Layoffs in San Antonio, buyouts in Boston, a shutdown at Cox

May 25, 2018
Category: Newsletters

The downsizing is relentless.

Over the past two days, newspaper positions have been eliminated in Texas, buyouts have been announced in Boston and employees at three popular and growing college sports websites were told the sites would be shuttered.

Fourteen staff positions were eliminated at the San Antonio Express-News and two at the Houston Chronicle, both Hearst publications. The moves reflect attempts to streamline some coverage, such as from their Washington and Austin bureaus, as well as “economic factors,” said San Antonio Express-News publisher Susan Pape.

Among those laid off: Longtime San Antonio statehouse bureau chief Peggy Fikac, who Texas Tribune publisher Evan Smith called one of the finest reporters covering Austin in recent decades. “Texas and the world will be worse for Peggy’s absence,” Smith tweeted. “All of us who do what we do walk in her shoes.”

The moves come as latest Census projections Wednesday placed San Antonio as the nation’s fastest-growing city in 2017, with a population that swelled more than 24,000 to pass 1.5 million people.

Express-News editor Mike Leary announced his retirement in April after six years; on Monday, the departure of Managing Editor Jamie Stockwell was announced (she’s headed to The New York Times, where she will begin on June 11 as a deputy national editor.) The Houston Chronicle’s managing editor, Vernon Loeb, has been serving as acting managing editor in San Antonio under Nancy Barnes, Chronicle editor and editorial director of Hearst’s Texas papers, which include Beaumont, Laredo and Midland.

In Boston, the Globe announced its first buyouts in years. President Vinay Mehra and editor Brian McGrory did not say how many volunteers they were looking for to realize savings, nor did they rule out layoffs if too few stepped forward.

“It means there was an unanticipated revenue shortfall heading toward the last half of the year and we need to stem it quickly,” McGrory said in a memo. “It means that this business hasn’t gotten any easier … This does not mean there is a hiring freeze. This does not signal Draconian cuts.”

What is going: The last vestiges of a once-robust series of zoned editions covering the suburbs and cities outside Boston. A Sunday “Globe Local” section, to all customers, will replace Globe North, Globe South and Globe West. (Disclosure: I managed these Globe zoned editions in the early aughts.)

The most alarming news might be involving the closure of most of Cox Media Group’s college sports sites in June. Those include Big 10-oriented Land of Ten, the Southeastern Conference-centric SEC Country and Diehards.com.

The sites are closing despite big gains in readership. To get at the “why,” a Cox official referred simply to “the current digital advertising environment,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal.

Quick hits

‘THE NUCLEAR OPTION’: The Guardian reports that some U.S. websites are cutting off readers from European IP addresses until they can figure out the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect Friday.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN: Shut out from public meetings? Poynter’s Indira Lakshmanan offers tips on how to fight back, including 1) lodging immediate objections 2) staying in contact with a lawyer 3) having a backup plan. Our readers offer a few more ideas near the bottom of this article.

LET THE DOCUMENTS IN: A judge ordered all documents in a Chicago police officer’s murder trial be filed under seal. News outlets took it to the Illinois Supreme Court, which overruled the judge and ordered the documents open to the public, under the First Amendment. The police officer is charged in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, which was captured on video that had been withheld for months by authorities. (h/t Kathleen Carroll)

FROM SNOWDEN TO R. KELLY: Oscar-winning “Citizenfour” director Laura Poitras will be an executive producer for a BuzzFeed documentary on R. Kelly for Hulu, Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti said, laying out offerings for Netflix and the Oxygen network as well. “This is going to be a bigger focus of the company,” Peretti told Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith of the Hollywood efforts.

A DONATION: Politifact tweeted to Elon Musk, recently concerned about fact-checking and accuracy, that its organization was dedicated to that and was on PayPal, which the billionaire founded before Tesla Motors and SpaceX. “Done,” Musk tweeted back. (Note: Politifact is part of the Poynter Institute.)

CENSORED: A new Texas principal who censored three articles in its school paper this year and banned editorials went one step further: he has declined to renew the contract of the school’s nationally acclaimed school newspaper and yearbook adviser. In the past year alone, students of journalism teacher Lori Oglesbee-Petter have received more than 175 state and national journalism awards, the Student Press Law Center reported. (h/t Jacqui Banaszynski)

MOVING UP: John Avlon is moving from editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast to a full-time senior analyst and anchor at CNN. Executive editor Noah Shachtman ascends to Avlon’s old job. … Dustin Weaver, from The Hill, is headed to The Associated Press to become its new Congress editor, Washington bureau chief Julie Pace announced Thursday.

REBORN: After nine months without publishing, Indian Country Today will return next month under the ownership of the National Congress of American Indians and the leadership of Mark Trahant, a journalism veteran and a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. CJR asks: Will the new Indian Country Today — which was so popular on hiatus that it drew 500,000 unique readers a month — protect its editorial independence?

FROM EMMETT TILL TO JOURNALISM: A Q&A with Yamiche Alcindor, who serves as PBS NewsHour’s White House correspondent as well as a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, touches on how she got into the field and how it’s changed. “When I started,” Alcindor told the Haitian Times, “I was one of a few reporters who wrote stories on my iPhone. Now, writing on your iPhone is the norm.”

-30-: Stephen Mindich, founder and publisher of the now-shuttered alt-weekly Boston Phoenix, has died. He once described this as his favorite headline: “Enemy Bombs Hanoi.” He added: “And we were the enemy.” By John Ellement.

What we’re reading

When lava meets the ocean

WHEN LAVA MEETS THE OCEAN: "The glowing lava was extinguished as it met the water with the hiss of a million steam irons." That's AP photographer Jae C. Hong, whose image is above. He's writing about a rough and awe-inspiring trip on a bobbing boat to make images of the sizzling sea near Pahoa, Hawaii, from the erupting Kilauea volcano. Here is his account and other images.

SCARED NORTH: How Canada is filling its jobs with the industrious people Trump frightened to move north from the U.S. By Selena Ross. (h/t Steve LeVine)

ALEXA, UNPLUGGED: If you have a smart speaker, don’t let it secretly record your conversation and then send it to one of your contacts. That’s what happened to an Amazon Echo user, The Washington Post reported. The “contact” called the family that was hacked with a simple message: “Unplug your Alexa devices right now.”

NOPE, IN KENTUCKY: "Everyone in Rowan County is tired of hearing about Rowan County." Why Hollywood's ending didn't happen in this part of Kentucky. 

We asked, you answered: How to compel public officials to admit journalists to public meetings?

From Kathleen Stack: I think "the press" can make a mistake when it emphasizes that reporters are barred from a meeting. Yes, the press has some Constitutional privileges, but considering the respect in which it is apparently held right now, I am afraid a significant portion of potential readers might just think "serves them right."

I do think a more successful campaign might be mounted by emphasizing what the public is missing. You, these officials say, have no right to know what is in the water coming out of your kitchen faucet, the water you drink and cook with; have no right to know about the water that fish you caught for dinner was swimming in; have no right to know what's in the lake water your grandson is happily splashing in. That, these officials say, is their business, and only theirs.

Reporters and their indignation shouldn't be the focus, even when they are mistreated.

From Dr. Holley Galland: I was horrified to read that the EPA did not allow reporters to attend a conference in unsafe drinking water in America. As a physician who deals with children with learning disabilities it is obvious that citizens and those who serve them should be informed of risks relative to their health and wellbeing.

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