Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Dark day in Raleigh
As an alumnus of The News & Observer, I was distressed — but not surprised — to hear that the paper would lose 70 people, including 16 in the newsroom. The N&O announcement is part of job cuts across the McClatchy chain.

The Raleigh paper has yet to say publicly which 16 people in the newsroom are among those losing their jobs. They are "known unknowns," as someone once said. The Web staff and the news copy desk apparently survived intact, although sports lost a copy editor.

The lack of detail is puzzling. It seems imperative for a newspaper to tell its readers which journalists will no longer be providing news in the community. As my colleague Leroy Towns suggested recently, transparency is essential, especially in this day and age. Yet, judging from this story at WRAL.com, the N&O will be reluctant to explain who is being let go, leaving readers to figure out whose bylines have vanished.

Equally disheartening is the indication that local news coverage will suffer. That's a bit difficult to decipher from the story about the cuts, but here is a sentence that says a lot:
The N&O will begin producing only two daily editions: one for the Triangle and one for the rest of its circulation area.
In other words, Chapel Hill and Durham will no longer have a separate edition of the N&O, resulting in a "one size fits all" local coverage across the Triangle. That's unfortunate and ironic, given the increasing emphasis on local news.

Only a dozen years ago, the N&O was vigorously competing with the Durham paper for readers there. That seems like an eon now.

UPDATE: John Drescher, executive editor of the N&O, told me in an e-mail that he has no plans to publicly announce who was let go. Also, a previous version of this post said no copy editors were laid off; one sports copy editor is affected.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 10:26 AM | Permalink |


  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger George

    I continue to believe that it isn't only economics of distribution that has put your industry into the death spiral it's in. It's also lack of introspection and a failure to fully grasp and react properly to the fact that you no longer have a monopoly on information. The same laziness and dishonesty that led you to give credence to the barbecue-fueled storyline that McCain is a "maverick" and to characterize those who took issue with John Solomon's dishonesty as "critics on the left" exhibits itself innumerable times per day, all over the industry.

    Check this out, for example:


    The article leads off with a lie, one that has been repeatedly debunked, though seldom by "credentialed" journalists. Keith Olbermann is the only media figure that I know of who has accurately described Obama's statements on the issue and the nature of his overtures toward seeking an agreement with McCain.

    Now, why did Ms. Sidoti write what she did? Check this out:


    Be sure to look at the video.

    Journalists like McCain because he is open and accessible to them. He is open and accessible to them, of course, because he can count on them to cover up misstatements ethical and legal violations and to characterize what he says in the most favorable way to him.

    As I have noted before, the whole structure of journalistic "ethics" is oriented around making things easier for journalists. Journalists see McCain's openness, therefore, as a mark of virtue, which they reward by shaping coverage in his favor. Ms. Sidoti doesn't see any ethical violation in slobbering all over McCain and writing a dishonest screed about Obama.

    In Ms. Sidoti's view, and the view of many, many other journalists, the supreme duty of an aspirant to public office isn't to serve the public, it's to reflect the values of journalists, to make journalists feel important, and to provide journalists with easily accessible soundbites so that their workload is minimized.

    Your industry no longer has a monopoly, it failed to change its behavior, its perceived value to the public declined, it felt and continues to feel the economic consequences of that decline in value, yet the behavior does not change.