It's just one of those days when tidbits fall from the sky into one's lazy lap. And so it was that a man called our offices this morning, wanting to talk about the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. A former staffer since laid off by the PD, our chap is a smart fellow with an interesting story to tell about how our own particular slice of modern day mass media is committing suicide by accident.
Outsourcing ad production and editorial layout to India (as seen above), anyone?
Later this afternoon, an email came in from the KRSH 95.9-FM, where I spend about 10 minutes every Wednesday morning nattering needlessly on about ahrt and the Bohemian. Seems top management at the KRSH are concerned that the morning "talent" talk too much. Ziggy Eschliman is on for 30 minutes on Wednesdays; Frank Hayhurst for an hour on Fridays. Theater, film and the occasional other round the week out. Now each of us will have three entire minutes. While I'm just as glad to have to either focus my words or quit the gig, I suspect that Ziggy and Frank might feel otherwise.
Our daytime caller wanted to talk news organizations. The PD's online masthead is woefully out of date, he complained. One of the Petaluma reporters listed has been fired, the other is on sabbatical. Columnists Chris Coursey and Susan Swartz recently left, as did editorial writer Ann DuBay. "It's almost as though," our caller said, "they're pushing up dummies." Well, shucks. Our masthead is usually out of date, too.
He went on to explain that the New York Times has set up two different budgets for the PD's print and online vehicles, the latter being hugely more funded. They're moving admin and accounting back to the East Coast, he says, creating a virtual office in which virtually no one works. "Floor by floor, department by department, the place is really vacating," he said. "It’s such a battle to serve the community with less and less resources and there’s this resistance between the two departments [print and online]. Online, a year ago, had a healthy budget but were nowhere near turning a profit." Reporters are being asked to shoot video while they interview subjects, take notes and keep everything organized enough to be able to ask the next question. And oh: then edit video upon returning to the office.
He also averred that, as a NYT company, the PD does in fact outsource ad design and editorial layout to India. We haven't had time yet today to confirm this allegation but it certainly does set one's brain a'brimming. I'm one of the few people I know who has genuine affection for the Press Democrat and the idea of the Press Democrat. Why mainstream media has continually chosen to slit its own throat for a few percentage points of profit is beyond me. Our caller indicated that the current state of school sports coverage—the sweet butter of any community paper—was very distressing to both staff and readers as stories post online and then "vanish" the next day.