Wick Communications

New publisher, old responsibilities

In journalism on 5 Jan 2018 at 11:01 am
The following is the text of an email sent to Wick Communications publishers and the board of directors earlier this week.
Like the newspapers under the Wick Communications banner, the venerable New York Times is largely a family affair. If you think Wick newspapers have deep roots, consider that Adolph Ochs purchased the struggling big-city newspaper in 1896 — three years before the birth of Wick Founder Milton I. Wick. This week, the tradition continued when Ochs’ great-great-grandson took over for his father as publisher of the Times.

Upon that auspicious occasion, this week that new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, penned an open letter to customers of the world’s most important journalistic factory. It was a spirited and inspiring declaration that the industry standard-bearer would continue to lead the way. You can read it here. Wick CEO Francis Wick suggested that I might address it and that is why you are reading these words.

Sulzberger’s message is important to those of us in the trenches in places like New Iberia, La., and Montrose, Colo. We don’t cover a sprawling metropolis and we aren’t sending reporters to the ends of the earth, but we are fully engaged in the war at home. In 2018, it is not hyperbole to say journalism and the values underlying the First Amendment are under attack. Sulzberger put it like this:

There was a reason freedom of speech and freedom of the press were placed first among our essential rights. Our founders understood that the free exchange of ideas and the ability to hold power to account were prerequisites for a successful democracy. But a dangerous confluence of forces is threatening the press’s central role in helping people understand and engage with the world around them.” 

He goes on to note what you already know. The business model that promoted an unwavering free press is, well, wavering. In Sierra Vista and Green Valley and Ontario, we, too, must find new ways to tell the stories of a new world. We will continue to reflect our communities with ink on paper, but we will also get better with audio and video, we will seek interactive solutions-oriented journalism that will literally leap off the page and into living rooms, classrooms and community rooms. We will host important meetings aimed and sharing and solving our communities’ most pressing problems, and we will deftly share our stories and our successes through ever-evolving social media. Storytelling like that has a value. …

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Wear the T-shirt

In Business on 28 Dec 2017 at 1:57 pm

A few years ago, my publisher got us each a blue T-shirt with the Half Moon Bay Review’s logo written across the front. He thought we might wear them to events the newspaper sponsored and so on. I didn’t like it. I didn’t wear it.

I didn’t get it.

But I do now. The reason I didn’t get it is rooted in a cancerous mindset that was instilled in journalists of a certain era. The inability to “stoop” to branding continues into the new millennium, and can be seen in all sorts of misbehavior. Many journalists still disdain social media. They don’t return complaining emails. They eschew reader comments as somehow beneath them.

Journalists are observational by birthright. If you aren’t paying attention to the unspoken signals around you, you aren’t much of a journalist. It helps you understand the dynamics of a government meeting, what’s going on behind the scenes on the campaign trail and many other subtle but telling points necessary to tell the truth. And, as a young journalist in the 1980s, I couldn’t help but observe that cynicism was the default mode of virtually all of my peers. It’s partly a defense mechanism. You can’t take seriously all of the terrible things you see. Part of the problem is due to conflating cynicism with skepticism. If your mother says she loves you, by all means, check it out, but you don’t have to roll your eyes and be an ass while you’re at it. …

The future of sports coverage

In sports on 26 Oct 2017 at 2:49 pm

In a recent New York Times piece, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann left no doubt what they are seeking to accomplish at The Athletic. They want to stomp living hell out of newspaper sports sections.

I say, good on them. Best wishes.

My earliest memories of a newspaper revolve around reading Jim Murray columns in the Los Angeles Times. In the early 1990s, I waited impatiently for Tuesday’s USA Today, throwing away all but the sports section so I could focus on the week’s baseball stats and my fantasy team. That was about the time, I made my living writing sports for newspapers. Tonight, I will gladly cover a high school football game. Sports are never far from my heart.

Ideally, I would prefer the local newspapers cover sports the way they once did. Failing that, competition is good and coverage even better. And it’s great to see someone paying talented sports writers what they deserve for being the local experts on what is often the most interesting part of the town.

Two other thoughts about The Athletic and the threat it represents. It’s one thing to make a bet with other people’s money that you can attract enough paid subscribers in Toronto. It’s something else entirely to do so in Benson, Ariz. I don’t see even a hint that The Athletic envisions taking over the kind of granular coverage that is our bread and butter. …