Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Movin' On Up.

Hey Folks,

Now I always hate to announce that we've lost a member, but always love to say that it's for good reasons. Josh Kleinbaum, cops reporter, sports fan, Festivus organizer and card sharp, has jumped the chasm from noble worker to... I suppose we can say noble management.

In case you missed the message from Ron today, Josh will now serve as the online editor for DailyNews.com and the content production will become part of the newsroom. He's got a bunch of cool ideas about how to rev up the site, make it more interactive and bring in new stuff. While I'll miss reading his stories, I can't think of a better dude to run the site in Editorial. While they've done a lot of interesting things to beef it up in recent years, I think he's going to bring a lot of good things with him as he changes chairs.

I can't really say enough good things about Josh, so I'll wrap up with this thought. He got this job because he had vision and a desire not to accept the status quo. He didn't sit around and complain about the way things were done, he figured out a way to try to fix them. His efforts didn't go unnoticed and when it came time to make a change, he carved out a good niche for himself. The same thing goes for Susan and Angie, who're moving around to fill the spot created by his departure-- all three of them have been hard workers who've brought something to the paper.

This place has been slow to change and still has plenty of things that need fixing, but news like this reminds me that we're headed in the right direction. Please join me in congratulating all three of our co-workers and keep up the good work, yourselves.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Arrogance and Where it Gets You.

Hey Gang,

The local journalism world's been abuzz lately with a pair of media-related scandals, both of which have highlighted a basic fact of good management. In one case, we've seen the former managing editor of the Daily News, Doug Dowie, convicted of some very serious ethical violations after he left the business that could land him in prison for a significant amount of time. In the latter, our neighbor to the north, the Ventura County Star, fired its managing editor Richard Luna for reasons stemming from his bizarre attempt to wrangle a press credential to a sporting event he had no journalistic reason to cover.

Each case has been well documented and since I don't know either of the gentlemen personally, I won't comment on what got them into trouble. But in case you didn't see either, it's worth checking out former DN staffer Colleen Cason's piece on Dowie (http://www.venturacountystar.com/vcs/coleen_cason/article/0,1375,VCS_221_4716116,00.html) and a letter to Romenesko's Poynter site defending Luna (http://poynter.org/forum/?id=32178) [both links found via LAObserved.com].

In the former, we get an account of Dowie's high pressure, intimidating management style. In the latter, we get a strange attempt to defend a disgraced journalist by his former boss and friend.

The Cason piece details the cause-and-effect of Dowie's attempts to motivate by fear, the subsequent drive to unionize the Daily News and his abrupt departure for the PR world. It wasn't about the money, she says, it was about grievances. That, and plenty of other things, set off years of mistrust and anger at the paper that I'm sure we're still dealing with to this day. To hear people tell it now, the climate was so poisonous, people felt their only options were to quit or to rise together to force change. Because things became so rancorous back then, today, we have the union to fight for us when Dowie-like behavior resurfaces.

That all makes sense, something I can't say about the letter from Steven A. Smith, editor of the Spokesman Review. In his attempts to stick up for his friend Luna, he wrote some things that I couldn't believe. He took particular umbrage with a quote in the Editor and Publisher story about Luna in which a newsroom source referred to the Star's former ME's shameful departure and responded as such:

"I don't know an editor anywhere to which the "disliked by many" line
would not apply. For Christ's sake, when did being liked by the majority
of a newsroom staff mean diddly. Good editors had damn well better be
disliked by some on the staff, ought to make their bosses nervous and
piss off readers. If this were a popularity contest most of the editors
I know, including me, would be out of work, too, ethical problems or no."

Sure, the guy's emotional because his friend just got marched out of the newsroom a laughingstock, but these comments are nothing short of ludicrous. I know this is a small business where my future employment could be determined by people like Mr. Smith, but when I read arrogant, contempt-laden nonsense like that, I can't keep my mouth shut. If this means I can never get a job from Smith or people who agree with him, so be it.

First off, I know plenty of editors who are not "disliked by many." Secondly, to hold the respect of one's staff up as something to be ridiculed is idiotic. You may not want to hang out with your boss at the end of the day, you may not consider them a friend, but if they want to get anywhere, they'd better be sure you respect them. It would be extraordinarily difficult to want to report to work each day for someone who writes things such as Smith's line: "Newsroom staff, bless their hearts, are like piranhas."

I don't have a long resume, but from the experience I have picked up, both here and elsewhere, I know that a boss who uses fear as a subsitute for leadership is ultimately doomed. Both Dowie and Luna fell from power for other reasons, but the unifying theme is that they didn't have the backing of their staffs. A good editor makes you excited to come to work, pushes you to get that better story, then thanks you and sends you out once again.

A colleague told me recently, "if you've got a good boss, you'd walk across the desert for them." That's certainly true, as is the flip side: if you've got a bad one, the only walk you'll be motivated to take is off to a better job.

This isn't to say a boss can't be tough or that conflict won't spring up. To that extent, Smith is right, this isn't a popularity contest. But there's a difference between being tough and being a tyrant. Pushing your people to get better work is an important part of management; abusing them because of your own personal failings is not. A good editor inspires creative friction, not personal dischord.

Every boss who screams at their employees, slams things around on their desk, humiliates them in public, lords their authority over the ones below them, can get people to work hard. Maybe it's on one story, maybe it's for a week, maybe it's for years. But the day will come, as the two gentlemen here found, that fear disappears. At the Daily News, Dowie lost part of his bite when the union came together and he was faced with an equal who he couldn't arbitrarily boss around. At the Star, Luna's ethical transgressions undid him, but it was the lack of support from the staff that appears to have finished him off.

We've seen similar things here at the paper in recent years, where relations have improved significantly since the chair-throwing era. Though some challenges remain, managers who haven't treated their people right have been moved aside in favor of bosses who understand how to motivate their workers without belittling them. We've still got work to do and some people have been slow to change, but things are on the right road. I'm proud to say that the union and management can usually work together, rather than as bitter adversaries.

Now I've taken up enough of your time, so let me close now with this thought: as a boss, do you want to be the one whose workers would take that desert trek, who'll work hard in good times and defend you in bad ones? Or do you want to end up on your way out, trudging sadly through the newsroom, the same way you sent good people before? It's your call, but judging from the current examples and plenty of others, I know which one I'd pick.

Thanks for your time, as always, and keep up the good work.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

More Jobs

Hey Gang,

Just wanted to remind you folks that they're still looking for at least one general assignment reporter in Metro, a copy editor and I think there's still a part time sports reporter gig open, so if you know people who're interested, send 'em the way of Aron Miller, Ed Richeson and Jon Clifford, respectively.

Also, I ran across the post reprinted below online yesterday and thought it would be worth passing along. I'm pretty sure these are part of the YourHub.com program they're looking to launch soon. Sounds like it could be a good opportunity for people breaking into the industry, so spread the word to anyone who'd be a good fit.

That's it for now-- hope to see you on Thursday at Happy Hour.


From journalismjobs.com:

The Los Angeles Daily News is seeking reporters for an innovative citizen journalism project that will produce online and print products. We're looking for energetic journalists who can do it all. Jobs involve reporting and writing stories, basic photography, editing and organizing reader submissions, meeting with community groups and managing Web sites. Salary is based experience.
Apply via e-mail only. Send a cover letter, resume and six to 10 work samples to newsjobs@dailynews.com. Please put "community reporter" in the subject line.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Happy Hour

Hey Gang,

It's high time that we got together outside of the windowless confines of Woodland Hills and had ourselves a happy hour. So next Thursday, May 25, let's head back to our old haunt at The White Harte for some drinks, some food, perhaps some darts, and conversation. We'll talk biz and shoot the breeze, maybe listen to a little disco music. Good times, right?

Hope to see y'all there-- if you can't make it, we'll have another Sunday get together sometime soon.

What: Union Happy Hour
When: Thursday, 5/25, 6 p.m. til around 8
Where: The White Harte Pub (http://thewhiteharte.com/main.htm)
Address: 22456 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills (just on the west side of the 101)
Cost: absolutely free


Monday, May 15, 2006

Another Job Op...

Greetings, Everyone...

Just wanted to hit you with a quick e-mail about another job opening on the copy desk. It'll be held for internal posting until May 18, but will likely be open beyond that, so spread the word to your qualified friends and coworkers. Each time one of these opens up, we've got an opportunity to personally recommend good people, so let's make the most of it...

The info follows...


The Daily News has an opening on the News/Copy desk for a full-time copy editor. Strong knowledge of grammar, style, punctuation and spelling are required as well as an ability to edit for smoothness and flow. Headline skills are also required. Computer-design skills are a plus. A college degree is needed and three years' editing experience is desired but entry-level applicants will be considered. Written editing, spelling and identification tests will be given, and a tryout may be required.

Hours will be as needed, but the basic shift is 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Candidates must supply a complete resume, including names and phone numbers of their last three supervisors, to Ed Richeson no later than 5 p.m. May 18. Phone calls will not be accepted.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Monday Check-In

Hey Gang,

A busy weekend filled with exciting things such as yet another trip to the mechanic kept me away from my computer, so I wanted to steal a brief Monday moment to get you up to date on things in unionland... there's been plenty of things going on lately, so I'll just serve you up the highlights.

First off, regarding automatic dues deduction. It looks like the savings account I set up through Building Trades Federal Credit Union has begun its automatic deduction from my paycheck, so provided that the first dues withdrawal goes smoothly (which I expect it will), I'll get you all applications so you can set up the same thing. It seems to be the most hassle-free way to pay, so assuming all continues smoothly, hopefully we can all make the switch.

In the meantime, if you could follow the same old drill of making out your May checks for 2.25 times your hourly wage to CWA 9400 and sending them to: CWA local 9400, attn: Vicki Di Paolo, 7844 Rosecrans Ave., Paramount, Ca. 90723, that'd be great. Many thanks, as always.

Secondly, I've got a nice update from our former members Howard and Mariko Beck, who stopped by briefly last week when Howard came to town to cover the NBA playoffs. They brought with them their tiny little daughter, Talia Mirei Beck, who's a wide-eyed, beautiful child. Howard's loving the New York Times and thriving there; Mariko's focusing on Talia at the moment, but will no doubt be back in the journalism game in no time. It's always nice to see your friends and coworkers go on to bigger and better things, which they've certainly both done.

But speaking of good things, I was listening to a radio program the other day where these stuffy sounding NPR types were clearing their throats and wringing their hands about the future of journalism. "Is there going to be anything left?" they clucked. "Can it survive in today's bottom line corporate culture? How much worse can it get?"

Dude, get over it-- that's all I can say. We work for one of the most bottom line-oriented companies in the biz and we still put out some damn good work. Perhaps the days of two-year projects and $50,000 expense accounts are numbered, which don't get me wrong, is a terrible thing. But just because we don't have a company plane doesn't mean the business is dying.

If you want a good example of what we can do, given a little time and a little creativity, look at all the different ways people ran with the Valley at 60 project. I'm biased, of course, because I was one of the writers on it, but look at the talent that's just busting out of Kerry's story on palms, Brad's take on architecture, Rachel's examination on race, Lisa's business piece or David's photos. Everyone who had a hand in it, from the editors to the people who put it together, made it a true collaboration. And if you wanna see some real brilliance (and the future of this business), look at Armando and Jon's interactive graphics, which totally blew my mind.

That's good ol' fashioned community journalism, narrative writing, long-form storytelling, interactivity, creative design-- everything that makes this business relevent and interesting-- all in one package. Our challenge is to take that approach and that creativity and apply it to more stories and different projects.

It's not easy, we've rarely got the time or the resources to do really ambitious work. But we do have the talent and the imagination. Looking at the final product, I saw a lot of things that we need to work on and a lot of things that we did really well-- it made me feel good to play a role in something like this and made me itch to do more. And before the year's up, we're all supposed to get a chance to contribute to that project at the same time we're coming up with new ones. Whether you work in sports, features, news, biz, photo or anywhere else, we've all got a chance to play a role in the projects that make people want to read the Daily News.

So that's why I don't buy all this gum-flapping about the dying future of our industry. Yes, it's changing, yes, it's losing important resources and investments every time some corporate accountant takes their pen to a newsroom budget. But what makes this business worthwhile is the people and the collaborative process. We've got to work harder and more creatively these days, but when we do, we can really turn out some impressive material. As a union, we'll keep fighting our dual battles, ensuring the money's there to support that work and that the commitment to quality continues to promote such enterprise.

Alright, enough of my own gum-flapping for one evening. Thanks for your time, as always-- we've got to have both a strategy meeting and a happy hour sometime soon. I'll get the ball rolling on both and will check in with you soon. In the mean time, keep up the good work...


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Job Posting

Hey Folks-

This job posting for sports came across my desk today and I know they're still anxious to fill the two open metro positions, so pass this along to anyone you know who'd be a good fit. This is a chance to shape the way the paper will turn out down the road, so if you know of good people, send them Jon and Barb's way.



The sports department has an opening for a parttime sports reporter.

Hours: as needed (mostly nights, including weekends) and subject to change.

Apply in writing to Jon Clifford no later than 5 p.m, May 8. No phone calls accepted. Applicants must supply a complete resume, work samples demonstrating proficiency as appropriate and the names, addresses and phone numbers of their three most recent immediate supervisors.