Sunday, May 16, 2010

A serious delay

We've made jokes here about how news in the Herald-Press is always multiple days late. This time, the lack of getting the news out in a timely matter has taken a serious turn.

There was a homicide in Huntington. A man was shot and killed, and his body found Saturday morning. Normal newspaper procedures are to check in with the police and sheriff's departments on a daily basis. If the staff of the Herald-Press was doing its job, they would have found out on Saturday about the shooting. True, it wasn't until Sunday until the shooting was determined by Coroner Leon Hurlburt to be a homicide, but a shooting still should have been reported in Sunday's paper, Monday's paper at the very latest.

The Herald-Press did have a posting on its website on Sunday:


Homicide in Huntington

Staff Writer
Published: Today

A Huntington man was murdered over the weekend.
Donald Barton, 29, of 629 Henry St. in Huntington, died from a gunshot wound early Saturday morning. At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Huntington County Coroner Leon Hurlburt ruled Barton's death as a homicide.
Hurlburt declined to go into further detail as the investigation is ongoing. The Huntington Police Department is handling the investigation.
Check Tuesday's edition of The Herald-Press for more details regarding this case.


Check TUESDAY'S edition?

There's a murderer loose in Huntington, and the Herald-Press is going to wait three days to let people in the town know about it.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette was also reporting on the murder Sunday on the web. They'll have it in Monday's paper, and it was already out on Associated Press Sunday as well, meaning it will be in nearly every paper in the state Monday - a full day before it shows up in the Herald-Press, the paper of the town where the murder occurred.

No joking around here. This is a serious lack of judgment. This is seriously irresponsible. The people of Huntington deserve better. This is as bad as it can be.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here's a quiz for anyone who wants to work in newspapers

OK, Junior Journalists, here's a quiz for you!
Below is a story from the Herald-Press. See if you can find out what's missing!

Tickets for the 2010 Taste of Home Cooking School are now available at the Herald-Press office, 7 N. Jefferson St.
The show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 27 and is sponsored by the Central Indiana Newspaper Group, of which the Herald-Press is a member.
“This is the fifth straight year we’ve hosted a program,” Herald-Press Publisher Andy Eads said. “We’re expecting this to be our biggest show ever. “We encourage you to hurry and get your tickets while they are still available.”
Tickets are $12.50 each.
Doors for the event will open at 5 p.m., and ticketholders will have a chance to visit with various vendors who will have booths set up outside the Ford Theater.
Those attending the show will all receive a free gift bag. They also will have a chance to win a Kitchen Aide mixer. They also will have a chance to guess the dollar value of a carload of groceries. The person who guesses the closest without going over will win the groceries.
Many other door prizes will also be available.
Tickets may be purchased between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Herald-Press.
Tickets also are available via mail. Those buying tickets via mail should send a self-addressed stamped envelope with a check or money order to Wabash Plain Dealer, P.O. Box 379, Wabash, IN 46992, Attention: Gloria.

What's missing from the story?
How about in what town the event is being held? You might deduce that it's Wabash, but unless you know where the Ford Theatre is, you might not know. Actually, it's located within the Honeywell Center in Wabash, but that's not mentioned, either.

And really, what's going on? Sure, they say it's a cooking school, but exactly how is that going to work? Is it demonstrations or is it hands-on? Are there going to be chefs teaching? We don't know. But apparently you need to hurry and get tickets to something you don't know what it is or where it is.


The people at the Central Indiana Newspaper Group decided a while back to start charging for their online content, but even though we see the newspaper every day, we're still able to get the Herald-Press and Marion content online for free. How do we do that? Well, we're not saying, only to say it's not illegal. We haven't hacked into anything. It's available free to anyone with a smidgen of knowledge of communication devices, or a Macintosh computer. It's probably available on PCs, too, but we've always had Macs. Or an iPhone. With apps.


There are more changes at the Herald-Press, with Mia Blocher and Rob Edwards departing.
No, we can be kinda harsh here, but Mia is pregnant, and her decision may be because of that. Regardless of what we think of her skills as a reporter and writer, we we wish her and her husband the very best on the birth of their first child.
Rob Edwards is leaving Huntington, but he's not leaving Paxton. Rob is being moved to Marion, where he presumably will be providing photos for the CING group. But more and more the remaining reporters have been taking their own photos. That is likely to continue.


New sports editor Austan Kas seems settled in and has written a couple of nice pieces on Huntington native Chris Kramer, who made a national name for himself on the Purdue basketball team.
Still, the deadline issue continues to hamper coverage, especially in sports.
The situation got even more ridiculous this week. The Huntington North gymnastics team won the sectional last Saturday, but the story didn't appear until Tuesday. The Huntington Homeschool basketball team, which for some reason was better-covered than the high school team this season, won the state tournament on Saturday, but that story has yet to appear in the Herald-Press. the story was posted online on Tuesday night.

But surprisingly, even though there are 5 p.m. deadlines set, occasionally games DO get reported the next day. Kas' story on Kramer's final home game, despite being a night game, made it into the next day's paper, along with the game story. A few other national stories slip through once in a while.
So it appears that deadlines ARE flexible, but apparently local stories don't warrant enough importance or the DAMN DAILY PAPER TO RUN THEM ON TIME!
This is all from a company, Paxton, which espouses how important local coverage is to them. They call it "hyperlocal," eschewing anything happening outside the county for an all-local focus.

We call it a bunch of crap. Paxton doesn't care for local news, national news or world news. They just care about squeezing out as many dollars from the company as possible before bailing and leaving smoking wreckage in their wake.


We were also recently extremely upset about the lack of coverage of the death of Judge Mark McIntosh.
The paper ran an obituary and eventually got around to trying to write a story about the judge, but there was no effort or put into the coverage.
The judge died on a Saturday night, and his passing was widely known on Sunday. Yet nothing was done by the Herald-Press until well after the obituary had been received.
Judge McIntosh was a major figure in Huntington County over the last 20 years, presiding over historic trials over that time period, including the Eldon Anson murder, the Donna Ratliff trial and the trial of Gary Sailors. None of those cases was mentioned in the Herald-Press story.
A couple simple quotes were included, but the life and legacy of Judge McIntosh was done a disservice by the staff of the Herald-Press, either by ignorance or incompetence or laziness.

In any case, it's inexcusable.


And we still wonder what editor Rebecca Sandlin does. She obviously doesn't edit. She obviously doesn't have any news judgement or foresight. She doesn't do any designing of the paper.
She writes occasionally, just not that well. We have respect for her son in the military and wish him safety, but she can't continue to write about him all the time. How about writing about local residents serving? How about writing about local issues and talking to the people involved?

From what we understand talking to people in the community, the staffers at the Herald-Press don't get out into the town or county, don't know the key people, haven't developed sources or contacts who might help them in their coverage.

They are also still lying to advertisers. They've backed off the circulation claims of 6,600 they had been telling advertisers, especially after they ad to legally publish their circulation at 4,200.

In the recent ad for a new reporter, they listed the circulation at 5,300. Is that the number they're selling to advertisers? Probably. But it's a lie. By now, the circulation is most likely under 4,000.

The Herald-Press continues to sink deeper and deeper into the abyss. It's going to be gone soon. It will be a sad day, but we're almost happy to see it put out of its misery.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The one, simple call that wasn't made

With (almost) every news organization scrambling to find local connections to disaster in Haiti, the Herald-Press was asleep at the wheel once again.

The modus operandi of the H-P has been to wait for press releases to cross their desks before reprinting it verbatim as a breaking news story. Rarely have they left the newsroom to track down a real story.

When the earthquake struck Haiti, it would have seemed a natural instinct for real reporters in Huntington to start making calls to the churches in the county to see if any of their congregations had sponsored mission trips to the region in the past. Another call could have gone out to local resident David Dean, who has led many such trips to the Dominican Republic, and who has many contacts with those who have taken similar trips to neighboring Haiti.

But perhaps the first call would have gone out to Huntington University, which supports mission trips all across the world.

If someone at the Herald-Press had made that one, simple call, they might have had THIS story before it showed up on the NBC Nightly News on Tuesday, Jan. 19, nearly a week after the earthquake hit. The people featured in the story are Huntington University graduates.

One man's mission of hope in Haiti:

In that same light, kudos to the Huntington TAB, which ran a story on local relief efforts earlier this week, including the one above on the Huntington University grads, as well as other relief efforts from our area.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We told you so

Long ago, in the early days of this blog, one of the first things we told you was that some day Paxton would completely eliminate the Herald-Press in favor of a regional paper based in Marion.

That day is pretty close to coming.

Paxton's Central Indiana Newspaper Group (CING) consists of the Herald-Press, Marion's Chronicle-Tribune, the Wabash Plain Dealer, the Peru Tribune and the Frankfort Times. Marion is the home base of the group. All of the papers are printed there, and the staff in Marion makes all the story placement and layout decisions for each daily edition for each paper.

People we know with some knowledge of recent Paxton meetings have told us that the plan to make one regional paper is moving ahead.

What does that mean for the papers in each of those communities? The papers they've known are about to disappear. They'll all be getting Chronicle-Tribunes soon, with a few local stories in the mix, just to make it feel a bit more like their own publication.

But mostly, it'll be less local coverage and everyone will get a bit more from each of the other towns.

Huntington, Wabash, Peru and Frankfort will maintain basically a storefront operation with a couple of people in the newsroom, pretty much just for appearances. Everything will be handled in Marion, which really isn't much of a difference than things are handled now.
The small staff still in Huntington will get even smaller, with maybe one person here for classified advertising and a couple writers.

We've known this day was coming. We don't take any joy in knowing that. We'll mourn the loss of the Herald-Press, a newspaper with a long and rich history, recent developments notwhithstanding. This community deserves a newspaper dedicated to the people of Huntington. They deserve a staff that gets out in the town, gets to know its people and their needs from a newspaper.

We realize journalism is undergoing massive changes, but that doesn't mean there can't be competent journalists to report on what's happening in this county. It might not be a print product, but that doesn't the stories can't be told. Someone has to be a watchdog for the community.

The Huntington County TAB is the closest thing we have to a real publication, but the TAB's focus isn't on hard news, and publishing twice a week doesn't get the news out in time. But even though they only publish twice a week, the TAB still is the only news organization doing the important job of covering city, county and school board meetings. They provide that vital link to the community, while the Herald-Press does not. has tried to get information out, but they really don't have anyone with journalism experience to truly understand how stories need to be told. Most of what is on the website is submitted as press releases and reprinted without any kind of editing. We give them credit for their attempts, and maybe it could lead to something bigger. We know some of the people there, and they have the desire to provide a quality product for Huntington.

There are some other web sites coming out of Huntington, but they are put out by people with specific agendas, not dedicated to news. Again, they are people with no background in journalism, without the knowledge to adequately cover city government, the legal system, sports, or daily news.

The problem is that online news isn't profitable. Starting up an online newspaper won't be easy, especially getting the quality people to do the reporting. We've seen with the Herald-Press that finding people with journalism knowledge and experience isn't easy.

We'll watch in the coming days and weeks for the announcement of the demise of the Herald-Press. It's hard to tell when it might happen.

Who knows. The way Paxton works, they won't even announce it. One day the Herald-Press just won't be there.

The news might show up as a press release in the Chronicle-Tribune — two days after it happens.

Another staffer jumps ship

Herald-Press sports editor Sean Giggy is the latest staffer to bail on the paper. His last day was last Friday, January 8.
We've had a chance to meet Sean on a couple occasions, and we knew about this for a while, but didn't want to say anything until he was officially done.
Sean's a good kid. He came in with no experience (just like everyone else) and was put in a terrible position right away. He was in a no-win situation with the ridiculous 5 p.m. deadlines imposed upon him. None of his stories were published in a timely manner. For a paper covering just one high school, it's insane that writeups took two days to get published.
Paxton Media had some strange ideas about sports. Obviously, it had a low priority. They also stressed coverage of elementary and youth sports, figuring that parents and grandparents of the youngest athletes were a huge untapped potential for newspaper sales.
Now we're all for recognizing youth sports, but not at the expense of timely coverage of high school sports. A lot of good stories are being missed, and we can't put all the blame on Sean.
By the way, Sean's heading to Wisconsin, where he'll be working for a television station.

Sean didn't leave quietly, though. One of our regular contributors passed along Sean's Facebook status update on his final day at the Herald-Press.

Sean Gggy is done at the Herald-Press. Sad to leave co-workers, but glad he doesn't have to deal with management anymore. If you have a position of authority in Paxton and are reading this, you're likely an idiot.

Needless to say, Sean will be leaving quite a bit of frustration behind him.

The Herald-Press search for a new sports editor is going on. There's an interesting discussion going on at about the Huntington position. Apparently there are quite a few people who have had experience with Paxton and the way they run things.

In the meantime, sports at the Herald-Press will be handled by Austan Kas, who is the sports editor at Peru, another member of Paxton's Central Indiana Newspaper Group (CING). Kas, a Huntington University grad like Giggy, has his roots at the Herald-Press. He started there under the previous staff, serving as a part-time writer. Looks like he'll fill in until a new sports editor is found.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting right on it

Here is a submission from one our our readers:

Just received the email pasted below and below it was my original August 28, 2009 email to Rebecca Sandlin suggesting this policy which she forwarded to Andy Eads on September 11, 2009. Better late than never. Damn, thats a new H-P type idea, c'mon guys!

From "Jay"

Happy Holidays from The Herald Press.

Thank you for your email regarding our website/on-line version of The Herald-Press.
We have reviewed your comments and made some changes, the most relevant is offering FREE on-line service to all our regular subscribers.
If you are a current subscriber (or would like to subscribe and receive FREE on-line) please reply to this email at and we(sic) get you started.
Again, thanks to(sic) all the input and helpful suggestions.

Season's Greetings from The Herald Press.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

Just a quick follow up to something we had here back on Nov. 11:

The Huntington school board had OK'd a new tech high school for Huntington North that had been reported in Fort Wayne newspaper and television, locally at the TAB and on, and even here on our our blog.

The Herald-Press finally had a story in on Friday, Nov. 20, a total of 11 days after it had been approved. The H-P likes to use the word "recently" to date stories that they've completely missed. That way the reader can't really tell how long ago the event actually happened.

There was another HUGE story this week in Huntington as Coroner Leon Hurlburt announced the county's first death from H1n1 flu.

The Herald-Press did put the story on the front page of the paper Thursday, but at the bottom of the page, apparently having much less importance to them than their main story, a story on the annual Great American Smokeout.
That story was nothing more than a rehashed press release from the American Cancer Society.
Now, we're all for people to stop smoking, but to make that the story of the day when there was a death from H1N1 is just plain stupid.

It's especially stupid when the Herald-Press has never looked into what is happening with H1N1 in the county. They've had stories from press releases saying that the flu is here, then stories saying it isn't here.

Then, all of a sudden, there's a death from the flu here. The H-P doesn't ask any questions, they just print what is released from the coroner's office. Do they ask how widespread the flu is in Huntington County? Do they ask if it could possibly be a problem?


But they did not that it s Herald-Press policy not to print names of victims.
Which victims? Just flu victims? How about accident victims? Murder victims?
Most media outlets don't print names of victims in cases of sexual assaults, or minors who are victims in certain cases.
But most newspapers probably don't have a policy on naming flu victims. In this case, the name was not provided by the coroner, nor was it integral to the story. The main point was that there was a death, and what ramifications there are from that. But the H-P missed on that follow-up as well.

Still, we'd be interested to see that list of Herald-Press policies.

Maybe they should spend a little more time doing some actual reporting and asking people some real questions rather than worrying about names of flu victims or retyping stories on things like "National Pumpkin Week" or some such thing.