Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clues emerge about LA project

Is LA getting a new paper called The Free Daily? We have no idea whether the following information is on the up-and-up or whether we're being hoaxed. But with that warning, we'll pass it along.

We e-mailed the person who posted a Craigslist ad about starting a new free daily in Los Angeles. A person using the name of LA Times Publisher Otis Chandler (1927-2006) responded:
    We will make as much of our plan known as possible on September 2nd. Some of the key members of our team were involved with other groups in the Los Angeles market that prevented them from working on competing projects until 9/1/08. The first issues of TFD [The Free Daily] will likely not hit the streets until January 2009, we had originally planned a November 2008 launch...right now we are negotiating to buy a Los Angeles-based publication that will become the cornerstone of the new in effect our original plans of a start-up have morphed into a re-launch.
Sounds like somebody ought to contact Dean Singleton, the largest owner of soon-to-be-abandoned paid dailies in Southern California, to see if he is talking to these guys.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Will this 'hirt' RedEye?

Jane Hirt, the editor behind the highly successful free daily RedEye, has been promoted by Tribune Co. to managing editor of the Chicago Tribune. Her tenure at RedEye dates back to when it was a paid newspaper, and the Tribune Co. was trying to figure out where it fit in Chicagoland publishing scene. RedEye, with Hirt at the helm, found its own way with distinctive and relevant features that made it a hit with the 18-to-34 crowd. No replacement has been named. Here's an interview we did with her in 2007.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

RedEye tweaks design, trims 1.5 inches

COMMENTARY: The "R" in RedEye has gone from uppercase to lower case on the cover of the Chicago Tribune's youthful free daily. The paper itself is 1 1/2 inches shorter than before. And the headline font has been changed to Stag Sans.

But the changes appear to be mere tweaks to a very popular and successful newspaper. The reduction in size makes the paper easier to hold, which is a plus for readers who use public transportation. The fonts improve what was already a strong design package. The content of RedEye hasn't changed, and that's a good thing. Lots of short, snappy stories -- blurbs really -- that move a reader through the paper quickly.

For instance, the Aug. 11 issue (at right) served up stories about the dangers of driving while using the phone, why e-mail is making a mess of our lives, reader reviews of Chicago's newest bars and heavy coverage of Olympic phenom Michael Phelps.

They're the kind of stories you'd be apt to talk about over the watercooler.

Plus RedEye has celebrity coverage — in this issue, Bernie Mac's death and a RedEye interview with Jessica Simpson. But it's not all fluff — RedEye carries a full page of national and international news, and another full page of Chicagoland news.

EXAMINER REDESIGN: The Examiner papers have also improved their look with a redesign. Gone are the cluttered covers with multiple headlines, all about the same size in serif type faces. Now the Examiner cover consists of one photo, one major headline, and some teases. The inside pages look brighter with the new headline font and the addition of more white space. On Sundays, the cover features an illustration of a person being profiled by the Examiner. The content of the Examiner hasn't changed. You can still find "news" stories written by right-wing commentators like Bill Sammon and editorials more extreme than anything Rush Limbaugh has had to say, but as far as the design is concerned, it's better.

New editors, publishers in Colorado

Swift Newspapers, owner of several free dailies in Colorado, announced today that it has appointed Valerie Smith as the publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. She will replace Jim Hyatt, who became publisher in May and now has left the company, according to the rival Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Smith has worked for Swift since 1993 and was publisher of its Glenwood Springs Post Independent and associate publisher of its Vail Daily.

Speaking about the Vail Daily, it has a new editor — its old editor, Don Rogers. Rogers left the Vail paper last year to head up another Swift paper, the Record-Courier in Gardnerville, Nev. But he's back in Vail, possibly because the Vail Daily is facing new competition in the form of the Vail Mountaineer, a free daily started by the founder of the Vail Daily, Jim Pavelich. Pavelich sold the Vail Daily in 1993 and decided to start publishing again because he didn't like the way his old paper was covering the news. Rogers, who was editor in Vail from 1999 to 2007, also said there was another reason for returning to Vail. He said his family had not yet moved to Nevada, and that he was returning often to visit with them. "I got the chance to experience the Daily more as a regular reader, and I think that gave me valuable insights that I would not have from the inside. And working in a new place has given me fresh perspective," he said in a Vail Daily article.

Rogers will replace Alex Miller, who is moving to Summit County to be the editor of the Summit Daily News. It's also a Swift paper.

In Boulder, the Colorado Daily — the oldest free daily in the U.S. — has a new editor. Matt Sebastian was previously city editor of Boulder's paid paper, the Daily Camera. In the past, the Colorado Daily and Daily Camera were rivals, but today they're owned by the same company (Prairie Mountain Publishing, a joint venture with Denver-based MediaNews Group, publisher of the Denver Post) and operate out of the same building. "The two papers operate independent newsrooms but share some content, with editors at each publication selecting the stories that best suits their readership," said a story in the Camera announcing Sebastian's appointment.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

California city removes free paper's racks

In the 1960s, the free speech movement's heart and soul was in San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area communities like Berkeley. 

Things have changed, however. On Aug. 13th, the city of Palo Alto hauled away 27 newsracks of a new free daily newspaper, the Daily Post. The city contends the newspaper violated its 1998 newsrack ordinance, which apparently limits the number of spaces newspapers can have in Palo Alto's downtown area. 

Palo Alto's downtown is dominated by University Avenue, a Rodeo Drive-like shopping destination. 

The city regulates the newsracks in the area and forces them to use modular boxes. But when the Post asked for spaces in these racks, the city dragged its feet. So the paper's publishers, Jim Pavelich and Dave Price (who started the Palo Alto Daily News in 1995 and sold it for $25 million to Knight Ridder in 2005), decided to put free-standing racks throughout the downtown area in defiance of the ordinance -- or at least until the city could give them spaces.

The city might have even looked the other way until it fixed its ordinane except for the phone calls it got from the politically connected publisher of a weekly newspaper — Palo Alto's mayor is a lawyer whose firm represents the weekly — who demanded the removal of the Post's racks. 

In a horrendous move, city workers grabbed the Post's newsracks off the streets and put them into a flatbed truck. 

Within hours, however, the Post put racks back on the street. But this time Editor and Co-Publisher Dave Price vowed that if the city touched the racks again, they would have to arrest him first and throw him in jail. 

He even posed for this photo on top of a space where one of his racks was removed, but other free-standing racks were allowed to stay. The incident blew up into a major controversy and a day later, the city offered the Post roughly the same number of racks as its competitors. The Post printed a story on Monday, Aug. 18, saying the controversy was over.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Somebody is having fun in LA

Are there plans to start a free daily in Los Angeles? After all, it is the last of the three major markets without one. A classified ad on Craigslist (now withdrawn) has been followed by this Web site at

Our first reaction? Guess you've heard of clip art photos!

Here's the text of the site:
    We are going to launch a FREE daily newspaper here in Los Angeles. We will also be developing a companion website. The initial circulation will be between 200,000 and 350,000 daily M-F, no Saturday edition and a 500,000 circulation Sunday edition which will be available nationally.
Hey, that sounds like billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz's plans in San Francisco, Baltimore and Washington. Only problem is that his business model hasn't worked. It failed so miserably that he just slashed his circulation by 40 percent after struggling for three years to make his papers work.
    It will be distributed free of charge throughout the Los Angeles market through alliances with key retailers and vendor box distribution.
LA is the nation's biggest market geographically. Unless you're the LA Times, you won't be able to pull that off.
    Additionally you'll be able to subcribe to it and receive home delivery for about $50 a year.

    We are looking for writers, web developers, photographers, editors (who can write), designers and seasoned sales professionals. If you have experience here in LA we know who you are, if you do not but are looking to break in, fine.

    We've secured office space in the heart of the city.
Guess that means you've got a lease.
    When we launch, our staff will likely number between 75 and 100.

    Right now we are seeking people with ideas who are willing to share them in strict confidence. We have our own ideas, we aren't looking to steal yours but if we are on the same page perhaps a partnership was meant to be. Impress us, you may be considered for what will likely be the most coveted media jobs in the country.
We've sent a couple of e-mails to those purporting to start a free daily in Los Angeles. No answer.

LA Observed says that one of the writers leaving the LA Times responded to the new paper's Craigslist ad and asked "who are you?" She got back this reply:
    "Who are you?"

    "TFD Management team."

    "Right now we are the asking the questions - you are the 1500th respondent ..."
The Web site for this supposed newspaper says management will "reach out to interested parties" before Labor Day.