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Journalism cuts are serious business


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The never-ending reductions in newsrooms just keep piling up. The latest victims, though, are not reporters on the front lines of journalism or in the support areas in circulation or advertising that keep spiraling into a sea of red ink but rather the top decision makers at two of the more high-profile community news organizations in the state.

GateHouse Media, which owns six dailies and more than 100 weeklies in Massachusetts, eliminated two publishers position, including that of Greg Reibman, who oversaw the Metro unit that includes all the company’s weekly newspapers in the Boston area, reports Dan Kennedy at Media Nation.  Kennedy says the other publisher who was let go is Mark Skala, who was in charge of GateHouse’s South division, which includes the lower part of the South Shore and the Cape.

The moves were announced to the troops by GateHouse New England’s president and CEO Rick Daniels, who made his bones in the business as the one-time president of the Boston Globe before he was let go in a reshuffling as the current decline in the news business began.

Daniels said all the right things, balancing the company’s needs to streamline operations with praise for Reibman, who first started in the organization when the Boston Herald owned Community Newspaper Company. He announced Reibman’s responsibilities would be spread out between two MetroWest Daily News veterans, an action that is not that unheard of anymore as managers and editors in the news business take on roles that seem to be unrelated to their current posts.

The announcement comes in the midst of “Project Apple,” GateHouse’s latest initiative to save itself using Apple Computer’s turnaround as its template. GateHouse’s CEO Mike Reed sent out an update to all GateHouse employees this week that puts the problem – and the challenge – in perspective.

“We need to recognize that newspapers may be a product in declining popularity and readership, but content is not and never will be,” Reed wrote. “We need to become more than a newspaper company—we must become a content company.”

What’s interesting is Reibman’s forte was in social media, creating collaborative relationships with other media and advancing the company’s footprint on the Web. In fact, Reibman’s other title was Vice President of Content Development and Partnerships for the New England region, the largest region in holdings and circulation for the GateHouse chain.

Layoffs, no matter where they come from, are no longer shockers to those of us in the industry. While there may be a few raised eyebrows here and there – such as the New York Daily News recent cuts that included Bob Kappstatter, the paper’s 43-year veteran police reporter – we shake our heads and move on.

There is a website popular with those who keep score called Paper Cuts, which tries to keep a running tally of layoffs and buyouts around the country. So far this year, it has tracked more than 3,700 jobs lost in the industry, jobs that will likely never be recovered. For our 15th anniversary, CommonWealth takes measure of the state of journalism here and nationwide. It’s not an encouraging picture.

Which all in all makes our gala fundraising event tonight at the Kennedy Library, “Serious Fun,” even more timely and poignant. While the point is to have some laughs and bring some bonhomie to the normally adversarial relationship between reporters and politicians, the goal is to raise money for CommonWealth’s nonprofit journalism model, a rising mode of delivering quality journalism to try to fill in the deepening chasm left as traditional media retrenches, and provide scholarships for the next generation of journalists.

It will be “serious fun” but there will also be a tinge of gallows humor to it. That’s the state of the news business. As the old saying goes, if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry.

                                                                                                            --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Senate President Therese Murray met with the Cape Cod Times editorial board to talk casinos and other issues.

Three more state district courts plan to reduce their counter and phone hours to compensate for staff shortages, bringing the total courts affected to 41, the Lowell Sun reports.

The Berkshire Eagle says the congressional redistricting plan was the “best west could get” but worries that the concerns of metro Springfield and other more urban areas will drown out rural voices.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Globe reports that the FBI is now part of the investigation of finances at the Chelsea Housing Authority, where former director Michael McLaughlin was pulling down nearly as much as the president of the United States.

CommonWealth reports on a Boston Foundation study that finds the disparity between rich and poor is greater in Suffolk County than almost anywhere else in the country. For a broader treatment of the subject, read CW’s story on inequality in its American Dream (make that Scream) issue.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot: Quincy officials are planning to cut down an elm tree more than 100 years old over residents’ objections to build a parking lot for the new Central Middle School.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian is giving the state a $148,000 boat his predecessor, James DiPaola, purchased with a federal grant, the Lowell Sun reports.

A years-long saga over where to site a school track in Quincy is finally over after the School Committee voted 4-3 in favor of Mayor Thomas Koch’s plan to build it near the new high school.

Wrangling continues between Ayer, Harvard, and Shirley over political oversight of Devens, the Lowell Sun reports.

Salem City Council votes 8-0 to pursue $600,000 in savings through the new municipal health care reform law, the Salem News reports.

The Boston Herald asks whether Ayanna Pressley’s ticket-topping performance for Boston City Council makes her a front-running mayoral contender. Peter Gelzinis, who’s been critical of Pressley’s work ethic and political organization, offers a rebuttal. The Bay State Banner focuses on Pressley’s triumph.

The Globe profiles Holyoke’s new 22-year-old mayor, Alex Morse.

Low turnout surprised and disappointed officials in Worcester, the Telegram reports. Stephen Eide predicted it in CommonWealth last week.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Check out Time’s celebrity panel offering choices for 2011 Person of the Year. Several of the panelists focus on the Arab spring movement, but Chef Mario Batali picks bankers, who he compares to Stalin and Hitler, and Anita Hill backs Elizabeth Warren.

Amazon.com endorses a US Senate plan that would allow states to compel online retailers to collect sales taxes on their behalf, the Seattle Times reports.

The Dover Air Force Base mortuary for years disposed of troops’ remains by cremating them and dumping the ashes in a landfill, the Washington Post reports.

Is the supercommitee doomed?

Jefferson County, Alabama, files the country’s largest municipal bankruptcy. The county was done in by a bad sewer deal. Rolling Stone had a long article about the troubled county earlier this year.

ELECTION 2012

Elizabeth Warren may have her sights set on Sen. Scott Brown but Jon Keller says some of her budget stances put her at odds with Sen. John Kerry as well. David Bernstein sees a pair of cautionary lessons for Brown in Tuesday’s elections. Warren makes her case in Lynn, the Item reports.

State Rep. Vinnie deMacedo of Plymouth is the latest Republican to close the door on a run for the new 9th Congressional District but Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter says he may take on his fellow Democrat US Rep. William Keating in the primary.

The state GOP wants a probe into US Rep. John Tierney after a witness in the racketeering trial of Tierney’s brother-in-law reveals that Tierney and his wife once visited an Antigua gambling office.

Oops! Rick Perry has a “Who am I, why am I here?” moment at last night’s GOP debate, when he can’t remember the three federal agencies he wants to eliminate. The Atlantic wonders whether this is the end of Governor Good Hair. The Daily Beast analyzes the Republican presidential debate and Perry’s latest gaffe.             

Herman Cain’s lawyer issues a warning to would-be sexual harassment accusers. At the National Review, Thomas Sowell says the real scandal is the law that encourages “frivolous” lawsuits and forces settlements over unproven accusations.

In his Wall Street Journal op-ed column, Karl Rove puts a sunny face on this week’s election results.

John McCain predicts the rise of a third party, to which one can only ask, “When?”

Keep hope alive: Democrats are pointing to Ohio election results, as voters there rolled back  collective bargaining curbs, and see a bright light at the end of the 2012 tunnel.  But if the Tea Party movement is down, it’s not out.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Bank of America scraps another customer fee plan that would likely have cast the bank in a less-than-flattering light .

EDUCATION

The Occupy movement parks its tents in Harvard Yard.  

A new report from The Boston Foundation says most of the 34 low-performing schools that received overhauls as part of the 2010 state education reform law showed achievement gains on the most recent MCAS tests, with more than one-third of them showing substantial improvement.

Former Methuen school business manager Joseph Salvo pleads guilty to stealing $38,000 worth of gear from the district and stands to lose a nearly $4,000 a month state pension, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Kenneth Feinberg, the Brockton native who served as special master in determining compensation for families of victims in the 2001 terrorist attacks, will donate his papers from his meetings and interviews to his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

HEALTH CARE

Steward Health Care System has wooed 150 doctors into its network from the Beth Israel Deaconess system, but lawyers for BI are charging that the generous offers Steward made may constitute illegal kickbacks.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA settles a lawsuit and accepts an $85 million loss on defective concrete railroad ties, CommonWealth reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Attorney General Martha Coakley pins the cost to ratepayers of the Patrick administration’s green energy agenda at $1 billion per year for the next four years. CommonWealth’s report includes the full text of the AG’s speech.

The Worcester Business Journal looks at the prospects for the solar industry in central Massachusetts and spotlights the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, which will be getting most of its power from solar energy by next year.

A developer unexpectedly withdraws plans for an Amesbury solar farm.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A veteran Lynn policeman is sentenced to 90 days in jail for witness intimidation, the Item reports.

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