Covering the news media

Writing about the news media was one of my beats when I worked for a business newspaper in Tampa. It was fun and an interesting coverage area, but even in the mid-1990s the print business was in decline. That made for some uncomfortable stories, and also for some uncomfortable news business executives. They didn’t like it when reporters would write negative stories about them. I could always count on a ringing telephone the day after writing a story about a newspaper that was less than glowing. This story was about the Tampa TRIBUNE, a newspaper that has been in second place to the St. Petersburg TIMES (now the Tampa Bay TIMES) over on the other side of Tampa Bay. The Tribune is still hanging on, but its future is cloudy.

Arthur Frederick
Staff Writer

A team of Pennsylvania-based consultants has been hired to study the nooks and crannies of the Tampa Tribune, and is searching out ways to cut costs and boost efficiency.

Publisher Jack Butcher said the move was simply a matter of the newspaper business trying to catch up with other industries.

“The word that comes to mind is `archaic.’ Every other industry did this eight or 10 years ago,” Butcher said. “We are trying to make our company more productive and more customer-friendly — what just about any company in America has to do to survive.”

But to some Tribune news staffers, the study is little more than a cover for the further elimination of jobs which has been rumored at the paper for some time.

Tribune managers won’t discount the possibility of layoffs. But they say the study is really aimed at finding more efficient processes which will improve news reporting, and make the paper stronger and more competitive.

“This is an ongoing process that probably will take at least six or seven more months,” said Michael Kilgore, the Tribune’s promotion director and chief spokesman. “We aren’t looking at money to be saved or people to be employed. We’re looking at processes. We’ve told our employees that in some departments we might need fewer people, and in others we might need more.”

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Trade shows: Writing for industry gatherings

On several occasions I’ve been hired to attend and write about trade show gatherings. In this example, I was hired by the annual Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition, which met at Disney World near Orlando, Fla. in 2011. In this case, the group was looking for someone to do interviews and attend sessions, and then turn out  stories for an industry newsletter. These assignments can be fun, and sometimes they are good revenue generators. This example is one of the newsletter stories.

Industry leaders optimistic about fuel cell industry’s future

In spite of the sluggish economy and reductions in financial support by the federal government, a number of fuel cell industry leaders we spoke to were surprisingly upbeat about the future.

During the 2011 Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., we asked a number of attendees one simple question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the industry? Here is what they had to say:

MORRY MARKOWITZ, Executive Director, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association: “I am very optimistic about the future. My background, both in the electric utility industry and the automotive industry,  has given me the foundation to understand the past, present and future of this industry, and I think the future is very bright.

“On the mobile side, the fuel cell vehicle is the only zero-emission vehicle that is on the horizon that will be able to exactly replicate the current driver’s needs in driving an automobile by having the range that it needs of 300-400 miles per tankful, being able to refuel in two-to-five minutes, and to be able to do that hopefully in multiple places.

“On the stationary side, the simplicity and reliability of fuel cell technology will provide a bridge for our current system of centralized generation of transmission lines having to go through vast areas and distribution lines that are increasingly vulnerable to weather  and even some future activities, both by nature and manmade.

“The idea of the simplicity and availability of fuel cells is an appropriate bridge for those technologies.”

SAM LOGAN, chief executive officer, LOGAN Energy Corp., Roswell, Ga.: “In the shorter term, the industry is going to be bucking the headwinds of the really difficult economy.  And coupled with that is the diminished ability of the government to provide the kinds of appropriated funds for product improvements, manufacturing improvement and deployments. Continue reading

News coverage: writing about the environment

Since I spent so much time working as a journalist in Maine, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that writing about the environment was an almost-daily assignment. A lot of Maine people consider themselves to be environmentalists, and newspaper editors knew that and loved to get environmental stories from the wire services. Back in the 70s, power generating projects tended to be huge. In Maine, there were two big proposed power generating projects — the Passamaquoddy project, which was to generate power from ebbing and flowing tides; and the Dickey-Lincoln Hydroelectric project, two dams that would have flooded thousands of acres of forest land in northern Maine. I wrote scores of stories about both, mostly Dickey-Lincoln. Neither project was ever built.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) – The head of the Maine Natural Resources Council told the legislative Committee on Energy Wednesday that the proposed Dickey Lincoln Hydroelectric Project could result in more than 30,000 acres of exposed mudflats during several weeks of the year.

Clifford Goodall said the hydroelectric project is flawed because the area would not have enough water to operate efficiently.

The Dickey Lincoln dam would create a long, slender lake instead of a lake concentrated in one area, and dropping the level of the lake to make room for spring runoff waters would result in 33,600 acres of exposed mudflats.

“Hydroelectric projects require water, and there just isn’t that much water up there,” Goodall said. “Passamaquoddy has the water. Dickey Lincoln has practically none.”

“If you’re going to dam up all this water in the spring, you have about a 10-month span in which you are going to let it out,” he said.

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