About Town - Media

Friday, 18 April 2008

More layoffs at Blethen papers

There is more bad news for the employees of the Blethen Maine Newspapers - five full-timers and four part-timers are being laid off from the Augusta-based Kennebec Journal and the Waterville-based Morning Sentinel, sister papers of the Portland Press Herald. And it's not the last of the cost-cutting for the year. "Highlights," which really are lowlights, include: total ad revenue has dropped $70,000 since last year, circulation revenue is down $71,000, and third-party commercial printing jobs are down $52,000.

This after last week's strange news. about how Frank Blethen thinks about newspapers.

Here's today's all-staff memo from KJ/MS publisher John Christie:

To:   All Employees
From: John Christie

About a month ago, I spoke to you about the financial state of Central
Maine Newspapers. I explained that when we established the financial goals
for 2008, we recognized this would be a tough year and planned – with the
approval of Blethen Maine Newspapers – to make less money this year than we
did last year.

Despite that very reasonable approach, the year started off behind, with
January results that were discouraging. Although February results were
better, they did not make up for the shortfall in January. Still, we needed
at least one more month’s results before we could project a trend for the
months ahead. It was at that point – when the results of the first two
months were “in the books” – that I spoke with you.

I was asked then if layoffs or other cutbacks were planned. I said, no,
there was no specific plan at that point, but that layoffs were always
possible. I added that we would monitor financial results on a
month-by-month basis and determine at the end of each month whether layoffs
and other expense reductions would be necessary.

March financials are now in and have been reviewed, along with projections
for the rest of the year. They are not good. March revenues were down by 6
percent versus last year and cash flow for the month was 28 percent below
budget. For the first quarter, cash flow was off well more than $100,000
vs. budget and even more than that vs. January-March, 2007.

We cannot sit back and hope things will turn around. We have to take action
now; waiting will just make the hole deeper and require bigger cutbacks.

For that reason, we are today announcing a set of expense reductions,
including some layoffs.

The cutbacks include:

      Layoffs: five full time and four part-time employees. Those affected
         will be notified today and will receive severance payments based
         upon their years of service. The actual number of people affected
         may be smaller because one or two may be able to fill vacancies in
         other, related areas. In most cases (but not all), the layoffs are
         related to a reduction in work in the effected departments. For
         example, there is less commercial print work and fewer classified
         ads and those two areas are among the effected departments.
      Department directors have already or will soon further reduce
         expenses by reorganizing their departments in ways that ensure
         that our work assignments are well aligned with the areas where we
         need to put our best efforts. Some people have already had their
         work assignments modified; others will very soon; and a few
         changes will occur later this year as opportunities arise.

In making these cutbacks, we have been careful not to materially diminish
our service to readers and advertisers. There should be no discernible
difference in our daily and Sunday products.

The reasons for the cutbacks are worth explaining.

First, the expense side:

   Newsprint – the paper we print on – costs a lot more than it did a year
      ago. Between the recent price increases and the ones scheduled for
      the next two months, our costs for newsprint will have risen 15
      percent compared to a year ago.
   Fuel. Our fuel costs include delivery trucks, mileage by reporters,
      photographers, sales representatives, circulation employees and
      contractors and heating oil. Gas is up 18 percent from a year ago;
      diesel and heating oil are up even more.

Second, the revenue side:

   Total advertising revenue is down $70,000 compared to a year ago, mostly
      due to classified and national advertising declines. Retail
      advertising – which comes mostly from local business – is holding
   Circulations revenue is down $71,000 vs. last year.
   Commercial print revenue is down $52,000 vs. last year. This is due
      mostly to the Sun-Journal purchasing the Franklin newspapers and
      switching the printing from CMN to their own plant; and other jobs
      switching to presses near their home base in order to reduce
      transportation costs (more fallout from the high price of fuel).

We have avoided layoffs for the past five years, a time when most
newspapers have had multiple layoffs and buyouts. But we could not be
immune forever to the broad forces that caused problems at those
newspapers. Some of those factors, such as a stagnant economy, the cost of
commodities and the effect of the Internet, have damaged our business to
the point that we have to take these regrettable steps or risk having to
take even more drastic steps in the near future.

You will likely wonder if today’s announcement is connected to the fact BMN
is for sale. There is no connection. Declining revenues and rising expenses
would have to be dealt with under any circumstance if we are to sustain our
two newspapers into the future.

Is this the last of the expense cutting for the year? I hope so, but cannot
make a guarantee. Ad revenues, particularly, have become hard to predict.
As I have said all along, we will monitor our finances and make adjustments
as needed.

I thank all of you for your hard work and dedication. That’s what has
allowed us to go this long without major cutbacks and what has allowed us
to keep this reduction narrowly focused.

Keep up the good work, knowing that it is appreciated, especially in these
challenging times to our industry.

04/18/2008 11:45:09 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [1] |  

Wednesday, 09 April 2008

Frank Blethen's mind warp

Seattle Times president/publisher Frank Blethen (still the owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, and the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, though not for long) found himself in some sort of mind warp earlier today, according to a story on Editor & Publisher's Web site.

Blethen was arguing not for family ownership of newspapers, as he has done for decades, but, suddenly, for local ownership, even saying saying he would "rather have a crummy paper owned locally than a supposedly good paper owned in absentia."

Of course, he was referring to his family's flagship property in Seattle, where he and almost the entire Blethen family lives. But think about that statement in relation to the papers the family owns in Maine.

There has been plenty of fire directed at the Press Herald and the Blethens in general since they bought the paper 10 years ago, for being absentee owners, for being disconnected, for bringing in non-Mainers to run the place. But the Blethens and their proxies in Maine have always defended themselves by saying family ownership was best, and harping on the Blethens' commitment to strong journalism.

Now, though, the patriarch of the family is reversing himself, and admitting at least the possibility that a "crummy" owner who is local would do better than a "supposedly good" owner elsewhere.

Of course, he has already put the Maine papers up for sale. And the Maine papers have laid off people (though not nearly as many as the Seattle Times just did). And the Press Herald's newsstand price went up 25 percent a couple weeks back, from 60 cents to 75, in the same week the paper slashed the space allocated to news.

So perhaps Blethen is trying to have it both ways, becoming a "crummy" owner-from-away, and hoping that a "supposedly good" local owner will spring up. We shall see.

In other Seattle Times/Blethen/Press Herald news:

-City editor Andrew Russell (or whatever his new title is) announced at the end of March (in his only blog post of the month) that the newsroom is being reorganized, away from the "traditional" beat structure, where a reporter has a subject-area of expertise, like city politics, or public safety. Word is that the ideas being batted around leave out a few things we might think are important. We're still seeking specifics on that, and will get back to you when we've got 'em.

-Frank Blethen will step down from his post as the top man at the Seattle Times in 2015. Of course, by then, no Mainers will care, because he won't have been involved in newspapers here for seven years (if all goes according to his plan to sell the Maine papers by the end of this year). But when the Seattle Times is on the run, they're really on the run - laying off people, selling papers, and even their fearless leader is planning an exit strategy. It doesn't help things that he apparently believes (having told E&P so, anyway) that by the time he's done, "we will have the difficult part out of the way." Surely nothing could happen between now and then to surprise anyone.

-The good folks at Crosscut Seattle, whom I will stretch and call my colleagues-in-fascination-with-all-things-Blethen, have put out a really fascinating four-part series of the financial crisis facing the Seattle Times. (Here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.) As I mentioned above, much of this won't matter to us Mainers, though some of it may have a bearing on the price the Blethens seek (or get) for the Maine publications. But there is one parallel I found interesting, though not really surprising: The Seattle Times's coverage territory once expanded well into the suburbs and met many news consumers' needs for daily information. But when faced with budget problems, the Times contracted, leaving unmet demand behind. Sound familiar?



04/09/2008 15:48:39 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Blethen bad news gets worse

We know the news hasn't been good for the Seattle Times folks of late, or for their soon-to-be ex-colleagues at the Blethen Maine Newspapers (the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel).

It's been bad for a while, but it just got even worse. Sure, we told you back in August 2006 that the Press Herald would soon be for sale, and we told you (20 minutes before the Press Herald's own Web site told you) when that became official company policy on St. Patrick's Day. And we mentioned the coverage of that announcement, as well as some thoughts on who might buy the papers.

We told you in August 2007 that the Press Herald had lost 27 percent of its advertising revenue in the previous two-and-a-half years.

In October 2007, we explored how "convergence" and multimedia journalism were being done at the Press Herald (or rather, not done; we can now add to that failure the elimination earlier this month of the job of "Online Reporter" held by Dieter Bradbury).

In December 2007, we revealed that an alert Phoenix reader told the world something the Press Herald brass hadn't - that Plum Creek CEO Rick Holley was a personal friend of Frank Blethen and a member of the family-dominated corporate board that oversees the paper.

We told you in early January that Frank Blethen had predicted that 2008 would be a terrible year requiring "deep cuts" for the company. And we told you a couple weeks ago that the layoffs had begun.

In February, we explained how Press Herald editor Jeannine Guttman failed to understand the results of a Pew Research Center report on what kinds of news interest men and women - and that men and women are very interested, at roughly equal levels, in breaking news and important issues of the day. She spent most of her time talking about how the paper offers NASCAR news and recipes to combine into one publication so many niche-market topics that you could almost call the Press Herald a niche sausage.

And earlier this month, I wrote about a blogger determined to draw attention to the Press Herald's journalistic shortcomings (a blogger who just today wrote in a posting that he is depressed about the paper's future prospects, and said he is "done wasting energy" on "the Seattle Blethens and their local minions;" what that means for future posts is unclear).

But now comes even worse news, from Seattle, via Crosscut and its intrepid reporter Bill Richards, who has worked for the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and has covered the Blethens for many years: Not only are print-ad revenues down, but they're down more than the Blethens expected. And online-ad revenues are also down, which suggests the Blethens' plans for future profits may be shrinking.

So however long they have to wait before they can unload the Maine papers, another question lingers for the Blethens - one certainly closer to their hearts: how long can they hang onto the Seattle Times, their family's flagship paper, before it collapses?

03/27/2008 14:06:32 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Press Herald sale - who would buy?

UPDATE: With Crosscut Seattle story link (also here). Definitely read that story - it has great analysis and some new ideas of who might buy the papers - including a possibility of the union taking it employee-owned.

Yesterday's announcement that the Portland Press Herald and the rest of the Blethen Maine Newspaper group are up for sale has a lot of attention in the expected arenas.

The Press Herald has a story here. The Seattle Times has a story here. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's story is here. I'm told Crosscut Seattle will have a story later today (UPDATE: It does, and that must-read story is here.) (and I'll post an update to this story when it's live).

The PressingTheHerald blog (which I wrote about in the latest issue of the Phoenix) has declared an end to its six-day-old "Blethen Maine Death Watch," and "T. Cushing Munjoy" has resumed buying the paper, only to find that he and Frank Blethen agree on something - that the Blethens will be lucky to recoup half of the $200-million-plus purchase price they paid for the Maine papers in 1998.

Even PortlandPressHarried's "T. Flushing Funjoy" is digging around, unearthing the Blethens' corporate memos and exec-speak from five years ago and ten years ago.

But nobody has addressed what appears to be a clear fact, which doesn't bode well for the papers' future: The Blethens likely have no prospective buyers.

Most businesses, and particularly privately-owned ones, don't generally announce that parts of their companies are "for sale." They announce that they have been sold, complete with answers to the "who bought it" and "when do they take over," even if not the "how much did they overpay" questions, and reassuring quotes about the future.

Not so this time - the Blethens have basically said, "We need to get rid of these companies - would anyone like to make us an offer?" They have also engaged the services of a major newspaper brokerage company, the New Mexico-based Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, which again suggests they have no idea who might buy the papers.

We know from my story on the impending sale of the Press Herald back in 2006 that some of Maine's big players aren't interested, and they've likely gotten even less so. The Bangor Daily News has laid off workers since then, and while the Lewiston Sun Journal has been expanding, their merger-and-acquisition people seem to be focused on weeklies, rather than dailies. Maybe the Sample Group, who own the Biddeford Journal-Tribune and just bought the Brunswick Times-Record, would be interested, but they just laid off people at the Times-Record, only days after begging the state for a loan they said would allow them to keep the newspaper operating.

Who's left? It's anybody's guess - even the Blethens don't have any ideas.

03/18/2008 09:54:37 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [1] |  

Monday, 17 March 2008

Press Herald For Sale - For Sure

In August 2006, we used the above graphic to illustrate a story called "Press Herald For Sale?" in which I posited that all signs were pointing to an impending sale of the Portland Press Herald, and quoted owner Frank Blethen as asking, in a September 2003 Press Herald article, "Can you just keep going?"

The answer: Not much longer at all now, what with layoffs, an impending price hike, circulation drops, and shrinking area for news.

The following is a memo from the Seattle Times corporate office to company employees that went out this morning.

From: Company Communications
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2008 11:02 AM
To: All Seattle Times
Subject: Message from Carolyn Kelly

I wanted to let you know about an announcement we are making this morning related to Blethen Maine Newspapers.

The Blethen family has made the decision to explore the sale of Blethen Maine Newspapers. As you all know, the industry economics have been particularly challenging for us as a small, independent newspaper company. The unrelenting challenges and unique circumstances here have led us to conclude that scaling back to a smaller organization is necessary at this time. Doing so provides the best opportunity for success in the long term for both the Seattle Times Company and for Blethen Maine Newspapers.

The Blethen family will continue to own and operate The Seattle Times and the Washington affiliates: the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the Issaquah Press and Rotary Offset Press.

Today's announcement does not mean that we are out of the woods; we hope it buys us some breathing room as we transform ourselves. We do not anticipate any changes to our operations here; we will continue to redefine our business model and work to align our cost structure with our revenue.

A copy of the press announcement is attached. If you have any questions, please ask your manager or department head.

Carolyn Kelly




Seattle Times Company to Explore Sale of

Blethen Maine Newspapers



SeattleCiting ongoing challenges in the industry and the need to focus on the future of its flagship newspaper and affiliate newspapers in the State of Washington, the Seattle Times Company has announced that it will explore the sale of its Blethen Maine Newspapers. 


The sale would include the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel and, a Web site that serves as a news and information portal for the state of Maine.


"We have been proud to be the stewards of these newspapers for the last 10 years.  They provide their communities with high quality, independent journalism that is in keeping with the best traditions of the Seattle Times Company," Seattle Times CEO and Publisher Frank Blethen said.  "We wish our stewardship could continue indefinitely, but the difficult business environment and continuing uncertainties require we consider other options.


"The decision to explore a sale was painful.  But a sale may be the best opportunity for the long-term survival of our newspapers in Washington and those in Maine. "


Chuck Cochrane, CEO and Publisher of Blethen Maine Newspapers, said he does not anticipate this decision will require changes in policies or operations of the newspapers while a sale is being explored.  The three Blethen Maine Newspapers have about 500 employees and combined circulation of about 101,000 daily and 136,900 Sunday.


The Seattle Times Company has engaged Dirks, Van Essen & Murray of Santa Fe, NM, the nation's leading newspaper merger-and-acquisition firm, as a broker to assist with the potential sale.   Blethen said the goal is to have the process completed by at least the end of the year.


Blethen Maine Newspapers is a unit of the Seattle Times Company.




03/17/2008 13:25:57 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Four Press Herald layoffs today; 11 more to come

There will be layoffs at the Portland Press Herald, costing 15 people their jobs, according to a report on the paper's Web site. Four of the layoffs happened today, according to the Newspaper Guild Local 128 Web site, the site of the union representing PPH workers. Among those laid off today were two "Clerk II" positions in news, which will save the company between $527 and $639 a week per person, according to the union's wage tables, which are posted online. The union also suggests unnamed managers recently received bonuses totaling $132,000, and claims the company did not give the union the amount of advance notice the contract requires.

The paper will also reduce the amount of space in the paper for news, and will eliminate some wire-service subscriptions. The paper has lately been running a lot of wire copy from the McClatchy News Service, which is owned by McClatchy Newspapers, a not-quite-half owner of the Seattle Times Company, the Press Herald's parent company, whose majority owner is the Blethen family.

There is no word on whether there will be layoffs at the other Blethen-owned papers around the state.

In related layoff news, the Brunswick Times-Record's new owners laid off 10 people on their first day running the company, and the paper made no mention of that, drawing fire from media watchdog Al Diamon (who also writes for the Portland Phoenix) and the Forecaster's Midcoast edition. Late last week, Times-Record managing editor James McCarthy admitted that he killed the news, all by his lonesome.

Not a good time to be working for daily newspapers.

03/11/2008 16:54:15 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

STALEMATE - Maine State Pier vote goes nowhere

Last night, in an enjoyable piece of political theater (in which the Portland Press Herald quotes the governor's brother during a little hissy fit), the Portland City Council failed to approve either proposal for the Maine State Pier's redevelopment. Perhaps the council has seen the light and realized the project has been under a cloud since the beginning.

Late last month, the councilors postponed their vote from September 5 to the 17th. Now they have a second chance to start everything over. Will they? Stay tuned...

09/18/2007 14:52:19 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Friday, 13 July 2007

Trafficking in fear - Channel 6's "driver's license" expose (updated)


On July 12, Channel 6 aired a "special report" observing that illegal immigrants can come to Maine and get driver's licenses, and including allegations from US Attorney Paula Silsby that illegal immigrants have come to Maine, gotten a driver's license, used the license to prove residency required under federal law for purchasing a gun, and then used the gun to commit a crime.

Where have those crimes happened? The report didn't say. How many times? Not included. What was the crime? Unspecified. The closest any of it gets is a short note by one of the news anchors that two people have been prosecuted for bringing illegal immigrants to Maine for the purpose of getting driver's licenses. When? No idea. How many people did they bring - 1, 100, 1000? Not said. (These questions are addressed in the update below.)

The US Attorney's office - part of the Bush-Gonzales department of "justice" - wants Maine to tighten things up, and become part of the federal government's failing effort to crack down on illegal immigrants. In April 2004 Maine governor John Baldacci issued an executive order barring state employees from asking people about their immigration status.

Silsby, apparently unable to handle whatever influx there is of illegal immigrants - which she fails to specify and is not questioned on in Channel 6's report - wants Maine officials to join the side of the Bushies.

But this is all a charade anyway, part of a widespread fearmongering campaign by the feds to distract people from the continuing disaster in Iraq, which is killing our soldiers and permanently affecting those who survive.

Channel 6 and reporter/anchor Kara Matuszewski fail to observe that (12 years after the Oklahoma City bombing) it remains perfectly possible - and legal - for a US-born-and-raised white man to serve in the US Army, come home, rent a Ryder truck, buy a bunch of diesel fuel and a lot of fertilizer, and drive that truck on ANY PUBLIC ROAD ANYWHERE IN THE US - including in front of YOUR HOME. And you know what can happen next - the truck, packed with diesel and fertilizer, can be DETONATED, causing a MASSIVE EXPLOSION, even killing federal employees in a federal building.

But immigrants are the real problem - and illegal ones, at that. So by all means, let's spread the fear.

(Disclosure: Kara Matuszewski is the president of the Maine Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. I'm the group's vice-president. For the group's upcoming elections, she nominated me to be on the ballot for president, and I nominated her to be on the ballot for vice-president.)

UPDATE July 16:

Kara Matuszewski notes in an e-mail to me that her report did say that the number of people who had not given their Social Security numbers when applying for - and receiving - driver's licenses increased between August 2006 and May 2007.

She is correct about that, and I should have noted it in my original post - but neither her report, nor the US Attorney, nor her e-mail response offer any proof that the increase from 3788 in August 2006 to 5372 in May 2007 in the number of people whose Social Security numbers are all 9s (999-99-9999) in the state's driver database is, in fact, due to illegal immigrants getting licenses.

(Her report does include the assertion by the US Attorney that "most of them are illegally in the country," but also a qualification that "some of those are people here legally." How many? Again, no answer. And again, it serves to strengthen my point that lack of information breeds fear, and fear is all the Bushies have to go on now, since evidence is now completely incontrivertible that they are, in fact, the ones telling lies for their own benefit.)

And Matuszewski offers in her e-mail some more details not included in her broadcast: The two people prosecuted for bringing illegal immigrants into Maine to get driver's licenses had charges filed against them in September and October 2006, and each of the two people were charged with attempting to help three people. That definitely helps contextualize the scope of the problem, and its immediacy.

Silsby is pulling out data from nearly a year ago - and not-that-scary data, to boot. (Compare six people trying to get driver's licenses with, say, the incidence of domestic violence in Maine. Or drugs, or even murders!) More than six people have been murdered in Maine since these folks were charged 10 months ago. Why does the US Attorney want us to pay attention to illegal immigrants? And why now? Gosh - could it be that the war in Iraq is going terribly, and the Dems are preaching moderation on immigration?

07/13/2007 09:46:59 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Press Herald prints poison?!

A correction from the Portland Press Herald from Friday's paper:

A story on Page B4 on Wednesday about foraging for edible mushrooms contained a photo of amanita muscaria, which is a poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom. It was a copy editor's error.

Here's the story. The correction appears not to have run online - though it is in the paper's online archive - but is not attached in any way to the online version of the story. So I wouldn't suggest using either of the pictures in the online version of the story to choose yummy mushrooms.

With a tip of the hat to

07/10/2007 13:55:01 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Monday, 09 July 2007

Press Herald is Corrections' apologist

The Portland Press Herald has taken its political criticism to a new low:

Not only did a Friday editoral fail to note that the Corrections policy of moving inmates from prison to a jail is in violation of a federal court order rediscovered by the Portland Phoenix and reported on in the June 29 issue, but Sunday's column by obscurer-in-chief Bill Nemitz makes no note of the fact that the Maine Department of Corrections has been failing to treat mentally ill inmates for their medical conditions for more than 18 months. (See, "Torture in Maine's Prison," by Lance Tapley, November 11, 2005.)

We all know that the Press Herald hates to let on that anyone else has a scoop - much less admit they've been scooped continuously for 20 months - but it's becoming dangerous to the public, and to the Press Herald's credibility.

The public needs to know that dangerously disturbed people are released every day from Maine prisons, and have never been treated for mental illness, though many of them are diagnosed, as you can hear in this Maine Public Broadcasting Network report. The Corrections Department is doing nothing, and thereby endangering not only the lives of inmates (and former inmates), but also the lives of the public.

And for the Press Herald's credibility, the paper should acknowledge and bring to light the serious problems that exist, or risk looking as if they don't know what everyone else in Maine knows - that Maine inmates are tortured and mistreated by Maine prison guards in Maine-taxpayer-funded prisons.

Here, for reference by Press Herald reporters, editors, and columnists, are links to the entire body of work by Portland Phoenix contributing writer Lance Tapley, on the terrible conditions at the Maine State Prison (for inmates without mental illness as well as for those who are suffering from various forms of mental illness).

Note the most recent article, which reveals that a freelance writer for the Maine Sunday Telegram was a party to a lawsuit 35 years ago that resulted in a federal court order opening the prisons to free and unfettered reporting. Where's the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram now? It's quite a shift in 35 years.

In chronological order from November 2005 to the present:

Torture in Maine’s Prison, November 11, 2005

Reforming the Supermax, November 18, 2005

Pressure Rising, March 24, 2006

Arbitrary Imprisonment, July 21, 2006

Death in the Supermax, October 13, 2006

Hunger Strike at Maine’s Supermax Prison, October 18, 2006

Baldacci’s ‘Political Prisoner,’ November 17, 2006

Lockdown: What do Prison Officials Have to Hide?, December 15, 2006

sidebar: Stonewalling is Normal, December 15, 2006

Sluggish Response to Suicide, January 5, 2007

Brown Defense Team Enlarging, January 12, 2007

An Insult to Justice, February 2, 2007 — Lance Tapley’s speech upon receiving the Maine State Bar Association’s Excellence in Legal Journalism Award

Cracks in the Armor, February 2, 2007

Prison Guards Suit Up, March 16, 2007

Prison Madness Explained, March 30, 2007

Punish the Mentally Ill!, April 13, 2007

Prisoners as Commodities, April 27, 2007

Prisoner Gagged, May 4, 2007

Inmate Sues Officials in Federal Court, May 18, 2007

Maine Prison Bosses Violate Court Orders, June 29, 2007 — with links to images of the court orders

sidebar: Press Behind Bars, June 29, 2007

sidebar: Waves of Activism, June 29, 2007

07/09/2007 10:07:33 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Friday, 29 June 2007

Media Nation on the FCC hearing

Phoenix contributor Dan Kennedy swung through the FCC hearing last night. Read his take on his blog, Media Nation.

06/29/2007 13:53:13 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Thursday, 28 June 2007

No hurry for FCC's localism study

Well, there's that much-ballyhooed FCC Localism hearing at Portland High School today, starting at 4 pm and running until 11 pm. (Hey, if someone brings a keg, maybe it'll run 'til 1 am!) Don't get your hopes too high for actual change anytime soon.

While plenty of people have signed up in advance to speak, and others will attend to get their moment of glory, there should be an interesting set of principles. Some folks, taking the extreme, will argue that local is better, no matter what. It's an interesting perspective, arguing that a locally owned broadcaster (even one with no money, no staff, and only doing what its volunteers can fit in beside their work and family lives) is inherently better than a large company (even one with tons of money, experienced paid staff, and resources to use investigating all kinds of stories).

Not many people would dispute that a locally owned broadcaster that has tons of money, experienced paid staff, and vast resources would be better than a broadcaster owned by a giant company that didn't have any money or staff, or even an office in town. If you can find either of those in reality. (And you'll have to look far beyond Maine. MPBN is the closest thing we have to a strong local media outlet, and while they have an experienced paid staff, even those staffers wouldn't say they have "tons of money" or "vast resources.")

And there are plenty of people - including Suzanne Goucher of the Maine Association of Broadcasters, interviewed on Channel 6 last night - who argue that the bigger companies can do more than the local ones. Again, if you can find the local broadcasters.

And as Charlie Gaylord noted the other day in an e-mail to the Phoenix, an FCC rule related to localism just forced Citadel-owned WCYI to stop simulcasting WCYY - thereby cutting off midcoast listeners from Mark Curdo's local-music show, Spinout. And the same rule is forcing the sale of Citadel-owned WCLZ, which has for years - minus a brief, misguided hiatus - broadcast local musicians' work, including on Charlie's show, Greetings From Area Code 207. What'll replace it? Nobody knows yet, but if the big companies see the value in promoting local music in Maine, is the problem really as big as some people appear to think?

But either way you want to argue it - or some other way - don't expect a ton of action on your viewpoint. The nice part of that? Don't expect any action on the viewpoints of people who think differently.

The FCC's localism Web site, which is very thorough (including comments from all previous localism hearings around the country - which all took place in 2003 and 2004), says, right up at the very tippy-top, that the localism effort will "Make recommendations to the Commission in the Fall of 2004 on how the Commission can promote localism in television and radio."

Three years later, they're still holding hearings.

06/28/2007 10:44:52 by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  


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More layoffs at Blethen papers
Frank Blethen's mind warp
Blethen bad news gets worse
Press Herald sale - who would buy?
Press Herald For Sale - For Sure
Four Press Herald layoffs today; 11 more to come
STALEMATE - Maine State Pier vote goes nowhere
Trafficking in fear - Channel 6's "driver's license" expose (updated)
Press Herald prints poison?!
Press Herald is Corrections' apologist
Media Nation on the FCC hearing
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