Saturday, October 22, 2011

The New York Times To Cut 100 Positions


I went to The News Tribune lobby in Tacoma this week. It's a nice place. Despite the earthquake unfriendly sculpture in the lobby and instructions to run to that part of the building during a disaster, I suggested that plan be revised. Hide under your desks, reporting team. I don't think it's a conspiracy your publisher wants that sculpture to hit you, I suspect they don't even know it is there.

An editor and I talked about how the news business has changed. When I got my first job in Colorado on a daily, smoking was still allowed in the newsoom. People think reporters make a lot of money. That is just not true. People also think newspapers do a bad job of reporting stories. However, with staffs slashed to next to nothing, it's a dying business.

I am not the true reporter in the family. That title belongs to my brother who has received so many awards for his writing I don't even think he knows where they are. He's not a trophy display case kind of person. My experience was rather limited after the daily I worked for was bought out by a rival daily. After that, I refused to move all over the country working for newspapers in a threatening line of probable actual tornadoes. In other words, the middle of the country sounded about as appealing to me as eating sandpaper.

I did actually spend one semester in the middle of the country. I enrolled at The University of Nebraska Lincon school of journalism. The instructor was a cynical man who also chain smoked. It was still legal to smoke in classrooms at that time. He said in his scratchy probable early stage of lung cancer, "You are all picking a very hard profession. Most of you will end up being alcoholics." After informing us of this, he just sucked down some more cigarette smoke.

I've never received an "F" on any single assignment in my life except in his class. I think all of us got at least one "F" from him. My final grade was a "B" but that "F" stung. I had been a "A" or "B" student all of my life. I was mostly a "B" student, and that was okay with me. I had a life outside of studying actually. It may not have been the most exciting life since it did not involve alcohol, but it was a life nonetheless.

I left the middle of the country after a math instructor at the same college challenged me one day. I had entered the classroom on a day snow was falling down quite hard. I announced, "I love it when it snows!" This instructor looked at me and said, "You love the snow? You do? Then you go home and tell your child you love him? Then the child does not know you love him more than the snow!" I laughed. He was not joking. I decided right then and there to flee the middle of the country. However, the truth is, there is no fleeing flat out weird.

It's odd to me print journalism is dying out. People complain about the shrinking size of the newspapers that land on their porches. I suspect younger generations will never know what it is like to have newsprint on your fingers in the morning. People will not curse when they spill coffee on their newspaper. A hundred people in New York City are now out seeking jobs. Are there any jobs for writers anymore? I don't think there are many. In fact, if I live long enough, I suspect young people will be speaking in text or 140 characters because of twitter. Or they won't be speaking at all because they will just be texting one another while dining, dancing, showering or doing anything actually. -Alison Whiteman

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