Has the cost cutting in newsrooms, including our local papers, gone too far?
Here’s an example of a lead news item this week from the Sierra Sun, The Union’s sister paper in Truckee. It came from “President’s Day weekend: A great success,” a premise that comments in the article didn’t support:
A sentence in the article reads like this: And though Dale reportedly served 160 dinners, and had to turn away another 50 people because of how crowded it was. The air of a troubled economy still lingered in the restaurant, he said.
Huh? As we used to shout in the newsrooms, “Rewrite!” But it was published like that.
In this morning’s The Union I read a front page article about a Grass Valley business leasing additional space at 333 Crown Point Circle. It was labeled “economic bright spot.”
But wait, I read the same news item in a column by the editor/publisher that ran a week ago Tuesday: The company that manufactures precision potentiometers . . . just signed a lease for approximately 2,300 square feet at 333 Crown Point Circle.
Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t the news go on the front page first, then in a column? This is a news judgment issue.
In both this article and the one in the Sierra Sun, I also worry about presenting an overly bullish view of the news. Some would call it “boosterism.”
In the outskirts of Grass Valley, for example, businesses such as Open Solar and Benchmark are cutting back, as I’ve written in my blog. In Tahoe, calling President’s Day a “great success” was an overstatement. You need to present a balanced view of the news to maintain credibility.
In this morning’s The Union, I also read a headline in sports that puzzled me. It said an NU football player (whom I know) was going to New York to play for Army.
But the headline read, “Go West, young man.” Huh? New York is east of here, not west. (If West was shorthand for West Point, I’ve not heard of that reference — as a lifelong college football fan and friend of West point graduates).
I also noticed this blog in The Union, “story gets the wrong picture on the Web site.” Yikes. The paper isn’t staffed much on Saturday anymore.
As an editor, I used to agonize about avoiding these kinds of mistakes and passed this concern onto the staff. (I also updated the Web site on Saturday from home). Most of the time, egregious errors were fixed before getting into print.
But at The Union, the publisher is now the editor too. How can you do both jobs? At the Sierra Sun, the paper is being cut back to three days a week from five. Both staffs are smaller than ever.
Both papers are owned by Reno-based Swift Communications, which has quietly cut jobs, reduced frequencies of some papers and closed some weeklies throughout its chain. Here’s some background. Most of the papers operate in monopoly markets.
It’s clear to me that the newsrooms are taxed from the cost cutting, at the expense of readers and subscribers. The focus now is on advertising and growing sales. It should be on both.
Otherwise, newspapers risk being caught in the “big oven.”
Let’s hope the economy rebounds soon.