The Top 10 signs your newspaper has entered the spiral flush

Mick Gregory

Here is another gem by “Joe Grimm,” advising journalisits on their shaky careers. He’s a big, fat, older white guy working for the Detroit Free Press. I believe he gets paid to write this advice on the job. It gives him some extra status among the elite editors. Maybe the Free Press even gets a few resumes from “talented” journos at 30,000 circultation papers in Podunk?

Let me know if you enjoy reading these slice of life stories as much as I do. I add my insider remarks throughout. BTW-There aren’t really top 10 signs your newspaer job is going down the toilet. There are too many signs to count. In fact, most newspaper journalists are “floaters.” You know what I mean, those stubborn turds that float back after you flush.

Do Warning Signs Mean I Should Go?
Q. Lately a few things have been happening in our newspaper company that I see as troubling, and I’m wondering if I should prepare to look elsewhere for a job. Buddy, you should have been looking for a new job a year ago.

Recently a couple publishers were fired. An official reason was never released, and I am not sure if they are looking for new publishers. (Publishers are the BIG SUITS). These mainly middle-age white men made a good living off the sweat of bright-eyed socialist reporters willing to work 60 hours a week for $30,000 a year.

Our previous publisher also decided he couldn’t pay $500 to send 10 of us to a local conference that would have had a big impact on our reporting. $50 per head for a little seminar. That’s the publisher’s bar tab for some cheap Central Valley white wine on one night out.

I’ve heard my editor on the phone casually mention that the only paper in our group that’s doing well had been marked for shutdown by an editor who left here months ago. The rest of our newspapers have been bleeding circulation like stuck pigs, despite our attempts to gain new subscribers. Our Web site, however, has been doing quite well with hits. Kiddo, it’s not the number of hits, it’s your demos and advertisers willing to place an ad schedule in your media.

We’ve also been under a hiring freeze since last fall, which hasn’t impacted our newsroom, but rather the secretarial staff. Hey, that’s a year, an entire budget cycle. How big is your newsroom? I didn’t catch that.

On the bright side, the company hasn’t frozen much else. I received a raise during my review earlier this year, and we recently bought a new computer to replace one that had finally called it quits. Hey, they actually let you work on a computer that runs? Mr. Grimm might call that a plus! How much was your raise, may I ask?

Every “10 signs your company is headed toward layoffs” site has indicated that something is up at my company. Then again, a lot of those signs are things newspapers are going through all over. I don’t know what to believe.

Ultimately I need to know if I should start applying for new jobs. I’ve gotten more than two years of experience here, so I think I could find a new job, but I had been hoping to stay for another year so I could get an even better job and wait for my boyfriend to finish school.

Still Working

A. By Joe Grimm.

Stay cool.

There is a lot going on — at your place and at others. Yeah, a lot of running around “scooping” the local weekly. That’s a lot. Sort of. It really doesn’t matter to the reader if you scoop another medium on a story. News is a very perishable commodity.

In addition to the warnings, you’ve received some encouragement. Yeah, they replaced your 12-year-old baige computer with a 2-year-old hand-me-down from a failing small daily in your chain. Right?

You don’t want to leave yet, so I wouldn’t. But I would be prepared.

Pay attention to bigger signs: A change in ownership. Multiple rounds of buyouts or layoffs. The sudden loss of a major advertiser. The signs you’ve mentioned are stressful, but don’t indicate an imminent death.
Yeah, wait around until they have that group anouncement when you and 50 others with your exact skill set are out on the street.

Have a fresh resume on your own computer, ready to go out in the mail or digitally. Keep topping your own best work. Pay off those credit cards and bank some money. And keep your network fresh. You’ll probably be able to make another year there as you would like, and can launch a search if you must.

Think of getting a real education with evening courses in business, law or engineering. Did you know that law firms actually pay their interns $1,000 to $2,000 a week?

How much do small dailies pay interns? Do a little digging and report back to us.

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