Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Redesign Redux

I'm no fan of the Orlando Sentinel redesign, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what bothered me about it. Slowly, but surely, Lee Abrams, Tell Zell and Howard Kurtz pointed the way.

Kurtz of the Washington Post critiqued the redesign earlier, saying the Sentinel made USA Today look like the Financial Times.

Later, Lee Abrams, Tribune's innovation guru, stated in one of his memos that, hey, that's Orlando. It's a tourist town.

Then this week Tell Zell described the redesign as Cirque de Soleil.

The problem with the redesign is that it's aimed at the wrong people. It's great if the millions of tourists who come to Orlando each year pick up the local paper to read, but that's not going to keep the Sentinel afloat. Tourists have no stake in the community. To a visitor, local news is nothing more than a passing curiosity.

The Sentinel underscored that fact by scaling back its hotel distribution a few years ago. If I am not mistaken, the Audit Bureau of Circulation doesn't consider hotel distribution to be the same as home delivery.

More important, the Sentinel was never written for tourists. It was aimed at the people who get up every day and go to work, commute on the I-4, pay local taxes and send their children to local schools. Chasing tourists isn't going to lift circulation or do much for revenue. I can't imagine that advertisers want to pay top dollar to reach a non-resident population.

The Cirque de Soleil colors (I think it looks more like the face of the Joker in the new Batman flick) surely are attention grabbing. But younger readers are not going to give the printed paper a second look. Younger readers don't care about the printed product. They long ago migrated to the Web, if they read newspapers at all. So the redesign may be alienating the paper's loyal readers who are, shall we say, past the half-century mark. Which is pretty much par for the course for a redesign.

I don't know that a redesign does much to boost circulation. In fact, a redesign is usually about ego. It's the first thing a new editor orders up to put his or her stamp on a paper (whether you need it or not). This is more of the same, only worse.

It's the equivalent of folks standing on the deck of the Titanic saying, "Don't just stand there. Do something!"

The More Things Change ...

With the Sentinel shrinking at an alarming rate, who is left and what are they doing? Here's a sneak peek at the new and improved Sentinel:

Dana Eagles ... investigations editor, though apparently still in charge of recruiting and staff development. Why bother?

Heather McPherson, food editor, also will be restaurant reviewer after Scott Joseph took a buyout.

Jay Hamburg to cover religion and elder affairs.

Bonita Burton, assistant managing editor of graphics/presentations, to deputy managing editor for presentations. That's a promotion, folks.

Steve Doyle, new content development, took a buyout. Exit date is end of August.

Ann Hellmuth, front page editor and all-around editor when the poohbahs are traveling or absent, which is often, took a buyout. Exit date is end of August.

Pure scuttlebut: Doyle and Hellmuth have to wait 'till end of August to leave because the editor and managing editor want to take a vacation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Help Wanted

The folks at Orlando magazine have asked me to put the word out that it is looking for freelance writers. Here's the contact info:

Mike BosletEditor-in-chief
Morris Visitors Publications
Orlando magazine

52 and Counting

Orlando Sentinel's management learned a valuable lesson in this month's staff cutbacks. It learned that it can't be "a public trust" and deceive the public.

It was late in coming, but the paper finally printed a short story about its cutbacks in today's edition. It was thin, but don't expect the paper to tell you a whole lot more. That's the way corporations behave. You know, it's all about the news release that comes at 4 pm after the markets close.

One of the things that is being driven home during this tough time is how newspapers are in fact corporations. Those of us on the inside knew it. Now people on the outside are learning the same thing. Sorry to disappoint.

One of the worse things to happen to newspapers was the corporatization of newsgathering. I had an old city editor who would fume, "The #@$%%^ beancounters!"

The second worse thing was selling shares to the public. Once Wall Street has you in its grip, you are a slave to the quarterly and annual report. If your financials aren't going up, Wall Street will kill you.

The street flogged Tribune after it bought Times Mirror. The stock really never recovered. The penny pinching dates to that moment. So does the humungous debt. I remember a time before Times Mirror, and it was a lot fatter financially.

However, it's also true that the Orlando Sentinel always wanted to be the "good corporate child." When Fitzsimmons and his Chicago gang wanted to experiment with something, the Orlando Sentinel jumped at the chance to ingratiate itself. The Sentinel didn't stand its ground -- at least that's how it looked to me.

The steady drip-drip of these "experiments" is now haunting us. Thinking like a newspaper becomes a luxury. Now it's gone.

Of course, many people benefitted from the corporatization in the form of an ESOP, myself included. But none more so than the high-level editors who were generously rewarded even while rank and file had to swallow a 2-3 percent raise.

Let's not be hypocrites, though. We are simultaneously opposed to this "organization man" stuff and also complicit, as we cheered the rising stock prices of the late 1990s.

Newspapers are corporations first and foremost. The public trust is a sideline business.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Naming Names

In its very belated 'fessing up news relelase, the Orlando Sentinel stated it would not release the names of editorial staffers affected by the cuts out of a long-standing policy of "respect for privacy."

Fair enough. But let me elaborate why names matter.

Many newspapers and newspaper editors would like nothing more than for The Departed to slink into the night, never to be heard or seen from again.

They do not want to aknowledge how you may have written great stories under trying circumstances, including absurd requests, insane editors, inane edits, looming deadlines and other mayhem. Still, you delivered. And, let's say up front, for the grouches among us, that not every story was a gem. The demands of a daily newspaper guarantee that we each have written our fair share of stinkers and forgettable stories.

They do not want to concede that you produced something of value.

They do not want to say that you may be an expert in a given subject and therefore are a fountain of knowledge and resources about the Orlando community.

They do not want to name names because they do not want to put a face on the cost of this enormous transformation in the newspaper business.

They would rather deal with abstract numbers because they are embarrassed about presiding over this mess.

But do not go gently into the good night. You have earned proper aknowledgment for all the years of hard work that helped keep this community informed through declining newspaper circulation, declining revenue and a revolving door of editors.

You are not a number. Come Tuesday, when the ax falls again, help me name names. Let's put it on the record the decades of seasoned talent who are marching from the paper.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gag Order

I read a story in the Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago about how Purdue University in Indiana had come down hard on either a student or employee for -- reading a book! The book was about the KKK's history in Indiana. Apparently, somebody was offended and the university police went off.

It's ridiculous, of course, that a university would censor anyone on campus for reading, of all things. But some newspapers are doing something similar in asking (or is it demanding?) that staffers getting the ax sign an agreement not to talk about the newspaper.


Romenesko reported (based on a report on a blog, titled Creative Loafing) that the Atlanta Journal Constitution (where about 85 editorial employees are getting the ax) was asking its lame-duck employees to sign a "no disparaging the newspaper" agreement.

Wow. The so-called defenders of the truth have sunk real low by stuffing a sock in their employees' mouths. Imagine if another industry were doing this and a newspaper got wind of it.

Inquiring minds would like to know if Tribune is asking employees to sign a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and definitely speak-no-evil pact two minutes before they're shoved out the door.


Rougher Times Ahead

The Associated Press is reporting that the second half of 2008 may look a lot worse than the first half. Egads!

Hard to believe, considering that McClatchy, Lee and Scripps newspapers reported steep drops in profit levels for the second quarter -- about a 87 percent drop in Lee's case. Publishers are saying ad revenue fell the hardest in June, which is the tail end of the quarter.

If so, what does July, August and September portend? Scripps is already signaling that the company won't meet financial expectations in the third quarter. At least one newspaper chain -- Copley -- is exploring a sale of one of its newspapers (San Diego). But it couldn't have picked a worse time. It will never get top dollar for its shares. It may have to put itself on the auction block for a song, or how about a verse?

Sam Zell of Tribune is comparing the sucky advertising scenario to the Great Depression. I guess that Viagra isn't working. He doesn't foresee further cuts, but we'll see. Zell has said that before.

And the bad drumbeat goes on.

Cash In While You Can

Here's some useful info from a former Sentinel about how you can use the retirement plan to stay afloat:

Those who leave the paper can call the Hewitt Retirement Center (thru Benefits Express) and cash out the little account the company set up at the beginning of this year. It amounts to 2% of 2007 earnings, but a surprising amount of compound interest has piled up since the first of the year. (These accounts were created at the beginning of '08 after the company stiffed us on the "promised" 3% minimum contribution Trib was to have made to our 401(k)s at the beginning of the year to help fund the Zell takeover.)

People must wait a month after they receive their last Sentinel pay, then can call Hewitt and ask to get the ball rolling to have a check sent. There is some paperwork, and they mail checks on the 1st and 15th of every month. I think there is required tax withholding, which is not such a bad thing since at tax time next spring, we'll owe a 10% penalty for withdrawing what amounts to retirement money before age 59 1/2.

Or, people can roll it over into an IRA and skip the penalty. But for most of us without jobs, the cash is useful!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miami Heat

McClatchy newspapers, owners of the Miami Herald -- once Florida's best newspaper -- reported its second-quarter numbers today, and the print newspaper decline continues.

Here's what the numbers look like:

Second-quarter revenue was down nearly 16 percent to $489.7 million.
Advertising revenues fell 17 percent to $406.3 million.
Circulation revenues slid 5 percent to $66.1 million.
Profit fell by nearly half to $19.7 million vs $35.2 million in the second quarter of '07.

Online advertising revenue was a bright spot, but still not enough to make up for the other numbers. Online ad revenue grew nearly 13 percent, making up nearly 12 percent of total ad revenue.

It's also paring its debt, which now stands at about $2 billion, down nearly $400 million from the beginning of the year. If only Tribune's debt stood at a mere $2 billion. But of course we know it is six times that amount.

And McClatchy isn't saying staff cuts are done. They'll take a look at where they stand in the third quarter, its press release said. Don't put the ax away yet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Where Did the Competition Go?

You may dislike Lee Abrams' stream of consciousness, which would make Gabriel García Márquez proud. But as an outsider looking in, the chief innovation officer (got to love the title) has some occasional insights. Here’s one from Monday’s memo that leaped out at me.

“One thing I believe needs more attention is paying closer attention to other media. I was at a few Editorial meetings, and they were passionate and intense. But I noticed a lack of attention paid to the competition. Competition meaning everything from Drudge to USA Today to Yahoo to Fox News to Smoking Gun. I'm not taking about fact, the reaction might be "they are all wrong". That's fine...but we don't own news anymore. We are best at it...but there are SO many options that I think it's a critical exercise to have a keen and complete awareness of what everyone else is doing.”

Many newspapers long ago stopped paying attention to anbody else and that’s the way they liked it. Newspaper companies spent millions of dollars buying up their weaker (though sometimes better) crosstown rivals to monopolize advertising revenue and profits. Newspapers got richer, but newsrooms got lazier.

I have worked at papers that were competitive and noncompetitive, and the competitive ones provided a bigger thrill.

At the Sentinel, it was common for stories to be held without fear the competition would scoop us, because the competition had long ceased to exist. News happened when the Sentinel published the story, whenever that was. Over a long period of time – and for the Sentinel that means since the early 1980s – that breeds arrogance, sloppiness, a we’re-the-big-guys-in-town mentality and, in the end, a disregard for the community it serves.

Using the zone editions as an example, in the last 10 years the Volusia edition was beefed up, then slashed, then beefed up again partly in response to competition from the Daytona Beach News-Journal, itself a merger between two newspapers dating to the 1980s. The latest news is, the Volusia section and all zone editions except Lake County’s will be gutted. No need to worry about competition from the News-Journal (which has its own headaches) or anybody else.

These moves contradict the so-called focus on hyper loco. You need a presence in many locations to provide hyper loco coverage. You also need reporters. The reduction or absence of these two critical elements is a clear indication that hyper loco is an illusion.

The Orlando Sentinel will have fewer pages (how about those half pages?) as well as fewer and shorter stories. It will cease to provide meaningful coverage of outlying counties as well as Washington, D.C. (won’t the pols love that). Business and the arts? Forget about it. It closed its fairly cheap Puerto Rico bureau several years ago. The national and international news will be packaged from news services and you won't find such news on the front page, unless the world blows up.

Readers can do a lot better than this on the Web. The Sentinel is not accustomed to factoring in local or national competition. But the immediacy of the Web makes everything local and re-invigorates the news with the competitiveness of years ago. It doesn’t really matter where news comes from. If you read it “somewhere” on the Web and find it in your hyper loco paper the next day, it’s old news, buddy.

Tribune is going to have to teach some old dogs old tricks.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Names Matter

In its very belated 'fessing up news relelase, the Orlando Sentinel stated it would not release the names of editorial staffers affected by the cuts out of a long-standing policy of "respect for privacy."

Fair enough. But let me elaborate why names matter. Many newspapers and newspaper editors would like nothing more than for The Departed to slink into the night, never to be heard or seen from again.

They do not want to aknowledge how you may have written great stories under trying circumstances, including absurd requests, insane editors, inane edits, looming deadlines and other mayhem. Still, you delivered. And, let's say up front for the grouches among us, that not every story was a gem. The demands of a daily newspaper guarantee that we each have written our fair share of stinkers and forgettable stories.

They do not want to concede that you produced something of value.

They do not want to say that you may be an expert in a given subject and therefore are a fountain of knowledge and resources about the Orlando community.

They do not want to name names because they do not want to put a face on the cost of this enormous transformation in the newspaper business.

They would rather deal with abstract numbers because they are embarrassed about presiding over this mess.

But do not go gently into the good night.

You have earned proper aknowledgment for all the years of hard work that helped keep this community informed through declining newspaper circulation, declining revenue and a revolving door of editors.

You are not a number. Come Tuesday, when the ax falls again, help me name names. Let's put it on the record the decades of seasoned talent that must leave the paper.

Call It What It Is

Been having an intriguing discussion with some Sentinels lately about layoffs versus buyouts. Some people distinguish between a staffer who raises her hand and whispers to Zell, “Take me! Take me!”, and a staffer whose number comes up in the layoff lottery.

I beg to differ. It’s one and the same thing.

First, buyouts are aimed at reducing staff. Period. Zell is not standing on a corner handing out checks (about a $63 million first-quarter charge due to severance and termination payments; wonder what that figure will be in the second quarter?). There is a goal to be accomplished, and that is to employ substantially fewer people when all is said and done.

Second, few people would be opting for buyouts if it weren’t absolutely explicit that staff numbers are going to be reduced, like it or not. If you don’t toss your name in the hat now, Charlotte Hall -- or your immediate editor-- may write it on a piece of paper, fold it and place it in there for you. If it doesn’t happen this time, there’s always round 2, round 3, round 4, round 5 … And staffers run the risk of having to take a less generous buyout offer in the future. This is a game of Russian roulette.

The fact that 70 percent of the recent Orlando Sentinel cuts involve people who “volunteered” to leave -- if the Orlando Sentinel is to be believed -- doesn’t change the essential nature of this.

Stop parsing words. There is no such thing as a "voluntary" buyout or a layoff. In the old industrial manufacturing days, a layoff meant there was a possibility that you might get called back to work when sales/revenues picked up.

That is not even remotely possible today. It is what it is. Call it what it is.

Seeing Red

Brace yourselves. Second quarter numbers are starting to come in and the Florida figures may be worse than ever.

Media General, owners of the Tampa Tribune, was one of the first out the gate. It’s a good example to watch because of the company is buffeted by the same economic crosswinds in its Florida operations as Tribune. Media General reported a second quarter operating loss of $1.4 million.

Publishing division profits plunged 70 percent to $6.8 million.
Newspaper ad revenues fell 17 percent. Speaking specifically of Tampa, Media General said classified advertising revenues fell by $14.1 million, or 29.5 percent
Publishing revenue in Florida was down 25 percent, the biggest decline of any state in which Media General publishes a newspaper

Retail advertising revenues declined $3.4 million, or 6.3 percent, primarily due to lower spending in Tampa in the department store, home furnishings, and entertainment categories
National revenues decreased $1.8 million, or 19.2 percent, due to lower utilities, travel and automotive categories in Tampa

Over at Gannett, the company who raised the bar on corporate profit margins to the detriment of newspaper operations everywhere, said:
Publishing ad revenue declined 13.3 percent to $1.11 billion
Publishing operating income plummeted nearly 27 percent.
Ad revenue slipped 8.3 percent
National revenues were down 14 percent
Classified ad revenue skidded 18.7 percent
Publishing operating cash flow sank 25 percent

As you know, Sam Zell was counting on cash flow to pay down Tribune’s gargantuan $12 billion debt. That’s not happening, hence the recent $300 million loan and the significant buyouts and layoffs across newspapers.

Zell must make a $650 million debt payment Dec. 4. If cash flow is as tight as it is, how do you spell relief? It just may be b-a-n-k-r-u-p-t-c-y.

Meanwhile, newspaper stocks are taking a huge hit. Publicly traded newspaper stocks have lost nearly $4 billion in value since the beginning of July, a reflection of the very, very dim outlook for newspapers at least in the short term.

Of course, Tribune is not a public company anymore. But you already know your value is in the toilet because Zell was able to buy the whole shaboom at essentially the price Tribune stock was trading for at the time. Compare that with Dow Jones, for which Rupert Murdoch paid nearly twice its street value! In other words, you got no premium. And you're stuck in a so-called employee-owned company in which the employees have no say. (See's recent posting on employee-owned firms.)

If you want to read more about the increasingly valueless news stocks, head to As far as I know, he was the first to take notice of the Titanic sinking of newspaper stocks.

New Photo, New Reality

Changed the photo on the blog, thinking that this more accurately reflects the goings on at the Orlando Sentinel. The newspapers are more current and the fire indicates how the old paper is going up in smoke.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trail of Tears

The newspaper industry has not retrenched as it is doing now. All across Florida and the nation, there are thousands of journalists who have gotten a heave-ho of historic proportions. It is very sad, but also a stepping stone to the new journalism of the Internet, whatever that is. I would venture to say that newspapers do not know what that looks or feels like yet (although others have figured it out. Check out the political sites/blogs. That is some of the best stuff out there.)

Expect more painful cuts in the future. I found a great interactive map of the journalism Trail of Tears ( Check out for yourselves the thousands of people who have been ordered to march from coast to coast.

The Florida numbers stack up like this thus far this year:

Miami Herald 250
Palm Beach Post 300 (all 300 buyouts were accepted this week)
Sun-Sentinel 116
Orlando Sentinel 95
Tampa Tribune 21 (this number is low; Media Gen'l announced Florida cuts of 250 to 260, incl. broadcast and community newspapers)
Bradenton Herald 1
Total 783 paper cuts

Nationwide, about 6,400 newsroom employees have been axed in 2008. I've read that 62 percent of the San Jose Mercury News staff is gone. Don't know if that is all editorial, but in either case that's a slaughter.

Florida accounts for 12.2 percent of the total paper cuts, which is not surprising given a sucky regional economy, especially housing. We are in one of Florida's famous boom and bust funks.

No doubt this Trail of Tears will expand by the end of 2008. The St. Pete Times has been rattling its chain about imminent layoffs, but no numbers yet announced. Don't know what's happening in Jacksonville.

In addition, the second quarter newspaper earnings reports published this week look very bleak. Media General (Tampa Tribune) and Gannett are taking big hits. I will address the financials in a separate post.

Get the hanky ready.

More People in the Hereafter

It's getting crowded here!

Here are the names of more ex Sentinels who are gainfully employed in non newspaper jobs. Keep those names coming.

Grant Heston, UCF News and Information

Christine Dellert, UCF News and Information

Phaedra Pohl, Universal Studios

Lisa Bridges, Disney World

Jane Catalano, Disney World

Peter Brown, Quinnipiac polling

Friday, July 18, 2008

Let It Rip

It took four days for Orlando Sentinel Editor Charlotte Hall to concede that the newspaper was in fact getting rid of staff and that it would continue to do so in the weeks ahead. That’s an eternity in the Internet age. Not four news cycles, but more like eight or 16. And this is as sure a sign as any that the Sentinel’s top management doesn’t get it.

Top management doesn’t get anything about the cyber world. You have to ask whether they should be the ones building the bridge to the 21st century, since they've proven beyond a doubt that they don’t understand that bridges aren’t made of ink, newsprint and printing presses anymore. Trained by years of newspaper monopoly (one of the worse things to happen to communities and, whether the editors know it or not, to newspapers too), the Sentinel continues to think it can control the news and the newscycle.

The Internet as you surf it is more than 10 years old, having been launched about 1994. Where have you been? There's a top layer of management at the Sentinel and many other newspapers that can best be described as embarrassing McCainiacs. They pretend to understand the new newsgathering operation, when in fact they don’t know how to use a computer! If you recall, McCain said a while ago that he didn’t know how to use a computer. Great Caesar’s ghost!

You may hate the blogosphere, but it’s now the first place where fake news, deception and outright lies are corrected, set straight and otherwise debunked. If you don’t understand the nature, character and pace of the blogosphere, then you don’t get anything. Sentinel editors think that by updating the news on their Web sites every so many hours that they are with it. They think that by putting up staff-written blogs that they are hip. Puhlease.

Sentinel blogs are no different from the stuff offered in the paper – of which there is a lot less because of the garish graphics. The blogs are bland as hell, and devoid of meaning. Newspapers will never earn their cyber chops until they let it rip.

Unshackle and unmuzzle your reporters. Put your editors in straight jackets, because they don’t get it either. Here's a big hint of the direction you need to go in: Don’t wait four days to tell the public something they already know.

The Memo

I was all set to blog about something else, when The Memo came along. So I'll post if for those who haven't read it. I got it from Romenesko, but thanks to all who sent me copies.

Topic: Memos Sent to Romenesko
Date/Time: 7/18/2008 12:25:08 PM
Title: Orlando Sentinel editors address newsroom cuts
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

Orlando Sentinel's top editors address newsroom cuts

From: Hall, Charlotte
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2008 12:17 PM
To: OSC DL Editorial
Subject: UpdateTo All

This has been a tough week for all of us. We have lost valued colleagues and talented journalists. We want to update you on the terminations. As we told you two weeks ago, about 20 percent of positions in the newsroom would be eliminated. Seven of those positions are currently vacant. The open positions and people who asked for the severance package will make up about 70 percent of the job eliminations. Sixteen staff members were terminated this week, with 10 of them seeking the package. As you know, we have another round of cuts coming at the end of the month, and numbers can change up to the last minute. At that time, we will do a news story when the process is complete. We do not release the names of those leaving the Sentinel. That has been our longstanding company policy and is grounded in respect for the privacy of those terminated employees. Unfortunately, Lisa Jacobsen’s comments to E&P were taken out of context and, therefore, did not reflect the situation accurately.Thanks for your commitment to producing compelling journalism. If you have any questions, please ask one of us.

Charlotte and Russ

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'Fessing Up -- Kind Of

Those of us in the blog world can rejoice in a triumph of truth, justice and the American way. Editor and Publisher magazine published a report Thursday on the Orlando Sentinel layoffs and buyouts that puts a lie to all the officialspeak - or more accurately, the lack thereof. Read the story, titled "Orlando Sentinel Quietly Cutting Newsroom Staff," here A good 20 percent of the newsroom will be gone between this week's pink slips and the ones to come next week.

Still, the folks at the Orlando Sentinel just can't help themselves. Lisa Jacobsen, an Orlando Sentinel human resources and communications consultant, told E&P reporter Joe Strupp that no cutbacks are planned "at this time." She added, there is "a lot of misinformation out there. Nothing is happening, and nothing is planned."

Folks, you decide who's involved in sleight of speak.

Kudos to all the folks who forced the Sentinel to come clean, just as it demands of the people and community it covers.

And remember, you read it here first.

Life in the Hereafter

If you are leaving or about to leave the Sentinel, the first thing you have to do is get your head straight. Years of working in newspapers may have left you thinking that is all you can do or that you have no marketable skills. Why is that? Well, the newspaper business, and some editors in particular, may have drilled it into you. Therefore, you have to be reprogrammed.

Take a moment to sit down and catalog your skills. You have many more than you think, beginning with writer, researcher, interviewer, editor, perform well on deadline, knowledgeable about (fill in the beat you covered), a fountain of community sources, etc. You'll feel a lot better after this exercise.

Someone was kind enough to send me a list of people who have successfully transitioned to other jobs/fields to which I have added new names. There are more people than you think. Here's a partial where-are-they-now list. I'm sure I've left tons of people out, so please add names if you like. I am excluding people who have moved onto other papers, since that's not the idea. To steal a quote from my source: There's lots of life to live after the Sentinel.

In no particular order:

Mike Griffith, Disney World corporate communications

David Porter, Disney Cruise Line

Sherri Owens, Darden

Marianne Arneberg, transportation issues

Doris Bloodsworth – self employed marketing / PR consultant

Sara Brady, VP at BrightHouse

Catherine Hinman, Morse Museum

Steve Vaughan, self-employed photographer

Diane Sears, freelancer for Florida Trend and book consultant

Jill Shargaa, owner, Shargaa Illustration & Design

Lynne Polley, former marketing artist, now does free-lance graphic design

Craig Dezern, Disney honcho

Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs, Florida Fruits and Vegetables Association

Joe Kilsheimer, self-employed PR consultant

John Babinchak, CBR Public Relations

Loraine O'Connell, editor

Keith Wheeler, possibly at Disney

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

About Those Layoffs

Sports reports that Tania Ganguli is not on the list of the soon to be departed. The list includes :
Tim Povtak
Dee Gugel
Lyndsay Sutton
Dave Curtis' open position will not be filled

Other folks passed along names of people who left months before and whose departure wasn't acknowledged earlier, including

Joe Kaleita, photo tech

And I want to add Lydia Enriquez, designer for El Sentinel, to the list of The Departed. She volunteered to leave. Folks in Features know Lydia. I worked worked with her for three years as editor of El Sentinel. She will not be replaced, but that is another post. I wish her and everyone else who is leaving well.

The Orlando Sentinel Doesn't Own the News

The hyper loco folks at the Orlando Sentinel are also becoming hyper paranoids. I have heard from many of you in these last few days. One of the most disturbing emails talked about the level of deceit practiced by the top editors in not putting out a list of who's going or gone. Not wanting to put things down on paper because they don't want this news to appear in print, online, anytime. Not wanting to report to the public in its very own pages the extent of the bloodshed, its effect on the paper, staff and general mayhem.

Everybody is being lied to, folks are saying. Readers, advertisers, staff. Wow.

This is not hard to believe because I hear from others -- presumably editors -- who write in chilling tones. They think The Shafted are deadwood, past their prime or never all there anyway and the Sentinel is better off without them. They hold the staff in complete contempt. (Nice folks, these guys.) They insist this is none of my business.

Well, whose business is it?
Is it not the public's business when the only daily newspaper in town is shrinking at an amazing rate?
Is it not the public's concern that the only daily newspaper in town may not be able to adequately cover the community?
Oh, and isn't it ironic that the newspaper that pokes its nose in everybody's business doesn't want anybody to poke their nose in 633 North Orange Ave.?

So much for the virtues of a free press and blah, blah, blah.

Get a grip, folks. The Orlando community has a right to know. Isn't this an example of hyper loco coverage?

The Orlando Sentinel doesn't own the news. Get used to it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Final Words

Mike Griffin, deputy editorial page editor at the Orlando Sentinel, sent out this memo to the newsroom before leaving the paper this week. In all the people whom Griffin thanked, there's one name that is conspicuous for its absence -- Jane Healy, former editorial page editor. Ouch!

From: Griffin, Mike
Sent: Mon 7/14/2008 10:04 AM
To: OSC DL Editorial
Subject: Thanks

To my friends and colleagues,

I'm not a good enough writer to express the emotions I'm feeling. I'll just say
it has been an honor to work for my hometown newspaper for 23 years and I'm
proud to have been associated with the great journalists here. We've
accomplished a lot together.

I want to thank my co-workers on one of the most innovative Editorial Boards in
the country - Paul Owens, Dixie Tate, Mike Murphy, Dana Summers, George Diaz and
Sean Pitts.

You may have noticed over the last couple of years that I spent a lot of time in
the newsroom for an editorial writer. It's because I love the place and the
people who work here.

Yes, even Mike Thomas.

If you get the chance to work a story with Mary Shanklin, Jim Leusner, Dan
Tracy, Jay Hamburg, Hanque Curtis or Jeff Kunerth grab it. You will be inspired.
I also want to thank Charlotte Hall, Ann Hellmuth, Bob Shaw, Sal Recchi, Dana
Eagles and Greg Miller for all the confidence they've shown in me over the

So it's time to for me to change careers. I earned a master's degree in the
human condition on a scholarship from the Orlando Sentinel. I had a great run in
a great business. I'm leaving on my own terms, at a time of my choosing.

You can't go out any better than that.

(NOTE TO SHANKLIN: This proves I can make it through a memo without making a
sappy baseball reference.)

Final Days

Thanks to a little leg work and good sources (thank you, all!), this is a list of people who are being shoved out the door this week. And let's not quibble: a buyout is just a euphemism for losing your job. It's not like you have a lot of choice in the matter.

I can't vouch that it's 100 percent accurate, but I think it's on the mark based on a repetition of names from different sources. The people on this list by no means represent all the people who soon will be unemployed. My understanding is that there will be "rolling" layoffs (truly a bad word to describe what is happening). In the next couple of weeks there will be more terminations.

Here in no particular order is the Book of the Shafted, Chapter 2 (although I think it's really Chapter 3 and possibly Chapter 4, if you include earlier departures).

John Kennedy, Tallahassee bureau chief
Jim Leusner/Orlando
Tammy Lytle, Washington bureau
Maya Bell, Miami
Mark Pinsky, religion writer/ Orlando
Scott Joseph, restaurant critic/ Orlando
Michael Murphy, Op/Ed/ Orlando
Dixie Tate, Letters page/ Orlando
Mike Griffin, editorial page/Orlando -- He's going to Disney World!
Bob Shaw, editor/ Orlando
Harry Wessel/ Orlando
Mary Ann Horne, business/Orlando
Chris Boyd, business/Orlando
Caludia Zequeria/ Orlando
Babita Persaud/ Orlando
Tim Povtak/ Orlando
Kimberly Calhoun/Orlando
Tom Barnes, multimedia/Orlando
Dee Gugel

People who left earlier for whatever reason:
Tanya Caldwell
Paul Lester
Sara Fajardo
Steve Barnes
Ed Sackett
Dave Curtis
Melissa Maxwell
Lonny Knabel
Kimberly Calhoun

Monday, July 14, 2008

Black Tuesday

Tuesday will be a sad day for many Orlando Sentinel people who will be notified that they are going to be kicked to the curb. As much as it may hurt, there are some things you can rejoice in. Here's a Top Ten list of things you'll probably either do or experience after leaving the paper, based on comments by other Sentinel alumni and my own experience.

You will:

10. Begin to see colors again now that you don't have to stare at Orlando Sentinel gray-blue anymore.

9. Cancel your subscription. It doesn't cost you half price anymore. Plus, you'll soon be reading the paper like an increasing number of people do: on the Web.

8. Be reading the paper for pleasure. You won't read stories that, frankly, bored you anyway but felt obligated to know this stuff.

7. Breathe a sigh of relief that you'll never be on daily deadline ever again.

6. Dance an Irish jig that you'll never have to deal with (fill in the blank) ever again.

5. Truly understand, like never before, that people have lives. They don't live to read the paper. That was always our little conceit.

4. Notice how amazingly thin the paper is and how it really is an easy read now that all the stuffing's been beaten out of it.

3. Feel chagrined at how little we actually know (and we thought we knew all there was to know about this town).

2. Agree that the Orlando Sentinel's opinion about anything is hogwash.

1. Get more excited about the Sunday circulars than the Sunday paper!!

Taking a Fall for Journalism

Two more newspaper executives fell on their swords Monday in the name of maintaining journalistic principles. Los Angeles Times publisher David Hiller resigned, as did Ann Marie Lipinski, editor of the Chicago Tribune. In a gross understatement reported on Romenesko, Lipinski said "the positioin was not the fit it once was." Hiller said, "Sam's the boss and he gets to pick his own quarterback." Ya think?

Now, it's highly likely that these two left minutes before Zell showed them the door. But you have to admire folks who state unequivocally, "Enough." Or as we like to say in Spanish, and which frankly sounds a heckuva lot better, "Basta!"

The Los Angeles Times, in particular, has a history of attracting people who will not reduce the paper to pulp. They would rather quit than slice and dice. It must be something in the smog that creates these converts.

Now let's not kid ourselves. The resignations aren't going to make a difference in the long term. The Times will become a smaller paper, with a narrower vision and a thinner staff. Still, it is impressive that folks feel so strongly about their paper -- that folks love their paper so -- that they would rather take a fall than do the unthinkable.

Naturally, that got me thinking: Is there anyone at the Orlando Sentinel who would follow that route? Who knows the meaning of that type of honor or principle? Would Charlotte Hall go down for the Orlando Sentinel?

I know, I know. Basta! Ain't gonna happen.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No Comment Necessary

Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 4:40 PM
To: OSC DL Management Update
Subject: A Message from Chief Financial Officer Robyn Motley

Management Team,

As you know, advertising revenue has declined significantly year over year. In addition, substantially higher newsprint prices and fuel costs have negatively impacted our operating cash flow.

Teams across the company have responded by implementing both revenue and cost containment initiatives and we applaud their efforts, which have helped stem the tide. However, the advertising outlook for the balance of the year remains challenging, and we don’t see newsprint or fuel prices reversing any time soon. Therefore, effective immediately, we are calling on each of you to significantly reduce, and eliminate where possible, all discretionary spending, defined as that which does not generate revenue or impact our ability to publish or deliver our products.

The list of discretionary expenses outlined below is by no means all-inclusive. Please review all expenses and use your best judgment about which line items, in addition to these, can be reduced or eliminated. While you may consider some of these reductions to be relatively insignificant, collectively they will add up to substantial savings. It is also essential everyone uses the same good judgment. So, we would ask managers and supervisors to communicate the same expectation to their staff, especially those who hold PCards and AMEX cards.

While these more stringent cost containment efforts are to begin immediately, over the next few weeks, each Director will work with his/her staff and budget analyst to project potential savings for the balance of the year.

Cost Containment Initiatives:

· Reduce total labor expense, defined as the total of regular pay, overtime, temp help, freelance and contractor expense.
· Significantly reduce or eliminate employee/employee entertainment. Reduce or eliminate all other entertainment except customer entertainment.
· Reduce business travel and mileage expense except for customer visits and editorial coverage.
· Reduce conference fees and the related travel expense by sending fewer people.
· Eliminate business gifts except for those pre-approved by division VP.
· Eliminate company events, except employee recognition meetings/events.
· Significantly reduce or eliminate food and beverage at employee-only meetings.
· Reduce dues and subscriptions.
· Flower arrangements should not be budgeted, but absorbed in the budget, if warranted.
· Reduce outside training, opting instead for in-house training or training the trainer.
· All company memberships must be approved by the CFO before renewal.
· Review cell phone/PDA expense to ensure that charges are correct and that company issued devices are still warranted for all employees listed.
· Consolidate and reduce office supplies proportionate to recent FTE reductions.
· Any expense that is eligible must be capitalized, and all capital must be approved by the CEO.
· Above all, challenge the status quo by assessing the business benefit of all expenditures. Spend only what is necessary, not necessarily what’s in your budget.

Our management team has a long history of quickly responding to challenges such as the one we currently face, and I have every confidence that we will again meet this challenge. Thank you in advance for your help and please do not hesitate to contact Doug Vance or me if you have any questions or require additional clarification

Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't Like What's Going On? Well, Sue!

Somebody in the good ole' US of A was bound to sue a newspaper about the slicing and dicing going on. Lo and behold a North Carolina lawyer (and former reporter. Yippee!)is suing The News & Observer
in Raleigh, N.C., over staff and newsprint cuts.

Editor and Publisher reported the lawyer is suing because he renewed his subscription and soon after the newspaper did the slice and dice dance. Naturally, the paper is "not worth what hesigned up for and therefore the cuts breached the paper's contract with
him...." The lawyer alleges this is fraud. You dirty rats!!

Good luck, buddy. I'll be watching if anything comes of this. There's a long line of people who are being defrauded by the newspaper industry at this moment.

The Future Is Here

The future of newspapers has arrived in Wisconsin. Editor and Publisher reported this week that the Daily Telegram in Superior is spiking its daily print edition in favor of a Web-based paper. It will print only two days a week. The Daily Telegram is following in the footsteps of another paper, the Capital Times in Madison, which announced a similar move earlier this year.

These two papers are small, but they are headed in the direction that the rest of the industry must go in. The only difference is that the Wisconsin papers are getting there first. The current newspaper business model is unsustainable. No new news there. Everything is cheaper on the Web. You don't need newsprint, ink, printing presses and therefore not much brick and mortar. Contrary to popular opinion, though, you do need reporters (but fewer editors). And so Zell and others are in fact killing the golden goose instead of feeding it.

Still, a Web-based paper is a very economical way to publish. (And that's why newspapers are losing their franchises. Anybody can be a publisher now. Newspapers will never have the last word ever again. Hallelujah, baby!)

If you're saddled with all of the newsprint, ink and presses, you can't there from here in one step. You could if somebody had the fortitude to just do it (and I'm sure Zell, et al, have thought about it). But the upheaval probably would be too great. Perhaps the community would wake up from its slumber and be outraged - outraged! That's why print newspapers will die from a thousand cuts.

But I think it will be all over but the shouting in about 3 years. The combination of profit/ revenue that's not going to be generated because circulation and ad revenue is tanking and the crushing debt that has to be paid is going to push everything and everybody over the cliff much sooner than insiders think.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Much Are Them Sentinel Buildings Worth?

Sam Zell's forte is real estate. That's how he made the millions that he chose - wisely - not to invest in Tribune. He announced several weeks ago intentions to put the classic Tribune and LA Times buildings on the auction block. But there's been no mention of the Orlando Sentinel property.

The Sentinel buildings ain't pretty. If memory serves me correctly, the main building on Concord Avenue used to be a Sears oh so many years ago. This accounts for the building's two-story height and corridors that make odd twists and turns. Nobody will want to buy this Frankenstein.

But ... the land surely is another story. The Sentinel's strategic location just north of downtown - walking distance to City Hall and the main drag on Orange Avenue - may set a gleam in Zell's eyes. Sure, real estate prices are down now, but they will bounce back. When they do, there won't be enough staff left to fill the Sentinel building and that will be a perfectly good excuse to sell and "maximize assets."

Don't be surprised if in the next three years or so, employees are moved out of the Sentinel buildings on North Orange Avenue and relocated in a strip mall. In fact, I know of the perfect location: the old credit union building on Colonial Drive just minutes from I-4!! Yes, all 3,000 square feet.

Then we can all watch in awe as another 20- or 30-story glass monstrosity takes over the spot.

Zell Readies the Ax

Word on the street is that the Orlando Sentinel will announce another round of staff cuts next week. Not clear yet on how many people will be pushed out the door and how many from the newsroom. However, my best guess is that it will particularly painful. I've heard numbers as high as 40.

If you've been following Tribune news, no doubt you've watched the ax move from newspaper to newspaper. The Baltimore Sun, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune all have announced big staff reductions. You knew that shiny, sharp instrument was going to make its way to Florida and I see no reason why the ax wouldn't come down just as hard here.

I'm going to single out just one newsroom department -- the editorial board -- to illustrate how bad things may get. When I joined the board in 2004 total staff came to 11. That included the editorial page editor, editorial writers, copy folks and the Insight editor (that section no longer exists).

If the cuts are as deep as I think they're going to be, the editorial page may end up with 3 to 4 people -- or about a third of its former staff. With the editorial page editor exiting, you may not even need to fill that post, since it's possible the department will fall under the Sentinel editor once again.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Attention Must Be Paid

So why is Maria Padilla writing a blog about the Orlando Sentinel? Glad you asked. First and foremost because attention must be paid to the disintegration of the only daily newsgathering operation in this region.

The Sentinel was never great, but it had some integrity. And while the Sentinel didn't always call the right shots, it did hold some people's feet to the fire when it wasn't too busy cozying up to the powers that be.

I write this blog because accountability is important. I worry about what is happening in the cities and counties that no one knows about or will have the chance to find out because nobody's going to show up at a boring public meeting and bother to find out.

When I was a Sentinel editorial writer for the county sections, there were plenty of meetings I attended where the public officials said they hadn't seen a Sentinel reporter in a long time. And that, folks, was during better days. What will happen now? How will we find out how government is spending our money? Did anybody say Expressway Authority? How will we know that a nut job is running for public office. I have sat in on many of these endorsement interviews and they can be hilarious. At another paper I worked for a candidate said he didn't know we were going to ask him questions about the issues. Huh? While at the Sentinel, one candidate had been arrested in a family altercation.

I am not sentimental about the Sentinel. After all I left it in 2005 and haven't looked back. I am not so squeamish about the folks who are being let go. Stuff happens. It happens to me. It happens to you. It happens to your neighbor, your friend, your family. It happens to people in other industries. I don't feel our pain more than other people's.

But attention must be paid to the institution that monitors our public life. You think the Sentinel or its mucky mucks are going to tell you? I have a printing press I want to sell you ....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ghastly Redesign

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to comment on the Orlando Sentinel's new look. It's ... you know .... kind of like ..... well, maybe more like .... on the other hand, not so .... but very .... it's got ... however, not enough ... a tad of ... and too much of ... How shall I say? The words escape me.

Howard Kurtz, media critic of the Washington Post, was more articulate. This is what he had to say in a column published last week:

(T)he Orlando Sentinel, launched a redesign last week that makes USA Today look like the Financial Times. The front page is dominated by big photos, big graphics and a strip across the top with blurbs about inside stories, often featuring some celebrity. Each day there are three stories -- some as short as three paragraphs -- and sometimes one of them is an opinion column, complete with the writer's picture. Rather than run a full news story on an agreement for the state of Florida to buy a huge chunk of Everglades land from U.S. Sugar Corp., the Sentinel's front page carried a Mike Thomas column praising the deal. And there are info-tidbits: A story on lightning season ran next to bullet points on staying safe.The approach jazzes things up, but also makes the Sentinel look like a magazine that swoons over eye-catching art and brevity. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if newspapers merely imitate online sites, the Web already does it better.

Sentinel Blogs Heating Up

Ex Orlando Sentinel alum and fellow Editorial Board colleague David Porter writes that his daughter has started a blog, titled appropriately enough "The Amazing Shrinking Orlando Sentinel" (

Here's an excerpt from the mouth of babes:

I've always had the principle instilled in me: that journalism existed to watch out for the people. My father believes a city without a local paper is a crooked politician or businessman's dream. My mother tells me journalism is essential to democracy. In fact, the definition of a sentinel is a lookout, a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event.
I find it hard to believe that a local newspaper that has ads on its front page and replaced 'Local and State' with 'The Law and You' is looking out for anything.

Book of the To Be Shafted

This list of the potential soon to be shafted comes from Nancy Imperiale's website ( I understand there's been a brouhaha over its accuracy, so I'm putting in the disclaimer that the list may not be accurate.

Among those who may be leaving the Sentinel soon are:

Jennifer Greenhill Taylor, Jim Leusner, Sharon McBreen, Jerry Jackson, Chris Boyd, Harry Wessel, Mike Thomas, Claudia Zaqueira, Tanya Caldwell, Heather McPherson, Jean Patteson, Jim Abbott, Scott Joseph, Katy Moore, Judy Padilla, Lauren Ritchie, Robert Sargeant, Maya Bell, Tammy Lytle, and Jane Healy - who, of course, had to announce her departure in the paper because she's not to be confused with the hoi poloi.

Repeat after me, I'm a very important person, I'm a very important person, I'm a very important person, I'm a very important person ... NOT!

Book of the Shafted

Who all has left the Orlando Sentinel thus far? I had not seen a good list until I came across one at The list is long and shameful. And not just because I'm in it - twice! The centuries of collected newsgathering wisdom and humor contained in the list is painful. Not everyone on the list has left the business entirely. Some have moved on to other dinosaurs, I mean newspapers who are dead and don't know it yet or are dying a s-l-o-w death. Some people don't belong on the list because they are not newsroom people. I have taken the delightful liberty of editing them out. Fuera! Fuera!

If you know of others who should be on the list, please leave your comment. If there are names who are not newsroom people, please help me off with their heads! Here's the list:

Carrie Alexander Scott Andera • Mark Andrews Melissa Angle • Elaine Aradillas • John Babinchak • Steve Barnes • Alex Beasley Caralyn Bess • Marie Blom • Jay Boyar • Lisa Bridges • Laura Brost • Matthew Hay Brown • Peter Brown • Bill Buchalter • Ron Bush • Jim Buynak • Mike Cabbage • Alicia Caldwell • Ramsey Campbell • Ken Clarke • Bobby Coker • William Couch Autumn Cruz • Bob Curran • Dave Curtis • Christine Dellert Tameesha Desangles • Stephanie Duesing Cristina Elias • Jane Eto • Mike Etzkin • Sara Fajardo • Dana Fasano • Trevor Fraser • Shweta Gamble Barry Glenn • Judy Grimsley • Greg Groeller • Sarah Hale-Meitner Melissa Harris • David Heeren Don Hey Ed Hinton • Sean Holton • Sean Holton • April Hunt • Nancy Imperiale • Terry Irwin • Sara Isaac • Bruce Isphording • Dean Johnson • Ryan Johnson • Gene Kruckmeyer • Sarah Langbein • Laurie Lawrence • Andrea Lentz • Paul Lester • Denise Lewis • Jennifer Lewis • Jeff Libby • Mick Lochridge • Brad Logan • Larry Lopez • Rick Maese • Rebecca Mahoney Sylvia Martin • Alex Marvez • Sean Mussenden • Reggie Myers • Loraine O’Connell • Lynn Osgood • Sherri Owens • Todd Pack Becky Panoff • Gary Peach Robert Perez Manning Pynn • Ray Quintanilla • John Raoux • Gail Rayos Kristen Reed • Carol Rhodes • Tim Rivers • Lisa Roberts • Jon Rodeheffer • Roger Roy • Javier Ruiz • Pedro Ruz Guitierrez • Eric Saegebarth • Jeff Schnick • Gwyneth Shaw • Chris Sherman Jack Snyder • Snyder Snyder • Joe Sollaccio Matt Steinhoff • Shan Stumpf • Erin Sullivan • Michelle Tevis Jim Toner Tammie Wersinger • Keith Wheeler • Susan Whigham • Don Wilson