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American Journalism Review
Bylines  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   September 1994


By Chip Rowe
Chip Rowe, a former AJR associate editor, is an editor at Playboy.     

Cartoon Controversy

Mike Montgomery leaves the 36,000-circulation Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, apparently after a management dispute that the publisher denies knowing anything about. Montgomery, who had been editor of the Journal Register Co.-owned daily since 1989, says Publisher Donald Miller told him on July 20 that he had decided to accept Montgomery's resignation – although the editor insists he never offered it. "He said he had his reasons, that we both knew what they were, and that there was no sense discussing them," says Montgomery, who noted that the exchange occurred just hours after a local bank president had complained to Miller about an editorial cartoon in that morning's paper. The cartoon, drawn by a freelancer, depicted a glum man expressing concern that a recent merger by the bank would turn it into "a huge, impersonal corporation." Miller, who later apologized to the bank on the op-ed page, insists the cartoon had nothing to do with Montgomery's departure. Instead, he says his former employee indicated he wanted to teach and travel. "He bought this motorcycle and grew a beard," the publisher says, "and I thought he was going to roar into the sunset." Says Montgomery, "That's a hoot. He had a rotten day and took it out on me."

From Tab to Tab

Mort Zuckerman , owner of the New York Daily News , turns to the supermarket press for his latest hire: Wendy Henry , who also was the first woman to edit a British national daily. She'll oversee the Daily News' Sunday entertainment section, "City Lights." Henry, a former managing editor of television's "A Current Affair," was more recently editor of the Globe , a Florida-based tabloid. She has also edited Rupert Murdoch 's News of the World and the late R obert Maxwell 's The People , where she lost her job after printing a photo of young Prince William urinating in a park.

An Anchor Says 'Enough'

Mort Crim , the Detroit TV anchor who prepared an offbeat "Tabloid Tales" segment each Friday for WDIV , drops the feature because of concerns that "sensational journalism has become the norm." He told viewers he will now use the time "to show human nature in a better light."

Starting at the Top

WKYT-TV in Lexington, Kentucky, names Holly Powell to produce its morning news broadcast. The kicker? She's 20. A May graduate of the University of Kentucky who still lives near campus, Powell landed the job after the station found itself shorthanded. She had been working as a part time producer for the 11 p.m. newscast. "I had no idea how TV worked. No idea," Powell told the Lexington Herald-Leader . "When Richard Nixon died, [the news director] said he wanted a M.O.S. [man on the street]. I didn't want to say that I didn't know what that meant." Says Vice President for News Jim Ogle , "I was skeptical at first, but her strengths overcame her lack of life experience."

Let's Go to the Tape

Bob Marshall , a reporter and weekend anchor for KCPM-TV in Chico, California, loses his job after dropping his pants in an amorous late-night encounter in the station's news studio. Marshall says his memory of the incident is hazy because of an alcohol-induced blackout but that he apparently exposed himself while making a joke about "how to get out of broadcast journalism." The technique works, apparently. A videotape of the incident, which included a segment in which a female companion fondled Marshall, landed on News Director Betty Anderson 's desk; Marshall told AJR he has entered an alcoholism treatment program and plans to attend law school this fall. Two other staffers who were in the studio – a director and an audio technician – also lose their jobs for allowing Marshall to use the equipment after hours.

Monterey County Line

The Monterey County Herald in California names Walter Dawson as managing editor and his wife, Roslyn White , as features editor. Both leave Memphis' Commercial Appeal : He succeeds Lewis Leader , who resigned in May; she replaces Warren Sharpe , who was fired two months ago. Dawson says he already misses some things about the South. The food, for instance. "Out here, barbeque is anything cooked outside on a grill," he says. "They're a little more specific in Memphis." Since being purchased by Scripps Howard last year (it had been owned by the Block family), the Herald has lost a trio of top editors. "I probably could have hung on, but I saw what they did to Lew. He was disenfranchised," says Sharpe. "When [President and Editor] Susan Miller took over, most of the fun went out of it. She once told me I was never to use a pun in a headline, and it went downhill from there." Adds former Editor Reg Henry, now special projects editor at the Block-owned Pittsburgh Post-Gazette : "The loss of Lewis was really a blow to the paper. They don't have anybody at the senior level now who knows the community." Miller said she could not discuss personnel matters, and Leader, who had been at the paper for 18 years, had little to say beyond the fact that he has no immediate plans.

Inside Newspapers

Pete Hamill joins New York Newsday as a columnist. Before recounting his lengthy writing career, which has included seven novels and stints at the New York Post and New York Daily News , a release from Newsday listed all the "prominent columnists who once wrote for the Daily News and now write for Newsday." Touché... The Christian Science Church decides that one head is better than two, giving Monitor Radio chief David Cook additional duties as editor of the Christian Science Monitor . He succeeds Richard Cattani , who remains as editor at large. The church insists that the change "is not an effort to trim the budget.".. The Los Angeles Times sends reporter Dean Murphy to Warsaw. "It's a luxury here because there's not a whole lot of breaking news," he says. "The challenge is to find news that says more than the obvious."

Inside Magazines

National Geographic launches its first-ever foreign language edition, in Japan... Peter Overby , formerly a senior editor of Common Cause , joins National Public Radio as a political correspondent... Debra Durocher , a former AJR editorial assistant, joins the New Republic as copy editor. She succeeds Suzan Revah z another former AJR editorial assistant, who moves up to assistant production director. Meanwhile, AJR contributor Leslie Kaufman leaves the Washgton, D.C.-based Government Executive for New York :o cover the intersection of government and business for ewsweek .

Erosion of Advertisers

Earlier this year, Porter Anderson left Dallas, where he had worked both for the now-defunct Times Herald and the weekly Observer , to become managing editor of the 2,000-circulation Islander in Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Within a few months, angry readers had dumped five of the weekly's sales boxes outside the paper's offices with a note: "We don't appreciate your constant negative attitude." Anderson's sin? He had highlighted Edisto Beach's most vexing problem – beach erosion – with a giant postcard on the front page and the message: "Wish you were here! Send sand!" After the issue appeared, the Islander lost 52 percent of its advertising, and it continues to struggle. The offending graphic, says one store owner, was "like hollering 'Shark in the water!' The business people didn't like that." Anderson's response has been to continue his reporting. "It seems like all we write about now," he says, "is erosion." (Reported by Ron Chepesiuk)

Defending the Alamodome

Dan Lauck , an investigative reporter at KMOL-TV in San Antonio, loses his job after refusing to read a correction demanded by an engineering firm that felt slighted by his reporting. Lauck, who had paraphrased assertions by a state official about the firm's liability for problems with the Alamodome, says he was willing to admit his mistake. But he says the correction he was asked to read (composed in part by the engineers' public relations firm) "left the clear impression that I knew the story was wrong all along." General Manager Bob Donohue says that even after being allowed to add a sentence to the two-minute script saying he had not meant to mislead viewers, Lauck refused to go on camera. He now reports for Houston's KHOU-TV ... In Chicago, WBBM-TV "News Extra" Executive Producer Justine Schmidt resigns after station officials allege she sent college interns to search for clues near the airport hotel where O.J. Simpson stayed the night his ex-wife and her friend were killed. According to news reports, the action violated a station policy that interns should only observe newsgathering... Cheryl Kunin Fair , executive producer of WPVI-TV in Philadelphia and a 20-year veteran of the station, takes over as news director at KABC-TV in Los Angeles. On her first day on the job, O.J. went for a spin in his Bronco. "Talk about baptism by fire," Fair says. No doubt there are more challenges ahead: Los Angeles is one of the most competitive broadcast news towns in the country, with seven stations vying for scoops.

Television News

NBC folds its Wednesday newsmagazine "Now" into a third night of "Dateline," beginning this month.... Well-traveled editor Jim Bellows (see our June 1992 issue) joins "The Crusaders," the Disney Co.'s syndicated newsmagazine, as a story consultant. He leaves TV Guide , where he had been West Coast editor. At the same time, the weekly program loses Managing Editor Pat Casey , who takes the same title at KCBS in Los Angeles... Emily Rooney , ousted last spring as executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight," joins the upcoming Fox newsmagazine, "On Assignment," as senior producer.... Linda Ellman leaves "Hard Copy," where she had been co-executive producer. Linda Bell Blue remains, now producing solo (see Free Press, May).... Investigative reporter Brian Ross takes leave of NBC after 18 years to join rival ABC , saying he needed a change and, at age 45, was still young enough to make it.

Death Valley Daze

Valerie Touchstone loses her job at Nevada's Death Valley Gateway Gazette , claiming she stumbled across a story that angered one of the 5,000-circulation weekly's owners. Her editor, however, says Touchstone had simply worn out her welcome and displayed serious "personality conflicts" with the staff. The trouble began after Touchstone, 39, says she was told by a police source that Gateway Gazette co-owner and columnist Joe Richards had discreetly provided funds to the campaign of Sheriff Wade Lieseke ; although unsubstantiated to this day, Touchstone says the charge would have been news because Richards owns a brothel (legal in some Nevada counties) and the connection might not sit well with voters. Editor Bill Guthry vehemently denies that Touchstone's reporting had anything to do with her dismissal; rather, he says the reporter was fast becoming "a detriment" to the paper's image around town. Richards, he adds, has no influence over newsroom personnel decisions, just as Guthry says he "doesn't tell [the brothel owner] what girls to bring in."



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