On Friday, we had a sendoff for an editor who had been around since before I was born. Nearly everyone in the newsroom was there.
It wound up being the last time I would see some of them.
While I was on my way back from visiting my old newsroom in Charlottesville, the company announced layoffs. I was spared, but people I knew and liked are gone. The paper is shrinking in size, too. I think I’ll wind up with more work because I’m one of a handful of people trained to do what some of the departed editors did.
I feel a little twinge of guilt because it makes me think the whole training me to replace them thing was the plan all along.
We knew this was coming, though. We had been spared drastic cuts for about five years but we haven’t been able to fix the woes plaguing the journalism industry. Major retailers pulling ads and getting close to or going out of business didn’t help.
(I’m simplifying things here.)
And there’s still the subscription problem. People stopped paying for news when it was on the internet for free. We had to start cutting veteran reporters because they cost more. Our quality dropped as we lost institutional memory and checks and balances. Sometimes, it was enough to turn people off to us. Yet they turned to the dubious origins of some of the news online. Never mind it telling them exactly what they want to hear. Never mind it sometimes not going in depth. Never mind it sometimes being patently false. Never mind it not being something that would tell them things like “that highway will be closed tomorrow.”
We’ve gotten so used to it being free, people are still resisting paying. People cry bias and fake news when the truth doesn’t fit their worldview. Novice reporters get things wrong when overworked editors don’t have time to sit with them or truly fact check and there aren’t veteran reporters around to regale them of how the situation all started 20 years before.
It’s a sad situation, and it’s been a sad situation for the entire duration of my career.
I don’t know what the solution is. Misinformation seems to be winning the battle. I probably could start a blog saying Obama is from Neptune and he’s still hell-bent on destroying America and make enough advertising dollars to live comfortably.
It shouldn’t be this way.