Sep 1, 2010

The Deseret News cuts nearly half its staff, and other riddles of language

The Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City and owned by the Mormon Church, has announced that it will axe 43 percent of its newsroom staff - 57 full-time and 47 part-time employees. But rather than let the obvious shock settle in over the fact that the 143-year-old paper is hacking at its bones, management threw up all kinds of flares, fireworks and fancy neologisms to cast the layoffs as part of a creative disruption reinvention system that will add to and improve the paper's coverage.

Less is more, in other words, using the latest in media jargon. Here's one of the executives, quoted by Ken Doctor, explaining why layoffs won't hurt coverage:
“That’s an Old Media world view,” Deseret News President and CEO Clark Gilbert told me today. “We have access to more journalists, hyperlocal contributors, national sports figures than ever before.”
Doctor's piece goes on to explain all kinds of things the Deseret News is up to, from its values-based missionary journalism to its labeling of journalists as Rewrite/First Responders.

Some of the ideas might work. But I suspect most of these overly intellectualized plans are going to fail unless and until the Deseret News, and all other expand-by-shrinking media companies, can figure out what they want to do and explain it to themselves in plain language (can you imagine putting Rewrite/First Responder on your resume?). Words that describe actions, not words meant to convey the idea of activity.

No comments: