Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Dust Settles at The Journal-News

But is What's Left Worth 75 Cents? Hint: The Paper is Owned by Gannett

Now that The Journal-News, the mediocrity -- to put it generously -- that is the sort-of newspaper of record for Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties north of New York has gone through its version of Gannett's garroting of personnel, the effects aren't obvious -- yet.
But they will be soon.
The front page looks much the same, not that that's necessarily a good thing. You have to drill a little deeper, not a difficult exercise when the paper is as thin as day-old gruel. The A-section is mostly filled with cop briefs and jumps from A-1. Lots of items about crime in Yonkers and Mount Vernon. Not so much about anything else.
Then there's the rest of the paper. Want to read about local business news. Good luck. The whole business staff was laid off. Hey, what about the Jets and Giants? Sorry, you'll have to take what the A.P. doles out: both beat writers took severance rather than go through the indignity of reapplying for their jobs, like everyone remaining in the newsroom did. Same for some of my older colleagues who remained from when I worked there 20 years ago. Godspeed.
True, some familiar bylines remain. Good for them, at least good in the sense that they still have a job let alone one in the news business. That'll help provide a little context to stories and they'll at least know how to spell names right.
But the question remains over exactly what are they going to cover. The answer, given the number of reporters left: not much. They just can't. Not that Gannett really cares. It's obsessed with a future that is all about digital and multimedia doo-dads and social media what-nots.
Of course, they should be obsessed with that nowadays, just not at the expense of the core product. Too many desperate and clueless newspaper executives forget about that. Gannett has shown little evidence of ever knowing that in the first place.
The brain trust there sees all those dollar signs taunting them if they make these cost savings, but forget that all those cutbacks result in a product that's unadulterated crap on any platform.
Such is the Journal-News.

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