Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ethics: Big Al, and exotic dancer Boom-Z-Boom

[A dancer's new tale about Al Neuharth is part Puzo, Susann]

I always knew where my reporter's paycheck came from: advertising sales. But the so-called Chinese wall separating news-gathering from the paper's business side meant I could report freely, without favoring some powerful interests over others.

It's a more complicated story now that I'm a blogger trying to make a buck. Exhibit A in a new dilemma: Naja Hara, a self-described exotic dancer, back in the days when Rochester, N.Y., was Gannett's headquarters town. Hara, who says her stage name was Boom-Z-Boom, has self-published online an excerpt of her unlikely expose: From the Gang to Gannett. I first learned about her website last month from a reader.

Hara is offering free excerpts on her website, until Oct. 31. After that, they'll cost $3.29 a pop. Part Mario Puzo's The Godfather and Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, Hara's story covers her romantic ties to gangsters in organized crime families active in 1970s Rochester. She devotes a chapter to Al Neuharth, the famously colorful retired Gannett CEO who launched USA Today.

I had been considering her story when, apparently weary of waiting, Hara used Google's AdSense program to advertise (left) her website on my blog last night -- "breaking" her story here, and creating an ethical dilemma. If I don't write about her site, thereby forcing Hara to keep advertising, I make more money. (Maybe lots, after factoring in possibly higher per-click ad prices). Yet, if I do write about Hara, she might stop advertising -- potentially costing me big money. Such is the life of a new publisher, eh?

With this post, you see the decision I made -- and all the new ethical considerations I never faced as a traditional journalist.

About Hara's Neuharth story
I cannot independently corroborate a key scene because, in her version, Hara and Neuharth were the only ones present. So, I'm not going to repeat the story here. (I will say this much, however: It brings new meaning to my nickname for Neuharth.)

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


  1. Please note: I do not share in any profits Naja Hara earns from selling her excerpts.

  2. The last piece of the puzzle. Thanks Jim,

  3. Actually, with how Google's adwords work, there's a good chance she has no idea the advertisements are showing up here.

    She's probably just targeting keywords your site ranks highly on - newspaper, Gannett, etc.

  4. Jim,

    Refresh us, what's your nickname for Al? Big Al? Little Neuharth? Octogenarian Retired CEO Who Still Suckles at the Corporate Teat? Bloodsucking Egomaniacal Asshole? Beezlebub? Any of them work.


  5. She's not targeting your site. She's targeting keywords used on your site.

  6. My vote: Bloodsucking Egomaniacal Asshole. Love it.

  7. you can now view Naja Hara's excerpts for free. View her site now!

  8. FYI: Neuharth is famously Napoleonic; he is 5'7''.

  9. When Big Al wrote "Confessions of an S.O.B." the sales were padded by USA Today administrative staffers at regional locations who were ordered to purchase the copies by the hundreds!!

    True story!!

  10. Was that boost-the-sales scheme in addition to the copies bought by the Freedom Forum?

  11. She should be thrown in jail for her assault on literature. That excerpt reeks.

  12. Yes it was. The idea was to achieve and maintain "bests seller" status in conjunction with his "Buscapade" trip around the country.

    All of this was rumored, believe it or not, to be a bid to get himself considered as a Presidential candidate!!

    As stated he had an enormous ego!

  13. I’ve been put in jail for less, clearly I’m not a writer, I’m merely posing as one so all you Neuharth junkies out there can get your fix, so here it is. For a year Big Al was screwing around with some illiterate stripper who was formally a gangster’s girlfriend. You need not bother to read the book just wait for the movie. By the way, Neuharth didn’t want the presidency for himself it was for Howard Baker.

  14. Hey Jim -- We have to look at Al's "big head" everyday in Brevard.

  15. Really boys - you are truly marsalis. Give poor Al a break. Living without me for the rest of his life is punishment enough.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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