Sunday, April 30, 2006

CV: Kingston Mayor Haggerty accuses TL of playing politics with FOI lawsuit

TL editor Matt Golas agrees to be interviewed by CV reporter James Conmy, which is a nice professional courtesy. (Scranton Times editor Larry Beaupre has vowed in print not to be interviewed by the Times Leader). Otherwise, pure vanilla in the CV's report on the TL's FOI lawsuit against Kingston and its running-for-state-office mayor James Haggerty.

TL has a big Sunday story about its potential sale

A mixed bag from writers Renita Fennick and Dave Iseman. The Times Leader, congentially unable to report on itself, suddenly starts writing about its "healthy" operating margin of 20.4 percent in 2004. Twenty percent! No wonder Allison Walzer was banking so much.

On a positive note, it is nice to see some reporting that approached objective and unbiased. On a negative note, it seems awfully self-serving. It's hard to admit that the TL is a dead end, from a business point of view. The first newspaper in a two-newspaper town that is losing traction in every metric, despite all the fluff pieces about the downtown movie theater and so on.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Kurt and Stacy Knapek head south

TL editor Matt Golas broke bread with Dave Iseman and the Knapeks last night. Sports editor Kurt Knapek and designer Stacy Knapek are heading to Myrtle Beach, S.C. to work on the newspaper. Isn't Lane Filler there?

TL sues Kingston for police info

One of the cool things about not really having a boss (like the people at the TL) is that you can sue everyone like crazy. What are they going to do, fire you? Is there even a Knight Ridder corporate office that the Times Leader is answerable to? Anyway, Mayor Jim Haggerty calls the lawsuit "a thinly veiled attempt to torpedo my candidacy for state Senate and hijack a primary election." He's probably right, but he should have thought of that every time he stuck it to the Times Leader for the past three years over penny-ante police blotter info.

TL: A day late, here's our story about the MediaNews deal

This ain't a weekly here, folks. Renita Fennick namechecks Ron Burkle in her story about how the supermarket magnate and FOB is still interested, along with the newspaper guild, in buying the last of the KR orphans in places like Wilkes-Barre and Akron. A funny reality show would be a race to see who can -- by automobile -- visit all the rump KR cities first. Requirements would finding the diviest bar in each city and having a drink. Start in Duluth and work your way east. Good times.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jane Jacobs gets a mention in the Scranton Times after all

Reporter Dave Falchek notes that Jacobs once worked on the Scranton Republican, which later became part of the Scranton Tribune, which later became part of the Scranton Times. She thought that demolishing three blocks of Lackawanna Avenue to build a mall was a bad idea, and many local urban-planning types worship her. That's all we learn about Jacobs as far as Scranton is concerned.

Newspaper Guild: We'll still love the CV even if we buy the TL

"To leave hard-working newspaper people feeling like cattle in an auction is reprehensible," Matt Golas, editor of the Times Leader and friend of the working man, tells TL reporter Renita Fennick in a story that also features CVers Heidi Ruckno and Angela Wolfer.

An interesting story. We learn that a) apparently no buyers have been to the TL to kick the tires and b) The CV, which once had 200 unionized employees, now only has 135 total employees. Could the Lynetts be thinning out the ranks to make room for TL refugees once the day of rapture arrives?

Sphincters tighten in W-B as the best 'KR orphans' go off the market.

Oh, shit.

The Times Leader's hope of being the player to be named later in a giant newspaper deal involving the heavies in St. Paul and San Jose just went out the window.

Hearst, MediaNews, Gannett and the Stephens all worked out a deal that gets the Pioneer Press in St. Paul and the Mercury News in San Jose off the market, along with two other California newsapers. One in three reporters west of the Mississippi will be working for a new publisher by the time the dust settles.

The TL is now knocking around with a motley crew that includes the likes of Aberdeen, S.D. and Fort Wayne, Ind. It's telling that the last two words in the AP's thousand-word opus were these: "Wilkes-Barre, Pa."

The best thing that could happen is that the TL is packaged with the Philly papers and sold to someone who is willing to pay more than the Lynetts.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Did you know: writer and urban theorist Jane Jacobs once was a reporter for the Scranton Tribune?

You learn something every day. Jane Jacobs, famous for her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," was born and raised in Scranton and even worked on The Tribune long before it was folded into the Lynett empire. Regrettably, the Times-Tribune does not seem to ever have written of her, at least in the last six years. How interesting a story would it have been had the newspaper paid her way to come back to her hometown for a few days, walk around, and write something up for her old paper? Her take on urbanism in Scranton in the 21st Century? She was only one of America's preeminent thinkers on the topic. An opportunity squandered, regrettably but not surprisingly.

CV: Newspaper Guild, please don't buy the scab TL

The story, which is by reporter Nichole Dobo and quotes reporter Heidi Ruckno, is about the CV union's unhappiness with essentially funding the purchase of the TL. Not an unreasonable concern. But if the local at the CV thinks anyone in the world who matters in this deal gives a shit about them, they are sadly mistaken.

The story had an interesting note: The Guild/Yucaipa people will be in the TL soon to talk to employees. Have there been any other buyers kicking the tires in the TL newsroom?

TL's Golas: We are tough when it comes to right-to-know stuff

A 90s TL open-records case involving the Hazleton Area School District has popped up in a brawl the Inky is having with a Philly suburb. Matt Golas uses the occasion to give the Times Leader a shout-out for its tireless FOI work. Amazingly, he restrained himself from calling out the Citizens' Voice, which has (ahem) a short history of FOI battles.

Golas also did a nice job of glossing over the fact that the TL lost the Hazleton case (actually the state supreme court declined to hear it, allowing the unfavorable appeals court ruling to stand) and now that case is being used against newspapers across the state.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stephen Daily named new Scranton Times business editor

Longtime Scranton Times business writer Stephen Daily is the paper's new business editor, according to a story in the Sunday newspaper. The story does not mention that he is the third business editor in three years.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Scranton Times shield law debacle gets a little statewide attention

Philadelphia First Amendment attorney Michael Berry writes in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg about two threats to Pennsylvania's shield law for journalists -- including the court order (on appeal) for The Scranton Times to disclose its confidential source for a story about a a grand jury investigation of corruption at the Lackawanna County Prison. The issue deserves a lot more attention than its gotten.

Kudos for CV staffers for winning some state awards

Michael Hockenbury, Leonarda Bilbow, Steve Bennett and Jonathan Bombulie all hit it big on something called the "Keystone Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Spotlight Contest." Party on.

It should be noted that it helps to have friends in high places. The local SPJ chapter is run by CV lifer Pat Trosky. That may or may not have anything to do with why the TL never ever wins anything, according to the "Keystone Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists" Web site.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Froggy 101/98 KRZ payola investigation spreads

The New York AG was already investigating the two Entercom-owned stations in NEPA. Now the feds are getting involved too.

TL sues Hanover schools over secret settlement

The parents of a special-ed student got $69,000, and the TL wants to know the inside details. "It seems outrageous to us that the district would make a secret payout and expect that it would go unchallenged,” Iseman tells Kris Wernowsky. You tell 'em.

Frank Andrews Shimkus: His master's degree is from an unaccredited school

There's no personal animus with this guy. Really. But the greasy way he lied about his name, worked as news director while talking about running and continues to consult while running rubbed us the wrong way.

So we checked around.

And it turns out that Frank's masters degree is from Antiedam Bible College/Biblical Seminary and Graduate School in Hagerstown, Maryland. The school, which has a .org Web address, is not accredited by any agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Repeat: The master's degree Frank Andrews Shimkus has on his resume -- and teaches at the University of Scranton with -- is from a school so low you can't get a federal student loan to go there.

Antiedam notes on its Web site,, that it is accredited by the "Transworld Accrediting Commission," which has a Web site of and sounds official enough. Problem is, Transworld is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, an oversight organization that operates with the blessing of the federal education department. Transworld might as well be five guys at Gonda's in Wilkes-Barre.

Now, this is not the same as a diploma mill. But the school is unwilling or unable to meet the minimum standards set by nationally known and accepted accrediting agencies. And Frank Andrews is bragging about having a master's degree from the joint. Just the guy I'd want leading my news operation.

Search the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database:

Search the U.S. Department of Education database:

See where AndrewsShimkus says he has the degree:

Thursday, April 20, 2006

TL to Pulitzer committee: Drop dead!

The TL was shocked -- shocked! -- to read that the Pulitzer bigshots in New York City bemoan the lack of vigorous investigative journalism at small to midsize dailies. Because, darn it, the TL is just the best little newspaper in the world and no one could possibly question their journalistic vigor. Sherwood, blah blah, Sunshine Act, blah blah. Smaller papers than yours have won the Pulitzer Prize. If the TL has not, why not?

The TL's Rory Sweeney: A bad man

So says the granddaughter of the angry grandma in the classic Larksville Basketball Hoop Spat. Her grandma is just THE BEST, and would never hurt anyone, and rules are rules, and she is the best grandma EVER, and Rory Sweeney contributes to "media-fueled fanaticism." P.S.: When I read the line calling Sayso "a forum where people could voice their heart-felt thoughts and concerns," I thought it was another letter from Iseman's mom.

Dean Singleton close to buying Calif. KR orphans

The downside for the TL: McClatchy's willingness to sell KR orphans in small groups means that the Lynetts of Scranton have a better shot on their presumptive TL-only bid. Polish up those resumes, fellas!

WTF: Times Leader still hiring?!

Isn't there some truth-in-advertising law that requires the TL to tell prospective hires that their newspaper is on the chopping block? "The positions offer candidates the opportunity to strut their creative stuff at a highly competitive, award-winning paper." Yeah, a paper that could very well be out of business by July. I wonder if they'll tell interviewees about the nice Lynetts up the road.

Scranton Times also looking for assistant metro editor

They always seem to be advertising for an assistant metro editor. Must be a fun newsroom.

Changes on the Scranton Times business staff

The Scranton Times is looking for a business reporter on "Juggle breaking news and enterprise" and so on and so forth. Did someone leave? Or is a position being added?

Also, the ad specifies that the applicant must be a graduate of an "accredited journalism school." So St. Cloud University is OK but Harvard isn't? It's not like a Harvard grad is going to ever set foot in the Times-Tribune newsroom. It just seemed odd.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Read the Walzer lawsuit in full

It is amazing reading. A must-see for anyone interested in northeastern Pennsylvania journalism.

Holy shit! Walzer sues TL, claims religious/gender discrimination

This is good stuff, people. Former Times Leader editor Allison Walzer sued the newspaper and KR Friday in federal court, claiming she got the boot because she's a Jewish woman (from Scarsdale, no less) and not a back-slapping Irish Catholic guy like publisher Pat McHugh.

Where do you start with this?

1. Walzer made $234,622 in 2003! Two hundred and thirty-four thousand fucking dollars! That buys 25 obit clerks!

2. Walzer more than once played "the Jew card" and got raises and/or stock out of the newspaper.

3. Walzer got fired for making Clark Van Orden take photos of her kids. Clark is her best friend, you see, and agreed to do it for free. Right.

The Citizens' Voice and Scranton Times got caught flat-footed (Good Friday) and missed the story.

TL reporters Weiss, Morgan-Besecker stay off the stand

Federal judge James Munley ruled that Dave Weiss and Terrie Morgan-Besecker don't have to testify in a federal lawsuit brought by a former Luzerne County prison employee who was fired after the popped off to the newspaper about shoddy security at the prison.

The county tried to force the reporters to testify, but Judge Munley ruled that the shield law protects reporters from having to talk about their discussions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

What happened to the TL's Kurt Knapek?

The Times Leader is looking for a new sports editor. All kinds of vacancies in northeastern Pennsylvania for the unsuspecting. What happened to Knapek?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Also: CV looking for entry-level enterprise reporter

Sounds better than working in Tunkahnnock.

You, too, could be the new Voice Tunkhannock bureau reporter

Leave it to the Voice to create a new bureau reporting job not in the growing faraway Poconos, not in the close-by growing Back Mountain or Mountain Top, but... Tunkahnnock. What's next? A Shickshinny bureau? Seriously, the new reporter is to work out of the newsroom of the T-S-owned weekly in Tunkhannock. How will that work? Will the daily bureau reporter (who answers to Larry Holeva in the CV newsroom) cherry-pick the good stories the weekly is working on before the weekly can publish? How do the people at the Tunkhannock paper feel about this?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

E&P: TL really loves the Hazleton publisher DUI story

That seems to be the message from Joe Strupp, who leads his Editor & Publisher story with this:

"This week's lesson in newspaper reporting seems to be if your publisher is arrested on drunk driving charges, you should report it. Why? If not, your competitor might do it for you, and more than once.

That seems to be the case in Luzerne County, Pa., where the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre has made a minor mission of pointing out such an omission by the Standard-Speaker of Hazleton, based a few miles south."

Worthwhile reading.

Friday, April 07, 2006

WNEP aired fake video news release as real news

This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, given the low standards of northeastern Pennsylvania journalism. But WNEP was cited by a national group studying use of unlabeled video news releases as an offender. If you want to see one, watch the local TV noon news today. Or any other day.

Lawyers: Scranton Times leaker cost our clients a fair shake

State cop James J. Kolojejchick leaked grand jury information to the Scranton Times-Tribune, he acknowledges, but his former bosses (Kolojejchick was fired last year for the leak) say the leak doesn't hurt the state's case against two former Lackawanna County Prison officials. On Thursday, Kolojejchick took the fifth rather than testify about his firing, his contacts with the newspaper or most anything else.

Here is a good rundown of the other litigation concerning the Times-Tribune and the prison:

Breaking news: How to bury a publisher's DUI

TL editor Matt Golas piles on in his morning note, going after the Hazleton paper for burying the story of their publisher's DUI arrest. "Breaking news: How to bury a publisher's DUI" is just the headline. Then it gets mean. It's too bad all the area papers don't have a daily editor's note; it would make things a lot more interesting.

Iseman: TL staffers are planning new careers

Who keeps muttering "peachjerky?" Read the column for full details.

TL: We run DUIs, we're good, the rest of youse are bad

Kris Wernowsky name-checks a record number of local media luminaries in his follow-up ripping the Hazleton Standard Speaker and their evil "media partners" for sitting on the Walser DUI: CV AME Claire Schechter, Times-Tribune editor Larry Beaupre, Times-Tribune deputy editor Christopher J. Kelly, former Times-Tribune ME Bob Burke, TL editor Matt Golas and TL publisher Pat McHugh, as well as the many wealthy Walsers in Hazleton and Hazleton editor Carl Christopher.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pete Banko, back in the Times-Shamrock fold

Sure, it actually happened at the end of November. But Pete Banko, an editor at the Scranton Times-Tribune who left in 2004 to run the Altoona Mirror is back. He's editing the Times-Shamrock owned Pottsville Republican & Herald. Banko was in Altoona about 18 months. Click above to read the Pottsville paper's glowing report titled "new era begins at paper."

Hazleton Standard Speaker publisher arrested: No story in CV, Hazleton SS

Only the Times Leader finds newsworthy the arrest of P. Nicholas Walser (or Paul "Nick" Walser, if you like), the publisher of the Hazleton Standard Speaker. The SS is a truly awful newspaper, a bottom feeder in a bottom-feeding market, so no surprise that they didn't write about their own publisher. However, the Citizens' Voice, burnishing their reputation for pulling punches, also sat on the story. Bob Burke would be proud.

Be sure to read the TL's story, which features Kris Wernowsky grilling Hazleton editor Carl Christopher about whether the SS would write a story. You can almost hear Christopher crapping his pants at the other end of the phone. Kudos to the TL and Wernowsky all around.

And be sure to read the tale of Mr. Walser driving his Yukon on all flat tires through the Heights Elementary School grounds in Walser's affidavit:

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

All the latest in NEPA radio news

From the CV's radio reporter. Isn't it great to live someplace where there's a radio reporter? Mary Ondrako buried the lead, though. Lackawanna County Commissioner Robert Cordaro picked up $940,000 when he sold his radio station (1550 on the AM dial) to some Jesus freaks in Buffalo. Not bad for a station that no one has listened to since the Carter administration.

Hazleton Standard-Speaker publisher arrested for DUI

Hazleton Standard Speaker Paul Walser was found in his parked monster SUV -- with four flat tires (WTF?) -- in the Heights in the wee hours of Thursday. Bob Hughes of the Wilkes-Barre PD gets a little snotty with reporter Kris Wernowsky in the process, asking him "Is this a big news story or is it news because this guy is the publisher of a newspaper?"

The Standard Speaker has the distinction of having the worst newspaper Web site in northeastern Pennsylvania, which is quite a feat after you see the terrible Best Buy off-the-shelf sites of the TL, CV and Scranton Times-Tribune.

Does anyone out there have a picture of Walser? If so, e-mail it to

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Frank Andrews Shimkus is a greaseball whose journalism privileges should be revoked.

I don't pick up Happenings "magazine" too often, so imagine my surprise when I learned the March issue had Frank Andrews' smiling mug on the cover. I shouldn't have been surprised, because it's not much of a stretch for a guy who lied about his name, publicly toyed with running for office while working as the news director of Scranton's CBS affiliate, was still on the station's Web site after announcing his plan to run, and is now a paid consultant for the station while running for office.

You see, you have to pay to get on the front page. Happenings isn't a magazine, it's a glossy shopper. Nothing against the Abington housewives who sell the ads, but It's bad for journalism. People confuse its bought-and-paid-for "stories" with what actual newspaper and magazine writers work hard for produce. And it's insiduous because unless you read the find print you won't learn this:

"Q: Can my event be featured on the cover?
"A: Several factors impact choosing a cover for Happenings but any event selected must have a paid full page advertisement inside that issue."

Now, the odd thing is, Andrews' picture is in connection with a story about the Red Cross and how great it is and how much Frank Andrews loves it. And we're left with these questions:

1. How much did the Red Cross -- which is always hitting people up for money in the wake of 9/11, the tsunami, and Katrina, pay for the spread in Happenings?

2. Why did the Red Cross pick Andrews to be depicted on the cover when the story really isn't at all about Andrews?

3. Did the Red Cross know Andrews was running for office? If not, did Andrews think running for office was a possibility when he agreed to the shoot?

4. What does Andrews -- a career newsman -- think of the propriety of appearing on the cover of a pay-to-play publication?

5. How would Andrews explain all this to his journalism students at the University of Scranton?

Given the close ties between WYOU, Andrews, Times-Tribune editor Larry Beaupre and the Red Cross, it's unlikely all this will receive a full airing. But Frank Andrews is a greaseball whose journalism privileges should be revoked.

Read about how to buy your own story in Happenings:

Scranton Times van crashes

It happened in rural Lackawanna County. No one was hurt.

Scranton Times wins Keystone press "awards"

Kudos to Butch Comegys, Michael Mullen, Jessica Matthews, Chris Kelly, Jeff Sonderman and Chad Jennings. Again, no mention as to the judging of the awards or the thickness of the field of competition.

See the inside of TL editor Matt Golas' recutm

Wow. Pictures and everything.

Monday, April 03, 2006

CV hiring for a night news editor

"The ideal candidate must be a strong leader, writer, evaluator of talent, excellent line editor and a collaborator. The news editor must be able to work with reporters and other copy editors to make stories sing and headlines pop."

And want to move to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Breaking: Iseman's mom wants the TL to be saved

Fucking priceless. The managing editor gets his MOM to write a letter to the editor praising the Times Leader. It's even better than the Pittsburgh paper controlled by the wingnuts! Must be read to be believed.

Biggest. Advertorial. Ever. By Chris Kelly of the Scranton Times-Tribune

Seriously. What is the point of a story that starts with "From the beginning of journalism, newspapers have served as extensions of the communities they call home" and ends with “Closer integration is inevitable. We are closer now than we were 10 years ago, and 10 years from now we will be even closer.”

Is it to convey news to the reader? Or is it to suck off your bosses who recently promoted you? Only Chris Kelly of the Scranton Times-Tribune knows for sure. Meanwhile, it makes for good reading if you are into advertorials for the publisher.

CV wins some more "awards"

They come from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, the Associated Press Managing Editors, and the Society for Business Writers and Editors. Who knows who judged these awards or the strength of the competition. Kudos to Michael Hockenbury, Nichole Dobo, Adam Belz, Chris Lynett, Kristen Mullen, Dave Scherbenco, Warren Ruda and Mark Moran.

A history of NEPA TV, by Rich Mates

The former Scranton Times-Tribune reporter writes about the twists and turns of local media ownership for the annual update/progress/outlook/whatever section that appeared Sunday. The more recent moves, which gives northeastern Pennsylvania four news stations but only two newsgather operations, is especially interesting.

Shamrock stations only commercial stations cited in FCC story

Of all the commercial radio stations in northeastern Pennsylvania, Dave Falchek of the Scranton Times decided to write about the ones owned by his bosses, the Lynett family. Stay classy.

Janoski: TL sale could cause antitrust concerns

The story was partially borrowed from the wires and hard to follow, but it has something to do with ad rates.

The TL's Matt Golas is getting reamed

Literally. Read his Monday morning note from the newsroom for details on his colonoscopy.