By Suzan Revah
Suzan Revah is a former AJR associate editor.
Power to the People
Having trouble keeping track of all the new news offerings filling the cyber-space bandwidth? Why not start your own? That's what 21 reporters who "met" via SPJ's journalism listserver did recently. The American Reporter, as the new digital daily/electronic news service is called, was born during an online discussion in which participants, mourning the merger of the Milwaukee papers, agreed on the need for a news voice independent of publishers and media conglomerates. Veteran correspondent and investigative reporter turned freelancer Joe Shea , editor in chief of the new Internet presence, says the Reporter "fills a niche for dailies and weeklies that want news of national flavor but can't afford reporters and wire services and want to be part of a national organization without the awful strings." Subscriptions for a feed and a right to buy any of the dozen or so stories that run each day cost $10 per month and $100 for a year. For $125 per week individuals or newspapers can reprint the entire service. Reporters contributing to the service, many of whom work full time at newspapers and magazines across the country, are members of a collective, working for a share of the profits and receiving premiums as papers pick up their stories.
Houston becomes the latest – and largest – single-daily U.S. city as the Houston Post folds after 111 years, citing skyrocketing newsprint prices (see page 52). The last edition of the Singleton-owned Post, printed on April 17, made no mention of the impending demise, and reporters who showed up for work the following morning were caught by surprise when they were given orders to clean out their desks by the end of the day. Some 1,900 full time and part time jobs were lost in the fallout; all Post employees will receive salaries for at least two months. The victorious Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle acquires the Post's building along with its superior production facilities... Newsprint is also the designated culprit in downsizing at the Rocky Mountain News . The 336,071-
circulation Denver paper announces that it is eliminating 30 positions, resulting in 16 management personnel layoffs and 14 demotions or reassignments. Several newsroom positions were scrapped in the shrinkage, including features editor, magazine editor, national editor, state editor and one assistant city editor, but no one in the editorial department was actually laid off. The rival Denver Post reported on the layoffs a day before the News got around to it.
Seattle journalist Scott Rensberger of KIRO-TV , arrested for trespassing while covering local reaction to Microsoft founder Bill Gates ' wedding on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, settles out of court for an undisclosed amount. Rensberger sued Gates because he felt his civil rights were violated when he was detained and fingerprinted for supposedly trespassing on what he describes as "a public road leading to a public park, nowhere near the wedding." Several others were detained while covering the event, which may explain the settlement by Gates and Dole Food Co., which owns the island. Aside from Rensberger's winnings, the settlement included letters of apology from Gates and Dole's CEO, as well as a donation of 40 computers worth $67,000 to Lanai High School by Gates' publicist. "I never even dreamed of crashing the wedding," Rensberger says, "yet I've been referred to as 'paparazzi' across the entire world." The Wall Street Journal , which reported on Rensberger's ordeal, did have some consolation to offer him. "An editor there said it was the first time they had ever heard of Bill Gates apologizing to anyone," says Rensberger.
Politicos and Mags
Murdoch strikes again. Maximum media mogul Rupert Murdoch announces plans for a new conservative weekly, The Standard . Three big hitters, all of whom bat right, will grace the masthead of the new mag: Republican strategist/faxmeister William Kristol will be editor, New Republic Senior Editor and McLaughlin Group regular Fred Barnes will be executive editor and John Podhoretz , New York Post television critic, will be deputy editor. Barnes, who leaves The New Republic after 10 years, says The Standard's mission is to usher in "a new political era, a conservative era." Barnes says the new magazine will not so much reflect this new era, but rather "define, shape, goad and criticize it.".. Vanity Fair also hires a big-name pol, naming former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers to the newly created position of Washington editor. The new post offers something of a turnaround for Myers, who, as a flack for such Democratic campaigns as those of Walter Mondale and former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley , answered the tough questions rather than asked them. Myers will help direct the magazine's political coverage, as well as contribute stories of her own. Myers also is cohost of CNBC 's "Equal Time" with former Bush campaigner Mary Matalin .
Nix on X
Los Angeles Times reporter Dennis Romero and Charlotte Observer arts and entertainment reporter Dean Smith , founders of the X Journalists Association, an informal association of twentysomethings, change the group's name to the Young Journalists Association. Although the group has no specific agenda, it seems changing the trendy name was a priority among the cohorts Romero and Smith polled to find out what they would most like to get out of the organization. A universal theme among the supposed slackers was that many Xers resent being referred to as such. Apparently they think the X title detracts from their quest to "veer away from stereotypes and dig deeper than the generational profile that often appears on features pages," according to Romero.
A Costly Cartoon
The Miami Herald decides it no longer has the stomach for nationally syndicated cartoonist John Callahan following a recent mix-up. It seems a production error at the paper's Sunday magazine, Tropic , resulted in the printing of a Callahan cartoon that the magazine's executive editor, Tom Schroder , had rejected as "spectacularly offensive." The cartoon depicted Martin Luther King Jr. at age 13, pointing to a puddle on his bed. The young King explains to his mother, "I had a dream." Unfortunately for Callahan, the unintended publication of his strip led several executive-level staff members to find themselves in the unenviable position of rushing to retrieve 550,000 copies of the magazine so that they could be reprinted with another cartoon. The ordeal cost the paper $47,000, and ultimately cost Callahan, notorious for his politically incorrect comics, his Miami readership.
On the Infobahn
Eight of the nation's largest newspaper companies combine to create a national network of local online newspaper companies. The new outfit, New Century Network , will be a joint venture between Gannett , Hearst , Knight-Ridder , Times Mirror , Tribune , Cox , Advance Publications (Newhouse) and the Washington Post , media giants boasting a combined total of 185 papers with more than 23 million in circulation. Each company is expecting to put all but its smallest papers online via the network within the next three years... In other cybo-news, Bob Ryan , deputy managing editor of Knight-Ridder's San Jose Mercury News , is named director of Mercury Center , the paper's online news service. Ryan, who joined the Mercury News in 1981, replaces Bill Mitchell , who becomes manager of new media advertising.
George , the soon-to-be-launched political glitz-mag created by John F. Kennedy Jr. , names New York Observer Executive Editor Eric Etheridge as editor. Etheridge, a former Rolling Stone senior features editor, beat out his boss, Observer Editor Peter Kaplan , for the position, as well as New Yorker editor David Kuhn , a consultant to the George development team. The magazine debuts in September... Those merry pranksters at Spy are at it again. The June issue features prominent Republicans responding to questions they thought were from reporters for a mag called Republican Beat: The GOP Magazine for Teens . Some of the questions, such as "Do you think Hillary Clinton is pretty?" and "If Charles Barkley played Jesus one-on-one in basketball, who would win?" should have been a hint... The very un-Spy-like Mortimer Zuckerman , chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report , teams up with Alan Webber and William Taylor , former editors of the Harvard Business Review , to launch a new business magazine aimed at the younger business generation. Its name: Fast Company .... Regardie's , a Washington D.C.-based monthly that focused on business, real estate, politics and the media, folds for the second time in three years.
And who says journalism is a thankless profession? In a tribute to New York magazine founding editor Clay Felker , the University of California at Berkeley announces the inauguration of the Felker Magazine Center. Scheduled to open this fall, the new center will provide resources for budding magazine writers, editors, publishers and design directors, and will be directed by its namesake. Students taking advantage of the center's courses will be required to publish a prototype magazine that will be reviewed by media professionals.
Times Mirror Co. , publisher of the Los Angeles Times , Newsday and Baltimore's Sun , ventures far outside the media world in selecting its new leader. Mark Willes , a high-ranking executive and 15-year veteran of General Mills , becomes president and CEO of the media conglomerate, and will succeed Robert Erburu as chairman upon Erburu's retirement next January 1.... Serving on the board of a major media company isn't always pretty, as Nan Tucker McEvoy , former chairman of the company that publishes the San Francisco Chronicle , can, and will, testify. McEvoy lost her job recently when the company's board passed a new bylaw stating that no one over the age of 72 could serve as a director. McEvoy, 75, began to grow a little suspicious since the new bylaw was passed at a meeting she didn't attend. The fact that the age limit was originally set at 70 but was later amended to 72 upon the realization that another director would also have to be fired led McEvoy to become a little more suspicious that perhaps her liberal Democratic politics, rather than her age, inspired the new bylaw. McEvoy sues the company, owned by 24 of McEvoy's family members, accusing it of age discrimination. McEvoy, who owns 26 percent of Chronicle Publishing 's shares, had been chairman of the board since 1974.
A Prize Couple
New York Newsday 's Stephanie Saul , an editor on the paper's national desk, and husband Walt Bogdanich join the short roster of two-Pulitzer families. Saul and Brian Donovan win the Pulitzer for investigative reporting for a series on police officers receiving disability pay for questionable accidents. While Saul told the Associated Press that Bogdanich's Pulitzer earned him seven housework-free years and that she was ready for hers, she concedes that they actually have a full time housekeeper. She also admits she never thought the disability pay assignment, proposed by Newsday Editor Anthony Marro , would be an award winner. "My experience was instructive because I usually try to brush off the ideas of editors..," she says. "There's a myth that most good ideas come from beat reporters, but in this case that's not what happened."