Monday, December 31, 2007

My end of the year tirade

I don't think I realized when I got in to this profession how profoundly my life would be impacted. Not just by the people who's stories I tell, or the things I see that so many others will NEVER see first-hand, but also by the people I work with day to day.

I am so lucky to have made very good friends since moving to Naples. I wonder if our profession is unique in the way it brings us together? We share dreams, ideals, passions. Not like working in a cubicle where you isolate yourself from others all day crunching numbers or entering data. We are curious people. We want to know about other people's lives, which inevitably leads us to knowing everything about each other. Or trying to.

The photo staff at the Naples Daily News has always been a family. We band together and have tried to be a united front in the face of some major BS that is happening everywhere. But, our little family is shrinking. Our staff is down to four. From nine. I realize this problem is not unique to NDN, and I'm used to the revolving door. It's a smallish paper that obviously lends itself to the exit of some great people as they move up the ladder of the profession. But this year... Sheesh. I've said goodbye a lot. Most recently, this morning. And I'm pretty damn of sick of it, really. Not only do we say goodbye to our friends, but the void that is left because their positions aren't being replaced is a GLARING daily reminder of their absence.

This was originally going to be a blog about how I will miss you, my friends, bidding you good cheer in the upcoming year and wishing you all the very best in your upcoming endeavors. And it still is. But, it's morphing into this:

WARNING: a rant is about to occur.

I just got done talking with a co-worker about how we're all running on a shoestring. Not just the photo department, but the entire newspaper. How do you put out a product that people want advertise in, let ALONE, pick up and read if EVERY department is down to less than half staff? We've lost two city editors in a matter of two weeks, only have two features writers, no graphics person at all, and all we do is respond to press releases and go to meetings, because that's what our skeleton crew has time for.

It seems to me the bean counters are fulfilling their own prophecy (the one about newspapers dying and no one is reading them anymore) by not reinvesting in their employees. And reinvestment does not only mean to put money into the people CURRENTLY on staff, but also hiring new staff so we can replenish each other's work. We can collaborate on ideas and get back to JOURNALISM, not just telling you on the website that there is an accident at the corner of yada yada and yada yada. Or that a new restaurant is opening up on Friday.

Reader polls tell us what readers want. So, ok, maybe they want to know that that bistro is opening up... but shouldn't we also be giving them what they NEED to know? Most of the time, the reader may not know what they NEED to know. So, it's our job to tell them.

For instance, my friend showed me the current issue of National Geographic this morning. The main story is about High-Tech waste and how all of our old t.v.'s, computer cases and monitors are being sent to Ghana, polluting the area and all the ramifications that occur because of it. Did I know anything about this? No. Did I need to know? Yes. Would I have ever thought once about it before I saw the article? No. But am I glad that NOW, I do know? Absolutely.

The point, blondie?

How do we tell them anything, if there is no one to write the story? Or if the writer/photographer doesn't have time to research the story? If all I'm doing is reacting, then I'm not really being a journalist, am I?

So, here is the scenario. Most journalists didn't get in to journalism for money. Obviously. We got in to it for the purpose, the calling. But, if we are relegated to being reactive, rather than proactive, by simple virtue of lack of time (not for lack of drive), AND we aren't being paid enough to add a certain amount of quality to the REST of our lives, then WTF is the point? It gives one pause, and it makes it at least understandable when you see people leaving to work for the Sheriff's department, or to do PR for the city, rather than bleeding your last drop in to the newspaper.

Forgive me. I am usually optimistic. I'm an idealist. I think there is a way that things SHOULD be, and there's always a possibility of achieving that. But, I'm feeling pretty beat. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up. NO NO. I can't jump ship. I thought about it, believe me, but I can not. I don't know what my life would be without journalism. Not to mention, if EVERYONE jumps ship, then who is left to push against those who are trying to sink it?

My one piece of hope, of solace.... is that those friends of mine, the ones who have left this paper, and the ones still here, AND those of you I have linked to the left, still want to do good work. And YOU are still fighting the good fight. Let's work as hard as possible in 2008 to show the collective THEM that journalism isn't dead. Newspapers ARE NOT dead and show them every day why they still need us.

Now, for pictures. A few of those I will miss, but who are continuing to inspire in work and life.

Jessie Bonner, Tristan Spinski

Jakob Schiller (being held in the arms of his biggest fans)

Jimmie Presley

Tracy Boulian, Garrett Hubbard, David Ahntholz

Darron Silva, Tracy Boulian

Garrett Hubbard


David said...

OH my gosh, every time I see that jumping picture in the studio, I think of how dumb I look!!! :)


lackofintellect said...

I hope your night was good, I owe you one big hug.

Keep on fighting!

Jeremy Cox said...

Extremely well said. You speak for many, I'm sure. It was one of the hardest decisions in my life to leave because I really loved what I did. But I could see the writing on the wall and pretty soon I wasn't going to be able to do that anymore.

Greg K said...

Could not have been said much better than that! 2008 will be the year we show the bean counters what journalists can do.

note_toself said...

Everything you said made me so sad because it's profoundly true! It's a tough business to stay in without making too many compromises. For all of us who have jumped ship -- you must carry the torch! Power on, Lexey. There will always be a place for you in journalism.

chip litherland said...

Hallelujah, sister.