20
May 09

When a blogger owns a story…

Most blogs and/or bloggers have an issue, topic, subject, or event that they simply own and dominate.   Brendan Skwire has been doing just that with the Inquirer’s disastrous hiring of John Yoo as a columnist.   Read all of his posts on Yoo, or his open letter on the subject.   As is usually the case, the Inky (in the form of Harold Jacksons) dismisses the controversy (and boycott) and blames the bloggers (via Philebrity), including Daily News journalist, author, and blogger Will Bunch:

Unfortunately, most of the critics of our contract with Yoo have their facts wrong.

But that happens when your information comes from those bloggers who never let the facts get in the way when they’re trying to whip people into a frenzy to boost Web site hits.

It’s a shame that one blogger who disseminated poor information is actually a full-time journalist for a sister publication in The Inquirer building.

Bunch, of course, destroyed Jackson.

At this point, it doesn’t matter that torture doesn’t work, that it further radicalizes those that it victimizes, that it endangers our soldiers, and that it lessens us all as both a people and a country.   Thanks to the moral beacon of and “he said, she said” reporting of the Village – as Digby aptly noted – torture isn’t a subject of moral clarity but simply a matter of policy difference.


27
Feb 09

PMH CEO Brian Tierney’s Leadership Lunch at the University of Pennsylvania

I was unable to attend Tierney’s Wharton Leadership Lunch at the University of Pennsylvania.   Fortunately, I am a close friend with someone who did.   This anonymous writer is well grounded in the disciplines of business, politics, economics, and the business of journalism.

These are his thoughts, presented without any of my commentary (previously).

Brian Tierney — CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, CEO and Publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and CEO of The Philadelphia Daily News — visited the University of Pennsylvania today for a “Leadership Lunch” with undergraduate students. He arrived 20 minutes late, bustling and jovial, no apology. His public relations background shows; he is an optimistic, outsized media personality, all confident and energetic. He uses the pronouns “my” and “I” often, very few references to the credit due his employees or co-investors — except editor William Marimow, to whom we will return. (Perhaps, given the current state of the company, they are grateful that he takes all the credit.)

Tierney opened with a brief biography, then segued into the challenges of the Inquirer and Daily News. Continue reading →


29
Jan 09

Tell me, why is this guy still in charge?

A long time ago, I wrote about a phillymag article about aspiring-Press Lord Brian Tierney and his plan to turn philly.com into MySpace.   Color me as not impressed, but to be fair, I never was much of a fan from the beginning.   Here was his grand scheme:

After we finish our cafeteria sandwiches, he stands up. He steps to the big white flip pad ” “my famous flip pad” ” and starts pitching his vision for Philadelphia Media Holdings, which he doesn’t describe as a newspaper company but as “a brand of local news and content.” With a fat red marker, he scribbles a rectangle representing the Philly.com homepage. He calls it “a shopping mall” of content. To attract more shoppers, Tierney wants a localized version of MySpace; to create more content, Tierney wants journalists to use digital cameras and blogs. “I’m not going to force anybody to do it,” he says, although he hopes journalists will want “to play the game up on the balls of their feet and be excited about it and be relevant.” Explaining what he means by “relevant,” Tierney mentions that when the Mel Gibson DUI story broke last summer, both Philly newspapers covered it on inside pages, “but Philly.com should have had that as a bigger thing than just a line, because everybody went to Drudge” ” the right-wing gossip site ” “or CNN.” The website could use its own journalists who only do Mel-type stories, or who shoot their own “silly and fun” videos, like the one where the guy puts the Mentos candy in the Diet Coke and creates a soda volcano. “I love the smile of our own reporters doing those sorts of things, you know what I mean?”

Once, Tierney was supposed to be The One who could save the Inquirer.   Now, phillymag goes back to the trough and provides this nugget:

Now, less than three years later, it’s all gone to hell. Circulation has fallen. In early 2008, Tierney warned union representatives of “a dire situation  if costs weren’t cut by 10 percent. The papers have slashed more than 400 staff members across all departments since he took over. According to Newspaper Guild representative Bill Ross, Tierney once shook up a management meeting by barking “I will not lose my fucking house over this!  And Ross says a couple of people emerged from a private meeting with the CEO claiming that he’d spoken to them, in his 12th-floor office, with a baseball bat in his hands. Ross also adds that in January, Tierney took to patrolling the parking garage, watching to see what time employees were arriving to work and asking managers about those who were late. “That’s what I’m getting calls about now,  says Ross. “He’s walking around the parking garage. If he gets hit by a car, it’ll be his own fault.  Tierney’s ownership group, Philadelphia Media Holdings, stopped making interest payments to its creditors over the summer. Thirty-five further editorial layoffs were announced in December. No one knows what tomorrow will bring ” except that some tomorrow could mark the end of Philadelphia’s newspapers.

I’m pretty sure that having your CEO invoke the classic scene from the Untouchables is not the most appropriate rallying cry for the troops.   I am similarly sure that Glengarry Glenn Ross was not a motivational sales movie.   Why the investors in PMH have so much confidence in Tierney is a mystery…


03
Feb 08

100% of the Inquirer for only -25% Off, Starting Tomorrow…

The struggling Philadelphia Inquirer, helmed by Neo-Press Lord Brian Tierney is offsetting declining advertising revenue with threats of ‘outsourcing’ and layoffs as well as a price increase of $0.25. a short front page paragraph explains the price changes. Will this be enough to stave the paper’s ongoing decline, despite two instances of flying pigs?

In other news, the Inky’s idea of fair-and-balanced is a front page which gives the media-anointed likely Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain two thirds of the photo space related to the story. Senators Clinton and Obama meanwhile must share the balance, with 1/6 of the space for each. I suppose this innoculates them from cries of liberal media.

Dick Pollman also points out that the Elite Republican establishment loathes McCain, endearing him to moderate Republicans and some Democrats ignorant of St. McCain’s hard right U-Turn to pander to conservatives, flip-flops, and apparent contradictions with his own created mythos of being a Straight-Talker.

Meanwhile, Smerky blames the disintegration of the Giuliani campaign on the political press. Smerky may like to think that this was a take down, but the press largely reported on the facts of the Giuliani campaign, and in fact deemphasized some other more grave and troubling problems. Giuliani made HIMSELF the “President of 9/11“, not the press, and GOP-bullhorn FOXNEWS was America’s Mayor’s biggest cheerleader. What really derailed Giuliani was the lack of man behind the myth, a man who does not even take his own advice.

For example, they dutifully reported Giuliani’s non-presence in all primaries and caucuses prior to New Hampshire (even Fred Thompson worked harder), his stump speech content of [noun][verb][9/11] and a handful of his ethical lapses, such as the shepherding of his mistress about town, courtesy of an NYPD detail. They similarly deemphasized his business dealings with supporters of terror, his other business dealing with the indicted once-Homeland Security Secretary nominee Bernie Kerik, some fiscal shenanigans involving New York City travel funds used for personal travel in the waning days of his Mayoral Administration, and his decision to make WTC7 the city’s emergency response center, despite the WTC being a prior (and eventual) terrorist target, to function as his love-nest away from prying eyes. If that’s what Smerky means by the actions of a vindictive press reporting unfavorable news destroying the campaign (note, not the moral, financial, and ethical bankruptcies of the campaign), then I suppose he’s right.

As an aside, he mentions that Will Bunch had stated to him that NY reporters may have viewed their reporting of the Giuliani campaign an issue of ‘reaping what you sow’ (Giuliani was openly hostile or restrictive of the press, much like the current Clinton Campaign, and we all know how much the press loves free rides on the Straight Talk Express). I was unaware that NY reporters from the Giuliani era had penetrated the entirety of mainstream media. Could we likewise make the argument that the placement of the conservative troika of Santorum, Smerconish, and Last is nothing more than another case of Wingnut Welfare Queens?

There’s a short story of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains at the Philadelphia Navy Yard which is worth your time, thought, and maybe some further Googling. If there was a call for non-denominational donations from the religious (and non-religious spectrum), this may be it.

Lastly, there’s an important article on the brain-drain, college attendance, and degree completion that is worthy of attention from anyone who feels invested in the City and the region.

[As an aside, I’ve long noticed the declining size of the jobs, automobile, and now real estate section. I wonder how the housing crisis will manifest itself for the print industry? Will it be displaying rental information, increased sheriff sale listings, and foreclosures instead of hundreds-of-thousands of dollars showcase homes? Brian, that’s free advice for you right there – run with it in print and on Philly.com].


23
Dec 07

Rewarding Bad Behavior [Philadelphia Inquirer]

This post was prompted by Tom Ferrick’s whining and Mark Bowden’s attempt at outrageousness.   I’m not going to bother parsing their statements (Ferrick’s on Casinos aren’t bad for Philadelphia’s waterfront followed by the usual journalists’ waaaaahumbulance cries that he gets hatemail, and Bowden’s Waterboarding isn’t torture and it’s A-OK with him if it works) in current and recent columns.

Brian Tierney, in a Philly Mag interview called Press Lords 2.0 laid out his vision for Philly.com, one where it became a MySpace with User Generated Content (UCG) including those wacky Mentos-and-Coke videos, along with online content created by those in his employ in the analog properties (ie. the papers).  

After we finish our cafeteria sandwiches, he stands up. He steps to the big white flip pad ” “my famous flip pad” ” and starts pitching his vision for Philadelphia Media Holdings, which he doesn’t describe as a newspaper company but as “a brand of local news and content.” With a fat red marker, he scribbles a rectangle representing the Philly.com homepage. He calls it “a shopping mall” of content. To attract more shoppers, Tierney wants a localized version of MySpace; to create more content, Tierney wants journalists to use digital cameras and blogs. “I’m not going to force anybody to do it,” he says, although he hopes journalists will want “to play the game up on the balls of their feet and be excited about it and be relevant.” Explaining what he means by “relevant,” Tierney mentions that when the Mel Gibson DUI story broke last summer, both Philly newspapers covered it on inside pages, “but Philly.com should have had that as a bigger thing than just a line, because everybody went to Drudge” ” the right-wing gossip site ” “or CNN.” The website could use its own journalists who only do Mel-type stories, or who shoot their own “silly and fun” videos, like the one where the guy puts the Mentos candy in the Diet Coke and creates a soda volcano. “I love the smile of our own reporters doing those sorts of things, you know what I mean?”

One could say that this is a somewhat lower goal than that of speaking-truth-to-power or civic responsibility that I have come to expect (and lament, of late) in journalistic endeavors.

Tierney’s Online Experiment also seems to employ to strategies that are prevalent online as well – that of link baiting and attention whoring. One could argue that these are contrarian arguments, possibly hoping to widen the debate.   I suspect not.

Why else would one gather Rick Santorum (former GOP-Senator), Jonathan Last (a consistent conservative columnist), and Michael Smerconish (conservative talking head and veteran of the Bush-the-elder’s administration), all GOPers and place them prominently in the Currents section?   Is this an example of being fair and balancedâ„¢ in print, affirmative action for bad ideas, or maybe something else?

Simply put, Tierney knows any news (or links or posts, in this case) is good news.   The economics of the blogosphere don’t much care whether you agree or disagree with the content to which you link .   The value of one’s internet property is determined by the traffic it receives and how much that traffic is worth.   Should one of those high value liberal-progressive bloggers such as Atrios, or others in the local sphere, comment and start a blogstorm on some content, it would deliver spike in traffic, which in turn helps Philly.com out.

There are a couple of people I know and love who work for the Inquirer and or the Daily News.   But I just can’t justify the reward bad behavior (after this post, that is).