Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Smoke on the water

One thing about losing your job on the Andrea Doria, it lets you hang around at a safe distance and enjoy the spectacle as the vessel founders.

There was a time when I might have been alarmed at the news that the Orange County Register is farming out some its copy editing and page design to India. These days, it just makes getting laid off seem a remarkably prescient move on my part. Especially when I read this bland justification from deputy editor John Fabris: "In a time of rapid change at newspapers, we are exploring many ways to work efficiently while maintaining quality and improving local coverage."

Rapid change? You could say that -- and show me the newspaper manager who hasn't said it about a dozen times in the past five years. It's the part about working efficiently and maintaining quality and improving local coverage that doesn't ring true. Doing more with less -- that mantra has lost its meaning. The ship's gone down; now it's all about people like John fighting over seats in the lifeboat. I do look forward to the day when someone decides that deputy editing can also be accomplished more efficiently by a call center in India, but probably by then all the middle managers blowing smoke today will have had the good sense to row elsewhere.

Running a newspaper used to imply a certain commitment to facts and plain language. Even the truth, space permitting. Today it's just a matter of endlessly repeating feeble euphemisms to obscure the obvious: Newspapers are dying because nobody wants to read newspapers anymore. Advertisers have noticed. Revenue's tanking and everything must go. As the Boss once observed, these jobs are going boys, and they ain't coming back. See you in New Delhi.

5 comments:

Peter Rozovsky said...

There is a four-letter word for people like John Fabris: Liar.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...

I should say, of course, that running a newspaper has never entailed a commitment to facts and plain language since I've been at the Philadelphia ******er, and it certainly does not entail such now.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Uriah Robinson said...

'...we are exploring many ways to work efficiently...blah..blah'.

Do they go on courses to come up with this trash?

We were told that 'we are entering a new exciting phase for Blackerton.' Which when translated meant they were closing the place down.

Surely someone must realise that when all our jobs have outsourced to India we won't be able to afford to buy their goods or use their services.
Good luck with your job search.

Dave Knadler said...

Yep, liar is probably not too strong a word. But it's such a tepid, colorless lie. If you're going to tell a whopper, make it interesting: "The future of this business is so bright, it's scary. We're making so much goddamned money we're putting some of it into our New Delhi bureau. And we're hiring. Total job security and killer benefits. How's $100k a year sound?"

There's something Romenesko could use.

Peter Rozovsky said...

You've captured the salient characteristic of internal newspaper lying. Off the top of my head I can think of just three out and out lies that top management has told. That's a small number considering how long I've been at the ******er.

More characteristic are the small, bland lies, the ones that the teller hopes the newsroom will believe, the kind that can bleed into self-delusion if the teller is particularly weak-minded. These include the routine lie that staff members who leave are seeking new directions or are doing it for their families or something rather than deserting the sinking ship.

The routine public-relations lies each time some amenity is taken away are one thing. But I think some student of management or psychology ought to probe how former journalists, so proverbially skeptical of corporate quarter-truths, adapt so smoothly to telling those quarter-truths when they join management.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/