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Thursday, April 19, 2007


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Bad few weeks, eh?

Around here, mediocrity rules.


Semi-related: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution just cut a huge chunk of reporting jobs. The remaining reporters will have more to do, less time to do it, and will, in many cases, have to compete for newly defined beats. Many old ones have been eliminated.

The good, experienced reporters are jumping ship (one to Newsweek, for example). Morale is said to be awful.

I wonder: These cuts, combined with my current subscription, will help this shrinking industry grow its double digit profits, as investors apparently demand. In the short term.

In the long term, their increasingly bad coverage, occasioned by their scarcer resources and the flight of their good reporters, will cause me to cancel my subscription and search the Internet for the one thing I currently do not use it for: local news.

In the long term, of course, the paper will also probably be sold to someone new. It won't much matter to the old investors that Atlanta no longer has a decent newspaper. And the new investors, seeing ways to increase profits, will offer more staff cuts.

And I haven't got into competition with new media.

Just trying to cheer you up.

Anna Haynes

It's like being saddled with our existing leaders in govt, going into global warming.

glad it's liberating though. I'm slower, haven't reached that pt yet.


Gosh, Dan ...

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Find someone who's turning
And you will come around.


It hasn't been a bad couple of weeks. It's been a bad 10 years, and based on my conversations and e-mails with journalists elsewhere, I think it's been a fairly universal experience.

And you know... whatever. I've wasted a lot of time and energy trying to correct problems and help people, and the net result was that the problems just changed form and the people are still unhappy. Freedom from optimism allows one the liberty to step outside of that group misery and just start making the new things you imagine. Maybe those new things will solve problems or make people happy. Maybe I won't be able to implement all of them. C'est la vie, c'est la guerre.

It's nice to think that we can manage change, but it's more realistic to say that often times what survives after a disaster adapts to that uncontrolled change and then after the fact someone defines that process of survival and adaptation as "management." But our ancestors didn't "manage" the Cretaceous Extinction Event -- they just made it through the mass die-off and kept on evolving.

That's what I think is about to happen: Not a smoothly managed transition from one media epoch to another, but a sudden mass-slaughter of the dinosaurs.

I also believe, but cannot prove, that this is bigger than what's about to happen to media. We're just the canary in the coal mine.

And the thing is, destruction of old things that don't work anymore may be frightening, but it isn't a tragedy. It's nature's way. We need this change, and at some level, I think we all sense it.


Ben's post reminded me of a Dotcom I worked for in 2001. I left after the 4th round of layoffs.

The first round was fine -- they chopped some deadwood and people who were better-off-elsewhere.

The 2nd round chopped more deadwood and only accidentally a few niche producers. My real disappointment was some people who disappeared should have been ridden out on a rail instead of just laid off. "We have to pull together in this time of difficulty."

The 3rd was painful -- they chopped some of the supplemental/supporting players who were not central to the "business goals" but were keeping a lot of necessary stuff out of the way to those of us who were. "We're all in this together."

4th round was chopping well into the meat and only eliminated a few problems. After that we were crippled. Those of us left had more to do with less and they were promising customers more and more. "Work smarter" was the theme.

So I did work smarter -- I left the company.

From what I can tell, a "reorganization" works in 2 cases:

1) Where you really do want to move in a completely different direction and change everything to support that.
2) Where you realize you're bleeding badly and cut enough to stop the hemorrhaging fast enough that the company doesn't bleed out -- and *then* you move on.

Either is traumatic and you cut *both* ends off the Bell curve -- one end you ax and the other end runs away because *they can*. Neither is a good thing -- it's just a way of avoiding something worse.

Most other cases are like a restaurant selling the cookware to save the silver -- it might work for tonight's dinner if you start with enough things already cooked.

As far as needing this, I agree that the result will be better in many respects (though the mathematically inclined might consider the topic of local maxima). However, the "survival of the fittest" method is often distressing to the individuals involved.


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