It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's love letter to Washington and Oregon businesses.
Perhaps BW readers remember the Best of Boise award his mushy missive scored him in last year's best of the best round up:
There's no doubt about it, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is a hopeless romantic. His heart beats lustily, his cheeks flush crimson and he gets that "OMG-I-think-I'm-gonna-barf-but-I-like-it" feeling whenever he sees his dearly beloved: other states' businesses. Butch made his intentions known earlier this spring—when love is in the air—with gushy missives addressed to businesses in Washington and Oregon, asking them to move in with him here in the Spud State. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire spurned the erstwhile Romeo, stating that Washington firms are already in a stable, fulfilling relationship and they don't swing. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he recognizes that tax concerns are making for a rocky relationship, but it's just a rough patch and it'll pass.
Thanks to NPR for rehashing it yesterday. From Austin Jenkins' report: "... has cupid's arrow struck in the heart of any Washington or Oregon businesses?" The answer, as Jenkins discovers, has a lot to do with perspective.
Idaho Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish spoke at City Club of Boise yesterday afternoon, first addressing the audience with optimistic news about the daily paper's current status and then submitting to a fairly friendly grilling from audience questions.
Although officially titled "The Future of Your Daily Newspaper," Parrish's comments revealed less about the future than they did of the present. In short, Parrish said the Statesman's readership is up (even in the 18-34 demographic), that McClatchy is a "solidly profitable multi-media company" (emphasis on the multi-media with warm fuzzies for Twitter, Facebook and idahostatesman.com) and that while it may look like the paper is down, given the one-two punch of a deep recession and the rise of the Internet, the Statesman is certainly not out.
Come question time, City Clubbers seemed mostly concerned about money. At least at first.
Parrish fielded questions about selling Statesman content on the Internet, the impact of free classified listings like Craigslist and the possibility of large dailies becoming 501(c)3's or getting a government bail out. The answers: Parrish hates to give away content, including on the Internet; non-profit status could help secure grants to do expensive investigative reports; and she's no fan of government bailing out media—better to keep a free press free of Uncle Sam's money.
Eventually Parrish was faced with questions about the Statesman's editorial content, specifically its paltry business section and what one questioner called a complete lack of investigative reporters. As to the former, Parrish said sure, she'd like to have a bigger biz section but to the latter, she simply flat out disagreed. While that was a short and sweet answer to a serious concern, it at least came off better than a backhanded "duly noted," which she delivered in answer to a question about the defunct Tech Monday column.
Someone in the audience beat citydesk to the punch with a question about Boise Weekly, and whether the Statesman considered BW competition, or if there's a possibility for collaboration between the two papers. Short answer: like all media, we compete editorially but it's not necessarily an adversarial relationship.
And in case Parrish's McClatchy bosses want to know how well she towed the company line without giving away too much, citydesk gives her an "A." We heard more than once about "core competencies" and when asked to state exactly how many people had been affected by the Statesman's recent lay-offs, Parrish had a great non-answer answer. Parrish started the lay-off numbers with 28 pressman (14 of whom moved to Idaho Press-Tribune with the press switch earlier this year) and then wandered off into different territory without addressing numbers in the newsroom or elsewhere—numbers that citydesk wagers the asker was actually interested in.
Citydesk did get a couple of good chuckles out of the forum. First, when Parrish said the Statesman has been accused of being too far left. (Heck, if that's the case, some people out there must think BW is so far left we're almost right.) And second, when moderator Marcia Franklin told Parrish the new-ish headline/subhead/first graph is sometimes too confusing for readers.
In the end, what did we learn about the future of Idaho's largest daily newspaper? Well, its publisher doesn't think we can live without it and since she inked a 20-year print contract with the Press-Trib, she's optimistic that it'll be around a while.
One final note: The forum had originally been titled "The Future of Newspapers" before it was slightly altered to better reflect Parrish's area of expertise. Regardless, the forum apparently didn't draw much attention from Parrish's counterparts at other area newspapers. Idaho Press-Tribune Publisher Rick Weaver and Boise Weekly Publisher Sally Freeman passed up City Club to dish on industry gossip over lunch at Sweetwater's Tropic Zone.
Made possible by a grant from the National Center for Media Engagement, "That Could Be Me" is a series of special reports on the newly poor—those people who, for the first time, are finding themselves facing the hard realities of joblessness, an inability to meet their family's basic needs and, in some cases, a home foreclosure due to current economic conditions. Reporters from Boise State Radio's newsroom paired up to produce the segments, which focus on hunger, healthcare and the effects of such duress on the family and children.
In addition to the series, which airs all this week during "Morning Edition," Boise State Radio hosted a roundtable discussion last Wednesday night with leading social advocates, including representatives from the Idaho Food Stamp Program, the Salvation Army, Idaho's 2-1-1 Careline, the City of Boise's Charitable Assistance to Community's Homeless program and Genesis World Mission. Facilitator Marc Johnson of Gallatin Public Affairs centered the roughly hour-long discussion on the same three areas of focus as each of the special reports. The consensus: more needs to be done to educate those who affect policy change.
Rosie Andueza, director of Idaho's Food Stamp program, said at Wednesday's discussion that 149,000 Idahoans, or about 9 percent of Idaho's total population, are currently accessing food stamps. Alberto Gonzalez, director of Idaho's 2-1-1 Careline, told the group that his call center has fielded a record number of phone calls this year from Idahoans seeking help on everything from making the rent to getting school supplies for their kids. And according to Dr. Eric Maier, his office is seeing an increase in the acuity of patients arriving for appointments—that is, people are arriving at the doctor sicker because they're putting off the cost of a doctor's visit until they absolutely have to.
All of the panel members stressed that their organizations were seeing many first-time visitors, people who have never before been in a position to need public assistance of any kind, but who may be facing dire circumstances due to the recession. Many also pointed out that even though the number of people needing assistance has increased dramatically, the potential for further increase is likely given the number of people currently "on the bubble" between being fully self-sufficient and qualifying for public assistance. Neither Gonzalez or Andueza see the situation improving in the near future.
Simply put, "We've maxed out a lot of our resources," said Gonzalez referring to not just 2-1-1, but Idaho's overall ability to help an increasing number of people requesting help. It's what Johnson suggested was the worst possible situation with an increased need and decreased revenue to meet those needs. Senator Kate Kelly agreed with Johnson's assessment and later told the panel that in her opinion, Idaho's elected officials have not made social issues, like hunger, a priority because the state's political culture is one that favors smaller government and less intervention. Also, said Senator Kelly, the voices of those who use the state's social services—like single mothers working two jobs—are not well represented in the political process, unlike those interests who pay to have the "loudest voices."
In addition to the four segments produced by Boise State Radio's newsroom, an hour of the roundtable discussion will air uninterrupted Friday, Sept. 18, at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., as well as on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. Also next week, Boise State Radio will launch a Web site in conjunction with "That Could Be Me," with all of the on-air audio elements, as well as extra audio content, the full hour and a half-long roundtable discussion, a list of resources and links to those organizations and feedback.
And in an effort to be all action rather than all talk, Boise State's Public Policy Center will produce a white paper, based on elements of "That Could Be Me," that will be delivered to the state Legislature.
Last week we reported that the Idaho Statesman had turned to furloughs to save cash. But the Statesman is not the only newspaper in the region that has instituted furloughs in response to revenue loss. The Spokesman-Review has laid off employees in other departments, but chose to furlough employees in the newsroom, on the recommendation of News Editor Gary Graham.
Graham told citydesk last week that he was able to convince the publisher to furlough newsroom staff instead of laying anyone off. He announced the furloughs about a month ago and they need to be taken by September 30. For the most part, The Spokesman-Review has been able to accommodate newsroom staff as far as when they chose to take their furlough. Many employees are tacking it onto their planned vacation leave, or using the furlough in lieu of taking vacation days.
Graham commends his staff with their receptivity to the furloughs. The feedback he has heard is that employees would rather bear the brunt of the hard times collectively than see a coworker lose their job. Graham said he was willing to do anything possible to avoid layoffs, in an industry that’s trying to stay afloat these days.
Management at the Times-News in Twin Falls declined to discuss newsroom cost cutting measures.
Second Quarter 2009 earnings by Idaho Statesman parent company McClatchy released today show that drastic cost cutting, including two rounds of layoffs, have paid off for investors.
McClatchy took in $42 million in net income in the second quarter, despite ad revenues sinking 30.2 percent over the same period in 2008. Even as McClatchy talks about repositioning itself as a "successful hybrid print and online company," online ad revenue is also falling 2.9 percent for the quarter, mostly due to a lack of job ads.
But stringent measures, including 15 layoffs in September 2008, appear to be propping up the company's bottom line. The latest cost saving measure at the Statesman is a round of weeklong furloughs currently underway. Dan Popkey and Michael Deeds were recently incommunicado and had their salaries docked for a week apiece, according to at least three independent sources who work at the Statesman and asked not to be named. The furloughs are scheduled out into the winter.
and workers were assigned their week in a memo without a chance for input.
UPDATE: Statesman employees were given an option of choosing their furlough weeks. See comments below.
I left Statesman Publisher MiAi Parrish three messages, but she did not return my calls. McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt stressed in his statement on the earnings report that McClatchy is a company in transition. Average monthly visits at company Web sites was up 30.1 percent for the quarter and Pruitt said that cost cutting measures meant every constituent paper turned some profit. Digital ad revenue now represents 16.5 percent of all ad revenue, up from 11.8 at the same time last year.
"We are among the leaders in our industry in online advertising revenue performance and online advertising as a percentage of total advertising. Those who think of McClatchy as just a newspaper company need to take a fresh look. We are quickly becoming a 24-7 news and advertising company that can deliver in print, online, and to handheld devices," Pruitt stated.
Meanwhile, as morale continues to sink in the Statesman newsroom, another source tells us the paper may be looking to hire a new business reporter. Do they want those resumes in paper or plastic?
As @ButchOtter, the Twitter personality of Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, gets used to microblogging, citydesk raises an interesting question: Is it cool if the Guv sends out a link to your story?
Otter just sent this out over Twitter:
In case you missed it, here’s what the Post Register said about our State government’s responsible fiscal management: http://bit.ly/CgEnv
Thankfully he linked to the state Web site's .pdf of the Post-Register editorial. Thankfully, because the Post-Register is behind a firewall.
In the story, reporter-turned-opinion writer Corey Taule gives props to Idaho's balanced budget, a Constitutional requirement that many other states have not met. But he also points out that "balanced" is a relative term.
"It took a contentious 117 days, but Idaho balanced its budget. Public schools took a hit. College tuition is going up. Unemployment is on the rise. And services for the needy have been slashed," Taule writes.
Earlier, @ButchOtter pumped the Times-News story about his recent desert trail ride. As to whether he was Twittering atop Snuff, it is not clear.
In case you missed it, here’s a good Times-News story on my land management trail ride along the Idaho-Nevada border: http://bit.ly/19EbGv
Note Otter links to his own site rather than the original. The story does not really raise any questions about comments from a rancher that slickspot peppergrass is a "bohemian" species that fell off a wagon along the Oregon Trail ... or that Otter's horsie is named Snuff.
Then you have Sen. @SenatorCameron, a prolific Twitterererer, pontificating on his own balanced budget, speaking to a rotary club and picking up his grandkids.
40 states ended their fiscal year June 30th. Only 10 were balanced. Idaho is one of those 10!
No link needed, as he is the head of the budget committee and an expert in these matters.
And then Idaho Public TV on Cameron, as his Tweet is a statement from a newsworthy figure, I suppose.
RT @SenatorCameron: 40 states ended their fiscal year June 30th. Only 10 were balanced. Idaho is one of those 10!
Which begs the question: When I put this post up on Twitter, where does the Twircle Jerk end?
They're at it again. New York Times western regional reporter William Yardley flew Ray Arnold's mail route into the Frank to get a story about the U.S. Postal Service deciding NOT to cancel mail service to about 20 ranches along the Salmon River. It costs 10 times the average route, at $46,000 a year for weekly mail service.
The folks on the route love Ray:
“There’s a tremendous community among the people in this canyon,” said Doug Tims, 62, who owns Campbell’s Ferry Ranch. “He’s the thread that ties it all together.”
Last week we blogged aboutsome of the other recent NYT hits in Idaho.
USA Today also touched on Idaho last week, though that's less surprising since there is always at least a sentence a day about Idaho in the USA Today.
But a great graphic shows that Idaho and Washington—presumably because of nuclear cleanup projects, though the short article does not go into great detail (go figure)—have gotten far and away the largest per capita chunk of federal stimulus spending contracts so far.
Idaho is getting $245.63 per person, based on $374.3 million in contracts, while Michigan, with the highest jobless rate in the nation, has won a mere 21 cents per person in contracts.
Nationwide, federal agencies have awarded nearly $4 billion in contracts to help jump-start the economy since President Obama signed the massive stimulus package in February. But, with few exceptions, that money has not reached states where the unemployment rate is highest, according to a USA TODAY review of contracts disclosed through the Federal Procurement Data System.
citydesk bumped into an Idaho Statesman reporter last week who pointed out that BW had not been picking on the daily as much of late. We agreed it had been a few months, and offered that we had more important things to do.
But then, a few days later, the Statesman arrived on our tiled stoop a few inches shorter and thinner, complete with an explanatory pamphlet.
"Busy readers will find even more to like in the new Statesman," the top of the fold bragged.
In newspaper land, that is code for, "we're dumbing it down because we can't afford as much ink anymore."
Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman noticed our efforts to report on county business on her new blog, which is called:
I’d like to commend Boise Weekly reporter Lora Volkert for attending several of our meetings this morning. She requested I answer questions for her, either in person or in writing; however, I refer her back to my first blog post [here] with regard to my media policy. Direct communication with the public, rather than through interpretation of a reporter, will provide you the best opportunity to get the real story of what is going on in Ada County government.Have any readers out there tried to contact Ullman "directly"? If so, did she answer your questions?
Though Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman has talked a lot about open government, her responsiveness to reporters during her campaign and even after her victory in November does not exactly jive with openess.
"Great talking with you this morning. I forwarded your questions to Commissioner Ullman and she said she didn’t intend to provide any further comment until the Board took action on the Allied contract. She mentioned something about posting a new entry to her blog… Maybe check that out to see if she provides any new insight there???? That’s the best I can do at this point. I’ll keep you posted as things develop with the Allied contract. If you’d like more sit-down time with one of the other Commissioners I can help arrange that."It's great that Commissioner Ullman blogs so she can communicate directly with constituents. But I doubt her blog has enough readership for her to inform the whole community about what's going on in the Ada County Commission. Citizens have a right to know what their government representatives are doing, and a lot of Ada County residents depend on traditional media to stay informed about local government.