Thursday, January 22, 2009

New local editor selected at FJ

I received a flurry of contacts today about the selection of a new local editor. Picked to replace the new editor was his hand selected choice just last year as an assistant editor.

Here's the text of the e-mail sent out to staff:

"Everyone:

I'm pleased to announce that MR (per the policy of Free From Editors, I'm withholding her full name) is our new Local News Editor. In that capacity, M will direct our local news efforts, acting as the day-to-day supervisor for reporters and overseeing the daily and Sunday budgets. She will be in charge of editorial operations when I am not available. Since leaving the reporting ranks to become an editor, M (missed the name in the first go round, I have fixed it, sorry) has demonstrated a great news sense, organization, enthusiasm and a strong leadership style. It should serve us well in the future."

I was a desk neighbor of MR for several years when we were both reporters. She was always nice to me and often complained - along with the rest of us - about the poor personnel skills of the now editor. I liked her a lot. To be fair, I have not worked as a reporter under her and can't really offer an opinion as to her skills, or the lack thereof, but I do know a number of folks sent me the announcement of her appointment with not many nice things to say. None which I will repeat here.

What I do know is that an excellent editor, one with two decades of editing experience - actually much more editing experience than the big editor - is being pushed out the door while the editor continues his policy of rewarding those he personally likes. Guess that's just human nature.

Someone also pointed out that another person who had been a Sunday editor for a number of years was also passed over for this new promotion.

Unlike most other businesses, the news business has a secretive and non-competitive process for selecting who gets promoted. There are rarely postings for advancement and the new promotions simply are announced without offering others a chance to apply. If a government agency ran its advancement programs in that fashion you can believe that any good newspaper editorial writer would lambast them for not giving everyone an equal chance.

What I also know is that whatever editors are left after the latest downsizing, they better start grabbing a phone and a keyboard and start helping out with writing stories or the morale will sink even further than people tell me it is today.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim,

You left MJ's first name in your post in one instance..

Anonymous said...

"She was always nice to me and often complained - along with the rest of us - about the poor personnel skills of the now editor. I liked her a lot."

If you liked her so much, why did you just throw her under the bus with that unnecessary comment? She still has to work there and if her boss is as bad as he is made out to be on this blog, that will make things unnecessarily awkward for her. If, as you say, you like here a lot, why put that in?

The Sanity Project said...

jim, you missed her name once in the first paragraph....just a heads up.

Jim of L-Town said...

Thanks for the note about missing the name. I have now removed it. Also, M, like the rest of us, didn't keep our opinions of the editor's bad personnel skills to herself. I'm sure he was aware of how we all felt about him, so it was no secret.

inky said...

C'mon, in corporate America, promotions are rarely based on skill or experience; they are usually very subjective and political in nature. Government hasn't done much better -- Mike Brown wasn't FEMA director because of his vast expertise dealing with natural disasters. But don't take my word for it -- ask the people of New Orleans how that worked out.

The bigger and more troubling issue is that a paper headquartered in Flint and designed to cover Genesee County is now being led by an editor in chief who lives in suburban Lansing and a woman who lives in Saginaw County.

Maybe the Journal's readers are so used to having a daily paper that has abdicated its responsibility to be a community leader (and by that I do not mean cheerleader) that the editors' residency is a non-issue. But I fail to see how two editors who don't live anywhere near Flint can capably get their arms around the issues facing their readers and address them in a credible way.

But wait ... you say ... it's the reporters who are the eyes and ears of the community. It's their job to know who's stealing what ... their job to chase down rumors, listen to what people are saying at the grocery store ... their job to talk to their neighbors.

That is true. However, at The Journal, the editors decide what is news and hand down assignments to reporters, which makes their nonresidency even more problematic.

It is no secret that the editor with more community knowledge and experience -- the one who is being forced to take a buyout -- often disagreed with the new editor on how certain stories should be covered. While healthy dissent and respectful exchange of ideas make most workplaces stronger, the new editor doesn't embrace dissent of any kind, so it's no wonder that he chose as his No. 2 a person who has been "trained" to shut up and carry out orders.

It's been decades since anyone could credibly use the words "Flint Journal" and "watchdog" in the same sentence. I'm afraid these recent personnel changes will accelerate The Journal's continuing downward spiral into non-relavency.

bob5908 said...

Congrats to MR. I must have different sources, because I've heard that she got the promotion because she works her butt off and does a good job. But "JS," it's predictable that your bitterness toward the former and current editors would cause you to throw stones at anyone who is affiliated with them. That's why a lot of people I know have lost respect for you. If M didn't get the job, you would have criticized the person who did and said that it was because of sexism. Hopefully you will get over the bitterness, which is very apparent to a lot of people I know who are neutral observers and don't really know you or your favorite targets. There is certainly much critiquing (and criticism) that can be done about the journalism business and those in charge of it without personal attacks.

Bob Wheaton (Feel free to use my name. Or if you don't want to do that, you can describe me as a reporter who recently left the FJ to be an editor elsewhere in Booth)

Jim of L-Town said...

Hello Bob. Not sure you read what I wrote about MR, but I think I said I liked her and because I hadn't worked for her, couldn't and wouldn't offer an opinion on whether she was qualified or not.

I'm not going to argue about being bitter (I'm not) and I try to avoid personal attacks (saying someone lives in Lansing when they work in Flint is simply a fact.) I have edited out personal attacks as much as I can and didn't print and won't print what a number of folks said about MR's management style.

My point, and you of all people should know this, is that the Booth style of promotion is not competitive, usually done without any corporate notice that openings are available and many people who may want to apply for openings often don't know there was an opening for a supervisory position until it is already filled.

Maybe you can explain why an experienced editor - one with nearly 20 years on the job as an editor - was encouraged to leave at a time when obviously that experience would come in very handy in a downsized newsroom. I can't.

Jim

Herman T. Firefly said...

So Bob Wheaton, who hasn't been in the Flint Journal newsroom in years, thinks "MR" got the job of running the newsroom in return for working her ass off?? Bob should talk to some of the people in the newsroom who have actually been there for the past couple of years. I have little if any respect for her -- I don't like bullies or brown nosers -- and I wonder if Wheaton knows how she has openly demeaned and derided reporters, just like her hero, the new editor.

HTF

bob5908 said...

HTF,

Wow, time flies. Was it during the Clinton presidency that I left the FJ? I don't need to talk to people who have been in the newsroom in the last couple of years(although I have), because I've been there in the last couple of years. I left 18 months ago -- five months before the author of this blog left.

Bob

Anonymous said...

I would expect a reporter-turned-editor do a better job of defending the recent personnel moves at The Journal with facts rather than just dismiss Jim as "bitter" for leveling thoughful criticism of the paper's management. That seems like a copout, and an intellectually lazy one at that.

Anonymous said...

Bob: Thanks for speaking up.

To anon looking for "facts" ... what part of this blog has ever been about facts or actual reporting? My issue is not with criticism of the Journal ... it is with criticism of journalistic practices without abiding by them on here. Ever called the publisher/editor(s) to ask for a comment or to confirm something? Sure, they'd probably laugh in your face, but that is part of being a thorough reporter, right?

This blog is extremely condescending. A guy who can't even embed a hyperlink is going to critique MLive's redesign thoughtfully? Whatever.

I'm all for covering the journalism industry, but the fact that this site is done with seemingly little regard for the good journalism he mocks the Journal for moving away from makes it extremely hard to take any criticism seriously.

Jim of L-Town said...

Anonymous 19:48

First, I have never said this is a journalistic enterprise. This is a blog, this is opinion. And you're right, if I called I know what the response would be: No comment.

Second, you obviously don't know how to read. I have not criticized the reporting or journalistic skills of the reporters, old or new at the Journal. In fact, many good journalists remain.

My beef is the dysfunctional lead management at the place. The idea that cutting from the bottom is the way to survive is another place that I part company with the Journal.

But unlike the Journal, you are free to air your opinions here.

Thanks for stopping by, do come back soon.

But just in case you hadn't noticed, we don't charge a fee, we don't sell ads and we don't bring you here at the point of a weapon.

If people don't like what is offered here, take me off your favorites list. It's really just that easy.