Jim Campanini is Not a Very Good Editor*May 9, 2007 at 6:15 pm | Posted in Lowell, Lowell Sun, New Orleans | 14 Comments
This post will be of no interest to anyone outside of Lowell. And as far as I know, the only person from Lowell who visits this site is my wife. But I couldn’t resist expressing my extreme frustration with Lowell Sun editor-in-chief Jim Campanini.
Once upon a time, I actually tried to get a job with the Sun, though I had the good sense to ‘break off talks’ before accepting the slave wage that is commonplace in the newspaper industry.
During that time, I met with Campanini twice, and found him to be pleasant, yet a bit simple and behind-the-times. He was quite proud of his idea to boost Monday sales by devoting a full page to reader-submitted pet photos. He offered to bet money on the fact that MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton would sue Google and bring them to their knees for ripping off newspapers’ content. (I still don’t understand what the hell he was talking about there.)
And at one point, he leaned into his desk and said, with furrowed brow, “You’re not one of those liberals, are ya?”
We spoke at length about how the Sun could integrate technology to remain relevant, and I must credit Campanini for at least trying new things. Some of those things work: most Sun feature stories have supplementary videos at lowellsun.com, and the site has five blogs, though I don’t know if anyone watches the videos or reads the blogs. (You may recall our fruitless efforts to shut down Sanjaya-basher TV blogger Andrew Ravens.)
Other techno-based moves are less impressive. As a whole, the Sun website is a hideous disaster – the design is awful and it’s not updated until late in the day.
And the Sun may be the only paper in the country that’s tackling the future by launching a phone call-in show, SunTalk Live. In this special edition, Campanini reports live from New Orleans, where he was, rather shockingly, speaking at a conference about the Internet and newspapers. Here’s some astute analysis on the ravaged city from a horse and buggy tour that he took:
“I was fascinated…if the local people aren’t coming back, you know who’s coming back? The movie stars and celebrities.
Uh, Nicholas Cage just paid 4 million dollars for a home. He bought it from the novelist Ann Rice, she’s the one of the vampire…the Interview With A Vampire fame. And I guess she moved to California and Nicholas Cage bought her place…So then we turn down Royal Street and we see Delta Burke’s home and they were just putting a new coat of paint on it. Now Delta Burke is the actress from Designing Woman. Women. OK? So we think, gee that’s it, Nicholas Cage and Delta Burke.
So then we take a uhhh…I think it was a right, just by the Ursuline Convent…And um, and (the driver) says, ‘Well, those two are nice,’ he says. ‘But here’s a 5 million dollar home and guess who just bought it?’ And I says I don’t have an idea. And he says, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt! And I said, you got to be kidding me!”
Anyway, lately the Sun – yaknow, the objective, fair and balanced, local paper – has been railing against the Lowell teacher’s union, which is presently in negotiations with the city for a new contract. This editoiralizing would be fine if it was limited to the Opinion page. But Campanini – again, the head honcho and the arbiter of what goes in the paper and how – unleashed a vicious and childish screed on his political blog yesterday, titled “Be Prepared: Lowell Teachers Strike Is Coming. It came in the wake of a United Teachers of Lowell rally in front of city hall.
Here are some lowlights:
“For a majority of the teachers, it was the first time in their lives seeing Lowell after 6 p.m…Too bad the Chamber of Commerce wasn’t alerted. It could have told shop owners to stay open for some extra business. Then again, why bother. All these teachers know of Lowell is what they see in their rear-view mirrors on the way out of town each day.”
“If they spend any money at all in Lowell it’s to have their car windows tinted so students can’t see them driving out of Dodge. God forbid if a kid stops them in the street to say hello. They’d probably call 911.”
“The best part — for me anyway — was watching a union boss try to park his Lincoln Continental Town Car in a space devoid of a parking meter. Of course, he could have parked much easier in a metered spot, but why go against profile. Take what you can and leave the rest. That’s the union motto.”
“If a strike does occur, it would be a great opportunity for the school board to break this non-Lowell union. At least 800 members live outside of Lowell and could care less if the city goes bankrupt. They’ve proven it time and again under Georges, who drives Mercedes to work each day from Newbury.”
“The board should do what former city manager Bill Taupier proposed during a prior strike threat. Get every teacher’s name, put it on a piece of paper and place them in a revolving drum. Each day of the strike, pull 10 names out of the drum, and fire the teachers.”
Now I don’t even care about the content of the debate. While I’ve been a part of a failed union organizing drive, my motivation was improving my life and that of my co-workers. My views on the value of unions are made on a case-by-case basis. And quite honestly, I don’t know enough about this case to have any informed opinion.
However, I do know that this is no way for an editor-in-chief to write about ANY controversial topic. How can any paper be trusted to present legitimate, honest coverage when the bias of its leadership is so clearly stated?
I guess there’s something to be said for transparency and full disclosure. But at least give a sophisticated argument. We’re not talking about some hot-headed columnist or a wack-job blogger. This is top of the masthead here. The Man! The paper’s leader, fanning flames, personally attacking the teachers (who “could care less if the city goes bankrupt”), and penning an immature nya-nya-nya-nya-nya screed.
I’m extremely tempted to cancel my subscription over this matter. But doing so, in some minute way, is more of a punishment to the paper’s reporters, who surely bust their asses doing some good work and putting up with this guy. (Except you, Ravens! We will still take you down!)
However, I’m shocked that he’s allowed to carry on this way.
In conclusion, I will repeat what I wrote in the comments section of his blog – which I’m sure will not make it through the screening process.
Give us the news, Campanini. It’s part of your job to stay above the fray. AND GROW THE F UP!
*Previously titled “Jim Campanini is a Tool”, but then I felt that might be stooping to his level. But I’m just a meager blogger. And Jim Campanini is a tool.