"Why I quit..."

Dateline: Sun 12 Nov 2006

Former Star drama critic Nick Crews (and a dear friend for umpteen years) sent a link to a column about life and times in Rochester, N.Y., where Gannett publishes the Democrat and Chronicls newspaper. See link:

http://www.rochester-citynews.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A4971

The piece, which appeared in City, Rochester's alternative weekly, is written by Nishad Majmudar and describes his decision to leave in a series of succinct observations:

"I first worked for the D&C business desk as a college intern in 2003, and the paper hired me after I graduated in 2005. As a reporter there, I worked with people who are among the most respected reporters and editors in the Gannett company. Each was ready to offer help and advice when this rookie needed it.

"Yet ironically, the place where I first affirmed my love for journalism is also the place where my passion for the field died.

"The work environment was stifling. Countless veteran reporters used to tell me before I left in August that Rochester was a "destination city" for Gannett reporters. Now, it is a place many are looking to leave.

"Since my departure in August, the D&C has lost, by my count, at least seven full-timers from an already depleted editorial staff."

"Besides not offering a 401 (K) plan to reporters and others, the D and C is placing emphasis on frivolous zone coverage and flavor of the week stories at the expense of in depth community reporting....

"I'm not denying the economic realities confronting newspapers, particularly those in stagnant markets like Rochester. Nor am I downplaying the value that the aforementioned flavor-of-the-month stories can have for readers.

"But in the process of a newspaper redefining itself, it should never lose sight of what it does best.

"Nor should it lose sight of the reporters, photographers, editorial assistants, and others who breathe life into the paper, especially those who eschewed ambitions of moving on to bigger newsrooms to instead adopt Rochester's historic daily as their own.

"Making those journalists do more with less is not sustainable in the long term, nor does it fool readers into thinking that what the paper's putting out is always going to be a quality product."

Rochester is where Star publisher Barbara Henry was formerly employed, and where former Star assistant managing editor Neill Borowski is now the M.E.

With press like this, no wonder so many continue to mutter about the death of the old line media. No matter how much Gannett re-invents itself, how can it overcome this kind of public relations nightmare? Majmudar's mission is to inform the public, but based on what I've seen in INdy, the new-consuming public is not one bit fooled.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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