Category Archives: In the news

EXCLUSIVE: Weld co-founder/editor Glenny Brock quits

By Wade Kwon

Glenny BrockGlenny Brock, editor of Weld for Birmingham, resigned Friday after 1 year on the job, Media of Birmingham has learned. She was one of the co-founders, along with publisher Mark Kelly, general manager Heather Milam and new media editor Kyle Whitmire.

Weld for BirminghamA statement about the departing partner was posted on the Weld site today.

The statement includes a note from Kelly:

“Glenny is a talented editor and an excellent writer. She played an important role in the birth of Weld, and certainly in the success we have enjoyed to date in establishing ourselves in the local media market. As she makes this decision to pursue other opportunities and to devote more time to writing a book, we support her and wish her the best.”

Brock and Whitmire came from Birmingham Weekly after working for the alternative paper for 9 years each. Weld began publishing its weekly issues in September, though the website had been in place earlier in 2011.

Managing editor Jesse Chambers, another former Weekly writer, will assume Brock’s responsibilities as Weld searches for her replacement.

Updates to follow …

Added May 28 …

Glenny Brock answered questions by email about her future and her time at Weld.

Working with Kyle Whitmire: My friendship and collaborative partnership with Kyle Whitmire has been and will continue to be one of the most meaningful relationships of my life. I am very proud of all that we have accomplished together, from our early days at the Hilltop News (Birmingham-Southern’s student newspaper) to the [Birmingham] Weekly to Weld.

Kyle made me a journalist and thus changed the course of my life. However, I am also a poet, a professor of writing and aspiring memoirist. I have decided that now is the time to concentrate on that work rather than keeping myself shackled to a weekly deadline.

On her book: My mother died in 1985, when I was only 8, so I know very little about her, except what I’ve learned from the numerous diaries and extensive correspondence she left behind, a haphazardly organized paper file that covers about half of her 41-year life.

About 5 years ago, I received a tremendous gift from the artist and cartoonist Howard Cruse, a packet of more than a dozen letters that he and my mother exchanged in the early 1970s. His letters to her and hers to him yielded many revelations about her life, including the extraordinary fact that between her two marriages, she had affairs with three Catholic priests and a Benedictine monk.

The working title of the book comes from an old-fashioned catechism term for a very short prayer uttered aloud, “Pious Ejaculations.”

Weld success and failures: That we created Weld at all was a major success. The newspaper we published is one of the finest publications Birmingham has ever had. By showcasing so many excellent examples of commentary, feature writing and public affairs reporting, we managed to fill a void created by the decline and disappearance of Birmingham Weekly and the institutional torpor of the Birmingham News.

We had a terrific concept to create a “Web first, print best” publication, based on network of local blogs. That is, we wanted to create and curate content, supplementing our original proprietary reporting with blog posts-turned-stories from all over the community.

To date, we have failed to achieve this. Or rather, we have only succeeded piecemeal.

A few notable blogs are connected to Weld. However, a handful of linked blogs falls far short of our original vision and mission, to be a place of meaningful community connection and a virtual town square. Weld may yet achieve that, under the leadership of a different editor.

On internal conflict: Conflict is a part of the alchemy that makes creativity possible. Not long after we launched the print edition, musician and writer Janet Simpson-Templin urged me to think of the partnership like a band.

Kyle, Heather, Mark and I had shared and disparate ambitions; the collective power of our four skill sets allowed us to accomplish much together.

We argued plenty, but the specific fights don’t matter much to me at this point.

I’m going to have a solo career, but the rest of the band plans to stay together. I wish them well, and I’m confident they wish me well, too.

On a possible return to journalism: Absolutely. I love freelancing, and I’ve spent too much time in recent years receiving pitches and assigning stories instead of pitching stories and getting assignments. The role reversal looks incredibly appealing.

If I discover the right opportunity, I’d gladly take a full-time position at an online or print publication, but I want to make some headway on this book first.

Weld’s publisher Mark Kelly also answered questions by email.

On Brock’s resignation: I was disappointed but not surprised by Glenny’s resignation. As I indicated in the statement on our website, I was a little surprised by the timing. But that was Glenny’s decision and I support her fully. Her presence has been integral to everything we’ve done, and we’re going to miss her daily presence.

I’m a Glenny Brock fan for life. She has spent some time making a considered decision about what is best for her at this point in her life and career. I respect that and, however regretfully, support it.

On changes for Weld: Having a weekly print product is key to our business model, but the key element of our growth strategy is flexibility, starting with the print product as the primary focus and transitioning over time to making our electronic presence not only the primary focus, but also the primary means of building value in our company.

Specific changes will be announced in the near future.

On the next editor: We’re much more interested in finding the right person than in adhering to some self-imposed timetable. In fact, in view of the changes that have been planned and which we’re preparing to implement, it’s probably better that we get through that process before turning our full attention to the search for a new editor.

Obviously, we will be looking to fill this role with someone who has great editorial skills. But we’ll also be looking for a person with strong leadership capabilities and a vision for the community and the role of our company in it.

Note: Brock, Kelly, Whitmire and Milam declined to answer questions about Brock’s ownership stake in Weld or any possible buyout of her stake.

Wade Kwon is a co-founder of Media of Birmingham and a Birmingham journalist for 25 years.

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Is the Birmingham Business Alliance requiring “pay for play” for media access?

By Wade Kwon

The Birmingham Business Alliance has had much news to share of late, from recent hires to position statements on the ongoing Jefferson County financial crisis.

Birmingham Business AllianceBut its preferred method of sharing has raised my hackles as a journalist: members first, media second.

(Note: I co-own Birmingham media outlet Magic City Post, which is a member of the Birmingham Business Alliance.)

I discovered that the Birmingham Business Alliance routinely, and as a matter of policy, sends news releases to its members before media outlets. But not all media outlets, as it turns out.

It gives news outlets that are members the advantage in publishing breaking news online, as the lag time can range from minutes to hours.

I pointed this out to David Rickey, senior vice president of communications, in an email:

“I don’t think media should be pay-for-play to receive newsletters from the Business Alliance. If media outlets get information faster simply because they are members, that is ethically untenable.”

The practice of paying for news coverage, pay for play, is usually frowned upon for news outlets. It does happen, especially in the highly competitive market for TV news magazines and morning shows.

Rickey’s response:

“Your remark about media pay for play is out of bounds. Our philosophy is to notify our investors — whether corporate CEO, small business person, social media guru or television GM — as a courtesy about announcements from BBA.”

I had suggested two possible solutions:

  1. That media outlets receive notices at the same time.
  2. Or that media outlets be included as investors without cost.

I received no further comment on those suggestions.

I wrote a letter to Brian Hilson, who became Birmingham Business Alliance president and chief executive officer in March. I raised the issue of pay for play, even though as an alliance member, we would benefit unfairly from this policy.

Hilson’s response:

“The BBA’s process of providing news and information to BBA investors first and other media later is a logical method that we will continue to follow. It is not, as you termed it, ‘unethical.’ ”

In checking with other chambers of commerce, all sent news releases to media outlets first or while simultaneously notifying members.

I asked Kelly McBride, senior faculty member in ethics at journalism training center the Poynter Institute, what she thought.

McBride’s response:

“It’s hardly fair to charge for access to news. If they were a government organization, they couldn’t do that. But as a private group, they can do whatever they want.

“But it’s really up to the news organizations to stand up to it, because it’s their principles that are being violated.

“There would be a way that all the news orgs could get together and agree to receive the press releases at the same time, regardless of their membership. Or all the news orgs could simply resign in protest.

“But it’s not really the Business Alliance’s responsibility to stand up for journalism values. It’s the responsibility of the journalism organizations.”

The media outlets that are Birmingham Business Alliance members:

  • Magazines: Birmingham Magazine, B-Metro Magazine, Lindy’s Sports Annuals;
  • Newspapers: The Alabama Baptist, Birmingham Business Journal, the Birmingham News, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Latino News;
  • Radio stations: Citadel, Cox;
  • Television stations: ABC 33/40, Alabama Public Television, Alabama’s 13, CBS 42, Fox 6, WPXH.

Though my own outlet shares in the benefit of getting Birmingham Business Alliance news ahead of non-member outlets, it rubs me the wrong way. The chamber may not want to call it pay for play, but any media outlet not paying at least $350 a year for membership is at a disadvantage.

Also:

Wade Kwon is a co-founder of Media of Birmingham and a Birmingham journalist for 24 years.

What do you think? Should the Birmingham Business Alliance change its news release policy? Is it pay for play? Should media outlets speak up, even if it means losing a competitive advantage?

EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham Weekly, the untold stories

By Wade Kwon

Stephen Humphreys, Chuck Leishman

Stephen Humphreys, left, and Chuck Leishman

Birmingham Weekly made its reputation on untangling the lies and the financial misdeeds of former mayor Larry Langford. Just 2 years later, the alternative paper now finds itself enmeshed in its own set of accusations and denials, questionable figures and sobering facts.

Birmingham Weekly 09-01-11 coverIn June, the weekly publication quietly changed hands from publisher Chuck Leishman to Stephen Humphreys. In doing so, it began to dig itself out of a financial hole that continues to limit its operations.

Friday, editor Sam George tweeted his resignation over a pay dispute. In his statement published on his personal website, he wrote, “I can no longer ask myself, my employees or my writers to continue to work with out the compensation and com fort they are due.”

In this exclusive investigative report for Media of Birmingham, we talk to staff members who shaped the paper over the past decade and uncover the internal troubles that have placed it in its current situation.

(Note: The author co-owns Birmingham media outlet Magic City Post.)

Continue reading

Just another one-newspaper town

On the passing of the Post-Herald 5 years ago

History buffs know today marks the fifth anniversary of the last edition of the Birmingham Post-Herald.

Birmingham Post-HeraldUp until that day, Birmingham had been a two-newspaper town for much of its existence. Well, more like one-and-a-half newspapers, as both were operating under a joint-operating agreement. The Birmingham News was the senior partner, handling the advertising, marketing and circulation for itself and the Post-Herald.

In essence, competitive entities in name only.

Has the News thrived or become complacent since becoming a solo act in 2005?

The News has operated for 5 years without another daily paper competing for scoops, but finding itself competing on a new playing field. It had its traditional competitors: radio, television, even the Internet vying for readers for both news and attention.

But who knew back then that the state’s flagship newspaper would also be fighting Facebook, and blogs, and YouTube, and Twitter, and a publishing industry implosion?

Walk through the News’ building — insiders jokingly refer to the layout as a prison — and you’ll see disturbing signs of a newspaper in decline. Empty desks marking the dozens of jobs cut. The third floor, once home to circulation, now a ghost town; owner Advance Publications consolidated that function for all state newspapers in its Mobile office.

In some ways, the 2006 structure remains a time capsule impervious to a changing world. No wi-fi. Even odder, no AL.com. Though the News and AL.com are separate companies, both are part of the Advance family with the same mission: Turn a profit while informing readers.

And yet, the staff of the state’s largest website sits in its own offices a mile away at Pepper Place, which might as well be a thousand miles away.

The News, rather than embracing its digital destiny, has found it rather loathsome. The columnists decry the online commenters while doing little to fix the system. The editors hold back more and more content for print only. And while other publications have moved toward more interactive features and storytelling, the News largely sticks to its comfort zone of text, photos and graphics.

The print product grows ever thinner, more expensive and less read, a strategy copied straight from the Post-Herald. You may be surprised to learn that at one time, the Post-Herald also had the state’s largest, if only, website, back in the mid-1990s. But by failing to adapt to the audience’s changing news-consumption habits, that advantage was lost over time.

It may seem unthinkable that Birmingham could go from a one-newspaper to a zero-newspaper town. This quiet anniversary should serve as a reminder that no publication is safe, no institution sacred. Hopefully, it is not too late for the Birmingham News to learn from the Post-Herald’s demise, before it also becomes a footnote in history.

EXCLUSIVE: Coastal Living editor departs after less than 6 months

Also, Southern Living offers new round of buyouts

Sara PetersonSara Peterson, the third editor at Coastal Living magazine in the last 2 years, is calling it quits. Media of Birmingham has learned that she plans to work in New York on the long-rumored HGTV Magazine published Hearst Corporation, according to insiders at the Birmingham office. Hearst is a direct competitor to Time Inc., which owns Coastal Living and other Birmingham-based titles.

Time Inc. spokesperson Jennifer Zawadzinski said via e-mail that the company is interviewing candidates for editor, but no announcement is ready at this time.

(Also, Peterson’s interview with 365Beach.com in April.)

This latest departure is one in a series of ongoing editor changes at the former Southern Progress division:

Lindsay Bierman, the new editor at Southern Living, has started a new round of buyouts among the editorial group, reportedly to give the option to staff members no longer passionate about the magazine a way out. An exact number is not known, but the final accepted buyout list is expected to be announced after Labor Day.

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More coverage of Time Inc.’s Birmingham division.

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EXCLUSIVE: Southern Living has third editor in 2 years

The tenures are growing ever shorter.

Eleanor GriffinLindsay BiermanJohn Floyd was editor of Southern Living for 18 years, until his retirement in 2008. Eleanor Griffin has been in the position less than 2 years.

With her promotion to vice president of Southern Living brand development, deputy editor Lindsay Bierman will succeed her as editor on Aug. 9, Media of Birmingham has learned.

Bierman has been through this before. He became editor of Cottage Living a month before it closed in 2008; he succeeded Griffin, who had just taken the role at Southern Living. He then became editor of Coastal Living, until moving to Southern Living in March. All Time Inc. three titles are based in Birmingham, part of the magazine group formerly known as Southern Progress.

• • •

The e-mail announcement from Time Inc. Executive Vice President Sylvia Auton …

Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2010 12:31:00 -0400

To: Lifestyle Group

From: Sylvia Auton

Re: Staff Announcement

After 33 years with Southern Progress, Southern Living Editor in Chief Eleanor Griffin, has decided to move her career in a different direction.  Eleanor is a consummate publishing professional whose insights, expertise and passion would have been sorely missed had she not agreed to stay on in the newly created role of VP, Brand Development for Southern Living. In this position, she will work closely with the advertising and marketing group to break and grow business on key accounts. She will also work in an advisory capacity with our book division, Oxmoor House, on the creative development of Southern Living branded book concepts, as well as be responsible for identifying relevant partnerships with appropriate organizations and events.

As editor of the country’s 5th largest monthly consumer magazine, Eleanor had her pulse on modern Southern style, ensuring that Southern Living covered every aspect of Southern life with a unique and powerful voice.  From secret sources for beautiful home décor to delicious Southern recipes and charming, must-visit Southern towns, Eleanor reminded her readers every month why the South is such a special place to live.

Prior to Southern Living, Eleanor had an impressive career as the launch editor of Time Inc.’s Cottage Living. Not only was the brand beloved by readers, but under Eleanor’s direction, it received many industry accolades, including “Startup of the Year” by Adweek and “Launch Worth Watching” by Ad Age, and made two appearances on the Adweek Hotlist.

Eleanor joined the company in 1977 as merchandising manager at Southern Living. During her tenure, she has held various roles at the company including editorial director of the custom publishing division where she launched four new consumer publications and was director of corporate magazine development.

I’m pleased to announce that succeeding Eleanor will be Southern Living’s Deputy Editor Lindsay Bierman. With more than 14 years of lifestyle editing experience, Lindsay’s varied expertise, keen design sense and creative vision dovetails perfectly with the brand. I am confident that Lindsay will build on the momentum of last year’s successful redesign. Lindsay assumes his new role on August 9th.

Before joining Southern Living in early 2010, Lindsay led the repositioning and redesign of Coastal Living as Editor in Chief for two years. Under his leadership, the audience grew nearly 10% to more than 3.6 million, and the brand launched four major home furnishings collections. Lindsay joined the company in 1997 as the first Homes Editor at Coastal Living and served as Executive Editor at Southern Accents before moving to Cottage Living as founding Executive Editor. Earlier in his career, Lindsay worked at Robert A.M. Stern Architects in New York and wrote for titles such as Elle Décor and Interior Design. It was during his school years that Lindsay developed such a strong affinity for the South. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a Master of Architecture from the University of Virginia.

I am proud that since 1966 Southern Living has been the South’s favorite magazine and that more than 16 million people read it each month.

Please join me in thanking Eleanor for her many contributions to Southern Progress and wishing her well in her new role and congratulating Lindsay on earning the honor of succeeding her.

Sylvia

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More coverage of Time Inc.’s Birmingham division.

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Sneak peek: Birmingham Weekly changes website look

Birmingham Weekly 2010

Birmingham Weekly’s new site design for 2010.
(Click image for larger version.)

Less than a year after completely revamping the website, Birmingham Weekly is set to roll out a new online design Thursday.

Incoming editor Sam George mentioned the redesign in an earlier interview. He added by e-mail that the new site will be done in collaboration with Wisconsin-based Wehaa, a Web company specializing in content management systems for print publications.

The previous design had debuted in April 2009.

Birmingham Weekly 2009

Birmingham Weekly’s website front page from 2009 to 2010.
(Click image for larger version.)

George described the upcoming changes:

“Readers should expect a site that is much easier to navigate, a slick interface with bells and whistles that actually enhance the browsing experience, rather than distract from it, and a comprehensive city directory and event calendar. For the first time ever, many sections of the paper that were overlooked on the website will be available online as well.”

“On our end, the process of getting our content online has been streamlined, largely thanks to the new digital edition of the paper which will be available every Thursday along with the print edition. The digital edition is processed from the same PDFs we send to our printer, and getting the individual articles plugged in is a snap.

“Also, the online events calendar allows us to reverse publish everything, including user-submitted events, making it easier for us to provide a calendar in the print paper that is concise, comprehensive and easy to use.

“These are just a few of the many new features I am excited about. You’ll just have to browse on over to the site on Thursday to check out the rest.”

The Terminal has another screenshot of the new design.

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EXCLUSIVE: Sam George named new Birmingham Weekly editor

Media of Birmingham has learned that Birmingham Weekly staff writer Sam George will become the alternative newspaper’s editor, starting with the July 8 issue. He succeeds interim editor Jesse Chambers, who served since Glenny Brock’s departure in March.

Sam GeorgeGeorge, left, has been a staff writer since May. He also works as a freelance graphic designer and lead singer for Birmingham-based rock band Bright Henry. Previously, George was editor and lead designer of local music site, Bham.fm.

jesse chambersChambers, right, said via e-mail that George is a “smart, talented, passionate, hard-working guy with enormous enthusiasm for making a great paper and website. He has my complete confidence and support.” Chambers said he had wanted to fill in until a permanent replacement was hired. He will continue as staff writer, including editing the Green Space section.

• • •

Update June 26: Sam George shared more answers to our questions via e-mail …

Will you still continue to write and edit for Bham.fm?

Unfortunately, I will no longer have time to continue Bham.fm. I spoke with Whitney Sides (Mitchell), my co-editor there, and we both agree that the site has been suffering from lack of attention lately and that the best thing to do would be to shut it down. I plan to post an announcement saying as much there this weekend. (Note: Bham.fm started publishing in November 2008.)

It’s been a great pleasure covering the local music scene, and I hope to continue doing so with equal passion at the Weekly, including continuing my regular post “The Daily Dose,” though I plan to expand its scope beyond music. We will also have plenty of support for local bands on the new website we are launching.

Why did you decide to become editor?

I had approached (publisher) Chuck Leishman about writing a regular music column, and he offered me the managing editor gig instead. I decided to take the job because it combines a number of interests I have in one spot. It allows me to continue to cover local music and appeals to my design and photography side while expanding the scope of what I am able to accomplish for the city as a whole.

Also, it’s much better than slinging coffee, which is what I had been doing in the daylight hours.

What are your plans for the Weekly?

The first order of business is to launch our new website. I’ve been spending most of my energy here designing and implementing a brand new site for the Weekly that is really in a different stratum of excellence than the one we have now. It looks great, is easy to navigate, increases the functionality and scope of our site and integrates it further with social media. It also has a really cool digital interactive version of the paper.

I’ve put a lot of love and elbow grease into this thing, and I’m pretty excited to hear what Birmingham thinks about it when we launch, which should be Thursday, provided we can iron out the last wrinkles.

As for the paper itself, I’m still learning what it takes run the thing. I believe that Birmingham has the wealth of culture necessary to become a vibrant and modern metropolis with a strong urban center, and I would like to focus the Weekly on celebrating the things that can lead us towards that goal.

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Update June 27: Whitney Mitchell clarified Bham.fm’s future via e-mail …

“The band is staying together (somewhat). It’s been hard for much of anyone to concentrate on writing with losing jobs (two-thirds of our writers), being full-time students and having “real” jobs. When I started it back in ’08, I had much more time to dedicate to organizing show schedules and attending three to four  concerts a week.

“While the site won’t be the detailed info mecca it was, it is definitely staying alive and restarting as Birmingham’s only kickass music site. (We mean that … it would suck to see it die, y’know?)

“Chris (Mitchell, photo editor) is pretty psyched about revamping the site, so stay tuned for a new layout and daily (still music and regional-focused) postings.”

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Community Newspaper Holdings moving headquarters to Montgomery

Birmingham-based Community Newspaper Holdings is heading south. The newspaper publisher plans to relocate its headquarters from the Colonnade area to Montgomery’s new Retirement Systems of Alabama building in late 2011 or early 2012.

Community Newspaper HoldingsThe company, founded in 1997, owns 86 daily newspapers, 46 nondaily papers and four TV stations. In Alabama, it owns the News Courier in Athens and the Cullman Times.

RSA helps fund CNHI. According to the story, “The company will bring 70 high-paying jobs with salaries averaging $75,000 to the area.” Another report says that current employees will be offered the chance to move from Birmingham to Montgomery, and that replacements will be found for those not making the move.

EXCLUSIVE: Pavo Magazine to fold

Pavo MagazinePavo Magazine, a Birmingham-based arts and culture online publication, will shut down Saturday.

In an e-mail sent this afternoon, marketing director Lauren Lippeatt wrote:

Dear Pavo Supporters,

Pavo began with a dream of uniting communities and spreading the wealth of inspiration that exists in Birmingham. Janet Elizabeth Simpson and Lauren Lippeatt are the two halves of Pavo, each balancing each other and the publication in their own dynamic ways. In the last few months, we have being heading towards a crossroads that is now taking our Lauren in a different direction. Pavo just isn’t Pavo without both of its equal halves. To that end, it is with extreme gratitude that we now conclude this adventure.

We at Pavo Magazine wish to thank you for your amazing support and for believing in our dream for Birmingham. It is with some sadness that we close this chapter of our lives, but we eagerly look forward to what opportunities lie ahead. On May 15, we will publish our public farewell. We will continue to support and promote your events during the next few weeks through our calendar. In our remaining days, please let us know how we can best support you.

Warmest Regards,

Lauren Lippeatt and Janet Elizabeth Simpson

The magazine’s 9-month run started in September.

Update May 15: Pavo closes out with three essays. Post 1 | post 2 | post 3.

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