Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food for thought.

The following post has a lot for reporters to think about. Because it criticizes some some senior editors toward the end, I felt it worth posting here. It is both about the election and the condition of journalism today.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More travel, less blogging

OK, at the risk of sounding like some kind of jet-setter, if that's possible with a series of car trips to Akron, Ohio; Buffalo, NY; and Boston, MA, I'll be off traveling from Friday through Tuesday.

The trip to Buffalo is one of our frequent and regular trip there to help my wife's parents and the trip to Boston is a quick stop and go to pick up some furniture from our daughter who lives there and no longer needs an heirloom bed she took to college. We only wish we could bring her home too, we miss her.

All this is just a warning (or blessing to some) that blogging will be sporadic, or possibly non-existant, between Friday and Tuesday.

Just consider it a retiree's life-in-the-fastlane. My fast lane, unfortunately, seems to include a highway patrolman about every 10 miles.

Rumor alert

To be honest, this post is based on some informed speculation and just maybe, a dose of rumor. So take it for what it is worth.

There is some rumblings that the proposed drastic buyouts may be held off for awhile as the Booth chain attempts some major consolidations of design and editing desks. Quite disturbing for folks who were told they were on the bubble, should consider the buyouts, but who are now left hanging about the future and the conflicting messages that are being sent.

As always will keep you up-to-date.

Check out the links

There are some really good, if depressing, new stories on the news buisiness at some of the journalism links to the right.

Specifically, Reflections of a Newsosaur, Fading to Black, Newspaper Death Watch and others.

Too many stories to link in a single post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Putting the newspaper on Indian cruise control

A couple of freefromeditors contributors offered a couple items for your reading pleasure. The following pullout quote is from the first link and is so incredibly simplistic that the fact it comes from a so-called publisher is staggeringly revealing.

"In today's world, whether your desk is down the hall or around the world, from a computer standpoint, it doesn't matter," Singleton said after his speech. (I guess Singleton believes one could develop a beat relationship with a source over the phone from India. No more "All the President's Men."

And then there's this bad news for the Associated Press:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Travel beckons, blogging will resume Thursday

I'm on my way to Akron, Ohio for a church convention. I will be home Thursday and will resume blogging then.

When I get back I'll dissect for you a couple memos on the new medical plan that awaits employees in 2009. I've already written about changes at the end of 2009, but this is in addition to that.

Until then, enjoy fall. By the way, a lot of folks stopped by Monday to look at the consolidation story. Hope you keep coming back, lots of news yet to come.

Hint: Possible consolidation of all copy editing functions for Booth in Grand Rapids and when this plan may have actually been hatched.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Advance puts a "whoa" to the stampede

More than double the number of employees the company hoped would take the buy-out in New Jersey did. You can read the story here:

So a lot of folks who wanted a parole, won't get it now.

More news on Flint, Bay City or Saginaw consolidation

(I've moved this back to the top of the blog, but there are a couple new items below)

Some internal communications indicate where Booth may be headed with the consolidation of newsroom operations between the Bay City Times, Saginaw News and eventually the Flint Journal.

Specifically, reporters are being put into three categories: Buyout candidates, protect candidates and a third category, that seems to indicate that an employee should be coached to stay or be reassigned. This is apparently in advance of a Booth wide buyout offer yet to be announced.

Not surprisingly, the buy-out candidates are mostly full-time folks. Also a couple employees currently on sick or maternity leave may not have work to come back to when they are well. That seems unduly harsh, but maybe part of the new economic reality.

More interesting are the plans to combine the newsroom operations, or "optimization," as the company refers to it. While these plans appear to be solely for Bay City and Saginaw, it's hard to imagine that a similar fate is not in store for Flint.

These consolidations will gut the individual papers' sports, photography and entertainment sections. The operations of each of those departments would be in one location. Plans are to seek content that would be produced once, but shared with the Bay City and Saginaw markets.

In sports, Booth management believes there is enough of overlap in leagues that will allow coverage to be centralized.

What is proposed is a sports department that would go from 2 sports editors, 1 assistant sports editor, five full-time and eight, part-time reporters to:

One sports editor, 1 assistant sports editor, three full-time and eight, part-time reporters among the papers. The model also assumes that the sports editor and assistant sports editor will write stories and columns in addition to their management role.

Part-time workers are among the safe employees because they are considered key to this model because they are cheaper than full-timers.

The new photo department would have one photo manager who would manage the remaining photographers who would work out of the two separate newsrooms. Editing of photos and assignments would be centralized although newsrooms would retain some authority to direct local photographers for breaking news. (Gees, I hope so).

Currently there are two photo editors, four full-time photographers and one part-time photographer. Under the new plan there would be one photo editor, two full-time photographers and one part-time photographer. About three or four interns and freelancers would be used to fill holes in coverage.

These are breathtaking changes that will certainly compromise the editorial contents of the newspapers. While I understand the horrible economics of the day, I just don't see how this works, even as a stop gap measure.

Entertainment is also a target. Currently entertainment staffing includes two features editors and seven full-time reporters and clerks. Under the new staffing proposed there would be one entertainment editor and one full-time reporter. Additional coverage would be aided by freelance writers and an intern.

For web coordination there would actually be a slight increase. Currently the two papers have 1 Web content producer. With the new plan there would be one manager and the current web content producer. Hopes are that as the web content area grows, that the staffing for this would grow.

If your plans are that web is your future, why wouldn't you invest in it now, make it great and roll the dice with that. Other than the obvious of saving money, the web commitment (or lack thereof) is the most startling of this plan.

In Flint, there is word that some of the specialty sections, particularly the Religion page and Features page, are on the way out. This all part of some additional downsizing apparently. It is hard to imagine how the Flint Journal coverage could be consolidated with any of the other Booth papers, simply by geography, but these are desperate times and so, who knows?

Soon, I'll give you a look at the new Journal health plan and the reductions in coverage for medical and prescriptions.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Read all about it, your job is gone

A local weekly newspaper chain - View Newspapers - had an unusual ad in Thursday's newspaper. Basically they were advertising for positions at all four newspapers, jobs that are still held by a number of people.

"View Newspapers, 4 Community Weeklies, 88,124 circulation is accepting resumes for all editorial positions." Sounds like a clean sweep.

I don't know if the folks who work there now were told that such an ad would be running, but it would certainly chill your enthusiasm for work if you saw that your newspaper was openly seeking folks to replace you.

Over the years I have come to know many of the folks who work at the Lapeer newspaper and they are fine people and very professional journalists. They work for peanuts, but put in the long hours needed to produce a weekly newspaper.

They do a fine job of covering local events and I can't imagine the reason for the need to replace them, except that the paper wants to pay even less for writers than they do now.

In my first professional job I worked as a weekly newspaper editor in Mason, Michigan. It was a 70-hour a week job for $280 a week in 1980. Even in 1980 it was a paltry sum of money. I would never, ever do it again.

In recent months I was even asked to work for a weekly and said absolutely not. It is a thankless, stress filled existence for McDonald's wages. So I was stunned to see that ad.

The resumes for writers are not even being solicited by the editor, but a business management person.

So as far as sports, this weekend was so-so

We're not even going to talk about the Michigan State Spartans letdown and 45-7 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Michigan had a good start against Penn State and then had a second half meltdown.

The Buffalo Bills, my new adopted team, look great against the San Diego Chargers today. But the best news of the weekend was the Detroit Red Wings overtime victory over the New York Rangers.

A friend of mine, Greg, who is also know as "Gordo 1," (I am Gordo 2 - and you would have to be a Detroit Red Wings fan to even understand why that's a good nickname) bought a small series of season tickets.

Our first regular season game was last night against the New York Rangers. The Red Wings came out blazing. They had a 2-0 lead after just about 3 minutes. But by the third quarter they went to sleep for awhile and the Rangers went ahead 4-3 with just a few minutes left.

The Wings tied the game up with just three minutes to play and it was into overtime. This is when things got great for the Red Wings, but kind of ugly for me and Greg.

In hockey overtime, the first goal wins. So the puck was dropped and some guy (who had already made 3 trips to the bathroom from overconsumption of beer) decided to come back to his seat just as the overtime period was beginning.

The row in front of us stood up to let the guy back to his seat blocking our view of the ice, and the winning goal. Marian Hossa scored his first goal as a Red Wing to win the game, but what I saw was the back of the guy in front of me letting the drunk back to his seat.

Of course, the drunk saw the goal and was celebrating with his friends the exciting moment. I yelled at him that his rudeness was why the rest of us didn't see it. He was too drunk to hear me. Anyway, we guess it was exciting because the crowd went wild. We did get to watch the replay on the big screen.

I don't understand why people go to a sporting event and then spend half their time there going back and forth to the concession stand and bathrooms while the game is going on.

I feel much better now. We'll have more on the newspaper business later tonight.