Monday, January 12, 2009

Can you say Peter Principle?

Just when you think that maybe, just maybe, someone at Booth or Newhouse would seek a new vision or new leadership, they prove that they are nothing, if not suicidal. And just when I said things had become suddenly quiet over there.

So the word is out that the current local news editor, affectionately known here as the editor-in-charge-of-corrections, has been elevated to the top Editor spot in the newsroom to replace the former captain of the Titanic.

And just for the record, I don't have anything personal against either of these men - and that's also the operative word here, men - it's just that between the two they have provided perhaps the poorest, most incompetent leadership of the Flint Journal in its history.

At times, I've shared a laugh or two with the new editor of the paper, but his skills at handling people and news are laughable. For Booth or Newhouse to believe this is the way out of the abyss is equally funny. For one thing, he lives in a suburb of Lansing with his very nice family and has for his entire career as an editor of the Flint Journal.

I wonder if the promotion comes with a push for him to finally move into the subscription area of the Flint Journal. It was always laughable when he commissioned stories on the residency of police officers and teachers when he himself not only lived in a different area code, but many, many miles outside the Journal's subscription area.

This is a guy who covered politics, and nothing else, early in his career and who has so little understanding of breaking news and how it needs to be covered that it was painful to those of us who did.

This just makes it plain that Booth is not really interested in surviving the long term.

There's a cliche that says when you're in a hole the first thing you should do is to "stop digging."

Booth just brought in a backhoe.


Anonymous said...

Am I surprised? No. At this point, not a lot surprises me when talking about The Flint Journal.

Anonymous said...

You are forgetting he had a suburban beat long, long ago. Included Holly I believe

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Matt Millen never moved to Detroit during his tenure with the Lions. Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Meet the new boss.
Same as the old boss.

Anonymous said...

What would God say about the way you continually bash people at the paper you allegedly liked so much? You remember the guy with the big sea? Would He approve? You seem to enjoy everything bad that happens to your so-called friends still at the paper. So sad. Get over it Jim.

Jim of L-Town said...

Good question anonymous 02:05. Well, first of all I am over it. Secondly, it's my friends at the Journal who have encouraged me to continue to give them information. Frankly, I'm ready to move on and write about other things, but for those without a voice or standing sometimes just having a place to vent is important.
Jesus, by the way, was the original "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" guy. It seems that those who make the decisions that are affecting the lives of hundreds and thousands of employees are pretty comfortable and not into sharing the pain.
Bashing is not what I am trying to do. Bashing is what a clueless company does to its employees when it continues to try and get a different result with the exact same leadership.
For the record, and for the umpteenth time, I want the newspaper, and the Flint Journal specifically, to succeed. I get no joy, actually quite the opposite, when I see the kinds of decisions that continue to be made.
I am merely holding the news leadership up to the same standards and scrutiny that they hold others to.
If it comes off as bashing, then I apologize, but until the flow of information stops I will continue to provide a forum for those who want it.
You are free to avoid this site.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming to believe it doesn't matter who the editor is. Newspapers are doomed. They will be killed off by the Internet as sure as horse-drawn carriages were killed by the automobile.

That being said, I think one of the problems Booth has is that it has become inbred. Most, if not all, of the editors have spent their entire careers at Booth. Several have been in their jobs for more than 20 years. That makes it difficult to bring a fresh approach and enthusiasm to the task at a time those things are needed the most.

Shag the fan said...

Just this past week, a friend known for having an above-average sense of patience, empathy and imperturbable good nature used the words "miserable" and "toxic" to describe employee morale and the work atmosphere, respectively, at the Flint Journal. This can only be laid at the doorstep of the paper's editors, the guy who is leaving and the guy who is taking over.

More than a year ago, reporters were openly joking that the unofficial newsroom motto had become "It can always get worse." Obviously they weren't kidding. On the race to the bottom, the paper seems to be going "full steam ahead."

Jim, to Mr. Anonymous who left that ridiculous comment that you need to "get over it" and say nice things, I would like to say: Please, go back to reading Archie comic books and forget about discussions of what's happening to journalism.

The Journal was once a decent and sometimes even good newspaper, where people in Genesee County could turn to have an idea what was going on in their community and expect a reasonable degree of competence and professionalism. Jim remembers that, and so do I and so do thousands of other one-time readers. Believe me, pal, we are all definitely "over it."

Keep telling the truth, Jim.

Shag the fan

Anonymous said...

I should probably introduce myself (somewhat). I'm a former Boothie from many years ago and worked with the departing FJ editor briefly and have talked with him on and off -- mostly off -- over the years. No need to worry that I'm spying for him; we haven't been on speaking terms for several years now.

I haven't created a pseudonym because I'm just passing through on this topic however I read the story on the departing editor and thought it smelled fishy. I have it on good authority he had much higher aspirations for himself professionally. "Content coordinator" sounds an awful lot like "gentle demotion" to me. The article created more questions than answers.

I posted before that I have it on good authority that the departing editor did (does?) indeed live in the Flint suburbs and did when he took the position. His son is in Ann Arbor so he wants to be closer, not further away.

MLive frankly waited too long to jump into the online content/user-friendly website business. Most people have long since stopped checking that site. They gave up too much ground online so moving more of their operation there after what, 10 years of ignoring the web, isn't going to do them much good.

I hope the departing editor has another plan in mind because staying chained to Booth is indeed like sitting on a deck chair on the Titanic.

Ms. Anonymous. :)

inky said...

I'm a little tardy weighing in here, but I have to comment on the poster who questioned Jim's commitment to Christianity (and God) because he exercises his right to criticize the management of a newspaper that, by all accounts, is being run into the ground.

First, if you want to argue about who is holier, I would suggest speaking with many of the subordinates -- past and present -- of the new editor. He is a bully of the highest order, actively discourages any kind of difference of opinion (breaking news: it can actually HELP IMPROVE a product) and openly practices favortism. In this man's world, competence is not based on skill and experience but on one's ability to brown-nose. Last time I checked my Bible, Jesus wasn't real keen on bullies.

Jim is speaking up for good people whose careers have been shortened because they did not kiss up appropriately to the new editor. He also is speaking up for the people of Flint and Genesee County, who deserve a newspaper that will ask tough questions and be a watchdog.

Keep up the good work, Jim; you are providing a valuable forum for people who love this business for all of the good it can do when operated by the right people.

And unlike the new editor of the Journal, you actually allow people of differing opinions to have their say. What a concept.