Tammy Chase: They came for me

“It was Tammy Chase’s job to make layoffs at Sun-Times Media Group sound good. But now the company can’t afford that, either [and]… She’s been laid off.”

That brought this poem to mind:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Did ya miss me?

Apologies to anyone who’s been following The Worried Journalist. (If you had actually been following me, you’d know what I’ve been up to).

Suffice it to say, the last few — what has it been, weeks? Months? — have been tense and interesting (like the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”) Things at work are basically status quo: management keeps saying how dire the situation is; a few people have left and heir jobs have been absorbed and distributed among the remaining staffers. I, myself, am now pulling triple duty, but how can I complain? At least I have a job. For how much longer, no one can say. Who knows, I might end up like Mark Zuckerman.

Who dat, you might ask?

Zuckerman used to be the Nationals beat writer for the Washington Times before the publication decided to jettison its sports department. So while he’s waiting for another job, he’s taken matters into his own hands, successfully, it seems.

From Zuckerman’s Feb 8 post on NatsInsider.com:

This site, though, isn’t a money-maker. I’m doing this on my own, receiving no income other than a few pennies each time you click on an ad.

So I need your help to make this happen. At the top of this post, you saw a link with instructions on how to make a donation. I’ve set up a system with PayPal, a safe and reliable method that allows you to pay by credit card with confidence. You are free to donate as little or as much as you’d like.

If you choose not to participate, no worries. You’ll still have access to my full coverage from Florida. But if you do participate, I’m going to return the favor by offering you extra, exclusive coverage all spring.

Here’s what you’ll get, based on your donation level:

$20 — Exclusive daily audio file of Jim Riggleman’s morning or postgame media session.

$40 — Exclusive daily audio file of Jim Riggleman’s morning or postgame media session, plus another daily audio file of an interview with a Nats player, coach or front-office member.

$60 — Exclusive daily audio file of Jim Riggleman’s morning or postgame media session; plus another daily audio file of an interview with a Nats player, coach or front-office member; plus the opportunity to submit a question to be asked of Riggleman or a prominent player during a spring training interview.

So rather than POD — “print on demand” — we gvie you NOD — “news on demand.”

Zuckerman listed a goal of $5,000; to date, he has more than doubled that.

God bless the child who’s got his own, but if this is the shape of things to come, we’re in trouble.

(Slate.com’s Hang Up and Listen podcast covered this story in it’s latest edition.)

“Been away so long I hardly new the place…”

with apologies to Lennon and McCartney…

Things at the office are getting dicey. More attrition, which means the work that still must go on gets apportioned out among those who remain, which means a lot more work for yours truly. Still in all, I shouldn’t complain too much. At least I still have a job. But on the other hand, that kind of attitude leads to a sense of dependence and complacency: don’t rock the boat, keep your head down, or you’ll get sacked (fired for you Americans out there).

So here’s trying to catch up a little bit.

  • Michael Calderone at Politico.com writes about the new round of layoffs at Newsweek “[Editor Jon] Meacham, in a memo obtained by POLITICO, noted that the magazine has taken a different direction this year and, despite the layoffs, claimed that it “continues to appear promising in terms of building and retaining an engaged audience that we hope will be attractive to advertisers.” But what about attractive to readers? I’ve heard many complaints about the new look of the publication, the photos and even physical feel of the pages are unworthy of a magazine with such a long and proud tradition. Oh, sorry, forgot. No one really cares about the readers these days.
  • The number of homeless magazine continues to grow, too: Foliomag.com ran this story about “shelter” magazines, those publications that deal with lovely homes that look like they were set up in a Twilight Zone universe, i.e., no one lives there. Said genre appears to be growing. How many times have your passed by a furniture store and wondered how they can afford to stay open, since it doesn’t look like they have many customers, especially during the week? This comes at the same time as Hachette shuttering Metropolitan Homes.
  • A few entries ago, I noted the AP-free week that was about to take place. This piece from Mediaite (bad name, BTW. Sounds too much like mediaLITE, which has negative connotations) warns about such experiments, worried that they might become accepted practice among the large papers, already hurting for actual news content. “There’s no denying that the raw materials are out there,” writes Pat Kiernan. “But so are a million recipes for a Thanksgiving turkey. Or dozens of blogged opinions about the health care debate. And I still see the value in having an experienced editor do the sorting for me.” Hear hear. And check out the site; it’s kind of fun.
  • Do you think rival newspaper relish the poor fates of their competitors? Or is it a matter of sinking or swimming together? In this case, The New York Times reports on the New York Post‘s woes.

Print business dying, film at 11

So much for idealism. Here I always thought it was the news that sold the paper. Evidently I’m a naif. I recently learned that it’s everything but the news: it’s the sports, weather, home and parenting tips, and the TV listings that make the sales. In fact, NY Magazine is expanding its on-line TV coverage.

So, again, let me get this straight: TV Guide is pracyically dead, but NY Magazine, which could conceivably be covering lots more important things (especially with the local papers cutting their staffs), is picking up the slack, is that about right?

Who needs you anyway?

According to this item from Tower Ticker, the Chicago Tribune will go without the AP feed for one week, as an experiment, beginning Nov. 8.

As of 2005, the news collected by the AP is published and republished by more than 1,700 newspapers, in addition to more than 5,000 television and radio broadcasters. The photograph library of the AP consists of over 10 million images. The Associated Press operates 243 news bureaus, and it serves at least 120 countries, with an international staff located all over the world. (Wiki alert).

so let’s see: newspapers are cutting their staffs, and now they’re doing without the AP for content. Looks like a lot of internships are about to open up.

 

Do you know what it means, to miss New Orleans

Times-Picayune, or any other city newspaper?

Splice Today does, as evidenced in this artiucle. It’s kind of ironic because according to the site’s mission statement,

Splice Today is a web magazine featuring idiosyncratic writing and visual presentation on topics of interest and concern to an audience that values perspective over popularity. We depend on contributors who aren’t getting their voices heard anywhere else.

Isn’t that kind of the problem? That people are turning away from traditional newspapers for e-zeins like ST?

Anyway, the article notes

The numbers say it all, stark and simple, with no zippy adjectives needed to heighten their impact. Just last week, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released its six-month downward spiral: Newspapers across the country lost 10.6 percent of their paying readers. And in Baltimore, the Sun—the last remaining major daily in a town which 25 years ago had three—lost 15 percent of its daily circulation and eight percent of its Sunday deliveries. Its daily circulation is now down to 186,639 and its Sunday circulation stands at 322,491.

But perhaps the scariest thought of all:

Without newspapers, Oprah will reign and People will set the American agenda. Think of a world of information dominated by Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and a few other screwballs who use their First Amendment rights to contaminate the news pool by conflating opinion with fact. That’s how petri dish rumors, without editors and fact-checkers, are incubated and assume a life of their own outside the dish.

Sorry, I thought this happened already. The gym where I work out has a big screen TV in the lobby. Mind you, most of the people there are fairly upscale with higher-than-average educations. So why is The People’s Court, or some such nonsense always on?

The state of print journalism in the Garden State

So I paid a visit to Montclair High School tonight for a program about the state of New Jersey print journalism (note to Baristanet: the fee was $20, not $15 as you had listed it).

About 50 locals showed up, mostly over 55. A handful of MHS students were on hand, too; I’m guessing they were either members of the school paper or taking a class in the topic.

Kent Manahan, acting executive director of NJN, and acting president, NJN Foundation, was the moderator. The panelists — a sad looking trio of former Star-Ledger staffers — included Jim Willse, who had just — and I mean just — retired as editor; John Hassell, now vice president for content, Advance Internet, a national online news media company that produces http://www.NJ.com; and Dusty McNichol, founder, http://www.NJSpotlight.com, a new statehouse website.

In a nutshell, the 90-minute program consisted of the journalists opining on the future of the industry. The good news: we’ll have a lot more trees. The bad news? Well, bad is a relative term and it depends on your point of view. If not getting your news in a traditional tactile form is bad, sorry, but it seems like a published newspaper is going the way of the eight-track. Willse told of going down to the local store at six a.m. to buy a bunch of papers and bringing them back to the house to savor over a cup of tea. That was then; this is now: hopping on the laptop to read the same outlets. “And if I’m not reading the paper on paper,” he said, “we know we’ve gone to a different day.”

This old model — a printed publication supported by ad revenue — they all agreed, was dying. What will a new model look like? Will readers pay for on-line content? Some publications, most notably Newsday, have begun putting certain content behind a “pay wall.” But just moving to the web may not be the answer either, if content does not maintain a high level.

The panelists were pretty much preaching to the choir at this event; since most of the readers were older, it’s likely they’ve been following the paper-and-coffee routine since they were kids.

What readers don’t realize, they said, was that the news does not fuel the paper as a whole. In fact, if one is to believe them, readers actually buy a paper not for the news, but for all the ancillary items: the TV listings, the weather, the sports. In fact, the newspapers weren’t the money-makers, it was the printing plants and the trucks that delivered them — owned by the publishers — that brought in the bucks.

One of the audience members complained about the dumbing down of the news, thanks to on-line sources such as the Drudge Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Willse (at least I think it was Willse) said there was nothing wrong with injecting humor into the news (although he did take pause with Drudge).

It was also interesting to witness the discomfort of the panelists in talking about what is obviously a painful subject. After all, these guys have been in the business for upwards of 30 years. Willse, especially; he spent most of the evening with his arms folded tightly across his chest.

The upshot of the discussion: things will change, but we really don’t know how yet. This year’s model might not be valid in ten years, or even five. And while newspapers might be shrinking, the number of jobs available seems to be holding steady, although not in the traditional sense. It will take imagination to branch out into other avenues, but quality reporting will still have a place and still be greatly valued.

  • A reluctant welcome

    It’s no secret what’s going on the field of print journalism. It’s going into the crapper. I wonder if Mr. Internet realized this would happen when he invented the World Wide Web. Regardless, the situation is here and we’re stuck with it. The purpose of this blog is to blow off a little steam, and I invite my fellow ink-stained wretches to join in with their own tales of woe or triumph. Maybe this will turn into a nice little support network. Questions? Suggestions? E-mail me at worriedjournalist(at) gmail(dot)com.
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