Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I went to check on the newspaper

I returned to the old salt mine this morning. That would be the Bradenton Herald, "Manatee's newspaper since 1922.'' My last place of employment. My nine-year run there, seven as Managing Editor, ended last June when they eliminated my position.

It is painful to watch the decline of the newspaper industry. The Herald, like virtually every paper in the country, just went through another round of difficult cuts. More people lost their jobs. There will be pay cuts and unpaid ''furloughs'' for those remaining on staff. The building is up for sale.

I walked through the cavernous newsroom. Granted, it was early -- 8:30 a.m. -- but there were only three people at their stations: the metro editor, the editorial page editor and a senior photographer. A lonely place. Not the daily hustle and bustle that energized me throughout most of my 33 years in the business. Not the buzz and fierce competitive spirit that kept us news junkies coming back every day for another fix. Again, it was early. These people always rise to the occasion. But it gets harder and harder to assemble an army for the charge.

I admire those who grimly fight on. Maybe someone will discover a new business model that works. The Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have been toppled, and more will soon follow. Newspapering is a noble profession, but we're not hearing a lot sympathy from the public as these death warrants are issued.

What a crying shame.


  1. It can and should be a noble profession. Then again, being a blacksmith was a noble trade also.

  2. What I've never understood is, why more people don't appreciate the printed newspaper for the incredible value that it is.
    Folks pay $100 a month or more for cable TV and $30-$40 for an internet connection -- and consider their TV and internet news "free."
    Yet they balk at paying 50 cents a day for the equivalent of a full-length novel delivered to their door daily.
    Forget, even, the elements of a newspaper that can be found more easily and quickly on-line or on TV -- just consider what a newspaper offers that can't be found elsewhere.
    The great writing and photography that are unmatched in any other medium ... The watchdog reporting that every community needs to keep its leaders honest ... Editorial pages that offer (usually) well-reasoned, thoughtful opinions that are almost always more balanced and fair than you find anywhere else ... Local news that no TV or radio station or website can match ...
    Heck, for 50 cents, you get seven -- count 'em, seven -- puzzles delivered to you every day! Try to find a deal like that anywhere else.

  3. Newsrooms are rarely more empty and quiet than on a Saturday morning. No reporters to be found; maybe an editor or two stuck with the unfortunate duty of closing out the early "bulldog" edition of the Sunday paper.
    So imagine a managing editor's surprise when he came into the office unexpectedly early one Saturday morning and found ... a 15-year-old girl handcuffed to a desk in the sports department.
    Totally flummoxed, he stammered out questions until he got to the bottom of the story.
    Her dad was down in the composing room, closing out the sports section. The girl had run away from home several times, and the dad was afraid to leave her alone for fear it would happen again. Hence, the handcuffs.
    He didn't lose his job. But he didn't win Dad of the Year, either ...