LA Times Editor Baquet sets the table for his last supper

 —-By Mick Gregory

In what some regard as a highly arrogant move, Dean Baquet, who was named editor of the LA Times last year, was quoted yesterday in his own newspaper — saying he was defying the paper’s corporate owner, the Tribune Company in Chicago and would not make the cuts they requested. 

The paper’s publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, said he agreed with Baquet. “Newspapers can’t cut theirway into the future,” he told his reporter. 

The number of jobs at stake is unclear but the paper,the fourth largest in the country, has eliminated morethan 200 positions over the last five years from aneditorial staff that now numbers about 940. Some experts in the field believe that number is way too bloated.  

“Newsrooms have benefited from all the automation of computers and  software products, yet, they are the most labor-heavy of all media,” said Greg Michael, media analyst.

“I am not averse to making cuts,” Baquet told the paper he manages. “But you can go too far, and I don’t plan to dothat.” 

The LA Times reported that Scott Smith, president ofthe Tribune Publishing division, had asked the paper’sexecutives to come up with a plan for trimming theirbudgets, but when Mr. Smith visited
Los Angeles late
last month, they had produced no such plan. 
Baquet “made his opposition to further cuts clearand said there was no need for further discussion,” the LA Times reported.  Smith said in a statement: “In this rapidlychanging media environment, we are all workingtogether to best serve our communities, customers andshareholders.” The decision by The to take its battle against Tribunepublic may signal that Baquet is trying to rally support on the paper’s behalf, to affect a sale to local investors. Local businessmen have expressed interest in buying the paper.

Sure, Hollywood, movie stars… Life is good as an editor or publisher of the LA Times. But life is not as glamorous for stockholders in Park Ridge, Barrington and Hoffman Estates who are paying their big salaries in tinsel town.  

But at what price? Investors know not to try and grab a falling knife — Greg Michael  

The stock prices of most newspaper companies has been falling for about two years, yet many of their publications remain profitable. The Los Angeles Times reported that its operating profit margin was 20 percent, higher than that of most oil companies.   Many papers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer — have announced buyouts and job cuts over the last year. Newspaper costs, predominantly for newsprint and personnel, areoutstripping revenues and the Internet is siphoningoff readers and advertisers. The Belo Corporation announced yesterday that 111 newsroom employees at their flagship, The Dallas Morning News hadtaken buyout offers, leaving 450 editorial employees to retrench and focus mainly on local news. The dust has not yet settled on Dealey Plaza. “I expect further cuts in staff due to attrition and the heavy hand of management,” said Greg Michael of sadbastards.wordpress.com.  

Last month, David Black, whose Black Press is the new owner of The Akron Beacon Journal, laid off 40 editorialemployees, about 25 percent of the newsroom staff.

The cuts in other departments are rarely reported. Circulation help-desks are being off-shored to India. In a few years, why not some of the newsrooms?  

At The Los Angeles Times, circulation has been falling from its peak of 1.2 million in 1990. For the six months that ended in March, it was 851,500, down 5.4 percent from the period a year ago. It was the biggest drop among the top 10 dailies and more than twice theindustry average. 

The Tribune has been in particular turmoil because of aconflict in recent months with the Chandler family,its largest shareholder.  The
Chandlers have said
the company, in which The Los Angeles Times is the biggest business, is mismanaged and have called for the company to sell its assets.

“This is ironic, because it was the Chandlers who profited from the  inflated sale of Times-Mirror to the Tribune stockholders, and a major slice of their pie is Tribune stock which has fallen as the market found that stockholders paid too much, several billion dollars too much for the antiquated media giant,” Michael said.  

The Tribune board has defended management and has beenin talks with the Chandlers to try to iron out their differences. The company earlier this year bought back $2 billion worth of company stock in an attempt to prop up the stock price. They also have to make $200 million in cost cuts company-wide overthe next two years. The statements in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times seemed to be a declaration that Tribune would not find much of those savings in Los Angeles — or it could lose its top executives. 

Note to executives, get your resumes up to date.

“Tribune isn’t shy or sentimental,” said Martin Kaplan, associate dean of the Annenberg School forCommunication at the University of Southern California. “My guess is that they don’t want to be backed into a corner.” 

My guess is that the LA Times newsroom can function well at 500. And that Baquet will be getting his walking papers in the next couple of weeks.  

As expected, Dean Baquet was forced to resign as editor of the Los Angeles Times at the request of the publisher after he refused to agree to further cuts of his editorial staff.

Baquet’s departure was to be announced Thursday but word leaked out this afternoon and the 50-year-old editor confirmed to his staff that he would be leaving the paper Friday.

Baquet will be replaced by James O’Shea, who is now managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and a long-time employee of the Tribune company.

O’Shea starts the job Monday.

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Desperate Clinton White House–Why?

—-By Mick Gregory

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz deserves credit for at least bringing up the manipulation today by the  party, but he did not tell the powerful story of “Sandy” Berger’s destruction of evidence and the fact that Clinton was more interested in his image and sexual appitite than Osama bin Laden. Top officials of the administration have launched a preemptive strike against an ABC-TV docudrama, slated to air Sunday and Monday, that they say includes made-up scenes depicting them as undermining attempts to kill Osama bin Laden.  

Too bad Clinton didn’t launch a real preemtive strike against Osama, one has to ask

Former national security adviser Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger said the film “flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions.”

Mr. Kurtz, did you forget about the documents Sandy Berger admitted he destroyed regarding and terror plots?

It’s breathtaking, that the Democrats are so used to getting the white glove treatment by the mainstream media, that when some truth is shed on the sloppy Clinton administration, they think they can confuse the public and even prevent a major network from broadcasting details. Update — the Clinton administration did pressure ABC to change wording and some other demands. We will know more by the weekend.

Web 2.0 and will now connect the dots. The truth will come out in blogs in the coming weeks. Don’t miss the docudrama on ABC this Sunday and Monday.

Berger said in an interview that ABC is “certainly trying to create the impression that this is realistic, but it’s a fabrication.” Why did you destroy several documents on this subject matter, Mr. Burger? ABC will get a big audience from this, unknowing football fans looking for “Monday Night Football,” may actually stick around and learn something. Scores of them will be blogging later and help capture the truth for today and history.  

One year ago — “The Sept. 11 commission (search) did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell,” said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from
Indiana. “Had we learned of it obviously it would’ve been a major focus of our investigation.”
 

Check out Dr. Sanity for a top Web site that has been following the Berger/Clinton  cover-up. http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2005/08/motive-for-bergers-bizarre-behavior.html
On Friday evening, Bill Clinton’s lawyers sent a new letter to ABC chief Bob Iger demanding that ABC yank “The Path to 9/11.” We’ve obtained a copy of the letter, and it reads in part: “As a nation, we need to be focused on preventing another attack, not fictionalizing the last one for television ratings. `The Path to 9/11′ not only tarnishes the work of the 9/11 Commission, but also cheapens the fith anniversary of what was a very painful moment in history for all Americans. We expect that you will make the responsible decision to not air this film.”

Black Tuesday at Ohio Newspaper

 —-Mick Gregory

More tales of fallen journalists, not long ago, known as a ‘holy’ profession by many; today it is the place for rich kids and losers. Earlier this month, Dave Wilson, who worked for a total of 18 years, 10 as a reporter and editor for the Akron Beacon Journal,went to a party.  He was on his way to a wake of sorts.  A fairly common practice in this rust belt area, where funeral parlors out number Starbucks.

He snatched up the mug and headed to a co-worker’s house, where Beacon employees were mourning the end of an era. Knight Ridder, once one of America’s largest newspaper chains, with papers from Philadelphia to San Jose, was officially dead. “Anyone got a golf club?”Wilson asked when he arrived. Someone slipped him a Big Buddie-sized driver. He placed the mug on a tee, then smashed  it into a cloud of ceramic chunks.

“It was like saying adios to that whole scenario,” he said. Once upon a time that stupid little cup had meant something special — something that fought to better people’s lives, earned Pulitzers for doing so, and allowed Wilson to be a proud provider. Now, on this crappy August day, it stood for something ugly — something full of defeat, anxiety, and loss. Knight Ridder had spent the past four years trying to appease the bottom line with layoffs and cutbacks that shrank the Beacon to the size ofOhio
State’s student newspaper. Then it sold the paper off like a rusted junk Ford. But not even the new owner, McClatchy, wanted anything to do with it. The company spit it back onto the auction block just days later. McClatchy quickly sold the Beacon to Black Press for $165 million. The Canadian company’s owner, David Black, assured the staff that he cared about “journalism,” and wasn’t going to lay anyone off. Some breathed a sigh of relief. Others were more realistic, they knew that even Knight Ridder had trouble making a profit at a rust belt property with no growth. “We knew more layoffs were coming,” Wilson says. A few weeks later, Black must have had a good look at the real numbers and said, “What the frick did I get for 1.6 million bucks!” On Tuesday, Black laid off 40 of the newsroom staff.  As the layoffs were announced, people ran to bathrooms, crying. Others fled to a downtown bar to numb the news. Ridder’s reign of terror hadn’t really ended, it seemed. “I was a little bit taken by surprise,”
Wilson said. “I thought there were others who were more expensive. I pretty much spent the whole next day seething with anger.”
Over rounds of MGD and whiskey, staffers pondered what led to the latest bloodletting. Just as Black bought the paper, it was losing its biggest advertiser, Kaufmann’s. The department store was being purchased by Macy’s, with a top-rate marketing team, they wouldn’t be wasting their advertising budget on a token schedule in a suburb of Cleveland. The Plain Dealer won’t be getting much print from Macy’s either, the giant retailer is now a national chain and will leverage that with national TV buys. It was a financial blow the Beacon did little to prepare for. It simply raised ad rates and ignored the rest. “People were just hoping it was gonna fix itself,” Wilson said.

“Newspapers have often succeeded in spite of themselves. That’s no longer the case.” Adds columnist David Giffels, who is now dealing with survivor guilt, having withstood the purge: “Daily newspapers are big old traditional companies that are slow to adapt . . . There hasn’t been that sort of fire to adapt in an aggressive way. And until they start, those numbers are never going to turn around.” But Knight Ridder was the epitome of an old, lethargic company. “It became so bureaucratic,”
Wilson says. “There were too many committees, and committees always make bad choices.”

I saw the offices of the San Jose Mercury News about four years ago. I’d guess that 60 percent of the desks were empty, a couple were even truned over. I asked a secretary if there were layoffs recently, she nodded and said she was a temp. I stayed for the job interview, but I knew it was not the profitable, thriving flagship that Knight Ridder portrayed. The newspapers don’t air their own dirty laundry. They are not in the  business of  broadcasting their own demise. In fact, these quotes from Black Tuesday don’t come from the little Ohio paper. They are from a free paper in Cleveland. The new media model is pointing to free weeklies with Web 2.0 blogs. Google the Cleveland Scene for the story you won’t read in the  mainstream media.

The death of newspapers is not greatly exaggerated

It’s not just the large metro papers in the US that are drying up, watch the small local papers fall  even faster, because their advertising budget is often a tertiary add-on buy, and the first to  be cut by the Macy’s,  Home Depots and new home builders. And the papers large and small all over the world are entering the ICU stages of their long lives. Just this week (so far) The masthead of the Oakland Press is a little lighter following the summary dismissal of three top editors on Monday. Editor Neil Munro, Managing Editor Susan Belniak Hood and Dolly Moiseeff, assistant managing editor for features and entertainment, were told their jobs were being eliminated with no warning, according to two of those who were fired.“I was encouraged to leave the building right away,” said Munro, who was the paper’s main editorial writer. “Turn in my door card and leave the building.”The dismissals come only weeks after the paper’s owner, the Journal Register Co. of Yardley, Pa., announced that July ad sales for its 91
Michigan papers dropped more than 12 percent from the same time last year. Those losses severely lowered overall revenue for the company: Without the Michigan losses, the decline would have been only 2.2 percent, the company said.
On Monday, Journal Register announced plans to sell its cluster of five
New England daily papers and a group of weeklies.

London’s Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Independent editor Simon Kelner were on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Friday morning responding to another of those “newspapers are dead” pieces — this time the cover of The Economist.
Rusbridger said that not all newspapers will survive; he listed the combined pressures of declining circulation and ad revenue – both of which are shifting to the Web; disaggregation of advertising from editorial; fragmentation of audiences; and competition from free sheets – all at a time when newspapers will have to invest large amounts of payroll and IT into the  online Web 2.0 world.

Did you read this news item in The New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle?

By Greg Michael —  Now we find on the blogs that , the 41-year-old schoolteacher who admitted to the media when he was picked up in Thailand last week that he was with   when she died on Christmas Day in 1996. He was actually arrested in Northern California five years ago after telling an acquaintance that he broke into the Ramsey’s house the night of the slaying. A Northern California woman exchanged e-mails and recorded phone conversations with John Mark Karr in which he talked about JonBenet Ramsey’s 1996 slaying and the 1993 murder of Polly Klaas. Wendy Hutchens told police about her 2001 conversations with Karr weeks before the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office arrested him on five misdemeanor child pornography charges. At the same time she told The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa (a New York Times subsidiary). The paper is now reporting details in its online edition.

She says Karr told her that he met JonBenet at her family’s Christmas party, then sneaked back into the house that night through a basement storm window. So why did that shocking news stay hidden for five years?
 

Mrs. Hutchens said she alerted the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department (the same unit involved in investigating the Polly Klaas rape and murder) and recorded her conversations with Karr as evidence. The sheriff’s deputies later searched Karr’s Petaluma home and found enough evidence to charge Karr with five counts of child-pornography possession. He served six months in jail before leaving the United States.

It takes citizen journalists like Wendy Hutchens with the ethics to report what the New York Times never bothered to report or worse, covered up. A tip of the hat to the DrudgeReport for pointing to this information.

Whispered tales of Gore

 By Mick Gregory—

The media tends to go for the hipster, cool, dumbed-down route to please their audience. In the U.S. the press gives a pass to Democrats while attacking Bush and the UK’s . In fact, don’t you see a bit of a let down by the media in that the Islamic terrrorists bomb plot was stopped by Scotland Yard and U.S. Homeland Security?

Now let’s look at one of their favorite sons, and his new gig, fighting global warming.

My other vehicle is a jet. My other home is a former handed down to me. My trust fund is Occidental Oil gifted to me.

Mr. Gore, a drop out from divinity school has been propped up by the media, especially the New York Times, as being far more intellectual than George W. Bush, who had much better grades than Al Gore and earned an MBA in Business/Economics from Harvard. Now let’s get down to more media coverups.

Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline, drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore’s example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a “carbon-neutral lifestyle.” But if Al Gore is the world’s role model for ecology, the planet is doomed.

For someone who says the sky is falling, he does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film. (In reality, Paramount Classics, the film’s distributor, pays this.)

Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

According to public records, there is no indication that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences.

Peter Schweizer, author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy has outlined some of Gore’s lies.

When contacted last week, Gore’s office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths. Gore is not alone. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has said, “Global warming is happening, and it threatens our very existence.” The DNC website applauds the fact that Gore has “tried to move people to act.” Yet, Gore’s persuasive powers have failed to convince his own party: The DNC has not signed up to pay an additional two pennies a kilowatt hour to go Green. For that matter, neither has the Republican National Committee. Maybe our very existence isn’t threatened.

Gore has held these apocalyptic views about the environment for some time. So why, then, didn’t Gore dump his family’s large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum? As executor of his family’s trust, over the years Gore has controlled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oxy stock. Oxy has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas. Living carbon-neutral apparently doesn’t mean living oil-stock free. Nor does it necessarily mean giving up a mining royalty either.

A mine is a terrible thing to waste!

Humanity might be “sitting on a ticking time bomb,” but Gore’s home in Carthage is sitting on a zinc mine. Gore receives $20,000 a year in royalties from Pasminco Zinc, which operates a zinc concession on his property. Tennessee has cited the company for adding large quantities of barium, iron and zinc to the nearbyCaney Fork River. If Gore genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn’t he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives; ride bicycles to work; wear sweaters and turn down the thermostat… If you must buy gas, buy it from a communist dictator. Am I joking? No. Progressive,  Green and groups are encouraging U.S. consumers to ‘BUYcott’ Citgo, in order to (as they put it) help fuel a democratic revolution in Venezuela. This campaign for pro-Chavez, Citgo is acutally promoted on the New York Times’ About.com.

Bad Morning for Dallas Morning News Staff

The Dallas Morning News said today that it is cutting about 17 perecent of the editorial staff, in preparation for a major restructuring. The paper currently counts 500 employees in editorial, including interactive.

This phase of offering voluntary buyout packages to all employees, is the “nice” time when the most loyal, productive staff, those about 45 and older, are offered “buyouts” of about 2 weeks per year of service. However, if not enough people take the “package,” Morning News editor-centric managers will resort to laying off staffers to reach the 17 percent mark.

“Our goal is to really synchronize our staff size with the economic realities of the time,” Mong noted, “and to continue to be the leading news and information source” in the area.

A “significant reorganization” of the newsroom will be announced in November, he added.

The Dallas Morning News is a little late to the idea, following the lead of many other metro papers across the country, which have been struggling for circulation and advertising revenue, even though they virtually all have enjoyed monopolies for decades.

Bear Stearns analyst Alexia Quadrani wrote she expects many newspapers to swing the axe because of weak advertising revenue forecasted for the remainder of the year. The research firm estimates that from the beginning of the year through June, the industry shed about 950 jobs, double for the same period a year ago. Where can the staff go? The owners bought their  only competitor, the Dallas Times Herald for millions to shut it down and put in a parking lot.

So the family-controlled Belo corporation killed off the Times Mirror competition. Decades later, even a monopoly in a major Sunbelt city can’t make a profit.