Wise men run for the hills (and staffers update their resumes) when these dreaded words fall from the lips of Jim Fogler, President and Publisher of the Burlington Free Press:
I have exciting news to share.
Because it usually means “Look out, folks, I’ve got a truckload of manure to dump on your heads!”
And what a truckload it was, that greeted His Dear Readers on this first day of 2014.
The opening shovelful deacribed the Freeploid’s new digs:
We’re moving our Free Press news, advertising and business offices to a new, state-of-the art media facility in mid-January from our downtown College Street location…
See, it’s not a “newspaper office,” it’s a “media facility” suitable for synergy and crossbranding and multipurposing and other buzzwords deployed to conceal the death rattle of Fogler’s enterprise. The Freeploid’s new
offices media facility is a rental space on the seventh floor of a downtown building. He played up the nice view of Lake Champlain (I wonder who got the corner office), but what it really means is that the Freeploid’s corporate masters at Gannett have decided to cash in their real-estate chips.
Inevitable, but sad. Newspaper buildings used to be landmarks; now, they’re hidden away in nondescript quarters invisible to the general public. But what wonders, aside from a lovely view, does the “media facility” have to offer?
The high-tech, new location will put all of our employees in open spaces, helping all of our departments build off of the energy of others. There will be increased communication…
… yelling, shouting, airport-level decibel readings, and no privacy whatsoever — for those key off-the-record conversations, or for a bit of on-the-clock Web browsing. You’ll never know when Jim Fogler’s tiptoeing up from behind.
There will be more TV screens throughout our new space showcasing Facebook, Twitter feeds and news programs, keeping us up to date on news developments and our readers’ feedback.
Oh goodie, the sportsbar approach to newsroom decor. Big video monitors displaying the continuous flood of meaningless Internet gibber. Yeah, that’ll lead to in-depth, revealing journalism.
Wait, no, it’s not “journalism,” it’s “product.” As in…
…a higher-quality product in digital and in print.
Nice thing about buzzwords like “product” and “content” is that they say absolutely nothing about quality or insight or truth. Nope, we’re all just crankin’ out the product. And then we get to the real business of the Freeploid’s new “media center” — DA BENJAMINS.
Our sales teams will be able to show our customers in media rooms what’s new and being offered in regard to our new digital capabilities, including Web development, social-media strategies and placement, targeted emails and search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing (SEM).
Oh, I am so glad to hear that “our sales teams” will have a prominent place in the newsroom. That concept of an unbreakable wall between journalism and sales is so… 20th Century, don’t you think?
I’m also glad that my newspaper is dedicating itself to search engine optimization and marketing. Is there a Pulitzer Prize for that?
Oh, and then Fogler gets to the real shitball of Freeploid 2014.
On the content front, look for a larger printed Burlington Free Press soon. …a newspaper with more to read… We’ll be adding more pages of content…
Larger, more to read, more pages of “content.” Must be a good thing, yes?
Well, yes, if you believe that an 800-pound man is healthier than a 180-pound man. Because what Fogler is talking about is not an expanded commitment to local or Statehouse reportage; it’s stuffing the Freeploid with a castrated version of the industry’s chief castrato, USA TODAY (all caps please, per Gannett’s copyright team).
Or, as Fogler puts it, Gannett will “leverage both USA TODAY’s national coverage and the unique, local reporting of our journalists.”
That’s “leverage” as in “maximize profit.” Because, as we previously discussed in this space, the daily insertion of USA TODAY pablum will allow Gannett to claim a much larger circulation figure for its dismal national newspaper. And, as we’ve already seen, they’ll be “leveraging” us readers as well:
Asked whether prices would rise for subscribers receiving the extra USA Today content, a Gannett spokesman, Jeremy Gaines, said, “As we introduce enhanced products, consumers tell us they are willing to pay for the added value we’re bringing them.”
Meanwhile, the real focus of The New Freeploid will be stuff like…
On the digital front, with iPhones in our reporters’ hands, we offer more video today than most media locally. We also are planning a redesign of our website and our mobile apps in 2014 that will make it easier to find the stories and video you want to see. Our digital offerings include solutions such as Web development, targeted emails, SEO/SEM solutions and display ads on one of the most viewed websites in the market.
“More video.” Not “better video,” just MORE. Plus all those “solutions” for problems I don’t have. I turn to a newspaper or website for news, for information — not targeted emails, SEO, and more intrusive advertisements.
And, in more evidence that Jim Fogler and his ilk have their eye firmly off the ball:
Our presence on Twitter and Facebook is constantly engaging readers, including young people, which helps them recognize the importance of the Burlington Free Press in their daily lives.
“Young people.” The constant preoccupation of dying media empires (and the Republican Party, heh). Hey, Jim, haven’t you heard that “young people” aren’t that into Facebook anymore? Why not force your ever-more-distracted reporters to create Tumblr feeds and Instagram accounts and gifs and Vines while you’re at it?
Fogler closes his missive with reassurances about the ‘Loid’s
survival evolution and growth. He promises that…
…we are here not only to stay, but to grow…
Just like the 800-pound man.