Is The New Haven Register Ready To Compete?

Competition is often good for employees and readers/viewers–not so much for bosses who have to become more product oriented to compete.

I have an inside joke I tell when I speak to anyone at the New Haven Register. “Bet you never knew what good journalists the Jackson family were?” The Jackson’s owned the Register and its ill fated sister paper when I came to Connecticut. They were not known as journalists except when compared to those who followed them.

Over the years the Register has been run into the ground through a combination of bad management and foolish borrowing. There’s a lot more room in its parking lot than there was a few years ago. The paper and its daily news hole are smaller.

A few month ago a friend at the Register sent me an email.

You might find this of interest. JRC has a new CEO who intends to take the company digital….

He added a Twitter address for John Paton the new CEO.

Paton has been twittering a lot and embracing new media and its attendant technology. Where he’ll get the money to see his dream and whether those dreams will pay off is another question.

If successful it means more and different competition for my station. Competition is often good for employees and readers/viewers–not so much for bosses who have to become more product oriented to compete.

As opposed to a company that makes then sells shoes, what media companies make and sell are two different things. We make programs. We sell eyeballs. They’re not always in sync.

I was brought back to Paton this morning after a very positive writeup in Editor & Publisher, a newspaper oriented journal.

Paton wrote that he took over a company with a history of “so many years of broken promises and less than desirable work environments and an oppressive corporate culture.”

“We have, as promised, started to take the steps to make our company more responsive to the employees’ needs,” he wrote. “Last week we announced internally that we are flattening the corporate oversight structure and putting more responsibility and more feet on the street. As a follow-up initiative to last week’s management restructuring, I have asked the new Senior Publishers in each cluster to recommend to me where we can initially add new editorial and sales positions.”

It remains to be seen whether he is a prophet or Pollyanna. Good intentions alone aren’t enough.

Bad Times / Good People

People had been there for 25 or more years and the worst part is, their loyalty paid off for nothing in the end. Seems to be the state of affairs anymore.

I heard a rumor a local news anchor has taken a pay cut and lost a newscast as financial conditions deteriorate. With a young child, maybe this is what she wants. Maybe it isn’t.

The Journal Register Company, publisher of a few Connecticut daily newspapers, including the New Haven Register I get every morning, is suffering as well. Already a ruthless cost cutter, JRC seems to have run out of things to cut.

From Editor & Publisher:

Journal Register Co., its stock now selling at about the cover price of its newspapers, disclosed Thursday that it is in danger of being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

The Yardley, Pa.-based publisher of the Trentonian in Trenton, N.J., said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had been notified by the NYSE that it had fallen below the Big Board’s “continued listing standard” of minimum share price.

This morning ATA, a discount regional airline announced they were shutting down. Ben Popken at interviewed a now cashiered employee.

benpopken: What was the mood like once people started finding out?

ATAinsider: Very sad. It seemed somewhat inevitable, but we all had hopes, you know? People had been there for 25 or more years and the worst part is, their loyalty paid off for nothing in the end. Seems to be the state of affairs anymore.

We’re now entering the part of a recession where no one, outside economists, sees the way out. You’ll be hearing lots of the word “cyclical” describing our economy, with little explanation of how and why it’s cyclical, attached.

Even if the economy has always been cyclical, there’s no guarantee it will be this time, or that you won’t be the excess weight tossed overboard as companies scramble to preserve profits and managers scramble to save their own jobs.

Alas, business is never more likely to share equitably than when times are bad.

One Man Band

When a news photographer is also the reporter, that person is referred to as a “one man band.” It is not usually offered up as a compliment.

How can you do both well, reporters and photographers ask? Historically, that was true. I’m not so sure it’s still true as cameras and editing gear become more sophisticated and lightweight.

My friend Mike‘s TV station has switched to this mode of news gathering. The jury is still out on whether it’s a success or not, though he says they cover a lot more stories.

The reason I’m writing about this now is because of a job listing from the New York Times.

Job Description, the #1 newspaper site on the Web (Nielsen/NetRatings) and winner of Best News Site awards in 2005, 2004, 2003 (Editor & Publisher) is seeking a Videojournalist to join our team.

The videojournalist will be responsible for producing video segments for


Katrina Timeline Straightening

I am one of those people who firmly believe FEMA and/or the National Guard should have been in New Orleans as soon as the wind began to die down. However, a great misconception most people have is the flooding started around the time the storm peaked.

Here’s what I wrote around 3:00 AM EDT Tuesday morning. By then the storm had moved north and New Orleans no longer had hurricane conditions.

Rick Sanchez was on the air, speaking by phone with someone from Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. The hospital’s spokesperson was talking about water – rising water.

The hospital had seen no real flooding while Hurricane Katrina passed by, but tonight, water had begun rushing in and it was rising at an alarming rate.

I could hear the fear in her voice as she described the water level rising an inch every five minutes. That’s a foot an hour. Already there was six feet of water outside the hospital. Soon, water would reach the level of their emergency generators on the second floor.

Sanchez was taken aback. I’m not sure he originally understood what she was saying. It was so unexpected – so out of context.

She said a levee keeping Lake Ponchartrain out of New Orleans had been breached. The cut in the levee was two blocks long and water was rushing in unimpeded. Even if there were pumps working, and she wasn’t sure there were, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with this deluge.

On CNN, Rick Sanchez kept asking questions, but it was obvious this woman wanted to get off the phone. Speaking to him wasn’t going to help her.

I heard terror in her voice.

The hospital had to get its patients out. Its patients were by and large critical. The only way to move them would be by helicopter and FEMA would be needed for that.

The other all news stations are in their usual reruns. I have no way of knowing if this is true. If it is, this is New Orleans’ worst fears are realized. Lake Ponchartrain could inundate the city.

As far as I can tell, that was the first national report of flooding in New Orleans.

From Editor & Publisher: On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff told Tim Russert that one reason for the delay in rushing federal aid to the Gulf Coast was that “everyone” thought the crisis had passed when the storm left town: “I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, ‘New Orleans Dodged The Bullet.'”

So, maybe that was what Chertoff thought on Tuesday… but where was he on Monday? Even before the flooding, New Orleans was in great need. The city was without power. Windows were blown out all over the city. Buildings had been destroyed. People were homeless or were housed in shelters with no food, water or sanitary facilities.

Yes, the flooding came late, but wasn’t anyone there surveying the damage or deciding what kind of support the city would need before then? Even before the flooding, the city had suffered a tragedy.

Why was he depending on newspapers (or any media) for his information?