Tag Archives: Weld

Nick Patterson quietly (shh!) named new editor of Weld

By Wade Kwon

Nick PattersonAlternative newspaper Weld for Birmingham added Nick Patterson, left, to the masthead on its latest issue Thursday. And weldbham.com published his first stories for the site this week.

Both Patterson and publisher Mark Kelly declined to comment on the hire until after the organization’s planned media release sometime this week.

Patterson said by email:

“You will still have to speak to Mark. After you clear it with him, I’ll be glad to talk to you.”

Kelly said in an email:

“We plan to issue a statement within the next several days on Nick’s hiring and a few other recent and upcoming developments.”

In a follow-up email, Kelly wrote:

“[Patterson] does not need my permission to speak to anyone. However, as both the publisher and the person with responsibility for Weld’s external communications, I would be remiss in treating you differently than other media outlets by providing you, or allowing to be provided to you, any exclusive information prior to its planned general release — at least in the case of personnel matters and other internally generated news about our company which rightly should come first from us.

“We are tremendously pleased and excited about Nick’s association with Weld. But, as it is of a piece with several other moves we have implemented, are in the process of implementing, or plan to implement in the near future, it is our intention to address all of this news in a unified manner, in accordance with a timetable we have established, and in a way that is fair to all media outlets involved.”

Patterson spent the last 2 years working as a freelance media professional and communications director at the Birmingham Museum of Art. He worked for 10 years at Birmingham-based lifestyle magazine Southern Living as an associate editor.

Prior to that, he also had extended tenures at the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a media relations specialist and the Birmingham Post-Herald as reporter and columnist.

Note: The author worked with Patterson at the Birmingham Post-Herald and at Southern Living. In order to sidestep the inevitable media onslaught about this new hire, we have decided to publish a story before the media release.

Patterson replaces Glenny Brock, who left in May.

In early August, intern Walter Lewellyn was promoted to new media editor, replacing Kyle Whitmire, who left in July to join the Alabama Media Group.

Weld had announced Brock and Whitmire’s departures and Lewellyn’s promotion in print, on its site and via social media, but has, to date, remained relatively low-key about Patterson’s hire.

Tipsters alerted us in August about Patterson taking the editor’s job at Weld, but when asked to comment then, he declined and referred all queries to Kelly.

Patterson isn’t the first Post-Herald reporter to take on such a role. Darin Powell left the daily newspaper in 1999 to become editor of alternative newspaper Birmingham Weekly, working with Brock and Whitmire during his 3 years there.

More stories on the Weld for Birmingham

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

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Whitmire departs Weld, leading to online acrimony from the publisher

Kyle Whitmire, Mark Kelly

Kyle Whitmire, left, and Mark Kelly

By Wade Kwon

The summer of 2012 has been exceptionally weird for Birmingham media. Not that it couldn’t get a little weirder.

The Birmingham News fired more than 100 employees and announced historic changes in its publishing cycle. Alabama Public Television is embroiled in a legal fight and a PR nightmare over the dismissal of executive director Allan Pizzato and chief financial officer Pauline Howland. Atlanta’s Cox Media Group is selling 25 radio stations, including Birmingham’s top-rated 98.7 Kiss and 95.7 Jamz. Radio host Paul Finebaum settled a yearlong legal dispute with employer Citadel Broadcasting.

The weirdness continued Friday when Kyle Whitmire, new media editor and co-owner of Weld for Birmingham, accepted a job offer with Alabama Media Group, one of two new companies succeeding the Birmingham News and al.com.

Within hours of the story breaking on Twitter, Weld publisher and co-owner Mark Kelly issued a strongly worded statement online that drew immediate criticism from readers.

A roundup of online reaction to
Whitmire’s jump and Kelly’s statement

Whitmire’s exit is the second major departure from the startup site and publication in the last 2 months. Editor and co-owner Glenny Brock left in May.

Reached by phone, Whitmire would not comment on the matter, out of deference to his future employer. Instead, he issued this statement: “I’m incredibly grateful for the comments I’ve seen online and support I’ve gotten. I’m looking forward to working for the new company.”

He starts Aug. 20 as a reporter covering local government and politics.

While Kelly had kind words for Brock in May upon her departure, he was less gracious about Whitmire’s exit:

“Over the past several weeks, substantial differences arose between our management team and Kyle. Those differences were related to our plans for the immediate and future direction and priorities of Weld for Birmingham and its online and print publications. They also involved issues related to Kyle’s current and past job performance and fulfillment of his duties as a shareholder in our company. It seems clear that all of that factored into his decision to accept the position he has been offered with our competitor.

“Regarding the issues that contributed to Kyle’s decision, I will not provide specifics, as they involve proprietary information about our company’s operations. We have been aware for a few weeks that Kyle was in discussions with Alabama Media Group, though he did not see fit to share that information with us until yesterday (Thursday), when he told us that he had received and intended to accept a job offer.”

A succession of companies

Whitmire, Brock and Kelly have had considerable history together. Whitmire and Brock worked together for nearly 10 years at alternative newspaper Birmingham Weekly. The close friends and former housemates left the Weekly within 2 months of each other.

And Whitmire and Kelly have been friends as well for around a decade. Like Whitmire, Kelly once worked as a reporter for a local alternative newspaper, Black and White, covering City Hall (later working there as spokesperson for Mayor Bernard Kincaid).

Brock, Kelly and Whitmire had been working on the blueprint for Weld since 2009. After securing investor funding, the three plus Heather Milam launched the new media outlet in 2011: the site in May and the weekly alternative newspaper in September.

Editor Brock left after a year. Whitmire had been in talks with Advance-owned Alabama Media Group for several weeks and discussed his potential move with Brock.

Whitmire had written about Advance’s Birmingham News and al.com for years for the Weekly and for Weld. From June 5:

Weld for Birmingham cover, Paper Cuts“What’s clear to me is that the key to having a good newspaper and maintaining a good audience is knowing when to defy readers’ expectations and when to live up to them. Historically, the (Birmingham) News has done a poor job of doing either.

“The News spent decades building a bad reputation for itself. It defended segregation and was not willing to hold up a mirror to the city it covered. Slowly it moved to the right side of history, but when it did, it did so with reporting that was stripped of any voice or editorial latitude.”

On Thursday afternoon, at a meeting with partners Milam and Kelly along with another individual at the Weld office downtown, Whitmire announced his intention to leave for Alabama Media Group. On Friday, he turned in his key and his equipment to Kelly — and the two have not communicated with each other since.

Digital divorce

Meanwhile, Kelly’s online statement has raised questions about the pair’s split.

“Someone who has intimate knowledge of virtually all aspects of Weld’s operations and our strategy for immediate and long-term growth is now working for our direct competitor,” Kelly said by email. “Kyle (was) a shareholder in the company, which entails certain obligations and responsibilities that are not at play in the simple case of an employee entertaining the offer of another job.

“This, along with Kyle’s handling of his departure, is a serious matter, and we have some shareholders who are very much concerned about the manner in which it transpired. Thus, the admittedly strong wording of the statement.

“As for my personal reaction, I am disappointed. I’m disappointed for us and in Kyle, for both the business reasons I’ve mentioned and for personal reasons you might imagine.”

Kelly would not go into detail on Whitmire’s ownership stake, job performance or shareholder duties, citing proprietary information about the privately held company.

The publisher’s statement has met with considerable backlash, as commenters have called it “unprofessional,” “arrogant” and “disgusting.”

When asked about the feedback, Kelly said:

“As with all comments — positive, negative or neutral — that appear on our site in response to any story or post, I value the time and effort taken by the commenter. As that relates to my statement on Kyle’s departure, whether I feel those who commented negatively are ‘accurate’ in their characterizations of the statement — or, in some cases, of me personally — is really irrelevant.

“The important thing is that I respect their right to express their opinions and, as is apparent, would do nothing to interfere with their freedom to do so on our website and our Facebook page.

“As for the statement itself, it is a statement of fact, and not to stand by it simply because some people react negatively to my choice of words would be an act of both intellectual prevarication and moral cowardice.”

Brock saw it differently, saying by email, “What I read in Friday’s statement was a lot of bitter hurt. I’m glad he spared me a public excoriation.”

At its seams

Since her departure as editor, managing editor Jesse Chambers has filled in as interim editor. (Like Brock and Whitmire, he too worked in editorial at the Weekly before leaving in 2011.)

An anonymous tipster said that Chambers would be following Brock and Whitmire out the door. When asked if he had given notice to Weld, Chambers said by email, “I will remain as interim editor until a new editor is hired. I will have no further comment on this matter. Any further queries should be directed to Weld publisher Mark Kelly.”

Kelly praised Chambers for “doing an exceptional job of filling the editor’s role” and said that Weld plans to conduct a formal interview process for the position over the next few weeks.

As for Whitmire’s vacant new media editor position, Kelly told the Birmingham Business Journal that it was hard to say if a replacement would be hired or the position changed or eliminated in a restructuring.

Weld for Birmingham looks much different with two of the four co-founders now out of the picture. Back at the outset in April 2011, Kelly told the Birmingham Business Journal about the company’s mission:

“We want to succeed in business, and we want to succeed in journalism. And we want to fulfill our community mission to move a fractured community forward.”

The fractures between him and Whitmire have become the latest story in Birmingham’s summer media madness.

Also:

More stories on the Weld for Birmingham

More stories on Alabama Media Group

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

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.

Kyle Whitmire launches Second Front

The Second Front

Former Birmingham Weekly columnist unveils political news site today

Kyle Whitmire, former Birmingham Weekly columnist, has started blogging for his own news site, The Second Front. He plans to cover political news and public policy as part of Weld, a yet-to-be launched local news site.

Kyle WhitmireHe left the Weekly in January. Also working on Weld is Glenny Brock, who departed from the newspaper in March.

Whitmire talked about his new operation via e-mail earlier today.

MOB: What is Second Front?

Whitmire: It’s a niche-specific blog covering political culture and public affairs important to Birmingham.

MOB: How does it relate to Weld?

Whitmire: Back in the day, Southern Progress used to have test kitchens. I was always kind of jealous of that. I suppose you can say it’s a sort of test kitchen where I get to cook and hopefully not make too big of a mess.

Already some tech-savvy friends have figured out what platform The Second Front is built on, so that will be out there soon. But that’s as good a hint as you’re going to get.

There’s something behind Door No. 3, but I can’t tell you what it is yet.

MOB: What can readers expect?

Whitmire: The focus of The Second Front is politics and public policy.

As a journalism model, The Second Front will follow the lead of The Daily Beast, Slate and many other new media startups. The site will have original content, both reporting and analysis. It will have a great deal of curation, links to pertinent stories from around the web. It will provide context when it can. And it will leverage social media to reach the largest possible audience in ways that are most useful to individual users. [The Second Front on Twitter / Facebook]

I’ve committed myself to waking up a 6 a.m. every day to compile the Frontlines, links to today’s most important stories. I’m not a morning person, so that’s not going to be a lot of fun.

I’m going to spend a lot of time in public meetings, sifting through public documents and nosing around other people’s business. All of this is much the same as I did at Birmingham Weekly, only I want to explore the blog as a new form. I don’t have to fit whatever I’m writing into a 1,000-word hole anymore.

MOB: Will it be free? Subscription? Ad supported? Something else?

Whitmire: I’ll have to dive deep into some jargon and minutia, but I think it’s important to understand the nature of the problems first.

The CPM [cost-per-thousand impressions] advertising model will not support local public affairs journalism.

To make matters worse, users are adopting “ad blindness.” Either they use ad-blocking plugins in their browsers, or they just ignore the ads altogether. As a consequence, online display advertising has a lousy ROI for the advertisers.

The other fallback option has been a subscription model, but subscription-based services do only one thing well: Prevent mass reader migrations away from print. It’s a good way to mitigate the problem, but it doesn’t solve the problem. What’s more, it goes to the Clay Shirky Principle: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” If your job is to distribute news, you can’t do that by keeping it away from people.

What are the answers?

For the moment, I’ll have to neglect the specifics. Sorry, but that has to stay behind Door No. 3. I can share a few basic principles:

  • The digital marking solution should enhance the user’s experience, not disrupt it.
  • Users should be able to distinguish online marketing from other content, but the medium must not treat that message as if it’s radioactive or otherwise marginalize the sponsor.
  • Digital marketing should be clearly labeled but be treated as an equal citizen in the medium’s space.
  • Finally, digital marketing should be native to the Internet, and not simply an appropriation of print or broadcast forms, which we have now.

There is hope on the horizon in the form of geotagging and location-aware ads. Other kinds of micro-targeting will soon be practical. In the meantime, there are some low-tech methods to achieve the same ends, and I hope everyone will get to see them soon at The Second Front.

Why did you decide to do this site?

Whitmire: I love journalism and probably couldn’t do anything else. It has given me a front row seat to history.

The day Eric Robert Rudolph bombed the clinic on Southside, I got to get as close as the police would allow. The day they brought him back to Birmingham, I was there for that as well. I got to sit close enough in the courtroom that I could hear the chains between his feet and see his collarbone protruding against his skin.

I was there the day Richard Scrushy was acquitted and I was there the day he was convicted.

And then, of course, there was Langford. I got to cover Langford for one paper or another for nearly 10 years. It’s incredibly interesting work.

But it’s also very important work. I believe there is a reason the right to do what I do is codified in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Good journalism is a prerequisite for a healthy society. And that’s what troubles me.

While I’ve been a professional witness to history, I’ve also seen what’s happening to the media. When covering Rudolph or Scrushy, I had to fight and scrap with other reporters for stories. In contrast, all it took to prove Langford was not a legal resident of Birmingham was to pull his homestead exemption at the tax assessor’s office. No one else did that.

I’m proud of the work we did at the Weekly, but some of those scoops we got were just too easy. This never would have been the case were the (Birmingham) Post-Herald still alive.

I’m doing this because I love journalism and I love the adventure it allows me. But I’m also trying to save the Fourth Estate.

Compared to waking up at 6 a.m., that part should be easy.

Also:

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