Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting Schooled

The Herald recently learned that Marc Cabrera, our features staff writer, has won a fellowship with the NEA Institute in Theater and Musical Theater at the USC Annenberg School of Communication.

The institute is an 11-day workshop for writers, editors, broadcast and online producers from throughout the United States. 

He's among several Herald staffers who have won prominent fellowships recently. Julia Reynolds is currently participating in a 10-month Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. Claudia Melendez is also gone for 10 months on a learning experience at Annenberg, while Jim Johnson recently completed an Annenberg health journalism fellowship that resulted in his three-part series about Natividad Medical Center.

I'm obviously proud of our talent and their willingness to continue their education.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our Cinema Experts? We have a tie!

Congratulations to Geraldine Rodriguez and "Rejinther," the c0-winner of Professor Toro's first-ever Oscar Pool.

It was a tight race. Geraldine and Rejinther picked up 23 points, even after both of them picked Mickey Rourke to win best actor. They nailed most of the technical categories and both were among the few entrants to select Spietzeugland to win best live action short. The Professor will hold a drawing Monday to select who gets the best goodies from our paltry prize pantry.

Tied for second were Margie Nicklaus and Millie Artellan. Margie slipped in picking the wrong Slumdog Millionaire song, while Millie selected the WALL-E song. 

In selecting winners, points were graded: 3 points for picking best picture, 2 points each for director, actor and actress, and 1 point each for all other categories.

For the record, The Professor finished in the middle of the pack, with 15 points.

To arrange delivery of prizes Geraldine and Rejinther should call 646-4306.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Noon today is your deadline to enter Professor Toro's 2009 Oscar Pool. It's free, it's easy and the winner will see their name in print and will win some Herald stuff. 

Just follow the link at http://www.defectiveyeti.com/oscars/?38278

If for some reason that doesn't work, you can also go to http://www.defectiveyeti.com/oscars/ and enter this pool id: 38278.

100 Years of The Good Fight

There was much to celebrate tonight at the annual banquet of the Monterey County branch of the NAACP in Seaside.

President Barack Obama is in the White House. Ben Jealous, a native son, is the national president of the NAACP. Leon Panetta, long a NAACP supporter, is running the CIA. And Dick Gregory showed up to remind us that sacrifice, activism and humor are not mutually exclusive.

What struck me about the night was how the confluence of talent can have such profound connections. Dick Gregory spent much of the night thanking the NAACP for its influence on his struggles through his life and establishing how its activism forged a new dynamic in American society. The result is Mr. Obama. 

Leon Panetta is now Obama's CIA director. And Jealous, as a young York School student, once served as a page in Panetta's Congressional office.

The celebration at Embassy Suites tonight was much fun, of course. Hal Ginsburg, owner of KRXA-AM radio, was honored by the NAACP with a Spirit of Partnership Award. The organization also presented Herbard Olsen, the omnipresent videographer, with its President Choice Award. And Panetta was presented the group's The Ties That Bind Award. Leon wasn't in town to accept the award, but Sylvia Panetta accepted in his absence.

Congratulations to this year's NAACP local president, Sylvia Waldrup-Quarles.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


So you think you're a know-it-all cinema snob? Enter the Professor's Oscar pool. Winner(s) will see their name in print and might win some Herald swag.

Just follow the link: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=51267934627

If for some reason that doesn't work, you can also go to http://www.defectiveyeti.com/oscars/ and enter this pool id: 38278.

Send your picks by noon Feb. 22.

Herald employees may play but are not eligible to win stuff.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Slam City

We're not sure that David Pendergrass is reading this blog. I rather doubt it, given the Sand City mayor's current antipathy toward The Herald. But it might be useful if someone tips the mayor off about it so that the council and its staff doesn't waste a lot of time demanding that our Opinion page editor be terminated.

The mayor's dander is up over an editorial The Herald carried on Sunday suggesting that Sand City disincorporate itself.

This morning, during an interview on KNRY-AM radio, Pendergrass called the editorial atrocious and horrible, and demanded our Opinion page editor's head on a platter. He said the Sand City Council and its staff would be preparing a letter to the publisher, demanding Opinion Page Editor Royal Calkins be canned for expressing the paper's opinion. (The show's host had not read the editorial, but Pendergrass did a splendid job, without prodding, of trying to eviscerate The Herald and the alleged offending editor.)

The mayor's reaction is understandable; I can't imagine a mayor anywhere who would want to support the dissolution of the city he or she represents.

But calling for the termination of an editorial writer for doing his job smacks of Blagojevichism. As you might recall, the disgraced former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, tried to get the editorial writers for the Chicago Tribune fired for the Tribune's opinion-page criticism of the governor. Blagojavich tried to withhold state money for Wrigley Field renovations unless his demands were met, a real threat considering that the Tribune Company owns the Cubs. Obviously, Pendergrass couldn't hurt us that bad, unless he threatened to somehow withhold the jerseys from The Herald's softball team.

Anway, the council and the staff would be wasting its time with the letter seeking any terminations. Truth is, the thrust of our editorials are discussed and agreed upon by committee, and the committee includes Calkins, myself, Publisher Gary Omernick, HR Director Gladys Valenzuela, Circulation Manager Mazi Kavoosi and Graphics Editor James Herrera. We all debated the Sand City editorial before its publication, and we all came to the same conclusion.

Having said that, The Herald does invite Pendergrass to write a conterpoint to the editorial, to tell us why we're wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Men with putters

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am kicked off this morning. The tournament is always a big week for The Herald and we traditionally cover it to death. It's not like we are maniac golf fans, though some of us do hit the courses occasionally. And we are certainly aware that many of our readers are reflexively opposed to all things golf.

But the annual event is difficult to overlook. The many millions of dollars it generates for the local hospitality industry, scheduled as it is in the middle of what otherwise would be the doldrums of winter, is certainly welcome. More important, the millions of dollars the tournament generates for dozens of local charities is astounding. Last year, the tournament raised nearly $7 million for those organizations.

The issues surrounding this year's tournament are of particular interest because of the impact they have on the local economy and the charities. The economy will obviously have its impact. People don't have the disposable income they have had in the past to spend on a weekend at a golf tournament. Also, this year the PGA scheduled the AT&T through the Valentine's Day weekend, which means that the hospitality industry will benefit from the tourist boom only once this month. And the weather promises to wreak havoc, with a big storm due in Saturday night.

So The Herald is geared up (we haven't forgotten our slickers!) and ready to go.

If only we could get the pairings listed correctly on the sports page . . .

Friday, February 6, 2009

A penny for your hit?

Newspaper executives everywhere are rethinking their business models, trying to come up with fresh ideas to resurrect what the analysts, critics and new-world information disseminators are calling a "dying industry."

The future of news, all agree, is on the Web. The Web provides instant access to the 24-hour news cycle, while a daily newspaper lands on your doorstep once a day with yesterday's news. The Web allows a jam of news, information, documents, audio, video and the opportunity for immediate reader response.

So newspapers have rushed to the Web, providing no end of news, photos, comments, blogs, audio and visuals and an assortment of oddball things their brain trusts can conjure.

Using the old print model, they expect to sell lots of advertising around those postings to make up for their print losses. It hasn't happened yet.

(Incidentally, I am very aware that most traditional newspaper readers still love their newspapers. They tell me, every day, that they want to "hold" their newspaper and that they abhor the stampede to the Web. I am grateful for those readers, but I'm also aware that they are a dying breed.)

During the past week, a number of experts who think hard about the future of newspapers have debated the possibility of requiring Web readers to pay for the content they view. Some argue that newspapers simply shouldn't give away the stuff they've worked so hard to gather and produce.

The debate emerged after Walter Isaacson, a former editor of Time, suggested that newspapers ought to embrace the iTunes model: offer a listing of news and content, and charge viewers a penny, a nickel or a dime for each "hit" on the Web.

"The key to attracting online revenue, I think, is to come up with an iTunes-easy method of micropayment," Isaacson said. "We need something like digital coins or an E-ZPass digital wallet — a one-click system with a really simple interface that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper, magazine, article, blog or video . . . "

Assuming this is a great idea, which I'm not, the immediate problem is in the practical realities. Micropayment companies have failed miserably, probably because so many of us don't care to jump through hoops to get nickeled and dimed for Web content we can likely find elsewhere for free.

On the other hand, the news content that viewers now get for free would all but disappear if newspapers fade away. For the most part, the likes of Drudge, Huffington, Google News and Yahoo! News scavenge the free stuff that newspapers provide.

The Herald appreciates the added Web traffic it gets when we're linked to the big-time aggregators. As journalists, we are mostly interested in spreading news. But, as a business, maybe we should instead place value on our hard work.

While the jury is still out on this issue, at least with me, I'm interested in what readers think.

The Herald Sizzles

Our editors are constantly seeking new ways to attract more eyes to our Web site. And as much as we love our breakfast meat, I have rejected this idea.

Everything goes better with bacon!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shameful Excess

Having read the latest news about Wells Fargo Bank executives planning the opulent retreat to Las Vegas after receiving a $25 billion bailout, I figured it's time to come clean about The Herald newsroom's most lavish recent excess.

Because our people have been working especially hard lately and because I am a generous editor, I broadcast across the newsroom on Tuesday morning that I would treat everyone to lunch. This generous offer was not embraced with the same enthusiasm that Wells Fargo executives likely generated with the offer of 12 days at Wynn Las Vegas, inasmuch as my offer was limited to the purchase of a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's.

In fact, only three employees joined me. I'd like to think the icy reception is not a reflection of my popularity in the newsroom, but rather a philosophical resolve that no one should spend more time waiting in line to receive a meal than it takes to consume it.

Denny's was, of course, offering free Grand Slam breakfasts to all on Tuesday, an offer that attracted a great many diners. We arrived at the Fremont Boulevard Denny's in Seaside shortly before noon and joined a small throng waiting outside the door. But we were seated in less than 15 minutes, the service was actually quite good considering the substantial number of diners, and the food is what you expect from Denny's: solid, with no surprises. And, accounting for coffee, orange juice and the tip, we spent less than $20.

If Wells Fargo executives wanted to reward its troops, it can't go wrong with Denny's.

Live large.