Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The transition begins

Last week, the Enquirer found a new excuse to trim staff: the death of the Post. began trimming staff in preparation for the closing of the Post. Here is the email sent by publisher Margaret Buchanan to Enquirer employees:
From: XXX On Behalf of Buchanan, Margaret
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 4:11 PM
To: Cincinnati-All
Subject: Staff reductions related to the end of the JOA

To: Non-Represented Employees
From: Margaret Buchanan

Many of you, especially those of you whose work involves Post responsibilities, are probably wondering what will happen to staffing levels when the Joint Operating Agreement between Gannett and Scripps comes to an end on December 31. With this communication, I hope to give you some idea of what's coming in the weeks ahead. But please understand that a lot of the communication will need to be done at the manager/supervisor employee level because the situation is unique from department to department, and because we want employees to hear about these changes directly from their managers.

I will first say that, yes, there will be a reduction in force effective December 31, 2007. Most of you will not find that surprising. The jobs we're looking at are mainly tied to Post work.

Second, we will make every effort to retain these affected employees in other jobs -- where an employee is a) interested in a particular open job, and b) has the qualification for that job.

Third, for employees who we are unable to place elsewhere, we will offer severance pay in accordance with our policy.

Just today, managers have begun to discuss staff reductions with employees in the Production, Advertising Operations and Circulation (departments). About 3% of The Enquirer's total workforce will be affected by these reductions.

We regret having to reduce staff. But we all realize that the termination of the Post, and business necessity, give us no choice. Give the current competitive business climate, we need to make the most of our resources and restructure our organization to be in the best position to compete.

You will be hearing more about this from me and your division heads in the coming weeks.

I appreciate your hard work and dedication.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
The Business Courier, which has been asleep at the wheel on the troubles at the Enquirer, puts the number of employees at about 30, based on total employment of 1,140.

My favorite sentence in the letter is: "But we all realize that the termination of the Post, and business necessity, give us no choice." In the past, the surviving newspaper would have been strengthened by the death of its rival, but times have changed. The Post has been weak for years. The instances where the Post has been able to reach up and slap the Enquirer with a good scoop have grown few in number. Now, the age of Cincinnati as a one-newspaper town is greeted with layoffs. The mood inside the Enquirer is quite gloomy these days, with the veterans hoping they can hold on till they decide to retire, not an earlier date chosen by Gannett.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Comparing Peter Bronson to a sane person

When is the Enquirer going to wake up, see that Peter Bronson is irrelevant, and fire him? Many of his commentaries lack any kind of original thought, and merely crib what other people are writing on the Internet. He is a knee-jerk reactionary, frothing at the mouth any time a Democrat has any success.

Read his hateful diatribe against Al Gore for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The column is based on a well-publicized case in England, where a judge found that because there are a factual errors in Gore's global-warming movie "An Inconvenient Truth," teachers must show it with accompanying "guidance" on the relevant science.

Bronson refers to an article in the London Evening Standard about the case. See the article here. Bronson writes:
When the British government decided to use it (the film) to educate children about global warming, school official Stewart Dimmock filed a lawsuit claiming that Gore's movie was inaccurate political "brainwashing" and "sentimental mush," according to the London Evening Standard. Last week, the High Court agreed. A judge ruled that Gore's film is "alarmist and exaggerated," and must have warnings to point out nine scientific errors.
The actual paragraphs from the Evening Standard story reads this way:
Describing the documentary as 'a powerful, dramatically presented and highly professionally produced film', Mr Justice Burton said it was built round the 'charismatic presence' of the ex vice president 'whose crusade it now is to persuade the world of the dangers of climate change caused by global warming'.

But he said it might be necessary for the Government to make clear to teaching staff that some of Mr Gore's views were not supported or promoted by the Government, and there was 'a view to the contrary'.

Agreeing that Mr Gore's film was 'broadly accurate' on the subject of climate change, he found that errors had arisen in 'the context of alarmism and exaggeration'.
As you can see, Bronson first leaves out the line that the judge found the film "broadly accurate," and then misquotes the line "the context of alarmism and exaggeration" as "alarmist and exaggerated."

Bronson won't acknowledge that the judge found the movie essentially accurate, or that scientists as well generally agree that Gore got the basic science right. Read this and this. And while pointing out factual errors in the movie, Bronson sidesteps the question of whether global warming is real. That's because that would require some real thinking; it's much easier, I suppose, to simply apply one's prejudices and make jokes.

Bronson misses the point that while something may contain inaccuracies, that doesn't always mean the whole is inaccurate. He also misses the point that if you're going to fault somebody for accuracy, your argument had better be pristine. And, somebody at the Enquirer needs to ask Bronson some hard questions before anything he writes is published.

What really bothers Bronson? Paul Krugman of the New York Times has a saner view of why the right hates Al Gore and his Nobel: "(I)f science says that we have a big problem that can’t be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed. For example, Investor’s Business Daily recently declared that the prominence of James Hansen, the NASA researcher who first made climate change a national issue two decades ago, is actually due to the nefarious schemes of — who else? — George Soros.

"Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy."

Monday, October 08, 2007

Journalism lite

Janelle Gelfand is one of the Enquirer's better writers. She is, however, lost in the shuffle because she covers a subject with limited appeal: classical music. That by itself is pretty amazing, considering the Enquirer hasn't had a popular music writer in nearly two years, since C.E. Hanifin, quit. [ A side note: About a month ago, the Enquirer invited the heads of local arts organizations to drop by and talk about arts coverage. Tom Callinan insulted the group by implying the don't get it about the Internet, and editor Hollis Towns insulted the group by not showing up at all. ]

In today's paper, Gelfand penned The Making of a Mogul, about Antonio "L.A." Reid, the chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group. He's a music industry biggie born and raised in Cincinnati. It's a decent read, except for the fact that the Enquirer apparently didn't bother to put Gelfand on a plane, so she could meet him and interview him in person. It looks like Gelfand interviewed him by telephone.

How can you profile someone without actually meeting them face to face? Even CityBeat does better than this, but this is what you get with the Enquirer these days: The paper is too cheap to do the story correctly. The result is a story like "Mogul," where there's some quotes from the subject, quotes from some people who knew Reid growing up, and some Cincinnati namedropping (James Brown, Sarah Jessica Parker). It's about Reid's kids and family and friends and how Cincinnati made him the person he is, but contains nothing about his management style (how he finds and develops talent) or how he deals with the turmoil in the industry.

It's another example of the Enquirer's shallow world view. The Enquirer believes all readers care about is the Cincinnati link, and aren't intellectually curious about anything else. Here, the Enquirer uses the local link to get close to someone famous and powerful, but all they come back with is where he went to high school. The only thing missing from the story is how he likes his chili and whether or not he likes goetta. The fault isn't Gelfand's, it's the Enquirer's low expectations. This kind of local-boy-done-good story belongs in a 10,000-circ community newspaper, not a major metro daily.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Enquirer punts

After the Bengals were embarrassed Monday night by the Patriots, Marvin Lewis said some Bengals players are playing selfish football. Who? He won't say, but you'd expect a good newspaper to get to the bottom of this, right?

Not the Enquirer. In today's big story, Bengals beat writer Mark Curnutte moans that Lewis "declined an Enquirer interview request," and that's where it ends. The best Curnutte can do is interview other reporters (John Clayton) and TV talking heads (Steve Young and Emmitt Smith), but never once does he attempt to answer who those selfish players are. On his blog, Paul Daugherty picks on Chad Johnson because he's such an easy target. But that's lazy writing, and remember than but Johnson doesn't play defense.

To identify the offending players, it takes knowledge of the game, and if you don't have that, you need to know whom to talk to. Interview somebody, watch some tape. Lewis handed the Enquirer a story line, but it doesn't appear anyone at the Enquirer knows football well enough to explain the breakdowns, nor does anyone have the sources to crack the Bengals.

Sports might be the best section in the newspaper, but not for its football coverage. This is pure mediocrity.