Saturday, September 27, 2008

Examiner endorsement triggers firestorm

It shouldn't come as a surprise that billionaire Phil Anschutz's three Examiner newspapers (San Francisco, Washington and Baltimore) would support the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin. But Thursday's front-page endorsement enraged readers in far-left San Francisco.

The SF Weekly reported:
    "... [T]here were nearly 900 comments most from locals who expressed confusion and a feeling they had been betrayed.

    "Examiner's managers put a gag order on reporters and editors. A brusk managing editor, Deirdre Hussey, would only say 'I'm not going on record with you. You have to contact the publisher, John Wilcox.' Hussey, however, did not offer to provide Wilcox's contact information.

    "One switchboard operator says the calls were coming in fast and furious on Thursday when the endorsement was posted online. 'We got a lot of calls and people were coming to the door,' she says. 'There was a great deal of displeasure and people wanted to know if we were crazy. But one good thing, nobody swore at me.'”, a tech industry gossip site, also took note of the unusual front-page endorsement, calling it "clumsy and pointless."

Under the heading "Great moments in journalism," Valleyway opined:
    "Anschutz is a billionaire Republican and a devout Christian, but up until now he's proven more interested in making money in a post-Craigslist local ad market than in trying to save San Francisco from pot-smoking gay abortionists. That's why today's cover, which endorses the GOP's John McCain and Sarah Palin ticket the day after McCain's "huh-what?" suspension of his campaign, seems to be a classic case of election emotions spun out of control ... Is anyone going to change their vote because of the paper?"

New editor for Chicago's RedEye

Tran Ha, who started as a copy editor at the Chicago Tribune's RedEye five years ago, has been named editor of that free daily, succeeding Jane Hirt, who was promoted to managing editor of the Tribune last month. Ha, 30, started at RedEye and then became an editor on the Tribune's feature desk. Last year, she returned to RedEye to launch its Saturday edition. Earlier this year, she became editor of TheMash, a new Chicago Tribune paper produced for and in collaboration with Chicago public high school students.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dallas free daily to become a weekly

The Dallas Morning News says it plans to convert its free daily Quick to a weekly and shift its focus from news to entertainment effective Oct. 30.

News of the switch, which has been rumored for months, comes a month after the Morning News began delivering another quick-read daily, Briefing, to about 200,000 homes that do not subscribe to the Morning News. Briefing appears Wednesdays through Sundays and picks up many of the ads in the Morning News. Briefing allows the Morning News to say that it reaches more homes than before.

In its new form, Quick will be delivered door-to-door to young adults in apartment complexes, with the other half distributed in rack locations in entertainment districts and retail venues. The Morning News says it will increase its circulation from 95,000 to 100,000.

The Dallas Morning News launched Quick on Nov. 10, 2003 in an attempt to head off another free daily planned in Dallas, the A.M. Journal Express. The Journal Express lasted six months.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"The b" pushes limits with "Douchebag" cover

The b, a free daily published by the Tribune Company's Baltimore Sun, raised a few eyebrows this week with its cover headline "Douchebag!"

The article described the qualities of such a person — "You talk about 'Lost' as if it were "The Grapes of Wrath,'" "You pretend you know how to swirl and sniff wine" and "You're a Yankees fan." It was highly subjective but a lot of fun for the 18-34 demo The b is hoping to reach.

Over at the b's mother newspaper, The Sun, a number of staffers complained to Anne Tallent, the editor of the b, and to Tim Ryan, the publisher of Sun Media Group, according to the blog of Sun copy editor and Loyola College instructor John E. McIntyre.

"Ms. Tallent responded that her readers are of a different sensibility than the readers of The Sun and are not inclined to find the word objectionable," McIntyre wrote. "She did not suggest that the members of The Sun’s staff are a bunch of dusty old fogies, but I fear that some of my colleagues may have drawn an inference."

McIntyre noted that his students don't have a problem with the words "sucks" or "scumbag," even though the latter term originally referred to a condom. But they told him that they would not have used "douchebag" in a headline.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good news, bad news for Examiner

Baltimore's alt-weekly, The City Paper, has picked that city's version of The Examiner as the best local newspaper.

"The Examiner may not have some of the stuff the [Baltimore] Sun has — the Pulitzers, the fancy new redesign, the insights of 'innovation' expert Lee Abrams — but it does have what we want: Local news. Lots of it. Covered in a straightforward, diligent fashion. Which is why, more and more often, it's the paper we turn to when we want to know what's going on in and around town," said The City Paper.

As for the bad news, the San Francisco Examiner is having financial problems. The San Francisco Press Club blog reports that the Examiner has laid off production and sales employees in the last month, and not replaced other employees who left the newspaper. The exact number isn't known.

Spanish-language free daily starts in Boston

A successful free Spanish weekly newspaper in the Boston area, "Siglo 21" (translation: 21st Century), became a free daily on Monday, Sept. 15, to coincide with Spanish Heritage Month.

"We see a need to reach the larger Hispanic community in the area with a daily," Siglo 21 owner Victor Manuel Gonzalez Lemus told the Boston Globe. (Photo by Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe.)

This week, Siglo21 will start a promotional blitz on local Spanish television and radio to promote the new daily.

Siglo21 is currently distributed in newspaper boxes, restaurants and mom-and-pop businesses. Lemus said he plans to have more newsstands in apartment complexes in Lawrence, Lowell, Andover, and Salem, N.H.

To publish several times a week, Lemus told the Globe will boost his staff of 22 with more reporters. To keep costs down, he plans to publish only 5,000 copies on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays, the run increases to 10,000 and will be distributed throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Metro launches new editorial strategy in Canada

It's encouraging to hear that a publisher is spending money to improve the quality of news in a newspaper. That appears to be exactly what Metro Canada is doing in appointing Dianne Rinehart as its new editor-in-chief for English Canada. The veteran journalist's work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Herald and Vancouver Sun.

Her plan at Metro is to "out-report, out-design, out-delight, out-service and out-deliver the competition in the paper - and on the web."

According to Media in Canada, Reinhart plans to:
    • Reposition Metro as a "hybrid newspaper" — with an increased focus on magazine-style sections such as health, food, style and homes, in addition to exceptional news coverage.

    • Add several high-profile columnists including political analyst Lawrence Martin, environmentalist David Suzuki, humor writer Anne Hines, health expert Celia Milne, The Smart Cookies TV team's financial advice, food writer Barb Holland, relationship expert Josey Vogels, and Alan Cross, host of The Ongoing History of New Music.

    • Increase synergies between the paper's newsprint and online edition.

    • Utilize Metro's six newsrooms across Canada to create a media platform that allows for in-depth local news coverage.
The last bullet point may be the most important. People like local news. Reducing coverage from those outposts would be suicide for Metro.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

'Otis' says LA launch delayed until January

We're almost afraid to pass this information along because it might be a hoax. So don't make any life-changing decisions based on what you're about to read.

As we mentioned below, we e-mailed the person who posted a Craigslist ad seeking staffers for a new free daily in Los Angeles. Since then, we've been carrying on an e-mail conversation with a person using the name of the late LA Times publisher Otis Chandler (pictured).

Otis tells us that the new paper has signed a distribution deal, but that the launch has been delayed from November to January.

"The launch week editions are set to be 64 pages each split into three sections all on 34# hi-brite paper all in four color process," Otis writes.

According to the paper's Web site, the initial circulation will be between 200,000 and 350,000, Monday-Friday, with no Saturday edition. But there will be a Sunday edition which will be available nationally.

Otis says that the new paper is negotiating to buy a "Los Angeles-based publication that will become the cornerstone of the new paper ... so in effect our original plans of a start-up have morphed into a re-launch." Otis says the acquisition target isn't a daily.

He says they're buying the publication for its advertising base.

Q: Distributing throughout LA seems impossible or at least a huge headache. Are you focusing on some areas more than others? If so, which ones?

Otis: The actual city limits are our geographic focus. We've secured distribution at 0.03 per copy.

Q: Will this look like RedEye Chicago? tbt* Tampa Bay? amNewYork? Metro?

Otis: We won't look like anything you've seen before in a daily newspaper.

Q: Will you have a general news focus, or will you cover more closely the entertainment industry? The legal industry? Some other industry?

Otis: Hard news mainly in the form of columns, heavy entertainment coverage.

One more thing -- Otis says Phil Anschutz, the billionaire owner of the Examiner chain, isn't involved in this start-up.

Again, we have no idea whether this information is accurate. This may just be a scam. Choosing Otis Chandler's name is, of course, significant. Chandler, publisher from 1960 to 1980, built the LA Times into one of the nation's great newspapers. David Halberstam, in his 1979 book "The Powers That Be," wrote: "No publisher in America improved a paper so quickly on so grand a scale, took a paper that was marginal in qualities and brought it to excellence as Otis Chandler did."

In the 1980s, Chandler turned the paper and its parent company, Times Mirror, over to people outside his family, a decision he would regret. The New York Times wrote in Chandler's obituary: "In retirement, Mr. Chandler lashed out at the Times's managers during a 1999 scandal that erupted over revelations that they had secretly entered a deal to devote an edition of the newspaper's Sunday magazine to the Staples Center, a new indoor sports stadium in Los Angeles, in exchange for hefty ad revenues. In a public letter to Times employees, Mr. Chandler warned that management's 'unbelievably stupid and unprofessional' behavior risked destroying the newspaper's reputation as one of the giants of American journalism."

Whether this Otis Chandler exists is a mystery that probably won't be cleared up until January, at the earliest. As for the idea of starting a free daily in L.A., given the success of free dailies like amNewYork and Chicago's RedEye, why not?