Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Plain Dealer's new survival plan; Good luck on that

 Just received a spritely booklet from the University of Illinois College of Media in which  I learned that the old School of Journalism is now called the Department of Journalism.  If I remember correctly  I got a journalism degree from the school a long time ago.  So if I had a nostalgic twitch upon reading the pages (with a donor envelope tucked in!) I hope you'll understand.

Journalism is seldom mentioned as a profession these days in the tectonic shift from newspaper print to electronic conveyances of what you could unfold and read at the breakfast table.  Some schools are now boasting of studies in "electronic arts".  Besieged by drops in circulation and advertising, more and more papers (those that haven't already  expired) have  eliminated several home delivery days, many absent from wash-day Mondays.

But let's stick to that paper on the lake - the Plain Dealer - that Titanic-like has drastically rearranged itself with big cutbacks in staff,  shrinking its home deliveries and creating an   office maze that is as  challenging a weave as the maddening pattern of Venetian streets.

Columbia Journalism Review has  the gory details:
"As a major reorganization  of the Cleveland Plain Dealer takes shape, veteran reporters are adjusting to ' backpack journalism,'  the division of staff into two companies, a looming move to a new office, and demands to post stories more quickly."
The concept appears so bizarre to some reporters that one told CJR "this used to be a.... newsroom", adding,  "newsroom culture is gone".

While  scattering the staff to divided venues, CJR writer Anna Clark reports, the new PD will equip reporters and editors with  iPhones and laptops, "along with actual packpacks so they can work from home or cafes."

In the new setup, some staffers will work out of from the current Superior Ave. offices, some flung out to the paper's distribution center in the suburbs and another cadre in the Tower City Center  above the Cleveland Hard Rock Cafe.

One reporter told CJR:  "They are very much encouraging us to be mobile, to not claim particular place and not keep a lot stuff there," which sounds a lot like what the Browns must tell their prospective  head coaches.

Andrea Hogben, president of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, explained to  CJR that the rationale for the upheaval  is to  "showcase our digital capabilities and promote a culture of innovation  and creativity".

But never at my doorstep on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. It will be darkly interesting over the next year or so to see how the survival plan by Advance Publications, the owners who are exercising the same concept at some of its other papers, works out. As I struggle from the murky deep to understand all of this, I must first decompress.

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