Death by column inches

Newspapering makes demands on its employees that are well beyond anything required by most other jobs, and the people drawn to newspapering bring a higher level of personal commitment to what they do. That makes it all the more painful that the managers who were happy to make money off your commitment and idealism are just as happy to pull the plug when it suits them.

Nick DiGiovanni looks on as the plug gets pulled on the Delaware Valley News, the community paper he worked at for over two decades:

The demise of the Delaware Valley News was something I tried to fight for quite a while and expected to happen sooner than it actually did. It bothers me no end to think that some pointy headed little accountant with his or her pointy little red pencil could just cross out a line item that represented a 129-year chronicle of the life — the births and deaths, the joys and sorrows, the good and bad, the tragic and gladsome – of a community.

And I’m also angered. I still know people who work for the Delaware Valley News and its sister publication, the Hunterdon County Democrat (which is still there but took a major personnel hit itself). When my wife heard about the demise of the Delaware Valley News, she commented that one of the DVN reporters who is being transfered to the larger paper is ‘lucky to still have a job.’ What she meant was that he’s ‘lucky’ in the sense that so many people in this greed-driven economic tailspin are just flat-out losing everything — their homes, their retirement, their medical insurance, their jobs. So Annie’s right in that regard.

But my response was that ‘lucky’ should not be part of the discussion. Someone’s ‘lucky’ because they worked hard and did a good job and some corporate deity smiled down upon them and decided to let them keep their job? The real response , the real question, should be how it is that the elite, the people who don’t have a thing to really worry about financially — Will they have to sell their Manhattan penthouse? Will their investments drop in value from, say, $800 million to $600 million?  Will they have to let go of some of the help? Will they have to sell the villa in the south of France? — are able to screw around so cavalierly with the lives of ordinary people.

I said my own goodbyes to the newspaper industry several years ago. I’ve made several tries to recruit some of my old newspaper friends to the niche company I now work for. Their response, for the most part, reminds me of the abused spouse syndrome, in which the injured party clings to the idea that the marriage is worth saving and will be fine if only she (or he) can do something extra to placate the domestic tyrant. They’ve all seen this juggernaut bearing down on the industry, but they’ve clung to the hope that if they score some more big stories then all the doors will open and they’ll be able to have a real newspaper career.

Maybe you think that’s pathetic. If so, go fuck yourself.

It’s not masochism. It’s the residue of the idealism that brought them into journalism in the first place, and it’s the idealism that has been betrayed on a daily, even hourly basis by all the corner-cutting, short-sighted, hare-brained management dimwits who have led an entire industry over a cliff.

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One thought on “Death by column inches

  1. Liz says:

    Right on. I worked with Nick at the DVN (and you at the Home News) and like you, saw what was/is happening in the newspaper industry and got out. But with the closing of the DVN (and living in Frenchtown) I now fear that policitians will run riot because there is no one to keep an eye on them. Wall Street meltdown is just the beginning. Blogs are good, but will they fil; the investigative hole being created by money-hungry, profit-mongering beancounters? No one’s going to win this round….

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