Thursday, December 31, 2009

Your next job? Think outside the box

Say you've been looking to return to journalism, like I have, and you're starting to get antsy (or frantic) about the now-growing gap in your resume. Let's take a look beyond the legacy media at some of your (ah-hem) best options:

* Become a celebrity blogger. You remember Paris Hilton, socialite, reality-show star, actress and businesswoman? If you're a fan, you could follow her for a Web site that features all Paris all the time. It's a paid gig (thank goodness!) that requires HTML and SEO familiarity, as well as Twitter and other social media skills. And you need to be something of a paparazzi, as "candid photos, candid videos" are desired.

Just submit a couple of writing samples and links to any online work, and you're golden. Don't bother with a resume; none is needed, according to the ad.

* Move from news writing to porn writing. That may be off the mark a bit, but I recall an ad a few months back that promised more money per word the more risque you were able to write. More recently, an ad titled "Fun Job for Out of Work Journalists" offered to hire copy editors and development editors to work on erotic romance novels. The pay was awful -- $17.50 for copy editing a 10,000-word book -- and in addition to having a "good grasp of grammar" and meeting deadlines, you had to "feel comfortable with frank language and graphic sexual descriptions."

* Oversee social media for big names in the defense industry. These pop up with regularity on job boards. A recent one, for instance, sought "a creative and innovative editor to moderate discussion forums and manage reader comments on web sites targeting the Middle East region." You had to be adept with Facebook, Twitter and multimedia, and fluent in Arabic. Oh, and you had to be able to qualify for a security clearance, too.

* Volunteer. Occasionally a job looks promising in an ad, but come to find out it offers no pay because a nonprofit is looking for volunteer help. This is admirable work, of course, helping to produce, for instance, a monthly newspaper to aid the homeless or to spread the word on a group looking to empower inner-city girls.

Call me selfish, but I can't think about doing anything unpaid until I find paying work.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Object lesson: Save a journalist

When my daughters were younger, perhaps in middle school, I used to paint for them a grim picture of what would happen if they didn't read a newspaper.

Never mind offering pearls of wisdom on the importance of being an informed and involved citizen in a democracy. No, I had a more object lesson: "If you don't read newspapers, I won't have a job."

Well, now the joke's on me as I and many other newsroom orphans form a long unemployment line. My kids' failure to pick up the newspaper-reading habit has cost some 15,000 journalists their jobs this year.

To be fair, it wasn't solely their fault nor their generation's. I remember being in college, yearning to be a journalist, and a friend telling me she had no use for newspapers. I was appalled then, too.

But like their Boomer parents, Millennials are a demographic force to be reckoned with. Newspapers just haven't figured out how to serve them.

Part of that stems from the Millennials' belief that if something is important enough to be news, it will find them, rather than them having to seek it out.

Don't believe me? Check out this blog from Carol Phillips at Brand Amplitude, a brand research firm in Stevensville, Mich., a Lake Michigan community not far from South Bend, Ind., where Phillips is an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame: "Social media offers a way for Millennials to control and shape their news by filtering it through friends or reporters they trust."

I used to think that was pretty self-centered and presumptuous of Millennials, believing they were so important the news would come to them. But a passage in Harper's, in a long, long ode to the San Francisco Chronicle, finally offered some perspective.

In it, a friend of the author explains how he consumes news, unfettered by a newspaper's ties to its native city and vice versa: " 'If I think of what many of my friends and I read these days, it is still a newspaper, but it is clipped and forwarded in bits and pieces on email—a story from the New York Times, a piece from Salon, a blog from the Huffington Post, something from the Times of India, from YouTube. It is like a giant newspaper being assembled at all hours, from every corner of the world, still with news but no roots in a place. Perhaps we do not need a sense of place anymore.' " (emphasis added)

And, in fact, I do that too: In addition to reading newspapers in print and online, I sign on daily to an iGoogle homepage populated with RSS feeds from journalism blogs and news sites I don't want to miss. Via email I get alerts of breaking news, new entries from favorite blogs, and daily summaries of industry trends and talk. And those daughters, who never developed the habit of daily reading a newspaper, send links to things they want me to enjoy.

But how do you create from this seemingly chaotic consumption pattern a sustainable business model that can re-employ all of us laid-off journalists? I wish I had the answer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"News Wars"? Let's hope the print media participate

Just days from the start of the new year, let's take a moment to revisit the too-close-for-comfort prediction made five years ago by two young Poynter Institute staffers that 2010 would be the year of "The News Wars."

The idea is plausible, given the deteriorating financial state of many legacy news organization, which have seen pockets once rich with revenue -- real estate listings, employment ads and other classified staples -- migrate to the Web even as new online operations poach the stories, photos and graphics that are the print media's bread and butter.

After all, that's at the root of threats to erect paywalls to protect content and sue search engines for copyright infringement.

But the skirmish foreseen by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson in their short film "Epic 2014" (soon updated as "Epic 2015") is different: The News Wars "are notable for the fact that no actual news organizations take part."

As Thompson tells it, the two created their decade-out look at the media landscape after a bar-hopping discussion one weekend in Miami about a speech delivered to an industry group by Martin Nisenholtz, the executive in charge of the New York Times' digital operations.

They focused on Nisenholtz's mention of the multi-contestant, role-playing game Ultima Online and what it might mean for journalism: "What if people could create and affect news stories by simply reading, viewing or listening to them?" they asked. That question now would fall under the rubric "social media."

So they sketched out in their film how such a system could develop, mainly through the growth of competitive behemoths Google and Microsoft, which would invent or acquire new technologies tit for tat (TiVo, Blogger, Friendster, Picasa, Newsbot) until they reigned supreme. (Google, meantime, would morph into Googlezon through a combination with Amazon.)

The News Wars of 2010, then, occur when Googlezon and Microsoft battle for supremacy in supplying the online news and consummables platform for Everyman. Googlezon ultimately wins by applying new algorithms that strip relevant factoids from news produced by the mainstream media and then "re-sorts, re-calculates and re-combines these scraps with our information -- our blog entries, our photos, our purchases, our lives. Suddenly, news is more relevant than ever before," Thompson says in a smooth, haunting voice as he narrates.

It isn't until 2011 that the mainstream media wake up and mount a challenge to Googlezon's hegemony, with the New York Times claiming the "fact-stripping robots" voilate copyright law. The Times loses, and by 2014 (when the original Sloan-Thompson film ends) the paper has left the Web and exists as a print-only newsletter "for the elite and elderly."

Googlezon, though, has launched Epic (Evolving, Personalized Information Construct), which at it's best offers a broader, deeper view of the world, according to the film. "But at it's worst, and for too many, Epic is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational."

"Epic 2015" has a lighter ending than its predecessor, foreshadowing the creation of a Twitter-like service through which people can arrange picnics or warn others off traffic jams. The more melancholy "Epic 2014" suggests the masses opted for the Googlezon product over the legacy media, despite its shortcomings.

"But Epic is what we wanted; it is what we chose," says the film. "And its commmercial success pre-empted any discussions of media and democracy or journalistic ethics. ... But perhaps there was another way."

Am I the only journalist who missed the Epic films? I only found them after seeing the announcement that Thompson had been named to the team that will help launch National Public Radio's local news initiative, which is seen as picking up the reporting left undone as newspapers have retrenched. (He and Sloan still collaborate on the blog Snarkmarket.)

Here's the YouTube version of "Epic 2014"; you can also see both versions here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

We journalists sure like our work

The Poynter Institute hosted a live chat with the provocative title "Are Journalists Giving Up on Newspapers?" that concluded with a split decision: "Yes, some are, with important consequences" (42 percent of respondents) and "Yes, some are, but newspapers will survive anyway" (26 percent).

Meantime, 32 percent feel journalists aren't giving up on newspapers as fast as the papers are giving up on them. (Which earns a big "Right On!" from the 15,000 or so journalists like me who were laid off or bought out by newspapers this year.)

I can't tell you how big the respondent pool was to the Poynter chat, which I just happened upon one afternoon; it's archived here. (Click on the "Are Journalists Giving Up..." title under "Completed Events".)

These kinds of chats, live or archived, are sometimes frustrating because they aren't linear: Someone is always countering a point or answering a question from several speakers ago. Nevertheless, they usually are instructive.

Such was the case with the mini-polls that popped up as the Poynter chat progressed over the course of an hour. The program was led by a couple of folks from the school and also featured Matt Stiles, a former big-city newspaper reporter in Texas who now works as a reporter and data-base specialist at texastribune.org, the deep-pocketed online news site in Austin that went live in early November.

For instance, one poll asked why we journalists stayed at newspapers. Four in 10 respondents answered "It's what I love," while three in 10 said they "need the paycheck." (Does that practical sentiment negate the first?) Two in 10 said they remained because they were "still optimistic about its future," and one in 10 picked the "all of the above" option -- which also had for good measure "I don't like my other options," which was picked by no one.

The majority of participants were full-time journalists (53 percent); 21 percent identified themselves as former journalists.

One mini-poll seemed directed at the latter, asking why they left the newsroom. "All of the above" was a favorite answer here, too (33 percent) for a list that included  "It (the news organization) was moving too slowly" (27 percent); "I was more excited about other options" (20 percent); "The money was better elsewhere" (13 percent); and "I lost faith in its future" (7 percent).

The journalists who still work full-time at newspapers seemed resigned to riding out the storm that is threatening to topple their papers' traditional ad-based revenue model. Asked which action was more admirable, 75 percent picked "Staying put to steer through rocky waters," while the remainder endorsed "Bailing while I can." (No one chose the option "Going down with the ship if it must sink," perhaps reflecting the cost in worker loyalty wrought by the deep staff cuts made at newspapers.)

Remember the old Timex slogan that the watch "takes a licking and keeps on ticking?" Seems like we journalists do the same.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Local knows best

I have a bone to pick with Thomas Friedman.

The New York Times columnist Sunday talked about a childhood friend, pummeled by the Great Recession, who has learned to become more innovative through what Friedman calls the Great Inflection: relatively cheap, abundantly available services delivered via the Web.

His friend, who owns a marketing agency, had to "radically downsize" because of the deep recession that began in December 2007, but found he could still take on projects -- and deliver them more economically -- by outsourcing many of the steps to a finished product.

He has learned to be innovative, Friedman wrote, and if only banks would lend again, the marketing agency -- and many other companies -- would take off, reinvigorating the economy. That was the column's purpose: to plead for loosening the vice grip on credit. The Great Recession and Great Inflection have made companies "ultralean" and more productive. "But we're like a superfit track star with a weak heart," Friedman says. "We've got to get credit pumping in our industrial muscles again."

Yet to be innovative, Friedman's friend passed over local voice talent for a film the agency was doing for a nonprofit and went online to find stock photo images it could use. Doing the former, the friend indicated, cost the agency just 10 percent of the $250 to $500 an hour the local voices would have charged. The latter cost a few bucks, vs. $100 to $2,000 per image in normal royalties.

And there's my beef.

Remember the "Think Global, Act Local" sentiment? Nowadays, it seems local be damned.

The Toronto Star decided last month that it needed to move copy-editing and page-layout duties outside the company -- affecting nearly 80 workers -- to save money. On Friday, Alan Mutter, a former newspaperman turned Silicon Valley CEO, warned in his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, that others likely will take up that mantle:

"The jobs of news editors, photo editors, copy editors and page designers may face wholesale elimination at some newspapers in the new year as publishers seek to cut costs by outsourcing editorial production to cheaper vendors," he wrote.

Criminy!

Mutter says outside vendors promise papers savings of up to 55 percent to take over production: editing stories, writing headlines, cropping pictures, laying out pages. But if they're not ready to take that step, owners might look to have just one dedicated desk handle production across several papers in their chain, Mutter says -- which still will cost the jobs of workers involved in production at each paper.

Yes, savings are realized, but at what cost? Jobs are lost, of course, but oftentimes credibility takes a hit, too. Just ask any editor on the other end of a reader tongue-lashing for not putting an event in the proper, known-to-all-locals neighborhood. You might as well mix up Manhattan and Queens.

Let's be locovores of more than just our food.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

When will the aftershocks end?

Every day seems to bring a new jolt:
  • Some big bylines are included among the 74 newsroom workers who opt to take a buyout at the New York Times -- and on the Metro Desk alone that adds up to more than 80 years of experience.
  • Nielsen Co. decides to close the venerable Editor & Publisher -- long a news and jobs bible for journalists -- as it sells off a handful of trade publications.
  • The Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland, which has offered free, multi-day training for journalists for more than two decades, will be shuttered at month's end. (Disclosure: I've been a "fellow" there twice.) The website BusinessJournalism.org said grants from long-time funder the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation were not renewed. 
It feels as if the earthquake that has shaken the newspaper industry continues to send out powerful aftershocks. Just as you thought you'd regained your footing, another tremor comes through.

And it likely won't get better, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The agency's Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-09 Edition offers this pdf update on job projections in the category "news analysts, reporters and correspondents": whereas employment by newspaper publishers stood at about 33,000 in 2008, jobs likely will fall to 25,500 by 2018, down 22.72 percent.

Earlier, the projection was for growth in this jobs category of about 2 percent between 2006 and 2016.

I wonder how much worse the 2009-to-2019 outlook may be.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

But you've got to eat your spinach, too

As AOL launches as a stand-alone company (disentangled from its ill-regarded merger with Time Warner), attention will focus once again on whether "content mills" are the model for journalism in the future.

Newspapers for years have been bad chefs in planning their daily spreads, trying to balance how much spinach vs. cotton candy to serve up to readers -- in other words, what an informed citizenry ought to know as opposed what it (secretly or otherwise) wants to know. Derivatives or Britney? Public option or Tiger?

In some ways, the Web has made the menu-planning harder, since it can easily measure the "traffic" a story generates. A horrific ax murder in an affluent neighborhood? Not only will the news bulletin on a newspaper's website produce a lot of clicks from local readers but it also will bring hundreds of thousands more through a national aggregator.

So a package of stories on the ax murder is developed for the next day's newspaper, perhaps to the detriment of stories on shrinking ice sheets, famine and war, nuclear politics or other thumbsucking esoterica.

The more the murder resonates with readers, the more stories are produced around it. And the more eyeballs those stories draw in print or online, the more happy are advertisers who happen to be on display nearby.

But companies like Demand Media, Examiner.com, Suite 101 and Associated Content have upended that model: They watch online searches for keywords on what interests readers, sell that audience to advertisers, and then produce the content to keep readers coming back. They pay freelance writers pennies per word -- $10, $15, $20 a story, vs. the historical $200 and up -- but promise to share future revenue as the stories or adjacent ads are clicked.

(The model, by the way, irritates professional freelancers, judging by this call to arms by one Seattle writer to petition "sweatshop-content users and content-mill owners to pay writers fairly," as she described it on LinkedIn.)

Now enter the 800-pound gorilla, AOL.

The company has been gearing up to create deep content around highly sought-after topics, like Demand and its brethren do. It even has created a mechanism, called Seed, to automate the process of conceiving of and assigning stories to writers.

It's a tough model to accept for those of us who formerly earned our living via legacy media. Fifteen bucks per story and pennies per click? The other day, one wag did the math and came up with a staggering volume of page views that a reporter would need to earn a modest $40,000 annual salary.

And what of the spinach, the stories that help shape an informed citizenry?

Consider this offered by Lauren Rich Fine, a former Merrill Lynch analyst who now is associated with Kent State University’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication. She participated in a panel discussion on new business models in news at last week's workshop on the future of journalism in the Internet age, held by the Federal Trade Commission:

"The idea of matching advertisers with content like Demand Media and AOL I think it is actually very smart. ... I think the flaw in the model is, what this whole workshop is getting at, is if you're trying to preserve democracy, giving people what they want probably won't end up with the kind of coverage that most of you in this room really want to provide, and therein lies the real challenge."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fighting for journalism's future

File this under best-laid plans.

The idea originally was to travel post-Thanksgiving to Washington, D.C., to help auto-less daughter get ready for an overseas assignment. (You can't buy everything you need at the CVS Pharmacy located atop the nearest Metro subway stop. Eventually, you have to travel to Target in the 'burbs.)

Then, once she was in-flight, I could use her apartment as a base of operation for exploring job options in D.C. And, given the timing of the trip, I could also indulge a bit of wonkiness: taking in the Federal Trade Commission workshop on the future of journalism in the Internet age.

Ah, if only...

A Monday morning networking breakfast at the National Press Club was interrupted by a fire alarm and a cellphone call. The former was only a drill, but we nevertheless had to descend the stairs from the 13th-floor premises, cutting short the slim hour allocated for networking. The latter canceled a planned networking lunch that day, and took several e-mail exchanges to reschedule.

Then another e-mail moved a nice-to-finally-meet-you meeting with a prospective employer up a day, to Tuesday. The networking lunch formerly scheduled on Monday became a late-Wednesday coffee date instead. Both changes blew my plans to attend the FTC workshop in person, as those of us who pre-registered were told the early bird would get the seat and the rest would watch via videoconference in a hall a few blocks away.

So I cut my losses and saved the Metro fare by logging on to the webcast when I could. The morning session of the first day is here (bear with the intro video); you can get access to the other sessions here. (One downside to the webcast was its nearly stationary camera, meaning none of the speakers' data slides was shown as they talked.)

Big on the first day were appearances by News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch and Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington. Their presentations were critiqued by New Haven Independent Editor Paul Bass, who himself was a panelist on the second day of the workshop. Or you can listen for yourself on the FTC webcast: Murdoch is introduced at about 57 minutes; Huffington at about 2 hours, 45 minutes.

The workshop ran for two days, from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Officials said it will be followed in the spring by more workshops focused on some of the policy issues related to journalism today: changes to copyright law or cross-ownership restrictions, for instance.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Calling all oracles



I'd like to find someone to intone, as Gerald Ford did, that our long national nightmare -- of newspapers closing and journalists losing their jobs -- is over.

Ford's famous line came after he was sworn into office on Aug. 9, 1974, soon after Richard Nixon officially resigned the presidency in disgrace over Watergate.

"I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances never before experienced by Americans," Ford said then. "This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."

OK, so maybe the speedy race to the bottom by newspapers -- some 135 shuttered so far this year and more than 14,500 journalists laid off or bought out -- doesn't quite measure up to what Ford faced. But for those of us caught in the downdraft, it is a recurring nightmare:

* Today, the Newspaper Association of America reported that third-quarter advertising revenue at papers was down 28 percent from the year-earlier period, to $6.4 billion. It was the 13th straight quarter of decline, according to the association, which predicted that full-year ad sales likely will be under $30 billion at newspapers for the first time in 20 years.

* Yesterday, in a Forbes.com story titled "A Perpetual Recession for Papers," Rick Edmonds, a former newspaperman who now studies the business side of the media at The Poynter Institute in Florida, suggested that "more staff cuts will be coming to newspapers next year." His line of reasoning? "When you cut a bunch of reporters from your newsroom in June, that continues to show up as a savings in January. But if advertising revenues continue to fall, you will have to cut again.

"My prediction is that in the coming six to nine months, ad revenues will continue to fall and newspapers will be forced to cut yet again," Edmonds told Forbes.

Yes, this is a time in newspaper history that "troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Should we really schedule another meeting?

I wish I had been the first to connect the dots, but I wasn't. So I'll just pass along this observation: that journalism's deep thinkers seem to be spending a lot of time in meetings these days, just as the mainstream media do.

Meetings are as much a part of life at a metro daily newspaper as breathing. What with the morning planning meeting, afternoon planning meeting, Sunday planning meeting, special-section planning meeting, etc., etc., etc., it's a wonder the managers responsible for making sure the paper is published get it out every 24 hours.

(As an aside: Early in my time at a metro, I'd have nightmares about missing these many meetings. So I used to devise elaborate Post-It Note and Microsoft Outlook reminders -- which occasionally flummoxed people trying to use the latter to set up a meeting with me. Oops!)

Is it any wonder, then, with so many meetings, that getting an idea from conception to execution at a legacy paper is more like a marathon than a sprint? Or that the mainstream media seem more like slow, plodding elephants than online's nimble, speedy gazelles?

Surely there's a lesson here as the future of journalism is debated.

Yesterday, the topic at a one-day conference hosted by Minnesota Public Radio was "The Future of News: Creating a New Model for Regional Journalism in America"; last weekend saw a two-day conference at Yale University on "Journalism & the New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messengers?" On the West Coast, there was an overlap with Gonzo Camp, which billed itself as a different kind of conference where "ideas get done." And that followed by a day or so the "hypercamp" sponsored by the folks at the School of Journalism at the City University of New York who are involved in the New Business Models for News Project.

And let's not forget two other conferences this month: at Harvard on "The Future of News" and in Australia, hosted by Media140, "a newly formed global collaboration of journalists, academics and social media practitioners" that says it's staging conferences around the world on the future of journalism.

Whew!

While we learned as children that sharing is good, we know as adults that talk is cheap. (And as journalists, we know that a heavy schedule of meetings can be paralyzing.)

Let's be sure these discussions, near and dear to many of us affected by the implosion at newspapers, lead to someplace other than the next conference.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are journalists an endangered species?



I'd better hurry up and find a job.

"Journalism is dying," says John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine and co-author with Robert McChesney, communications professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, of "The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again," due to hit bookstores in January.

He's shown above, in a clip posted on YouTube by The Nation, at a July conference of student journalists on the future of the industry, sponsored in Washington by the magazine and Campus Progress, a program of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. (The "dying" comment comes at about 3:13.)

What's more, Nichols says, because there has been an acceleration of job losses in the media -- down 10 percent last year and an expected 15 percent this year -- "...we have about eight years until there are no paid journalists left in America -- period, gone, out of here."

That sure doesn't bode well for a return to the newsroom by me or any of my unemployed cohorts.

But note that he's talking about paid journalists. Because if you listen closely at the top of the video (some context is lacking in the shift to Nichols as the next panelist), you'll hear him mention that writers can "get your stuff out there ... you're just not going to be paid for it."

Pay is an issue that absolutely belongs on the table. Why do you think that legacy newspapers have been trimming page counts and cutting staff? Because their two biggest costs are newsprint and the people who produce the paper.

Meantime, one new-media business model getting some traction (and criticism) relies on content produced by writers and editors who are paid pennies for their work but get to "share" in revenue resulting from the ads or clicks connected to it. (That's a subject for a future post.)

Nichols falls into the you-get-what-you-pay-for camp. He and McChesney, who together founded the Free Press website, which champions broad media ownership and universal access to the Internet, have written extensively on the need for a government role in the press -- like the one provided by the Founding Fathers years ago.

"If there is to be journalism, there must be government intervention," he told the student journalists.

An in-depth essay by Nichols and McChesney on that theme is here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brother, can you spare $20?

If you weren't paying close attention, you might have missed it: an article in today's New York Times' Science Times that was produced by a freelancer whose work was underwritten by Joe and Jane Mainstreet.

The story, both online and in print, offered this italicized explanatory note: "Travel expenses were paid in part by readers of Spot.Us, a nonprofit Web project that supports freelance journalists."

It represents another kick-the-tires effort to see what new revenue streams might fund journalism in the future, now that legacy newspapers are struggling to make ends meet.

You may recall an earlier piece by Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt in which he discussed the proposal proffered by freelancer Lindsey Hoshaw to travel in early fall to what's known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastic, rope and other detritus, aboard a boat skippered by Charles Moore, who discovered the garbage floe a dozen years ago as he returned from a sailing race in Hawaii.

Hoshaw proposed to take pictures for the paper and perhaps write a story, according to Hoyt. The Times agreed to look at the results, but declined to underwrite her expenses -- estimated at some $10,000 -- in keeping with the paper's standard freelance policy.

So Hoshaw turned to Spot.Us, a Web site that posts story pitches to which everyday people can donate. (Hoshaw's pitch raised $6,000 from 116 donors -- a technical glitch prevented resetting the fundraising clock to $10,000, reports site director David Cohn -- with many throwing in $10 or $20; Hoyt is listed as giving $50.)

The concept is called crowdfunding, which, like crowdsourcing, works to harness the power of the many to accomplish a task. Whether it's the future of journalism is still debatable; even Hoyt sees the Hoshaw article as one experiment among many at the Times.

Read Cohn's take on Hoshaw's fundraising here, which he says was Spot.Us' biggest to date. His young site isn't alone in trying this model, and he has some good insight into lessons learned to date here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Humor in the face of outsourcing

Journalists are among the funniest people I've ever met.

They're razor sharp, have a dry wit, and can mimic with perfection the mannerisms and speech of many of the newsmakers they cover.

So I had to laugh out loud at the drubbing given to Toronto Star Publisher John Cruickshank at the hands of his paper's copy desk -- the same people whose jobs likely will be outsourced by management to save money.

The Star, Canada's largest-circulation daily, announced plans last week to restructure through buyouts and other actions, including outsourcing and layoffs. The outsourcing -- moving copy editing and page-layout duties outside the company -- could affect 100 newsroom jobs, according to the union representing the workers.

So in a bit of tit for tat, one (or several) of the creative folks on the copy desk took a red pen to the publisher's memo to staff. To the uninitiated -- and those of the digital-only age -- that means marking up the text for style errors, jargon and a missed opportunity on leading with the news. Gawker got hold of a copy of the red-penned text.

(Full disclosure: I remember when editing was done with what was called a red grease pencil (shown above), which subsequently became a red fine-point marker. I received a framed, red-penned "story" as a going-away gift from a reporter when I left one editing job for another at a cross-town rival. I guess the reporter didn't think so highly of my thoughtful tweaking of her work. I laughed then, too.)

The Star incident was full of the gallows humor that newsrooms are noted for. But, unfortunately, it masked a more serious issue: the continued pummeling of print journalists as newspaper companies scramble to make money. The Star is no different than its U.S. counterparts in reporting ongoing losses for its print holdings in the third quarter.

And it's not alone in trying to find new staffing patterns: The Nieman Journalism Lab today published the text of an address last week to the New York Times newsroom by Executive Editor Bill Keller in which he touched on several money-saving ideas, including the need to find new efficiency in staffing the copy and layout desks.

The one bright spot, though, was his statement on endless belt-tightening: "The idea that you can do 'more with less' is, in my view, one of the four great lies. ... What you can do with less, is less."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can journalists make a living in the 2.0 world?

Here's today's food for thought:

" ... in most newspapers, the mood is like death. [And] a place where people are worried about losing their jobs during the worst recession in 70 years with little hope of working again in their chosen profession is probably not the best environment in which to encourage risk-taking and innovation."

Ouch.

The emphasis is mine, although the sentiment comes from Judy Sims, former vice president of digital media for the Toronto Star Media Group, owner of Canada's largest daily newspaper and thestar.com online.

Like me, Sims lost a career in journalism to a layoff in July. She describes herself now as "an independent online media consultant while waiting for the right permanent position." Sounds optimistic enough.

Her blog dates to the spring, when she says she decided "to finally become a part of the conversation" about old and new media, then picked up momentum when she didn't have to worry about a day job.

She's thinking hard about Journalism 2.0 on the site: "Top 10 Lies Newspaper Execs are Telling Themselves"; "Dear Editors and Publishers: Please start a blog, open a Facebook account and start Tweeting";  "A Tale of Two Strategies -- AOL vs. Newspapers."

It's from the latter that "the mood is like death" observation comes. She fancies how AOL has bulked up staffing in preparation for its disentanglement from Time Warner to stand on its own as a news and information site rich in content. Newspapers, though, have taken what Sims sees as ill-conceived forays -- talking about erecting paywalls for content, e.g. -- led by factions loyal to print.

She has other pearls for folks like me, too: fewer paid journalists in the 2.0 world.

"To survive, news organizations will have to focus on what they can do better than anyone else in the world. That’s producing high quality, original, local or national (depending on the site) news reporting and analysis," she says. "That’s a much smaller content pie, and it will mean fewer journalists."

Ouch again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Magic 8 Ball says 'ask again'

Some advice to those of you trying to be helpful to us unemployed journalists: Please stop.

Or better still: Please stop, listen and look.

I'm talking about the neighbor who suggests we seek out a government job. ("I know the XYZ Dept. could really use some editors.") The career counselor who offers Fortune 500 names for our resume list. ("You can help ABC Co. get its message out.") The former colleague who says he'll put in a word with a PR bigwig he knows. ("I can put you two together fast.")

Thanks but no thanks.

You asked us what we wanted to do and we told you: news. PR is not news; marketing is not news; "internal" or "external" communications is not news.

News is... Well, it used to be newspapers, but they're closing or trimming sections or cutting the number of days they publish because the revenue and expense sides of the ledger no longer line up.

Nowadays, news might come from a just-launched online-only operation backed by foundation money, or one that has a bit of time under its belt and follows the public broadcasters' pledge model. Or it oozes from the noisy and ever-expanding blogosphere.

All of which leaves me ... somewhere that I can't quite put my finger on yet.

That's why I have no neat answer to friends' and relatives' inquiries on what I plan do next: Solo blog? Seek employment at a news website? Find a niche newspaper that's hiring?

The future still is murky as various pundits ponder it.

So while they hash out the new model and I try to wrap my head around how I fit in, maybe I'll sneak off here every now and then to see whether the Magic 8 Ball has any better answers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shtickless in the blogosphere

I'm jealous of Ann Powers.

Make that Jayne Lytel, the blogger who created Ann (left) as the saucy alter-ego to life as a 53-year-old unemployed divorcee and mother of two.
Jayne lives in the basement in-law apartment of the family home in Washington, D.C. Her ex-husband, who's also unemployed, and the kids live upstairs.

Ann, on the other hand, contemplates a new career as a mini-skirted 30-Second Girl in Vegas, one of the bleach blondes who holds up a sign to alert the motocross pit to time ticking down before the big race. Or she makes plans to find her soul mate on MillionaireMatch.com.

As confusing as all this sounds, it's modern Americana, made more messy by the Great Recession.

I don't envy Jayne her life -- heavens no! Hers is the tale of a once-comfortable existence headed downmarket -- a future anyone who is unemployed and honest will admit to fearing. But I do envy her Ann, the gimmick that's getting her clicks on her blog.

These days, it seems, everyone has a blog -- and many of the newcomers are unemployed writers (journalists/marketing mavens/PR practitioners) cut loose by the economy. We blog because we used to make a living by writing, so continuing to write makes us feel like we're still steering the ship thrown off-course by layoffs and buyouts. (Although in blogging we no longer make a living.)

It took me awhile to start this blog because I lacked a gimmick. Early on, I had stumbled on the blog of a former newspaper reporter and editor in Chicago who wrote about his layoff and the state of journalism. But he always included factoids on corn and soybeans --"crops" this onetime Iowa farm boy was trying to grow in two planters on his condo rooftop, located near his beloved Cubbies (about which he also blogged) and Wrigley Field.

That was his shtick, which I was certain I couldn't top. Had I run into Ann Powers then... Well, let's just say I'd still be contemplating my navel.

The skinny "patio" tomato plant I had this summer yielded all of three red orbs -- hardly worth writing about. And try as I might, I can't seem to channel Ann Powers. But I'll keep an eye out for any new, original gimmicks that might bring in the clicks.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Let's hear it for toothpaste and newspapers

Here's a modest proposal for the future of journalism: consumer staples.



The New York Times brought to you by Charmin; Crest presents the Dallas Morning News; the Chicago Tribune sponsored by Gillette.

Why not hook up? The Washington Post just reported a third-quarter profit thanks to Kaplan Inc., the test-preparation company that also offers online graduate and professional degrees.

We could do worse.

Despite continued attempts to find the new business model for journalism, no one has discovered it yet. Just the other day, "some 50 of the foremost thinkers about journalism" gathered at Harvard University to ponder the future and how to make money in news, says the Reflections of a Newsosaur blog.

In the end, tweeted Newsosaur Alan Mutter, who was invited to attend, "Holy Grail undiscovered."

To be sure, the "media company" model hasn't worked: newspapers, radio and TV stations, billboards, and community weeklies all wrapped up together. And all were whacked in unison as the economy melted down last year.

So diversify: General Electric Co., which has been around since the late 1800s, knows it works. Why not newspapers?

Yet the Post took some shots for the strength of its Kaplan subsidiary. Said a headline on the Editor & Publisher website, "Q3 Profit Up at Washington Post Co. -- No Thanks to Newspapers." At MarketWatch, Kaplan was dubbed the Post's Mariano Rivera, "the reliable [Yankees] closer who strides out of the bullpen and saves the day."

For the Post, Kaplan produced 60 percent of third-quarter revenue, says MarketWatch. That seems an easier way to guarantee a positive bottom line than erecting pay walls for online content or crafting some kind of donations or outside funding system to pay reporters for their work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When up is really down

One of the conventions of business reporting is comparing current statistics on just about anything to year-ago numbers: company sales, local unemployment, radio listeners, newspaper readers.

The results tend to be more apples-to-apples since they're from the same periods of time. Comparing consecutive quarters, on the other hand, can produce a skewed picture.

Take fourth-quarter revenue for retailers, which is greatly influenced by the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday shopping season. If you tried to compare sales in that generally robust quarter to those on either side -- the so-so third or usually-slow first -- you'd get a dramatically different picture than putting year-over-year results side by side.

It's that lesson from Business Writing 101 that needed some footnoting as the media this week reported on the latest six-month circulation numbers for U.S. daily newspapers.

The data were pretty dismal: down 10.6 percent weekdays and 7.4 percent Sundays, according to the trade publication Editor & Publisher. Of the 25 largest newspapers, reported the New York Times, only the Wall Street Journal, Denver Post and Seattle Times showed paid circulation gains Monday to Friday. Most of the others reported double-digit declines, including the San Francisco Chronicle at 25.8 percent and the Dallas Morning News and Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., at 22.2 percent each.

A chart that accompanied the Times story in print put the gain at the Denver paper at 61.9 percent over 2008 and the Seattle paper at 32.6 percent. A single sentence in the story explained the increase: "Two major papers, The Denver Post and The Seattle Times, reported significant circulation gains after their main competitors, The Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, stopped publishing."

It was a case of year-over-year comparisons gone awry because of a material event in the interim.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Prey (or is it pray?) for editors

I can't for the life of me remember now where I read what I took to be reassurances that Journalism 2.0 would need editors.

I had just joined the ranks of unemployed journalists, and the gist of what I read was that as more and more people migrated to blogs and Web sites for their news, the typos and grammatical errors that drive print readers to the telephone to complain will also find voice online.

Whew, I thought, I do have transferrable skills.

But now I wonder whether there will be any copy editors and line editors left to migrate to the Web.

"Can newspapers afford editors?" asks a provocative headline at Reflections of a Newsosaur, a blog written by a former newspaper columnist and editor who left journalism two decades ago to become a software and Internet entrepreneur.

In it, Alan Mutter posits that "managers eager to maximize the feet on the street at their newspapers" are shifting resources from editing to reporting when faced with edicts to economize. "With the fat (if ever there were) long since trimmed from most newsrooms, the choice for many metros now may be coming down to whether to rein in news coverage or relax their traditional standards by editing out some of the editors," he says.

Echoes Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York (who blogs at buzzmachine.com), "Do we need editors?" The headline on the piece he wrote in August for the news site guardian.co.uk wonders whether editors are "a luxury that we can do without."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Move over Magnum?

Maybe I should become a P.I.

You know, a private investigator, like TV’s Jim Rockford or Thomas Magnum. They were hunks in their day, cracking tough cases, righting wrongs and wooing women. (Why can’t I recall a similar-caliber female P.I. series on the networks?)

I mentioned the career shift in jest the other day to a neighbor who had inquired about my job search.

In truth, though, I keep running across the become-a-P.I. theme in news reports (read the transcript of the radio interview or go to about 1:53 on the audio), articles and ads since I joined the ranks of Paper Cuts. (By the way, that often-cited blog, which is the unofficial keeper of newspaper layoffs, now puts the bought-out/downsized tally for journalists in 2009 at more than 14,000 -- up 1,000 since I was laid off in July.)

Of course, the shift from reporter to private eye is logical.

We journalists know how to find information: court documents, DMV records, business filings. If we can dog stories, we can dog people. It’s part of our DNA.

I'm ambivalent about repurposing those skills, though. It's not that the P.I. requirements are daunting; they aren't. I'd still prefer to stay in journalism.

But more and more, I'm finding tales of journalists who decided they had to give up their longtime careers. This one came to my attention over the weekend.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I know I'm addicted (to print)

I went cold turkey for about two days.
Then a telemarketer (working in a very busy boiler room) called and I re-upped.

You see, I had set aside the bills when they came, so the local papers had every right to cut me off from daily delivery.

One newspaper kept coming, though, weeks after my subscription had lapsed; the other was less forgiving about my nonpayment. But then one day neither of them was at their usual early-morning spots on the driveway and the front porch.

So I thought: Do I really need them?

It was sacrilege, I know, coming as it did from a longtime newspaper reporter and editor. But when you've been laid off in the Great Recession and you're among thousands of journalists in the same predicament, every expense needs scrutiny.

I had subscribed to one of the newspapers for years, even before I started working there. I had needed to keep an eye on what its business reporters were covering when I worked at a competitor.

I began getting the other paper earlier this decade. At the time, a then-assistant managing editor liked to harass me when that paper had stories my section didn't. I figured if I saw at home what I'd been beat on, I could be proactive about a second-day treatment when I got to work. (But, as I half-jokingly told the then-AME, if the crosstown rival's circulation numbers ever beat us by one, he was to blame because of the subscription I felt compelled to take.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm unemployed, not 'damaged'

Now that sentiment is growing that the Great Recession likely ended in June -- and ignoring the idea of a jobless recovery -- will those of us who were laid off have an easier time soon finding new work?

I sure hope so. I've been bothered by the news reports and commentary that employers are less interested in out-of-work candidates than in so-called passive ones -- workers who have remained employed and aren't necessarily looking for a new job. Companies will approach an engineer attending a professional conference, for instance, rather than combing through resumes.

A Wall Street Journal story in June (the headline said it all: "Only the Employed Need Apply") riled up one recruiter, who on her blog criticized the practice, saying it was the economic meltdown that put many of those laid off on the unemployment line, not their job performance.

"We’re so far past the point of equating the unemployed with damaged (goods)," she wrote. "This kind of short-sightedness in this marketplace makes my blood boil."

But even in the case of obvious economic layoffs -- a manufacturing division closed and its workers dismissed -- the Journal story said a client of one search firm looking for an executive wanted to talk to still-employed candidates, rather than consider the head of the closed division.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another JOLTS jolt

The number of job-seekers per available opening continues to rise, says Heidi Shierholz (right) of the Economic Policy Institute.

Dissecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey -- JOLTS -- Shierholz reports that the U.S. in August saw 6.3 job-seekers per available job, up from 6 per job in July.

JOLTS, published monthly, showed the country had 12.5 million more unemployed workers than job openings in August, Shierholz said. The math played out like this: job openings down 21,000 to 2.4 million, ranks of unemployed workers up by 466,000 to 14.9 million.

While the drop in job openings has slowed, Shierholz says, "it is nevertheless getting harder every month for job-seekers to find a job as more people continue to become unemployed and openings for new jobs continue to drop."

Here's her chart showing the rise in job-seekers per available job. Note the sharp increase since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.




(More) signs of the times

Tough times at the New York Times today, with the company announcing it will jettison 100 newsroom jobs (8 percent of staff) by year's end, either through voluntary buyouts or involuntary layoffs.

Having gone through the latter over the summer, I can sympathize.

The news didn't dissuade Times management from bragging that "These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world."

Are you sure? After 200 cuts in the newsroom in two years? Remember the other recent nip-and-tuck, one among many moves commonly made to cut expenses without paring essential services to the bone.

FishbowlNY has the full Times memo here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's official: fewer newspaper publishers

The U.S. Census Bureau, best known for counting heads in this country, also produces an economic census every five years -- an accounting of businesses and their activities. Typically, two years after the data are collected, the findings are published.

Preliminary numbers from the 2007 economic census are starting to emerge, and I took note of this: fewer newspaper publishers existed then than in the 2002 census, and they employed fewer workers.

The Census Bureau says the U.S. had 8,375 newspaper publishers in 2007, compared with 8,603 in 2002, a drop of 2.65 percent. Workers numbered 356,943 in 2007 vs. 401,170 in 2002, a slide of 11 percent.

Despite the drop in workers, annual payroll rose: to $13.98 billion in 2007 from $13.73 billion in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.

Receipts (revenue) rose too: to $47.01 billion in 2007 from $46.18 billion in 2002.

The data were released Oct. 9 and will be updated as they are refined, according to the agency.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

(Still another) sign of the times


Even The New York Times is pinching pennies, according to an item from The New York Observer, which indicates the Times announced it no longer will pick up the cost of newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Reporters generally use the subs to keep tabs on the competition or as fodder for other stories.

Monday, October 12, 2009

(Another) sign of the times

In a note from a recruiter who works exclusively with the editorial side of the media (print and digital):

"In this economy and with what’s going on in the newspaper industry, there are very few editorial jobs out there and a glut of candidates -- good people who have been collateral damage in the cutbacks, consolidations, outsourcing, etc. ... I'll keep your resume on file."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sign of the times

How tough is it out there for writers?

Check this out.

Note in particular some of the numbers: 5 months without a job; 70+ applications; 200+ responses; a posting up and down in 48 hours.

It's downright discouraging.

Status: Fifth Estate

Today marks three months since my July 7 layoff.

Three months: Good grief, it's a quarter of a year. Ninety days: In some jobs, it's the length of a new worker's probationary period.

Where did the time go? As in real life, it just slipped away.

But this was surreal life: First there was the period of grief and tending to the open wound of being shown the door. Then venturing into public again, finally sure that UNEMPLOYED wasn't tattooed on my forehead. Then reworking a resume, drafting cover letters, networking with people near and far.

At a breakfast meeting of community leaders that I'm still welcome to attend, I had a new business card at the ready and an answer to the inevitable "What are you doing now?"

I belong to the Fifth Estate, I said and got quizzical looks. You know the rundown, which dates back centuries: the First Estate is the clergy; Second Estate, nobility; Third Estate, commoners; Fourth Estate, the press.

Fifth estate is a relative recent term for bloggers, both of the amateur (citizen) and professional (legacy journalist) varieties. And while Wikipedia has an all-over-the-board definition here, the term is sure to gel in coming years.

That's not a bold prediction but a practical one: 2008 was a tough year financially for newspapers, as was the first half of 2009. And six-month circulation numbers due out soon aren't expected to be pretty.

So newspapers continue to cut back, releasing reporters and editors who need jobs and at the same time creating holes in former bread-and-butter coverage.

Now some of the journalists are establishing professional news websites independent of their former employers. The J-Lab, a community-journalism and new-media initiative at American University in Washington, D.C., has posted a video on some of those efforts:


Part 2 - Professional Journalists Create New Ventures About Critical Issues from J-Lab on Vimeo.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye

I'm laughing out loud at the coincidence:

Amazon.com says the book Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters was published by Crown on July 7 -- the same date I was laid off from my newspaper job.

I don't blame blogging for what happened to me, but author Scott Rosenberg, a former journalist and entrepreneur turned blogger, has a terrific chapter in the book titled "Journalists vs. Bloggers" that sums up the marketplace events that have led to big layoffs at U.S. newspapers this year. The chapter is free for the reading here.

Rosenberg is on YouTube with a look at blogging's roots (and a pitch for his book):



His conclusion is that blogging, ever evolving, is here to stay as "our culture’s indispensable public square." And rather than shun or belittle it, legacy journalists need to embrace it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Breathe, she said. Just breathe.

It's called a cognitive itch or sticky tune, but I like the more evocative earworm: music that gets stuck in your head and keeps repeating as if on a loop.

Webster's online makes it sound like an annoyance (intercom tunes at the supermarket), but I found my earworm comforting, prescriptive even, in the early days of my layoff.


And breathe... just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe
it told me as I walked my neighborhood.

Rather than jogging, I walk to stay in shape and clear my head. But while I had been doing the 2-mile circuit on weekends for years, I now could ply the route daily because I had no job to report to. Over the summer, I became a statistic in the Great Recession and a Paper Cut in the newspaper industry.

At that point, I was having regular panic attacks (WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!) that made my heart race, that clutched at my throat and filled my eyes with tears. Then the refrain would do a loop: breathe, it said, just breathe. And I would.

I'm no music aficionado or CD collector; I don't know why the lyrics came to mind. In fact, I had to do a Web search to find out what my earworm was.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm dating again (not really; it just feels like it)

Getting back into the job market is akin to returning to the dating circuit after a divorce or the death of a spouse. With either, the goal is making a good first impression.

As a result, I’ve agonized over cover letters. I’ve developed a near-phobia about them.

They’re the equivalent of putting on your Sunday best for that first date. Not too flashy or too buttoned up but a Goldilocks just right.

As with dating, I feel the pressure to measure up. After all, I was laid off from a newspaper this year, as were more than 13,000 other journalists. And we're all answering the same ads or contacting the same (safe for now) publications about new jobs.

Joe Grimm (right), a former recruiter for The Detroit Free Press, now teaches reporting and writing as a visiting professor at the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. Author of several books, he has a blog at Poynter Online, part of the Poynter Institute in Florida that trains journalists and studies journalism, and operates a Web site aimed at helping journalists -- veterans and new graduates -- get jobs.

He acknowledges the difficulty many applicants have with cover letters to accompany resumes: “You want your letter to stand out from the rest, but you don’t want to go over the edge -- of someone’s desk,” he advises in a short post titled “Killer cover letters.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Job-hunting is tough work

I’ve read about people sending out 60 or 100 cover letters and resumes in their job search.

I’ve heard the advice on setting aside at least 35 hours a week to focus on finding a new job.

I’ve seen the accounts of people laid off in the Great Recession who are still jobless after a year or more.

It’s all so unnerving. Then there’s this statistic to give pause: six applicants per available U.S. job.

That’s courtesy of Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, who monthly crunches numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to see how the unemployed are faring.

Earlier this month, she looked at the BLS’s JOLTS report for July to calculate the latest candidates-per-job ratio. (The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey is released after the government’s monthly report on employment, but whereas the latter covers the previous month, the JOLTS data are two months old.)

What did she find in JOLTS?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pink slips piling up

The running tally of layoffs at Paper Cuts, the unofficial keeper of stats on personnel cuts made by U.S. newspaper companies, today stands at 13,637+ for 2009. (The plus is for cuts the blog classifies as "unknown": layoffs have occurred, but an exact number isn't available.)

At the pace seen during some months this year -- 2,000 layoffs or more -- the count could easily surpass all of 2008, when, according to Paper Cuts, newspapers laid off at least 15,977 workers, including reporters and other news department folks, advertising salespeople, and printing and delivery personnel.

More and more newspapers have closed this year, or they've shifted to online only, laying off most of the staff needed to produce the printed paper.

January, March and July were particularly gruesome months, according to the Paper Cuts numbers, which are assembled from industry tipsters or announcements from the affected papers (or their market competitors).

I was particularly interested in July, when I was laid off, and scrolling through the numbers was amazed by the rash of cuts that came mid-month. Gannett Co. Inc., parent of USA Today and 84 other daily newspapers (as well as 23 TV stations and 850 non-daily publications), kept showing up as owner of this paper or that with a handful of layoffs here, 50 there, 85 here and 100 there.

In all, I counted 1,055 Gannett layoffs in July, a third of them reported on the Paper Cuts roster for July 15 and 16 alone. (The Paper Cuts data are arranged by date.) The total layoffs I counted on the Paper Cuts site was 2,732 that month.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pinch me so I feel the recovery

The other day, the local newspaper carried an editorial cartoon by Marshall Ramsey of The Clarion-Ledger, a daily in Mississippi, that was a takeoff on the whole Rep. Joe Wilson flap.

It shows Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at a podium, as President Obama had been in his Sept. 9 address to Congress on health care. As Ramsey's Bernanke tells the audience "The recession's over," the Joe Wilson line "You lie!" is delivered by a man in the audience with "UNEMPLOYED" emblazoned on his chest.

Yes, those of us who became unemployed in the Great Recession don't yet feel the economy improving.

Of course, Bernanke didn't exactly proclaim the recession over -- the dating of business cycles lies with the National Bureau of Economic Research. But the Fed chairman, speaking to the Brookings Institution, did say that "from a technical perspective, the recession is very likely over at this point."

Friday, September 18, 2009

We've come a long way, baby

Did you catch last night's episode of Project Runway, the fashion-design reality show on cable TV, in which the medium for the evening was newspapers?

The group, down to a dozen challengers from the original 16, had to create out of paper. The designers were allowed muslin as a base, but newsprint (virginal on the spool, or real editions of the LA Times) had to compose the bulk of their garments.

Here's the video from Lifetime of the evening's winner and the trench coat she produced, which guest judge Tommy Hilfiger pronounced reminiscent of Chanel.


The journey to finished product reminded me of the quirky opening that ran with early episodes of the TV series Lou Grant. The drama, which debuted on CBS in 1977 and won many awards in its five years, chronicled life at a fictional big-city paper, the LA Tribune. Ed Asner (left) was the tough-as-nails city editor.

In the opening credits, as the actors were introduced, a humorous side text followed the paper's newsprint from forest to printing plant to the floor of the family bird cage.

See it here (after a sponsoring commercial). It still makes me smile.