The Ronzio Era Begins At The Bangor Daily News
by Al Diamon
Big changes at the BDN: It didn’t take long for Tony Ronzio to make his presence felt at the Bangor Daily News. Ronzio was hired by the newspaper just a month ago as its director of news and new media, a job that’s become the power center on the journalism side of the business, second in authority only to that of vice president and chief operating officer Todd Benoit. On Jan. 17, Ronzio made his first major moves to reshape operations.
Mike Dowd, the Bangor Daily’s editor-in-chief, still holds that title, but his duties have been reduced. Dowd, who’s been at the paper for nearly 27 years, is, according to an informed source, “filling in” as city editor. His future role appears murky, with one insider saying it’s uncertain if he’ll remain in that job, return to his old position or get squeezed out.
The reason there’s an opening at city editor is because Tim Allen, who joined the BDN in 1998 after editing and reporting stints at the Morning Sentinel and Lewiston Sun Journal, was purged by Ronzio. In addition, Julie Murchison Harris has been moved from the ambiguous editor-at-large post to community editor, whatever that means.
Sources say the changes were not budget-related. They also said there aren’t likely to be many more such disruptions in the immediate future.
Or if there are, they won’t be initiated by Ronzio and upper management. Several staffers are said to be unhappy at the paper, which has lately been demanding more effort from reporters and editors. One employee complained of being forced to work eight days in a row, and several have said they routinely are expected to produce as many as four stories a day.
The heavier workload seems to have as much to do with the Bangor Daily’s decision to dump the Associated Press as with Ronzio’s management style. Everyone is being required to hustle to cover events that previously would have been left to the wire service.
It’s not clear whether veteran reporter and editor Tom Groening’s departure had something to do with any of the above, but the paper’s Belfast bureau chief (and former editorial page editor) is jumping to the Island Institute as of Feb. 1. Groening will become the editor of the group’s 10-times-a-year publication The Working Waterfront.
In marginally related news, the Bangor Daily closed on the sale of its landmark headquarters building last week. Details of where the newsroom and other offices will move and when that will happen are still being decided. The developers who bought the property have not yet announced their plans, but speculation has it that the site may become a hotel catering to visitors to the new Bangor Auditorium under construction next door and Hollywood Casino across the street.
Don’t put the boss’ name in the headline: Or in the lead, either. When the Portland Press Herald reported on Jan. 17 that S. Donald Sussman was indefinitely delaying a condo project in Portland’s India Street neighborhood, it didn’t bother mentioning Sussman’s name until the third paragraph.
Sussman is the majority owner of the newspaper.
It’s tough to imagine another well-known figure involved in a news story who’d rate having his or her identity buried that far down.
One other problem with the article: It appears Sussman’s decision to bail out of the deal showed up in print only after word reached the Press Herald newsroom that Chris Busby, editor of The Bollard, was about to publish a column on the matter in the Bangor Daily News on Jan. 18. Busby’s piece contained some sharp criticism of Sussman’s move that was notable by its absence from the Portland paper’s story.
Branded: I’m not exactly sure what “brand management” is. An expert cited on Wikipedia defined it as “the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of generation segregation among competition and building loyalty among customers.”
Whatever that means, it doesn’t appear to have much to do with journalism. Rather, it appears to be about news gathering’s nemeses: marketing and public relations. So, it’s difficult to figure out what to make of a news release I received last week from Portland radio station WGAN (560 AM) referring to Jeff Wade as its “Brand Manager and News Director.”
Seems like a made-to-order conflict of interest.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.