October 23, 2008

Spokesman Review Gaming the System

The other shoe dropped at the Spokesman Review yesterday as the final layoff notices were posted. Almost 30 people are gone from the newsroom. But it appears as if SR management is gaming the system. The three person radio staff producing newscasts for KJRB, which includes one manager, will move to sales and marketing. Two concerns here. The first is that the SR’s newsroom employment contract calls for a consistent proportion between reporters and managers. In other words when layoffs come on the reporting side an agreed upon number of managers must also be sacked.

But what the SR has done is simply move three people from one line item to another---including manager Dan Mitchenson. The company’s not saving any money; costs are simply transferred to another department. That’s good for Dan and his colleagues who will apparently remain employed but others didn’t have that choice. The SR says it’s contractually bound to produce radio news---always thought this to be bizarre but that’s another discussion---so it had to somehow keep the staff. Small comfort for the folks who are print reporters working for a newspaper that thinks it’s in the broadcasting business.

The bigger concern is credibility. I’ve known Dan and reporter Dick Haugen for several years and know they are honorable, honest and credible reporters. But now they’ll be working for sales and marketing---the Dark Side we call it in broadcasting. What this means is that all of the newsroom values no longer apply and that many stories will be off limits. Shaun Higgins, the radio folks’ new boss, is also a man above reproach---I like him a lot. But I’ve seen too many times over the years where the sales side wins arguments against news. Hope it doesn’t happen here. But as I’ve said repeatedly that while the game’s changed and the old rules don’t apply, the pressure to conform to outmoded models and ideas such as controlling news content to satisfy advertisers is stronger than ever.

October 20, 2008

Bad and Worse

Question for you: What's worse, the WSU football team or listening to so-called radio analyst Jim Walden? It’s a tough choice.

Hearing the WSU-USC game on the radio was like watching a train wreck in super slo-mo. Just when you thought the worst was over another car flew off the track and one more body crumpled in a heap. Long time play by play announcer Bob Robertson did his best to keep everyone interested. He’s had a lot of practice in calling losing games over the years because we all know that the Cougars are the Cougars. But he’s actually a good broadcaster: calls the plays, makes them exciting and is absolutely non-partisan even though he’s been with WSU since I was in grade school school…and that’s a long time ago.

Then there’s Walden.

Everything thing is “we should to this,” “our team,” “our coaches,” or “our players.” He thinks he’s still coaching the Cougs…which he hasn’t done since 1986…22 years!

This past Saturday was particularly pathetic. Walden had an excuse, apology or reason why Wazzu was losing after every play. But not once did he say that this is an extremely bad team or that USC was far superior in every way. All he offered were excuses for losing.

Probably his worst comment came when the score was 55 to nothing and the Trojans had just scored another touchdown: "The air just went out of the defense." Are you kidding me?

But I shouldn’t be so hard on the old boy…with a coaching record of 72-109-7 he has a lot of experience with losing. Guess his comments just come naturally.

October 17, 2008

A Better Social Networking Site

It’s been apparent for quite some time now that the media landscape is rapidly changing: The Spokesman Review’s cutting another 25 people or so, TV newsrooms continue to shrink and Google is redefining how we communicate.

So not to be left out a couple of folks working out of our little building at the East end of Downtown have launched a new social networking website aimed specifically at the audience that the legacy media have ignored and the traditional social network options don’t pay much attention to: local professionals wishing to actually connect with someone down the street instead of across the country.

Launch Pad, INW is up and running. Local entrepreneurs Bill Kalivas and Allen Battle have been working on the idea for the past several months and have done a great job of building something that can be used by all Inland Northwest business types.

As they say it TV: It’s Live, It’s Local and it’s Late Breaking! Check it out and let the boys know what you think.

October 10, 2008

Catchng Up

OK…so it’s been a while. Just got back from a little stroll across England. Called the Coast to Coast Walk. Lots of fun and a great way to spend a honeymoon!

So I come home and it seems to be business as usual: The Spokesman’s laying off 25 people, Smitty’s gone ostensibly because he and management didn’t see eye to eye on the cuts and Gary Graham---who by his own admission is in lock step with Smitty’s philosophy---is now the boss. Go figure. But I found it interesting that Shaun Higgins is speaking for the paper instead of Stacey. Yep---business as usual.

Otherwise, what else is new? Seems that the Downtown Plan update is on hold for awhile because the City Public Works Department doesn’t like some of the ideas even though Dave Mandyke has been part of the process since the beginning. The Parks Department is also miffed…and those folks have also been at the table. Yep---business as usual.

Some good news though: the Public Facilities District now owns most of the property to the south of the Opera House. (Sorry…INB Performing Arts Center still doesn’t work for me.) So if you’re a fan of The Blvd. you’d better hurry—it’s toast.

And finally it seems that Spokane Motorsports Park is a rousing success---as predicted. The County’s made some $150,000 since reopening it at the end of August. My client Pacific Raceways opted out of this last RFQ process but word is a couple of others are still interested. This will be a grand success—and if you are paying attention even Kim Thorburn and Bryan Sayrs are grudgingly admitting that their opponents did good. Yep---business as usual.