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Nov 18, 2007

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Kirk Ross

Kinda working through this one myself, Ed.
It's an odd rhythm shift and as we get into the shorter news cycles ahead of decision 08 likely to feel odder still.
Let me know if you figure this one out.

mc

Thanks for this information, I did wonder what was going on with your column. I hope you find a way to continue- although it is clear the deadlines will prohibit comments on late breaking news. I think the change might be a good way to "extend" the lifecycle of a story- rather than fading into the sunset after 24hrs use your column to re-energize the conversation.

Mickey McLean

Newspapers continue to struggle to be relevant in the Digital Age.

Most "news" in a newspaper is old news by the time it's printed and tossed in your driveway.

Solution: Give you an earlier column deadline!

Makes sense to me! ;-)

Jim Rosenberg

The cadence of writing for a newspaper was way too weird for me. It felt rote, and solitary, and unrewarding. The newspaper does nothing to include freelancers in the life of the publication. No team-building, no training, not even the slightest interaction. The only people I knew at the paper by name were from years ago. In fact, the only time I ever set foot in the building was to get my photo taken. That's it. Eventually I completely lost interest in my own column. Unless you are really into the mini-celebrity or need the pocket-change fee, it's not a rewarding experience. People want to be connected to something, at least I did. I can push a button and publish my stuff.

Ed Cone

Sounds like we've had different experiences, Jim, and perhaps different expectations as well.

I have found the experience of being a newspaper opinion columnist immensely rewarding -- it's made me a better writer and thinker in ways that have helped my magazine-writing career, and my blogging career, too, and it's created deeper and wider bonds to my hometown.

There have been times where I felt a little out of the loop with the N&R, but never unsupported. Freelancing for the Life section, by contrast, sounds like a lonely gig. Again, that may have something to do with what each of us wanted or expected.

I operate with great freedom, which is what I want and what I see as the columnist's role. I can count the number of times I've been in the N&R building in the last 11 years. That's fine by me. I know I've got a pro on the copy desk to save me, and an editor I trust and respect with whom I can discuss ideas. I feel very supported by the people I work with -- Elma and Dennis especially, but also Allen, to whom I used to file my column. I had a good relationship with Dave DuBoisson, who brought me over from the Rhino in the first place. JR I've gotten to know better as a blogger than I ever did when he ran opinion.

Like Mickey, I find the tyranny of production in the age of the internet frustrating. As, I would guess, do the fulltimers on Market Street. But anyone who's ever worked in journalism can tell you that production, not politics, is the hidden force that shapes content.

brad krantz

A Tuesday deadline is UNBELIEVABLE, Ed! Could anything be more representative of the problems of the newspaper industry in general than this? Could a newspaper do MORE to render itself irrelevant than force the local columnists to be 5 days crisp by publication day. Syndicated columns seem to be able to turn around in a day, as do sports columnists. Does this mean that everyone in executive postions at the paper gets Thurs, Fri, and Saturday off to enjoy their mountain/beach homes? I'm happy for you. We tolerate the Gene Owens drivel on Saturdays but Ed you're too young and vital to be doing that stuff every week. Sorry, Mr. Robinson, but John Hammer's weekly paper, that is on the racks on Thursday, is full of fresher local opinion if I look at it on Sunday than your Sunday IDEAS section if you close that early in the week.

Jim Rosenberg

I never felt unsupported. I don't even know what that means. I loved my Editor and she is top notch. Even so, there was zero connection to the paper. If the future of newspapers is to work more with freelancers, there will have to be more sense of team than the existence of a distribution channel. I have a long to-do list. With each item for family or work, there is something more meaningful associated with it than self-gratification. With the paper, not so. The only reason I comment is that I've been reading about the drain of employees and I think there is a similar theme worth noting there as well. You play the hand you are dealt, and I think there's room for leadership on the issue of making and keeping connections.

Ed Cone

Jim, I mean "support" in the very basic ways I described in my comment -- reliable connections with the people and infrastructure required to get the job done in a professional way. In my case, that includes editorial freedom and the trust it implies, and interaction with thoughtful editors, including copy-editors.

Again, it may be that we approach this with different expectations. I'm a fulltime journalist, a lifer. My newspaper column is a significant element in my career.

I guess I see myself as a contributor more than a freelancer, if that distinction makes any sense. That said, after many years of experience as a freelance journalist at many, many publications, I'd say a feeling of disconnectedness is pretty much par for the course for freelancers. I agree that this may be a relic of the old economy, and that newspapers and other publications may need to rethink those relationships.

Brad, I agree that the new schedule is bound to diminish quality, at least sometimes. My guess is that this is ultimately a business decision, not an editorial one, and that your comments should be addressed to Mr. Saul, not Mr. Robinson or Mr. Johnson.

brad krantz

My apologies for misdirection, Ed. I look forward to your column about next year's election 12 days after it's over, since you can't know the outcome on that Tuesday!

Ed Cone

Yep, we're now looking at 12 days later, or never.

Every time you've seen me opine on a Sunday about something that happened that week, it was because the opinion staffers scrambled to make it happen in a hurry. They want to put out a good product.

John Robinson

There seem to be two threads here that I'll try to address, even as I have nothing to do with Ed's column. (Should have fired him when I had the chance!)

First, the reason that the production is scheduled is the way that it is is, in fact, an indication of our old media ways. Our press isn't big enough to print all the Sunday sections at once so we stagger them over a couple of days. We also do that so that our mailroom -- what we call the place where all the ad circulars are inserted -- can get all the right ones in the right delivery area. Because there are so many advertisers who only want to distribute in certain places, it becomes complicated and time-consuming.

In addition, if Ed's were the only column Allen's department were dealing with, it'd be much simpler. But he's not. He's not even usually the main thing on the front page of the section. (No offense, Ed.) A total of four people are putting out his column and everything else in that section at the same time they are writing editorials, editing letters and columns, dealing with callers and the like for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, they stagger the workload.

No, not pretty.

The second thread is the idea that columnists want to feel involved in the life of the newspaper. I don't know what that means exactly, but I think I get it. In many ways, there's not a lot of "life of the newspaper" other than coming in, reporting, writing, editing and drinking a lot of coffee in between. But I think I get it. I understand it, too. Bear in mind that we have 100 journalists, 80% of whom would probably say they want more time with their editors. (The remaining 20% are the smarter ones, obviously) In addition, we have 30 regular freelancers who contribute at least one column a month. I only point that out to, well, point out that you aren't alone. That said, the best advice I could give is to ask to be included in the life of the paper. You can come in and hang around and talk with folks. Some few of the columnists do. You could come to training sessions we have. Your editors would just need to know you want to, and remember.

Finally, I argue that the "drain" at the paper has nothing to do with the human connections of the staff, but rather that other better paying opportunities came up.

Ed Cone

"A total of four people are putting out his column and everything else in that section at the same time they are writing editorials, editing letters and columns, dealing with callers and the like for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"No, not pretty."

Indeed.

Not to belabor the point...but it seems a fairly clear case of an undermanned operation forced to compromise on quality.

meblogin

geez...and I thought Ed's response would have been about--- "(Should have fired him when I had the chance!)"

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