Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tribune Co. flagship underwent a redesign in September.










Chicago Tribune Creating Another New Product

More changes are coming at the Chicago Tribune, including publishing a zoned local news section two days in advance, some Tribune newsroom employees have been told.

Under that scenario, breaking local news would either go in the front section of the newspaper or on the Web site, according to reporters at the paper. Other news would go in the pre-printed zoned section that would wrap around feature or advertising sections.

Tribune Editor Gerould W. Kern told Journal-isms he was not ready to provide details of the latest changes because he had not informed all of the staff.

"It's another local news product that we are creating. It's one of several," he said on Wednesday. "It will help us provide more local news."

The Tribune unveiled a redesign just two months ago. Local news went from having its own freestanding section to becoming part of the main news section Monday through Saturday, its pages labeled "Chicagoland." The section remained freestanding on Sunday.

Editor & Publisher's Mark Fitzgerald wrote in September, "For all the 'interesting' navigation tools the Chicago Tribune has incorporated in its new design, the fact to keep remembering is that this makeover is intended not to be, primarily anyway, a newly reader-friendly paper - but one that can be put out cheaper with fewer hands and less editorial content."

For the Tribune staff, the latest development will be another twist in the paper's roller-coaster ride since real-estate mogul Sam Zell bought the Tribune Co. last year in the midst of an economic downturn in the newspaper business.

The paper has seen a turnover among top editors - Kern became editor in July - and in August laid off more than 40 newsroom employees.

Meantime, owner Zell has proved an unorthodox presence. Most recently, he has questioned long-held premises of the news business.

"On November 12, Zell spoke with Cond?© Nast Portfolio editor in chief Joanne Lipman at Quadrangle Group's Foursquare media conference, where, true to form, he came out swinging against journalistic icons," according¬†to magazine. "He declared the worthlessness of Pulitzer Prizes ('I haven't figured out how to cash in a Pulitzer Prize')," and "said the newspaper business model is 'unequivocally . . . a failure.'"

South Asian Journalists Group Covers Mumbai Attacks

The South Asian Journalists Association moved quickly on Wednesday to link journalists with background material, news sources and contact information for eyewitnesses and freelancers to cover the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 100 people have been killed and hostages were taken. Mumbai is also known as Bombay.

CNN employee Yasmin Wong describes being in the Taj hotel when gunmen attacked. Indian police commandos rescued some hostages on Thursday as standoffs continued against heavily armed militants who a day earlier had swept into Mumbai, India's commercial capital, in a shocking series of coordinated and bloody attacks," Somini Sengupta and Mark McDonald wrote Thursday in the International Herald Tribune. "It's as if terrorists had taken over the Waldorf Astoria and the Four Seasons in New York and then ran around shooting up Times Square," Dr. Suketu Menta, author of "Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found," said in a SAJA.

Webcast Wednesday night, one of several the association planned during the crisis every 12 hours — at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time.

The SAJA Web site also features blog posts, is providing updates via Twitter, and is making available e-mail updates.

"We have gotten requests for information/sources from more than 30 news orgs, from Larry King to Al Sharpton," Sree Sreenivasan, a SAJA founder, said via e-mail.

"The hooded gunmen, firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades, attacked at least two luxury hotels, the city's largest train station, a Jewish center, a movie theater and a hospital," the International Herald Tribune story said.

"The Mumbai police said Thursday afternoon that the attacks killed at least 101 people and wounded at least 314." The number of fatalities later climbed to 105.

CNN provided continuous coverage from its sister network, CNN-IBN, on its Web site.

One of its own staffers told her story. "Yasmin Wong, a CNN employee who was staying in the Taj, said she hid under her bed for several hours after she was awoken by gunfire," CNN reported.

"Wong said she received a phone call from the hotel telling her to turn her light off, put a wet towel by the door and stay in her room until she was told otherwise.

"She complied, but then she went to her window and saw smoke and debris.

"'I saw a guy outside the window above me who had smashed the window and was hanging out,' Wong said. 'At that point, authorities told us to run out of the hotel.'

"Wong said she passed dead bodies in the hotel's halls as she searched for an exit, finally leaving through the pool entrance."

Raju Narisetti, managing editor of Mint, a national business paper published in partnership with the Wall Street Journal, told Journal-isms that "one of our reporters was trapped all night at the hotel where the attacks happened as she was attending a wedding. She too is ok," he said.  [Nov. 28 update: Read the reporter's account.]

How Does Obama Decide Whose Questions to Take?

"In the 22 days since winning the White House, President-elect Barack Obama has taken 22 questions from reporters and has done two sit-down television interviews," Christina Bellantoni reported Wednesday for the Washington Times.

Barbara Walters' interview of Barack and Michelle Obama, which aired Wednesday, failed to generate as much attention as a previous interview by CBS' '60 Minutes' (ABC News).None of the news-conference questions has come from journalists of color, but after Wednesday's event, at which Obama announced that Paul Volcker will head a President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, NBC's John Yang provided commentary on MSNBC and Tony Harris anchored on CNN.

Bellantoni's story called the holding of three news conferences in as many days "an unprecedented bit of access for reporters who have grown accustomed to President Bush's infrequent moments taking questions and already surpassing the last four presidents-in-waiting."

Michael Calderone of attempted to explain Tuesday how Obama chose whose questions he would take.

"Before Tuesday's press conference, incoming Press Secretary Robert Gibbs assigned numbers to CBS, NBC and ABC, then he had an aide select a number from one to three. And that's how NBC correspondent Savannah Guthrie came to kick off the Q&A with the president-elect.

"Fair? Arbitrary? Haphazard? Perhaps. But the press corps has another word for it: Confusing.

"A 'transition period hybrid,' is how spokesperson Jen Psaki described the method behind the apparent selection madness, which was all the more baffling since traditional White House protocol — based on strict rules and hierarchy — was followed during Obama's first post-election presser on Nov. 7.

"Seating, as of Monday, had seemed to play a key role in getting the nod. But on Tuesday, Obama ignored reporters from the Associated Press and New York Times who were seated in the front row and instead looked a few rows back for Andy Shaw, a reporter with Chicago's ABC affiliate.

"But Monday's press conference was different. AP was again called on first, but the other five questions were doled out to two wire service and three newspaper reporters from daily publications that weren't called on previously. And in a break with White House tradition, no networks were called."

Along with journalists of color, Fox News also has not been called upon.

Meanwhile, Barbara Walters' interview with Barack and Michelle Obama aired Wednesday night on ABC, but failed to generate as much coverage as the first-couple-to-be's maiden post-election television interview two Sundays ago on CBS' "60 Minutes."

"Soon-to-be president Barack Obama said he is not worried about his own security, despite a higher level of threats against him than any other president-elect in history," was the lead of one story, by Sara Kugler of the Associated Press.

"Facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, President-elect Barack Obama says he is kept awake at night worrying about what will happen to the country over the next 60 days while a 'lame duck' is in charge," began Russell Goldman in a report for ABC.

Ninety-five people, 35 of them instructors, attended the National Association of Black Journalists' Watergate Conference on Political and Congressional Reporting last weekend at Georgetown University in Washington, an attempt to increase the ranks of political reporters of color, NABJ spokesman Ryan Williams reported.

Ifill Talks with NBC About "Meet the Press" Job

Gwen Ifill"NBC executives are closing in on a decision about who will take over 'Meet the Press,' its venerable Sunday morning political talk show, with the announcement coming possibly on Dec. 7," Matea Gold reported Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times.

". . . Barring a last-minute surprise, network insiders and television news observers expect the new moderator — or moderators — will be drawn from a short list of candidates that include NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and NBC political director Chuck Todd. Dark horses include CBS anchor Katie Couric, whose name was floated in internal discussions, according to two sources, but is apparently not interested.

". . . In an interview, Ifill said that she had informal conversations about the job with NBC officials several weeks ago, but no offer has been made.

"'I had the impression that they didn't know what they wanted the show to be yet,' she said. 'I think they were trying to figure out how I would fit. But I don't know if they've figured it out yet. If they have, they haven't told me.'"

Ifill's presence would "help signal a new era at 'Meet the Press.' Currently the moderator of 'Washington Week' on PBS, the anchor would be the first African American moderator of the NBC program, a timely milestone that would coincide with the inauguration of the country's first black president."

Asians Applauded for Opposing Proposition 8

"When the San Francisco Chronicle ran a Nov. 7 article exploring why Asians were the only ethnic minority to produce a majority of voters against Proposition 8 and its ban of same-sex marriage, a reader commented on the Chronicle's website: 'Why in the world would the Asian American community ally itself with the gays? The Asian American community [has] virtually nothing in common with the gays except maybe being minorities,'" Prince Gomolvilas, a playwright and blogger, wrote last Friday in AsianWeek.

His was part of continuing commentary on the role of ethnicity in the vote on California's Proposition 8, which passed, 52.2 percent to 47.8 percent.

In his Nov. 7 "Asian Pop" column, the Chronicle's Jeff Yang had written that, "in the first comprehensive poll of Asian American voters, the Rutgers/UC Riverside National Asian American Survey, 57 percent of Asian Americans opposed banning same-sex marriage, and only 32 percent supported it. In fact, Asians are the only ethnic electorate who've produced a consistent majority against Proposition 8, which bars gay marriage in California; a Field Poll released on the eve of Tuesday's election indicated that 51 percent of Asians intended to vote no, versus 48 percent of Latinos and just 43 percent of African Americans.

In a later Chronicle piece, a Nov. 14 analysis of the local vote, Heather Knight wrote, "In San Francisco, the more white people living in a precinct, the more likely it was to vote against the proposition. The opposite was true for precincts with many Asian or African American residents."

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, "said immigrants who've been in the city for less than 10 years tended to vote for the ban, while those who've been here longer tended to vote against it," she reported.

Gomolvilas answered the question he posed this way: "What do Asian Americans and gays have in common, aside from being minorities? Both groups know what it's like to be discriminated against, both groups have suffered hate crimes and, most importantly, both groups have a responsibility to stand up for the ideals expressed in the U.S. Constitution — a responsibility that rests on the shoulders of everybody who chooses to enjoy the freedoms of this country."

12% of Hispanic Households Unprepared for Digital TV

Some 12.4 percent of Hispanic television households are "completely unready" for the looming all-digital TV transition, as of November, versus 6.7 percent for non-Hispanic homes, according to the Nielsen ratings service, Linda Moss reported Tuesday for Multichannel News.

"Between October and November, the penetration of completely unready households dropped just three-tenths of a percentage point, from 7.7% to 7.4%, according to Nielsen.

"Nielsen's readiness data are based on sets and households in its National People Meter panel, which is projectable to U.S. television households, and its local metered panels, which are projectable to their respective television household populations."

In February, television broadcasters will switch to digital programming, shutting down their analog transmitters. Cable and satellite TV customers aren't affected by the changeover. The federal government is offering coupons for converter boxes for over-the-air TV viewers. 

Laid-Off Reporter Lands, Hopes Things Turn Around

"I went through all the phases: shock, anger, mourning and now am regaining my strength," Francisco Vara-Orta Francisco Vara-Orta told Journal-isms this week. Vara-Orta was one of those laid off at the Los Angeles Times last month. He was a Metro reporter and graduate of the paper's Metpro diversity program.

Now Vara-Orta has landed at the Los Angeles Business Journal, where "I'll be covering trade and transportation focusing on the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach and manufacturing in the county," he said.

"I've been bouncing from Florida to California and my native Texas looking for work and training at a pre-arranged group at Poynter," referring to the Poynter Institute. "I've worked in journalism since I was 12 [with] my eyes on every project I could get into from school papers to summer camps to climbing my way from a barrio in San Antonio to the L.A. Times and life in West Hollywood," he continued.

"I love this field and what we can do with it. I also see that because of the chaos in the industry that diversity efforts have waned in the last few years as opportunities are just scarce in newsrooms everywhere. But I'm still holding onto hope.

"I was very fortunate to land a job with the Los Angeles Business Journal and will start there soon. It's a shift from metro to business but I'm willing to expand and learn and relish a new challenge. Journalism is not dead and in a democracy should never die so it's up to us to get over this self-defeatist attitude and just work with what we have. Maybe I'll be tested again but so far many people I know are hoping it'll turn around in a few more years."

For Thanksgiving, She's Meeting Her Son's Father

Jackie JonesJackie Jones, veteran of the Washington Post, Newsday, the Detroit Free Press and several other news organizations, now proprietor of a personal development and consulting service in Washington and a writer for, posted this on Monday on the site:

"On Thanksgiving I will meet the father of my child.

"I only discovered his existence about five years ago and I have wondered ever since if my son bore any resemblance to this man.

"In a few days I'll know.

"Twenty-nine years ago next month, I brought a 4-year-old boy into my home. Anthony Alexander would soon officially be adopted as Anthony Alexander Jones. As a single parent, I raised Tony and enjoyed the highs and weathered the lows of parenthood. There were times when I wasn't sure we'd make it through, but we persevered. Today he is a solid citizen and a man I am proud to call my son.

". . . Tony is a sportswriter and anyone who knows anything about journalists knows that they seldom can predict their schedules. Sportswriters typically work nights, weekends and holidays — think of all the games you'll watch and read about this weekend. As it turned out, Tony has a major story he's working on and won't be home for Thanksgiving. I called Big Tony, however . . .  So about 4 p.m. on Thursday, my doorbell will ring and Big Tony and I will meet face-to-face. He'll meet my mom, my boyfriend, a cousin and probably a couple of friends who will drop in for dessert – or just to meet him.

"Big Tony told our son he wanted to meet the woman who raised his boy. I want to meet the man who gave my son life.

"I can't imagine a better way to thank each other than to break bread together."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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