Page 1


10:28 AM

Page 1




by Rick Stoff

“Obsession” takes photographer to the top

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template

Jul / Aug 2010 Vol 40 Number 318 $4.00

Sinquefield proves politicians can be bought

Former St. Louisan Randy Olson

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 2

JULY / AUGUST 2010 Volume 40 Number 318 At Southern Illinois University Carbondale Editor-in-Chief William A. Babcock


St. Louis Editor Roy Malone

Whistleblower’s slog to get wiretap story into the media / Margie Burns


Call to end St. Louis Earnings Tax shows one millionaire’s political reach / Jessica Bellomo


Sinquefield Profile / Jessica Bellomo


A top National Geographic photographer’s serendipitous career: Randy Olson / Rick Stoff

Media/Politics Terry Jones


A potpourri / C.C. Stelzer

Art/Sports/Media Joe Pollack


Wall Street Journal plays up the quirky / D.J. Wilson

Ad/PR Rick Stoff


Adventures in small-town newspapering / Avis Meyer

Radio History Frank Absher


Parking (porking) at Grand Center / Joe Pollack

Editor/Publisher Emeritus Charles L. Klotzer Illustrator Steve Edwards Designer Frank Roth Cartoonist Tom Engelhardt

Board of Editorial Advisers Frank Absher Jim Kirchherr Lisa Bedian Roy Malone Ed Bishop Tammy Merrett David Cohen Avis Meyer Don Corrigan Michael Murray Rita Csapo-Sweet Steve Perron Eileen Duggan Joe Pollack Tom Engelhardt Michael D. Sorkin David P. Garino Rick Stoff Ted Gest Fred Sweet William Greenblatt Lynn Venhaus Daniel Hellinger


Letters Let’s hear it for LPs / John Huxhold A scam to boost subscriptions? / Terry Beckmeyer


Off the record Daily Circulation The power of journalism / Media Gaggle Newspapers get a windfall / Missouri State Treasurer Meme: Obama as foreigner / Art Silverblatt A kid discovers the power of radio / Frank Absher Lou Rose—one of a kind / Roy Malone KTVI in race with KSDK, KMOV for viewers / Katy Bachman The day the music died / Roy Malone Is this our Perfect Knight? Copy desk winners and losers


SJR finds a new home / Charles L. Klotzer

Board of Directors Robert A. Cohn Michael E. Kahn Don Corrigan Charles L. Klotzer John P. Dubinsky Roy Malone Gerald Early Paul Schoomer David P. Garino Dr. Moisy Shopper Ray Hartmann Ken Solomon The St. Louis Journalism Review 8380 Olive Blvd St. Louis, Mo. 63132-2814 Phone: (314) 991-1699 • Fax: (314) 997-1898 e-mail: SJR The St. Louis Journalism Review (USPS 738-450 ISSN: 0036-2972) is published bi-monthly, by SJR St. Louis Journalism Review Inc., a non-profit corporation. The office of publication is 8380 Olive Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132-2814. Subscription rates: $25 (6 issues), $44 (12 issues) $62 (18 issues), $80 (24 issues), $98 (30 issues),. Foreign subscriptions higher depending upon country. Periodical postage paid at Washington, Missouri and additional mailing offices. Please enclose stamped, self-addressed envelope with manuscript. Copyright © 2010 by SJR St. Louis Journalism Review. No portion of this journal may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher. Indexed in the Alternative Press Index. Allow one month for address changes. Postmaster: Send address changes to The St. Louis Journalism Review 8380 Olive Blvd. St. Louis, Mo. 63132. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-85160


Flawed reporting on health care polls / Terry Jones


Greed drives college grid expansion / Joe Pollack


Playing the Blues on R&B radio / Frank Absher


Media Notes Media, Media Awards, Ad/PR, Ad/PR Awards/ Books / In Memoriam


Sources Say. . . Lee hits five-year mark with Post-Dispatch / Roy Malone


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 3


letters Post-Dispatch, have entered into an intentional scam to defraud the public. A small scam by most measures, but I always believed the PD was in the business of representing the truth. The SJ offered a $29 subscription with two FREE Cardinals tickets, and they have their regular subscription at $19. When I called the subscription desk at the SJ, I was told that the tickets were not really free that it was just a gimmick. I e-mailed the SJ and the PD but without a successful resolution to this deception. Terry Beckmeyer St. Louis

off the record Daily circulation The June edition of Editor & Publisher reports that the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures show that the Wall Street Journal had the top daily circulation with 2,092,523 that showed a gain of 0.5 percent. The Chicago Tribune was listed in 9th place with a circulation of 452,145. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was not listed for daily circulation among the top 25 newspapers. The Post was listed 14th among the top 25 for Sunday circulation. It had a circulation of 400,042. The Kansas City Star had a Sunday circulation of 314,449 and was listed in the 25th place. The Chicago Tribune with a Sunday circulation of 794,350 was listed in 4th place.

The power of journalism

letters Let’s hear it for LPs I enjoyed Jian Leng's piece on “The Future of Ink on Paper.” I was especially struck by the last paragraph which, with the change of a few words if I may, reminds me of another related sentiment: “Even if LPs eventually give way to downloads or digital discs, LPs will continue to be loved for many years to come. LPs may become much

more expensive or hard to find, but the physicality of an LP is a much more beautiful information-storage device than an iPod or digital player, and provides a dimension of pleasure unequalled by the digital alternative.” John Huxhold Manchester, MO.

A scam to boost subscriptions? In order to lure subscribers, the Suburban Journals and their parent company the

Enter Roy Gutman, who exposed a network of concentration camps run by Bosnian Serbs, where Muslims were beaten, starved and often murdered. Some 5,000 to 6,000 lives were saved, after Gutman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in Newsday. In ghastly scenes mirroring Hitler’s concentration camps, images of desperate civilians clinging to life shocked the world. Whole villages were deported and thousands of Bosnian women were systematically raped by Bosnian Serbs from 1992–1995. It’s heartbreaking to imagine what would have happened today if a reporter asked editors if he could spend six months chasing a story in Bosnia with an interpreter and photographer. Those death camps prob-


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 4

off the record ably would have gone uncovered— like much of the world. Newsday has closed all of its foreign bureaus, and most major media outlets have abandoned foreign posts. Vast corners of the world have been deserted by the American press at a time when there has never been a greater need for investigative reporting. It took Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina leaders 17 years to belatedly shine the spotlight on Gutman, 66, one of America’s finest foreign correspondents. On the 65th anniversary of the city’s liberation after World War II, Gutman quietly took the stage recently in Sarajevo and was handed the keys to the city and made an honorary citizen. “I’m walking on air,” said Gutman in an interview with Media Gaggle. “It’s a terrific honor. It’s ironic getting a key from a city that has no gates and could never be surrounded by a wall because it is in the valley.” Gutman’s stories helped mobilize the United Nations and other Western governments to establish the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in 1993. Since then dozens of war criminals have been convicted and jailed. In the golden age of the American media’s coverage of the world, foreign correspondents were at the cutting-edge of history. Within the past decade, hundreds of foreign correspondents have been forced out of work as cash-strapped media operations tightened budgets. Gutman’s old employer, Newsday, once had six correspondents all over the world and now there isn’t a single bureau. By 2006 Gutman, then Newsday’s last foreign editor, left the newspaper with a heavy heart. “I was totally distressed. It’s a terrible setback for the media industry and the general public. Now there is a very limited selection of news from places that matter. There is an inability to go out there and do things nobody else is doing,” Gutman said. Media Gaggle

state is holding. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch got $265,000 for running dozens of pages of ads in June and July, said Jon Galloway, the treasurer's spokesman. It was the first time ads were placed in newspapers to help alert owners of unclaimed funds. The costs for the newspaper advertising is taken from the unclaimed assets fund, Galloway said. The treasurer's office is holding over $600 million that it has received from a variety of unclaimed assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, insurance proceeds, government refunds, utility deposits, wages from past jobs and safe deposit boxes. State law requires financial institutions, insurance companies, public agencies and other business entities to turn over unclaimed assets to the state if the customer, client, employee or other owner has made no transactions or contact for five years. The assets remain with the treasurer indefinitely so rightful owners can make a claim in the future. Missourians can visit www.ShowMe to check for unclaimed assets. Zweifel said a record $35 million was returned to 92,000 account holders during fiscal 2010; the average return was $365. However, one unnamed St. Louis man got $1.6 million belonging to him from stocks and dividends. “This money is not the government's, and we are returning it faster than ever before. I look forward to breaking more records in fiscal year 2011,” Zweifel said. The treasurer's office is also holding more than 100 unclaimed military medals, but no other personal property. The St. Louis region has more than $186 million in unclaimed money in over 1.1 million accounts. The Kansas City region has $87 million in over 665,000 accounts. Missouri State Treasurer

Meme: Obama as foreigner Newspapers get ad windfall Newspapers in Missouri got $632,000 in revenue recently when State Treasurer Clint Zweifel placed several days of ads listing more than 2.5 million accounts of people who can claim assets— mostly unclaimed cash—that the

A meme is a story or element that is transmitted throughout a culture. The term “meme” was originally used to describe a certain kind of biological system. Over time, it has been applied to transmission of cultural information through the channels of mass communication. Often, memes are what makes


certain stories “stick” in the media. They reflect particular areas of cultural concern. In general, memes are clearly identifiable in that the identical story is repeated through the various media. In addition, there are thematic memes or stories that, on the surface, do not appear to be related. However, these stories may be aspects of a single theme. To illustrate, a number of apparently unrelated stories involving President Barack Obama, appear in the media: – Obama is Muslim – Obama is not a U.S. Citizen – Obama is a Socialist – Obama is Gay Although the specifics of these stories differ, they share a thematic narrative, stressing that Obama is a foreigner. Seeing these disparate stories as a derivation of the same meme reveals that most Americans associate the idea of “American” with white skin. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof observes: “One study found that although people realize that (Chinese-American actress) Lucy Liu is American and that Kate Winslet is British, their minds automatically process an Asian face as foreign and a white face as American—hence this title in an academic journal: ‘Is Kate Winslet More American Than Lucy Liu?’ (Nicholas D. Kristof, “What? Me Biased?”) This social bias is common to the human species—even among groups that are targets of racial discrimination, such as Latinos and AsianAmericans. Kristof explains: “Some scholars link racial attitudes to a benefit in evolutionary times from an ability to form snap judgments about who is a likely friend and foe. There may have been an evolutionary advantage in recognizing instantaneously whether a stranger was from one’s own tribe or from an enemy tribe. There’s some evidence that the amygdala, a center in the brain for emotions, flashes a threat warning when it perceives people who look ‘different’… . “It’s not that any of them actually believed Mr. Obama to be foreign. But the implicit association test that measured the way the unconscious mind works, and in following instructions to sort images rapidly, the mind balked at accepting a black candidate as fully American.” Using the implicit association test, researchers found that subjects subconsciously considered

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 5

off the record Barack Obama less American than either Hillary Clinton or John McCain.Thus, the recurrence of these thematic memes, that Obama is Muslim, an illegal alien, or a socialist, are tied to racial attitudes in which people who are perceived as different—even when they belong to the same culture—are regarded as outsiders. Art Silverblatt Webster University

A kid discovers the power of radio Sometimes in the innocence of youth, a window to the future opens. But because we’re so young, we don’t realize what has happened. I grew up in a small farming town of 2,400. It was during the days when AM radio was really the only choice. We were about 55 miles outside of St. Louis, so we were able to receive most of the stations with no difficulty. Among my summer memories are walks down the town’s streets during the early evening. No one had air conditioning. You could literally follow the progress of the Cardinal ballgames, as related by Harry Caray, as the sounds drifted out each screen door on the block. All the kids in town listened to KXOK. There was never a question. That’s just the way it was. And since air conditioning wasn’t present in cars back then, you’d hear the sound of KXOK coming out of every teen's car as they drove past. My favorite uncle, a bachelor from Chicago, had a knack for coming up with unique gifts that no one else in my town had seen. For my tenth birthday, he gave me a Knight Kit transmitter. This was a gift that hadn’t even appeared on my personal radar screen, but there it was, ready to assemble. All I needed Knight Kit were a few tools, a soldering iron and patience. I’d never soldered before, but despite my sloppiness, I managed to assemble a working transmitter that had a range of about 500 feet. The great part about this little electronic contraption was that you could tune to whatever AM frequency you wanted. That was all I needed. I absconded with the microphone to my dad’s reel-to-reel tape re-

corder and cut off the old jack, soldering on one that would fit my little transmitter. Then I turned on my clock radio which was, of course, tuned to KXOK. A few light twists of the Frank Absher screwdriver finally achieved the wonderful whistle of feedback and I knew I was ready. Grabbing every extension cord in the house, I ran the power source out the front door, across the porch and down into the evergreens that had grown to form a semi-protective wall in front of our house. I plugged in my contraption, sat, and waited. I told you this was a small town. It was so small that we knew everyone, and we knew the kinds of cars they drove, so my plot was easy enough to carry out. I waited in the bushes until one of the town’s teens drove past. Then I shouted out to them in my microphone: “Hey, Bobby!” “Hey, Richie!” The flash of brake lights was immediate, followed by looking around and fiddling with the car’s radio, but by the time they could react to hearing a kid’s voice greeting them on KXOK, they were well past my house. One can only imagine their conversations later, as their friends shook their heads in pity at their delusional peers. It was fun, but my interest waned after a couple months and I went after new discoveries, eventually passing my toy on to my younger brother. But at the age of ten I had discovered the power of radio. I had also seen how people reacted when radio talked to them, not as an audience but as individuals. ■ Frank Absher St. Louis

Lou Rose—one of a kind Retired Post-Dispatch investigative reporter Lou Rose, who died April 14, was the butt of jokes about his rumpled clothes and idiosyncratic behavior (like Lt. Columbo). Despite his disheveled manner and disregard for deadlines, he was respected by other reporters and editors. He was good at developing sources but his

best skill was ferreting out public records to expose public or private wrongdoers, and he was never sued. On display at his funeral visitation were some brief writings from Lou summing up what he said he tried to do as a reporter. Here are some: Fidelity—In any investigation the facts are what counts. One must not distort or ignore facts that do not fit our preconceived notions or theories. We may sense something is wrong or improper—all our instincts and research may suggest this is the case. But unless we can adequately document and prove it, we have no right to bend or force our findings to suit our own ends or possible prejudices. Keeping One's Word—The need to nurture and respect the trust of a reliable source goes beyond legalistic arguments, in my view. Constitutional issues aside, there is a more personal truth at stake. It is the keeping of one's word. A promise not to reveal the identity of a source is just that—a promise. It is an act of faith between two persons. Violate it and you surrender an important part of yourself. Honor Your Editors—But not at the cost of your integrity or best judgment. Never be afraid of being fired, dying, or having a broken heart. ■ Roy Malone Glendale

KTVI in race with KSDK, KMOV for viewers Until Nielsen turned on local people meters in St. Louis in January 2009, it was a two-station TV news race between Belo’s CBS affiliate KMOV and Gannett’s NBC affiliate KSDK-TV. Since then, ratings have compressed, creating a tighter three-way race among the two leaders and KTVI, local TV’s Fox affiliate. KTVI, which shares operations, programming and other services with Tribune’s CW affiliate KPLR, has tried to step up its news game. Already leading in morning ratings, the station recently added an hour of local news at 9 a.m. Two years ago when the stations teamed up, newscasts were rescheduled so that KPLR wouldn’t compete with KTVI. KPLR airs the market’s only newscast at 7 p.m. KSDK—the early news leader both at 5 and 6 p.m. in adults 25–54—added to its local news after the Olympics wrapped, becoming


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 6

off the record the first station in the market to begin morning news at 4:30 a.m. In early news, KTVI is closing in on KSDK at 5 p.m., while KTVI and KMOV are in a close race for No. 2 at 6 p.m. KMOV is the late-news winner at 10 p.m., followed by KSDK and KTVI, which also airs a 9 p.m. newscast. Conspicuously out of the news race is KDNL, the ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which airs no news. KMOV, which used to carry the call letters KMOX, partners with KMOX-AM radio owned by CBS Radio, for a 10 a.m. local news program, Great Day St. Louis. The station also partners with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on a Saturday morning program. The St. Louis radio market slipped one place in rank to No. 21, overtaken by faster growing Denver. Sports is big in St. Louis, which supports three radio sports outlets. There’s a lot of buzz over which station will become the Cardinals flagship in 2011. St. Louis Sports Radio’s KTRS-AM is now in its fifth year of carrying the games, but the team could be heading back to bigger-signal KMOX, the longtime home of the Cardinals. The hockey Blues have decided to keep their broadcasts on KMOX where they have been the last three seasons. St. Louis is the headquarters of Charter Communications, the fourth largest cable operator, which emerged last November from Chapter 11 bankruptcy under a prearranged reorganization. The cable system has new competition for customers from AT&T U-Verse, which has made some headway in the market since its launch in 2007. ■ Katy Bachman MediaWeek

The day the music died July 7 was the day lovers of classical music in the St. Louis area could hear it no more at 99.1 on their FM radio dial, as they had for 35 years. KFUO-FM Classic 99 stopped broadcasting classical and instead, under new ownership, began playing Christian contemporary pop music. The station was bought from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod by Gateway Creative Broadcasting and the station is now called JoyFM. The $18 million deal was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in May, despite

complaints from enraged listeners of the classical music. Joy-FM is listener supported and two prominent givers—the Cardinals Albert Pujols and ex-Cardinal pitcher Andy Benes—made large donations to help finance the sale. (Their dollar amounts were not reported). The impending sale was in the news steadily since it became known last October. Letters-to-theeditor by dismayed listeners were countered by supporters of the Christian programs. “Just change the station if you don't want to hear the word of God,” wrote one woman. Some suggested that the classical lovers find their music elsewhere, like on some other station. KWMUFM said it would play classical, but on an HD channel that few listeners could get. Sarah Bryan Miller, classical music critic of the St. Louis PostDispatch wrote on May 21 that the Radio Arts Foundation had given up its hunt for a replacement station, at least for now. “Currently, there is no appropriate station available to buy,” said a statement from the Foundation. It said it was placing the hunt for another station on hold until one becomes available. The Foundation had originally tried to buy KFUO from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod but was told the church preferred selling to a Christian enterprise, Miller reported. ■ Roy Malone Glendale

Is this our Perfect Knight? A lot of Stan Musial fans think the bronze statue of him in front of Busch Stadium is—well they say it doesn't look anything like their beloved Cardinal slugger who had a unique batting stance. Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bryan Burwell called it “atrocious” in a June 30 column with a headline of, “Musial Statue Must Go.” In 1978, another Post columnist, the late Bob Broeg, had called it a “monstrosity” and said “it stinks.” Burwell said the Cardinals should replace it with “something more pleasing and worthy of Musial's greatness.” He said the “hat looks goofy,” the legs are too thick, the head is too small, the bat too tiny, and Stan is “grossly out of proportion.”


Photo by Dawn Majors, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Burwell said the 42-year-old statue, the second most noticeable landmark downtown, was sculpted by the late Carl Mose, a Washington University fine arts professor, who got the job funneled to him by a friend, then-Mayor Raymond Tucker. Burwell said Musial never liked it and told the Post-Dispatch in 2004: “He made me all bulky. I tried to get him to change it, but he just never would... . He never did get it right.” Even so, KTVI-TV reporter John Auble, after seing Burwell's column, interviewed Stan and his wife Lillian and they said they now liked the statue. “I've signed many wedding pictures taken in front of that statue,” said Stan, ever the gentleman. ■

Tired of hearing what we think? Tell us what you think! Mail letters to the editor to St. Louis Journalism Review 8380 Olive Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63132 or

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 7

Copy and s r e los desk winn ers ...


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


Charles L. Klotzer

Page 8

t has been, and still is, exciting, often frantic, but always deeply satisfying for Rose, my wife, and me living with the St. Louis Journalism Review (SJR) over these many years. In a way, it kept us sane, not going off the deep end in the pursuit of unobtainable goals. We were just too busy. Some of our senior readers will remember FOCUS/Midwest that we published between 1962 and 1983, a sociopolitical journal concerned with happenings in Missouri and Illinois. An array of commentaries and battles kept the journal relevant to its time. Battles fought then are not unlike those making headlines today. After SJR was founded, we decided to merge the two deficit publications into one, making SJR the survivor. SJR had its ups and downs. To give it a more solid base we moved SJR, then under the editorship of Ed Bishop, to Webster University in 1995, which graciously subsidized it for the next ten years. When this association was dissolved, the rumor mill wondered how long SJR would survive. Our readers and supporters refused to give in. For the first time in the history of SJR, a fundraising appeal was launched to which hundreds of readers


When SJR’s association with Webster University was dissolved, the rumor mill wondered how long SJR would survive. Our readers and supporters refused to give in.

10:28 AM

responded. They kept SJR alive. This issue introduces a new chapter in the 40year history of the St. Louis Journalism Review (SJR). Thanks to the labors of Gary Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts. William Freivogel, professor and director of the School of Journalism, and William Babcock, professor of media ethics, all of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, SJR has found a new home at the university, which promises to add significantly to the services that SJR provides. Babcock has assumed the editorship of SJR. Roy Malone will continue as editor covering the St. Louis region, which will remain at the core of SJR’s coverage. We could not have achieved this point assuring not only the survival, but also the expansion of SJR without the dedication for many years by the editor, cartoonists and designers, the labors of writers, columnists, the board of editorial advisors and the board of directors as well as the contributions by its readers that were cited in the last issue as the true media elite in our community. The turnover required some adjust-

SJR finds a new home

continued on next page

Charles L. Klotzer is the editor/publisher emeritus of SJR.

The transfer of SJR to SIUC was announced at a media ethics conference sponsored by SIUC. Attending the conference were (from right) William Freivogel, William Babcock, Gary Kolb and Charles Klotzer.


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


Page 9

Whistleblower's slog to get wiretap story into the media

etired AT&T technician Mark Klein blew the whistle on National Security Agency wiretaps of individuals’ phone calls in 2006 and still has information to share. How major news outlets blocked Klein’s disclosures in an election year is a story in itself. Klein filed an affidavit in federal court in San Francisco in early April, 2006, revealing that the NSA had constructed a secret room in an AT&T facility to monitor telephone and Internet communications. The affidavit supported a class action lawsuit against AT&T brought in January by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, alleging that AT&T violated the law by cooperating with the government's warrantless wiretapping.


10:28 AM

KLOTZER Continued from previous page

ments about which we informed our subscribers. SJR will be published six times per year instead of ten. Since all subscriptions are entered by issue number (this one is No. 318), all subscriptions entered so far will receive ten issues as advertised. As of July 2010, subscriptions and renewals will be entered for six issues. * * * The idea for forming SJR was an outgrowth of the turmoil of the 1960s and what happened at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. When the Chicago media described the unrest as a student riot, Chicago journalists knew by their own observations that it was a police riot. They decided to publish the Chicago Journalism Review (CJR) to report on what they observed. In 1970, upon learning of CJR, a group of journalists from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch agreed that the St. Louis community deserved a similar watchdog. The concept of journalism reviews spread throughout the country. In the early ’70s, close to 30 local reviews were founded usually by journalists. These volunteer efforts gradually folded within a few years, so that today SJR is the only local journalism review being published.

By Margie Burns Klein had worked for AT&T as a technician for more than 22 years. He worked as a computer network associate in AT&T’s facility on Geary Street in San Francisco. In 2002, he said in his affidavit, an AT&T superior told Klein to expect a visit from an NSA agent, to interview a colleague for a “special job.” In 2003, Klein was transferred to AT&T's Folsom Street facility, a large phone and Internet hub. He

Both print and broadcast journalists have been instrumental in editing and writing for SJR from the very first issue. Since its first issue, interested journalists, academics and others involved in media have met once a month to critique the past issue and plan for the next issue. For a few hours, these editorial advisors shed their professional identity and become SJR addicts. Aside from those listed in the masthead, SJR benefited from the advice from many others, who prefer not to be listed. Over the years, SJR has been edited by a number of distinguished journalists and hundreds of writers have appeared in its pages. Since its founding, SJR has been honored with 28 major national and local awards. * * * The direction of SJR was established in the first issue. For the first time the public (and editors) learned about the Joint Operating Agency under which the Globe and the Post had joined their business operations. Other ground-breaking stories revealed that a Post reporter spied for the police; years later a student reporter at the University of Missouri–Columbia committed the same ethical breach; a St. Louis African-American publisher planted stories supplied by the FBI; the lack of minority hiring by the St. Louis media was a frequent topic; media icon George Seldes, 94 years of age, revealed that Gen. Pershing once

became aware that the NSA had set up a secure room there, later known as the “SG3 Secure Room.” He said a “splitter cabinet” had been installed where the public's phone calls were routed and were being diverted to the “SG3 Secure Room.” Klein also heard that secret rooms were constructed at AT&T facilities in San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Klein’s disclosure was first reported on April 7, 2006. Wire services carried the story, it was on the Internet, and CNN did a few segments. Most print periodicals, however, did not pick it up. Aside from tech publications, it showed up mainly in California papers—the continued on next page

sentenced him to death for interviewing Hindenburg; coverage of the demise of the Globe, when its circulation was larger than that of the weekday Post, caused a national stir in the media; Tobacco and its collaboration with the media since the 1940s; TV backpack journalism and its mixed review; the late economist Hyman Minsky, now internationally hailed as a prophet, was a regular columnist; the growing, destructive influence on the media by conglomerates; features on those in the news business; the list goes on and on. While the month-by-month coverage was solid, SJR’s shortcomings were always obvious. Editors never had the resources to assign one of our contributing writers to follow a lead months on end. With some exceptions, SJR could not plan for more than one or two issues ahead. Lack of resources made SJR’s coverage of the television industry, alternative media and the virtual world spotty with little follow-up. * * * With the help of resources at SIUC, SJR’s Web site will become an interactive vital source of information for its readers. This and other plans for expansion in coverage, both geographically and in depth, promise to uphold SJR’s primary watchdog function to become to the regular newspapers, radio and television stations and other media what those media are to government and other institutions. ■


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


continued from previous page

San Francisco Chronicle, and especially the San Jose Mercury News. The New York Times ran one article as did the National Journal. Unlike the newspapers, the Bush administration watched the lawsuit closely, soon initiating a “state secrets” claim to stop it. The Bush Justice Department's countermove generated further news coverage— again rather modest, given the allegation that AT&T had illegally funneled millions of private communications to the NSA. USA Today joined the story in May 2006 with a story headlined, “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls.” Its reporting on the NSA database sparked outrage in the public and in Congress. Perhaps the level of outrage scared off some corporate media outlets, either because of politics or because the telecoms were major advertisers. In any case, the Washington Post did not mention Klein until May 18, in a short piece from Bloomberg News reporting that a federal judge had allowed the EFF lawsuit against AT&T to go forward. Indeed, the Post did not run any original reporting on Klein’s affidavit until August 14, 2007. On May 22, 2006 Wired News published the NSA-AT&T documents, 29 pages of evidence linked on numerous blogs. covered the AT&T story—and followed up in June with a detailed piece on another NSA secret room at an AT&T facility in St. Louis—but dailies still tended to give it a miss, except when defending the NSA and AT&T or pooh-poohing the class action. News articles during summer 2006 mainly tracked the lawsuit, reporting when 17 lawsuits filed nationwide against the telecoms were consolidated in the District Court case in San Francisco and reporting when the state secrets claim was rebuffed in court. Again, any news articles ran mainly in California papers, in Slate and, or in tech publications. National press coverage of the NSAAT&T matter lulled from summer 2006 to February or March 2007. Ironically, considering that EFF filed the lawsuit based largely on some initial reporting in the LA Times, in December 2005, the paper dropped the story. Klein, interviewed by telephone,

10:28 AM

Page 10

said he tried to bring out the story in January 2006 and a reporter for the Los Angeles Times “was planning a big story,” but nothing was used. He believes someone “spoke to the government” and to then-NSA Director Michael V. Hayden, “who told them not to run it.” “This kept happening” Klein then went to the New York Times but in March 2006 the paper “stopped calling me.” Finally, he says, in April the story broke when EFF asked Klein to be a witness in their lawsuit against AT&T: “The government stepped in, and said we want to see the documents [non-classified engineering documents, retained by Klein when he retired from AT&T]... . Suddenly the media started calling; then the New York Times called me back” and ran articles,” Klein said, adding that the Times “showed the [internal] documents to four experts, who all agreed on them. . . . that was helpful.” Still, the story died down again: “The media were conflicted,” Klein says, “Quiet, silent. ... this kept happening.” Klein thought he was making headway when he taped an interview with 60 Minutes in September 2006 with Steve Croft. “It was to be an exclusive—I couldn’t talk to anybody else.” But the interview never aired. Klein points out the timing: “Throughout the 2006 election period, my mouth was taped shut. I couldn’t say anything when people called me up.” “Then in 2007,” Klein says, “I was interviewed by ABC, then on PBS Frontline. Both did a good job.” PBS interviewed him for a documentary on NSA spying which aired May 16, 2007. But Klein refers to the 60 Minutes experience as a “blackout. I have to think that was political. Somebody higher up put a political kibosh on it.” Klein came to Washington in November 2007 to oppose legislation giving the telecoms immunity from litigation. He held a Washington news conference; National Public Radio and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown interviewed him. The Washington Post ran an article by Ellen Nakashima. The Bush administration won the telecoms immunity battle in 2008, against the backdrop of a presidential primary season and little significant coverage of the AT&T contro-


versy. On July 8, the St. Louis PostDispatch did run an op-ed coauthored by Klein and Babak Pasdar, who came forward with similar claims about another wireless carrier. On the telecom immunity legislation, the op-ed piece said “Today's vote could legalize past illegal government spying.” Klein says the main cases were dismissed in June 2009, a year after the immunity legislation passed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation suit against NSA just got dismissed recently. No major papers ran articles about Klein in 2009 or have run them in 2010. Olbermann included a segment on MSNBC on April 8, 2009. Klein brought out his book, “Wiring Up The Big Brother Machine,” in July 2009. “Warrants, according to the Fourth Amendment, have to be very specific. A splitter is not specific. It sweeps up everything. It’s inherently illegal by virtue of the apparatus. . . . obviously they wanted to get domestic calls as well as foreign calls,” Klein said. He favors repealing immunity for the telecoms. “The only way to stop this [surveillance] is physically to rip this equipment out. . . . The government will use it as long as it’s there,” Klein says. All of the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuits have been dismissed in the courts except one, AlHaramain v. Bush, in which plaintiffs used a government document to show that the government had used illegal eavesdropping. San Francisco's federal court allowed the AlHaramain case to go forward with the condition that the actual document not be used. Defendants include FBI Director Robert Mueller. On July 19, 2010, the Washington Post began a three-part series called “Top Secret America,” on the hidden world of 1,271 governments organizations and 1,931 private companies working in secret intelligence programs in 10,000 locations across the United States. A political meme routinely favored by media outlets in 2010 opposes investigation and prosecution of Bush officials in favor of “moving forward.” But if the Mark Klein story teaches us anything, it is that secrecy and concealment are moving backward. ■ Margie Burns is a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C., and teaches college English.

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

hat does the public think about health care reform? Difficult to say without a lengthy survey but that does not keep the media and the public polls from trying. The results, however, can often be misleading. The desire for a easily interpretable story line (“Public divided on health care reform”) and the interviewing cost constraints (“we can only afford a few questions”) creates a shaky data base for potentially meaty conclusions. Take, for example, USA Today’s front-page story (March 24) three days after the House had passed the health care measure. Based on a one-night Gallup poll conducted on March 22, the lead sentence was “More Americans now favor than oppose the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday…a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against the legislation.” But the Gallup question buttressing this finding was one the firm had never previously used. The March 22 wording was, “As you may know, yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that restructures the health care system—all in all, do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that Congress passed this bill?” “Good” won out over “bad” by 49 percent to 40 percent. In its pre-vote survey, conducted March 4 through 7, Gallup’s wording was, “Thinking about health care legislation now being considered by Congress, would you advise your member of Congress to vote for or against a healthcare bill this year, or do you not have an opinion?” “Against” narrowly finished ahead of “For” by 48 percent to 45 percent. Was it a real turnaround or an inappropriate comparison between two related but essentially different questions? A respondent might answer “good” to the March 24 question, for example, because the Congress finally stopped a debate that seemingly would never end and finally made a decision. The interpretation that the March 24 result was partially generated by a morning-after sense of relief is reinforced by a

politics & media / Terry Jones


Public opinion on health care restructuring currently is largely impressionistic, more driven by broad ideology, inflammatory rhetoric, and fear of change.

Terry Jones is professor of political science at UM-St. Louis

Page 11

March 26–28 Gallup poll when “bad” pulled ahead of “good” by 50 percent to 47 percent. Another complicating factor for measuring public opinion is capturing a complex set of policy changes in a single phrase (“health care overhaul” or “health care bill”). The Kaiser Family Foundation has been conducting detailed monthly surveys on health reform since June 2009. The March poll, conducted the week before the House vote, found only 27 percent of the public says it knows “a lot” about “how the health care reform proposals being discussed in Congress would affect you and your family personally,” a share only three percentage points higher than June 2009. Even that self-reported familiarity probably overestimates public understanding. Also on the same survey, Kaiser asked whether the “independent Congressional Budget Office which analyzes the cost of legislation said the health reform legislation currently being discussed in Congress will increase the federal budget deficit over the next ten years, decrease the deficit over the next ten years, or is it not expected to have much impact on the deficit?” The increase/decrease options were rotated to guard against bias created by which one was mentioned first. The correct answer is “decrease” but only 15 percent chose it. The majority, 55 percent, replied “increase” and just 10 percent volunteered that they did not know. That’s far from the only example of misinformation found by the Kaiser surveys. In mid-March, 41 percent thought the health care bill approved March 21 would require “most people who currently get health insurance coverage through their employer” would be required “to change their existing health insurance arrangement.” Public opinion on health care restructuring currently is largely impressionistic, more driven by broad ideology (e.g., role of government), inflammatory rhetoric (e.g., “death panels”), and fear of change. Until the policy becomes real and familiar (think Social Security or Medicare), a process that will take up to a decade with this reform, it would premature to draw firm conclusions. ■

Flawed reporting on health care polls


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template




10:28 AM

Page 12


$ $ To end St. Louis Earnings Tax $ $ $ $ Shows $ $ $ One millionaire’s political reach $ $ $ $ $ By Jessica Bellomo illionaire and retired investment banker Rex Sinquefield is currently in the process of single-handedly spear-heading the cause to end the one-percent earnings tax that provides about a third of St. Louis City’s total revenue, or approximately the cost of running the entire St. Louis Police Department. Kansas City, the only other city in Missouri with an earnings tax, would also lose about the same amount. Limited media coverage has suggested that Sinquefield’s successful gathering of 200,000 signatures in support of a state vote to remove the tax is good for democracy, while media outlets such as St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Business Journal, have called Sinquefield himself a “philanthropist” and “benefactor.” What Sinquefield has in fact accomplished is the curtailing of the rules in the attempt to fit as many politicians into his silk-lined pockets as possible. His actions are counter to democracy in that he is attempting to drown out opposing voices by throwing 100 times more than the legal limit in financial contributions into political campaigns that side in his favor. As a county resident who has businesses in the city, Sinquefield’s personal agenda


to avoid a one-percent city tax has become a public issue that could negatively affect the hundreds of thousands of citizens living and working in St. Louis City. Sinquefield has circumvented the laws regarding how much an individual can contribute to a cause or politician by creating 100 political action committees (PACs) and then making himself the president of all of them and using them to make large donations. The Missouri Citizen Education Fund published two reports, one in October 2007 and one in June 2008, detailing the political contributions of Sinquefield. The Fund found that “Rex Sinquefield created 100 new [PACs] in September 2007. The formation of these PACs allows him to legally contribute 100 times the legal limit to the candidate or officials of his choice. Sinquefield…acknowledges that he is skirting Missouri’s campaign donations limits by setting up 100 [PACs] so each can donate the maximum to favored candidates.” His money buys support Sinquefield has shown his political sway by forcing the measure to end the earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis onto the state ballot. According to KTVI-FOX2 reporter Charles Jaco, Sinquefield has “do-


nated heavily to politicians like Mayor Slay and Senator Kit Bond.” Mayor Slay, who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on January 18, 2010 that “Getting rid of the tax without finding another source of revenue would be devastating,” is now speaking out against the tax that will make or break his city. According to reporter Dave Helling at the Kansas City Star, Sinquefield has personally spent $1.75 million on the petition drive so far. Let Voters Decide, the organization heading up the petition to remove the tax and founded by Sinquefield, paid a private company more than $575,000 to gather the petition signatures. The “experts” fighting for Sinquefield’s cause, such as Joseph Haslag of the Show-Me Institute, and Mark Ellinger of Let Voters Decide, work directly for him, but it appears as though these supposed experts are coming from independent organizations because it is not mentioned that Sinquefield is founder and president of these organizations. Columnist David Nicklaus of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in his article entitled “City Earnings Tax Debate Helps Region” pits two supposed experts against each other as though they both have credible, relatively objective arguments; however, the debate is between Dr. Jack Strauss, economist and Director of

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


the Simon Center for Regional Forecasting at St. Louis University, versus Joseph Haslag, who works for the Show-Me Institute, of which Sinquefield is president. No plan to replace funds If this tax is abandoned, the infrastructure of St. Louis and Kansas City will suffer greatly, but no one is seriously proposing any way to replace the money. Instead, a vague acknowledgement that the tax will have to be replaced somehow is mentioned as an afterthought. Mark Ellinger, a spokesperson for Let Voters Decide, told Paul Schankman of FOX2 News that, “If they choose to discontinue [the earnings tax] then there certainly needs to be a plan. City leadership, with all due respect, can come up with a plan.” In other words, it is not Let Voters Decide’s problem; it is the “city leadership’s” problem. These same city leaders will have little or no say in whether the earnings tax will be abandoned since this measure will be put to a state vote rather than a city vote. Some ideas that Sinquefield’s representatives have off-handedly thrown around to replace the earnings tax are either a large increase in sales taxes or in property taxes. An increase in the sales tax to as much as 12 percent is not going to convince new businesses to move to the city; furthermore, flat taxes are harder on the poor since the percentage is disproportionate to each person’s earnings. Property taxes are also a bad idea. The reason St. Louis City originally began collecting earnings taxes is because there is such a large number of people who work in St. Louis City but live in the county, so all of the money they make in the city goes to the county in the form of county property taxes. There have been no media reports featuring any St. Louis businesses speaking out against the tax, and studies show that new businesses care much more that a city has a healthy infrastructure than if they have a one-percent earnings tax for employees. There is abundant evidence suggesting that businesses choose their locations based on the following criteria, in order of importance: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Skilled workforce Limited bureaucracy Infrastructure Quality of life factors (e.g. crime and climate)

10:28 AM

Page 13

Sinquefield Profile Political writer Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch did a longoverdue profile of Rex Sinquefield on June 27 saying he's become a household name in Missouri by plowing millions into state and local candidates and causes. Here's some of the information she gathered on Sinquefield, 65. He became rich through his firm in California that managed institutional investment funds. He is described as having a free-market philosophy with more individual freedom from government regulation. After retiring in 2005, he came back to St. Louis, where he was raised (spent six years in an orphanage). He's spent nearly $12 million on state and local political contributions, more than half of that on his campaign to have statewide voters scrap the earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City. He believes this will improve the business climate. He has a phalanx of lobbyists, public relations staffers and his favorite think tank or academic experts. With no limit on campaign contributions he writes checks of $25,000 to $50,000 to state and local politicians, such as Mayor Francis Slay. Wining and dining lawmakers is part of his program. His public relations effort is headed by Laura Slay, a cousin of the mayor. Sinquefield's scheme to bypass the legislature and go straight to the voters in the Nov. 2 election will no doubt be certified by the secretary of state because of the excess signatures on his petitions. If voters approve, the earnings taxes would be phased out over 11 years and could not be reinstated. He has off-handedly suggested replacement of the earnings tax revenue by increasing sales and property taxes and perhaps selling the city-owned Lambert Airport. “They've got almost 11 years to figure this out,” he was quoted. Sinquefield has also been pushing legislators to eliminate the Missouri income tax and possibly replacing the revenue with a broader sales tax. He also favors having the state provide education tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools. 5. Cost of doing business (e.g. housing, utilities, taxes) The infrastructure of St. Louis is already shaky, and the elimination of one third of the city’s funding could help destroy it. St. Louis is already one of the most dangerous cities in the country, and such a dramatic reduction in funding will surely affect the number of police officers and fire fighters available. Surely businesses would rather pay one-percent in taxes for the sake of a safer environment in which to work. St. Louis City and Kansas City are both in grave danger as a result of this one man’s actions, yet local media outlets have seemed unconcerned at best and completely duped at worst. No one stops to wonder, for example, why the mayor of St. Louis would suddenly become opposed to an uncontroversial tax about which businesses have not complained and which he claimed was necessary only four months earlier. No one considers who is behind organizations like Let Voters Decide and the Show-Me Institute, or why this particular measure has such a flood of funding when so many oth-

ers like it fall by the wayside due to a lack of finances. No one stops to envision what a St. Louis with a third less funding would look and feel like. Interestingly, Kansas City reporters such as those mentioned above seem to have developed a more balanced and researched opinion of Sinquefield and the measure to end the tax. Mayor Mark Funkhouser of Kansas City has spoken out against ending the tax, while St. Louis reporters and politicians alike remain either mute on the subject or in support of the “philanthropist’s” contributions. Sinquefield has not spurred a healthy debate, as many of the limited articles on the subject seem to suggest, but is simply using his money to control as many people as possible. With the media’s combination of underreporting and misreporting, the story of the earnings tax has become nothing more than free PR for Sinquefield. And the last thing this guy needs is a hand-out. ■ Jessica Bellomo is Director of the International Visitor Leadership Program for the World Affairs Council. She wrote this article for a graduate course at Webster University,


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 14


RANDY OLSON By Rick Stoff At great trouble and expense, photographer Randy Olson had arranged for a private plane to travel to Sinop, Turkey, where he planned to get an aerial view at sunset of the peninsula on the Black Sea. “I am circling around Sinop and finally everything is alright. I take one frame and the street lights are matching the little peninsula,” Olson said. “We take a circle around. By the time we get to where I am going to photograph, the entire town blinks out. It's a power outage, which is pretty normal in those areas. If you don’t have patience, you can’t really do this job.” The “job” is getting photographs for The National Geographic magazine. It's highly challenging and Olson is at the top of his profession, trekking the world with his camera to tell stories of places, cultures and people. Olson grew up in Webster Groves, the son of now-retired St. Louis Post-Dispatch book editor Clarence Olson and his mother Arielle North. He decided at a young age that he wanted to be a photographer. He has been a contributing photographer to National Geographic magazine for 18 years. He was named the Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1992, when he worked at the Pittsburgh Press. In 2003, he became the Magazine Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition. He is one of two photographers who have won the award in both categories. His wife, Melissa Farlow, is also a contributing photographer for National Geographic. They live in Pitts-

burgh, where they both had worked for the Pittsburgh Press, but also have residential property near Portland, Ore. Started with toy camera Olson was barely walking when he discovered photography through his father. “He was a photographer and that was a cool thing to do,” he said of his dad. “He did a lot of different jobs at newspapers, but I could always tell that being a photographer was one he really liked.” Randy was less than two when his parents got him a toy camera and his obsession began. Olson's career goal took shape as he worked on his high school newspaper. “A camera lets you fit in. High school is an interesting socialization period and that’s kind of how I socialized, through the camera,” he said. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Kansas, Olson became a newspaper photographer. That eventually took him to the Pittsburgh Press, where he earned his Newspaper Photographer of the Year honors. Farlow worked there, too, but both would soon face the loss of their jobs. While working for National Geographic is the dream of many photographers, Olson said it is not a realistic goal to pursue. Out of thousands of professional newspaper and magazine photographers, “There are only between 20 and 40 photographers who work regularly for National Geographic. Many of them are highly specialized. There are three levels of underwater guys—one just holds his breath


underneath whales. There is a bug guy, an artifacts guy. There are really only a few social documentary people like Melissa and me.” The National Geographic spends millions on photography but doesn't keep photographers on staff, instead using contributors, or freelancers. The shooters, depending on the number of assignments, can make more than newspaper photographers, though they have expenses like any freelancer. But it's the satisfaction of getting good pictures on far-flung assignments that draws them to the work. “They don’t hire out much work. They are not going to respond to people who are coming at them. They are going to respond to people who are doing work that they think is intriguing. You have to concentrate on making good photographs tomorrow, and then the next day and the next day.” They get a call Olson had built an impressive

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template



body of work when a call came from National Geographicwith assignments for both he and Farlow. “They called both of us around the time our newspaper was dying out from under us. We both had won international competitions and were doing social documentary in a way that got the attention of the editors. They needed to beef up their humanbased social documentary photography at a time when we needed jobs, so we were pretty lucky— serendipitous.” Patience is a necessity in shooting National Geographiccaliber photography, Olson said. It may take days to get one image that delivers the rich color, dramatic mood, artistic composition, stylized motion or infinite focus that characterize work published in one of the world’s top photographic publications. A National Geographic assignment may take Olson, 52, on location for two to four months, but that time goes by in a rush. “Two months maybe seems like a lot of time, but there has to be 40 photographs that are publishable at the level of National Geographic,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Oregon where he was making preparations to continue an assignment that would take him to ten countries. While feeling rushed, he must push himself to take time for the best shot to appear, he said. “Serendipity rules, and you just can’t fight it. If you try to fight it, you end up getting frustrated and angry and no good comes of it. There are people who are cheerful and patient and all that—I don’t think that is how I come naturally, but in respect to photography you don’t have an option.” Farlow, Olson’s wife of 23 years, was part of a team that won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography at the Louisville Courier Journal and Louisville Times. The team covered the tense events that accompanied court-ordered busing and desegregation of public schools.

10:28 AM

Page 15

Her photos also have won awards in the POYi judging. She is from Paoli, Indiana, and received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. She and her husband also received master of arts degrees at the University of Missouri, where they taught photojournalism. They first met at an awards ceremony at Mizzou; the second time was when he stayed at her house at the invitation of her then-boyfriend. “She still didn't remember me,” Olson said. The third time was when he picked her up at an airport. “That time she remembers,” he said. Farlow’s recent work for National Geographic has included features on wild mustang horses and the Kentucky Derby. This summer, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Farlow was a role model for a teen-ager who has cystic fibrosis, but wonders if she can become a photographer for National Geographic. They took a ride in a small plane on the Pacific coast and Farlow showed her how to take aerial photos. Talent for story-telling Olson has photographed the importance of salmon to the remote Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia and the struggles of the Kara Tribe that lives along the Omo River in Ethiopia. Story-telling, more than technical skill, is the central element of National Geographic photojournalism, Olson said. “What I do, what Melissa and the other folks out on these stories do, is to think about it as a storyboard. It is a constantly challenging puzzle. You can never put it together perfectly, so it is a challenge that just doesn’t go away.” He describes social documentary photography as the portrayal of people and cultures, from the Kara Tribe to the growing “comfort class” of China. “In social documentary photography there is a continuum. On one side there are photographers that want you to know how clever they are. When you see their photographs you see how talented they are with their color palette, layers, light, that kind of thing, and often subjects are just another element in the composition,” Olson said. “On the other side of the continuum are

photographers that want you to look at one of their photographs and see what the subject is thinking and feeling. The latter part is what drew me to photography and still interests me today.” In a press release announcing an exhibit of the couple’s work last winter in Pittsburgh, Farlow stated, “We photograph real people—unexposed—and try to show them as they really are. Our hope is that a viewer will take from it the things we have in common with others that may seem so different, or to show reality with the viewer being the judge.” Olson prefers to travel light, with just a minimum of equipment. “I don’t take very much, a roll-aboard with a few cameras and a few lenses, a strobe. I like to be unencumbered and allow things to happen in front of me that don’t happen when you are coming at something with a lot of equipment.” He figures he was only the second National Geographic photographer to go digital. In the film days, he carried 35mm Nikon and Leica equipment and sometimes a medium-format Hasselblad or Mamiya. The National Geographic photographers used to number each roll of film and ship back the odd and even rolls in separate packages. “If a shipment was lost, the other half would have a chance of surviving.” He now travels with three digital Canons and a Leica M9. Adjusting to different cultures Being as low-key as possible is one of the keys to photographing people in their natural state, he said. “Every culture is different. Some are very welcoming to photographers, some are very isolated. The family is a private place, not a place where a photographer comes in. You have to adjust to whatever you are thrown into. “When I am photographing pygmies, (it's like) I have got a sign across my forehead that says ‘I am from Mars.’ They cannot stop looking at the camera, they cannot stop looking at me. That kind of culture you cannot work the same way you can work a goldsmith in India. He just thinks, ‘I am doing my job and he is doing his job,’ and he goes about what he is doing.” continued on page 16


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 16

Photographer with Pygmy boys in the Congo. Continued from page 15

National Geographic photographers hire assistants to guide them through foreign lands. “You have to hire not just a translator but someone who can make things work. We call them fixers,” Olson said. “That person may be allied with a government or have good connections in the media, or something. Fixers” often are hired upon the recommendations of other National Geographic photographers who have worked in the same regions. National Geographic journalists may not be the bush-whacking explorers the public may imagine, Olson said. “I go to places that are as remote as anywhere, way back in the Congo or remote parts of Sudan or Siberia, but there are only a few assignments where I am the only one who has been in this place. Where someone is thinking they would never go, there are often many people there. There are NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and there are a couple of Mormon kids with white shirts and black ties riding bicycles and trying to proselytize. There are just a few areas that are remote enough that there is no support and where you have to bring in all your food and guides.” These destinations usually do not feature luxury accommodations. “It is long days, it is hard travel, it is tiring,” he said. “There are medical things you have to be careful about—malaria and lung infections and that kind of stuff.” Olson’s magazine work takes him away from his homes in Oregon and

Camel beauty pageant by Randy Olson.

Pittsburgh for four or more months each year. One year he was on the road for 11 months, but some of that time was spent with his wife as she handled a National Geographic assignment in the Alps. Being married to an international photojournalist has been a plus for his marriage, Olson said. “The older generation of National Geographic photographers were mostly men who would stick some beautiful woman in a cabin out in the woods and go for away for a year then wonder why she was mad when he got back. I think it is better to be married to someone who understands what you do rather than someone who is in a very different kind of job who doesn’t understand why you are doing this.” Assigning stories National Geographic editors are more likely to assign their own story ideas but sometimes accept pitches from contributors, he said. “But the assignment can simply be, ‘China's Middle Class,’ and we (writer and photog) have to figure out the rest.” Some stories repeat every decade or two and “there are different ones that pertain to specific events that cultures are going through, new discoveries, those kind of things. “One of the reasons they spend so much money on these assignments is that we are trying to do things you can’t find on the Internet. We are trying to be an original source. That fits with the mission of the (National Geographic) Society.” A close-range, underwater image of a fishing grizzly bear is one of the


things you don’t see everywhere else. One of Olson’s most memorable photos appeared in National Geographic’s August 2009 issue in the feature, “Where the Salmon Rule.” It was picked as one of the magazine’s ten best shots of the year; the ten photos were featured on a PBS special in March. Part of life on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula are the bears who survive by eating the salmon that also support the human population. Olson spent hours on the bank of a lake waiting for a chance to catch a bear at close range. After all that time, he was able to shoot only two frames. “I shot it with a remote underwater camera that was underwater for three or four days. The bear had to be two or three feet from the camera to register in that water because it was kind of murky. Because of the limitations of how the camera was tethered, it was only six or seven feet away from me. “You couldn’t really be down there firing the camera yourself because of the way these grizzly bears fish. They come bounding through the water where they think the fish may be. Once they step on something that feels squishy like a fish, they immediately go down and bite its head off. They didn’t look at me as a food source, but if you were down there and the bear stepped on you and you felt squishy, it would not be good.” ■ Rick Stoff, a former St. Louis Globe-Democrat reporter and editor, now practices public relations at his own firm, Stoff Communications.

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 17

Randy Olson and his wife Melissa Farlow, longtime photographers for The National Geographic. Family photo: Randy is at the right Photo credit: Patrick hugging his niece, Lindsey Kennedy. Tehan Melissa is next to Lindsey. Arielle is next to Clarence on the left. hen Clarence Olson’s small son Randy saw his dad with a camera he wanted one too. Randy soon got his own camera, though it was just a toy. At the time, Clarence was a photographer for the Capital Times in Madison, WI. He later joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and spent 31 years there, two-thirds of that time as the book editor. Randy’s attachment to his camera didn’t fade. He stuck with photography during his grade and high school years in Webster Groves and at the University of Kansas. He became a newspaper photographer and now, at 52, he is one of the top photographers for National Geographic. So is his wife, Melissa Farlow. The Olsons—Clarence and his wife Arielle, and two other grown children—follow Randy’s travels around the world and take pride in his accomplishments. But the whole family is accomplished. Arielle North, which is her professional name, has long reviewed children’s books and five of her own have been published. Middle child Christy Kennedy, has four children and lives in Lawrence, KS, were she is a free-lance editorial layout designer. Youngest son Jens has three children and is an electrical


Randy Olson, not yet two, with his toy camera, imitating his dad, Clarence. Randy said he developed an obsession for photography early on.

engineer, living in Saratoga, CA. Hailed from Wisconsin Clarence is now 82, but looks fit enough to work on a dairy farm, which he did as a youngster in Wisconsin. He entered the Navy near the end of World War II, but never got to use his radar training. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin he traveled the country working at odd jobs. He returned to Wisconsin and learned to use a 4X5 Speed Graphic to take pictures for a centennial issue of the weekly Edgerton (WI) Reporter. It was there he met Arielle on a blind date. She was visiting from New Jersey where she worked for the Morristown Daily Record writing features and other articles. Her father, Sterling North, was a respected literary critic on the East Coast and author of 27 books. An annual award in his name is given to authors and artists who make a significant contribution to children’s’ literature. Clarence’s brother had set up the blind date and it blossomed into marriage. Clarence, who answers to the nickname Ole, got on the Capital Times as a photographer, thanks to his stint doing the centennial photos. Then, along came Randy.

The family came to St. Louis in 1959 where the other two children were born. Clarence worked on the Post-Dispatch’s Sunday Pictures section and his editor, Julius Klyman “was the best editor I ever had... I had to learn to write features.” Nonetheless, after 10 years Clarence accepted a job for a new magazine which was supposed to start up in California. The Olsons sold their house in St. Louis and bought another in Delmar, CA. But the magazine, to be called Careers Today, was scrapped by the parent owner Psychology Today, before it ever saw daylight. The Olsons came back to St. Louis and Clarence went back to the Post. Though he lost 10 years of seniority he was given the job of book editor which had become open. He held that post for 21 years, retiring in 1991. In 1995 the Olson’s bought a second home on the coast of Oregon overlooking the Pacific ocean They live there half the year, wintering in their Webster Groves’ home. The family likes to do reunions in Oregon where Randy and Melissa often join them. Though the traveling photographers call Pittsburgh home, they also bought a condo and a home in the Portland area. ■ Roy Malone


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


sports & media / Joe Pollack Joe Pollack is a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist and operator of the blog

Page 18

ll the worst things about college sports— greed, sexism, egos, more greed, stupidity, even more greed —are bearing fruit in this summer of 2010, and the latest development is that the courts are going to decide what is a sport and what is not a sport, kind of like having to decide what is a fruit and what is a vegetable. As the NCAA takes a deep breath it realizes how close it has come to being deemed more irrelevant than it already is, with the big colleges having come this close to forming four 16-team super-conferences, setting up their own television deals and leaving the NCAA twisting in the wind. Media coverage has been heavy, at least by newspapers, blog sites and ESPN. Local TV stations have little choice in what games they show, so covering or not covering is out of their range of vision, and talk radio has its usual thousands of opinions, almost all based on emotion and not knowledge. The Big 12 barely escaped annihilation and Mizzou (my Good Ol’ Alma Mater) discovered large portions of egg on its face. Mike Alden soon discovered it was no yolk when he tried to bluff a bust hand into a pot where other people (like Texas) were holding lots of aces and kings. By taking a superior-thanthou posture and disparaging other conference schools, the Tigers and Gov. Jay Nixon made some enemies, and in the end showed that they had few teeth, and little power. The truth is that old rivalries and geography and travel costs don’t count a tinker’s dam in this reorganization. It’s all about money. TV money first and foremost, followed by ancillary revenue and gate money. The power schools (Texas, Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State, USC before the most recent scandal, Florida and some others) want a national championship game, with several weeks of games leading up to it. The Big Ten has the most lucrative television contract, and is greedy for more. The conference wants Notre Dame, but Notre Dame has its own TV deal and enough of a national name that it can remain independent as long as it chooses. But even the Irish can be swayed by the idea, the publicity and the cash of a Collegiate Super Bowl. In the near future, look for the Big Ten to court Rutgers, which will provide an entry into the New York television mar-


The truth is that old rivalries and geography and travel costs don’t count a tinker’s dam in this reorganization. It’s all about money. TV money first and foremost, followed by ancillary revenue and gate money.

10:28 AM

ket, or Pitt, which will lock up Pennsylvania. Missouri is definitely in a pickle these days. The Tigers draw viewers in St. Louis and Kansas City, but their scheduling habits of the recent past have made them lessthan exciting to TV. In the interest of piling up victories and big scores, plus banking some wins for the various minor bowls they seem to prefer, the Tigers have battered such patsies as Bowling Green, McNeese State, Southeast Missouri, Buffalo and Furman in recent years. All the nonsense of claiming records comes from two things—playing more games and playing weaker opponents. Since TV is interested in showing exciting games and well-matched teams, the Tigers find themselves on the sidelines. Conference expansion seems over for a while. I think the various conferences fear that rapid expansion might bring government curiosity, and they will let things shake out for a few years before they move again. Some of the greedier and smarter athletic directors want four 16-team conferences, and we can be certain there will be many quiet conversations as universities’ athletic departments battle for position and power. So far, Ol’ Alma Mater has shown itself to be below the top rank when it comes to smarts and toughness.

Greed drives college grid expansion


Post slights other teams I’ve been a baseball fan for a long, long time. I went to my first major league game in 1938. My Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Phillies, 4-2, at Ebbets Field. I love baseball no matter who is playing. Years as a sports writer, and learning the importance of objectivity, increased my affection for the game, not for any individual team. My warm feelings for the Dodgers disappeared minutes after Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles. But I am puzzled by how much space the Post-Dispatch devotes to the Cardinals and how little to the other major league teams and games. On a normal day, there will be three or four stories on the previous day’s game, plus a column if Bernie Miklasz or Bryan Burwell chooses to write one. Two or three writers are at Busch Stadium every night; always one, sometimes continued on page 25

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

he more I did it, the more I liked it.” That’s how Lou “Fatha” Thimes describes his entry into radio. The beginning was inauspicious. Thimes was sitting in the barracks at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa when the captain came in looking for a volunteer disc jockey to play black music on the base radio station. Things went well on the air, and the experience paid off when he returned to civilian life in St. Louis. He started out playing gospel music on Saturdays at KATZ in 1958. “I guess I had a good enough voice,” he says, “because soon they took me off the gospel show and had me playing rhythm and blues.” The setup of the studios back then was very different from what most people may have envisioned. The announcer sat at a table with a microphone on it. In another room, behind soundproof glass, an engineer took care of the technical work, playing the records and commercials and keeping audio at the proper level. And it was up to each disc jockey to pick his own music. “That was before owners decided they could choose music,” Thimes said. During the week, the other jocks on the air were Dave Dixon, Robert BQ and Doug Eason. They also played R&B and gospel. Soon another local owner came calling. Richard Miller offered Fatha more money to jump to KXLW, the market’s other R&B station. The KXLW studios, located on Bompart Avenue at the station’s tower site, were smaller and the studio operation was different. The DJs had to operate their own control boards and the only engineer Thimes remembers was Jimmy Mitchell, whom he says was always tinkering with the transmitter. At first, working for a local owner was no different than working at a station whose owner lived in another city. “We were trying to beat KATZ, so Richard left us alone at that time. Later, he decided he knew music.” Like most of his fellow deejays, Thimes had gigs on the side to make money. He pursued his comedy career with partner John Smith in a team known as “Lou and Blue,” in various clubs around town. This sideline gave him a perfect opportunity to cross paths with some well-known musicians, who would later end up as guests on his radio program—people like Dinah Wash-

Radio History/Frank Absher


“I would like to do another blues show on the radio but nobody’s playing that music on the air. How can you not play the blues?”

Frank Absher is a St. Louis radio historian. St. Louis radio history is available online at

Page 19

ington, Louis Jordan and Otis Redding. Other disc jockeys were also moonlighting. Dave Dixon and Roscoe McCrary would produce talent shows at the YMCA at Sarah and Page. They’d bring in people like Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight. KXLW also opened the door for announcers to pick up lucrative contracts. “I remember when Anheuser Busch bought my show on KXLW. They had my picture, along with the station’s call letters, on every black tavern’s juke box. “There was a gentleman at the brewery, Mr. Porter, who didn’t like blues. He almost killed some of those contracts. When he asked me what kind of music I played, I’d tell him it was requested music.

Playing the Blues on R&B radio

Lou “Fatha” Thimes “A-B had salesmen on the street, and the disc jockeys would travel with the salesmen to different taverns and buy beer for people in the taverns. I couldn’t go anywhere without somebody yelling ‘Hey, Lou. Let’s have a beer!’” Thimes says he was surprised when he found out white kids were listening to his show “A white kid called me one day and asked what I was doing working at that black radio station. They thought I was white!” When the music changed and management began telling the announcers what they had to play, Thimes knew it was time to hang it up. “I only knew blues and that’s all I wanted to do. “I would like to do another blues show on the radio but nobody’s playing that music on the air. How can you not play the blues?” ■


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 20

A Potpourri of a stranded Ukranian plane, investment in the Chicago Sun-Times, ties to ilyush casinos, lobbyists, in-ii-7 8-2 aborted bankruptcy filing and it is all of interest (well, not all) to the Wall Street Journal. Reporter C.D. Stelzer, while researching dealings of some investors with government connections, came across an interesting side story—a huge former military plane from the Soviet era has been stranded at U.S. airports for four years because of legal squabbles. Stelzer found out how it happened. By C.D. Stelzer evin Flynn, an investor in the Chicago Sun-Times, also holds a stake in a Soviet-era military aircraft owned by Illinois powerbroker Gary Fears. A bankruptcy case filed in St. Louis last fall on behalf of Air Support Systems LLC shows that Flynn, a former Illinois casino operator, holds a $1.3 million stake in the corporation’s only asset—a gargantuan Soviet-era military aircraft worth millions of dollars Since securing an interest in the refueling tanker—which has been stranded for a year at a former Air Force base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—Flynn has made another investment. He is now part owner of the Chicago Sun-Times. Flynn, 42, was among ten coinvestors who bought the financially troubled tabloid in October, according to the Chicago Tribune. Other


investors include William and Robert Parrillo, whose father was an attorney for Al Capone. Flynn is alleged to have more recent ties to Chicago organized crime. In 2001, the Illinois Gaming Board yanked his long-dormant state license because two of his investors had ties to the Chicago mob. At the time of the revocation, Flynn and his father, Donald Flynn, a former executive of Waste Management Inc., were seeking to transfer their gaming license from the shuttered Silver Eagle casino in East Dubuque, so they could operate the proposed Emerald Casino in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb. Investors in the casino deal included associates of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, according to the Chicago Tribune. Donald Flynn, 70, is CEO of LKQ Corp., a Chicagobased national auto salvage company. Kevin Flynn heads Renovo


Services LLC, a multi-state vehicle repossession operation. Gary Fears, the 64-year-old owner of Air Support Services, met the Flynns in the 1990s, when they operated the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind. Kevin Flynn and Fears were later involved in a failed Indian casino development in California. Fears, who is the subject of an investigative series in the online journal FOCUS/Midwest, resides in Boca Raton, Fla. But his career is rooted in Madison County, Ill. politics, where he made his bones decades ago as an operative for thenGov. Dan Walker. Since leaving public life, he has traded on his insider status to parlay a series of controversial deals into a financial empire. That empire began in the early 1980s, when he received millions from the state to build a hotel in Collinsville but eventually defaulted on the loan, leaving Illinois taxpay-

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


ers in the lurch. A decade later, he circumvented regulators and made a fortune selling his family’s hidden interest in Illinois’ first riverboat casino. Both deals involved Illinois powerbroker William Cellini of Springfield, who is now under federal indictment on unrelated charges tied to the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. At this time, Fears pursued other ventures, including acquisition of the Ilyushin IL-78 aircraft, The plane, formerly owned by the Ukrainian Air Force, departed Kiev on May 23, 2006, according to flight records, and landed the next day at the North Texas Regional Airport in Sherman, Texas. Once there it sat idle for the next three years due to financing problems and squabbles among Fears’ partners. Finally, on July 17, 2009, a ninemember Ukrainian crew boarded the

10:28 AM

Page 21

IL-78 with the intent of flying it to Pakistan. Alerted to the plane’s departure, Victor Miller, the owner of Air 1 Flight Services, filed a restraining order, and the plane was diverted to Sawyer International Airport, in Gwinn, Mich., where it has been stranded ever since due to litigation. The St. Louis bankruptcy case is related to a civil suit filed by Miller for unpaid maintenance expenses of more than $70,000. On October 23, a judge in Marquette County, Mich. ruled in Miller’s favor. Fears countered by filing for Chapter 11 protection for Air Support Systems on October 28 in federal bankruptcy court in St. Louis. “That stayed all of the action,” says Cheryl Hill, the Marquette County prosecutor who is the legal custodian of the aircraft. On Dec. 17, Fears reversed his strategy and had his St. Louis bankruptcy attorney

C.D. Stelzer is a freelance investigative reporter. His series on Gary Fears is available at It was funded by a grant from the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Wall Street Journal plays up the quirky

hen it comes to a Russianmade military cargo plane stranded on the Michigan Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior, the question “What’s up with that plane?” was asked in one of the headlines of a Wall Street Journal article, yet never much answered. That same plane’s peculiar fate gets a fuller examination in the online incantation of the still-breathing FOCUS/Midwest magazine. This may be another example of a non-profit funded online version of the Fourth Estate doing a more in-depth treatment of an event than the mainstream media—or it could just be a typical rollof-the-dice editorial call to give a topic or an event a different spin. The FOCUS/Midwest piece in May (http://focusmid produced by C.D. Stelzer is thorough, meticulous recounting of the plane’s recent history as reflected through the convoluted financial dealings of Madison County smoke-filled room veteran politico and developer Gary Fears. Stelzer’s piece is a painstaking tour through co-investors, who knows who and how, bankruptcies and shadowy motivations. It’s a dissection of how a political and economic insider like the 64-year-old Fears is still up to his ears in skullduggery, which makes the stranding of the giant Russian plane that much more interesting. The Wall Street Journal, in its July 12 page-one story, took a weird tale and just focused on the quirky factor. FOCUS/Midwest, in the two-part series on Fears, tried to delve into the how and why of what happened and extended their effort beyond a gee-whiz veneer. The WSJ reporter whose byline is on the piece, Bryan Gruley, declined to discuss why he took the tack that he did,


dismiss the case. In March, the Michigan court’s ruling was upheld. But Fears is still fighting to keep the plane. “Air Support Systems owns the plane,” he told FOCUS/ Midwest late last year. “The whole thing was a huge misunderstanding and blown out of proportion by the press.” The abortive bankruptcy filing, however, shows that Fears’ acquisition of the plane was not carried out alone. Besides Flynn, Air Support Systems’ backers include Trident Response Group, a private mercenary group based in Dallas with holdings of $2.5 million; and Headlands Ltd., a shadowy company in Gibraltar, which holds a $1.1 million stake. ■

saying that WSJ reporters “generally do not discuss our news gathering decisions publicly. I think the story speaks for itself and I stand by its accuracy.” Accuracy is not the problem with Gruley’s article. For a light, odd-ball feature it achieves its purpose. Yet anyone seeing the pageone headline and expecting to find out if not what happened to the plane, then at least how it happened, will be disappointed. The FOCUS/Midwest two-parter is awash in details. Stelzer’s use of the bankruptcy filing by Fears in St. Louis opened the door to his maze of investors with backgrounds in pornography, casinos and online gaming. The manner in which Gruley reported the bizarre plane piece may have been dictated by its expected placement: as the page-one quirky feature. That has been a standard for decades at the WSJ. In the issues previous to the Russian plane saga, the topics for the page-one feature included diaper-wearing pet chickens (“Fowl Fans See Golden Eggs”), new female members of the Czech parliament posing for a racy calendar (“Czechmates”), and how some men don’t like the new fancy shavers (“Razor Burn”). That’s not exactly the place for a follow-the-money treatment of a Russian military cargo plane headed to Pakistan and stalled in Michigan. So instead of breaking down the twisted financial and political path that led to the Ilyushin Il-78 being grounded on the Upper Peninsula, the WSJ played it for laughs. FOCUS/Midwest missed the joke, played it straight. Stelzer said of the WSJ: “They took the skeleton of my story and left out the complicated parts.” ■ D.J. Wilson


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


oose collides with pickup truck.


The headline above may be mildly fictitious, but regular subscribers to The Jackson County Star, of Walden, Colo., (including this writer) do occasionally encounter such bizarre headlines, especially during slow news weeks. The Star’s headlines, stories, editorials, photos, cutlines, pretty much the whole shebang, springs from the fertile mind of Jim Dustin, 61, ex-Post-Dispatch reporter, former chief of both the West County and St. Charles bureaus, former copy editor and journalistic curmudgeon, who left the Post-Dispatch about 12 years ago. In 1998, after putting in two decades at 900 North Tucker, Dustin informed his friends (there are scads of us) that he was headed west, Horace Greeley-like, for a small town in Colorado: Walden (elevation, 8,100 feet; population, 600; Jackson County population 1,500, ZIP code, 80480) about 30 miles south of the Wyoming border. Dustin, no longer married, had decided to actually do what battalions of veteran newspaper types often say they dream of doing: running their own newspaper. His decision may not seem as cockamamie, now, as it did then. His weekly tabloid has a healthy list of subscribers, the earned confidence of its readers and little to no competition from the Internet or nearby mass media (there is no nearby). The Jackson County Star is dedicated to covering the town’s and the area’s news, and Dustin has a staff small enough to make metropolitan readers smile: himself, Abby—one of his two lummox-like dogs (Wrecks having shuffled off this canine coil)— and part-timers Debbie Wilson, the ad manager, and Helen Williams, the everything-else manager, whom Dustin refers to as the paper’s token Democrat. Except for a gaggle of occasional contributors, that’s it. The Star’s focus is clear: local schools, local kids, local politics, local weather and local economy. So, in the midst of contemporary media upheaval and the online revolution, one might wonder: What’s life like in bucolic journalism land? What follows is a brief Q&A, a smattering of Dustin’s musings and misgivings about his life and times as a small-town newspaper editorowner—a mix of the scalawag in Studs Terkel, the gruffness of Red Smith and the gravitas of Editor Webb in “Our Town.”

10:28 AM

Page 22

Adventures in small-town news papering By Avis Meyer SJR: Any regrets? A. It’s been tough doing this alone. And I wish I’d checked the building closer. Building inspectors hereabouts range from nonexistent to diligent. My building was constructed pre-diligent, and it’s soaked up a lot of work and money. Q: And the rewards? A: Well, folks don’t call it the County Butt Wipe anymore. And this may sound hokey, but the kinship between the paper and the local people has become pretty special. This paper is a 100-percent homegrown product. Its fate rises and falls with the ranchers, farmers, loggers and hard-working townsfolk who read it. And we all know it. Example: A few

Post-Dispatch retiree makes his mark in the mountains of Colorado years back my old pickup gave up the generator ghost at Granby, 65 miles and a Continental Divide south of Walden. The local wrecker hauled my crippled truck back to town. And there, an entourage of folks was waiting for me to open the office—to


get their Jackson County Star. I now have more subscribers outside of the county than in. Plus, I get to wear Levi’s, plaid shirts and skuzzy boots everyday without feeling like Pecos Bill at high tea. The plaques on my woefully thin office wall tell me that we’ve won 49 journalism awards from the Colorado Press Association, including the Editorial Sweepstakes Award in 2006, making The Jackson County Star the best small newspaper in the state, for news coverage. (Pretty cool, huh?) And I hope to actually make money someday. Q: What do you miss... most, or least? A: Most? The regular working stiffs at the Post. They were, as a group, as imaginative, well-in formed, creative and open-minded a bunch as you could hope to work with—despite the creative sump they had to slog through everyday. It was always a hoot just gabbing with Harry Jackson, Tom Pettit, George Richardson, Andre Jackson, Joe Holleman and Mary ... damn … what’s her last name? She moved to Pennsylvania. And lots of other folks on the fourth and fifth floors, too numerous to list here. And I miss working for a paper with statewide clout—especially on nights when big news is breaking. Only newspaper people will really understand that high. Least? The boring commute, the oppressive bureaucracy, the downtown parking fees, the guy on the roof who threw a brick at me when I drove my motorcycle to work. And the St. Louis heat. (I have an air conditioner at my house that I have never turned on.) Q: Any advice to those still at the P-D? A: Try to get to the future before it gets to you. And hang on. Only people can create; only we can write, edit, photograph, compose headlines and cut copy with care. And local papers, even big ones like the Post, can still do two things that the “other media” (whatever or whoever they may be) cannot do or choose to ignore: investigative pieces and local coverage. Hell, most TV folks wouldn’t even leave their building to do what I do: cover high school sports; interview farmers and ranchers; attend retirement parties and high school scholarship awards; photograph highway mishaps between animals and vehicles and write the headline (see above). But everything else, these days— national, international, Wall Street,

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


Washington, ad infinitum—most people have already read, or seen, or heard, or all three. And I think that the days of “think pieces” are over, too. The upcoming audience, largely weaned on texting, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, electronics a-go-go, etal. seem to have developed the attention span of parakeets. And even Uncle Walter would have said, “That’s the way it is,” about that. Q: Any words of wisdom for journalists considering following your madcap example? A: Yeah. Rely a lot on blind luck. And maybe three other things. First: Open an account with the reliable Mom and Dad National Bank—or have someone leave you about $300,000. Second: Learn to enjoy wrestling, daily, with pesky advertising and subscription rates; and learn to adapt, quickly, to changing technology. And don’t be surprised if a helpful reader sends you a crusty cowpie in a shoebox, to illustrate the richness of North Park hay (in its unadulterated form). And about retirement plans: If insurance rates keep climbing, plan to just keep working until you slump over your old wooden desk. (And remember that alcohol always helps, regardless.) Third: Don’t be arrogant and assume that since you’re a bodacious, metropolitan hotshot, you know more than the locals. Like this big-city-type lady who bought a paper a couple of mountain ranges over and commenced to lecturing the locals on the proper way to think, vote, operate their businesses, raise their kids, pick up dog poop and recycle their beer cans. She lasted about eight months. She reminded

10:28 AM

Page 23

Jim Dustin at the Jackson County Star me of a new word I read somewhere; she was an ignoranus: a person who's both stupid and an asshole. Q: Finally: Your biggest surprise or revelation? A: The first few weeks of the putting out the paper, I kept fussing over layout, fitting heads, getting persnickety with copy editing... and constantly looking over my shoulder, to see if anyone thought maybe the headlines needed a bump, or the leads needed some pruning. But there was no anyone; there was only

New Low Subscription Rate! 1 year ...$25.00 2 years...$44.00 3 years...$62.00

4 years...$80.00 5 years...$98.00

SJR is a not-for-profit organization and can accept tax-deductible contributions

me—and the paper. It hit me, gradually, and still does, occasionally: I was, I am, the reporter, copy editor, layout and photo chief and boss. I also shovel the front walk, weed the flower beds (if we had flower beds), change the light bulbs and chase squirrels off the roof. And there’s always a moose out there somewhere that needs photographing. ■ Avis Meyer, a professor at St. Louis University, worked as a copy editor at the Post-Dispatch with Jim Dustin.

$25 Per Year

Contributions would be much appreciated to promote the growth of SJR

Please enter my subscription for _____ year(s) Check for _________ is enclosed Name: ___________________________________________________________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________________ City/Zip: ___________________________________________________________________

Send to:

Jim Dustin

St. Louis Journalism Review P.O. Box 12474 St. Louis, MO 63132


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


bout 50 years ago, when construction plans were being made for a more comfortable, better designed and less expensive downtown Busch Stadium than the one we have today, we learned that the last remaining burlesque house in the city, Harry Wald's memorable Grand Theatre, was to be demolished as part of the stadium footprint. I wrote at the time that St. Louis had decided that night baseball was more important than sex. Today, as a result of a money grab by Vince Schoemehl and his fellow arts lovers on the board of Grand Center, and a lack of courageous response by Mayor Francis Slay, a group of our city's most powerful citizens has obviously decided that night baseball is more important than theater, music, dance and other forms of cultural entertainment. In these parlous times, when communities are in the same tight financial bind as their citizens, it's easy to understand that more income, from more sources, is needed desperately. Grand Center found some by jiggering the parking meters in the immediate area. They must now be fed until 10 p.m., with additional police on duty to issue tickets, and while Schoemehl and his pals in the money-machine game talk about four-hour meters, those are a pretty good hike. All the closerto-performance-space meters have a 90-minute maximum, and no way for a theater-goer to sit through an entire show. Grand Center has spoken of leaving parking space for folks going to dinner, but remember that only one Grand Center site is a destination restaurant; others are designed for speedy meals before, or dessert after, a performance. This sounds like a time for some civil disobedience. If 50, or even just a few dozen people suddenly got up during a performance at the Fox, Grandel, Powell Hall or a smaller venue, and exited, bothering everyone in the row and even jingling some change in their pockets, and returned five or 10 minutes later, repeating the bother, think of the furor among the audience, not to mention among the actors or dancers or musicians trying to perform. . . . and you don't have to actually need to feed a meter to cooperate. It's not breaking any laws, but be careful not to jay-walk. Oh, what does Mayor Slay have to do with it? Well, a couple of years ago, the mayor spoke at a theater


10:28 AM

Page 24

Parking (porking) at Grand Center Joe Pollack awards ceremony and proclaimed how his administration was in favor of the arts, loved the arts and would do everything in its power to help the arts. And the mayor does deserve some credit; he apparently has been working, albeit slowly, on the Ed Golterman project, a valiant effort to re-open Kiel Opera House, a generation or so since it closed. But in terms of the city budget, there might be some extra revenue available at the downtown parking meters while the Cardinals or the Blues are playing. And what about the meters around St. Louis U's Chaifetz Arena? After all, a precedent has been established.... just grab from the people and ignore the media. Schoemehl and his buddies have handled the media well. They made the announcement about the change in parking rules, then handed prepared statements to reporters who sought comment. The former mayor avoided talking to anyone in the media, and so did the current mayor, and after a while the media stopped writing about the cash grab in Grand Center for its parking lots, and for those operated by its pals. Otherwise, it would look as if the media was just being repetitious. Matthew Hathaway, a fine re porter, did an excellent article about the parking meter shenanigans in


the Post-Dispatch. Hathaway pointed out that about 1800 meters were changed, but the 400 closest to the various venues were of the 90minute variety. The change would add about $200,000 a year to the Grand Center coffers, through an arrangement whereby three-fourths of extra meter money goes to a Grand Center subsidiary. And, of course, Grand Center owns a halfdozen of the lots in the immediate area, and organizations whose leaders sit on the 29-member Grand Center Board have interests in as many more. Grand Center's lots have earned about $160,000 annually the last few years. Schoemehl's salary is in the quarter-million dollar range, not much for an athlete, but pretty good for an executive at a non-profit. Bloggers at Stltoday responded with 60-some messages, 80–90 percent accusing Grand Center of greed and vowing never to return except on Sunday. I'm surprised the Greed Center—oops, Grand Center—overlooked that, but it's probably the next fee-parking tactic that Grand Center will consider. The Grand Center folks re sponded with an op-ed piece by Mark Miller, identified as a member of the Grand Center board of directors. He noted that he is a volunteer and then said he is chairman of the Parking Strategy Committee, undoubtedly qualified because he's an executive retired from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Miller wrote about parking for restaurants, strictly a diversionary tactic. In many years of writing about restaurants and theater, I've learned they don't really mix. People go to the theatre to be entertained; they go to restaurants to eat. A big meal is not conducive to enjoying the performance. It's too easy to fall asleep, and while falling asleep is its own form of criticism, there's no need to make it easier because of a full stomach. And celebratory dinners, or dinners that have seduction in mind, take more than 90 minutes. In addition, I think there's only one (it hopes) destination restaurant in Grand Center, the Kota Grill. The new City Diner may become a posttheater destination, but it's for a quick meal like those offered at the Best Steak House, or Vito's, or NaDoz. Restaurants with hopes of becoming destination spots, or with gourmet dining aims, have found continued on page 25

SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


SPORTS AND MEDIA Continued from page 18

two writers travel for road games. Meanwhile, all the other games are covered in a single column, one short paragraph for each game unless there is a no-hitter or some other exceptional feat. The coverage is extremely wide but extremely shallow. We learn every statistical feat, but get little analysis. Joe Strauss seems best in that regard, Rick Hummel’s sense of history is absorbing and interesting, and Derrick Goold often writes brightly. In trying to figure out why, I suppose its the popularity of sports radio and the fact that the columnists and some of the sports staff seem to be on-air experts, too. Being able to read off arcane statistics— how many strikeouts does a rookie left-hander from Kansas have in his first whatever-number of games as opposed to a rookie left-hander from Wyoming?—keeps everyone happy. I don’t care that a batter has hit safely in 11 of his last 19 games; 11 out of 12 might have some relevance, but these things string out farther and farther. Football is almost as bad, but there are longer stories about other games. What with going 1-15 last year, I’m surprised the Post is covering the Rams at all, but the drafting of Sam Bradford has increased the current off-season hyperbole and brought forth more babble from the columnists than is necessary. This extreme localization is making the Post-Dispatch look like a small-town newspaper, as evidenced in the recent coverage of the U.S. Open. It’s always a pleasure to read Dan O’Neill, but did he or the Post sports editor really think the young amateur from St. Louis had a chance of winning? A sentence or two each day would have sufficed, with more analysis of the performances of the good golfers. But at least the Post covered the entire tournament, considering it an important event. Too often, the paper sends someone to an event, but as soon as the team is eliminated (Mizzou women’s softball in the NCAA preliminaries, for example), the writer comes home and one becomes lucky to find any results for other teams in the sports section. ■

GRAND CENTER Continued from page 24

Grand Center infertile ground. People in search of elegant dining go to

10:28 AM

Page 25

the Hill, or Clayton, or the Central West End, or Downtown, all areas where theaters are rare. Miller also wrote about visitors who come to Grand Center to be entertained, “and then rush to their cars to leave those magical experiences quickly behind.” Several bloggers complained about the waiting time to get out of parking lots. Well, why doesn't Grand Center, or its entrepreneurs, think about promoting bars and restaurants to posttheater customers, whether with a late-night snack menu, ice-cream specialties or even a little entertainment, like a piano player or a jazz trio? By the time they finish, the parking-lot traffic will have cleared. In this regard, I refuse to entertain comments from people who say they must get up early the next morning to go to the gym. Exercise the mind instead of the body a couple of days a week. Convince the children to nap before the theater, or to just lie down and relax for an hour or so. When I was a boy (sorry to use the phrase), my parents took me to Broadway theater or to a concert about once a month on a school night, even though curtains rose at 8:40. We took the subway, and after the play we would stop for an icecream soda or a snack at Schrafft's or Toffinetti's in Times Square. They're some of my fondest childhood memories. The Grand Center money-grab will not affect the Fox or the St. Louis Symphony very much. People who spent upward of $60 for a ticket can handle the $8 parking-lot tariff. The body blow is to the small theater groups or cabaret performers whose staffs work at the Centene Building and who perform at the Kranzberg Arts Center. They often depend on volunteers who now will have to pay more than the quarter or two it used to cost early-arrivals and the people who do not have the retirement benefits of the 29 Grand Center board members. Performers need parking spaces when they rehearse, and they don't make much money (if they make any at all). Neither do ushers and ticket takers and concession-stand workers, and that holds true for the Fox and Powell Hall and the Grandel Theatre as well. And, of course, these people are on hand for an entire run, not just the single performance that ticket-buyers attend. I thought about calling Schoemehl, but since he refused to talk to anyone in the media, and I still consider myself part of it, I figured I did not need the aggravation of a snub. ■

SOURCES SAY Continued from page 28

ing what some readers say is just a shadow of its former self. The editorial cutbacks have included scrapping of the zone sections, reducing the Washington Bureau to just one person (from six), reduced coverage of the Illinois side of the metro area, cutbacks in business news and features in the Everyday section, and fewer editors. Still vibrant are the sports pages and the editorial section—still liberal— though there are fewer editorial writers. The Post is no longer listed in the top 25 newspapers in the nation, based on circulation. Shannon Duffy, the Guild’s business manager, said in a union bulletin’s message to Lee, “...imagine our surprise when we discovered that your goal was to turn the Post-Dispatch into just another Lee newspaper.” The Lee-owned Suburban Journals, also acquired from Pulitzer, has fallen on hard times as well. Deep staff cuts were made and then the Journals went from free distribution to paid circulation. It has not gained the expected number of subscribers and some of the weekly newspapers are still thrown for free. The Pulitzer family sold the Post and other newspaper properties in 2005 at top dollar. The family member with the most voting shares was Emily Rauh Pulitzer, widow of the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr. She got more than $400 million in the sale. She now operates the Pulitzer Foundation, a museum in midtown St. Louis. Quoted in the Jerry Berger online column earlier this year, “Emily” as she is called, said of the Post. “The quality has clearly deteriorated. Lee Enterprises has faced a really difficult economic situation. What Lee did with the Post-Dispatch is not different from what has happened in other cities. Nobody has figured out how to deal with the Internet.” Berger wrote: “The mention that a former P-D editor blamed Emily for the current situation of the Post by selling it, got a quick response. She said, ‘How simplistic. My vote was one of three. We saw the handwriting on the wall.’” Longtime Post readers say they expect Lee’ s advertising and revenue will bounce back, and its profits will increase even more. But they doubt the cutbacks will be restored to make the paper as respected as it had been during the last century. But that’s history. ■


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 26

people people people people people people people people people people people

Media Notes MEDIA Columbia Daily Tribune Terry Ganey has resigned from the Tribune after four years. Previously, he had a long reign as head of the Jefferson City bureau of the PostDispatch. He is doing free-lance writing and teaching a course at the Missouri University School of Journalism. Feast magazine Catherine Neville, co-founder and former editor of Sauce magazine, will be publisher of the new Feast culinary magazine to be debuted in August by Lee Enterprises, owner of the Post-Dispatch, Suburban Journals, Ladue News and St. Louis' Best Bridal. KETC (Channel 9) Mike Bauhof was promoted to the new position of director of digital engagement. He will work as part of the team for Homeland, a KETC initiative about immigration issues. KMOV-TV (Channel 4) Jasmine Huda has joined KMOVTV after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract at KSDK-TV, where she had been a reporter since 2007. She started as a producer at KMOV and will again become an on-air reporter, say KMOV sources. News Leader Media Group David Stoeffler has been named executive editor of the Springfield (MO) group. Stoeffle has served as publisher, general manager or top editor at publications including the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis, the Arizona Daily Star, the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star and the La Crosse (Wisc.) tribune. St. Louis American Kevin Jones, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the St. Louis American, has been elected president of the Missouri Press Association.

St. Louis Magazine Jarrett Medlin has been appointed editor-in-chief replacing Stephen Schenkenberg, who is relocating to Berlin. Medlin has been a writer and executive editor of SLM and previously was editor of Wichita Magazine. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Carolyn Tuft, an investigative reporter, has resigned for health reasons, according to the newspaper. Editors downgraded her stories on the Joyce Meyer Ministries in 2005 and then published an apology to the televangelist. A protest by 124 staffers was ignored by the top editors; Tuft grieved a suspension and won exoneration by an arbitrator. Out of favor with the editors, she worked as an online reporter the past two years. She reported being mugged in 2007 by three men on the newspaper's parking lot. Kurt Greenbaum, an online editor who helped the Post make the transition to, has resigned to take a job as regional editor in St. Louis for, the growing network of local community websites that AOL is setting up around the country. Lisa Brown, has joined the paper as a business reporter. She worked at the St. Louis Business Journal for five years, primarily covering real estate and development. The Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis Susan Kert, media relations officer at Webster University, and Amanda Cook, freelance journalists and public relations professional, joined the board of the Club. Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein was recognized for her Lifetime Service at the 55th Women of Achievement Award luncheon. The Press Club's 2010 Media Person of the Year Gala September 29 will honor Mike Shannon, Cardinals announcer. MEDIA AWARDS

The following 2010 Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award honorees were chosen for their on-going recognition and practice of media literacy: Bill Maxfield, educator, Mehlville High School; Tom Atwood, media communicator; Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis. GMLP will honor the award recipients at its Fourth Annual Media Literacy Week kick-off event, Oct. 3. Details are forthcoming on KWMU (90.7) Adam Allington and Maria Altman received awards for news reporting from the Missouri Broadcasters Association. St. Louis Magazine The journal was cited as the overall winner in the Redesign category by the National City and Regional Magazine Association. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Todd C. Frankel won a first-place award for feature writing and Robert Cohen won a second-place award for photo essay/story from the National Headliner Awards. Cohen's photography was also honored by the American Society of News Editors. Will Sullivan, interactive director at the Post, was named to the 20102011 class of Donald W. Reynolds Fellows. His Fellowship project Mobile Development Opportunities is to develop strategies for news organizations to use mobile technology to report deeper, faster and more accurately for and with their audiences. Editorial writer John Carlton and photographer Robert Cohen were among the finalists for the Pulitzer Prizes announced in April. Carlton wrote about health care reform and Cohen portrayed homeless suburban families camping in motels. Reporters Matthew Hathaway, Elizabethe Holland and Jim Gallagher won the Gerald Loeb Award For Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for their stories last year about problems in the after-market auto service contract industry in the St. Louis area.

Bonneville St. Louis Media Group The Group won awards from the Missouri Broadcasters Association for excellence in programming at WIL (92.3 FM), WXOS (101.1 FM), and WARH (106.5 FM).

The St. Louis University News The student newspaper won the Best In State honors in this year's competition by the Missouri College Media Association.

Gateway Media Literacy Partners, Inc.

St. Louis Press Club Verna Smith and Marge Polcyn


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 27

people people people people people people people people people people people were recognized for their volunteer work at Press Club tour of the downtown Public Library that will undergo a $79-million renovation. AD/PR Boxing Cleaver Advertising Agency Ali Siegel joined the agency as an account executive. Community Service Public Relations Council The Council, a St. Louis-based association for nonprofit professionals, has elected its board officers and members for 2010-11. President Janet Vigen Levy, marketing and communications manager for Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, will work with the following board of directors:

Alicia Diveley and Ashley Pitlyk are interning at the agency. The Vandiver Group, Inc. (TVG) Claire Eckelkamp joins the agency as an assistant account coordinator. The agency has added social media director to Eileen Buleza’s title of senior account executive, and Shelley Lester has been promoted to senior account executive. Weintraub Advertising The agency added Susie Penn and Alex Chartrand as senior writers; Jen McKenzie as broadcast writer/producer; Danielle Weintraub as director of social media; Barb Stefano as traffic manager; and Julia Schneider as director of digital media.

degree of Doctor of Arts and Letters from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in May. It was awarded in recognition of his more than 8,000 cartoons that made strong points about issues such as social justice, education, Vietnam, racial equality, Watergate, poverty, and the environment. In conjunction with the commencement, the St. Louis Mercantile Library on campus hosted the exhibit “Engelhardt on Elections,” a display of cartoons published between 1962 and 1997 and originally shown at the State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia. The Vandiver Group, Inc. (TVG) The agency received first place in the brochure category from the Society for Marketing Professional Services St. Louis Archie Awards.

AD/PR AWARDS Board Officers James Judge, Vice President (Better Business Bureau), Kate Kromann, Secretary (United Way of Greater St. Louis), Joe Mueller, Treasurer (Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America) Newly Elected Board Members Linda Behrens (School Sisters of Notre Dame), Kathi Corbett, Stephanie Garvey (Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club), Kelly Peach (St. Patrick Center) Returning Board Members Deborah Cottin (Safe Connections), Everett Dietle (Missouri Historical Society), Barbara MacRobie (Dance St. Louis), Patricia Merritt (SIUE East St. Louis Center), Bev Pfeifer-Harms (Missouri Foundation for Health), Julianne Smutz (YMCA Trout Lodge) CSPRC provides professional and organizational development opportunities for those working in nonprofit marketing communications, public relations, development and volunteer management. CSPRC hosts monthly professional development and networking luncheons and presents an annual conference in May. To learn more about CSPRC, visit or call 314.416.2237.

BOOKS Grizzell & Co. The agency was recently selected as a recipient in the 2010 Hermes Creative Awards competition. The contest recognizes outstanding work in the marketing and communication industry. There were over 3,600 entries from throughout the United States and abroad. Rodgers Townsend The advertising agency won nine Midwest Regional ADDY Awards from the American Advertising Federation. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tom Engelhardt, editorial car-

Kratos Global Strategies The public affairs firm in Washington has added Jim Morice and Mark Abels to its staff. The Hauser Group, Inc.

toonist emeritus of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, received an honorary

Ellen Sweets, once a reporter for the Post-Dispatch and the Dallas Morning News, has completed a biography of columnist and author Molly Ivins who died in 2007 in Austin, TX., where Sweets now lives. Don Marsh, former television reporter and current host of KWMU's “St. Louis On The Air” radio program, has written a new book called “How To Be Rude Politely.” IN MEMORIAM Louis J. Rose, 78, died April 14. He was a longtime Post-Dispatch investigative reporter who was once a runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize. Patricia Degener, 85, died April 19. She was a former interior design writer and art critic for the Post-Dispatch and a founder of Craft Alliance, a gallery and crafts cooperative. Randy Kessler, 60, died May 2. He was a retired newsroom and photo coordinator for the Post-Dispatch. Peter Keefe, 57, died May 27. He was a former St. Louis television personality and creator of the animated children's series “Voltron.” Jerry Lovelace, 68, died June 15. He was a former public relations director for the St. Louis Cardinals. Richard “Dick” Ramage, 76, died July 24. For 25 years at the GlobeDemocrat he held a number of editorial and administrative positions. He did public relations for local civic groups and founded the Wishing Well Foundation for children.


SJR Jul-Aug 2010:z-Issue Template


10:28 AM

Page 28

By Roy Malone

sources say...

Lee hits five-year mark with Post-Dispatch A lot of reductions have occurred at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the five years since the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain bought Pulitzer Inc. and its flagship newspaper, the Post, for $1.46 billion. The debt is down, the size of the paper and its contents have been reduced, the ads and circulation dropped, a third of the staff has been jettisoned and pay and benefits for those who toil to put the paper out have been slashed. Some changes were expected, but the bad economy has taken its toll on Lee and newspapers everywhere. Foremost for Lee is reducing the staggering debt as quickly as possible as the chain of about five dozen smaller papers has done with other purchases. Some in the industry say Lee, based in Davenport, Iowa, paid too much for Pulitzer. But that’s history, just as the reputation of the Post as one of the top newspapers in the nation is history. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show the debt due to the Pulitzer purchase to be about $1.1 billion. Lee had to refinance the debt to banks last year. It has been paying off about $90 million a year on its debt say business sources, who keep a close watch on the finances. Lee said it paid down $66 million in the last nine months ending June 27. It pays down debt mainly with cash flow. The guess is that the debt can be retired within ten years of the purchase, depending on revival of the economy and increased advertising income. As the revenue decline continued to ease, Lee said, profit for the quarter ended June 27 were $10 million; the same quarter a year earlier showed a $24.5 million loss. For the past nine months, Lee’s profit was $41 million. That’s an improvement over Lee’s fortunes last year when an audit report questioned whether it could continue as a going concern. It’s stock had plummeted to less than $1 per share. Lee still profitable So while revenues and advertising continue to drop, Lee remains profitable, mainly because of cutting of costs. The company set a cost-reduction goal of $100 million for fiscal 2009 but actually cut costs by $147 million. For fiscal 2010 the cost-cutting was set at $54 million. Lee CEO Mary Junck gave SJR a statement, saying St. Louis is a good marketplace, and: “We have a great team at the Post-Dispatch, with wonderfully talented people, who continually improve the way we serve readers and advertisers, through print, online and mobile. Although the economy has continued to challenge our customers and us over these last few years, we’re very much upbeat about the future of St. louis, the Post-Dispatch and Lee Enterprises.” Kevin Mowbray, the Post's publisher, said


the paper remains “the dominate source for local news, information and advertising in our region.... the Post-Dispatch and remain in front of all print, broadcast and online competitors. And, we are well positioned to take advantage of new distribution opportunities to drive content and advertising through mobile, iPad and social media channels.” While Lee turns a profit, so does the Post, according to the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. (Lee no longer breaks out figures for the Post). During more than three dozen bargaining sessions for a new contract, Lee stressed that the union employees must agree to give-backs or it would declare an impasse in negotiations and then impose its own contract terms. The Guild, representing about 250 staffers (less than half what it had five years ago), made plans to conduct a $500,000-public-corporate campaign against the Post in order to get a better contract offer. The local’s treasury has $3.6 million. In the end, Guild members, mainly out of fear of more layoffs, voted 132-54 o accept a 51/2 year contract that called for a six-percent wage cut and three unpaid, one-week furloughs. No more layoffs for six months was agreed to. But the employees will no longer have a company pension and medical benefits will be ended for retirees. Lee told shareholders that when it dropped health benefits last winter for many retirees it saved $30 million. The Guild has gone to court in an effort to get an arbitrator to rule on whether those retirees should get the health benefits restored because they were promised in previous Guild contracts. “We gave in without a shot being fired,” said one Guild member about accepting the new contract. Another said: “It wasn’t just the younger employees, but some older ones too,” who argued for accepting the pay cut. Given that Lee is an anti-union company, “At least we still have a union,” one Guild officer said. Lee has a website for employees that provides negative information about unions; in turn, union people contribute to their own Lee Watch website to share news items such as this one in June: “On Thursday, each director was awarded a 10,000-share package worth $30,500 while furloughs and layoffs continue throughout the rest of the company.” The eight directors include two from St. Louis, Andrew E. Newman and Mark Vittert. They were paid $93,470 and $78,470 respectively in 2009. Deep cuts Morale has suffered at the Post because of the way many loyal employees were thrown overboard, most without even a thank you. There have been two buyouts and several layoffs. The staff is required to produce the paper with less manpower, and now with less pay. Hard-working reporters and editors take offense when the paper is criticized for becomcontinued on page 25

July/August 2010  

The July/August 2010 edition of the SJR.