And no media outlet has been able to put out a better newspaper once it began burning through crucial human capital.
I can't fathom how industry executives could have expected any other outcome: if you have few writers and reporters, you have less time for in-depth coverage, fact-checking and polished writing. Reducing the editorial pool limits your outreach into the community you cover, so you miss more stories and disappoint more readers.
Newspapers that cut editorial staff are slowly starving themselves to death. They'll still fail, but it will take longer and they will lose more money before it happens.
And so I was delighted to read on the Neiman Journalism Lab website this quote from Jim O’Shea, who was fired as editor of The Los Angeles Times in January 2008 for resisting staff cuts.
I long thought that the only way that you’re going to survive in this is you have to invest something in journalism.
You know, people have to understand something: newspapers are a manufacturing industry. And there’s just, at some point, you’re gonna cut it to the point where you won’t be able to get the thing out the door because you don’t have enough employees. And they’re getting dangerously close to that point right now, and I think that people like Russ have to struggle with that everyday. And it’s quite a struggle, but I think you’re getting to a point where, you know, newspapers are going to be a different industry, and they aren’t going to be able to produce the news that’s vital to a democracy if this continues.
I'm not sure what kind of divine or karmic retribution is owed to newspaper CEOs, publishers and business managers who've spent the last five years ignoring their editorial and art staffs' input about new media.
At the very least, they should lose their own jobs.
But surprisingly, few have. Reporters, editors and designers have been laid off in the hundreds; newsrooms have been retrenched.
But most newspapers' executive structure and decision-making process remains unchanged, even as the papers stumble and fail, even until the day the presses shut down and the doors close.
(To read the entire interview with John O'Shea -- and the editor who replaced him at the LA Times -- read O'Shea: "People have to understand something: newspapers are a manufacturing industry" at Nieman Journalism Lab)
Related posts: Newspapers: 10 reasons they can't be saved