By paulgillin | July 22, 2008 - 7:30 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Hyper-local

As editors and bloggers have combed through the Changing Newsroom” study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism over the last couple of days, they’ve increasingly focused on the study’s findings that editors are, on the whole, positive about the future.

Newspaper editors optimistic despite downs” was UPI’s headline. Writing on Conde Nast, Jeff Bercovici focuses on all the good news in the study and observes that newspapers are “very sensibly shifting their resources away from areas where their efforts can easily be duplicated and into the sorts of coverage where they can best distinguish themselves from competitors in all media.”

How can crusty old news editors remain positive amid the drumbeat of dreadful news that’s afflicting the industry? We can only speculate, but that’s what blogs do.

For one thing, perhaps there aren’t as many crusty old news editors any more. Layoffs have washed out a lot of the old guard. Some of them now content themselves blogging about the good old days, although a few still run editorial departments. Mostly, though, the editors who are left are the fighters, and fighters tend to think positively.

There’s also a silver lining to any crisis: the opportunity to focus and rethink the business. In that spirit, the most remarkable section of the Pew study is the chapter about the future. Read it to see quotes from veteran editors who believe the downsizing has required them to become more resourceful, creative and open-minded. In the words of Miami Herald Managing Editor David Wilson, – Through all that- ™s happened over the last few years, the quality of our work is among the best I- ™ve seen- ”and I- ™ve been here 31 years.- 

The study also reports that editors are more involved than ever in trying to identify new revenue streams, even offering an investigative reporting project for sale on Amazon in one case. What’s more, editors don’t think this breach of the traditional ad/edit wall is such a terrible thing. Some are actually invigorated by the idea of becoming more involved in the success of the business.

“They are working hard, innovating, making changes,” says the report. “They may have fewer reporters and less space to work with, [but] they are certain that what they are producing today is better than what they produced a few years ago.”

We’ve noted before the importance of discarding assumptions. It’s hard to do, but it’s the essential first step toward envisioning the future. The inspiring message from the Pew research is that the editors who are working through the ritual destruction of their industry are discarding assumptions en masse and finding that there really are better ways to do their jobs.

Curmudgeons persist but, as Jeff Jarvis notes, they are being marginalized. Times of crisis are also times to rethink everything. That appears to be the bright spot in the industry right now.

Layoff Log

The Tribune Co.-owned Allentown Morning Call will cut 35 to 40 newsroom positions, according to a memo from the publisher posted on Tell Zell. The Morning Call did a small buyout in March, but this appears to be much more sweeping, amounting to more than a quarter of the news staff, according the blog.

Also in stealth mode is the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Co. property which is cutting its 290-person news staff by 20% but choosing not to report it. Commenting on the paper’s decision not to tell its customers about significant changes to the product they pay for, Editor Earl Maucker comments, ironically, “It serves nobody’s interest to put it out ahead of time. As I’ve found, it gets butchered in the media.”

There are bad times all over the Sunshine State. The Fort Myers News-Press is laying off 36 people, eliminating some unfilled positions and killing a weekly supplement targeted at Hispanic readers. We hope Publisher Carol Hudler is wrong in calling the region’s economic climate “the worst local economy since perhaps the crash of 1929.” In fact, the economy did pretty well in 1929. The worst years of the Great Depression were from 1933-1937.

The beleaguered staffs at Maine’s Portland Press-Herald and Sunday Maine Telegram are bracing for the fourth set of layoffs in 12 months. The problem is that owner Seattle Times Co. can’t find a buyer for its Maine Newspaper Death Watch – º Edit – ” WordPressholdings, so it keeps cutting and cutting in an effort to prop up the finances. This layoff will take out 10% of the remaining 85 news staffers. Crosscut Seattle has exhaustive background. There’s also a depressing blog devoted to this situation.

Laid-off newspaper employees and their colleagues are increasingly taking to the street to publicize their plight. Baltimore Sun employees staged a rally last week, complete with 100 empty chairs to symbolize lost jobs. Alan Mutter asks if this is really an appropriate response, or if the protests might actually backfire and cause subscriber flight. What do you think? Is all the publicity about the death of newspapers actually worsening the industry’s decline? Maybe they’re on to something at the Sun-Sentinel.

Tell Zell reprints some of the farewell memos that went out last Friday as laid-of LA Times staffers packed their bags. Journalists write some of their best stuff at times like these.

And Finally

Our WordPress template chokes when we try to embed video, so we’ll have to settle for a link. If you want to understand the macroeconomic and demographic shifts that are disrupting this and so many other industries, spend eight minutes watching this video. You will be riveted.



This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 7:30 am and is filed under Facebook, Fake News, Hyper-local. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments Off on Editors Optimistic Despite Gathering Gloom


  1. July 23, 2008 @ 8:25 am

    Unless you know the insides of the newspaper business it is difficult to understand why newspaper are unable to respond to fierce competition. Most have been monoplies in their territory, and owners expected, and got, margins of up to 30 percent of income. That is money that was not re-invested in the newspaper monoply that created it. The result is that the papers were severely weakened before the internet came to town. Now the internet is challenging products weakened by decades of unbridled greed on the part of owners. For the most part the chains used the money to buy more papers and did the same to them. There are a few large newspapers that are prospering–as in Little Rock where staffs are increasing, local national and international news holes are larger than ever, and THE PAPER SELLS ITS NEWS, and does not give it away to its competitors. Imagine another company spending millions on staff and equipment that give for free its product to a direct competitor in its own town, or even weirder, directly gives away the product to its own customers. That’s the plan, born in stupidity and arrogance, that the top newspaper brass has come up with. Then they reward themselves with huge salaries while firing their staffs and bemoaning the “economy.”

    Posted by truthteller
  2. July 23, 2008 @ 9:45 am

    You’re right that monopolies have bred complacency and that newspapers are not exactly primed to get aggressive and innovative. It has been encouraging to see so much innovation coming from the editorial ranks. I think the business guys just have their heads between their legs.

    I don’t think newspapers ever had a choice about giving away content. The model that won on the Internet is free content supported by advertising. Nothing newspapers could have done would have changed that. I think they were unfortunate victims there.

    Posted by Paul Gillin