Monday, September 22, 2014


Interesting New York Times Magazine cover story on Sunday about Gary Hart and political coverage since the affair scandal revealed by The Miami Herald that drove him from the presidential race in 1987.

Matt Bai, who write the story based on a new book he has written about such scandals, highlights the fact that Hart's infamous challenge to reporters to follow him actually appeared in a Times Magazine piece the same day the Herald's famous story exposing Hart and Donna Rice was published. 

It also discloses for the first time the woman who apparently called Herald political reporter Tom Fiedler at the time to tip him off about Hart's affair.

Fiedler, who later rose to Herald editor and now heads the Boston University College of Communication, was among the reporters who cornered Hart in the alley of his D.C. townhouse that night in 1987 and has often spoken about it to me.

I emailed Fiedler Sunday to ask what he thought of the retrospective. 

His response:

It's a sobering experience to be the subject of journalism rather than the practitioner. On balance, Matt did a good job developing an interesting thesis, although I think he may have gone off the track a bit with the focus he placed on Hart's iconic comment -- "follow me, you'll be bored"-- which he had repeated in a variety of ways to me and others in the days after his announcement speech. The real trigger for The Miami Herald was learning that Hart was hanging out at Turnberry Isle on North Miami Beach, which then was notorious for drug smuggling, drug parties, mobsters, call girls and so on. Matt missed, or downplayed, that.

Beyond that I'd be quibbling, which I see no need to do. He's a terrific writer and I wish him success with the book. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014


When I went to the American Society of News Editors conference last week in Chicago, I did not expect to fall in love.

But it happened. 

Not during the ASNE events, which included great discussions and interviews on the state of news, poor coverage, conflicts of interest and women editors. Not as I went to meets and greets as I have for more than 10 years and reported for two great stories related to editor equality and the recent Ferguson, Mo., protests.  

And not even while I was nibbling appetizers and watching Second City perform at a Chicago Tribune reception at the famed Tribune Tower.

It was at Wrigley Field, where I feel in love with...Wrigley Field.

Once I stepped inside the hallowed ground, the famed ballpark had me. I got it. And I was smitten.

My Wrigley Selfie
Although I have been a baseball fan for more than 40 years, I never visited the friendly confines at 1060 West Addison St. But when the opportunity arose last Tuesday night to see the Cubs against the Cincinnati Reds, I took it. 

I did not travel with the ASNE group outing that included fellow conference attendees because it was sold out. Instead, I bought my own ticket, some 15 rows from the Cubs' dugout, and jumped on the "El" train Red Line north.

The first thing that struck me even before I got to the ballpark was the price, a mere $40, well below what I would have paid to see my beloved Yankees in similar seats. 

Then when I entered the historic landmark, the old-time baseball feel took over. No commercialized overkill here. The food stands offered the usual hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, while the open air feel of the ballpark was amazing.

A huge jumbotron screen was nowhere to be found as traditional organist flair filled my ears. The grass was deep green and the seats were just beat up enough to be nostalgic, but still comfortable. An outfield of the famed bleacher bums, with the rooftop seats beyond offered even more unique charm.

Fans were friendly and the Cubs gave me a fun thrill as pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter into the eighth inning before winning 7-0 on a one-hitter.

But I didn't even care who won. Truth be told, the Yankees are my team, always have been and always will be. I also root for the San Francisco Giants in the National League due to my seven years living in the Bay Area.

And if either of those teams were playing the Cubs on this day I would gladly root against the hometown boys.

It's more the friendliness and relaxation of this old style ballpark that stole my heart.

That's why it was some what disturbing to read about how the new owners, the Ricketts family, may be taking much of that charm away. Today's New York Times offered a great in-depth piece by Barry Bearak about the Cubs and their ownership, and the dispute over plans to upgrade and perhaps change the Wrigley experience. 

The story, which gives a great history lesson in the team's recent doings, also notes that a big screen scoreboard and other upgrades are planned and threaten to change the charm of the park.

But it also points out that the team, which has had its third straight losing season, needs revenue and more offerings to help players and attract fans.

But I hope whatever is done does not kill the real attraction of the place: its nostalgia, charm and fun no matter who is playing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


So many memories flooding back today 13 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

I was in the 7th floor offices of Editor & Publisher when the first plane struck the north tower at about 8:46 a.m., listening to the radio and working at my desk on a project that would never be completed that day as we jumped into coverage of how the story was being handled by local and national newspapers.

I remember some fellow employees who never made it into the office, others concerned about loved ones and still more who had friends and neighbors lost.

The E&P offices at 770 Broadway were at 9th street, about a mile north of the WTC and we were tuned into television viewing when the second plane struck just after 9 a.m. 

Of course, we knew then that it was an attack. Hitting the phones, we found out soon that subways were shutdown, trains stopped and Manhattan essentially was closed off to outsiders. But we found out quickly that the local newspapers and those around the country, were on it with extra editions and some of the first-ever online breaking news reporting.

I recall by the end of the day that a deal had been worked out for newspaper delivery trucks to be escorted into Manhattan by state police to deliver the next day's
paper. You may recall that was when cable news outlets began running the crawls at the bottom of the screen, a practice that is the norm today.

Below is the New York Times Page One of the next day's paper, an edition that would win a Pulitzer Prize months later.

E&P's report, an all-black cover, was published just days later.

I finally got out of Manhattan back to my New Jersey home at around 8 p.m. that night. 

Walking from the train to my house, where my wife had gotten home just a few hours earlier to take over care of our baby daughter from our wonderful nanny, I turned on my Walkman radio and heard this song below. I can never listen to it the same way again

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


One of the biggest stories, and perhaps the most investigative, on Monday was the disclosure of video showing NFL running back Ray Rice punching and knocking out his girlfriend.

The scoop, by gossip site, not only put the final piece of the puzzle to the story of Rice's domestic abuse of then-girlfriend and now wife, Janay Palmer, it also forced the NFL to finally suspended Rice and the Baltimore Ravens to drop him from their team.

But does the fallout also qualify for journalism's biggest prize. Could it win them a Pulitzer?

Why not?

While the Pultizer Prize has long been the province of newspapers, it was expanded in recent years to give websites a chance. Since then, sites from Politico to the Center for Public Integrity, have been named finalists and winners.

Why not Sure, it's no New York Times or Washington Post in its usual day-to-day coverage.

But in this case, the website beat the Times, Post and many other news outlets in finding the piece of information that left no doubt that Rice had committed a heinous act and deserved punishment far greater than the two-week suspension he had received last month.

That suspension had already been deemed inadequate by the press and fans, and eventually NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself. Goodell later admitted the punishment fell short and announced that tighter restrictions and greater punishment on domestic abuse would be implemented for the future.

Still, he and the league were not about to change the suspension of Rice. Not until forced their hand.

Assuming the website broke no laws in obtaining the internal video of an Atlantic City elevator, it did what prize-winning news outlets are supposed to do - it broke news and forced change.

I covered the Pulitzer Prizes for more than 10 years at Editor & Publisher. During that time, many surprising pieces of journalism were given attention. At one point even The Onion was touted for the award for its September 11 coverage in 2001. Zack Stalberg, the respected former editor of The Philadelphia Daily News, was on a Pulitzer jury that year and urged it be considered.

The Pulitzer Prize rules state that nominees for investigative reporting are honored "for a distinguished example of investigative reporting, using any available journalistic tool."

That appears to be this incident in a nutshell. 

Could even be up for the Public Service Award? 

The most prestigious of the 14 Pulitzer journalism prizes, it is given to a news outlet "for a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site through the use of its journalistic resources, including the use of stories, editorials, cartoons, photographs, graphics, videos, databases, multimedia or interactive presentations or other visual material."

Past winners of that Gold Medal Prize, as it is known, have included The Washington Post for Watergate reporting, The New York Times for the Pentagon Papers, and the Times-Picayune of New Orleans and Sun Herald of Biloxi, Ms., for Hurricane Katrina coverage.

So far,'s disclosure has heightened the discussion of domestic violence, pushed the most powerful sports league into making serious changes it would not previously make, and could well result in further concrete changes beyond sports to how domestic violence is handled and its perpetrators punished. also raised concerns about how mainstream reporters, and the NFL itself, either ignored the internal elevator video of Rice or failed to uncover it. This video was likely obtainable by others but apparently other news outlets did not find it worthwhile. Or worse, did not want to.

The Public Service award historically goes to news outlets that not only uncover big news, but also spark changes necessary to improve the public good. If attention to domestic violence is increased to the point where real change is made either in or out of sports, and increased action is completed, could well be in the running for the news industry's greatest honor.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Received this interesting Newspaper Guild notice:

Wanted: New owners.

That's the message today from journalists, ad reps and other media workers across the country seeking alternatives to Digital First Media, the nation's second-largest newspaper chain.

This morning, Monday Sept. 8, Newspaper Guild-represented staff at major newspapers including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and St. Paul Pioneer Press are publishing ads online and in print seeking local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms.

"Dear deep-pocketed, local community benefactor," one such ad begins, "A longtime newspaper, with more than 100 years of history and multiple Pulitzer Prizes, is looking for an owner who cares about Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Empire. The current owner, a hedge fund out of New York City, refuses to open its purse strings and reward employees with much-needed raises."

Properties owned by Digital First Media have yet to be put officially on the market, but recent actions (including the sale of newspaper buildings and the shutdown of the company's Thunderdome initiative) make it clear that investors are seeking an exit strategy.

Nationally, The Newspaper Guild-CWA is reaching out to Digital First CEO John Paton, offering to help identify potential new owners for individual papers and regional clusters.

"The future of journalism is too important to leave in the hands of distant investors who fail to grasp that investing in better news products is also good business," said Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild. "These papers are profitable, and they can remain so, but cutting costs is not a long-term business strategy."

Comprising Media News Group and 21st Century Media (formerly Journal Register), Digital First Media manages more than 100 local newsrooms in 18 states. Its majority owner is the "Distressed Opportunities Fund" of New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital, founded by Randall Duncan Smith, a specialist in "vulture investing."

Under the direction of Alden, Digital First has drained its media properties of real estate and other assets, while laying off journalists, cutting wages and reducing news coverage.

"When we were fully staffed, our coverage was better, there's just no getting around it," said Kieran Nicholson, a breaking news reporter who's worked at the Denver Post for 28 years. "Everyone here continues to work hard -- we try to do more with less, but it's a tough road."

Nicholson and his colleagues are hoping for owners who would take pride in the Denver Post and its tradition of excellence, he said. "Every business has to be profitable, and we all understand that, but we think a local owner might also see this as community service."
The Guild welcomes confidential inquiries from potential investors, as well as Digital First employees, including those at non-represented papers. Below are contacts for investor inquiries and media questions:
National contacts:
TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer: (202) 434-7175,
TNG-CWA Acting Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens: (510)

Monday, September 1, 2014


So New York Times Publisher and Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. got married this weekend.

But it received no major notice in the Times Sunday styles wedding pages, garnering the same announcement as anyone else.

Gabrielle Greene and Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times
Gabrielle Elise Greene, a partner in an investment firm, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the chairman and publisher of The New York Times, were married Saturday on Martha’s Vineyard. The ceremony, at the Outermost Inn in Aquinnah, Mass., was led by Flash Wiley, a friend of the couple, who received permission from Massachusetts to officiate.
The bride, 54, is taking her husband’s name. She is a general partner in Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, an investment firm in Pasadena, Calif. She works in New York, where she manages the firm’s investments in private companies. She is on the boards of Whole Foods Market and Stage Stores and is a former member of the boards of the Boston Children’s Museum and the Boston Partnership, which promotes diversity initiatives. She graduated from Princeton and received a law degree and an M.B.A. from Harvard.

See the rest HERE.