The Newspaper Industry Isn’t in a Position to Sneer at the Blogosphere

The Indianapolis Star just suffered another round of layoffs this week, losing 81 jobs to Gannett’s ineptitude and bean counting. Of these cuts, 26 of them were in the newsroom — including 8 reporters and 12 editors — and 19 were unfilled jobs, all made in the name of budgetary concerns and profitability. The cuts were part of Gannett’s larger bloodletting of 700 employees nationwide.

Meanwhile, their CEO raked in $9.4 million in 2010, doubling his pay from 2009, including a $1.75 million blood moneybonus that was partly a result of his “restructuring costs and creating efficiencies.” Translation: ruin the lives of 700 people, and we’ll give you their salaries.

Newspaper machines

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Believe me, even though I’ve called for more citizen journalism — and this is exactly why — I have complete sympathy for the Star employees who just lost their livelihood because Gannett wasn’t making enough of a profit. I worry about them and their families. Gannett seems to excel at accounting and numbers, but they suck at news reporting and suffer from a complete lack of understanding of community. Where Indianapolis readers see stories and personalities, Gannett sees dollar signs.

But Bobby King, president of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, managed to throw a damper on my sympathies stick his thumb in my eye with this line from his latest blog post.

So, the answer that Star publisher Karen Crotchfelt came up with was to gut suburban coverage, eliminate an entire layer of copy editors (that last line of defense which separates us from the animals in the blogosphere) and make a nip here and a tuck there to reduce expenses.

Animals in the blogosphere?

The one thing I can’t stand from journalists is the way they look down on bloggers with this sense of smug superiority. Look, you guys don’t have any special knowledge or skills that any other writer can’t get. You have editors who save you from misspellings and continuity issues. Without them, you’re no better than we are. You print your words on dead trees, we print ours on a free software platform. Your printers cost millions of dollars, and without them, you’re dead in the water. I run my entire corporate blogging business on a $1,000 laptop, and if it breaks, I can get another one and never miss a beat. Our industry is growing, yours is shrinking.

If journalists want to survive this, they’ll quit looking down on the blogosphere as the gathering of the great unwashed and recognize it’s the future of news. They’ll quit acting like the crew of the Titanic and sneering, “ew, a rescue boat? How droll.”

Look, Bobby, I know you’re pissed, and scared, and are watching the dismantling of a once-great newspaper by some clueless nimrod 1,000 miles away. But don’t attack bloggers or refer to us as animals. Sure, we didn’t go to J-school or spend 20 years honing our craft. But blogging is more than 15 years old, and there are some bloggers who can outwrite most newspaper reporters. Hell, a lot of reporters and columnists have found a new career and a new voice as a blogger. (And it wasn’t lost on me that your “animal” comment was made on a blog.) But these former journalists are the ones who make blogging better.

So you can sneer at bloggers all you want, but we’re going to be here for a long time. You can look down on us, or you can join us.

Photo credit: evelynyll (Flickr)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

    Comments

    1. Oh crap, a typo?!?! Maybe I really AM an animal!

      The big difference between a blog and a newspaper? I just corrected the typo.

    2. Way to prove his point by having a major typo.

    3. Lynn,

      You’re right, but the knowledge is not so esoteric or secret, like only the clergy knowing Latin in the Middle Ages. Still, the argument should be about the low value Gannett places on news gathering and reporting, rather than a quibble about whether bloggers are real writers (which we totally are).

    4. There is an important distinction between traditional journalists and bloggers:

      * Reporters are trained, skilled professionals who receive compensation for their work, which is in turn executed under an ethical and economic framework designed to reduce bias and seek truth.

      * Bloggers are people who like to write.

      These definitions are accurate and fair. It’s easy to see why journalists would be frustrated to be competing with bloggers. I don’t think the newspaper industry has failed to embrace new technology; but rather it continues to fail to engage citizen interest in writing beyond the “letters to the editor” page.

      In any case, King’s comment is certainly unwarranted. Bloggers are not “animals.” Rather, virtually all of us our amateurs. That doesn’t mean we can’t achieve Olympic feats; just that we are not yet part of a professional class.

    5. Lynn Wolf Dulcie says:

      Do we have to attack each other? Can’t we just allow that passions run deep and things are said in the heat of the moment? Print journalists — especially with 20-30 years’ experience – can set themselves above the blogosphere because it’s killing their livelihood and people who don’t get paid a living wage are taking jobs from those who once did. We’re eating our young and then quibbling about it and gnashing our teeth at each other. Please, let’s practice empathy, sympathy and humanity. We don’t need to act like the publishers out there — we can be civil and compassionate. HUMAN and intellectuals — who have learned to rise aove pettiness and backstabbing. Please don’t kick folks when they’re down — surely you’ve learned better.

    6. Kris,

      I don’t disagree that maybe I was a little harsh. But I have a Philosophy degree, took 2 – 3 journalism classes in college, and have been a newspaper columnist for 17 years, so I at least understand journalistic writing. I’ve also been a blogger for 14 years, and have taken great pains to be the best I can be — definitely not a scribbler. And there’s nothing really special about any other trained (or self-taught) writers who have learned the journalistic method outside of college.

      In my past, I’ve done magazine writing, marketing copywriting, web writing, business writing, playwriting, speech writing, and blogging. There’s nothing wildly different about newspaper writing than any of the others.

      So while I do agree that newspaper writers have SOME specialized knowledge, when they’re going up against other real writers (i.e. someone who’s done more than take a weekend writing class at the library), there’s nothing special they’re doing that non-journo writers aren’t.

      Thanks for the feedback.

    7. I completely agree with your point, Erik. It’s insulting to be referred to as an animal, and perhaps Bobby’s emotions were running high after witnessing the loss of many colleagues yesterday. But I challenge you to rise above the counter-attack.

      “Look, you guys don’t have any special knowledge or skills.” Journalists do typically have a 4-year specialized degree, sometimes even beyond a bachelor’s. I think this is just as harsh as the animal comment you referenced in Bobby’s post.

      As a designer, I can relate to what Bobby is alluding to – although I wouldn’t use that tone. While I have a degree in design and a decade of experience in the industry, people assume they can do my job simply because they have Photoshop on their home computer or they’ve puttered around with ‘desktop publishing.’ Although I certainly agree anyone can and should be capable of design (or writing great content), I studied it in school, interned under professionals and chose this as my life’s work. Does that mean I have special knowledge. Yes, I think it does. I have a piece of paper with a foil stamp on it that says I’m more special than the lady down the hall who has a 2007 version of Pagemaker on her Dell and a new hobby.

      Is the industry changing? Yes. Should newspapers adapt to more web, less print? Probably. But I don’t see anywhere in Bobby’s post where he is arguing against online content. He is merely defending his newspaper colleagues and questioning Gannett’s insensitivity to the people who made their business profitable.

      I think bloggers are fantastic, so thanks for opening up the conversation and being passionate about what you do. Just wanted to share my thoughts. We are all fighting the same fight. Better content, less greed and protecting journalists/writers/bloggers from untimely and unjustified layoffs.

    8. Thank you. I too was shocked when I read that line. If the writer was trying to make the point that print journalists are held to a higher standard then I at least see what they were attempting to say, though I would still argue the point. But to say “animals” denigrates bloggers unnecessarily and gives insight into why so many print publications were too slow to make the digital jump and why they are paying for it today.