Goddammit, get me hyper-local information!

Dateline: Tue 07 Nov 2006

I know it's election day, but what better comic relief than savoring Gannett CEO Craig Dubow's voluminous 11/03 memo to the crumbling empire, outlining the shape of the new journalism? While signing the death warrant of the old?

Read it and weep:


First, consider the writing style of the top dog's opus, the very epistle designed to inspire and move journalism and journalists into the new era. Think of the most poorly-written, pompous sociology text you ever tried to wade thru in college. Then add corporate-speak visionary lingo, the sort used by those fakey success seminars. Finally wrap it all up in a bloated package of government-style gobbley-gook doublespeak ala the fat puppet and you've got it: the Gannett plan for the future.

Or who moved my cheese, you sad bastards?

No wonder a young Pulliam fellow told me last summer why she was already thru with the corporation, having worked there two months and being thoroughly exhausted and fed up: "They expect you to blog. They want you to post online. They want you to take your own digital photos. Then do video for online and TV. And while you're at it, be sure to call the cophouse and get those police runs tracked in case anything really did happen."

What Dubow and the rest of the corporate crap-suckers miss totally is heart and soul. Journalism used to be about freedom of expression; it was about reporters who deliberately stood outside the process, as much as humanly possibly, and kept an eye on what others were doing -- government, crooks, old ladies crossing the street, boy scouts, nature, courts, crime, children, society, the arts. Then wrote about it, with grace and style, heart and soul. We were part of a craft that meant pride in your work, a sense of humor and a belief that at the end of the day, maybe what you wrote made a difference. Or at least made somebody smile.

Not in this vision created by Dubow. Not when you have christless visionary lines like this:

"Some types of jobs, such as reporter and editor, will continue but the way they are done may change to focus on more local news."

And then there's the demeaning -- and hilarious -- Q&A:

"Q. (dumbass reporter talking) What are the seven primary jobs?

A. Public Service. Digital. Data. Community Conversation. Local. Custom Content. Multimedia."

"Q. What is the purpose of the Information Center?

A. The Information Center will enable us to gather and disseminate multimedia news and information in a way more suited to the needs of our customers today. We will deliver the content our audiences want at any time, anywhere and to any device. As print newsrooms were geared to the scheduling demands of the daily newspaper, the Information Center will be geared to the 24/7 demands of our customers. We will provide more hyper-local information..."

"Q. Will there be additional hiring done to fill the Information Center jobs?

"A. The Information Center transforms, repurposes and refocuses the resources that exist now."

"Q. If I'm not sure I will fit into the new Information Center structure, to whom should I talk?" (trust me, you poor slob, you won't fit in).

"A. First, talk with your supervisor. Also, your Human Resources representative is knowledgeable about the Information Center changes and should be able to help you sort out the issues. Finally, find out about the process and what it means for your location as you're considering your role in the Information Center. During the test process, many employees who expressed skepticism at the outset, were pleasantly surprised and eventually excited by the changes."

My personal favorite is the glossary at the end. And yes, boys and girls, there will be a quiz, and you will fail.

"Audience Aggregation, Creates new ways of working with customers to create results. Audience aggregation extends a unit's footprint and the brand in the market by finding and filling gaps that are in market audiences. The major components that drive the model are local-local content, enhanced distribution, and selling the right product to local businesses with the right frequency. Audience target groups can be demographic and/or geographic.

"Backpack Journalist, Similar to MoJo. Uses some combination of text, still photos, animated, graphics, video and audio for multimedia storytelling.

"Community Conversation, Combines the voices of the newspaper and the voices of individuals in the community to establish a local dialogue.

"Crowd Sourcing, Enlisting the community in investigative reporting by providing them with ways to interact with your Web site.

"Information Center, This is a company-wide initiative that changes the way news and information is gathered, packaged and distributed. The editorial side of Gannett daily newspapers is organized into seven primary job areas: digital, public service, community conversation, local, customer content, data and multimedia.

"Local, Local, Extremely local reporting, down to the neighborhood level.

"MoJo, Mobile journalist who carries digital cameras, MP3 recorders and wireless laptops. Mission: to find and tell stories that don't make it into the typical newspaper and to train members of the community to file directly to the Web site."

No wonder Gannett ordered up AEDs and CPR. The newsroom is dying.

Comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com


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