaller projects, odd jobs, low budget film gigs, openings for personal attendants, etc

    This forum will remain open for your questions and comments

    Thanks for your feedback!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Allowing forum comments that clearly violate the terms of service agreements is, I think, the real downfall of Gannett.

    I got tired of getting attacked by customers (readers and advertisers) who had every right to complain about some of the posts that clearly violated terms of service.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    11:08 has your head been in the sand? Virtually all our newspapers’ revenues are down year over year. It’s called a recession. And if you’re just figuring out that ad revenue is the gas that drives the engine, you must be in the newsroom.

  10. Chris Erwin Says:

    What’s funny anytime I get a chance to rip Gannett on their own website I do. Like the story about the layoffs, etc. and I attach my name to it. They take my comments down all the time and I don’t use vulgarity I usually just say what a horrible company they are to work for and I’m shocked NONE of their new idea’s ever work.
    But they leave up visious remarks on other posts. I hate when a kid dies in a car accident and the posters start blaming the parents for buying the kid the car. Like the parents don’t have enough greif. But those comments stay up for all to see. But the ant-Gannett stuff has to be removed:) Go figure censorship at it’s best. Next they are going to have book burning night.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Wonder how many of the “great story” and “You’re the best reporter in the whole world” comments are written by reporters’ friends or family? I know where I worked the manager took that feedback so seriously. She heaped praise all over the reporters who were able to draw fan clubs!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Here is a question for all you current and former Gannetteers reading this blog: Does Gannett still practice covering ONLY “target communities” at its newspapers? When I worked at a Gannett paper, we were told in no uncertain terms that we were to avoid covering certain low-income and largely minority communities in favor of wealthier and growing ones. Does this practice continue?
    The following excerpt from an interesting blog called joelontheroad.com talks about this practice at the Detroit Free Press:

    (I) thought it fitting to ask my own question of readers and former and current Free Press staffers: “What is the impact of newspaper redlining on you?”

    What is redlining?

    According to Wikipedia, redlining “is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance, access to jobs,[2] access to health care,[3] or even supermarkets[4] to residents in certain, often racially determined,[5] areas. The most devastating form of redlining, and the most common use of the term, refers to mortgage discrimination, in which middle-income black and Hispanic residents are denied loans that are made available to lower-income whites. The term “redlining” was coined in the late 1960s by community activists in Chicago. It describes the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest; later the term was applied to discrimination against a particular group of people (usually by race or sex), no matter the geography. During the heyday of redlining these areas were most frequently black inner city neighborhoods. Later, through at least the 1990s, this discrimination involved lending to lower-income whites, but not to middle- or upper-income blacks.”

    Now, what the newspaper does differs from what banks have done, because the newspaper is not denying anybody loans or checking accounts. What they’re cutting off is coverage of certain areas. For instance, in the late 1990s, I was instructed by a Free Press editor not to look for stories in the city of Pontiac, because its residents were poor and its businesses didn’t buy ads in the Free Press. Look for stories in the “money belt” — the wealthy communities like Bloomfield Hills, the editor told me.

    More recently, I was not to look for stories in Southwest Detroit, which includes Mexicantown and the very poor community of Delray. I also could not write about River Rouge, Ecorse, Melvindale, and even Dearborn, Garden City, Westland and Inkster were off limits.

    If I really want to write about one of these towns, I had to trick the paper into running the story. For instance, last year I wanted to write about the Delray Community Center in Southwest Detroit, but it was not in our circulation area. But I learned that some people from Grosse Ile were doing volunteer work at the center. Grosse Ile received the paper. That gave me license to write about the center. But residents of Delray, one of the poorest, most blight-ridden areas in Detroit, were not receiving my stories.

    Now, here’s a real live description of what I consider to be redlining at the Free Press, from a real live staffer describing a real situation in the newsroom. The staffer wrote about something in Southwest Detroit, after which a boss ordered the writer “not to use any more items re Mexicantown.” Reason: The Free Press has “no readership there.” The same person was told by a photo editor that “the photographers refused to travel around checking maps to make sure they weren’t in the periphery of areas of Detroit that we weren’t supposed to cover.”

    Here’s what one staffer told me about redlining:

    “I think if the Free Press is to represent Detroit, they should cover ALL Detroit, not just the sections that might buy the paper.
    “And which came first, the chicken or the egg? How do they expect to get ad business if they ignore different sections?
    “They can’t have it both ways: Either cover everything and everybody and every section of the city — or stop calling themselves the DETROIT Free Press and stop pretending to be the crusading journalists.”
    Detroit isn’t the only place neglected by the paper. My parents live outside Lowell in western Michigan. They’ve taken the Free Press for many years. Not now. Their area no longer gets Free Press home delivery.

    Redlining — it’s happening in the boondocks, too.

    Do you have a report of newspaper redlining? What’s the impact of newspapers excluding certain communities from coverage?

    I’d like to hear about it.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    to 11:19

    I like to think that news photographers are still seen as respected journalists. At least many of us are trying to be.

    I tell my staff that there is a lot of work we can still do that is important, compelling and means something to our readers… work that they can be proud of producing. Concentrate on those efforts.

    Yes we are asked to do a lot of bullshit work these days. Stuff that seems demeaning. We are now shooting advertorials, social pix, ribbon-cuttings, check passings, etc. We’re asked to blur the ethical lines so the company can make a buck. We’re posting lingerie fashion photo galleries on the website just to get the clicks… for God’s sake!

    My message is this: when asked to do this type work – do the best you can and try to forget it. Focus on the important assignments.

    We are in desparate times right now and a lot of what we seem to be trying to move forward to a successful future seems ridiculous. I think we all know that lame videos and insipid photo galleries are not the answer.

    Hopefully when this awful phase is over we can get back to doing QUALITY work that readers/viewers will once again come to us for and we will be rewarded for our efforts.

    In the mean time we just have to hunker down and get it done. If we focus on the positive and work towards it… better things will come.

    At the end of the day we as news photographers are still being paid to take pictures and have the chance to do important work that can mean something to our communities. And that’s not a bad gig.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    9:40 I second what 12:28 said and what Shirley said. The APP posters are way out of control. I wish management would entirely disable comments on accident stories and stories like the cop’s suicide. They bring out ugliness that we’d never, ever think about putting in print and I have yet to see them advance a story.

    Crime stories, that’s a tougher area. I know there have been a few cases where posters have offered up info that turned into key news tips.

    But when it ventures into racial comments and diatribes, it needs to be squashed and it’s offensive that management doesn’t squash it.

    2:31, on the flip side of the fan club comments are the ones that directly criticize reporters and are posted by people who have an ax to grind. They’re often extremely personal attacks but they’re allowed to stay. I don’t get it.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Our users tend to throw the hammer down pretty quick on story comments that go beyond the pale. Of course, that’s in Wisconsin, the friendliest state in the country…http://tinyurl.com/5v9vps

  16. Anonymous Says:

    I’m an APP reporter, and I’ve stopped reading the posted comments because they’re just plain rude and ignorant. A crime in Newark results in a “this wouldn’t happen in a white neighborhood” post and another crime elsewhere gave birth to a “wall off Asbury Park, Lakewood and Camden” reply. Personally, someone posted a “press release” on how I was no longer working for the paper and instead working for someplace they thought I was favoring in my coverage.

    People should post with their real names, like they do with letters to the editor. We can’t use pen names – why should they? Just so they can say what they want? People who post, for the most part, don’t care about the issue – they’re just looking for a soapbox.

  17. Jim Hopkins Says:

    It’s 12:55 a.m., Sunday, here in Athens. Sparky has gone to sleep, and I’m in a WiFi-equipped cafe, just below the Acropolis, catching up on your comments. Such the big European Saturday night. LOL!

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Enjoy Athens, Jim. And let Sparky get his rest. Maybe an ouzo will help you sleep. Thanks for the blog.
    In response to those concerned over story chats turning into community cesspools, I was told that it was just the wild wild West of the Internet and to live with it. The Web has shattered the old saying: “Better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
    Just to detour once more here, If I see another tv reporter standing in the wind and rain saying he or she is experiencing wind and rain, I’m going to scream. Worthless. I can get much more info, much more quickly, from an 800 word AP story. In Galveston, one of Geraldo’s lackeys ran up to him with a piece of road pavement that had been dislodged by the storm surge, and Geraldo treated the find as big, big news. It is truly pathetic. All media need to battle to regain their credibility. But I don’t see much hope on that.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Jim:
    There are some excellent cafes in the Plaka district serving delicious spanikopita and some tastefully fresh Greek salads. Also, while in Athens try the coffee flavored milk that is sold in the aseptic packaging. It’s quite good.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Speaking of credibility, I was floored by the Romenesko item on a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News sending Twitter dispatches along the line of “family now shoveling dirt on casket” from the funeral for a 3-year-old boy who died tragically. God help us all.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    3:37, if you're a union paper, refuse to do advertorial. we drew the line in indy, editor & publisher reported on it and management looked stupid and unethical. even if you're not unionized, having news people do advertorial violates GANNETTS OWN CODE OF ETHICS — look it up (on paper — it may have been changed electronicly.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    does anybody on this blog ever read forums at other sites… best buy, circuit city, hotels.com etc… people who use forums are not regulated anywhere..

    it has nothing to do with page views or terms of service.

    you are just ticked because you’re losing control of the message. too many of you think you are the only ones who should be able to decide what is published and when it is published. Sorry to say, that ship has sailed..

  23. Anonymous Says:

    This blog is getting boring. There are 43,000 hard working employees in Gannett and a few dozen miserable malcontents who bash and bash and bash here. Go work someplace else and let us do our jobs with pride.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    to 10:56

    Hey I wish we were union! we’re in the south and anything goes here when it come to the management directive.

    If we bucked this … I can only imagine what would happen.

    Like I said … it’s desparate times!

  25. Anonymous Says:

    @11:39

    I would love to have pride in my work. Actually, I still do in many ways. Because I know that I am the one that works hard, and produces results. I only wish that management/directors weren’t the credit taking sponges that they are.

    The working environment at This Gannett paper has turned into one of self promotion, and self preservation.

    I work hard, and someone else’s name goes on it. My contributions do not have a byline underneath.

    I think the term malcontent is not appropriate for most of this blog’s contributors. Watchdogs, is more accurate. You should thank those who care to speak up. Even if it is somewhat anonymous.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    10:56 PM
    If Indy refuses to do advertorial, who in the world wrote that rah- rah shallow biz piece about the 200 jobs? Was it a freelancer. Please tell me yes.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    11:39 you do that and by the way why are you reading this blog? Go away.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    11:39, your comment is no better than that of the “malcontents.” Offer up something worthwhile, something that says what you’ve done (besides work hard) to make your place better. Don’t think for one instant that most of us coming here haven’t tried to offer solutions. We have. After a while, you just stop because the beatings you get in return are too painful. I just hope you have a backup plan in place when Momma Gannett decides it’s time to throw you out on the street.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    11:04, I read plenty of forums in plenty of other places. And in most of the ones I read regularly, racial epithets are met with strong reactions. Personal attacks on other posters result in users being banned from those sites.

    It’s not about “controlling the message.” It’s about insuring there’s a little common decency, especially with respect to people who have died in accidents. The stuff that comes out in those situations is among some of the worst I’ve read anywhere.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    A ‘few dozen’ malcontents? I hope you don’t work in accounting — your numbers are WAY off. I imagine that the 700-plus laid off workers would consider themselves ‘malcontent,’ as well as the thousands left to double their workload under increasingly insecure conditions.
    That was a ridiculously naive comment on your part.
    Pull your head out of the sand, Pollyanna.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Again, only the miserable are welcome here. If you like what you do and have something good to say, the regular readers here don’t want to hear it. Everyday there is proof this blog exists for the miserable.

  32. Anonymous Says:

    12:53, perhaps you don’t use the same definition of advertorial. writing a puff piece about one’s own newspaper isn’t considered advertorial, because there is no ad (except perhaps a house ad, which is primarily a space-filler) being sought or being rewarded) — though it may well be considered tacky.

    a reporter/editor/photographer doing a puff piece about an advertiser (or potential advertiser) and passing it off as news or as a feature under orders from the advertising department (directly or indirectly) is advertorial.

    in indy, that sort of crap must be labeled “advertorial” or “by jane doe for custom publications” or something similar. even then it sucks, but as long as the reader is notified that it’s not real news and no editorial personnel are involved, it meets the smell test.

    it’s not only unethical in general to allow (let alone FORCE) editorial personnel to do advertorial, it also violates gannett’s own stated ethics policies (unless they’ve done a “stealth” change recently).

  33. Anonymous Says:

    5:34, the angry retorts are in direct response to the “if you don’t like it, leave” comments. It’s an overly simplistic response to what for many of us is a very complex situation. It’s easy to pick up and leave if you have only yourself to worry about. It’s a heck of a lot more difficult when you have a spouse, kids, a mortgage (have you looked at the real estate market lately?) etc. and those simplistic comments are gonna piss people off, pure and simple. Just quitting a job you hate without having something else to pay the bills is something most of us aren’t going to do because while we may be miserable about our situation, we’re still responsible adults. That’s why many of us would welcome a layoff. At least then we’d have some money coming in while we figure out what the heck to do with the rest of our lives.

  34. Anonymous Says:

    Management does not consider the comments posted on stories as news content. They are considered opinion, same as letters to the editor, only from personas who usually don’t use their real names.

    The problem is that many readers, and apparently also staffers, see it as an extension of the news product that we journalists produce. The vitriole and idiocy — not to mention deliberate propagandist lies — reflect on the news we write and edit. It reflects on us. And it further demoralizes a demoralized team.

    These comments are monitored with expectations it is kept in compliance with terms of service, but the newspaper I work for doesn’t staff the moderator team with enough people to do even 10% of what that calls for.

    And yet, I know that no one here would want to see the posts the moderators do take out, or the personal abuse they get when they yank some of those ugly posts or take down the ability to comment. These few moderators are unsung heroes, IMHO. They take a beatin’.

  35. Anonymous Says:

    8:50 PM
    Thanks for clearing up the meaning of advertorial. Helps me know the difference between one of those and a just plain tacky and incomplete story. Tacky news stories, to me, are the ones that don’t give readers the background and context information.

    Thanks again.

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