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Reassign beats now, or cut reporters later

In earlier posts, I’ve warned about the impending consolidation of coverage. And here’s a real-world harbinger.

The managing editor for the Winston-Salem Journal was faced with the need to cut his budget. And when looking around the newsroom, he saw the same thing all of us do. Duplication of efforts. So the Journal’s film critic and NFL writer were laid off.

Local film critics for national movies are a vestige of different times. For most markets, there’s no local angle to Mission Impossible 3.

Reassign your reporter now, before it’s too late, to something that might attract new readers. I wonder what the Journal’s managing editor would have covered if he had reassigned that film critic a year ago.

Maybe you’re the film critic. Don’t wait around for this same fate. Convince your editor to use wire copy so you can cover something else. Because when it comes time for the editor to look around the room for cost savings, your beat needs to be local and indispensable.

Sports writers, listen up. If you’re not writing something more than the game story, then you’re next. An editor can get that same gamer from the wire.

Features writers, if what you’re covering is on the wire regularly, then your beat isn’t local enough. Food is a national topic. Travel is a national topic.

Business writers, you’re not immune either. Prominent media types are already advising newspapers to “outsource” all types of coverage.

Death by a thousand cuts. A slow death is happening as newspapers lose writers. Don’t let positions get cut because you didn’t have enough foresight to realize they were being wasted. Maybe circulation declines wouldn’t be so steep today if we’d ensured every beat in the room was local, and couldn’t be replaced by wire copy.

For the reason cuts alone won’t save newspapers, read my comment on Steve Yelvington’s post about outsourcing.

Comments (1)

Spot on, Lucas. The same thing is happening in TV, in the biggest of the big local stations, as I wrote about at http://leeaase.wordpress.com/2006/11/18/dr-max-gomez-out-at-wnbc/.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Reassign beats now, or cut reporters later:

» No one said it would be easy from The Editor's Log
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» At the movies from The Editor's Log
Ken Otterbourg, managing editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, wrote a blog post in which he described letting go five people, including the paper's movie reviewer, Mark Burger, who is also a reviewer on the Two Guys named Chris radio show... [Read More]

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