Tonawanda News to fold in January

The Buffalo News | The Tonawanda News

Twenty employees at the Tonawanda News will lose their jobs in January after the paper closes, the Buffalo News reported Thursday.

The Tonawanda News, a 134-year-old newspaper serving north suburban Buffalo, is closing after revenue from advertising and circulation failed to keep pace with expenses, the paper reports.

The paper belongs to the Greater Niagara Newspapers group, which includes two other papers in the region: the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal, according to The Tonawanda News. Neither paper is closing. Read more


Only 1 in 5 college newspapers updates its website daily

College Media Matters | Student Media Map

Just 21 percent of student newspapers at public, four-year universities update their websites five days a week, according to an interactive tool launched Thursday.

Student Media Map, a project by University of Texas senior Bobby Blanchard, compares rates of online publishing at student newspapers nationwide, Dan Reimold writes for College Media Matters.

The map works by mining RSS feeds at 485 student newspapers throughout the United States and representing each with a colored dot based on their publishing frequency. A green dot means the site is updated at least five times per week, purple means the site is updated less frequently and red indicates the university does not have a newspaper. Private universities and some colleges in New York are missing from the map.

The project shows that publishing frequency tends to skew in favor of larger schools — only 4 percent of newspapers at universities with fewer than 10,000 students enrolled published content five-days a week, compared to 81 percent of student newspapers at universities with between 40,000 and 50,000 students.

The idea for the project came from a conversation that arose when the student newspaper at The University of Texas, The Daily Texan, was faced with reductions to its print frequency, Blanchard told Reimold. The newspaper vowed to maintain a steady flow of copy to its website, which made Blanchard wonder: how many papers did the same?

You can check the map out for yourself here. Read more


9 takeways from the New York Times Co. 3rd quarter earnings call

The New York Times building in this 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New York Times building in this 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New York Times Co. joined McClatchy yesterday in booking a rare operating loss for the third quarter, $9 million or about 2.5 percent on revenues of $364.7 million.

But the many moving parts of the Times digital transformation effort had a number of positives mixed in as well. Here are nine takeaways:

  1. About that loss. It was driven by high costs associated with staff reductions ($20 million) and investment in new products. The first will be a one-time blip. But the Times will be launching and relaunching new digital versions for some time to come. Each is expensive to develop and market, and significant new revenues may be slow in coming.
  2. Equilibrium in ad and circulation revenues. A 17 percent year-to-year gain in digital advertising for the quarter roughly offset a 5 percent decline in print. Similarly revenue from a net gain of 44,000 digital-only subscribers offset revenue losses for print and print-digital subscriptions. That’s an achievement. On the ad side, most of the industry is not yet growing digital and other revenue fast enough to cover print ad losses — and Times execs, in a conference call with analysts, concede that they don’t expect to do so again in the fourth quarter.
  3. Room to grow digital audience. The 44,000 quarter-to-quarter gain, the largest the company has recorded in several years, CEO Mark Thompson said, came mainly from new international customers and the “consumer education” sector (i.e. discounted subs to students). Thompson said that with improved marketing abroad he expects to continue growing that group of subscribers.
  4. Too expensive? The Times has raised print subscription prices this year, but the higher revenue per customer, chief financial officer James Follo said, was “outweighed by volume declines.” Daily print circulation was off 5.2 percent year-to-year and Sunday 3.2 percent. With the cost of a seven-day print subscription outside the New York metro area inching close to $1,000 a year, the Times may find renewals, new subscriptions (and newsstand copies) a tougher sell — especially as a range of much cheaper digital options are available.
  5. About those executive changes. Thompson had little to add to the announcement earlier this week that 26-year veteran Denise Warren was leaving the company after her chief digital officer job was split in two. But he did drop a hint, saying the Times would be looking for “an injection of specialized digital expertise.” Warren was an experienced and talented generalist who moved from overseeing advertising to the successful completion of the Times paywall strategy. But deeper digital roots may be needed in the executive suite for the next round of growth.
  6. Women in leadership. Warren’s is the third high-level executive departure in three years, following the firings of Thompson’s predecessor as CEO, Janet Robinson in December 2011, and Executive Editor Jill Abramson this May. The Times did add a woman in its top advertising job, hiring Meredith Kopit Levien away from Forbes in July 2013.
  7. Mobile advertising progress. Kopit Levien said mobile advertising is finally gaining some traction, accounting for about 10 percent of digital ad revenue. On the other hand it lags mobile audience which now accounts for more than 50 percent of the digital visits to Times’ sites and apps.
  8. Newsroom hiring. Thompson said he expected a modest wave of hiring following the well-publicized downsizing by 100 jobs. But as at many publications, the newly hired will have different job duties like audience development rather than traditional reporting and editing roles.
  9. Lower revenue per customer. Several questions and answers in the earnings conference call focused on so-called ARPU, jargon for average revenue per user (or unit). With the changing product mix, ARPU is falling at the Times, though Follo said by only about 5 percent year-to-year.

That spotlights a huge financial challenge for the industry. As business moves down the price chain (both ads and circulation) from print to desktop/laptop to smartphone, a company can end up running fast just to stay even in revenues. And that’s likely to persist for years not just quarters.

New York Times shares traded down about 5 percent at market close. Read more


Report: More than a dozen walk from Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Business Courier

Cincinnati Enquirer Managing Editor Laura Trujillo is leaving the newspaper rather than stick around for the Gannett-owned title’s reorganization, Chris Wetterich reports for the Cincinnati Business Courier.

More than a dozen people in the newsroom are also departing, Wetterich reports: “Veteran employees told the Courier they are heading for the door because they would rather take a buyout package than go through another round of upheaval and the indignity of reapplying for jobs at a company they’ve worked at for decades.”

Mark Curnutte, Bill Koch, John Erardi, Sheila McLaughlin and Jessica Brown are among those leaving, as are three photographers, Wetterich reports. “Nearly all of the Enquirer’s 11 copy editing positions are being eliminated, although staffers in that department could apply for the new jobs,” he writes. “Copy editing and design of the newspaper will be done at a regional Gannett site.”

Editors will be known as “strategists” in the new Enquirer newsroom, Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn tells Wetterich. An email from Washburn to staffers says the Enquirer has hired several strategists already, as well as a daily news coach (Meghan Wesley) and a visuals coach (Michael McCarter).

Gannett newspapers all over the country are rolling out versions of a “newsroom of the future,” a massive structural change that requires staffers who want to stay to reapply for mostly new jobs. Steve Cavendish reported for Nashville Scene last week that the Gannett-owned Tennessean has brought in reporters from corporate siblings to help it put out the paper during the transition. Read more

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5 DIY journalism costumes for 2014

For Halloween this year, you could be a reporter (notebook, phone, side eye for your younger colleagues) or a reporter who could possibly get laid off (no costume necessary), or a reporter who has been laid off (just add flask.) Or you could go with one of these — here are five journalism costume ideas that you can do yourself with things you can mostly pilfer from the newsroom.

– Comment troll: This idea comes from Carlie Kollath Wells at Paint yourself green and bring along that tablet. If you’re really in character, you’ll have something to say about everything everyone around you says.

Troll of stones

– Tweetstorm: This is either when someone sends out a ton of tweets one right after the other, like Twitter diarrhea, or when you’re bombarded by tweets after doing something other Twitterers don’t like. Either way, print off a ton of tweets and tape them all over yourself and you’re done. You can bring an umbrella or galoshes if you want to be cute.

Post-it man

– Gas mask: Journalists have needed these in several places this year, including Ferguson, Missouri and Hong Kong. Plus, if you choose this option, you’ll be ready for the next big story.

(Photo by Kristen Hare)

(Photo by Kristen Hare)

– Facebook algorithm: Since no one really understands these, you can do whatever you want here.

Man standing with a question mark board

– Twitter verified symbol: Get a white shirt, print out a Twitter verified symbol and paste it on that white shirt. Everyone will know you’re really you. Partner costume idea: My colleague Ben Mullin also recommends a hashtag as a costume idea, which is basically just cutting out # in cardboard, paint it black and stick your head through the middle. If that’s not helpful, there are real tutorials on this one.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.53.20 AM Read more


Tim Cook files clean copy, Businessweek editor says

Bloomberg TV

Apple’s CEO acknowledged in a Bloomberg Businessweek essay today that he’s gay. How’d that article end up in Businessweek?

“The backstory is pretty simple,” Businessweek Editor Josh Tyrangiel says in an interview with Tom Keene. “He called and asked if he could come out.”

Tyrangiel says Cook’s draft “was crisp and clear, and frankly I hope he is available for more assignments going forward. He was very easy to work with on this.”

Read more


There are a lot of good illustrated journalism pieces this week

CIR | Al Jazeera America | CityLab

Three good examples of illustrated journalism arrived this week. That’s not a trend, but it’s a welcome opportunity to highlight alternative storytelling forms.

The Center for Investigative Reporting just published “Techsploitation,” a graphic novel that tells the story of an Indian man who ended up in a “guesthouse,” applying for work online after he thought he was getting a job in the States. CIR reporter Matt Smith also illustrated the book, which accompanies his much longer text-based story about shady job brokers.

A page fron "Techsploitation"

A page fron “Techsploitation”

The Guardian also ran “Techsploitation” online.

Meghann Farnsworth, CIR’s director of distribution and engagement, said she didn’t yet know the extent to which the partnership boosted the book’s reach, but said “On social media we’ve seen a lot of people excited to see it.” CIR is also trying to figure out how many print copies of the book to make — some will go to colleges and media organizations in India, Farnsworth said, and others might become premiums for CIR’s members.

A previous CIR graphic novel, “The Box,” was also produced by CIR’s Michael I. Schiller, and the news organization printed that one, too. “Digital is amazing, but there’s something about holding things in your hands,” Farnsworth said.

Al Jazeera America published “Terms of Service,” a less-than-rosy look at how big data is letting companies monetize your life — and come up with their own stories about you that you can’t control. Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld wrote and star in the book, which follows them to Colorado and New York.

A page from "Terms of Service"

A page from “Terms of Service”

Rhyne Piggott, the news organization’s head of multimedia and mobile, tells Poynter in an email that AJAM plans a print version of “Terms of Service.”

CityLab just republished “Compartment 13,” a comic by Darryl Holliday and Jamie Hibdon about the effects of anti-homeless measures in Chicago.

A detail from "Compartment 13"

A detail from “Compartment 13″

Holliday and Hidden created the piece for Symbolia Magazine, CityLab senior associate editor Shauna Miller tells Poynter in an email. (The piece was also published in partnership with Illustrated Press and the Journalism Center for Children on Families, which funded it.) “We did not commission Compartment 13, we simply connected with the writers on a tip from one of our staffers and took it on just as we would take a reported article from any freelancer,” she writes.

The story “is also part of a book that Darryl is working on that will provide a snapshot of life on Kedzie Avenue in Chicago,” Symbolia Editor Erin Polgreen tells Poynter in an email. Polgreen edited “Compartment 13″ and plans to edit Holliday’s book as well, which Holliday plans to crowd-fund.

Miller said CityLab hadn’t run a piece like this before but said she is “embarking on editing a series on homelessness for CityLab and thought this was a really good way into the human side of the issue (which is the hardest layer to get through regarding this issue with readers).”

Related: Journalists, Artists Tell Stories with Nonfiction Graphic Novels | From radio reporter to graphic novelist, how Brooke Gladstone became a character in ‘The Influencing Machine’ | California Watch tells difficult story with video, tweets (and text) Read more


How the AP busted Nazi suspects receiving Social Security payments

After three years of on-again-off-again investigation, David Rising finally sighted his quarry this summer. He was a small man, bespectacled and balding, peering over a second-story window ledge to survey his surroundings.

Rising, a Berlin correspondent for The Associated Press, had traveled a long way to see this man — all the way to Osijek, a mid-size city in Croatia nestled along the banks of the Drava River. The man, Jakob Denzinger, was one of the last living subjects of a story the AP had been chipping away at for years, a story about a decades-old policy that connected American taxpayers to individuals suspected of Nazi war crimes.

On Oct. 19, the AP moved that story, a 4,320-word investigation into a loophole that allowed Nazi suspects, including Denzinger, to receive monthly payments from the United States Social Security Administration.

The tale behind the investigation — a ponderous project that required three reporters spread out over two continents — gives a look at how the AP is leveraging its year-old international investigative team and its global network of correspondents to bring ambitious stories to term.

The story that would eventually lead to Denzinger began in 2011. That year, AP investigative researcher Randy Herschaft was digging through declassified documents at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Herschaft was trawling for information on Nazi suspects, specifically evidence related to a man on trial for committing crimes while allegedly working at a concentration camp in occupied Poland during World War II.

But during his search, he ran across a State Department report from 1984 analyzing the practice of “Nazi dumping,” a policy that included the Justice Department’s use of Social Security payments as leverage to persuade suspected Nazis to leave the United States.

When Rising discussed the report on the phone with Herschaft from Berlin, they both knew the implications were huge. If living Nazi suspects were still receiving these benefits, this decades-old report could be the beginnings of a high-impact story.

“I think maybe ‘holy shit’ was the reaction,” Rising said.

Although the two journalists had a big story on their hands, deadline pressure and daily assignments slowed the investigation. Rising had to juggle reporting and writing with leading the news cooperative’s text operations in Germany. Another obstacle intruded: the Social Security Administration changed the scope of a FOIA request seeking documents that might reveal the extent of the program.

In the meantime, Herschaft and Rising shared bylines on three other investigations into Nazi activity — two about a former Nazi commander, then living in Minnesota, who they discovered ordered a massacre on a Polish town. They also finished the story they were working on when Herschaft discovered the State Department report on Nazi dumping, an article that showed the FBI had concluded evidence used to prosecute a suspected Nazi was probably fabricated.

By February of this year, the two reporters had made significant progress on the story, but they were still missing key pieces of evidence. Rising and Herschaft hadn’t confirmed specific cases where suspected Nazis received Social Security benefits after leaving the United States. And they hadn’t yet documented whether the program was still ongoing.

Enter Richard Lardner, a reporter assigned to the AP’s international investigations team based in Washington, D.C. Trish Wilson, Lardner’s editor, sent him an email from Europe enterprise editor Joji Sakurai that laid out the foundations of the story: evidence of bargaining with Nazi war crimes suspects, deals cut by the U.S. to avoid messy deportation proceedings. Sakurai wanted help from a reporter in D.C. who could push the project forward.

In the coming months, Lardner conducted about 20 interviews and pored over records at the United States Holocaust Museum library and the National Archives. He also tried — unsuccessfully — to schedule on-the-record interviews with officials from the Social Security Administration and the Justice Department. He wasn’t discouraged by the lack of response, though.

“It just makes you want to pursue this even more aggressively,” Lardner said. “It’s the nature of what you do. If you gave up all the time, you’d never get anywhere.”

With Lardner aboard, the investigation was nearing the finish line. But as it drew to a close, the team still wanted to find a face for the story, a living person to show the impact of the decades-old policy. They got a break when Rising got in touch with one of his sources, who provided the whereabouts of Denzinger.

“Denzinger, as a former death camp guard who was removed from the U.S. and was still alive and receiving Social Security, was the ideal way to illustrate the story,” Rising said in an email to Poynter.

On July 27, Rising flew to Zagreb, Croatia, and drove about three hours east to Osijek. He and Darko Bandic, the photographer assigned to the story, took position at a café near Denzinger’s apartment, hoping to catch him on the way out.

As stakeouts go, it wasn’t too bad — the journalists moved between the café and a restaurant, so they had plenty to eat and drink. But after a day of waiting, all they had to show for their efforts was a glimpse of Denzinger through the window and a report from a waiter who said he was a good tipper.

So, knowing they couldn’t stay in Croatia forever, the pair decided to head to Denzinger’s apartment for the interview. They were buzzed into the building without a word. When Rising arrived at Denzinger’s door, his nurse answered, speaking Croatian. Rising fetched Bandic, who could speak to the nurse — but when they got back to the door, she wouldn’t answer. Two hours later, a lady from a downstairs apartment arrived and let Rising in.

“There was the natural apprehension of stepping into someone’s apartment not knowing exactly what awaits, but even more a rush of adrenaline knowing this was my chance and that persistence had paid off,” Rising said.

When he stepped into the apartment, Rising got his first up-close look at Denzinger. He was round and short, wearing a cardigan even in the heat of the summer. Rising identified himself in German, but Denzinger refused to comment for the story. Eventually, he asked Rising to leave.

Although he weren’t able to persuade Denzinger to go on the record, taking the trip to Croatia was worth it, Rising said.

“From the visit we were able to paint a picture of the life that Denzinger was leading in his retirement in Croatia, which helped put a human face on the story,” Rising said.

Even after the interview, the team still had much to do — reporting and writing and fact-checking the article to make sure it was bulletproof, Rising said. That took an additional three months.

When it finally moved over the wires, the article was a hit. It was published on 68 front pages over two days; it was republished by Mashable, CBS News and Der Spiegel; lawmakers announced they would introduce legislation to close the loophole.

“That’s very satisfying,” Lardner said. “You want to write something that’s good, that’s accurate, that people read, that has impact. And I think that story did.”

This story and others like it, exclusives that have come through the AP’s international investigations team, are part of a strategy to produce original content, said John Daniszewski, vice president and senior managing editor for international news at the AP.

“I think as the news has become more of a commodity, more ubiquitous because of the Internet, you need more special stories to make you stand out and make people feel like the AP is going to have a distinctive range of stories — and they’re going to be missing those stories if they didn’t have AP,” Daniszewski said. Read more


Career Beat: Arianna Huffington to get new chief of staff

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Elise Hu will be NPR’s Asia correspondent in Seoul. She covers tech and culture at NPR. (Poynter)
  • Mitra Kalita is now executive editor-at-large for Quartz. Previously, she was ideas editor there. Paul Smalera will be Quartz’ new ideas editor. He is editor of The New York Times opinion app. (Poynter)
  • Donald Baer is now chairman of PBS’ board of directors. He is CEO of Burson-Marsteller. (PBS)
  • Jessica Coen is now a contributing editor at Marie Claire. She is an editor-at-large with Jezebel. (Fishbowl NY)
  • Stephen Lacy is now chairman of the Association of Magazine Media. He is CEO of the Meredith Corporation. (Email)
  • Dan Katz will be chief of staff to Arianna Huffington. He’s currently a chief researcher for David Gergen. Maxwell Strachan is now senior editor of business and tech at The Huffington Post. Previously, he was business editor there. (email)
  • Emily Yoshida will be entertainment editor at The Verge. Previously, she was culture editor at Grantland. (Muck Rack)

Job of the day: The Virginian-Pilot is looking for a digital news editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


NYT added 44,000 digital subscribers in the third quarter

The New York Times Company

The New York Times Company added 44,000 subscribers to its digital-only products in the third quarter of 2014, “an increase of more than 20 percent compared with the end of the third quarter of 2013,” it says in its third-quarter earnings report, released Thursday.

The company says it now has 875,000 subscribers to digital-only products. It added 32,000 subscribers in the second quarter.

Revenue at the company was a little better than flat: up about 1 percent overall, with circulation revenue up 1.6 percent, advertising revenue down .4 percent and other revenue — including events — up about 4 percent.

Print ad revenue was down about 5 percent, and digital ad revenue was up 16.5 percent. Operating costs rose 9 percent, “mainly due to severance expense associated with previously disclosed workforce reductions as well as higher compensation and benefits expenses primarily related to the Company’s strategic initiatives,” the release says.

Times digital honcho Denise Warren left the company this week, part of what Times Co. President and CEO Mark Thompson calls a “reorganization that is intended to accelerate the development of our digital consumer business by creating separate marketing and digital divisions.” He continues: “Our audience development efforts also remain a top priority, with the goal of extending our already broad reach and deepening the engagement of our readers.” Read more