Death of a Newsroom

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Hammering another nail in the coffin, Gannett today announced it will shutter Nashville design operations and outsource its pages to hubs across the country.

It’s a sad day for the Newsroom at large, with more jobs affected, lives uprooted, and, worse, another end of local layout to accommodate local news coverage.

In addition to having been a managing editor, I also had numerous, daily design responsibilities​ from news pages, to tabloids, even a book. When the parent company went to remote layout hubs in 2015, it didn’t make sense for many of us who had laid out pages in addition to writing for most of our career.

In fact, our small newsroom took it as an insult. What we did quickly and efficiently in-house, when outsourced added an average of eight more hours to the work week via negotiations, uploads, corrections and proofs between the newsroom and hub employees. There was also less time to go out and get the news.

The community at large echoed our frustrations, noting the personal touch had been removed. Some said they no longer felt it was a community newspaper.

While the new hubs were touted as a time management tool, in order to more effectively promote content development by newsroom staff, it ultimately had a trickle down effect that led to newsroom layoffs across the company, including managing editors such as myself.

The real end result was heavier, less efficient workloads for remaining staff and a severe decrease in morale.

Working with the hub, in this case particularly as former designers, also made it more difficult when our own creative contributions were commonly frowned upon in exchange for a singular style across all hub-affiliated publications.

Some argue that style and design doesn’t matter as heavily as content, especially not when it comes to the “where,” but I couldn’t disagree more. 

There’s a strong argument for their equally important weight to balance the scale. 

If you’re the designer of your own page, no one knows better than you where your stories should go. And even if you aren’t, then walking across the hall to collaborate with your design team is a heck of a lot easier than negotiations through instant messages and emails to someone you’ve likely never met, who isn’t part of (and is out of touch with) your community. Most likely, they’re a couple hundred miles away and in another state.

While the printed page is evolving, or rather being absorbed into the digital age, print isn’t dead yet. Neither is the layout process at a local level, and it will continue to be relevant and pertinent in PDF and HTML formats well into the future.

These current changes shaking the publishing industry are nothing more in my opinion than a rush to create change, in news coverage as well as bank accounts, and it’s slowly killing the Newsroom.

#newspapers #journalism #gannett #hub #layout #design #newsroom #tennessean

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Six Minutes Is Not A Story

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Before I lost my job amid the corporate shuffle of a 21st Century newsroom, I spent 15 years working to become the writer my philosophy professor declared I would never be.

Since then I’ve learned that some nights are sleepless, filled with thoughts of undeveloped stories; colors are more willing to reveal their secrets; conversations are fodder for unwritten fiction; and people are often characters who may or may not make it to a page. Most importantly, I’ve learned that time passes too quickly.

I like to think of myself as an observer of “la belle vie,” the beautiful life. Sometimes it’s why I’m so critical of the everyday world and its sloppy abuses of nature. I see the hourglass unapologetically draining its sand while so many people never see those millions of unique specks glistening in the sun.

Even as a writer-in-progress (I like to think I’m still progressing) I didn’t truly value my own surroundings until I began to meet the people who lived the stories I wanted to tell.

From the centenarian who remembered riding in her first car—one with tasseled window curtains and a rumble seat—to the nonagenarian with flowing silver hair, her mind locked away while her voice echoed Bible verses and the Songs of God laid upon her heart during a bygone Sunday Service, I learned most everyone has a story that wants to be told.

In today’s technological hustle and flow, articles and even works of fiction are churned out by the hundreds every hour. Most of them, despite their value in Likes or Upvotes, carry nothing more than a superficial, glittering half-life filled with typos and generalities gathered from other likeminded resources around the Web.

Last week, having clicked one I couldn’t help notice below the headline, even before the author’s name, the article’s “Average Read Time.”

“Six minutes,” it stated in bold type. Because life’s so busy we have to microwave our knowledge like a Hot Pocket?

Maybe a six-minute read makes for good time management, but considering that the general public’s ability to retain only 10 percent of what it reads, I thought less of the story, its relevance and ultimately the person who wrote it.

Unfortunately, one of our most valuable tools for free speech, the Blogosphere, has introduced the world to uninformed citizen journalism. Despite authors who use it to weave the fabric of their stories, many self-proclaimed writers are only in it for the Five Steps to Online Success:

Step 1: Grab a topic; Step 2: Google some details; Step 3: Make them readable; Step 4: Click “Publish;” Step 5: Get followers to obtain “Guru” status and win a Pulitzer on “How to Knit Socks For Cats.”

Meanwhile, most of them think George Washington was the first King of England and the Cold War was about life below 40 degrees.

Six minutes isn’t a story. That’s time to become involved in content and want to learn more. Not journalism. Sadly, that seems to be the approach that works for Pop culture.

Real stories are seldom found in fashion tips and trending hashtags. They’re in the careworn faces and calloused hands of the everyday woman and man. It takes longer than six minutes to read about their songs and listen to their tall tales, hear a tremble in their vocal cords, eager to tell their stories. And it’s up to us to get it right.