Saturday, June 02, 2007

Quarter of Merc staff to be laid off

Forwarded by a Toasted Postie:

Mercury News plans to cut one-quarter of newsroom positions this summer

By John McManus
Posted May 31, 2007

Sixty more newsroom positions – almost one in four -- are to be eliminated at the San Jose Mercury News this summer after a layoff moratorium negotiated with the local Newspaper Guild expires, Grade the News has learned.

John Bowman, executive editor at the San Mateo County Times until last week, said the staff reductions were discussed at an April meeting he attended at the Mercury News along with top editors of MediaNews, which now owns every paid daily newspaper around the San Francisco Bay but the San Francisco Chronicle. The proposed cuts would affect 24% of the 250 member Mercury News staff.

Mr. Bowman said he disclosed the layoff plan and resigned as executive editor of the Times because he was fed up with MediaNews' policies of trying to run newspapers short-handed.

"They're way past the point of diminishing returns, of penny-wise, pound-foolish," Mr. Bowman said of MediaNews' operations in the Bay Area.

David Satterfield, managing editor of the Mercury News, refused to discuss staff cuts. "I'm not going to talk about that sort of thing," he said. "We don't share that widely. "I think it has been a difficult start to the year," Mr. Satterfield added. "That's the word we keep getting from our advertising department."

Kevin Keane, vice president for news/California Newspaper Partnership-North, said, "I'm not in charge of the Mercury News. I'd prefer not to comment."

Susan Goldberg, who resigned as executive editor of the Mercury News in May and this week joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the same capacity did not respond to a phone call or an email message concerning the staff cuts.

Both Mr. Keane and Ms. Goldberg were at the April meeting in which the staff reductions were discussed, according to Mr. Bowman.

"Sixty is huge; oh my God!" Mercury News business reporter Elise Ackerman, exclaimed. "As far as I know nothing has been decided," commented Mercury News reporter Julie Patel. "If that's true, it would be devastating for the quality of the journalism that we do. It would definitely affect the public because there are fewer people providing quality information, translating public issues and engaging people in things that impact them."

Ms. Ackerman said the public has yet to realize how vital newspapers are in making a region a good place to live and do business.

A resident of downtown Oakland, Ms. Ackerman said prior MediaNews' cuts at The Oakland Tribune have deprived citizens of an effective champion against city corruption and mismanagement.

"The Tribune is actually doing a pretty good job of covering things that are important to me, but there are some really important things that aren't being covered right now," she explained.

Among those are corruption in city hall and a soaring crime rate. The FBI is investigating a "pay to play" atmosphere in city government, she said, but not the newspaper.

"The Tribune reporters are good and hardworking, but this stuff doesn't get covered in the newspapers because they don't have the staff."

"When a newspaper becomes so weak it's not an effective counterbalance to the incredible arrogance of some public officials, it can't play watchdog for the public," Ms. Ackerman added. "I'm afraid the same thing will happen in San Jose."

At the Mercury News, she continued, "my colleagues go the extra mile to find out what's going on at city hall. They try very hard to keep city council accountable. It's a much more successful area as a result." Businesses are reluctant to locate in Oakland, she said, because of concerns about municipal corruption and crime.

"Any more cuts would obviously hurt the paper, hurt the community, hurt employees," said Luther Jackson, executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild. "A paper is a critical part of the fabric of the community."

Jackson said the Guild would have to be notified of any reduction in force greater than 50 employees. He had received no such warning, he said Wednesday. The Guild negotiated a moratorium on further staff cuts until July when it agreed last December to accept the elimination of 35 Guild positions at the Mercury News. The newspaper employed approximately 380 journalists at its peak in 2001, Managing Editor Satterfield said.

Dennis Uyeno, lead salesman in the classified advertising department of the Mercury News and a San Jose Newspaper Guild vice president, said losses in the newsroom "will make it much harder to sell ads. If you want to sell advertising, you have to have a quality product."

He said many at the Mercury News had been hopeful MediaNews owner Dean Singleton would have used the resources of the two-time Pulitzer-winning paper to improve MediaNews' other Bay Area newspapers.

Former San Mateo County Times editor Bowman said the April meeting at the Mercury News may have been a factor in Ms. Goldberg's departure as executive editor. She had tried to spare the Mercury News some of the 60 position reduction, he explained, but was told the other MediaNews properties were already operating on such thin staffs they couldn't absorb further cuts. After the meeting, "she seemed pretty defeated," Mr. Bowman said.

Reductions in staff have been common at newspapers across the country in recent years. The San Francisco Chronicle announced May 18 that it would trim 100 newsroom jobs from its 400-member staff in coming months. Newspapers have been losing both subscribers and advertisers to the Internet, according to figures compiled by the Newspaper Association of America. Their most recent data shows those losses are accelerating.

While staff cuts at the Chronicle came in the context of a newspaper reportedly losing millions of dollars a year to operate, MediaNews reported a $4.3 million profit in the first quarter of 2007. According to a May report in the Denver Post, MediaNews' flagship paper, the profit was fueled by the acquisition of former Knight Ridder newspapers, such as the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

MediaNews' owns 61 daily newspapers and 120 nondaily publications

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tom Overton services, eulogy

There are several services for Tom Overton:

There will be a visitation today (Saturday) from 5-9 at the Pace-Stancil Funeral Home, 302 Crockett, Cleveland, TX.

There will be another visitation Sunday from 4-9 at the Pace-Stancil Funeral Home, 302 Crockett, Cleveland, TX.

There will be a Rosary Sunday at 7 p.m. in the midst of the visitation.

The funeral service will be Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s church, 702 E. Houston Street, Cleveland.

To accommodate those who can’t get to Cleveland, there will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. Friday, April 27 in the Chapel of St. Basil, 3802 Yoakum on the University of St. Thomas campus.

-- Fred King

Forgot something … any of us is welcome to say a few words about Tom at the service. Just let Judy Overton know in advance so she can alert the presiding deacon. Her e-mail is tover62331@aol.com.

Thanks Fred

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tom Overton passed away

Via Tom's family, friends and coworkers:

Tom Overton passed away peacefully Thursday night, April 19, at about 11 p.m., surrounded by family.

A funeral service will take place Monday, April 23, at 11 a.m., at St. Mary's Church, 702 E. Houston St., in Cleveland. There will be a rosary the night before; details are not yet available.

In addition, to accommodate those who can't get to Cleveland on Monday or Sunday night, a memorial service will take place Friday, April 27, at 2 p.m., at the Chapel of St. Basil, 3802 Yoakum, on the University of St. Thomas campus.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Brenda G.'s eulogy for Vic*

Query: What’s the word most Posties think of when they think of Vic Edmonson?

For many of you, that word, more than any other, evoked memories of Vic. Former Post features desker Robin Dalmas, now of Redmond, Wash., said that “Vic distilled a six-word sentence, ‘I have a question for you,’ into one simple word that we understood immediately. How could writers and editors not love that?”

Vic was one of the first people I met when I went to work at the Houston Post in December 1990. He was the first friend I made there and continued to be my friend when our lives took us in different directions after the Post closed in 1995.

At first I didn’t know what to make of him. When I would greet him or thank him for helping me, he would make a comment about buying small bearded people pizza. He did it in such a deadpan manner that I wasn’t sure if he was going to give me trouble down the road. Instead, he came to be the Postie I relied upon most of all.

In April 1995, when it became apparent that the Post would close soon, Vic and I agreed that we’d call each other the minute either of us heard any news. When my phone rang April 18 at 9:30 a.m., I knew what it meant. That was the shortest conversation we ever had, because Vic had more people to call.

Another onetime Post newbie, features writer Randall Patterson, offered this story:

When I came to the Post, Vic gave me the tour of the building. Such an enormous place it was, and I was already giddy when Vic opened a door into the pressroom and the roar and spectacle of the giant presses churning out the big-city newspaper. Whatever they were printing lay on pallets, in stacks of thousands, and I was thinking about where I was, in a sort of reverie as I reached for a single copy, and heard Vic, behind me, telling me to put that back, that stealing is forbidden at the Houston Post, and I could get fired. He was so decent and vivid, I don't think I'll ever forget him.

Martha Liebrum, the former Post features editor and assistant managing editor, had a keen appreciation of Vic’s abilities. She explained it this way:

You said Vic was my right-hand man, but in fact, he was much more: He was my left brain ... the part that’s supposed to be linear, logical and calm.

Before Vic, I paid most attention to what I valued: good and accurate stories. The administrative stuff was necessary but of least interest to me. Vic helped us build a reputation for running efficiently. He didn’t help; he caused us to have that reputation.

Before Vic, I almost always managed to have people come in for a scheduled appointment, and I’d be shocked because I had lost my notes about the schedule. After Vic, no more awkward moments.

He took on a tremendous burden in watching that people got paid, that their overtime was on the check, that their expense accounts cleared F&A.

He put up with a lot of guff from some of our hard-to-live-with personalities, but he still got the job done, facing down fire-breathing dragons who shall go unnamed.

When he finished a long day in Features, he’d often work overtime in Sports, or wherever he could. He was loyal to the Post and would have been there forever, as I would have been if it had stayed in business.

I’ve worked at a variety of things since The Post and often thought how much many of those enterprises would have benefited from having Vic there.

Lori Colvin, former features desk editor, agreed, saying, “He was more than Martha’s right-hand man; he was everyone’s right-hand man. And I suspect things won’t be any different up there in his new heavenly place. He will probably be St. Peter’s right-hand man!"

Vic had dirt on all of us. He loved to hear the latest gossip but seldom contributed any, saying he was out of the loop. But we all knew better. Just as securely as he locked those Features file cabinets at the end of the week, walking off in his Friday flip-flops, Vic took his secrets with him when he left this world.

Ken Hoffman, a columnist at the Post and now at the Chronicle, offered this anecdote that pays tribute to Vic’s finely tuned attention to detail.

Dick Clark was having a TV special about the history of rock ’n’ roll, and I scheduled a phone interview with Fabian.

Remember him? Big teen idol from the early ’60s. Went by one name, sort of like Charo or Fabio or Bono.

Fabian was late calling me, so I went out for lunch with Rusty San Juan.

When I got back to the Post, there was a note on my desk from Vic.

It said, “Mr. Forte called for his interview.”

Now let's imagine that conversation.

Fabian calls and asks for me. Vic says I'm not there, but can he take a message?

Fabian says, sure, tell him that Fabian called.

Vic says, OK, but is Fabian your first or last name?

Uh, it's my first name. I'm Fabian.

May I have your last name?

Huh? OK, it's Forte.

In 40 years, he hasn't used his last name. He's just Fabian.

I get a message that Mr. Forte called.


Vic took casual Fridays seriously. His ensembles almost always included flip-flops and often included tank tops. On Friday evenings, he made a point to tell people who left before him to drive carefully. On one such evening, Mark Hanna, the Post’s entertainment editor, prepared to leave. As usual, Vic said, “Drive carefully.” Mark stopped, looked at Vic, said, “No, Vic. I’m going to drive like hell,” and prepared to storm off. Vic looked a little stunned but didn’t miss a beat. He smiled and told Mark to “drive like hell,” establishing a new Friday routine.

Jay Frank, the Post’s radio reporter, offered the following anecdote:

One day I was working on a column and called Brent Musburger, the longtime CBS sportscaster (now with ABC). His assistant said he was out but that he'd call me back in 45 minutes. So I decided to go downstairs and get something to eat. I got my usual ham sandwich, with an added treat — navy bean soup. If you recall, it was actually pretty good.

When I came back, there was a message on my desk that Musburger had returned my call. When I called him back, I thanked him and told him I was working on a column on whatever.

"No problem; we'll get to that. But first, how was that ham sandwich?" he asked. "And did you have the navy bean soup with it?"

I said something like, "Wow. How did you know that?" I was sort of puzzled as to where he got that piece of information. What else does he know?

"That fella who answered the phone filled me in," he said. "Very polite young man ... and good with details."

"Yes, he is," I replied.


Ernie Williamson, the Post’s executive editor and now assistant managing editor at the Chronicle, made the following observation.

As years roll by, I find myself reminiscing more and more about the good times at the Post. It’s strange, really. Lower pay, fewer resources and some strange bosses. But we had a good time, largely because we had the best people.

Vic certainly would be among the most memorable. He would, and could, do almost anything asked of him. And he did it well.


Former assistant entertainment editor Rebecca Goodballet recalled that Vic “was always donating blood. One time he came in to work and told Ann Valentine that he had given blood for her, even though she didn't need it.”

Former Features reporter Clifford Pugh, now style critic at the Houston Chronicle, said Vic “had an unbridled capacity for seeing the good in life and the good in people. Vic was a major reason I have such fond memories of the Post. Even when I think of him now, I can’t help but smile and have a good feeling about life.”

The last time Vic and I talked, the conversation drifted toward TV, as it inevitably did. I told him I had been watching a lot of “Magnum P.I.” reruns lately, knowing it was one of his favorite shows. He said the thing he liked about Magnum was that even though the characters would give each other a hard time on a regular basis, they would have done anything for each other when one of them was in need. He frequently made that same observation about his Postie friends. It’s the sort of thing he would have called an odd coincidence.

I’ll conclude with a comment from Lynn Ashby, former editor-in-chief of the Post, now editor of H magazine. “Vic was always a happy soul in a city room that was not always that happy. He had a way of making me smile. In a world that was bold font, he was italics.”

— 30 —

* Except for the "drive like hell" story, which she saved for the after-party.

Vic Edmonson, Chronicle obit

Houston Chronicle obit, April 13 editions:

Vic Edmonson, former Houston Post employee, dies at 46

By MELANIE MARKLEY
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Wayne Victor Edmonson, a much-loved character who handled administrative duties in the features department of the Houston Post before it closed, died Saturday from illnesses related to diabetes and chronic heart problems. He was 46.

Former Post editors and reporters say Edmonson was highly efficient and a stickler for detail when it came to his job, which involved answering phones, overseeing expenses, and doing other administrative tasks. Edmonson also wrote occasional reviews and kept track of entertainment listings in the newspaper.

Ken Hoffman, a Houston Chronicle columnist who then worked for The Post, recalls a time when Edmonson took a call from singer Fabian, who was responding to Hoffman's request for an interview.

Hoffman, who had gone to lunch when the call came in, returned to find a message from Edmonson.

"Mr. Forte called for his interview," the message read, even though Fabian, the one-time teen idol and singing sensation, had never been known by anything other than his first name.
Hoffman said the message typified Edmonson's approach to the job.

"Every little detail had to be perfect," Hoffman said, "so when Fabian calls, it's Mr. Forte."

Clifford Pugh, another former Post reporter now at the Chronicle, said Edmonson's attention to detail could drive people crazy, but he did his job with such zeal and enthusiasm that it was hard not to love him.

"He had an unbridled capacity for seeing the good in life and the good in people, which in our business isn't always the case," Pugh said.

Friends say Edmonson was an avid Trekkie who loved science fiction, collected comic books and considered pizza — especially Hawaiian pizza — the most perfect food in the universe. He also tried to see every movie that came out. Last year, said former Post colleague Brenda Gunter, he saw 224.

Martha Liebrum, who was features editor at The Post before she became assistant managing editor, said Edmonson started as a copy messenger before moving to the features department and taking the job as administrative assistant.

Liebrum said Edmonson was more than just her right hand.

"He was my left brain," she said, "the part that's supposed to be linear, logical and calm."

Edmonson, who had bachelor's degrees in journalism and English, started working at The Post while still in college and remained there until the newspaper closed in 1995.

Edmonson then took a job as a ticket sales agent for Continental Airlines, where he was promoted to a customer service position and then to a similar position for Continental's Disney Vacations branch. He worked there until his death.

Survivors include his mother, Frances "Becky" Edmonson of Houston; a sister and brother-in-law, Debbie and Jessie Robinson of Houston, two nieces and a cousin.

A memorial service was scheduled Thursday evening.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tom Overton in hospice care at home

Excerpts from e-mail circulated at University of St. Thomas:

Tom Overton, director of public affairs, has now entered another phase in his long and courageous battle with cancer and is receiving hospice care at his home. We recognize that all is in God's hands now and ask that you please keep Tom and Judy, Matt and Nathan in your prayers.

If you would like to include a card or message to Tom, we will make sure he receives it! As of April 11, Tom was still receiving visitors and Judy really appreciates anyone who can come by to see him.

Their address is 1202 Plum Grove Road, Cleveland, TX. I would suggest calling Judy ahead of time: 281-659-1373.

Many thanks,

--Sue

Susan E. Bradford
Executive Director for Institutional Advancement
University of St. Thomas

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Vic Edmonson, 1961-2007


From Brenda G:
Wayne Victor Edmonson, 46, passed away Saturday, April 7, at 4:57 a.m., due to illnesses related to chronic heart- and diabetes-related conditions. His close friend Bill Bates, whom he had known since high school, was at his side when he concluded that final journey.

Born Feb. 25, 1961, in Houston, to Wayne and Frances "Becky" Edmonson, Vic, as he was known, lived in the Westbury-Sharpstown area until moving with his family to Missouri City during junior high.

He graduated from Dulles High School in 1979. During high school, he began working at Burger King, where he met several lifelong friends, and rose to the rank of manager while in college. He also was a past master counselor, the highest ranking in the DeMolay Lodge No. 1336 in Bellaire, a Masonic preparation group for young men, leading his group to receive a first-place award with an essay he wrote for a statewide competition. He attended Houston Baptist University on a full academic scholarship, graduating with bachelor of arts degrees in English and journalism.

In 1982, while still in college, he got a job at the Houston Post as a contract copy messenger. In 1984, he transferred to the features department and full-time employment, serving in an administrative role supporting features editor Martha Liebrum. He continued in that position, later supporting Julie Gilbert when Liebrum became assistant managing editor and Gilbert became features editor, until the Post closed in April 1995. During his 13 years at the Post, Vic made many friends in the features department and across the newsroom. He distinguished himself as a skilled administrator, assisting the Post's leaders in managing budgets that grew sparser and more challenging each year. He also contributed regularly to the newspaper's entertainment listings. His finest moment at the Post, however, was when the newspaper published his review of the film "Star Trek: Generations" in 1994.

As the Post moved toward closure, Vic began suffering from ill health. Instead of immediately seeking employment when the newspaper closed, Vic spent that time seeing his family through the long process of his father's decline, until Mr. Edmonson passed away later that year. In early 1996, he took a job at Continental Airlines as a ticket sales agent. He continued there until his death, being promoted to a customer service position and then to a similar position for Continental's Disney Vacations branch. Just as he did at Burger King and the Post, Vic made numerous longtime friendships while serving in various areas at Continental.

He was preceded in death by his father. In addition to his mother, survivors include his sister and brother-in-law, Debbie and Jessie Robinson, of Houston; two nieces, Megan, of Redding, Calif., and Danielle, of Houston; and a cousin, Joyce Shea, of Detroit.

A memorial service will take place Thursday, April 12, at 7 p.m., at St. Philip's United Methodist Church, 5501 Beechnut at Renwick, in Houston.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Philip's United Methodist Church, 5501 Beechnut St., Houston TX 77096-1005; checks should be addressed to “St. Philip’s UMC” and specify "In Memory of Vic Edmonson."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bud Bentley passes away

From Fred:

Bud Bently, who was The Post’s art director when he retired in 1983, died on Christmas Day. His obit is in today’s Chronicle.

ALBERT FRANKLIN BENTLEY III died on December 25, 2006.
Mr. Bentley was born on Bentley Hill in Temple, Texas, on May 28, 1913, the second son of Cleo Pace and William Gladstone Bentley. He was the grandson and namesake of A.F. Bentley, a civic and business leader, as well as a pioneer builder of early Temple.
Mr. Bentley had a long career as a newspaper artist and cartoonist with The Houston Post, where he was well known for his byline as Bud Bentley for almost forty years. He retired as Art Director in 1983.
Mr. Bentley started his newspaper career in 1940 with The Houston Press, then joined the Army Air Force in 1942.
In addition to his military duties, he was Editor-in-Chief of the popular, award-winning newspaper "Tailspin" at Ellington Field.
After completing his service in the Air Force, Mr. Bentley joined The Houston Post in 1946 to begin his long career there. Mr. Bentley was a member of the Baseball Writers of America, the Sigma Delta Journalistic Fraternity, and a founding member of The Press Club of Houston.
When he retired from the Houston Post, he turned his abundant intelligence and energy to his lifelong passion of handicapping horse races at his favorite thoroughbred course, the Fairgrounds in New Orleans. He and his beloved wife enjoyed many wonderful, well-deserved years there.
Mr. Bentley is survived by his wife, Patricia Keenan Bentley, a third generation Houstonian. The couple was married in the rectory of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in 1944. A daughter and four sons were born to them: they are Patricia Ann Wambold of Lake Forest, IL; Robert Leland Bentley of Los Angeles; William Keenan Bentley of Studio City, CA; Albert Brian Bentley of Houston; and Barry Lester Bentley of Columbus, OH.
A son-in-law and three daughters-in-law also survive: Melissa Wilson Bentley of Studio City, Richard Lawrence Wambold of Lake Forest, May Doyle Bentley of Houston, and Rosalie Weilend Bentley of Columbus.
Nine grandchildren also survive. They are: Lauren, Carolyn, and Robin Wambold of Lake Forest; Chet and Wyatt Bentley of Studio City; and Julia, Bryan, Mary, and Carol Bentley of Houston.
All of the members of his family cherish the many years that we were privileged to spend with him and remain devoted to his memory.
Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from six until eight o'clock in the evening on Friday, the 29th of December, with a Vigil service scheduled to begin at seven o'clock, in the Morrow Chapel of The Settegast Kopf Co.
A graveside service will be conducted at ten o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the 30th of December in the Mausoleum Chapel at Holy Cross Cemetery, 3502 North Main Street.

Published in the Houston Chronicle on 12/28/2006.