News Cycle

A look at the news, politics and journalism in today’s 24-hour media.

Archive for April 2010

Taking Time Off From the Blog for a While

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I’m going to suspend posting for a while as family health issues are taking priority with my time. Thanks for all the support and well-wishes! I will return when life becomes normal once again.

For the latest newspaper industry layoff news, please take a look at Erica Smith’s Paper Cuts blog.

— Jeff


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April 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama Sneaks Out of the White House Without the Press, Breaking Protocol

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President Barack Obama broke away from the White House press corps today by leaving the White House without the reporters with him, the Associated Press reports:

About two hours before reporters were supposed to be in position to leave with the president, Obama left the grounds of the White House. Members of the press were told he was attending one of his daughter’s soccer games in northwest Washington, D.C.

The White House press corps traditionally travels with the president anywhere he goes, inside and outside the country, to report on the president’s activities for the benefit of informing the public and for historical record.

After Obama left, a press aide hastily gathered members of the media who happened to be at the White House early or working on other matters. They rushed to a van and left the White House to catch up with the president.

Too late. By the time, the press van appeared to arrive at the president’s location, the press was told he was already departing. Time to go back to the White House.

Reporters and photographers didn’t have a chance to see him or his vehicle to verify his presence at any location.

Although nobody outside the White House or the press may have noticed, Obama broke years of tradition.

The small press “pool” that accompanies the president had been told to gather at the White House at 11:30 a.m. He left about 9:20 a.m.

Asked what happened, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “The president decided this morning to attend his daughter’s soccer game. The pool was assembled as soon as possible to be there as well.”

Obama eventually left the White House again on Saturday for a round of golf. This time, the press was with him.

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April 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Media General Consolidates Copy Editing, Page Design at 3 Metro Papers

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Media General Inc. said today in a press release published on Romenesko that it will consolidate copy editing and page design for its three metro newspapers, The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal.

The consolidated metro editing and design operation will have two groups, one in Tampa, Fla., and one in Richmond, Va. The operation will be led by a single managing editor located at the Richmond facility. Each of the two groups will have primary responsibility for particular sections and pages for all three metro newspapers. The next steps are to select the managing editor, install common production software and establish common design elements that will facilitate production efficiencies. The consolidated operation is expected to start up in the third quarter of this year.

The metro operation will be the third of its kind for Media General. The first became operational in Lynchburg , Va. , in April 2009. The second started up in Hickory , N.C. , in October, 2009. At this time, 12 of Media General’s 23 metro and community newspapers are either part of or transitioning to a consolidated editing and design operation. The company expects to have all of its newspapers in a consolidated editing and design operation by the end of the year. Once all newspapers have completed the transition, Media General expects to realize annualized cost savings of more than $1 million from efficiencies related to this initiative, starting in 2011. The company intends to use a portion of the savings to focus on intensified local news coverage.

“Our consolidated editing and design operations allow our newsrooms to focus on strong local news reporting. Stories will be edited once rather than multiple times, and we can take advantage of economies of scale and centralization of top talent,” said Donna Reed, Media General’s Vice President of Content. “Our customers will be unaffected by this internal process change and all news decisions will continue to be made by our local editors,” said Ms. Reed.

Over the past 10 years, Media General has consolidated and centralized a number of broadcast functions, including traffic, master control and graphics, and newspaper functions, including printing and distribution and various call centers. This approach allows the company’s properties to focus on their local communities while creating resource groups that both increase quality and provide significant process efficiencies.

The Lynchburg editing and design center produces the pages for The ( Lynchburg ) News & Advance, Danville Register & Bee, and the company’s Rockingham, N.C. , community newspapers. The (Manassas , Va.) News & Messenger and The (Waynesboro , Va.) News Virginian are in the process of transitioning there.

The Hickory, N.C. , editing and design center produces the pages for the Hickory Daily Record, Statesville Record & Landmark, The (Morganton) News Herald, The McDowell News, and the weekly Mooresville Tribune. The Florence (S.C.) Morning News and (Concord & Kannapolis , N.C.) Independent Tribune are in the process of transitioning there.

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April 7, 2010 at 11:22 pm

More Than 3,500 Petition Iran to Free Journalists, Writers

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More than 3,500 international journalists, writers, and press freedom leaders — are petitioning Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, to immediately release dozens of journalists, writers, and bloggers imprisoned in the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ website.

Among those who have signed the petition are Martin Amis, Jon Lee Anderson, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, Jonathan Franzen, Thomas L. Friedman, Nadine Gordimer, Gwen Ifill, Ahmed Rashid, Jon Stewart and Mario Vargas Llosa.

A coalition of free-expression organizations delivered the petition today to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Petitioners’ names were collected through Facebook and the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, a coalition project dedicated to winning the freedom of all journalists jailed in Iran. Additional names of prominent petitioners can be viewed on the campaign Web site.

“We hope those in jail will be heartened by this level of international attention,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, one of the sponsors of the petition drive. “By collecting these names from all corners of the world, we want to convey to our imprisoned colleagues the depth of our concern and to Iranian authorities the depth of our outrage.”

The petitioners urge Ayatollah Khamenei to release all journalists, writers, and bloggers now behind bars and to uphold the pledge of his predecessor, Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, who said in 1978 on the eve of the revolution: “Our future society will be a free society, and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.”

At least 34 journalists were jailed in Iran on April 1, according to CPJ research. Another 18 were free on short-term furloughs coinciding with the Iranian New Year, but were expected to report back to prison this week. CPJ has been conducting a monthly census of journalists jailed in Iran, now the world’s worst jailer of the press.

The petition effort was organized by a coalition of 16 international free expression groups: CPJ; Index on Censorship; Reporters Without Borders; PEN American Center; International PEN; Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; International Publishers Association; Article 19; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers; International Federation of Journalists; National Press Club; World Press Freedom Committee; Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation; Institute of Mass Information; International Women’s Media Foundation; and Freedom House.

Those interested in joining the petition may still do so.

Here are capsules of those detained.

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April 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm

POLITICO Arena: Alvin S. Felzenberg’s response to ‘Obama’s nuclear strategy – smart politics or unilateral disarmament?

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I always thought it unwise for presidents to tell actual or would-be aggressors in advance what they would or would not do in a warlike situation. I take it that, unlike Harry Truman, President Barack Obama would have tried to have defeated Imperial Japan — and the barbarism it wrought over so much of Asia and to U.S. troops and prisoners of war — by accepting hundreds of thousands of additional American casualties. What would Tom Hanks say to that?

Interestingly, Truman remains one of the few great presidents to whom Obama has not been compared. I think we now know why.

Alvin S. Felzenberg
Author, “The Leaders We Deserved

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April 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

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POLITICO Arena: David Mark’s response to ‘Obama’s nuclear strategy – smart politics or unilateral disarmament?Plus, do the RNC’s troubles matter to voters?’

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April 6, 2010 at 6:26 pm

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Buffalo News Guild Employees Consider Offer to Buy Out 23

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Guild-represented employees of the Buffalo News are mulling a buyout offer that would have them exit their jobs by the end of this month, as the newspaper best known for being owned by Warren Buffet seeks to reduce head-count by 23, the Newsper Guild Communications Workers of America said on its website yesterday.

The Buffalo Guild negotiated terms of the package over several weeks, improving pension benefits enough that the union hopes will make layoffs unnecessary. Company management said it wants to cut $5.7 million in expenses because of declining profitability.

Employees have until April 26 to seek a buyout, with management looking to cut nine district managers, eight newsroom employees, three in classifieds, two in accounting and one in inside circulation by April 30. Newsroom employees who take the buyout may be offered part-time non-permanent work, and if at least nine district managers take the buyout, the company may offer them an opportunity to return as permanent part-timers.

Guild representatives, noting that the News was not under a contractual obligation to bargain over the buyout terms, said they appreciated the opportunity to negotiate. “While we would prefer if the company was not seeking to cut jobs, I’ve got to give management credit for listening to the Guild’s suggestions on how to structure an attractive package,” said Jim Heaney, who headed up the union team. “This is the most-attractive buyout offer The News has offered in a long time and substantially better than what management originally had in mind. For employees who have been waiting for a better offer, it has arrived.”

Chief among those improvements: Employees with at least five years of experience are eligible to add 10 years of pension credits toward their age and/or years of service. The maximum years of credited service will increase from 30 to 45 years, and employees who already have more than 30 years of service credits will be able to apply those extra years toward their pension calculations. The $40,000 cap on annual benefits remains.

Meanwhile, if the pension buyout offer does not solicit enough interest, the company will offer a second buyout of cash equal to 18 months of base pay and, where applicable, merit pay. That offer would be extended from April 26 to May 10. Seniority will be the determining factor if applicants outnumber openings.

To help members sort out their options, the Guild has retained a financial consulting and retirement planning firm headed by Richard Schroeder, a former Guild president who manages the union’s investments.

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April 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

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