Digital First Media

Former Time Inc. CTO joins magazine startup

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

  • Frédéric Michel will be a consultant for Sky Italia. He is Telefónica’s Europe director of public affairs and communication. (The Guardian)
  • Bob Mason is now vice president of hosting at NewsCycle Solutions. Previously, he was chief technology officer at Digital First Media. (Poynter)
  • Gregg Doyel is now a sports columnist at The Indianapolis Star. Previously, he was a columnist at (The Indianapolis Star)
  • Mike Stamm is now a senior design technologist at The Washington Post. Previously, he led design technology at The Wall Street Journal. Jessie Tseng is an interaction designer at The Washington Post. Previously, she was a user experience designer at Adaptly. (The Washington Post)
  • Sheena Lyonnais will be a freelance writer. Previously, she was managing editor of Yonge Street Media. (Yonge Street Media)
  • Susi Park is general manager of advertising for GQ. Previously, she was assistant general manager of advertising at Wired. (Email)
  • Abe Cytryn is now chief technology officer for Magzter. Previously, he was chief technology officer at Time Inc. (Email)

Job of the day: The Washington Post is looking for a religion writer. Get your résumés in! (The Washington Post)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Digital First Media’s chief technology officer exits

Bob Mason, formerly chief technology officer at Digital First Media, left the news organization last week, a company representative confirmed today.

Mason is now vice president of hosting at NewsCycle Solutions, a newsroom software company, where he oversees cloud computing.

Several higher-ups have left DFM in recent months. On Monday, Matt DeRienzo, DFM’s ‎northeast regional editor, took a buyout, according to the New Haven Independent. In April, the company announced the departure of former editor-in-chief Jim Brady and the cancellation of Project Thunderdome, a news distribution initiative he championed. That month, DFM Digital Transformation Editor Steve Buttry announced he was leaving, as did Project Thunderdome Editor Robyn Tomlin.

In September, the company announced it was “exploring strategic alternatives,” which could mean selling some or all of its 76 daily newspapers and 160 weekly publications. Read more


Career Beat: Loren Mayor named chief operating officer for NPR

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

  • David Gillen is now executive editor of news enterprise at Bloomberg News. Previously, he was deputy business editor of enterprise at The New York Times. (Politico)
  • Loren Mayor is now chief operating officer for NPR. Previously, she was senior vice president of strategy there. (Poynter)
  • Weston Phippen is now a reporter for the National Journal. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. Lauren Fox will be a Congress reporter at the National Journal. Previously, she was a political reporter at U.S. News and World Report. (Email)
  • Mark Brackenbury has been named executive editor for the Connecticut Group at Digital First Media. He is managing editor for the New Haven Register. (New Haven Register)
  • Colleen Noonan has been named vice president of marketing and creative service for the New York Daily News. Previously, she was a digital media and marketing consultant at Pitney Bowes. Melanie Schnuriger is now vice president of product development for the New York Daily News. Previously, she was general manager of fashion and beauty for Hearst Digital Media. Kristen Lee is director of digital development for the New York Daily News. Previously, she was digital integration editor there. Brad Gerick is now director of social media for the New York Daily News. He has been social media manager and regional editor for Zach Haberman is now deputy managing editor for digital at the New York Daily News. Previously, he was digital news editor there. Cristina Everett is now deputy managing editor for digital entertainment at the New York Daily News. Previously, she was senior digital entertainment editor there. Andy Clayton is now deputy managing editor for digital sports at the New York Daily News. Previously, he was senior online sports editor there. Christine Roberts is mobile and emerging products editor at the New York Daily News. Previously, she was an associate homepage editor there. (Email)

Job of the day: BuzzFeed is looking for a National LGBT Reporter. Get your résumés in! (BuzzFeed)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Digital First Media will explore sale of papers

Digital First Media | The Denver Post | Jim Romenesko

Digital First Media has hired UBS Securities LLC to help it determine what it calls “strategic alternatives for the Company’s business.” That could involve a sale of some or all of the company’s news products, which include 76 daily papers and 160 weekly publications.

The Denver Post headlines the news a bit less gingerly: “Denver Post, other Digital First Media newspapers, for sale.” (Here’s a list of DFM properties.)

Related: “What went wrong at Digital First Media — and what’s next?”

“As employees, the best thing we can do while this review is underway is to keep doing what we have been doing best these past years – producing unsurpassed local journalism; serving our customers’ needs and continuing to boldly experiment with our digital future,” DFM CEO John Paton tells employees in a memo.

DFM has already put the buildings in which many of its publications are based on the market.

Ken Doctor reported in April that DFM planned to sell its newspapers. At the same time, it shuttered its Thunderdome project, which aimed to build a national newsroom for the newspapers.

The company won’t set a deadline for the sale or report any developments “until the Board has determined whether it will proceed with one or several transaction(s), or otherwise concludes its review,” a news release says. Read more

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Clash over Abramson’s style may have figured in Politico editor’s resignation

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Rick Berke leaves Politico: The publication’s executive editor resigned Sunday, citing “an acceptance by the three of us that the dynamics were just not there for us to function seamlessly.” The other two people in that “three of us” formulation, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, tell staffers “We have very big plans for expanding POLITICO here and elsewhere and need in place a leadership team that shares our vision, ambitions and full faith.” (HuffPost) | Erik Wemple passes on word of an awkward “Politico University” workshop in May, after Berke’s former boss Jill Abramson was fired: “Berke got a bit off-topic, putting forth his opinion that Abramson was an inept and insensitive manager. Some female staffers objected to that characterization, and the session blew up in awkward polemics about the internal politics of a competing outlet.” (WP) | “Rick Berke does not capitalize “Politico” in his resignation message. That’s a strategic difference right there” (@johnmcquaid)
  2. Benny Johnson gets a second chance: The former BuzzFeed reporter, fired for plagiarism in July, will be social media director at National Review. “Benny made a terrible mistake,” National Review Editor Rich Lowry tells Mike Allen. “But he has owned up to it and learned from it.” (Politico) | “#FF @RichLowry” (@bennyjohnson) | “‘God and Man at #YOLO’” (@sissenberg)
  3. Wealthy owners sought for DFM papers: “Newspaper Guild-represented staff at major newspapers including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press are publishing ads online and in print seeking local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms.” (Newspaper Guild) | Do you know anyone who’d like to mix a little ink into their blue blood? Contact TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer ( or TNG-CWA Acting Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens (
  4. Ben Smith on the death of the newspaper “bundle”: “[T]here are signs that the unbundling may be followed by a rebundling. … And so editors like me are wrestling with two questions: can we put the bundle back together? And should we?” (The Guardian) | FREEKY FLASHBACK: “If anything, BuzzFeed, with its massive traffic and fat wallet, has reengineered the ‘bundle’ so it can actually add news coverage in an advertising climate that’s caused other publications to get really good at subtraction.” (Poynter)
  5. Why won’t Bloomberg report on itself? The news organization’s “decision to not write about Mr. Bloomberg’s return to his company, and Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to speak with a rival news organization, displeased a number of Bloomberg’s journalists,” Ravi Somaiya writes. “To retreat on a newsworthy story in deference to your owners is bad policy,” Ann Marie Lipinski tells him. (NYT)
  6. Remembering Steven Sotloff: About 1,000 people gathered in Pinecrest, Florida, to remember the slain journalist. Sotloff “went to places we only read about in the headlines, sought out people, became their voice,” Rabbi Terry Bookman said in a eulogy. “And what a beautiful voice it was.” (Miami Herald) | Clips from his work at Central Florida Future (Central Florida Future) | Related: David Carr on the “mastery of medium and message” Sotloff’s murderers show in their video. “ISIS seems to understand that the same forces that carried the Ice Bucket Challenge’s message of uplift — the desire to be part of something, to be in the know — can be used to spread fear and terror as well.” (NYT)
  7. Chuck Todd debuts as “Meet the Press” host: “It will take more than a former bouncer with awesome tats to save ‘Meet the Press,’” Manuel Roig-Franzia writes. “But in a genre that sometimes has the feel of a wax museum, it’s a start.” (WP) | The show “isn’t going to be turned around in six days or six weeks,” Todd tells Brian Stelter. (CNN)
  8. Why did The Plain Dealer pull three top reporters from courts beat? “The reason bandied about the Plain Dealer newsroom in the wake of the announcements is that the stories written by [Rachel] Dissell, [John] Caniglia, and [Jim] McCarty were generating some of the highest traffic online. Since these three reporters still work for the union-employed Plain Dealer, NEOMG and NEOMG boss Chris Quinn could not take credit for the Internet traffic. By replacing his award-winning journos, Quinn can now claim the clicks for future court stories.” (Cleveland Scene)
  9. Ferguson Fellowship funded: $40,319 was pledged by 8:19 a.m. Monday, two days before the deadline. Two people took the $5,000 package, which includes a lunch at the Ferguson McDonald’s with Ryan J. Reilly and Ferguson Fellow Mariah Stewart. (Beacon Reader)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Benny Johnson will be social media editor for National Review. Previously, he was viral politics editor at BuzzFeed. (Politico) | Joe Scarborough will be a contributor to “Meet the Press.” He is the host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. (The Hill) | Rebecca Adams is now a staff writer at The Huffington Post covering family and relationships. She was lifestyle editor there. (The Huffington Post) | Anna Orso is now a reporter and curator for Billy Penn. She was a reporter for the (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) Patriot-News. (Billy Penn) | Shari Levine is now executive vice president of current production for Bravo Media. She was senior vice president of current production there. (NBC Universal) | Adam Bryant is now a deputy science editor at The New York Times. He is a business writer there. (Poynter) | Howard Mittman is now publisher of GQ. Previously, he was publisher of Wired. (Condé Nast) | Chris Mitchell is now publisher of Vanity Fair. Previously, he was publisher at GQ. (Condé Nast) | Daniella Diaz is a web producer at Politico. Previously, she was a staff writer at The Monitor. (Politico) | Job of the day: The Center for Public Integrity is looking for a fellow. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: Read more


Digital First puts 51 newspaper buildings on the market

Digital First Media has listed 51 newspaper buildings for sale, according to a press release from the real estate firm Twenty Lake Holdings.

The properties are “for sale across seven states including California, Connecticut, Colorado and Pennsylvania, to name a few,” Twenty Lake Holdings says in its release.

The planned sale “enables us to streamline our real estate portfolio through a comprehensive program encompassing property sales, new leasing, relocations and consolidation, thereby freeing the company from the constraints of being overburdened with underutilized properties,” DFM President and COO Steve Rossi says in the release.

With the addition of the DFM properties, Twenty Lakes and the broker Praxis Commercial have 70 newspaper buildings for sale in total, the release says.

Reached by email, DFM CEO John Paton said the listings represent “the remainder of our real estate holdings not yet sold. As you know, this is entirely consistent with our Digital First strategy of focusing on our core competencies of content and sales,” he wrote.

Here’s a list of properties for sale, via Twenty Lake Holdings’ PR firm:

table,th,td { border:1px solid black; width=100% }
Newspaper City State Property type
East County Times Antioch CA Office
Concord Printing Plant Concord CA Print Site & Flex Building
Valley Times Pleasanton CA Office
Contra Costa Times* Walnut Creek CA Flex
Inland Valley Daily Montclair CA Warehouse
Red Lands Daily Facts Redlands CA Flex
The Sun Office San Bern CA Office
The Sun Plant San Bern CA Plant
San Gabriel Valley Tribune West Covina CA Flex
Inland Valley Daily Ontario CA Flex
Times Standard Eureka CA Print Site
Red Bluff Daily News Red Bluff CA Office
Times Herald Vallejo CA Office
Advocate-News Fort Bragg CA Office
Ukiah Daily Journal Ukiah CA Office
Enterprise Record Chico CA Print Site
Lake County Record Lakeport CA Print Site
Paradise Post Paradise CA Print Site
Vacaville Reporter Vacaville CA Print Site
Daily News Alamogordo NM Office
The Deming Headlight Deming NM Office
Farmington Daily Times Farmington NM Plant, Office, Retail
Ruidoso News Ruidoso NM Small Site
York News Paper Agency York PA Print Site
Sun News Las Cruces NM Small Site
El Paso Times Plant El Paso TX Print Site (Office & Land sold to City for Stadium in 2013)
Lebanon Daily News Lebanon PA Flex
York Dispatch York PA Office
Public Opinion Chambersburg PA Flex
Bennington Banner Bennington VT Office
Berkshire Eagle Clock Tower Pittsfield MA Office & Land
New England News Bennington VT Land
The Manchester Journal Manchester VT Office
Brattleboro Reformer Brattleboro VT Print Site
Akron News Reporter Akron CO Office
Fort Morgan Times Ft Morgan CO Office
Brush News Tribune Brush CO Office
The Burlington Records Burlington CO Flex
The Daily Record Canon City CO Flex
Julesburg Advocate Julesburg CO Office
Lamar Ledger Lamar CO Office
Daily Times Longmont CO Flex
Sterling Journal Advocate Sterling CO Flex
Breckenridge American Breckenridge TX Flex
Star Group Papers Burleson TX Office
Graham Leader Graham TX Office, Print Site, Residence, Tower
Jacksboro Gazette Jacksboro TX Office
The Olney Enterprise Olney TX Print Site
Sentinel & Enterprise News Fitchburg MA Flex
MediaNews Printing Devens MA Print Site
Pioneer Press Plant St. Paul MN Plant & Office
KTVA Broadcast Fairbanks AK Land

Here’s the release:


Responsible for Newspaper Company’s Real Estate Program and Strategy
with Praxis Commercial

NEW YORK– AUGUST 19, 2014 – Twenty Lake Holdings, whose principals have been responsible for the real estate program and strategy for companies affiliated with MediaNews Group, d/b/a Digital First Media since 2011, today announced with its broker Praxis Commercial the listing of 51 new properties for sale across seven states including California, Connecticut, Colorado and Pennsylvania, to name a few.

Digital First Media, headquartered in Denver, is the second largest newspaper company in the country by daily circulation and reaches more than 67 million Americans monthly across 18 states.

“The strategy outlined by Twenty Lake Holdings and Praxis Commercial enables us to streamline our real estate portfolio through a comprehensive program encompassing property sales, new leasing, relocations and consolidation, thereby freeing the company from the constraints of being overburdened with underutilized properties,” stated Steve Rossi, President & Chief Operating Officer of Digital First Media.

“Since 2012, Twenty Lake Holdings and Praxis Commercial have facilitated the sale of 67 properties, generating significant capital for other Digital First Media business needs,” stated Joseph M. Miller, of Twenty Lake Holdings. “With these listings, the companies have 70 newspaper buildings for sale with $85 million in combined value.”

For example, the combined advisory team recently handcrafted a disposition strategy in San Jose, Calif. for the 36-acre San Jose Mercury News headquarters and printing plant, resulting in a $30.5 million sale. This allowed the paper to further consolidate operations and scout a new home in Silicon Valley, which it recently secured in downtown San Jose at Legacy Civic Towers.

“The new addition of properties for sale brings the total square footage on the market to 1.7 million square feet covering all property types including office, flex and production sites,” stated Nathanael Pennington, President of Praxis Commercial, “From California to New England, the wide ranging launch is expected to bring significant benefits to Digital First Media.”

Read more

Do local news orgs need national news?

NetNewsCheck | The New York Times

Former Project Thunderdome editor-in-chief Jim Brady asks whether local news organizations need to provide much national news anymore in a reflection on his time at the now-shuttered Digital First Media venture.

Writes Brady, a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board: “Do we think local news organizations — in the disaggregated Web world we live in and the even more atomic mobile world we’re speeding into — actually need much national news anymore?”

DFM announced the shuttering of Thunderdome in April, and it officially closed July 1.

RELATED: What went wrong at Digital First Media — and what’s next?

Among Thunderdome’s goals, Brady wrote, was:

To serve as a centralized national news desk for our properties so that we didn’t have multiple papers producing the same story about the royal baby or the Kentucky Derby or the Academy Awards. The hope was that we would then be able to devote more resources to local news in our markets

But that didn’t happen, Brady explained, because “The industrywide financial headwinds ended up being stronger than anticipated, so local newsrooms continued to get smaller during Thunderdome’s life.”

One of those shrinking DFM newsrooms is the Salt Lake Tribune, where the staff is “nearly half the size it was five years ago,” Timothy Pratt reports in The New York Times.

Gays and other minorities have a particular interest in the health of the Tribune and its ability to cover local issues, Pratt writes:

Some members of these groups say The Tribune better represents their concerns than Salt Lake’s other paper, The Deseret News, which is owned by the Mormon Church. And they say that changes made last fall in the joint operating agreement between the publications — which include cutting The Tribune’s profits in half in exchange for cash and other benefits — are certain to spell The Tribune’s demise.

Digital First Media CEO John Paton told the Times, “There are no plans to cease publication of The Tribune today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or ever.”

But the Tribune’s publisher and editor, Terry Orme, told Pratt “his fear was not that The Tribune might fold but that the newspaper would not have the resources to support strong and varied reporting.”

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Related: Salt Lake Tribune lays off employees, cuts print features (April) | Salt Lake Tribune won’t get a paywall because of competition (November 2013) | Salt Lake Tribune reduces staff by about 20 percent, undergoes leadership changes (September 2013) Read more


Brady takes another shot at local journalism with new venture

Sometimes people console Jim Brady about his bad fortune.

After all, they lament, he was general manager of, an ambitious local news site that folded about two years after it started. Then, he went to work for Digital First Media, where he founded Project Thunderdome, an innovative news production hub — which was axed by company bosses earlier this year.

But Brady isn’t having it. “My response to that is nobody should feel sorry for me,” he said. “I’ve got to build two newsrooms from scratch, I got the chance to hire a lot of smart people and learned an amazing amount along the way about where journalism is headed.”

What did he learn? After two aborted experiments, Brady still thinks there’s a future for journalism in local news — and that’s a bet he’s willing to stake a lot of his own money on. Brady is investing in the “mid-six figures” on a new local news project of his own creation, one he hopes will be the bridge between communities and the news they care about.

RELATED: On the verge of a new venture, Brady fields questions on community news

Brady’s decision to strike out on his own was partly motivated by the setbacks he experienced with his other projects. The collapse of Thunderdome came while he had many other responsibilities to juggle, like getting newspapers all over the country to adopt digital strategies in the midst of a maelstrom of financial challenges. And ever since TBD was killed, he wanted to retry a digital-only local news model. Now, with his own business, he can focus completely on putting his ideas to the test.

“The TBD thing has just always been in the back of my mind since it blew up,” Brady said.

The project will be based in Philadelphia, because he thinks the city’s millennials will be receptive to his new endeavor, which he envisions as a mobile-first news operation. It will be housed at Temple University’s Center for Public Interest Journalism, where Brady will teach entrepreneurial journalism. The venture has tentatively been christened, a name that echoes both Philadelphia’s motto and Brady’s goal to create a place where audiences can communicate about issues they care about.

This idea of connection is central to the site’s mission — and its revenue strategy. The project will focus on providing community news on issues of public concern and facilitate discussions between them. It will create forums they can participate in — for a fee — and host ticketed events that will help bolster revenue. Ultimately, Brady’s goal is to “monetize passions, not pageviews,” and generate 50 percent of the project’s total revenue from non-advertising sources.

This push to generate revenue from readers stems from a combination of factors. It’s partly necessity, because mobile platforms like — whose users rely heavily on small cellphone screens — have difficulty selling banner advertising, Brady said. But part of the push for more user revenue comes from Brady’s dissatisfaction with the current relationship between the salespeople at local newspapers and the journalists whose work they represent. The salespeople, Brady says, often try to lure advertisers using metrics like pageviews, clickthroughs and unique users, which prompts journalists to measure their success against those numbers. These metrics, however, can be gamed by savvy editors who feature non-local content, such as Oscar slideshows, in order to generate traffic from outside their communities. This practice drives pageviews, but at the expense of “hollowing out” the core mission of the site and alienating local audiences.

Better, Brady said, would be a local news site that puts a premium on engaging local viewers and enticing them to visit the site frequently. This will make the space more valuable to local advertisers, whose content will be viewed by community members who are likely to be more interested in their offerings.

“One of the real problems we’ve had with the mainstream media for the last few years is the metrics that the sales staff wants and the metrics that a lot of advertising people are looking for is not the same stuff,” Brady said.

But for all his interest in generating revenue from readers, Brady says his news organization will not have a paywall. This decision was determined by Brady’s target audience of younger news consumers, whom he thinks will not pay in advance for content they can’t see.

“I just think there’s something about the open nature of the web and the grazing nature of the average reader that a paywall throws a wrench into,” Brady said.

While the project builds an audience that it can monetize, it will roll out its coverage slowly in order to keep costs down, Brady said. This is a lesson learned from, which launched with a large staff that put financial pressure on the site from the beginning. This time, Brady will start by coordinating a blogger network and hiring two or three general assignment reporters, plus a community manager. already has an editor, Chris Krewson, who is a former executive online editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“You don’t have to roll out on day one with something that blows people away,” Brady said.

But if he does get the site off the ground and it fails, don’t try to console him. That’s not the worse-case scenario for Brady, who wants to find out whether his model can work.

“The best that could happen is I go off and I build this thing and it’s really successful,” Brady said. “The second best thing that could happen is I build this thing and it fails. But the worst thing is I get halfway and never find out.”

Note: The original version of this story erroneously said that Brady left his job at to become general manager at In fact, he became general manager of about 10 months after he left The Post. The article has been updated to reflect that correction. Read more


Robyn Tomlin, former Thunderdome editor, heads to Pew

Robyn Tomlin, former editor at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome is heading to Pew Research Center as chief digital officer. Tomlin tweeted the news on Thursday afternoon.

In April, Tomlin spoke with Poynter’s Jill Geisler about the reaction inside DFM Thunderdome when staff learned that it was be shutting down.

While talking up her “amazing group of people,” Tomlin tells me she hasn’t decided what she will do next in her own career. She’s not sure whether she’ll keep leading in legacy media or try the world of pure plays. Because Thunderdome’s shutdown will happen on a rolling basis, she hopes to guide each person and piece of it to a soft landing.

And, yes, it hurts. In her words, she’s “in mourning.”

Tomlin told me, “We still feel like we’re fighting for the future of journalism. We just won’t be doing it together.”

Read more

Thunderdome hosts informal job fair for employees

For most of the staff at Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, Thursday will be the last day at work.

But over bagels and coffee Wednesday morning or a drink Wednesday evening, they might meet their next employer. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thunderdome’s hosting an informal networking event in New York to help connect their journalists with new jobs. The event will also feature a space to engage in an online chat with the 12 staff members located around the country.

Mandy Jenkins, Thunderdome’s managing editor, said in a phone interview with Poynter that most of the major media organizations in New York will have someone at the event.

For Jenkins, who worked at the now-defunct TBD, this is her second time to be laid off.

“I have never seen people in such good spirits when they’re being laid off,” she said. Read more


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