Should college media staffs unionize?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat’s the difference between the campus newspaper editor and the football team’s quarterback? Besides the potential gender differentiation and a wide gap in combine stats, not much really.

Newspaper editors and assistant-editor level staffers at the nation’s 100 or so collegiate daily newspapers toil in their extracurricular activity just as many hours and with all the passion of collegiate varsity athletes. It’s just that their teams don’t perform in public athletic stadiums directly against a foe and with potentially large in-person and media audiences. However their audiences number in the tens of thousands each, much greater numbers than those who watch just about any varsity sport at their school, save of course for football and men’s basketball.

They work weekends, late nights five times a week and are on call 24/7. The carry full class loads, go to class – for the most part – study and take exams and turn in massive papers. Some even have a job outside the paper to help pay some of the bills. A top news desk editor’s stipend averages about $2,400 a year, although the pay spread is very wide. The IRS and Department of Labor has said for years this is okay if they are full-time students and what they do fulfills the organization’s educational mission. Most staffers aren’t paid a dime.

As I’ve said many, many times: It is not the extracurricular activity for everyone.

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The (45) Million Dollar Pier

st-petersburg-million-dollar-pier-21403979I attended my first St. Pete Chamber Pier Task Force meeting last week and was treated to a great presentation by Tim Clemmons and Gary Grooms of Mesh Architecture about a potential renovation to the existing pyramid structure that would modernize it, reduce the building and approach footprint and get in for the city’s price tag of $45 million.

For you non-locals and newcomers like me, the Pier has been an attraction I have visited a number of times since 1990, but the glow had definitely worn off especially as the marine exhibit was downgraded. Ultimately, voters nixed the plan last year to build what was called The Lens – the plan that won an international design competition but which faced strong local opposition and likely led to the defeat of the incumbent mayor as well.

The new mayor wants to restart the process basically from scratch and have whatever the new Pier will be open before 2018. In the meantime, the current colorful inverted pyramid building on the pier head is closed until then, but the new mayor declared that the rest of the approach and building deck, which had been fenced off, be reopened right after he was inaugurated, and scored many a political point with that move.

So you can fish, walk, bike and generally enjoy the pier – you just can’t get a meal or a crappy Florida gift there, which was about all that was left in the old pier building anyways.

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Hey, I don’t hate the N&O

roscoonshoulderI apparently became the darling yesterday of a vocal Internet-based mob of haters of Dane Kane, John Drescher and everything News & Observer.

Pick someone else folks.

I don’t hate the N&O – in fact, I kind of love it for all it has meant to the state and the capitol city for many years, including those when I was part of it (1986-88, 1997-99). It was also the paper I read every day for about 25 years before moving from the state recently.

Like many metro daily newspaper organizations around the country – primarily the ones that toil under public ownership and the dunces of Wall Street – it is not what it once was by any measure primarily because its parent company has satisfied its gluttonous greed for outdated profit margins by decimating the guts of the product and expecting people to continue to want to read and advertise in it. (Yes N&O supporters I heard from — corporate profits don’t equal one paper’s profits and all that — a weak defense I’ll deal with another day).

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N&O — You’re just making things worse

James Michael McAdoo didn't score Monday at FSU, but North Carolina's two largest newspapers fared worse.

James Michael McAdoo didn’t score Monday at FSU, but North Carolina’s two largest newspapers fared worse. (Thanks DTH)

The trip to Tallahassee, Fla., from North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham region is not pleasant, nor is it cheap.  It’s either 10 hours in a car or half a day by air. The cost of putting a sports reporter through that to cover a basketball game on a weeknight with lodging, airfare and food is about $600 if you book it a month in advance.

So it was at minimum curious – at the most disheartening  – that the region’s flagship newspaper, The News & Observer, owned by McClatchy, chose not to send any staff writer and/or photographer to cover in person a fairly important ACC contest pitting the UNC Tar Heels at Florida State. Nor did it sub a staffer from its sister paper, The Charlotte Observer, as they sometimes do to cut down on the cost of road trips that may be less expensive originating from the other city.

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Serial political panderers do not get my vote

Republican David Jolly will face Democrat Alex Sink in the March 11 special election. Yeah, there's a Libertarian guy too.

Republican David Jolly will face Democrat Alex Sink in the March 11 special election. Yeah, there’s a Libertarian guy too.

My understanding of Florida politics lacks much sophistication as of yet, but I am quickly becoming immersed in its complexities.

Nevertheless, it takes no sophistication to separate the candidates to fill the unexpired term of the recently expired C.W. Bill Young, a Pinellas County Republican who served this district in the U.S. House for 42 years and died unexpectedly in October at 82.

There is a Democrat, a Republican who is tied closely to Young, and a Libertarian political novice with no chance, but who might siphon support from the Republican.

I am a registered unaffiliated voter, which makes me an Independent, which I have been all my voting years. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens Party and Independents in various races large and small along the way. Party affiliation makes not one whit of difference to me.

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Disclose fabricator’s name

daily-emerald-logo

It what has become an all-too-frequent thread in collegiate newspaper circles (not that the commercial press totally avoids this problem), the Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon is the latest paper (just calling it that for you @rfrank_oregon :) whose editor has had to apologize for one of its student journalists fabricating quotes and who knows what else in a story.

The letter of apology from editor Sam Stites did not disclose, as had become the fashion, the name of the staffer who did the paper this credibility-bashing injustice, although the cached version of the story the DM apparently tried to make disappear from the webs carries a byline as you can see from the link above. Presumably her name was carried in however many print copies they run these days.

To Mr. Stites and to those who have come before and will come again, you have to name the staffer.

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