When the Gray Lady Started Wearing Color

Newstand on State Street circa 1996

The New York Times:

Yet the A section of the paper, the daily news section, remained color-averse. It wasn’t until Oct. 16, 1997, that the first color images graced the front page of The Times. (The Times Magazine had used color at various times since 1933.)

Until autumn of that year, New York was the only major city in the nation that did not have a newspaper printing full-color news photographs each day. USA Today had been producing color in its pages since its first issue in 1982. So what took the daily edition of The Times so long

(click here to continue reading When the Gray Lady Started Wearing Color – The New York Times.)

Amusingly, I was a paid focus group member for consultants working for the NYT around this time (probably a couple of months later), and discussed this decision. I still laugh – the focus group was about the digital edition of the NYT, and there was one curmudgeonly older-than-me woman who was sour on everything about it. I mean, every topic brought up she was against. Finally I blurted out, “did you like it when the NYT put color photographs?” and the woman vehemently disagreed with the very thought of color in her newspaper. The consultants who were running the meeting both looked at each other, and scribbled furiously in their notebooks.

Because Paul Krugman Can Argue

QR Code on NYT Magazine cover
QR Code on NYT Magazine cover

Paul Krugman is one of the top reasons I subscribe to the NYT 1

Jonathan Chait makes a good point:

Before Paul Krugman joined the New York Times op-ed page, it was a genteel place. The classic pattern was to promote distinguished reporters to cushy sinecures as columnists. Because they were trained as reporters, not polemicists, they tended to avoid the work of argumentation and simply tell readers what to think.… Krugman, by contrast, came from academia, where the arguments are fierce, and you either bring the data or you go home. As one of the most acclaimed economists of his generation, he arrived at his Times post in 1999 boasting stronger credentials to hold forth on his chosen topic than possibly any other op-ed columnist in history. But Krugman does not rely on his authority. He crafts arguments.

The most remarkable attribute Krugman has brought to the Times is rudeness. The social niceties that accompany his exalted position are utterly lost on him. He does not seek out the company of famous politicians and cannot be courted with flattery or access. He understands that you can’t arrive at truth without explaining why mistaken beliefs are wrong.

Krugman makes a mockery of the prohibition against arguing with his fellow columnists, larding his columns with rebuttals to unnamed subjects who happen to believe things that were advocated on the Times op-ed page earlier in the week. Thomas Friedman writes a column complaining, “Does anyone know what President Obama’s preferred outcome is? Exactly which taxes does he want raised, and which spending does he want cut?” And the next day, Krugman writes: “Oh, and let me give a special shout-out to ‘centrist’ pundits who won’t admit that President Obama has already given them what they want. The dialogue seems to go like this. Pundit: ‘Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?’ Mr. Obama: ‘I support a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.’ Pundit: ‘Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?’ ”

(click here to continue reading Because Paul Krugman Didn’t Keep His Calm – Reasons to Love New York 2011 — New York Magazine.)


  1. weekend edition, but still counts []

The orthodoxy of the article

Evening Newspapers at Monument Station

While I’ve never been a journalist1, I know plenty practitioners of the form; am descended from journalists, and related to others. Thus, Jeff Jarvis’ argument resonates with me.

He begins:

When I say the article is a luxury, I argue that using ever-more-precious resources to create an article should be taken seriously and before writing and editing a story we must assure that it will add value. Do most articles do that today? No. Go through your paper in the morning and tell me how much real value is added and how much ink is spilled to tell you what you already know (whether that is facts you learned through Twitter, the web, TV, radio, et al or background that is reheated more often than a stale slice in a bad New York pizzeria).

How many articles are rewritten from others’ work just so a paper and a reporter can have a byline? How many predict the obvious (every story about an upcoming storm, holiday, press conference, or horse race election)? How often do you see a local TV story with any real reporting and value instead of just someone standing where the news happened 12 hours ago telling you what you and he both read online already? Too many articles passing themselves off as professional journalism are crap and I say we can’t afford to do that anymore. I say we should treat articles with veneration as a luxury.


Second, I am also promoting rather than devaluing background when I say it is best linked to. The background paragraphs in an ongoing story generally do one of two things: they bore and waste the time of people who have followed the story or they underinform the people who have not been following the story. Background graphs were a necessity of print but online we can improve background immensely, investing the effort in truly valuable and long-lasting content assets that give richer and more helpful background on a story. I’ve worked with smart folks at news companies imagining how we could provide multiple paths through background: here’s the path to take if you’re coming to the story as a virgin; here’s a track to take if you’ve missed a week; here’s a track from one perspective; here’s one from another. If someone else did a great job explaining the story or elements of it, we should link to them. Filoux calls that oursourcing. I call that linking. We do that nowadays. This is why I’m eagerly watching Jay Rosen’s project in creating explainers, which is an even richer form of background.

Third, in this entire discussion of the article, I am valuing reporting higher than repetitive retyping. As our resources become ever-scarcer, I say that we must devote more of them to reporting than to articles that add little: asking the questions that haven’t been asked and answered, finding people who can add information and perspective, fact-checking.


(click here to continue reading The orthodoxy of the article, part II « BuzzMachine.)

Journalism, especially print journalism, has to change, drastically, and soon. Or else the profession will be relegated to the warehouse that holds telegraph operators, carriage horse cabbies, and sword polishers. Actual reporting will not be replaced by current2 trends and practices: Twitter, cellphone video, and so on, but it could and should be enhanced by it.

People's Friend, People's Journal, Sunday Post, Dundee Courier

oh, and Mr. Jarvis’ original article, for the record.

  1. being a blogger since 1999 doesn’t count – much different aims, no editor – obviously – and so on []
  2. and future []

Reading Around on June 2nd

Some additional reading June 2nd from 10:55 to 18:58:

  • Craigslist’s Forced Censorship of Erotic Ads Saves Journalism Industry | Threat Level | Wired.com – Craigslist’s new policy barring the publication of erotic ads has not only saved lives and stopped prostitution, it’s also saving the dying newspaper industry.

    After the site announced last month under pressure that it would no longer publish erotic ads, sales of erotic ads in local alternative weekly newspapers have soared, according to the Washington City Paper.

  • Good Luck With That – “There are commercial websites, not even bloggers, necessarily,” Bridis added, “that take some of our best AP stories, and rewrite them with a word or two here, and say ‘the Associated Press has reported, the AP said, the AP said.’ That’s not fair. We pay our reporters. We set up the bureaus that are very expensive to run, and, you know, if they want to report what the AP is reporting they either need to buy the service or they need to staff their own bureaus.”

    Bridis did acknowledge the importance of fair use. “Because we do it too, necessarily,” the AP news editor conceded. “If the New York Times has a story, we may take an element of it and attribute it to the Times and build a story around it.”

  • Marilyn Monroe – MARILYN: Never-Published Photos – LIFE – August 1950: A 24-year-old Marilyn, wearing a simple button-down shirt monogrammed with her initials, leans against a tree in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park for LIFE photographer Ed Clark. The negatives for these photos were recently discovered during our ongoing effort to digitize LIFE’s immense and storied photo archive, including outtakes and entire shoots that never saw the light of day. Click through to see more stunning shots of Marilyn, plus the reason why they may never have been published…

End of Blogging

If GateHouse Media succeeds in their lawsuit, this blog, and many others will have to cease existence. What percentage of blog materials is quoted, fair-use information from other sites? Just using B12 as an example, I’d say over 75%.

GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York Times Co. alleging copyright infringement after the NYT-owned Boston Globe frequently posted links containing headlines and the first sentences from articles on GateHouse’s community news sites.

-View the Document: The 25-page lawsuit [PDF]
-View the Document: Request for an injunction [PDF] to stop the Globe from posting GateHouse links.
-View the Document: 35-page support document for the injunction [PDF]
-View the Document: Affidavit by GateHouse Media Metro Editor-in-Chief Gregory Reibman [PDF]
Your Town Newton, one of the Boston Globe’s community sites that sparked the lawsuit. See the news links in the center content gutter.

The lawsuit, if successful, could create a monumental chilling effect for bloggers, news sites, search engines, social media sites and aggregators such as Topix and Techmeme, which link to articles, display headlines and use snippets of copyrighted text from other sites. Initiatives such as the NYTimes.com Times Extra, which displays links to related articles from other sites, could be shut down for fear of copyright lawsuits. It could lead to a repudiation of one of the fundamental principles on which the Internet was built: the discovery and sharing of information.

In its complaint, GateHouse called the article links “deep links” because they do not link to the home page of the site. The “deep link” language in the complaint is meant to invoke cases such as the Supercrosslive.com case, wherein a motorcross news site was successfully prohibited from deep linking to a competing site’s streaming video file, which bypassed the site’s advertising.

GateHouse’s assertion is that the Boston Globe community site’s use of the headlines cannibalizes GateHouse’s content and causes it financial harm because readers gather news from the links and snippets on the Globe’s site rather than visit GateHouse’s sites. Although not explicitly stated in the complaint, this means GateHouse likely believes the loss of readers from possible increased use of the Globe’s site will not be offset by the readers brought in by its competitor’s links.

[From Journalistopia » GateHouse Lawsuit vs. New York Times Co. has Dire Implications | Danny Sanchez]

I had never heard of GateHouse Media before today1, but they put out a lot of publications, mostly weeklies it looks like.

No joke, if this lawsuit is successful, I will have to shut down this blog immediately, as will the majority of other news-related blogs. The risk of liability is just too great.

  1. well except for being mentioned in the Tribune bankruptcy as a debt-ridden newspaper company []

April Fools Comes Early

The New York Times pulls a Sarah Palin…

In Monday’s newspaper, we published a letter over the name of the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, criticizing Caroline Kennedy. This letter was a fraud and should not have been published. Mr. Delanoë’s office has since confirmed that he did not write it.

Printing the letter, which also appeared on nytimes.com until it was removed, violated the standards and procedures of The New York Times editorial department.

It is our practice to verify the authenticity of every letter we publish. Like most of our letters these days, this one arrived by e-mail. We sent an edited version back to the writer of the e-mail and did not receive a response.

At that point, the letter should have been set aside. It was not.

The Times has expressed its regret to Mr. Delanoë’s office for the lapse in judgment that led to this error. We now express those regrets to our readers.

We will be reviewing our procedures in an attempt to ensure that an error like this is not repeated.

[From Editors’ Note – Letter – NYTimes.com]


The original letter read:

As mayor of Paris, I find Caroline Kennedy’s bid for the seat of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton both surprising and not very democratic, to say the least. What title has Ms. Kennedy to pretend to Hillary Clinton’s seat? We French can only see a dynastic move of the vanishing Kennedy clan in the very country of the Bill of Rights. It is both surprising and appalling.

With all the respect and admiration I have for Ms. Kennedy’s late father, I find her bid in very poor taste, and, after reading “Kennedy, Touring Upstate, Gets Less and Less Low-Key” (news article, Dec. 18), in my opinion she has no qualification whatsoever to bid for Senator Clinton’s seat.

We French have been consistently admiring of the American Constitution, but it seems that recently both Republicans and Democrats are drifting away from a truly democratic model. The Kennedy era is long gone, and I guess that New York has plenty of more qualified candidates to fill the shoes of Hillary Clinton. Can we speak of American decline?

Bertrand Delanoë Paris, Dec.

18, 2008

Newspapers of the future

Unfortunately, my local paper has taken a decided downturn, close to becoming just a advertising circular, with a few stories thrown in here and there. Newspapers should have more reporters, not less, staff cutbacks is not the solution to restoring newspaper profitability.

As Felix Salmon says when you pay for the physical newspaper you’re not paying for the news, you’re paying for the paper. A newspaper is a big physical object. Creating it and distributing it on a daily basis is a hugely expensive undertaking. And subscriptions to newspapers are cheap — the amount of money being charged for home delivery of The New York Times or any other major paper only does a tiny amount to defray the costs of producing and delivering the object.

The problem newspapers are having with online isn’t that the readers won’t pay, it’s that the advertisers won’t pay. The reduced costs per reader make up for the reduced revenue involved in giving the product away, but a physical newspaper generates far more in terms of ad revenue per reader than does a newspaper website. Probably once physical newspapers all disappear, ad rates for news websites will go up somewhat merely because ad buyers won’t have as many options. But I think it’s plausible that even when everything shakes out online advertising revenue still won’t support the volume of staff that print advertising revenue once did.

[From Matthew Yglesias » News Without the Paper ]

Blago in Handcuffs, and All I Got Was This Lousy Newspaper

There does seem to be some sort of connection, in spirit, if not in wiretap goods, between Blagojevich and Zell. I’m not the only one to notice it:

Las Vegas Showgirls

But really, you know Blagojevich moved into an entirely different realm of awful when, as the Chicago Tribune reported in early November, his people called Tribune owner Sam Zell and demanded the firing of editorial board members in return for assistance in selling the Tribune-owned Chicago Cubs.

There was no possibility of jeopardizing Fitzgerald’s investigation, because this story didn’t need it; the wiretap wasn’t involved: Blagojevich called them! The Tribune could have and should have run the story of Blagojevich’s call to Tribune Tower in 200 point type. They should have printed it in Rod’s own blood. They would have brought down a sitting governor the same week that they were trumpeting the win of Obama. They would have pushed the Tribune’s brand into the stratosphere, at just the time that it needed it.

But they didn’t. Faced with a defining moment in journalism–this was the kind of story that we would have taught in journalism schools for years–Sam Zell decided not to do the right thing. It’s not surprising–the guy is a waxed mustache away from tying a damsel in distress to a railroad track after all–but it’s still a shock.

When you walk into the lobby of the Tribune Tower, you’re dwarfed by the etched words of legends. They speak of the importance of journalism for a functioning democracy; of the imperative to speak truth to power. One, from Thomas Jefferson himself, reads “our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that can not be limited without being lost.”

That lobby is for sale now. Zell wants to turn the building into condos.

[From Daniel Sinker: My Governor Got Lead Away in Handcuffs, and All I Got Was This Lousy Newspaper]

So why did the Chicago Tribune hold off on the story?

think about this: You’re a newspaper. The governor of your state–a governor who has had the stink of corruption on him for years–has his people call you up and directly state that they’ll help you out if you fire members of your editorial board. It is a phone conversation that not only wipes its ass on the ethical lines it crosses, it also treats the First Amendment like it’s optional. And you don’t report it? Why?

There’s only one reason: Zell was entertaining the offer.

Workers Pay for Tribune Debacle

The more I read about the Tribune bankruptcy, the more Sam Zell resembles one of those old movie villains.

Dewey Defeats Truman

Andrew Ross Sorkin writes:

Mr. Zell isn’t the only one responsible for this debacle. With one of the grand old names of American journalism now confronting an uncertain future, it is worth remembering all the people who mismanaged the company before hand and helped orchestrate this ill-fated deal — and made a lot of money in the process. They include members of the Tribune board, the company’s management and the bankers who walked away with millions of dollars for financing and advising on a transaction that many of them knew, or should have known, could end in ruin.

It was Tribune’s board that sold the company to Mr. Zell — and allowed him to use the employee’s pension plan to do so. Despite early resistance, Dennis J. FitzSimons, then the company’s chief executive, backed the plan. He was paid about $17.7 million in severance and other payments. The sale also bought all the shares he owned — $23.8 million worth. The day he left, he said in a note to employees that “completing this ‘going private’ transaction is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers.”

Well, at least for some of them.

Tribune’s board was advised by a group of bankers from Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, which walked off with $35.8 million and $37 million, respectively. But those banks played both sides of the deal: they also lent Mr. Zell the money to buy the company. For that, they shared an additional $47 million pot of fees with several other banks, according to Thomson Reuters. And then there was Morgan Stanley, which wrote a “fairness opinion” blessing the deal, for which it was paid a $7.5 million fee (plus an additional $2.5 million advisory fee).

[From Dealbook – Workers Pay for Debacle at Tribune – NYTimes.com]

The Tribune employees (past and present) are now just one creditor among many, and their retirement plan suddenly is near worthless.

Mr. Zell financed much of his deal’s $13 billion of debt by borrowing against part of the future of his employees’ pension plan and taking a huge tax advantage. Tribune employees ended up with equity, and now they will probably be left with very little.

“If there is a problem with the company, most of the risk is on the employees, as Zell will not own Tribune shares.” He continued: “The cash will come from the sweat equity of the employees of Tribune.”

But what about those employees? They had no seat at the table when the company’s own board let Mr. Zell use part of its future pension plan in exchange for $34 a share.

Mr. Newman, the analyst who predicted the trouble, said in an interview on Monday, “The employees were put in a very bad situation.”

An anonymous Tribune employee emails Josh Marshall:

You are right on the money, this filing goes directly to insanely bad business decisions, not the secular decline in newspapers. The amazing thing that is happening right now is that all of the company’s assets are in the black. All of them. Every television station and newspaper is making money. Now lets not kid ourselves — many are in a fast downhill spiral, revenues are declining, etc. But what has killed this company is the insane amount of debt Zell has placed upon it.

That debt was not incurred to invest in the company’s product, or even physical plant. It was incurred solely to buy out Tribune Corp’s shareholders at an inflated share price and let Zell have his toy. It was the epitome of the bubble. And now it’s caught up with Zell. He’ll be fine. The employees are the ones who will suffer, as always. Basically, Zell has destroyed several great newspapers as part of an unwitting wealth transfer to various large Tribune shareholders.

[From Talking Points Memo | Report From the Trenches, Pt. 1]

Wonky Details of Tribune Bankruptcy

It seems as if the Chicago Tribune paper will continue, albeit with some changes. I hope the dozen or so of my favorite Tribune writers1 don’t get fired.

Happy 4th of July -Wrigley, Chicago Tribune tower

It seems it has something called a “Delayed Draw Facility” that becomes part of its “Tranche B” credit facility as it draws upon funds. In October, Tribune refinanced an additional $168 million in these Tranche B medium-term bonds, money it said it intended to use to pay the $70 million in medium-term notes coming due Monday.

But Tribune might have seen a somewhat chilling vision of the future when, also in October as credit markets locked up, it sent notice to lenders that it intended to draw $250 million in principal from its revolving credit facility. Fine, but there was just $237 million in it, according to information in the SEC filing.

“The shortfall of approximately $13 million is a result of the fact that Lehman Brothers Commercial Bank, which provides a commitment in the amount of $40 million under the company’s $750 million revolving credit facility, declined to participate in the company’s $250 million funding request,” Tribune said. Lehman Brothers, of course, was one of the first casualties of last fall’s financial meltdown, and its commercial bank is in Chapter 11.

Sam Zell and Co. may also be figuring it makes no sense to pay that $70 million now since, by all reports, it appears Tribune will be in technical default of its loan covenants when the debt-to-EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) ratio is calculated at the end of this fourth quarter.

The loan agreement sets an outer limit of 9 times EBITDA to debt, which is pretty loose. (Consider that GateHouse Media Inc., sometimes considered a poster boy for the newspaper industry’s high debt, says its ratio is about 6 times.) Yet it appears that Tribune will be unable to report it is within the covenants.

So Monday’s $70 million payment is like the credit card bill appearing in the mail. You’re $5,000 in the hole, say. The minimum payment is just $30. But it makes you think, where are we going here? That’s no doubt what Sam Zell & Co. are asking themselves this morning in their Michigan Avenue tower.

[From Tribune: ‘Where Are We Going Here?’ ]

via Whet Moser‘s Twitter feed

The court filing [24 page PDF] if you are interested…

Update: Zell was worse than we thought. Zell really was just looking for a way to plunder the ESOP.

[Sam Zell ] put up $315 million of his own money and paid the balance of the purchase price, $8.2 billion, with the employee stock ownership plan – a move in which Tribune employees had no say whatever. But that actually overstates the amount of Zell’s investment. Of the $315 million he sunk into the company, it turns out that $225 million was simply a promissory note. Due to the vagaries of bankruptcy law, writes business analyst Mark Lacter on laobserved.com, that means that Zell has better protection for his stake than all his employees. Trib’s ESOP holds 100 percent of the company common equity – and it’s the holders of common stock who usually take a bath, or get wiped out altogether, in the debt restructuring that goes on under Chapter 11.

Even when measured against today’s sub-prime standards for CEO performance, Zell is in a class by himself. The CEOs of the Big Three auto companies may have paid a good deal less attention to the quality of their cars than they should have, but Zell repeatedly and profanely expressed his disdain for quality journalism. The company’s leading papers, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times – the latter one of the four great American newspapers – carried too much national and international news, he decreed. Hundreds of excellent reporters and editors were unceremoniously shown the door; the Times lost its Sunday book review and opinion sections; the Washington bureaus of the papers were consolidated and cut back at the very moment when readers are following decisions made in Washington more intently than they have in decades.

and there’s more!

The Tribune internal Q&A website on today’s bankruptcy filing states that “all ongoing severance payments have been discontinued.” So if you’re one of the large number of reporters, editors and other staffers at the L.A. Times, the Chicago Trib or other papers who got sacked and didn’t get your severance in one lump sum, you have a real problem.

In a just world, Sam Zell would go to prison.

  1. those writers who have either a consistent, interesting voice, or cover a beat that I’m interested in. I don’t have a real list, but seems like it is less than 20 journalists. []

Sam Smith is Free

Sam Smith aka Squiggly Catchypants is free from the tyranny of being a newspaper sports writer, and it makes him giddy. Smith was the long time NBA columnist at the Tribune, and it did feel a bit weird to start a new NBA season without Smith’s two page overview. In response to a question from a reader1, Smith responds2:

Sam: Free at last. … I agree with you, though some of my colleagues, like my buddy Mike Imrem from the Herald, always are whining about my columns being too long. Though with the internet, they are not heavy no matter the length, which is what I keep reminding him. I believe this is the difference between a New York Times reader and a Sun Times or Tribune reader. I don’t understand what’s wrong with being more informed. I always say you can stop reading anytime you want. It seems to me the longest books are the classics. There’s not many Woody Allen essays in classic literature, though I read those we well and as Woody said you could begin to believe in a Supreme Being after thumbing through a Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

The newspaper business, to my horror, has been disappearing and there were growing limitations on what you could write, even on the internet since they often wanted to adapt it for the newspaper. I’m freed from that now. There’s so much that goes on in games that fans are unaware of-and aware of–I often feel I don’t even write enough. I’ve long thought the traditional newspaper business doesn’t have enough respect for readership in how little they give them and in such a simplistic form. I believe readers want more and want to know more, and I’m glad this format with Bulls.com gives me that opportunity. As Thabo would say, “Did you trade me today?”

[From BULLS: Ask Sam | 11.13.08]

As long as Smith is happy with his new pay and pension plan, seems like a win for fans of the NBA, although probably not Mark Cuban3. Also somewhat ironic, since Smith complained about bloggers a while ago, though probably before he really understood the totality of the range of blogs. There are crap writers4 and there are more thoughtful, well written blogs. Most bloggers don’t even work in their parents basement!

and somebody insisted upon this disclaimer:

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

  1. from Mat: It seems you write more long articles now than when you were working for the Chicago Tribune. Am I right? If yes, that’s a good point for your readers! []
  2. and I’ve left in the typos for your inner editor to spot []
  3. who famously did not appreciate some of Smith’s trade rumors and so forth []
  4. almost like your humble blogger, but I do have my moments of clarity, ahem []

The Colonel vs FDR

The Chicago Tribune has been a Republican-leaning newspaper for what seems like forever. The Chicago Tribune has not previously endorsed a Democratic nominee for President, ever. However, they did endorse Barack Obama for president, quite strongly, in fact.

On Nov. 4 we’re going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States.

On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they’re uneasy about Obama. He’s pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

Happy 4th of July

As a companion piece, a bit of newspaper history:

The most famous was the long-running feud between Tribune publisher Col. Robert R. McCormick and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

McCormick complained bitterly that Roosevelt’s New Deal was a socialistic boondoggle that he feared would destroy Americans’ personal freedoms and rights. At one point, the Colonel, as he was known around the Tower, had a photo “cooked up to argue that soon the Social Security plot would have every working man tagged and numbered like a prisoner of war,” according to historian Frank C. Waldrop.

In the 1936 presidential campaign, McCormick instructed telephone operators at Tribune Tower to answer all calls with a declaration of how many days remained to “save the Republic” by turning Roosevelt out of office.

The feud was very personal. Once, reported historian Richard Norton Smith, McCormick showed a Tribune financial writer a headline clipped from another newspaper. The story was about a nationwide series of fund-raising balls for a polio foundation organized by FDR. The headline: “President’s Balls To Come Off Tonight.”

“I suppose,” sighed McCormick, “that is rather too much to hope for.”

FDR once said of McCormick: “I think he must be a little touched in the head.”

The high–or low–point, depending on your point of view: In 1942, a livid Roosevelt briefly contemplated sending the Marines to occupy Tribune Tower because of a report in the newspaper that naval officials feared would tip the Japanese that the U.S. had broken their military code. Goaded by an adviser, FDR also briefly pressed for a charge of treason against McCormick, knowing a conviction could bring the death sentence. An investigation later cleared the Tribune and two of its staffers of violating an espionage law.

[From Behind the scenes: ‘Was there shouting?’ ‘Who really decided?’ — chicagotribune.com]

Fascinating stuff. Perhaps Colonel McCormick paid closer attention to his hemp farms than we know…

Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking

Good for them, at least ten years late, but better late then never.

NBC hopes to benefit from the same user behavior. Beginning with its Chicago affiliate, WMAQ, on Monday, the company will turn its TV station Web sites into full-fledged city guides. John P. Wallace, the president of NBC’s local media division, said the partnerships with content providers and the links to third-party sites will “tap into our communities much deeper than we have been able to historically.”

“It’s a change in mindset,” he said. “We’re looking at the fragmented local market and saying, ‘We’re going to provide a destination where you can come and search across different segments.’ ”

Brian Buchwald, the division’s senior vice president for local digital media and multiplatform, said the move amounts to an acknowledgment that local television stations must do more online than merely regurgitate their newscasts online. “We need to be a lot more than just TV stations if we’re going to be relevant,” he said.

NBC’s local media operation has hired about 55 people to create original content and filter the Web. A test version of the Chicago site last week linked to The Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, TMZ and the local blog Chicagoist. The sites do not distinguish between the articles written by their own staff members and the links to outside sites.

“If we can provide them great content, that’s wonderful. If it comes from somebody else, that’s fine, too,” Mr. Buchwald said.

As simple as that sounds, it represents an attitude shift. While linking to other sources is not a new occurrence by any means, it can still seem misguided to journalists who work vigorously to break a story ahead of other news outlets.

Mr. Karp believes the use of blogs by news organizations has helped newsroom managers accept that filtering the Web for visitors is a valuable editorial function. For bloggers, linking to original reporting, primary sources and discussions about stories is a form of etiquette, assigning credit to others who have written about a topic.

[From Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites – NYTimes.com]

Now, if only the Chicago Tribune would start to use permalinks, and open up their archive to articles from their long history. Even if it is only for subscribers, like Harpers, The Nation, and The New York Times (and others) do.