PAPERBOY EXTRA: Dead Man Whining

printisdead.thumbnail.jpgBY AMY Z. QUINN Courtesy our friends at the Washington (D.C.) City Paper, a cautionary tale about how to make make your newspaper’s online and print operations hate each other with only the contempt that bitter mid-career journalists can muster (hint: moving them to a different building might dilute the whole ‘we’re on the same team’ thing).

Many people in the Post newsroom would prefer that their peers at washingtonpost.com restrict themselves to technical stuff. Post the brilliant news stories that come from 15th and L, put together slide shows, edit the videos, and go home. But it doesn’t work that way.

Of the 100 employees on the editorial side of washingtonpost.com, 10 provide content of one sort orskeleton2.jpeg another, a count that jumps to 20 if you add in contract writers and bloggers. Once their bylines go up on the Web, they become the competition.

These Arlington-based professionals work in a place that they commonly refer to as a “newsroom,” a point that short-circuits longtime Posties. “They have this thing called the news desk,” says one. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s not what our news desk does.”

Duplication of functions has a way of offending journalists who are feeling the pain of budget cuts. Why is dot-com paying for nightlife coverage and political coverage when the main newsroom does the same things—and is losing staff via early retirement offers and attrition?

Yes I’m driven to sigh by that last question there, because surely someone understands that the dot-com versions of the newspapers are FORCED to duplicate coverage to produce web content (like videos, blogs etc.) because the “real” journalists, the ones quoted sounding so amazingly, deludedly snobbish, either can’t or won’t learn how to do those things? Or because the newsroom labor unions still act like everything about the media has changed except the expectations placed on its members, and that they still really only work for the printed newspaper?

Just a thought.

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