Monday, June 9, 2008

Quantity, not quality

Hot on the heels of Sam Zell's pronouncement that column inches are what matter at the Tribune - a sentiment that bodes ill for anyone in the Tribune empire that's ever won a Pulitzer or done any sort of investigative journalism - comes word that MediaNews' San Jose property is considering their own means of further cutting newsroom costs.

So far, the Merc's big plan is to reduce the Monday and Tuesday editions into "quick read" papers. Another idea is to minimize the size of their articles, presumably so they can try to shrink the paper further.

Editor Dave Butler also left an ominous warning for his less-productive staffers, promising that employees "who could do more are likely to hear about that from me and the other editors."

There's also news of a new computer system, along with a plea to "to hold down the complaining." Perhaps Butler is worried that the Merc staffers have heard about how problematic the "latest technology" can be?

As far as Zell and Co. are concerned...the Tribune's new methodology is certainly bad news for journalists, not to mention the communities that these papers serve. The Los Angeles Times for example stands to lose somewhere around 82 pages of news copy every week.

“If we take, for instance, The Los Angeles Times to a 50-50 ratio, we will be eliminating about 82 pages a week,” Mr. Michaels said, leaving the smallest papers of the week at 56 news pages.

Most galling are comments suggesting that cuts like this are exactly what his readers want.

“We’re in the business of satisfying customers, and we will respond to what they say they want.”

When did any reader suggest that the Times, or any other paper for that matter, was just too darn big?

Watergate, Enron, voting fraud...those stories were the result of solid investigative journalism, sometimes taking weeks or months of research. What kind of effect will it have on America when there are fewer journalists to take a hard look at corporate or political malfeasance? What sort of scandals are we going to have to endure, because there was no around to tell us about them in the first place?

Content Bridges has a somewhat confused analysis of the Tribune situation, first calling the move foolish for driving more readers away from the paper, then lauding the Tribune for expediting a shift from print to Web operations. Despite supporting a wholesale dismissal of print operations (if 24/7 instant news, online's greatest strength, is the only metric for evaluating a news organization, then ALL other mediums fail to make the cut) they make several good points on the ramifications for the Tribune organization.


Anonymous said...

Why are we talking about what is going on at up north?
Why are we not posting more things going on in Southern California ?
For example we have no announcement of tomorrows rally on the site.

More SoCal less NorCal.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because what's going on up north is IMPORTANT? Duh! The people fighting there for a seat at the table should inspire you who already have one to not take it for granted and get yourselves together to get a good contract. Like, what goes on at other Singleton papers really should matter to you, ya know? They're all connected. So should you be. There's power in numbers, baby. All MediaNews workers in California should unionize!

Anonymous said...

Duh!! ok again so the so what is going on at the PRESS-TELEGRAM!!!!
Why no mention of AK Whitney & Jason leaving and return of John Futch or Wendy leaving?

LAObserved had it
" Newspaper defection of the day: Award-winning Press-Telegram reporter Wendy Thomas-Russell leaves Friday after ten years, I'm told. I'm losing count of how many staffers are ankling the LANG papers, but low pay, growing workload, declining readership, desperate bean-counters and a bleak future will do that to a place."

Or the starting of a newly hired reporter in the middle of the month.

There isn't much inside information going on. Even Small posts are better than none

DUh!!!! Bring back the old tongue & cheek Stress-Telegram. The one that was fun to read.

Anonymous said...

OK, how about we stop the bickering. If you want to really complain about something, complain about MediaNews rep Jim Janiga who holds these godlike powers over the workers while we feebly hold up our paper shields and toy swords. Get a real union in here so we can sign up every LANG paper in Southern California. I just don't see much happening at the PT with the union we have now. And while we are on the subject, what is preventing the PT's union from making inroads at the other LANG papers? Sorry, but it just doesn't sound like a very effective union to me. One would think the time is ripe. I don't hear a thing. And I probably won't in my lifetime.

Anonymous said...

A union is not a third party. Don't expect outsiders to come swooping in and "sign up every LANG paper in Southern California." Organizing doesn't work that way.

"Union" begins with "U". Sure, there are people who are experienced in process and law that can help and give assistance to a group of people who want to organize themselves, but it starts with YOU.

As to your point about your weak union: the union is the sum of its parts: if everyone leaves it to the next guy to do something, nothing happens. You go nowhere. You get nowhere. The only opportunity you have to make a difference and be a force for positive change is to stand TOGETHER and BE a union. It takes work. It takes commitment. It takes time.

The MediaNews employees in Northern California worked TOGETHER for 10 months to be recognized as a union. Yeah, they did get help from Guild experts when they asked for it. But the staffers organized themselves.

If people in Southern California want to be union, would you help?

Anonymous said...

"Union" begins with "U". Sure, there are people who are experienced in process and law that can help and give assistance to a group of people who want to organize themselves, but it starts with YOU.

Nice words... but ask yourself this? Wouldn't a strong union have already come down to the LANG newspapers and offered to hold a meeting (neutral site) to introduce itself and to see if there was interest in union representation?

not much YOU can do if the union is nowhere to be found. So all this grandiose talk about YOU getting involved is empty rhetoric without any kind of union presence in the vicinity. You have to understand, most papers know nothing about unions.

Where are the union leaders? Where are the union reps. For example, has even ONE union rep come down to the Daily Breeze? Or even sent a flyer with information?

You have seen too many Sylvester Stallone 'F.I.S.T.' movies about organizing. This is not the 1930s. We have emails, we have regular mail, you can post flyers for upcoming meetings on the doors for heavens sake.

I am not saying i am right and you are wrong. Us arguing the point won't get anything done.

I just expect a union to reach out, and I haven't seen that at all. That is my point.

Anonymous said...

Yes! you hit the nail on the head.

TNG was lucky, Nor-Cal already had a larger union presence and has been banking on Nor-Cal and did it in 10 months while we for the past 10 years, are withering away down south.
Its time then union stop blaming the worker for its lack of presence and make themselves a presence and change the old union playbook an make it work for the changing times.

a guild member said...

"For example, has even ONE union rep come down to the Daily Breeze?"


If you're interested in talking more about this, email us.

Anonymous said...

Yo, guild member:
I can't email you if your link doesn't work.

Also, I find your statement rather absurd. You say a rep has been at the Daily Breeze to talk about unionizing? When did he/she come by, on a Sunday? Dressed as the Invisible Man? What have you been smoking, pal? Last union rep that came around here was when the Mail Room voted out the Teamsters back in the '70s, followed by the Typesetters Guild reps, who showed up to collect errant dues and apologize for Ads being outsourced. Laughable really.

So, again I ask, where is your union? Do we have to sneak around and meet at a bar, which on face value is not such a bad idea. We might not get anything done, but at least we'll all leave a little bit happier.

a guild member said...

Email us at