The hasty departure of well-liked City Paper general manager Kim Council recently has opened the question of just who will lead the business side of the five-day-a-week paper that hopes finally to reach profitability this year. Though it has an interim publisher, Jim Ezzell says he and consultant Jim McDonald are looking for his more permanent replacement to position the paper into a moneymaking enterprise.
Rumors inside Nashville’s admittedly small media circles have suggested this week that former Scene publisher Albie Del Favero had been approached by CP. That much is true, but the Italian stallion says he has no interest in the publisher position there.
“For the record, I've had discussions with Jim McDonald, their consultant and an old acquaintance of mine from his days in the altweekly business, about other ventures that he is involved in and he has asked me for suggestions on whom they might try to hire for the job,” Del Favero says. “I have not volunteered myself.”
Ezzell says that Council’s departure led he and McDonald to begin a publisher search in earnest. “How Albie got involved was Jim McDonald really approached him to see if he could suggest any local candidates, which he did,” Ezzell says. “We obviously threw out there, ‘Albie, how about you?’ And he declined.”
General manager Kim Council’s resignation left the edit, business and production somewhat discombobulated, because the staff, whose loyalty she’d earned, credited her with filling a leadership vacuum in an operation that desperately needed some. Clearly, though, neither the paper’s owners nor McDonald were prepared to offer her the publisher position. Her departure comes soon after editor Catherine Mayhew’s, who’s been replaced by former Lebanon Democrat managing editor Clint Brewer.
“My understanding is I’m the first part of a management team that they are recruiting or bringing in,” Brewer says.
Ezzell says that there are five legitimate candidates for publisher, three of them local. “We’re obviously making changes over there, and we’ve got a model in place that we feel like will be success for a free daily.”
Can you get me that story in triplicate?
When Ellen Leifeld was recruited as the new publisher at The Tennessean, Nashville’s Gannett daily misspelled her name in a story announcing her landing there (“Liefeld”). And since her arrival in September of last year, the paper has twice misspelled former publisher John Seigenthaler’s name (again, “Siegenthaler”). That “I before E” rule must really be ingrained in the staff over there.
In any case, the newspaper’s making a well-intentioned push to avoid ridiculous errors like that, having announced a newsroom-wide campaign to reduce corrections by 15 percent.
“I reviewed the reports on corrections for January and February with the help of [reader editor] John Gibson and found something interesting: virtually all of them were preventable,” managing editor Dave Green wrote in recent memo to the staff. “They generally resulted from sloppiness, particularly from assuming that something was correct without checking it. For example, six corrections were for having the wrong date. In another case, we got the ZIP code wrong when we printed the address of The Tennessean!” Exclamation point indeed.
So what could be wrong with trying to get things right? Well, the method. It’s a staggering illustration of corporate-generated busy work. Instead of telling reporters that they need to fact-check their copy or their asses are out, The Tennessean has developed a five-step time-suck process that works like this (and we’re giving you the annotated version):
“1. Reporter prints out story after it’s completed. At the top of the printout, writes the slug of the story. With a highlight pen, marks every verifiable fact: number, title, phone number, address, date, time, etc. Double-checks each fact, then marks it “cq.” A “cq” means the fact has been verified, and no further verification is necessary….
IMPORTANT: To “cq” is to actually check, not to say, “Oh, I know that’s right, so I don’t need to check it.” If you haven’t checked it, don’t cq it.
2. Originator files copy and passes cq sheet on to his or her editor, who adds any highlights necessary and cq’s accordingly. (We would expect few, if any, additional highlights at the editing stage.)
3. Line editor sends story and cq sheet to the copy desk….
4. Each copy editor—section ed, rim ed, slot ed—who handles the story, graphic, etc. takes the sheet as he or she works the story, and adds any highlights necessary and cq’s accordingly. Again, we would expect, few, if any additional highlights at this stage.
5. At the end of the shift, chief of each copy desk collects the sheets. We will keep them on file for a reasonable time (not in perpetuity), for reference should any accuracy problems be brought to our attention.”
There are an additional three pages of the memo that offer explanations for filing copy remotely, including from freelancer writers, along with a FAQs section that includes gems like this: “What specifically are ‘verifiable facts’?” and “I work in the main office, and I’d like to be able to dispense with the printouts and put in the text. Can I?” (To which the answer is no.)
Mysteriously left unanswered, however, is what color highlight pen reporters and editors should be using. CQ on that, by the way.
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