Cuts and slights at the N&R

Citing staleness of content, Anthony’s latest cartoon didn’t run in today’s N&R.  Shame, too, because I think I recognized myself in what may be his last Sunday appearance.  I can sympathize with the reasoning, though; it is hard to remain fresh and relevant among a fluid set of events.   Like me, Anthony still has one more opportunity to appear in his regular, honored, spot.

Editorial chief Allen Johnson has assured me that I will be brought back in from time to time to opine on things, and for that I will be as grateful as I have always been to the N&R for allowing me to share my ideas, thoughts, criticisms and opinions with their readers over the past couple of years.

That being sincerely said… I think it is a dumb move.

As a long-time subscriber and avid N&R reader, these cuts and other factors are giving me less of a reason to continue both practices. 

As with Anthony, Allen cited “budget considerations” when he informed me of the elimination of some of the paper’s local, paid, voices.  But, last I heard, the paper saw in their future an expanding forum for local voices.  What changed that focus? Hopefully it wasn’t the modest enumeration I and a couple of others received for our work, because what I made per column couldn’t be enough to break anyone’s bank unless they are laboring under the slimmest of margins. 

Moreover, the N&R’s host of employee bloggers used to engage in conversation outside of their own blogs, but for the past six months or so, I can’t remember much of that going on.  While regular linking to N&R content and commentary exists among non-N&R bloggers, reciprocation is almost non-existent.

It is never a good idea to forget who is was that brought you to the dance, but with only a few exceptions, the N&R seems to be doing just that with regard to hyper-local goings-on.

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  1. Jim Rosenberg
    Posted February 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    The N&R ought to ruthlessly cut every single expense such as freelancers and invest it in becoming the local online hub that Greensboro 101 never did, and above all else in sales feet on the street to corner the online advertising market. If it isn’t able to open up a lead in that space and revenue stream, it will continue to contract until production and wage costs overwhelm it. The N&R is in a fight for survival.

  2. Posted February 17, 2008 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Community columnists aren’t paid. I guess we write for the “glory,” such that it is. I’m fairly intrigued as to how much you and Anthony were paid; I sorta figured it wasn’t really substantial and the figure — for only a few local paid writers — hardly seems like the sort of thing they’d slash first. Unless we’re no longer at “first…”

  3. Posted February 17, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    How do you think professional writers/journalists feel about “community columnists” writing for free?

  4. Posted February 17, 2008 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Sue: I would think “first” was the layoffs they had last summer.

  5. Posted February 17, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    OK, Anthony, “first” was indeed last summer. I guess I meant “first” of this round of cutting-back. We can call this ‘this year’ if you prefer.

    Brian, I have no earthly idea how writers-who-get-paid think of writers-who-do-not-get paid. However, I DO get paid for my other writing (an online column, technical writing, etc.) Do we draw a line between a newspaper opinion and a for-pay online column as to whether or not I (an example, for sure, in this case) am a “professional writer”?

    This whole topic is really a rehash of an older one when blogging was new to GSO. There were some who asked the N&R if they would take blogger content and not pay for it. I’m not sure it was ever resolved. Perhaps this is the logical extension of those who write blogs and include news (there are lots in GSO) and once it’s out there, well, it’s free for the reprinting. The N&R still rarely links out, which is an equivalent of paying.

    Not an accusation, but a question: does YES! link out on their site to bloggers?

    (I’m guessing here, but I think most print papers, even those with active online sites, don’t really link out to bloggers, except rarely. I wonder if the facts support my feeling.)

  6. Posted February 17, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Please note above. I wrote “an equivalent” of paying and not “the” equivalent” of paying. Linking out is free and I can’t understand why the N&R, which prides itself on being sorta “wired” doesn’t do that.

  7. Posted February 17, 2008 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Sue: YES! Weekly does sometimes link out to bloggers. The Troublemaker and Billy the Blogging Poet come to mind. I know that many bloggers link to us, but at least one (Guarino) quotes our work without linking to us. I’ve been meaning to ask him about that.

  8. Posted February 17, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Sue – wasn’t trying to be snarky, I just didn’t pick up on the distinction implied in your comment. I kind of consider this all as the same round of cutting back, though not knowing how they decide things around there, I admit I could be totally off base.

  9. Posted February 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Anthony, I didn’t think you were snarky and should have taken a moment to be a little lighter in my typing. Heck, I LIKE you :) but it’s Sunday and I’m supposed to be getting my nails done but am updating a bunch of free Web sites (that I have to STOP doing because they take up my Sundays) and I suppose I was just a bit off-my-humorous-prime.

    Presumably, that leaves Ed as the only paid community-type columnist at the N&R.

    And Jordan, why do you write, “sometimes?” How come you don’t always link out to bloggers (that I presume you’re quoting or using their material)?

  10. Posted February 17, 2008 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    My gig, like Rosemary’s and Davenport’s, predates the community columnist rubric. We’re just opinion columnists. A distinction without a difference, perhaps.

    As I wrote at my blog, cutting a very small amount of money from the budget, especially when the cuts go against the stated local-content strategy of the paper, seems odd.

    Unless, that is, you’ve ever worked at a company that’s being prepped for sale…

  11. Posted February 17, 2008 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Gotta take up for Jordan and Brian, they are in the habit of linking out to the blogs they quote and Joe Gurrano at least gives credit even if he doesn’t always link. Locally, News2 is the most aggregious violator. Most in this thread will remember them for outright copy infringement. Besides, traffic at the N&R blogs is so low it really is of no consequence.

    Ed said, “Unless, that is, you’ve ever worked at a company that’s being prepped for sale…”

    I haven’t worked for a publication that was being prepped for sale but I have worked for several trucking companies that went down the tubes. They typically began by buying motor oil but the bottle instead of 55 gallon drums. I would suggest someone go check the N&R print shop and see if they’ve reduced paper stocks and switched to smaller ink bottles.

    By the way, this is my first blog comment on my new One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop. I’m wireless!

  12. Posted February 17, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Billy: “Besides, traffic at the N&R blogs is so low it really is of no consequence.”

    I highly doubt that. It’s been a while since I worked there, and even longer since I was responsible for one of the staff produced blogs. So I haven’t seen the figures in a long time. But, when I was writing the now-defunct North High Point & Jamestown blog, it was pulling in about 10,000 page views a month. And it had by far the least traffic of the N&R’s blogs. As I recall, the most popular ones were 10 times that.

  13. Posted February 17, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    You my man, Billy.
    Left some responses at Sue’s place.
    And now I gotta do me some money-writin’. Production tomorrow, dontchano.

  14. Jim Rosenberg
    Posted February 18, 2008 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    People have been laid off from their primary job at the N&R, and more may follow. No crying over contributors.

  15. Posted February 18, 2008 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I can’t speak to the budgetary pressures on Allen Johnson’s corner of the N&R. (In my brief tenure in editorial a few years back, they didn’t let me look at the books, much less tell me where they were.) But I’ll give you a couple of things to chew on:

    (1) Editorial has less room to maneuver than the newsroom because it doesn’t have nearly as many people. In other words, there are fewer opportunities to hold open vacant positions because there’s very little turnover – and relatively little chance of it.

    (2) Remember all of the hubbub over our cancellation of our NYT feed a year or so back? The tradeoff for warmed-over David Brooks and Maureen Dowd a couple of days a week is apparently our local op-ed contributors (or some of them, anyway.) Truth be told, I’d rather have the local stuff. I’m sorry you got 86′d, David.

  16. Posted February 18, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand the either/or thing, Jim — people can’t lament the decline of the paper as evidenced by this latest move, because there is other more fundamental evidence (which has been much lamented, too) of the same sad phenomenon?

  17. Jim Rosenberg
    Posted February 18, 2008 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Lament away.

  18. Posted February 18, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Wailing and rending of garments — too flashy?

  19. Jim Rosenberg
    Posted February 18, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Official all-purpose lamenting phrase, courtesy of a close friend: “What about the children, Oprah?!”

  20. Posted February 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, John. Haven’t encountered the term “86′d” in a while.

    In agreement with Jim, sort of: I would much rather lose my place in the paper than to lose the paper altogether. I depend upon it for much more than simply something to do while drinking my morning coffee.