I'm taking a few days off to get some down time during spring break. I'll return to probably 2,000 or so emails. Two-thirds I'll delete without opening. My incoming email is sorted into folders. One folder contains the spam that slips through our internal filter. That folder will account for the bulk of the email I get. No problem. I simply push the delete button and move on.
What happens when the editor of the newspaper doesn't get the paper delivered in the morning? Same as with any subscriber -- I call the 1-800 number to report that I didn't get my morning paper delivered. It happened this morning, and I find it aggravating every time it happens. Habits are hard to break, and going outside in the morning to fetch the newspaper is a habit I've taken a liking to pretty much my entire life. That's why the concept of the morning printed edition of the newspaper vanishing is hard to imagine. But it's out there. Talk of life without a printed edition of the newspaper is circling the industry.
The death of Johnnie Cochran forced us into decision-making mode on Tuesday afternoon. We felt we wanted his death on tomorrow's front page, so the decision now becomes what to push off the front page. Why did his death make the front page? He became well-known to the public during the O.J. Simpson murder trial and many didn't realize he had been sick so his death comes as a surprise.
Some criticism we receive from readers of our sports pages is that we regularly treat the men's NCAA basketball tourney with more prominence than the women's tourney. The point one reader made to me Tuesday morning was that we have not re-run the women's tourney bracket with the updated results but always re-run the men's tourney bracket with the updated results. He wants to know why that is. I agree with his criticism. Women sports still get inferior play in many sports pages. So do other so-called "minor" sports such as soccer. My followup procedure is to discuss the issue with our sports editors and hear from their point of view why we traditionally operate this way.
The internal buzz Monday was the departure of the Times' vice president of advertising, Phyllis Pfeiffer, who defected to the Chronicle to become that paper's senior vice president of advertising. The news dropped first thing Monday morning, and the executive offices at both newspapers were buzzing on the news and what it means. On one hand, it is flattering to the Times that the competition across the Bay would court and land one of our top executives. Means we have good people. On the other hand, it signals the intensity of the Bay Area's newspaper competition between the Times and the Chronicle. Simply stated: We own the growing, influencing East Bay suburbs in Contra Costa and eastern Alameda County, and the Chronicle would like to call the area its own. The competition is healthy and good for readers. One thing is for sure: No one person is so important as to tilt the scales one way or another. A newspaper is built by hundreds of employees and will come out the next day regardless of who is here or not here. That's the beauty of the newspaper. It's dependable and always on your porch or in your driveway.
I was listening to KNBR sports radio during the lunch hour and the two hosts were discussing last week's Barry Bonds episode. The remark that caught my attention was when one of the radio hosts said that it was when the Bonds story hit the morning papers that the issue really hit the fan. It remains true that newspapers are a great influence on society and in how news is presented and accepted. There is a lot of reflection going on in the newspaper industry about whether newspapers are still relevant given the 24-hour news cycle and the instant access to information via the Internet. There even has been some who would speculate that newspapers won't be around in another decade or so. I say hogwash. I remain bullish on newspapers. It is still the best way to get a full array of news and information in one form. It's the best way to showcase people and the talent that exists in the many communities. The problem isn't the fact that we provide information via a newspaper format. The problem is what's inside the newspaper, not the vehicle in which we distribute the information. I hope to continue to elaborate on that point. No doubt the newspaper industry has challenges before it, declining readership chief among them. But newspapers aren't dead. Not by a long shot.
The death watch for Terry Schiavo continues, with word that her death is imminent. It's always difficult to assess whether that is the case or not. In any event, we've had discussions on how to play her death in the newspaper. One discussion we had late last week was what would happen if both Pope John Paul II and Terry Schiavo died on the same day. One editor asked me whose death would be more prominent on our front page if both died on the same day. I said, without hesistation, Pope John Paul. In my mind, in terms of news value, I see the death of the leader of the Roman Catholic church playing much more prominently than the death of Terry Schiavo. To me, it's not that difficult of a call but more of a no-brainer. Nonetheless, it was an interesting conversation and an interesting decision to think about if it came to that.
Been wondering what the finger looks like that allegedly was found in the chili at a Wendy's restaurant? It's on the contracostatimes.com site. Our web producer asked me if I had a problem with putting it on the web site. I said, "No." Isn't that what the Internet is about? Unfiltered, uncensored.
Reporter Guy Ashley broke an important development in the Times Friday morning when he linked a mental health aide to the suspect who allegedly slashed the throat of a woman near the Berkeley Rose Garden. The mental health aide has been placed on administrative leave as a result of her connection to the suspect. Guy has additional information that will further link the aide and suspect. His reporting is breaking ground and breaking news on this Berkeley crime.
My morning was consumed with a launch into a strategic plan to remake the newspaper in all forms and to create a newspaper and online site that is absolutely the best. We're not looking to tinker around the edges. We're looking to create a revolution in our house and in the East Bay market we dominate. I'm not here to watch over the status quo. I'm here to create partnerships with the people who live in this growing area and to invite them to be partners with us. I want the readers of this newspaper and the users of our online site to bring their ideas and to implement their ideas. We want to turn heads. Time will tell if we're successful.
Our front page on Friday morning will feature a lead story on an initiative heading to California voters to adopt a law that requires parental notification for abortion. This is our first story on the subject and will be a new topic for our readers. The page also features the craze over the new PSP, Sony portable Play Station by our tech writer Ellen Lee. The Schiavo situation returns to our front page. We decided not to run a front page Schiavo story in Thursday's editions. At this stage of the week, we're building our weekend edition newspapers. Typically Thursday and Friday is a big push to produce the Saturday, Sunday, Monday papers since we move to smaller, more skeleton crews on Saturday and Sunday.
Hot news early this morning is U.S. Supreme Court declining request to weigh in on Terry Schiavo case. I heard the news at 7:30 a.m., pacific. When a development on a major news story happens this early in the news cycle, it's important for a newspaper like ours to find ways to bring context to the development in the Friday morning paper.