Tag Archives: Birmingham News

Alabamian Pam Siddall named Birmingham News president and publisher

First time in 100 years without a Hanson at the helm

The Birmingham News named Pam Siddall as president and publisher today. The Phenix City native spent the last 2 years a publisher of The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, part of the McClatchy chain.

Siddall, 41, starts Jan. 11, replacing Victor Hanson III, who retired in December. A member of the Hanson family had served as publisher of the daily Advance Publications newspaper since 1909.

Siddall, the News’ first female president and publisher, said in a written statement:

“I am thrilled to be the next publisher at The Birmingham News. … The Birmingham News has an outstanding reputation as the leading source of news, information and commentary — in print and online.  I am extremely excited about working with the team to embrace the transformation into a 24/7 multimedia organization.”

She was also the Eagle’s first female publisher. Her last day there is Friday.

Siddall graduated summa cum laude from Columbus State University in Georgia with a bachelor of arts degree in accounting. Her past experience (via her LinkedIn profile):

  • President and Publisher, Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, August 2004 – November 2007
    • Vice President & General Manager, December 2003 – August 2004
  • Vice President, Chief Financial Officer/Circulation, Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, March 2001 – December 2003
  • Chief Financial Officer, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, May 1997 – March 2001
  • Division Controller, Russell Corporation, February 1994 – March 1997
  • Senior Financial Analyst, WC Bradley, January 1993 – February 1994
    • Junior Analyst, May 1991 – January 1993

She also has profiles on Facebook and Twitter (@siddallAUfan).

Photo: Mike Hutmacher/The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle

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Investigative reporting workshop, Jan. 23-24 at UAB

Investigative Reporters and Editors is holding a series of Watchdog Workshops across the country to train journalists. Birmingham is one of only six cities scheduled to play host for the two-day seminar.

Seminar topics are:

  • Effective use of the Internet
  • Breaking down the walls
  • Paper and database trails
  • The art of the interview
  • FOI/Open Records
  • Managing and juggling your time to do watchdog stories
  • Bulletproofing a story
  • Computer-Assisted Reporting

Expected speakers are:

  • John Archibald, The Birmingham News
  • Rosalind Bentley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Mark Horvit, IRE/NICAR (National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting)
  • James Pewitt, Johnston Barton Proctor and Rose LLP, Birmingham
  • Alison Young, USA Today
  • Scott Zamost, CNN

The Birmingham Association of Black Journalists is a sponsor.

  • Who: Investigative Reporters and Editors along with the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists
  • When: Jan. 23-24
  • Where: UAB’s Heritage Hall, 1401 University Blvd. [map]
  • Cost: $50 for professional journalists: $35 for BABJ members; $25 for students. Fees include a 1-year IRE membership. Optional: computer-assisted reporting workshop on Jan. 24 is $30.
  • To reserve your spot: Register online.

EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News offers buyouts to employees across the board

The Birmingham News offered buyouts today to employees, the third round of buyouts in 16 months. Media of Birmingham has learned that all employees will be eligible this round, regardless of number of years of service or full-time or part-time status.

Birmingham NewsPast buyouts were limited to those with at least 5 years of service.

Our insiders tell us that full-time employees taking the buyout would receive 2 weeks of pay for every year of service, while part-time employees would receive 1 week of pay for every year of service. Both are capped at 6 months.

The daily newspaper is looking for “substantial staff reductions,” this time, but says no layoffs are planned for Feb. 6, when the Advance Publications’ “no layoff” pledge expires. The newspaper has not only faced an advertising shortfall because of the down economy but also a 10.8 percent drop in weekday circulation.

Earlier this year, the News cut benefits and required furloughs.

Meanwhile, the Birmingham News will look for a publisher to replace recently retired publisher Victor Hanson III.

Update Dec. 9: Another insider tells us that the buyouts have been offered at the other two Advance newspapers in Alabama: the Huntsville Times and the Press-Register in Mobile. Also, the buyouts are apparently limited to non-union employees.

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EXCLUSIVE: Editor-in-chief Ken Booth leaves AL.com

The editor-in-chief at the state’s biggest Web site has gone. Ken Booth left AL.com after 10 years, announcing his departure via Twitter:

twitter - kenbooth
“Today I left al.com after a great 10 years and am striking out in a new direction. All is well and I’ll share more about my plans soon.”

Booth oversaw editorial coverage and managed production and upkeep of the site. He previously worked as online editor for OrlandoSentinel.com. When interviewed by e-mail, he added:

“I’m leaving to pursue some other online business opportunities. My 10 years with al.com and Advance Internet has been a rewarding experience and I’ll certainly miss working with the people there. I will not miss my long commute from Madison to Birmingham.

“My immediate plans are to join an associate to help him grow an editorial and e-commerce Web site. I’ll be prepared to share more about that soon.”

We asked AL.com president and chief executive officer Cindy Martin for a comment, but have not heard back from her. No word as to if or how the position will be filled. According to a company insider, the departure was sudden and no additional information was given to staff.

Update Dec. 9: Robert Sims, Internet editor at the Birmingham News, will join AL.com as director of content. This position will replace editor-in-chief.

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Do Birmingham publications suffer from a lack of diversity?

Do Birmingham publications suffer from a lack of diversity? Do they reflect the city they serve?

The questions were prompted by a glance at the redesigned landing Web page for the Birmingham News. Granted, these are just the columnists, but the News and AL.com decided these are the ones to feature prominently with mug shots.

birmingham-news-columnists

Birmingham News columnists

All white, with two women out of eight columnists. The city population itself is 73.5 percent African American.

Compare that with the recently launched B-Metro magazine, which also features its columnists on the front page of its site …

b-metro columnists

B-Metro magazine columnists

We see a little more diversity, with three men out of nine contributors, one African American.

birmingham magazine columnistsAt Birmingham Magazine, the four columnists featured are all women, all white. (See graphic at right.)

(The Birmingham Business Journal doesn’t include writers’ photos on its site.)

The questions we have:

  • Should the writers featured on a Web site (and in the publication, too) reflect the diversity of its audience and market?
  • Do advertisers care about staff diversity? Do readers care? Or publishers?
  • Does diversity make a difference to the bottom line?
  • Can publications diversify, even as they’re cutting resources and staff members?
  • Are smaller publications — Birmingham Weekly, Black and White, Birmingham Times — facing the same issues?

Your comments are welcome below.

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EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News drops 10.8 percent in weekday print circulation

birmingham news building

Newspaper down 8.4 percent on Sundays

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but newspapers are losing print readers by the tens of thousands. In this morning’s report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, publications across the country reported double-digit declines.

The report measures circulation from daily newspapers, comparing April through September 2009 with the same period in 2008.

Media of Birmingham has learned that the Birmingham News dropped 10.8 percent in weekday circulation, from about 131,095 copies to 116,937 copies. This was slightly worse than the national average of 10.6 percent lost.

On Sundays, the News dropped 8.4 percent, from about 163,803 copies to 150,044 copies. The national average was 7.4 percent.

The News’ publisher Victor Hanson III retires in just over a month; layoffs could come as soon as February.

Meanwhile, the Mobile Press-Register defied the odds, gaining 0.75 percent in overall circulation in the same period from 2008 to 2009. The boost, from about 92,158 to 92,849, placed the newspaper in the Top 10 circulation gainers.

More good news comes from the online side.

When combining print and online readership from the past 7 and 30 days respectively, the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register landed in the Top 25 gainers. The News showed a 4.48 percent jump, and the Press-Register increased 6.13 percent, compared to the same period in 2008.

Advance Publications owns both newspapers.

Our special thanks to Jennifer Saba at Editor and Publisher. Read her blog Fitz & Jen or follow her on Twitter at @jennifersaba.

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More changes at the top for the Birmingham News

Publisher retires, but what’s next?

Back in August, we reported that Advance Publications gave oversight responsibilities for the Birmingham News to new president Ricky Mathews. It appears that may have precipitated the latest major shakeup at the News, with publisher Victor Hanson III retiring Dec. 1. No word yet as to who will be tapped to replace him.

Hanson, the fourth family member to serve as publisher, will retire at age 53 after 8 years at the top position. He’s not the only Advance publisher leaving: Fred A. Stickel of the Oregonian in Portland retired in September at age 87 after 35 years. (Hat tip Inside Out McwFlint.)

One definite ripple effect from Mathews’ hire is a lawsuit by former (Mobile) Press-Register publisher Howard Bronson against Advance:

Bronson said Newhouse officials in July 2009 reneged on a longstanding job security pledge for the paper’s employees and in August told him that he had two weeks to leave.

A message left with Mark Newhouse was not immediately returned.

Lagniappe, Mobile’s alternative newspaper, has more details on Bronson’s lawsuit.

Media of Birmingham broke the story about Advance’s ending of the no-layoffs policy, often called the Newhouse Pledge. A former Press-Register reporter offers his take on the pledge’s demise.

Who will take over the News, Alabama’s largest newspaper? And will the News and Press-Register begin layoffs in February when the pledge expires?

Personnel changes at the Birmingham News

Including a change at the top

A few personnel changes at the Birmingham News of note:

Ian R. RapoportIan R. Rapoport, University of Alabama sports beat reporter, is headed to his hometown to cover the New England Patriots for the Boston Herald. He writes on his final News blog post:

“In fact, the past three seasons spent covering Nick Saban — and Alabama football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and everything else — for The Birmingham News have been crazy, unpredictable, and incredibly rewarding.

“I had a blast.”

Scott Stantis• Editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis is headed to the Chicago Tribune. New WBHM-FM contributor Tim Lennox broke the story on his blog. Stantis writes on his News blog:

“It has been a great 13 years. Everything from Tinker Fob to Jimmy Blake to Bettye Fine to LaLa and every crazy thing in between. It has been my great honor to cartoon for the people of Birmingham, Jefferson County and Alabama. I hope you have liked it as much as I have.”

kurt-vanotsky-mugKurt Vantosky is the new vice president of advertising. He was previously at the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune and the Anchorage Daily News. He told the News:

“I think the strong editorial commitment — its history and its continued belief of being the voice of the community — drew me to The Birmingham News.”

Ricky Mathews• Perhaps most intriguing is this item, sent to us by a News insider. Birmingham native Ricky Mathews is the new president and publisher of two Advance Publications properties, the (Mobile) Press-Register and the Mississippi Press in Pascagoula. (Amusingly enough, his name is misspelled in the announcement story.) He served in the same capacity at the Sun Herald in Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss.

But his job description doesn’t end there, as Mathews will also serve in a newly created position …

“Mathews was also named president of Advance Alabama/Mississippi and will assume oversight responsibility for the Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times, in addition to the Press-Register and Mississippi Press.”

What, if anything, does this mean for the ailing Birmingham News? Can anyone weigh in?

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EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News could face layoffs by February

Owner Advance Pubs ends long-standing no-layoffs policy

Advance Publications’ Newhouse Newspapers will end its policy of no layoffs, announcing the change to staffs today, including the Birmingham News. The pledge ends in six months, meaning the staff at the News (as well as the Press-Register in Mobile and the Huntsville Times) could face layoffs by February.

Media of Birmingham has learned that staffers with at least 5 years at the Birmingham News were offered buyouts, two weeks salary for every year (six month maximum).

In June, the News cut salaries 5 percent to 8 percent, ended furloughs and offered a round of buyouts.

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BABJ workshop: Surviving the New Realities of the News Business

Birmingham Association of Black Journalists

Surviving the New Realities of the News Business

Open to everyone interested in the media business. Portion of proceeds go to BABJ Scholarship Fund. Sponsored by the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists.

With all the turmoil in the media, you need to know to survive?  This special half-day session gives you some answers.

It will take a hard look at what’s happening in the media business and why; offer advice from people who know on how to reinvent yourself; and give you practical tips on how to start your own business if you no longer want to work for a company that may be forced to lay you off.

In addition to getting the real deal from people who have been there, you’ll also get a chance to share best practices with each other.

  • When: Saturday, June 27
  • Where: The Birmingham News, 2201 Fourth Ave. N. [map]
  • Cost: $15, includes continental breakfast and box lunch.
  • Register by today, June 24, or notify Vickii Howell by e-mailing editor[at]birminghamview.com by June 25.
  • For more information, e-mail Willie Chriesman at willie[at]chriesman.com.

Schedule
9–9:30 a.m.: Registration
9:30–10:20: Opening Panel–The State of the Industry

  • Gene Kirkconnell, GM, NBC 13
  • André Natta, Internet entrepreneur
  • Scott Mauldin, Former NBC 13 Reporter
  • George Daniels, Assistant journalism professor, University of Alabama
  • Nichele Hoskins, Heart & Soul Magazine, former senior editor at Southern Progress Corp.

10:30–11:20: Reinventing Yourself for the New World of Media

  • André Natta, Internet entrepreneur
  • Atticus Rominger, Former Fox 6 reporter
  • Marie Sutton, Former Birmingham News reporter

11:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.: Going Out on Your Own

  • Edith Ingram, Central Alabama Women’s Business Center
  • Malena Cunningham, former NBC 13 anchor
  • Vickii Howell, former Birmingham News reporter
  • Scott Mauldin, Former NBC 13 Reporter

12:30–1: Lunch/Networking

Event info on the BABJ site.