Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

Life lesson #7

leave a comment »

Seven is just an estimate, but I hear it’s a sacred number so I chose it for good luck. Ever sat in a room to watch eight people get fired? I did. Granted, the eight people weren’t named, but you can read on people’s face questions like “How’s my kid’s college fund gonna grow?” or “Who’s gonna hire me at 58?”
So here’s what happened. All newsroom staff was called in for a 4 p.m. meeting in the conference room with editor Tom Honig, managing editor Don Miller (neither of whom mentioned anything about this in their blogs, even after the story in the paper) and publisher Dave Regan. Intern Isabelle was invited to sit in. Might as well learn what I’m getting myself into, right?
There, we right away learned that 8 people would be leaving and the way we report the news would seriously change. Not in commitment to quality and journalistic ethics, I reassure you, just in putting Web first rather than using it just as an extension of print. Web-based product, niche publications, convergence, and all those other journalistic buzzwords I’m sure you’ve heard of.
“We sure can’t continue doing the same product we’re doing with 20 percent less people,” said Dave Regan. You don’t say. While I don’t doubt the bosses’ commitment to a quality revamp of the Sentinel, it’s never good to change your business model out of dire necessity. In a perfect world, your company evolutes because you have grand plans and the future’s looking good, not because you must change or die. Plus, who knows how long the bosses will stay? Figuring out a revamp is good if they’re present to see it through. Let’s not spread rumors here, they didn’t give any hint that either editor, ME or publisher would be leaving. But I’m speculating that it wouldn’t be the first time a manager doesn’t make it through a downsizing.
The bosses seemed genuinely sorry it had to come to this. Dave Regan said they didn’t get an order from MediaNews, only a budget to meet (budget year starts July 1), and that meant cutting 8 full-time equivalences. Tom Honig said it was just the “same story” as with the San Francisco Chronicle or San Jose Mercury News: declining circulation and no way yet to make money off the Web. “The revenues generated by this newspaper do not cover what we do anymore,” said Don Miller. Well, let’s figure out how to cover what we do. That’s what the next Knight News Challenge winners should be figuring out, if you ask me. (Though I have to say I’m eager to see what MU alumn Adrian Holovaty’s Everyblock looks like.)
So long story short, life sucks for my coworkers right now, especially in the Watsonville bureau, and I know not to hope for a job out of the internship. Everyone’s now expecting other MediaNews properties to do the same, although the Sentinel was clearly the one with the largest staff/circulation ratio. Between the Chronicle, Mercury and Sentinel, plus possibly others, it’s gonna be one crowded journalism job market in the Bay.


Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 9 June, 2007 at 16:35

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: