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Jun 07, 2007

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Margaret Banks

Aside from the people who lost their jobs today, nobody is hurting more than John Robinson. I can't speak for all my coworkers, but the anger and frustration I expressed in our meeting today wasn't directed at him.

Don Moore

Why not have the N&R do a Survivor Type Contest instead of letting good people go. There's a few I would vote off.

Jeffrey Sykes

I'm not a frequent John Robinson apologist, but I do respect his dedication to his newsroom. I doubt he looked forward to this day at all.

We all know the newspaper business still has much transformation to do, but it is sad when the transform with layoffs like this as opposed to attrition.

Ed, is that all the bylined writers who were laid off, or are more to come among the missing?

Ed Cone

JS, I've been told about one other bylined writer, but have not gotten firm confirmation on it. Also a longtime editorial assistant...

Jeffrey Sykes

I also noticed Saul said the employees were offered severance packages based on length of service. Without knowing the details, did some of these step up and take a hit or were they chosen at random. With Dyer and a one-week veteran among the list, it seems a rather random selection at first glance.

Ed Cone

I'm hearing the trend was toward last hired, first fired. As one staffer writes, "Young people (who 'they' say will help save this business) can hardly seem to get their foot in the door in the first place."

I've heard about three young reporters and two young copy desk staffers who were let go, plus all the summer interns.
UPDATE: I'm told the info about summer interns is incorrect. Thanks for the correction to those who commented and emailed.

Matt

This isn't any different than other business. Profit margins have to stay up, cost have to go down, people loose their jobs. Loyalty doesn't mean much. Those who remain have to pick up the slack.

It's not any more tragic because it happened at a newspaper.

Ed Cone

It's not any more or less tragic for the folks who lose their jobs.

There are some differences, given the impact of a newspaper on its community, the relationship people have with the paper and certain writers, and the value of good journalism. At some point, the people who remain can't pick up all the slack in a labor-intensive business like this one; quality suffers.

It's also an interesting management story, with technology rapidly changing the business, and the owners insisting that their margins remain the same, without any sense of obligation to the communities or the craft that made them rich in the first place.

Matt

It happened at my work. Quality suffered. Loyalty to the people who made management plenty of money was non-existent. Good, hard working people lost their jobs because cutting them hurt the least.

Community: same thing as customers. Newspapers are in business to make money. I doubt there would be any loyalty to a community if the community wasn't providing subscribers and advertisers.

Layoffs are the same, regardless of the type of business.

Ed Cone

I guess we disagree somewhat on the exact equation of readers with other kinds of customers, and on the lack of possible additional considerations beyond profit for newspaper owners.

Matt

Do newspaper customers provide a different kind of money? It all spends the same, right?

It absolutely sucks this happened. The sports page is limping bad enough as it is and the editor is abusive toward suggestions for improvement.

It's a for-profit business. There is nothing past the bottom line net profit.

Guilford Native

My heart goes out to those families effected by this layoff.

A few years ago, I remember seeing alomst all of the 28 houses on my street receiving the newspaper.

After Robinson took over a several years ago, I was at a cookout, and a few of the neighbors talked about the decline in actual news being reported by the N&R.
When he first arrived at the paper, he had 'cleaning house' session of many great reporters.

I looked the other day, and noticed only 4 houses still getting the paper.

The owner of the paper could have made it much easier, if he had just given the boot to Robinson after his first 24 months. My neighbors view his type of management as their reason for cancelling their subscription.

Ed Cone

So, is JR responsible for the generalized malaise of the newspaper business across the country? Or is it possible that the same factors that are remaking the industry have some relevance in Greensboro as well?

I'm not saying JR has done everything right, or everything well. I don't have specific knowledge of what goes on inside the N&R, although I've got some opinions as a reader and a journalist and a GSO guy. But blaming him for something that's happening everywhere seems a bit reductive.

Sue

We don't read -- or not read -- the paper based on how well we know the editor. (Well, not most people, I'd guess.) They read the paper because they like reading the paper. Perhaps ANY paper. Some paper. The morning isn't the same without the paper.

I don't think subscriptions are down due to anyone's "style." It's a national trend that supersedes (FFox corrected that spelling; I think it's wrong) individuals and speaks more to how we get our news and what we want to read.

That said, the prospect of any young person being laid off due to decreasing revenue (happened in my family, had a happy ending, but was very stressful and took a whole family/friend network to help resolve) is perhaps a good life lesson in the long run, but certainly not today. If you're older, it's absolutely incomprehensible and frightening in a way no one can imagine unless it's happened to you.

We're not talking about "the N&R." We're talking about 41 people, most of whom are our neighbors, who had one of the worst days of their lives.

An old friend of mine, a Holocaust survivor, told me (during the week my contract wasn't renewed, oh, so long ago), "When a door closes, a window opens. You just have to turn around and see the open window and look outside at the sunshine."

I figured then that what happened to me really sucked, but it could have been worse. It took a long, long time, but I put it together and am living happily ever after (the best revenge, my father (z''l) always said, was living well).

Wayne

If the newspapers around the US are as bad as the News and Record, then I can understand why they are losing customers. Our paper has gone to hell and hardly worth reading anymore. The so called reporters are so biased that I hardly trust them to write anything. Complaining to JR is like talking to a tree. I have given up even trying.

I'm sorry for those who lost their jobs. They certainly are victims.

I hope this is a wake-up call to the powers that be. We the old, old readers are fed up with this kind of reporting. All most of us are asking is fairness and honesty in our paper. I certainly do not believe we have been getting either in the News and record

Margaret Banks

It's late and I just drank a margarita the size of Lake Norman. I apologize if this sounds defensive, but Guilford Native, I was at the paper when John took over, and I don't remember a "cleaning house" session.

I would also urge my colleagues to channel their frustrations in the appropriate direction.

Jonathan Jones

I'm not sure what the appropriate direction to channel my frustration is, Margaret. But it's not at JR. I didn't envy him this afternoon standing in front of the newsroom trying to explain how he had to decide which people would be cut.

There are things I might've done differently. But that's hard to say. I'm not in management.

All I really know is that it sucks so many of our colleagues, all of whom are talented, are leaving the paper. And it sucks that people in the community want to reduce the ails of an entire industry into tired rants about ideology and perceived bias in the news product.

It'd sort of be like when Ford announces its shutting down a plant in, say, Flint, Michigan, if people in the community clung to the belief that it was the fault of the the local factory workers. "That plant wouldn't have closed if they had made better cars," the chorus cried. And they never acknowledged that cheap labor south of the border had a lot more to do with the decision than anything else.

It's a ridiculous scenario. Circulation loss at the N&R has been low.

Michelle Jarboe

Ed - You might want to double-check your facts about the summer interns. I don't believe any of them has been let go as of this time.
UPDATE from Ed Cone: Corrected. Thnx MJ. Please help keep this report accurate.

dookie

It was GM, Jonathan. Hang in there, pal.

The CA

I will chime in to say that the people with the most job security at the N&R are probably the ones most responsible for its problems, and that Ed is doing a very good job covering this story, which is something very difficult for me to admit.

Dr. Mary Johnson

Yes indeed Sam. When Ed's livelihood is on the line he's all over it.

One of the infamous 41

As one of the infamous 41 who were laid off Thursday, I can say that John Robinson did have a hard day and did seem depressed during our short one-on-one meeting - despite the fact that in the four years that I worked at the paper the two of us had never met. In the end, however, he is still employed and I'm not. The steady paycheck will help his grief, I am sure. And while these layoffs are in no way his fault, I can't say he has a great reputation at the paper for standing up for all of the sections.

As a part-timer, the most I can make during any given year is a little over $12,000 dollars, but I guess that was too much money for Robin Saul to part with.

When I got the call at 12:30 p.m. from JR's secretary that they were having "administrative meetings," I knew that I was toast. I've never been called in for a meeting during my 4 years with the company. As I said before, I'm sure JR didn't even know my name before Thursday. When I called his secretary to ask what the meetings were about, she said, "I'm not sure." I knew then I should start updating my resume. (That's actually a lie. All of us in the newspaper business know that our resumes should always be up-to-date, and this proves why.)

My only problem with the process was this: I asked his secretary over the phone whether I was coming in to get fired. She said "No. Not that I know of." I would have rather not been lied to. I would have liked to have been told right then and there. I guess I'm one of the few who would rather have been fired over the phone. I also didn't appreciate seeing security guards in the parking lot and outside the boardroom.

Morale at the paper is always low; Thursday just made it more so. There will probably be about a week of anger and frustration. Some will talk about quitting or walking out or finding a new place to work. After that, everyone will go about business as usual, trying to churn out a quality paper, but in the end failing because the News & Record just doesn't have the staff to do so. And in a few years, when the quality of the paper - and the circulation - has gone down, these types of cuts will happen again because the publisher doesn't care about quality or accuracy. The publisher cares about the bottom line.

A few years ago, one of my bosses at the paper told me that page flow is more important than accuracy. Is it any wonder newspapers across the country are tanking?

I know it's a minor miracle that the Sports section even makes deadline every night. These staff cuts will just make it harder on those still there to do so, and we should not forget the people still employed at the News & Record. The staff may have shrunk, but their responsibilities have not. Their jobs just got a whole lot harder.

Kirk Ross

I recall at last year's Converge at the N&R led panel when the industry's addiction to iron-age profit margins came up.

Changing that is proving too big a leap for the larger companies to make.

Beau Dure

The difference I see in laying off people from a newsroom vs. laying off people in a widget factory is that the quality of the product suffers.

In a widget factory, you can just produce fewer widgets, and then you need fewer people. The widget itself isn't changed.

In a newsroom, you're still making the same product. You're just not able to do as much with it.

I worked in two N.C. newsrooms -- Wilmington and Greensboro -- and there's a lot to learn about the business in comparing the two. Wilmington, a New York Times paper, had more than half the N&R's circulation but less than one-third the newsroom staff. They could afford to do that because Wilmington has no serious competition for a 30- to 60-mile radius. The only competitors are Jacksonville (small, distant), Myrtle Beach (tough to reach over a state line) and Raleigh (big but more distant). I don't know if Wilmington has a business journal or other niche media these days.

The circulation keeps growing in Wilmington because the area is booming. And it has more than its fair share of retirees. They'll complain about the paper, but they'll read it.

Meanwhile, the N&R does a lot of the "right" things, according to all the Web/media critics out there. It's embracing the Web and transparency. It's getting more and more local.

The funny thing about the business is that the people who were laid off will recover nicely, I have little doubt. In an era of media fragmentation, there are plenty of places to work. Greensboro doesn't have that many, so you'll see a drain of journalists from the area.

So the journalists themselves will be OK in the long run. It's the city and the region that are poorer.

Billy The Blogging Poet

When the old are laid off it hurts, people who gave their lives to a business get hit hard and don't know where to turn.

When the young get laid off they often get thrown onto a cycle of getting hired and quickly getting laid off again, young dreams are shattered and their chances of success become less with each and every lay-off.

I was one of those young people many years ago, I was laid-off by so many companies I can't even count them all, often being hired and laid off in the course of a week during the recession of the mid '70s.

Who is to blame? Part of the blame rests on newspapers themselves, some on investors, and some on school systems that continue to point students towards jobs that aren't going to be there for them as was the case with me. Take Journalism Schools for example: Currently they're busy ramping-up while the industry is cutting back.

And when those who are laid-off walk into the North Carolina Employment Security Commission offices they will be told not to worry, use the time for yourselves, take a few days off and enjoy the stress-free life, you've got plenty of time...

Bullshit!

Don't believe them. Pour every waking moment into getting that next job. The vast majority of those state workers have never had a private sector job, they are years behind the times and will be of little or no use to real job seekers. Look outside of the newspaper industry lest you'll be thrown into the lay-off spin-cycle of job after job as the giants all tumble to the ground.

Fortunes made from standing on the necks of the workers are fortunes built on tired foundations-- they can only become so big before they fall.

My best to all of you, I hope you quickly move on to better jobs. Believe me, I've been there many times I know how it hurts.

Sad Day

John Robinson and Robin Saul need to be held accountable for the mess they have helped create.

From what I've seen, John Robinson has been consistently dishonest in dealing with the readers, the community and his employees. However, he's obviously charming - witness the support he has on this blog from some employees, even after Thursday's bloodbath.

But as others have noted, this didn't come out of the blue. The N&R has been quietly losing positions for years and despite the best efforts of the rank-and-file, the product has suffered. Management doesn't care about the product, only keeping their double-digit profit margins, so they can collect their six-figure checks.

I feel terrible for the people who lost their jobs and I feel bad for those left on this sinking ship. From my dealings with them, the News & Record staff is filled with good people and talented journalists who take pride in their work. They don't deserve this kind of treatment.

DrFrankLives

WHat is the most recent profit margin reported by the N&R's owners?

Roch101

My heart goes out to those who had their jobs taken from them. I have a couple of friends who work at the N&R and when I first read this, I called them to hear that their jobs are safe (one saying that his department is so thinly staffed right now that they couldn't cut any more without destroying the paper.)

Here's what I'd like to know. I've asked it before and I've never receieved an answer. Please, if any of you N&R people think you have an answer, I'd really like to know. Who at the N&R is responsible for strategic business decisions? Who decides where to focus business development and organizational structure? Who stears the N&R as a business enterprise? Is there a single person with their hand on the tiller I'm not wondering who is in charge of print ad sales or online marketing or any other single business segment. I'm wondering if there is someone steering the entire ship from a business perspective. Anybody know?

kmr

Dang,
I worked with Jonelle at the Chapel Hill News. She's a good egg.

Full up on reporters and editors, but we've got a part-time ad sales position open if anyone's looking.

Kirk Ross
Editor

WFB

As a former employee with very fond memories of the N&R and many good friends still there (and now, some not), I'm heartsick. Just heartsick.

When all the dust settles, there is one indisputable fact: If you are an employee at a newspaper [any U.S. newspaper but perhaps, for now, The New York Times] YOU ARE A DAY CONTRACT WORKER. That's what people in many industries live with, and now we do. And it's been that way for a few years. If you think you're an exception, you're not. You're deluded. Some people painfully and undeservedly learned that yesterday.

I'm working at a newspaper today, Friday. I may not have a job on Monday. I probably will. I highly likely will. But it ain't 100% slam dunk that I will. I ain't so damn special and my new paper ain't that damn special that I might not be the one sent packing next.

I'm not going to address or argue about the local/national causes or the ramifications. I'll leave that to know-it-alls who populate and pollute these kinds of sites.

I'm just looking at and living with the cold hard facts of life in 2007 at newspapers in regards to job security and maintaining an income stream and reasonable health insurance premiums. Everything Beau Dure said is right on the money. He's a wise man. You have to have a plan. Protect yourself. Have an exit strategy. That's simply the times.

I wish only the best for the people who lost their jobs, for the remaining employees, for the News & Record and for Greensboro.

Roch101

"I'll leave that to know-it-alls who populate and pollute these kinds of sites."

Oh, the irony. Exhibit A of the mindset that puts traditional newsorgs in jeopardy from new media.

WFB

Thank YOU for my own exhibit A.

Roch101

WFB, you will observe that my comment above yours was a question. Far from being a know it all (as you would dismiss me), I was using this medium to educate myself.

Furthermore, smart people from all walks of life offer valid observations and critiques of traditional media on this and other blogs. If you insist on dismissing the opinions and knowledge of other people in your community simply because of the medium in which they appear, you are a relic and a contributor to the decline of your industry -- and frankly, a good argument for the need for change.

WFB

You raised an EXCELLENT question above my post. I don't have the answer, unfortunately.

It's your comment below mine that was snarky, with its undertones of satisfied gloating, and far, far too typical of the discourse on the Web.

And gets way off my main point: Job insecurity is a fact of life at newspapers, as it is in many industries today, and one should best be prepared.

Roch101

Whoah, dude, look in the mirror. My "snarky" comment wasn't offered in response to the N&R layoffs, but to you sweeping insult.

Jeffrey Sykes

Roch:

I've been thinking overnight about ad sales and the web and wonder if you have any perspective. I couldn't give away a web ad in Reidsville to sustain the Reidsville Free Press, which I folded last month after taking a job in another industry.

It never seemed to me that businesses have embraced web ad sales tied to new media outlets, at least in the rural Reidsville area.

I've noticed the G101 clown ad for some weeks now. What have you experienced in your efforts recently to increase/maintain ad streams online.

It seems to me this issue will also play a large part in what GNR and other major newspapers will be in the coming years. I get the feeling that established businesses have the newspapers by the throat in cutting advertising contracts in favor of internal marketing strategies.

WFB

Roch, Do you mean to seriously tell me that there's a general high level of discourse on Web sites, and I've got it all wrong? PLEASE .. PLEASE.

And you're right. It was a SWEEPING comment. It wasn't aimed at your post at all. You had a perfectly legtimate question. However, your snarky "Exhibit A" comment was aimed right at me. And I fired back. So yes, I reckon' I did just what I condemn on Web sites. That's my bad.

THERE ARE a lot of know-it-alls who get on these sites, fingers pointed and condemndations at the ready. If you don't see that, then we simply occupy two different Web universes, and we aren't ever going to agree.

For the second time, your question above my first post was A VERY GOOD ONE. I didn't have it in mind when I wrote my comment, and I didn't have an answer. I WORK at newspapers and don't know that answer.

I don't have ANY ANSWERS to any of this EXCEPT if you work at a newspaper, you better be prepared to find another job. That's ALL I know for sure.

Beau Dure

I know both WFB and Roch101 directly or indirectly, and I think there's more agreement than disagreement between the two of you.

I see what WFB is getting at. Plenty of people, including many within journalism, offer simplistic answers for what newspapers can do to survive and prosper -- interact with readers (as if newspapers have never done that before), do fancy Flash presentations, endorse Bush, focus on youth issues, drop Mary Worth, question authority, don't question authority, etc.

You'll notice that few media critics have the same prescription. And the problem a newspaper faces is that to have the same audience it had 10-20 years ago, it has to appease ALL constituencies. That's impossible.

It's not even a simple matter of quality. It's a matter of choice. To give an example from another media segment: I'd argue that a lot of today's TV shows (Friday Night Lights, The Office) are many times better than the TV of the '60s and '70s. But viewership of those shows is a fraction of what you would have seen for a typical prime-time show in those decades.

None of this means we can't have a perfectly good N&R down the road with 75-100 thousand readers (print and Web combined). But it'll mean spending wisely and perhaps having realistic profit expectations at the corporate level.

Newspapers are in many ways victims of their own success. They cranked out reliable profit margins over 20 percent for decades. That's not likely to happen.

The stunner here -- I didn't think this would happen at Landmark, which is private and should be immune to stockholder pressure.

So sad

This is so sad, but far from unusual.

Layoffs are happening everywhere in newspapers. I'm lucky that my company hasn't done that -- YET. I recently went to a newspaper conference with reporters from all over the country and the stories were heartbreaking.

Commitment to journalism? Bull. It's all about the money.

I spent all night wondering what I'd do if this happened to me. I should have majored in plumbing instead of journalism.

I'm sure JR is crushed about all of this.

David Wharton

WFB wrote to Roch, "Do you mean to seriously tell me that there's a general high level of discourse on Web sites, and I've got it all wrong?"

Of course not.

But where, other than on this website, could I have read this very high-level discourse among local professional journalists? Not in a newspaper.

Anon

As a former N&R staffer, I'd say what's surprising is that they let go some strong talent, while not getting rid of some of the dead weight/unproductives they've been hanging on to or could easily do without.

WFB

Thanks for being a peacemaker, Beau, because I think Roch101 did ask a very good question. I really mean that. I didn't address it in my post because I didn't know the answer. It's a mystery - often a frustrating one to people who work at papers and wonder what in the heck is going on.

I did not have it mind when I said there are a lot of snarky know-it-alls on Web forums. I still stand behind that. There are. But you explained it a whole lot better than I did.

And I contributed to this discussion get sidetracked, and that's my fault.

It's a sad day, but not a totally unexpected one, I'm afraid. You can see I see still have a lot of feelings and emotions for the place and the situation.

I feel terrible about what's happened there.

You had very good advice for people, Beau.


Roch101

WFB, let's just chalk it up to a misunderstanding, I apologize for targeting you and rubbing raw nerves.

Jeff, yes, local ad sales have been practically non-existent, political ads being the exception. I could write pages about the subject, but here's my take as breifly as I can offer it.

Local online ads have great value. They offer metrics to measure performance unlike any other medium, they offer great targeting opportunities whether by locale or interest and ,on a cost per view basis, they are highly competitive with radio, TV and print (which cannot even precisely measure ad exposure, but only use estimates).

It will take two things, in my opinion, for localized online ads to succeed:

1) Market Awareness.
--------------------
This is developing on its own organically. Ross Myers at Policlicks had a good post about this recently (a well-linked must-read for anybody interested in this subject). As for Greensboro, our business community is not known for innovation or being ahead of the curve. Awareness of the benefits of localized online advertising will eventually creep into the local business community (and demand will "pull" the market) or someone will proceed with a concerted effort to educate and develop the market faster than it will on its own ("pushing" demand). I made a weak effort at the later, but was hobbled by a lack of capital, my lack of sales savvy and, for the past several months, the major distraction of working on a new project.

2) Inventory
----------------
As the clown ad announces, there are well over 100,000 unique individuals viewing local blogs (those who participate in the ad network) each month. The Rhino touts something like 160,000 readers. Add the readers of blogs that don't participate in the local ad network and the number of viewers is probably comparable to The Rhino's number of readers. Still, my rough estimation is that completely selling out the local blog ads would gross something around $3,000/month. Not enough to make it attractive as an on-going business. The solution then is scale, i.e. more inventory (which of course, must be accompanied by market demand -- pushed or pulled.) More inventory is achievable in multiple ways:

- Increased readership of existing properties.
- The creation of new properties.
- The addition of existing properties not yet participating as partners.
- The addition of other markets.

There may also other money-making opportunities beyond online ad sales, but I'll save those for another day.

That's my two cents worth based on a couple of years of hands-on experience. With my opinions in mind, it should be little wonder that I'm asking (and have asked before) who makes the business decisions at the N&R. They don't appear to be entrepreneurial enough in their endeavors and it appears (admittedly, from an outsider's limited perspective) as if their business units are each insulated in their own vertical silos. An example of which I am aware, for example, and unless I've been misinformed, is ad design. There is a design staff for print ads and a design staff for "interactive ads. Unnecessary and inefficient. In fact, the whole idea of having a team devoted to online content is wrong. There should be technology enablers who provide the technology that allows the content produced by the content producer to be distributable independent of its original production platform without the need for human repackaging -- seamlessly from page to screen or screen to page.

WFB

Roch: Agreed, and thank you.

And after reading your last post, I can say this much with a authority: You have more insight into the situation and more to offer than I do about what ails. I honestly mean that. And thank you again, Beau.

Sue

We're bemoaning the layoffs at a newspaper (which is sad, when anyone gets laid off) but in NC, at least, almost everyone works virtually day-by-day. There are few contracts with regular employees and this is a work-for-hire state; you have no guarantees and if you're not laid off for a protected reason (age, race, etc.), then you're just SOL.

I'm sorry that the great Web experiment didn't produce more revenue; goodness knows, the N&R's experiment is worthwhile. Like many businesses, investment in technology is seen as an expense and not as what it is: an investment. We don't need the newest and the coolest, but businesses need the right stuff.

I appreciate the anger of those laid off (trust me, it hits many families). It's good to vent; glad there's a forum to do it. But laying off workers isn't unique to newspapers (they just write about it a lot) and perhaps everyone will now realize a little more just how difficult these amorphous layoffs are in Greensboro for all kinds of families. This "economic development stuff" isn't just about textile manufacturing facilities. It's about our friends, our families and ourselves.

And it's not, never has been, will never be, ONE person's fault. It's far more complicated than that but it's so easy to point fingers when you're angry, hurt, frightened, and just pissed off.

M

As unnerving as these layoffs were at the paper, my worries about job stability are broad and I have no illusions that the job situation nationally and globally won't likely get a lot worse for many before it gets better. There is an approaching energy crisis and while the Internet holds many possibilities, what do we do when we can't continue to grow our electricity capacity because of declining/more expensive fossil fuel availability? All it takes is for electricity to become unreliable (i.e. rolling black-outs) for Internet-based businesses to lose money. We are still in the infancy stages of this medium so I'm not putting all of my journalism eggs in one basket with the new multi-media mantra. And if we think job security is bad now, how do we expect it to be in the years ahead? While the decentralization of news brings us more choice for news content, does it bring the same financial benefits for the news gatherers, such as health benefits (especially given the slow adaptation of the government and in some cases, public opinion)?

Charles Stafford

Thanks for the updates, Ed. I've been looking to see who made it through and who didn't. It's sad to see some names that I recognize from my time at the N&R.

As someone who is still a Landmark employee, it's probably not exactly wise to comment on the failings of the N&R as an organization but I did spend almost 10 years there and there are some things that frustrated me about the organization.

One that goes a long way in explaining the layoffs is that there was a real bottom-line mindset. Cost-cutting, while necessary, can only take a business so far. Before long, you get to a point where you can cut no further without destroying the business. I'm not sure the N&R hasn't reached that point and may have reached it some years ago. One thing the management team at N&R did not do well was strategic investment in the business. I believe that a pattern of strategic investment in the business could've held off some of the decline in the business, even in a time when newspapers in general are in decline. Sometimes this means hiring more people rather than firing them. Sometimes this means making an investment in a new area and sticking with it. Sometimes this means new equipment or new ventures. The N&R did these things very rarely and very haphazardly when it did.

The second thing I will share is that while the CLT is populated with uniformly good people, it's more of a "management" team than a "leadership" team. Growing and evolving an organization takes real vision and real, strategic leadership. What the N&R leadership team has in spades is real "management", defined as the ability to keep a healthy ship sailing in the right direction. N&R hasn't been a healthy ship in seven years. It was a real frustration at times to see some very short-sighted, very risk averse decisions come out of the company leadership. It created a problem of low morale that has existed for years and you can bet that it's at an all-time low now.

The company speaks a lot about diversity but I don't think it really does a good job of defining it. Diversity is mainly discussed in terms of gender and race. It doesn't focus on the one thing that might shoot a little energy into the company and that is diversity in ideas. The CLT is mainly old-school newspaper people. They've been in the industry for a long time and have become so close to it that they cannot truly see the problems and certainly not the solutions.

They are hesitant to truly, radically change. They have become beholden to a dying demographic and can't break free from the downward spiral. The solutions have been discussed but no one had the courage to take the next step. Get younger. Realize you're an information provide rather than a daily newspaper and act accordingly. Innovate or die.

The inability to do these things are the things that finally drove me on to greener pastures. I didn't realize how dysfunctional the atmosphere at the paper had become until I got an outside view. I feel sorry for those that remain more than for those that have been set free. They're the ones that will have to deal with the problems at the company and they are the ones that will probably have to preside over the further decline of the newspaper.

Cindi Andrews

As an N&R alum who worked with at least one of those who lost their jobs, I'm very sorry to hear about the layoffs. To respond to some of the commentary/questions about industry trends, though, I'd say Landmark's status as a privately held company kept the paper protected from current-day realities much longer than media outlets that are controlled by public companies.

I left the N&R for the Cincinnati Enquirer (Gannett) - gulp - 10 years ago, and I invite you to take a look at its website, enquirer.com. The main picture on the main page for most of the day was of two young women at a "Party in the Park," with text inviting readers to click to see more pictures from the event. (Now it's Paris Hilton going back to jail.) The Enquirer has shifted most of its resources to the website, and the paper itself has become a rehash of what was on the website the day before. (shooting, car crash, indictment, etc. -- really in-depth, watchdog-type stuff)

The print version also gives lots of space to "stories" promoting its latest web offerings, such as cincymoms.com -- basically a bloated blog created to attract advertisers' favorite demographic. Meanwhile, neither the Enquirer nor even NPR has lifted a finger to cover the ever-expanding nationwide recall of pet foods, so I found credible, reliable sources elsewhere: on two blogs.

I talked to a very good veteran Enquirer reporter turned PR flak recently, and he put it best: "What I miss about journalism doesn't exist any more."

Me? I bailed two years ago rather than go down with the ship. I took a job as editor of a startup monthly pub ... that suspended publication in May and laid me off. But there are things worse than being laid off, I've decided, and I don't for a second regret leaving daily papers. My only mistake was staying in journalism at all. I don't mean that to sound bitter or angry but it's a new world and (right now at least) there's no room in it for the kind of civic-minded journalism that lured me into the business.

So that's one perspective from outside the Triad ...

Cindi

Roch101

"One thing the management team at N&R did not do well was strategic investment in the business." -- Charles

We're getting closer to an answer to my question. Apparently it's a team that makes strategic business decisions at the N&R, if Charles is correct. So, who is on this team? Is it a secret?

Dr. Mary Johnson

Bingo Charles!

http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2007/06/not-crying-for-n.html

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