Old Stream Media Confronts New Reality
Author: Norman Kjono
Article Published: 30 November 2007
“There’s trouble all around for theTimes — the paper has announced a hiring freeze and has cut staffers while its stock takes a beating on Wall Street. In a memo sent to employees on Wednesday, the Times’ Executive Editor Bill Keller stated: ‘As we approach 2008, it is clear that the newsroom is going to have to do even more to tighten spending, and to help the publisher and the Times Company meet the difficult financial challenges facing our industry.’ The paper is eliminating about a dozen support positions and trimming ‘a number of’ clerical and secretarial jobs, according to the memo obtained by Reuters. Keller also told employees: ‘We put into place a hiring freeze several weeks ago, and except for those jobs that are critically important to our future ambitions, we will be trying to fill [the fired workers’] positions internally.’ Also on Wednesday, an analyst with Banc of America Securities downgraded shares of the newspaper’s parent, the New York Times Co., lowering its rating from ‘neutral’ to ‘sell.’ Analyst Joe Arns said the company is his least favorite in the newspaper publishing sector, and lowered his target price on the stock from $21 to $14.”
It has been said that energy always balances; what one puts out always comes around. Few institutions have earned the right of experiencing that reality more strongly than the New York Times. The Times has been spewing anti-tobacco swill for more than a decade, its editors never saw a smoking ban mandate or cigarette tax that they didn’t love. The Times is now following true to form with its rote repetition of the anti-obesity agenda. Having squandered their venerable institution’s credibility – and therefore its economic viability -- on the altar of Social Marketing Gospel according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ orchestrated intolerance, The Times now responds with internal memos about filling positions of persons it fired internally. The Times apparently overlooks the fact that that an integrity-crippled institution cannot solve its core credibility problems by sending pink slips to a few of its lowest paid support employees.
First in line, no doubt, for trimming from The Times payroll would be those who lawfully consume legal tobacco products, are overweight, or engage in other “Healthy Lifestyle” violations of political dogma. God forbid an employee would eat a cheeseburger and fries off the job. Follow that meal up with a smoke and one’s job is toast. The paper could engage in a vain attempt to restore its credibility by writing a new series of articles about how it is at the “forefront of progressive employment policy” by rooting out “Healthy Lifestyle” miscreants from its work force. It could also trim its benefits overhead by demanding that employees who allegedly impose undue risk to its bottom line profits pay a higher share of health insurance, then increase the co-pays, too.
There probably is not much room for belt tightening in the news room, however. How does a newspaper further trim costs when the news room has been reduced to a small group of automatons that rip special-interest press releases off the fax, read enough to spice up the headline, then push out the release’s pap the public without a hint of critical thought, as if it were legitimate news? As far as public health is concerned The Times could replace its news reporters with a pharmaceutical press release routing program. I sincerely doubt that its readers would notice any difference in the news content.
We must be mindful of the written tobacco control policy, now firmly imbedded in the War on Fat as well, that drives current news about important public health news reports. That policy was clearly stated by tobacco control April 1993, in booklets published for Project ASSIST participating states. Page 22 from “Planning for a Tobacco Free Washington:”
Strategy: . . . the most effective way to reduce smoking rates is to decrease public tolerance of tobacco use.
Policy: Changing public acceptance of tobacco use will require policy change, a critical ingredient of societal change.
Increasing the price of tobacco products
Social change requires that people receive persistent and consistent messages from sources they trust. To this end ASSIST resources will be used to generate a variety of media messages that will foster and strengthen public support for proposed policy changes. (Underline added.)
Folks have certainly heard “persistent and consistent” messages from The Times about the War on Tobacco and the War on Fat. Problem for The Times is that public trust has also been severely violated by its lock-step promotion of “media messages that will foster and strengthen public support for proposed policy changes.” When a news institution as venerable asonce was chooses to substitute Social Marketing sound bites for investigative reporting it squanders its stock in trade. When stoking the flames of orchestrated intolerance of “Target Groups” replaces cogent statements about important issues in editorial columns that speaks loudly to the credibility of editors. When critical thought and analysis in the news room is replaced by creative invention of agenda spin we all lose. It is indeed unfortunate that the first to feel the economic pain of The Times’ editors’ previous policies are the lower salaried staff in support positions.
The above News Max November 29, 2007 article excerpts above is one more in a growing number of articles about old stem press travails and editorial policies. I reported about similar situations at The Seattle Times in my October 13, 2002 commentary Leadership by Example. My August 29, 2002 commentary New York, A Brody-Free Zone, went to the heart of Social Marketing intolerance at the New York Times. The subject of old stream media reports has also discussed this year in my commentaries Dear Mr. Fancher II, and The Light Begins to Break Through II.
There is no mystery about what old stream media confronts. The internet is fast replacing printed news papers as the principal news source and advertising revenues shift accordingly. As newspapers such as The New York Times produce online content they confront competition from others who are not part of – and often, like Forces and myself, outright reject -- the old stream media format of Social Marketing as credible news. In short, formerly venerable institutions such as the Seattle Times and the New York Times have found it difficult to compete in the open marketplace of earnest inquiry and freedom of thought. Having squandered their credibility stock in trade on the altar of Social Marketing such news institutions find it difficult to compete in the new market that Internet technology has created.
To turn things around editors at the New York times and Seattle times need to grasp the reality that the same old Social Marketing as news pap is still the same old pap, even when published in a shiny new medium such as the Internet.