Archive for September, 2008

All the talk

Posted in Rambling on September 30, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

Deadline for deciding on the buyout is looming. Oct. 1 is the last day to opt in here. Rumor has it the pace of visits to Mona Rowe’s office will accelerate over the next two days.

But the question of staying or going isn’t exclusive to us. The following is from a Sept. 22 column by Oregonian classical music critic David Stabler.

The Buyout: To stay or leave

Here in the newsroom, we’re still talking about The Buyout. You can’t get in the elevator, the bathroom or line up for coffee without someone asking if you’re taking it.

I don’t mean to make light. This is a sad, dispiriting time when many friends and colleagues are walking away, never to return to journalism. Some folks have exciting plans and can’t wait to launch them (books, web sites, teaching, buying that island in Oswego Lake), but the newsroom will not be the same without them.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

Stabler goes on to wonder how all of those departures will affect coverage by the newspaper. One can’t help but wonder that here as well.

Some might argue that The Star-Ledger now has no choice but to make some radical decisions about what we cover and how we cover it. Some may say this forces the hard decisions that have been delayed or avoided to this point.

From my perspective it simply seems difficult to imagine how we will continue doing what we have always done without a significant portion of that staff. The bodies will be gone. The future will depend on how we deal with that.

We are all familiar with the mantra: Do more with less. We have been hearing it for years. Is this the time to try and do less with less? A more focused less, a less directed toward what we can do that is unique and compelling.

Anyone have any thoughts on where The Ledger should focus coverage in the future? Any thoughts on how to gauge the paper’s audience and how best to serve them? I’d love to hear some ideas.

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Buyout count

Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

Rumor has it that the Ledger editorial department has tallied upwards of 170 takers for the buyout, well beyond the 100-130 that had been sought. Coupled with the equally rumored total of 100-plus for the rest of the building and another hurdle would appear to be passed toward meeting the demands for continued Newhouse stewardship of The Star-Ledger.

Another bird tells me the editorial department at Trenton may have signed on en toto for the buyout.

There can be no sighs of relief just yet. There is no deal with the drivers, thus everything could still come apart. And if it does go through the questions will only be beginning about how to produce our product(s) with a staff that could be halved? Likewise, will what we will be producing bear much resemblance to what we make now?

Four days to the Oct. 1 deadline and then a week past that to find out if it all held together. T-minus 11 and counting toward our future, whether this deal makes it off the launch pad or not.

Hardest parting

Posted in Rambling on September 26, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

After my last post I couldn’t help but go to this blog posting at Politckernj regarding the imminent “retirement” of two long-time Ledger political reporters, Robert Schwaneberg and Joe Donohue.

My point is not to single out those two for any special notice. Hey, the end is nigh (one way or t’other) for many Star-Ledger staffers. It was the comments that struck me.

Demand Results wrote: great reporters…and their absence from the scene only means that New Jerseyans will get even less information about state government. Not a great day for transparent government.

Republikyle wrote: Regardless of the editorial board’s opinions… it will be a sad day when the Ledger folds, and today is the beginning of the end with the loss of these two reporters.

Unlike the last commenter, I don’t know what the future holds for The Star-Ledger except that there will soon be a significant outflow of institutional knowledge, skilled writing, insightful reporting, visual excellence and editing acumen. Their bodies may be replaced — though that seems unlikely — but their journalistic excellence will be out these doors for good.

Such a loss is difficult to quantify in the short term. Perhaps the people of New Jersey will recognize it in the long run, especially if the Ledger (should it survive) doesn’t retool its reduced staff to properly cover the essentials of state/local government, high school sports and New Jersey news. But at this point we can only wait and see. Didn’t someone say that’s the hardest part.

The end is nigh?

Posted in Rambling, Uncategorized on September 26, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

I saw Sharon Adarlo’s email invite to an “End is Nigh” party at Mompou Tapas Lounge on Thursday night. I wondered if she knew something the rest of us didn’t. Heck I wondered if it was even for Star-Ledger folks since there didn’t seem to be any on the CC list. It appeared to be predominantly TV and radio people, judging by the email domains.

But based on what the invite said I also wondered if the broadcast media were facing some of the same issues as the rest of us.

Get together in honor of all our beloved colleagues who are going on to new jobs, or maybe better careers (with likely more job security).
So let’s give a nice toast to our buddies, as well as the dying profession we so love 🙂

So maybe the end is near. What’s killing me is wondering how it will all turn out. Buying a round for all of my colleagues, beloved or otherwise, would be a hell of a lot easier if I had a buyout check in my pocket.

To buyout or not buyout, that is the question

Posted in Future Employment on September 25, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

Some other sage advice from Joe Grimm (of Poynter’s “Ask the Recruiter“). It might have been more pertinent a month or so ago, but I wasn’t blogging about this then.

A highlight of the column:

Journalists who have been forced out of the business often find that other industries are very happy to find people who are curious, who think critically, who gather and digest information quickly and who can organize and present it clearly. Journalism has always been a good skills platform.

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Those who are about to freelance …

Posted in Future Employment on September 25, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

One way or the other there will probably be lots of us out of a job in the not so distant future. Those taking the resume writing class may hope for a new job, but a few may opt to try and carry on as freelancers. In light of that here is some advice from Poynter’s “Ask the Recruiter” (aka the ever hopeful Joe Grimm).

  1. Line up a temporary job. Check with craigslist, Kelly services, anything. The point is to have a check you can depend on so you can control cash flow.
  2. Create a website (if you haven’t already), or a blog that has a bio and links to your writing. Use it as an online resume. You can also do the same with if you wish.
  3. Send a group email to all your contacts before you make the jump. (I recommend about 3 months, if you can do it that far in advance.) Tell them you’ll be freelancing full time and are looking for assignments.
  4. Of course, create a business plan. Check with the Small Business Administration, or the Service Corps of Retired Executives for help. (In fact, do this first!!!)
  5. Line up assignments that will have you working for about two to three months. That way, you won’t have time to sit around the house and worry.
  6. While you’re working on your assignments, send out feelers for others. Always think at least 3 months ahead.

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Agreement on the table?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25, 2008 by sizzlingjboy

The last few lines of the publisher’s recent update escaped my full attention. Here is what they said:

Therefore, the only stumbling block to meeting the three conditions is ratification of an agreement by the Drivers.  We hope that they will take the steps necessary to ratify their draft agreement by the deadline or else The Star-Ledger will be put up for sale on October 9.

The possible meaning of this was the subject of an AP story Tuesday. The lede says:

The publisher of The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., reiterated on Tuesday his threat to put New Jersey’s largest newspaper up for sale next month if its drivers union fails to approve a new contract.

Star-Ledger Publisher George Arwady seemed to suggest, however, that a tentative agreement has been reached and awaits ratification. In a memo to employees, Arwady urged the union to “take the steps necessary to ratify their draft agreement by the deadline.”

Arwady and union officials did not return phone calls on Tuesday.

Is an agreement on the table? Guess we will have to wait and see.

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