Saturday, June 6, 2009

The changing newspaper industry

They are shutting down our pressroom. While the change won’t directly affect me and my closest co-workers, it is moment for all of us to reflect on what is happening in the newspaper industry.

Our 8,500-daily-circulation product is only one of many that we pump out in the Torrington factory. We did a big re-design in November to make our product bigger, better and with more local content. This, of course, means more work on the editors’ part.

Then we took over the Thomaston Express, a weekly newspaper previously run by our sister publication in Bristol. We also have the Foothills Trader – three different zones – and Good News About Torrington, a weekly newspaper that goes out to every home in Torrington for free.

As if that wasn’t enough, we added on The Granby News, a weekly newspaper covering an town near Bradley Airport – nowhere near any of our other coverage areas. Oh, and I can’t forget about Litchfield County Mom, our 40-page quarterly publication that is going glossy for its second issue in June.

Not only do these publications require daily, weekly or monthly content for the print issues such as stories, photos and calendar items – they all need to be paginated and they all have web sites that need to be updated on a regular basis.

And let’s not forget about the special sections. At the middle of June, we have the Grad Tab, a yearbook-format product of about 40 pages that prints every photo of every high school student who is graduating in our coverage area. Then we have Reader’s Choice, which lists the winners in our annual contest to see who is best at what they do.

But apparently this isn't enough to keep our pressroom going. Since the other newspaper was sold and left us for a cheaper printing firm, our products are moving elsewhere to save the company $375,000.

On any given day, we have two or more products to work on. Our staff consists of five editors, five reporters, and two photographers. That’s for all publications (although editorial is not in charge of content for the Foothills Trader). With each person getting 2 days off per week, that doesn’t leave many people on for each day. That means the main product, that little thing we call The Register Citizen, gets about 5 hours of attention from the editors, at best.

And the reporters? They spend about 6 hours a day working on daily stories, 2-3 hours working on Litchfield County Mom stories, a few hours on Granby/Thomaston/Good News/Arts section stuff, an hour with office meetings, phone calls, clearing out e-mails, and then another hour trying to convince The Boss that they didn’t work any overtime.

And people wonder why there are mistakes. When we get complaints about the proofreaders not doing their jobs, or the editors not knowing anything about grammar, all I want to say is “what proofreader? That job was eliminated ten years ago.” And fixing grammar and spelling mistakes? There are days we don’t even have time to read the stories we put in the paper. That’s pretty bad. Considering that’s what we were hired to do.

With the pressroom gone in a couple of months, we won’t even have the chance to check what we do. Pages will be sent to a location 60 miles away, and nobody will be any wiser.

Is this what the newspaper industry has come down to?

I’d like to think that there are still newspapers out there with writers who actually get to cover their beats, editors who actually have the time to read and edit stories, and managers who have the time to step in and help out with the main product instead of being tied up with making crossword puzzles, blogging about child safety or designing house ads because other departments were just too busy.

I guess we all just need to be happy right now that we have jobs. Pretty soon they'll be shutting down the editorial departments as well. Who needs reporters and editors, anyway? We can just run material submitted from the public and let them do their own editing online.


Anonymous said...

Too bad... the media landscape is not just changing, there seems to be an earthquake.

Anne Sofie, alias anonymous said...

Oh dear... for ever pushing the wrong button.

Vickan said...

Yup, earthquake is right. And the companies that were poorly managed to begin with are using the "changing landscape" to lay off even more people and run their papers into the ground.