September 25, 2008

More Pink Slips at the Providence Journal

Monique Chartier

Ian Donnis at Not for Nothing brings this to our attention. From the Providence Newspaper Guild website:

Journal to Lay Off 30 From News Staff; No One Cut From Advertising

The Journal will be cutting its entire News Department part-time staff plus five full-time positions. No advertising jobs will be cut.

With one exception, the cuts will result in the least senior employee being laid off. The one exception is a reduction in the number of news online designers from three to two. All the employees in this classification are fulltime. The least senior designer will be laid off unless she qualifies for another job.

This may be the one area where my good government instincts clash with my belief in capitalism. We (all democratically based countries/societies/governments) need a healthy, inquisitive press. Period. Informing the public, asking questions, exposing government failures, over-involvements, cover-ups, ineptitudes, conflicts-of-interest. Television and radio play a vital role in a free press but as they cannot always get sufficiently in-depth, they cannot substitute for the newspaper.

Diversification of news sources resulting in a serious loss of advertising revenue has jeopardized the Providence Journal and newspapers across the US. Capitalism dictates that this is how it must be. At the same time, a free press seems a little too important to subject to the vicissitudes of the free market, not just for maintenance of some degree of honesty in our government but as the free market itself may in turn be jeopardized by the loss of a free press.

I wish fervently there were a remedy for this but don't see one off-hand. Important as newspapers are, I don't want them subsidized by the government. Experience has shown that the wrong kind of conditions would be placed with such funding; the last thing we need, for example, is a family member of Steve Alves covering Smith Hill.

Now, am I a fan of all of the ProJo's reporting? No, I am not. Too often in recent years, it's been news with a slant or some serious omissions. Or a sob story instead of both sides of the story. But that doesn't mean I'm happy to watch it get chipped away.

So perhaps this is a double lament - on a more local level for a newspaper that doesn't always comprehend the critically important role it plays in "simply" reporting in full and on the macro level for the slow loss of a vital player in a free press.

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One word: Schadenfreude

It's pretty silly that they go by seniority to determine who's getting thrown out on the street, and not making business decisions based on individual qualifications or based upon how they positively impact the paper. Of course, that collectivist mentality goes a long way towards describing why they are in the sorry predicament that they are in at present.

PS I hope they don't ever go out of business, because their newsprint is excellent for streak-free windows!

Posted by: Will at September 25, 2008 2:21 AM

Don't worry, Will. You'll still have the Phoenix.

Posted by: Greg at September 25, 2008 7:24 AM

The Phoenix is free. Unreadable but free. I get 3 every week at Cranston Library and put them to good use-at the bottom of my Parakeet's cages.
The difference between The Phoenix and the Daily Worker?
1. You had to pay for the Daily Worker.
2. Unlike The Phoenix they didn't worship men who take pleasure in licking other men's anuses by calling them "superior" beings like Ian's throwaway freebie rag.

Posted by: Mike at September 25, 2008 8:02 AM

Stay classy, Mike.

Posted by: Ian Donnis at September 25, 2008 10:05 AM

Newspaper managers have only their own stupidity to blame for stories like this. Instead of competing with the Internet, they decided to cut into the product to keep up their ridiculous profit margins (newspapers historically have enjoyed yoooge profit margins). Readers reacted to the cuts with their feet, and papers felt they had to make more.
It's a vicious cycle. Blaming it on the Internet is just a weak excuse.

Posted by: rhody at September 25, 2008 12:35 PM

I hope the disgustingly biased Karen Lee Ziner is on the chopping block. Her articles on Immigration are a disgrace and at least some of the reason for the papers demise.

Posted by: Mike at September 25, 2008 1:26 PM

I would hate to be in the paper business. The physical product chews up trees and requires polluting delivery. And the recipient gets to recyle approximately a cubic yard of newsprint, much of it ads, every year. Also, the new-new news is old-old news by the time they get to it.
Then there is the problem of reporting bias. This is what may eventually lead me to conclude that its a waste of my money. They need to focus on what, where, who, when and why (careful with that last one). They need to go local because that's not available on the intertubes. RI is a target rich environment for reporting on corruption and incompetence. Somebody should be doing it. Editorial opinion serves the market and we are intensely Blue - no surprise we get the Froma Harrumphs, etc.

Posted by: chuckR at September 25, 2008 2:50 PM

I think,unfortunately that the fact challenged Ms.Ziner is probably being kept on because they would have let her go already if they had any concern for quality.
She could replace the disgusting M.Charles Bakst as the resident crying towel for illegal aliens.Then,like that mole Bakst,she could stop pretending to be a reporter.
Picture This:Charley at a buffet restaurant with a "booster bag" in his pants.
Note: A booster bag is a shoplifting tool.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 25, 2008 5:46 PM

The layoffs are being done by seniority, but nobody's sure who goes yet - there may be bumping situations.
But I'd bet you that with all the cutbacks and people who remain having to do the jobs formerly done by two or three people, plenty of people who survived the layoffs will bolt the first time they get an opportunity. This kind of personnel hacking can affect those who stay just as much as those who are gone.
Joe, I don't know Ms. Ziner personally, but I'm sure if you offered her a job at decent money (where immigration issues don't come into play), she might be willing to leave the ProJo, therefore having a beneficial effect on your health.

Posted by: rhody at September 26, 2008 1:37 AM

Rhody-Karen Ziner couldn't affect my health on her best day-she just doesn't do her job correctly on the issue of reporting immigration matters-is it asking too much for her to keep her opinion from seeping into news articles?
Other reporters there have and had in the past managed it.She emotes on a subject that is in serious need of dispassionate examination,regardless of one's point of view.
I am unfamiliar with her reporting on other subjects so I limit my criticism to what I know about.
When David Cicilline made flat out untrue statements about a "protocol" between the police and immigration authorities,I called him on it on a radio show-no shouting,etc-just the facts-he couldn't respond with a credible answer.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 26, 2008 8:20 AM

And the news gets worse...Sean McAdam is bolting the ProJo for the Boston Herald. With Steve Krasner having taken the buyout, Red Sox coverage at playoff time looks like Galveston after Ike.
This move was precipitated by ProJo suits cracking down on his work on WEEI and (according to Boston Sports Media Watch, a suit pitched a hissy because Sean was on the radio the day Manny Ramirez was traded). Those gigs (what top sportswriter DOESN'T multiplatform on radio and/or the Web these days?) benefitted the ProJo brand and earned him sources that gave his work in the paper and more value.
That kind of management thinking illustrates precisely why the ProJo has big problems. I just didn't think my prediction two posts above would come true so soon.

Posted by: rhody at September 26, 2008 12:10 PM

Rhody-WTF? I never understood the need for a sportswriter to explain a baseball game to me and I doubt you do either if you think about it.Generally I just watch a game ,whatever sport it is,and that's it.
Sportswriters have a palce in the world-mainly when they deliver a retrospective view of a particular player,team,era,etc.Like an historian.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 26, 2008 1:21 PM

Joe, this affair is pretty disturbing whether you're a sports fan or not. It involves someone's right to make a few extra dollars outside the workplace in this some places it's called illegal restraint of trade. Myself, I'm trying to earn a little extra cash outside work these days (in a lawful way, of course), and I don't particularly give a damn anymore what my employer thinks of it. I give a much bigger damn about paying my mortgage, as do most of us.
And to put it in terms you might appreciate, most journalists make less money than top-step teachers.

Posted by: rhody at September 26, 2008 3:24 PM

Rhody-whatever you think, I too am concerned with paying bills and also helping family members with some serious unexpected expenses-I was never allowed to take outside employment while working for the Feds-too much potential conflict of interest.What a crock that sounds like now!
Schumer,Frank,Bunning,Bennett,Reed and numerous other members of Congress aren't bothered by taking huge sums from banking industry sources while sitting on the very committees that oversee them-no D or R here Rhody-just a bunch of pigs at the trough selling us out.
I'm glad I realized I was too ignorant of the stock market to invest in it.
I think I may have missed the point of your last post,but I can see you might not want to elaborate.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 26, 2008 6:45 PM

Most of us trying to squeeze a few extra bucks on the side aren't making national policy.

Posted by: rhody at September 27, 2008 1:04 AM
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