Romenesko on 'Page Six'; Keller Mixes it Up with Readers; Biz Indicators & Romenesko Gets a Day Off

Our impressions of this week (April 10-14, 2006) in media:

  • Jim Romenesko on the maneuvering behind the gossip of 'Page Six'.

  • Rick Edmonds on one step back and three forward in the newspaper business.

  • David Shedden on the week's headlines and a historical moment in radio news.

  • Bill Mitchell on Bill Keller's inaugural Talk to the Newsroom, a new feature on

By Jim Romenesko
Senior online reporter/ROMENESKO

My suggestion for Jared Paul Stern -- get out of the gossip business and try PR/damage control.

The suspended "Page Six" gossip has been peppering me with URLs all week -- links to stories sympathetic to him, or that make billionaire Ron Burkle look bad. (Another story he forwarded: "Stern's clothing line explodes.") Stern's also a master of the rapid-response. Just minutes after I posted Burkle's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Stern sent me this two-liner: " So Burkle's turning his hand to freelance writing now? There might be an opening at 'Page Six'..."

Hmmm...I thought he predicted he'd be reinstated at the paper. Or maybe already has decided to quit gossip.

By Rick Edmonds
Researcher and Writer

This Week in Media has been on hiatus for awhile, but I'm sorry to say that basic indicators of the newspaper business have not been recovering in the meantime.  This week companies are releasing first quarter results with profits off 10 to 20 percent and revenues virtually flat compared to the same period last year. Some links to results at GannettTribune and McClatchy.

Not surprisingly Wall Street just keeps getting unhappier.  Share prices, which lost an average of 20 percent of their value in 2005 are still sinking, typically another 6 to 8 percent so far this year.  McClatchy has fallen from $60 to just over $45 -- reflecting both an unexpectedly bad first quarter and typical investor skepticism about digesting a big acquisition.

However, I wouldn't convene a pity party for several reasons:

  • McClatchy's auction of 12 Knight Ridder papers in slower growing markets has drawn a number of bidders.  The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, a poster child for the deteriorating financial condition of big-city metros, has drawn no fewer than four suitors.  That suggests that there are believers in the future of these franchises even if the newspaper business has lost favor with the investor consensus.

  • Every indicator we see shows newspapers charging hard to build the capacity and offerings of their online sites.  The New York Times unveiled a handsome redesign earlier this month and announced this week it is selling its stake in the Discovery Times cable channel, the better to concentrate on online video.  The Times is also among a number of papers drastically cutting back print stock tables.  Altogether the industry is pursuing necessary transitions with urgency.

  • I don't detect new waves of self-destructive newsroom cuts.  It is way early to call this an emerging trend of 2006s.  No one seems to be saying out loud to Wall Street, "get used to tighter margins for a few years -- we need to make expensive investments in our future."  However if the companies act that way, even to a degree, it would be a marker of progress.

By David Shedden
Library director

Monday, April 10:

This year’s Masters golf tournament came to an end Sunday. Here is an excerpt from a story in The State:

Mickelson swings his way to victory

AUGUSTA -- The last time Phil Mickelson won the Masters title, he reacted with a height-challenged victory leap after his clinching birdie putt on the final hole at Augusta National.

Late Sunday afternoon, after capturing his second green jacket in three years, Mickelson was able to enjoy a considerably more leisurely celebration.

Tuesday, April 11:

Thousands of people marched for immigration rights this week. Here is an excerpt from a story in USA Today:

Immigrants, backers demand citizenship

Hundreds of thousands of people demanding U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants took to the streets in dozens of cities from New York to San Diego on Monday in some of the most widespread demonstrations since the mass protests began around the country last month.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, wearing white shirts and carrying banners reading "We Have A Dream Too" staged rallies Monday in cities across the USA to demand citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

"I would love to be a citizen," said Alex Vega, 45, at a rally in Santa Ana, Calif. "I've been in the shadows for a long time."

Wednesday, April 12:

Italy was in the news Wednesday. Media organizations around the world reported on the contested election between Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his opponent, Romano Prodi.

Another Italian story that received a lot of attention was the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano, the head of the Sicilian Mafia, who had escaped capture for 43 years. He was found near the city of Corleone. (You might remember this small town as the birthplace of Don Vito Coreone.)

Thursday, April 13:

The news media reported that Flight 93’s cockpit recording was played to jurors in the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. Here is an excerpt from a story in Newsday:

31 minutes of terror in the sky

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Thirty-one minutes and 12 seconds of chaotic, bloodcurdling horror.

The raw, evocative sounds of the final half-hour onboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, from a stewardess begging for her life to passengers assaulting the cockpit, resonated in federal court here yesterday as prosecutors closed their death-penalty case against Zacarias Moussaoui by playing the plane's voice recorder for the first time publicly.

Friday, April 14:
Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / April.   

Saturday, April 15:

61 years ago today:

On April 15, 1945, CBS broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow reported from World War II's Buchenwald concentration camp. He visited Buchenwald shortly after the camp was liberated by Allied troops. Here is an excerpt from his CBS radio news report:

During the last week, I have driven more than a few hundred miles through Germany, most of it in the Third Army sector -- Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Weimar, Jena and beyond. It is impossible to keep up with this war.

....Permit me to tell you what you would have seen, and heard, had you been with me on Thursday. It will not be pleasant listening.

....I propose to tell you of Buchenwald. It is on a small hill about four miles outside Weimar, and it was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany....As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others -- they must have been over sixty -- were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. D-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers; they will carry them till they die.

....Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last twelve years. Thursday I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

As I left that camp, a Frenchman who used to work for Havas in Paris came up to me and said, 'You will write something about this, perhaps?' And he added, 'To write about this you must have been here at least two years, and after that -- you don't want to write any more.'

I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. Dead men are plentiful in war, but the living dead, more than twenty thousand of them in one camp.

....If I've offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I'm not in the least sorry.

Poynter Online editor


The most interesting piece of media news in The New York Times this week never made the paper (as far as I know) and generated only modest promotion on the front of But if you made your way inside the site to the new Talk to the Newsroom page, you discovered one of the most interesting windows into the paper this side of Times Talk (which, alas, has apparently not been updated online since December 2004).


By week's end, Executive Editor Bill Keller had responded to questions on 28 topics raised by Times readers. The questions ranged from personal (his favorite story) to word choice (staunch or stanch?) to issues that just won't go away (Judy Miller's reporting). Specifics included:

  • The prospects of New York Times news meetings on a webcast, as some other newsrooms are trying. Keller says the idea has been discussed "briefly and decisively." The verdict: "We don't plan to turn The Making the the NYT into a reality TV show."

  • The redesigned Keller: "We live in a state of permanent beta."

  • Publishing complete stock tables in the Internet era. Keller: "It's like publishing a dictionary every day, in case a reader wants to look up a word."

  • Aspirations of The New York Times. Keller cited a list of four aspirations compiled by an unnamed colleague at the Boston Globe.

  • Jumping stories from the front page. Keller: "There's nothing worse than getting to the bottom of a compelling Metro story on Page A1 and discovering that my crime-obsessed 8 year-old has run off with the B section, where my story continues."

Keller stopped well short of answering each and every question on the minds of Times critics and readers (850 questions were submitted), but his accumulated answers represent a significant investment in a new approach to audience. Other editors will get their turns in what Keller termed "the dunk-em seat" in subsequent weeks.

There's plenty of room for improvement, with ample suggestions from bloggers who accompanied their links to the new feature with tips to make it better. Should Times editors decide to pull back the curtain just a bit further, in fact, they could make use of a Technorati tool and invite those bloggers right onto the page.   

Where's Romenesko?

Finally this week, you may have noticed that Jim Romenesko took a rare (and well-deserved) day off Friday. Gawker noted his absence here.  On Thursday, journalism professor Mindy McAdams charted the impact of Romenesko like this. Jim will be back Monday.

  • Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell is a Poynter Affiliate who most recently led Poynter’s entrepreneurial and international programs and served as a member of its faculty. Previously, Bill headed for 10 years.


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