Odds and ends, Gannettside

Dateline: Tue 30 Sep 2008

A reader says that the Star job description (the that made me want to take a nap) in the most recent post here sounds like Kevin Poortinga's old job. What, boy wonder Poortinga is gone? Yes, said the reader, who cited a post from Gannettblog July 2 saying that Poortinga went to Gannett Digital,

Here's the buzz, albeit a little ancient:

"Poortinga will become general manager/Digital Product Incubator at GCI's McLean, Va., headquarters. Last year, Poortinga won Gannett's first Innovator of the Year award for his work on the first mom's site, launched at Indianapolis."

Thanks as always to readers and Jim Hopkins of Gannettblog, who keep things humming.

In that spirit, Hopkins also reported Saturday that Newsache, the Cincinnati-based watcgdog blog of the Enquirer, folded its tents. Hopkins' quote: "'I'm leaving the blogging business,' Newsache's anonymous blogger says. 'And let me be clear: No one is silencing me. I'm just tired of it. The Enquirer is hopeless.'"

Too bad. Newsache won kudos from a top editor at the paper for helping the paper realize some of its flaws.

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The Star is hiring....if you want to break down silos....

Dateline: Sun 28 Sep 2008

A reader/friend/former Gannett slave saw this ad on JournalismJobs.com a week or so ago. As she notes, the job description hints at a cozier relationship between the second (newsroom) and third (ad/marketing) floors of 307 N. Penn, with the goal being to boost revenue.

Odd, she adds, to see such a job posting use words like marketing and readership. But then it's also Pure Gannett, and what strikes me as odd is that the company never learns from past mistakes. It just keeps chasing this carrot, rather than focus consistently on quality journalism.

Here's the pitch, which also is on CareerBuilder and was in today's Sunday Star:

"Executive Editor/Digital and Custom Content The Executive Editor/Digital and Custom Content will lead The Indianapolis Star's initiatives to become a next-generation leader in digital and niche print and on-line content. This individual will work with the Information Center Editor and, attuned to advertising, marketing, information technology and research and development goals and support, break down silos, develop new content and content management systems, and engage in strategic planning. This position will have a strong awareness of the audiences we serve, their lives and their roles in the geographic, cultural and economic make-up of Central Indiana.

"It will lead the Information Center's efforts to address the information needs of niche audiences and provide multi-media tools and other products to serve those audiences. Our goal is to reach more audiences with custom content delivered on more platforms, and this position will play a key role in that. This position also will be a leader within our Interstate Group of Gannett newspapers (metros Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati and smaller to medium-sized papers in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin) for multi-platform custom content. The position's channels of accountability are: -- Optimal presentation across all digital platforms of news information and special projects including 1st Amendment projects, multi-media, databases, calendar information, community conversation and reader/user interaction. -- The development of new niche web sites to bring together communities of users as we build our role as metro Indianapolis'prime source of community news and information. -- The integration of advertising and marketing initiatives into our digital and print operations, including new technology systems and advertising approaches that boost revenue while ensuring the independence of the information-gathering process from conflicting advertising and marketing influence. -- Strong custom publishing print and on-line products that meet the needs of information consumers and advertisers. -- Strong, audience and niche-focused, themed products for the core newspaper. -- Attention to budget, human resources, diversity/mainstreaming, ethics and other key goals of our company. In recognizing the new realities of the digital era, this position will focus solely on the above accountabilities. While it will have necessary involvement with budget, operations, story editing and planning, and other

aspects of the information center, it will not have day-to-day accountabilities for those functions. The position reports to the Editor and Vice President.

"If interested in this position, please respond to Dennis Ryerson/Editor at 307 N. Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, IN 46206."

Reaction here? Yawn. Makes me want to take a nap. Besides which, it has nothing to do with the mission, and everything to do with pandering. Bound to fail.

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Obama: us vs. them

Dateline: Fri 26 Sep 2008

This reflection on politics arrived yesterday from a former copy editor and colleague at the Indianapolis Star who, like so many, has moved on to a bigger and better life. He asked that his name not be used (to protect him from his mother-in-law).

The essay is worth running even without an author's name attached.To me, it cuts to the heart of this election: America's standing in the world, the perception (or not) that we are racist, and the dividing line between young and old in their allegiance to Obama or McCain. I am not saying that everyone who votes for McCain is a racist, and neither is this writer. But sometimes the hesitancy/fear of Obama clearly breaks out along racial lines.

As a bonus, this writer also has some family ties with Alaska and Sarah Palin. Small world.

Anyhow, here it is, from a real wordly guy and still a Hoosier:

"As the father-in-law of a young man from India and the son-in-law of a lifelong Indiana Republican, I am hearing some

interesting-yet-frightening things about the presidential election.

"The son-in-law (who was born in Bahrain of Indian parents, was schooled in India and now lives in Norway) observes that from what he's read in the international press and heard from friends and associates, the image of the United States hinges on whether we as a nation are willing to elect a nonwhite as president. Not electing him will leave the rest of the world thinking the country is trapped in a racist heritage. This view also is reflected in some of the stories out of the BBC.

"My mother-in-law, on the other hand, said she can't vote for Obama because of his religion. When informed that the man has been a nearly lifelong Christian, she says it still bothers her. The unspoken subtext here is that she is using 'religion' as a mask for race.

"Personally, I think there are far more voters like my mother-in-law. No matter what they tell the survey takers (after all, who's going to fess up to voting for McCain because he's white?), in the end there are going to be a lot of voters who will give a variety of reasons for voting for McCain that all are masks for racial preference.

"Finally, as if my family weren't politically touched enough already, my other daughter lives in Wasilla, Alaska. Yes, that Wasilla. She'll never vote for McCain no matter the VP, but with Palin as VP she's even more vocal -- but for two almost conflicting reasons. One she clearly thinks Palin lacks the background and experience to be president and her social

positions are backward thinking. But at the same time, she voted for her as governor of Alaska and wants her to stay in Juneau because she is a counterweight to the corrupt Republicans who controlled the state for decades and would love to get the governorship back. As for social policies, Alaska has a laid back, live-and-let-live ethos that allows people to live as they want in Alaska. If you're tough enough to last five years in the state -- the period needed to be considered a 'real' Alaskan -- then they won't begrudge you the way you live."

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The nerve

Dateline: Fri 26 Sep 2008

Wachovia, where my daughter took out some student loans for law school, with me as a co-signer, had the gall to insist on payment even as she struggled to get a deferment. Obviously, the economy is not exactly cooperating with job-hunters right now, and she needed a few months' extension as she looked for work. When she applied for deferments for federal loans, they were immediately granted. Wachovia decided to go for the jugular instead. That meant almost daily insistent and sometimes threatening calls to our home ("This will ruin your credit") as well as,yes, a potentially bad credit score for me. Lovely.

I knew the student loan company was in trouble last year, but like other hard-working Americans, I am sickened to read of the giant golden parachute provided Wachovia's former director Ken Thompson in today's Star. This fat cat basically put the lending firm in the toiler with his aggressive, greedy aquisitions, then walked away from the failing firm with a $5 milliion package.

And he looks like a pauper compared to Stanley O'Neal, who left Merrill Lynch in the lurch but with his own pockets lined with $66 mil, and Charles Prince, who got $16 mil after wrecking Citigroup.

Is this France in the 1700s? Is the Revolution at hand? Americans have too much grit to put up with such absolute elitist nonsense. And "they" have the gall to call Barack Obama elitist -- a man who has worked all his life, and whose worse "sin" is that he is an intellectual capable of nuanced thinking. God forbid.

I now know that what my old copy editor/friend Larry Duhe said a hundred years ago was true: "How can any working person vote anything but Democrat?" He's right, we can't.

Wake up, America. Republicans are not our friends.

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Obama's strong press in Indiana

Dateline: Wed 24 Sep 2008

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is taking Indiana seriously in the presidential race, and vice versa.

Tom Davis of the Associated Press has the story of the day:

"The candidate from next-door Illinois is bidding to flip the state into the Democratic column this year.

"To that end, he is doing what no presidential candidate has done in decades, spending significant amounts of money and time in the state, while Republican John McCain maintains a low profile.

"Obama narrowly lost the May primary here to Hillary Rodham Clinton. And in the process, he had 'the opportunity to at least define himself with Hoosier voters and that has lingered,' said Kip Tew, a former state Democratic chairman who is a volunteer adviser to the Obama campaign. 'They competed with a ground game that no one's ever seen in the state.'"

Perhaps the most telling part of the story is the anecdote about a woman from Granger, Jessie Bochert, 45, who voted for Bush twice, initially supported Sen. John McCain and now has flipped for Obama. Here is her quote:

"'I feel guilty for all that has happened" under Bush, she said. 'There are so many people I talk to, they can't afford their prescriptions, they don't know what to pay, they can't afford anything. It's really the economy, and that's what it's coming down to.'"

On a related note: did all of you read George Will's column this week, questioning McCain's presidential abilities because of his rash responses re: the economic crisis and his trashing of SEC chairman Chris Cox, a key Republican involved in trying to bail us out? George Will and David Brooks both have expressed doubts about McCain, and neither, I hear, like or trust Sarah Palin.

When the best minds in conservative thought are casting stones at the GOP strategy, no wonder Obama is making strides in Indiana.

Or as my faithful reader and friend Jim Burns said, after he sent the AP story my way, "GO BARACK!"

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