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SDNN Was Effervescent Until Drop Dead Day

San Diego News Network, the local online news operation that had raised $3.18 million from investors, and was talking of an expansion to 40 markets and a possible stock offering, was bullish just about to the day (May 28) when free lancers, who supply almost all the content, were told they were through June 1. Staffers got similar news. The publication had nearly gone under a year earlier, and had slashed pay. Then Gary Jacobs, scion of the Qualcomm fortune, put an estimated $1 million in the pot; he is owner of the Lake Elsinore minor league baseball team, which the SDNN counterpart Southwest Riverside News Network covered extensively. The other outlet was in Orange County; it recently closed abruptly after only four months.

But right up to the May 28 bombshell, SDNN staffers were hearing glowing reports. On May 5, Managing Editor Eric Yates had staffers come to a meeting for a pep talk. Yates said in an email after the gathering, "SDNN has decided to take an 'edgier' approach...it just means a general attitude of confidence, humor, irreverence, wittiness, fun and at times, even brashness. Don't [be] afraid to make your point a strong(er) one in opinion pieces." On May 7, he asked staffers if they wanted business cards made for them. On May 10, Yates set up a photographer to take photos of the writers. On May 21, Yates raved about the new La Jolla/Del Mar newspaper that SDNN was launching in conjunction with the LA Times. "It looks fantastic!" he wrote as he instructed contributors how to prepare copy for both online and print. On May 16, chief executive Neil Senturia bragged to the staff, "We are about to enter a fascinating period in our company...we are going to see if the 'new paradigm' is a marriage of web and print....we get a shot at greatness, we get to take a shot at the UT...the sun has not set on this little adventure, in fact it is blindingly bright...my last piece of advice, though -- be sure to use some sunscreen."

"I was led to believe that things with SDNN were going very well," says Margo Schwab, editor of www.TheSocialDiary.com and former society reporter for SDNN. "As I was having my headshot taken a few weeks ago per their request, SDNN rolled out their first two print editions, and now before a holiday weekend, I am notified that June 1st marks the 'cease and desist working' date for us independent contractors."

"This has happened before. Neil will say one thing publicly but privately you know it is not as rosy as what he is making it out to be," says William Yelles, former managing editor of SDNN. Some think SDNN may have resembled a Potemkin Village all along; it was never what it was made out to be, and was being prettified for the public offering and/or sale of the enterprise.

The writers are laid off as of June 1. I don't know what the publication will look like tomorrow, although there may be a backlog of material that can be used. I have looked at today's edition and can find no mention of the May 28 mass firing. SDNN says its mission is "to become the most trusted, respected and valuable source of news and information about San Diego." Neither Senturia nor his assistant Nicole Rockstead responded to messages on their cell phones.

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San Diego News Network, the local online news operation that had raised $3.18 million from investors, and was talking of an expansion to 40 markets and a possible stock offering, was bullish just about to the day (May 28) when free lancers, who supply almost all the content, were told they were through June 1. Staffers got similar news. The publication had nearly gone under a year earlier, and had slashed pay. Then Gary Jacobs, scion of the Qualcomm fortune, put an estimated $1 million in the pot; he is owner of the Lake Elsinore minor league baseball team, which the SDNN counterpart Southwest Riverside News Network covered extensively. The other outlet was in Orange County; it recently closed abruptly after only four months.

But right up to the May 28 bombshell, SDNN staffers were hearing glowing reports. On May 5, Managing Editor Eric Yates had staffers come to a meeting for a pep talk. Yates said in an email after the gathering, "SDNN has decided to take an 'edgier' approach...it just means a general attitude of confidence, humor, irreverence, wittiness, fun and at times, even brashness. Don't [be] afraid to make your point a strong(er) one in opinion pieces." On May 7, he asked staffers if they wanted business cards made for them. On May 10, Yates set up a photographer to take photos of the writers. On May 21, Yates raved about the new La Jolla/Del Mar newspaper that SDNN was launching in conjunction with the LA Times. "It looks fantastic!" he wrote as he instructed contributors how to prepare copy for both online and print. On May 16, chief executive Neil Senturia bragged to the staff, "We are about to enter a fascinating period in our company...we are going to see if the 'new paradigm' is a marriage of web and print....we get a shot at greatness, we get to take a shot at the UT...the sun has not set on this little adventure, in fact it is blindingly bright...my last piece of advice, though -- be sure to use some sunscreen."

"I was led to believe that things with SDNN were going very well," says Margo Schwab, editor of www.TheSocialDiary.com and former society reporter for SDNN. "As I was having my headshot taken a few weeks ago per their request, SDNN rolled out their first two print editions, and now before a holiday weekend, I am notified that June 1st marks the 'cease and desist working' date for us independent contractors."

"This has happened before. Neil will say one thing publicly but privately you know it is not as rosy as what he is making it out to be," says William Yelles, former managing editor of SDNN. Some think SDNN may have resembled a Potemkin Village all along; it was never what it was made out to be, and was being prettified for the public offering and/or sale of the enterprise.

The writers are laid off as of June 1. I don't know what the publication will look like tomorrow, although there may be a backlog of material that can be used. I have looked at today's edition and can find no mention of the May 28 mass firing. SDNN says its mission is "to become the most trusted, respected and valuable source of news and information about San Diego." Neither Senturia nor his assistant Nicole Rockstead responded to messages on their cell phones.

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Comments
80

fyi, June 1st is my birthday... I guess as Donald Trump would say 'Happy Birthday you're fired! - Margo Schwab

May 31, 2010

Margo= we are all so sorry the SDNN folded-you and the rest will be missed, but at least I can keep up with you on Facebook :)

May 31, 2010

Response to post #1: My birthday was May 28, the day the bomb dropped. But it didn't drop on me. I write for the Reader. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

fyi, June 1st is my birthday... I guess as Donald Trump would say 'Happy Birthday you're fired! - Margo Schwab

======

You look well for a woman of 65.

May 31, 2010

B-Margo is not a day over 35!

May 31, 2010

Response to post #2: You can always go to www.TheSocialDiary.com and pick up Margo's reports. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #4: Who said she is 65? She didn't, to my knowledge. I haven't seen her face to face for a decade but I do read her SocialDiary.com and see her photo with her husband Scott. She hasn't yet reached middle age. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #5: That's more like it. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

I have seen articles from the local beach area free papers re-printed in SDNN and thought it was part of the Beach and Bay Press, La Jolla Village News, The Beacon etc. I guess that is not the case.

I was not even aware that SDNN existed as a stand alone entity- how do they publicize themselves? VOSD had a pretty good launch. I don't recall seeing SDNN mentioned in my occasional perusals of the Reader or City Beat; and I certainly don't subscribe to or read the U-T.

Sorry to find a "new" news outlet that may soon be defunct!

May 31, 2010

Don: Have you heard anything about the pending layoffs at the UT?

May 31, 2010

I hope Tom Blair did not leave San Diego Magazine to work for SDNN. To my knowledge, Blair has not yet disclosed the identity of his new employer.

May 31, 2010

My age, hopefully not important compared to the other people who two weeks ago who thought they had a job, and now they do not. I have great empathy for them.

Back to my age....what's yours Burwell??

May 31, 2010

Soon as Burwell posted that comment, all I could think was, "Oh, snap!"

Perhaps Burwell (who certainly doesn't need nor likely want me to defend him) meant to say, "Ms. Schwab, you are a remarkably beautiful woman."

In which case, I would certainly second that compliment.

May 31, 2010

thank you for the kind eyesight...! Best ** Margo Schwab

May 31, 2010

Response to post #9: I thought SDNN had received a lot of publicity. As I recall, Forbes wrote it up positively. It has had exposure through its partnerships with KUSI and Gay & Lesbian News, for example. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #10: The last rumor I heard was that the layoffs -- perhaps 20 in the newsroom -- would come June 16 or 17. It is cruel for the editor to announce publicly that more layoffs are coming, and then make the staff wait all this time. That was questionable management. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #11: Tom Blair's column was being picked up by SDNN while he was editor of San Diego Magazine. I have no idea if he planned to go with SDNN when he left the mag. Like you, I hope not, for his sake. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #12: That's getting back at him, Margo! Maybe he will say it was a typo. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #13: And I would third the motion. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Response to post #14: It's a matter of good eyesight, not kind eyesight, Margo. Best, Don Bauder

May 31, 2010

Back to my age....what's yours Burwell??

============

I'm older than you are.

May 31, 2010

There seems to be still a lot of demand for work in multimedia and communications. Can't the writers work on developing more multimedia development skills?

June 1, 2010

Response to post #21: We have placed Margo at pre-middle age. So what does that make you, Burwell? Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

Response to post #22: You might enlighten us: where is that multimedia demand? Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

It's nice to have multimedia as an extra. But except for TV and radio, multimedia is trivial for reporters compared to the meat and potatoes of knowing how to investigate, report and write.

My condolences to the journalists who worked for SDNN, OCNN and SWRNN.

June 1, 2010

SDNN IS OUT THIS MORNING, RELYING HEAVILY ON ASSOCIATED PRESS, CITY NEWS SERVICE. San Diego News Network, which on Friday at 5:12 p.m. told its free lancers that they were finished on June 1, is out with an edition today (June 1). It relies quite heavily on Associated Press and City News Service copy. There are some bylines. Marsha Sutton's byline shows up, for example. Some stories are supposedly composed by "staff" in conjunction with other services such as City News Service. I could not find any reference to its wholesale firing of free lancers, who supply the bulk of the content. Nor was there anything on a possible buyout that I could find. (SDNN told the free lancers Friday that it was in discussions with potential buyers.) As I reported earlier, SDNN has told some of its free lancers that it would keep on a few people to maintain the site. SDNN still lists its "media partners," including Channel 6, San Diego Gay & Lesbian Times, Balboa Park, and, interestingly, the Los Angeles Times. The Times pulled out of the Orange County edition; former free lancers have suggested that the Times pulled out of San Diego activities such as the new La Jolla/Del Mar print publication, too. I have not reached the Times yet. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

Response to post #25: Southwest Riverside News Network is out with an edition this morning, and bylines suggest that there are some holdovers still writing for it. I have no idea if Southwest's free lancers received the same kind of letter that the San Diego ones did. The main investor, Gary Jacobs, is most interested in the Southwest Riverside edition. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

I think I will go into the lemonade business. The little girl across the street made $75 for the day selling lemonade for 3 hours on Memorial Day... a vast improvement over the big $25 per weekly column I was paid at SDNN...after 8 months of pro bono...the things you do for charity!

June 1, 2010

may 28th, deadline to take the money and run?

June 1, 2010

It is cruel for the editor to announce publicly that more layoffs are coming, and then make the staff wait all this time. That was questionable management.


I dunno, Don. Telling people the bald truth and avoiding a false sense of confidence seems like a refreshing chnage. Perhaps it means the end of the UT's previous ways of eternal secrecy and surprise.

June 1, 2010

Response to post #28: You were getting less than some others were getting, according to my interviews. But even those at the top of the scale weren't getting a lot. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

Response to post #29: The deadline has passed. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

Response to post #30: That's one way of looking at it. But it seems to me that an astute management lets the employees know that changes are coming (even Copley did that), but then carries out those changes quickly. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

DON'T EXPECT KUSI TO BUY SDNN; L.A. TIMES NOT TALKING. In earlier posts, I have alluded to an attempt by Neil Senturia, CEO of SDNN, to sell the operation to KUSI-TV. I have heard from a reliable source that Senturia initially asked a million dollars for the enterprise, but at the end of talks, the price was down to zero. I reached Mike McKinnon, majority owner of the company controlling KUSI. "We've had discussions with him [Senturia]," says McKinnon. "He's a nice fellow, working hard, but we are not ready to make a move in that direction." Continues McKinnon, "We will probably be in that business within a year," but, from what he says, I don't think he would enter by buying SDNN. I also talked with Nancy Sullivan, vice president of communications of the Los Angeles Times. "We have undertaken a couple of ventures" with the parent of SDNN (particularly the La Jolla/Del Mar paper), she says, but she tells me I will have to get information from the San Diego company, which did not respond to repeated calls and emails over the weekend. I do not see how it would be possible to continue putting out that paper without the creators of content, who have been severed.

June 1, 2010

3

http://s15.photobucket.com/albums/a351/nanza63/?action=view&current=42-15601007-1.jpg

now u can't say u don't know what i look like homey

hahahahahahahahaha ;-)

June 1, 2010

u can place me at old ;-0

June 1, 2010

FWIW, a story about "Politicos on Facebook" carries the posting time of Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 at 9:30 am. http://j.mp/politicsfacebook02

However, a Google search shows the story was posted May 31: http://j.mp/politicsfacebook01

June 1, 2010

I have heard from a reliable source that Senturia initially asked a million dollars for the enterprise, but at the end of talks, the price was down to zero.

LOL! That is hilarious!

http://s15.photobucket.com/albums/a351/nanza63/?action=view&current=42-15601007-1.jpg

Nice pic nan!

Where are the nudies located?

June 1, 2010

Patrick Marrinan, Labor Relations Manager at the UT, left last Friday. So did the HR receptionist, who the new folks forced to double as the lobby security guard. The UT HR department now consists of three employees.

June 1, 2010

Response to posts #35 and 36: Yes, you do look young and vibrant. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

Response to posts #37 and #38: Some are saying SDNN has other bidders. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

Response to post #39: About a decade ago, Pat Marrinan suffered a severe stroke. He could barely walk and talk for a long time. I hope for his sake that he got a decent severance. I can't imagine HR being down to three people. Best, Don Bauder

June 1, 2010

"But right up to the May 28 bombshell, SDNN staffers were hearing glowing reports."

Hmm, sounds like a case for Lerach....

June 1, 2010

Response to post #43: Lerach's out of the picture, of course. If investors were told of the risks, they probably don't have a case. The bullish communications were to the free lancers. Best, Don Bauder

June 2, 2010

"But right up to the May 28 bombshell, SDNN staffers were hearing glowing reports."

Hmm, sounds like a case for Lerach.... By paul =========== If investors were told of the risks, they probably don't have a case. The bullish communications were to the free lancers. ====

I was thinking the same thing when I read that comment, and if true, it would be fraud (fraud in the inducement) against the employees.

You simply do not lie like that when you're going out of business, inducing good and honest people to buy into a plan you KNOW is not true.

Reminds me of the owner of the Marina Athletic Club in Marina Del Rey many years back, who continued to sell memberships to the fancy club even though the owner KNEW he was filing BK soon, and sold those memberships right up until the day he closed down. Not only did he get civilly sued, he had criminal fraud charges brought by the City Attorney as well..........

June 2, 2010

Response to post #45: Yes, the free lancers got glowing reports (I don't know about the investors), but in one instance quoted above, Senturia was hedging. SDNN did keep some employees on to put out the editions now filled with wire copy, as I suggested they would. So if anybody there would talk, they would probably claim that they are still in business. Best, Don Bauder

June 2, 2010

just went to an event.... people are reading about this Don

June 2, 2010

Response to post #48: Belatedly, other media outlets have picked up the story. Best, Don Bauder

June 2, 2010

surfpuppy, was that the one over by thoses ugly circular towrse right by the MArina?

I don't know the ugly towers, but MAC was east of the boat slips at the end of the 90 freeway......

June 3, 2010

Response to post #50: Ugly towers? Doesn't San Diego have a reputation for beautiful architecture? (Answer: hell, no.) Best, Don Bauder

June 3, 2010

Should the U-T cut 20 more reporters, how many will that leave? The new narrow format will be just ideal for a paper that has a skeleton newsroom. The layoffs to date mean that nobody covers local stories that need covering. They cannot even get a reporter to a school board meeting unless they're told beforehand that there will be fireworks.

And the U-T circles the drain.

June 4, 2010

All of us disposed-of SDNN contributors just got a note from Neil Senturia: "SDNN.com continues to operate while exploring various options. To paraphrase Mark Twain, 'Early reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.' We are developing a new editorial vision and business plan that will require a smaller team, and we expect to have more to say by the end of next week. Our second site --SWRNN.com-- is continuing to grow."

If anyone would care to dissect this, feel free. I'm assuming they couldn't find a buyer. Just to state the obvious ;)

June 4, 2010

Response to post #52: I am hearing the axe will fall at the U-T today (June 4), but I have no confirmation. Yes, coverage is already quite thin for a metro daily and will probably get thinner. Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

Response to post #53: Yes, I received the message from another free lancer, and was just about to post it when you beat me to it. SWRRN.com, incidentally, is the Southwest Riverside County online publication.

Here's what I don't know yet, and Senturia's note does not address. Will people in La Jolla and Del Mar receive the third edition of the print publication that is supposed to go free to people in those markets? Thus far, I am told it has not arrived today. I would appreciate people letting me know if they got it. I get no cooperation from SDNN or the LA Times, of course. Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

Don't know how recent postings relate to the above news, but Valerie Scher, David Elliott, and Pat Launer--all good reasons to go to the site--have all posted stories since Tuesday.

I never understood how SDNN's business model was supposed to work, though. Seemed doomed to failure from Day 1.

June 4, 2010

Yes, well, I am reminded of that famous Monty Python skit where the bridge-guarding knight gets both arms and legs chopped off and continues to verbally badger his foe. Sometimes it's just done, regardless. This is one of those times. RIP SDNN. Just sayin'.

June 4, 2010

Did Valerie, David and Pat not get the memo? Are they exceptions to the contributor axing? I wonder what's going on.

June 4, 2010

Yes, well, I am reminded of that famous Monty Python skit where the bridge-guarding knight gets both arms and legs chopped off and continues to verbally badger his foe.

One of the BEST Monty Python scenes ever!

That and the scene of the "killer rabbit", if you recall that one :)

June 4, 2010

Response to post #59: I think a bunch of the free lancers are posting for free. They weren't being paid much anyway. Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

Response to post #57: How long can SDNN go on not paying its free lancers? Hard to say. Some are vain and like to see their bylines. Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

Response to post #58: The May 28 memo said, "Effective June 1, we are suspending ALL stipends and contracts with our free lance contributors and writers so please do not do any work for SDNN until you hear from us." (Emphasis mine.) Perhaps backlogged contributions are being used up, some free lancers are working gratis, or some got a special deal after the memo went out. Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

Response to post #59: Good analogy. Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

NOTE: My La Jolla sources have not received the third edition of the La Jolla/Del Mar print publication that was to come out today. Maybe it came and I just hit the wrong sources. Has anybody received it? Best, Don Bauder

June 4, 2010

The ink stained wretches probably decided to continue writing without pay, in the hope that they will be rehired if Senturia finds a knife catcher to buy SDNN.

June 4, 2010

Response to post #52: I am hearing the axe will fall at the U-T today (June 4), but I have no confirmation.

Platinum even shut down the Union Tribune Shoe Fund and transferred the assets to the San Diego Foundation, according to the foundation's website. The fund was organized in the 1930s to provide shoes to the poor.

June 4, 2010

Platinum even shut down the Union Tribune Shoe Fund and transferred the assets to the San Diego Foundation, according to the foundation's website. The fund was organized in the 1930s to provide shoes to the poor

By Burwell

In the 30 years I have lived here I have never in my life heard of this shoe fund. So I Googled it and I am amazed I have never come across it in the UT.

What an amazing story to hear about- very inspriring.

The UT Shoe Fund cite does not say they are shut down though, and they are still seeking contributions.

Great story-and I can honestly say I have never heard of this happening anywhere else-although I am sure it does.

This builds solid community good will, and if the current UT owners skimp and burn local bridges like they would by shutting down this fund-well they are not very smart IMO.

http://utshoefund.signonsandiego.com/

June 4, 2010

This builds solid community good will, and if the current UT owners skimp and burn local bridges like they would by shutting down this fund-well they are not very smart IMO.

Go to the Secretary of State's website and seach Union-Tribune Shoe Fund, Inc. You will find that it has been dissolved.

http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/cbs.aspx

June 4, 2010

Response to post #65: I think that's a possibility. Journalists fall in love with seeing their own byline. It's an addiction. But how long they will work gratis is anybody's guess. Best, Don Bauder

June 5, 2010

Response to post #66: Goodness! That shoe fund has been sacred forever. Best, Don Bauder

June 5, 2010

Response to post #67: Maybe it was mainly sacred inside the Copley organization. Best, Don Bauder

June 5, 2010

Response to post #68: Maybe the prior management hid its money in those shoes. Best, Don Bauder

June 5, 2010

a byline may be an addiction for some... but isn't it better to have a byline than not at all and be 'out there' than invisible when you are seeking a real paycheck??

June 5, 2010

Response to post #73: Very good point. Keeping one's name out there brightens the job resume. On the other hand, how many employers are looking for a journalist? Best, Don Bauder

June 5, 2010

Add on response to post #73: I would be hesitant to give my services free for very long. If a potential employer finds out that you will work for nothing -- and that would be obvious if that employer had been SDNN -- then you're not likely to get a very good offer. Maybe you'll get another offer to work for free. Best, Don Bauder

June 5, 2010

Response to post #66: Goodness! That shoe fund has been sacred forever. Best, Don Bauder

===========

It's unfortunate that some heel at Platinum decided to give the fund the boot.

June 6, 2010

Response to poset #76: In slashing employment, Platinum hopes it is getting rid of all the loafers. Best, Don Bauder

June 7, 2010

mine was supposed to be a paid job from the get go.... once you are out there, if you quit, doesn't look so good.... bit of a reputation trap.

June 7, 2010

Response to post #78: Yes, but you have your own publication, which is a winner. Best, Don Bauder

June 9, 2010

Thanks Don... we do our best... by the way any news regarding SDNN.... ?

June 11, 2010

Socialdiary,

Yes, the news is SDNN is not out of business. You read it here last.

MB

June 11, 2010

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