With the Journalism and the Killing of it

Aparently the future of journalism is full of people being lied to a lot and pretending to like it:

Gardner also talked about the impact of buyout strategies in order
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.

A.

4 thoughts on “With the Journalism and the Killing of it

  1. It’s not like most papers even pay the old hands all that much. Unless you are one of the NYT’s celebrity writers, you aren’t exactly making a fortune. I seem to recall my ex saying that the salary he’d be able to get at the Toronto Star was about $38 grand a year, which, in Toronto, is somewhat better than subsistence wages, but it won’t pay for your platinum card habit and annual vacations to Tahiti by a long shot. (On the other hand, given how full of shit he turned out to be, he could have been lying aboutthat, too.)
    So even assuming arguendo that all the poor-mouth is actually factual, who’sreally costing the paper the most — the folks who make the working-class wages who actually deliver the content, or the folks in management who go to meetings all day and draw the six-figure salaries? (And then watch ’em bitch and moan about the size of their dividends and Christmas bonuses…)

  2. I’m afraid that journalism may be suffering from the MBA craze of about 20 years ago. Specifically, someone would get their MBA and buy up a slightly struggling company and do everything they could to increase **SHORT TERM** profitability.
    After maximizing their short term profits, they would cut and run and generally the business would be in a worse condition than when they started. But, hey, what did they care?
    Now that I think of it, is Bush running the country according to this model.

  3. Aw, but pansypoo, the same damned shite is happening in colleges, too. Buyouts aren’t unique to journalism–just ask Mr. BuggyQ. A guy with 30 years of experience working for our community college–and he’s only 50–and they throw money at him to leave because even after that it’s *cheaper* for the college to pay a 20-something who knows how to Photoshop bunny ears on his cat to do the job instead.
    And the world wonders why we can’t seem to compete with (fill in the blank) anymore.
    You know what I blame? Health care. Because if newspapers, or colleges, or General effing Motors didn’t have to pay for their employees’ health care at the ridiculously inflated prices our insurance industry requires, maybe, JUST MAYBE they could be as ridiculously profitable as those morons on Wall Street think they ought to be.
    Because honestly, I ask you, have you heard about the crisis in journalism in England these days? Hmmmm?

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