Monday, January 9, 2012

The new model: Don't worry about facts, grammar or spelling

In case you’ve been wondering about the hiring process currently underway for the new MLive Media Group one of those interviewed was nice enough to send me an outline of what is being asked of reporters and editors in the ‘new’ company.

This particular job applicant is from the west side of the State and was interviewing for a full time reporting position in the new company.
For obvious reasons I’m not going to reveal here whether or not the person got the job.

The new reporting positions will require a lot of Internet posting with lots of freedom and very little editorial oversight. While that might seem to be an ideal situation for a reporter, no good reporter wants no backstop or a good set of eyes looking at their work before publication, or in this case posting.
In other words, reporters are going to pretty much be Lone Rangers. This applicant was told that driving web traffic is paramount and editing, well, not so much.

The interviewer, an editor, made it clear that mistakes in stories were to be expected in the new model, including grammar, facts and misspellings. That’s an incredible change from old school journalism and to me a total surrender to mediocrity.
In one of the few direct quotes sent to me by the source this is what the interviewer/editor  said:

"Reporters will self-edit."
Yes, an editor actually said that to a prospective reporter, which will reduce the reporters to nothing more than bloggers.

Reporters in the new MLive Media Group will receive a backpack, a smartphone, a laptop and will move out from the new “hubs” (I guess that is the new word for newsroom) and will interact with the community and posting online what they see hear and find out without much interference from editors.
Reporters will be expected to put a smartphone in the face of sources and interview them on video.

The source is not an old curmudgeon like me either, the source is one of those 30-somethings with a good handle on technology and who knows the way around blogs, aggregation and RSS feeds and even to them it sounded like a muddled plan. Or in their words “a nightmare, honestly.”
It is clear that reporters will be expected to work themselves to the bone without an appropriate compensation to go with the expectations. As the source said – “the stress level is through the effing roof up there.”

And what about all the work for the print product? The interviewer  was dismissive of any extra work for the print product, adding that  “we believe that the paper will just end up filling itself."
Really, a newspaper that just fills itself up.  In the words of the source:

“Take a minute to think about how foolish that sounds. Papers don't "fill themselves" any more than my jalopy fills itself with gas.”
Sounds like the newspaper will simply be a dumping ground for the stuff that is pumped into the online product. And without proper layers of editing one can only imagine the poor quality that will result.

In the opinion of the source there is not much passion among those who have accepted new positions or those who have turned them down.
And in a final comment from the source:

“But you know as well as I do that the issue has never been the grunts on the ground, it's been the suits in GR. It always comes down to leadership.”
Or, in my words, the lack of it.


Anonymous said...

HAHAH Jim, this is too funny. Talk about "free from editors." I get sick of people whining about mistakes in the newspaper and asking "don't they have editors anymore?" NO! THEY DO NOT HAVE EDITORS! The last editor at The Flint Journal was PK. The next one was a hatchet man brought in to be in charge as layoffs started and the one after that was the guy who waited for years to be editor only to finally get the office and be told he had to lay off the last of the reporters. Then the one now, mentored by the poor guy who only lasted a few months, she's uper nice but of no real consequence. Just keeps the kids on task and takes calls from people who want "talk to the editor," attends meetings and holiday "administrative manager" parties. Editors? All the booth papers are free from them now.

Anonymous said...

"Sounds like the newspaper will simply be a dumping ground for the stuff that is pumped into the online product. And without proper layers of editing one can only imagine the poor quality that will result."

Who needs to imagine this? You can see it in action in Ann Arbor, where the quality has gone down and down as the veteran reporters have found other, better work.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that Skipper and Gilligan and all other suits at Mlive Media Group are so diligently on guard protecting the integrity of the profession.

If this is what "editors" now do, then why are they even on the payroll?

Anonymous said...

factual mistakes are to be expected in stories? Wow! Bet the corporate lawyers love that one! Can you say, "Wreckless disregard for the truth"???

Unknown said...

We have had a lot of people come to us while headed out of the Jackson Citizen Patriot. About a year ago we saw the writing on the wall and started to create a modern news website for Jackson. There is still a lot to work on and we are just a couple guys funding it with what we can scrape together. We would love to hear your ideas on community contributed hyper-local news and how we can do it right!

We have a pre-launch blog online right now at

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a "Patch" job!

Anonymous said...

Finally some clarity on the previously inexplicable choices for who was kept and who was fired in the MLive Media Group purges. They terminated everyone who would look stupidest in a backpack. Makes sense now.

Anonymous said...

Who the heck said PK was an editor? No way!