By now, everyone has heard of the economic troubles facing the newspaper industry. If you’re still unsure of what it’s like out there, two recent articles posted to Romenesko illustrate the sad calamity quite nicely:
First, there’s the story of the Newark Star-Ledger and its two newest mailroom employees — reporter Jason Jett and Assistant Deputy Photo Editor Mitchell Seidel. Those two opted for reassignment after refusing a buyout, and now spend their days “filing, sorting, and delivering mail” at the paper.
Publisher George Arwady threatened to sell or close the Advance Publications daily last summer if at least 200 buyouts were not taken and new deals forged with two unions.
In the end, the buyouts were met, with 151 of the newsroom’s 330 staffers taking them, along with other non-newsroom employees. In recent weeks, news folks have been leaving little by little, with all of those taking buyouts expected to depart by the end of the year.
Editor Jim Willse declined to comment on the mailroom assignment, while other staffers confirmed the move and revealed their surprise but requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, the publisher of the Longmont Times-Call is throwing himelf a little Christmas party and inviting the staff of his newspaper. Well, he’s not inviting them to the party, exactly. More like he wants them to work as valets at the party:
The party honors Ed Lehman, who’s currently in his 51st year as the Times-Call‘s publisher, and his wife Connie — and Dean Lehman, the paper’s editor and president (and Ed’s son), says valets are needed because many of the guests are elderly and may need a little extra help. So, too, do small-market journalists in a struggling economy, so Lehman saw it as natural to give Times-Call workers the chance to earn a little extra cash as Christmas approaches. He says valets will earn the same rate of pay they receive at their day job for the hours they work.
As a former newspaper guy (I still have my fedora with the press pass attached to the brim), I can’t say I’m surprised. It was not infrequent for me to drive around the back of our building to the distant non-executive parking lot and wish to myself that I worked with those guys on the loading dock. They were paid more than me, and driving a forklift sure looks like fun. Plus, there’s always a market for lifting and moving heavy shit around isn’t there?
Then I’d get to my parking spot and see Lucy the Dog dumping YET ANOTHER coffee on the HR bitch’s white Audi and all was well again.
Those were the days.