Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Road Ahead.

Hey Gang,

This started out as a reminder about our Wednesday writers' group-- so yeah, don't forget, if you're around Woodland Hills and want to talk stories at noon tomorrow, drop by the Zebra Lounge-- but evolved into something more important. It's something that's been bugging me for awhile, but like everyone else, I have precious few spare moments to actually address it. That will have to change.

I was having a chat with Richard Perkins back in Sports the other day and he made an excellent point: we're pretty good at responding to reporters' concerns and have a good feel for what's going on in Metro and Business. No surprise there-- that's where the bulk of our membership is. But while that's a good start, as Rich noted, we've still got to be far more inclusive. This isn't just a union thing, either-- this is something that concerns all of us, whether we're paginators, photographers or copy editors.

While we've gotten much better about spreading out into the bureaus and other sections, we're still a very reporter-centric and Woodland Hills-focused group. That's only part of what it's going to take for us to build this union and, more importantly, to make this paper better. We've got to find ways to bring in the layout folks, the copy desk, the features people, the photographers. We may not be able to get everyone on board, but the more ideas and heads we have working together, the better we'll all be.

So we'll keep having our writers' discussions, but as Mr. Perkins pointed out, we've gotta bring designers and photographers into 'em, so we can discuss the total package. Copy editors, clerks, managers, anybody-- the best ideas always seem to come from someone who's a step removed from whatever you're working on.

It's been encouraging in recent months when we've held non-union-related meetings, such as Rachel's diversity workshop or the Behind the Scenes/My Story discussion that Evan and I put on (and I swear I'll get my notes together on that to hand out to all of you who wanted to know more), there's been turnout from other sections beyond just Metro and Business-- we've got to keep reaching out to the people who haven't made that step and bring them along.

I know I get up on my union soapbox a lot, but indulge me for a moment-- this is something where our membership can really help each other out. Through our organizing and newsroom surveys, I've gotten to know people who I'd probably have never interacted with much beyond passing them on the way to the Coke machine. That contact creates friendships, a professional bond and, most importantly, a relationship that helps strengthen the paper.

Knowing that we're all pushing toward the same objective not only gives us a reason to show up every day, but a sense that we can work through it together. I know I may come across as a little pollyanna-ish here, but as I've seen time and again, when we work as a team instead of as a bunch of individuals thrown together, we get better stories, better pictures, better layouts and, ultimately, a better paper and a better workplace.

How do we do we harness what we've got? First, we've got to keep bringing new people into the union. I've gotten lazy about this in recent months and take full responsibility for any lapses, post-contract, but I'm gonna need your help to get back on track. Secondly, we've got to remind people of the reason we exist: to make their job better. We can do that by showing them that we're not just there to go to happy hour and get the phones fixed, but by that we care about the total package.

And to do that, there's going to be more hard work ahead. I know everyone's giving just about all they can to their jobs and all the other stresses of life, but you've reached back for that extra reserve and come through so many times in the past, I know you can do it again. We're going to have to.

Ok, ok, that's enough editorializing for one night, at least on this one subject. I'll quiet down for a bit and let you return to your regularly scheduled lives, but let me close with this thought: The Daily News could be a fantastic place to work. The hours are lousy, the carpet's ugly, the pay needs to be better, but we've got just about the best job in the world. It's got the potential to get better _ and believe me, I know there are plenty of places that need to get fixed soon _ so let's seize that potential and make it into the place we want it to be.

Thanks for listening, as always,

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Writers' Group Rescheduled!

Hey Folks,

Due to a scheduling conflict for the Daily News' Zebra Lounge, we had to move the writers' group originally scheduled for Thursday to Wednesday, Feb. 1 at noon. It'll be a brown bag lunch, where we'll discuss how we want to work it going forward-- everyone, regardless of your job, is welcome. Hope to see you there.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Baby, Baby, Baby.


I'm passing along some of the best news possible from our former members and friends Mariko and Howard Beck. As of yesterday, they've traded the wild and crazy lives of a New York Times reporter and intrepid freelance journalist to that of the wilder, crazier lives of a NYT reporter and an intrepid freelance journalist who are now responsible for a beautiful new baby. Howard's email follows below... please join me in offering them the heartiest congratulations and best wishes.


From: Muckraker@aol.com


Mariko and I are thrilled to announce the arrival of a bouncing baby journalist named Talia Mirei. (I haven't actually seen her bounce yet, but I'm told it's what babies do, so I'm just assuming that much until I finish reading the instruction booklet.)

After much procrastination on her part (clearly taking after Dad), Talia arrived at 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. She checked in at 6 lbs, 15 oz and 19.5 inches, and she's a beauty
(clearly taking after Mom).

Mariko's doing great but needs a few days in the hospital to recover. Everybody should be home by Friday evening. I'll be bringing Mariko her cell phone when I head back there in a bit, and hopefully she'll be able to make a few calls. Digital photos by the dozen will be zipping through cyberspace shortly.

We can't wait for y'all to see her.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Good Writin' At the Daily News

Hey Guys,

So we're always looking for ways to talk up furthering the craft and Susan Abram and Kerry Cavanaugh worked out an interesting idea. Since so often we find ourselves rushing after stories so hard that we don't have time to sit and ruminate over them, we'd like to carve out a little time to sit and discuss...

And thus consider this:

Do you ache to analyze sentence structure? Does good writing make you giddy? Wanna talk about it?
We'd like to start a monthly writer's lunch. This will be an opportunity to talk shop, improve our skills and, hopefully, get inspired.

Let's start Thursday, Feb. 2 at noon (hopefully in the Zebra lounge, but location TBA). We'll pass out copies of a published story that morning and then the group will dissect the piece during lunch.

This is just the beginning... we'll use something we find the first time around, then discuss whether we want to bring in our own work in the future and how we want to proceed. All are welcome, whether you're a reporter, columnist, editor, designer or anything else. We're all journalists, after all.

And while we're talking writing, check out Dana Bartholomew's piece on an alleged whorehouse in placid Suburbia in Monday's Daily News...http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_3428131 . I haven't read such an entertaining crime piece in a long time. But that's a gratuitous aside unrelated to the writer's lunch _ just wanted to shine the light on a fabulously well written piece.

Hope to see you next Thursday...


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Cell Phones!

Greetings to All,

Just a quick Sunday night note... to those of you who submitted your dues to me, thanks for doing so and they will be mailed tomorrow. The rest of y'all, please don't forget to mail them directly to Vicki at the union office.

And secondly, Melissa tells me that not everyone who'd probably qualify for the cell phone reimbursement is signing up for it. If you're using your cell phone for company business, whether it's to take calls, communicate with your editor or conduct interviews, you should put in for the $5 per pay period you've got coming to you. They'll put you on a list so even if you forget to note it on your timecard, you'll receive the $5 every two weeks.

In small increments, it's not much, but at the end of the year, that's $120 you deserve-- it's something we fought for and they're actually encouraging people to make use of, so go for it. If you've got any problems with it, let me know and we'll fix 'em up.

Muchas gracias, as always. Thanks for listening and for your time.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Dues, Etc.

Hello, My Friends,

Just a quick note to update you on some dues-related stuff. The latest I heard, we're close to establishing a direct deposit account, which I'll test out with my own paycheck a couple times, then start for everyone-- hopefully, that'll be the last of this monthly hand collection.

And while we're on that subject, here's a couple thoughts-- the local's secretary-treasurer had an unexpected death in the family recently, which is why some of you may have noticed a delay in previous checks getting cashed. So I apologize for any inconvenience to you guys on that, but it's been a hard time for her, I know you'll all understand. This is also what's held up getting the bank account started.

As we've tried to get that up and running, we've been experimenting with a few different ways to handle dues collection. I know hand collection can be inconvenient, both for me and you guys, so we're going to try one final way before we switch over to the direct deposit system...

For those of you who haven't yet paid, either for December or January, just mail them directly to the local. This is on your honor-- no one's going to come check on you, you're not going to get roughed up, it's just the right thing to do. I know it's a pain to keep track of and we could all use the extra cash that goes toward dues, but it's only fair that we all pay our share.

So make your checks out to CWA 9400 and mail them off to:
CWA local 9400, attn: Vicki DiPaolo
7844 Rosecrans Ave.
Paramount, Ca. 90723

I'll mail the last of the checks I've already been given, as well as any you give me this week, but if everyone else could just send off whatever you owe, that would be great.

And finally, if you're looking for an example of what the money goes to, look at the links below, forwarded to me by the union. Perhaps it'll be you applying for those scholarships one day and if not, you'll be helping out needy folks at the same time you make us stronger at the Daily News.

That's all for now, folks... Thanks for your time, as always.


Have a College-Bound Scholar at Home? Learn More about
Scholarships Available to CWA Members and Their Children:
- Joe Beirne Foundation (Deadline March 31, 2006):
- IUE-CWA Division Scholarships (Deadline March 31, 2006):
- Union Plus Scholarship (Deadline January 31, 2006):

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Dinner Table Media Critic Checks In.

Hello, Folks,

Day in and day out, the Daily News puts out some pretty damn good journalism. This has not always been the case, nor do we smack it out of the park every day. But for the most part, I'd say given what we've got to work with, we put out a hell of a paper.

And while I don't need to remind y'all of that, periodically, I do feel compelled to point some fingers at people who do particularly bang-up work. There's been a number of excellent things in the paper of late, so in my typically rambling fashion, let me attempt to highlight a few, in case you missed 'em.

First off, both Kevin Modesti and Steve Dilbeck showed in the last week, once again, why they're among the best in the biz with stand out columns on the Rose Bowl. That's an event that's covered to death and attracts the attention of the biggest pros to the most two-bit amateurs, making for a steady stream of largely forgettable work. Not so in the case of Steve's day-of column (http://dailynews.com/stevedilbeck/ci_3372764) or Kevin's recent take on the return of big-deal quarterbacks (http://dailynews.com/kevinmodesti/ci_3381528). Each one takes a different, fresh take on the stories and brings you in, setting the DN distinctly apart from the pack.

Secondly, there's been a rash of good metro stories of late-- Josh Kleinbaum (http://dailynews.com/search/ci_3380871) and Lisa Sodders (http://dailynews.com/search/ci_3380870) both contributed to an interesting package on the real crime scene investigators. It's not a topic I'd normally take note of, Josh's lead got me hooked and the writing on both kept me interested throughout. Similarly, Naush Boghossian's charter school piece broke out the tales of the players into interesting little vignettes, making me care to learn more about charter schools yesterday (http://dailynews.com/search/ci_3383790)

On the photo front, I'm deeply in debt to Mike Baker for sprucing up my auto show coverage on day three with some interesting shots of the new whiz-bang stuff on display. After three days and three stories, it's hard to make any headway, but he made the most of it and turned out a very cool photo gallery (I can't link from here, but it's under Auto Show Opens on dailynews.com's photo galleries).

And finally, outside our own pages but no less important is a stunningly good piece by our very own Jason Kandel in Ararat Magazine. You can only get some crummy scans on http://www.agbu.org/ararat/Main.htm, but if you happen to run across this Armenian publication, his piece "The Gangs of Glendale" is definitely worth a read. Jason's an exceedingly modest guy who will likely beg off any praise, but I literally almost fell out of my chair while reading this, it was so engrossing. It's cool to see someone adapt their expertise here into something different and equally substantial in a different forum. Nice work, dude.

Ok, so that's enough thumbs-upping for one evening, but I thought all these folks deserved some praise. As always, I make no claims to be the definitive arbitrator of what's good and bad, I'm just a guy who stays up late drinking coffee and mouthing off. So if y'all see other good work out there that I've missed, please tell me so I can throw it on the blog, as well.

Alright, enough of this! Off to bed I go and we'll save the rabble-rousing for another evening.

Thanks for listening,

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Another Year Behind Us, Another Year Ahead

Hey Guys,

Forgive me for the long break between emails-- being the good union guy I am, I've been taking advantage of some of that contractually mandated vacation lately and have found myself away from the keyboard. As the year drew to a close, we were able to coast for a bit, but we'll be back in force now that the calendar page has turned.

There's no major news to report at the moment, just a reflection on how far we came in 2005 and some thoughts about the year ahead. I'm glad to report good news on both fronts. We rounded out one year with one of the strongest, most energized bunch of union members since the Daily News was first organized and begin the new one with new tasks to tackle.

Due to your hard work and dedication, we made tremendous progress in 2005. Most significantly, we're all enjoying the benefits of a new contract, resulting in better wages, increased compensation and professional development. We've brought in new members and built stronger relationships with management. We've helped resolve disputes and when problems with managers arose, we were there to ensure everyone was treated fairly.

Most importantly, I really believe we've made the paper a better place. We've pushed for more decisions from the ground up, rather than being handed down from the glass offices. When you saw problems in the workplace, you spoke up and got them fixed. Through your dedication to making a better workplace and a better product, we can pick up something we can be proud of each morning (or in my case, if my neighbor doesn't steal it first, I can pick it up).

So while there's been a slight lull after the big push to get the contract bargained, we've still got plenty of work to do in the coming year. The Daily News is improving, but we've got to keep pushing to make it better. The union's strong, but it'll never be as good as it can be unless we get more people involved. That's going to mean more time sacrificed and more hours spent figuring this puzzle out, but I guarantee we'll all enjoy the benefits of that investment.

In coming months, we'll be making some moves to build up our presence. We'll add more representation, we'll reach out to the newsroom to get the people who haven't yet joined involved, we'll work with the local to make this unit into a more clever, responsive organization. To do all of those, we'll need more of the help you've so generously offered in the past.

But we'll get to that when the time comes. Until then, let me say thanks for everything you've done and everything you've won for us all. Thanks for a great '05 and here's to an even better 2006.