Thursday, June 5, 2008

Writers air their beefs with new Tribune bosses

The concerns reflect those of many in our business. Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine writer Rick Kogan and CT olumnist Dawn Turner Trice took aim at Tribune bosses during an April media awards ceremony in Chiacgo. Michael Miner (Chicago Reader) saw the video of the event. Kogan:

Those of us at the Tribune, besieged by these kind of deranged memos from the new bosses that we have that as I read them seem to be telling us, reimagine, reinvent, reinvent. That’s fine. That’s fine. Communication has to change. What troubles me is that these people, these new owners and the people at the Tribune who are sort of shamelessly taking off their coats and ties and wearing sweaters to cotton up to the iconoclastic, motorcycle-riding crowd they seem to have forgotten, and I have not heard anything about it from these guys, that the soul of a newspaper and the soul of a city is in the word.”
Turner cut right to the heart of the over-arching problem that goes beyond just the Tribune Company:
Our newspapers work harder and harder to fight extinction. But there’s an even bigger danger that has less to do with how we consume our news. The far greater threat is the quality of the content and the supply-and-demand market pressure that are being placed on all of us. Here’s what I mean. If you did a Nexis search you’ll find that over the last couple of weeks we’ve had far more stories about Barack Obama’s abysmal bowling record than we’ve had about the release of a Justice Department memo that authorized torture. . . . Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had far more stories about Barack and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright than stories on the U.S. attorney general appearing to have fabricated a key event leading up to the 9/11 attacks. . . . Young people often ask me if it’s worth going into journalism these days and I tell them yes, even though these are weird and unsettling times, when job cuts and buyouts and shrinking news space loom large, when tycoons and, yes, buffoons are buying up newspapers unaware and unconcerned of their mission.
Like Kogan and Turner, journalists everywhere worry about the future of their craft, that in today's uncertain market, quality journalism so necessary to a strong democracy must play second fiddle to profits. That is why Northern California journalists have decided to make a stand, rather than sit back and passively wait for the industry to implode.

Like many front-line workers, they want a seat at the table, stare impending trouble in the face and join in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and their community. They want better journalism and better jobs. MediaNews Group journalists in the Bay Area will will have the opportunity to vote to unionize June 13, forming a single unit that will unite the entire region under one Newspaper Guild banner.

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