A book excerpt: On Newsrooms

As you may have noticed, I’m kinda taking the adult version of Christmas break. The news cycle gets slower this time of year, Larry and I have an unusual two weeks off the radio, and, with my wife being a teacher, we’re all just hanging around enjoying each others company. Well…at least I’m enjoying theirs.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve put the pen down completely! The book goes well and, in lieu of any posts here, I thought I’d share some excerpts. And the first is my thoughts on newspaper newsrooms. Enjoy!

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“…You see, long before the dawn of this dismal print media downturn, newsrooms were some of the worst places on the planet in which to work. And even though those wretched souls will shriek, howl, and rend their garments at the mere mention of their implicit and complicit misery, as Shakespeare so aptly put it, inordinately vehement protests only serve to prove the proponent’s original point. Nobody’s happy in a newsroom.

Some of ‘em may love that platonic journalistic ideal, and some of ‘em may even love their coworkers, but trust me, they can’t stand working for a newspaper.

And it all starts with the publishers who couldn’t give a flying fuck about any of the individual players because they know they have an inexhaustible supply of starry-eyed Woodward wannabes and desperate middle-aged writers who’ve long since given up on their dreams, but, demoralized by the insistent inculcated lack of newsroom respect, now believe themselves to be unsuitable for any other task.

The former are willing to take all sorts of crap because they don’t know any better and they’ve yet to abandon their Quixotic flights of fancy. But when they finally do fall prey to this persistent and harsh reality, they become the latter, an unhappy group of mediocre past-their-prime penitents who inexplicably and ferociously cling to jobs they slowly start to loathe while self-medicating with copious amounts of alcohol.

To be fair, that’s a vast oversimplification which we’ll explore later. But suffice it to say that the publishers treat the managing editors like shit who, in turn, treat the editors like shit who, in turn, treat the talent like shit who, in turn, treat the freelancers and stringers like shit.

But the most remarkable thing about this phenomenon is, per our previous sinking ship analogy, it all takes place on an unconscious level. It’s like it was with NFL concussions. Those incrementally deleterious injuries were such a fundamental part of the macho folklore that no one dared speak their name until some suffering former players forced them to talk about it.

If even one of these lowly newsroom minions managed to summon up the courage to stand on their cubicle desk and shout, “this ain’t right,” they’d be replaced in a heartbeat by one of the thousands of soulless stringers who have it even worse than they do. And it wouldn’t have anything to do with insubordination – it’s the fear that the heresy they put forth threatens to bring the entire collective cognitive dissonance crashing down from within.

Had a retired lineman shouted “concussion” a decade ago, they would’ve been labeled a pussy. But now high school players are filing lawsuits.

So while my former compatriots love to shake their fists and shout at the dastardly Internet, the truth is, this untenable business model was already failing long before our precipitous newspaper decline served to make matters so much worse.”

3 thoughts on “A book excerpt: On Newsrooms

  1. Recently Jim Schlusser , publisher of the DAILY HERALD (i may have misspelled his name)
    did one of his occasional columns on the editorial page, He wrote of the need to edit columns of his writers, and letters to the editor, to meet page space limitations.

    The irony in this was he wasted about eight column inches in his repetitive, rambling missive – space that would have been better used by letters from readers, many of who are better writers than is he.

    If this is now a typical example of those who run newspapers these days, the death of print media can’t be too distant.

    • Observer, That it an interesting point considering it was a clear statement of the obvious. Sadly the managing editors and assistant managing editors who are left have never been the best of the bunch. But their brand of head-in-the-ground behavior is nothing compared to that of the publishers!

  2. Do the publishers even READ the stuff in their papers? If so, the Shaw family, who have owned the CHRONICLE since January of 1989, should be institutionalized for their own good, for allowing that paper’s existence to continue.

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