Things are getting a little sketchy at the Burlington Free Press, Vermont’s ever-dwindling Largest Newspaper. I’ve got several items to report; none merited separate posts, but they make a nice collective bundle.
— Things are worse inside 100 Bank Street than I thought. And I thought things were pretty damn bad, what with almost every news staffer being forced to reapply for jobs and a new era of clickbait-oriented, sales-friendly journalism about to begin. Er, sorry, that’s the Newsroom Of The Future.
But as Paul Heintz reported in Wednesday’s Fair Game column, the pursuit of clickbait is already in progress:
Sources say that editors have become increasingly focused on web metrics in recent months. Reporters are expected to monitor the number of clicks their stories receive on a daily basis and rejigger headlines and copy to boost readership.
Oh joy. Not only are they allowing reader metrics to determine which stories they cover, they’re rewriting stories and headlines after the fact in hopes of goosing the pageviews. That’s gotta grind at the soul of any self-respecting journalist.
And things will only get worse in the NOTF, when a “Content Coach” will be monitoring pageviews and “coaching” reporters who don’t measure up. (“Say, Terri, any way you could mention the Kardashians in that school-consolidation snoozer?”)
— Speaking of self-respecting journalists, remember the Columbus Day tag team Tweetwar that erupted between The Freeploid’s Mike Donoghue and Adam Silverman in one corner, and Seven Days’ Mark Davis and Paul Heintz in the other? Donoghue and Silverman were vociferously defending the honor of their employer.
Well, interesting thing about that. As Heintz reported on Wednesday, Donoghue and Silverman are two of only four news staffers who are exempt from the reapplication process. No wonder they’re singing the praises of the Freeploid: they got a pass, and won’t have to go through the demeaning and degrading ordeal of having to re-interview at their current employer.
— Speaking of demeaning and degrading, ace journalism watchdog Jim Romenesko reports that Gannett is offering opportunities for current staffers to, ahem, adjust to the Newsroom Of The Future. Gannett’s holding a virtual re-education camp with seminars on subjects like: How to perform well when interviewing for one of the new jobs, writing “sharper” headlines, achieving better SEO for stories, using social media to “establish your brand and personality,” and “cleaning your copy.” The latter will be crucial because the NOTF will include far fewer copy editors, and reporters will be expected to submit publication-ready stories.
You know, if by some hellish circumstance I was offered a job at Bank Street, I’d turn it down. It’s sounding like a truly awful place to work.
— Speaking of truly awful, my Friday Freeploid arrived with a big fat section on pink newsprint. The front page bore the image of a pink ribbon, the Freeploid’s Circle-B logo, and the title “Making Strides: Breast Cancer Awareness.” Inside were a handful of heartwarming articles about cancer survivors and people involved in fundraising, treatment, and research.
But mostly, the 32 pages (!) were full of advertisements by local businesses proclaiming their support for the fight against breast cancer.
Nowhere, as far as I could see, was there any statement that any of the hefty proceeds from this special section would go to cancer research or treatment. Nope, it was the Freeploid cashing in on an emotionally appealing cause. And their many advertisers doing the same.
— Finally, an odd note from late Saturday night. Apparently, the Newsroom Of The Future was empty except for the gray countenance of Executive Editor and Chief Corporate Shill Michael Townsend, because Townsend himself was sending out a stream of Tweets about stories on the Freeploid’s webpage. And one of ’em was a real headscratcher.
That’s odd, I thought. So I clicked on the link, which took me to an article about Entergy’s announcement on Friday that decommissioning Vermont Yankee will cost $1.24 billion.
But WTF is with Townsend’s gratuitous shot at single payer health care? The article has nothing to do with health care reform.
Maybe Mike was sitting at his desk on a Saturday night, Tweeting his brains out and drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Kentucky’s finest. Otherwise, how can you explain this out-of-nowhere shot at Governor Shumlin’s top priority? It was certainly unbecoming for the Freeploid’s number one exemplar of the Newsroom Of The Future.
Here’s a protip for “establishing your brand” on social media, Mike: Measure twice, Tweet once.