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Food Editor Deborah Hartz-Seely Steps Down from Sun Sentinel

Food editors are a dying breed at newspapers – be very glad if you’ve still got one person dedicated to the dining scene in your area.

Deborah Hartz-Seely

After 30 years in the business, Deborah Hartz-Seely decided to leave while the section was at its prime.

Since Hartz didn’t do a goodbye column, and there was no announcement from the Sentinel regarding her leaving, her readers may be perplexed.

But her former colleague and friend Jan Norris interviewed her. Read Norris’ Q&A with Deb here.  She had quite an interesting career.

Leaving: Donna Coven Made Paychecks Happen

Most employees at Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., didn’t know Donna Coven. She wasn’t a featured columnist. She wasn’t a swashbuckling photographer. She wasn’t even the person who pushed the Big Button that started the presses rolling.
But her job was important to all of those folks.

Donna Coven was the payroll supervisor

Donna, who started at The Post in 1977, was the person who saw to it that every employee got a love letter from the publisher on Thursday. As far as I know, we never missed a payday when Donna was driving the payroll bus.

Her life was a living math word problem

As a manager, I hated dealing with time cards, particularly during weeks with holidays in them. In the early days, I’d try to figure out how to calculate how someone who worked 12 hours on a holiday should be paid. OK, they get 8 hours of regular pay; 8 hours of time-and-a-half holiday pay; they only get regular overtime for the extra 4 hours, but that’s if the relative humidity is 83% and the winds are from the north and the two trains meet in St. Louis.

That’s when I would go see Donna, who would calmly and patiently point out that the trains were really going to meet in Cleveland.

An auditor questioned her access level

John Occhipinti, the former Data Processing manager, who was celebrating his one-year anniversary of retirement from The Post, said that Donna “was meticulous about her numbers and worked tirelessly to confirm their accuracy.”

She was given a level of access to the company’s mainframe computer that was normally reserved for programmers. “A security auditor gave me a black eye one year for allowing a non-programmer to have that access,” John said. “In my written response, I said that it was more important that PBNI employees get paid correctly every week than to try to limit Donna’s functionality.”

Donna’s retirement party was December 30

The official company policy these days is not to have retirement parties, but the folks in Accounting are such rebels that they held an unofficial one for Donna.

It gave an opportunity for some of us who had left in 2008 and earlier to see old friends. Former Accounting Boss Larry Siedlik, the former VP and Treasurer, was on hand sporting a new wedding ring.

Donna’s husband, former Tech Services Assistant Manager, Ray Coven,  was part of the first wave of buyouts in the summer of 2008.

A new payroll system is in place and employees are paid every two weeks instead of every Thursday. I haven’t checked with any of my former coworkers to see if the trains are still meeting in Cleveland like they’re supposed to.

Gallery of photos

Here is a gallery of photos taken at Donna’s retirement party. Click on any picture to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the images.

Horrific Haiti Photos Next to Inappropriate Ads

Warning: graphic images ahead

Unfortunate ad placement is a fact of life. I’m sure the page designer would like to claw back this one showing a person with a computer strapped to his back, falling though the air like a parachute jumper. The ad happened to run on Sept. 17, 2001, next to a story about how IT departments were coping with the aftermath of September 11, when real people jumped out of the Twin Towers to keep from burning to death.

How well did my old paper do on the earthquake in Haiti?

I spent 35 years working for The Palm Beach Post. I never went to Haiti myself, but I sent photographers there when I was director of photography. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every shooter came back a changed person.

Lannis Waters, a photographer who had been to Haiti several times was one of the few old-timers to survive the buyouts. I heard a rumor that he was going back, so I turned to The Palm Beach Post web site to see if he had filed anything in the gallery of photos from the devastated island.

This goes beyond insenstive

Cops, journalists, healthcare workers and EMTs use gallows humor to protect us from what we see on a daily basis. We try hard, though, to keep that defense mechanism away from outsiders, who wouldn’t understand.

These advertisements paired with horrific pictures of crushed bodies, maimed children, destroyed homes and incredible human suffering were worse than any caption I ever saw posted on the photo department’s back bulletin board.


I couldn’t decide which was worse

The Jet Blue ad that says, “THIS DAY JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER” next to a father who has just discovered his 10-month-old daughter in a pile of corpses.

A Palm Beach Post house ad with the headline “SURVIVING THE SQUEEZE” next to a photo of a pair of feet sticking out from under a collapsed hotel.

Another Palm Beach Post house ad headlined, “LOSING YOUR HOME?” next to a photo of the rubble of Haiti’s Presidential Palace.

Airlines used to kill ads

Commercial airlines used to have a mandatory kill in their contracts to keep one of their ads from running on the same day as a plane crash. I’m sure that some of these advertisers would be appalled to see their ads used next to these photos. Under any other circumstances, the juxtapositions would be funny. This isn’t one of them.

My geek son gave this explanation:

I think this is less about good decisions and more about the technology they use and the inability to make a change that detailed. I believe the Post outsources its ad space to Yahoo. If this is the case, Yahoo would be the ones feeding the white space and the Post has no control over it. The same is the case for website ads driven by Google.

A web developement person agreed

A web development person who is a (former?) friend said essentially the same thing:
… the technology probably does exist to eliminate certain ads in theory based on keywords (like say not having Jet Blue ads next to photos of a plane crash), but might not be available in the current configuration (maybe because of Yahoo, maybe because of something else), or maybe it doesn’t work as specifically & focused as you’re asking for, and it definitely isn’t feasible to just “turn off” ads on a photo gallery because there just isn’t an easy button like that, not to mention that the photogalleries are yielded by a 3rd party, and ooh I can’t wait to hear your rant about how we shouldn’t outsource our photogallery tool.

Possible solutions?

  • Kill the ad feed for a few days?
  • Pull the ads out of rotation (some photos must lack ads because they displayed plain black where the ad would have been)
  • Run APPROPRIATE house ads detailing how you are covering the event
  • Run public service announcements

Technology has come a long way

I worked at a paper in North Carolina where the publisher had a bell that would ring in his office when the presses started to roll. He expected department managers or a substitute to be in the press room.
He would hand them out, warning, “Read for content, not entertainment.”
If he found something he didn’t like, he’d start with the pressman and work his way upstream to the editor until he found someone accountable for what displeased him. I can’t imagine D.R. Segal accepting the answer, “It’s beyond our control.”

I’m waiting for a Post response

I sent an email to three of the top execs at The Palm Beach Post at 11:43 A.M. on January 15. If I get a response, I’ll post it here as an update.

Gallery of Photos

Here is a representative sampling of the photos and ads. I could have included more, particularly the house ads, but I didn’t have the stomach for it.

[Note: Ken Steinhoff’s first published picture was April 18, 1963. He’s worked for papers in four states as a reporter, copy editor, photographer, typesetter and engraver.  He was hired as a photographer for The Palm Beach Post and Evening Times Dec. 31, 1972. He was a shooter for three years, promoted to director of photography and spent from 1991 to his retirement in 2008 as telecommunications manager. He wrote this piece as a long-time Palm Beach Post subscriber who remembers when newspapers were accountable for every word they published.]

Before The Palm Beach Post Presses Were Stilled

It was just about this time last year when The Palm Beach Post, which had some of the best reproduction of any paper in the country going back to the late 60s, cranked out its last paper.

Even though I had taken an early retirement buyout, I wanted to spend some time with the men and women who had made my pictures look good for so many years. I’ve always believed that every worker should be able to give his or her kids and grandkids a picture of what they do for a living.

I shot these pictures over two of the last weekends before the presses were stilled forever.

Go here to see the Magic of the Big Iron and the workers who drove it so well.

Photos by Ken Steinhoff, former staff photographer, director of photography, editorial operations manager and telecommunications manager at The Post from 12/31/72 – 9/1/08

Editor & Publisher, Age 125, Dies Unexpectedly

Sign at The Palm Beach PostOr, maybe the demise of Editor & Publisher wasn’t unexpected. Subscriptions to the publication weren’t cheap and I’m sure that it was an easy expense for papers and other subscribers to cut. Newspapers that aren’t hiring don’t need to run want ads, either.

Shawn Moynihan, who wrote the magazine’s obituary, said “the expressions of surprise and outpouring of strong support for E&P that has followed across the Web — Editor & Publisher has even hit No. 4 as a Twitter trending topic — raises the notion that the publication might yet continue in some form.”

Sounds like whistling past the graveyard to me.

You can read the whole, sad story here at E&P.

Poynter rehashes the press release here, but the comments are starting to get interesting.

I lost respect for the magazine when they started calling ink slingers ‘journos.” I never heard anybody who really wrote for a living use that term as a self description.