Good morning, everyone. (Good afternoon, Joe and Marie.)
My son Joe (this blog's creator, all the way from the Czech Republic) tells me that this blog, since its birth yesterday, has received more than 2,700 hits. Not bad for a baby blog.
Thank you for reading this blog and posting comments. About those comments, I'd like them to remain civil, even in the face of great angst, protest and frustration.
I'm reminded of a column I wrote a few months ago about my disgust with anonymous redding.com comments that were hateful, obscene and/or racist. I was fed up. I said I'd stop reading them. (I eventually ate crow and waded into the comment section last week to post comments to answer readers who wondered where I'd gone.)
It would be hypocritical to now allow nasty comments on my blog, so I won't.
Speaking of comments, in today's Record Searchlight all the letters to the editor are about my "departure" from the paper. Although Bruce Ross is the editorial page editor, he couldn't have published those letters without the editor's approval.
Of course, they know and I know that the letter tide will quickly turn with letters from people who'll celebrate my absence. Good riddance, they'll say, we never liked Doni anyway.
That's balance. I'm fine with it. That's what a good newspaper does.
Good newspaper. Now there's a moving target. Consultants preach the gospel that the key to newspapers' success is to capture that younger demographic, the 18 to 30-somethings, and certainly anyone under 40-something market.
One consultant speaks to newspapers all over the country. He tells how to improve design, how to know what the majority of readers want and how to hold circulation numbers steady. (No promises about getting new readers.) Bigger photos. More color. Shorter stories. More lists and bullet points. Edgy content that pushes envelopes. Readers love it, he says.
Well, maybe not all readers. He shows a photo of a cranky-looking older woman and says, "Ignore her."
His theory is that older readers may call and complain about the mini-font size or not enough positive news and stuff like that, but newspapers should just ignore the bitching. Those older folks won't dump their subscriptions. They're hard-core, dedicated newspaper readers. They'll keep reading, no matter what, until they die.
And when all those 50- to 100-year-olds die, newspapers will be left shaking in their boots. Younger readers are not replacing those older readers. (Why younger people aren't into newspapers is a topic for another day.) But those elusive, younger readers are the very ones newspapers are lusting after, all over the country, not just at the RS.
More readers means more advertisers. More advertisers means more money to feed the expectant mother corporation and its hungry shareholders, whose stomachs keep stretching and demanding even more. They don't want to hear about sagging circulation and fewer advertising dollars. The hungry shareholders just want their money.
To keep things in perspective, bear in mind that in recent history, most newspapers have enjoyed a profit margin of anywhere between the low- to mid-20s, up to 30 percent. Most businesses and households would be pretty dang happy with those numbers.
Consider that when I arrived at the RS 10 years ago, circulation was around 40,000. Now it hovers around 32,000, a pretty astounding number considering the area's population has increased.
Sorry to get bogged down in numbers. It's my way of guessing the reasons behind some - not all - of the changes at the RS.
I can only speak about editorial - since that's where I worked - but because of a combination of budget cuts, buyouts, retirements and people jumping ship, it's now operating with a far smaller stable of photographers, editors, reporters and copy editors. These are true journalists, trying their hardest to put out a good product despite the empty chairs around them.
I'll go out on a limb here and guess that you'd be hard pressed to find very many RS employees who leap with joy at the thought of getting up and going into work these days. While they may enjoy the actual work they do, the atmosphere sucks.
The entire place feels flat and tense and stressed to the absolute max. I even heard a recent RS visitor comment on the paper's morgue-like air.
Fear reigns. Fear of being overheard talking crap about the paper's future with colleagues. Fear of being corrected for having a long face after being demoted. Fear of losing a job at the only newspaper in town. Fear of quitting and being unable to find a job with benefits. Fear of making mistakes on the growing pile of work with fewer people to do it. Fear of not being able to keep up. Fear of being "restructured" right out of a job.
Wow. What a downer. Forgive me, but it may take a minute for me to work through some newspaper issues.
I'll bet we'll all be glad when I start posting recipes. Stay tuned. Enjoy your Saturday.