Thursday, July 31, 2008

Zell Hell Makes Bloggers All A-Quiver

I'm a miserable bastard. I spend most nights at home, swilling coffee and assailing poor newspapers editors, reporters, and local politicians with snotty emails. Unfortunately, most of my instructive missives are intercepted by the devil, the Mailer-Daemon.

That's why I blog.

Naturally, I would be ecstatic to see one of my epistles shared in the print media. In fact, I often send blog entries to both local papers. I modestly call them "pearls of wisdom." I've even included a few publicity photos and a brief adult video.

Unfortunately, that bastard, The Mailer-Daemon, blocks almost all of them.

Until now.

The Mourning Call has fallen on hard times. Sure, the paper still makes money for the Zellions, but a twelve per cent profit is not enough. No siree! The Zellions want more. Money, money, money!

It now costs more money to buy a frickin' obit than to pay for a funeral limo. If it's a Sunday obit, make that two limos. A classified ad for an apartment costs more than you'll see in rent.

So does the paper reduce advertise rates? Nah. Instead, it shoots itself in the head. First, it raises newsstand prices. Then it rids itself of the very writers who prompt us to read the paper in the first place. This is why places like the Bethlehem Steel closed down. Poor management and decision making from the top.

Management at the paper is so cowardly they just let their fingers do the walking, phone-firing on a Sunday night. One reporter spent the entire day sweating it out at Eagles Training camp, filed his work for the following day, and was promptly fired at 7:30 p.m.

To make it impossible to congratulate those who survived the Sunday Night Slaughter, editors have even removed their "contact us" feature on the mcall webpage. All that remains is a contact for "internships."

Amazingly, the editorial board still insists the "welcome mat" is out there. "Our contact information is on these pages every day, and it also is in the Opinion section of mcall.com on the Internet."

Ummm, bullshit.

In an effort to make do with less, the paper has watered down its opinion page, now called "Lehigh Valley Town Square." I'll refrain from passing judgment, but early signs are bad.

Every Tuesday, the paper will now be saluting two local blogs. Michael Molovinsky and Michael Donovan are the first local bloggers to see their posts in print. That shocked the hell out of Donavan. You see, no one had cleared it with him in advance. He woke up to see an entire blog post on The Morning Call opinion page. Edited, too! Donovan complains, "I found it strange that I was not given the courtesy of notification for its potential use, nor was I given the right to review edits that they made from the original."

Picky, picky.

Obviously, the paper screwed up. Shocker, eh? I don't think that will happen again.

Kinky Paprika is a Lehigh Valley blogger who does not want The Mourning Call publishing his blogs. Kinky is afraid it could hurt his credibility. So he decided to "start lacing every single post with liberal lashings of the F-word, just to dissuade the powers that be from considering me for the "honour" of a Valley Blogosphere appearance."

Sounds like a plan.

Bill Villa tells me, back channel, that Blogger Tuesday is really just another diabolical plot to quash all blog dissent. "The Morning Call has Molovinsky, Donovan, you, and who knows which other local bloggers just absolutely a-quiver at the prospect of being selected (such an honor) for blog linkage at The Morning Call Forum, formerly known as a cesspool of racism and hate. Ironic, isn't it? Why is everyone a-quiver? More readers, baby. And a chance at being a celebrity like Bill White."

I resent that. ... Wait, do you really think I could be a celebrity like Bill White?

Actually, I think Blogger Tuesday has great potential, although Villa's concerns are legitimate. The MSM is giving us a weekly forum to vent views that they've normally suppressed. Are we playing right into their fiendishly evil plans? Will we be less likely to crticize? I don't know, but I am all a-quiver.

Here's what I did. First, I told Michael and Michael what a frickin' great honor it was to see their blogs in print. Then I immediately called the paper to complain. I couldn't email because the contact list is gone. After rotating through several people from Sri Lanka and the Phillipines, I eventually got someone who works at the paper.

"Listen, my stuff is way better than some year-old post about a graveyard or some dinky essay about being lucky. I even know how to do graphs. Do you know how hard that is in HTML? I went to college, damn it!"

I'm told they're going in alphabetical order. I think I'm next.

I'm all a-quiver.

44 comments:

Bill Villa said...

Hi Bernie, last night in your "Mourning The Morning Call" post, you promised a "discussion" in today's post (presumably this one) regarding your Tuesday conversation with The Morning Call's Editorial & Opinions VP, Glenn Kranzley. Maintaining the highest degree of mutual respect, you were going to find out for us how and why The Morning Call reprinted an entry from Michael Donovan's "Inclusion" blog at The Morning Call Forum without notifying him prior. TMC also edited Mr. Donovan's work without his permission. As you pointed out yesterday in a blog comment, this was "soooo wrong," i.e., not a very graceful way for TMC to handle its usage of Mr. Donovan's work. Did you ask Mr. Kranzley if there is a policy now in place regarding future MC usages of local blog content? I do see you stating that what happened to Mr. Donovan "won't happen again" ... you don't think. Did Mr. Kranzley outline an MC policy that is now in place to ensure it won't happen again? And could you share that policy with us? I guess I'm just looking for more of a "discussion" on this issue, and what Mr. Kranzley had to say to you on the subject, as you promised last night. I agree with you totally that how TMC handled Donovan's work (and Michael Molovinsky's; I know they didn't give him notification of their usage of his blog entry either) was "soooo wrong." Thanks, B!

Bill Villa said...

... and please don't think I didn't enjoy the side-splitting hilarity of the other 99.9% of this post, I did!

Bernie O'Hare said...

What you're really looking for is a denunciation of Glenn Kranzley. I'm not willing to give you one. I'm willing to denounce the paper. I'm willing to denounce management, but don't consider K one of the management forces. I consider him one of the forces deciding editorial policy, but not the person making the calls. I don't think anyone would be laid off at all if it were up to him, but it's not.

When someone makes a mistake and openly admits it, there's not much else to say. I never said I was going to announce a new policy or anything of that sort.

Mr. Donovan stated he will address this issue on his blog. Since he is the person who actually "suffered," he is the best one to speak out.

Kranzley also offered to send me a few paragraphs on the changes in place. I took him up on that offer. If I get them, I will post them.

Your point concerning the danger of being swallowed by the MSM is legit. But most of us who blog do so bc we look at lots of things a little differently. Whatever appeal we have is because of that difference. If we lose that difference, then people lose the reason to read us.

Bill Villa said...

Wow ...

Arlene Martinez said...

Hi, Bernie:
Just an FYI, as I noticed the staff listings were gone (online anyway, they're still on A-2 of the print copy). Here's the main newsroom number: 610-820-6566.
And e-mail is news@mcall.com

The e-mail addresses for reporters is firstname.lastname@mcall.com

Bill Villa said...

"What you're really looking for is a denunciation of Glenn Kranzley."

Bernie, there's a whole lot of room between the two extremes of "denunciation" and "not laying a glove on the guy."

When someone in the public eye (politician, newspaper VP) "screws up," some appropriate degree of criticism heat is warranted.

Here's my concern: Glenn Kranzley and The Morning Call won't lay a glove on DA Jim Martin. You (and The Express-Times, and Channel 69 News) won't lay a glove on Glenn Kranzley and The Morning. Or Jim Martin.

And I'm not talking denunciation/crucifixion/tar & feathers, "everybody's gotta be as foaming at the mouth as I am."

I'm talking >>> will not lay a glove on.

This makes for a curiously closed and seemingly impenetrable loop for the truth to punch through.

Would you deem this point legit?

hayshaker said...

So, I'm confused. Did the MC pre-arrange with the local bloggers that this was happening? Did the MC contact you specifically. You write:

The MSM is giving us a weekly forum to vent views that they've normally suppressed.

So you get to pick and choose what gets printed on the OPED page? It's not just someone at the MC who goes around picking and choosing which material to use at no cost?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Arlene Martinez,

Thanx for your comment and congrats on surviving the Sunday Night Slaughter. I'm sure you can't be feeling great right now, but I appreciate you comeing here. Here's a few points.

1) Staff listings are not listed on page A-2, at least not in the editions sold to the public. What is listed is an abbreviated listing of some names and departments.

2) The main number listed on A-2 is a joke. I just tried it again. In fact, I tried two of the numbers. One was a recording listing 8,963 options and the other was another recording telling me everyone is busy.

3) The online contact feature that was removed from your paper contained an email addy and phone # for every reporter. Back when you covered Nazareth I would use that if I needed to hear your pleasant voice. It was useful bc a reporter's byline, containing that contact info, does not appear every day. If the paper is interested in what readers think, it should restore that online feature.

4) As far as the email addresses for individual reporters being set up that way, I thank you for filling us in. I never knew that, but probably should have known. I also thank you for the main newsroom number, which I have not tried. If it connects me w/ someone in Cambodia, I'm gonna' pass out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hayshaker,

1) The MC made no pre-arrangements with the local bloggers, although MM states he give implied consent to the use of his blog.

2) The MC did not contact me specifically. The Blogger Tuesday feature is something the paper itself announced when it unveiled its new editorial format. In MM's case, the paper reported a story about a neglected graveyard. He had been trying, unsuccessfully, to have the paper write about that for over a year. When the MSM posted his blog, it aired a view that had not been shared before.

3) The paper picks and chooses. So far as I know, there is no remuneration, just as there is no remuneration for a LTE or op-ed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill Villa,

Would you deem this point legit?

If I did, I'd be writing about it. I don't think anyone - excepting you - who reads this blog post, will walk away concluding that I failed to lay a glove on the MC.

As far as DA Martin is concerned, this post has nothing to do w/ him.

Pamela Varkony said...

Bernie,

I'd like to add my own experience to this discussion...

As someone who interacted with Glenn Kranzley, on a regular basis, as the editor of my columns, I realize my experience may not be that of the other bloggers.

I was consulted about having my blog included in the 15 or so that have been chosen to go to print. I don't want to speak for you, Bernie, but I believe you were also made aware that Ramblings was going to be part of the mix...I thought you and I even had a conversation about it. Please correct me if that is not your recollection.

Where I see an issue, particularly for the other bloggers, is in the editing. Blogging is a very personal form of "journalism" that does not lend itself to editing like a formally written piece.

Having worked with Glenn over the past six and a half years, I happen to be comfortable with him editing whatever blog post of mine is chosen for print, but I can certainly understand how others would not be.

The blog feature on the new Opinion Page is obviously a work in progress and will require honest communication by both sides.

As for Hayshaker's concern that the paper is getting content for free; that is true, however I'm already putting time and energy into "Perspectives" for free, which is a fraction of the effort Bernie invests in "Ramblings", so I'm pleased to have someone give one of my posts a wider audience, as with the story by MM about the graveyard: 100,000 people saw that story that would not have because it was in the paper.

Bill Villa said...

"I'm willing to denounce the paper."

That's easy. Who's "the paper?" Where's his office?

"I'm willing to denounce management"

Again, too easy. You've mentioned MC Managing Editor Dave Erdman like once. But you never link him to any of the many specific sins you name-check in today's and other posts on TMC. Ditto Glenn Kranzley.

And we know what a good digger and finder of things you are, Bernie.

What's wrong with "calling in on the carpet" of public opinion, those individuals at TMC who are personally responsible for the many many things about TMC that bother so many people?

John Micek said...

While I can't provide an explanation for why the staff contact page has been removed (I suspect temporarily) from the Web page, I will hazard a guess:

As you've correctly noted, we have a few less staff members than we had previously. And if I had to speculate, I would probably say they're editing it to reflect our newly thinned ranks.

While it's a truism that anyone can find conspiracies if they look hard enough, I would humbly submit that you're barking up the wrong tree here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pam, You are right. You and i were generally ware that we were going to be included among the blogs being featured from time to time. We discusssed that.

But I certainly had no pre-arrangments w/ the MC.

We were unaware what specific blogs were being featured on Tuesday. And at least one of the featured bloggers was himself unaware, the result of an oversight.

Overall, I think it a good thing. It does present the danger Villa mentions, but I'm too ornery to change now, even if I wanted to do so.

Bill Villa said...

Bernie, or Pam, or Glenn, could someone please provide The List of the Selected A-Quivering Local Blogger Forum Linkage Honorees?

Bernie O'Hare said...

While it's a truism that anyone can find conspiracies if they look hard enough, I would humbly submit that you're barking up the wrong tree here.

John,

As with Arlene, congrats to you on surviving the Sunday Night Slaughter. Like Arlene, I know you can't be too happy right now.

I have some understanding of HTML and web pages. I can make a graph on HTML, damn it! Can you? Didn't think so.

The idea that the online contacts would be gone for 4 days so that you can whittle down the 40 or so names that are no longer there, is just ridiculous. That would take about 5 minutes.

Having said that, I have barked up the wrong tree many times.

Here's a suggestion. Rather than advancing possibilities that cast your employer in a favorable light, why not tell us what the hell happened? Is it down temporarily? If so, then say so.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill Villa,

The only blogs I know of are mine and Pam's. That's the result of a telephone conversation I had with her.

Pamela Varkony said...

Bernie,

I was very surprised the other day to read in "Ramblings" that the other bloggers had no knowledge that their blogs would appear in print, and am now equally surprised to learn that you did not know it was imminent. That should not have happened.

I don't want to be in a position of making excuses for a situation in which I am not directly involved and over which I have no control, however I will say, one can only imagine the chaos that was The Morning Call offices for the past week or so: Some things were destined to fall through the cracks.

Bill, I am not privy to the blogger list so aside from Bernie and me and the two that have already appeared, I don't know who else is included.

Bill Villa said...

"John ... Rather than advancing possibilities that cast your employer in a favorable light, why not tell us what the hell happened?"

Ooh, uppercut ... CONNECTS!!!

Hey. I am liking the New ("Give The Morning Call Some Real Hell), Bernie!

Bill Villa said...

"Call Them In On The Carpet of Public Opinion."

This is easily as good as "a-quiver," if I must say so myself ...

Bill Villa said...

Did You Know ...

As recently as last week, and for a good number of years, Glenn G. Kranzley was listed #3 on The Morning Call masthead. Only VP Ardith Hilliard and Tim Kennedy (Head Honcho) were above him. Check page A-2 of today's "newspaper." POOF. Kranzley's name isn't on the masthead anywhere anymore. Was Mr. Kranzley demoted? Was that a typo that went unnoticed all those years? Or ... has Kranzley merely gone incognito, framing the agendas, and gate-keeping the opinions, in a private (and sinister) lair somewhere. Hmm ... where's that new Watchdog Reporter, maybe I'll ask him ...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ooh, uppercut ... CONNECTS!!!

Bill Villa,

Listen, I made a point with John. It was not intended as an uppercut or anything like that. I like and respect him.

And that's where you go wrong. You want to personalize everything and are hijacking this thread. We already know what you think. Please give others a chance to share their views.

John L. Micek said...

Bernie:
Not that it matters, but I can code in HTML.

In all seriousness, I offered you a possible explanation for the absence of the contact page.

I also operated from the hope that you would accept the possibility that the newspaper was coming from an honorable place and not conspiring to shut off access to our readers.

You chose not to accept it. That's your decision.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Is the newspaper coming from an honorable place? That is very much the question, John. Is it honorable to phone fire staff members? On a Sunday night? Is it honorable to charge the families of loved ones more money to ruin an obit than it costs to rent a limo? Is it honorable to see the loss of so much diversity (all the female op-ed columnists, coplumnists and editorial opinion writers are gone)?

I think it's very fair to ask why the paper has removed the online contact feature. It is very much a question of honor.

Anonymous said...

People are upset about lots of things besides the missing contact page. The paper is smaller, yet costs more. Important stories weren't being told before; how can a reduced staff tell them now?

Is the paper coming from an honorable place?

Anonymous said...

What people fail to mention is that with the smaller size of the paper and no reduction in ad rates, the Call has essentially pushed through a rate increase without their advertisers knowing. They are paying the same amount for less space. Pretty f'in sneaky, but that's how the MC works.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually offended if the Morning Call would simply usurp a bloggers work for inclusion in their newspaper. I never copy a full Morning Call article, but sometimes quote it for disucssion, which is fair use. I'm not opposed to person's usurping my work, so long as the credit is provided, and the work is not used for a commercial purpose. Having the Call simply print a bloggers work to sell their newspaper, while at the same time, laying off its own staff, is truly unbelievable. Do I understand the situation correctly?
nlv

Bill Villa said...

"Please give others a chance to share their views."

O-kay ...

Arlene Martinez said...

Bernie:
The staff listings aren't online yet for a few reasons. First, because of the consolidation/closing of offices, who is going to work where is not completely solidified.
We've got some Quakertown and Lehighton folks in Allentown, Bethlehem folks headed to Allentown and Easton, Easton folks headed to Allentown and well, you get the idea.
Beats aren't completely solidified either and neither are our new seat assignments.
Hopefully, everything will be squared away by late next week. Hopefully.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Arlene M,

Thank you for explaining what happened to the online contacts and informing readers that it will be back soon.

A.J.C. said...

So while people are being relocated, thay have no e-mails and absolutely no way of being contacted? How is the newspaper connecting with the public to get stories for this week?

Who out there has ESP? (It is ESP, right?)

Bill Villa said...

"Call Them In On The Carpet of Public Opinion."

Let's tweak this (it's Ok, I'm in advertising, we do this all the time) ...

Let's have it read ...

"Call Them In On The Carpet of Public Scrutiny."

Yeah, that's much better. And we'll keep it a carpet and not a welcome mat.

Bill Villa said...

"We already know what you think."

The 10 Rules for Successful Advertising:

1. Repetition.
2. Repetition.
3. Repetition.
4. Repetition.
5. Repetition.
6. Repetition.
7. Repetition.
8. Repetition.
9. Repetition.
10. Repetition.

Anonymous said...

Ordinarily I would have jumped on on this posting, but I didn't because there was so much outright hostility...

Anger is a good thing, but when it degenerates into personal issues and hostility toward individuals then it loses its effectiveness. It's productive to focus on topics, it's not to attack. That also will marginalize or eliminate all the good that can come out of this effort.

Hoping tomorrow is a better day for us all.


The Banker

hayshaker said...

The idea that the online contacts would be gone for 4 days so that you can whittle down the 40 or so names that are no longer there, is just ridiculous. That would take about 5 minutes.

The person that edits that webpage is probably waiting on a final list of people and positions. Seems understandable to me.

Bill Villa said...

Point taken, Banker. And I've tried to do better in my comment this morning (see Glenn Kranzley visits LV Ramblings) regarding The Morning Call's new "Sounding Board" feature. Let us know what you think ...

Bill Villa said...

"Anger is a good thing, but when it degenerates into personal issues and hostility toward individuals then it loses its effectiveness." -The Banker

I agree. And while I'm not looking for any approval from you (or from anyone) regarding how I have chosen to handle some things, publicly, please consider this:

* My first born and only daughter was killed by the son of a partner in the local law firm that has represented The Morning Call for many years.

* Three of the four partners and many of the lawyers in this law firm have been regular and generous contributors to the Committee to Elect (and Reelect) Jim Martin, District Attorney-- which can be easily discerned via public records at Lehigh County Voter Registration.

* In a meeting I had with Jim Martin on August 15, 2006, the DA didn't even try to conceal his sympathy for, and support of, the homicidal drunk driver criminal defendant who killed my daughter-- and his family.

* To say that DA Jim Martin's subsequent prosecution of my daughter's killer was "un-enthusiastic" would be the understatement of the decade.

* To say that The Morning Call's coverage of Jim Martin's handling of the case was fair, and an accurate representation of all that went on that was newsworthy would be a lie.

* We beat Jim Martin. And The Morning Call. And that law firm. My daughter's killer didn't get the "weekend in jail and some house arrest" he was telling his friends was being arranged. He got 5.5 to 12 years in state prison. No thanks whatsoever to Jim Martin. It should have been 12.5 to 25 years, for the crime of third degree murder that he actually committed against my daughter, but that Jim Martin refused to charge him with.

* I want the public to know what Jim Martin and The Morning Call did, and tried to do, to a grieving family, so they don't team up and try it again against another grieving family.

* Unfortunately, while everybody's been banning and deleting and trying to ignore me, Jim Martin and The Morning Call teamed up on another DUI Homicide case fix in September 2007. On this one, they succeeded in screwing the DUI homicide victim's family out of justice, the night before trial.

In my shoes, Banker, maybe you would be handling things differently. Maybe better than I am. Maybe not as well.

But until you walk in my shoes ...

consider giving me a break.

And an attentive listen.

Thank you for your consideration.

bobguzzardi said...

First, to Bill Villa...your post about your daughter's killer comes across as matter of fact, righteous and clear and as a father of a daughter who worries about the DUI drivers, I have only support. I don't want to feel what you feel. Even thinking of what you are feeling is overwhelming.

bobguzzardi said...

To all This is an exciting exchange. There is no one like Bernie O'Hare in Southeast Penna and the Inquirer editorial staff is obtuse and snobbish and defensive, in my opinion.

I think the exposure that the Morning Call gives to the different point of view "eccentric", in the most positive sense, is all to its credit. In my view, the Morning Call editorializes and frames issues by omission and this new perspective corrects that.

Editing could be manipulative but it seems that Ms Varkony has had a positive experience. We can all benefit from editing and having read John Micek and knowing people who know him, I don't his integrity would allow to remain silent to any attempt to edit out meaning. What would be the point and as a blogger himself, I think he has sympathy for blogger mentality.

I found Bernie O'Hare to be useful and knowledgeable source. For example, his analysis of crime statistics in Allentown and Lehigh Valley is first rate, informative and without the dramatic vitriol sometimes seen in newspaper columnists.

If this government of the people, by the people and for the people is to survive, it requires citizen activists like you and free press like the Morning Call.

Bill Villa said...

"Even thinking of what you are feeling is overwhelming."

Well-said Bob, thank you.

FYI, based on my very up-close and personal interactions with DA Jim Martin and MC VP Glenn Kranzley, I believe very strongly (and maybe this comes across ;) that the Lehigh Valley would be much better off with Jim Martin and Glenn Kranzley both ousted off of their respective thrones.

That's my agenda.

Anonymous said...

Bill Villa, you have always had my absolute support - I have teenage daughters, and I can't imagine what you're going through, even without all the other crap. It is beyond horrible to even think it.

So please take this from the standpoint that I support you - you're running the risk of marginalizing yourself, and that's not good.

I wish I had a way to help you, or a better way to get your voice heard. Sadly I don't. I just wanted you to be aware of this, so that as you make your choices going forward, you are doing so knowing what may be in peoples' minds.

You are heard here, and I hope others hear you as well.

The Banker

PA progressive said...

If they, or anyone else wishes to syndicate my blog I'll be happy to discuss financial terms.

Bill Villa said...

"You're running the risk of marginalizing yourself, and that's not good."

Banker, thank you for your (other) words of support.

Whoever would draw the conclusion that I'm marginalizing myself, based on the things I've had to say, and the way I've said them, I'm not interested in their opinion anyway.

Anybody with a brain and a heart knows I'm right.

And I'm assuming you're one of those good people.

Thank you again for your continued support.

Janelle said...

The Morning Call’s wimpy style of crime reporting has to be one reason that many are not terribly saddened by its decline and possible demise.

In true MSM style-book reporting, The Morning Call feels its readers are far too delicate to be able to handle any clues to the ethnic and or racial identity of bank robbers, rapists, car-jackers and other criminal flotsam in the community. This does potential victims a grave injustice. If readers are lucky, however, they might get a description of the clothes worn by those committing the crimes...clothes which undoubtedly have been changed several times since the incident took place.

Such vagueness also turns up the heat on the forums – leading to speculation about the racial or ethnic make-up of the perpetrators. What ever happened to telling the WHOLE story? Are we so muzzled by political correctness that newspapers are censoring the news because it doesn’t happen to agree with “the way it makes things look”? Seems to me there is more to worry about than the “appearance of racism” – it is the “disappearance of truth”.