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Posts Tagged ‘Journal Register Co.’

This continues my series on professional networking.

I credit my skills and hard work for most of the success I’ve achieved professionally. But my professional network has helped tremendously, too.

In this post, I’m going to run through the jobs I’ve landed and explain how my network helped me get most (but not all) of the jobs in my career:

Because my mother read the newspaper …

Chuck Offenburger, right, gave me my first job in journalism back in 1971.

Chuck Offenburger, right, gave me my first job in journalism back in 1971.

I was on a canoe trip in the summer of 1971, between my junior and senior years of high school, when my mother read a notice in the Evening Sentinel that Sports Editor Chuck Offenburger was looking for a sports writer. I didn’t know Chuck, and had no network connection to him. But Mom called the notice to my attention. I applied and I got the job (and Chuck and I remain friends).

But the network connection that mattered here was my mother. I’m not a fan of nepotism or family interference, which didn’t happen here. Mom didn’t even know Chuck. But she tipped me off to the first job of my journalism career. And Mimi has alerted two of our sons to opportunities that led to jobs for them. Listen to your mom. (more…)

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Few sights are more beautiful than a Tofino sunset.

Few sights are more beautiful than a Tofino sunset.

Perhaps the most alluring job I ever turned down was an offer to lead newsroom transformation for Canada’s largest newspaper company.

My fondness for Canada is long and deep, and a job that would mean lengthy stays and frequent visits in such beloved cities as Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Victoria was enticing. I relished the opportunity and challenge of helping metro newspapers retool for digital success. I nearly accepted the job.

I’ll quickly address the national-loyalty issue. Except when my father was assigned to overseas Air Force bases, I’ve happily lived my whole life in the United States. I love this country and wasn’t looking to leave it. But when a Canadian company recruited me, I listened. I love Canada, too.

Cox Beach, south of Tofino

Cox Beach, south of Tofino

Mimi’s and my favorite place in the world may be Tofino, a tourist/fishing village on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. We’ve visited there several times at different seasons of the year, always enchanted by the crashing waves, the lovely beaches, the bears and whales, the fish tacos and other fine dining.

If she writes a best-selling novel and sells its movie rights for a whopping sum, or if I could make a living writing, consulting and training based there, we would happily live the rest of our lives in a small Tofino home, walking distance from one of our favourite beaches. Those are huge ifs, but we share the fantasy every time we visit.

And Tofino is just one of the many places we’ve loved visiting in Canada. From Cape Breton and the lighthouses along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast to the crystal waters of Lake Louise in Banff National Park to golden eagles near Williams Lake, B.C., to a Jeep ride into the Yukon territory, we have enjoyed Canada’s spectacular scenery coast to coast. We’ve enjoyed the museums, restaurants and other cultural offerings of Canada’s great cities. (more…)

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Digital First Media logoAnything I have to say about Digital First Media today is speculation or observation but I will speculate and observe.

(I’ll explain in some detail at the end of this post what I used to know about DFM operations and strategy, and what I don’t know now.)

A tough sell

My first observation: Selling this scattered company and its diverse properties has probably been much more difficult than anyone thought last year when executives decided to pursue a sale. My first knowledge of plans to sell the company was that they would likely sell it in pieces. I think the difficulty of that job led to an effort to sell it in one piece, as Ken Doctor reported last year. That led to a pending $400 million purchase by Apollo Global Management. Ken’s speculation – more informed than mine, but probably not coming from DFM sources – is that the deal fell through over price.

I think DFM CEO John Paton, Chief Operating Officer Steve Rossi (who will become CEO take over the company’s reins in July) and whoever is making decisions for Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns DFM, have decided that some individual parts of the company will attract higher value separately. I think they’ve decided the higher values of some individual pieces will be worth the trouble of operating and eventually selling or shutting down the properties that would be more difficult to sell, or possibly operating a reduced company after selling the most attractive parts.
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If reports are correct, my former company, Digital First Media, is going to sell to Apollo Global Management for about $400 million.

I’m not going to pretend I can analyze what that means for DFM, my many former colleagues there or for the news business. I hope for the sake of my many friends remaining in the company’s newsrooms across the country that the Apollo’s management will find a path to prosperity that doesn’t involve endlessly cutting staff. I hope the company will genuinely pursue the kind of digital creativity that the future demands and will have the staying power to let good ideas flourish.

Since seeing initial reports about the pending deal, I’ve wondered about the meaning of the $400 million sale price, reached in a long “auction” process that sought the best deal(s) to sell the company as a whole or in pieces.

The reported price tag is a breathtaking fall from what newspapers used to be worth, even in the past few years. I hope this means Apollo’s strategy isn’t to keep cutting staff to maintain profits. DFM doesn’t have much left to cut, and values have dropped as newspapers have been cutting. The best way to maximize this $400 million investment will be to build value by developing new revenue streams.

Comparisons of sales prices of media companies can be misleading. One sale might include more real estate, while another might include more debt or pension obligations. Successful subsidiaries can add value to a company. In a sale such as the DFM deal, which is essentially between two private equity companies, full terms may never be disclosed. You might not be comparing apples and oranges, but apples and lawn mowers.

I was not involved in the sale at all, other than losing my job last year as the company was preparing for the sale. But I understood DFM enough to know this was an extraordinarily complicated deal, with an array of factors that make it unique: (more…)

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Bitterness is an understandable emotion. But it always hurts you more than your targets.

I think I have had a lot in common with the journalists, some of them clearly former Journal Register employees, who lashed out at our company or our CEO in comments recently about the company’s Chapter 11 filing. You can read a sampling at the end of my blog post on the bankruptcy or on Jim Romenesko’s or Josh Benton’s or Matt DeRienzo’s.

I’m not going to debate here the merits of the financial move or the criticisms we received. I already had my say about the bankruptcy filing and I’m happy to give critics their say (I haven’t withheld approval of any comments on my blog post and just checked 14 pages of spam messages to make sure no critical comments got diverted by the spam filter). And I’ll grant that critics, even bitter ones, raise some valid points and questions.

What I do want to say here is that I’ve battled bitter feelings on many occasions in my career. The details aren’t important here, but I’ve been fired and have endured the deaths of two afternoon newspapers. I’ve been caught in the middle of a legal dispute. A publisher’s wife tried to get me fired. An editor forgot I had applied for a columnist’s position I dearly wanted. I learned from the bulletin board about someone being promoted into a position I was in line for. I’ve been passed over for other jobs when I was sure I was better than the people who got them. Twice in a row I changed jobs and moved my family for exciting new opportunities only to have the top executives change directions. I consulted a lawyer about an instance of age discrimination. I’ve been demoted and had my pay cut (five days before Christmas; thank you, Mr. Scrooge). I’ve seen more colleagues lose their jobs than I can count. And I had to deliver that unpleasant news to some colleagues after losing a fight to save their jobs (I was gone myself within a year).

Every one of those incidents felt like a profound injustice at the time and I’m sure each of the offending bosses felt they were sound business decisions. But you know (and deep down I know) that life isn’t that simple. Some of them were injustices. But some of them were sound business decisions. And dammit, some were both. And an honest appraisal would note that responsibility for those unhappy moves ranged from 100 percent the employer’s to heavy responsibility for me (since I didn’t make the decisions, I can’t say it was ever 100 percent on me). (more…)

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Note displayed at APILike a drawing on the Etch-a-Sketch that is so popular in politics now, my journalism past has pretty much been shaken clean. Almost everywhere I worked has been shut down or sold:

  • Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal. Newspaper carrier, 1968-70. Citizen-Journal died in 1985.
  • Shenandoah (Iowa) Evening Sentinel. Sports reporter, 1971-72; intern 1975; reporter, editorial page editor, managing editor, 1976-77. The Tinley family sold the Sentinel to Park Newspapers in the 1980s and the Sentinel died in 1993. (more…)

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I didn’t have time during yesterday’s Twitter webinar to answer all the questions. I will provide quick answers here (so I can get to them all today), no more than one paragraph each. If you’d like me to elaborate on a topic, tell me in the comments and I may make it a future blog post, though often I will be linking to previous posts. I have edited some of the questions for brevity and to make them general, rather than applying to a specific newsroom. Participants in the webinar were Digital First Media (Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group) journalists.

Q: Can you offer some quick tips for our really new Twitter users about how to get started on tweeting when you’re still rather unfamiliar and unsure about Twitter?

My updated and expanded Twitter tips have a section on getting started. (more…)

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