Erik Gunn | Page 3



Man at the Top

Photo credit: rangizzz/Shutterstock The man who will run the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s new parent company is in town this week, meeting with executives and others at the newspaper and its corporate offices. Currently head of the newspaper group at E.W. Scripps, Tim Stautberg (right) will in 2015 ascend to the post of CEO of the new Journal Media Group – the new Milwaukee-based company that will install the JS as the flagship of more than a dozen newspapers across the country in the complex transaction that will cede all of the Journal Communications broadcast holdings to Scripps. “It’s important for me…

Paper Chase

Photo credit: Paket/Shutterstock So what lies ahead for the new Journal Media – the new newspaper company that will launch when the Journal Communications/E.W. Scripps deal is completed in 2015? Journal Communications Chairman Steve Smith – who was present at the first private conversations out of which the complex merger-and-spinoff grew – enthusiastically declared it an “everyone wins” transaction when it was announced July 30. Meanwhile, in an email message to me, a New York media consultant compared the arrangement to cutting off a rotting leg. To recap: Scripps – owner of 14 newspapers, TV stations in 16 markets and…

The Aftermath

On a Thursday morning three and a half years ago, readers of the Wall Street Journal opened their newspapers to find Gov. Scott Walker’s byline on an article defending his first big legislative initiative. The night before, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature had passed the bill – rewritten to remove a procedural roadblock so they could act without 14 state Senate Democrats who had bolted from Wisconsin nearly three weeks earlier to stall the vote. On that Thursday, the bill would go to Walker for his signature. Headlined “Why I’m Fighting in Wisconsin,” the article began: In 2010, Megan Sampson was…

Wrong Target?

Mary Burke holding up nomination signatures in Waukesha on Thursday. (photo by Mary Burke campaign) You’ve heard about the recent PolitiFact item that declared reporting from the Journal Sentinel “False”? No? Well, that’s not surprising. The paper buried the lede – and blamed a politician for repeating its own error. That the politician happened to be Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke simply fueled the suspicion of political activists, who saw it as one more sign (along with the ownership of conservative commentary website Right Wisconsin by the paper’s corporate parent, Journal Communications) that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is in…

A Marriage Made in Madison

Two Wisconsin media institutions with a national reach are becoming one. This week, The Progressive and the Center for Media and Democracy went public with a merger the two left-of-center non-profit corporations quietly consummated last month. It’s a combination that Lisa Graves, the CMD executive director who will now head the combined operation as president and publisher, says will help both win larger audiences while sharing resources. Graves spoke with me Wednesday morning, just after news broke that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to abolish federal limits on campaign donations – a ruling that she ascribed to “arrogant judges…

Raw Deal

It was a cloudy and mild June day nearly four years ago when the agents came to Vernon Hershberger’s farm, 15 miles west of Baraboo in the rolling hills of Sauk County. They were from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), and from the Sauk County Public Health Department, and they called their visit an inspection. Vernon Hershberger calls it a raid. In a report, one of the agents recorded what the team had found. There were cows, of course. And there was a milking barn, milking machinery and a stainless steel tank filled with milk.…

Bye-bye GannettBlog

Much to my disappointment, Jim Hopkins decided to hang it up last month.   Who, you ask?   For years Hopkins maintained the Gannet Blog, which kept an eye on the Gannett newspaper chain as it struggled through the implosion of the mainstream news industry over the last decade. Hopkins, a former Gannett employee, was a sort of highly specialized Romenesko, covering just one news organization – albeit one with outlets all over the country, including 10 daily papers in Wisconsin.   I haven’t found a data point yet, but it’s my sense that a huge number of working journalists…

On Second Thought

Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson put out a press release excoriating the Federal Communications Commission for plans – now abandoned – to, as Johnson described it, “question how journalists work.”   What was that all about?   It’s a very long story, but it boils down to this. The FCC, founded 80 years ago this year, has a wide range of responsibilities, all revolving around the idea that the radio airwaves aren’t the private property of broadcasters, but belong to you and me – the public. Much of its regulatory role involves technology: The FCC is what prevents someone from…

A Turn for the Better

More like this please. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened up my Sunday Journal Sentinel and saw Gina Barton’s latest Watchdog report on the criminal justice system – this one on deaths in police custody.   I think Barton has done important work over the years. Investigative reporting on law enforcement can be among the most thankless of jobs in journalism.   At the same time, I’ve been highly critical of some of the newspaper’s ventures into this topic – most notably its ham-fisted coverage on mistakes in police crime statistics, which I wrote about here and…

Rod Stewart’s Tiny Worlds

  Rod Stewart When pop superstar Rod Stewart played Milwaukee some years ago, he made a point of visiting one locally based communications enterprise. No, it wasn’t the daily paper (or a monthly magazine, alas). Nor was it an alt-weekly or a radio station. The visit in question had nothing to do with the raspy rock singer’s day job. On an idyllic Saturday in April 2007, Stewart took a quiet ride out to Waukesha on Interstate 94 and dropped in on the offices of Kalmbach Publishing – and the enthusiast publisher’s flagship magazine, Model Railroader. And so began what has…