April 21, 2016

Good morning.

  1. An outrage because it isn’t
    Tribune Publishing personifies why the real outrages in corporate America, as with Washington, are at times the routine legal actions that play out daily. Those include paying off failed executives and exhibiting expansive largesse to the propertied class running companies.

    Securities filings show that Jack Griffin, the former CEO of one of America’s largest newspaper companies, will get an extra $2 million for being ousted by new company boss Michael Ferro. (Poynter) This severance is after earning $3.2 million last year, a combination (as a spokesperson underscored to me) of “cash and equity awards in the form of restricted stock units and stock options,” as she put it.

    Whatever the combo, even if not all in a lump sum of $1,000 bills presented him in a jumbo Louis Vuitton suitcase, that is more than most Americans can possibly imagine. And it comes despite this being the second time Griffin has failed upward, after being shown the exit in 2011 after a mere six months as chief executive at Time Inc. (The Wall Street Journal) There are other examples of failure being rewarded via nice packages given to Griffin’s top aides in a game rigged, as is often true in the private sector, by the company board’s compensation committee and an outside compensation consultant (Willis Towers Watson) that relied, as usual, on a “peer group” of companies in setting fat salaries. (Securities and Exchange Commission)

    Ferro is a 49-year-old tech mini-mogul who was overseeing the Chicago Sun-Times until Griffin naively cut a deal for him to become Tribune’s prime shareholder. Ferro quickly dispatched him and several of the other top executives, whose prime accomplishment had been to steer the share price into the dumper. His daunting task will include navigating a cratering industry and getting people to actually pay for high-quality online content. But he’ll have no trouble navigating, given an aircraft lease deal in which the company will “sublease on a non-exclusive basis a Bombardier aircraft” now leased by Ferro’s own firm. The arrangement includes a nice slice of insurance premiums and maintenance expenses, for “$8,500 per flight hour flown.”

    To make this richly ironic, multiple sources said that he shares the plane with Sam Zell, the real estate billionaire who bought the old Tribune Co. in 2007 and promptly drove it into bankruptcy, resulting in the separate newspaper company Ferro now oversees and Tribune Media, which is the former Tribune Co.’s TV stations. When I showed details of the severance deals that Ferro inherited and implemented to Nell Minow, a prominent corporate governance and shareholder rights expert based in Washington, she replied that the Tribune was pretty run of the mill. “Heads they win, tails we lose.”

  2. Going after stumbling Yahoo
    “As the sale of Yahoo’s Web assets enters the second stage, one name consistently comes up as the pivotal player: Verizon.” (USA TODAY) Meanwhile, “The parent of Britain’s Daily Mail said on Wednesday it had not submitted it’s own bid to buy Yahoo Inc’s core Internet business, but was still in talks to partner with other suitors of the U.S. company.” (Reuters)
  3. Wall Street Journal on Trump
    On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning, Mika Brzezinski found as dramatically telling that heretofore Trump-wary editorial page of The Wall Street Journal chimes in sympathetically on “Donald Trump’s Path.” (The Wall Street Journal) “Realistically Mr. Trump will be hard to deny if he rolls through the remaining primaries — even if he is short of 1,237. Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich are out-hustling the New Yorker in the fight for unbound delegates, but they also need to go into Cleveland with a credible claim on GOP voter support.” Meanwhile, the paper elsewhere disclosed Trump is practicing with a teleprompter. (The Wall Street Journal) The “new” Trump! Well, the post-New York primary media heralding of a reformed and less rhetorically abrasive Trump proved correct for about 24 hours as he returned yesterday to bashing “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” yesterday.
  4. Women and the Pulitzers
    “Reading through this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners, everyone should take note of what is bound to be a trend: the extraordinary showing of women taking home the craft’s highest honors,” writes Shirley Leung. (The Boston Globe) “This, after the recent brouhaha caused by author Gay Talese at a Boston University conference when he ambiguously said that female writers, past and possibly present, ‘do not feel comfortable dealing with strangers.'” Yes, yes. Now check out all the winning newspapers, digital operations and magazines and tell me how many women actually run those.
  5. A real local angle on a story
    “Burma Celebrates First Pulitzer Prize-Winning Female Journalist” is the headline. (Irrawaddy) She’s Esther Htusan, 29, “an ethnic Kachin journalist from The Associated Press” who was one of four reporters on its winning investigation into outrageous abuse of workers in the Southeast Asian fishing industry that supplies many Americans. “Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, said Esther Htusan’s involvement in the investigation had an impact on the whole country. “’Those who were forced to work in slave-like conditions were saved, and Burmese citizens also got rescued,'” he said.
  6. A tide turning on Theranos
    “The news that the blood-testing company Theranos is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission brings to mind the adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” (The New York Times) The company and founder Elizabeth Holmes have been subject of scads of generally very upbeat media takes for years. Those include solicitous profiles that heralded her even while offering hints that maybe, just maybe, this was all good good to be true. But they were just hints. (The New Yorker)
  7. Schilling throws away a great gig
    “Curt Schilling, a former All-Star pitcher and one of the highest-profile baseball analysts on ESPN, was fired from the network Wednesday, a day after he drew intense criticism for promoting offensive commentary on social media.” (The New York Times) He’d been there since 2010 and, with a history of wayward cultural remarks, he now shared a Facebook post that seemed to be a response to the North Carolina law that bans transgender folks from bathrooms that this week that appeared to respond to the new North Carolina bathroom-locker room law. He added this searing critique to the posting: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
  8. Got a smiling Tubman shot?
    First of all, nice headline on The New York Times tale of the U.S. Department of the Treasury changing the photo on the $20 bill: “Change for a $20: Tubman Ousts Jackson.” (The New York Times) Yes, Andrew Jackson’s out, Harriet Tubman is in. After the news broke, Courtney (C.J.) Sinner, a digital producer at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, tweeted, “Backstory: SOME GUY tweeted @StarTribune asking if we have diff photo of #HarrietTubman where she looks happier. ARE YOU KIDDING, SIR.” (@cjsinner) Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal commemorated the occasion with a quiz on famous American women. For example, “Which African-American singer performed at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after she was turned away from segregated Constitution Hall? Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne or Marian Anderson? (The Wall Street Journal)
  9. How to cook asparagus
    Does anybody notice some of the knockout food coverage we’re getting these days from certain folks? Take, asparagus, please! Or at least check out a great video primer in The New York Times. Steamed? Simmered? Stir-fried? Sautéed? Oh, need tips on buying them? And what about a “foolproof recipe for beurre blanc”? It’s all here! Good work. (The New York Times) Now, who was that African-American singer barred from Constitution Hall? It was Marian Anderson.
  10. Batman vs. Superman vs. movie critics
    In another life, the aforementioned shareholder rights expert Nell Minow is “The Movie Mom,” offering dandy analyses of movies, culture and values for parents. Wondering whether to take your kid to a specific movie? Read her. But her latest effort also confronts crowing about a disjoint between crappy reviews of “Batman v. Superman” and its box office success. Ah, ha, the critics are impotent is the theme of the crowing! (Variety) Well, Minow lays out both why a critic’s aim isn’t to impact box office but, in fact, they often do. It’s a smart piece on the role of a critic. (Beliefnet)
  11. Megyn Kelly and Susan B. Anthony
    So Megyn Kelly was jousting over the decision to put Tubman on the $20 bill with failed presidential candidate Ben Carson, who clearly doesn’t care too deeply about the issue of women on currency. Kelly concluded with a certain exasperation of a theatrical sort that was nevertheless on point: “We’re about to celebrate the 100th year anniversary in a few years of women’s suffrage and there is no woman anywhere…They couldn’t find a woman who did something worthy, going anywhere on the currency?” Carson started responding, “Susan B. Anthony…” when cut off by the host. “All she got is that crappy coin,” said Kelly, “and nobody wants to use that.”
  12. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
    Michael MaLoon is now vice president of innovation at the Newspaper Association of America. Previously, he was director of recruitment sales and operations at the Chronicle of Higher Education. (Email) | Rachel Zarrell is now director of daily video at MTV News. Previously, she was news editor at BuzzFeed. (@rachelzarrell) | Reena Ninan is now a correspondent for CBS News. Previously, she was co-anchor of ABC News’ “World News Now.” (Email) | Job of the day: KATV-TV is looking for a general assignment reporter. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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