What’s Going On at the News Journal?

Filed in Delaware by on August 22, 2014

I heard today from an reliable Anon Tipster that the News Journal may be making its staff re-apply for jobs like some other Gannett newspapers have earlier this month. There may be even more (!)layoffs coming as they re-organize. If you’ve been following the Gannett news, they acquired a broadcasting company last year. Gannett is creating what they call the “Newsroom of the Future” (even though Jim Romanesko notes that they did this in 2006, too). Re-applying for their jobs has been done or in progress at other Gannett newspapers.

Then, there’s the new job descriptions. I’m not sure where news gets covered here — anyone know? (And the parody of the job descriptions.)

I don’t know how the News Journal is doing financially, but they do have some good people who need to be able to cover Delaware stories. Reducing this crew is about reducing your *news*, in favor of fluffy stuff that isn’t likely to sell any more papers. I don’t know if they are doing this becuase they are losing money here in DE, or if they are just trying to re-orient themselves to more video and broadcasting content. Content that is typically turned up by the reporters, I expect. In the meantime, I’m still paying $15.00/month for the NJ online edition and I pay about $20.00/month for the New York Times electronic edition.

So anyone have any better information or ideas? Post them in the comments below, if you can, or send it in via the Tip Line anonymously and we’ll post it for you in the comments.

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  1. Unstable Isotope says:

    I still laugh that one of the NJ’s solutions to having too small of a staff was to offer more generic content from USA Today. I guess newspaper execs haven’t figured out their decline is from recycling yesterday’s news that we can read for free.

  2. John says:

    Yes, freep the site, just clear cookies and get all articles for free

  3. John says:

    Also,freeping gets the news journal their exact value, so it’s just the free market at work

  4. Frank says:

    Gannett is the Yugo of news outfits.

  5. Geezer says:

    Don’t know the numbers — that is, how many jobs there are now vs. how many will be there after the restructuring — but the announcement is set for Monday. The editing ranks will be hardest hit, but TNJ already has consolidated its copy editing/layout functions; those tasks are performed in Asbury Park, NJ.

  6. cassandra_m says:

    How many jobs can they lose over there before there is no paper?

  7. Another Mike says:

    Cassandra, exactly. Gannett has cut the staff here so many times, it’s a wonder they can cover anything. Everyone complains about the quality of the paper, but they just don’t have the manpower to be what they once were.

    And it is easy to see that copy editing has been sent out of town by counting the number of errors that make it to print/online. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads this stuff before publication.

  8. Geezer says:

    @Mike: If results elsewhere are replicated here, there will actually be more “reporting” positions. The positions being cut are the assignment editors, otherwise known as managers.

    Gannett has spun off its newspapers into a self-contained company. For a decade now, its broadcasting properties have carried its print properties in profits, even if print provided the majority of revenue. Now they have a smaller broadcasting business (though much grown since the 1990s) and a large but unprofitable print business. Its ability to turn a profit as a separate entity is very much in doubt.

    The goal of this move — the ability of Gannett to pull it off is a whole nother question — is to let public interest drive news coverage. Instead of an assignment editor weighing the best use of reporters’ time and attention, the reporters will work directly for desk editors, who theoretically will be using data, gathered from they don’t say exactly where, to determine what to cover. That coverage (theoretically again) will not be oriented toward a print product but an electronic one, so expect lots of video.

    We are morphing into an image-based rather than a word-based culture, and this is the company’s attempt to ride that wave. Let’s just note that this is a company that hasn’t won any surfing championships. Its one visionary move was USA Today, and the concept always outpaced its execution. That’s not necessarily what will happen this time around, but to quote a sportswriter who wouldn’t get re-hired for these new jobs, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.”

  9. Dana says:

    Though I don’t normally pimp my blog here, my disappointment in seeing the Louisville Courier-Journal after thirty years is along the same lines. Gannett also owns the Courier-Journal.

  10. Nancy Willing says:

    http://delawarebusinessdaily.com/2014/08/gannett-spin-news-journal-papers-separate-company/

    Beyond rumor now – Doug Rainey posted this earlier in his DE Bus. Daily online.

  11. SussexWatcher says:

    Investigative editor Brett Blackledge, a Pulitzer winner, is leaving & headed to Florida.

    Expect several more people to say “fuck it, I’m not playing your demeaning game designed to replace veterans with 24-year-old kids who will work for pennies and ramen” and bail before this process is over.

  12. SussexWatcher says:

    Is there a reason that my earlier comment is still in moderation?

  13. cassandra_m says:

    Not sure why your comment was in moderation, but it is released now.

  14. SussexWatcher says:

    Thanks.

  15. In The Know says:

    Blackledge was the editor behind all the Flowers coverage.

    Other possible spins: He added another scalp to his belt so it’s time to move on … or, say goodbye, for a short while and perhaps longer, to any sold investigative reporting at the NJ.

    Regardless, the sun may be shining but today will be a dreary day at Creekwood.

  16. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Surprised to read in the Delaware Business article that TNJ is on of Gannett’s most profitable print publications.

    Is it most profit in that it isn’t losing as much as other publications; or profitable in that it actually makes money?

  17. wozniack says:

    the paper spends very little on the product. it will survive until it shrinks to nothing at all, or until people wise up.

  18. Geezer says:

    It actually makes money, or did until recently. Why would it surprise you that it’s among the chain’s most profitable print properties?

  19. John Manifold says:

    Geezer’s illuminating 8/23 comment (and several others in this thread) suggest that we news consumers face a dim future.

    Ownership, long since having eliminated one layer of editors, is scrimping on another. They’ll rely on clicks to define coverage. Once the institutional memories (Molly, Maureen, Montgomery, etc.) retire, the descent to the DSN level of blandness will accelerate. “Trend” stories about wellness centers in Bear will abound.

    The ostentatiously “local” front pages these past few months show how thin are the ranks. Front page stories feature embryonic non-stories like the filing of lawsuits, police academy graduations, non-announcements (“Millsboro bus considered by DART”).

    Coverage of hard news is flaccid. Last week’s pre-primary story was symptomatic. No edge, no insight, everything painfully balanced to unreadable blandness. No coverage of school boards, city and town councils, where nuggets of stories can be found, dimes dropped, etc.

    The editorial page’s decline has been precipitous. They got lucky with Ted’s column, but increasing space is filled with trade groups’ infomercials. I like Sean Barney and respect Ken Simpler, but campaign essays where informative commentary might be?

    The features page is denuded. Both Garys gone, nothing about the community theatre scene or most forms of music.

    The sports section relays every fart and tittle from various training camps. Not a word on the Semi-Pro championship series. It probably features a dozen fairly prominent local athletes but some lummox in Tyson’s Corner doesn’t think it will get clicks.

    If indeed they’re making money off this – and we can see how that can happen, with minimal investment and a monopoly product – we’re stuck with the worst of all possible worlds. It could be worse – if we were in Beijing.

    Bring back Christiana Securities.

  20. C'est la vie says:

    One journalist for The News Journal, posted this comment on Facebook:

    “I declined today to take part in a reorganization process in my newsroom that will require everyone to reapply and compete for a smaller number of redefined jobs. I am nervous about the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next for me, but I am sure I made the right choice. That is all I have to say about that.”

    Justifiably insulted, two other veteran journalists told me they would also opt-out of the process. They’re both waiting for more information about the consequences of that decision. Will their resignation be effective immediately or a date in the future? Will Gannett offer severance packages?

    But, this announcement impacts far more people than just the journalists and editors at TNJ.

    It will certainly mean more typos, more errors in the pages of our only daily broadsheet newspaper.

    More importantly, it is yet another example of the demise of the field of journalism – one that affects all of us. Say what you want about a particular reporter, article or outlet, journalism serves an important public service. And it’s dying.

    According to an annual report by the Pew Research Center, (www.journalism.org/packages/state-of-the-news-media-2014) the vast majority of outlets producing original reporting still comes from the newspaper industry. But those newspaper jobs are far from secure. Full-time professional newsroom employment continues to decline. Gannett alone is estimated to have cut 400 newspaper jobs while the Tribune Co. announced 700 (not all of them in the newsroom).

    At the same time, there are also fewer stations producing original news, primarily the result of television acquisitions that left fewer companies in control of more stations. At this point, fully a quarter of the 952 U.S. television stations that air newscasts do not produce their news programs.

    Additional stations have sharing arrangements where much of their content is produced outside their own newsroom.

    Where will we get our news? I’ll tell you – more and more it will come from corporate, government and special interest groups who will be able to generate and distort the public debate.

    Shock jocks, social media specialists and bloggers will serve up their versions of the news, delivering “click bait” content void of thoughtful reporting and well-written prose.

    It’s really sad.

  21. mediawatch says:

    I’m glad I left when I did, and that was 14 years ago, and on my own terms. My second career didn’t turn out quite as I had imagined. But I got out when I tired of having the folks in the window offices saying “things will get better,” and ever since, by all accounts, it has only gotten worse.
    I feel the pain of my brethren who have carried on in this noble profession, doing more withe less and less support while watching colleagues being shown the door, not for any shortcomings in their talent but only because they commanded a higher salary than some 25-year-old who grew up thinking Delaware was a county in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa or New York.
    You can’t buy the knowledge that was cast aside — knowledge now being put to use in state government, on the radio, in blogs and in the freelance world, contributing to Delaware First Media, the Delaware State News, Delaware Today, Out&About, Delaware Beach Life and other publications.
    There’s still plenty of good journalism being produced in Delaware, and but you’ve got to look in a lot of different places to find it. The News Journal remains the only outlet capable of producing the blockbuster packages that make readers uncomfortable with what’s going on in the community where they live, but I fear that those efforts will be seen less frequently.
    What will happen when when Firefly features get more clicks than a shooting on Wilmington’s East Side, when restaurant reviews appear to be more popular than accounts of the state’s complex economic development deals?
    I think I know the answer, and I don’t have to tell you what it is.
    And, if an editor or publisher ever tells you “things will get better,” just remind him (or her) that you’ve heard that line before, it hasn’t happened in the last 15 years and there’s absolutely no reason to think it’s going to happen anytime soon.

  22. cassandra_m says:

    I know that these things cost money, but is there really so little market for genuine news that something like the Baltimore Brew couldn’t be done here? Kent County also has its own news venue — Chestertown Spy and so does Harford County. Other than money, what would it take to get some entrepreneurial journalism going on here?

  23. Geezer says:

    People who are willing to do the reporting and writing (or recording) for very little money.

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