Print Page | Contact Us | Your Cart | Sign In | Register
APME Update for Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
Share |
APME Update
APME Update for Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
Save the Date
• Feb. 21, Deadline for Responding to Sounding Board
• Feb. 26,
Deadline for Applying for Community Journalism Grant
• March 1,
March Madness Online Auction Begins
• March 22-23,
NewsTrain, Phoenix
• May 1,
Deadline for APME Journalism Excellence Awards
• May 1,
2-for-1 Membership Offer Ends
• May 18-19,
NewsTrain, Miami
• Sept. 13-14,
NewsTrain, Toronto
Sept. 19-21, 2012 - APME Conference, John Seigenthaler Center, Nashville, Tenn.


Don't miss NewsTrain events.

Join APME and NewsTrain on Facebook

We recently reached 500 Likes on the APME Facebook page. Thanks to everyone for signing on! Next goal is 1,000! Tell your peers!


Check out the APME Blog

Download APME Great Ideas 2011

Quick Links

Board of Directors

APME Bylaws


Enter Your Great Idea

Enter Innovator of the Month

2012 Nashville Conference

Online Credibility

The Associated Press

Ask the Editor

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

To receive APME Update by e-mail notify APME is an AP-member group of newspaper, broadcast and college education leaders founded in 1933 to provide input on the services of The Associated Press and to help newsroom managers become better leaders. A business league under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code, APME is funded through registrations and sponsorships at the annual conference, APME Supporting Memberships and in-kind support. The Associated Press Media Editors Association Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, supports educational programming. Membership in APME is open to senior print and online editors at AP-member newspapers and news directors, news managers or other senior positions at AP broadcast outlets in the United States and Canadian Press publications in Canada. It is also open to administrators, professors, instructors, leaders or advisers of journalism studies programs at recognized colleges and universities and to editors or leaders at newspapers, radio stations, websites or other news outlets at recognized universities and colleges.

Mailing address: Associated Press Media Editors Association, c/o Sally Jacobsen, The Associated Press, 450 West 33rd Street, New York, NY 10001. Phone: (212) 621-7007.



Please help us keep your contact information up-to-date. To change your profile, please click here.


We’re moving to two major magazines a year mailed to members, but we’ll start rolling out key stories on industry topics regularly on

The printed schedule will change to an APME conference preview publication sent to members in June, and a post-conference, APME look ahead edition to be sent at the end of each year.

"This is the right change for us, so we can offer rich printed publications at key times but have the ability to post timely stories online for our members,” said Bob Heisse, president of the Associated Press Media Editors. "APME News has been a great way to reach editors and now broadcast news leaders and educators, and with a digital focus its content will now reach more newsrooms in the U.S. and Canada.

Look for the first magazine story on our full-throttle APME NewsTrain program now run by the very talented Michael Roberts. Links to every new story will be included in APME Update, emailed to members every week.

For previous issues of APME News, visit

The contact for APME News is Michael Days, managing Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He can be reached at



Starting March 1, APME will host its fourth online auction, featuring vacation rentals, sporting events, iconic photos, books, tours and more to benefit our organization and programs.

Already pledged are: A condo near the beach in Avalon, N.J., framed AP images, a Pendleton Woolen Mills blanket, autographed books, a collection from the Masters, APME memberships, AP Stylebook T-shirt, signed Sports Illustrated cover, tickets to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and dinner, an APME Nashville conference registration.

Send your item description, value, suggested starting bid and a photo or photo suggestion to We'll run the auction and then you can ship or fulfill the item once the bidding closes. We try to make it easy, and we know it's fun.

And, please check through March to see what you can bid on. Share the auction with your friends and peers. We had our best online auction ever in November and hope to improve on that.



Dear Editor,

When a teenager was charged with threatening to blow up a school in Utah, The Associated Press did not use his name. Nor was a boy’s name used in AP reports when he was charged with killing his mother in northeastern Ohio.

Some members asked: Why not identify these young suspects? Unwarranted caution?

AP withheld the names under its policy of not identifying juveniles (under 18) who are accused of crimes.

By the same guidance, juveniles may be named in certain situations outlined in AP Stylebook "privacy” guidelines of 2010-11. Among the factors in AP’s decision: police formally release the juvenile’s name and the juvenile is formally charged as an adult.

Thus, AP named a 15-year-old boy formally charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the gunshot slaying of his teenage sister in Arkansas.

In the Utah case, AP opted not to use the name of the 16-year-old charged as a juvenile -- although his alleged co-plotter, 18, was named in AP accounts. In the Ohio case, the suspect was a 10-year-old boy in juvenile jurisdiction who was ruled incompetent to stand trial.

So what about handling identifications of young people involved in crimes?

Should AP use the names of juveniles charged with serious, newsworthy crimes -- or at least in more cases than it does now? Does your publication invariably print the names of juveniles charged with serious crimes? What, if any, are your exceptions?

We're seeking your views in a survey that takes just a few minutes to complete. It includes a question about a proposed new format for AP correctives.

Responses to this APME Sounding Board are needed by Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The survey link:
Password: Juvenile

If you encounter problems, send an email to

Many thanks for participating.

— Alan D. Miller, APME Sounding Board chair, Managing Editor / News, The Columbus Dispatch



Join APME now at our $150 rate and bring on another editor, educator or broadcast news leader free. Our 2-for-1 offer will last until May 1.

This is a great time to join, for reasons outlined below. But membership has more value than ever after the APME board reduced the price of entering our prestigious Journalism Excellence Awards from $75 to $50 per entry for members. Non-members will still pay $100 per entry.

Contest details will come out soon, but consider the savings you and the person you bring along will have. Reach out to a broadcast leader or journalism educator in your market, perhaps, or bring in another newsroom editor.

We'll also soon roll out three social media credibility webinars that will be offered to APME members at a reduced rate.

With more than 1,600 participants and 200 supporting members, the Associated Press Media Editors remains the practical voice for news leaders.

For the $150 cost of membership, you'll receive substantial discounts for the annual conference, APME journalism contests and APME webinars.

But there’s more:

• APME brings together news leaders from all sizes of publications and broadcast stations.

• The APME board of directors has dedicated seats for small newspapers, online and broadcast.

• Myriad programs, such as Sounding Board, help keep the lines of communication open with AP.

• News leaders can tap into AP resources on national projects, such as Broken Budgets and Aging America.

• Your newsroom can benefit from training that comes to you through NewsTrain and state APME organizations.

• APME is leading the First Amendment charge through its active committee work and with the help and resources of the AP.

• APME and APPM are at the forefront of the sports credentialing questions.

• Your organization can gain from Credibility Roundtables that offer research and insight into online issues nationwide.

• You can get great advice from the trenches.

• Great Ideas program and the Innovator of the Month contest help to keep the ideas rolling all year long.

• For educators: Access to the newsroom and broadcast leaders who do the hiring.

• Weekly APME Update with news from around the industry and the AP.

• APME News, the magazine that offers industry insight and guidance.

• The annual conference is held with Associated Press Photo Editors.

• Trade ideas and ask for advice from your peers at

Join today!



The annual APME Journalism Excellence Awards are expanding to focus even more on innovative work taking place across the U.S. and Canada.

We already offer the Innovator of the Year, now in its sixth year, for newspapers. We'll now offer Innovator of the Year for college journalism programs, radio and television stations.

Details and the entry platform will come in February on these three new awards. The deadline for entering is Tuesday, May 1.



NewsTrain will be in Phoenix on March 22-23 for a two-day workshop on watchdog journalism, developing enterprise off a beat, multimedia storytelling, how to cultivate community content, mobile tools and tactics, managing change, and more.

NewsTrain is sponsored by APME and this workshop is hosted by The Arizona Republic, Arizona Newspaper Association, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University, Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Daily Sun, Colorado Press Association, Nevada Press Association, Utah Press Association, and the Associated Press.

Cost: $50.

Location: ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Registration: Deadline is March 16, at

Workshop sessions

Unleash Your Watchdog – This is a program for reporters and editors on how to identify and pursue powerful watchdog stories from everyday records. Includes investigative techniques and strategies that lift high-impact enterprise from daily beats, and enable reporters and editors to create authoritative work on multiple platforms. The goal is not to wait for news, but to make it happen, whether you’re a reporter in the trenches or editor at the helm.

Digging for Data – Once a potential watchdog story is identified, how to use timesaving techniques to drill through mountains of information – from paper files to computer databases – and extract critical information that turns routine stories into must-read enterprise. Includes simple methods and innovative reporting tools to systematically mold raw data into hard-hitting leads and nut graphs.

Multimedia Storytelling: The latest in tools, formats, techniques and strategies for telling stories in multimedia. These techniques may be used for daily news coverage, short-term enterprise, and larger packages.

Community Content: News organizations are searching for ways to include more local content on their web sites. This session explores what kind of content is out there, how to reach out and develop relationships with those who are or can produce content, and the many ways that content can be brought into your web site. Includes examples, tools, and copyright or contractual issues that may occur.

Accountability Coverage: How to generate a consistent flow of watchdog coverage off a beat. Between the news scoop and a major project there are a variety of ways to build short and mid-range watchdog stories. This session offers seven different measures of accountability reporters and editors can use on a beat to produce a strong body of watchdog work around a public agency or issue.

Tools for Mobile Journalists: A program on many basic (and free) tools reporters and other mobile journalists can use to capture and post news and images from the field. Includes smart phones, simple cameras, apps, free software, reference materials, and easy-to-use web platforms. Bring your smart phones for demos and practice.

How to Shoot Great Short Video: Demand for short, timely video is high on all news web sites. This program covers how to shoot three of the most common types of short video with a smart phone or simple point-and-shoot camera. The focus here is on 30-60 second video that requires no or very minimal editing and can be posted quickly. Skills include framing, light conditions, sequences of shots, and more.

Impact Stories: In the constant stream of instant news, readers still want stories that explain the impact of the news on them. Increasingly, impact stories are the primary role of the daily newspaper. This program for reporters and editors examines the difference between a breaking news story and an impact story, how to frame an impact story, then report, write, and edit so "impact” is the primary focus, even across different types of stories.

Managing & Surviving Change: The news business and daily life in any newsroom is engulfed in constant change. This program offers a simple eight-step approach to managing change, for supervisors and staff, a model that can be used by small groups or entire newsrooms to navigate change effectively and keep the focus on strong results.

NewsTrain Idea Swap: The workshop will conclude with a lively session in which everyone is invited to share one good idea, best practice, tip, time-saving trick, or other nugget that can help others do a better job. In this session, people will have two minutes to quickly share their idea. Ideas will be collected in advance to produce a full collection that will be posted online.


Michael J. Berens is a reporter on the investigative team at The Seattle Times. He previously worked on the investigative team at the Chicago Tribune and began his career at the Columbus Dispatch (Ohio). Previous projects include the unchecked sexual misconduct among hundreds of health-care practitioners; a comprehensive analysis of hospital infections and the MRSA epidemic; FDA failures to thwart fraudulent medical devices; a military blunder with a vaccine that led to unnecessary deaths. Berens’ work has been recognized through many dozens of national and regional awards. He has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (beat and investigative reporting categories). First place honors in 2011, for his "Seniors for Sale" project on abuses in adult family homes, include Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE); the White House Correspondents Association; the National Press Club; Gerald Loeb Award; Association of Health Care Journalists; Society of American Business Editors and Writers; and Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Reporting at Harvard University. His latest project in December revealed how the state of Washington promotes the use of methadone as a low-cost pain killer through state-subsidized health care among the poor, a group with higher than average death rates from methadone use.

Mandy Jenkins has just accepted a new position with Digital First Media. She was most recently the Washington D.C. Social News Editor for the Huffington Post. Prior to that, Mandy was Social Media Editor for the startup; Digital Content Editor / Social Media & Projects at the Cincinnati Enquirer; Social Media Editor and Online Special Projects Editor, Cincinnati Enquirer; and an online news producer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She also writes the Zombie Journalism blog on digital media.

Jane Stevens is the editor of ACES Too High, where she is working to develop a national network of local health sites. She also writes the blog ReJourno, on remaking journalism on the web. In 2011, as director of media strategies at The World Company in Lawrence, Kansas, her community heath site, WellCommons, won an EPPY award from Editor & Publisher for "Best Community Service on a Media-Affiliated Website” under 250,000 unique monthly visitors. Prior to that, she was editorial director of Oceans Now, associate faculty at UC Berkeley’s Knight Digital Media Center, taught multimedia reporting at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and consulted with news organizations making the transition to digital media. In 1996, she was part of the first group of videojournalists at New York Times Television, and did multimedia reporting for the New York Times, Discovery Channel, and She’s worked for the Boston Globe and San Francisco Examiner as copy editor, assistant foreign/national editor, Sunday magazine writer, and science/technology reporter and columnist.

Michael Roberts is a newsroom trainer and consultant and Project Director for NewsTrain. Previously, Michael was Deputy Managing Editor Staff Development at The Arizona Republic (2003-2010), responsible for all newsroom training, served as writing coach, and edited major projects. Outside his own newsrooms, Roberts helped create and launch NewsTrain, designed and taught the American Press Institute’s first online seminar for copy editors, and has presented programs for the Poynter Institute, American Press Institute, the Maynard Institute, Freedom Forum, and various National Writers Workshops. Before the Republic, Roberts was Features Editor, AME/Features-Business, and then for 10 years the Training Editor/Writing Coach at The Cincinnati Enquirer. He also worked as a writer and editor at the Midland (MI) Daily News, the Detroit Free Press, and as a senior editor at two magazines.

Retha Hill is Executive Director of the Digital Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University. Previously she was vice president for content for Black Entertainment Television Interactive, an executive producer for special projects at, and an editor for local news, arts and entertainment at the Washington Post. She was also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and has presented programs for the Poynter Institute, the Online News Association, the American Press Institute, the Freedom Forum, and the National Press Club.

Rob Schumacher is a photographer / videographer with the Arizona Republic / He designed and led the photo training for Republic mobile journalists and the entire reporting staff.

For more information, contact Michael Roberts, NewsTrain Project Director,



If you're with a small-media company, then you should apply for the Community Journalism Public Service Initiative from the Associated Press Media Editors.

Media companies in metropolitan areas (MSA) of 100,000 or fewer people are encouraged to apply for the first-ever grant. The recipient will receive $1,000 to jump-start the initiative and a trip to the annual APME conference to present the project.

"APME is proud to roll out this new opportunity for smaller media outlets," said Bob Heisse, APME president and executive editor of the Centre Daily Times in State College, PA. "We look forward to hearing about and sharing what the winner accomplishes."

It's easy to enter: Just draft a proposal of 500 words or less and include examples of how you would approach the project. It should be multiplatform, include social media and address a long-standing community issue.

To apply, go to and fill out the online form. The deadline for applications is Feb. 26. The grant will be awarded in March.

Here are more details:

The Grant: A $1,000 grant will be given to a small-media company for a public service project that addresses a long-standing community issue. If results are shown, a representative also would receive an expenses-paid trip (up to $1,000) to the APME conference in September in Nashville,Tenn.

Eligibility: The media company must have a website and serve a metropolitan area (MSA) of 100,000 or fewer people. Preference will be given to Associated Press members.

Expectations: The project should use print and digital platforms and include social media and/or a mobile strategy. It should be considered entrepreneurial and should have the potential to be used elsewhere, including by a larger media company. Even though the project can be an ongoing series and continue after the APME conference, there will an expectation that a part of the project will be published before Aug. 1. The Innovator/Great Ideas Committee will contact the grant recipient in early August to determine progress on the initiative.

To apply: Go to to submit your proposal of 500 words or less, including examples of how you would tackle the project. The form will also prompt you to give your company’s newsroom staffing, website page views per month and your newspaper’s circulation or audience size.

Deadline: Feb. 26. The winner will be notified in March.

For more information, contact Joe Hight at



• USAID contractor work in Cuba detailed
• Denver Post: Group says sheriffs should protect against "federal tyranny”
• Miami Herald: Florida’s state lawmakers cut taxes and leave cost to locals
• Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio fracking involves hundreds of tons of chemical additives
• Arizona Republic: Claims of fraud and a trail of business failures
• Austin American-Statesman: Late payments cost Texas agencies millions
• Philadelphia Inquirer: Federal rules limit natural gas pipeline inspections
• Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Towns’ employees don’t reflect population
• Newark Sunday Ledger: City Council has fat budget in lean times

Read about these and more by clicking here


BEAT OF THE WEEK: Music editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody

Music editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody had just returned to her Los Angeles hotel room from two pre-Grammy events and was writing her Grammy laydown when her phone rang. Years of preparation were about to pay off.

The caller was publicist Kristen Foster, with whom Moody stays in contact via email and some phone chats. Now, Foster said she had to give Moody some news. Moody didn’t suspect anything big, much less one of the biggest stories of the year.

"I asked her how she was and she said she’d had better days,” Moody recalled. "I asked what was going on, and before she told me the news she prefaced that she could not give me any more details at this time and would have nothing more to add.

"She then told me that `Whitney Houston has passed away.’”

Moody’s first reaction was to call Foster back to make sure she could use her name, instead of quoting an unidentified source.

The APNewsAlert filed by the West Desk moved at 8:07 p.m. EST. Just a minute-and-a-half later came the NewsNow, followed six minutes later by a comprehensive, detailed, 1,300-word obituary – both part of the preparedness that Moody started five years earlier, at the height of reports about Houston’s struggles with drugs and alcohol.

"I have dealt with Kristen for years, from minor stories to major ones,” Moody said. "She's repped everyone from Tom Petty to Madonna to Seal. I have also dealt with her on other occasions on Whitney news. She told me that she did not want the tabloids to break the news that her client had indeed died. She considered the fact that the AP had it first to be the final justice for Whitney.”

Moody urged other AP staffers to go to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where the Clive Davis gala was held, for reaction from music industry figures, even before she knew that’s where Houston had died.

Beating all other news organizations was a major achievement in itself, considering that the bigger the name, the more intense the competition. It was even more notable given that all manner of entertainment-focused journalists were assembled for music’s biggest and most celebratory night of the year.

In fact, no one even came close to Moody. From TMZ to The New York Times, from MSNBC to Drudge to the Los Angeles Times, AP was credited across the board for an hour. Quite simply, no one else had the story.



The managing editor of The Repository newspaper has been named interim executive editor.

The appointment of Don Detore is effective Feb. 24. Jeff Gauger is resigning the position to become executive editor for The News & Record in Greensboro, N.C.

The Repository says Detore has worked at the northeast Ohio paper since 1985 and has served also as a writer and sports editor.

The Repository is a GateHouse Media publication with an average weekday circulation of about 55,300.



• Out-of-town crime can be hard to track in Mississippi.
• UK government: Press must face tougher penalties for breaching standards
• Developer may open rival Philadelphia newspaper
• Perelman denied bid on Philadelphia newspapers
• Biden says press freedom is critical to government
• Federal judge hears arguments over secret arbitration
• Bay Citizen and Center for Investigative Reporting plan to merge
• North Dakota nonprofit reads newspapers for those who can't

Read about these items and more by clicking here



George Esper, the tenacious Associated Press correspondent who refused to leave his post in the last days of the Vietnam War, remaining behind to cover the fall of Saigon, has died. He was 79.

"George was most famous for his journalistic chops, his courage and tenacity, particularly in Vietnam. But those lucky enough to know him will celebrate his enormous generosity and boundless good cheer," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor and senior vice president.

Besides covering stories, Esper mentored young reporters in the AP and aspiring journalists he taught as a college professor.

"Hundreds of journalists learned from him in the field or in the classroom at West Virginia University and his words and his spirit inspire them every day," Carroll said. "He was a gentleman journalist and we will miss him sorely."

Esper earned accolades for breaking important stories and logged 10 years in Vietnam, the last two as AP's bureau chief. He regularly wrote AP's daily war roundup, a comprehensive story that was a fixture in many American and foreign newspapers.

"He loved traveling the world and getting the story for The Associated Press," his son, Thomas Esper, said. "He was a selfless person who made friends wherever he went."

While he considered his coverage of the dramatic end of the 15-year Indochina conflict the high point in a 42-year career of deadline reporting, it was far from the only one. Esper was legendary for his dogged persistence in covering news in war and in peace.

"You don't want to be obnoxious and you don't want to stalk people, but I think persistence pays off," Esper said in an interview in 2000.

So when he was assigned to write a story for the 20th anniversary of the 1970 shootings of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University and could find no phone number for the mother of one of the victims, Esper drove an hour through a snowstorm to knock on her door.

"She just kind of waved me off, and she said, `We're not giving any interviews.' Just like that," Esper recalled. "I didn't really push her. On the other hand, I didn't turn around and leave. I just kind of stood there, wet with snow, dripping wet and cold, and I think she kind of took pity on me."

Like so many others over the years, she opened up to Esper.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1932, the second youngest of eight children, Esper came from a family of Christian immigrants from Lebanon. The family operated a tavern by railroad tracks and, as a boy, George helped out by tending bar.

He was the first in his family to go to college – West Virginia University in Morgantown.

He tried to become a sports announcer but was fired after two weeks for what his boss called "butchering the English language." After writing sports for the Uniontown Morning Herald and the Pittsburgh Press, AP hired him in 1958, first in Philadelphia and then in New York.

In 1965, as the U.S. military in Vietnam shifted from an advisory role to deploying full combat divisions, Esper joined AP's growing Saigon staff. Other than a return to New York for several months in 1966, he stayed to the end.

During that interlude, he covered a long-running public dispute between Jacqueline Kennedy and author William Manchester, whom she had hired to write "The Death of a President," an authorized account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Manchester tried hard to avoid the press but complained about "that AP reporter" who seemed able to track him down no matter where he was. It was a foreshadowing of the relentless style that, along with his mastery of Vietnam's capricious phone systems, would make Esper a press corps legend in Saigon.

Once, hearing that a U.S. jungle firebase was under attack, he managed to punch through by military phone to an officer in the middle of combat. "I can't talk now. We're under attack," the officer yelled into the phone.

The U.S. Military Assistance Command regarded Esper with wariness, respect and even affection. He was relentless. He recalled "pounding them with questions: `Why don't you know? You should know this. I know you know it.'" After the war, one retired public affairs chief included Esper's photo in a wall montage of "all the commanders I served under."

When President Lyndon B. Johnson made a hastily planned trip to Australia in 1967, it was widely assumed he would stop in Vietnam to visit U.S. troops.

Guessing that the coastal base at Cam Ranh Bay was the likely venue, Esper managed to phone the airport control tower, where an officer not only confirmed Johnson's visit but had tape-recorded his speech. Hours later, the secrecy-bound White House press corps arrived in Bangkok to find the story _ their story _ already on the AP wire.

Esper found his best stories through perseverance and guile. In December 1972, he landed an exclusive interview with a U.S. Air Force B-52 pilot facing court-martial for refusing to fly missions over North Vietnam. Tracked down in Thailand, the pilot gave Esper the full story. When he later told Esper he had been officially "muzzled" from further comment, Esper reported that, too.

Esper wrote his most memorable story on April 30, 1975, the day the war ended with the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. He and two other AP reporters declined to join the frantic evacuation of foreigners from Saigon as the North Vietnamese army drove toward the city.

Two North Vietnamese soldiers entered the bureau, accompanied by a longtime freelance photographer for the AP who on that day revealed that he had been a communist spy. He assured the reporters they were safe. Esper offered them Coca Cola and stale cake _ the only food on hand _ then interviewed the soldiers. Hours later, AP's communications were abruptly cut, but not before the story got out. The New York Times ran it on its front page.

Esper said afterward he was struck by how similar the young Hanoi soldiers were to the American GIs he had covered.

On his return to the United States, Esper became an AP special correspondent – the news service's highest writing title – based in Columbus, Ohio, and later in Boston. He covered major stories such as the Jonestown massacre in Guyana in 1978 and the 1991 Gulf War.
In 1993, two years after the United States restored diplomatic ties in Indochina, he was chosen to open AP's first postwar Vietnam bureau in Hanoi and was bureau chief for more than a year.

Esper retired from the AP in 2000 to become a professor of journalism at his alma mater, West Virginia University, where he was beloved by his students.

"He loved his students, who kept him young," Thomas Esper said.
Esper was a member of the university's P.I. Reed School of Journalism faculty for more than 10 years.

"He shared his vast professional experience with our students, but more importantly, he was their coach and mentor," said Maryanne Reed, dean of the journalism school. "Beyond being a dedicated faculty member, George also was a wonderful person who took a personal interest in the lives of his students, colleagues and friends. ... They broke the mold when they made George."

Chris Martin, the vice president of university relations who as dean of the journalism school arranged for Esper to become a professor at his alma mater, said: "I would paraphrase a good friend's assessment: George Esper was a celebrity who made everyone he met feel like a star. It made him a great reporter but an even greater human being."

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Esper's body was being brought to his hometown in Pennsylvania for burial.

Carl Hartman had big ideas before he joined The Associated Press in 1944 and became a foreign correspondent.

"I realized pretty early that I was not going to write the Great American Novel," Hartman said shortly after his retirement in 2006. "So the next best thing, the biggest audience you can say for whatever you have to say, is The Associated Press."

Hartman spent more than half of his 62-career moving around Europe. He led the AP bureaus in Madrid, Paris, Budapest and Brussels.

Hartman and his wife, Martha, lived in Europe in the wake of the destruction wrought by World War II. They were in Berlin in 1961 when the East Germans tried to shield their communist experiment from the flourishing West Germans by using a concrete fence. He would take his daughter, Jessica, to the fence site to watch the spectacle.

The Morristown, N.J., native died in his Washington residence a month after his 95th birthday, said Nancy Thompson, a friend.

"Carl's interests were wide and deep. He reported from world capitals and the halls of the World Bank," said Kathleen Carroll, AP vice president and executive editor. "He also wrote with descriptive grace about the fine arts, joyfully introducing millions of readers to the luminous domestic scenes of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. He was a delightful and charming storyteller all his life."

Hartman graduated from Princeton University in 1936 with a degree in English. After working for a Broadway publicist, he entered journalism and reported for the New York Daily News, a newspaper in Puerto Rico, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before joining the AP.

In 1978, Hartman returned to the United States, to the Washington bureau's foreign desk, and concentrated on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both headquartered in the U.S. capital. On the side, he started writing about the city's museums and other cultural pursuits, eventually establishing a new beat for himself.

Hartman's 62 years rank him among the longest-serving employees of the AP since it began operations in 1846.


AND FINALLY … Work sessions endanger transparency

The Sun Herald
Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss.

The Grenada Star newspaper of Gulfport, Miss., recently uncovered a plan by city and county officials to charter a bus and head 60 miles to Oxford to spend the day discussing business at a club near the town square.

The newspaper in the northwest Mississippi town began asking questions and ran an editorial about the retreat involving the Grenada City Council, Grenada County Board of Supervisors and others.

Officials denied the planned meeting at the Oxford University Club, but the paper confirmed reservations had been made for the meeting space and obtained a city letter outlining the plans.

In an editorial two days before the planned meeting, the newspaper contended that if it was public, adequate notice had not been given, and encouraged "responsible elected city and county officials" to disavow the gathering and not attend.

After reports by the Star, officials changed their plans and held the meeting locally and invited the public.
Though the newspaper did not have to file a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission over the matter, Star publisher Joe Lee III said the relationship with the city has been strained over this issue and others.

"We had to file a (public records request) just to get the planning and zoning permits yesterday," Lee said. "We have been getting those for years, but yesterday they decided we needed to file a request on that. It's a form of harassment."

Open government advocates decry the practice of elected or appointed officials holding "work sessions" to discuss often controversial issues without informing the public.

Some experts said the Mississippi Open Meetings Act is clear that anytime a quorum of an elected body is present, the gathering is a public meeting, which requires notice to be given and minutes to be taken for the public to read.
Advocates also complain about meetings of small groups of officials — less than a quorum — to discuss a specific issue. They contend the practices skirts the requirement of public notice and violates the Open Meetings Act.

The Legislature gave the Mississippi Ethics Commission authority over allegations of open government violations a few years ago. Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said current case law is clear on the definition of what constitutes a public meeting, but not so clear on what's not.

"If a quorum assembles, either by phone or in person, and they discuss a matter under their authority, that is a meeting, no matter what they call it. If you assembled a quorum, two by two by two, then you're circumventing the open meetings act and that is also a violation," he said.

"There is a gray area when you are talking about individual board members speaking to each other about matters of the public's concern, or even board members speaking to the public," Hood said.

State Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, chaired the Ethics Committee during the last four-year term of the Legislature. He authored Senate Bill 2289, which became law July 1, 2011, and increased the maximum fine for officials holding illegal closed meetings from the previous $100 to $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for a second offense.

Mississippi had been the only state that imposed the fine on taxpayers by assessing it to the agency's budget, but the law changed that to require officials to pay fines out of their own pocket.

The law also established a fine of $100 per violation for those who wrongfully deny public-records requests.
Flowers said he believes the issue of work sessions may need to be clarified in the Open Meetings Act.

"The vast majority of folks serving on boards and commissions are good, honest folks who aren't trying to break the law," Flowers said. "But to maintain the public's best interests, we need to continue to strengthen the open meetings law to provide total transparency."

Attorneys who specialize in open government issues said late last year they believed the Gulfport City Council was violating the open meetings law when it broke into small groups to discuss city business. The Sun Herald reported that six of seven council members admitted to doing so on a variety of topics including a $4 million bond issue to build a municipal complex downtown. The public was not invited to or notified about those gatherings.

Councilmembers said they believed the law allows them to discuss city business as long as they do not have a quorum present.
Attorney Henry Laird, who specializes in open government issues, criticized the meetings at the time.

"In my view, it's not even doubtful that having discussions of public business with less than a quorum is still a public meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act," Laird said. "One could argue that the Open Meetings Act does not expressly state, one way or the other, that you have to have a quorum to be subject to the Open Meetings Act," he said.

"But the Mississippi Supreme Court has stated that a quorum is not necessary to subject a public body to the Open Meetings Act. If any two officials are discussing public business, which is coming before that body, it must be discussed at a meeting where the public has a right to attend," Laird said.

"I don't think there's any malicious intent on the part of the city. I just think they're misinformed about the Mississippi Supreme Court decisions."

In 2009, two members of the three-member Mississippi Transportation Commission met with Madison County officials at a restaurant and discussed a road project, but they didn't invite the third member, Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, who serves the area where the project was to be located.

The email invitation to the meeting became the smoking gun in the Ethics Commission complaint Hall filed against then Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown and then Northern District Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor.

In his opinion on the issue, Hood noted that a quorum was present, the dinner had an invitation so it wasn't also a chance meeting or purely social gathering, rather an illegal meeting that wasn't open to the public. Hood also found no minutes were kept, which also violated the open meetings law.

Hood didn't recommend the two officials be fined because at the time law didn't require the $100 maximum to be paid out of the official's pocket. After Hood's findings were released, Brown told the Sun Herald such meetings were common during his time on the commission, but insisted no business was conducted.

"We don't conduct business, but it appears we may be violating some open meetings law, but we have been doing it for 10 years," Brown said. "Not just Commissioner Minor and I, but all three of us."

Leonard Van Slyke, a Jackson-based attorney who specializes in open government issues, said he is worried cutbacks at media outlets during a tough period for the industry could lead to an uptick in open-meeting violations.

"It tends to happen now more in rural areas where there is not as much media attention," Van Slyke said. "One of my great fears about what is occurring in the media business is that with fewer reporters available to cover boards of supervisors, city councils and the like, if there's no media present, there is much more temptation to do those kinds of things."

The longtime north Mississippi publisher Lee said he believes the public has a misconception about their right to observe government. "It's not about the media, it's about the people," Lee said.

"They need to allow the people ample time to go to their meetings, but sometimes the people can't go, so they pay us 75 cents to go to the meeting in place of them and tell them what happened. Over the years, the public makes their own judgment on whether we're good at that, but at least they're aware enough to ask questions."

Michael Newsom is a reporter for the Sun Herald.


ABOUT US: APME Update is published regularly by the Associated Press Media Editors Association. APME Update is edited by Sally Jacobsen. Send submissions by e-mail or call Sally at (212) 621-7007.
* * *
Please help us keep your contact information up-to-date. To change your profile, please click here.

Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

Quick Links

Home About News Events