A good fit

Considering the state of daily newspapers, I made the right move

I’ve heard from many readers over the last week, congratulating me on my promotion to editor and wishing me success in the position. It’s been nice to hear from these community members, a majority of whom I’ve never even met.

Some folks remember me from my days as a reporter at the Chico Enterprise-Record, where I worked for four years. One of them asked me how I ended up going from such a conservative paper to a more liberal one. Good reporting and writing, I responded. Former CN&R Editor Evan Tuchinsky poached me from the E-R back in 2007, and I haven’t looked back. Evan didn’t hold my workplace against me. He was rightly interested in whether I could report well and tell a story in the process.

No matter the public’s perception of a newspaper, there’s no substitution for those skills.

For me, the CN&R has been a good fit both professionally and personally. We have healthy debate in the office more than one might imagine, but it’s true I’m surrounded by people who in many cases share similar views on important issues. Plus, it’s an all-around good working environment, which is a rarity these days for those in the newspaper biz, especially at the daily papers, where I still have friends.

Morale is down because people are getting furloughed or laid off, and when somebody is dismissed or flees for a better-paying job, they’re not being replaced. Just last week, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its full-time photography staff. That included a Pulitzer Prize winner. The paper’s reporters are now being trained to use iPhones, for photos as well as video to be uploaded to social-networking sites, according to a leaked memo.

As a journalist, I read and hear a lot about the changing state of my profession. More than ever, papers are trying, most unsuccessfully, to draw advertising to their websites. It’s all about Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. Reporters are required to tweet and beg friends and family to “like” their company’s page. It reeks of desperation.

I understand the concept of change or die, but when that change comes at the expense of quality journalism, which it has, it’s pretty depressing. But it’s more than that. In reality, stories are going untold, and thus the community is less informed. Some might argue that getting info out quickly over the Web makes the community more informed. I doubt it. It’s hard to do that in 140 characters.

Sure, the CN&R has Facebook and Twitter accounts, but we don’t devote a ton of energy to them. We’re a small staff, so we concentrate on the important stuff: reporting and writing well. The printed paper remains our bread and butter, even in the digital age. The result is that we’re the only outlet in town writing 3,000-word in-depth cover stories about local issues and people week in and week out.

Someday, when their readers finally flee or die off, daily newspapers are going to regret this misplaced focus. I’m confident the CN&R and other alternative newspapers will be here when that happens.