This week’s news out of The Oregonian – aka Oregon Media Group (OMG!), aka Advance Central Services Oregon, aka Advance Publications, aka Who Can Keep Up – doesn’t mention layoffs. It just says it will be “saying goodbye to our longtime press employees.” Alt-weeklyWillamette Week puts those who face that long goodbye at 100 to 200.
So what? Just one more tale of the legacy news industry being swamped by the digital tsunami. Pain on one front; progress on another. The march of time and technology. Horses to cars to rocketships and all that.
Has nothing to do with horses, cars or rocketships. This has to do with what we value, and we do not value labor in the corporate world today (maybe we never have). We do not value stability in the corporate world. We do not value anything that is not a six-figure bonus for the “chief innovation officer” who just arrived after gutting another company and will be gone in a month after getting a good start on gutting this one.
We’ll use any excuse we can to make our product worse, and then blame our customers for not wanting it. And those tasked with teaching the journalistic trades, with reporting on them, with telling those of us who care about them just what the unholy blue fuck is going on, will keep repeating lies and nonsense about digitization, as if that’s any excuse for bad business practices, callous treatment of loyal workers, and shortsighted “consolidation” moves like this.
Some 15 years earlier, when I did my own special project on HIV/AIDS (“AIDS in the Heartland,” with photographer Jean Pieri), the pressmen at the St. Paul Pioneer Presstreated it with great care – almost reverence – despite the touchy subject. Long before anyone uttered the words “Pulitzer Prize,” these gruff guys with their meaty hands and ink-soaked aprons seemed to know what we had done – and what they were part of. They saved the metal printing plate from the cover of that piece, and gave it to me. They did the same thing two years earlier with the cover page of “Trail of Tears,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting (also working with Jean Pieri). My paper Pulitzer certificate is in a box in my garage, with my high school diploma and college yearbooks. Those framed metal press plates sit proudly on my bookshelf at the Missouri School of Journalism, where I now teach. Where I now try to help the next generation of journalists believe in the value, joy and possibilities of this work.