Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Haven Register to close pressroom, outsource printing operation to Hartford, layoff 105 staffers

This has to be one of the most tone deaf stories ever to appear on the website of a newspaper: the New Haven Register has announced that it will lay off 105 people by closing down its pressroom, yet its report reads like this is all going to be good news. Readers aren't buying it, judging from the comments to the story.

The story lacks the byline of an individual reporter but instead is credited to "Register Staff". Good thing, no one would want to take credit for such writing.

“We’re excited to be opening our newsroom to our community,” publisher Tom Wiley is quoted as saying about the newspaper's plans to open an "open newsroom". “We have launched our Community Media Lab and community conversations and this is the next step in serving our community.”

Yes, I'm sure the 105 staffers are equally as excited. But none of them are quoted in the story, and the publisher doesn't mention them in the story either.

Journal Register Co., if you have forgotten, is the company behind the newly formed company Digital First, the combined entity that includes MediaNews Group. Their big initiative right now appears to be opening Newsroom Caf├ęs, places where readers can gather and drink lattes while observing digital first journalists aggregating and editing copy. It's all so modern and all so digital, you see.

More and more, this whole digital first initiative resembles a cult, and I guess I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid. Right now the movement looks to me like a new twist on the whole engineering craze which corporate suits and consultants used to justify layoffs in the mid-nineties.

(At McGraw-Hill we were given copies of the book to read by the newly installed division president as if it were Mao's Little Red Book – why I never burned my copy I don't know. One year later the division president was gone, but so were about half the employees. It was the first time, but unfortunately not that last time I was forced to layoff staffers in support of some idiot's great new idea.)