AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   July/August 1993


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

Working Gratis

A few months after Martinsburg, West Virginia's Fox station, WYVN-TV , filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall, paychecks for the station's employees – including its 15-member news staff – began to be delayed or reduced. By April they had stopped coming altogether. Buoyed by talk of potential buyers, the staff worked without pay until May 20. Former News Director Jeff Hertrick says most of the staff wanted to keep working beyond that, but that "people were getting eviction notices and cut-off notices for their electricity." Two staffers have found other work: Weekend anchor and producer Jean Mackin joins Huntington, West Virginia's WOWK and Sports Director Kevin Nathan leaves for WUTR in Utica, New York.

Osgood Commercials

Some radio listeners have noted that longtime CBS News correspondent Charles Osgood has started plugging various products in on-air radio commercials, including exercise equipment, printing services and a brand of cereal. Osgood explains that since renegotiating his contract last year, he's no longer a newsman – just a commentator. Now 60, he says he hopes breaking out of news will extend his career. "In radio, the models for [longevity] are Larry King and Paul Harvey , and you have to do the commercials." Asked if he sees a conflict in using the credibility he developed as a newsman to hawk products, he says, "I'm certainly going to apply the same standards of accuracy [to his plugs]... My father was a salesman, and I don't happen to think there's anything compromising in that."

Reporters Reassigned

The two Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reporters assigned to work as printing plant security guards after complaining of severe repetitive stress injuries (see Bylines, June) move again – back to the office. A newsroom source says Berta Delgado now writes two hours a day, then reports to the composing room to proofread; Sallie James is back in the newsroom full time but restricted to three hours of typing a day.

Washington Cutback

Fox News drastically cuts back the staff of its Washington news service, axing 24 full time positions and 20 freelancers. That leaves five staffers to put together a daily hour-long feed for Fox affiliates and its seven owned-and-operated stations. Fox News Vice President Piers Akerman says the cuts were simply a "redistribution of resources" as Fox adds a total of 40 hours of local news at its stations in New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

A Bigger Journal in Texas

The Wall Street Journal launches a weekly section in its papers distributed in Texas beginning September 8 that focuses on the state's businesses and politics. Michael Allen , formerly deputy bureau chief in Dallas and now editor of the section, "Texas Journal," has hired four reporters to staff the four-page Wednesday supplement. "The one thing readers say consistently is that they want more local news," says Allen, who notes the Journal is using Texas as a test case for other possible regional sections. Each of the reporters hired by Allen leaves other papers: Jeff Opdyke from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Tara Parker-Pope from the Houston Chronicle will report from Dallas; Laura Johannes from Connecticut's New Haven Register will write from Houston; and Michael Totty from the Austin American-Statesman stays in that city.

Green Parke

The Society of Environmental Journalists, founded three years ago and now with 800 members, names Beth Parke as its first executive director. A 15-year radio veteran, she most recently worked as senior producer and host of the syndicated radio series, "Consider the Alternatives."

Sex Discrimination Suits

In separate actions, two journalists file sex discrimination suits against their newspapers. Tamar Stieber of the Albuquerque Journal , whose science reporting won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 and brought her a promotion to special projects reporter, charges that she was given so many daily assignments her promotion was "nearly meaningless." Also, the suit charges, Stieber still makes less than her male counterparts. Journal Editor Gerald Crawford says the newspaper "has a different view of the facts than she does, and we feel that she's been fairly treated."... In Nevada, former Managing Editor Mary Hausch of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has sued that newspaper and its parent, Donrey Media Group, for $11 million. Hausch, now teaching at the University of Nevada, says she wasn't even interviewed for the editor's position when it became available in 1988, despite the fact that she had been the newsroom's No. 2 editor for a decade. After she filed formal complaints, she was fired. David Olive , a Donrey attorney, says the paper "had lost complete faith and trust in her ability and that's exactly what she was told at the time" she was dismissed.

Storm Over Oklahoma City

What helicopter footage of cops-and-robbers car chases are to Los Angeles television news, bad weather is to Oklahoma City's. Thus Tornado Alley stations regularly hire freelance video hounds to chase down storms for the evening news. Last month, Jeff
Piotrowski , 33, a veteran "chaser" reporting live for NBC affiliate KFOR , described a tornado causing several homes to "explode" in the town of Ryan. After a KFOR crew couldn't locate extensive damage, he was dismissed. Piotrowski, a homebuilder, says he unintentionally exaggerated, but only because he was fatigued. KFOR News Director Melissa Klinzing says Piotrowski is still chasing, but the station has taken back his equipment and monthly per diem and will no longer give him a live feed. "He's talented, but he exaggerates," she says. "That's a danger of storm chasing. You get very excited."

Around Newspapers

Editor Linda Rogers leaves World Press Review to become an assistant foreign editor at the Los Angeles Times . Rogers joined the magazine in 1979 and eventually rose to the top spot. She notes that during her tenure, the foreign press "changed in much the way the American press changed. Stories are shorter and there's much more celebrity journalism.".. Peter Thompson , managing editor of the Oregonian in Portland, retires at age 62. That gives the paper's new executive editor, Sandra Mims Rowe , a chance to fill the position... John Schwartz , who covered technology and business for Newsweek , joins the Washington Post as a science reporter. He succeeds Malcolm Gladwell , now reporting from New York... Rich Oppel , longtime editor of Knight-Ridder's Charlotte Observer , takes over as chief of the company's Washington bureau on August 1. He succeeds Clark Hoyt , who moves to headquarters in Miami as vice president of news. Jennie Buckner , meanwhile, leaves that position to replace Oppel at the Observer.... Editor James Glassman leaves the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call to write a column on business and the economy for the Washington Post. Stacy Mason , the paper's executive editor, succeeds him... .D.S. Greenway , senior associate editor at the Boston Globe , takes over as editorial page editor. He succeeds Loretta McLaughlin , who retires... Robert Wills , vice chairman of Journal/Sentinel Inc. in Milwaukee and publisher of the Journal , retires at age 67. During his 42-year career, Wills was a reporter at the Journal, then city editor and editor at the Sentinel ... The New York Times names Susanna Rodell , formerly at the Hartford Courant , as assistant editor of the editorial page. She succeeds David C. Anderson , who leaves to write a book.

Philadelphia Update

The Pennsylvania Special Olympics accepts half of the $100,000 it was promised last year after a charity golf tournament sponsored in part by Philadelphia Newspapers, parent company of the Inquirer and Daily News (see Bylines, April). Controversy arose after the event finished in the red yet concluded with its two major organizers – former baseball star Mike Schmidt and Inky/Daily News Publisher Robert Hall – posing for publicity shots with a $100,000 check. Tournament officials promised to provide the second $50,000 by July 1. Some Inky reporters, meanwhile, are wondering if the newspaper shouldn't have its own fundraiser for buildings and grounds: Philadelphia magazine reports that part of a leaking newsroom ceiling collapsed on Pulitzer Prize winner David Zucchino while he was working on a story at his desk, and that a mouse fell from a damaged ceiling panel onto the keyboard of a copy editor. The incidents prompted a petition signed by about 75 staffers asking, "Will it take a walkout to get the company's attention?"

Reporter Moved
Because of Pressure?

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi reassigns environmental reporter Sharon Stallworth to general assignment, prompting accusations from green groups that the daily caved to pressure from the governor, who disliked her critical coverage. In a meeting with Clarion-Ledger editors, several environmental leaders accused the paper of bowing to pressure after Gov. Kirk Fordice 's office wrote Publisher Duane McCallister accusing Stallworth of writing "attack pieces" and being "unprofessional" and "unethical." Assistant Managing Editor Dewey English says the letter had nothing to do with the shift. "Everyone's taking target practice at us," he says. When asked what had prompted the reassignment, English said personnel decisions are confidential. Stallworth, 32, says she's convinced she was moved because of pressure and notes that she hasn't found much controversy to cover on general assignment.

Around Magazines

Jeff Jarvis , the former People movie critic and founding managing editor of Entertainment Weekly who is now chief critic for TV Guide , adds duties as executive editor of the new quarterly TV Guide spin-off, Parents' Guide to Children's Entertainment ... Suzan Revah , formerly an AJR news aide, joins the New Republic as copy editor... The American Spectator hires reporter Daniel Wattenberg and author David Brock ("The Real Anita Hill "), both longtime contributors, as investigative writers. Publisher Ronald Burr says both writers, along with a redesign that reduced the magazine from a tabloid to newsweekly size, helped its circulation skyrocket from 30,000 to 176,000 during the past 18 months.

24-Hour Spanish News

Despite being forced into involuntary bankruptcy in mid-June by a group of creditors because of a $300 million debt, Telemundo Group Inc. announces plans to create the world's largest 24-hour Spanish-language satellite news broadcast. The service, which the New York-based firm hopes to launch next year, would be beamed via satellite from Miami to cable and broadcast stations reaching Latin America, Spain and 25 million Hispanics in the United States. The company is discussing the project with Reuters and the BBC , which would contribute footage and programming.

Revolving Doors

The hiring of former U.S. News & World Report Editor and Reagan and Bush aide David Gergen as counselor to President Clinton was the biggest revolving door move of recent weeks, but not the only one. At the CIA, former CNN correspondent David French joins the media relations department. (He's succeeded at CNN by Jeanne Meserve , a former ABC reporter.) At the Education Department, Kathryn Kahler , formerly a reporter with Newhouse News Service , becomes communications director. And in West Virginia, reporter Jill Wilson leaves the Associated Press to become Gov. Gaston Caperton 's press secretary.

Taxpayer-Supported News

Paul Duke , moderator of the PBS program, "Washington Week in Review," steps down after 20 seasons. He and his wife, Janet, will relocate to England next spring, where he will contribute occasional reports... National Public Radio names Pamela Fessler as its Midwestern editor and Martha Raddatz as defense reporter. Fessler was formerly a writer and editor at Congressional Quarterly ; Raddatz was chief correspondent for WCVB-TV in Boston. Also, NPR's science desk hires reporters Phillip Davis , formerly at CQ, and Chitra Ragavan , who leaves WTTW-TV in Chicago.

Local Television Feeds

Bill Bonds , the respected and outspoken anchor for WXYZ in Detroit, takes indefinite leave. Station officials say Bonds, who recently missed several weeks of work due to illness, asked for some personal time off... KTTV in Los Angeles launches a morning newscast and hires Tony McEwing of KXTV in Sacramento and Diana Koricke of NBC as anchors.