2007's Top Newspaper Industry Stories -- the Weird Version
Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher
My colleague Joe Strupp last week did his usual able job compiling for this site his annual list of the newspaper industry's top ten stories of the year, each item a worthy contender for recollection. But it seems to me a year that was as unsettling and downright bizarre for the industry as 2007 deserves another listing of events as well. Call it the Top Six Weird Newspaper Stories of the Year.
The Lie Detector Says You ARE The Publisher
TV's favorite paternity detector, Maury Povich, launched a weekly newspaper in Montana. ""The caring residents of the Flathead have opened their hearts to the Povich and Chung family," Povich said, in explaining his decision to publish the Flathead Beacon. "Since Connie and I have spent our entire careers in the media, we wanted to give back to the people of the Flathead Valley our appreciation ...[with] a publication filled with meaningful news about those events that will indeed affect the lives of everyone living here."
Lord Black And The Fickle Finger Of Fate
Conrad Black breezily told a BBC radio show that the prospect of going to prison didn't bother him at all. But during the federal trial in Chicago that ended with his conviction and sentencing to six and a half years in jail, the press managed to get under his skin a few times. He was photographed giving the finger to waiting reporters -- an image the publishers of "Robber Baron," an unauthorized biography, used for its dust cover.
....And So's Your Old Lady
Lady Black, too, lost her cool much earlier in the trial. The conservative columnist Barbara Amiel Black is known for her cool wit in print, but when a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. producer Melanie Glanz tried to get into the elevator with her and her felon-husband, she called Glanz a "slut." Turning to two other journalists in the elevator, she said: "You're all vermin. I'm sick of it. I used to be a journalist and I never door-stepped people."
Sweet Home, Ala -- Oh, Never Mind
When Birmingham (Ala.) News reporter Brett Blackledge won this year's Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, Rep. Jack Williams thought it would be nice for the Alabama House of Representatives to honor him with one of those resolutions legislators routinely pass congratulating Little League teams and National Merit Scholars. Instead, the House voted 49-20 to table the resolution.
Blackledge won the Pulitzer for his investigation into corruption in the state's two-year college system.
"And Mr. Roberts Also Has Stopped Beating His Wife..."
Almost nobody did more to keep the bizarre in the industry's bizarre year than Wendy McCaw with her, um, mercurial operation of the Santa Barbara (Calif.) News-Press. But even by her high standards of weirdness, the treatment of former Editor Jerry Roberts this spring was something special.
First the paper reported that 15,000 images of child and adult pornography were discovered "after the departure of a number of editors in June 2006, including Jerry Roberts, and that the News-Press computer in question had been used by him during his employment."
Then the paper waited weeks before finally acknowledging in an editor's note that, well, Roberts was a little honked off by the unfounded suggestion he was storing kiddie porn. Here's how the paper cleared things up:
"Following publication of the article, we received a letter from Mr. …