Tag Archives: Michael Townsend

Soylent Green is old journalists

Uh-oh. The soft, rustling footfalls of Death can once again be heard in the open-plan offices of Gannett newspapers, including the Burlington Free Press. Gannett CEO Bob Dickey issued this memo earlier today:

I wanted to let you know that today we are offering eligible, long-term Gannett employees within certain business segments and departments of our company the opportunity to take advantage of an early retirement program.

The employees who are receiving the offer all satisfy the criteria of being 55 years of age or older with at least 15 years of service as of October 12, 2015.

That’s right, boys and girls: it may be less than one year since Gannett launched the (Mostly Empty) Newsroom Of The Future, but it’s already time for another round of cost-cutting!

Er, pardon me: “providing the company flexibility to reinvest” and “better align our structure to become a next generation media company.”

Continue reading


Pet Shop Owner: Free Press Makes Best Cage Liner

The Burlington Free Press is a struggling newspaper through no fault of its own. It’s in a declining business, and it’s owned by a profit-driven bloodsucking corporation. Still, it puts out many a good story.

Why, then, do I persist in mocking the Freeploid at every opportunity? And why does almost everyone else in Vermont print media despise the paper? Because it’s way too full of itself. The Burlington Free Press used to be the crown jewel of Vermont journalism; it isn’t anymore, but it still thinks it is.

Two prime examples from a single day — today. First story:

Police: Juror read Free Press during trial

A man who served on the jury in a sexual assault case against ex-jail guard Richard Gallow has been accused of contempt of court for allegedly reading the news during trial.

The jury in the case was ordered to avoid media coverage of the Gallow trial. Juror Robert Blow is accused of flouting that order — by reading the Burlington Free Press.

Which the Free Press is happy to tell you over and over again. Continue reading

Tomorrow’s Burlington Free Press might be a bit thinner than usual

Today’s a Big Day for Gannett’s Newsroom of the Future initiative. See, Gannett has signed a big-ass contract with the Poynter Institute to provide virtual re-education camps for its rapidly dwindling cadre of newsies.

Shiny happy journalists.

Shiny happy journalists.

The Gannett-Poynter Training Partnership has its official kickoff today at 1:00 with an Employee Town Hall Webcast featuring Gannett President/CEO Gracia Martore “highlighting recent company news and a discussion about what’s ahead.” Expect a load of happy talk about how recent transitions (read: layoffs) have repositioned the corporation for a bright future.

Attendance, I suspect, is mandatory. I hope there’s no big news this afternoon.

After the launch party, staffers will undergo “four to seven modules that address a specific training need,” all with a goal of enhancing Gannett’s digital footprint and engaging the audience (they used to call us “readers”).

Poynter’s “training opportunities” include a bunch of courses in audience analytics, “building your brand,” “developing your social media voice,” promoting content online, and effective Tweeting. (I strongly suggest Michael Townsend sign up for that one.) Other notable “content modules” (they used to call them courses) include…

“Business Models and Strategies” — “innovative ideas that can bring new streams of revenue to your operations.” Which means partnering with sales staff and working with advertisers.

“Best practices for working with citizen journalists” and “How to Tell Great Investigative Stories with Dwindling Resources.” Meaning, we can’t afford reporters anymore.

“Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More.”  Meaning, we can’t afford editors anymore.

“The Camera With You: How, and When, to Shoot with a Smartphone.” Meaning, we can’t afford photographers anymore.

Modules for the newly minted position of Content Coach include Managing Creative People (those damn crazy reporters), Dealing With Difficult Conversations (I’d think Gannett managers would already be experienced at this), and Language of Coaching (please stop yelling at the reporters).

Some of this is cringeworthy, and reflects a desperate industry making a last-gasp effort to maintain some sort of relevance. Or at least keep the profit streams flowing as long as possible. But to be fair to Gannett, a lot of this will help journalists and editors adjust to new realities being forced upon them. And when, sooner or later, they find themselves jettisoned by their corporate masters, they’ll be better equipped to bushwhack their way through our brave new media landscape where Content is King, but Content Providers are peons. And where salesmanship is at least as important as quality.

Mikey Pom-Poms is at it again

I can explain everything.

Nobody was Tweeting, officer. We were all in the back seat singing.

Last night saw another outbreak of TwitBoasting from serial offender Michael Townsend, the Burlington Free Press’ Cheerleader-In-Chief.

The first one wasn’t that bad:

Okay, fine, share a little love with one of your hard-working scribes. Nothing wrong there. But then came Step Two in Townsend’s descent.

Mike Donoghue was at the Statehouse yesterday, but I’m told he wasn’t covering Shumlin’s budget address; he was dogging people about this delinquent-taxpayer list. Short version: earlier this week, the state released a list of its top 100 tax scofflaws — 50 business, 50 individual. But just the names; not the amounts owed. Donoghue is seeking the amounts.

That’s the big scoop. On the day of Gov. Shumlin’s budget address, when he’s setting the agenda for this legislative session, the Free Press’ senior reporter is stirring up a tempest in a transparency teapot.

And then came Townsend’s topper:

Oh, Mikey.

Look, it’s perfectly okay to talk up your own reporters. But why do you have to run down everybody else?

As I’ve said before, this is why all the other reporters think Townsend is a jerk and the Free Press is a fount of institutional arrogance.

Also, please lose the fake cowboy stuff. Donoghue and Burbank are good reporters; they’re not The Magnificent Seven.

Shake them pom-poms, Mikey!

Michael Townsend, Executive Editor of the Burlington Free Press, was feeling his oats last night. He sent out a couple of downright obnoxious Tweets promoting the Freeploid’s spectacular coverage of yesterday’s inaugural protest.

(As Tweeter @murf_VT pointed out, Mikey forgot the “h” in “http,” making the link inoperative. He’s gonna get a failing grade from Picasso for that.)

Does Townsend really believe this kind of stuff helps the Free Press in any way? Do readers — sorry, consumers — pay any attention to this?

I can tell you one thing it accomplishes: it makes everyone else in Vermont media think Michael Townsend is an asshole. I mean, it’s perfectly acceptable to express pride in your organization’s work — and the Free Press team did work hard yesterday — but you don’t have to implicitly denigrate your equally hard-working peers.

Hey, Burlington Free Press: Meet your new boss!

Al Getler

The Burlington Free Press today announced the hiring of this man as its new President and Publisher.

No, this is not a joke. Do Not Adjust Your Set. Al Getler is a former newspaper executive who’s lately been seeking work as a “media consultant” (i.e. unemployed newspaper executive) and as a ventriloquist for hire. He mainly sells himself as talent for corporate events:

In addition to being a performer, Getler has worked for two Fortune 500 companies as an executive and knows what it takes to entertain all types of audiences while meeting the required standards of acceptability.

In other words, toothless comedy for corporate audiences. But hey, maybe he could bring a little fun to the lately-joyless Freeploid newsroom:

Looking for a unique idea for your next show or event? Have Al create a puppet character in the likeness of your CEO, your product, or that special person in your audience.

Oh, I’d pay to have him show up for his first day on the job with a Michael Townsend puppet. Can we make that happen, Al?

Aside from his services as an inoffensive mainstream humor provider, Getler also bills himself as a “marketing, management, and media” consultant, touting his “30 years of experience in the media, as a leader, executive running companies and as a serial entrepreneur.”

Is “serial entrepreneur” how you describe yourself if you’ve run multiple enterprises into the ground?

Somehow the Free Press’ story announcing Getler’s hiring doesn’t mention his current status as a self-employed ventriloquist/consultant. They say, circumspectly, that he “previously was group publisher of the North of Boston Media Group.” In fact, he lost that job almost two years ago.

The NoBMG includes the daily papers in Lawrence, Newburyport, Salem, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, plus some weekly papers and a few ad-friendly glossy magazines. Getler lost his gig in March 2013 when NoB’s out-of-state ownership imposed some big staff cuts.

According to ace Boston media watchdog Dan Kennedy, the Eagle-Tribune had a long and distinguished reputation as an independent weekly. That changed, however, with its corporate acquisition in 2005. Since then, it’s been cut, cut, cut, and cut again.

Getler was hired in 2007, and imposed quite a few of those cuts before feeling the blade himself. In 2008, for instance, he slashed “at least 52 jobs” at NoBMG, which got him this plaudit:

“This was a CYA situation,” one Eagle Tribune employee told The Valley Patriot. “Al Getler is trying to save his own job because his management of this newspaper has cost us millions and the only way he could show the company [in Alabama] that we could be financially viable was to immediately cut jobs to balance the books to meet the company’s financial goals.”

Hmm. Maybe he’ll fit right in at Gannett’s Incredible Shrinking Freeploid. At the very least, he’ll Bring the Funny in ways that Michael Townsend could only do by butchering his Twitter feed.

And there’s a bit of thematic consistency here. The man Getler is actually replacing is Jim Fogler, who left the Freeploid last year to take a job with Party City. Hey, balloons, noisemakers, and puppets! It practically screams “quality journalism,” does it not?

They really oughta take away Mikey Pom-Poms’ smartphone on weekend nights

Hard times at the Burlington Free Press. Coming off a week in which Vermont’s Shrinkingest Newspaper failed to send a reporter to Gov. Shumlin’s epochal announcement on single-payer, posted a frankly embarrassing hit piece slamming the Shumlin administration for refusing to leak the subject of the presser in advance, failed to cover the release of a significant report on the Department for Children and Families, and “covered” Entergy’s new cost estimate for decommissioning Vermont Yankee by regurgitating a brief Associated Press newsbit, Executive Editor Michael Townsend has finally found something to brag about.

High school sports scores.

Okay now, I realize that local prep sports is an important service (and readership magnet) for newspapers. But “touchstone”? Yikes.

This is the kind of thing that drains all my sympathy for MIkey. I realize he’s in a tough spot, trying to keep his ship afloat with a skeleton crew and having to implement the oft-misguided diktats of Gannett Central. But when he pulls this kind of nonsense, he comes across as a gormless corporate cheerleader.

Oh dear.

Quiz time, kids!

Freeploid Executive Editor (and chief Gannett cheerleader) Michael Townsend is:

(1) drunk-Tweeting again

(2) forgetting his Picasso training

(3) Sending secret messages to Gannett HQ (more effective when done in plain sight)

And here’s what I’m talking about.


Mikey Pom-Poms gets pwned

Really, I wasn’t planning on today being Bag On The Freeploid Day, but here comes Michael Townsend, Executive Editor and Chief Gannett Cheerleader of the Burlington Free Press, spending another sad Friday night drunk-Tweeting.

Or just being extra gullible.

Now, I love a good Sarah Palin malaprop as much as the next liberal, but this story is from The Daily Currant, a satirical website.

This story is a fake. Just like the other ones on The Daily Currant, such as…

Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization

California approves $587 Billion High-Speed Rail Link to Hawaii

Pope Benedict Comes Out as Gay

Aw, Mikey, Mikey. Are you gonna unTweet that, let it lie quietly, or try to claim you knew it was funny all along?

Which, the latter, bullshit.

Really, Free Press? Really?

I shouldn’t spend so much time bagging on the Burlington Free Press, but they just keep doing bag-worthy stuff. Like this — the current homepage on its website. Featuring News!!

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 1.40.26 PM

Yeah, we’re all, like Diogenes, in search the perfect pumpkin pie.

There are two additional bitchslaps to the corpse of Joe Pulitzer here. The first is that the pumpkin pie article was written by Candace Page, who used to do a fine job covering the environment for the Free Press; her byline is a reminder of better days long gone. The second is the tiny headline at the lower right: “Food donations ‘critically low'” at Burlington food bank. The gourmet foodie thing gets top billing, while the plight of the poor gets the shortest possible shrift.

But after all, the plight of the poor makes lousy clickbait.

This, on top of the Freeploid’s announcement of its new btvfoodie app, part of its ongoing pivot away from serious journalism and toward audience-friendly “content.” I have to say, this makes me feel that much better about reducing my subscription — er, sorry, account. “Subscription” is so 20th Century, isn’t it?

When I first dubbed the Free Press “Seven Days Lite,” I was half kidding. But it looks more and more like I was dead-on. The Free Press is doing its best to poach Seven Days’ ad-friendly endeavors while decreasing its serious coverage to alt-weekly levels.

I know, I know: the Free Press is in a tough spot, with decreasing revenues and a profit-hungry corporate parent mandating its every move. Given the situation, it makes sense to reposition the Free Press as a Burlington-centered, feature-oriented newspap — sorry, multimedia content platform.

I get that. What I don’t like is Michael Townsend insisting that the Free Press is still a serious force. It is, in fact, becoming largely irrelevant to those of us who (1) are interested in solid coverage of state politics and policy, and (2) don’t live in Chittenden County.  For us, the Free Press has fallen to fifth place, behind VTDigger, VPR, the Mitchell Family Organ, and — yes, I’ll say it — Seven Days.