Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Paper trail

What do the Beacon Journal, Plain Dealer, and the Dow Jones all have in common?

They're all going down.

And that's the only joke I can make here .. because it's bad, bad, bad for all of us.

The ABJ's 20-20 cuts are about complete. Several weeks ago, the word came down that 20 more staffers needed to go from the newsroom. If 20 folks didn't voluntarily take the buyouts, then 20 would be let go.

Now comes word today that the PD is following suit .. cutting 48 jobs (about 15 percent of its newsroom) by Thanksgiving through buyouts or attrition .. or probably dirty looks if it comes to it (sarcasm).

Whatever it takes to clear out some desks, eh?

These are newsrooms that have already been making cuts .. lots of them .. over the last year+.

I'd like to wax poetic about the Beacon's slow, painful slide, but what good would it do any of us?

To lament the upcoming loss of Columnist David Giffels just a year after Sports-writing poet Terry Pluto. Or how tough it will be to replace the photo talents of Ken Love or Lew Stamp. To lose the talents of street writers Carl Chancellor, Elaine Gurgerian, Connie Bloom, and Tracy Wheeler. Talented Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst is saying goodbye to the ABJ too .. along with columnist Patrick McManaman. And Chip Bok. Chip Bok!

A great many real voices of not only the paper, but the community -- gone. I think that's what readers are feeling.

Now the PD is slicing and dicing too. When will it end?

I had coffee today with a former BJ manager who can't make heads or tails of it either. Between us, we chuckle at the cuts from a "our darn business is at it again" angle .. but the truth is, we both know how much a newspaper drives the news in a town.

I fear that those left behind -- either by choice or necessity -- will soon be banging their heads against their newsroom walls to keep from losing their sanity .. and probably to ask themselves "why am I staying when others are jumping ship?"

The broadcast side isn't faring much better in this economy. I know it very well.

I'm sitting here in an Akron newsroom that just a few years had 11 broadcast staffers .. now reduced by the tough economy to just two: one highly-talented videographer and me. I doubt this town will ever get a traditional evening newscast back.

I don't know that I can speak to the answer, but I know I can speak to the impact: Northeast Ohio isn't benefiting from putting our media in the spin cycle to see how small we can shrink it.

11 comments:

Eric Poston said...

I'm not sure if Patrick McManaman is leaving or not.

Chris H. said...

You know ... now that Weather Plus is going away ... it wouldnt be hard for WKYC to take an Akron Newscast back in-house on the digital tier ... of course, they'd have to sell it to.

And, you would need a Producer ... hmmmm.

Nope ... won't happen.

Enjoy the peace and quiet! :)

Bob DeMay said...

Patrick is not intending to leave the paper - he name is on a layoff list which will be used if the company does not achieve the payroll savings they wish through buyouts. That fact should be known by the end of the week.

Eric Mansfield said...

According to Patrick's blog back on Sept. 18th:

"Finally … a personal note … the Beacon-Journal has again decided to lay off employees. This time, five reporters are on the list, me being one of them. The outrage is that this calls into question the long-term future of this brog. Layoffs take effect in 60 days. While I certainly hope things change in that time, I can only promise this clog will be around until Nov. 15. Questions may be directed toward your local Sta-Puf Marshmallow Man."

If the # of folks taking the buyouts has saved Patrick's job, than I'm glad to hear it. Patrick has been coming in to his own for the last 12 months since seizing the opportunity left behind by Terry Pluto's departure.

We can't afford to lose any more staffers on any level at the paper.

Dave P. said...

Thanks for the updates, Eric. My wife and I have really enjoyed the ABJ since we moved here a little over a year ago. It's especially sad to see Giffels and Windhorst go, as they're easily the paper's top two talents, imo.

Anonymous said...

It really is a shame for Akron. The Beacon Journal was once a paper that made the city proud. Now it's not much more than the Stow Sentry, it just publishes more often.

The decline at the Beacon, combined with the loss of your nightly newscast, and many of WKSU's best people leaving last year (Will, Duffy, Jablonski, Hockensmith, Pinjanelli, etc.) leaves WAKR as the most robust news outlet in the city.

Esposito does a good job, but they've won the top spot by simply hanging in there.

Chris H. said...

Hey Anonymous ...

The ABJ had NO problem both reporting on the demise of the Akron-Canton News ... AND taking photos DURING the final newscast?

How do you think that made the employees who were let go during that purge feel?

Oh ... and there were plenty of comments on that article about how "crappy" the newscast was.

Think before you post ... Eric isn't doing anything the Beacon didn't do itself.

Eric Mansfield said...

Dear anonymous,
You can post your feelings here .. and if you look back over my blog, you'll find that I invite differing points of view because I think it's good to have an open debate.
But let's keep the bad language out of it. That's why I deleted your comment.
And Chris is 100% right. The ABJ's coverage of the demise of the Akron-Canton News failed to honor the seven years that the newscast was on the air in light of no one else even trying to fill the void left by the old TV23. Back-to-back front page stories with color photos about our news going off the air may have captured the moment for local historians but it did little for the hard-working journalists in this newsroom.
And while the Akron-Canton News provided coverage of the BJ's contract issues with its employees, including video of the employees' rallies and other events, no one at the BJ seemed to care what happened to my co-workers. They were just as busy hanging on to their own jobs.
And no .. I'm not knocking those who are now staying at the ABJ .. rather, but rather I'm trying to put myself in their shoes: trying to do the job of multiple people to keep a quality product coming out every day.
That ain't easy.
We did that with the ACN over the last few years, and there were days when it took everything that everyone one of us could do just to get the show on the air. Some days it was just exhausting .. and now, we have no newscasts at all.
That hurts ...
So again .. I can't speak to the solution here when it comes to the ABJ's recent cuts and the PD's new slice, but I can speak to the impact .. and it ain't good for the Akron area or the region to continue to see its print and broadcast options shrinking.

Vince said...

Hi Eric,

Nice to see that somebody remembers me fondly from my WKSU days..but WKSU tries to take a more regional approach and considers itself more of a regional station than an "Akron" station.

I do agree that it's a very tough time to be in the journalism business...especially for our friends in print.

PS to anonymous: Dave spells his last name Pignanelli.

Anonymous said...

ric,

You are spot on about the Beacon's coverage of your tv station's closing.

The Beacon staff clearly has an agenda and there will be many people cheering their demise.

To you and Vince Duffy, interestingly enough the ABJ employee who shared many nights with you on the Newsnight Akron panel bashing a local political leader, recently asked the political leader if he could help him get a job at the University of Akron!

SallyB said...

What a list of people leaving the BJ - some of my favorite writers, and Chip Bok????? For crying out loud, what are they going to do about editorial cartoons, do as other papers are doing and just run syndicated cartoonists who can't possibly do cartoons about our local foibles and follies?

Sounds like the BJ is headed for eventual demise, kind of like the late, lamented Cleveland Press.....