Thursday, 17 September 2009

The eternal struggle

The combination of editorial and advertising staff in newspapers should be a wonderful thing of symbiotic bliss.
A mutual sharing of ideas, concepts and schemes designed to make our papers greater and better than they were the week before.
Why then is it such a fucking hellish marriage of pain, anger, frustration, and paranoia?
My first response is mangement greed, my second is advertising staff's ignorance.
Since I started in newspapers back in the early 90s I have pleaded for a weekly/monthly meeting between editorial and advertising staff (not just managers).
It is an opportunity to air grievances, deal with customer complaints or sort out new projects or campaigns.
But mainly it's an opportunity to explain why editorial bothers to bring out a newspaper worth reading each week.
It's never happened.
In my career I have met only a handful of ad staff who really care and understand about the products they sell and why local papers exist.
My very favourite used to have a quiz at the start of the week to test her staff about the paper's content.
Most don't give a fuck, however.
Having said all that I am still a great fan of my advertising staff.
There, I said it.
I am a great fan of my advertising staff, even though I know they are not mine.
There, I told the truth.
The reason why I like sales is because it keeps me in a (lowly paid) job.
So I help them with tips by telling them about new shops, promotions or businesses with something to say. Convert that into cash, earn some bonus.
Or I give their best customers a few puff nibs or a slot in my business pages just to keep everyone sweet.
I come up with commercial ideas -some very lucrative -and I am present at meetings of the serious spenders. Mostly nodding and smiling (it's v. hard).
I know all their names and will generally bend over backwards to help out.
This alone should earn me a little kudos, you would think.
But the problem is I also care what my paper looks like.
We're a free so editorial space versus cash per page is a major issue.
Premium pages sell for more, so it figures the space up front they try to limit.
But I'm one of those old fashioned types of boss. The crazy sort who knows if there is nothing to read, there is also nothing to sell.
I'm also a hard-nosed, mean, manipulative bitch who knows exactly what to say and whose buttons to push to get what I want.
And I generally get what I want.
That is until recently when we surrendered a lot of space due to recession/credit crunch cost cutting.
We allowed advertising to sell more than we wanted on the proviso we got it all back once holiday season was over.
Well summer's over and those pesky ads are still spoiling my papers.
In fact they are ruining my papers.
So battle lines are drawn and favours are revoked.
Squeeze in ads over deadline - fuck you.
Front page promotions for ad features - fuck you.
Favours for clients - fuck you.
Fuck me - fuck you.
I don't do this lightly or in a spirit of belligerence.
I do this to save my newspapers. To stop the money hungry, management whores from selling everything we own to make a monthly budget figure.
My only goal in life is to carry on bringing out newspapers until I turn grey, drunk and shouty.
Give an inch and advertising will sell a mile.
It's time to claw something back for our readers.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Dinosauraus extinctus?

Are curmudgeonly old hacks in the newsroom a good thing?
In my opinion they are. I would even go further and demand they are in the newsroom.
I am prompted to make this plea after reading two particularly interesting stream of comments on blogs on UKPG and the Meeja Guardian.
In a nutshell both contain criticism and immediate defence of two veteran newsmen. One is described as a "a repulsive bully and a dinosaur - the type of which is, luckily, dying out in british (sic) newsrooms". The other "tough and abrasive" and a "handful".
This is exactly what our increasingly clinical newsrooms need.
One reporter's bully is another's mentor. One's abrasion is another's passion.
The interesting thing about these so called 'dinosaurs' is there is more support for their type of journalism than their detractor's condemnation of their style.
And, in the case of one, support comes from some seriously heavy hitters.
I love grumpy old bastard hacks. I always have.
Jesus, I should, I will be one soon.
I don't care they are rude, or upset people. I love it.
After all, with sometimes more than thirty years in the business don't you think they deserve the right to moan? Most of you are bitching after just 18 months in.
Their experience and contacts alone are worth five cocky young 'uns who think they can change the face of journalism in their first year after leaving college clutching a grubby media and communications degree (2:2 clearly).
You can learn more from a 'dinosaur' in ten minutes than you can in a month from your 24-year-old news editor who got the promotion because he happened to be the only senior in the office during the recruitment freeze.
Dinosaurs generally drink too much, have little or no desire to conform, hate the management and take a lot to get motivated.
They have been there, done that and got the free t-shirt from the PR.
But get them excited about a tale and watch the show.
The distinction must be made, however, between the passionate, ageing hack and the old fart destined to be taken outside and shot.
Both may be equally cantankerous, awkward and obnoxious.
But one still loves the job and is invaluable and the other is an old fart who should have been fired years ago but now it will cost too much. Management are just hoping they will die soon.
I don't like their negativity and I don't like their stink.
For the truly great old hacks treat them like you would a flea bitten yet cuddly, slightly lame, dog.
Take the piss and poke them all you like but don't be surprised when the evil fucker bites you.