Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Another day, another newspaper bloodbath

If it's Wednesday, it must be the Dallas Morning News.

And it isn't pretty. Out of 200 job cuts at the newspaper this week, 50 came from the news-editorial side of things.

Reading the DMNcuts blog today, it occurs to me that the only time journalists get to go out gracefully -- at least amid the Great Cull -- is when the whole newspaper goes bow down and slides under the waves forever.

Then, at least the band gets to play "Nearer My God to Thee," the captain (or, in this case, editor) gets to say some last noble words and everybody dies like Englishmen.

But when the corporate sniper is picking off ink-stained wretches one-by-one, luring them into Human Resources for the kill . . . well, what's the glory in that? The last journalist well remembered for going out that way was when a Japanese sniper got Ernie Pyle.

At least that was war, and not some non-lethal, corporate version of a campus shooter.

NO, WHEN THE corporate reaper comes calling with a machete, not Fat Man, there is no blaze of glory, nor is there one last spiffy "farewell" front page. There's just all the grace, and anger, and fear, and bitterness and nastiness of average human beings being dealt a losing hand.

There's no warm fuzzies, and there's no collective sense of loss that causes loyal readers to say "She was a great old gal; I'll damn well miss her, bless her heart." No, all there is is the messiness of fear and loathing, with the occasional poignant leaven of grace.

That's what I saw today reading the DMNcuts blog. Here's a sampling . . . and let's start with the grace amid some real tragedy:

I too have had the hammer fall on my head. I devoted myself to the newspaper biz and the Morning News. It has been an honor to work with so many talented and committed people in news. I appreciate the prayers and best wishes. I am 58 years old, a woman, single and have had a stroke. What now? Here is part of the breakdown: 6 off the news copy desk, all in their 50s except one; one off the news desk, 13 in sports; 2 in business; mostly zone reporters in metro; no one from TSW, national or international except a special writer. Where are the managers? God bless you all.
Laura Miller, 15 years at DMN, 32 year career

Thank all of you in The DMN newsroom for your words of support and encouragement this morning. It's the world's greatest understatement to say that it has been an honor to work with you.

I have learned so much from you during my two decades at The News. The talent and dedication in that room is amazing. Some of you, and you know who you are, have given help and understanding during many difficult times.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to work at a job that has allowed me to do so much with my life so far.

I'm still a little numb, knowing that for the first time in nearly 32 years I do not have a newspaper job.

But I will be fine. I have many good friends, a loving family and a partner whose unconditional love has indeed made me a better person. We will celebrate 21 years of being together next weekend.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Frank Trejo

At the moment, it’s hard to imagine work that’s as invigorating, as important and as much fun as being a journalist at a daily newspaper. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside some of the best reporters, editors, photographers and designers in my years at the Morning News and the Star-Telegram, and I’ll always cherish the memories.

That said, tomorrow will be a new day, with new adventures. I’m looking forward to exploring them.

Here’s hoping that, for democracy’s sake if nothing else, the decision-makers in our industry figure out how to steer journalism through these icebergs safely. Meanwhile, my parting requests to you are that you never abandon the principles and passions that drew you to journalism and that you continue to be kind to each other.

Journalists are some of the smartest, funniest and most compassionate people I know. Please stay in touch. You can find me on Facebook.
All the best,
Mary McMullen Gladstone
NOW, with that over, let's get to the everything else part. And, for what it's worth, I would NOT want to be an editor at that newspaper tomorrow. Or any other time soon.
Anonymous said...
While I do not want anyone at the DMN to be out of a job, I am confused why, once again, the worker bees took the hits.

Where are the mid-level managers and managers in this?

I thought one of our problems is that we are too top heavy.

Please explain.

Anonymous said...
...still no managers? In my section, we now have an editor for almost every staff member. Literally.

Anonymous said...
I'm sorry, but anyone surprised that the grunts are the ones being given their walking papers while the professional meeting attenders will still be going to those meetings must be new or not paying attention. When you decide who stays and goes, you normally stay.

Anonymous said...
I'm not surprised, I guess. But I did think more editors would go if we were too top heavy?

Who are they going to edit?

We still have just as many layers of management. With fewer to manage.

Anonymous said...
"..still no managers? In my section, we now have an editor for almost every staff member. Literally."

Why the manager envy? They'll get sacked or demoted after they sweep up the debris from this debacle. Make a prisoner dig his own grave, it saves the VIPs from putting forth energy and their own time.

Anonymous said...
11 gone in Metro. None are editors.

Anonymous said...
"11 gone in Metro. None are editors."

Um, it's because there are out sourcing constituents who will be put in place of many of those pink slipped today. Mgrs. will be needed to put it all into shape for the next several weeks and then the next bloodbath will begin once protocols has been established. Soon it will only be top heavy on the top 2 tiers of A.H. Belo - CEO's and VPs.

Anonymous said...
If past layoffs are any indication, I still don't think any metro editors will be getting sacked -- at any time. When it's done today, that's it. Management always takes care of itself -- look at every single department. At other newspapers, editors have been laid off or demoted, but not in Dallas.

Anonymous said...
WHY, WHY, WHY were there no editors in the newsroom laid off? I just returned from a very painful "cry in your beer" booster party for 3 of the folks laid off from our department -- all very talented, hard working people. I am sick and tired of all of this. Are we worker bees eternally destined to get the shaft at this paper? Who is the little grubby guy gonna push around the newsroom now?

Anonymous said...
I think the worker bees are about to be replaced with much cheaper, less qualified, worker bees. They will need the editors to back stop these inexperienced reporters who will provide all the community news coverage under the supervision of the editors.

Anonymous said...
So, I'm leaving the HR guy's office after hearing the official, carefully crafted adios spiel, and in a remarkable display of dorkery, my supervisor, who had, up to that moment, cleverly kept his mouth shut, says: "Thanks for your service." Cue the spit take. I knew he was a gossipy, anal little dweeb, but, man, what a goof to say that.

Anonymous said...
I count 50 people gone. I fear what management has done is give readers 50 fewer reasons to read the paper. It's already starting to read like a printed version of TV news. It seems to me that putting out a product of lower value is not the way to position yourself for the future.

Anonymous said...
This paper has never done the right thing.

Anonymous said...
If DMN were the only newspaper to start dying then one could justify total outrage toward "Uncle Belo" but the entire industry has been caught behind a new paradigm that marks the end of the Newspaper Press era. Arrogance and blind faith in the status quo have crippled the newspaper industry.

The funny thing about pruning a tree is that if you know what you're doing, the tree will come back healthier, if not and you are just blindly hacking at every limb in sight, then the tree probably won't survive. We'll soon see if the A. H. Belo's chief pruner knows what he is doing.

Rod Dreher said...
Rod Dreher here. Three things:

1. I am not operating this blog, though like everyone in the building, I'm reading it.

2. This terrible thing we're all living through has nothing to do with George W. Bush. Many of my conservative friends are convinced liberal bias is what's dooming newspapers, but I point out to them that liberal newspapers serving liberal audiences are in the same sinking boat as the rest of us. I wish the political bias arguments on either side were correct, because that would suggest a way out of this hole. But they're not.

3) Anyway, today should be about mourning for and helping the colleagues we've lost, and doing what we can going forward to make sure this is the last time the paper has to take a hit like this. It should not be about cheap recriminations.

Anonymous said...
Need a laugh today?

I am informed (by a DMN colleague who remains behind) that when the laid-off newsies went down to HR, they "gave them all leather-bound books with DVDs and forms for writing resumes valued at (they were proud to tell you) $700."

This demonstrates the mindset that's going on in DMN's HR. Is there anyone here who really wouldn't have just rather had $700 cash to walk out with, to help tide them over till the first TWC benefits arrive?

Anonymous said...
Trust me when I tell you that "the leather-bound books with DVDs and forms for writing resumes valued at (they were proud to tell you) $700" were regifted leftovers or promotions never intended for those now RIF'd. HR may be trying to spin how gracious A.H. Belo is but I can promise you that Belo paid nowhere near $700 each for that stuff unless it was originally intended for execs.

Bad form for HR to mention the prize value with no option to decline it for cash. Tacky, tacky, tacky but for those left the beatings will continue until morale is restored. Say "thank you Uncle Belo!" and walk away.
SOME SAY journalists are just a bunch of liberal-commie-pinko bastards and, at long last, they're finally getting theirs. That they just did it to themselves, because no real American wants to pay for Pravda.

Some might be liberal, commie, etc., etc.. Most, I am sure, aren't . . . at least the commie-pinko-bastard part. Besides, let he who is without sin, and all that. . . .

No, these reporters, designers, copy editors, et al, are just as human as you and me. With all the good, the bad and the ugly that implies. Remember that.

And remember this, too. Times are hard, and any of us could be next.

There but for the grace of God. . . .

No comments: