Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shooting The Messengers

As we've been getting ready for some of our year end activities, our staff members have been doing something most of us in the media do at this time of year - organizing and compiling stories with similar subjects from the past year, while trying to make some sense of the year as a whole.

As we noted back in October, just before Superstorm Sandy smashed into New Jersey and New York, our American media landscape has taken some serious blows this year. As we noted then, "digital journalism" jobs continue to increase in number, even while overall media jobs continue to shrink.

Just recently, we saw even more of our industry colleagues gutted in what's seemingly become an annual pre-holiday mass firing by media behemoth Clear Channel. As cruel and gutless as that annual practice has become, however, someone else in the media has sunk even lower.

Jim Romanesko posted on his website Wednesday, that the management at the Kansas City Star forced two reporters to engage in a Donner Party-like exercise this week, when Star management told experienced reporters Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann that one of them had to leave the paper - and that the reporters had to decide themselves who survived.

If there is a more gutless, cowardly way of managing journalists, we're not sure we want to know what it is.

With the Tribune Media Company about to emerge from bankruptcy, and the legendary Cleveland Plaindealer suffering its own cuts while trying to stay a daily newspaper, we're aware this isn't the easiest time to work in the media. That doesn't mean there isn't a job to do.

One of the largest stories that few seem to want to regularly deal with is the potentially long-term drought affecting nearly two-thirds of the interior of the United States. A major report yesterday made it clear: In less than half a century, the main source for water for 40 million Americans, the Colorado River, could effectively dry up. The scientists' initial idea? Tap the Missouri River, which also supports millions of Americans.

Two other major news stories that popped up this week also didn't receive nearly the coverage they should. Attorney General Eric Holder proposed that America should finally have one single voting standard for national federal elections - which could seriously eliminate false claims of voter fraud, while adding millions to the voters rolls. Meanwhile, it appears the Republican leadership in the U.S. House is attempting to quietly take apart the House ethics process - which, as Jonathan Bernstein noted was installed after the last time Republicans ran the House.

These stories all need seasoned members of the media to continue following them and reporting on them - not just untrained digital stenographers or fools who think merely blogging makes them a journalist.

There ARE other ways to make money for media companies, from gutting the salaries and benefits of overpriced executives, to selling their properties to smaller groups of investors - which would have the added benefit of diversifying the media. Sadly, most media executives have only shown a continued desire to hurt themselves and the corporations they run by getting rid of the people who actually make those companies successful - the workers.

The fact is, continuing to gut the people who do the real work, when so many have already cut their staffing back beyond ethical and honest levels, is simply no longer an option, if media companies expect to have any kind of serious future.

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