Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Watermelon, Delayed.


Good evening on this fine Wednesday and I hope this finds you well. Just wanted to dash off a couple quick notes on membership, good work and collaboration, then I've got a watermelon that needs attacking in my kitchen.

First off, please join me in welcoming our newest member, Peter Fuertes of the Sports department. Pete works the often-thankless night shift, putting out that section that for so many readers defines the Daily News. He's an incredibly nice dude, a hard worker and shows genuine concern for his colleagues, morale and the paper-- in short, just what we need in a member. Thanks for your support, sir, and welcome to the club.

Secondly, I've been remiss in pointing out some of the good work y'all are doing as of late. I rarely catch it all, so if anyone notices anything cool that I've missed, please let me know so we can shine the light on those who deserve it... but off the top of my head, let's give some much-earned props to Darlene Alilain, who's been putting out some rockin' Sunday biz cover designs. Also, Dana Bartholomew (http://dailynews.com/search/ci_4228610) had a nice feature on a busted pipe and the havoc it's wreaked in a community last week (I never thought I'd want to keep reading in a story about a leaking pipe, but his signature style of narrative kept me oddly captivated-- I aspire to have the flair and snap he puts into everything). Mike Baker had an eye-catching shot of a traffic snarl, where a lady's "it was this big" gesture conveys the frustration of a stranded motorist quite nicely. Brad Greenberg dipped into his religion writing background and turned out a feature on St. Joseph and real estate.

And, today, Fred Shuster had a remarkable little piece on the Kingston Trio in U (http://dailynews.com/search/ci_4251036). It's just a short little Q-and-A, about a band that hasn't been exciting since... well... ever (sorry, Mom). But with his unique combination of wit and detail, he made it into a great read. Fred, you're a true artist.

The thing I love about all this stuff is that these are seemingly mundane things-- a CD reissue, some DWP snafu, etc. and yet due to the talents of our staff, they become interesting and worth checking out. Y'all are what make this a fun, and rewarding, place to work. I'm proud to share the pages with people like you.

And finally, I wanted to point a little background spotlight on a story that I wrote recently to show something we all oughtta work on. I got a lot of nice feedback on my piece about Officer Kristina Ripatti's attempts to adjust to a her new life after being shot, and while I'm thankful, a huge amount of the credit for that story goes to Hans Gutknecht, who took the photos and was the real driver behind it.

Hans wanted to shoot this and knew it had potential, so he did all the groundwork in arranging the proper clearances and establishing the relationships before he even told me he wanted to do the story. With that set-up, it was easy for me to walk in, then on top of all that work, he shot some amazing photos. He then took it to Brian Harr, who did a bang-up job of clearing out space to support the images and text and laying it out. As a reporter, I couldn't have asked for better support.

This hasn't always been a place that welcomed collaboration and still has plenty of backwards, confusing dysfunctional ways. But when we start talking early in a story and bring in the various collaborators quickly, something like this results. We all got something to be proud of and none of that would have happened without Hans' vision and dedication. The more we collaborate, instead of just bringing in the other creative elements after the fact, the stronger all of our work becomes.

But before I start singing "Kumbaya" and my watermelon gets mushy, I'll shut up for one night. I know I get a little wound up in these missives sometimes, but dammit, I mean what I say. You guys are an absolutely amazing bunch of people to work with and I'll never be able to say enough about all the hard work you do.

Thanks for listening,

Rockin' Photo Exhibit

Hey Gang,

Just passing along some info from our colleagues at the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles. They're gonna have their first gallery show in their 70-year history, featuring work from the Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, various other sister papers, the Times, Star, AP and Reuters, et al. Since several of our members are among PPGLA's esteemed roster and they're all excellent shooters, let's go out and support them as they show off what they can do.


"The Art of Photojournalism"
Sept. 5th- Sept. 31, 2006
Opening reception: Sept. 10, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Bel Air Camera
10925 Kinross Ave. (at Gayley)
Los Angeles, CA 90024
For more info, visit ppagla.org or call David Sprague at 818-451-7416

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Our New Colleagues...

Greetings, My Friends,

My apologies for the recent dearth of e-mails. It's been a busy few weeks that have kept me away from my keyboard, but I've got a few moments to spare to bang this out. I'm hoping that in coming months, we can do more with the blog and bring in some more regulat content, but in the meantime, I wanted to weigh in on a couple of newsroom things.

First off, let me say thank you one final time to our former member Lisa Sodders, now off to her new adventure at RAND Corp. Everyone who worked with her knew of her sunny disposition and seemingly boundless energy, but I want to salute the way she was always first to volunteer for a Saturday shift or a holiday assignment. No one looks forward to those, but she was always happy to take it for the team and we should all be appreciative. She never failed to offer compliments to all of us and always believed in the paper. She was also a loyal, unflagging supporter of this union, something that will be sorely missed in her absence. But I'm glad to see her off to greener pastures and wish her the best in her new gig. Happy Trails, Lisa and enjoy the new opportunities.

And now I want to pay attention to our new colleagues and competitors -- the folks who'll be writing for Valleynews.com. Citizen journalism's gotten a lot of ink in recent years, both dismissive and supportive. To hear some tell it, it's the best thing that could happen to our industry. Others blow it off as just feel-good news. I'm far from an expert in it, but in the early days of our own foray into the waters, it seems like it'll be a good thing.

On the site, I've read about a shaved dog wandering Van Nuys, ruminations on marriage and complaints about neighbors. Pat Aidem wrote a beautiful, heartfelt piece about her husband's heart trouble. Contributors have dipped their toes into politics and taken the site into all kinds of different directions. It's in its nascent stages now, but it looks promising so far.

This isn't the kind of journalism many of us set out to do when we got into this business, but I think it's no less important to the future of our industry. Newspapers aren't what they used to be and all across the country, editors and staffers alike are scrambling to find ways to get people to care about the product. Citizen journalism isn't the only answer, but if it gets people to care about the work all of us do, then that's a good thing.

As a general assignment reporter, this is admittedly kind of scary. All of a sudden, the whole readership's got the same job I do. Whereas a beat reporter can rely on their sources to get a story no one else would, my only sources are the same ones who can now tell the story themselves. That makes my job harder, because now I'm competing against a bunch of new faces. I think I'll still be able to get the good stories, but now, I've got the chance to get beaten in my own paper by my own readers.

So while that's scary, I like the challenge. It should keep us all sharp to know that we're not the only ones with the voice of authority now-- anyone with a computer who can string a sentence together or snap a digital picture can take us on. But just like we relish the chance to compete with the Times or any other media here in town, hoping that our skills, talent and training will produce a superior product, I'm looking forward to that competition. I want to prove I can beat these people and turn out something that they want to read and pass around, just like we'll do with their work.

And I'm glad that as the paper trots down this road, that it's not totally turning the reins over to the folks who've never done it before. I like that not only do we have a mix of Daily News veterans like Jason, Rick and Mark and new folks like Alejandro and Denisse, but that they've been made part of the newsroom. The company could have stuck them off in marketing and paid them crap wages, but instead, they made them reporters, just like any other department.

Rather than going through a fight to organize them and make them union-covered positions, we worked with Ron and Melissa to make these jobs a full-fledged part of Editorial. The same goes with our Web team, who also now enjoys the protection of the union contract. These folks are doing the same work as the rest of us, so they deserve to be treated as such, both by management and the rest of us.

Will Valleynews and programs like it be the thing that puts journalism back on the track to the promised land? Who knows? I haven't spent enough time in the biz to make that judgment. I don't think that the people who've spent decades doing this know that yet. But it's a good start, one that I hope will help keep the job we love and the business we signed on with going for years to come.

Thanks for your time and support, as always,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Farewell and Lunch

Hey Gang,

Just wanted to spread the word in case you missed the unisys message that we're going to be throwing a little going away bash for our good friend and co-worker Lisa Sodders, who's off to her next adventure at the RAND Corp. For the past few years, she's covered higher ed, been a tireless union supporter and a much welcome presence in the newsroom for her wizardry with a baking pan. We'll miss her and wish her well in her new gig... This ain't a union event, so you've gotta pay your own way, but it's a reasonably priced place and the food's excellent.

So if you're free on Friday and in the mood for lunch, please join us to send her off in style. Please RSVP to me by Thursday afternoon so we can get a headcount for the reservation. Thanks!

Where: Milano's Italian Restaurant.
Address: 21550 Oxnard St. (just west of Canoga)
Time: noon