Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Good column on newspapers

Great column on the demise of newspapers.

Tidbit follows:

-Leadership collapsed under the weight of these forces. A generation of managers that would go along with these dictates rose, while those with other ideas were pushed out or aside. These surviving managers – of course with honorable exceptions – were singularly incapable of dealing with the historic turning points facing newspapers. Every day they came in hoping to not make a mistake, to merely preserve the business they had, or to push through artificial, top-down, one-side-fits-all formulas, usually backed by questionable research. At some chains, the jobs of editors became little more than gathering stuff for graphic do-dads and implementing the content rules cooked up at headquarters. These were once the front-line leaders who made the biggest difference in the quality of a product based, inexorably, on the written word, well told. The simple creed of "get a great story and put it in the newspaper (or online)" went away. For example, experienced police reporters went away -- even though it's clear that well-done cop stories draw readers. In their place was a 21-year-old taking dictation from a police public-affairs announcement.

Man this guy has it soooo right. To read the rest go here:


Monday, February 4, 2008

Where have all the parents gone?

Way off topic today, but Sunday (Super Bowl Sunday, no less) my wife and I were shopping at the Lapeer Meijer store.

I was struck by a sign in one of the checkout lanes: "Family friendly checkout, no candy, no toys."

Sure enough the store had removed all those tempting candy and toy displays in the one lane, presumably to prevent temper tantrums.

I immediately flashed back to my youth and remembered my one - and only - temper tantrum in a store. My mother apologized to the clerk, left behind her basket of groceries and took me home where I got a really good spanking.

Is it really the store's responsibility to remove items that might trigger an actual parental teaching moment? The problem really is that parents don't want to be parents anymore.

Here's a tip for parents: If your child is acting up in a store, restaurant or other public place, accompany, drag, carry or pull them outside and give them a decent spanking (not a beating) and warn them that future outbursts will result in the same.

It worked for generations of children and will likely work for you. Or, for you really modern folks, try the time out thing, although it never really worked for me.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How many editors are enough?

While the Flint Journal cleans house of its reporting staff, there has been little reduction in the ranks of the editors.

Through attrition, a number of copy editors have left, but mostly, the management type editors are still intact. In fact, one good reporter was promoted to an editor spot despite the mass exodus of many reporters.

I did hear that two copy editors from another Booth newspaper were involuntarily assigned to begin working at the Flint Journal Monday, Feb. 4 so as not to overburden the management staff.

In the meantime, reporters are told they must produce as a quota, one news story per day, and a Sunday show piece every two weeks. So now newspapers have gone from a creative enterprise to the newest widget factory.

A Sunday, Feb. 3 column by the editor claims that print readers are not being sacrificed to the new online efforts of the Journal. That is total bullcrap. News content in the print paper has already suffered from the major buyouts as evidenced by the lack of local business content due to the loss of its veteran business desk.

One reporter now is assigned to the work of what was a five-person desk.

A little honesty from the editor to his readers would be welcome. This putting a happy face on such dramatic changes is unbecoming a big city editor. (See the story below about how the Los Angeles Times editor handled his situation).

Don't blame the reporters, they are stretched thin and many are new, part-time people who are in the process of learning the ropes.

So now the Journal is giving away its entire product online for free and wondering why its print version is losing money. There is no question changes had to be made, but ownership should have started cleaning house at the top, where it really matters, rather than gutting its essential product.

It's probably not politically correct, but the old saying "too many chiefs and not enough Indians" applies here.

The old ratio of editors was already about 1 to 1, so I can't imagine what it is now.

Add to this that many of the editors rarely lift a finger to help the reporting staff by covering an event, ripping off a news brief or making a phone call or two to help the overworked reporting staff.

So to sum up, while reporters depart in droves and the remnant picks up the beats of those departed, many of the editors are not sharing in the division of work they are so quick to hand to others.

True, the paper is hiring new part-time reporters with little previous experience and at a lower pay and benefit scale so the heavy lifting, for now anyway, continues to fall to the veteran reporters left behind.