Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough ...

Former Star staffer TJ Sullivan, in reaction to the news that the Albuquerque Tribune will be sold or closed, writes on his blog about a day nearly 13 years ago when the then-editor of the Tribune, Tim Gallagher, left the Tribune to come to The Star. Here are a few snippets:

"I worked for Gallagher at both The Trib and the Star, and was often advised by him to focus on what I could change, which was what the staff of The Tribune did best. ...

"Trib staffers didn't just look out their windows, they examined their own operation as aggressively as any. This was the culture during and after Gallagher. When I was a part of it, the staff questioned its bosses as aggressively as it did bureaucrats and business leaders. So when Gallagher decided to leave, and a corporate VP dropped by to make it official (and to introduce the new editor, Scott Ware), the staff fired away. People wanted to know if this was the beginning of the end.

"The matter was also addresed frankly in that December 30, 1994, story, which I pulled out to review this week and found the following Gallagher quote regarding the circulation situation:

"We're fighting an uphill battle here, the trend away from evening newspapers. I quit blaming myself for it. I went through the Stuart Smalley 12 steps. I'm doing what I can, we're putting out a good newspaper, everybody knows it's a good newspaper [SNIP ...] Don't get worked up about these numbers. This is still a very profitable business."

"Gallagher's departure was not the beginning of The Trib's end. It has continued to publish for the past 12 1/2 years since he left. And although the staff size has been considerably diminished during that time, along with circulation, The Trib's product has continued to be recognized with national awards.

"Quality, however, doesn't always sell."

You can read the entire piece here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

'Fake News Was My Day Job': Weekly World News Revisited

There's a funny piece in the Los Angeles Times Opinion pages today about a comedy writer (Mark Miller) who worked for Weekly World News. As previously mentioned, the paper is discontinuing publication in print form. Here are some snippets from his column:
"When my career as a stand-up comedian and sitcom staff writer started winding down, I took on a number of freelance comedy-writing jobs -- writing jokes for Jack-FM stations, for other comedians and for Cracked magazine. My Cracked editor went to work for the WWN and invited me to contribute stories. Before long, I had five or more stories in each issue. Fake news was my day job. Imagine my mother's pride: " 'France Makes Hanky Panky Mandatory' ... my son wrote that!" I was, at first, confused about whether I was supposed to write true offbeat news, general satire or complete fabrication. So I asked. The response was loud and clear: "complete fabrication." Yet each piece was written as if completely real. So when, for example, Bigfoot got married, launched his acting career and became involved with Kabbalah, each story got a dateline, quotes from "sources" and "experts" and followed a typical Associated Press structure. In fact, much of the original staff came from mainstream newspapers. The standard? It had to seem true. "Half the readers realize the stories are tongue-in-cheek; the other half believe they're all true," my editor explained. "You have to write the stories to satisfy both groups." ...While most of the supermarket tabloids constantly recycle one another's celebrity gossip and diet plans, the WWN went unashamedly for the bizarre, unbelievable and tasteless. For any creative writer, the gig was a gold mine. Inspiration was everywhere. One day I wondered just exactly how snug is a bug in a rug? Shortly thereafter, I sold "Researcher Determines Snugness of Bugs in Rugs" to the WWN. Photoshop was the graphic department's best friend. On their pages, Elvis lived, Bat Boy rode atop subway cars, and space aliens shook hands with world leaders. Explorers discovered Noah's ark, the Garden of Eden, Jesus' sandals and the world's fattest cat. They had just as much fun with the less spectacular news items. For one of mine, "African Tribe Worships Barbra Streisand's Nose," they created a gigantic stone statue of Streisand's head in profile to show off her famed schnoz and surrounded it with spear-toting natives in loincloths. ...One thing's certain -- waiting in line at the supermarket will be a lot less fun." You can read the full piece here.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Are You Old Enough to Remember When ...?

Melinda Brown sends this along, a correction that ran in the New York Times. ... Also, this is belated, but thanks to John Weigle for the post on the Weekly World News. Now, for the NYT correction:

New York Times, July 30

An article on Thursday about the arraignment of three men in the shooting of two New York police officers, one of whom died, misstated the schedule set by a judge for a trial in the case. The trial is expected to begin by February, not by "Feb. 30. "
The error occurred when an editor saw the symbol "- 30 -" typed at the bottom of the reporter's article and combined it with the last word, "February." It is actually a notation that journalists have used through the years to denote the end of an article.