Dayton Daily News to stick a finger in its eyes

After years of pathetic writing, lame reporting, idiot editorializing and a butt ugly unsophisticated design, the Dayton Daily News has gone on a mad run to try to regain readership. All of a sudden, “investigative reporting” is its new thing. The “iTeam” is out to tell us all about government waste and prove that we’ve elected idiots (most of whom they endorsed).

Despite years of a community urging it to report the positive in our community, it’s still the “If it bleeds, it leads” only it’s about bleeding red ink from government coffers- after moving the police blotter back to the end of the local section.

Brilliant marketing minds came up with a two-week free subscription- try it, you’ll like it so much you’ll want it back. Only thing is what they want to sell is the dead-tree edition, as if the iPad, Kindle and computer aren’t tools of choice for those who really care about the news. Since they have a very expensive printing plant, the answer must be printing- just as if all you have is a hammer- everything looks like a nail. Cox can’t figure out that commentators are your most avid news readers- and major generators of site traffic, instead of welcoming them and building value from their content- they instead drive eyeballs to Facebook, instead of to their own site. Why they aren’t firing the digital top-dogs instead of actual content generators is proof that the Peter Principle is alive and kicking at the DDN.

The billboards, with pictures of people we don’t know, or don’t care about tell us about “customer service” and others tell us it’s the best paper yet (forgetting we haven’t had a choice since the Journal Herald shut down – and even then it was a Cox production).

Last Friday, Editor Jana Collier sent a memo to union chief Lou Grieco giving notice 60 days in advance that 4 editorial assistants and two to four photographers need to hit the bricks. Her attempt at writing in legalese is tortured, with a mish-mash of fonts showing cut and paste from the union contract (the one that hasn’t been ratified for something like 12 years) and her legal department.

Two-time Pulitzer prize-winning photo journalist, and now the Dayton Daily News photo editor, Larry C. Price, decided to resign instead of cut half of his department. In a well written letter to his staff he explains why he fell on the sword:

On Friday, I was asked by the editor in chief to devise a plan to eliminate up to four positions on the photo staff through selective layoffs based on perceived competence.

I cannot and will not do this. I do not believe the layoffs are fair to you as individuals or that they are in the best interest of the Dayton Daily News and our readers. If these cuts are enacted, it will be impossible to meet the Cox initiatives for covering breaking news, sharing content with our media partners and growing our online presence.

I deeply feel this decision by Cox and CMG Ohio management is misguided. The collective savings here are minuscule in comparison to revenue. They certainly pale in comparison with the value of what you as a team bring to the table.

Apparently no one in the Cox Media Group gets the fact that more pictures, not less are needed online to drive page views. Typically, the online iPad edition has less photos than the print edition, even though adding virtually unlimited photos to online stories without additional costs has been figured out by every other major news outlet. Photos cost to print- but, online a photo is really worth a hell of a lot more than 1000 words.

Editorial assistants are responsible for compiling going-out guides, school lunches, church notes, the filler from the press release submission system. Former editorial page editor Ellen Belcher used to have her own EA for letters, and speakups, which just shows how little that woman did at the paper other than contribute to smearing every single independent thinker in the community.

In Grieco’s email to the union he debunks Collier’s “reasoning” for the cuts:

It is because we have “too many” photo and support positions, largely because we have not had any attrition in those two categories, as we have among managers and reporters. This is, in the case of the EAs, not true. In 2008, there were nine full-time EAs. Today, there are five. Three EAs took buyouts and another became a copy editor.

There are more photographers on the list today than in 2008, but that is because the company has reclassified two people who were once considered online. We’re also told that we don’t need as many photographers as before because we’re not using photographs the same way in the paper and because there is not a need for online photo galleries because the Company cannot monetize them.

Despite being a crap paper for the last 15 years, the photojournalism displayed in the Dayton Daily has always been exceptional. Shooters like Jim Witmer, Ty Greenless, Teesha McClam and others have often prompted me to drop emails to them about their fantastic photos I’ve seen in the paper.

There are ways to win back readers, but cutting content creators (especially the uniquely local aspect of photography) is like a fine woodworker selling off his miter box and chisels.

If the Dayton Daily News merger with Ch 7 is ever going to create real synergy, it was because of the new hi-def video capabilities of the digital SLR cameras. Of course, it would also require Cox to learn that embedding Flash video in their sites excludes them from views on the Apple iOS devices. Besides Cox’s pathetic ability to be on top of search in Google (even when searching for their own photographers list that I linked to above) Cox ignores the number two site in the world, YouTube where video is HTML 5 and Apple iOS compliant.

Of course, you won’t read this story in the Dayton Daily News, either. Only on do you get the real scoop on news in Dayton. Thanks to my many DDN sources. It’s good to know that some of you like to take care of the person who gets you leads for stories without ever getting credit in your rag. Keep trying to get a contract, and put out a paper we can be proud of despite the idiots at the top. Too bad they have a million to blog on kayaking in Dayton, but can’t keep a top notch photo team on the payroll.



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36 Responses

  1. David Lauri August 30, 2011 / 7:58 am
    Only on do you get the real scoop on news in Dayton.
    Although I already knew this, I got to see this firsthand in the past week.  Give a scoop on a local situation to David Esrati, see it written up on, see local blogs pick up the story and then get a call from a DDN reporter and see a story in the Dayton Daily News.  Dayton’s lucky to have you as a resource, David.

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  2. David Esrati August 30, 2011 / 10:30 am

    @thanks David L. And it was nice seeing you on the front page of the DDN Local section this Sunday. Mr. Lovelace invited me to a fund raiser on his facebook page last night- a “survivors prayer breakfast” for $25 per head- I let him know how I feel- suggesting it’s time for him to retire. Comment was gone this Am.


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  3. Will Brooks August 30, 2011 / 10:49 am
    I dunno. After living in Dayton and getting used to the gawd-awful reporting (a.k.a. if it bleeds it leads) and then moving to Cincinnati, where the reporting covers a helluva lot more than crime, I have to say you are right on the money. I still follow, along with WHIO and DDN. WHIO and DDN are simply bad news outlets. Cincy has a lot more crime than Dayton and some of it is reported. However, the news outlets here report on a many, many other things. Particularly articles of human interest and local events. Dayton is also packed with things to do and a lot of really good people. Yet, many of those things seem to be overlooked in favor of crime. Anyway, your points are very obvious to someone from the outside looking in. Perhaps, DDN should hire someone from the outside to shake things up?

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  4. DDN Reality August 30, 2011 / 11:43 am
    DDN doing investigative reporting? What a joke. They should have run multiple first page articles on what has been going on at the board of elections to facilitate a full clean out of the criminal directors and Dem supervisor there that hire drug dealers, drug users, drunks and rapists while screwing up 100’s of provisional ballots and driving off third party candidates. There are a number of current staff at the BOE that want to leak new dirt on the BOE to the DDN but hesitate because they saw the DDN help the BOE leadership cover up the most recent whistle blowing effort just three months ago on provisional ballots.  If someone sends sends the DDN more whistle blowing information on the BOE will the DDN do its job this time and follow Esrati’s lead and call for the criminals at the BOE to be fired or help them cover it up again?  DDN are you listening? Is anyone home?

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  5. jimmie August 30, 2011 / 12:22 pm
    Great story David, it’s a shame that the strength of their organization is getting cut. keep up the good work.

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  6. David Esrati August 30, 2011 / 1:18 pm

    @DDN reality- I have no problems publishing BOE stories :-)

    It’s amazing how many DDN staffers have sent me notes thanking me for this post. I know you all aren’t idiots- it’s the top that’s broken.


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  7. niki937 August 30, 2011 / 1:35 pm
    Hey David. I think you’re a kook, but… I also think you’re right. It takes people like you to keep journalism alive, and to hold journalists accountable to the community they serve. Cheers to Larry Price for doing the right thing.

    Well-loved. Brilliant: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  8. Hall August 30, 2011 / 3:23 pm
    Regarding Lovelace’s ‘breakfast’, he invites people and then expects them to pay ??? That’s like me having a get-together at my house, inviting people, and then telling them to bring food and drinks ! Heh, it’s a great deal if people do it though !!

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  9. DDN Reality August 30, 2011 / 5:41 pm
    Some of the new BOE information includes everything from more balloting problems to Harsman and Smith’s 2007 O.A.E.O. vendor bribe money funded conference casino party in Columbus that then SOS Brunner banned her staff from attending. Several staff members still have a bone to pick over being forced by Harsman, Smith and King to do things like stand up and cheer for Harsman when he said “the MCBOE is the best dam BOE in the state” during a speech he gave at the conference attended by all conference goers. They followed orders and cheered out of fear as failure to do so would get them reported to party bosses as “not team players” by Harsman and Smith and open themselves up for harassment by Harsman, Smith, and King especially in the salary and bonus department. Harsman and Smith wanted to create a “best dam BOE in the State” facade to advance their careers according to a current staff member. Only two months earlier they disenfranchised 600+ provisional voters and covered it up to keep their façade intact. Best dam BOE in the state, how sad is that?

    Curiously the link to a Columbus Dispatch article that talks about why SOS Brunner banned her staff from Harsman and Smith’s “Monte Carlo Night” casino blowout from an earlier post on is now not available. I wonder if someone called in a favor or the Dispatch just removed it for the hell of it?

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  10. sarah August 31, 2011 / 9:48 am

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  11. B. Martin August 31, 2011 / 1:20 pm
    Why, in a visual age, do newspapers – and their websites – want to decrease the quantity of great news/visual imagery and the information the images provide?

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  12. Will Brooks August 31, 2011 / 4:33 pm
    @Sarah – if what you say is true and DDN is heavily tilted towards those in their sunset years then I guess as readers expire so do subscriptions.

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  13. Sarah Walker August 31, 2011 / 9:43 pm
    @Sarah – how on earth do you come up with Dayton is CONSERVATIVE???!!!  McLin elected 2x (when your employer endorsed her the Op Ed stated that McLin deserved a second chance to “make it right” – um…huh?)  I have NEVER in my life read a paper that so twists itself into a pretzel to endorse liberal-left-wing talking points.  That is the problem with your paper Sarah (and yes you work there it is YOURS) is the utter abject hypocrisy of the DDN.  They scream for union “rights” – NB their coverage of SB5 on the ballot  – but the DDN hasn’t had an agreement with the Newspaper Guide in over 20 years?!  They have reporters like Joanne Huist Smith to tell the public that their property taxes going DOWN will affect their re-sale value (WRONG, WRONG, WRONG) and did so while behaving a tad TOO close to Karl Keith’s Office (could almost see the puppet strings…).  As a matter of fact that one reporter should be fired for her incompetency or maybe paid for it – I am still fence sitting on that one.  Ellen Belcher had favorites in political interviews and she cut more than one Op Ed to the point where the writer had to send the actual language to her and demand a re-print. Martin Gotleib?  Endorsed DPS but sent his children to Oakwood?  You are a glaring example as to why most of us who post here no longer pay for the DDN – totally out of touch.

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  14. Mark Wasson September 1, 2011 / 2:18 am
    @Sarah – I’m not sure why you think the paper can’t change or the seniors will get upset.  The paper has actually changed a lot over the years, and especially in the last 10.  There’s a lot less content, and a lot less to the content that it does provide.

    The papers DDN and JH were pretty decent papers for a city its size when I moved there in the mid’80s.  It had lost some of its edge by the time I moved away a decade ago.  I return to Dayton a few times a year and would buy the paper when I was in town.  I still remember just how jarring the change was when I picked up the paper on one of those trips.  Must have been a really slow news day I thought until I bought the next day’s paper.

    Did all the senior readers stick with it through those changes?
    It’s gotten so bad that were I to move back to Dayton, I wouldn’t bother subscribing.  I was a long-time fan, I like a hard-copy paper, I appreciate the fact that a lot of newspapers have had to scale back what they publish as subscriptions drop and the web competes for attention and ad dollars, I don’t expect Pulitzer-level journalism out of a mid-market paper, and here in Seattle I read two papers daily.  So although I’d be a good candidate as a subscriber, the DDN just doesn’t have much interesting to say, certainly not enough to justify paying for it.

    And that’s unfortunate.  Dayton could use a paper that emphasizes local journalism (and local photos).

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  15. Greg Hunter September 1, 2011 / 8:19 am
    “There’s a lot less content, and a lot less to the content that it does provide.”

    See you get her point…..This very statement could be said about the old people who take the paper….

    As to the pretzel comment….well the Paper is a Corporate Rag as all the others are so while they pander appear to cater to Dems or Republicans it is about the paper and the return on investment.  If one studies the history of papers the owners were happy with 8-10% ROI, but when they figured out they could sell them to corporate interests who demanded much more ROI then the demise was on…..Basically it hit at a perfect time….Mid 80’s before the internet when ad revenue was the highest, one could cut content, maintain subscribers and make a killing 40%….By the time of the internet the content was dead and then the ad revenue dried up so all the paper had left was mediocrity in content, no ad revenue and no clue how to get readership back……Uh do news that generates readers….

    Now why endorse McClin, easy that endorsement drove people to the suburbs where they endorsed austin road and all of the sprawl south of town where their big new print plant was located….Follow the money as the DDN (Cox) is not about news….

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  16. David Sparks September 1, 2011 / 9:51 am
  17. sarah September 1, 2011 / 10:15 am

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  18. John Ise September 1, 2011 / 11:31 am
    Isn’t what happened to the DDN what’s happened to most all local newspapers…namely they followed the lead of USA Today (“the newspaper for those too for the more complete coverage of television”).

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  19. Gary September 1, 2011 / 8:31 pm

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  20. toyotadesigner September 5, 2011 / 1:56 am
    there is not a need for online photo galleries because the Company cannot monetize them.
    What is the value of a photograph today?
    What is the value of a photographer today?

    I remember the times when a photograph used to be a document with a certain value. But over the past years the value changed, the photograph went down the gutter from being a document to ending up as a cheap commodity. 

    The ‘we want cheap and maximize our profits‘ already transferred millions of US jobs to Far East. Now the publishers start to erode and erase their basis, shifting their source to the lousy flickr & co sites.

    If all jobs will be killed, who is going to pay the US depths?

    Anyway, thanks for making waves which finally reached me in good ol’ Europe. At least now I know where Dayton is located and that it is an interesting community! 

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  21. David Esrati September 5, 2011 / 10:17 am

    Thanks for finding us- and reminding us about the intrinsic value of actually employing people in America. The thing is- news can’t be reliably crowdsourced- and if it is- it can be crowdsourced by anybody. The DDN is in a position to lead- but instead, chooses to abdicate to the almighty dollar.

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  22. mim September 5, 2011 / 4:09 pm
    Did DDN stop allowing comments? I don’t see the option anymore.

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  23. David Esrati September 5, 2011 / 8:16 pm

    @mim yep- comments are either on Facebook- or the few blogs they still write.

    This story has made the international circuit- at least the part about Larry Price quitting on principle. You read it here first. Even the Dayton Business Journal gave credit for breaking this story.

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  24. sarah September 6, 2011 / 8:53 am

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  25. Gary September 6, 2011 / 12:05 pm
    David, May I make a suggestion for your next post? Post on the way things are out there in the city verses the way we would all like to see the City of Dayton be.  I’m tired of Black ministers coming to the podium and crying racism still in Dayton …
    As for Sarah; this is the way business is, but about your nose stud, that was a joke if you had read it more carefully; and, about the banker, well, first of all there was no drive through.  Secondly, I said if he did get fired I would feel badly for him!  But again, this is just the way it is out there and it’s far from a perfect world … Even computers and technology break down because they were made by people …
    Sorry to get way off topic everyone … Now, irony alert on:  Per Larry Price:
    On Friday, I was asked by the editor in chief to devise a plan to eliminate up to four positions on the photo staff through selective layoffs based on perceived competence.
    I cannot and will not do this. I do not believe the layoffs are fair to you as individuals or that they are in the best interest of the Dayton Daily News and our readers.

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  26. David Esrati February 16, 2012 / 1:17 pm

    Just found credit for breaking this story- on the site of the Dayton Newspaper Guild- front page.

    Unfortunately, it’s not a WordPress site so the story may disappear- but here is the quote:

    Dayton blogger David Esrati first reported the layoff plan and Price’s resignation. Other media outlets, including the Dayton Business journal picked up the story. The Business Journal’s Ginger Christ posted this commentary on the Dayton BizBlog. The AP and journalism sites such as the well-read Romenesko have also covered the story. The Dayton Business Journal was also the first to report on Cox’s plan to to consolidate copy desk operations.

    via Dayton Newspaper Guild.

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  27. Gary June 28, 2012 / 8:00 pm
    What’s going on David?  Have you hired a bunch of cronies to applaud your blog?  They are showing up all over the place!
    No biggie though.  Just scammers maybe or Nan … :-)

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  28. David Esrati June 28, 2012 / 9:53 pm

    Gary- the spam filters haven’t been working- I’ve tried to recalibrate them today- hopefully it should solve the problem. Sorry for stupid emails.


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  29. David Lauri July 23, 2012 / 9:16 am
    Related to the comment from “dissertation topics,” “Nice Positng and is really very informative.looking forward for your next post,” Cory Doctorow recently uncovered the “Large collection of default spam-comments from a slimy SEO tool:”

    This morning, I woke up to find that someone who was new to the tool (or unclear on the concept) had left a spam with all of the default comment messages in it, dumping the full database of anodyne comments intended to fool both the spam-filter and the human operator into thinking that the sender had read the post and was replying to it. 

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  30. David Esrati July 23, 2012 / 11:07 am

    Thanks for the link David Lauri- I’m looking at some of the suggested spam solutions- it’s been driving me nuts- sorry for the problems.

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