Update in the Newsroom

So apparently the half of my job that has been moved to advertising will remain there and I will not be dragged down with it. I did have some holiday shifts that are still up in the air, but hey, at this point as long as I’m not a hybrid newsroom/advertiser I’m fine with what little kinks need to be worked out to make the transition smoother.

Needless to say I had to work this past weekend and unlike the newsroom, there are absolutely NO people there on the weekends. It was a little eerie, I had to turn on all the lights (took me a while to find them) and I was hearing footsteps and freaking out every now and then.

It wasn’t bad as the first day, during the week when everyone in advertising were around and I had “helpers.” I didn’t have to deal with their incompetence, just my own, which is manageable.

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A Journalist Drowning In Ads

As I have explained, half of my duties have changed departments. I don’t want to be too specific, but on the weekends I had a whole different job other than my main job of writing for entertainment. I was still writing on the weekends, it required someone with knowledge of AP Style and a less creative writer’s mind.

However, my weekend job has been moved to advertising. The woman who does this during the week has been permanently moved to advertising. She has the next few days off so I am covering her shift. The corporate company that owns my newspaper felt it necessary to cut out the end of the assembly line. I used to turn in my work to copy editors. Now that is considered unnecessary. Bad move. Corrections have to be run more often and that takes up costly space.

Anyway, about my first day in advertising. (If you are in advertising, please do not take offense, this was just my experience in my specific office, I am not trying to stereotype or offend.)

The advertising and classifieds department is on a whole different floor. When I walked in, I was stunned immediately.

There are four times as many people working in the same amount of space as the newsroom. Too say the least, it was a bit crowded. Every desk was half or a quarter the size of the desks in the newsroom. Almost every single person had on a headset and was talking rather loudly (to be heard over the others) and typing fast and nonchalantly. I asked a question to a random stranger with a headset and got a blank stare then a response of, “Pitbull puppies ready in time for Christmas?” I asked what that meant and stood there for longer than I want to admit before I realized he was looking right through me, as if I wasn’t there.

Several minutes later I find the desk/cattle trough that is now my new location. The woman sitting there was apparently waiting for me. She hands me some papers and attempts to explain how to do the work. I looked at her and feigned interest for what seemed like forever before I could get the word in that I already knew how to do this.

She told me there were two others that are being trained right now, they have some of the workload and walked away.

I tried to organize my desk, pile papers together and figure out what the hell was going on in the middle of this noisy and rude environment.

I worked for about an hour before I decided to find my “helpers”. I wish I hadn’t. These helpers are designed to work in advertising, where you leave everything the way the consumer wants it. Not so, in my work. Corrections for grammatical errors and more needs to be done.

I peeked over the shoulder of one of my helpers and couldn’t hide my gasp. They were actually making my job harder. I would have to go through their work as well as double-check mine at the end of the day (since there were no copy editors anymore.)

One of them turned around at the sound of my gasp and I smiled. I asked them politely enough to finish the one they were working on and give the rest to me. They looked relieved and obviously had other work to do. They turned back around without another look at me for the rest of the day. The day got worse, with the combination of another paper’s work now done at my desk.

Then it got better. My co-worker, another writer from the newsroom came down to help. We were out of there 2 hours after the deadline, attempting to straighten out all the kinks.

No one in advertising knew what they were doing. To be fair, this was sprung on them as much as it was us, with little time to prepare. But what a God-awful day. I can only hope Saturday will be less eventful.

Not Out Of The Woods Yet

So, it turns out that my job was more affected by the recent layoffs than I had originally thought. I knew, of course, that the work load was going to increase, with less staff and the same amount of work—it seemed obvious. But the corporate company cut more at my specific paper than anywhere else in my state, since it is the biggest one among them. They also decided to combine classifieds and advertising with papers across the state (owned by the same company) so it is all at one location, my location. But advertising? I’m in the newsroom…shouldn’t bother me right?

Wrong.

Certain positions and aspects that were previously done in the newsroom, by journalists, because they follow AP style, have copy editors etc., etc. have now been moved to the dreaded advertising department. Don’t get me wrong, if advertising is what you want to do, more power to you. It just isn’t my cup of tea.

Half of my position’s duties have been moved to advertising, they say temporarily, until they can hire and have me train people to take my position. Does anyone see something wrong with this picture? You laid people off so you can hire more in a different department? Riiiight.

Needless to say my first day in advertising was hell on earth.

An All-Out Layoff Massacre

The newsroom is a rather bleak place this week. Layoffs have been announced, but no one knows if the list has been completed yet. It is rumored that there are a few more days to announce the final few, so no one can exhale yet.

Having never experienced such drastic and immediate changes at work before, I have to say, I don’t think it’s something I can get used to. There were tears, hugs, angry faces, looks of confusion and boxes of things people had at their desks for what seemed like forever.

The newspaper I work for is owned by one of the three large corporate newspaper companies. I want the company to remain anonymous because I do love my job.

I wonder how the corporations chose who to layoff. I wonder if they just gave the same email out that everyone in my office got, explaining that there would be a 10% cut and the managing editors’ would have to meet their layoff quota. Were the managing editors’ really handed the reigns and told to cut people they feel are the least necessary? Or were they told to cut specific people.

Because from what I have seen and heard, the editors’ seemed very unaware of most of the changes until the very day they had to bring people in. And I know for a fact that one person would not have gotten laid off if it was up to his/her managing editor. The position ordered to be eliminated could only have come from a distant land (like corporate headquarters) that had absolutely no idea how it would affect the efficiency here at the ground level.

I know this is never a good time for any company, corporate or small. There isn’t an easy way to tell anyone who’s done nothing wrong to hit the bricks. But there has to be a better way to let people go. Calling them in like cattle while everyone around knows what’s happening is probably one of the worst ways to do it, other than announcing it over the intercom.

Low Morale in the Newsroom

About 2 months ago an email was sent out to everyone working in my office. It explained there would be a 10% involuntary staff reduction effective between Monday, Dec. 1 and Wednesday, Dec. 3 2008. So, as you can imagine, the morale in the newsroom is irregularly low. Meanwhile, new (and expensive) technology upgrades are being added to our facility.

One can’t help but wonder how news corporations prioritize their budgets, let alone time construction of costly upgrades in the face of large layoffs.

People who judge the media so harshly, forget that they are people too, facing hard economic times, losing jobs, worrying about money and life, much like everyone else, only they’ve been facing these problems before the economic crisis. The economy has little or nothing to do with the extinction newspapers are grappling with.

Reliance on Journalists

Okay, I might have been venting a little when I posted my last piece called A True Professional. I was just feeling sorry for myself because I went to college majoring in journalism, I feel very passionately about it and I truly feel it is a calling and not just “anybody” can do it. I got caught up in reading other blogs, all damning newspapers to the bottom of hell and beyond and I got fed up. But I am calm now, feeling a lot better and less emotional.

The truth is, (ever wonder why people start with that? Like they were lying the whole time or something) blogs and citizen input has proven less valuable due to the fact that nothing is new or verifiable. Bloggers report on stories that have already been investigated, written up, edited and published by professionals.

This is comforting to me because this proves to me that journalists will have a fighting chance to regain their audience and their audiences’ trust and stick around—where would blogging be without them?

A True Professional

Today, the words professional and journalist are becoming less and less important as journalism’s audience becomes more and more wary of what they’re reading. The trust between journalists and who they serve is hanging on by a string or, for a most people, has been breached, spit on, cast aside—people feel like they have been taken advantage of and they don’t like it, nor do they deserve it.

But there was such a time when people relied on journalists! There has always been suspicions on the audience’s side—they have always been quick to judge. Audience’s are outspoken, loud and let it be known when they are upset or satisfied. But at this present time, audiences are losing faith—only now they have the tools to fight back.

But before you judge them, at least know what it means to be a professional journalist. The Society of Professional Journalists defines their code of ethics in more than ten languages.

It is defined as

believing that the public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.

No one seems to realize that by taking things into your own hands, refusing to read newspapers, refusing to listen to the news, they are hurting the very people they can trust (not the people they want to hurt—the CEOs and VPs that don’t care anymore if the audience doesn’t trust them, they’re financially secure) and killing a media forum society needs to survive.

This is a code of ethics that many journalists out there follow, with dedication and perseverance! Professional journalists who follow the Code of Ethics are responsible, sacrificial human beings. They knew that they were not getting into this sometimes cutthroat industry for the money. They were doing it to inform and connect with the public. They felt a calling to this world, that few hear!

When the audience takes control of the press, it could be more dangerous than anyone could have imagined. When most bloggers write, they are not following any code of ethics, they could care less about anything other than getting their opinion out. They are NO better than the same reporters and corporations that they are blaming for slanted biased journalism.