Apr 10, 2008

Forced migrations (updated)

The consolidation of LANG-east continues with word that all pre-press operations - creative services, ad services, imaging, pagination - for the San Gabriel Valley papers is being moved to the San Bernardino Sun.

Between 15 and 20 people will be affected by the relocation plan, but not all of them in the same way. One-on-one interviews are scheduled for Friday to decide who gets to make the 40-mile trek out to Sun headquarters and who gets to file for unemployment.

Blogger Paul Oberjuerge chronicles some of the other forced migrations between the newlywed papers (he also mentions a rumor I've heard that MediaNews is selling its building in Ontario). Since some people might rather quit than take on an 80-mile-a-day commute on clogged freeways with record gas prices, this is one way to thin the work-force without having to fire anybody.

One person who did just that after the papers decided to experiment with a consolidated copy desk is Mark Masek*. He ran the copy desk while I was an editor at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and is one of the nicest people I ever worked with. Here's part of a comment he left on Oberjuerge's blog:

I can’t say whether a combined copy desk would have been a good idea, considering all the issues related to coverage, communication, work flow and processes, etc., and also considering the MediaNews financial picture and long-term plans. It might have been a good idea — perhaps the only possible idea — but none of the people who were actually expected to do the work were involved at all in any discussions or planning for the move. We were simply told to pack up our desks, drive out to San Bernardino, knock on the door, and see what happens.

This was part of the prevailing atmosphere of fear, secrecy, mis-information and arrogance in the newsroom. They didn’t come to us and say, “Here’s our situation, here’s what we’re facing, and here’s what we want to do. You know the copy desk operations, what works and what doesn’t. Since you work on this every day, you might even have some suggestions or ideas that we hadn’t thought of. Now, how can we make this work?” Instead, they shipped us out with no plan, and told us to make it work. The fact that they brought the copy desk back a few months later shows the success of their way of doing things.

Management certainly has a right to run things the way they want, and allocate their resources however they want. I won’t argue that point. I didn’t quit because of what they did. I quit because of the way they did it.

*Masek did have another reason for leaving LANG: He got a job at the Los Angeles Times.


Mike Rappaport said...

It's sad to think about the soon-to-be-demised Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, at least in terms of the building.

For years before Media News came in, those of us who worked at the Bulletin took pride in the fact that we were a much better paper than Gannett's red-headed stepchild in San Bernardino.

We had better writers, better photographers and better editors, and we consistently kicked their ass.

Then Media News put Steve Lambert -- the Sun's editor -- in charge of both papers, and all of a sudden, we were the red-headed stepchild.

It's a shame. The Bulletin was a pretty good paper for its size, and very profitable.

It's obvious that's why Singleton wanted it, so why did he kill it?

Anonymous said...

From all your friends at the Sun, thank you for your kind comments. You're right, we were in awe of everything you did, especially your ability to get away with sleeping at your desk

Anonymous said...

C'mon Steve, don't take it too personal.

Anonymous said...

It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.

Mike Rappaport said...

Funny thing about anonymous posters. It's easy to tell when they're lying.

I didn't have any friends at the Sun.

As for the dozing, there were reasons, but I never made any excuses. I didn't have to. I could have slept four hours a day and still get everything I needed to get done.

Funny thing is, I wasn't attacking y'all. As for "red-headed stepchild," well, take a look at how often Gannett gets rid of good papers. Not real often.

All I was trying to say is it was sad what happened to the Daily Bulletin.

Words don't bother me any these days. I never have to work another day in my life if I don't want to, and whoever wrote that is still working for Dean Singleton.

Sorry about that, dude.

Gina T. said...

I'm only guessing here Mike, but I think that some of the aggression - directed a bit at you this time - is because it's hard to reminisce when it feels like everything so many worked so hard for is being ripped apart. Nostalgia seems like a luxury. I worked for both The Sun and Bulletin and was proud to be part of both. But what some of us are experiencing now - you included - is just something that was tossed around as a joke over beers. Even "The Simpsons" called out that print media is dying. I have to admit, my first reaction when I read your entry was "Oh Mike, stop with the look back. We've been over this ground." I understand where you're coming from. But it's so hard to go there right now.

Mike Rappaport said...

Gina, I was so sorry to hear what happened to you. You deserved a lot better.

Gina T. said...

Thank you Mike. I appreciate the sentiment. I was alarmed to hear about what happened with you. You had devoted so much of your life to the Bulletin and did great work. You deserved better too.