Saturday, September 18, 2004

Now, About That News Editor Job

A savvy former editor and reporter at the local paper is wondering about something.

“Maybe now that they have apparently hired an editorial page editor, they can devote more time to finding a news editor,” the man writes.

“Mia Bush left that job about nine months ago, and they still don’t have a replacement.

“I heard that they thought they had somebody hired, but he backed out at the last minute. I also heard that Bryce Miller of the sports department wanted it, but with some conditions that would permit him to have a life away from the office. They would not agree to that.

“In the meantime, they are saving all the money they would be paying a news editor.”

[NOTE: First things first. The paragraph about “they have apparently hired an editorial page editor” is in reference to the news you read here first—even before it was printed in the local paper—that Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette executive editor Carol Hunter has been hired as the local paper’s editorial page editor. She replaces Dick Doak, who was told more than a year ago that, after many years of loyal service, he was being dumped from the job. The joke now involves Hunter. She’s not scheduled to start working at Eighth and Locust until Nov. 22. That gives her plenty of time to change her mind. The news editor job is a thankless one that nobody wants. I’m surprised that Miller showed interest in it. He’s supposed to be in line to be the next sports editor, and I’m told he e-mails all the right people so no one forgets who he is].


Speaking of Carol Hunter, I’ve got another question.

When finally getting around to announcing that Hunter would be replacing Doak, the local paper had this sentence buried in the story: “[Hunter] is married [well, there’s the answer to that question] to Tom Perry, a Press-Gazette columnist.”

That will be cause for concern among those thin-skinned folks who now write columns for the local paper. They’ll be wondering which of them will be transferred to the mailroom to clear the way for Perry to become the newest columnist. You know the bosses will want to keep Perry and Hunter happy.

I tried to convince my very good friend Rob Borsellino that he should have taken that Los Angeles Times bureau job in Baghdad when it opened a while back. Now he may have to pay the ultimate price.


This news comes by way of Chuck Offenburger. He’s telling people that Chuck Bullard, a former reporter at the local paper, had a heart attack Aug. 29.

Bullard and his wife, Ann, now live in The Woodlands, Texas. They are the parents of Matt Bullard, who was a pretty fair basketball player for Valley High School, Iowa and in the NBA.


Poynter Online is a website for news people that says it’s “everything you need to be a better journalist.”

Well, our old friend Geneva Overholser, who always wants to be a better journalist, has a big-time issue with Poynter Online.

In the event you’ve forgotten who Overholser is, let me refresh your memory. She made some news herself when she was editor at the local paper a few years ago.

While Overholser was editor, the managing editor was Dave Westphal, Westphal had been one of the sports editors with whom I worked in my earlier writing life. I thought highly of the skills – the newsroom skills, that is – of both Overholser and Westphal.

They did what I thought was a good job of running the newsroom under some trying times. The parent Gannett Co. was making things tough for them and for others who worked at the local paper in those days.

Overholser and Westphal seemed to work well together inside the newsroom, and evidently they worked well outside the newsroom. In fact, their relationship worked so well that it broke up two marriages. Eventually, Overholser and Westphal both quit the paper, moved to Washington, D.C., and married. And, yes, they married each other.

Overholser now is a professor at the University of Missouri journalism school, her columns appear in the Washington Post and until the last couple of days she’s been writing a column for Poynter Online.

Now, though, she’s pissed. And she says she has written her last column for Poynter.
Overholser made her decision after Poynter’s editors edited the name of the woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape out of a column she wrote.

This is what appeared on the Romenesko site at Poynter yesterday:

Time to Name the Accuser

“By Geneva Overholser (more by author)

This column was filed Sept. 9, but publication was delayed as a result of review and discussion by editors and the travel schedule of the author.

“(Name withheld by editors) is taking her case against Kobe Bryant out of the criminal court and into civil court in Colorado, and it is time her name became standard media usage—instead of being reserved for radio shockjocks, Internet hitmen, Kobe Bryant’s attorney (who ‘mistakenly’ used her name repeatedly in court) or the documents (with her name and address) that the court accidentally put online.

“As I wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, ‘Her voluntary step further into the public limelight makes appropriate a unified move by editors to tease the conceit of this naming taboo. Thus freed from a debate of little meaning, journalists could move on to discuss a terribly meaningful one: how to cover rape trials with sensitivity, balance, fairness, a concentration on fact over rumor.’


The name of the accuser in this case has been removed by Poynter Online editors. After doing a first read on the column, editors Julie Moos and Bill Mitchell met with a group of about 25 Poynter faculty and staff to discuss the issue: Under what circumstances should Poynter consider naming the accuser in this case?

“The discussion was not to seek consensus, but to inform our decision. Our conclusion: Based on what we know at this point, we believe the journalistic purpose to be achieved by naming the accuser is outweighed by the potential harm that could result from doing so. We gladly present conflicting views, as we did with this column by Geneva that was published last year. But we are not willing to step beyond publishing opinion and take the action of publishing the accuser’s name.

“This has created an unusual dilemma. Geneva is a valued friend of Poynter, a member of our National Advisory Board from 1993 to 2001 as well as the unpaid author of the weekly Journalism Junction column since November, 2002. Citing several competing obligations as well as her principled disagreement with Poynter Online editors, Geneva has informed us that this will be her final column for Poynter. Explaining her decision, she said: ‘There is little to recommend continuing to write the column for Poynter unless I can say what I believe.’

--Bill Mitchell”

[NOTE: By the way, the accuser’s name in the Kobe Bryant case is Katelyn Kristine Faber. And I agree with what Overholser did. It was right for her to quit as a Poynter Online columnist].


One of the talented young guys I worked with at the local paper in the way-back-when was Bill Dwyre, who was smart enough to get out so he could move on to bigger and better things.

Dwyre eventually became sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal, and after that became sports editor of the Los Angeles Times. He’s now no longer young, but he’s still a talented sports editor. I always enjoy talking with him whenever we’re in the same press box somewhere.

The last time I saw Dwyre was when both he and I were in Miami for the 2003 Orange Bowl football game between Iowa and Southern California.

We had a good talk in the press room at the media hotel, and he said he planned to work a few more years before retiring.

But these are tough times.

L.A. Observed carried a recent story headlined, Times Sports takes major hit

Here’s part of it:

“Cost-cutting has come to the Sports section at the L.A. Times. In a memo to his staff received by L.A. Observed, sports editor Bill Dwyre doesn’t sound pleased at the features he has to lose to publish the thinner section his bosses want. Several familiar landmarks in the section—such as weekend TV listings, the fish report, some football box scores and stories, the daily soccer report—are going away or gone; he anticipates a big reader backlash at the end. The memo:

“To Sports Staff:


“(These are effective immediately and seek to reach our mandated goal of a 14-page weekly reduction in the sports section. We have already implemented a 33% cut in prep coverage, plus one-half page a day through baseball box editing and baseball page design repackaging. (If the hockey season resumes, we will have to find 6 more pages of cuts).

“—Eliminate daily USC and UCLA football notes (Looking forward, same plan for UCLA and USC basketball notes, King and Duck notes, and Clipper and Laker notes. Baseball notes packages are excepted. This is not an excuse to get beat on your beat reporting. But rather than having guaranteed space every day, you will have to report your way into the paper. We expect a daily call or calls to day editors to discuss what you have and what we can do with it.)

“—Eliminate the weekly college football logs.

“—Eliminate the pro football logs…….”

[Dwyre’s memo goes on and on. In short, it’s another example of what’s happening to the newspaper business. It’s happening in Des Moines, it’s happening in Los Angeles, it’s happening everywhere. Face it, the Internet is taking over].


It was lunch time for a group of guys who spend some of their days being pissed off about a few things going on around them.

“Do any of you read the gossip about the Register in Point Blank?” a guy asked in reference to one of Des Moines’ two alternative newspapers.

“I do,” another guy said. “They did a story on the paper’s declining circulation a couple of years ago. Tim Schmitt interviewed me about it, quoted me accurately and wrote what I thought was a good story.”

“Well, I’m talking about the more recent gossip about the Register in Point Blank. I hear that Mike Gartner writes those things.”

“Oh, that’s got to be bullshit. Gartner wouldn’t lower himself to write about Paul Anger’s poor grammar in memos to his staff, giving Borsellino, Rekha Basu and John Carlson the ‘Jackass’ awards, and other crap like that.

“Hey, the guy owns the Iowa Cubs, runs Vision Iowa, was fired by the Register and was fired by NBC News. Why would he stoop low enough to write gossip about a dying paper like the Register? Besides, how would he have the time?”

“Don’t ask me. I just hear it’s true."

Vol. 4, No. 257
Sept. 18, 2004