Archive for August, 2012

People gather for a reception at the Oakland Tribune’s downtown community newsroom Thursday evening. The Community Media Lab where the refreshments are served is usually set up with computers for community use. In the background is the Tribune’s newsroom.

I heard it again and again Thursday evening: “I’m glad to see the Tribune back in downtown Oakland.”

Martin Reynolds emcees Thursday’s opening reception at the Oakland Tribune’s downtown community newsroom.

Yes, the Tribune is back. I went out to Oakland for a reception to celebrate the return to downtown and to welcome the people of Oakland to a community newsroom with computers and meeting space for public use.

As companies like Digital First Media seek to develop a business model for the future, the brand names of newspapers are valuable assets to build upon. But the Oakland Tribune stands out for its rich heritage and emotional connection with its community, giving it almost iconic status.

When I worked for the Des Moines Register in the 1970s and ‘80s, it was a similar icon, delivered in every county in Iowa and covering statewide news like no other newspaper in the country. The Register won Pulitzer Prizes for agricultural reporting and gained national prominence for our coverage every four years of the Iowa caucuses that launched presidential campaigns. The Register had a brand identity throughout Iowa that was hard to measure and impossible to match. As a reporter, when I showed up in a small Iowa town, the Register name commanded respect (even from Iowans who considered our editorials too liberal) and persuaded people to talk unlike any other brand I ever worked for. (more…)


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NewsVroom ready for gametime Friday night

Randy Parker, center, interviews sports writer Steve Navaroli as GametimePA producer Matt Goul shoots video for a livestream.

I’ll be blogging tonight from the launch of NewsVroom at Panther Field in York, Pa.

NewsVroom is the mobile community newsroom/classroom of GametimePA, ydr.com, Smart magazine, FlipSidePA.com and the York Daily Record. But tonight it’s a GametimePA van, carrying tents, digital equipment, ice, water, coolers, freebies, tables and chairs for journalists and the public as Central York and West York launch the high school sports season.

Managing Editor Randy Parker is leading the crew here and has headed planning for the NewsVroom launch since Digital First Media greenlighted this project earlier this year. Visual Editor Eileen Joyce is shooting the game for a livestream video. (more…)

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I was pleased Thursday evening to attend a reception to celebrate the opening of the Oakland Tribune’s downtown community newsroom. My schedule won’t permit me to finish a full blog post until possibly this weekend. But I wanted to note the event here now. Update: Here’s the full post on the Tribune’s return to downtown Oakland.


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Oakland Voices correspondents (from left) Michael Holland, Edward Cervantes, Debora Gordon and Katrina Davis discuss their stories Wednesday evening with Christopher Johnson in the Oakland Tribune community newsroom.

I hope to see more community engagement projects like Oakland Voices.

At many of our Digital First Media newsrooms, we organize networks of people already blogging in the community and offer to help people launch blogs. Oakland Voices, a project of the Oakland Tribune, trains and pays people to tell the stories of communities in the East Bay area.

I led a writing workshop Wednesday for seven community correspondent/bloggers from Oakland Voices Wednesday at the Tribune’s new community newsroom in downtown Oakland. I’ll be speaking briefly this evening at a reception to celebrate the opening of the downtown newsroom.

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson, a former NPR reporter and producer, directs the project, funded by a grant from the California Endowment. Martin Reynolds, Digital First regional engagement editor, is executive director of the project, a partnership with the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. This is the second group to go through the nine-month project, which started in 2010.

The correspondents are highly motivated to tell the stories of their communities, neighborhoods in East Oakland, Christopher said.

“They feel almost to a person that Oakland is getting a bad rap,” he said. “They know a different city than they are reading about, seeing on TV.” (more…)

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“I’m not seeing the value in Twitter,” a journalist told me in a recent workshop.

I took up the challenge to show this journalist why Twitter is valuable. I have said often that Twitter is the most useful tool developed for journalists in my 41-year career, with the possible exception of the cellphone (which you can use to tweet and read tweets, so they add to each other’s value).

I don’t think the journalist was asking as a curmudgeon (though in some ways this post is a continuation of my Dear Newsroom Curmudgeon post last spring, an effort to help journalists who haven’t been changing as swiftly as the news business). It does say something about your openmindedness if in 2012 you have ignored all the news stories the last several years where Twitter was an essential source of news. But the journalist’s tone was not defiant, more the tone of someone asking for help. And I like to provide help, even if the request is overdue. The journalist admitted to writing a column a while back essentially “flipping the bird to social media.” Despite that, he’s learning Facebook now, but he just doesn’t get Twitter. He’s a busy journalist and doesn’t see why Twitter is valuable enough to squeeze into his day. He was busy enough that day that he had to leave my workshop to cover a story, so I didn’t have much time to respond in person.

My job now is to help this skeptic see the value I’ve seen for years. Most of my persuasion with this journalist will be in private correspondence (I sent him a couple emails Friday that I hope will be helpful), but I’ll start with this blog post. When he sees the value and acknowledges it to me, I will do a follow-up blog post, naming him if that’s OK with him or keeping our relationship confidential (beyond those in the conference room where I pledged to help him see the value).

Here are 10 ways that Twitter is valuable to journalists: (more…)

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My first job in the news business was as a paperboy (I don’t remember any girls or adults carrying papers then) for the Columbus Citizen-Journal from 1968 to 1970. As I dreamed of someday being one of those journalists telling those historic stories on the front page each day, Neil Armstrong was my biggest story.

It was a newsy time with lots of stories about Vietnam, civil rights, LBJ, Richard Nixon, political conventions and the USS Pueblo. But Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon with Buzz Aldrin was the story that riveted my attention. (I started carrying the paper after the two assassinations of 1968: Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.)

Space exploration was the continuing story of my childhood: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard being the first to fly in 1961, John Glenn orbiting the earth Friendship 7 in 1962, Ed White making the first  space walk in 1965, the fire that killed White, Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee in 1967, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders reading from Genesis aboard Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968 as they circled the moon. I watched them with fascination on TV and read about them in the newspaper.

Once I got my paper route, I would read the paper at about 4:30 a.m., before I hopped on my bike to deliver the papers. If a space flight was approaching or under way, that would be the first story I would read. (more…)

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Cartoon by Carmen Cerra, used with permission

Barbara Mack

I wish every news organization had a lawyer like Barbara Mack. But there was only one of her. And we lost her Thursday.

I was privileged to be an editor and reporter for the Des Moines Register when Barb, a former Register reporter, was the cornerstone of our legal team.

We had an in-house legal team, which was rare, even then. As I recall, we had up to five lawyers at a time on our in-house law firm. Gary Gerlach headed the team before he became publisher. Mike Giudicessi, Joe Thornton and Marcia Cranberg were among our lawyers. And I’m trying to remember others (help me out, Register colleagues). I enjoyed working with all of them, but Barb was the most memorable.

Everywhere else I’ve worked, you called a lawyer as a last resort. I’ve worked with in-house lawyers who were timid and looked at their jobs as keeping us from getting sued. I’ve worked with outside counsel we called as a last resort and the meter was always running and their job was to keep us from getting sued. Barb and her colleagues were always eager for a legal battle to pry some public information from officials who didn’t respect freedom-of-information laws. She didn’t fear lawsuits and helped us make sure our stories would stand up in court. She loved a fight and I can’t remember one she lost.


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Dave Kotok

When I showed up for my job interview with the Omaha World-Herald nearly 20 years ago, Dave Kotok and Mike Kelly met me at the airport and took me to lunch before I would meet with their bosses.

Mike was (and is) a World-Herald columnist. Dave was the chief political reporter. They shot straight with me, telling me why they loved working at the World-Herald and how some days it drove them crazy. They shared with me their aspirations for making that mediocre newspaper a lot better.

Dave’s retiring this November (he couldn’t retire before an election) as the World-Herald’s managing editor. No one has done more to make that mediocre paper a lot better.

Dave and I are different in a lot of ways. He’s stayed at the World-Herald for 32 years after hitches at the Arkansas Democrat and Lincoln Journal Star. Since I started in Omaha following that job interview, I’ve changed jobs six times (one of them a return to the World-Herald). While I left various jobs because of new opportunities, new goals and dashed hopes, Dave persisted in improving the same newspaper. (more…)

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Journalists should always drive a hard bargain before agreeing to withhold a source’s name.

Andrew Beaujon, my former TBD colleague now writing for Poynter, doesn’t think it’s a big deal to let company spokespeople speak without identification:

I’m also a little loath to rip the practice because half the time I don’t think readers care which flack passed on the frequently anodyne statements I’m including.

Andrew was responding to David Segal, who writes “The Haggler” column for the New York Times. In trying to address a complaint from a consumer about a Samsung printer, Segal expressed dismay about a spokesperson who declined to be identified:

When the Haggler wrote to Samsung, a woman named Rachel Quinlan, who works for the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, sent an e-mail that she said should be attributed to a “spokesperson” for the company. She declined to name that person.

Really? A spokesperson — a person who speaks for a living — who wants to be anonymous? Not only does this sound ridiculous, it also makes Samsung seem tin-eared. Actually, that is unfair to tin, which is far more supple than Samsung is in this circumstance. What consumers and the Haggler want when products break is some sense that human beings are trying to fix them. (Note to corporations: the anonymous spokesman is a dreadful idea.) (more…)

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Wow. This is going to be a short blog post because you shouldn’t be reading me, you should be reading Mark Potts.

Mark’s A Vision for the Future of Newspapers — 20 Years Ago is one of the most insightful pieces you will read on the history of news online and the opportunities blown by newspapers.

He tells the story of a memo Post Managing Editor Robert G. Kaiser wrote 20 years ago after returning from an Apple-sponsored conference in Japan. Awestruck by the upcoming developments he heard forecast (nearly all of which are old hat by now), Kaiser wrote:

None of this is science fiction — it’s just around the corner.

The memo, which quaintly notes “Hook” as a movie viewers might want to see, and Mark’s reflection 20 years later provide insights into a sincere effort by a great newspaper to get ahead of the digital curve that it clearly saw coming.

Mark also reflects on the industry’s failure at digital efforts:

The history of the past 20 years of newspapers and digital media is, unfortunately, a legacy of timidity, missed opportunities and a general lack of imagination and guts to leap into the future.

But stop reading me. Go read Mark. I can’t remember the last piece I read that was this good about the history of digital news.

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Jim Romenesko had some fun today with Google’s autocomplete feature, asking “Why is …” questions about various media organizations and figures.

The frequent searches for such as the New York Times, Washington Post (this one gave me a laugh), Rupert Murdoch and Rachel Maddow give you some insight into how people perceive them. Sorry, I won’t complete any of them here. You’ll have to read Jim’s post to see them.

But he didn’t search Digital First Media, so I did:

I tried some other searches related to our company (John Paton, Steve Buttry, Thunderdome) and none of them produced anything very interesting. Well, except this one:

Those appear to be searches relating to the former Reagan press secretary.



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