We need the news, we just don’t know it

I’m a week late catching it, but I hope you all watched the John Oliver story on journalism.

I spent just over a decade working in newsrooms — first in TV news, then in newspapers.

TV thrived at quickly recapping news into a digest for viewers to catch up on the news of the day and giving swift on-the-scene live reporting. As a result, there was an air of superiority, as if being first was the only goal.

I was wrong.

When I got to print, I quickly learned that I joined a very different side of the news. At the paper, it frankly sometimes felt like we were making the movie that TV would do the trailer of later that day or in the morning.

One example: I can’t remember holding stories in TV for very long, yet there were numerous stories that we spent months working and sometimes over a year to make sure every document was uncovered, every interview was captured, each image was captured — just to make sure that it was as complete as possible.

Sure, things weren’t all roses. We definitely engaged in tactics that put website traffic gains in the spotlight, but we never chose not to cover a story because “fluff” would perform better. There was definitely an effort to bring attention to the stories we knew readers wouldn’t “want” but did “need,” similar to the vegetables on the dinner plate of a child.

This was all taking place inside the major media company Gannett. Every 6–9 months there were new directives that were designed to attract new readers. I don’t know that the company ever really gave any of those initiatives a real shot, they were scrambling to stop the bleeding.

In many ways, it didn’t work. My final 18 months, I believe there were 3 rounds of layoffs in the company, and I had 3 weeks of furlough (no work, no email –– full removal from work duties). Our editor did his best to protect us, but it just never felt OK again.

I left because of exactly what this video describes and I miss it all the time. My decision was less about ‘right now’ and more about what would happen in a decade or two. I couldn’t see myself changing gears after it was too late, so I chickened out and pulled the chute.

Don’t do the same thing as a reader and abandon our newspapers. We need what they do more than you know.