Friday, January 07, 2011

Cincy | In banana republic, 'a bad omen for news'

The Chiquita scandal, a technology giant in Boise, Idaho -- and the historically business-friendly Cincinnati Enquirer: In a new post, an independent weekly wonders if Publisher Margaret Buchanan has once more tightened her grip around one of Gannett's biggest newsrooms.


  1. Hey Jim: weren't you at the Statesman when Washburn was the ME there? What's your personal experience/take on this issue? I'm curious in part because, in my current job, I'm involved with regulating utilities that serve the Cincinnati suburbs on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.

  2. Sending a story for a pre-publication review by the company that's the subject of the article?

    The newspaper worried that the story could impact the stock price?

    Wow! That Washburn has missed her calling. She should be a flack.

    Does Gannett have any integrity left? It sure doesn't sound like it.


  3. The question really isn’t whether or not Buchanan has furthered tightened her grip on the newsroom by pushing Callinan out, it’s will Washburn push back given Buchanan’s aggressive management style when needed, especially once the honeymoon between the two wears off.

  4. Well, based on what happened in Idaho, 10:38 a.m., it looks like Washburn won't and agrees with Buchanan on these issues.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. "Sending a story for a pre-publication review by the company that's the subject of the article?"

    Yep this has happened several times over the last few years with:

    Fifth Third Bank
    Western and Southern

    The less and less digging or political stories reporters were told to do the less fuss by some of area's largest employers and advertisers.

    That's why today you see most content is a mix of press releases, metromix cleavage photos and 'Best of' lists.

  7. But, but, I thought Gannett's Principle of Ethics stated that employees should avoid business conflicts of interest?

    Oh, silly me. That's just for the few remaining rank and file. The big bucks people can do anything they want.

  8. The Enquirer has become a joke of a paper under Buchanan and Callinan. Washburn needs to decide whether to maintain its laughingstock reputation or prove her skeptics wrong. As fragile as her reputation is in the journalism world outside of Gannett, it would behoove her to challenge the Enquirer's distaste for news reporting that makes people look bad, even when they deserve it. Cincinnati's a big union town, and the Enquirer's kneepad coverage of John Boehner makes it pretty obvious that the paper could care less about working people.

  9. It's not just big business that the Enquirer is friendly toward - the list also includes politicians, non-profits and just about any mover-and-shaker.

    This a paper that this week published a FRONT PAGE profile of new Ohio senator Rob Portman that quoted just two sources other than Portman, both Republicans he worked with in the past who had nothing but nice things to say.

    A paper that has never fully looked into the finances/political maneuverings of John Boehner, the new speaker of the house from the Cincy burbs yet did publish a puffball front page history feature this week about Boehner's admiration for former speaker of the house Nicholas Longworth (also a Cincinnatian, though he actually lived in the city and was a big supporter of arts & culture).

    As for the hands-off businesses policy, what can you expect from paper whose publisher sits on a major local business board with former Kroger Co. Chairman/CEO Joseph Pichler, whose son was named the paper's business editor a few months ago.

    And this is just the tip of the ethical iceberg that sunk the Enquirer's integrity decades ago ...

  10. Wow!! This is incredibly disturbing and sad on so many fronts. Is it any wonder why readers are increasingly questioning media integrity and ethics? This is empirical evidence of a news gathering operation that has lost its moral and ethical compass. If the suits want to know why circulation has declined so dramatically, look no further than the character of the journalists and management teams leading the organization. People are starving for the truth yet we feed them a steady diet of pablum and fairly tales. What ever happened to the Edward R. Murrow's of journalism, the Quinns and Seigenthalers, people with a backbone AND a conscience? How do we weed-out the posers, the hacks and the two-bit whores who are systematically destroying an honorable profession? Makes you want to stand-up on a desk with a sign reading, GET YOUR GRUBBY LITTLE HANDS OFF OF MY JOURNALISM - YOU'RE KILLIN' US!

  11. Any type of economic or business reporting is a travesty at Gannett. Most of the editors couldn't tell a double-dip recession from a double-dip ice cream cone.

  12. 10:08 I worked with Washburn a long time ago, and for only two years 1993-95. Her colleagues at The Des Moines Register would be a better source of more recent information.

  13. Jim, what was it like working with her then? I think it would be good to compare her then with comments about her now.
    It will show a sense of how the person has evolved.

  14. 1 p.m. At the time, Washburn was the managing editor. The executive editor, John Costa, had just arrived from outside Gannett; he had been a senior editor at Florida's St. Petersburg Times. I was the paper's investigative reporter.

    Washburn, it seemed to me, had been promoted to the Boise paper from Rochester in order to help Costa learn what I called Corporate's secret handshake. In other words: how to navigate the company's incredibly byzantine and occasionally Machiavellian politics.

    This largely came down to being extremely deferential to Phil Currie, who ran Corporate's News Department. In that role, he was the company's uber-editor. Few if any executive editors or managing editors got hired or fired without his blessing. He was in charge of the constantly-changing quality control campaigns: News 2000, diversity in news coverage and hiring, the bi-monthly Well Done contests, etc. (Kate Marymont, who I worked with in Little Rock, now has this job.)

    Washburn was very, very good at knowing how the system worked under Currie. Here's an example.

    One day, during a story meeting, one of the editors said that the federal government had changed the boundaries for the local metropolitan statistical area -- the MSA. Under the new boundaries, Boise would be included in an expanded MSA that would include many more minority residents. Almost immediately, Washburn told us that the new MSA's definition would be a further challenge for the paper in Currie's semi-annual All-America diversity contests. This was because the newsroom's minority employment needed to match that of the MSA in order to get a good score.

    At the time, I was struck by how quickly she filtered that information through the Corporate lens. Some time later, Washburn said she wanted to one day be the top editor of her hometown paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    And I had no doubts that she would achieve her goal.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. Kathy Wetmore1/09/2011 1:49 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.