May 30, 2018

Did you ever experience the joy of delivering a paper? This publisher wants you back, pronto.

In an unusual letter to readers, Maine publisher Lisa DeSisto urged old carriers to come back to the flock — and said she has 27 newspaper routes open.

“We are experiencing the most acute shortage of newspaper carriers we can recall,” she writes, adding that signing bonuses and performances raises are available.

With the lowest unemployment since 1957, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram has been unable to make its promise to have a paper by a reader’s door by 6 a.m. on weekdays and 7:30 a.m. on Sundays, DeSisto says in her pitch to prospective paper carriers.

But she warns: “To deliver a morning paper these days, you must be at least 18 and own a car, and be willing to work from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., dodging deer while searching for house numbers in the dark.”

Readers, do you get a physical newspaper anymore? If so, are you experiencing similar delays? If you work at a newspaper, have there been creative ways to attract new carriers? Let me know at We’ll follow these efforts over the coming weeks. And thanks.

Quick hits

NORFOLK PAPER SOLD: The 153-year-old Virginian-Pilot, Virginia’s biggest daily paper, has been sold to Tronc for $34 million, which includes the real estate of the newspaper headquarters and its printing presses. Tronc owns the nearby Daily Press of Newport News, reports Poynter’s Rick Edmonds.

SLAIN: A Russian soldier-turned-journalist and vocal critic of many of Vladimir Putin’s actions, including the invasion of Crimea, the backing of an incursion by “separatists” in Ukraine and supporting brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Arkady Babchenko was shot and killed in his home in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where he had moved to after facing threats in Russia. “Horrible,” tweeted former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, a critic of Trump’s cozy connections to Putin. “I hope we don’t get used to this kind of thuggery.”

Update: Babchenko appeared at a news conference very much alive and well. Vasily Gritsak, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service, told the crowd that they had faked Babchenko's death to catch a potential assassin. Babchenko thanked everyone who was mourning his death.

POPULAR SPORTSWRITER GONE: Jerry Sullivan has entertained Buffalo for 29 years, but now The Buffalo News sports columnist says he's outta there, taking a buyout now that The News took away his column. The loss, among targeted buyouts of print editors, is a part of the city's soul, several readers wrote. Buffalo area native and former News editor Margaret Sullivan, now a Washington Post media critic, told me: "I'll miss Jerry's voice as a hard-hitting, perspective columnist who always wrote from his deep knowledge, his love of literature and an unmistakable moral core."

WHY BE A JOURNALIST?: Pay is stagnating, jobs are few and far between, writes Columbia Journalism Review’s Kyle Pope. But you still can make a difference if you are smart about the business. “The challenges of the job market, and the questions they raise for all of us, are not inside baseball; they get to the heart of what journalism is and should be,” Pope writes. “We are in a moment of our industry’s professional life that we can’t afford to squander.”

MOBILE NEWS: Mobile traffic is still rising to news sites, despite a drop-off in referrals from Facebook, says Chartbeat. Google and direct traffic are rising. Via Nieman Lab

BEWARE: Female journalists reporting on criticism of Elon Musk face abuse and rape threats from fans and trolls of the SpaceX and Tesla founder, reports Erin Biba of The Daily Beast. “There is an army — mostly young, mostly white, almost entirely men — that marches behind him,” Biba writes. “These MuskBros, as we call them, make it their mission to descend on women who criticize Musk, and tear them to pieces.”

TALE OF TWIN CITIES: Two communities, two newspapers, one owned by a Minnesota billionaire that has been praised by media critics; the other, once with a newsroom of 260, owned by a reviled hedge-fund that has sliced the staffing to 50, Tom Weber of MPR News writes.

NO MEANS NO: Max Robinson told Fox News in no uncertain terms that it could not use his work from the flood in Maryland. Fox News did so anyway. Now lawyers are involved, in a case that evokes the $1.2 million settlement that photographer Daniel Morel got from AFP for appropriating his work from the Haiti earthquake.

A screenshot of Teal Swan, via Gizmodo
A screenshot of Teal Swan, via the Gizmodo podcast "The Gateway"

SOCIAL MEDIA 'SAVIORS': The rise of social media has led to a new type of promoter, seeking to cure what ails. The topic is part of Gizmodo's new six-part investigative podcast, starting Wednesday, entitled "The Gateway." The first episode focuses on Teal Swan, who uses digital content to promote healing. Gizmodo reporters investigate her community — and the deaths of some of her followers.

MAKE SURE HOPE IS A PART OF THE STORY: Climate change stories don’t have to be a drip-drip-drip of catastrophe. See how others are creating small solutions and work, step by step, to tell a broader story. That advice is from Elizabeth Arnold in this paper released Wednesday at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on covering climate change. (Disclosure: I was a Shorenstein research fellow in 2017).

COULD NOT BE REACHED FOR COMMENT: In the fast-paced digital world, how long should an outlet wait for comment before just publishing a story? What is fair, and what is … too long? NPR’s ombud, Elizabeth Jensen, examined one case involving a member of the Dave Matthews Band — and what differed about the case than others. Too fast to publish? Here’s Jensen’s response.

What we’re reading

DEATH TOLL IN PUERTO RICO REVISED WAY UPWARD: A Harvard study puts the death toll in Puerto Rico's hurricane and aftermath at at least 4,000, the Washington Post reports; much higher than the widely criticized initial official toll of 64. The New York Times also led its story with about 4,000 deaths, but noted that extrapolation methods could put the toll anywhere from 800 to 8,000. Researchers noted that the government of Puerto Rico stopped sharing mortality data with the public in December. Here’s the full New England Journal of Medicine article. NPR led with Puerto Rico on its All Things Considered, as opposed to the next story, and San Juan's mayor said this should be a day of "collective mourning."

Tweet by San Juan mayor

IN OTHER NEWS: Yes, a tweet can get you fired. Ask Roseanne Barr, whose ABC sitcom was canned hours after a racist, Islamophobic tweet. ABC responded that Barr’s comment was ‘‘abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”

TOO SMART: Here’s how America’s WASP-smashing Baby Boomer meritocracy made for a worse United States: David Brooks argues the smarty Boomers, himself included, had too much faith in IQ and SATs; not enough faith in boring, responsible community building; too much emphasis on achievement and not enough on character; they devalued institutional success for individual success; they mistook diversity as an end goal rather than a means to improving society or an institution. “Those dimwitted, stuck-up bluebloods in the old establishment had something we meritocrats lack,” Brooks concludes, “a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self.”


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