Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dark, dark days for former colleagues

Happy Thursday.

There was some vexing news in the New York Times this morning.

The Journal News, the Gannett paper from which I retired a few years ago, is slicing, no make that gutting its newsroom.

According to the story, everybody in the newsroom and advertising departments is out of a job. They will have to apply for their jobs, many of which have been reconfigured so their own mothers wouldn't recognize them.

When all is said and done, there will be 50 fewer newsroom jobs and 20 fewer advertising jobs. Last week, 57 jobs in information technology, production and finance. That makes a lot of sense in an outfit that is heavy on information technology and the Web.

This from a newspaper that has already sent advertising layout jobs off to India.

Those who follow this blog will remember that in July, Gannett cut some 1,400 jobs across the 80-plus daily newspapers it still owns, with USA Today not sharing the hit At the time, it said The Journal News, which circulates in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties would have to wait until August to find out its bad news.

It's August, and they found out the bad news this week.

The word out is that Gannett, in spite of slightly increasing advertising sales, may have to declare bankruptcy in 2011 because it won't be able to satisfy its obligations to its bondholders.

Gannett is the nation's largest newspaper chain. USA Today alone circulates more than 2 million copies a day, although many of them are either given away or sold for a pittance to hotels and airlines.

Back to the Journal News. According to the story, 25 percent of the newsroom jobs will be eliminated. Usually, one figures that a lot of open jobs will just go unfilled and that could be counted as part of the layoffs. But here, where they are taking all the the jobs and reshuffling them, I'm afraid that 50 newsroom people will be forced out the door.

The fact that 50 workers will lose their jobs is bad enough. But these are journalists, and this is a newspaper. People count on the newspaper to bring them the news, not necessarily the public relations releases that the government and business interests want them to read.

Good journalism shines a light on goings-on that some want to take place in the dark. Fewer journalists means fewer lights. There's also the BBI, the boring but important stuff, like, for example, if your garbage is going to be picked up this week. That's important, too.

I'm sick about this stuff. So many of the greats have already taken buyouts or early retirement offers, people like Dan Murray, who make sure the news got in the paper and Jeff Canning, who made sure it was accurate. People like Geoff Giordano, who put together the Twin Towers coverage and made it impactful but still full of facts. Folks like Mike Taylor, who knew everybody and everybody knew him. He knew stuff.

They're gone, and folks like Mike von Steenburg and Toni Maconi and Gary McGriff and Dan Donovan and Yaron Steinbuch and Reisman and Baird and Nancy Cutler have to work double duty to make sure readers have what they need. Yeah, I know I left out dozens of good and great reporters, editors and photographers and graphic artists and layout people and copy editors. The problem is there won't be titles like that. Who knows that there will be.

What there will be is 50 fewer people to assure that the reader gets his or her news.

Page 2

The crazy season is well along.

I remember when WTIC radio and WELI radio actually had news. Now it's the crazy screamers saying that the president of the United States intends to set into motion a strategy that could lead to the elderly being euthanized.

Think about that. It doesn't make any sense. Yes, people die because insurance companies and doctors and other professional screw up. But to schedule a meeting with life of death on the agenda? Please.

The screamers are ranting about government-run health insurance. The government will decide whether you get your surgery or your physical therapy or your wheelchair or whatever.

So, now an insurance company bureaucrat, supervised by a nurse, decides those things.

Look, I am under a government single-payer system. It's great. When I paid more in premium for a private insurer, I had a higher copay, higher fees and worse treatment. I have never been turned down for anything.

I remember, vaguely, the McCarthy era. A communist under every ashtray. Good people's lives ruined by hysteria. Here we go again. And who is in back of this stuff: insurance companies and others who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.

People, citizens, screamers: You are being used and you are too scared or dumb or whatever to realize it. Wake up. Think. Ask yourself: Why would they do this? Conspiracy theories are fun, but not if they cost people's lives and health. Think, damn it.

Until next time...

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