(Big welcome to Pete Talbot, who is writing his first post here.–Pogie)
The first was a Facebook comment from Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller on her recent story about Mayor Engen and bariatric surgery being added to the city’s health plan: “I do welcome the discussions about our priorities, especially as newsrooms continue to shrink,” she wrote.
The second was from a laid off journalist friend: “Many – if not most – journalists at Lee Enterprises’ 46 daily newspapers haven’t received raises since 2008. The company’s top executives, however, have been rewarded many times with big bonuses in recent years. A just-released document discloses these 2014 bonuses: CEO Mary Junck – $1,150,000, CFO Carl Schmidt – $533,000, COO Kevin Mowbray – $128,125. (The Missoulian and four other Montana newspapers are in the Lee Enterprises chain.)
About the first item, despite what you may think about the news story, I appreciated that the reporter took the time to respond at all to some pretty scathing criticism, especially on a Facebook post. Most telling, of course, was the line, “ … as newsrooms continue to shrink.” In other words, reporters, and editors, are being asked to do more with less. Veteran reporters are leaving for greener pastures and are being replaced by lower-paid cubs, if they are replaced at all.
The second item is pretty self-explanatory. One should keep in mind that although the news media are called “The Fourth Estate,” they are still a business, just like a company that makes widgets. They have a bottom line and are responsible to their stockholders. But big bonuses to top management while their employees and product suffer seem self-defeating. Those bonuses could go a long way to beefing up staff, and improving both print and online publications.
I’ve been critical of my local paper and the print media in general, Lord knows. In the future, I’ll try not to pile on the reporters and editors. Being a journalist is a job and in a tight market, when you have a family to feed, one isn’t about to buck the system. They are doing their best to practice their craft under very trying conditions.