Morning media roundup: L.A. Times lays off staff, reader wonders whether Digital First has thinned papers

The Los Angeles Times cuts staff: “more than a dozen staffers” lost their jobs yesterday, Lucas Shaw reports. Kevin Roderick says one cashiered staffer sent an email that read “I’m saddened that with my departure the number of African American copy editors here goes down to one.”

>>RIP Dorothy Townsend, a reporter who broke a gender barrier at the L.A. Times. She’d jumped from feature writing to the city room, where she hectored her editors until they let her cover the Watts riots. Valerie J. Nelson writes, “Months after chronicling the ‘Sad Saga of Bimbo, the Psychotic Whale’ at Marineland, she helped document the aftermath of the riots. She interviewed religious leaders who expressed guilt over being ‘blinded’ to economic conditions in Watts and analyzed the ‘desperate’ youths who took part in the riots.” Her team’s coverage won a Pulitzer.

Absence of news becomes news: The value of the “unwritten rule” that the press doesn’t normally write about the president’s children was calculated in public this week when an Agence France-Presse correspondent in Mexico reported that Malia Obama was in the country on a school trip. The White House asked websites that picked up the story to yank the pieces, and many complied. “The ban on such coverage has existed through many administrations by informal agreement with the White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the interests of journalists who cover the president,” writes Paul Farhi in a good overview of the situation. “There’s a general feeling among the press corps that it wants to be respectful,” Caren Bohan, WHCA president, told Farhi. There’s probably also a general feeling among the press corps that its members would appreciate getting their questions answered in the future.

>>”In the White House’s view, photos, videos and descriptions of the president’s children at play — be it outside their residence or on a school trip — have no vital news interest and inhibit privacy and security,” Brian Stelter writes. “In the statement on Tuesday, the spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama said, ‘We would reiterate our request that the media respect the privacy and security of the Obama children and not report on or photograph the girls when they are not with their parents.’” I’m a parent and certainly understand the impulse here, but that reasoning seems a bit pat: Are there two better-protected children anywhere on the planet? And as Farhi points out, Malia and her sister appear prominently in a campaign ad for their dad’s reelection campaign.

>>After an earthquake in Mexico, the White House issued a statement that Malia was OK.

• You thought you were done reading about Mike Daisey? You may want to retract that hope.

>>Jessica Estepa writes about the time Daisey demanded a correction from her, for a review she wrote last year of a D.C. Daisey performance in Roll Call. She cops to muffing the age of a girl he quotes in the show (13, not 14) but was interested to hear Daisey’s translator say the girl didn’t exist.

>>Here’s the text of Daisey’s monologue from his post-retraction D.C. show on Monday.

Sebastian Junger‘s starting a group that will provide emergency medical training to freelance reporters. “Most of the risks are being run by freelancers,” Junger told Michael Calderone. “People really in the meat grinder of the front lines are not, for the most part, insured or salaried network correspondents. They’re young freelancers. They’re kind of a cheap date for the news industry.”

Sell those newspaper buildings. Waterville, Maine’s city council voted to purchase the Morning Sentinel building if it passes an inspection, after which point the city will turn it into a police station. MaineToday Media had originally offered the building for $1.5 million; the town got it for $550,000 amid a debate over whether it would be better to build a new police station. (Earlier: It’s a trend: Newspaper buildings are worth selling.)

Johnnie St. Vrain at the Longmont, Colo., Times-Call tries to figure out whether the Digital First Media-owned paper has thinned out its local coverage, as a reader proposes. St. Vrain counts stories and finds the paper is holding on, particularly in local coverage. “What news are you getting less of? Very likely, world and nation news. We realize that sources of world and nation news are many, so we choose to focus on bringing you local, regional and state news, with important world and nation news mixed in.” On Tuesday, DFM macher Steve Buttry wrote about the challenges facing journalists at his company.

• Media General got a little breathing room on its debt.

Full list of the British Press Awards includes the “Diarist of the year” category.

• Speaking of Britain, here’s some classic management speak: BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch says Sky News “has absolute independence and integrity” while explaining why he asked it to pull a story that purportedly upset some Formula One racing teams it’s hoping to cover with a new channel.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • jon daly

    i, too, am saddened that the terminated copy editor played the race card upon learning his/her fate. was his termination really sadder because he was black and the LA Times now has just one black copyeditor? 
    was the firing of the white (latin, asian?) staff members less sad because of their race?
    Should the Times have determined who would be fired by using a racial quota system instead of trying to assess the contributions that each staff brought into the workplace?
    Many people will say, of course, that the Times should have fired the most senior, most productive staffers in an effort to maintain racial diversity, and certainly race comes into play when making these decisions (though not in the way that many “progressives” believe). 
    yes, this is sad.

  • Anonymous

    Since you don’t have time or space to report REAL news, i will have to report here myself: sheesh:
    ”This is how things work in the Internet Age.
    A witty writer in Boston sets up a fake quote from the late Jean-Paul Sartre back in 2003 in an article about introverts and extroverts that was published in the Atlantic Monthly online, and almost 10 years later the fake quote — “Hell is other people at breakfast” — is still going strong on blogs, emails and bonafide websites.
    Very few people have bothered to check if the quote is correct, since the correct quote from Sartre’s famous play “No Exit” is actually, “Hell is other people.” In French, Sartre wrote it out as, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.”
    But Rauch’s 2003 tongue-in-cheek witticism flew right past most of his readers then, and it is still flying past most people on the internet now.
    Worse, the New York Times Weekly edition, a 12-page insert that goes into 36 foreign newspapers around the world, recently put that fake quote in a front page article, without fact-checking it or doing any newsroom research.
    Kevin Delaney, writing for the Times insert, which appeared in my local Chinese-language newspaper here in Taiwan, noted on a front page story titled “The Yin and Yang of Personality”: “As Sartre said: ‘Hell is other people at breakfast.” And Delaney also told readers that the quote appeared in a “recent” article by Jonathan Rauch in the Atlantic Monthly.
    Oops. Fact-checkers, where are you?”

  • Poynter

    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, newsroom diversity is a victim of layoffs and buyouts, and that’s a part of the story that’s important for us to report. Even when journalists of color are not disproportionately affected, there are newsrooms where these departures leave very little diversity. That was the case last week in Philadelphia and it may be the case in LA as well. This is especially troubling when these publications are serving communities significantly more diverse than their newsrooms. –Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online

  • Dr. Syn Syn

     I’m disturbed by the first item here. When 12 people are laid off, it seems crass to make it about race.