by YES! Staff

News and information from inside the media bubble

by Brian Clarey, Keith Barber and Jordan Green

Journalism 101

Last week Gov. Mike Easley laid a pretty nice soundbite on the News & Record’s Mark Binker. “I try to keep my side of the window clean,” he said. “My job is to be nice to other people, and their job is to be nice to me. Just because they’re not doing theirs doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do mine. And that’s the way I feel about life.” Only those Easley referred to with his definite plural pronoun — “they” — were not “other people,” but the media, specifically the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer. Which, you know, is kind of crazy. In fact, it’s astounding that Mike Easley was able to get elected governor of North Carolina while harboring the notion that the role of the press is to “be nice” to him. I… we just… where does he… what the… does he really…. Honestly folks, I just don’t know where to go with this one. And for the record: The only person in North Carolina whose sole job is to be nice to Mike Easley is his lap dancer. — BC

Our industry in crisis

Veteran reporter Lex Alexander’s exit from the News & Record was perfunctory and graceful last week. With no flourish, Alexander posted to the newspaper’s health, medicine and fitness blog at exactly 5 p.m. on Friday: “I’m taking a company buyout and leaving the News & Record and Landmark Communications, and today was my last day of work. I do not know if anyone will succeed me.” Alexander held a rarified position at the newspaper, that of citizen journalism coordinator, and his work has been at the heart of the News & Record’s strategy of adapting to industry changes by embracing blogging. Alexander’s personalized N&R blog, “The Lex Files,” had been dormant since September 2007, but on Friday, it contained a simple entry reading, “— 30 —” — the standard journalism code for “end of story.” The lack of noise around Alexander’sdeparture was somewhat eerie: Comments under his farewell blog post included a tribute from 1979 Klan-Nazi chronicler Elizabeth Wheaton, a complaint from Dr. Mary Johnson that he neglected to write about her, a heartfelt piece from Dr. Joe Guarino and a snarky comment from Samuel Spagnola.— JG

Village Voice lays off prominent columnist

As further evidence of the current recession’s devastating impact on the publishing industry, The Village Voice laid off three employees Dec. 30, including renowned columnist Nat Hentoff, according to a New York Times article. Hentoff, a 50-year veteran of the newspaper, contributed columns about jazz, politics and civil liberties. The Voice, which The New Yorker described as “one of the most successful enterprises in the history of American journalism,” informed Lynn Yaeger, a 30-year veteran of the paper, and staff writer Chloe A. Hilliard they were being laid off as well. “Nat Hentoff wrote liner notes for every great musician that I’ve ever loved, from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, and that’s not even what he’s been writing about for the last 30 years,” Tom Robbins, a Voice staff writer told the Times. The Village Voice was sold in 2005 to New Times Media, a Phoenix-based publisher of alternative weeklies that later changed its name to Village Voice Media. Robbins estimated that since the sale, the company has laid off about half of its staff. “I understand they have serious advertising revenue problems, but they don’t seem to be able to sit there and just talk about them with their own work force to deal with these problems,” Robbins said. Hentoff told the Times he learned the news in a phone call on Dec. 30. “I’m 83 and a half. You’d think they’d have let me go silently,” he said. “Fortunately, I’ve never been more productive.” — KTB