Laying off journalists: “We’re killing our seed corn”

“about 26 gone per day.”

That’s about how many journalists I had to lay off one day in June 2007. (I wrote about it here.) The paper wasn’t hitting its profit margin expectations, and it was determined we had too many journalists. (Other newspaper employees were laid off, too, but the newsroom carried the heaviest load.)

That day, the supervisor of the press room said to me “We’re killing our seed corn.”

He knew that readers came to the paper primarily because of the stories journalists produced. Eliminating journalists eliminates local coverage and makes the paper less compelling. More dispensable.

As it turned out, truer words have never been spoken.



6 thoughts on “Laying off journalists: “We’re killing our seed corn”

  1. Really? Really? In 2007? I think I might have told you that many years earlier. Alas, ignored. Do you really think a press room supervisor told you that?

    That year I got to herd a bunch of your newsroom crew out the door with boxes and tears, your doing, and this from my HR stand. Such fun. Because you were then, in quite possibly, in noble exit mode. I know I then repeated that very same phrase back then to Editor Pat Yack. And then my circulation manager there in 2006 and 2007 where I found solace in the circulation department department from the newsroom depleted and drained. And that guy says to me: “We’ll milk that cow until the cow done gone dry.” I think I mentioned this when we were losing talent to the Winston-Salem Journal. Um, this was back when, years before, we were cherry-picking their best talent? Until we didn’t. And until we couldn’t. And you were at the helm. And now, the Winston-Salem is running the show. And the N&R. Such a shadow of its former self. You took the Landmark stock money and and ran. And then pretended to the survivors you got noble.

    Ya’ll milked it. Milked it you did. You should be so proud

  2. Dennis Clark. Maybe he got it from you; maybe you said it to me. I don’t remember. But I remember Dennis saying it.

    It’s certainly true that our perspectives and memories are different.

  3. I’, pretty damn sure I said it to Dennis Creamer. Lives down the street. Said it to Jim Schrum. Lives down the street. Said it to David Reno. Lives somewhere in Virginia. And said it to Pat Yack. Maybe someone got that from me? Seed corn? Really? These guys come up with seed corn?

    Isn’t it about time you admitted to raping and pillaging that paper toward your exit plan to a Landmark payout? And then a bouncy jaunt into academia? Not that you need the money after the Ginger Ale distribution money. Then counseling more young things into an ever interesting servitude. Wait for the next Jerry Bledsoe book.

  4. I hear a lot of anger in this exchange, but the fact is nobody is doing all the firing because they think it’s a good idea. The print newspaper as a mass medium is nearly dead because the business model that supported it collapsed. The digital-first model most regional dailies are now desperately pursuing simply won’t support much of a reporting staff. Nothing is going to replace the daily newspaper as the dominant mass news medium. It’s time to focus on a variety of ways to fill the news void. I’m deeply involved with our local public radio station, which is building the reporting staff and depends not on advertising but on the generosity of listeners who appreciate its work. Plus, some money from nonprofit foundations, a variety of public events and underwriters (mostly businesses that want to identify with public radio and its audience).

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