In another attempt to retain local union jobs in the face of expected layoffs, members of the PD News Guild have asked the Plain Dealer Publishing Company to collaborate with them on a subscription drive.
In a letter sent Tuesday, to which the company has not yet officially responded, the Guild asked that for every 500 new subscriptions purchased, one local journalist’s job be preserved for an additional year.
With expected support from local unions, including the member unions that comprise the North Shore Federation of Labor, the News Guild asked that a discounted rate be offered to “unions, retirees and supporters.”
I know how hot it gets you people when I talk about newspaper marketing and distribution so here we go. This is actually a good idea, as sad as it is to make people’s democracy-dies-in-darkness jobs conditional on something as fickle as circ. I’d go one better: Have the journalists actually make the subscription calls.
A lot of newspaper chains in the late 1990s and early 2000s consolidated and centralized their circulation departments. It sounds good if you’re the kind of lizard-brained consultant critter who uses words like “synergize” and “marketing space” and stuff: One call center for five small papers in a general region, with a phone tree instead of a kindly permed receptionist.
It sounds good, until you’re explaining which of the papers you want to a minimum-wager working off a script who lives four towns away and doesn’t know the 7-Eleven you tried to buy your paper at and can’t pronounce the name of your street nor explain why the paper covers your area but doesn’t sell in it.
Like this is a joke but it’s not, really:
Maybe print wouldn’t be dying if they still employed tough dirty children to yell at me to read all about it
— Cullen (@HelloCullen) September 13, 2018
The automation and corporatization of basic newspaper operations has as much to do with falling circ as the mobile internet does. Maybe more. I know the older I get the less patience I have for bloated heaving websites that circumvent my adblocker and I’d much rather flip through a paper with my coffee.
But they can’t get it on my porch by 6 a.m. and even if they do, it’s full of syndicated racists and bothsiders whining about civility next to four pages of wire copy about celebrities and a “what’s trending on Twitter today” box, along with reminders to go to the shitass website for the interesting stories and striking photos.
Papers aren’t ever-present anymore, so it’s possible to ignore them. While the tough dirty children were out there yelling (and the downtown boxes were filled, and the racks were in every bodega, and the neighbors were doing the delivery) it wasn’t as easy to overlook them, to flip to TMZ or spend your commute playing Candy Crush. Now, even if you’re looking for the paper you often can’t find it.
Journalists might be the last people on earth who care about that so if they have to be the ones to fix it, well, shit, nobody else is gonna do it. Even the PD’s union admits this is a long shot:
Given how the company has responded to Guild bargaining requests in recent weeks, it’s unlikely that the letter will be met with support or good faith. (The company’s goal is to employ less of them, ultimately.)
I’ve been saying it for a while now: Ain’t nobody coming to save journalism except you and me and everyone we know who cares about it. I’m about done listening to people complain about the way the world is when some of us are out here trying to build something new.
And yeah, we gotta make the sales calls to do it. We gotta pass the sentence and swing the sword. We gotta work day jobs to do the writing we want to see in the world and we have to keep doing it as long as we can. You can bitch about the tree in your way or you can pick up an axe.
Or a phone.