Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Business

Hi Everyone,

Normally, I'm a pretty kick back guy. I try to find the good in this industry, focus on my stories, enjoy my colleagues' company and enjoy the work. Flipping through the journalism world right now, though, it's tough not to shake your head in frustration.

To the north, we've got the owner of the Santa Barbara News Press going from clueless to downright evil (http://www.independent.com/news/2007/apr/22/shameless-news-press-breaks-out-kiddie-porn/). Downtown, we've got the Times' corporate overseers further running a fine paper into the ground (http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2007/04/heres_the_lat_buyout_deal.php). Both these used to be excellent career options for local journalists, but due to catastrophic local ownership at the first and foolish distant ownership at the latter, things aren't looking so hot at either. The Guild is attempting to assist the workers at both job sites, hoping to provide some support where both companies have failed.

At times like this, I'm reminded all the more about how important it is that we hang in together at the Daily News. We survived last fall's layoffs, corporate cutbacks and years of both neglect and starvation as MediaNews focused its energies and dollars elsewhere, but it's not enough just to survive. At times, it feels like the whole industry's cutting its own throat and I don't want to just hang on and fight for the leftover scraps.

I want to see us fight our way out of this. I want to see us figure out what readers want in print and on the Internet. As I've said many times, whether it's over beers at El Torito, riding around on assignment or through these long-winded e-mails, I think we can do it. We've got a staff full of smart, creative, forward-thinking people and if we're going to get through this rough patch, we're going to have to put all that energy to work.

And if we're going to do it, we've got to think of this as more than just a place to spend nine hours a day. This isn't just a job-- for those of us who've ridden out the layoffs, attrition and contraction, it's part of who we are. We could probably make more money waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory and have less stress working in PR. But that's not why we do this-- we do this because, when it's done right, there's no better job in the world.

Right now, it doesn't feel like that at the Daily News. We're getting there. We've made a lot of progress. We've made it more worker-friendly, we've started wading into the video/audio/blog world, we've finally established a productive dialogue with the bosses. But we need more.

Call it a family, a team, a brotherhood-- whatever you want. That's the attitude we're going to need if we're going to survive. We're never going to be the LA Times, so we're going to have to enjoy being what we are. We're the crazy, unpredictable underdog who still manages to get our shots in with the big boys and that's what should make this whole enterprise fun. We've got to work with each other and think about this beyond what's going in tomorrow's paper or what affects just one of us, one department, one category of workers. We've got to pull together, today, tomorrow, every day.

There's no reason we can't do it. If you've got a good idea, speak up about it. If you've got a problem, keep on it until you get a solution. Unlike the folks at the News Press and the Times, we can do that without fear of retaliation. If we work together, we've got a lot of power and if we don't take advantage of it, we'll have ourselves to blame when our jobs disappear.

This may be preachy, this may be overly optimistic, but I believe it's the truth. I'm sick of seeing my friends leave. I'm sick of seeing good people's talent get wasted on ridiculous assignments due to mismanagement or apathy. I'm sick of seeing us get accustomed to crap that should be straightened out with a simple conversation, just 'cause that's the way things have always been. We've got to do better or we're not going to matter anymore.

I'll get off my pulpit for one evening and quit yakking at you. Most of you know this, most of you do it, but I just wanted to get this out there. We may not have the money, we may not have the prestige, but we can make this a great paper. It's going to take time and a hell of a lot of effort, but I have no doubt that we can get there. Thank you for all your hard work and keep at it-- we're going to need a lot more in the months to come. Then, hopefully, we'll be able to look back at what we've done with pride.

-Brent

1 Comments:

Blogger Ed Padgett said...

Hi Brent,

I followed a link from Tribune Employees Talk and discovered your blog; I enjoyed reading several of your posts.

As a third generation Los Angeles Times employee (I print the newspaper) it saddens me to see what the Chicago Tribune has done to the once great newspaper. With the departure of another 150 employees nears, one can only wonder what the future holds for the readers and the workers of the Times.

My heroes are journalists like you, since I am not a sports fan or addicted to television, and I still subscribe to three newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and LA Weekly.

It would be great to be in Coachella this weekend, but I have opted to be at UCLA all weekend, Saturday as a visitor, and Sunday as a driver for the writers.

Stay positive, it keeps us young.

10:15 AM  

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