Where USF faculty, students and graduates are invited to talk about journalism and its problems and opportunities. This blog is not affiliated with the University of San Francisco, nor is the university responsible for any of the opinions expressed herein -- though it is certainly responsible for the people who entertain those opinions, having educated them. They make us proud.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Consider This a Personals Ad Except We Don't Care if You Like Poetry and Long Walks on the Beach


The Media Studies Department at the University of San Francisco invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level, anticipated to begin August 1, 2006.

Teaching Responsibilities include teaching two undergraduate courses per semester, plus one additional course over two years (2-2-2-3 over two years), and an active program of research and service. The successful candidate will teach courses in field reporting, reporting and editing in convergent media, and other courses related to the candidate’s specialty and departmental needs; and take responsibility for the production of a student-produced web magazine.

The Department is seeking an individual who is able to work with diverse students and colleagues. Ph. D., J.D. or equivalent advanced degree in a related field, plus a record of teaching, professional experience and research or other relevant creative activity are required. An emphasis on race/ethnicity issues and international/global issues will be a plus.

Applicants should submit a letter of application, curriculum vitae, graduate transcripts, brief description of research plans, evidence of teaching ability (including sample syllabi, student evaluations, and a statement of teaching philosophy) and three letters of recommendation to:

Dr. Dorothy Kidd
Media Studies Search Committee
Media Studies Department
University Center 517
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-1080

Applications must be received by December 1, 2005, in order to ensure full consideration.

The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit Catholic university founded in 1855 to educate leaders who will fashion a more humane and just world. Candidates should demonstrate a commitment to work in a culturally diverse environment and to contribute to the mission of the University.

USF is an Equal Opportunity Employer dedicated to affirmative action and to excellence through diversity. The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants with disabilities upon request.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My Old College Roomie Shares His Wisdom

So I go to post a reply on your blog, surrender my email address that you are no doubt selling to spammers and a friend’s [yours J] and find that I am confined to 300 characters. What do you think I am? A bleeding poet?


So how are you doing?

Yes, I lurk into your blog. Here is what was BANNED by your blog response form. 94 words, 453 characters, 558 with spaces.

Sad But Pretty Damn True reminds me of a conclusion reached by a labor union friend of mine. Here in Detroit the auto 'big 3' have Company-UAW [GM-UAW, etc.] collaborations each occupying large building most famously a recently built large modern structure on the riverfront.

"What actually goes in those places?" I asked.

"Determine the center point of the triangle of their three locations and, if you stand on that spot, I am convinced that all activity, motion, time and meaning will cease." he said.

Welcome to your job young journalists, now pay your dues.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sad But Pretty Damn True

I recently had lunch in the Mission with two outstanding USF grads whose intent from the moment they walked on campus some years ago was to join the great fraternity -- well, in one case, sorority -- of print journalists. And so they did. I think these people are going to be lifers. We talked of many things, but the point they both made was that about 90 percent of their problems at work involved dealing with incompetent supervisors.

I mean top editors. I mean bosses.

The problems weren't subtle ethical issues. The problems weren't fierce debates about content or editorial direction. The problems were matters of basic competence and honesty.

In other words, the Peter Principle is alive and well. You may not need to become a master of workplace politics to survive and thrive, but you must understand it if you are going to keep yourself off the horns of the bull.

Am I right or am I right?

Addendum: My word. I reread this several hours after writing it, and I must say it's rather a rant, you know, being provocative for the sake of eliciting comment. So let me soften it a bit. I have had bad bosses and good bosses. I have been a bad boss, and I have been a good boss. All that said, there's no doubt all of us will work for bad bosses at one time or another just as there is no doubt all of us will make mistakes for which we should take responsibility. Sharing tales of both "life stories" can be useful, if only to reinforce the fact one's experience is seldom unique.

Now I feel better.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nelson Toriano: I Worked for the San Francisco Chronicle (A True Story)

Nelson tells it like it is, and how it should be.

Well, it’s about damn time we have a journalism major!! I would’ve declared that a long time ago. Since graduation and completing my service as the Advertising Manager at the Foghorn, I went directly to work at the San Francisco Chronicle. A year and half later, I left my position as a Retail Advertising Account Executive. But how to get into that company was a triumph in itself.

Imagine me, fresh out of college, sitting at the head of a long mahogany table in this opulent conference room. On either side were two advertising directors and two advertising vice-presidents. And my job for the next hour is to walk them through my resume, bullet point by bullet point, and tell them why they should hire me … as their INTERN! (It wasn’t even for a permanent position?!) Mind you, this panel interview follows five other interviews (two of which were for other positions) and four tests, which included a personality test. Of course, I was sweating bullets (even during the personality test). But during the interview, I remembered one thing I learned in journalism: get these people talking. So I turned the interview back on them, asked them a bunch of questions on what they do, what they like, and flattered them a little bit. Soon enough, all five of us were laughing, and I fulfilled my intention: they felt so comfortable with me that we kept talking and talking. They liked me, so I got the job.

Although, I might be one of the few students who are more interested in the business side of journalism than the writing side, the training I got in journalism courses works in everyday situations—like a job interview. But after working in advertising and seeing how it constitutes 60% of the paper, generates the financial backbone of the newspaper industry, and how ruthless people are, I feel that it’s important for the journalism major to offer a seminar on advertising.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is that production of newsprint is declining. However, the newspaper as a company, may still survive only if it keeps up with the latest trends in advertising.

San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York are among the largest markets in the nation for newspapers. All three had the biggest decreases in subscribers. On a grand scale, that results in downsizing (which I personally was a victim of), thinner newspapers (because of less content), and a slow tarnishing of the newspaper brand in the market. People will first associate the newspaper brand with the actual newsprint before they associate it to the newspaper’s website or any other medium. So if the public sees fewer newspapers, people automatically think the newspaper is not doing so well, which may or may not be the case. But to even cause mere curiosity is not a good thing for a newspaper company that loves to uphold a steadfast image.

One contributing factor is advertisers do not receive the return on their investments in all newspaper advertising. For example, to put one ad in the Main News section means that one advertiser will be advertising to the whole Bay Area. But I worked with a laser hair removal clinic in Marin County, and they didn’t care about advertising to the South Bay. Instead, they preferred niche marketed publications, specifically those that catered just to Marin County. In addition, while Main News is the section that every reader reads, it is also the most expensive. So the laser hair removal clinic liked the niche sections, like Friday, a regional section of the newspaper whose editorial content is specifically about Marin County. Moreover, this section is cheaper than Main News because their distribution is zoned just for Marin County, not the whole Bay Area. On the other hand, the newspaper company is generating less revenue from niche marketed sections. And while niche marketed publications work for the advertisers’ benefit, advertisers turn to other magazines and local newspapers whose readers who will most likely be interested in their product. Therefore, they are spending their advertising dollars on variety of publications instead of just one medium, like the Chronicle. On a side note, the advertising department of newspapers sometimes markets a specific writer whose beat matches the lifestyle of a business’ consumer. There are many times I was pitching to home-related advertisers, and said that their advertisement will be placed alongside this well-known and sought-after home-improvement columnist. The advertising department will use beat writers as marketing tools.

Secondly, advertising online is far cheaper than print altogether. Advertisers invest their money in skyscrapers and banners, and place them on web pages the contents of which caters to a specific audience (again, niche marketing). For example, restaurants rarely advertise in print because they usually have a small budget for advertising. And small advertisements get totally lost amongst the newspaper’s heavy copy. But the restaurant will want to pay for a skyscraper on a webpage about food reviews, and that skyscraper is linked to the restaurant’s webpage, where the viewer can reserve a table online. In addition, the newspaper’s marketing team tracks the web page visitor as to when they clicked, how often they clicked, sometimes down to that visitor’s email (if the visitor is required to be a registered user to use that newspaper’s website). All this information shows the advertiser how effective their advertisement is. And if the advertiser is confident that the skyscraper is working, that advertiser spends more money on advertising. Plus, advertisers are getting exposure to people who never buy the newspaper but who only read their news online, like students and those with the 9-5 jobs. Therefore advertisers expose themselves to a market much larger than what a newspaper ad can offer. And since most newspaper websites are visited during the 9-5 work hours, businesses can keep themselves exposed to a visitor, even while they’re working. So if a business does both online and newspaper -- the latter tends to be read in the morning, evening, or on the weekends -- an advertiser has the potential of exposing themselves to a visitor 24/7, the most exposure possible for any advertiser. So it’s in the newspapers’ best interest to cut back on producing the newsprint, and invest their money on making their websites more sophisticated because advertisers like online more than they! like newsprint.

Thirdly, and the most lucrative, is direct marketing. Every major newspaper obtains demographic information about their subscribers, AND they have access to obtaining information about people who don’t subscribe. Essentially, San Francisco Chronicle has demographic information about every single person in the Bay Area. What residences don’t know is how detailed that information is. For example, I worked with a very upscale professional bike shop in Palo Alto, whose consumers tend to come from a ten mile radius. The shop wanted to bring in more people, but they only want the rich, sports-minded thirty-somethings. Obviously, a print or online ad would give them too broad of exposure. So in my cubicle, I worked with the marketing department to get information of every single million dollar home, whose owners reported somewhere that they are active in sports and/or purchased a bike within the past year, and where they lived. So the business gave me money to create a custom postcard, which I created with my artist, and mailed those postcards to those households who fit the criteria. The incentive for the advertiser was that his highly-targeted advertisement is going to be mailed to a household, who is most likely going to be interested in his products. So his return on his investment is much higher than a newspaper ad. The incentive for me was the money he gave me. Direct marketing is expensive because of all the work. So it’s in the newspaper’s best interest to invest more money on demographic research and direct marketing than developing newspaper ads. So the next time you see what you think is junk mail, it can be a direct marketed piece sent to you and only you. That’s because many companies have tricky ways of obtaining your demographic information all for the sake of generating revenue. (I can’t tell you how often I have to explain this to businesses, and they responded, “I didn’t know newspapers can do that!”)

With all that said, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York’s newspapers have fewer subscribers and thinner newspapers. But they are spending their money on their websites and obtaining as much information about their residences as possible. (They are literally watching us.) The catch is audiences have always associated the newspaper’s brand to the actual newsprint. Again, if audiences see a thinner newspaper, it could look like the newspaper is not doing so well. In reality, that may not be the case. But another catch is that it takes less man-power to operate a newspaper website or conduct demographic research, and therefore, newspapers don’t need to employ so many people in advertising. So many publications in these three markets are downsizing because they can generate more revenue by staffing fewer people.

What does all this mean for the newspaper industry as a whole? Production of newsprint will continue to decline as newspapers’ websites become more sophisticated … and people will get more junk mail. I do not know how much these trends impact the editorial side. But I do know that once a company starts downsizing, almost no one in the company is immune.

So … perhaps the journalism major can offer a seminar to highlight the business side of the journalism industry. Really, newspapers are companies, and there’s a profit to be had and people to pay to keep the organization alive and running. I think some understanding of how the money flows throughout the company deepens students’ knowledge of the industry as a whole, and deepens their appreciation of the journalism discipline … and my nerdy butt thinks this stuff is interesting. Now that I’ve given my two cents, I shall step down from my soapbox now and finish my glass of Merlot.

They Like Him

Niall Adler down at Long Beach State honored as a top sports information director.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

They Also Serve Who Only Sit and Write

James Foster, whose profile of legendary USF alumnus Warren Hinckle is linked to below, is working in New York City while he decides his next step. He writes:

I went to this event last night for the charity I'm writing for and supermodel Helena Christensen planted a big kiss on me and told me never to quit grant writing because "a man with a cause is very sexy."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Pleasure of the Newspaper's Company

Here's a link to the New York Observer via Romanesko talking about the accomplishments of NOLA's Times Picayune during the Great Flood.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Presses Roll in Biloxi. We Hope.

George Sanchez shares a Knight-Ridder Update.

Operations Director Marlene Kler's team is going to try to print 20,000 copies of the Monday paper, with the other 20,000 being printed in Columbus. If problems arise, Columbus can handle the entire 40,000 run. The biggest challenge is keeping water pressure up enough to cool the presses. If it all works as planned, Biloxi will begin to handle the entire run. By Thursday, they're aiming to do it all there, using the pre-hurricane normal deadlines (other than inserting; preprints aren't being delivered to Biloxi yet. Randy Ladner and his crew have the inserters running, ready to go when needed.)

The Sun Herald management team, strong from the outset, is successfully ramping up operations on all fronts. Publisher Ricky Mathews was meeting again today with the governor and other officials to update emergency and relief operations. They have also begun discussing the future of the Gulf Coast and how the massive rebuilding effort will take shape.

Power has been staying on. Water pressure is still on the wish list. The fuel situation is in better shape than it was yesterday.

Great news: Only eight of the 270 employees remain unaccounted for. So far, everyone is safe.

The critical concern now is infectious disease. An MD (the husband of the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) counselor) and a local nurse arrived yesterday to help with health issues. At their advice, wash stations have been set up at the entrances to the building, near the portable toilets and other places. Those who are out and about - primarily photographers and reporters who return each day covered with mud - are asked to remove their shoes and soiled clothing before going inside. A disinfectant tent has been set up; a shoe wash is being devised.

Bathrooms inside the building had to be closed off to prevent people from using the trickle of incoming water to rinse their hands and splash their faces. With so many people eating and sleeping in such close quarters, hygiene is essential. At least one area shelter has been closed because of an outbreak of dysentery; cholera has also been reported in the area.

Today's new amenity: Building Manager Randy Ladner created a cabana-style tent shower. It's roomy enough to be comfortable; there's a pallet floor so feet stay clean and there's "hot" water - from containers warmed in the sun. True, it requires people to pour the water in when the bather is ready - but folks are lining up. Randy has been an indispensable figure since the storm blew through, always around, anticipating what needs doing and getting it done.

Advertising Director Vicki Barrett's group is gearing up to begin a survey Tuesday of The Sun Herald's advertisers to determine who's there and determine their plans and needs. The newspaper has been printing advertising again since Friday. (Vicki lost her home in the storm.)

Circulation Director Gary Raskett is continuously reorganizing distribution efforts to meet the needs of the community. They are creating new routes through neighborhoods where people remain. He is in touch with about 40 percent of the carrier force, and has help on hand from Belleville, Charlotte, Columbia, Columbus and Miami. A hundred news racks will be delivered to a vendor in Mobile, to be brought into Biloxi when Gary is ready for them.

Many of the carriers appear to be living in their cars, with their families and pets. The Sun Herald is giving them daily family packs of water, food and nonperishables; if there's a baby, they get diapers and other items; if there's a pet, they get pet food. These kinds of supplies are being provided to other employees, as well.

The housing picture is brightening a bit. Willie Cone, going door to door, was able to get 10 double hotel rooms out on I-10 toward Mobile; there's power there, some water pressure and an open restaurant. Some of the loaner journalists are being moved there; the RVs they've been using will now house three or four Sun Herald families whose homes are uninhabitable. Car pools will transport people to the hotel to conserve gas.

Biloxi's Judy Lee and HR loaners Martha Gallagher from Charlotte and Vanessa Sanz de Acedo from Miami have developed a great system for tracking housing needs and who's in what bed on any given day. The "hoteliers," as they've been dubbed, are managing 28 RVs in the newspaper parking lot, accommodations inside the newspaper building and hotel rooms as they become available. They are also assessing longer-term employee housing needs.

Inside newspaper building, a second-floor conference room full of air mattresses is serving as a dormitory. Lockers are being set up so people can lock up their personal items. People are still tucked away in other spots at night, as well. One office has been turned into an infirmary with cots; another is serving as an examining room. As the stress goes on and the heat continues unabated, health problems are cropping up. Two people have collapsed from heat exhaustion; stomach troubles are prevalent. It's been wonderful to have on-site treatment available. The VA Hospital across the street has also been a resource.

The National Guard has officers stationed right outside The Sun Herald, protecting a power transformer. Our folks have provided them with a portable toilet and are sharing food and water.

Affecting three or four Sun Herald families: Officials have cordoned off one neighborhood near the port because of contamination; the area is littered with cargo ship containers carried in by the storm surge that they believe may have held hazardous materials. It is also littered with carcasses from a nearby chicken processing plant. Residents have been refused access and have been told the homes will be bulldozed.

A number of people throughout Knight Ridder have offered temporary housing in their cities for displaced families. Everyone is very grateful for the offers; we'll send out word when we know what's needed. The same is true for offers to adopt families and provide specific clothing and home furnishings; that time may come, and we'll let you know. Right now, it's just a bit too soon.

At this point, HR Director Wanda Howell say they know of about 40 employees whose homes were totally destroyed, while many more need significant repairs. They will know more as days go by. They're distributing a daily employee newsletter with up-to-date information about activities at the paper, where to get specific kinds of help and other useful news.

We're trying to line up storage pods for employees to hold what they've been able to salvage from their homes. Moving boxes have been sent in and are available to employees.

People still unaccounted for:
Yashika Clark
Steve Cummings
Naydine Gillum
Hui Kang
Alma Magee
Felecia Moore
Stephon Smith
Beverly Strickland

If anyone has heard from any of these people, please call the employee hotline number, 1-800-346-2472.

Lee Ann Schlatter
Director, Corporate Communications
Knight Ridder
50 W. San Fernando St.
San Jose, CA 95113

Friday, September 02, 2005

Links to a New Vrinda Normand Story and to a Comparatively Old James Foster Story, Plus a Wonderful *Surprise Link*

What you don't know about gangs in San Jose, Vrinda wrote. She's right.

And here's a link to a story by former magazine/feature writing student James Foster describing his pursuit of semi-famous journalist and USF grad Warren Hinckle, whose life can either be a warning or an inspiration.

Or both.

Meanwhile, you ask why has the Forum lain so quiet? Well, the semester has just started and I'm sitting here pondering why only seven people have signed up for feature/magazine writing, and what that means for the future of a journalism major here. I plead indolence and preoccupation. But that doesn't excuse the rest of you Forum members. You are too young to be indolent and too healthy in mind and body to be morosely preoccupied

Thursday, September 01, 2005

USF and the Destruction of New Orleans

George Sanchez writes from Monterey:

more from knight-ridder's biloxi, MS paper. just to let you know, they've put out the word for reporters to lend a hand and go out to Biloxi for stretches of at least two weeks. i've volunteered. I think I have a good shot at the assignment, but we'll see

Also, the Jesuit colleges, including USF, are volunteering to take in students from Loyola New Orleans. Word is we might get some.

Addendum: George forwarded this message about K-R's Biloxi paper. It concerns journalists trying to do their job. I recall after the earthquake here in '89, people told me how heartened they were when the Chronicle hit the street. It wasn't just the news Radio and TV supplied that. It was the simple tangible fact the product existed. It was symbolic, and there was comfort in the symbolism. The network bigfeet came in and broadcast from specially built platforms in front of the Marina and the Cypress Structure. I don't think anyone found comfort in that.

Biloxi: Reinforcements Arriving at Paper; Community Situation Deteriorating

5 p.m. ET Wed., Aug. 31

We've heard from the folks in Biloxi today; here's a very fast update:

They still have no email service, Internet connectivity or phone service. We have some satellite phones in place (though a couple have stopped working; we have phone magician Bob McFarlin from KR Miami on the way.) So our communications are extremely limited.

They've heard from about half of our 240 Biloxi employees. They're starting to send out search parties to check whether the others are at their homes.More reinforcements are arriving from throughout Knight Ridder. A couple of those people have arrived in RVs with supplies. More are enroute.

People at the newspaper are sleeping on the floor. We've been able to get enough food and water there to keep them going, and more is arriving with the reinforcements.

However, we need to strictly control how many people head that way; "life support" is a very real factor right now.

Financial support is in place; we're already (or about to be) able to cash personal checks for $200 each day just to get some cash in their hands. We will have credit union reps there imminently to process low-interest $5,000 loans guaranteed by Knight Ridder.

An EAP counselor will be on hand beginning tomorrow to offer everything from counseling to assistance with FEMA emergency funding forms.

We're working on getting assistance with other kinds of insurance claims, etc.The newspaper was able to distribute 12,000 of Tuesday's 20,000 copies of the paper. They printed 20,000 again today, 24 pages in two sections. The Red Cross has also asked for bulk copies to distribute.

Columbus continues to be the editing/layout/printing hub for the newspaper, which is being trucked down to Biloxi.Tony Ridder, Art Brisbane and Larry Olmstead went to the paper Tuesday to offer support and reassurance. They report that our people are making good progress on getting organized on the most important fronts: developing logistics to keep operating; finding and helping our employees; producing and distributing the newspaper. There is some concern that the newspaper office is an oasis in the midst of a devastated area; people are beginning to come by asking about water and food. We are working on increasing security there.

As more journalists head that way to cover what is rapidly becoming an even bigger story, we have turned over coordination of all reporters, photographers and assigning editors - and all story assignment responsibility - to KR Washington Editor Clark Hoyt. This is essential to make the most of our resources, eliminate duplicated efforts and provide the broadest coverage we can to our readers.

Information will be coming later today on a Knight Ridder Fund to accept donations to help our colleagues. We'll be asking someone at each newspaper to collect and coordinate those donations - DO NOT send checks to corporate yet!

Check the news stories on www.sunherald.com or www.krwashington.com.