April Foolery

Times Union blogger Chuck Miller posted something new every single day since August 2009. That streak was broken today because the paper suspended him and locked him out of his blog.

What happened? The area’s biggest newspaper didn’t like Chuck’s post for April Fools’ Day, an innocent prank that implausibly suggested that Kellyanne Conway was scheduled to speak at the UAlbany commencement. They deleted the item, but I was able to save it from my news reader if you’d like to see it.

And the TU didn’t just take his post down and suspend him, they issued a retraction, from no less than the paper’s vice president & editor, Rex Smith:

A community blog hosted by timesunion.com falsely reported Saturday morning that Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to President Trump, would be the commencement speaker at the University at Albany. As soon as we were alerted to the post, we removed it from our site and suspended the blog. We apologize to anybody who was misled by this post, which was not written by a Times Union staff member. Even on April Fools’ Day, there’s no place for fake news under the Times Union banner.

Rex Smith, editor

Fake news? That’s not just crazy, it’s Trump crazy.

Chuck’s had this sort of fun on April 1 for as long as I can remember — it’s sort of a tradition. I’m sure he didn’t expect this violent, knee-jerk reaction from the paper, especially not after serving them faithfully, without a penny of compensation, for so many years.

So what made this April Fools’ Day different?

I suspect that somebody, maybe even somebody at the University at Albany, got hold of Rex Smith and complained. Or — and this is very likely — it came down from his boss, who is president of the University at Albany Foundation.  For Smith to step up early on a Saturday morning and intervene in something so trivial is extraordinary — but so is a call from your boss early on a Saturday morning.

I’ve been critical of the way the paper treats its bloggers. Times Union bloggers get nothing for their efforts, even though they provide free online content to one of America’s most powerful media organizations, Hearst Communications. The paper gets clicks, the bloggers get nothing.

It’s not merely that they don’t pay, but they also have the bloggers sign an onerous contract in which they surrender ownership of their content. We don’t pay you, but we own your work forever. Nice deal.

When all this went down, Chuck decided he’d had enough and quit. He’s started up a new blog on his own, and while he won’t have the audience the Times Union provides, at least he’ll have his dignity.

11 thoughts on “April Foolery

  1. I’m infuriated, I’m greatly saddened, but I’m not surprised.

    Why wasn’t this an issue last year (Uber) or the year before (Wegmans)?

    Chuck’s April Fools’ joke is a tradition. Oh well… While we’re at it, maybe “Weekend Update” on SNL should go, as well as “The Onion.”

    1. Why? Simple: the paper has close ties to the University at Albany.

      As I pointed out in this post, they left up an April Fools’ story by another blogger that was just as fraudulent. I wish someone would explain this logic. Actually, maybe I know: the UAlbany post was embarrassing to Rex Smith and George Hearst.

  2. You may recal,l that LAST year’s post was about Uber coming to Albany. Got played up in the Washington Post. The TU loved the buzz. I think this is because Chuck annoyed the Notorious KGB in his blog on Thursday.

    1. Possibly — it’s always been my opinion that she holds the community bloggers at arm’s length, regarding them like they’re something that stinks.

      It’s sad, really. She was in a position to be a community leader on the blog page, but instead she turned her efforts in a different direction.

      I don’t really think the TU would take any action based on some minor slight against the blog queen. Her reign is an uneasy one, at best.

    1. Exactly.

      I think people overestimate her influence at the Times Union, so I’m not sure I buy the idea that Chuck’s blog post triggered some sort of jihad. Rex Smith is going to target somebody because of Kristi?

      If the Luna thing happened today it would cause hardly a ripple. Does anybody even read her blog any more?

    1. Me, too!

      There are some loose ends, however — like whatever came of the threats by TU bloggers to leave? Did Rex Smith apologize or something? I asked this in a comment on that Judd guy’s blog and he never replied.

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