Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thats what I'm trying to tell you, kid. It ain't there. It's been totally blown away.

I said in my first post that I would talk too much about where I work.

However, I didn't say I wouldn't talk about other people talking about my job.

Cosmo Garvin wrote a solid story about the effects of downsizing at The Sacramento Bee for the Aug. 7 issue of the Sacramento News & Review.

"The shrinking Bee - What the repackaged Bee means for local journalism" is a strong and critical piece. County government writer Ed Fletcher, water writer Matt Weiser, departing Capitol reporter Judy Lin and editor Melanie Sill are primary sources. A couple unnamed sources are used. The piece isn't the standard snarky jab; it's full of legitimate concerns.

I was surprised that Fletcher, the local union representative, was so vocal. I just didn't think current writers would be so open to speak to the other newspaper. He is worried that the newspaper won't provide the needed breadth of coverage and said some beats remain vacant. No energy writer. No health writer. Fletcher said that the newsroom has 28 fewer reporter than at this time last year. This number likely doesn't count the many student assistants and interns that no longer exist in the various departments. Sports clerks, news clerks and features interns were not replaced when the students left for other jobs or graduated from college.

I can't say much about the print redesign or the upcoming online redesign. I don't feel informed enough to comment. But I am worried about the quality of newspapers. The cuts seem to keep on coming, jobs openings are rare.

(I'm not claiming I know about more cuts within the newspaper. I don't. I just worry that they will. I mean to say that they keep coming as a comment about the industry as a whole. The summer has been rough.)

I think newspapers are pushing writers to work harder to meet the demands of a 24-hour news cycle. I worry about a breaking point. I worry about writers burning out. Writers have left The Bee and haven't been replaced. Journalists get paid squat, so reporters do the job because they love their beats and they like their coworkers. When journalism becomes more of a job than a passion, reporters look at the pay and say, "I can get paid better to do a job elsewhere."

Exit: Lisa Heyamoto. Stage: Europe.

“There’s increasing pressure to grind even harder. It used to be that you were asked to do a story by the end of the day,” Fletcher told SN&R. “Now we’re writing a draft for the Web, then maybe another draft for the Web, then writing a story by the end of the day.”

The multi-level story approach is a good idea, if implemented correctly. But I agree with Fletcher's point. The pressure is rising and the workers are stressing.

There's a line from The Dark Knight that keeps popping in my mind when I read about the newspaper industry:

"It's always darkest before the dawn."

I hope so.

On the horizon: I'm collecting a week's run of The Bee and will analyze the charges with daily blog posts, one issue per day with a full analysis at the end.

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