Thursday, February 19, 2015

FANCY GANNETT FOOTWORK: THE RENAME GAME

As anyone who has any interest whatever in following what's going on in the media already knows, Gannett is currently in the throes of an orgy of job description reinvention and renaming. And to what end?

Gone are simple to understand titles like managing editor, city editor, sports editor, reporter, photographer, copy editor, etc. They're being replaced with long winded, supposedly "digital-age" titles and job descriptions that just make most long-time newspaper veterans' heads hurt.

It seems to me that all of this renaming -- and, in some cases, forcing people to reapply for jobs -- is doing nothing to make it easier for news staffers to understand what their job are (or are supposed to be) or what they are expected to do within the framework of the brand-spanking new titles.

And if the mucks at Gannett think these new monikers are going to make it easier for readers and the general public to understand what news staffers do or who to call when they want to provide a tip, suggest a story or seek news coverage, I think they are dead wrong.

If that's the case, what, if any, purpose does all this renaming frenzy serve? Well, I think it's possible that it's being done, in part, to bedazzle and perhaps confuse investors who are disgruntled that American newspapers are no longer making the borderline obscene profits they once made. After all, a little fancy footwork might make investors think -- at least for the time being -- that you are doing something worthwhile to improve their return on investment.

If you want to see just how ridiculous it's gotten, I suggest you read this Feb. 18 blog post by renowned media blogger Jim Romenesko regarding the job title and job description changes at the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal, which used to be considered one of the nation's top 10 newspaper before Gannett got it hooks into it: http://jimromenesko.com/2015/02/18/louisville-courier-journals-new-job-descriptions-use-young-or-younger-45-times/?fb_comment_id=fbc_797864906955195_797950940279925_797950940279925#f3ebc28f295858.

If you read the Romenesko post, one thing that you may find truly laughable is the bit where Courier-Journal Executive Editor (I guess maybe he gets to keep that title instead something like "Grande Content Poo-Bah) Neil Budde tells readers "the result of that exercise was a revamped set of 'beats' for news and sports. It’s actually a few more beats than we’ve had in recent years."

This evokes a chortle because all of us know that Gannett, which has spent the past several years chopping news staff numbers like a berserk lumberjack, probably has no intention of adding a few more reporters -- or whatever in the heck they're now calling them -- to cover those "few more beats" this exercise in managerial masturbation will supposedly create.

As ridiculous and disturbing as it is, I am actually pretty certain that executives at Gannett are not engaging in all of this title and job description changing with malicious intent. Instead, they probably think, or at least hope, that in the final analysis all of this will contribute to making their newspapers more meaningful, appealing and relevant to readers and potential readers.

However, it seems to me that the thousands and thousands of dollars likely being pumped into this effort would be better spent adding back staffers and training them to find news stories -- REAL news stories, the more hard hitting the better -- and giving them strong play on Page 1 where readers can readily see them and they can contribute to selling newspapers.

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