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March 18, 2010 APME Newsletter
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APME Update
The electronic newsletter of the Associated Press Managing Editors for March 18, 2010 | Become an APME Member

In this issue:

APME Has a New Web site
Awards/Scholarships: Gannett Award, Ralph Flamminio Memorial Scholarship
AP President Tom Curley Keynote Speaker at War and Journalism Conference in Kentucky
AP Corporate Archives Offers Booklet for State Meetings on Risks War Journalists Take
We Want Your Great Ideas
AP Contest Winners
Stimulus: Tracking the Spending
Watchdog Reporting: Summary of Recent Impact Reporting
AP's Beat of the Week: Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria
Sunshine Week
Industry News: What's Going on in our Industry
In Memoriam: James O. Powell
And Finally...

Dates to Note:


NewsTrain Workshop Coming Soon

There's still enough time to sign up for a NewsTrain workshop in the Chicago area March 26-27. The workshop will be at the
Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Here's an overview of the workshop sessions. More information and registration is available at the APME website.

Track 1: The Nimble Leader
  • News Ethics and Values - Breaking News Without Breaking Trust / Mitch Pugh
  • The Skeptical Editor / Kathy Schenck
  • Creating a Constructive Culture / Bob Zaltsberg
  • Content Planning for Multiple Media and Multiple Deadlines / Jane Hirt
Track 2: The Evolving Journalist
  • Your Data Strategy - What info to collect and what you can do with it / Derek Willis
  • Alternative distribution - Putting links, RSS and social networking to work / Mark Briggs
  • Covering communities in new ways / Mark Briggs
  • Knowing Your Audiences / Mark Briggs
Third Rail / Extra Jolt
  • Mobile Distribution / Robb Montgomery. Friday only.
  • Intro to Video Editing / Lisa Glowinsky. This workshop will be at the end of Day 1 after the regular workshop.
It is specifically designed for journalism educators; however, any other participant may attend if you RSVP to Bring a laptop loaded with editing software.

Registration is $50 per person, for one or both days, and includes lunches.


The next APME Online Credibility Webinar at Poynter's NewsU will be April 15

Ethics and Credibility of Breaking News Online

With Mitch Pugh, editor, Sioux City Journal in Iowa

Don't just be the first to break local news digitally. Ensure that your readers get credible stories. Learn best practices in managing tough decisions when publishing via your Web site, Facebook page, Twitter account or when pushing it out to mobile devices. Confront issues of credibility and ethics. Know the importance of aligning your newsroom's standards with the expectations of your readers. And understand how digital delivery affects traditional news standards and values, and how to manage your newsroom moving forward.

Editor of the Sioux City Journal, Mitch Pugh, will discuss the results of the APME Online Credibility Project and the Sioux City Journal: Breaking News Without Breaking Trust. He'll explain why and how the Sioux City Journal developed an ethics policy devoted to breaking news and guide you to create your own.

This Webinar is $27.95, but only $9.95 for APME members Watch for a discount code in an upcoming APME e-mail.

Read a Q&A with Pugh | Register


The Associated Press Managing Editors launched on a new platform. The new site, hosted by, offers greater interactivity, membership management and an easy-to-use content management system.

Some new features include embedded video training libraries, wiki-type articles for editors to add to the discussion, an online payment processor and user profiles. There are easy links to APME's twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. The calendar function makes it simple to see what training opportunities are ahead and to check on upcoming award and conference deadlines.

"The new will be more robust and offer even more practical tools for newsroom leaders," said Otis Sanford, APME President.

The APME board welcomes thoughts and suggestions on the new site at apmefeedback.


The Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism will be offered for the first time this year as part of the annual APME contest.

Description: This award recognizes groundbreaking work by a journalist or a staff that creatively uses digital tools in the role of being a community's watchdog. Special consideration is given to journalism that helps a community understand and address important issues. Criteria for evaluating innovation include interactivity, creation of new tools, innovative adaptation of existing tools, and creative use of any digital medium. An entry will consist of a single story, series or package on a single subject.

Entries will be judged by APME. Two winners will be selected, with each receiving $2,500.


Applications for the 2010 Ralph Flamminio Memorial Scholarship, one of the most prestigious journalism scholarships available in Pennsylvania, will be accepted until April 15, according to the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors who make the annual selection. The winner will receive a $3,000 cash award and be presented with the scholarship at the PAPME's annual conference in May in Harrisburg.

The award, which has been given annually for the past several decades, is named after Flamminio, the former Allentown Morning Call and Coatesville Record editor. Flamminio was known for building a spirit of cooperation that has become the hallmark of the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors. Prior to his death in 1986, Ralph was a champion for a close association of Pennsylvania newspapers. He believed PAPME could strengthen the network of newspapers and enrich its content by making stories more relevant to readers through contributions to the Associated Press.

Applicants for the award must be Pennyslvania residents and attend a four-year institution. While candidates do not have to be journalism majors, they should be determined to pursue a career in journalism.

To apply, students should submit a cover letter describing experience in print journalism, interest in the field and what they might contribute to the craft as a journalist, a college transcript, up to five clips and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or other professional.

Applications can be sent to Larry Holeva, PAPME Scholarship Chairman, c/o The Citizens' Voice, 75 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 18711.


The University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications, in cooperation with the University of Edinburgh's Centre for the Study of Two World Wars, will present a conference on war, journalism and history in Lexington, Ky., April 8-11, 2010.

The theme of the conference is "Covering Conflicts in a Modern World."

The conference will open on April 8 with the annual Creason Lecture, delivered by AP President Tom Curley.

The conference will feature top journalists, public policy experts, historians and military officials.

Topics for discussion will include:
  • The role of media in foreign policy
  • Military and media relations
  • Media ethics in conflict reporting
  • U.S. war reporting from an international perspective
  • Representations of war in film
The conference is a follow up to a similar event the University of Edinburgh held in November 2007. University of Kentucky journalism instructor Terry Anderson served as a guest presenter at the conference, sharing his story as a former chief correspondent for The Associated Press and the seven years he spent held hostage in Lebanon. Anderson is organizing this year?s conference with the help of the University of Edinburgh.

Conference participants will include film star Steve Zahn; Dale Dye, film producer and military consultant; Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani author and journalist; Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, journalists and documentary makers; Yvonne McEwen of the University of Edinburgh's Center for the Two World Wars; former ambassador and special Middle East envoy Ryan Crocker; John Daniszewski, AP senior managing editor for international news; Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent and columnist for the London Independent; Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al-Jazeera; John Walcott, Washington bureau chief of McClatchy newspapers; Col. Mike Meese, head of the history department at the U.S. Military Academy; West Point historians George Herring of the University of Kentucky and Clarence Wyatt of Centre College; and Tom Lindlof of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications.

Seminars and paper presentations will take place on April 9 and 10. A public discussion of the film series will be held on April 11.

For more information, contact Terry Anderson at or at 859- 257-6336, ext. 86216. display_article.php?category= 1&artid=5249


The AP Corporate Archives is producing a 70-page booklet entitled "The Costs of War: AP Journalists in Beirut, Kabul, and Baghdad, 1975-2010." The booklet highlights the complex risks taken by AP journalists and local staff in covering the Lebanon civil war and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It features photographs and documents drawn from the Beirut and Cairo bureau records, the text archive, and the photo library, with commentary by Corporate Archives Director Valerie Komor.

The booklet is accompanied by a DVD featuring a selection of oral history interviews conducted last year with AP reporters and photographers in the Middle East.

The Archives is making the booklets available for state AP meetings. For more information, contact Valerie Komor at or at 212-621-1731.


We are now accepting submissions for APME's 2010 "Great Ideas" book. What's a great idea?

It can be a new concept for print or online, or a major improvement to something we do every day. This is a chance for your newspaper to show off great work and to help fellow editors by providing ideas that might work in their markets. APME is again focusing on watchdog stories -- big and small -- because of the difference they can make in the community.

Our "Great Ideas" Web site allows you to quickly submit entries (150-word limit) and upload a picture (.jpg, .pdf) that accompanies the Great Idea. When the Great Ideas page opens, click on the "Submit Your Great Idea!" link and input the entry. The process is simple, quick and painless.

If you have questions, contact Kurt Franck, executive editor of The (Toledo) Blade or Terry Orme, managing editor news/business at The Salt Lake Tribune: Kurt: 419-724-6163, or Terry: 801-257-8727,


The Associated Press and photographer Rodrigo Abd each won 2009 Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards. AP won in the Breaking News category for its coverage during the first 24 hours following the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. Abd, based in Guatemala City, won in the Photojournalism category for "photo essays that shed light on the funeral business in Guatemala and political unrest in Honduras." AP photographer Emilio Morenatti was a finalist in the category. AP and Abd will receive trophies and cash awards of $10,000 each on April 23 during a dinner at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa, Fla. It will be hosted by the Foundation and its corporate founder, The E.W. Scripps Company.

The Education Writers Association, the national professional association of education reporters and writers, announced the winners of the 2009 National Awards for Education Reporting. AP Writer Libby Quaid won first place in the Large Media-Beat Reporting category for her story "First years in Office," and AP Writer Justin Pope shared second prize in the same category for "The National Higher Education Beat: Policy and People." The annual contest honors the best education reporting in the print and broadcast media.


The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., reports more than a year after the passage of the $787 billion federal stimulus package, state officials credit it with creating or saving thousands of state jobs. Yet a look at the largest local projects in the South Sound shows that much of the biggest stimulus spending still lies ahead. In Pierce, Thurston and South King counties, the top 20 stimulus awards not related to education received a total of $176 million in funding, a News Tribune analysis found. About 20 percent of that money had been spent as of February, the one-year anniversary of when the stimulus package became law. The picture is similar statewide, says Jill Satran, Gov. Chris Gregoire's economic recovery coordinator. Of the more than $7 billion in stimulus awards received throughout Washington, Satran estimated that about $1.6 billion had been spent as of February. That?s about 23 percent of the total. 2010/03/14/1108920/stimulus- spending-next-year-will.html# ixzz0iN6Xjcnj

The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reports from Washington that despite suffering more than most states from widespread unemployment, Florida is getting the smallest amount per person from some of the biggest chunks of federal stimulus spending. Florida last year was awarded the fewest stimulus dollars per person, according to a compilation by, the official Web site that tracks economic recovery dollars. Florida's take -- $490 per person -- was less than half the share of each of the top 10 states. States with some of the highest unemployment rates, notably Florida and Nevada, receive some of the fewest stimulus dollars per person, the newspaper reported. States with low unemployment rates, such as Montana and the Dakotas, are among those receiving the most per person from the economic recovery law. That?s largely because much of this spending is divvied up using long-standing funding factors unrelated to unemployment rates. fl-stimulus-per-person- 20100313,0,2171822.story


The Associated Press reported that two guns used in high-profile shootings this year at the Pentagon and a Las Vegas courthouse both came from the same unlikely place: the police and court system of Memphis, Tenn. Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that both guns were once seized in criminal cases in Memphis. The officials described how the weapons made their separate ways from an evidence vault to gun dealers and to the shooters. The use of guns that once were in police custody and were later involved in attacks on police officers highlights a little-known divide in gun policy in the United States: Many cities and states destroy guns gathered in criminal probes, but others sell or trade the weapons in order to get other guns or buy equipment such as bulletproof vests. nation/87611837.html

The Associated Press reported that a convicted sex offender charged with murdering one California teenager and under investigation for another killing violated his parole by moving too close to a school but was allowed to remain free, according to records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. Had John Albert Gardner III been returned to prison in 2007 he would have been evaluated for commitment to a state mental hospital as a sexually violent predator. He also would have qualified for wearing an electronic tracking device for the rest of his life. "It was just an incompetent decision that didn't protect public safety," said state Sen. George Runner, who wrote Jessica's Law, the sex offender law approved by voters in 2006. "And now we have, what, two victims and who knows what else is out there?" he said. The parole records show state officials found Gardner illegally living within a half-mile of a school in September 2007 and decided to keep him on parole. The records show at least five later violations, the last on Sept. 8, 2008, just 18 days before Gardner was let go from parole supervision and his location-tracking GPS bracelet removed from his ankle. cache:Go9jvQ_0FX4J:hosted.ap. org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ MISSING_TEEN%3FSITE%3DVANOV% 26SECTION%3DHOME%26TEMPLATE% 3DDEFAULT+don+thompson+ associated+press+
sacramento+convicted+sex+ offender&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk& gl=us

The Tennessean reports that after banks got billions in federal aid, executives at some of the Nashville area's largest banks are cashing in with higher paychecks in the midst of one of the worst banking crises in U.S. history. A Tennessean analysis of pay packages from regulatory filings at the top banks by market share in Nashville shows that many banks are beefing up salaries and awarding stock to executives -- shares that can be redeemed for cash within as little as a year. Critics say too many bank executives are benefiting -- perhaps even being rewarded -- for past failures, even as taxpayers fund an unprecedented $700 billion federal bailout of the financial system. article/20100314/BUSINESS01/ 3140379/Banks+restore+hefty+ salaries

The Post Crescent reports from Madison that visitors to Wisconsin's state-run Web site that is supposed to house information about who the government is paying for goods and services see this message a lot: "There is no data available for this agency." Nearly four years after Wisconsin's Contract Sunshine Law took effect, Gannett Wisconsin Media found that much of the information remains in the dark, hidden from public view by what proponents of the law say is a lack of will to provide transparency. When the law was signed in May 2006, it was touted as an important tool for residents to use in watching for wasteful or improper spending. Today, the site is largely an empty shell. Of 98 state agencies, boards, commissions, councils, universities and colleges listed, just 14 have posted at least some contract information, and in some cases it is outdated. apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID= 20103160418

The Republican of Springfield, Mass., reports that on Oct. 18, Brittany Perez, a 19-year-old mother of a 1-year-old son, was killed in her Forest Park home by several bullets fired through the front window, apparently by a neighbor upset about a stolen television. Perez was the city's 17th and final homicide victim in 2009. She is also the last entry on another list: the names of 145 people killed in the City of Homes over the past decade. The first two names on the list are Margarita Hernandez, 38, and her 18-year-old daughter Tanyaliz Torres. They were stabbed to death on Jan. 18, 2000 in a domestic dispute. The 145 names -- each of them a tragedy to someone -- comprise a list representing the bloodiest 10-year period in the city over at least the last three decades. To coincide with the end of the first decade of the 21st century, The Republican, using information gathered from its own archives, police and court sources, compiled a list of Springfield homicides between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2009. Data from each killing was sorted by age, gender, race and location to produce a statistical snapshot of killings in the city over the 10-year span. Among the chief findings:
  • Victims were overwhelmingly male, 84 percent, compared to 16 percent female;
  • Victims were overwhelmingly young, 63 percent under the age of 30 and a little more than third between the ages of 15 and 25. Sixty-three percent of suspects were also between 15 and 25;
  • Victims were overwhelmingly people of color; 85 percent were minorities (45 percent black, 36 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent Asian). Among the victims under age 30, the percentage rises to 90 percent with black victims alone accounting for just under half; and
  • The neighborhood with the most killings was Metro Center with 23, followed by Forest Park with 21. Upper Hill, 14, Liberty Heights, 13, Old Hill, 10, and the South End, 10, each had double digits. Every other neighborhood had at least one, except for East Forest Park, which went through the decade without a single homicide. index.ssf/2010/03/murder_in_ springfield_2000-200.html

The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla., reports that after cashing their retirement day pension checks last year -- for a combined $1.26 million -- three city executives decided retirement could wait. They're now "contract employees" and one of them is paid a considerably higher rate than he made when he worked for Lakeland Electric. Some may wonder why they are still employed by the city of Lakeland. "We need them," says City Manager Doug Thomas. "They have unique skill sets and abilities." City Commissioner Justin Troller disagrees. The three employees -- Utility Manager of System Planning Mace Hunter, Fire Chief Mike Mohler and Parks and Recreation Director Bill Tinsley -- are "double dippers," returning to work and collecting both their contract pay and pension pay. article/20100313/NEWS/3135043

The Honolulu Advertiser reports Hawaii parents owe $515 million in overdue child support and the total is expected to grow as the poor economy and rising unemployment continue to squeeze family budgets. In the past fiscal year, the number of requests filed by parents to amend their child support obligations increased 25 percent, according to the state Child Support Enforcement Agency. As CSEA deals with those requests and a rising tide of child support arrearages, the agency is beset by its own budget restrictions and worker furloughs, further straining an operation that is ranked last among all states and U.S. territories in collection of overdue child support. In 2009, there were 2,208 requests submitted to CSEA to modify child support obligations, compared with 1,780 requests in 2008, according to the Department of the Attorney General, which oversees the child support agency.
http://www.honoluluadvertiser. com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID= 20103140354

The Columbus Dispatch reports that when low-income Ohioans receive help to improve their insulation and furnace, the quality of the work -- including the potential for deadly mistakes -- appears to depend on where they live. State records show that 12 of the 58 nonprofit agencies in Ohio's Home Weatherization Assistance Program passed all of their state inspections in the past three years. But 20 other agencies failed more than half of their state inspections, and five of those failed all of them. And that's just among the houses that were inspected. Federal rules call for examining the work in one of every 20 houses. Overall, nearly 40 percent of the houses that state inspectors checked failed. content/local_news/stories/ 2010/03/14/broken-fixes.html

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that two years before US Fidelis found itself out of cash and unable to withstand a tidal wave of customer cancellations, the brothers who own the Wentzville-based company already had pulled more than $100 million out of it, according to a former top executive who kept the books at the time. Darain and Cory Atkinson accumulated that nine-figure sum through a mix of traditional executive compensation and shareholder distributions, said Philip Jehle, who served as the company's chief financial officer and vice president of operations from 2004 through 2007. The brothers used the funds to pay for luxury cars and boats, as well for mortgage payments on mansions and vacation homes, Jehle told the Post-Dispatch in an exclusive interview. During its heyday, US Fidelis was the nation's No. 1 seller of extended auto-service contracts before it was beset by accusations of selling warranties that were worthless and using illegal telemarketing ploys. The company's financial practices, including the free-wheeling way it rewarded the Atkinsons, were so startling to another financial executive that he said he quit the company after just a few months on the job. stltoday/business/stories.nsf/ story/ 99569E2B5FE87A09862576E5000CD7 F3?OpenDocument

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that in a live-and-let-live swath of rural western Maine, entrepreneurs have turned to exotic dancers as a viable -- and even welcomed -- business model. For example, the Carrabassett Inn and Grill becomes a nightclub that welcomes the girls from PartyDancers USA on Friday nights. Regular patrons eat dinner before it is transformed into a nightclub featuring strippers. Many of the locals don't stay for the show; they come for food and leave before 9:30 p.m. on Fridays. A crowd of men, mostly snowmobilers, pours inside as the pounding dance music signals the start of the show. Unlike in clubs in some Maine cities, though, the dancers here are naked. The men are allowed to touch 95 percent of the women's bodies, the bouncer announces before the show starts. The same scene is playing out elsewhere. "I call it my economic stimulus package," says Jeff Jacques, owner of the Carrabassett Inn & Grill. "I had to do something to keep my doors open." news/sex_2010-03-13.html

The Orlando Sentinel reports that when the Orlando Magic and city officials move into a sparkling new arena this fall, the moving van won't have to take many trips. In a front page "Look what your taxes helped buy" report, the newspaper says most of the furnishings in the old Amway Arena will be left behind, as the NBA team and the city spend more than $19 million on brand-new furnishings -- everything from the basketball floor to the flashlights carried by ticket-takers and the orange traffic cones outside. And the new arena will likely be the plushest government-owned building in Central Florida, with trendy and expensive designer furniture in public areas and pricey furnishings in private areas -- including a $10,000 conference table and eight $2,100 conference chairs in an office suite for Magic executives.
http://www.orlandosentinel. com/news/local/os-magic-arena- furnishings-20100313,0, 4077129.story

The Orange County Register reports contractors, consultants and developers with business interests in the city of Irvine, Calif., have channeled at least $696,115 since 2000 toward slate mailers touting councilman Larry Agran, his allies and his causes, according to an analysis of campaign documents. Among the contributors are 14 companies which have received no-bid contracts to work on the 1,347-acre Great Park project, 36 attorneys and consultants associated with a private housing development adjacent to the park and 10 developers linked with the Irvine Business Complex, an urban development project near John Wayne Airport. The slate mailers allow councilman and Great Park Chairman Agran and his allies to benefit from big money contributions that would otherwise run afoul of the city's $400 per-person limit on donations. Under state law, there's no limit to contributions collected for political committees or slate mailers. The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's political watchdog, has looked at the Irvine mailers and concluded that they are legal. The slate mailers have helped to keep Agran and his three-member voting bloc in power for more than a decade, enabling him to run Irvine and the Great Park project like a fiefdom, critics say. The Agran majority has resulted in direct benefits for some of the contributors as well as some decisions that cost the city millions. news/-238941--.html

The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala., reports how Demario Terrell Davis' 2004 arrest on a misdemeanor marijuana charge popped up on a federally required background check when he sought to buy a military-style rifle in Mobile the following winter. Criminal history records did not reveal the final result of that arrest, however. Government checkers had three business days to find the answer, according to the law, or the sale could go through regardless. The government lost that race against the clock, and Davis had himself a new .223-caliber Stag 15. The newspaper says such situations are all too common in Alabama: A state-maintained computer database has 2.7 million arrest records that do not reflect the outcome of the case. The day after Davis acquired the rifle, officials discovered that he was prohibited from possessing a firearm. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives soon arrested Davis for having the rifle, and he eventually pleaded guilty and served a year in prison. 03/missing_convictions_in_ databas.html

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports how for years drug companies sought out influential university doctors with impressive credentials to bring their message to other doctors and persuade them to write prescriptions for their products. But as part of an ongoing series about how money and conflicts of interest affect medicine and patient care, the newspaper says companies have been forced to back away from that approach as a growing number of medical schools have developed policies that ban such talks. So much money is at stake that in January one academic doctor resigned his job at Harvard rather than give up his speaking income. features/health/87601272.html

The Houston Chronicle says four months ago Jacinto Sheriff's Capt. Carl Jones offered a simple reason why his deputies couldn't respond to a mother's plea for help with her mentally ill son who was having bizarre hallucinations. His deputies were too busy with high-priority calls. "We were busier than a cat covered in Meow Mix," Jones stated then. Gloria Bills, a 71-year-old widow, would be among those killed by the time a deputy was finally dispatched to the family's home near Coldspring on Nov. 7, seven hours after her first desperate phone call to the sheriff's department. Oliver "Bubba" Bills Jr. shot and killed his mother, his girlfriend, Shara Torres, 27, and her 4-year-old child before shooting and killing himself. But dispatch records and audio recordings recently released to the Houston Chronicle conflict with how the sheriff's department initially portrayed its handling of the incident. The records disclose that Jones prohibited his deputies from making a welfare check at the home. The logs also raise questions as to whether the four deputies on duty that Saturday were as busy as Jones had contended, the paper reported. story.mpl/front/6912414.html

The Detroit Free Press reports that General Motors and Chrysler aren't the only ones trying to bounce back from their bankruptcies last year. The United Auto Workers union also faces a historic challenge of rebuilding not just its membership -- which has fallen from a high of 1.5 million in 1980 to a historic low below 470,000 -- but also its image. Despite criticism from some quarters of its members being overpaid, lazy workers, the UAW emerged from the crisis with a surprising amount of potential. The union protected base wages, pensions and retiree health care. And its health care trust fund now owns 17.5 percent of GM and 67.7 percent of Chrysler. That could give the UAW a chance to recast its image, which is critical to rebuilding membership ranks, the newspaper says. 20100314/BUSINESS01/3140551/ 1315/BUSINESS01/UAW-Rebuild- rebound

The Record of Bergen County reports New Jersey taxpayers face a decades-long continuation of six-figure annual pension payouts and other costly retirement benefits promised to public employees. The reason: State law guarantees that pensions for existing workers can't be altered. Even a package of pending legislation -- hailed as the remedy for a system that's short $45.8 billion -- would apply only to new employees and not to the current workforce of some 450,000. The guarantee, in a 1997 law signed by Republican Gov. Christie Whitman, has served to insulate public workers from wrenching economic realities that prevail in the private sector. news/87610287_N_J__TAXPAYERS_ OWE_PENSION_FUND.html


The Beat of the Week awards the individual or team responsible for the scoop or exclusive that does the most to enhance AP's competitive position.

This week's winners: Jon Gambrell, Lagos, Nigeria

When hundreds of people were massacred in central Nigeria, AP correspondent Jon Gambrell was the first foreign journalist on the scene. After an early flight from Lagos to Abuja and a five-hour drive through rural pastureland, Gambrell arrived in the village of Dogo Nahawa, just outside the city of Jos, along the country's religious divide between Christians and Muslims. He immediately jumped on top of a dump truck carrying corpses and gained a vantage point that allowed him, at great personal risk, to shoot videos and photographs and capture vivid detail. It was unparalleled multiformat coverage.

His text story began:

"The killers showed no mercy: They didn't spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. On Monday, Nigerian women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave.

"Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave. A crowd began singing a hymn with the refrain, 'Jesus said I am the way to heaven.' As the grave filled, the grieving crowd sang: 'Jesus, show me the way.'"

Gambrell counted 61 corpses, 32 of them children -- the first independent count in a situation where the government likely was inflating the death toll for political purposes. In all, at least 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered.

At night, as gunfire erupted outside his hotel and terrified residents fled inside, Gambrell dictated updates to his story. The next day, he made his way to outlying areas to interview ordinary people and leaders for an examination of the roots of the bloody Christian-Muslim conflict, "still a dicey proposition," he recalled, "as some people were even asking me if I was a Muslim."

The coverage was No. 1 in AP's global play, ranked among Yahoo's most viewed and topped the front page with a rare byline in the International Herald Tribune. The New York Times used three photos one day and the Los Angeles Times also used his images. Gambrell, who arrived in Africa only last December from Little Rock, lined up video feeds from a local channel, and his own footage was featured on APTN and OVN and ran extensively on CNN.



WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal agencies haven't lived up to President Barack Obama's promise of a more open government, increasing their use of legal exemptions to keep records secret during his first year in office.

An Associated Press review of Freedom of Information Act reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the use of nearly every one of the law's nine exemptions to withhold information from the public rose in fiscal year 2009, which ended last October.

Among the most frequently used exemptions: one that lets the government hide records that detail its internal decision-making. Obama specifically directed agencies to stop using that exemption so frequently, but that directive appears to have been widely ignored.

Major agencies cited that exemption at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, up from 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies. Obama was president for nine months in the 2009 period.

Departments used the exemption more even though Obama's Justice Department told agencies to that disclosing such records was "fully consistent with the purpose of the FOIA," a law intended to keep government accountable to the public.

For example, the Federal Aviation Administration cited the exemption in refusing the AP's FOIA request for internal memos on its decisions about a database showing incidents in which airplanes and birds collided. The FAA initially tried to withhold the bird-strike database from the public, but later released it under pressure.

The FAA claimed the same exemption to hold back nearly all records on its approval of an Air Force One flyover of New York City for publicity shots -- a flight that prompted fears in the city of a Sept. 11-style attack. It also withheld internal communications during the aftermath of the public relations gaffe.

In all, major agencies cited that or other FOIA exemptions to refuse information at least 466,872 times in budget year 2009, compared with 312,683 times the previous year, the review found. Agencies often cite more than one exemption when withholding part or all of the material sought in an open-records request.

All told, the 17 agencies reviewed by AP reported getting 444,924 FOIA requests in fiscal 2009, compared with 493,610 in fiscal 2008.

The AP examined the 2008 and 2009 budget year FOIA reports from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Federal Reserve Board.

Other FOIA exemptions cover information on national defense and foreign relations, internal agency rules and practices, trade secrets, personal privacy, law enforcement proceedings, supervision of financial institutions and geological information on wells.

One, known as Exemption 3, covers dozens of types of information that Congress shielded from disclosure when passing other laws.

In sentences that are often vaguely worded and buried deep in legislation, Congress has granted a wide array of information special protection over the years: information related to grand jury investigations, the additives in cigarettes, juvenile arrest records, the identities of people applying restricted-use pesticides to their crops, and the locations of historically significant caves are a sampling of the broad range of information the public cannot get under FOIA.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was so concerned about what he called "exemption creep" that last year he successfully pressed for a new law that requires FOIA exemptions to be "clear and unambiguous."

The federal government cited Exemption 3 protections to withhold information at least 14,442 times in the last budget year, compared with at least 13,599 in the previous one, agency FOIA reports show.

The prolific use of FOIA exemptions is one measure of how far the federal government has yet to go to carry out Obama's promise of openness. His first full day in office, Obama told agencies the Freedom of Information Act, "which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open government."

Obama told agencies they shouldn't hide information merely because it might make them look bad. "The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA," Obama wrote.

Following up on Obama's words, the Justice Department advised agencies against withholding records sought under FOIA "merely because an exemption legally applies." Most recently, the White House encouraged agency officials to hold contests, complete with prizes, to encourage employees to promote open government.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House Counsel Bob Bauer called on agency heads Tuesday to improve their handling of FOIA requests and assess whether they are devoting the resources needed to respond to requests "promptly and cooperatively."

Describing the Justice Department's actions on FOIA on Monday at the start of Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information, Attorney General Eric Holder said his agency is making progress. He noted that Justice provided everything sought in a FOIA request in more than 1,000 more cases than it had the previous year.

"Put simply, I asked that we make openness the default, not the exception. Today, I'm pleased to report that the disturbing 2008 trend -- a reduction in this department's rate of disclosures -- has been completely reversed," Holder said. "While we aren't where we need to be just yet, we're certainly on the right path."

Much of the Obama administration's early effort on FOIA seems to have been aimed at clearing out a backlog of old cases: The number of requests still sitting around past the time limits spelled out in the open-records law fell from 124,019 in budget year 2008 to 67,764 at the end of the most recent budget year over the 17 agencies, the AP's review found. There is no way to tell whether those whose old cases that were closed ultimately received the information they sought.
On the Net:
Freedom of Information Act: 7.html

The Northwest Herald of Crystal Lake, Ill., makes a front-page plea for a Sunshine Year.


The brand-new Illinois Freedom of Information Act that took effect this year is not alone going to change Illinois governments' long-standing mindset of secrecy.

It's a law, sure, but it's words on paper. It's going to take action, not words, to get the state's units of government -- all 7,000 of them -- to embrace the idea that taxpayers have a fundamental right to openness. Governments are too used to being allowed to operate in the dark.

If there is one subject on which newspapers should be biased, it is the idea that public records belong to the public. Starting today and lasting through the year, the Northwest Herald, through stories and editorials, will fight for that idea.

Although the games that Illinois governments play in withholding public information go back decades, the events of the past year alone show that this fight is necessary:
  • The Northwest Herald shouldn't have to beg the Prairie Grove District 46 school board to obey the Open Meetings Act and discuss the qualities it wants in a new superintendent in open session. Maybe a parent or two would be interested in such a topic.
  • It shouldn't take a four-year legal battle for a Wheaton taxpayer to view his school superintendent's contract. It shouldn't have taken the Illinois Supreme Court to rule that he could have it. And it shouldn't have taken that ruling to persuade the McHenry County College Board to release a contract in which it gave its ousted president a six-figure, do-nothing president emeritus job.
  • We can't understand why the Illinois Department of Public Health decided to withhold our own news stories from us in response to a FOIA request regarding the McCullom Lake brain cancer cluster, because we named people with the disease who sued.
  • We're concerned over the pressure that the Illinois Municipal League and other special interest groups put on Gov. Pat Quinn to veto many of the improvements made to FOIA. To hear them say it, Jan. 1 should have marked the end of civilization. It did not.
  • We're dismayed that the state Senate, which for the past decade has helped spend us into a $13.2 billion deficit, decided last month to discuss how to fix the problem behind closed doors. We're incredulous that its leaders didn't seem to understand why it's a big deal in a state where two consecutive governors were indicted for corruption.
  • It's a shame that it took the first-ever impeachment of an Illinois governor to force the General Assembly to improve FOIA. And it's appalling that within weeks of it becoming law, legislators have filed at least eight bills, two of them successful to date, to chip away at FOIA and make it harder for taxpayers to get information.
Illinois, from top to bottom, has a transparency problem. We who fund government deserve better.

How it costs you

People make better decisions when they know that others are watching them, or when their conduct is open to public scrutiny. As any child knows, you don't sneak a cookie out of the jar while Mom is in the kitchen.

While the Northwest Herald and other news media outlets have a special interest in this topic, this is far from just an issue for journalists. The corruption that comes from a lack of transparency costs all of us.

A May 2009 report by the political science department of the University of Illinois at Chicago concluded that corruption cost the state at least $500 million a year. Put one way, that would cover the $487 million that the state owes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in late payments. Put another way, Illinois graft every year wastes just under double what James Cameron spent to make "Avatar."

Half a billion dollars, divided among the 6.7 million Illinois residents in the workforce, translates into $150 a year for a two-income household. In essence, the 2009 study stated, we all pay a "corruption tax."

Corruption costs us in many ways. Our tax dollars pay for the salaries of nonexistent ghost payrollers. State contracts go to companies with the right connections rather than the lowest-responsible bidder, which means that taxpayers pay more for services. The final report of the Illinois Reform Commission created after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's ouster stated that "many companies report that they are hesitant to do business in Illinois because of the state's reputation for corruption."

Our tax dollars pay for services that never are rendered, and they pay for the enforcement to bring crooked officials to justice. But corruption also has unforeseen wasteful effects.

Blagojevich and fundraiser Tony Rezko's alleged wrongdoings cost taxpayers $22.1 million as of May 2009, not counting the cost to investigate them, the UIC report concluded. However, Blagojevich's arrest in December 2008 lowered the state's bond rating, which cost taxpayers an additional $20 million when the state borrowed $1.4 billion to help pay overdue bills.

It was not long after that when Blagojevich's successor, Gov. Pat Quinn, began pushing for an income tax increase. One can make the argument that the $500 million a year wasted in corruption would go a long way toward easing the state's record deficit.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously remarked that "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." Maybe that annual corruption tax wouldn't be so high if everyone shone the sunshine a bit brighter on government.

No more excuses

McHenry County is not Chicago or Springfield. We're not saying that any county politician is the next Blagojevich or George Ryan waiting in the wings, and we don't mean to disparage county governments that obey transparency laws.

But that doesn't mean that local governments couldn't learn the value of a little more sunshine.

Today marks the first day of "Sunshine Week," an annual national initiative to stress the importance of open government and freedom of information. However, given the past few years that Illinois has had, we don't think a week is going to cut it.

Through 2010, the Northwest Herald is going to examine transparency in state and local government in a series called "No More Excuses." Many denials for information that taxpayers have a legal right to know, especially in the Internet age, are just that -- excuses.

We're going to show you how easy it is to make a FOIA request, and how to fight a denial. It's a lot easier now than in the past. We're also going to take you step-by-step through the new and much-improved process for reporting if you think a local government has violated FOIA or the Open Meetings Act.

We will talk with local activists, attorneys and others to show you how difficult it has been at times to get information that the law requires to be produced upon request.

We'll let you know about efforts by lobbying groups and elected officials to scale back transparency laws, and whether your tax dollars have gone to their efforts to keep you in the dark. We'll be sure to let you know how each one of your representatives in Springfield -- Sens. Pam Althoff and Dan Duffy, and Reps. Jack Franks, Mike Tryon and Mark Beaubien -- vote on bills aimed at either improving or curtailing your right to know.

Franks, Tryon and Beaubien on Thursday sided with openness when they voted against a bill to exempt the performance evaluations of all public employees from disclosure. However, the bill passed, 70-39, and is now in the Senate for Althoff and Duffy to help decide.

Most importantly, we're going to put the county's governments to the test to see how well they comply with reasonable requests for information. We'll also examine whether matters that should be discussed in open are instead being taken behind closed doors.

Illinois doesn't need a Sunshine Week. It needs a Sunshine Year. articles/2010/03/08/r_ eayzi2tlthg8rkxzm6pepq/


Michelle Williams, chief of bureau for The Associated Press in Arizona and New Mexico, has been named chief of bureau for the South Atlantic region. The appointment was announced by Kate Lee Butler, vice president for U.S. Newspaper Markets. Williams succeeds former bureau chief Gary Clark, who retired last year. "Michelle brought an innovative approach to the job of chief of bureau in Arizona-New Mexico. As The Associated Press and its members navigate the rapidly changing news media landscape, she brings an excellent mix of skills in membership, business development and news to the role of Atlanta chief of bureau," Butler said. Williams will oversee AP's news and business operations for Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. She will be based in Atlanta.

Denise Vance has been named Deputy Director of U.S. Broadcast News for The Associated Press. She will be responsible for leading the daily newsgathering and production for the AP's U.S. broadcast operation in Washington, which includes Online Video, AP Television News, AP Radio and the AP Broadcast Wire. She has held various management positions at the AP's broadcast operation since transferring to Washington in 1997. She joined the AP as a video producer in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1994. Vance had earlier worked at CNN's international desk in Atlanta.

MediaNews Group chairman and CEO W. Dean Singleton will receive an honorary doctorate in business from the University of Utah at its May 7 commencement. Singleton also serves as chairman of The Associated Press board of directors.

A longtime employee at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., has been named the newspaper's publisher. Forty-one-year-old Korrie Wenzel has worked at the newspaper for nearly 19 years and has been editor the past 4½ years. The publisher position became vacant when Ross Ulrich resigned early this year. Steve McLister, a former publisher of The Daily Republic and current vice president of newspapers for Forum Communications Co., The Daily Republic's parent company, says Wenzel was chosen because of his passion for the community and the paper. Wenzel began his career with The Daily Republic as a sports reporter in August 1991. He also has served as sports editor, region editor and assistant editor during his time with the paper.

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., says a ban on newspaper racks in a North Carolina airport's terminals is unconstitutional. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the government interests asserted to justify the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority's ban are overridden by the First Amendment. The ruling is a victory for The News & Observer of Raleigh, The Herald-Sun of Durham, The New York Times and USA Today. Their attempts to place racks in the terminals were rebuffed by the airport authority, which cited security and other concerns. The court said newspaper racks have no more potential as hiding places for bombs than other terminal fixtures, such as trash cans and restrooms.

Layoff notices have gone out to 600 employees of The Honolulu Advertiser. The notices say the workers will lose their jobs when owner Gannett Co. sells the newspaper and related assets to Oahu Publications Inc., owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The sale is expected to be completed between April 12 and April 30. The majority owner of the Star-Bulletin, David Black, has put his newspaper up for sale. However, he has said if a buyer isn't found, the two newspapers will merge and layoffs will occur. It isn't known how many Advertiser employees would be rehired under a merged operation. The Advertiser reported last week that Gannett is providing more than $40 million to help finance the purchase. The purchase price hasn't been disclosed.


James O. Powell, editorial page editor for the Arkansas Gazette for 25 years, has died at the age of 90. Lee Powell told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that his father had been in declining health after several falls. J.O. Powell joined the Gazette in late 1959 and was in charge of the editorial page until 1985. The Gazette ceased publishing in 1991. Its assets were bought by what was then the Arkansas Democrat, which renamed itself the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. On the Gazette's editorial pages, Powell took on Gov. Orval Faubus' segregationist views and adopted a progressive stance on civil rights. After Faubus left office in 1967, Powell's editorials supported the political careers of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, Gov. Dale Bumpers -- later a U.S. senator -- and Bill Clinton. Clinton, endorsed by Powell when Clinton sought state office, remembers that Powell "was one of the first" to say Clinton could someday be president. "Not all of his comments were so favorable, but Jim was always honorable and fair -- and he didn't seem to mind if I called to complain," Clinton said in a statement. "He enjoyed a good argument and was always well-armed, with facts, insight, good humor and passion."



WASHINGTON (AP) -- A spark that helped ignite Elvis Presley's fame more than 50 years ago was lit by the newspaper editors and critics who hated him.

They detested his voice and thought his moves were unfit for family publications, all while teenagers went wild. It's that shocking style and clash with the media that also will make Elvis the subject of a new exhibition at the Newseum, a history museum that celebrates the First Amendment in Washington.

"Newspapers in the mid-50s viewed themselves as arbiters of social values, and they felt they should be among the ones to speak most loudly when they saw someone threatening America's mores," said Ken Paulson, the Newseum's president and former editor of USA Today. "What's interesting is that fiercely negative coverage drove Elvis' fame... After the national news coverage kicked in, he was the king of rock 'n' roll."

Elvis' two years of service in the U.S. Army, though, was a turning point. Parents couldn't hate him anymore, and the news media eventually came along, too.

The exhibit opening March 19 traces Elvis' rise in the 1950s -- in part a study in image management by his longtime manager, Col. Tom Parker -- to his meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1970.

It will include rare objects from Presley's life, some never before displayed outside of Graceland and others never before publicly displayed anywhere.

Objects in the collection include Elvis' 1957 Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was key to his rebel image, his first Grammy Award for "How Great Thou Art" in 1968, the overcoat and gold belt Elvis wore to meet Nixon at the White House, and the Bureau of Narcotics badge the president gave Presley. He had requested to be made a "federal agent-at-large" to help fight drug use.

Many documents will be displayed for the first time, including the 1955 exclusive management contract Elvis and his parents signed, giving Parker 25 percent of his income. (Later, in the 1970s, Parker's stake rose to an unprecedented 50 percent.)

"If you're a die-hard Elvis fan, you either love Colonel or you hate Colonel," said Angie Marchese, Graceland's director of archives who helped develop the exhibit. "It's like everything that Colonel did for Elvis in the 50s, would Elvis have been as big of a pop culture phenomenon without Colonel? Probably not.

"But every relationship like that draws scrutiny."

The Newseum show on view through February 2011 is among a series of exhibits this year marking what would have been Elvis' 75th birthday. In January, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery opened an exhibit of Elvis artwork. In Los Angeles, the Grammy Museum has a Smithsonian traveling exhibit of Elvis photographs by Alfred Wertheimer.

Paulson, who said he has been an Elvis fan since he was a young boy, said a partnership with Graceland was a natural fit for a look at entertainment history through the eyes of the media.

"There were many people who were more than willing to censor him or limit his expression," he said. "So Elvis truly is a symbol of freedom in America for all the right reasons."

Marchese said the images and objects give people a chance to reflect on what Elvis might be doing if he were alive.

"You'd want to think he would still be involved in music somehow, not necessarily going to Vegas and performing in jumpsuits like he was in the '70s... His career probably would have progressed from that," she said. "I'm thinking he probably would have had a career rebirth in Hollywood as well."

ABOUT US: APME Update is published regularly by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association. APME Update is edited by Sally Jacobsen. Send submissions by e-mail to or call Sally at (212) 621-7007.

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