Tag Archives: publishing

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.)

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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.

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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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Alabama Press Association names winners of 2010 Better Newspaper Contest

Birmingham Business Journal, Birmingham News, Shelby County Reporter win multiple awards

Alabama Press AssociationThe Alabama Press Association named its winners in the 2010 Better Newspaper Contest. The South Carolina Press Association judged 2,525 entries from 64 newspapers.

The Birmingham News and the Shelby County Reporter won for overall General Excellence in their respective divisions.

The awards ceremony takes place June 5 in Orange Beach.

Listed below are winners from the Birmingham area. The complete list is available online.

Update May 5: The Birmingham News has links to several winning entries.

2010 General Excellence Winners
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 1st place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)

FOI – First Amendment Award
Division C

  • 1st place: Birmingham Business Journal for “On the road” by Jimmy DeButts
  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “In your neighborhood” by staff

Most Improved
Division A

  • The Birmingham News

Division C

  • Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)


Best Presswork
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)

Category 1 — Best Editorial Page or Section
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 1st place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)
  • 2nd place: Birmingham Business Journal

Category 2 — Best Lifestyle/Family Pages
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 1st place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)

Category 4 — Best Layout and Design
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)

Category 5 — Best Local Economic Coverage

Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 1st place: Birmingham Business Journal

Category 6 — Best Local Education Coverage
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 2nd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)

Category 7 — Best Local News Coverage
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News

Division C

  • 1st place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana)

Category 8 — Best Use of Photographs/Editorial Content
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News

Category 9 — Best Spot News Story

Division A

  • 3rd place: The Birmingham News for “Langford Guilty” by staff

Division C

  • 2nd place: The Shelby County Reporter for “Fire destroys apartment building” by Samantha Hurst

Category 10 — Best In-Depth News Coverage
Division C

  • 2nd place: Birmingham Business Journal for “The Dome” by Lauren B. Cooper
  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter for “Limestone quarry project” by staff

Category 11 — Best Business Story or Column
Division A

  • 3rd place: The Birmingham News for “Behind the music at HealthSouth” by Michael Tomberlin

Division C

  • 1st place: Birmingham Business Journal for “Economy’s heat drying up community banks profits” by Crystal Jarvis
  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter for “Shopping centsibly” by Samantha Hurst

Category 12 — Best Feature Story
Division C

  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “Haven for hats” by Samantha Hurst

Category 13 — Best News Feature Story
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News for “Behind the Painted Wall” by Greg Garrison

Category 14 — Best Editorial
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News for “Operation chaos” by Bob Blalock

Division C

  • 2nd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “Hoover Hospital needed” by staff

Category 15 — Best Humorous Column
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News for “The naked truth: Blame it on a full moon” by John Archibald

Category 16 — Best Human Interest Column
Division A

  • 1st place: The Birmingham News for “As easy as brain surgery” by Kathy Kemp

Division C

  • 2nd place: Birmingham Business Journal for “The health care debate comes home” by Cindy Crawford
  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “America as I knew it” by Cassandra Mickens

Category 17 — Best Editorial Column or Commentary
Division A

  • 3rd place: The Birmingham News for “Pro-life meets health care reform” by Robin DeMonia

Category 18 — Best Sports News In-Depth Coverage
Division C

  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “No longer at home” by Chris Megginson

Category 19 — Best Sports Single Event Story
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News for “Tide blocks Vols’ upset bid” by Don Kausler Jr. and Doug Segrest

Category 20 — Best Sports Feature Story
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News for “20 years after the move” by Kevin Scarbinsky

Division C

  • 1st place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “Relaxing on Lay Lake” by Wesley Hallman

Category 26 — Best Photo Essay
Division C

  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “Family Fest” by staff

Category 27 — Best Use of Graphics or Illustrations
Division C

  • 2nd place: Birmingham Business Journal for “Birmingham’s wealthiest zip codes” by Ty West
  • 3rd place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “In your neighborhood” by Cassandra Mickens

Category 28 — Best Headline
Division A

  • 2nd place: The Birmingham News for “Flush with pride, Birmingham-Southern wins lavatory laurel” by Nichele Hoskins
  • 3rd place: The Birmingham News for “Jesus Christ makes jury pool, but judges not” by Greg Richter

Division C

  • 2nd place: Birmingham Business Journal for “Irondale hoping it’s in good hands with Allstate bonds” by Craig Ey

Category 29 — Best Special Section
Division A

  • 3rd place: The Birmingham News for “Football U 2009 Preview” by staff

Division C

  • 1st place: Shelby County Reporter (Columbiana) for “24 Hours in Shelby County” by staff
  • 3rd place: Birmingham Business Journal for “Top 40 under 40” by Ty West

Category 30 — Best Niche Publication

Division C

  • 2nd place: Birmingham Business Journal for “Book of Lists 2010” by staff

Best Newspaper Web Site and Story of the Year
To be announced June 5.

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EXCLUSIVE: Over the Mountain Journal changes editors after 17 years

Over the Mountain Journal, a suburban Birmingham biweekly newspaper, has changed editors after 17 years.

Publisher Maury Wald laid off editor Cara Clark in March “due to the economic slump we’re continuing to struggle with.” The newspaper also laid off Lucy Merrill, features writer for 14 years.

On Monday, Laura McAlister began as the new editor of Over the Mountain Journal. McAlister, shown at left, formerly served as Web editor for the Birmingham Business Alliance and Birmingham Magazine.

Clark, shown at right, said by e-mail:

“As it was explained to me, (Over the Mountain Journal) has sustained revenue losses for many months now, and the publisher could no longer afford to pay my salary.

“With the newspaper industry suffering nationwide, it has been a concern, but our editorial staff (both of us) thought we had a strong enough niche in the community to keep things going. It was quite a surprise when we were told the situation.

“For me, it came at a time when I’d just returned from nearly a month-long embed with the troops in Afghanistan. I think it was time for a change, but a bit more preparation would have been helpful. Still, I hope to return to Afghanistan this summer. Meanwhile, I’m looking for work locally, as I’d just signed an apartment lease before the layoff.

“Being with the troops and experiencing life in Afghanistan was a long-time dream and life-changing experience. It taught me much about myself, including my ability to adapt to inhospitable circumstances in a war zone. I left at the end of December and returned near the end of January.”

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Cara Clark: Facebook | LinkedIn

Laura McAlister: Facebook | LinkedIn

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EXCLUSIVE: Two top editors leave Portico magazine

Last week, editor Abigail Millwood and art director Lane Gregory resigned from Portico magazine, Media of Birmingham has learned.

Millwood announced her departure in an e-mail Friday. In a follow-up, she said she left to spend time with her son and pursue book ideas before attending law school in the fall.

Gregory left on March 29. Interviewed by e-mail, she cited differences with magazine president Harvey Bishop, who has not responded to requests for comment. Gregory is looking for freelance design work.

The Birmingham-based monthly publication, started in 2001, won Folio’s award for Best Regional Magazine in 2004 and 2005. No word on if or how the positions will be filled.

Update April 9: Thanks to our commenter Sam, we have confirmed that Portico’s sole account executive Katie Rochester has resigned, saying all three were overworked. She is currently looking for another job.

It’s unclear what Portico’s future is, given that no staff members are left, and Bishop has not responded to requests for comment.

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Birmingham Parent magazine wins 11 Parenting Publications of America awards

Birmingham Parent magazine won 10 awards in the 2009 Parenting Publications of America Editorial and Design Competition, announced earlier this month.

Birmingham ParentThe judges’ comments included praise for the publication’s efforts, such as the Family Fun column by Patrick Rimmer:

“A clever concept, executed well. This is the sort of column that differentiates a publication and serves readers. Consumer-friendly reporting with verve.”

Also, publisher Carol Muse Evans was elected PPA vice president for 2010.

Gold Awards

  • Editorial for Family Fun Column, “The Park Rater,” By Patrick Rimmer;
  • Interior Photography, “Baby’s First Haircut” – Amanda Traywick, photographer, Hilary Moreno designer and art director;
  • Special Section within a Publication – 2009 Special Needs Guide, Hilary Moreno designer and art director, Lori Pruitt associate editor, Amanda Traywick photographer and Carol Muse Evans publisher;
  • Overall Design for a Publication – Hilary Moreno, designer and art director.

Silver Awards

  • Calendar Design – Hilary Moreno, designer and art director;
  • Calendar Writing – Lori C. Pruitt, calendar editor and associate editor;
  • Feature Layout Design, “The Color of Love” from the September 2009 issue, Hilary Moreno, designer and art director;
  • Table of Contents Design, Hilary Moreno, designer and art director;
  • “Short Stuff” Design, Hilary Moreno, designer and art director.

Bronze Awards

  • Editorial Reviews, “A Page in a Book,” written by Paige Gardner Smith, associate editor Lori C. Pruitt and Editor Carol Muse Evans;
  • General Excellence, January 2009 “Going to College Guide,” Hilary Moreno Art Director, Amanda Traywick Photographer, Associate Editor Lori C. Pruitt and Editor/Publisher Carol Muse Evans.

Also: full list of PPA award winners.

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The death of Southern Progress?

Birmingham publisher drops company Web site

Once among Birmingham’s largest publishing companies, Southern Progress Corporation has shrunk in population by more than half in less than 2 years. Its personnel have consolidated in two of three buildings on its Lakeshore Drive campus. It has closed down two magazines and sold off one operation. Many functions — human resources, marketing, accounting, building operations — have been consolidated or moved to Time Inc.’s New York headquarters.

And now, it has shuttered its online presence, southernprogress.com. The site now redirects to the Time Inc. corporate site. [view of site cached in Google]

southernprogress.com site1

Southernprogress.com: 2008 version (from archive.org)

southernprogress.com site2

Southernprogress.com: 2010 incomplete version
(from Google cache)

For some time, Southern Progress has been fading into oblivion, as sweeping changes throughout the publisher have roiled the Birmingham-based operation. In essence, the corporation that was formed 30 years ago and sold to Time Inc. 25 years ago barely exists, even as its employees still work under the existing titles Southern Living, Cooking Light, Health, Coastal Living, Oxmoor House, MyRecipes.com, MyHomeIdeas.com and Sunset.

Is the city losing one of its publishing companies to consolidation, economics and neglect?

Update March 24: This very report has spawned this odd headline … “Southern Progress not dead, Time Inc. says.”

Photo: Nelson Glass

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More coverage of Southern Progress Corporation.

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EXCLUSIVE: Coastal Living swaps editors

Also, ex-Southern Accents editor departs Southern Progress

Lindsay BiermanSara PetersonLess than 2 years after becoming editor of Coastal Living magazine, Lindsay Bierman is swapping his magazine title and job title. Media of Birmingham has learned that Bierman, shown at left, will become deputy editor of Southern Living on Monday. The move was announced in a company e-mail sent Wednesday (included below).

He had previously been editor of Cottage Living for just a few months before Time Inc. closed the publication.

Coastal Living’s executive editor Sara Peterson, shown at right, will succeed him as editor. The magazine debuted a redesign in 2009.

It’s the second editor change in less than 6 months at Birmingham-based Southern Progress Corporation, after Cooking Light’s swap in September.

All four titles are part of Southern Progress.

Also mentioned in the memo is the departure of Entrée’s editor Karen Carroll, who had also served as editor of Southern Accents before it folded in August. She leaves the company March 31 after 22 years at Southern Progress. Succeeding her is senior editor Alice Doyle.

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

Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 09:17:57 -0500

To: Lifestyle Group Colleagues

From: Sylvia Auton

Re: New Lifestyle Editorial Appointments

I am pleased to announce that Lindsay Bierman has been appointed Deputy Editor of Southern Living, effective March 1st. Sara Peterson will succeed Lindsay as Editor of Coastal Living.

Lindsay is a multi-talented editor who over the last year has developed Coastal Living with great creativity, intelligence and vision. All who work with him admire and respect his tremendous zeal and innovative thinking. Lindsay, who has spent more than half his adult life in the South, joined the company 14 years ago as the first Homes Editor at Coastal Living and served as Executive Editor at Southern Accents before moving to Cottage Living and then back to Coastal Living.

Last fall Eleanor Griffin and her staff restaged Southern Living, which is the country’s 5th largest monthly consumer magazine, to great reader and advertiser acclaim. In his new role, Lindsay will team up with Eleanor to build on this strong momentum.

On Lindsay’s recommendation, Sara, who has served with distinction as his Executive Editor, will also assume her new role on March 1st. A superb talent, Sara was instrumental in honing and executing last year’s redesign and re-launch of Coastal Living. Prior to being named Executive Editor in 2008, Sara had been the Homes Editor of Southern Living. Before moving to Birmingham, she spent six years in New York, where she was the Lifestyle Editor at Redbook and a Senior Editor at Family Life.

Separately, Karen Carroll, Editor of Entrée, a magazine created exclusively for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, has decided to leave the company at the end of March. Karen’s keen, sophisticated eye was evident throughout the pages of both Entrée and Southern Accents. Karen began her career at Southern Accents as an intern in 1987 and rose to Editor in Chief by 2001, a position she held until that magazine’s closure last year; she added responsibility for Entrée in 1998. Highly respected and admired by the industry and her peers, we thank her for her commitment and contribution over the past two decades and wish her well in the future.

Alice Doyle will succeed Karen as Editor. Prior to joining the company in 2001 as Homes Editor of Southern Living, Alice had previously worked in New York at Saks Fifth Avenue, Women’s Wear Daily, and Elle. As Karen’s right hand at Entrée and Southern Accents, her fashion insights, expertise, creative talent and extensive industry contacts have been invaluable in raising the profile of Entrée.

Please join me in congratulating Lindsay, Sara and Alice on their new positions and wishing Karen the very best.

Sylvia

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More coverage of Southern Progress Corporation.

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