Mallory Nominates City Manager

For the second time in a row, Cincinnati’s mayor is looking to a smaller neighboring community for someone to oversee City Hall’s daily operations — and that person will get a $75,000 yearly raise if city council OKs the deal.

Confirming reports first posted by CityBeat earlier this morning, Mayor Mark Mallory announced Tuesday that Milton Dohoney Jr. is his choice to become city manager. Dohoney is chief administrative officer of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, where he is paid nearly $110,000 annually. He also previously served as Louisville’s deputy mayor.

Dohoney’s predecessor in the Cincinnati manager’s job was Valerie Lemmie, who left a similar post in Dayton after she was recommended by then-Mayor Charlie Luken. Lemmie was paid $192,302 annually. She resigned in September 2005, after a rocky tenure that involved frequent clashes with city council.

Because Mallory tries to keep a clearer definition between the manager’s duties and council’s role, and due to stricter council operating rules enacted earlier this year, the mayor believes those problems can be avoided in the future.
“The bottom line is, he’s going to do what he needs to do as a city manager, he’s not a politician,” Mallory says. “I’m confident he’s going to transform this city.”

Mallory described Dohoney as a “collaborator” who is good at team-building.

Dohoney’s nomination still must be confirmed by city council. Mallory plans on asking council to vote at its Wednesday meeting, but as of Tuesday morning there were at least four members opposed to Dohoney and two more who hadn’t decided. Chief among opponents’ concerns was that Dohoney doesn’t have experience managing a city of Cincinnati’s size. Dohoney oversees a $411 million annual budget and a 3,500-member workforce in Lexington. Cincinnati has a nearly $1 billion annual budget and a 7,000-member workforce.

Among the perks in Dohoney’s proposed contract, he would receive $185,000 annually in salary, a $550 per month car allowance, $7,500 for relocation expenses and up to $1,500 per month for temporary housing, not to exceed six months. Also, he will begin with 21 days accumulated vacation time and 250 hours of sick leave, and would get a year’s salary for severance if fired without cause.

— Kevin Osborne

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One Comment on “Mallory Nominates City Manager”

  1. Reginald Van Gleason IV Says:

    You guys gave a better account of the story than the enquirer did. But is this any surprise?

    Well, it looks like the Enquirer isn’t the only horrible rag around. It seems that the problem goes down to the roots, to parent company Gannett, who has decimated every paper that it gets it’s money grubbing corporate hands on.

    This letter to Gannett CEO Craig Dubow, published in the Nashville Scene, is from Willy Stern, a staff writer at Forbes, Business Week amongst elsewhere. Willy Stern won many national journalism awards for his investigative reporting before he turned to teaching Journalism at Vanderbilt and elsewhere. Stern is writing about the Nashville Tennessean, but you can substitute “Enquirer” everywhere the letter says “Tennessean”, and everywhere you read Tennessean Editor E.J. Mitchell’s name, simply substitute Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan’s name and you have a crystal clear picture of the Enquirer. The descriptions of the ‘talent’ or lack thereof, working at Gannetts newspapers today is dead on; he could be writing about Kimball Perry, Carl Wiser and Huggable Howard by name.

    You can read the whole article here: http://tinyurl.com/kzmmc

    Thin News, Fat Profits

    How arrogant corporate tools like E.J. Mitchell are destroying your local newspaper—and why Gannett is laughing all the way to the bank

    By Willy Stern

    Mr. Craig A. Dubow
    President and Chief Executive Office
    Gannett Co. Inc.
    7950 Jones Branch Drive
    McLean, VA 22107

    Dear Mr. Dubow:
    Maybe he would be reluctant to admit it, but if David Halberstam were to graduate from Harvard today, he probably wouldn’t trek down to Nashville to toil at The Tennessean—as he once did—but instead would be thinking about Yale Law School, McKinsey & Co. or Goldman Sachs.
    Mr. Dubow, journalism today has ceased to attract the best and brightest. At least, that’s what my students tell me. In recent years, I have been privileged to teach journalism to a fairly diverse cross-section of talented students at Vanderbilt University, Colorado College, Fisk University and Williams College. With few exceptions, my high-I.Q. students say in no uncertain terms that they would no more seek a job at their local chain-owned newspaper after college than they would, in the words of one of my more colorful Vandy students, “work as the public ass wiper down at the Davidson County courthouse.”

    At Vanderbilt, I repeat my favorite line about Nashville’s Gannett-owned daily: “The best thing about The Tennessean is that you can pick it up at the end of your driveway and have it read by the time you get to your trash can at the back.” My students respond with blank faces. It’s not just that they don’t read your daily—they think you’d have to be a moron to do so. And working for it? Give me a break, Professor Stern!

    Journalists pride themselves on being smart, cynical sorts, well grounded in the cold realities of a hard world. But we’re such naive fools when it comes to gauging our own profession. You, of course, know this already, Mr. Dubow, and are too polite to call us out. So I will explain here, to a larger audience, what you have already figured out about newspapering—proving you are a quick study, since your background is in TV.

    Let’s start in Nashville, home of The Tennessean, one of the largest of the 90 daily papers that Gannett owns here in the U.S. By virtually any standard, The Tennessean, day in and day out, is an embarrassingly weak Metro daily. It is written and edited by a squadron of second-rate journalists, led by Editor E.J. Mitchell, an arrogant character with little interest in the reporters who churn out the product. (A year-and-a-half into his tenure there, there are many reporters he’s yet to have a conversation with.) When Mitchell stood in front of Nashville’s downtown Rotary Club last September to speak, and an hour later a wide swath of the city’s power structure returned to their offices thinking him an insufferable corporate mouthpiece of modest brainpower, we were secretly enthralled.

    See, we told ourselves, with leadership like that, there’s no way The Tennessean, over the long haul, will be a profitable or valuable property for Gannett.

    We naive journalists like to tell ourselves that the largest newspaper chain in the country (by circulation, anyway) is undermining its own long-term future by promoting editors and reporters of Mitchell’s ilk, journalists who are outright nifty at corporate-speak, at manipulating spreadsheets and at kissing the derrieres of their immediate superiors. The result: the daily supply of pabulum that passes for news in your papers. We truly—nay, desperately—want to believe that The Tennessean is losing readership and eroding the intrinsic value of its core product.

    You, Mr. Dubow, know better, but let me share with you what passes for analysis in most newsrooms and journalism schools today: in the traditional media world, we tell ourselves, Lindsey Volckmann would represent the future of journalism. A very recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, Lindsey was a stellar student in a media ethics course I taught last fall. The writing assignments Lindsey churned out in class were nothing short of extraordinary. It takes little imagination to project her into a role as dashing foreign correspondent or award-winning investigative reporter.

    I ran into her early one morning at Starbucks on West End, and we chatted about her budding writing career. Perhaps, I wondered, she might like to become a journalist, or even start out as a cub reporter at The Tennessean? “Why?” she responded, acting in every way as if I had just suggested a career humping it over the French-fry machine at Burger King. Lindsey was on her way later that week to interview for consulting jobs in New York City. “Journalism used to have this aura around it, that you could bust someone’s balls and get stories out in the open,” the engaging 22-year-old from Woodside, Calif., said. “For my generation, that’s gone.”

    Lindsey explained gently that she wasn’t sure that the culture at 1100 Broadway would be a good fit for her. The subtext of Lindsey’s remarks: a dumbed-down organization like The Tennessean wasn’t a place for ambitious go-getters.

    Lindsey is, of course, right, but then you know that already, don’t you, Mr. Dubow? For much of this nation’s media history, Lindsey’s views would have been a source of great angst for forward-thinking news executives around the country.

    To be sure, there are bucket loads of well-intentioned dinosaurs working in the media today who still cling to the quaint notion that what sells newspapers—and makes money—is publishing a quality product. Think back to mid-March when McClatchy Co., a smaller newspaper chain, bought the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, Knight Ridder Inc. In the wake of that deal, no less an authority than the free-market-loving editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal penned a piece, typical of journalistic innocence today, clinging to the notion that editorial content actually mattered. “That value proposition—journalistic standards and editorial judgment—has arguably become more important than ever…,” the Journal opined on March 14. How sweet. How touching. And how wrong.

    Nonetheless, we cling to this mantra. Hire smart people to produce kick-ass stories and your news company will thrive.

    I’m sure that you’ve heard the David Halberstams of the media landscape kvetch about how highly successful newspaper companies like Gannett—with its huge profit margins—are undermining the media’s historic role as guardian of the public trust. This nation’s founding fathers only saw fit to give one type of business—the media—special constitutional protections. What would Thomas Jefferson think if he came back today to witness Gannett using its First Amendment protections to gut newsrooms, gouge advertisers and mint money in one-newspaper towns? It’s a reasonable, if precious, question to ask.

    Surely, Gannett, like other news companies, is caught in a tug of war. On one hand, it must pay lip service toward fulfilling its First Amendment obligations to readers. (You call them customers nowadays, don’t you, Mr. Dubow?) At the same time, of course, Gannett has an overriding responsibility to return value to its many shareholders.

    I suspect, Mr. Dubow, that you would share my view that Halberstam and his ilk—good people all—have the moral high ground in the profit vs. product media debate. But they miss the point; that battle for high-quality news content just isn’t terribly relevant any more, for better or worse.
    Today’s smart kids view local newspapers and the local TV news, which they lump into the same amorphous blob, as a politically correct world in which dumb people present dumb stories in a dumb way to other dumb people. In short, it’s the perfect arena for the likes of Tennessean editor E.J. Mitchell to strut his stuff. Surely, it’s no place for my smart students to make a career. That is the true crisis in American journalism today—or so we sentimental traditionalists like to believe.
    Walk into the newsroom of any of your 90 newspapers today. Or head down to one of your local TV stations. Look around. Better yet, pop down to Nashville and visit with the writers and editors at The Tennessean. Then ask yourself whether any of these news people have the brains to make partner at the blue-chip law firm downtown, or receive tenure at a top university, or become a talented surgeon. You already know the answer, and so do I. With a few exceptions—some of the journalists at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and a few others—the staffs of daily newsrooms today are largely composed of unimpressive people doing singularly unimpressive work. Call it the “Department of Motor Vehicle-ization” of the news business.

    The true crime of the corporate takeover of the American newsroom is in instituting a culture where smart people do not wish to work. Or so we’d like to believe.

    The problem with this logic, as you well know, is that it is utter rot. From a financial standpoint, anyway, it doesn’t appear to have a downside. There’s simply no evidence that putting out a quality news product will produce more revenues or profits for the parent company—at least not anymore. In fact, a careful analysis of the 13 largest publicly traded newspaper companies today indicates that just the opposite appears to be true. That is the genius of Gannett. You figured it out first. Your papers don’t win serious journalism awards. Few self-respecting journalists with job options would consider a career at Gannett. There is almost no original thinking or cutting-edge analysis of the important issues of the day in your papers. Your columnists are absolute nobodies. Your editorial writers have virtually no impact on policy-making institutions, either here inside Nashville’s Interstate 440, or inside the Beltway, up near where you live.

    But what do you care, Mr. Dubow? Gannett is kicking everybody else’s financial derriere in the newspaper industry. As CEO of a public company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange, you well know that you have a fiduciary responsibility to return value to shareholders. Fact is: you’re better at it than any of your competition.

    According to The Value Line Investment Survey composite newspaper index, the average net (after-tax) profit margin among publicly traded newspaper companies in 2005 was a robust 10 percent. By contrast, Gannett’s was 15.9 percent, an extraordinary figure that most CEOs in any industry would give their first born to achieve.

    There’s more bad news. The meteoric rise of a million bloggers in their pajamas is maddening. These parasitic information gatherers leech onto the news content that your edit staffs produce, pay nothing to print newspapers or to staff overseas bureaus, yet steal huge chunks of your readership daily. The news business still hasn’t found a solution to the increasingly partisan nature of media organizations or its inexorable drift toward sensationalism, entertainment and shouting-to-be-heard.

    Which brings us back to Nashville, where The Tennessean continues to hemorrhage paying readers (roughly 4,000 a year) and yet makes gobs of money for Gannett. Advertisers will, of course, over time get fed up with the dwindling number of subscribers and drift away, but anybody who picked up last Sunday’s hefty paper knows we’re not there yet.

    If the brain trusts behind the elitist papers were fed sodium pentothal and then queried on their papers’ prospects, I suspect the unvarnished truth would sound something like this: “Gannett has the right formula—put out local content at minimal costs and distribute this content on as many platforms as possible. But we are stuck with our brand and our niche—that of providing high-end news to the highly educated. And we simply can’t risk moving away from our core business in the hopes of replicating Gannett’s success. Our customers wouldn’t tolerate us going down-market. So, long term, we are in a bad place.”

    What of the future? Herewith, five predictions about the news business:

    1. The newspaper business will remain enormously profitable and spin off huge wads of cash for the foreseeable future. That’s why McClatchy ponied up $4.5 billion for Knight Ridder’s newspapers, even though it plans to turn around and sell 12 of the chain’s less desirable papers pronto. Gannett, which generated $2.3 billion in operating cash flow in 2005, will continue for some time to benefit enormously from this phenomenon. How right you were, Mr. Dubow, at the 2005 UBS Annual Global Media Conference, when you said, quite simply, “What we have is cash flow.”
    2. These days of heady profits and strong cash flow will at some point be a distant memory. A new generation of tech-savvy kids will grow up and get their news from sources other than newspapers. Sure, print media may always be around. Or not. Your grandchildren, Mr. Dubow, may think it quaint when you explain that grown-ups used to shove quarters in metal boxes on street corners to buy newspapers made out of paper.
    3. As a result, newspaper companies as we know them today will largely cease to exist. They will be replaced by businesses known as “content providers.” Their business cards won’t have the same cache at Upper West Side brie-and-chardonnay soirees, but foreign correspondents may be sending their dispatches off to Google or Yahoo! rather than to The New York Times. The key, of course, is to provide content of any sort—movie listings, restaurant reviews, sports scores—in a customer-friendly way. And don’t underestimate the significance of Yahoo!’s recent hiring of veteran television reporter Kevin Sites to write original stories from around the globe.
    4. If Gannett is to succeed in the new digital media world, it will need to get both the best local content and the right search technology. People are not going to be searching for big, John Seigenthaler-esque articles that garner investigative journalism awards. They’re going to want to know who’s the best dry cleaner in town. Any idiot can find this content; you don’t need to hire my smart students.
    5. The newspaper companies that successfully survive this transition to becoming “content providers” will be those that figure out how to use today’s profits and strong cash positions to place smart strategic bets on what the new media world will look like. I commend your perspicacity, Mr. Dubow, in trying to establish strategic partnerships to make Gannett’s local content available on cellular phones, PDAs and the like. Gannett, like your competition, is trying to find the right ways to provide relevant content on as many types of vehicles and platforms as possible. It’s kitschy, to be sure, but I like this line you’ve been using with the analysts: “We expect to become far more customer-centric in the way we approach ‘anytime, anywhere’, regardless of platform.” Two smart moves you’ve already made: investing in the content aggregator topix.net, and buying PointRoll Inc., the ad designer for new media.

    As you well know, these predictions are hardly earth-shattering, but are virtual certainties, Mr. Dubow. That’s why it basically doesn’t matter who’s running Gannett newspapers around the country and which bubbleheads they’re hiring to write the news. I’m not advocating hiring mediocre people to produce news content but merely looking objectively, as you do, at the question of whether spending the money to hire hoity-toity journalists will translate into more readers or profits.

    Of course, this approach can be taken too far. If you print rubbish for content, it doesn’t matter if you can put it on a cellular phone. It’s still rubbish. And people won’t pay for such rubbish, absent a monopoly situation in which they have few alternatives. (See The Tennessean for details!)
    The huge question mark is how long the newspaper party will last. A decade? Less? Twenty years? More? Who knows? You are 51 years old today. I suspect by the time you retire, Gannett will be well on its way to being a savvy content provider.

    One final thought. Your stock price, hovering near $54 today, is surprisingly low, which, as you well know, means your public valuation is all out of whack. Your share price-to-earnings ratio is 11 today, well below an industry average in the neighborhood of 16.5. That could present a big opportunity. Have you thought about borrowing money to take Gannett private, and using your firm’s strong cash flow to quickly pay down the debt? Such a strategy would then give you two options to make a killing: (1) sell off the newspapers and TV stations piecemeal to the highest bidders at a tidy profit; or (2) spend three to five years reformatting the company into a lean, mean digitalized content provider, and then taking it back public at a much higher valuation. The buyout firms are flush with cash today.

    That’s that. I’m an admirer, Mr. Dubow. If you ever find yourself in Nashville for business or personal matters, give a holler. The ink-stained wretches down here at the Scene would love to meet. First drink’s on us.


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