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  • Opinion: Why it’s so disappointing that j-schools are panicking over Ebola

    In the last week, we’ve learned that three U.S. universities have canceled invitations to journalists due to fears about Ebola:

    • Syracuse University rescinded an invitation to Washington Post photographer Michel du Cille because he had reported on the epidemic in Liberia, and even though he’d been home longer than the 21-day self-monitoring period and had no symptoms, “there have been questions raised about whether the incubation period is longer,” Lorraine Branham, the dean of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, told Donald R. Winslow of News Photographer magazine.
    • The University of Georgia rescinded an invitation to Liberian journalist Wade C.L. Williams, who was due to speak at the university’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “It just became abundantly clear we had a risk scenario and a situation on our hands that was a little more sensitive issue,” Grady College Dean Charles N. Davis told Brad Schrade of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
    • The University of South Florida at St. Petersburg rescinded invitations to African journalists who are taking part in the U.S. State Department’s Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists. “We’ve cancelled out of upmost caution,” Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Han Reichgelt wrote in a letter to journalism-school faculty, students and staff.

    “Caution,” “questions,” “sensitive” — these are all apparently synonyms for willful disregard for facts, which is a curious fit for journalism schools, institutions that purportedly train people how to report what they know.

    Here’s something those schools could have gleaned from reading some journalism: Unless you’re in contact with infected individuals’ bodily fluids, you have almost no chance of getting Ebola. The virus could conceivably change its pattern of transmission, but as Joel Achenbach and Brady Dennis reported in The Washington Post Oct. 18, “such a major change in transmission has never been observed in a pathogen that already affects human beings.”

    Another fact that inconveniences panic: There have been three cases of Ebola in the U.S. so far. One of those people has died. By contrast, Max Fisher reports in Vox, 30 people die in America every year and more than 40,000 are injured from their furniture falling on them.

    Fearbola” has no place at journalism schools. There’s simply too much well-reported information available to justify these jelly-spined responses. Administrators at Newhouse, Grady and USF are teaching their students a dismal lesson: If they fear criticism — or possibly lawsuits — they should back off, facts be damned.

    Two-thirds of Americans say they are concerned about an Ebola outbreak, according to a Washington Post poll last week. Journalism schools should be training their students to battle such perceptions (seriously, you’re probably going to die from heart disease or cancer). Which is why it’s so disappointing to see them leading in the opposite direction.

    Related: “In canceling African journalists’ program, fear trumps reason” (Tampa Bay Times) | When covering Ebola, “reports that lead to more questions than answers may also lead to harm.” (SPJ)

    Read more
  • Gannett gives employees an extra paid day off

    Most Gannett employees will get Dec. 26 off, President and CEO Gracia Martore tells employees in a memo. Anyone who has to work that day — “because as we all know, the news never sleeps,” she writes — can plan another day off before the year ends.

    Martore also gives some details about what divisions will stay with each company as Gannett plans to split its publishing and broadcast businesses. Gannett Digital will stay with the publishing company, as will IT and its national sales division.

    Likewise, HR will be part of the broadcast company and will provide shared services to the publishing company. Each company will have its own legal and communications teams, among others. The split, Martore writes, should occur “in mid-2015.”

    Here’s the memo:

    Dear Colleagues:

    I wanted to share some news in case you missed today’s employee Town Hall meeting.

    The holiday season is fast approaching and I want to thank you for all you have done to help this company grow and thrive. The past three years have been fast-paced and exceptional as we continue to transform the company’s business and chart a new course. Without your hard work,
    this company would not be in the terrific condition it is today.

    Because of this, I want to give everyone a special holiday surprise: This year, the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, will be a paid day off —
    a companywide holiday.

    Of course there will be some of you who, like on any other holiday, will work that day because as we all know, the news never sleeps, or
    takes a vacation for that matter.

    For those of you who are called upon to work that day, please coordinate with your managers and plan another day off before the end
    of the year. Every employee has earned this extra day off and your willingness to work on Dec. 26 is deeply appreciated.

    Best wishes to all and thank you for helping to steer a strong course for our company and for your efforts in support of this journey of
    transformation. I wish you and your families a very safe and joyous upcoming holiday season.

    Meanwhile, on a different note, we are taking positive steps toward what we initially announced in August: the creation of two publicly
    traded companies, one exclusively focused on our Broadcasting and Digital businesses, and the other on our Publishing business and its
    dynamic digital assets.

    This is — and will be — a long and complicated process as there are literally thousands of decisions, large and small, to be made as we go
    down this road.

    One of our initial considerations has been determining where the many parts of the business would be located — in other words — which group
    goes with which company. And while we do not have all of the answers today, I want to share with you some of the preliminary decisions we
    have made.

    Obviously — the vast majority of you already know which company you will be going with — USCP, USA TODAY and Newsquest employees will go
    with Publishing. Broadcasting and Digital Ventures employees will go with the Broadcasting and Digital company.

    However, there are other groups that provide services across divisions. Some of the preliminary decisions on where those groups
    will be housed have been made and I wanted to share that information with you.

    As mentioned earlier, Digital Ventures, including G/O Digital, will stay with the Broadcasting and Digital company. G/O Digital will be a
    shared service, providing its products to both companies. In addition, Cars.com will continue to offer its portfolio to the Publishing
    company through affiliation agreements. Pointroll will transition to Digital Ventures over the coming months and will become part of the
    Broadcasting and Digital company.

    Gannett Digital will be a part of the Publishing company, where the majority of its clients are. The digital team will continue to provide
    top notch products and services to Broadcasting and Digital Ventures. Over the next several months, we will be working to ensure that the
    Broadcasting and Digital company has the appropriate digital expertise on staff as well.

    National Sales will be housed in Publishing at separation, given it does the lion’s share of work for them but we will continue to look at
    opportunities, even after the separation, to leverage both companies’ scale and reach together.

    I.T. and Gannett Supply also will be a part of Publishing and provide shared services to the Broadcasting and Digital company.

    Labor Relations and HR will be a part of the Broadcasting and Digital company. They will provide shared services to the Publishing company.

    The Legal, Finance, Internal Audit, Investor Relations and Communications groups will be split between the two companies at the
    time of separation, as each company will need its own independent teams.

    I want to make it clear — I know we have the best people and corporate functions anywhere. In fact, supporting the two companies created by the separation will generate greater career opportunities for many of our current employees as we look at how to support both businesses.

    Of course, until the day of separation, we are ONE company. We need to continue to produce the outstanding, trusted content our consumers and
    communities expect from us; and we need to continue to support our clients by helping them grow their businesses with our strong products
    and services.

    So please keep up the terrific work you are doing today throughout this process — straight through to the separation, which we expect
    will occur in mid-2015.

    There are many more decisions to come and we will be sure to keep you updated.

    Warm regards,

    Gracia

    Read more
  • Gannett earnings strong, but publishing revenues continue a steep slide
    FILE - This July 14, 2010 file photo shows the Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va. Gannett Co. reported Overall company revenue growth of 15 percent. The media company said, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

    FILE – This July 14, 2010 file photo shows the Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va. Gannett Co. reported Overall company revenue growth of 15 percent. The media company said, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

    Embedded in otherwise excellent third quarter financial results reported today by Gannett are some sobering numbers on the continuing decline of revenues for its newspaper division.

    U.S publishing ad revenues year-to-date are down 6.3 percent. At Gannett, that difference is more than made up by booming broadcast operations and freestanding digital ventures like CareerBuilder.  So revenues for the entire company are up a healthy 13.4 percent.

    But I also consider USA Today and Gannett’s 81 community newspapers a reasonable proxy for the entire newspaper industry, which has stopped reporting its financial results quarterly.  If the rest of the year is roughly in line, newspapers are on track again in 2014 to lose $1 billion-plus in advertising.

    That’s against a 2013 base of $17.30 billion industrywide in daily print advertising or $23.57 billion including all form of advertising, according to estimates by the Newspaper Association of America.

    Gannett’s advertising decline to date (-6.3 percent) roughly matches the industry rate in 2013 (-6.5 percent).  So 2014 is proving no better than 2013.  Recent waves of staff cuts as companies budget for 2015 suggest that revenue growth is not expected next year either.

    At Gannett (and probably most U.S. papers) circulation revenues were up slightly for the quarter and holding even for the year. The papers are now cycling past one-time revenue gains of roughly 5 percent in both 2012 and 2013 from introduction of paywalls and price increases for print and print + digital subscriptions.

    Digital advertising is increasing, mostly at USA Today, but not nearly enough to offset the print losses.  And the continued growth of digital marketing services, sold to local businesses, is another plus.

    In an earnings conference call, CEO Gracia Martore said another bright spot for the company has been the introduction of a section of USA Today news at its 35 largest papers.  Surveys show a positive reader response, she said, in some cities justifying another round of subscription price increases.

    There is an echo of that strategy throughout the industry.  This weekend both The New York Times and Washington Post introduced print supplements which regional papers can include in their Sunday editions.  The Post had earlier made a free subscription to its digital report available to digital subscribers of partnering regional papers.

    This arrangement allows papers to focus on their local news report, while offering subscribers, especially the older demographic that prefers print, a fuller report of national and international news, as was standard in better financial times.

    Gannett’s broadcast revenues are up 97.2 percent year-to-date in large part because the operation is much larger after acquisition of Belo’s 20 stations. Retransmission fees paid by cable systems to local stations continue strong, up 61 percent for the quarter.

    And political advertising is booming beyond expectations.  At the company’s Denver station — where Colorado has both a competitive governor’s and U.S. Senate race — this year’s revenues are even outpacing those of 2012, a presidential year, said Martore.

    The different trajectories of broadcast and print have prompted Gannett to plan splitting those operations into two companies, a spinoff Martore said should be completed by mid-2015.

    News Corp., Media General, Tribune and the Washington Post (now Graham Holdings) have already completed such a split and Scripps and Journal Communications plan one as part of a merger.

    Other public newspaper companies, New York Times, McClatchy and Lee, do not own TV stations. So, soon there will be no combined print and broadcast operations among public companies, and some larger private companies like Hearst have separated TV and newspaper divisions as well.

    In theory the print-only companies will benefit from management focused exclusively on their digital transformation, audience and advertising issues.  And they won’t be competing internally with fast-growing broadcast for capital.

    All that, however, leaves the big question lingering — can the companies slow the print advertising losses, generate enough digital ad growth, increase circulation revenue and bring in enough income from new ventures to make up the difference.

    Read more

Laura Hand Wright

WSTM-TV

Laura Hand is probably best-known as the news anchor on WSTM-TV's "Action News at Noon," but she has many other jobs at the station -- and has taken on many roles in community organizations as well.
Laura got into news broadcasting while studying at Syracuse University. In the 1969-70 school year, she served as news director for WAER-FM. She spent the following summer as editor of "Report to the Middle East" at the Voice of America in Washington. After receiving a degree in journalism and political science in 1971, she joined WFBL radio as a news reporter for two years.

In 1972, Laura switched to television, joining WSYR-TV (now WSTM-TV) Channel 3 as a reporter. She's been there ever since -- mostly in news. She not only anchors Channel 3’s noon newscast, but also puts the program together every day. She also hosts and produces "Our Community" each Sunday, produces and writes the community calendar feature "3 in Touch," and is the web content manager for CNY Entertainment on wstm.com. Until a few years ago, Laura was the early morning news anchor and producer/anchor for public affairs documentaries.

Since January 1993, she added the position of community relations director to her resume. In that role, her responsibilities include developing campaigns to increase Channel 3's visibility in the community, producing and tracking public service announcements, and involving members of the station staff in community activities.

When it comes to community activities, Laura could be the role model for involvement. She is vice chair of the Salvation Army’s Advisory Board, working on marketing and annual resource development. She initiated the annual Tree of Lights gift program during the Christmas holidays, and expanded the Salvation Army's Dome Day food donation program.

She is also on the Northeast Community Center’s board of directors and serves on Syracuse’s Weed & Seed steering committee. And if all of this isn't enough, she finds time to read to school children and emcee community events.

Over the years, Laura has served with the "Hope for the Bereaved" advisory board, where she helped establish the Butterfly Garden of Hope on Onondaga Lake Parkway; the Mental Health Association Task Force on Children and Adolescents; Metropolitan Commission on Aging outreach project; American Lung Association CNY Chapter Board; Syracuse organizing committee, National Senior Sports Classic, Syracuse Press Club board; and a number of SU organizations including the Newhouse School Alumni Association board.

All of these activities have won Laura a large number of awards. Among them, she was named an SU Outstanding Alumna in 1992; She received the Marguerite Higgins Journalism Prize for Gulf War coverage; a National Merit Award from the Community Action Network for the "Feed the Hungry" campaign in 1994; three awards from the Associated Press and 10 from the Syracuse Press Club, including two SPC Professional Standards awards. Laura is listed in "Who’s Who of American Women."
--Joseph A. Porcello
Last Updated ( Monday, 17 November 2008 01:24 )
 
"It’s all storytelling, you know. That’s what journalism is all about."
--Tom Brokaw, NBC News

Wall of Distinction


Carl Eilenberg

WNYS-TV (Ch. 9)

Rome Observer

Mayor of Rome, N.Y.

Carl Eilenberg has had a number of careers but, as he says, "I?ve never stopped being a broadcaster and sports-guy."
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