January 29, 2019

Newspaper rock stars

There was a time not long ago when politicians didn’t run New York City. A couple of newspaper columnists did.

HBO is profiling both in a terrific documentary about the lives, times and careers of legendary New York newspaper columnists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. The documentary “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists’’ debuted Monday night, and will continue to air throughout February. Here’s a preview. And here’s more about the project.

“Sometimes they were colleagues at the same paper,’’ said Jonathan Alter, who directed and produced the film along with John Block and Steve McCarthy. “Sometimes they were rivals. But they were always good friends.’’

What else were they?

“These guys were like superstars,’’ filmmaker and lifelong New Yorker Spike Lee says in the documentary. “They were able to connect and that’s why people saw them as the voice of true New Yorkers.’’

The two wrote memorable columns about the Kennedy assassinations, the Son of Sam murders (Son of Sam is believed to have personally written Breslin during his murder spree), the Bernhard Goetz shooting, the AIDS crisis, the Central Park Jogger case and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In addition, Breslin’s column after John Lennon was shot and killed is revered among journalists.

The HBO film also features interviews with such famous people as Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, Robert DeNiro, Shirley MacLaine, Andrew Cuomo and Garry Trudeau. You will also hear voice passages of stories written by Breslin and Hamill.

Breslin died in 2017 at the age of 88. Hamill is 83 and lives in Brooklyn.

The film is especially interesting to those who loved newspapers in their glory days, but it’s sad, too. As pointed out in the film, the New York Daily News, where Breslin and Hamill both worked at times, had 400 reporters and editors in 1988. By 2018, that number had dwindled to 45.

“It’s like a drug.’’

Speaking of HBO, one of the most dogged reporters in journalism will be featured tonight on the network. Adam Schefter, who covers the NFL for ESPN, will be profiled on “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.’’ No one breaks more NFL news than the 52-year-old Schefter.

“There are few things in life more satisfying than getting a big story,’’ Schefter said in this preview clip. “It’s like a drug. You become addicted to it.’’

In the story, Schefter relays what happens when so many people (he has more than 7.2 million Twitter followers) turn to him for breaking NFL news.

“It’s a serious responsibility when there is that many people viewing,’’ Schefter said. “And there is that many people waiting for you to fall off the high wire.’’

Like the time he reported former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo would miss the rest of the season with an injury, even though Cowboys coach, Jason Garrett, said the quarterback was “day to day’’ and Schefter’s colleagues were telling Schefter to walk back the story. Schefter did not and, as it turned out, Romo did miss the rest of the season.

“There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes along in the end when, basically, you’re acquitted,’’ Schefter said.

The show airs at 10 p.m. Eastern.

More layoffs at BuzzFeed

After laying off approximately 40 staffers in the news department last Friday, BuzzFeed continued its purge Monday with cuts to the video department, as well as arts and entertainment.

Meanwhile, more than 400 BuzzFeed employees petitioned the company for better severance after they claimed the company refused to pay most of those let go for earned time off. In a letter posted on Medium and addressed to BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, chief people officer Lenke Taylor and BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith, the employees wrote:

“BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued and vested paid time off for almost all US employees who have been laid off. They will only pay out PTO to employees in California, where the law requires it. We understand that in other states where BuzzFeed employees have been laid off, state law does not require you to do so. But employers absolutely can pay out PTO — and often do. It is a choice, and for a company that has always prided itself on treating employees well, we unequivocally believe it is the only justifiable choice.’’

In response, BuzzFeed reversed course. Peretti sent out a memo Monday night saying those laid off would receive all the money due to them, according to Axios. Peretti wrote:

We have decided to out earned and unused PTO and comp days as part of the severance packages for U.S. employees impacted by these layoffs in states where this is not required by law.”

Courtesy: Conde Nast International

Vogue Business launched

Conde Nast International has launched a new global media title and its first business-focused brand: Vogue Business. Headquartered in London, the digital-only Vogue Business will cover market currents, cultural movements, trends and technologies that impact the fashion industry. It will have a website, as well a twice-weekly newsletter, which you can sign up for here.

Lauren Indvik will head up the editorial staff of 21. Prior to Vogue, Indvik was the editor-in-chief of Fashionista in New York and the business editor at Mashable.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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