“There’s nothing in this newspaper”

In the news:

Wells Fargo’s new CEO apologized Tuesday to the institution’s employees for the banking scandal. What contributed to the cause of the scandal? Employees “racing to meet aggressive sales goals.”

Also Tuesday, a federal judge approved VW’s $14.7 billion settlement for its emissions cheating scandal. It’s unclear if VW’s action were motivated by anything more than greed, but┬áthere is a culture that expects uncommon results regardless of the means to get them.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is talking layoffs. So is Gannett.┬áSo is the Tampa Bay Times. There are others; Google “newspaper layoffs.” I wouldn’t mention it except that I know that the announcements are usually accompanied by executives talking about doing more with less, and championing local content, and being second to none when it comes to serving customers.

Next shoe dropping: Story quotas. fewer reporters being asked to write more stories, and fewer editors editing them. And, by the way, let’s add digital and social media duties. The only thing that’s not changed and has never changed is the amount of time available.

Hold up! That’s not true in a lot of newsrooms because the copy editing and design functions among several papers in the same ownership group have been consolidated, meaning that deadlines may come earlier in the night.

So, often, less time.

Journalists, racing to meet aggressive goals.

They won’t commit crimes to meet the goals, but they’ll be tempted to cut corners to make story quotas. They’ll be forced to choose stories that are easy to get and require less reporting. Investigative, enterprise reporting that makes a difference in civic life will be done by fewer reporters and papers. More mistakes will creep in because editing is too often too quick.

The paper will be filled because quotas will be made and goals met.

Meanwhile, readers will continue to say, “there’s nothing in here.”

3 thoughts on ““There’s nothing in this newspaper”

  1. Thanks for the links in your comment.
    In my experience, Buttry is spot-on. We had ideas based around everything he talks about – building community and thus engagement, etc. – and the powers that be were terrified by them.
    I had fun, but I am so glad I’ve been out for awhile.

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