Monday, April 30, 2007

Failing to learn, failing to teach

Many of the journalists I know have adopted a strange, delusional vision of their value. I could say that they are in a state of denial. But that hardly describes the sorts of things I hear from people.
Rather, I think it's fair to say that these folks -- veteran journalists with years of experience -- have moved from denial into fantasy.
They've gone from being stubborn about adding new skills to being rigidly opposed to any change in their job description. And they cannot see the damage they are doing to themselves, their peers and their publications.

Consider the editor who told me he wouldn't think about providing headlines for mobile devices because "no reasonable person needs more than a PC to stay connected."
Or consider the reporter, told by his boss to include links in his copy, who insists that his publication "has to hire a specialist to do hyperlinks for me."
Or consider the managing editor who told me she'd fight any attempt by her staff to launch new online products because she liked her job and her schedule "just the way it is."

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these people is that they have survived for so long. While news of layoffs keeps coming, there are still people in newsrooms across the country who believe that their old skill set is enough. They entered the profession at a time when being able to report, write and edit for a print publication was all they needed. And they cannot accept that this is no longer true.
And what is strangest about so many of these people is that they seem convinced -- absolutely convinced -- that they will survive even as hundreds of others lose their jobs.

Last week I met with an old friend who told me that his newspaper, like dozens of others across the nation, is moving to a Web-first model. And management, looking to boost productivity online, tried to transfer a number of print reporters to the online department.
But it was too late.
The online department rejected them. The print reporters didn't have the skills or the understanding to work online. And no one in the online department had the patience anymore to teach them. Instead, the online department has requested that the paper hire some recent graduates and some programmers.
And thus the print reporters will be laid off.

I've been thinking about that a lot since reading a post by one of my favorite young journalists, Meranda Watling. Meranda finds herself at a newspaper where most of the old-timers -- the people with the institutional memories that she needs to tap into -- are gone.

Take a look at Meranda's post and think back to what it was like to be the new kid in the newsroom. And perhaps you'll agree with me that the saddest thing about the stubborn old-timers is that because they haven't been willing to learn, they won't be available to teach.

tags: , , , , , , , journalism education

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.