Archive for the ‘Boise’ Category

For today’s Dubow visit, a plumber named Joe

October 17, 2008

(Updated at 6:37 p.m. ET.) In an anonymous comment, a reader says CEO Craig Dubow spoke of more layoffs as soon as year’s end during a meeting today with Louisville employees. I have not corroborated this on my own. The reader’s comment: “He was cornered at the end of the meeting by a handsome young man about when the layoffs would occur and how large. He said that the numbers were still being worked on and that sites and the UK had to be visited, but that it would probably be before the end of the year. We didn’t know if that is when the numbers would be known or when the actual layoffs would occur.”

(Earlier.) Back in the days of the old “on-site” visits, the Idaho Statesman once published results of an inaugural Idaho Poll to impress then CEO John Curley and other potentates visiting from Corporate. (It was the pricey poll’s first and only appearance.) Carpeting long in need of repair was fixed. The lobby was spruced up. As business news editor, I was told to make sure Gannett’s stock listing was correct in that day’s paper. You can imagine all the other headaches we faced in this “company’s coming” drill.

Fast forward to today, when CEO Craig Dubow and newspaper division president Bob Dickey are reportedly visiting The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and then The Cincinnati Enquirer, 100 miles northeast in Ohio, for a series of meet-and-greets with employees. Readers here posted questions they’d like Dubow to answer, including: “Do you read the Gannett papers?” (I’d love to hear him answer that one!)

Louisville, Cincinnati: What can you report from your meetings? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: this morning’s Enquirer, which Dubow and Dickey would be expected to read closely. The front page features the nation’s current “talker” of a story: Joe the Plumber of Holland, Ohio, now enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, 200 miles north of Cincinnati]

Giving credit: What I gained from USA Today

September 24, 2008

It turns out that USAT‘s write-tight style works very well for blogging: Short posts, with impact high. Eye-catching art, and provocative headlines with reader-friendly terms — what, where, when, why, how, etc.

That’s a dividend from having worked at Gannett’s flagship for nearly eight years: My writing and self-editing skills really improved. Competing on the same national stories, I often packed as much information — or more — into less space, because I adhered to USA Today‘s famous, tight format. (Folks who don’t work in the newsroom may be surprised: It takes more work to write a complete, short story than it does to just dump all your information into a longer story, and force the reader to wade through it all.)

I helped heave a lot of multi-part/multi-day projects into papers in Little Rock, Boise, Louisville — and, in San Francisco, for USA Today. I worked closely with page designers and graphic artists, because I really like visuals (duh). Plus, if people don’t read my package on lax daycare regulation because it looked so gray and boring — well, my series has failed. With me looking over their shoulders, designers sometimes hesitated to suggest trimming my copy. I’d often push them to make even bigger cuts!

Earlier: My life, on Internet time

Got a blog to recommend? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[today’s front page, Newseum]

Sioux Falls: Video humanizes a suicide ‘epidemic’

September 24, 2008

The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls has published a terrific public-service examination of rising suicide rates among the Sicangu Lakota people, on the Rosebud Reservation in south-central South Dakota. The three-day series ended yesterday.

“Since 2005, at least 28 tribal members — most of them teens and 20-somethings — have killed themselves by hanging, overdosing on drugs or slashing their wrists,” the paper says in part one, published Sunday. “Sports stars and student scholars are among them. So are the broken spirits born of alcoholic and impoverished homes.”

Last year alone, the paper says, “the reservation’s suicide rate soared to 141 per 100,000 people — and a staggering 201 per 100,000 for males ages 15 to 24, what some experts call among the highest incidence in the world. That’s well above the national average: 11 to 12 per 100,000. “It is an epidemic,” said tribal President Rodney Bordeaux, whose tribal council declared a state of emergency because of the suicides. “The professionals tell us this kind of thing is cyclical. But we’re going on three years now. We want it to stop.”

Multimedia: video, photo galleries

The paper publishes video (above) by reporter Steve Young, who interviews a mother of a suicide victim, plus young people who survived suicide attempts. That’s a great addition on a subject as emotional as suicide — and quite an accomplishment.

Historically, suicide rates have been highest in the Mountain States — a fact that often surprises outsiders who think of the area as too peaceful to bring about such a sad end to life. I wrote about suicide in a project, too — at the Idaho Statesman in Boise, so I appreciate the Argus Leader‘s multimedia, something we didn’t have back then.

Facts on figures
The paper correctly describes suicide rates — rather than numbers of suicide, an important distinction when comparing data across population groups. Rates are typically expressed in a number per 100,000. I’ve often seen much bigger media get that wrong. For example, they’ll report that last year’s murder rate rose to 57 from 43 in 2006. They mean the number of cases rose to 57 from 43.

A Gannett Blog reader recommended this series. Got some good work worth spotlighting? Let’s hear about it! Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: yesterday’s front page led with the final installment in the suicide series, Newseum]

Nervous glances: Corporate, Craig Moon — and me

August 28, 2008

[Glass palace: Gannett and USA Today headquarters]

Hardly anyone talked about Corporate at USA Today during the nearly eight years I worked for the company’s flagship — a big change from the three smaller newspapers where I was a reporter and editor in Little Rock, Boise and Louisville, Ky. At the community papers, Corporate — and that’s what people called it — hung over us like a big, ominous cloud. Top executives back at Arlington, Va., and then McLean, Va., after the company relocated in 2001, liked to say they always deferred to “local control.”

But that was complete and total bullshit. In newsrooms at the smaller papers, the editor or publisher would make sudden, odd requests that we do something. When we asked why, the short answer would be: “Corporate.” No more questions allowed.

Polished granite vs. threadbare carpet
It was entirely different at USA Today. The paper shared a luxurious building with Gannett — but that was it. USAT wasn’t subject to the onerous rules forced on the smaller papers: We rarely worried about diversity and mainstreaming, programs designed to feature more minorities in news stories. The quality control programs — News 2000, then Real Life, Real News — didn’t apply to us. There was much more money for business travel. And if you worked at the main office in McLean, you were cosseted in a gleaming glass office complex with granite floors, acres of stainless-steel details, a nice cafeteria, on-site gym facilities, a softball field and other amenities. The newsrooms where I worked employed nearly 500 often well-paid reporters, editors, artists and others.

Contrast that with the Idaho Statesman when I arrived in late 1991. The dirty, threadbare carpeting in the dimly-lit newsroom was literally held down with duct tape. Desks and chairs were old and battered. The closest thing we had to a cafeteria was the dreary, windowless “breakroom” with vending machines. Staffing was razor-thin: As the business-news editor, I had virtually no support from the understaffed copy desk: I edited and wrote stories; laid out the section, and oversaw page production in the back shop. I routinely put in 10- and 11-hour days, and worked most weekends. I got no overtime or comp time, of course, because I was in management.

Curley’s mysterious exit
USA Today started getting dragged into Corporate’s fold around 2003, when Publisher Tom Curley (left) — a likely successor to then-CEO Doug McCorkindale — bolted Gannett to become CEO of the Associated Press. (We were never told why, of course, but it appeared to follow a clash between the two executives.)

Craig Moon, publisher of The Tennessean in Nashville, replaced Curley. USAT staff began worrying that Moon would manage the newspaper more like one of Gannett’s 84 smaller titles: The budget would be reined in. Worker productivity demands would rise. In other words, USA Today would start carrying more of the load.

None of that surprised me. I had worked for Moon (left) once before, when he was publisher of The Arkansas Gazette for about two years, ending in early 1991, not long before Gannett shut down the paper amid a bruising newspaper war with a cross-town rival. By then, Moon had been promoted to Nashville, already on the road to Corporate.

I didn’t see Moon again for another 14 years years. By then, he’d been USAT publisher for about a year, and was making a surprise visit to the San Francisco bureau, where I worked as a business-news reporter. We had exchanged a few e-mails during the previous months about his impending choice for a new top editor, after Karen Jurgensen got bounced during the Jack Kelley scandal. I urged Moon to consider one editor in particular for the opening — someone other than the Tennessean‘s Mark Silverman; the rumor mill had placed Silverman on Moon’s short list. (Moon eventually hired Ken Paulson — but not before offering the job to someone else, I was told.)

Moon’s nervous look
On that day when Moon visited San Francisco, I don’t think he remembered that I worked in the office there. I buzzed him inside, then re-introduced himself. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like an uncomfortable look crossed his face, as in: Uh-oh: A Little Rock survivor. I wonder what Hopkins remembers?

(Confidential to everyone: I remember everything. Maybe that explains some of the antics at yesterday’s USA Today staff meeting? Or, maybe he’s still pissed off about this.)

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Images: headquarters, Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects; today’s USAT front page, Newseum]

In Idaho, this clown is another toe-tapper

July 13, 2008

[Wide stance: One of photographer Butler’s favorite shots]

One of the pleasures of editing this blog has been reconnecting with long-ago colleagues, including photographer Chris Butler of the Idaho Statesman. I worked at the Boise daily in 1991-96, before Gannett sold it in a deal that sent the paper into McClatchy Co.‘s hands.

Butler and I spent nearly a week in eastern Idaho’s Dubois, researching a dark topic: Idaho’s suicide rate, historically one of the nation’s highest. My analysis of more than 30,000 death records found the likely cause was a toxic brew of easy handgun access in sparsely populated towns, far from psychiatric care.

Of course, Butler’s work isn’t always so grim. I asked him to pick a favorite photo from his portfolio. “After doing a story about clowns for the paper,” he says, “I came up with this idea for a stock image. I called one of the clowns and spoke to her about the idea. She loved it. So we found an acceptable place to shoot and she ‘tapped’ away. Last year this image took on an entirely different meaning with the whole Larry Craig story. It’s one of my favorite images because it’s hilarious and strange at the same time. The image has been placed with Getty Images for almost a year now and it’s sold very well.”

Earlier: Public service journalism, and long-term dividends

Got a photo to recommend? My Cutlines Only feature showcases website art. From a non-work computer, use this link to e-mail suggestions; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

Sixteen years later, Little Rock mafia rises in GCI

July 11, 2008

Updated on Oct. 4. With the promotion of Kate Marymont (left) to a top News Department job in April, the number of former Arkansas Gazette employees in influential Gannett positions has grown even more. That’s ironic, of course, because many suits at Corporate would just as soon forget that bitter Little Rock chapter. About 700 employees lost their jobs in 1991, when GCI pulled the plug on the paper — likely the single-biggest job loss in Gannett’s 102-year history. (Yes, Virginia: newspapers really do fail.)

CEO Al Neuharth bought the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily in 1986 at a deep discount, during his victory lap as he was leaving Gannett. Five years later, in October 1991, GCI closed the Gazette when its annual losses approached $30 million in a bruising newspaper war with the crosstown Arkansas Democrat. The Gazette‘s assets were sold to what is now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (Only three months ago, Editor & Publisher named the Democrat‘s Walter E. Hussman Jr. as the trade publication’s Publisher of the Year.)

Marymont was the Gazette‘s metro editor. Other Little Rock survivors still tied to Gannett include former finance vice president Evan Ray, just promoted to senior vice president/finance and operations amid last month’s Friday Afternoon Massacre; USA Today Publisher Craig Moon, who was the Gazette‘s publisher (and frequent jogger*); Susie Ellwood, then marketing director, and now general manager of the joint operating agency publishing the Detroit Free Press; former production director Austin Ryan, now vice president/production in the newspaper division; former Managing Editor David Petty, now publisher of The News-Star in Monroe, La.; the advertising department’s Larry Whitaker, now publisher of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and the finance department’s Joe Williams, now the Clarion-Ledger‘s finance director; former state editor Bob Stover, now executive editor at Florida Today; and former copy desk chief Jill Fredel, now assistant managing editor at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. (And me: I was the Gazette‘s business news editor, before leaving for Boise, then Louisville and San Francisco, where I finished my Gannett career at USA Today.)

I’ll bet I’m missing other Little Rock alumni. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Related: a Gazette oral history, featuring an “I know nothing” interview (.pdf!) with Neuharth, in May 2000

[* “jogger” is an extremely obscure-but-pertinent reference; image: my Gazette employee ID photo, taken in October 1987]

Salem, Palm Springs papers name publisher, editor

July 10, 2008

Updated at 7:56 p.m. ET. The Friday Afternoon Massacre continued to reverberate across Gannett today: A new publisher was named at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., and a new executive editor at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif.

Sun Executive Editor Steve Silberman (left) was appointed publisher of the Salem paper. (I don’t know Silberman’s age; the Salem paper’s story doesn’t say.) He replaces Brian Priester, made publisher of the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal on Tuesday.

In Palm Springs, Managing Editor Rick Green replaces Silberman, according to Publisher Richard Ramhoff. Green, 43, will oversee the daily newspaper, five weeklies, the website, and three niche magazines, the Sun says.

Ramhoff and then Priester were shuffled in the Friday Afternoon Massacre. Ramhoff had been publisher at Lansing. In addition to Palm Springs publisher, he’s now a vice president in the newly created West region.
Daily circulation data
  • Lansing: 61,990
  • Salem: 47,961
  • Palm Springs: 49,304

Calling out Palm Springs: Salem wants to hear all about Silberman. Post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo, from when Gannett named Silberman the Sun‘s top editor; circulation data, 2007 Annual Report]

Name dropping: My close Kennedy encounters

May 17, 2008

The hook: Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 76, was hospitalized today after suffering a seizure.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and I overlapped in the early 1980s at Brown University, in my Providence, R.I., hometown. I often ate lunch at a campus restaurant where a sleepy-eyed JFK Jr. rolled in with a pretty girl many afternoons. He died in July 1999, while I was vacationing on Cape Cod, the Kennedy family’s summer retreat; I did a reaction story for The Courier Journal from there. In 1996 at the Idaho Statesman, I chronicled the Boise newspaper’s campaign for a press pass to one of the year’s biggest pop-culture events: Sotheby’s auction of the Jackie Onassis estate. (Got one, and it was a zoo.)

[Photo: A&E Television Networks]

Public service journalism, and long-term dividends

May 8, 2008

First Amendment journalism can bring about immediate results. But sometimes they arrive years later — illustrating why publishers must resist saving money by focusing only on work with potential for a fast payoff. Here’s an example, from a 1996 Idaho Statesman series.

It was a story about shocking mismanagement within the Idaho prison system. The series focused on how government officials handled Steve Waddell, convicted when he was 19 of using a hunting knife to stab to death his girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Sebree. She was a daughter of a prominent emergency room doctor in a small farming town near Boise. Devastated, her parents committed suicide within a year of her murder, leaving behind their other two young children.

Waddell was to spend a minimum 20 years in the pen after experts warned he would kill again without proper care. I used public documents to show he was instead housed in a cozy county jail in Northern Idaho, where he roamed about town as a trusty, virtually unguarded. Unknown to the Sebree family, he had conned town officials into supporting his spirited bid for early parole. Prison officials threw him back in the pen before my project even ran, fearing public outrage over the paper’s findings.

Waddell, now 38, completed his minimum sentence this year, making him eligible for parole. Three weeks ago today, he appeared before the Idaho parole board, seeking release. “The board took only a few minutes to decide he should remain in prison at least five more years,” a Sebree family member told me, in a reference to my now 12-year-old series. “Reviewing the articles beforehand helped the family to address the board in a manner that quickly reminded them of the events of ’96. I just stumbled across your blog recently and felt I should let you know the articles still carry weight in Idaho.”

[Image: this morning’s Statesman, Newseum. Gannett sold the newspaper two years ago; it’s now owned by McLatchy Co. The Statesman was a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize finalist last month for breaking news about U.S. Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig.]

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

After decades of diversity, looking for reader gains

April 21, 2008

Gannett’s drive to feature more minorities in news stories was a constant during the 20 years I worked for the company. So, too, was an emphasis on hiring minority news staffers — a push that will be on full display at the big Unity ’08 journalism conference in July. Now, looking back, I wonder whether all those diversity programs achieved their intended benefits.

It would be easy to dismiss my views as those of a privileged, 51-year-old white guy. But I became something of a diversity pro during my time in Gannett. USA Today asked me to write a chapter on diversity in news for a new-employee guide. I built a database of small businesses that included more than 500 minorities. I also developed a class on diversity, which I taught to dozens of staffers at McLean, Va.; Washington, D.C.; New York City, and in San Francisco. In Boise at the Idaho Statesman, I created DiversityNet, an online network of minority professionals to help the paper better “mainstream” stories. Plus, at both the Statesman and at USA Today, I was a member of newsroom diversity committees.

The premise behind news diversity seems simple: A more diverse staff produces more varied news. That, in turn, should attract more readers who “see” themselves more frequently online and in print. On paper, that sounds smart. My beef is that I’ve never seen rigorous research showing that readership rates correlate with improvements in diversity. I’ve also never seen research showing that a more diverse staff necessarily leads to more variety in news coverage. I did as good a job (possibly, a better job) as many of my minority colleagues over the years. And I’m that white guy.

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: this morning’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Newseum. Last fall, the New York paper won Gannett’s All-American Outstanding Achievement Diversity Award, for the second time]