Friday, June 3, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Today at work: New computer and two new monitors. I previously had one monitor. I think this will be a good thing in the long run. But for today, I am in a constant state of confusion about which monitor to look at for which application, and those applications have been updated and therefore are running nothing like they used to. However, I'm told only 12 newsroom staffers got the double-monitor treatment. So I'll just say thank you and buck up and try to get used to the new configuration.

At the same time, because I work for a newspaper, we are looking at another year of budget cuts ahead. That news came today at the same time techs were putting in my expensive new hardware. Thankfully, we'll have no layoffs. But we are going to have to increase our skill sets. Here's what that means:

At small town newspapers, where most of us journalists get our start, the staff is tiny and we all do everything. If you're a reporter, you also take photos, post stories online and maybe do some editing. If you're a copy editor, you also wire edit and design pages. Move up to a bigger paper, and the jobs become more specialized. Nowadays, I copy edit three days a week and wire edit two days a week and that's it.

What we're being told now is that we need to learn to do more things: create graphics, post photo galleries online, design pages, do a photo edit. In other words, the big newspapers are moving toward more of a small-town structure. That's because we're making do with fewer staffers all the time, and (for example) the overworked graphics department might not have time to format an Associated Press graphic - so a copy desk staffer would need to do it him/herself.

It's impossible to tell at this point whether the decline in newspapers will flatten out, at which point the industry can redefine itself for the technological era. At this point, we have yet to hit bottom.

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