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Archive for June, 2015

NYT marriage front page

A photo that appeared in only one edition of the Des Moines Register in 2000.

A photo that appeared in only one edition of the Des Moines Register in 2000.

Fifteen years ago, a story I wrote about gays in the ministry was illustrated by a photograph of a former Lutheran pastor kissing his male partner.

It was the second installment of a three-part, page-one series, “Testing Faith,” so lots of editors read the stories and looked over the photos before publication. But when the first edition of the Monday paper rolled off the press Sunday night, an editor I won’t name here had a fit. We had a photo of two men kissing in the newspaper!

That apparently would be too much for Iowans to handle, in the view of this editor, and other editors had to tear up the front page, move a nice photograph from the front-page display (an excellent portrait of the former pastor) inside, place a standalone wire photo on the front page and kill the photo of men kissing, which had anchored the jump page. The before and after pages are below: (more…)

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Initially, I was inclined not to renew my call here for the media not to give mass killers the attention they crave. I don’t feel a need to repeat it every time a hateful person seeks attention with a gun.

But Dan Kennedy and Matt DeRienzo gave me a nudge after the racist terrorist attack in Charleston:

The link Matt shared was one of three times I have posted here about my views that media should stop giving attention to mass killers. I posted also after the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and last year near the University of California at Santa Barbara.

I will just summarize here the points I’ve made in the other posts, then I’ll discuss some particular aspects of the Charleston slaughter that underscore my point, but make it tougher to follow my advice.

Who is one of the essential 5 W’s of journalism, the questions we should answer in every story. I don’t lightly suggest that we should not name the suspects in mass killings. But we decide not to use newsworthy names in many other cases:

(more…)

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I don’t think I ever leaked a newsroom memo to Jim Romenesko, but I kinda wish I had, and I’m thankful to everyone who did. No one brought more transparency to the news biz than Romenesko, who shined his blog’s spotlight into the dark corners of an industry with little fondness for our own medicine.

Jim has decided to retire from journalism’s best must-read news-about-news blog, but perhaps it’s better to describe his future as a semi-retirement.

“I’m going to continue to tweet and put up posts, but at a leisurely pace,” Romenesko said by email Monday after I wrote to wish him well. “I’m enjoying traveling, sleeping in, reading the news and watching Colbert/Wilmore before opening the laptop in the morning. When I see something that interests me — the Post-Gazette Jenner column controversy, for example — I’ll pursue it. I’m not going to unplug my devices!”

It appears he’ll still follow the news biz and share links to interesting stuff, maybe more on social media than on the blog. But don’t look for his exhaustive report of interesting stuff every morning, not if he’s sleeping in.

Romenesko invariably told just part of the story, but that was the point. Romenesko seldom wrote a long story about anything. But if someone else wrote a good story about something of interest to journalists, Jim made sure the rest of us in the news business knew about it.

His longest posts often were brief introductions to a newsroom memo or a news-company memo.

The irony of it was always amusing: Editors who exhorted their staffs to develop sources who would leak them juicy inside information did a slow burn (or a private chuckle) when their own staffs invariably leaked to Romenesko. (more…)

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I have some advice for Larry Kramer and Gannett on running a nationwide network of newsrooms as a single operation.

Ken Doctor speculated yesterday that Kramer, publisher of USA Today, might lead Gannett’s editorial operation as a single unit.

As Gannett separates its newspaper properties from its broadcast and digital properties, Doctor tried to parse what Bob Dickey, CEO of the print operation, which will keep the Gannett name, meant when he said he would be “uniting our different news businesses into a single, nationwide news powerhouse.”

Doctor observed:

If Gannett’s journalists were to be centrally directed, they would comprise 2,700 journalists, the largest single journalistic workforce globally.

Gannett logoGannett gives a lot of corporate direction to newsrooms. Currently the Newsroom of the Future is the Gannett wave, but earlier thrusts have emphasized Information Centers (2006, after the Newspaper Next report), First Five Paragraphs (2000 or so, when I was a Gannett reporter) and News 2000 (that was the priority when I interviewed for a Gannett job in 1992). And I probably forgot a few. Remind me, if you recall one I missed. Update: I forgot ContentOne (2009).

The company also is consolidating print production in regional Design Studios, a trend throughout the industry.

But, as Doctor noted, Gannett editors don’t work for a national corporate editor:

Those editors now report solely, within a traditional newspaper structure, to their paper’s publishers. Gannett senior vice president for news Kate Marymont (“My job is to elevate the journalism across Gannett’s local media sites,” says her LinkedIn job description.) leads editorial planning and strategy. Like her peers in similar positions at newspaper companies, she may act as an editorial advocate, but doesn’t have line authority.

I worked for nearly three years at a company where the newsroom editors did report directly to a corporate editor. Early in the formation of Digital First Media, I was on a conference call with all the publishers when CEO John Paton told them their editors would report to Editor-in-Chief Jim Brady. Publishers would still be in charge of the local budgets and the local operation, but for all journalism matters, Jim was in charge.

I was one of a handful of editors who reported directly to Jim, and I visited 84 newsrooms, including all DFM dailies, so I suppose I’m as qualified as anyone but Jim to share some lessons from our brief experience trying to run a single journalistic workforce.

I will neither boast of our successes here nor criticize our mistakes (mine or others’), though I will make passing references below to my DFM experiences. The lessons below are my own observations and advice to Kramer and Gannett (if Doctor’s speculation is correct), based on successes and mistakes at DFM and many experiences that were a mix of both. And I suspect some other companies might seek to better unify their news efforts.

Here’s my advice for Kramer and others who may lead national news operations: (more…)

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