Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What's Going On...

Hey Folks,

Sorry for the gap in responses-- in the midst of all the recent shakeups, my computer seems to have up and died, so I've been getting by on borrowed machines and library terminals to tend to my union correspondence. And, golly, there's been a lot of it lately.

I'm still seeking out job leads for our friends who got laid off and though as you're all well aware, the industry's pretty lousy right now, have managed to turn up a few promising things with the help of other union locals and friends elsewhere in the industry. Anything you guys come across, journalism or otherwise, please let me know and I'll pass it along to 'em.

On another note, I went on an interesting trip last week up to Bakersfield to gather some information about how the Californian has brought more multimedia and Internet work into the newsroom. This is a big push, both on the union and the company side, 'cause we're all going to have to figure out how to adapt to the changing world of journalism. So, we worked out a little partnership-- the union paid travel costs and the paper paid for the time I was gone and sent along online editor Josh Kleinbaum, as well.

I'm glad to report that the trip was fascinating. With just a small crew of dedicated personnel, the Californian has put together a Web site that's become a model for much of the industry. More importantly, they've found ways to work the new technology into the newsroom so it doesn't become too much of a burden on the staff. As a result, they're making money, online readership is up and the staff seems pretty jazzed about having new reporting tools at hand. Josh and I are now working with Ron and Melissa to figure out ways that we can adapt some of those tools for use at the Daily News.

So that's all I've got for the moment, but I'll hopefully be in touch soon. In the meantime, thanks for your support and nice job putting out the paper lately-- we've had some good looking stuff across the board in the last few weeks.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy Hour

Hey Folks,

With the election mostly behind us, last week's upheaval dying down and a whole lot of stuff to talk about, it's high time we got together for drinks. So, let's meet up this Thursday, Nov. 9, around 6 p.m. at the El Torito on Canoga. While it's not my favorite place, we always seem to draw a good turnout there, so come kick back and enjoy some fellowship with folks at the DN. Drinks and snacks are on us, hope to see you there...

What: Union Happy Hour
When: Thursday, 11/9, 6 p.m.- 8ish
Where: El Torito, Canoga and Oxnard
Cost: Absolutely free.

See ya there,

PS: For those of you unable to make this one, we'll try to hold another on a weekend sometime soon. We never want to forget our pals on the nightshift...

Our Man in Albania

Hey Guys,

After all the heavy duty stuff of late, it's time to shift gears a bit to throw some much-deserved props to our own Jason Kandel of Valley News. By the time most of you read this, the intrepid Mr. K. will be blasting off for Albania, where he'll be addressing the country's nascent independent press on the challenges of covering organized crime.

He's on this mission, recruited by the US State Department, as a result of his excellent work in the past covering the Russian-Armenian mob's activities in Glendale. He's spent the past few weeks studying up on the history of American crime syndicates and he'll bring with him a vast knowledge of cops, crooks, crime and justice.

From when I sat next to him in my earliest days at the Daily News to today, I've always been impressed by his drive and love of the craft of journalism. I don't think I've ever met anyone who cares as much or tries as hard to hone his skills, regardless of the subject. I'm consistently amazed by his dedication and great attitude toward the work.

Please join me in congratulating him and wishing both him and Kerry, who'll be joining him later, a safe and pleasant journey home. We'll look forward to hearing about your tales of adventure upon your return. Godspeed and take a bunch of pictures...


What Now?

Hey Guys,

So it's been a week since we all stood together and heard the sobering news about the layoffs, the new executives and the challenges facing our entire business. The circulation numbers that followed didn't help, nor did the increasing number of job losses throughout the industry. As we see on an increasingly frequent basis, this career path we've all stepped into is not an easy one.

This last week has not been tough for everyone. We've had to figure out how to make do with less people, how to say goodbye to good friends, how to find a way to keep this gig most of us have been doing since high school viable. For our three colleagues who lost their jobs, it's been a hectic, dizzying period of trying to get their bearings as they look for new work. While I've been in touch with all of them and they're all moving forward, they'll all continue to need your support, so don't forget to let them know you're thinking of them.

Actually, that's one good thing that I got out of all this, a reminder that in troubled times, we're not alone. Whether it's as union members, as co-workers, as friends, we're all in this together. I spent a lot of long nights e-mailing friends at other papers looking for jobs for our laid off coworkers last week and was touched to see how quickly they responded with good, solid leads I could pass along. With some luck, we'll find something that'll help get them back in the work world again soon.

And I was also reminded of how lucky we are to be part of this union, as well. Whenever I had a question on how to advise the people looking for work, I sent out e-mails to some of The Newspaper Guild's smartest workers and got back instant feedback. And from you guys, the ones in the middle of it all at the Daily News, I got a feeling of solidarity and support.

This weekend, I went up to San Jose to meet with some people at our new sister paper, the Mercury News. The company's been giving them a hard time at the bargaining table, but they're hanging in there. They're smart, they're passionate and, most importantly, they're working together to make that a better place. We had a lot of good discussions about ways that we can work together throughout the state to support one another, both as MediaNews employees and as fellow journalists.

I wanted to mention that meeting, because I got some very positive feedback from the folks up there about all we've accomplished at the Daily News. They've got a great contract and a fantastic group of guild members, one that dwarfs us in size and extends into departments all throughout their building. And yet when we started talking about how much the unit's grown at our paper and all the ways we've been able to bring people together, they applauded our success. I know it often seems like we're off in our own little world down here, but I wanted you guys to know that other people in the industry look at what we've done together and are using it as an example of how to grow stronger.

The next few months ahead will not be easy, as we adjust to changing staff, financial pressures and dwindling interest from traditional readers. But as we punch our way through all that, don't forget that we're part of a community, whether it's this union, this company, or this business. Today's world feels awfully lonely sometimes and it's a shame that it takes tough times to remind you of your friends. When we lose sight of them, that's when we're really in trouble.

So thanks for everything guys-- you're a hell of a group and I'm proud to be with y'all. Later this week, once all this election stuff's calmed down, let's all get together and have some drinks and blow off some steam. I'll let you know the details as soon as I've got 'em. Thanks again.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Real Enemy

Well, it's nice to see people are reading, at least. And as much of a fan of lively debate as I am, I don't think that attacking the other parts of our organizations will get us anywhere. I understand everyone's frustration, whether it's at LANG, Dean Singleton, or the newspaper business as a whole, but if we're all going to get out of this, we can't waste our energy on tearing each other down.

Much of what you guys say in your posts on both sides is true-- in my time with the company, I've seen that the relationship between the various papers leaves much to be desired. We're probably all too stubborn sometimes, we all feel like we don't get enough respect or resources. And we don't. I haven't been to all the papers, but from the folks I know throughout the chain, I know that there are a lot of hard-working, talented individuals at this company. There's probably some slackers and malcontents at each, but on the whole, the people I've watched all work themselves into the ground, regardless of what sort of job they have.

Pettiness and in-fighting helped get us into this mess, so if we're going to find a way out of it, we've got to quit that nonsense and learn to work together. I'm not saying we all need to line up and march to the company tune, far from it, but we do have to support each other, both as workers and collaborators. And hey, we're grouchy journalists, so I don't expect everyone to get together, hold hands and sing folk songs, either. But the criticism going back and forth offers no solutions, just insulting rhetoric at a time when our industry is reeling and good people are losing their jobs.

As one of the earlier commentors (commenters? people who commented? commentators?) noted, the news business is changing at lightning speed. All the time and energy we put into complaining about the folks who are supposed to be on the same team distracts us from work we ought to be doing to preserve our jobs and our industry. If we see legitimate ways to improve the product or the way the company runs, then we should definitely all speak up-- that's the reason this union exists. But we've got to come up with solutions, not just complain that some other guy's messing up our way of doing things.

As the title of this post alludes to, the real enemy here isn't our company or our sister papers or the Daily News. And as much as I disagree with the Singleton strategy, we can't even totally blame that. The enemy is all the people who don't care about newspapers anymore, don't care to read them, don't care to advertise in them, don't see them as a vital part of their lives. We're not going to win them back by picking on the Daily News or the other parts of the chain-- they couldn't care less about us already and they're certainly not going to be any more interested if they see us attacking one another.

I don't have the answer on how to win back those readers-- I don't think anyone in this business does. But long after we forget about these arguments, I hope we can look back and say that we figured it out together.