Break my heart

David Carr’s column in today’s Times carries a conversation that does, indeed, occur often in the dusty halls of old journalism and this is precisely why they stay dusty and old:

A year ago, I was talking on the phone to the editor of a major newspaper for a column I was working on. With business concluded, we had The Conversation, the one about the large boulder that seems to be tumbling through the newspaper business. “How old are you?” he asked. Forty-nine, I told him. “Me too. Do you think we outrun this thing?”

If you have to say that, then you’ve already been overrun. How sad it is that people younger than me in this business act like such old fogeys, resistant not only to change but to opportunites. It’s as if they’re afraid of a ittle excitement in their careers; might be too much for the ol’ tickers.

I also chuckled at this line, also indicative of the kinds of things you’ll hear in newsrooms still:

Over time, the leadership at The Inquirer was pushed hard for cuts and greater profits by Anthony Ridder, chief executive of the papers — even though the paper had earned hundreds of millions of dollars after being purchased from Walter H. Annenberg in 1969.

Even though they’d earned lots of profits. Arent’ those enough profits, boss? Can’t we quit with the profits already?

It’s about growth, folks: growth in profits … and also growth in the news and what we can do with it … and even about growth in careers, which should be energized by all these dazzling new possibilities.

  • ZF

    This response to incoming new technology is very familiar within the military. At NATO headquarters in Brussels it used to be labeled R.I.P. – ‘Retired In Post’.

  • Is it about growth? I don’t necessarily disagree, I just don’t get that one. Take this hypothetical situation: if readership is stable, the ads keep pouring in and you’re making lots of money – actually, you’re making the same amount each year, which is an excellent profit margin – and you can’t see how you would do better as a journalist organisation as well as a profit-driven company, why cut costs in order to pursue profit growth?

    Sure, the shareholders will want that. So, you might want to buy some other newspapers, start selling books to, do whatever you want. But is a growth in profit a goal in itself when it comes to a succesfull product which only lets you make more money out of it when you make it less good? I hope someone can clarify this.

    When I was an intern at a local Dutch newspaper last year, people said things like that all the time, by the way. They fear cutbacks, and have every right to do so, since only a few months later, the publisher announced a further round of cutbacks; many journalists are being fired. And it’s not that they don’t see anything in internet journalism; in fact, when their newspaper section will have been deleted, in favor of some new internet initiative, they hope they will be the staff that runs it. ‘What, I have to guide and counsel citizen journalists instead of writing my own articles? But I can write, that’s what I do! Ah well, I’ll have to keep my job, I got mortgage you now, haha, yeah, well, I’ll be the citizen journalists’ coach, why the hell not right, that’s modern times they say, who wants coffee?’

    I felt that they’re not in the journalism business – they are in the newspaper business. I think journalism is too often considered something medium-independent, while both in essence as well as in practice it’s to a high degree something that’s interwoven with the medium. They have a newspaper page to feel. They know that page through and through, and they visit the newspaper website only as readers.

    (by the way, my CoComment plugin gave an error while trying to post, I had to shutdown the CoComment Firefox extension.)

  • Peter

    “reporters at the paper continue to receive salaries and demand raises even though they’ve already earned millions of dollars since the paper’s inception…”