February 22, 2017 Last Updated 7:59 am

ProPublica Illinois begins recruiting; Fairfax Media may spin-off digital real estate unit

Morning Brief: Apple March event to feature refresh of iPad line, but without a complete rethink of what tablets are for, sales declines likely to continue

The independent non-profit news organization ProPublica late last week announced that it has named Chicago Tribune veteran Louise Kiernan the first editor-in-chief of ProPublica Illinois. It is an exciting development here in the Midwest as things have been pretty bleak for a while. ProPublica has listed 5 different editing and reporting positions on its website that are tied to the new Illinois effort.

“With her experience in enterprising accountability journalism and news management, as well as her strong ties across the city of Chicago and state of Illinois, Louise is exactly the right person to lead ProPublica Illinois,” said Robin Fields, ProPublica managing editor in a statement. “We are thrilled to have her extraordinary talents as we launch our first state-based expansion.”

Kiernan has been an associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University since 2010 after 18 years with the Trib.

“Illinois has a wealth of subjects for searching investigative journalism, and we see enormous potential for ProPublica Illinois to have a real impact,” said ProPublica editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg at the time the Illinois project was announced in December. “Our key priority now is building a team with strong local ties and established reputations within the community to lead this exciting expansion. We look forward also to working with local publishing partners to bring Illinois readers more high-quality accountability reporting.”

There will be nothing on Milo Yiannopoulos in this Morning Brief as the media has given the guy more than enough publicity yesterday, having apparently learned nothing from the Donald Trump experience.

Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, announced earnings today (see here), and also said it may spin-off its online real estate business, Domain Group.

The newspaper publisher reported a sharp decline in print ad revenue (16 percent), but managed to post higher net income thanks to cost cutting. It also recommitted to continuing to publishing print newspapers, despite the decline.

The spin-off would certainly generate cash, but as anyone who has looked at News Corp’s P&L will see, the digital real estate business is a growth business, print newspapers are not.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Lucy Battersby:

Fairfax Media confirms Domain spin-off, reports 6 per cent growth in half-year profits

Chief executive Greg Hywood revealed this could be the first of several companies to mushroom out of Fairfax’s publishing business.

“People should see publishing as an asset that can drive new business and Domain has been the proof of that … It does not need the mothership any more, it can stand on its own two feet,” he said.

In coming years Fairfax may do the same with Stan and Drive, he added.

The Guardian, Amanda Meade:

Fairfax Media announces half-year profit and plan to keep printing newspapers

Last August Hywood said the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age’s seven-day printing model would “eventually give way to weekend-only” but that prediction is not to come true any day soon.

Last week the publisher radically restructured the way the papers were run, removing the role of editor-in-chief following the resignation of Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir.

The Age and the Herald now have local editors only and national, political and international coverage across both mastheads is handled by Fairfax Media national editor James Chessell.

Fairfax Media also announced that the profitable online real estate business, Domain, may be spun off into a separate company to attract shareholders who may not want to invest in the traditional newspaper business.

Apple is rumored to be looking to refresh its iPad line and unveil the new models during a March event. According to several sources, there may be as many as four models – new 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 12.9-inch models.

That sounds pretty crazy, and not many of the more reliable media sources have confirmed the plan.

The problem, as far as I can see, is that making iPads in different sizes really doesn’t get to the core of the problem: why buy a tablet? A few years back it was obvious: the iPad would be a great way to read interactive media, watch TV and films, and do a little bit of work on the go.

Unfortunately, with the death of Steve Jobs, it appears that Apple has lost interest in publishing – and publishing companies, being run by old, unimaginative men, have little interest in interactive media. Combined with the growing size of smartphones, tablets have seemed superfluous, and as a result sales have slumped.

But it is not as if no one is buying tablets – over 13 million iPads were sold in Q4 of 2016 (Apple’s Q1 2017), and while that was down from the year before (which was down from the year before that), that still would be a good business for many companies.

But I still can’t think why I need to buy a new iPad, not with my iPhone and Mac doing the job. The solution has to come from Apple and they need to think outside the box. The first thing they need to do is stop thinking that making their products thinner, the bezels smaller is the answer. That does not fundamentally change anything. It is, to be honest, lazy thinking.

MacRumors, Joe Rossignol:

Apple Said to Debut New iPad Pro Lineup, 128GB iPhone SE, and Red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus at March Event

Apple will host a March event to introduce a new iPad Pro lineup and other products, according to Japanese website Mac Otakara.

In terms of the iPad Pro lineup, the report claims Apple will announce new 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 12.9-inch models. The 10.5-inch model may not ship until May, while the other sizes are said to ship in March.

If the report is accurate, it would suggest Apple plans to refresh the iPad mini 4 with a new 7.9-inch iPad Pro model, update its existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, and introduce an all-new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which is widely rumored to feature an edge-to-edge display without a Home button.

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