From The Executive Director
Public notice changes top legislative scorecard
As of today, public notice reform in Ohio is a reality. Measures long supported by the ONA went into effect when Gov. John Kasich signed the new state budget into law on Thursday.
Six years of work started by my predecessor, Frank Deaner, and the ONA Board of Trustees has brought this about. There were major concessions by Ohio’s newspapers to help local governments save money while preserving the importance to the public of newspaper public notices and recognizing the ever-growing impact of digital content.
If we had not engaged in this reform, the outcome could have been far worse. The first proposal in the budget, for example, would have drastically limited print notices and could have resulted in revenue losses of 80 or 90% for some newspapers.
And I must say this: The Kasich Administration and leaders of both parties in the Legislature were honest brokers with us to make this reform possible. It’s our hope that this will stabilize the notice situation for several years to come.
We know that members will have many questions about how the new law works. As of today, we have released a detailed “FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) document for ONA members. It is posted in the members-only section of the ONA website, and we will let members know when changes are made to the document as we learn more about implementation.
So, how did the Legislature do overall in the first half of the 2011 session?
Of the many issues we track involving open government and business issues important to our industry, I counted 11 that became law in one form or another. My scorecard shows seven items that ONA members can support (or at least live with), three with outcomes we opposed and one incomplete (changes to worker’s compensation).
Here are some additional highlights – and lowlights – from my scorecard:
Government websites: A provision in the budget that would have allowed governmental bodies to sell advertising on their websites was removed.
Charter schools: The House added language to the budget that would have greatly reduced transparency of how taxpayer money is spent with charter schools. The Senate took that bad language out, and the Senate version became law.
Utility notices: As first proposed, a new law (HB 95) on utility regulations removed all notice requirements for filings on rate increases and public hearings on those rates. That’s awful policy. Fortunately, the final bill restored public notices in both print and on the Web.
Unfortunately, another bill (HB 133) that will allow for drilling in state parks got through the Legislature without a requirement for print public notices.
Utility customers: Rep. Anne Gonzales, R-Westerville, said she heard from many constituents who wanted their information protected at the municipal utility, as it would be with a private company. We preserved a “journalistic exception” in a budget bill amendment that will allow reporters to have access to this information when the utility company is your government.
JobsOhio: Everyone understands why Gov. Kasich wanted JobsOhio (HB 1) – to help create good, new jobs in a state that really needs them. But the way the Administration wanted to do it was, in effect, an end run around open records and open meetings laws. That said, transparency improved a bit as the bill moved through the Legislature. Enabling legislation is expected this fall, so stay tuned.
Document destruction: There are profiteers making money by public records not existing, getting courts to levy fines against local governments for not having or not following retention policies. However, a legislative remedy in the budget bill could discourage legitimate requests. A similar bill was worse, placing more severe caps on awards and the statute of limitations, so perhaps we should be grateful. We argued that a pending Ohio Supreme Court decision could fix the problem without new laws.
Estate taxes: The elimination of Ohio estate taxes is a positive result for many of our family-owned newspapers.
Issues still loom for the fall session, and no doubt there will be new ones emerging.
For example, high-profile schools such as Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati would like to be declared “charter universities” that allow them to operate with more flexibility than other state colleges. University presidents already have said that part of the appeal is to have different standards for open records. Some action on this is expected in the fall.
Links that caught my eye
Digital dollars replacing print bucks: In this wide-ranging interview, Journal Register Co. CEO John Paton talks about how JRC is making progress toward a goal of replacing every lost print dollar with a digital dollar, which is no easy feat. The need to do so is urgent, he says.
Applause for the ‘MSM’: ‘MSM’ is an abbreviation for “mainstream media,” which includes us and our broadcast colleagues. The creator of the popular (and fun) website Fark.com explains why he thinks MSM “is still in the driver’s seat.”
Good news, bad news on local news: This is a link to the much-publicized study commissioned by the FCC to study local news and the Internet. While many observers find a lot of negativity in this study, there also is good news in the ongoing impact of “MSM” (see above) as the generators of the vast majority of local news content. Random bloggers and Web-only products have nowhere near as much impact.
The perfect moment: Veteran photographers offer advice on shooting fireworks
As residents prepare to celebrate the nation's 235th birthday, media outlets are preparing to cover the festivities, including the challenge of shooting the perfect fireworks photo. Below, four veteran photographers offer some advice on capturing the perfect moment on Independence Day.
"Interesting foreground. This is probably the most important element. A photo of a firework exploding in the night sky without a foreground anchor gives no sense of scale or visual interest.
Balanced light. Balancing the light of the fireworks with the ambient light of the surroundings gives the photo more depth and visual appeal. I try to have people in my photos. As far as camera settings, it can vary… Another good tip is to try different focal lengths. You mostly see wide to medium lenses used for fireworks, but I've seen some really cool telephoto shots with people silhouetted against falling streaks of fireworks behind. Nice change from the usual."
Joshua Gunter, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland
Joshua has been a photographer for The Plain Dealer since 2002. He received a bachelor's in graphic and photojournalism from Ball State University.
"Fireworks photos are not easy. My advice is to take a lot of photos varying exposure. Sometimes the auto exposure function is the best way to go. I always try to include something in the foreground such as spectators, buildings or something to give scale to the image. Sometimes using a flash to light up the foreground is a good idea."
William D. Lewis, The Vindicator, Youngstown
Bill has been a staff photographer at The Vindicator since 1985. He holds a bachelor's in photojournalism from Kent State University.
"First look for a location ahead of time and try to visualize where the fireworks are going to go off. After selecting location get there early to secure your shooting spot, this sometimes require getting permission, should be done days ahead of time, from building management if you want roof access. Also bring a sturdy tripod and cable release so you don't get any shake or vibrations in camera during exposure. You can try several exposures at the beginning of fireworks to see how they look before the big [finale]. The bigger fireworks at the end are usually brighter and require less exposure. [These] past years, I have tried shooting away from the city and the results have not been so good. It seems to work best shooting them from just the edge of the city or immersed in the city with the crowd. The possibilities are endless for a good photo. Don't get discouraged if it doesn't work out the way you want, there is always next year."
Eric Albrecht, The Columbus Dispatch
Eric is a veteran photographer for The Dispatch of 25 years.
"Once the show starts you can make any adjustments with composition or aperture. You'll shoot opening up the shutter with your release. This could end up being anywhere from a few seconds to 10 seconds or more. Shoot a lot at the beginning just in case they get smoked out."
Shari Lewis, The Columbus Dispatch
Shari Lewis has been a staff photographer for The Dispatch for six years. She holds a degree in visual communication from The Ohio State University.
The Daily Advocate tackles online news content with positive results
Inland Press Association
2009 General Excellence for Website Development
Brown Publishing Co.
2009 Best Website
Associated Press (Ohio)
2008 General Excellence for Website Development
Brown Publishing Co.
The Daily Advocate, based out of Darke County, has received recognition from multiple organizations including the Inland Press Association for developing its multimedia platform by way of an innovative and content-heavy website, advocate360.org. In this interview, The Daily Advocate’s publisher, David Compton, highlights the website’s origins, how the staff determines the distinction between print and web content and the organization’s future plans in multimedia.
SALTER: Members of The Daily Advocate have talked about expanding to different media platforms to reach audiences, specifically with video journalism. But I also notice that you have many continuous features on your website such as live news updates and even a chat option. Can you expand on the choices you have made regarding these features? For example, why did you decide to have a live chat feature, and are you drawing in a bigger presence with that option?
COMPTON: Like many newspapers, The Daily Advocate has been around since the late1800s. In 2007 our team decided that as a community newspaper, our responsibility was much greater than just publishing a printed newspaper and calling it a day. Our real objective was to provide credible coverage of the county we serve. We also made a commitment to maintaining our role as the communication leader for the area. We examined every resource available, considered nothing untouchable and made the necessary changes to move forward. This included everything from re-evaluating our staffing needs to keep from adding additional expense, changing our print publish days to free up resources and re-launching both our web and print products. Since then we have layered on several features to keep the strategy moving forward. This includes live webcasting of local events, almost daily video coverage, reporter blogs, online contests, chat features, a
tomorrow's headlines today county e-newsletter, social networking and more. The whole
strategy is really designed to never stop evolving.
SALTER: How many staff members are directly involved with the website’s upkeep, updating and control? Did you receive outside assistance with your site?
COMPTON: There is no “direct” outside help with the website. We do, of course, partner with different vendors for some of the technology. However, items such as our e-newsletter are built from scratch by hand every night by our on-site webmaster. We try to stay away from any “feed” type processes and having the process automated. We need the process to be as efficient as possible. However, we are not ready to give up the personal feel and local control of determining complete coverage of each story. With about 25 people on staff, it would be easier to make list of those not involved with the website. While obviously some are involved more than others, everyone plays a role.
SALTER: What are the most important aspects of a successful online site?
COMPTON: It has to be more than just something on a task list. You can’t just state you are going to add Twitter or add a chat feature, set up an automated feed then walk away. It has to become an important part of your overall strategy. The days of throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks are over. You need to have a plan and the feature needs to fit in a strategy or it will fail.
SALTER: How do you balance your online presence with the print aspects of your publication?
COMPTON: It can be difficult. Our team realized that advocate360 was more than our website. It is our coverage strategy. We cover Darke County from all angles. The website, family of core print products, social networking, niche publications, e-newsletter and the all the rest are merely components of the advocate360 coverage philosophy. You of course weigh costs and revenue opportunities. However we have found when you commit to doing something well ... generally the return on that investment will follow.
SALTER: What else is in store for advocate360.org <http://advocate360.org> ? Do you have some other features you are considering to implement on the site?
COMPTON: Our talented team has been fortunate to be recognized for several online awards over the past few years. Most recently, we received a national award from Inland Press Association for first place in digital journalism. That award was formerly the New Horizon Award and had generally been captured by much larger operations. It really inspired our staff and made us believe even stronger in the cause. Focus and effort could beat volume of resources. Recently we have started to push forward with items like foursquare, getting even more out of our video coverage and exploring some options with online couponing. As far as the future, I only know that we remain committed to providing the absolute best coverage for our community. New opportunities will be available and things will certainly change. And from history, I know this team will be fearless.
Upcoming webinars focus on websites for smaller newspapers, black & white photography
Online Media Campus is offering two webinar opportunities next week ONA members should utilize.
"Taking Your Newspaper Online... The Easy and Affordable Way! Part 2" is a follow up to an earlier session which introduced newspapers to the benefits of WordPress as a content management system. Part 2, scheduled for Thursday, July 7, dives into the nuts and bolts of building a WordPress site. Instructor Charlie Weaver is the Digital Media & Design Director for the Iowa State Daily.
By the end of the webinar, attendees will have the tools necessary to implement a new WordPress website for their newspaper.
On Friday, July 8, instructor Russell Viers will lead "Creating Better Black & White Photos." In a product where good photography is so important, you need to know the best and fastest way to create the best results. This webinar will teach attendees the tools and techniques needed in Photoshop to create the best photos.
Other upcoming training opportunities include:
Visit training.ohionews.org for full details or to register for available sessions. Contact Sue Bazzoli with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 486-6677 ext. 18.
Public-records lawsuits under criticism
From The Massillon Independent
A movement by some state lawmakers to significantly curb the penalty for destroying public records comes in direct response to two Massillon-area men who, critics say, are trying to profit from the system.
Ed Davila, of Jackson Township, is awaiting resolution to a records lawsuit in Bucyrus, where he initially was awarded $1.4 million in damages.
Massillon resident Timothy Rhodes’ case, in which he sought $4.9 million in damages from the city of New Philadelphia, is in front of the Ohio Supreme Court.
Those cases – paired with a slew of similar records requests by the men throughout the state – led to language in the proposed state budget that will protect local governments from large payouts.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-8, inserted language into Senate Bill 178 – the state budget – that will cap damages, known as civil forfeitures, at $10,000. State law calls for maximum damages of $1,000 for each destroyed record.
But public-records proponents say the proposal goes too far.
“We are opposed to this measure, though we understand the concern of local governments about those who would profit from wanting a record not to exist – which is the opposite intent of seeking a public record,” Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, said in an email. “However, we believe this measure would discourage cases involving legitimate records requests and could actually make it more attractive to a governmental body to destroy a record than fight disclosure of it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The amendment sponsored by Sen. Seitz became law in the state budget signed by Gov. Kasich on June 30. The Supreme Court ruling was pending as of that date.
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Former attorney sues Akron for public records
From The Beacon Journal, Akron
A former Jackson Township attorney who has filed public records lawsuits against numerous Ohio cities sued Akron on June 29.
Ed Davila is seeking photographs and other records for the city’s traffic camera program – also called the cop-in-the-box program. He said he wants to find out whether Akron is properly administering the program and whether it is serving public safety or just used as a moneymaker.
“I genuinely want to see what’s going on with this thing,” he said. “I think as a member of the public, I need to see if this is a money grab or if it is really about public safety. From what I’m learning, I don’t think it’s about safety.”
Law Director Cheri Cunningham, however, said her office sent Davila a letter June 28 saying the city will provide him with the records he requested.
“He filed the lawsuit without waiting for a response,” she said. “It’s completely without merit. It’s baseless. It’s a money grab.”
The letter, a copy of which was provided to the Beacon Journal, said the city will provide Davila with the records and suggested he call the law department to arrange a time to come in and review them.
Davila, who surrendered his law license in 2000 while serving time in federal prison for money laundering, said he hadn’t received Akron’s letter as of June 29, when he filed his lawsuit in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
“If they are willing to produce the records, that’s all I want to see,” he said. “It could be resolved.”
Davila said he also sued Cleveland on June 29 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, seeking similar records from the city’s traffic camera program. These court documents couldn’t be obtained via the Internet on the evening of June 29.
Transparency summit to discuss ways to open Cuyahoga, Cleveland government
From The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
While good-government activists preach the importance of transparency, the concept can be a little murky.
"No one understands what that means or what that looks like," said Beth Sebian, a member of a congregation of young, idealistic professionals called the Cleveland Coalition.
So, to talk transparency – open records and government accessibility – the coalition is planning a series of events, culminating in a Transparency Action Summit, July 29-30 at Cleveland State University. The group is working with Cuyahoga County government, local nonprofits and the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based group dedicated to using the Internet to increase government openness.
"This is not just about opening data, it's also about changing a cultural expectation around the use of this data," said Ellen Miller, co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. "It's changing the ability of citizens to engage in very serious and direct ways with government officials."
Miller spoke at on July 1 at the City Club of Cleveland. She also attended a public forum at a local church on June 30, at which county officials addressed the issue with Catherine Turcer, of the watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action.
The coalition, which made its debut in public policy in April with a host of recommendations for the coming downtown casino, is hosting the events in part because of the new county government's promise of open government.
Since taking office in January, Executive Ed FitzGerald has appointed the state's first countywide inspector general and posted contracts and purchases online.
The County Council has passed the most comprehensive ethics ordinance in the state and demanded that employees and contractors be trained in the rules, including a ban on campaign contributions.
"The more we can engage the community and government to be more transparent, the more effective government can be, and will be," said Councilman Dave Greenspan, who is collaborating on the summit.
Cuyahoga County is primed for such discussions, Greenspan said, because of a wide-ranging corruption investigation that resulted in more than 50 public officials and contractors pleading guilty to bribery-related crimes.
"Any time the county can take a leading role in an issue as important as this, it's something we should take advantage of," he said.
The July summit, free and open to the public, will include government officials, business leaders, attorneys, computer experts, journalists and community activists. And Sebian, a full-time community organizer, hopes it will achieve four goals: to decide what open government means in Cuyahoga County, to create a measurement system to hold government accountable for transparency, to agree on ways to keep the conversation going and to designate an organization to keep tabs on the goals.
The first day will focus on experts who will share best practices from other places. The second day will include breakout work groups to create concrete plans.
"This project has been evolving," Sebian said. "We started out with an idea, that we as citizens need to step up to the plate ourselves to be better-engaged, better-educated and more-effective partners in solving the challenges our community faces."
Editorial: Mistakes require a do-over of the Sowell trial
From The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
Declare a mistrial. Begin anew. And do it right.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose, in his well-intentioned but erroneous decision to hold part of the jury selection in the Anthony Sowell murder trial behind closed doors, violated well-established law on what is required, including a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
If he goes ahead with the trial in the face of such an obvious error, Ambrose almost guarantees a successful appeal, which would mean another trial, hot on the heels of the most expensive taxpayer-funded defense in county history: nearly $600,000 and counting. And that's before jury selection is complete and testimony begins.
That isn't fair to the public. It isn't fair to the relatives of the 11 women whom Sowell allegedly killed. And it appears to violate the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a public trial "in all criminal prosecutions."
At the very least, a judge must provide significant justification before slamming the courtroom door. Ambrose failed to do that. By reversing his prior orders on jury selection, he effectively acknowledged his mistake – a wakeup call to other judges who might seek to short-circuit public access while a jury is being seated.
Ambrose also sought to bar public access in other ways: Even though prosecutors and defense lawyers supported media coverage of the proceedings, Ambrose issued a blanket order June 21 banning reporters from identifying or quoting prospective jurors – a media muzzle the judge only partially loosened the next day.
These correctives are insufficient. The damage has been done.
Ambrose should acknowledge that he has tainted the proceedings, and put a stop to the trial before it proceeds any further. The public should not have to pay twice to prosecute Sowell.
Editorial: When is a CD not a CD?
From The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
Back in March, the burning legal question was, "What is a photocopier?"
It produced an exchange worthy of Abbott and Costello between Lawrence Patterson, the acting head of information technology at the Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office, and open-records lawyer David Marburger during a deposition session. Marburger has also represented The Plain Dealer.
Now, those who labor to keep public records from falling into the hands of the public have raised a new argument: that although a compact disc containing property records may appear to be a smooth, circular piece of plastic about a 16th of an inch thick, in reality it is thousands of individual pieces of paper.
When one duplicates a CD – a process that takes at most a few minutes and costs roughly 32 cents – the county argues that the result is not another CD. It's paper. You can't actually see it, but it's in there.
So at $2 per "page," a CD containing 100,000 page images should cost $200,000, the county reasons. Except that's not reasoning; that's robbery.
We live in a time when government needs money, but $199,999.68 profit on a 32-cent CD seems excessive. Especially when sharing vast numbers of public documents on CD is far more sensible than creating an expensive blizzard of paper. (Posting public records on the Internet would be better yet.)
The facts aren't on the county's side on this one. The law isn't, either: Open-records laws require a reasonable charge, commensurate with cost, for copying public records. And the Ohio attorney general ruled long ago that the charge for duplicating a microfiche containing multiple documents is the cost of the microfiche, not the documents.
So far, the taxpaying public in Cuyahoga County has spent $25,000 on lawyers to resist the obvious answer to a 32-cent question. Enough.
Trustees' private meeting not illegal, Gee says
OSU session violated Ohio law, attorney says; NCAA issues may have come up
More than half of The Ohio State University's trustees met privately for much of the day June 22 with other university officials, and board Chairman Leslie H. Wexner said NCAA compliance issues were discussed at some point.
Such discussions involving trustees in a closed meeting appear to be a violation of Ohio's public-meetings laws.
After Wexner told WBNS-TV (Channel 10, Columbus) during a break that compliance had been discussed, OSU President E. Gordon Gee said that no one should assume that compliance was discussed and that the meeting was not in violation of state laws.
Athletic director Gene Smith attended part of the meeting at the university's Thompson Library, but he would not comment on what was discussed.
Emerging from behind conference-room doors with a sign that said "This room CLOSED for special event," Gee said, "Smith was talking about some of the issues that we deal with as part of the institution. We'll call in other people over the next period of time."
Trustee Clark Kellogg, a former star basketball player at OSU, denied that compliance issues were discussed.
Gee described the meeting as a "strategy session" that he calls regularly to discuss the future of the university. Gee said they sometimes discuss personnel matters, and that's why he and university lawyers concluded that it was not a public meeting.
"We're talking about issues that affect the university in terms of its strategy," he said. "And that is not part of the board discussion. This is part of a strategy discussion."
Marion Little, a Columbus lawyer who specializes in public-access and records issues, said strategy discussions are not an exemption under state law.
"It looks like a public meeting squarely within the meaning of the Open Meetings Act," said Little, who represents The Dispatch, WBNS-10TV and other clients in public-access issues. "It's disappointing that the university excluded the public from this, particularly given the significant public interest in recent events at Ohio State."
Shelly Hoffman, the school's assistant vice president for media relations, said, "This was a gathering strictly of an information-seeking nature, with senior administrators briefing the board on strategic matters for the upcoming year. No board deliberations nor board actions were planned, nor did they take place."
Supreme Court won't hear newspaper appeal in open meetings dispute
From Gongwer News Service
The Ohio Supreme Court on June 22 let stand an appeals court decision that a newspaper contends provides school districts and other public bodies with "a gaping loophole" in the state's Open Meetings Act.
Justices voted 6-1 to reject a request from The Cincinnati Enquirer for review of a case involving a closed-door meeting of the Cincinnati Board of Education.
The 2009 meeting was called to discuss a proposal from a minority of Cincinnati City Council to defer a $2.5 million semi-annual payment the city owed to the district from a tax abatement granted for construction of Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium.
The Enquirer objected to what it charged was a violation of the Open Meetings Act and filed a lawsuit.
Although a trial judge determined the school board violated the law when it improperly entered into executive session, the 1st District Court of Appeals reversed the lower court.
In asking for Supreme Court review, the newspaper said the appellate decision was based on the assurance of board members that the private meeting "evolved into a mere 'fact finding' session with the school system's attorney. The newspaper challenged the appellate finding that the closed-door session did not constitute a meeting that should have been open to the public.
Justices voted not to accept the newspaper's appeal. Justice Terrence O'Donnell dissented.
Mansfield begins posting pending legislation on city website
From The Mansfield News Journal
A decision to overhaul the City of Mansfield's vicious and dangerous dog ordinances has spurred officials to begin regularly posting proposed legal measures on its website.
Law Director Dave Remy said draft language for ordinances scheduled to come up for city council's consideration during its voting meetings will be posted on the city council page of the city's website, as a link to "pending legislation."
Postings will occur Friday afternoons before city council meetings.
Voting meetings take place on the first and third Tuesday night of each month at 7:30 p.m., with discussion by city council the night before, during committee meetings and caucus. Once ordinances are approved by city council, those also will be posted as a link on the city council web page the day after city council votes.
The city's website is www.ci.mansfield.oh.us.
Murdoch's leap finds converts in Cannes as paywall use grows
Online news, video, and music providers are becoming increasingly open to charging for at least part of their content as paywall experiments by pioneers like London's Times show that some customers will pay.
Music-video streaming site Vevo, Huffington Post owner AOL Inc., and London's Independent newspaper said this month they may introduce paid subscriptions, joining The New York Times and London's Times in charging for online material. Making that pay will require careful execution and compelling content.
Paywall advocates have had some success convincing Internet readers to sign up for subscriptions. New York Times Co., which began charging heavy users of its namesake paper's website in March, has signed up more than 100,000 people for online subscriptions that start at $15 a month, it said in April. London's Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., had 80,000 paid online subscribers as of March.
"The mood is changing," said Charlie Beckett, the director of the Polis media research unit at the London School of Economics. "Murdoch and the New York Times have taken the leap, and that encourages people. It's still a leap."
Alex Hole, who manages The Times's digital strategy, said at the Cannes Lions media conference this week that the newspaper's paywall is "starting to see tangible returns."
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ONA has member discounts with digital vendors
Two of the best-known players in digital content solutions are offering discounts to Ohio Newspaper Association members.
Press+ is a turnkey provider of online subscription systems. The Canton Repository is among the Ohio newspapers using Press+ to manage a customized, metered system where websites users pay a subscription fee after viewing a certain number of stories.
The company says that a carefully calibrated system can generate new revenue with little or no adverse impact on site visitors or digital advertising revenue and may even help generate new ad dollars since the "power users" who pay to subscribe can be a desirable audience.
Any accredited Ohio Newspaper Association member who launches with Press+ on or before September 1, 2011, will receive a 33% discount on the $3,500 set-up charge -- a saving of $1,155. Contact Press+ at 212-332-6408 or email@example.com.
The business model of Press + is that it receives a percentage of subscription revenue in return for handling all aspects of the program, including secure payment. Participating newspapers have full access to subscriber data. Subscribers can manage online news subscriptions with a one-click payment system.
Press+ was founded by L. Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Steven Brill, founder of the "The American Lawyer" and Court TV. Brill and Crovitz recently took part in a Webinar on pay-content models for ONA members. They continue to lead the company after its recent sale to RR Donnelley Co.
You can learn more about Press+ at mypressplus.com.
DailyMe offers personalized content to news website users. Users see a content widget on the home page that is tailored to their interests based on what they view on your website. A user that, for example, clicks on a lot of high-school sports headlines will see those types of stories in the DailyMe module on the site home page. Another user who goes to business stories would most likely see those types of stories.
The DailyMe platform develops an interest profile of site users by analyzing user interactions with the site. The module pushes not only relevant stories but also targeted advertising.
Neil Budde, the president and chief product officer of DailyMe and former head of Yahoo! News, said ONA members who agree to carry the ad-supported module for a six-month minimum before the end of August will receive 90% of net ad revenue for the first three months and receive 50%, the typical revenue split, after that.
To learn more, contact Budde at (954) 628-3079, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to dailyme.com.
Have newsrooms relaxed standards, sanctions for fabrication and plagiarism?
When the Chicago Sun-Times fired Paige Wiser for fabricating earlier this month, readers shared mixed reactions about whether the punishment was too harsh.
Wiser, who had been at the paper for 17 years, was let go after writing a "Glee Live!" concert review that included details about a song that was never performed and a song that she didn't stay at the concert long enough to hear. After her column ran, Wiser admitted that she left the concert early because one of her kids, who was at the concert with her, started to get sick.
"Suspension, yes. Firing, no," one reader commented in a Romenesko post about the incident. "This is a punishment wildly disproportionate to the crime."
Another commented: "To keep someone on staff who admits making up facts for a story no matter how superficial the story is would make me wonder if accuracy was even a consideration. In my opinion, the paper had no choice but to fire her."
In an informal and unscientific poll we conducted, 37 percent of readers said the firing was justified, while 41 percent said the Sun-Times overreacted and that a suspension would have been more appropriate for a longtime staffer.
The responses and reader comments renew attention to how news organizations handle plagiarism and fabrication cases and whether the standards have changed in recent years.
To get a better sense of this, I compiled a list of plagiarism and fabrication cases that shows the range of ways news organizations have responded when journalists such as Sari Horwitz, Maureen Dowd and Jayson Blair were caught plagiarizing. The responses range from firing reporters, to suspending them, to simply publishing a correction or note to readers.
When compiling the list, I found that many of the stories written about plagiarism and fabrication mention factors that news organizations may have considered when deciding how to respond. The factors include: the news organization's policy on fabrication/plagiarism, the severity of the offense, the reporter's tenure and track record at the organization, and any personal difficulties the reporter may have been dealing with at the time.
A Washington Post piece about Horwitz, for instance, said she had been helping her mother through difficult health issues around the time that she plagiarized. And a Romenesko post about Wiser quoted one of her colleagues as saying she was "under intense pressure, citing chronic headaches, a car accident in which she'd broken a finger, and an experience with vertigo while covering Oprah Winfrey's May 17 Farewell Spectacular." There were also several stories about Jayson Blair's struggle with bipolar disorder.
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Blade's Most Wanted page leads to 200th arrest
From The Blade, Toledo
Northwest Ohio's fugitive task force has made its 200th arrest since The Blade began publishing its weekly Most Wanted page nine months ago.
About 50 of those turned themselves in, authorities said, often after seeing their own faces in the paper.
"It's been leaps and bounds over what we thought would happen," U.S. Deputy Marshal Rodney Hartzell said. "It's become a fantastic tool."
The Tuesday page, which offers a reward for information about the most elusive fugitives, has helped the task force arrest nearly six of those who have eluded authorities each week. The reward amount varies with the crime's severity and how useful the information is. Hartzell declined to give estimates of a typical reward.
The 200th fugitive arrested was Joseph Custer, 20, of Toledo. He was picked up June 15 on charges of burglary and eluding arrest. Authorities got an early morning tip that he was in the area of Western Avenue and arrested him there.
Weekly newspaper uses Dropbox to manage content
From The Missouri Press Association
Linda Ahern, publisher and editor of the Lee's Summit Tribune in Missouri, have been using online storage service Dropbox to produce their paper. She pays $99 a year for the service, but a basic use of the program is free.
"We've been using this for several years as our file share or server," she said. "(It) has a phone app and can be accessed from anywhere at anytime. We store all our files, photo's, articles, proof pages and pages to press, ad directory, links and fonts etc.
"We are a virtual office. Although I have a storefront, my writers, photographers and other freelancers work from home. Graphics now works in the office one day a week, but he starts the paper at home from dropbox.com.
"When Time Warner Cable and Comcast go down, we can still operate from our phones as a back up.
"I can work from my patio; last week, one of our proofers worked from a park from his iPod.
"Proof pages are dropped into dropbox, proofers proof, rename the PDF and drop the files back into the dropbox.
"Virtual offices are great; this is most productive."
A 2GB Dropbox is free. A 50GB box costs $9.99 per month and a 100GB box costs $19.99 per month.
NAA files amicus brief in case involving newsracks on sidewalks outside post offices
The Newspaper Association of America filed an amicus curiae brief in June before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a case challenging a U.S. Postal Service regulatory ban on expressive activity on postal campus sidewalks.
The Postal Service issued notices nationwide in fall 2010 demanding that newsracks be removed from USPS property. The notices coincided with a federal district court decision upholding the Postal Service ban on certain expressive activities on ingress-egress ("non-perimeter") sidewalks outside post offices.
Initiative & Referendum Institute v. U.S. Postal Service addresses First Amendment activities (solicitation of petition signatures) on interior postal sidewalks under the same regulation that USPS relies on to remove newsracks.
In September 2010, the district court granted summary judgment for USPS, finding no showing that a substantial number of interior postal sidewalks were public forums. It determined USPS did not have to prove the regulation narrowly tailored since it regulates speech in a nonpublic forum.
In October 2010, the ruling was appealed to the D.C. Circuit by the non-profit research institute that collects signatures for placement of initiatives on state ballots, and which first sued the Postal Service in June 2000.
Also joining the amicus brief were A.H. Belo Corp., Gannett Co. Inc., Journal Sentinel Inc., Lee Enterprises Inc., The McClatchy Co., The New York Times Co., The E. W. Scripps Co. and Stephens Media LLC.
The NAA brief explains why interior postal sidewalks may be characterized as public forums, emphasizing their historical use for First Amendment activity, and argued that, even if not public forums, USPS conduct toward unobtrusive speech is unreasonable, and First Amendment activities should be allowed consistent and non-interfering with the purpose and function of the property.
ABC releases first FAS-FAX reports under new standards
From Editor & Publisher
The complexities of the modern media landscape pose a number of challenges to advertisers and publishers seeking an objective measurement of a newspaper's audience. Moreover, it's not so much about the number of readers, but how engaged they are in the content and how they chose to receive that content. With readership migrating to online and mobile distribution, the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has made significant rule changes, which took effect with the May 3 release of the semiannual FAS-FAX reports, to reflect the advancements in content distribution.
The current reports cover the six-month period ending March 31. In prior reports, the top-line metric has been "Total Paid Circulation." This category no longer exists on ABC reports. The new top-line number is "Total Average Circulation," which consists of a publication's paid and verified print and digital editions. Total average circulation also includes any paid and verified branded editions.
Mike Lavery, president and managing director of ABC, told Editor & Publisher that discussions on modifying the reports began in mid-2008 after it became clear that digital platforms, as well as branded editions, were becoming increasingly important for newspapers. The ABC board met with a task force of publishers, advertisers, and agencies to come to an agreement on the new standards for qualifying and reporting newspaper media, and an Oct. 1, 2010 implementation date was set.
ABC took a page from its consumer magazine division, which successfully adopted the verified circulation category in 2006.
"It (verified circulation) was largely accepted and used by media buyers and publishers. It's intuitive for them, and it doesn't prohibit, in this case, newspaper publishers from continuing to receive revenues from things like sponsorships, as an example, but simply eliminates the need for ABC to audit against a financial trail on certain categories of circulation," Lavery said. "So, the verified circulation category largely reclasses what was 'other paid circulation' into verified. But it expands it a little bit too to include a couple new categories that really speak to provide, I think, a very good example of the board's support of how publishers are going to market, and that is targeting certain geographies and targeting certain demographies."
The verified category includes much of what used to be called "other paid circulation," as well as what the ABC defines as "requested copies," which can be paid or unpaid. According to Lavery, this "wantedness" is important to media buyers, advertisers, and marketers seeking to reach engaged consumers. This is the first reporting period that there is not a link between paying for the newspaper and calculating total circulation.
"If somebody doesn't pay for something, it doesn't necessarily mean that circulation or distribution isn't important to media buyers. It is. However, they need to have the transparency and reporting for it."
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Americans regain some confidence in newspapers, TV news
Confidence still lags behind levels of trust seen through much of the 1990s and into 2003
Americans' confidence in newspapers and television news rebounded slightly in the past year, having been stuck at record lows since 2007. The 28% of Americans who express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers and the 27% who say the same about television news still lag significantly behind the levels of trust seen through much of the 1990s and into 2003.
The findings are from Gallup's annual update on confidence in institutions, which found few other notable changes from last year.
Newspapers and television news rank 10th and 11th in confidence, respectively, among the 16 institutions tested. While the improvement for each is small in absolute terms, it could mark the beginning of the reversal of the trend seen in recent years. The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual report on The State of the News Media suggests that the state of the media improved in 2010 as content providers found new ways to meet the changing needs of their audiences as well as new revenue models.
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Tablets beat PCs in media consumption
From Online Media Daily
As the latest device with the promise of gaining mainstream adoption, tablets have prompted a torrent of research on how people are using them and who's buying them. The latest, from the Online Publishers Association and research firm Frank N. Magid Associates, only serves to confirm the tablet as a media-centric platform.
According to the OPA study, virtually all (93%) of tablet owners use downloaded apps, about two-thirds check email and browse the Web, 58% play games and listen to music, half watch video and use it for social networking, 42% for reading books, and 31% to make purchases. By comparison, media interaction on smartphones is still taking place at lower rates.
When it comes to more specific types of content, about half get weather information, 41% local news, about one-third get sports, newspaper or magazine content, and one-quarter get financial information.
People also indicated a preference for doing various activities on a tablet versus a PC by a wide margin, including watching video and Web browsing. Most would rather read on a tablet than a dedicated e-reader like the Kindle.
But with potential advantages over PC and smartphones, one of the big questions has been how to monetize media on tablets. In that vein, the OPA study found that nearly half of tablet users would rather pay for apps with limited or no advertising. Eight in 10 app users have paid for apps (mostly games), spending an average of $53 in the last year. But paid apps account for only 26% of tablet apps downloaded overall.
The findings suggest people want different purchase options for paid content. Asked how they would like to buy newspaper, magazine or TV content, the majority selected one of the following choices in roughly equal proportions: bundled with an offline subscription, stand-alone subscription or one-time online purchase. Roughly a third of users said they weren't interested in buying one of the three types of content.
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