Monday, April 28, 2008

Too late

The good news for the Enquirer is: Circulation is up, about 3% to 212,369, from 206,320 a year ago.

The bad news is it's too late to reverse the slide in advertising. The industrywide decline is so bad that the Conference Board has decided to stop publishing its help-wanted index, which used monthly newspaper classified ad totals to gauge the strength of the labor market. The Conference Board began publishing the index in 1951. So much advertising has moved online, that newspaper totals are no longer the indicator they once were.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Maupin coverage

I'm not going to take the Enquirer to task for its coverage of the Matt Maupin funeral. Many people are asking why now, why is the Enquirer devoting so much space and resources to this when there have been local soldiers whose deaths didn't even rate the front age.

I've been critical in the past of the Enquirer's lack of interest in the war. It's the biggest journalistic sin this paper has committed in the recent past. For most of the past five years, you could read the front page of the Enquirer and not realize the country is at war. The Enquirer has to be one of the few major dailies in the country not to have sent a reporter to Iraq. The editorial board's attention to this was has been infrequent, immature, ill informed, cowardly and just wrong.

Is the Enquirer trying to make it up in one fell swoop, packing into a week the coverage they've failed to present in the past? Maybe. But set that aside.

Have any of the critics of the Maupin observance been to a single other funeral? In how many other cities across the nation has there been an opportunity like this, for ordinary citizens to stand with their hats on their hearts as the casket of a fallen soldier passed by? If there's one funeral President Bush should attend, it's this one.

If you're against the war or for it, don't pass up this opportunity to honor Matt and the 4,360 other brave Americans who've given their lives in this war. Go to the visitation or the ballpark, or watch it on TV, think of those Americans and ask, as an American citizen, if you've been as involved in this war as you should have been. I know I haven't.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

They never learn

The Enquirer has used each turn in the long and tired saga of the Banks development to boost downtown, and nearly every time it's had to reverse itself. On Nov. 2 the headline in the center of the page said "The Banks is a done deal." On January 15 the headline said, "The Banks hits a new snag," followed a week later by "Banks project might miss finance deadline." Headlines on editorials include "Banks is a dream worth holding" (June 15), "Get ready: Banks really happening" (September 8), "The Banks: Time to get it done" (September 25) and "Stop arguing, just build the Banks" (September 30), "Seal the deal on the Banks" (October 25), "Cooperation key to Banks approval" (November 2), and finally, "Fuckin' A, stop acting like pussies and build the goddam thing already" (November 9).

Okay, I made that last one up. It seemed to fit the Enquirer's comical progression, which shows how hard they try ignore political realities and boost downtown, only to be slapped back to earth by some inevitable petty disagreement. It shows how little Enquirer editors understand about business, finance, development and politics. Yes, ground has finally be broken, but personally, I'm going to hold my applause till I see the first bar open for business there.

The Enquirer's latest display of front-page naivety surrounds the Delta-Northwest merger and the fate of the hub at CVG. We have "Delta: CVG service may grow" (April 17), "Delta hub here may grow" (April 18) and the editorial "Delta merger may help hub here" the same day.

This morning the Enquirer gave us "CVG hub not guaranteed" and later, the news that Delta and Northwest together lost more than $10 billion in the first three months of the year. Delta and Northwest are very nearly bankrupt, getting hosed by high fuel prices, so it would seem prudent to exercise a little caution when proclaiming such optimism about the future of the hub here. Nothing is set in stone. The Enquirer and its editors looks foolish and naive for pumping up that news about the hub, and they look foolish again when they have to report the reality of the situation.

If you hope to save the newspaper, you have to be committed to the belief that a well-researched and well-presented truth is worth paying for. Want boosterism and a spun truth? That's what we have politicians for.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Their hidden news judgment

I wasn't going to bother posting anything about today's installment of "Our Hidden Communities," until I saw the self-congratulatory rail across the bottom of pages E4 and E5 of the Forum section -- headshots and short biographies of the eight journalists who put the package together.

This is good journalism, but it's not great. The Enquirer's packaging would like you to think it's great. The influx of immigrants from Central and South America has going on for a long time, certainly more than a decade, but the Enquirer acts like it is only through their commitment of journalism that you, the reader, is learning about this. The story combines several themes that could be good stories on their own -- the impact of immigration on crime, or the impact of the raid on illegal workers at Koch Foods, the impact on schools, the immigration stances of local elected officials. For reasons barely evident to someone reading the story, the Enquirer combined these themes into one story, giving each of those themes short shrift. Once again, the Enquirer opts for the strategy that's a mile wide and an inch deep.

There's much about this presentation I don't understand. Why was the story limited to Butler County? Surely these effects are also being seen in Hamilton County and Boone County. Past Enquirer stories have mentioned extensions of Mexican organized crime. Why wasn't that covered in today's stories? I don't understand the online presentation. I can't find the printed version of the story online, only the Flash audio and video. I can't find the story connected from the Local page or the Forum page. If anyone finds it, please email me.

For all of 2007 I only found 11 stories in the Enquirer that dealt with the region's Hispanic population -- stories that didn't deal with specific crimes, food or festivals. It's less when you take out the two stories about the Butler County sheriff sending Mexico a bill for the cost of drug busts, and less still when you take out the stories about WLW's tasteless campaign.

Do those eight journalists deserve a medal for this? I'm sure the Enquirer meant well, but this is a token effort to cover all the ground it has neglected to cover in the past. A real newspaper would have someone covering Hispanic issues full time, not writing stories once in a while. The Enqurier needs to do much better, but they thought this was so good they had to publish the names, photos and biographies of the eight people who put this together. This shows you how low the bar is for "great" journalism at the Enquirer.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This speaks for itself

This has been posted as a comment on the Pulitzer item. It is authentic, and I thought it should receive more prominence.
From: Buchanan, Margaret
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 2:12 PM
To: MCIN-News Users

We received a call from Gannett today that Cincinnati will be recognized as a Gold Medal Newspaper in the Best of Gannett awards to be announced Thursday. We don't have the judge's comments yet, but Phil Currie mentioned we were lauded for work on the data desk, suburban web sites, CincyMOMS and a strong commitment to public interest journalism, specifically coverage of foster care issues.

It will also be announced that Tom Callinan will be recognized with a President's Ring, for many of the same reasons as above.

Congratulations to Tom and the Local Information Center, as well as to all of you in other departments that also contributed to this type of success for the second straight year.


Operators are waiting now to take your subscription orders.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Pulitzers the Enquirer didn't win

The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism were announced on Monday. The Washington Post won six, the New York Times two, and the Enquirer zero. Again.

Smaller papers weren't shut out. The Concord (N.H.) Monitor for feature photography, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for local reporting. The award for Milwaukee isn't as good as the Enquirer's Best of Gannett for local-local reporting, because the Enquirer's award is one more.

Other smaller papers were finalists: The Portland Oregonian, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald Tribune, the Bergen Record, the Rocky Mountain News, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. No award was given this year for editorial writing. Didn't the Enquirer submit its Marcus Fiesel work?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Even when they win an award, it's a joke

The Best of Gannett awards were announced on Thursday. This is so pathetic ....

The Enquirer won three awards, and none for journalism. Nothing for public service, nothing for breaking news, nothing for investigations, nothing for freedom of information. There was one first-place award for innovation, a third place for "community conversation" and a third place for local-local news.

The innovation was the CinciNavigator. This is a good piece of work, but it's not an innovation. Other newspapers have been doing more with data for 10 years or longer. The Enquirer finally joins the party in 2007, and Gannett applauds. This just shows how far behind the curve Gannett is. While the news awards were judged by a panel of eight people who do not work for Gannett, the innovation awards were judged by three career Gannettoids.

The community conversation was about Brenda Nesselroad-Slaby and the death of her child in a hot car. First place and second place went to the Des Moines Register, for conversations about long-term care insurance for the elderly and the presidential primaries. Is the Gannett pool this shallow?

The phrase "local-local" is a mantra in Gannett and a joke everywhere else. What is local-local? It's somehow more local than local news, but not as local as local-local-local news. The Enquirer won its third-place local-local award for its coverage of Lakota high school's 50th anniversary, and the Lakota West marching band's trip to the Rose Bowl parade.

Not one Enquirer award was for anything that has made a difference in this community -- no ill was corrected, no taxpayer money saved, no public policy improved, no one put in jail. Nothing embodied in these awards fulfilled what Finley Peter Dunne said a hundred years ago should be the duty of journalists -- to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The Enquirer has never been hard hitting, and now it's actually winning awards for going even softer.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Daugherty's ignorance

Imagine God offered you a deal: You can make $5 million a year, but there's a tradeoff. Everybody will know that you make $5 million a year.

Would you take it? Damn right you would.

That's a deal many professional athletes make. They just don't understand it, and neither does Paul Daugherty.

Today's column by Daugherty carries the headline "Fans' fascination with dollars makes no sense." It should instead read, "Fans' fascination with dollars makes no sense to Paul Daugherty."

This is a column written by someone who lives in a shell, a shell called the press box. A sportswriter is someone who, with a press pass and a phone call, can get into any sporting event any time for free. Even if they have to pay, a phone call to the team will get seats the team has set aside, and they'll be just great. Too many sportswriters never stand in line, never sit upstairs, never have to bear the high cost of taking a family of four to a major-league sporting event.

Daugherty asks the questions "Why do we need to know a ballplayer's salary? Why should anyone beyond the IRS care?" without giving it 90 seconds of thought. Player salaries are a bit of information that puts sports into perspective. There are plenty of people who see the salaries and don't care and buy tickets anyways. And there are many (former) fans who see those numbers, see how much grown men are paid to play children's games, decide the system is way out of whack, and stay away. That's their right. That's how intelligent adults make informed decisions, and it's the job of journalists to provide the data that informs our decisions. Would Daugherty argue those former fans would be happier if they didn't know how much athletes make?

Daugherty knows better than this. He needs to take a year off and attend only those events he spends his own money to attend. I question why the Enqurier allowed such an ill-conceived, pointless piece of crap like this to be published.

There lots of people in our society not only don't care about professional sports, but they reject its fantasyland elements, the way it has been corrupted by money. Sports sections are not written for those people, but sportswriters should at least respect that people can view the big picture and make their own decisions.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stealing from employees

The Enquirer has set the mileage rate for the quarter:
From: xxxx, xxxx On Behalf Of Buchanan, Margaret
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 11:10 AM
To: Cincinnati-All1
Subject: Gas Mileage Reimbursement

In August, 2005, we implemented a new gas mileage reimbursement plan for our non-represented employees. The plan is based on a sliding scale tied to gas prices in this market. We indicated we would review the rate at the end of each quarter and make changes, if necessary, at the beginning of January, April, July and October of each year.

Therefore, in keeping with this plan, and based on the "average local price index" for unleaded gas over the last three months

(see information at, we have determined that gas mileage reimbursement will remain at the rate of

33 cents per mile for all business miles driven, effective March 31, 2008.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dave Wuertemberger in Finance or Keith Bulling in HR.

Margaret Buchanan

See how they misspelled ""?

The rate of 33 cents a mile is worse than a joke; it's immoral. It means Gannett is subsidizing its business on the backs of employees. AAA says it costs 50.5 cents per mile to run a small sedan for 10,000 miles a year, or 37.4 cents at 20,000 miles per year. This is calculated for a new car in 2006, when gas was about 40 cents a gallon cheaper than it is today. The AAA's average for all kinds of cars is 62.1 cents per mile at 10,000 miles per year, almost twice what the Enquirer is paying.

UPDATE: To further harrass employees and makes them feel more like inmates, Gannett has embarked on an audit to make sure your kids are your kids. To claim anyone on health insurance, employees will have to submit proof, "copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, adoption records or other documents," according to a letter from corporate HR. Every time you think Gannett is soulless, that they've reached new depths of stinginess, they take it one step further. Gannettblog has been following this closely. Do Gannett execs honestly believe this will help save the news business?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Blog reform on the way

A month after my review of Enquirer blogs, the powers at the Enquirer announce they're taking a hard look at the stable of bloggers. Some will be sent to the glue factory.
Date: Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 6:26 AM
Subject: Sent to all users from Chris Graves

Blogs, blogging and our next steps

As we have talked about blogs and Pluck and social networks, we are taking a three-phrased approach in the beginning:

We have looked at our current staff blogs and made recommendations to:

1) Keep and improve.

2) Modify them.

3) Stop publishing them.

Most of these conversations have either happened or are in process.

The next phase will be

-- Follow up training sessions with our bloggers to improve blogs, either in tone, structure and/or technical tips. Mandy Jenkins will lead this effort.

And as we settle into the new tools (aka: Pluck) we will continue to:

-- Approve a select few new blogs based on the blog proposal that includes discussions with department heads and section editors. We need to think about who we hope to reach with a new blog. Ultimately, blogs will be approved by a committee of top editors.

-- Blogs will be monitored and assessed with feedback going back to bloggers and section editors as we continue to enhance and tweak our blogs and blogging efforts.

This process, as many things are in these days, will likely change and be modified as we march forward.

Questions? Thoughts? Send them along …


Pluck is a social networking platform used by media web sites.

Two thoughts:
  • "... as we continue to enhance and tweak our blogs and blogging efforts." I don't know where Graves gets the word "continue" from. Anyone whose been reading the Enquirer's blogs over the past six months would see there hasn't been any monitoring of the blogs at all. It doesn't look like anyone's paying attention at 312 Elm. There are vast differences in style and quality and editing. I hope the Enquirer can find a way to weed out the amateurishness of many of the blogs without snuffing out the personalities.

  • I am very encouraged that new blogs "will be approved by a committee of top editors."


The Associated Press Sports Editors have announced this year's award winners. It's a contest with lots of winners, but the Enquirer doesn't get much.

In the Enquirer's class -- papers with circulation 100,000 to 250,000 -- there were 30 awards given for writing and 30 awards for sections. The Enquirer won no awards for writing or sections, coming away with three of 30 "honorable mentions" for writing and one of 30 honorable mentions for sections. There are also five awards for investigative sports reporting, and the Enquirer was shut out there, too. That's a decline from last year: In sections, the Enquirer won an award for best special section and two honorable mentions, and in writing, one award.

Overall, Sports is the best section in the Enquirer, and Sunday's baseball section was very good. This awards performance, though, is disappointing.