Firing the wrong people

The new normal is depressing if you work at a newspaper.

You work harder than before for less money, with fewer colleagues, less coaching and less security. Maybe that isn’t so different from a lot of industries, though.

The sad fact is that the cuts by Advance Media—600 jobs lost in all, 200 at the Times-Picayune, and nearly half the newsroom staff gone—were probably inevitable. With declining revenues, there just isn’t any way to keep staff sizes that many metro-sized papers used to have. And cutting down on the print schedule, as Dan Conover noted is likely a good idea.

But it’s still hard to see hundreds of people lose their jobs, especially when many of them were instrumental to the daily miracle that is putting out a newspaper.

And despite protestations by management, the daily paper isn’t being replaced by a vital online hub for digital journalism—it’s being replaced by a generic web portal that John McQuaid says lives only for clicks, not quality.

The trend is clear—fewer Americans read print publications, and those who do are dying off. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for journalism. And it’s hard to commit acts of produce journalism without journalists.

So why are they the ones being fired? If I were in charge of a large news organization (and praise be, I am not) the firings would start in the executive suite. That’s where failed strategy after failed strategy has come from. That’s where people have spent the past decade—or more—talking about innovation and disruption without doing anything different, let alone innovating or disrupting.

If I were a newspaper shareholder—last year I divested myself from my laughably small stake in a paper I worked for—I would bring on the mob with torches and pitchforks and storm the offices of the executives. After all, when things are good, or in some cases not-so-good, they take the credit and get the bonuses.

 
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