Saturday, April 29, 2006

I Believe a Double Dose of Woo-Hoos is in Order

Hey Gang,

Ahh, nothing like too much good news to go around. Let me share two completely unrelated, yet very fantastic tidbits about our members with y'all. And so, in chronological order, let's congratulate both...

...Naush Boghossian, our ace education reporter who was honored this week with the California Teachers Association's John Swett award. ( She has the tough task of making the mysterious, complex beast known as LAUSD into an understandable, human subject. She consistently brings the real, everyday issues through all the bureaucratic junk and does a damn fine job of it. Though the Daily News story sums up the award news pretty well, it left out important details such as the fact that she's also a fearless poker player, connoisseur of excellent music and sharp dresser. Well done, homie, many congratulations.


...Josh Kleinbaum and Nicole Sunkes, who are getting married. In his time at the paper, Josh has written some excellent cops stories, discovered a craps game at Dodger Stadium, written a hilarious first person piece on taking batting practice and emerged as a technology guru. Nicole, an ex-Daily Newser who's gone on to become a Yahoo, was a much appreciated and now greatly-missed colleague. Their poker games, while at times controversial (go to for all the gory details) have become a highlight of after-work hanging out. In short, they rock and I hope you'll all join me in wishing them the very best.


Ahh, yes, I also forgot to mention this AP award garnered by the our roguish, occasional member Hans Gutknecht and Tina Burch ( awhile back. Congrats to you two, too.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Buying Spree

Hey Guys,

Looks like we just got a bunch of sister papers... you can read all the details at the link below. Since they won't be part of LANG, it likely won't have much effect on us, but this'll have some far-reaching effects on the journalism world for some time to come. Here's hoping for the best for all involved...


Monday, April 24, 2006

Welcome Back

Hey Guys,

If you didn't see the message in the office today, our former colleague Barbara Correa, who left a couple years ago after giving birth to an amazingly sweet pair of twins, will be returning to take over the Sunday Business slot from the departing Evan Pondel. As the first reporter to handle that beat, a former staffer with a little paper called the Wall Street Journal and the author of a cool blog on biz travel (;_ylt=A0SOwj11dDxE_3YAihis0NUE), she'll be a phenomenal presence in our pages once again. It's tough to think of a more talented, more capable writer to fill the big shoes Evan left than her.

Barbara's return can serve as an important reminder for us, as we try to improve the quality of life at the paper, too. Part of the reason she's coming back is that they've been able to work out a schedule that accomodates both the paper's needs and her responsibilities as a mom-- something that was not exactly a hallmark of the Daily News in the past. Luckily, we've got a more progressive mindset now that allows for better balance between work and home life, so everyone comes out ahead.

Whenever you see a way that things could be improved, whether it allows you to spend more time with your family and still be productive, or a new way to handle the work flow, something we should be covering that we're not, or anything else, speak up about it. We've gotta advocate for these changes whenever possible, because they'll help us all in the long run. Think of all the talented people we've lost over the years because the paper was stuck in its tired, old ways-- hopefully, Barbara's return will be one of many signs that those days are over.

We've still got a long way to go, my friends, but we're getting there. You guys have done a lot of work to help improve things, so keep that up and we'll all enjoy the benefits.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Latest

Greetings, My Friends,

Just wanted to update you guys on the latest on the timecard issue. We made an unexpected splash last week when LAObserved picked up my blog post on the issue and editorialized in support of our position-- it was a surprise, but a very welcome one that hopefully got the word out that micromanaging our days down to the minute is a very bad idea.

I met again today with Ron, Theresa, Laurie Knight and Araceli Leon from HR. Not much new came out of it, aside from Laurie saying that they wanted to find some compromise so they could keep more accurate records without compromising the flexible work schedule we have noe. We all agreed to meet again in the next few weeks to come up with some sort of formal plan that won't violate our contract but still gives them peace of mind. Until then, we'll continue on the regular time card schedule.

To some extent, this is a minor issue, but it's a handy reminder of how having a union comes in handy. If we didn't have that contract, they could implement whatever policy they felt like-- as they do in non-union parts of the Daily News. The current policy they're implementing in other departments states that employees who repeatedly work unauthorized overtime could be subject to disciplinary action. Not much of an incentive to put in extra time in a pinch when you know it could lead to you getting fired, right? The company used to be able to do that to us, under the terms of an old contract, but we successfully got it removed from the last agreement.

I'll keep you guys in the loop on this in coming weeks. Thanks to those of you who've provided suggestions and support-- I think we can figure something out that will work out ok for everyone. Till then, any ideas you have for how to improve the system are more than welcome.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Times They Are A Changin'

Hey Guys,

Forgive me for the roundabout nature of this post, but it's late and, well, what the heck...

When I was in college, I took a class on Duke Ellington and his impact on American culture (yes, nothing but the most rigorous, taxing classes for me...) and I wrote down something that has stuck with me ever since. As quoted by the professor, the great composer once said "every problem is an opportunity." I've also seen it written as "every problem is a chance for you to do your best." Either way, it's come in handy for me in sort of a pollyanna-ish way ever since.

And here at the Daily News, we've got plenty of problems. Not enough staff, not enough money, not enough time, not enough newshole-- we've always been chasing something, making excuses for why we didn't do something. As we saw yesterday, as Evan Pondel cleaned out his desk, then again next Friday when Lisa Mascaro packs up her famous dual file cabinet, or two weeks back when Dan moved over in City Hall to the competition, we're always going to have great talent who's in demand elsewhere or moves on when the time is right. I didn't know Dave Shelburne very well, but I know that when someone as experienced as him retires, it's impossible to fill that gap.

Right now, we're going through a lot of shifts, again. Beats are changing, sections are juggling people and coverage and we're all dealing with the new computers and publishing system. This is never going to be an easy place to work and at the moment, it appears to have hit one of its flux periods once again. I'm sure what we're feeling here is being felt all throughout this industry.

So the question we've all got to address is how do we deal with those problems? I'm not going to give you the lemons-to-lemonade speech, because it's lame and tired and I've never been much of a motivational speaker. But I would say that rather than chewing our nails and feeling sorry for ourselves, we can stick our hands into the change and make it into what it should be.

We're not going to get a billion dollar investment, we're not going to get a lot of things we'd like, but we can go after the things we can tackle. When Evan left, we lost an important union member who helped guide strategy significantly in the last few years-- we're going to have to go out and find other creative, energetic people out there to pitch in like he did. When people depart the Daily News, if you know of good replacements out there in the biz, recommend them and see if you can get them in here. The more like-minded, intelligent people we've got working alongside us, the easier our job's going to be.

If the staff shuffling has created problems in your department and you see a better way to do things, then speak up about it. While there are still some problematic situations around the room, Ron and Melissa seem to be much more receptive to making changes if it'll benefit both the product and the staff. It's not going to do any of us any good to sit around complaining, but if we figure out a way to improve things, they're likely to take action.

We're going to have to make some changes in how we do things, both in this union and throughout the newsroom, if we want to come out on top in the future, but I think we've got a good shot. We've got an extremely talented, intelligent staff and a growing number of people who've bought into our idea that if we work together, we can make this a worthwhile place to work, not just a brief entry on a resume. As we've done in the past, we can take these problems, as best as we can, and use them to our advantage.

As a closing note, let me point out something that happened in our own news pages this week. In case you missed the story that started it all, check out for Dana's excellent piece on the 82-year-old woman getting ticketed for crossing the street too slowly. That wasn't something that took six months and a $100,000 expense account to write, it didn't need an investigative team (though when the Times finally got around to following it, several days late, they still assigned two people to cover it)-- because Dana's an excellent reporter and even better writer, this piece got read all over the world. He captured the drama of a woman getting caught up in a ridiculous system and told it in a way people across the globe could relate to-- that's what we can do at the Daily News.

Using our limited resources and the talents of our staff, whether they're reporters, designers, copy editors, photographers or librarians, we can find stories like that and share them with people who clearly want to read 'em. We're not going to get that sitting around, complaining about all the things that are screwed up here-- we'll fix what we can and go after all those good stories we can get. If we do that long enough, people will notice that things have swung the other way here.

Alright, I've monopolized the soapbox enough for one early morning. Time for bed and there'll be more news to come soon, I hope. Thanks for your eyes and ears, as always.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Correction for "What I Learned in San Francisco"

Hey Guys,

Sheepishly, I must share a moment of simultaneous triumph and embarrassment. The triumph comes from Jim Romenesko coming across The Paper Trail and posting a link to yesterday's post regarding what all went on at Western District Council. The embarrassment comes from me misstating some of the circumstances for how the events at the Eugene Register Guard were handled.

Being new to this blog world, I'm not sure how the etiquette works, so rather than compounding the situation, I removed the disputed section and posted an apology to those involved. As I understand it, the event with the mandatory smiling actually happened, but it was resolved differently than I recalled. It was my mistake, plain and simple, so I hope this will be enough to set the record straight and I'm sorry for the inaccuracy and the confusion it may have caused.

I guess what I'll take away from this is that while this isn't a newspaper and was intended just to let you guys know what's going on around the office, that it deserves the same standards as what we do at the paper... and that other people are reading. Hopefully, this will be the last time I'll make a mistake like this and have to clear things up.

Thanks for your time,

What I Learned in San Francisco

Hey Guys,

I've been meaning to update y'all on what I gathered from our fellow journalists at the recent Western District Council of the Newspaper Guild meeting at San Francisco and apologize for the delay. It feels like I've been 9,000 places at once lately, so I'm stealing a bit of free time tonight to get this out there and share the good and bad news from up and down the coast.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile experience, getting to meet with our counterparts from other union papers and hear their tales of triumph and woe. While it sounds like it's a tough time for everyone in the business right now, it heartened me to see that there's a bunch sharp people carrying the flag in journalism and the union-- our efforts are not alone here. There's a bunch of people just like us who are reacting to the changes in the industry with creative ideas and passion for the craft, which was very refreshing to see.

The biggest two issues to come up were the Guild's efforts to help workers at the Knight Ridder papers being spun off by McClatchy become employee-owners and the changes technology has brought into the workplace.

For the former, we listened to a presentation by some staff at the San Jose Mercury News and San Jose Newspaper Guild who devised the plan to partner with a wealthy investor to buy the paper from its new owners. This has attracted major financial backing from former supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and spread onto 11 other papers affected by the proposed sale. I had my reservations at first about its feasibility, but after listening to their plan, I've got to say I'm pretty impressed by how well they've thought things through.

One of the leaders of the plan is a guy by the name of Luther Jackson, who holds an administrative position in their local similar to what Vicki does for us. He's an extremely, extremely sharp guy who's been around the labor movement and newspaper business for quite some time and he really knows his stuff. I won't get into all the details here, but their concept aims to shield the papers from the bottom line mentality that has caused so many problems in this industry over the years. Burkle's company, Yucaipa, would bid up to $2.2 billion for the papers, then enter into partnership with employees who'd roll over their 401(k)s to become employee owners. They'd then hire management companies to run the papers and keep them running healthily.

It's a risky move, but they seem to have considered the options well and are doing some pretty progressive thinking. It'll be a tough process, especially since our own employer MediaNews Group also has its eyes on the properties, but I'm glad to see that they're willing to do things in a nontraditional manner in an attempt to preserve good quality journalism.

For more info about the plan, check out the following links:

As far as the technology issue, we had a really productive, eye-opening session conducted by Bernie Lunzer, secretary/treasurer for the Guild. I was worried that it would just be a bunch of people complaining that they didn't want to do Internet work or produce multi-media, but it clearly was not. Blogging, audio recording, digital video, crossover onto radio and TV, breaking news updates for the Web-- these are all here to stay in this business. We learned the various different things the newsrooms have to deal with, how they've incorporated it into their workload and what we're all going to have to do in the future.

In the past, unions haven't had a great reputation for accepting new technology, which is why a lot of union folks got laid off and membership dwindled. This wasn't like that-- not only did the people participating find ways to incorporate the added work into their newsrooms, they did it so everyone was treated fairly. We even pushed it beyond that, developing plans to network with one another to push even more technological innovation within the industry and discussing ways the union could help its members learn more.

This is great news on many levels, folks-- it reminds me that the union we belong to is nothing like the stereotype many people have of organized labor. It's forward-thinking, innovative and, most importantly, it cares about the quality of the industry and the product we produce just as much as it does about traditional labor issues. I felt proud to be in a business with people who had their eyes on the road ahead, rather than ones stuck in the past-- the focus of the conference was clearly pushing good journalism, not complaints about the way things used to be. As we labor here to make the Daily News better, there's plenty of people at other union papers trying to do the exact same thing.

While I know this is getting long, I suppose this isn't a bad time to reiterate what I've told people whenever it's come up at the paper: the more new media work we can do, the better. If we can evolve our positions as newsgatherers to include things like online design, multiimedia presentations and breaking news delivery, we'll all be better off in the future. Take the work you can get (so long as it's fair and not overly burdensome, of course) and we'll figure out how to address compensation in future contracts.

CORRECTION: (Wed, 10:41 p.m.)... I'm updating this late after a clarification from the folks at Eugene. It appears I may have misunderstood a disciplinary situation there involving a dispute over supposed mandatory cheerfulness. I think the post was largely correct, but in the interest of preventing further confusion, I'll just take the whole thing off and apologize for any mistakes or subsequent disagreements they may have caused...

Alright, that's it for now. Thanks a lot for taking so much time to read this-- I know it's lengthy, but I think it's important stuff for us all to consider, given the rapidly changing world we're working in. So thanks for your support and your time-- it doesn't go unnoticed here or elsewhere in the business. We got a lot of compliments for our successes at the Daily News at the conference, so what you guys do every day really makes a difference both here and elsewhere in the industry.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Sunday Night Wrap-Up

Hi gang,

Once again, the hand has slipped quickly around the clock face and I find myself out of time to do all the things I'd planned on writing earlier. So this'll be a brief post and I'll hopefully get the rest done soon.

To kick things off, let me just remind everyone to pay their April dues. I've filled out all the paperwork to begin the process of automatic payment, but it takes two pay periods for it to kick in on the company's part, so I'll let you know how it works as soon as they get it going for me. At the union conference I went to last weekend, several of the attendees from other papers reported they had a similar system for dues collection that worked like a charm. Fingers crossed, ours will be up and running soon.

In the meantime, if you haven't yet taken care of your April payments, you can make out a check to CWA 9400 for 2.25 times your hourly wage and mail it to:
CWA local 9400- attn: Vicki DiPaolo
7844 Rosecrans Ave.
Paramount, Ca. 90723

Thank you very much-- I really appreciate how supportive you've been and how faithful you've been about paying your dues. I know it can be a strain sometimes, but it really does go toward important things.

And speaking of which, I wanted to keep you guys in the loop on a situation that came up late last week. Human Resources sent out a memo on Thursday stating that we'd be switching to a new timecard that would precisely document what minute we arrived at work, when we left for lunch, how long we took, what time we returned and when we left at the end of the day. It would have essentially transformed the current system we have, which seems to work well for both employees and management, into a clock punching set-up.

This was an extraordinarily bad idea on many levels, but the most important reasons were that they ignored their responsibility to negotiate any change in working conditions with the union and that it showed no understanding of how the newsroom really works. While we appreciate their attempts to make sure everyone takes their breaks and doesn't get cheated out of their overtime, watching people minute-by-minute is not the way to do it, nor is trying to ignore the contract they signed just two months ago.

I laid out the union's concerns to Ron and he set up a meeting with human resources director Laurie Knight. We jointly expressed our reservations and pointed out the numerous ways that the plan would not be conducive to the way we work. She took note and said she didn't want to play havoc by implementing a new system. Eventually, she agreed to take the problems back to labor relations vice president Jim Janiga and said the minute-by-minute plan would be put on hold until we could all discuss the issues together. At this time, we're awaiting their response and I will keep you all apprised of it as soon as I hear.

Now let me be very clear here: the union isn't trying to stand in the way of the company's operations, we're merely protecting everyone from possible discipline and complications down the road. We believe in hard work and we're more than willing to do it-- but we also believe that we should be treated with respect and understanding.

If you take a long lunch to look for new stories or wrap up early to go meet with a source, we don't want some bean counter to look at your time card and decide that you shouldn't be paid for off-the-clock time. If you've got a heavy load one night and your editor tells you to take it easy the next day, we want to preserve that flexibility. We believe the current system allows people to work hard, get paid what they deserve and still have the ability to work within the confines of the job.

Luckily, discussions have been cordial so far and management within editorial seems to be open and supportive of ways to ensure people get treated fairly. We expect a swift resolution with no negative effects on the newsroom and hope the people who've made these decisions from afar will realize the need to work with us, rather than implementing policies that will gum up the works.

That's all for now. Thanks for listening-- more to come soon.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Job Postings

Hey Guys,

I've got a bunch of important stuff to share, but first, let me get these
out there-- a bunch of jobs just opened up, so spread the word so we can get
'em filled quickly and take the strain off the rest of us. If you know of
good people to fill these various spots, the paper definitely needs their
help-- if they have any questions about what it's like here and what the
contract holds, feel free to give them my email. The window is short on
these (there was a screw-up getting them to me, then I've been tied up and
unable to pass them along, but hopefully, these will find their way to
deserving candidates)


Business Reporter:
The business section has an opening for an experienced reporter. Applicants
should be able to write and report on a variety of stories, including
breaking dailies and longer weekend features. They should also be able to
distill complex material for a general interest newspaper audience. Three
years reporting experience at a daily newspaper is required. Experience in
business journalism is preferred, but not required.

Hours: Generally, a M-F shift 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, late hour and
weekend work may be required, as stories dictate.

Apply in writing to business editor Dan Anderson no later than 5 p.m. on
April 12. No phone calls accepted. Applicants must supply a complete resume,
clips and the names, addresses and phone numbers of their three most recent
immediate supervisors.
City Hall Reporter
The Daily News has an opening for a fulltime city hall reporter. Bachelor's
degree required. At least three years fulltime reporting experience on a
metro daily required.

Hours: As needed (including nights and weekends) and subject to change.

Apply in writing to Barbara Jones, metropolitan editor, no later than 5
p.m., April 12. No phone calls. Applicants must supply complete resume,
samples showing proficiency at reporting and writing for newspapers and the
names, addresses and phone numbers of the three most recent supervisors.
General Assignment Metro Reporter
The Daily News has an opening for a fulltime reporter on the metro staff.
Bachelor's degree required. At least three years fulltime reporting
experience on a metro daily required.

Hours: As needed (including nights and weekends) and subject to change.

Apply in writing to Barbara Jones, metropolitan editor, no later than 5
p.m., April 12. No phone calls. Applicants must supply complete resume,
samples showing proficiency at reporting and writing for newspapers and the
names, addresses and phone numbers of the three most recent supervisors.
Sports Copy Editor
The Daily News had an opening for a sports copy editor. Main duties include
editing copy, writing headlines and some layout and pagination may be

Hours: 40 hours per week including nights and weekends
Qualifications: A college degree is required, preferably in journalism, plus
one year of daily editing experience showing consistently strong

Apply in writing to Jon Clifford no later than 5 p.m., April 12. No phone
calls accepted. Applicants must supply a complete resume, samples of editing
work, plus names, addresses and phone numbers of their three most recent
immediate supervisors.
Sports Reporter
The Daily News has an opening for a fulltime reporter. Bachelor's degree
required and at least three years fulltime writing experience on a daily
required. Experience covering major college or professional beats is
required. Must have a demonstrated flair with the language.

Hours: As needed (including nights and weekends) and subject to change.

Apply in writing to Jon Clifford no later than 5 p.m., August 12. No phone
calls accepted. Applicants must supply complete resume, samples of editing
work, plus names, addresses and phone numbers of their three most recent
immediate supervisors.

Monday, April 03, 2006

So Long, Pal

Hey Guys,

This is a tough one to write, I must admit. If you didn't get the word yet, our coworker, fellow union member and good friend Evan Pondel is leaving the Daily News to lend his talents to the family business. At the same time, I'm thrilled on his behalf and terribly sad to see him go. He's a heck of a writer, a truly inspiring presence in the newsroom and he's been a big part of this union's efforts to grow in the last few years.

He's a modest guy who eschews the spotlight, so we've got to give him the credit he deserves, but wouldn't ask for. While this is a great opportunity and I couldn't be happier for him, he's such a rare combination of talents, we'll lose a lot when he heads off to his new adventure. Please join me in wishing him the very best.

As I've been thinking this over for the last few days, I keep coming back to the idea that it's the friendships and relationships that you form at work that make it worthwhile. There've been more times than I can count when I'd come in frustrated about something and he'd talk me through it. Or the story ideas we'd throw at each other, the pieces we'd have each other read before we turned them in, the thought that no matter how stressful the job got, there was someone else who understood what you were going through-- that's what's kept me going for all this time.

That's something we've all got to do more of-- we're not going to always get that support from our bosses, not going to get it from our company. If we're all going to get better, we've got to look out for one another. Whether it's talking about big picture stuff, working with each other on ideas, hanging out together after work, the more we reach out for one another, the better we'll all be. So much of our lives revolve around our jobs, we've got to make it worthwhile beyond just a paycheck and a line on a resume.

The downside of that is when your friends move on, you lose more than just a co-worker. But as difficult as it will be for me to adjust to coming in every day to see the empty chair where one of my best friends has sat for the last five years, I also know that his friendship and all the others I've made here will carry on far beyond this job. This is the place we'll make relationships that'll last the rest of our lives-- let's make it a good place to be so we can make many more.

So thank you, Evan, and thank you everyone else. You're the ones who make this job worthwhile.