And the survey said: DDn to restructure

The reason the Dayton Daily news has lost readership isn’t that they have a liberal bias, or make idiotic endorsements, the reason the Dayton Daily news has lost readership is that they don’t write interesting stories.

With a huge staff (the billboards brag about 1,000 people to “serve you”) the best they can publish is a police blotter crib sheet and stories that are handed to them (often by me).

People have an even greater appetite for useful information- in case the DDn didn’t realize, Google makes a living out of just sending people to places to get good info. The DDn is struggling- for many reasons, but contrary to what the survey says- it’s not the liberal bias: it’s the lack of intelligent thought.

Julia Wallace came to town at the beginning of this year as the new publisher/editor/fixer of a broken newsroom and consolidator of Cox Media holdings in Dayton. She’s yet to write jack in the paper. If she’s been out to meet the people of Dayton- it’s not anyone I know (and I know a lot of people). But, she did order up some market research to confirm what she thought was the problem- and lo and behold she got the stats she wanted.

I questioned how long the DDn would keep editorial writers on board before she rode into town. Now, she’s planning to do the same here. We’ve been down to a staff of two in Dayton, since Scott Elliott left for the Indy paper right as Wallace came on board- and the output of Martin Gottlieb and queen Ellen Belcher has diminished since.

Rumor has it that Martin is finally going to head for the land of typewriters in July- and no one knows if Ellen will follow into retirement or get pushed into some meaningless job until she finds her exit strategy. No more endorsements- no more pontificating- the paper will have more room to run syndicated columnists- because- of course, we can’t have opinions or even discussions in Dayton without calling a blue ribbon panel and inviting half the town to weigh in.

Strong voices aren’t liked here- and Wallace has been doing a good job of not having a voice at all. What’s even more odd- is she’s insisted on screening every story on SB5 that goes into publication- an odd move for a managing editor- but, when you realize that the staff has been working without a contract for over ten years- you know that the Cox sisters have no use for organized labor.

But, to make things even more mundane- rumor also has it that the community doesn’t deserve it’s own columnist either- and Mary McCarty will be reduced to a feature writer- losing her Metro column. Not that McCarty has set the world on fire with columns that shine lights in dark corners or even spotlighting the many great things happening in Dayton- her schtick changed when she went off to China to adopt a little orphan girl and her column turned into a mommy blog.

There is and will continue to be plenty to write about in Dayton that never sees the light of day. Considering I do this site solo- with no compensation- and have managed to scoop the DDn repeatedly. This site gets about 30K unique visitors per month- and when I break news, it gets circulated among the power elite in Dayton. You read about it later in the DDn.

If there is one story I’ve been most proud to bring you- it was the uncovering of Qbase as a fraud and a political slush fund/pay to play operation. The DDN only got the story a year and a half later- and still didn’t get it right.

I was also pretty pleased about uncovering Congressman Turner’s wife’s firm, the Turner Effect, getting the no-bid contract with the Dayton Development Coalition- her over billing, the connection between DDC board members and Real Art- her primary subcontractor and then the subsequent finding that she held a GSA schedule and was doing work for the Army Corps of Engineers while her husband sat on the Defense Appropriation Committee- a direct violation of ethical standards. For icing on the cake I  also uncovering her work for the Home Depot PAC- a cute way to payoff a congressman through his wifes business. Neither company is still in business today as they were.

I’ve been on the forefront of City Charter issues, Board of Elections issues and introduced the Monarchy of Montgomery County to the people who care. That nothing has been done to unseat them- has been partially the work of Ms. Belcher- who has her direct connection to the Democratic machine through her husband, Judge Dennis Langer. You never saw anyone questioning the local party- even though it has failed to ever mount credible opposition to Mike Turner, and the party Chairman- Dayton Clerk of Courts Mark Owens ran Mayor McLin’s failed campaign into a concrete wall with 5x the budget against a nobody, but never got his IQ questioned publicly.

While Wallace may be screwing up the paper, and the community out of real news, the overthrow of Queen Ellen is long overdue and for that, we must say Thank you.

But, Julia- if you really want to improve the paper- it’s really simple- stop being a police and traffic blotter and get down to the real news and investigation on why we live in such a dysfunctional city. Dig out the waste and corruption, showcase our stars and take a few writing classes from Tom Archdeacon, because he’s the only one you have who can write something worth paying for IMHO.

I’ll be scooping you again on Wednesday morning. Get used to it.

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21 Responses

  1. Ice Bandit May 23, 2011 / 9:35 pm
    ….and when I break news…. (David Esrati)
     
    ….which is always more preferable than breaking wind……

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  2. David Lauri May 23, 2011 / 9:46 pm
    I’m still amazed that anyone thinks that many people will pay to subscribe to the Dayton Daily News to read syndicated columnists, news wire stories or pieces that are basically press releases.
     
    For example, currently featured on the DDN website under a “Stories you may have missed” teaser is a link for a story, “An app to help you remember milk,” that brings you to a page with the first two paragraphs of the story and then a box explaining that the rest of the story is available only to subscribers.
     
    Except it is available elsewhere.  Go to news.google.com and search for “Michael Massie” “Bob Ralian” milk, and you’ll find the entire text of the story, reprinted from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the Kansas City Star website.
     
    I do visit the DDN website just about every day to see if there’s something local of interest, but many times the DDN has nothing I care to read. I suppose I’d be a bit saddened if Dayton lost its only daily paper, but frankly we’ve already lost it, haven’t we?

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  3. Thomas Kohn May 23, 2011 / 9:53 pm
    Another columnist who has been relegated to “database reporting” is Ken McCall. No longer the advocate of cycling news, his primary subject is now analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census and the inferences made about the region from that data.
     
    If only the journalistic appraisals from Ira Glass would influence newspaper editors and their writers. Tell a story. First one event, then a related one, then another.. The compelling progression of life lends its own suspense, and allows a writer to offer an observation, a conclusion, even a moral at some point. It is not compelling to give us the who-what-when-where and then offer details of less and less interest.
     
    Long ago the Dayton Daily News eschewed its role as the Dayton source of information, opinion, and cultural comment. The sacking of the lifestyle writers some 15 years ago was a beginning of demise. All else followed the same path.

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  4. Ice Bandit May 23, 2011 / 10:13 pm
    Mary McCarty will be reduced to a feature writer- losing her Metro column. (David Esrati)
     
    ….O Tempora, O Mores. Oh sad and rueful day. For no longer will Dayton and the Miami Valley be subjected to the scornful sermons of resident scold Mary McCarty. From the day McCarty rode into town from Mount Olympus on her custom cloud, she sized up the collective moral and intellectual fibre of Valley residents and, sadfully dear David, we just didn’t measure up. When the legislature was considering broadening concealed carry gun laws, the Miss Cleo of Fourth and Ludlow predicted every fender bender would result in a Dodge City worthy shootout. Right after 9-11-2001 she chastised area residents for a supposed upcoming backlash against Muslims. The fact that neither happened is not nearly as illustrative of her lack of talent as a prophet as much as the utter disdain she displays for her readership. From the fervor McCarty displayed after the voters disallowed gay marriage one would expected her to start rolling on the sidewalk while speaking in tongues. And from her obsession with saving eyesore Julienne High School from the wrecking ball, one would think this relic was on par with the Colisseum in Rome. Once, while Greene County wrestled over naming a highway in honor of a long-serving Xenia doctor, McCarty waxed indignant and offered a list of five Greene County residents she thought were worthy of the honor. That same day, the Old Bandito submitted to the DDN a list of five area people who could write a better column than McCarty, a list that included the crazy Cambodian woman who used to rant and swear incoherently on her way out the Biltmore Hotel. Perhaps the Mayor can observe this news by declaring a school holiday or organizing a parade down Main Street complete with high school bands and dancing bears….

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  5. Dayton Daily Disappointment May 23, 2011 / 10:35 pm
    If the DDN was at all a useful paper they would be taking the lead in investigating why disturbing information about the Board of Elections keeps coming out year after year.  They should be doing a full investigation using public information requests into the money spent on travel by the directors’ at the BOE over the last 5 years and whether or not they brought their family members with them and what they spent our tax dollars on. 

    They should investigate why former Secretary of State Brunner banned her staff from attending a lavish “Monte Carlo Night” conference party in Columbus organized by director Harsman in 2007.  They should find out if it is true that the current BOE director gave out fine gift baskets with ipods, wine, and other expensive gifts paid for by vendors to government employees.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a disturbing pattern developing there.  The public needs a voice and the DDN simply has nothing to offer.  We need a new paper run by people that actually care, like Esrati.

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  6. Gary Leitzell May 23, 2011 / 11:09 pm
    The people of this city already know that I have a “Love/Hate” relationship with the local paper. They love to hate me. I hate to love them. Martin Gottlieb has struck out with me 4 for 4 and Ellen Belcher plays a cautious role when dealing with me because I think she has realized that I am smarter than they would ever give me credit for. Let’s be truthful here though. The DDN has done more to bring this city down than any other entity in the Miami Valley. They have nothing positive to report and are the primary source for creating the problems of perception that we face every day. Here is one fact that I think will amaze people though. I learned this while campaigning because I placed an insert in the DDN on the Sunday before election day. Only 26,000 people living in the City of Dayton received the Sunday edition of the DDN in October 2009. (I am sure it is less now.) I suspect that their total distribution is below 100,000 and what is more, in January 2010 at a meeting with then editor Kevin Riley, I offered to assist them increase their newspaper sales. They chose to continue to report negative spin on me. I don’t believe that I have met a single person who likes this newspaper and I have met so many who have ceased their subscription stating that the paper really s*%ks and is obviously bias. The DDN has done an excellent job of alienating themselves from every individual in any position of power that could help them. The paradigm has shifted and it is not in their favor.  This is old news though. People have been saying this for at least 5 years. Let me pose this question (because I have already had the discussion several times.) What would happen if a coalition were formed and every major advertiser withdrew their support for this paper unless they changed their reporting?

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  7. truddick May 24, 2011 / 6:58 am
    Leitzell: “…The DDN has done an excellent job of alienating themselves from every individual in any position of power that could help them….”

    And why, pray tell, do we need to rely on people in power?  In my view, a newspaper OUGHT to be alienating people in power.

    The problem is that DDN alienates not by filling the proper function of a free media, exposing stupidity and corruption and fraud.  No, they alienate by publishing pure stupidity (is McClatchy news service run by chimpanzees–or am I insulting the intelligence of the chimp population by wondering?) and by violating long-held standards of journalism (publishing, for instance, falsehoods and slander anonymously in the “Speak Up” feature).

    Look at today’s front page headlines: “Tax Breaks Could Add 600 Jobs to Region”.  Here’s a clue: the tax breaks are not adding the jobs; consumer demand and a company that seeks to fill it are creating the jobs.  The tax incentives are just another in a long line of corporate welfare payments by governments who won’t discipline themselves to levy taxes evenly across the board.  The same headline could have read “Tax Breaks Will Give Some Companies Profits While Starving Local Schools” and it would have been more honest.

    But they won’t listen to criticism.  Ellen Belcher will continue to believe that even ignorant, offensive opinions deserve respect.  DDN will continue to hire cheap interns who didn’t learn spelling or grammar.  And eventually the next era of journalism will emerge, probably online.  Buh-bye, DDN, maybe your print facility in Franklin can convert to billboards for PETA’s microwave baby campaign.

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  8. joe_mamma May 24, 2011 / 8:23 am
    I agree that the liberal bias isn’t the issue.  I actually enjoy reading columns with which I disagree.  That’s why I come to this site.  However, Ellen and Marty rarely are capable of putting together a penetrating argument in support of their lefty agendas.  Scott elliot did a decent job when he was covering the education beat and I though we might see some more conservative commentary or thoughtful rigor when he was added to the editorial staff.  Didn’t happen.  They are basically just boring and predictable.  I say add some spice…put Ice Bandit on the editorial boardD!!!

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  9. David Esrati May 24, 2011 / 8:45 am

    @Gary the Mayor- It’s not all about you. The paper sucked long before you even came to Dayton. As long as Queen Ellen has been on her throne, the political parties and their minions have been left alone. That’s a huge part of the problem- you were just lucky Mark Owens is an idiot and mailed your picture out to every household over and over. You have a blog- you haven’t been publishing the good news at a faster rate.

    @David Lauri- you point out a major failing- that they have no clue about how to do business online. They will continue to fail until they realize that their readers are their community and they must respect them. Online it’s just more apparent than with the print edition.

    @TRuddick-dead on.

    @Thomas Kohn- the whole beauty of online is it frees the writers from having to limit their writing to fit a hole- the DDN has gone the opposite way- with shortened stories and less meat. Deadly.

    @Joe Mama- I agree- I read things I don’t agree with- and relish it- especially if it’s written well. I don’t agree with IceBandit much (other than hockey is the greatest sport ever and that CJ Chans has good Chinese) but, I do enjoy his writing- if he’d ditch the use of the word “Dear” – something he started about a year ago- his stuff is awesome. I think Stan Lee was his Daddy- but, I bought an awful lot of Marvel pulps in the day.

    @Dayton Daily Disappointment- the day they let me write for them, will be the day that last Saturday was supposed to be. Armageddon. I wouldn’t be against getting paid to write- and therefore have more time to do the heavy work that journalism requires- and would welcome an editor, but, Cox has no interest in hard news- or good news or even bad news presented well – and that’s the problem.

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  10. somedude May 24, 2011 / 10:49 am
    @ Mayor Leitzell: First, 99.9 percent of Daytonians have no idea that you have a love/hate relationship with the paper. Most don’t know, and don’t care. That’s just your “I’m Mr. Important” showing through.

    “The DDN has done more to bring this city down than any other entity in the Miami Valley.”

    Wrong. The war on manufacturing, coupled with the racist, hypocritical War on Drugs has done more than anything to bring down the city down. That you would think a mediocre daily newspaper is enough to bring the city down, shows some serious logical problems going on in your thinking machine.

    “I offered to assist them in their newspaper sales”

    I’m sure that they were impressed with your vast knowledge of publishing, seeing that you publish a four-page neighborhood newsletter that’s merely neighborhood association promotional pablum.

    “The DDN has done an excellent job of alienating themselves from every individual in any position of power that could help them.”

    It’s not the job of people in power to “help” journalists. It is the job of journalists to check power. That you think it is your job to “help” the newspaper sell copies just shows buffoonery going on in your skull.

    I’m no fan of the Dayton Daily News, but Mayor Gary Leitzell comes off as a big baby who can’t take heat or dish it, a telltale sign of a narcissistic mind.

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  11. Unimpressed May 24, 2011 / 12:37 pm
    Oh, dear. Another Esrati temper tantrum aimed at the — gasp — local newspaper.
    Sorry, but I’m not impressed. Actually, if you could go six hours without using the DDN as the foundation of your “blogging,” that would be a start in the right direction. Come to think of it, if you could manage to get your name on a local ballot — or simply not blame everyone but yourself when you fail to do so — that truly would be impressive.
    A challenge, David: Gather your own news. Don’t just pontificate on the work of other journalists (like Tim Tresslar in the post just above this one.)
    Or simply grow up. Either one works. And either would be amazing in your case.

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  12. Bruce Kettelle May 24, 2011 / 1:00 pm
    Are there any papers in this country suceeding in markets our size?

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  13. David Esrati May 24, 2011 / 4:37 pm

    @Kettelle- I’m not an expert- but, I’d guess that the Oregonian isn’t doing too bad. Most are still totally lost about how to effectively move their business model online.

    @Unimpressed- and I’m sure Thomas Gnau gave me credit on the Qbase story…. or the fact that the only place you read about the GSA schedule held by a congressmans wife was here.

    Go back to your job at the DDn- while you still have it.

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  14. Jeff Dziwulski May 24, 2011 / 6:41 pm
    I sort of liked the DDNs database reporting.  They provided a lot of numbers that I used as a source for blog posts….a good example are those RTA posts I did on volume of riders by route. 

    As for Scott Elliot..he’s a conservative?  I wondered what happened to him…off to Indy, huh?  Believe it or not he actually mentioned…and linked…to my blog once or twice in his own DDN blog.   Boy was that a suprise!

    In other markets the paper that does do the muckracking, “new journalist” type of reporting is sometimes the local free weekly.   I’ve seen good stuff like this from LEO, down in Louisville (they just did an expose on a local non-profit).  The Chicago Reader does this kind of modern muckracking, too. 

    Instead we have the uber-lame City Paper, which is just as news-less as the DDN, but with worse layout & graphics.   So that leaves…well…this blog, really,  as the only interesting source for local commentary.

    As far as the DDN printing negative news about Dayton, maybe if Dayton wasn’t such a behavorial sink and economic basket case the news wouldn’t be so consistently bad.  Fact is this is a declining metro area and that fact is going to generate the kind of stories that you see, which is a narrative of decline and stagnation, & the consequences of this.

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  15. somedude May 26, 2011 / 8:00 am
    Instead of a sure-to-fail boycott of the DDN advertisers (what a naive idea – their advertisers are in the burbs for the most part), why doesn’t the mayor propose the following:

    Bequeath an aspiring young media company with 30 or 40k of the money laying around that the City Department of Economic Development loves to give to companies to pay for their move here, and let them build a great news operation (all digital with text, pics, video, audio). 30 or 40k would let them pay the light bill for a year or two while they sniffed the pavement of Dayton for the next big scoop.

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  16. Brad May 26, 2011 / 9:05 am
    Some random observations of all this…

    -Although the Mayor does come off a bit arrogant in the entry above, it’s still good to see him post his opinions here.  I think he’s spot-on that the DDN shows an almost exclusively negative slant toward stories specifically about the City of Dayton.

    -I will give the DDN credit for one thing in recent memory:  shit-canning the “comments” section after news stories on the website.  That was an absolute disaster, and reading the mindless, idiotic, hateful remarks of complete morons made me want to launch my computer across the room more than once.  I eventually got pissed enough one day that I called and cancelled my home subscription after reading a ridiculous slew of comments online.  My small moral victory that day…

    -If Belcher and Gottlieb are really leaving soon, good riddance.  I will never forget when Gottlieb wrote 4 or 5 consecutive editorials after the last Mayoral election trying to justify and cover over the fact that he’d completely fracked the pooch.  He was relentless against Leitzell before the election, and then spent his next few columns trying to explain it away.  What an idiot.  Admit you fraked up and move on.

    -And finally, I do find it amusing that Esrati does in fact seem to continually scoop the local news on some pretty important stuff.  Although I most certainly don’t agree with everything he posts, and am often turned off by the dick-ish attitude, I will admit that I find this site to be a wealth of local inside information and I come here almost daily.  To that I say: keep up the good work.  Because the DDN obviously isn’t doing it.

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  17. Gary May 27, 2011 / 8:05 pm
    David Lauri May 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm  I’m still amazed that anyone thinks that many people will pay to subscribe to the Dayton Daily News to read syndicated columnists, news wire stories or pieces that are basically press releases.
    Congratulations David, you got it right, you wrote how the DDN is supposed to be written–it’s time we give the Dayton Daily News some respect!

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  18. Gary May 27, 2011 / 8:06 pm
    Dayton Daily News

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  19. Gary May 27, 2011 / 8:23 pm
    I tried to underline the paper twice but it didn’t work, before and after, sorry everyone, my Internet Exploder is outdated and I cannot upgrade at all …
    Scratch out doesn’t work, either, testing, testing.

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  20. goodidea May 31, 2011 / 7:31 am
    @somedude: Maybe you could hire all the copy desk folk who will lose their jobs when the desk moves to Atlanta (as it’s strongly rumored to). There are some talented people there who are severely underused, to put it nicely.

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  21. Brad July 5, 2011 / 10:01 pm
    Well, the DDN apparently still thinks it’s a good idea to leave comments open on “blog”-type entries…

    Uhhh, why?

    Either way, it’s nice to see that the old “Great in Dayton” guy is obviously back… or likely never left…

    Why did I cancel my DDN subscription????  Oh yeah, that’s right.  Because shit like this is allowed on the site.

    Here’s his insightful entry on a story about the upcoming downtown boxing-themed events:


    Comments


    By DAYTON IS A HUGE STEAMING TURD SMACK DAB IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND!!!!
    July 5, 2011 7:35 PM | Link to this
    DAYTON SUCKS!!! IT’S THE MOGADISHU OF THE MIDWEST!!! A THIRD WORLD CITY!!! A HUGE STEAMING TURD SMACK DAB IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND!!!! BULLDOZE DAYTON AND START OVER!!!! DAYTON IS REDNECKS, CRACK, METH, SKANKY HOOKERS AND 40 OUNCERS!!!!DAYTON SUCKS!!! IT’S THE MOGADISHU OF THE MIDWEST!!! A THIRD WORLD CITY!!! A HUGE STEAMING TURD SMACK DAB IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND!!!! BULLDOZE DAYTON AND START OVER!!!! DAYTON IS REDNECKS, CRACK, METH, SKANKY HOOKERS AND 40 OUNCERS!!!!DAYTON SUCKS!!! IT’S THE MOGADISHU OF THE MIDWEST!!! A THIRD WORLD CITY!!! A HUGE STEAMING TURD SMACK DAB IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND!!!! BULLDOZE DAYTON AND START OVER!!!! DAYTON IS REDNECKS, CRACK, METH, SKANKY HOOKERS AND 40 OUNCERS!!!!DAYTON SUCKS!!! IT’S THE MOGADISHU OF THE MIDWEST!!! A THIRD WORLD CITY!!! A HUGE STEAMING TURD SMACK DAB IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND!!!! BULLDOZE DAYTON AND START OVER!!!! DAYTON IS REDNECKS, CRACK, METH, SKANKY HOOKERS AND 40 OUNCERS!!!!

    I reported it as “abuse” and hopefully it will be removed…

    But really?  Is it necessary to keep this insanity going??  DDN???  Are you listening????????????????

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