Mark your calendars, R-J staffers, and remember: What’s past is prologue

In the financial world they say that past performance is no indicator of future results, but in the newspaper business these days what’s past is prologue.

A couple of weeks ago New Media Investments purchased all of Stephens Media’s newspapers, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal. New Media, which rose from the ashes of the bankruptcy of GateHouse Media, previously purchased all of Halifax Media from Stephens Capital Partners, different company but same owners largely.

This week News & Tech and blogger Jim Romensko are reporting that New Media is laying off workers at the formerly Halifax papers.

One of the papers, the Star-News in Wilmington, N.C., reported:

“The StarNews laid off an unknown number of employees Tuesday as part of workforce reductions that took place across the group of former Halifax Media newspapers. Details have not been made public.

“The StarNews is one of 36 newspapers under the Halifax Media banner. Halifax recently was purchased by GateHouse Media’s parent, New Media Investment Group, for $280 million.”

They must have laid off the copyeditor who would have changed “unknown” to “unstated.”

Romenesko posted copies of a number of emails he received reporting layoffs at several newspapers owned by New Media. The layoffs hit across the board in the newsrooms — photogs, copyeditors, cop reporters, sports reporters, bureaus, assistant city editors, assistant managing editors, features editors, layout artists, as well as staff in IT, advertising and marketing. One paper reportedly laid off “the editorial writer.”

Stephens sold the Halifax papers in November, the layoffs come in March, so mark your calendars, R-J staffers, for four months hence. What’s past is prologue.

Front of R-J office building on Bonanza.

 

Some are quibbling over the means of conveying an opinion in print

The advertisement

The advertisement

A newspaper is a newspaper. Newsprint is newsprint. An opinion is an opinion.

But apparently some people are aghast that a newspaper would use its newsprint to convey opposition to ballot Question 3 in both an editorial and a series of in-house advertisements.

Online journalism critic Jim Romenesko noted in his blog that the Las Vegas Review-Journal is running so-called house ads that opposed the margin tax or The Education Initiative. He quotes a defrocked newspaper columnist as saying, “I’m sure this will be disclosed in all news stories from now on, right?”

Just as all news stories will disclose that the paper editorially opposed the ballot measure in a Sept. 28 editorial, though its political columnist endorsed the measure a couple of days later? That would take a lot of explaining. The disclaimer about the editorial, the column and the ad would be longer than any story.

The local pundit has since asked whether the newspaper will register with the Secretary of State as a political action committee and disclose expenditures because state law defines a “Committee for political action” as a group “Which does not have as its primary purpose affecting the outcome of any primary election, general election, special election or any question on the ballot, but for the purpose of affecting the outcome of any election or question on the ballot receives contributions in excess of $5,000 in a calendar year or makes expenditures in excess of $5,000 in a calendar year.”

What difference does it make in what form the opinion appears? It takes the same amount of newsprint, which is going out the door and onto the driveway anyway. What cost?

But there is a section of the law that reads:

NRS 294A.370  Media to make certain information available.

      1.  A newspaper, radio broadcasting station, outdoor advertising company, television broadcasting station, direct mail advertising company, printer or other person or group of persons which accepts, broadcasts, disseminates, prints or publishes:

      (a) Advertising for or against any candidate or a group of such candidates;

      (b) Political advertising for any person other than a candidate; or

      (c) Advertising for the passage or defeat of a question or group of questions on the ballot, shall, during the period beginning at least 10 days before each primary election or general election and ending at least 30 days after the election, make available for inspection information setting forth the cost of all such advertisements accepted and broadcast, disseminated or published. The person or entity shall make the information available at any reasonable time and not later than 3 days after it has received a request for such information.

      2.  For purposes of this section, the necessary cost information is made available if a copy of each bill, receipt or other evidence of payment made out for any such advertising is kept in a record or file, separate from the other business records of the enterprise and arranged alphabetically by name of the candidate or the person or group which requested the advertisement, at the principal place of business of the enterprise.

But I doubt the newspaper will bill itself for those house ads.

Never mind that much of the law is clearly an abridging of free speech and press anyway.

That hasn’t stopped the current Secretary of State Ross Miller from pursuing legal action against people for expressing their opinions in public.

 By the way, the URL in the ad VoteNoQ3.com is a link the paper’s editorial on the topic.

The editorial

The editorial

 

 

 

 

That hyperlocal ‘reporter’ may actually be miles away

Jim Romenesko’s journalism blog had an interesting piece earlier this week revealing the further depths of cheapness to which the latest management team at the Las Vegas Review-Journal will sink.

It seems that an outfit called Journatic —which was caught using fake bylines for reporters who actually worked out of the Philippines, as well as plagiarism and outright fabrication has risen from the ashes as LocalLabs. Like its forerunner the firm claims it creates hyperlocal news accounts for various newspapers and other outlets. Similar firms use “reporters” based in India who get local “news” via phone or Internet.

The company would not tell Romenesko who their clients are, but he managed to find a source who confirmed the Chicago-based outfit is providing copy to the R-J for its View sections — purportedly sections serving various neighborhoods but which are really market saturation vehicles for advertisers because versions of them are thrown in the driveways of non-subscribers.

Romenesko reports:

“I have learned, though, that the Las Vegas Review-Journal is using the Chicago-based LocalLabs for one of its View neighborhood sections. (Publisher Ed Moss, who is known for  cutting newspaper staffs, made the decision to hire LocalLabs as a cost-savings measure, I’m told. I’ve sent him some questions.)

“The Review-Journal View section last week had stories by LocalLabs writers Jessica Sabbah (based in Chicago) and Kasey Schefflin-Emrich (in New York), along with stories by the five fulltime Review-Journal View journalists who fear they could lose their jobs to LocalLab contributors.”

Romemesko’s source told him, “The writers and editors are upset, and raised concerns, but they’re also resigned to their fate.”

The alleged “stories” under those bylines in the past couple of weeks have been little more than ads for homes for sale or businesses such as tattoo parlors and webpage builders. Might LocalLabs be charging the paper for content and charging the local companies for placement? Just speculating.

Here is one example:

View "news" story.

View “news” story.