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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Digital First Media logoI joined the Journal Register Company in May 2011, expressing gratitude for what I called an “extraordinary opportunity.” Today I leave Digital First Media (a merger of JRC and MediaNew Group) still grateful.

As I move on to my next job at Louisiana State University, any regrets I might have pale next to all the experiences I’m thankful for.

Thanks first to Jim Brady, with whom I’ve shared the DFM and TBD adventures. Jim hired me twice and I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up for a third project with him, though we’re pursuing separate opportunities now. He’s as good a leader, editor, visionary and person as I’ve ever worked with.

I wish we’d had more time to carry out all of Jim’s vision for the Thunderdome and for DFM’s newsrooms. I can’t wait to see what he does with Brother.ly, his new local-news venture in Philadelphia.

Thanks to John Paton, DFM’s CEO, who reached out to me right after Jim left TBD and eventually brought me on board. I thank John for giving us a chance to do some excellent journalism and to make our contribution to the search for a prosperous future for journalism. That I wish we’d had more time to finish that search doesn’t diminish my appreciation for the experience we had or the contribution we made.

Thanks to Jon Cooper, who moved on to a corporate communications role but first played a key role in bringing me on board at the old JRC.

Thanks to my Thunderdome colleagues, who treated me as one of the team, even though I showed up in New York only occasionally. I won’t call the roll, except to salute the four I helped bring aboard: Mandy Jenkins, Julie Westfall, Angi Carter and Karen Workman.

I wish Mandy had gotten the chance to show what a great managing editor she would be. Mandy is two of the best hires I’ve ever made (I hired her at TBD, too). If you need a star digital leader in your newsroom, hire her right away.

Mandy and I hired Julie, Angi and Karen for the curation team. They quickly moved on to roles in breaking news and features when curation became a key job for nearly all of Thunderdome, eliminating the need for a special curation team.

I’ll single out three more people in Thunderdome to thank: Robyn Tomlin, Thunderdome’s editor, and the two guys who edited my occasional blog posts to Inside Thunderdome, Davis Shaver and Chris March. Standouts all and an absolute pleasure to work with.

Out in the DFM newsrooms, my first thanks go to the regional engagement editors: Martin Reynolds, Dan Petty and Ivan Lajara. All three are stellar journalists, creative innovators and genuinely nice guys. I didn’t get enough visits with any of them, but learned from all three and enjoyed our digital chats as well as our personal visits. I’ll be sure to stay in touch (and may actually have more time now to join #dfmchat, Ivan).

I was privileged to help hire and coach seven new DFM editors last year, spending a week in each of their newsrooms to help them get off to strong starts. Thanks to Chris Roberts of the Daily Times in Farmington, N.M.; Michelle Karas of the Bennington Banner in Vermont; Brad McElhinny of the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia; Robert Sterling of the Marin Independent Journal in San Rafael, Calif.; Rachel Alexander of the Fort Morgan Times in Colorado; Kevin Moran of New England Newspapers and Sylvia Ulloa of the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico. Those extended newsroom visits were a highlight of my DFM tenure and I am grateful to each of those editors and their staffs for their hospitality and for their embrace of the digital-first approach I was teaching. I wish we’d had more time to work together.

Thanks to Matt DeRienzo and all the staff of the New Haven Register who put up with more of my visits than any other newsroom, including two prolonged visits earlier this year as part of Project Unbolt.

Thanks to the other Project Unbolt pilot editors: Bob Moore, Tricia Ambrose and Kevin Moran (again) and their staffs at the El Paso Times, News-Herald and Berkshire Eagle. Though my work on Project Unbolt was curtailed and I didn’t get to visit those newsrooms, I appreciated their enthusiasm for and work on the project.

I wish we’d had more time to push further with Project Unbolt together. I hope the pilot newsrooms and others achieve great success on this project after I leave the company.

Thanks to DFM’s senior editors, a collegial group who worked hard and effectively to lead our transformation in the newsrooms, clusters, regions and operations they led: Matt, Tricia and Bob as well as Jim McClure, Greg Moore, Dave Butler, Nancy March, Mike Burbach, Kevin Kaufman, Terry Orme, Michael Anastasi, David Little, Dan Shorter and Frank Scandale (as well as Glenn Gilbert and Nancy Conway, who have retired).

I’m thankful that I got to visit all of our daily newsrooms (and a few weeklies). Dozens of colleagues took me on tours of their communities, hundreds discussed their individual journalism challenges with me and a couple thousand joined me for workshops.

I am grateful for my interactions with more engagement editors, reporters, editors and photojournalists than I can remember or name here. I’m especially grateful for my interactions with the colleagues who collaborated with me in a series of regional engagement workshops. And for those who collaborated on efforts to develop plans for digital opinion journalism. I’m especially grateful for my monthly exchanges with winners of the DFMie awards recognizing journalistic excellence and for the chance to recognize our annual winners personally in two events in Denver and St. Paul.

I’ve said farewell too many times in my career. That reflects more opportunities than disappointments and some opportunities that ended in disappointment. I wish this job had lasted longer and ended differently, but it lasted longer than my previous two jobs and it was an enjoyable ride.

I don’t know what the future holds for Digital First Media, our individual newsrooms and the many colleagues I worked with there. But I leave with heartfelt thanks. I never had a better job.

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Well, it was fun changing the name of my blog (at the facetious suggestion of Gene Weingarten) and raising $725 for the ACES Education Fund. But it’s been a month, and that’s what I committed to, so I’ve reverted to The Buttry Diary.

I went back to an older header design by Tim Tamimi because Tim’s most recent header had my Digital First Media job title in the header, and I won’t have that title much longer.

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OK, I won’t give you the full witty exchange on Twitter that led up to this, but Ivan Lajara posted the purported “Paint version” of my new blog header:

For background, if this is all confusing to you, Gene Weingarten suggested the new blog name, Ivan designed the logo and people gave $725 to the ACES Education Fund to change the name of my blog for a month.

By the way, the fund-raiser is still open, if you want to contribute.

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John Paton tells the journalists at Thunderdome that we no longer have jobs. An amazing group. I've been honored to work with them.

John Paton tells the journalists at Thunderdome that we no longer have jobs. An amazing group. I’ve been honored to work with them.

I learned a long time ago that news was a tough business. I learned it before I watched the death of the Des Moines Tribune and before I experienced the death of the Kansas City Times. I learned it before I was fired as editor of the Minot Daily News and before TBD imploded. So I wasn’t surprised when the ax fell again today.

I’m exploring (and interested in learning about) opportunities in the news business and beyond. But I don’t know yet what my next stop will be. Here’s what I do know:

  • I’ve enjoyed my time with Digital First Media.
  • I’m deeply grateful to Jim Brady, Jon Cooper and John Paton for the opportunity to work at Digital First (and Journal Register Co. before it became DFM).
  • I leave with no regrets.
  • I knew the risks in 2011 when I went to work for a company owned by hedge funds. And I knew the risks in 2012 when I turned down an attractive offer from a family-owned newspaper company to stay with the company owned by hedge funds.
  • Anyone who says Thunderdome failed is wrong. As I said about TBD, you can’t fail unless you were given a chance to succeed.
  • I will do everything I can to help in the job searches of my DFM colleagues who lost their jobs today. These are extraordinary journalists who will provide great value for their next news organizations.
  • I wish all the best for my DFM colleagues who will remain with the company. We’ve worked hard together and come a long way. I hope that the company prospers and that this is the last cut. I’ve enjoyed working with them and know they will continue doing great journalism.

No denial or sugarcoating here. I don’t agree at all with today’s decision to cut Thunderdome or with the company’s new direction. But neither of those calls was mine to make and I’m not going to criticize them or waste time discussing them. I’ll post some links here to coverage of what’s happening at Digital First, but won’t comment on the accuracy of the reporting or the insightfulness of the analysis.

As I’ve said before, bitterness is like wreaking revenge on yourself. I’m too busy looking for my next opportunity to dwell on how this one ended.

The Newsonomics of Digital First Media’s Thunderdome implosion (and coming sale)

Digital First plans layoffs

Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome on chopping block

We need to keep experimenting in journalism

In another blow to local journalism, Digital First Media to shutter Thunderdome

Update: I should clarify that I was given my notice Wednesday, not fired immediately. My last day is July 1, if I choose to work that long.

About my blog name: Yes, I have a ridiculous blog name. It’s temporary, and it’s for a good cause.

 

 

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mmm smooth buttry goodnessI struggled to come up with a name for my blog and I’ve changed it several times. But I’ll keep this one for at least a month.

First this blog was “Puttin’ on the Gaz,” back when I was editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Not sure why I settled on that, but I never liked it much. Before long, when I was trying to lead some big changes there, the blog became “Transforming the Gaz.”

When I left Cedar Rapids, I sort of needed to get “Gaz” out of the name, so it became “Pursuing the Complete Community Connection,” a nod to my vision for transforming news organizations but a cumbersome title for a blog.

With the 2010 launch of TBD, I decided on “The Buttry Diary,” working my name into the title as well as the initials of my new organization. Well, Allbritton Communications decided to kill TBD in the cradle, but I kept the name. After all, my name hadn’t changed. And I thought most people wouldn’t notice the initials. And, if they did, I was happy to honor a great news team and a vision that, I’m certain, would have succeeded if we had been given a chance.

I was figuring it would be “The Buttry Diary” indefinitely. Until Gene Weingarten suggested a change:

Well, people with my surname don’t make it through junior high without a thick skin. I was Butthead before anyone thought of Beavis. And I was Buttface and Assbush and any number to plays on the part of my name that reminds people of their rear ends. I played along. In my fantasy baseball days, my team was the Kissmy Buttrys (league champions two out of four years before I decided to take my money and run). Posterior plays on my name are so easy to make that few have thought of playing on the dairy sound to my name.

So I decided to turn Gene’s suggestion into a challenge: If people would donate $500 or more to the American Copy Editors Society Education Fund, which provides scholarships for editing students, I would change the name one month for every $1,000 raised.

(more…)

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mmm smooth buttry goodnessFor the right price (donated to a worthy cause), I will rename my blog.

Gene Weingarten initially raised the issue:

I quickly (but only briefly) complied, but Gene wanted more:

I replied with a facetious invitation to bribes:

While I knew no one would pay me to change my blog name, right after I posted that, it occurred to me that maybe I could make this a charity fund-raiser. See whether Gene really has enough sway with his followers to generate some meaningful “entreaties.”

Well, it so happens that I was already feeling a little bad that in my downsized condo life I couldn’t think of anything of value I have (and am willing to part with) to contribute to the silent auction at the American Copy Editors Society silent auction tonight to raise money for the ACES Education Fund. So …

I’ve started a Crowdrise campaign to change the name of my blog to “Mmm. Smooth Buttry Goodness.” (In reading the rules, I learned that Kickstarter isn’t for fundraising for causes.) Update: When I first posted this, I didn’t yet have the fund’s taxpayer ID number, so the campaign wasn’t live yet. It is live now. Grab your credit card and donate.

I’ll change the name for one full month for every $1,000 raised with a starting threshold of $500. If we raise at least $500 in the next week, I’ll change the name for a month. If we raise one dollar more than $1,000, then I change for two months. If you give $2,001 I change the title for three months, etc.

I need a suitable blog header. If someone will design a blog header incorporating the title, my photo (contact me for some possibilities you could use) and some sort of butter imagery, I’ll contribute $100 in your name. Update: we have blog header (Ivan has adjusted it slightly from what you see here to fit the dimensions of the header):

And, if I can’t even raise $500 to change the name of my blog, that might be a little humbling. And that would probably be OK with Gene, too.

So go ahead. Get your credit card and click the link above. I welcome your “entreaties.”

Smooth Buttry Goodness

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Just for one quick screenshot for Gene Weingarten, I have renamed my blog:

In case you missed it:

Smooth Buttry GoodnessEarly reaction is mostly positive:

 

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