Profits and efficiency.

I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again, especially now that I’m living in a Top-10 media market: I preferred the news on the below-100 stations in Fort Wayne. I can’t tell you why, except that it’s more interesting, in the way that amateurs are more thrilling than professionals, that people who don’t get it right are funnier than those who do, that a brow yet unlined by time is better than one unlined by Botox. It’s news without a net.

Fort Wayne is an entry-level media market, and sometimes it seemed the whole news operation had been turned over to high-school kids. You became accustomed to seeing reporters so young they looked as though they weren’t ready to shave. Since only a fool watches TV news in Fort Wayne to get the actual news, I watched for the other entertainment — the manic head-nodding as the anchor tossed to the live stand-up; the mispronunciations of the simplest place names; the goofy, puppylike enthusiasm you only see in those who haven’t had it beaten out of them by consultants and bosses and other villains.

Compared to the slick androids of Detroit news operations, I’ll take the raw material. Much more amusing.

So, that said, it seems a bit strange to be getting on a high horse to defend the lost newsroom of Fort Wayne on journalism grounds. Is community coverage really going to suffer with one fewer TV news operation? Maybe, but probably not. It still pisses me off. When reporters lose their jobs to increase profits and “efficiency,” it’s not good news.

Here’s a prediction: In the days to come, very few voices will be heard on this issue. Maybe one of the papers will write an editorial; perhaps a columnist will clear his throat for a few paragraphs. The tone will be sad, but not very — there are new realities in the business of journalism, which is, we must always remember, a business. No mention will be made in any of these columns of the current business climate in the city’s print operations; my old paper is now approaching a staff level of maybe 60 percent of its high, four years ago. Circulation is falling off the table, which contributes to the cost-cutting cycle. Does anyone make the connection that perhaps people are dropping the paper because it’s now filled with wire copy, rather than locally written stories? Of course they know this. But they don’t care. This is, we must always remember, a business. The day is coming soon when there will be one fewer print newsroom in the city, too, and some things shouldn’t be said too loudly.

This is wrong. The idea that people who profit from the public airwaves should serve the public is positively antique, but it was a good one, and I’m sorry to see it go.

Yes, journalism is a business. So is plastics. But plastics doesn’t get mentioned in the first amendment. Journalism does. And guess what else. All those reporters at Channel 33? They were fed peanuts. A few folks made a decent buck there, but in a market like that, there are plenty of staffers who are eating ramen noodles three nights a week.

OK, that’s the end of that rant.

I think the evening update will come back for a while. I need a more structured morning, a more active morning, and mostly, I miss the nightly dinner menu reports. Tonight: Salmon Cooked on Salt, from the new Gourmet cookbook. It’s so cool — pour two cups of kosher salt into a dry cast-iron skillet, heat it up, place a salmon filet on top, cover and uncover 12 minutes later to find a perfectly cooked piece o’ fish. Serve with cucumber dill sauce, asparagus and au gratin potatoes, plus a nice chardonnay. Mmm, don’t you wish you were invited tonight?

No dessert, but I think there are some ice-cream sandwiches in the freezer, if you’re still hungry.

Back tomorrow.

Posted at 10:03 pm in Uncategorized |
 

18 responses to “Profits and efficiency.”

  1. ashley said on March 10, 2005 at 1:19 am

    “The idea that people who profit from the public airwaves should serve the public is positively antique, but it was a good one, and I’m sorry to see it go.”

    NO NO NO!

    After the revolution, it will go back to this. Corporations will be responsible to their customers, to the environment, and to their employees. Lastly, they will be responsible to their shareholders.

    After the revolution, there will once again be rules in place that a single company can own multiple media outlets in the same market….and can own only a few in all. No more CapCities, Fox, ClearChannel, or the rest of big media.

    This, for no other reason than the fact that we are approaching critical mass: there will be only a handful of global media outlets, all spewing the same company line. Consolidation and globalization means that we are fast approaching post-capitalism.

    How many people would rather pay for news from online sources than get it free over the airwaves? How many would rather pay for entertainment than get it from broadcast TV?

    Hasta la victoria, siempre.

  2. Joe said on March 10, 2005 at 7:36 am

    Profit? what profit. The company that did all this in the fort reported a huge loss.

    Joe

  3. Nance said on March 10, 2005 at 8:37 am

    Yes, I know that, Joe, which is interesting, because basically you can make a 40 percent profit on a TV station without even trying. I’m not sure what makes up the whole of Granite broadcasting, but I can almost guarantee you the loss came from somewhere else.

  4. Jeff said on March 10, 2005 at 9:10 am

    . . .while newspaper circ is dropping faster than i would have even thought in my worst TV-phobic nightmares. Where’theck are the eyeballs going, anyway? TV stations slashing hours for part-time reporters who weren’t making squat anyhow, and newspapers in freefall: is everyone just going to B&N for Starbucks, WiFi, and the new Dan Brown?

    Say, that’s not a bad idea. But i do have an ice cream sandwich in the freezer. . .

  5. Connie said on March 10, 2005 at 9:20 am

    Dinner menu report: 4 cheese baked macaroni and cheese, considered a special treat at our house, and promised in response to kid’s request to feed boyfriend for dinner. I’ve served it several times to groups of her friends, from several of whom I have heard that this is their first time with real home made mac and cheese. Deprived childhoods.

  6. Randy said on March 10, 2005 at 9:35 am

    Nancy,

    I have had nearly the same dinner, except here’s another way to prepare the salmon – get a cedar plank from your grocery store or fish market, soak it in water for a day, then put the salmon on the plank, and put it on the pre-heated BBQ, placed on the side opposite the lit burner. Close lid and cook on low heat for 10 – 12 minutes.

    It’s important to soak the plank for a whole day. The first time I soaked it for just an hour. After six minutes I found the plank ablaze and the salmon black. Not so good.

  7. brian stouder said on March 10, 2005 at 9:41 am

    didja notice that the buy-price for WISE (the goat) was $44 million, and the sell-price for WPTA (the jewel) was $45 million? Only a 2% difference in value from Alpha to Omega?

    How much money is ‘saved’ when you whack 50-60 people? If you assume an average salary/benefits expense per person of $40k – then we’re talking more than $2.5 million “savings” per year…

    so I would not be resting comfortably at all, if I worked at WPTA.

    The last day there must have been like Mary Tyler Moore’s ‘Mary Richards’ when WJM went down…

  8. John said on March 10, 2005 at 10:07 am

    It’s a long way to Tipperary….

  9. Dorothy said on March 10, 2005 at 11:19 am

    Connie – my former boss in Cincinnati told me about the time his wife (Dee) was making homemade mac and cheese. She actually was grating the cheese by hand to go into the dish. Friend of their son’s who was invited to eat with them that night was astonished. He had never had homemade mac & cheese either, let alone see someone grate the cheese by hand. (I’m not quite as domestic as Dee – I don’t hand grate my cheese – but then again I use chunks of Velveeta Light!)

  10. 4dbirds said on March 10, 2005 at 11:21 am

    Connie, Do you share your recipe for that 4 cheese mac? Mac and cheese sounds particularly yummy right now. Thanks.

  11. mary said on March 10, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Isn’t the Gourmet cookbook great? Another recent find, although not nearly as huge and comprehensive is the Barefoot Contessa Family Cookbook. My kids gave it to me for my birthday. The turkey lasagna is a huge hit here, as are the spaghetti and meatballs. Homemade tasting but better. Another good kitchen reference is How to Read a French Fry.

  12. KCK said on March 10, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    There will be animatronic “news”-bots to replace the current “news”-actors

  13. Mindy said on March 10, 2005 at 2:59 pm

    Connie — I would love that M&C recipe as well if you would be so kind as to post it. Sounds heavenly with four cheeses. The M&C I make comes from The American Century Cookbook by Jean Anderson and claims to the recipe used by most people before the dawn of the Blue Box era.

    That’s a terrific cookbook and a fun read. Deserves to be on Nance’s nightstand.

  14. Jonathan Dresner said on March 10, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    I have the same reaction to minor league baseball that you do to small-market newscasts: it’s a much more human endeavor, more empathy-inducing.

    No easy solutions to the news/profit nexus, clearly. Except that people need to support local news operations, with subscriptions, with suggestions and tips, with advertising dollars. That would help. Some.

  15. Mark Thompson-Kolar said on March 10, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    After I moved away from the Fort, I found I missed the local newscasts and truly disliked the Detroit newscasts. Initially I thought it was because the Motor City ones were just bulging with man’s inhumanity to man and they didn’t at all cover my little suburb of 25,000 people, but time has shown that that “amateur”-feeling style actually was kind of a plus– it contributed to the feeling that a Fort Wayne TV personality might actually live down the block from you, shop at the same store as you, and get her oil changed at the same Jiffy Lube. And there’s a lot less actual news to fill a half-hour of airtime in Fort Wayne than there is in Detroit, so there’s more scrambling to find topics, even hokey ones. In Detroit, it’s so predictable: the particularly grisly homicide of the day, an armed robbery, a major traffic snarl, weather for tomorrow, and maybe yet another special report of an egregious example of waste at City Hall. And I have no illusions that the personalities live in a lower-cost suburb like mine.

    Dinner tonight: A whole bag of broccoli, with thousand island dressing, and a whole bottle of Mango rum.

  16. Connie said on March 10, 2005 at 9:20 pm

    I will be glad to share the mac and cheese recipe with you, give me a day or two to type it up, or check Amazon or your local library for Macaroni and Cheese by Joan Schwartz, page 26. I heard about it on “Fresh Air” and knew I had to have it. Though I do feel some guilt about providing you with a recipe that contains 1 and a quarter sticks of butter, 1 cup of heavy cream, and six and a half cups of cheese. A very occasional special meal at our house.

  17. mary said on March 11, 2005 at 1:22 pm

    Connie

    You could serve Zocor chip cookies for dessert.

  18. Connie said on March 13, 2005 at 8:42 pm

    Mac and cheese recipe has been emailed to 4dbirds and Mindy in response to their requests.