Everyone in Journalism Has an Agenda

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You read here every day a wide variety of stories. Some offer advice. Some offer amusement. Some may make you jump for joy, while others may make your blood boil. All of them fall into that broad category we call journalism, and most of them are produced by people who, like me, call themselves professional journalists.

Why do we scribblers and talkers and picture-takers take up this craft? The answers are probably as varied as the people who practice it, but I think the best among us do it for one reason: we think this world can be a little better for our efforts.

That was certainly what motivated John Siegenthaler, who as editor of The Tennessean in Nashville put his paper solidly behind the Civil Rights Movement at a time when many Southern newspapers ignored it or worse. Siegenthaler, who died July 11th, also championed freedom of speech and the press and called journalism “the most important thing I could have done with my life.”

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Interstate General Media Spokesman Mark Block Has Resigned

Mark Block, the spokesman for Interstate General Media, publishers of the Inquirer and Daily News, has resigned. He is being replaced by Jonathan Tevis.

Block, whose career spanned a number of ownership groups at the papers and Philly.com, was often the face of the company during difficult times; big internal emails often went out under his name.

According to Linkedin, Tevis has been rising on the biz side of the newspapers since 2006. He’d taken a more public role since Gerry Lenfest’s acquisition of the papers, so this transition isn’t a huge surprise.

Block’s farewell email, below:

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The President and the “N-Word”

The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper's website.

The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper’s website.

Last week, The West View News, a small monthly paper with circulation in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, ran a story about President Obama with a headline that read “The Nigger in the White House.” The article, written by James Lincoln Collier, a white man, defended the president and accused the far-right of racism.

“Nigger” is a piece of language so loaded, it’s not one that anyone stumbles upon lightly, or happens to use in place of something else. It’s not synonymous with anything; it’s a word of intention. A word of consequence. A word with a lot of history attached to it.

Of course, the newspaper headline sparked debate about the use of the word, and whether its use (however ironically) has a place in journalism—or any other decent public space, for that matter. It’s an editorial decision, for sure, a move that’s the print equivalent of click-bait, which has spawned coverage and think pieces about what the word means.

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Sprout to Begin Filming in New York City

chica I used to work in the Comcast Center. One of the fun things about working there was the frequency with which you’d see actors from the kids’ cable channel Sprout. Not that I would notice them — I have no idea who they are — but my co-workers with kids would point them out, often overly excited that the pretty man or woman they saw on television was now there, in the flesh, in the Comcast lobby. (I assume kids’ shows put model-like actors and actresses on their shows to give the parents more reason to pay attention.) One time, Chica — the star of two Sprout hits, The Sunny Side Up Show (in puppet form) and The Chica Show (in cartoon form) — even made an appearance at the building! Not that it mattered to me, but it was nice to see some excited co-workers.

Sprout has been producing live programming and other segments at the Comcast Center since the building opened. Sadly, some of this is coming to an end. The channel will start producing its live morning show at 30 Rock in Manhattan this fall, in the hopes that celebrities will stop by after appearing on Today. A sensible decision, probably, but one that’s a little disappointing. (Or not. Perhaps you’re saying, “Who cares?”) NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, purchased full control in Sprout from PBS and Apax Partners, a private equity firm, last November. PBS Kids was dropped from the title and Comcast could now do whatever it wanted with the channel!

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Interview: Stan Wischnowski Leads Philly Newspapers to the Future

Stan Wischnowski has been named Vice President, News Operations for The Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

Stan Wischnowski has been named Vice President, News Operations for The Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

In an Inquirer newsroom often known for infighting and factionalism, longtime editor Stan Wischnowski somehow emerged with his own reputation … for being a nice guy.

Whether that reputation can help him survive in his new job is an open question. As the new vice president of news operations for Interstate General Media (a job that didn’t exist until new company owner Gerry Lenfest gave it to him this week), Wischnowski gets to set the strategic direction of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

It’s a tall order:

• He has to manage the company’s long-faltering transition to the digital era — with his first job being to get Philly.com and the newspapers to play nice with each other, to each side’s benefit, instead of constantly bickering.

• He has has to reinvigorate a Sunday paper that — even with large print circulation losses in the last year — remains the economic engine powering much that happens at the company.

• And he’ll probably need to do what nobody else in the industry has quite managed yet: Figure out how to make newspaper-style journalism pay — online or off — so that his newsrooms can continue to do their job for the next few decades.

It’s clear in talking to Wischnowski that Philly.com — which, after all, has the largest audience of the three newsrooms — will be central to his strategy for distributing and promoting the journalism of all three.  “Philly.com is still the dominant website in the region and we have an opportunity to make it better,” he said. “I think we owe it to our users to make it much easier to find what it is they are looking for.”

Last week, following his promotion, Wischnowski spoke to PhillyMag about the task ahead. Some excerpts:

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Veteran Inky Editor Stan Wischnowski Promoted to IGM’s Vice President of News Operations

Stan Wischnowski-400x400Stan Wischnowski, a veteran Inquirer editor who sometimes has held the newspaper’s top spot during Bill Marimow‘s occasional firings, is getting a promotion: He’ll be the newly created vice president of news operations at Interstate General Media, overseeing the strategic planning, budgeting, and staffing at the Inky, Daily News, and Philly.com.

The announcement was made Tuesday night by Gerry Lenfest, IGM’s owner and the interim publisher of the papers. Wischnowski will report directly to Lenfest in his new role.

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Interview: David Boardman and the Future of Philly Newspapers

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Meet David Boardman. It’s possible you’ve not heard of him, but he may have a lot of influence over how you get your news in Philadelphia in coming years. He’s the dean of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication, and it’s from that perch — he’s been at Temple about a year — that he informally advised the late Lewis Katz as Katz prepared his final bid for the city’s major daily newspapers earlier this summer.

But that’s not been Boardman’s only move. He pulled the plug on the little-seen Axis Philly website in June and instead announced that Temple would help fund journalism startups in the city. First up: Brother.ly, a forthcoming website from former WashingtonPost.com editor Jim Brady and a crew of about six local journalists.

One thing to understand about Boardman: He’s not some ivory tower egghead. He spent three decades at the Seattle Times, rising from reporter to top editor and helping that paper win several Pulitzer Prizes along the way. He’s gone through the pain of every news industry veteran, laying off trusted friends and colleagues, but he’s also given a lot of thought to what newspapers should look like in the future. Hint: There’s not quite as much paper involved.

He talked to Philly Mag last week about that future:

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Dear Inky: I Got It Wrong

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This about sums it up.

I get it wrong sometimes.

I was wrong back in January 2013. At the time, new ownership had taken over at the Inquirer and Daily News — is the ever not the case —and immediately demanded millions  of dollars in wage and benefit cuts from the salaries of  journalists employed by the paper.

It seemed another example of a newspaper trying and failing to cut its way to profiitability, a plan that hadn’t worked at any of the other million or so papers that had been trying it recent years. So I offered a potential way out of the never-ending death spiral:

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Lenfest to Inquirer, Daily News Reporters: “Work Hard But Rest Easy”

Leaders of the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents the journalists of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, had their first formal meeting with new owner Gerry Lenfest on Tuesday. Some developments:

• Lenfest told the journalists he is “committed” to continuing with two papers, meaning the perpetually in danger Daily News can rest easy for the moment.

• He’s considering keeping Philly.com as its own, independent entity with its own identity.

• He expects to have a publisher in place within three months.

• He does not expect to seek any wage cuts from journalists, and may offer a contract longer than two years during the next round of negotiations.

• He buried the hatchet with Bill Ross, the guild’s executive director. The two famously feuded by letter during the Inky’s ownership crisis.

A full memo from the Guild regarding the meeting, after the jump:

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