to keep newspapers solvent. He said that it was typically the most
experienced reporters (and most highly compensated) who were being
ushered out with buyout offers, and that had the effect of removing an
important piece of the system of mentorship. Older, more experienced
members of the newsroom could no longer show the new folks the ropes.
The amount of time the panelists spent talking about financial
viability and the measurement of success by audience prompted an
audience member to wonder if they were more interested in protecting a
free press or rather creating a sale-able product. The audience
question alluded to the title of the panel discussion, which was
“Protecting a Free Press while Journalism Is in Turmoil.” To that,
Duffy said that historically the press had always been a business
proposition and that the nature of that proposition hadn’t changed.
Newspapers don’t need buyouts to be solvent. They need buyouts to be profitable. More often, they need buyouts to be MORE profitable. I think somewhere along the line we decided that it was okay to lie to ourselves and (should we have grown up to be newspaper owners) our employees about what “losing money” actually means. Profits declining means there’s still profit. It’s just not ENOUGH profit. More and more I think any news outlet operating as a for-profit business is doomed to failure because the definition of failure right now is so broad that it takes in papers making a 20 percent profit as well as those actually losing money, and even then, if you lose money but you still have your savings, aren’t you okay?
I just wish we’d talk about this shit honestly. Talk about it in terms of what we’re willing to do and what we’re not willing to do. Continuing to bullshit everybody doesn’t solve the problem. And if one more fucking person talks about how the future of newspapers is all online and how that will eliminate costs, I’m gonna scream.
If First Draft ran like a paper, even a parsimonious one, covering, say, a small town instead of cat macros and Chris Dodd, we’d need salaries at the federal minimum wage and budgets for freelancers, three computers, cameras, notebooks because I refuse to depend on a voice recorder, cell phones and accounts, and you can configure that any way you want but it will still cost money which means we’d need to pay somebody to make us money.
Most of the time it’s that last piece that papers fall down on; they sit around and say, “But the money’s not there online” without allocating the resources to go and get it. The money’s not anywhere you’re not beating it out of these days, you can’t just sit there and get pissed off when it doesn’t come to you. Somebody invested inFlake.com, which was a portal for breakfast cereal. I mean, people pay for stupid shit all the time. But for so long newspaper owners could just sit back and rake in the cash that now they’re confused by having to work for it.
So they fuck over the people who actually are working for it, by feeding them this halfwitted bullshit about how if they just get a few more buyouts, they’ll be okay. Just one more hit, baby, I promise. Then I’ll clean up my act. And their enablers in every academic forum continue to not stand up and say, “Take your buyout, fold it four ways, dip it in gold and shove it up your ass. Go home to your McMansion in your Lexus and whine about how there’s just no money in newspapers anymore, since it’s already sent your three kids to college, you chewy little clown. Doesn’t matter to you anymore, you got yours, right, you greedy lying bastard? Go fuck yourself. Fucking child.”
Lord knows the panels might be better attended, if that kind of thing started happening.