Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tampa Tribune Editor Dares To Speak The Truth

Janet Coats Gets It, Even Though What She Has Is Pretty Grim

You can ponder the merits of a newspaper intern blogging about her summer job (probably not a good idea when you think about it though her employers seem cool with it), but thanks to Jessica DaSilva we get a window into the desultory world of the Tampa Tribune.
The Trib laid off 70 people last year, and this week announced plans to cut another 21. That's on top of 29 staffers who took buyouts. Cue the tumbleweeds.
DaSilva writes about a meeting Coats had with her charges, when she threw a wet blanket on whatever idealism her reporters had left.

“People need to stop looking at as an add on to The Tampa Tribune,” she said. “The truth is that The Tampa Tribune is an add on to TBO.”
Wow. Someone said that? And that someone was the editor in chief? But wait… there’s more.
She continued from this point, saying she wasn’t sure, but that this had to be a step in the right direction. If we don’t move, she said, newspapers will continue their “death spiral - because that’s what this is.”

This is telling, in that this may be the first time an editor of a major metropolitan newspaper is effectively throwing in the towel and conceding that the print edition can no longer be relied on as a revenue source.
Indeed, Coats told her deflated minions that the Tribune hasn't "been bringing in profits for a long time."
But before anyone from the newsroom could crawl out onto a ledge, Coats, DaSilva wrote, reached out for a Kennedyesque moment.

News organizations offer society so much, and that is why she cannot take another job - because journalism is her calling, and she knows there is nothing else she could ever imagine herself doing.
“It’s worth fighting for,” Janet said.

Okay, then. We'll see how Coats feels in six months when Media General asks her to get rid of another 50 editors, photographers and reporters.

As for those who've responded rather nastily to DaSilva's post, let's cut her a little slack. Even if she comes off a little too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (don't dis features, Jessica, you'd be surprised how many people read them and not the A section), at least she's showing an interest in a newspaper career.
The industry will need people like her when the geezers now taking up space burn out, are forced out or drop dead when their heart is broken over what has happened to the business they once loved with a passion that has gone unrequited for too long.

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