Category Archives: Furloughs

Local Newsers: Miserable on the Job, Desperate on the Beach, and The Return of Ramen Noodles

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John P. Wise

This week’s deeply honest and revealing post by John P. Wise has gotten a lot of local newsers thinking about the atmosphere in newsrooms across the country–about how the pressures from the top to make that damned money machine work again has trickled down to the producers and overnight editors and reporters and photographers and control room crew, making everyone flat out miserable.

And when I saw a tweet online from a Pacific Northwest winery about their upcoming employee summer Barbeque, complete with ribs and Pinot Noir, I was reminded of what it was like to work in local news just a few years ago:  at times, it was a hell of a fun place to be.  Then travel budgets evaporated, photogs lost their overtime, and along with that came a make-sure-the-crew-gets-lunch-even-if-you-miss-the-interview mandate and, as John so brilliantly described it, a complete lack of interest in the people doing the work.

Welcome to San Diego!  Clothing Allowance?  Ha!  No.  But Hey, Here's Your Camera and Tripod.

Welcome to San Diego! Clothing Allowance? Ha! No. But Hey, Here's Your Camera and Tripod.

Today, a post about one-man-bands in San Diego is good reading, as is the photo that goes along with it.  A reporter who’s just landed that San Diego job at a top station, only why is this woman not smiling? Not long ago, snagging a gig at KGTV would be a pretty sweet move.  Now, it’s almost a one step forward two steps back maneuver, with reporters arriving from smaller markets only to find the first part of life in the big city:  learning to shoot your own stuff.

And then there’s life after the job, after the layoff, after the cliche-ridden conversation with a manager who’s gotten too bored letting people go to even bother coming up with a new, personal way to talk to someone.  And in a flash, you’re on the beach, as they used to say in better times.

But as Gina Callaghan tells us today, it’s a scary place to be, where talent, skills, and smarts don’t automatically translate into paying work.  I think all of us can help each other out, and I urge you to visit LocalNewser’s companion site, CoachReporter, where we’ve just posted an article from a business coach on a key topic:  how do you take a resume that tells employers you’re absolutely qualified to work in a dying industry, and translate that to the emerging digital industry that’s replacing it?  We know we can do the work, but how do we show that?

Other coaches will be offering advice and suggestions on rebooting careers and, as Ann Nyberg says, navigating the change that’s surrounding us.

946pw8001DISPATCH FROM THE FRONTLINES:  Gina Callaghan

I hope that package of ramen noodles in the kitchen remains sealed.

In a strange way, keeping those noodles together means the strands of hope on which I base my future employment will also remain intact.

In June, I was laid off from my job as a Web producer at a local TV station. Between the festering stench that is the American economy and a contracting media industry, I didn’t harbor any great sentimental thoughts about the business. That chapter is finished, so move on.

But where does one move?

Many employers in the “real world” value writing skills, the ability to work in a deadline-driven environment, flexibility, multitasking, good time-managers – all attributes found in your run-of-the-mill newsroom staffer.

However, many of those same people will balk at hiring a newsie for several reasons.  A common red flag is when interviewers ask, “You are used to a fast-paced newsroom. Do you think you can adjust to a different way of working?”

Oy! The unofficial motto of the media business is “adapt or die.”

Of course, the above only applies if you are lucky enough to get an interview.

Then, there is age. One recruiter, impressed by my resume, looked off to the side and said, “I don’t want to get sued but I think my client might say someone with your, uh, background might find it challenging to work with people just starting out. And the site is all about music and pop culture.”

Huh?  Never mind the fact that I worked at Fox, home of “American Idol” and did a stint on the National Enquirer’s copy desk.

“How old do you think I am,” was all I could blurt out. Didn’t get the job. (By the way, I am over 30 and nowhere near death).

Sure there are some relevant job postings out there. I sit home, chain-smoking in an old bathrobe, zipping resumes to that black hole called: resumes@thiscompany.com.

And then there is the rest of the day. I recently started a blog about cats, did some gratis social media consulting and enrolled in a class. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned that generic orange juice is $1.99 as opposed to the $3.99 and up for brand names.

Whether my next job is in media or a real-estate office, I realize this period is a good time to take stock of personal passions and chart a new course. However, like many laid-off news types, the more pressing issue is navigating the choppy waters of daily survival – and keeping those ramen noodles in the pantry.

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WUSA/DC Local Newser Puts Himself on “Permanent Furlough” via Blistering Resignation Letter

Alan Henney said what others clearly felt:  something’s changed–and not for the better–at WUSA/DC.  “We are doing less news gathering these days and more information posting,” Henney writes in a memo to the WUSA news staff posted on DCRTV.  “Somebody needs to be driving the news machine at all times, actively pursuing news leads. We’ve lost our focus.”

WUSA, as most who follow the evolution of local TV news already know, recently replaced traditional news crews with one-man-bands, and converted its newsroom into an “information center” devoted to fast-paced, multiplatform news production:  getting the story told fast, in a variety of ways, from Twitter, to blogging, and sometimes even on a regular old newscast.

Henney, a weekend assignment editor at Channel 9, says the “shock and awe” digital campaign has come at a cost in the most basic of places:  doing the news.  “WUSA frequently lacks the discussion that is vital to the success of a vibrant news operation and falls into this model. Many of us are reluctant to say anything, and the suggestion box on the first floor is not enough. The consultants and out-of-touch corporate management have ruined the newscasts with repetitive Web clutter, endless sidebar packages, and their preoccupation with the Internet. You won’t find a blog anywhere that will generate enough revenue to support a news operation of this size, there are simply too many. We’ve heard regular speak of “Web Winners,” but what ever happened to the “News Winners?” A dying breed?”

Web Alert:  Is Anybody Doing the News?

Web Alert: Is Anybody Doing the News?

Henney’s letter has sparked a massive debate on the dcrtv site, and among DC local newsers.  It’s an important discussion, and sadly sparked by a man who felt his only option was to walk out, leaving the weekend desk after nearly a decade.  “Any corporation that allows employees to blog as an excuse for not reporting to work on time is not an organization with which I want to be associated. Effective immediately, I am placing myself on permanent furlough from the Gannett Corp,” he wrote.

DC newsers:  if you’ve watched the content coming from the Info Center, do you agree?  Has WUSA traded reporting for Twittering?  Can stations successfully do both?

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Filed under Cutbacks, Furloughs, Local News 2.0, Social Media

Media General Goes With Employee Furloughs: 10 Unpaid Days in ’09

Media Generals WVTM/Birmingham

Media General's WVTM/Birmingham

Media General confirmed the rumors today, with word that “despite aggressive sales initiatives and significant cost reductions already implemented, we need to build in additional expense savings to offset the revenue shortfalls we anticipate,” in the decidedly corporate words of Marshall Morton, Media General’s CEO.  To put in words more commonly floated around television newsrooms, you just got two weeks off, whether you want ’em–or can afford ’em.  No pay.

Media General owns 19 local television stations, including WFLA/Tampa, WVTM/Birmingham, WSAV/Savannah, and WJAR/Providence.  Employees will be forced to take ten unpaid days, including four days off before the end of March, according to the Associated Press.  The AP reports the company has already cut costs by $19 million dollars by suspending matching payments to employees’ 401(k) retirement plans.

Media Generals WSAV/Savanahh

Media General's WSAV/Savanahh

The furloughs follow a round of corporate layoffs across several Media General stations over the last few months, including 80 positions cut in Florida last November, and on-air cuts in Birmingham and Charleston just weeks ago.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the furloughs are mandatory for all non-union, non-contract employees, though union and contract employees will be asked to “voluntarily” participate in the ten no work, no pay days.

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Media General Goes With Employee Furloughs: 10 Unpaid Days in '09

Media Generals WVTM/Birmingham

Media General's WVTM/Birmingham

Media General confirmed the rumors today, with word that “despite aggressive sales initiatives and significant cost reductions already implemented, we need to build in additional expense savings to offset the revenue shortfalls we anticipate,” in the decidedly corporate words of Marshall Morton, Media General’s CEO.  To put in words more commonly floated around television newsrooms, you just got two weeks off, whether you want ’em–or can afford ’em.  No pay.

Media General owns 19 local television stations, including WFLA/Tampa, WVTM/Birmingham, WSAV/Savannah, and WJAR/Providence.  Employees will be forced to take ten unpaid days, including four days off before the end of March, according to the Associated Press.  The AP reports the company has already cut costs by $19 million dollars by suspending matching payments to employees’ 401(k) retirement plans.

Media Generals WSAV/Savanahh

Media General's WSAV/Savanahh

The furloughs follow a round of corporate layoffs across several Media General stations over the last few months, including 80 positions cut in Florida last November, and on-air cuts in Birmingham and Charleston just weeks ago.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the furloughs are mandatory for all non-union, non-contract employees, though union and contract employees will be asked to “voluntarily” participate in the ten no work, no pay days.

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Filed under Furloughs