Chalifour Aiming for Ritter; DeGroot Deconstructs Daily

Lawyer and activist Brenda Chalifour says she isn't going to rest until Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter is behind bars.

To further that aim, Chalifour has filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission claiming Ritter has violated campaign law. Among her findings is that Ritter accepted more than the campaign minimum allowable under law ($500) in her 2008 campaign from a number of sources, including lobbyist George Platt (I had Ron Book listed here, but that was from Ritter's 2006 campaign, and the statute of limitations has run out on that). Chalifour says the complaint will be available tomorrow, when more information is going to be available.

Chalifour is on the war path after Ritter tried to call her out at a recent County Commission meeting for allegedly lobbying for Dania Beach without being registered. Chalifour says she's a consultant. That's a tempest in a teapot as county rules have no teeth anyway. What's really interesting is that Ritter had Chalifour investigated in the first place. Sources say Ritter was angry after Dania Beach fired her lobbyist husband, Russ Klenet, from the city rolls after it learned about his conflict of interest regarding airport contractor URS Corp. Whatever the truth, it's definitely getting all Nixonian up in this place.

Also, John de Groot sent me a whale of a post about the Sun-Sentinel. It's a must-read for anyone concerned about that newspaper but to see it, you're going to have go to the jump by clicking below. 

        The Pope of Bullshit

         By John de Groot

         If bullshit were holy, Earl Maucker would be Pope.

         How so?

          Writing in response to readers' concern for the future of print journalism in South Florida , the Sun-Sentinel's Executive Editor notes:

          "The media business, to put it lightly, is an industry in the midst of transition."

          Which is like saying a grossly obese Elvis Presley was "in the midst of transition" when he threw up, fell off the toilet and then crawled several feet before dying on the bathroom floor of his 17,552 square foot mansion in Tennessee early one August morning in 1977.

No matter.

"We are not an endangered business here in South Florida ," Earl continues. "Our Sun-Sentinel expects to be alive and well for many years to come."

Why?

"Ours remains a profitable business," Earl explains.

Which, in this case, is like saying we are winning the war in Iraq .

          But then just as it's invariably the first casualty of war, truth too often ends up a turd in the punchbowl of corporate journalism at the Tribune Company and Earl Maucker's Sun-Sentinel.

          So.

          Time now for a few selected bits of the bitter truth Earl Maucker and his Sun-Sentinel have yet to tell their readers.

 

          1. While barely operating in the black, the Sun-Sentinel is a wholly-owned

subsidiary of the Tribune Company, a toxically leveraged media conglomerate now in bankruptcy - with assets of $7.6 billion versus debts of $12.9 billion.

 

2. In 2000, the Tribune Company reported assets of $14.6 billion versus debts of $3.4 billion.

 

3. Real estate investor Sal Zell bought the Tribune Company in 2007 for $8.2  billion - using $8 billion of other people's money largely secured by Tribune employee stock. "If the Tribune deal doesn't work, it ain't going to change my lifestyle," Zell told employees when he became CEO of the company two years ago. Today, the Tribune employee's 56 million shares of common stock are considered virtually worthless.

 

4. Between 2000 and 2008, Tribune Company Publishing Division's Operating Revenue was down 15% while its Operating Profit declined 50% (in constant 2008 dollars adjusted for inflation).

 

5. During the ten years between 1998 and 2008, the Sun-Sentinel's paid Sunday circulation plummeted 32% -- falling from 420,000 to 285,000.

 

6. The Sun-Sentinel's news staff totaled 360 workers in 1998; today their number has been slashed to less than half.

 

7. Here is a comparison of the main sections of the Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday, May 24, 2000 versus Wednesday, May 21, 2009.

          Section A - 24 pages then versus 14 pages now

          Section B - 8 pages then versus 12 pages now

          Sports - 10 pages then versus 8 pages now

          Business - 8 pages then

          Lifestyle - 8 pages then                 

          Business & Lifestyle combined - 8 pages now

                    Classified Section* - 34 pages then versus 18 pages now

                    *Personals, Employment, Real Estate, Automotive

 

8. The following is a comparison of total inches of paid advertising appearing in Tribune newspapers during the first three quarters of FY 2000 and 2008. (NOTE: The current Recession began in the fourth quarter of 2008)

                              2000             2008     

                    Full Run

                    Retail            4,967,000     3,374,000     (32%)

                    National        2,889,000     1,841,000     (36%)

          `         Classified      8,575,000     4,605,000     (46%)

                    Total             16,431,000   9,820,000     (40%)

                    Part Run       14,337,000   10,187,000   (29%)

         

9.In April of this year, Tribune CEO Sam Zell told Bloomberg Television:

"By definition, if you bought something and now it's worth a lot less, you made a mistake, and I'm more than willing to say I made a mistake. I was too optimistic. It's very obvious that the newspaper in its current form does not work and the sooner we acknowledge that the better. In effect, the newspaper industry is at risk today."

 

10. Earlier this year, the Director of USC's Annenberg School of Communication Jeffery I. Cole detailed the findings of a national mass media study conducted by his staff, noting:

"We're clearly seeing a path to the end of the printed daily newspaper - a trend that is escalating much faster than we had anticipated." Basically, Cole concluded, "when newspaper readers die, they aren't being replaced by new readers."

 

11. The following details the 2007 market penetration for adults 18 and over for Florida's major newspapers and their Web pages based on  data from Scarborough Research - which suggest newspapers have a long way to go in converting print subscribers to the Web sites:

Market Coverage

                    Newspaper:            Print*            Web**

                    Fla. Times Union      56%             13%

                    Palm Beach Post     47%             11%

                    Orlando Sentinel      42%             6%

                    Miami Herald           37%             8%

                    St. Pete Times        34%             6%

                    Tampa Tribune        31%             11%

                    Sun-Sentinel            26%             6%

*Percent of adults 18 and over in local market who read, or looked at newspaper during the past week.

**Percent of adults 18 and over in local market who visited the newspaper's Web page at least once during the past week.

 

12. Like many others in today's news media, Maucker's hopes for salvation lie in a media ménage a trios consisting of the traditional newspaper, its Web page and a local television station -- in the Sun-Sentinel's case, WSFL Channel 39. However, in the case of the Sentinel's Web page, Maucker's hopes may be a tad misplaced - as shown by the following Scarborough Research data:

                       Adult Visitors to a Newspaper's Web Page*

                                 2006             2007             % change

   Tampa Tribune        335,000        366,000            9%          

   Sun-Sentinel            306,000        292,000           (6%)

   Miami Herald           219,000        264,000            21%        

   Orlando Sentinel      237,000        223,000           (6%)         

   St. Pete Times        182,000        191,000            5%

   Fla. Times Union      16,000          161,000            906%

Other Major Newspapers

New York Times      1,390,000     1,541,000         11%        

Washington Post     950,000        1,000,000         5%

Boston Globe          790,000        759,000           (4%)

Chicago Tribune      668,000        786,000            18%        

LA Times                640,000        740,000             16%

SF Chronicle 517,000        563,000             9%

*By an adult 18 and over during the past week. 

 

13. In the end, of course, a Web page is less about visits and hits, and more about its value as an advertising-driven media. Which leads us to consider the impact of paid ads on Web pages.

Once again, we turn to Jeffery Cole for details of a recent study conducted by the Annenberg School of Communications - which suggest newspaper Web pages may not be the deus ex machine folks like the Sentinel's  Maucker hope it will be.

First, the Annenberg study found:

The average user spent 2.5 hours a day on the Internet - but only 8 minutes of their time scanning a newspaper Web page.

Then there's the degree of confidence in a newspaper Web pages:

"Faith in news pages posted by established media decreased and is now at the lowest level yet reported in the (Annenberg) Digital Future studies," Cole reports.

Finally, Cole says  the Annenberg study paints a dismal picture of the value of online advertising:

"Internet users express strong negative views about advertising online - both through their limited use of it and in their opinions about it," Cole reports.

"More than half of internet users (52%) said they never click on Web advertisements and only 6% said they do so sometimes, or often.

"Users are even less enthusiastic about purchasing decisions based on Web advertisements; 61% of the internet users said that they never buy products that they learned about from a Web advertisement."

 

14. Based on the latest numbers from the Newspaper Association of

America, it's difficult to image ad revenue from newsroom produced Web sites saving the nation's newspaper industry:

                    Newspaper:            2003                       2008

                    Total Ad Revenue    $54.0 billion*           $37.8 billion   (30%)

                    From Print               $52.6 billion*           $34.7 billion  

                    From Web Sites      $1.4 billion*             $3.1 billion    

                    % of total                2.6%                      8.2% 

                                 *In 2008 dollars

         

Anyhow.... stay tuned.

Especially to the Sentinel's "partner" WSFL which is gaining widespread recognition for the high quality, intelligence and depth of its broadcast journalism --- NOT! 

          And as for the Sun-Sentinel, don't expect much more than corporate bullshit and mud-clear "transparacy" from Pope Earl and his shrinking daily "product."


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