Wednesday's Burlington Free Press has the latest story in the rebranding, restructuring, or, if you prefer, dismantling of another local newspaper by the vultures at Gannett.
If you read the Free Press or Seven Days you'll see a story under the headline “Free Press newsroom resets for the future“, and it starts out with a self-congratulatory story about how they broke the IBM story this week. In fact, the top eight paragraphs are about how great they are that they spent all that time reporting the story, because of their online presence they weren't limited by space, and how they could respond to reader interest as demonstrated by the hits, shares, and time readers spend on the story.
It's not until way down toward the bottom that you really learn what the so-called reset is all about.
Part of this resetting is developing a new operational structure to enable us to focus more on the local content that deeply interests readers. With systemic changes in the media business in recent years including changes in approach, format and staff size, we are redefining journalism jobs for the future and our vibrant website, BurlingtonFreePress.com. During the next several weeks, the staff will apply for these jobs with new expectations. We expect time for adaption to the change in structure.
The bolded language is the key. No matter how long you've been at the Freeps, or what you've done for them, if you want to keep your job you need to apply for it, and no telling what those “new expectations” will be.
Paul Heintz has a story about this at Seven Days, and he's all over the bosses on how much this stinks, including pointing out that the Free Press newsroom staff has only twelve reporters and five editors. If you've been wondering where the newspaper part of your daily newspaper went, maybe that answers your question.
But remember, I said this is a story about why I'm glad I subscribe to the Free Press, and here's the reason. The story about the Free Press “reset” was on page 15A of Wednesday's paper. What was on14A, exactly opposite the “reset” story? The story about the retirement of Sam Hemingway.
Sam's a great reporter and writer, and he's been writing for the Free Press for thirty-seven years. He deserves all the honors he's gotten, and all the recognition he will receive on his retirement. One of the things that makes him so good, though, is thirty-seven years of working in this community and knowing what's going on. Especially in a small media market like Vermont the readers are lucky when a reporter grows roots in the community and has those roots and connections inform his or her writing.
It's hard to picture someone getting a new job in today's click-driven, management-by-slogan world having the chance to develop and stay for thirty-seven years, isn't it?
I wouldn't have seen the bizarre juxtaposition of these two stories if I hadn't been reading both stories at the breakfast table this morning, and that's what makes me glad for my daily subscription. I guess you could call that two-page spread “The good, the bad, and the ugly”.