Posted tagged ‘Associated Press’

Small papers mostly avoid industry woes

August 11, 2009

The Associated Press
Monday, August 10, 2009

Newspapers are hurting all over the United States, but the pain is less severe at small publications such as The Blackshear Times in Georgia.

The weekly newspaper fills an information vacuum in a county of 17,000 people who live about 75 miles from the closest metropolitan market, in Jacksonville, Fla. That has made it easier for The Times to hold on to its 3,500 subscribers and keep its revenue stable in a recession that’s ravaging much of the newspaper industry.

“CNN is not coming to my town to cover the news, and there aren’t a whole lot of bloggers here, either,” said Robert Williams, The Times’ editor and publisher. “Community newspapers are still a great investment because we provide something you can’t get anywhere else.”

The scarcity of other media in small- and medium-sized cities has helped shield hundreds of newspapers from the upheaval that’s causing dailies in big cities to shrink in size and scope as their print circulations and advertising sales decline.

Less competition means the print editions and Web sites of smaller newspapers remain the focal points for finding out what’s happening in their coverage areas.

In contrast, large newspapers carry more national news, as well as local, and have many competitors, including Web sites and television and radio stations. They report much of the news the day before printed newspapers reach homes and newsstands. Large newspapers’ Web sites also provide the news for free a day ahead of print editions.

Perhaps even more important, newspapers in smaller markets still haven’t lost a big chunk of their revenue to Craigslist and other online classified advertising alternatives that have become the bane of large newspapers.

Print ads for everything from jobs to jalopies were a gold mine for newspapers until Craigslist began expanding an online service for free classified ads in 1999. Today, Craigslist blankets most major metropolitan markets while publishing about 40 million classified ads each month.

In 2000, classified advertising accounted for nearly $20 billion, or about 40 percent, of the U.S. newspaper industry’s revenue. In 2008, classified ads in U.S. newspapers had dwindled to less than $10 billion, or about one-quarter of the industry’s revenue. Subscription and single-copy sales traditionally contribute just 20 to 30 percent of newspapers’ revenue.

Now it appears the highly profitable classified ads in the print editions of large newspapers could dwindle to virtually nothing within the next few years, said media analyst Mike Simonton of Fitch Ratings. “There is still more pain,” he predicted.

Smaller newspapers have been defying the ominous trend, based on a recent study of the finances at 125 U.S. newspapers of different sizes by the Inland Press Association, a trade group. The classified ad revenue among daily newspapers with circulations of less than 15,000 actually rose by an average of 23 percent in the five years ending in 2008, the study found.

Overall ad revenue for daily newspapers with less than 15,000 in circulation rose by an average of 2.5 percent in the same time frame. Meanwhile, ad revenue dropped 25 percent at daily newspapers with circulations greater than 80,000, according to Inland Press. “The bigger they are, the harder they are falling,” said Ray Carlsen, Inland Press’ executive director. Smaller newspapers also have largely avoided the deep staff cuts made by the rest of the newspaper industry, which has eliminated more than 100,000 jobs since 2005.

The Inland Press study found daily newspapers with circulations of less than 50,000 were spending more on their newsrooms in 2008 than they were in 2004.


Missouri Sunshine Coalition to hold inaugural meeting

February 11, 2009

Feb. 11, 2009

By Jim Robertson
Columbia Daily Tribune

A new organization for people who want to promote government openness at all levels in Missouri will hold a public reception and program on Thursday, March 12, in Columbia. The event is free.

The Missouri Sunshine Coalition is seeking individual and organization members from all areas of the public. It will hold a 2 p.m. reception and 3 p.m. program at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the School of Journalism at MU.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has been invited to speak at the 3 p.m. program. Other speakers will be Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Center, which is based at the School of Journalism; and Mike Wood, director of governmental relations for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The group’s founders have met three times to elect a board of directors, to approve bylaws and a mission statement, and to plan the March 12 program. On Jan. 15 the group elected Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, president.

Until now, Missouri was one of the few states in the country that did not have an organization whose mission is to promote government transparency. This group hopes to bring together all individuals and organizations in Missouri who want to minimize secrecy in the operations of local and state government agencies.

Following is the Mission Statement of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, Inc.
1. Members of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition believe the best form of government is that which operates in a free and open environment, giving its citizens unfettered access to information as to its activities and the use of its public funds.
2. We believe government exists to serve its citizens and access to such information should be simple and at minimal cost.
3. The Missouri Sunshine Coalition exists to support citizens of this State in their efforts to exercise their rights under the Missouri Sunshine Law, which is premised on the foundation that “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.”

Serving the Coalition with Robertson are Vice President Jo Sapp, Columbia, League of Women Voters; Secretary Jean Maneke, Kansas City, an attorney who is an expert on the Missouri Sunshine Law; and Treasurer Mike Sherry, Kansas City, Kansas City Business Journal.

Members of the Board of Directors are Jean Buchanan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Jack Whitaker, Hannibal Courier-Post; Don Hicks, Jefferson City, Missouri Broadcasters Association; Brenda Jones, St Louis, American Civil Liberties Union of eastern Missouri; and Randy Picht, Kansas City, The Associated Press.

The officers and directors were chosen from among those who attended the organizational meetings of the Coalition.

Membership in the coalition costs $25 for an organization or individual.

For more information on membership or to RSVP for the March 12 event, please contact Kristie Williams,, 573-449-4167.

Bill would levy fine on all Sunshine violators

February 11, 2009

Current standard is too vague, Jones says.


Jefferson City — A Missouri lawmaker is proposing a $500 fine for officials who violate Missouri’s open-government laws — even if they do so unwittingly.
Newly revised legislation by Rep. Tim Jones would make it easier to assess penalties for breaking the Missouri Sunshine Law.

Currently, anyone found by a judge to have “knowingly” violated Missouri’s open meetings or records law can be fined up to $1,000, while those who “purposely” violate the law can face fines up to $5,000.

Jones said the “knowingly” standard is too vague and too hard to prove.

His revised bill, presented Tuesday to the House General Laws Committee, which he chairs, would allow fines up to $500 for Sunshine Law violations regardless of whether they are made “knowingly.” Fines for purposeful violations would increase to $8,000.

“There’s not going to be Sunshine Law police that now run around the state and fine people,” Jones said. But “we now have some real teeth in the bill.”

Jones described his legislation as “strict liability for technical violations” of the Sunshine Law.

That’s something Missouri lawmakers historically have been reluctant to adopt.

Legislators last broached the subject in 2004, when they considered lowering the legal threshold for penalties from purposeful to negligent violations. They backed off the negligent standard under resistance from several senators and the Missouri Municipal League, which argued the lower standard could have deterred people from serving on volunteer boards.

The legislature in 2004 instead adopted the current two-tiered level of knowing and purposeful violations for determining fines.

Missouri Municipal League executive director Gary Markenson said Tuesday that he remains opposed to striking the “knowing” requirement to levy fines for Sunshine Law violations.

But some local government officials testified in support of the legislation.

Among those was Jay Purcell, a Cape Girardeau County commissioner who has sued his own commission for allegedly holding improper closed meetings.

“Without strong language that puts teeth and repercussions for public governmental bodies, they will not follow the law,” Purcell testified to the House committee. The legislation “sends a clear, clear message that ignorance of the Sunshine Law is not acceptable.”

Other sections of the bill would make public more records of the Missouri Ethics Commission; narrow the lawsuit-discussion justification for closing meetings; apply the Sunshine Law to newly elected public officials who have not yet taken the oath of office; and require meeting minutes to contain accurate descriptions of all discussions.

Markenson and Todd Smith, a lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Counties, both criticized the expanded requirement for meeting minutes. Smith said it could force two county commissioners carpooling to take minutes of their discussion if they happen to hit a pothole and remark that they should make sure it gets fixed.

Under current law, public entities must give 24 hours’ notice before meetings. The legislation would expand that to five days’ notice for city or county meetings where the agenda includes discussion of tax or fee increases, eminent domain, zoning or the creation of special districts that can either impose taxes or receive tax breaks.

That provision drew support from representatives of a labor union and retailers, who said cities sometimes consider development incentives with just 24 hours notice for the public while providing much greater notice to the developers pitching proposals.

Tucker named AP Staffer of the Year

January 6, 2009

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Doug Tucker, the longtime Associated Press sports writer based in Kansas City, was named the news cooperative’s Fred Moen Kansas-Missouri Staffer of the Year on Dec. 8.
Tucker, 62, joined the AP as a newsman in Oklahoma City in 1969. He has covered news and sports in the Kansas City area since the early 1970s, eventually settling in as AP’s lead sports writer covering the array of college and professional teams making news in the region.
Tucker has been a fixture at press boxes from Kansas State and Kansas to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums in Kansas City. His byline has topped most of the area’s biggest sports stories of the past year, including Kansas’ run to the NCAA basketball championship.
The award was established by The Kansas City Star in honor of the late Fred Moen, AP’s Kansas City bureau chief from 1971-1984.

Robert M. White II, renowned journalist, dies

November 21, 2008

Funeral services for Robert M. White II, former publisher of the Mexico Ledger, are scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25, at the First Presbyterian Church in Mexico, MO.  The church is located at the corner of Lakeview Road and Business 54 South.  Family visitation will be held after the services.

Robert M. White II, renowned journalist, dies

MEXICO, Mo. (AP) — Robert M. White II, the former editor and publisher of The Mexico Ledger and a press-freedom advocate whose career took him from war zones to the world’s media capital, has died. He was 93.

White, who had been ill for some time, died Thursday at a Columbia hospital.

While serving as editor, publisher and president of the Ledger from 1945-86, White also worked in nearly every major newspaper organization to promote freedom of the press.

White had a particular interest in foreign affairs and traveled the world, reporting for Missourians about his experiences in war zones and his interviews with world leaders and rebels.

He was an active member and eventually an officer in what is now known as the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Conference of Editorial Writers, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, American Newspaper Publishers Association, the Missouri Press Association, the Washington Institute on Foreign Affairs, the Inland Daily Press Association and The World Press Freedom Committee.

That resume earned him a prominent spot in an upcoming public television documentary about the history of Missouri newspapers.

“I think there’s nothing I would like better than to be remembered as a newspaperman. Period. And I could put an adjective in front of that. As a good newspaperman. And not try to define it further than that,” White said in 2005 as part of an oral history project excerpted in the upcoming documentary. “Yeah. A good newspaperman. … I would be pleased with that. You got a stone here? Let’s carve it.”

White was a member of the board of directors of The Associated Press from 1971-1980, chairing the board’s broadcast committee.

“Bob White was a wonderful man and a consummate journalist whose contributions to his city, his state, his country and the world were profound.” said Paul Stevens, Central Region vice president for The Associated Press. “He was proud of his service to the AP in his nine years on our board of directors, and the AP and our members were well-served by Bob. So were all the other organizations Bob so selflessly served. We are thankful for his contributions.”

White was born in Mexico on April 6, 1915 and was a graduate of the Missouri Military Academy. He graduated with a history degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., where he played on the football team. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1972 for his freedom of the press advocacy.

White was the son and grandson of the owners of The Ledger and began his career there as a carrier. In the 1930s he worked as a reporter for The Ledger and later reported for United Press International in Kansas City.

During World War II, he served on the staff of Gen. Robert Eichelberger and Gen. Douglas MacArthur and was a liaison with Australian forces in New Guinea.

While still working as editor of the Ledger, White also served as special consultant to Marshall Field, then publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, from 1956-58 and was president and editor of the New York Herald Tribune from 1959-61. His front-page editorial, “A Letter to Mr. Krushchev,” was published in English and Russian and won the Silurian award for best New York City editorial in 1960.

White returned to Mexico in 1961. He founded See TV in 1966, the first cable television operation in central Missouri, and he sold it in 1981.

White received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Distinguished Service Award for editorials in 1952 and 1967, and in 1970 won its Wells Memorial Key for distinguished service to journalism. He also was a Pulitzer Prize juror from 1964-65 and was chairman of the American Committee of the International Press Institute from 1982-85.

Along with his Kansas City UPI colleague, Walter Cronkite, White was the oldest finalist chosen to be NASA’s Journalist in Space in 1986 at age 71; the flight was canceled after the shuttle Columbia disaster.

In 1999, White followed his father, L.M White, and grandfather, Col. Robert M. White, into the Missouri Press Association’s Hall of Fame. They were the first three-generation recipients of the University of Missouri’s Distinguished Service to Journalism Award.

White also served on numerous state, city of Mexico and private organizations across the state.

He sold The Ledger in 1986 and moved to Washington, D.C., before returning to Columbia in 2002.

White was married to the late Barbara Spurgeon White for 34 years; three other marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by four children, Barbara W. McClain of Leawood, Kan.; Jane See White of Tucson, Ariz.; Laura W. Erdel of Columbia; R. Mitchell White III of Dallas and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Mexico, with a visitation following the service

Documents reveal Missouri license records fee increase set to pay for computer system

May 27, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008
The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A sharp fee increase for state vehicle and driver’s license records appears to have been set to pay for the cost of a new computer system — a justification not allowed under Missouri’s open-records law.

The Missouri Department of Revenue this month began charging $7 each for license records — up significantly from its previous $1.25 charge. The agency also eliminated a discount to businesses that previously could buy bulk quantities of records for less than a penny each.

Missouri’s open-records law limits fees for computerized public records to the costs of the copies and the staff time needed to retrieve and duplicate them.

But documents provided to The Associated Press suggest the Department of Revenue picked the $7 fee to cover the cost of a new computer database for the records. The equipment and contracted maintenance of the sought-after system is projected to cost nearly $70 million by 2017, according to department records.

“The statute is very specific about what they are allowed to charge for — and equipment is not one of the factors,” said Jean Maneke, a Kansas City lawyer who specializes in public records law.

The AP received about 200 pages of materials from the department in response to a Sunshine Law request for documents justifying how the department arrived at its new rate.

Department spokesman David Griffith cited a lawsuit by four businesses that regularly buy the records to track vehicle histories and traffic violations and in turn sell that information to used car dealers, consumers, insurance companies and other entities.

That lawsuit contends the new $7 fee violates Missouri’s Sunshine Law, and a hearing on a preliminary injunction request is set for May 29. Attorneys involved in that lawsuit also received the documents provided to the AP.

Those documents include numerous calculations about how much money would be generated for the department under various fee-increase options.

For example, an undated spreadsheet prepared by the fiscal manager for the department’s Customer Services Division projects that a fee of $7.09 per record would cover the one-time cost and annual maintenance for the new system.

Another document from the same manager, dated Dec. 6, shows several options crossed out with a rectangle drawn around a computer configuration option that would result in a fee of $6.90 to cover one-time costs and annual maintenance.

Department Director Omar Davis has previously acknowledged the fee increase would pay for the equipment. When outraged legislators voted last week to limit the agency’s bulk-purchase fee to 0.5 cents per record, Davis said the department probably would have to cancel its contract for the new system.

One of the attorneys suing the department said the documents show the fee increase was not set according to the Sunshine Law.

“My impression is that it does not justify the drastic increase in fees, that should be simply the cost of an employee getting an electronic copy generated and put on some type of a CD or other electronic media form, and that’s it,” said attorney Alex Bartlett, who represents Experian Information Solutions Inc.

Fliers prepared by the department list the basic fee as $7, plus a $2 processing fee when purchasing the records from the state’s contractor-run license offices.

The flier states: “The Department of Revenue has determined this price more accurately reflects its costs and is comparable to fees charged by other states for driver records.”

But a department document dated Dec. 21, 2006, indicates that an employee can process a record request in 3.5 minutes, which when divided by the employee’s hourly wage, results in a record retrieval cost of 67 cents. The department also can charge 10 cents per page for a copy of the records, according to the Sunshine Law.

The 2006 document also adds numerous other things into the cost of each record sale, including prorated portions of the salaries for various department supervisors, attorneys, fiscal staff and human resources employees.

When factoring in those other personnel, the cost for each driver’s license record sale would equal $7.17 and $11.56 for each motor vehicle record sale, the document states. When adding prorated expenses for staff travel, training and supplies, such as license plates, the cost for each driver’s license record sale would be $13.40, and $21.69 for each motor vehicle record sale, the document states.

Maneke, who reviewed the document at AP’s request, said such costs cannot be passed on to the public seeking copies of the records.

“That is ridiculous to be building that into this, it is illegal under state law,” said Maneke, later adding: “This kind of document is the kind of thing that a lawyer bringing a Sunshine Law suit would find very damning in terms of evidence against the Department of Revenue.”

Griffith defended the department’s cost estimates.

“I think the information that is in there is accurate,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s been padded.”

University of Missouri Director of Communications Scott Charton

April 1, 2008

Scott Charton, Director of Communications for the University of Missouri System since 2005, is leaving the University to form his own communications and consulting company, UM President Gary Forsee announced Monday afternoon.
“Scott Charton has been an integral part of the University of Missouri leadership team for three presidents. His wise counsel, rich experience and vast Missouri knowledge and contacts have been of tremendous service to the state and our institution,” President Forsee said. “On a personal note, I deeply appreciate Scott’s tireless support and advocacy of my presidency since I came on board. Scott and the University will always be good friends, and the Board of Curators and I wish Scott every success as he embarks on an exciting new enterprise.”
Charton, 46, first worked as a communications consultant for the University after a distinguished two-decade career as a journalist with The Associated Press, the world’s largest newsgathering organization, and before that in broadcast journalism. Charton was appointed in 2005 to oversee formation of the new Department of University Communications, with responsibilities including external communications on behalf of the Board of Curators and the UM System administration. His last day with the University will be April 30. On May 1, he will lead Charton
Communications & Consulting, a new company based in Columbia and Jefferson City.
“I very much appreciate the confidence placed in me by the Board of Curators and three presidential administrations to lead a wonderful team of communications professionals. Now I am excited about accepting
terrific new opportunities that have been presented to me,” Charton said. “I am particularly grateful for President Forsee’s tremendous leadership and vision. He will guide the University to new pinnacles of achievement in service to Missourians.”