“It’s worth fighting for”

This evening at the Trib, editor in chief Janet Coats sat in a rolling chair in the center of the newsroom while everyone gathered around for the latest news on layoffs.

She went over the list of who was layed off and why. Then she reexplained that 10 more layoffs were to come in the following weeks and how the newsroom would start reorganizing around its new business model.

It was a hard plan for some people to accept. The fact Janet made up her own crazy new business model for a newspaper without a prototype or any idea where it would take her was frightening to a lot of people. They didn’t seem to like an emphasis on changing the reporting model to focus on immediacy instead of the beat system. That didn’t stop her.

There would be mistakes, she said. And sometimes those in charge would fuck up. But there is nothing else to do.

“We can see a better future for journalism right across the bridge on the other side, but the bridge is on fire, and if we just stand here, we are going to burn up with it.”

A few hands shot up into the air.

“Does this mean the Tribune isn’t bringing in any profits?” someone asked

“The Tribune hasn’t been bringing in profits for a long time … This isn’t about profit margins anymore … We weren’t even in the black this year.”

“How is this new model going to affect our competition with The St. Petersburg Times?”

That set Janet off on quite a diatribe.

First, she said people needed to stop thinking of the Times as competition. She said she understood that it’s hard to think that way when the paper is right across the Bay, but that it is the truth. Not every story will be covered and it won’t be covered in the same way the SPT will cover it. The Trib simply doesn’t have the resources for the old business model.

“I hope (The St. Petersburg Times) keeps doing more of the same,” she said. “I’d like to see them try and do it with a reduced staff. It will only make us stronger.”

Then she dropped the reality bomb:

“People need to stop looking at TBO.com as an add on to The Tampa Tribune,” she said. “The truth is that The Tampa Tribune is an add on to TBO.”

Wow. Someone said that? And that someone was the editor in chief? But wait… there’s more.

She continued from this point, saying she wasn’t sure, but that this had to be a step in the right direction. If we don’t move, she said, newspapers will continue their “death spiral – because that’s what this is.”

She compared newspapers to the music industry. Having increased access to music has undermined the corporate giants of the music industry. They are not making money, but demand is just as high if not higher than it ever has been.

That’s how the news is, she said. There is a high demand for it, but with abundant access to it, it’s time to rethink how we can carve out a niche. Her idea? Hyperlocal journalism.

A sports reporter in the Tallahassee bureau was layed off for no other reason other than the fact that it didn’t make sense to keep a full-time staff member there. The layoff was purely geographic. It’s better to keep one more reporter in Tampa than a sports reporter in a town about four hours north of Tampa.

Now there will be more of an emphasis on the hyperlocal and giving the community news about itself. If they want national news, they have several national news sources to get it. Instead, the Trib should be used to give the community something they can’t get from the NY Times or WaPo. Give them their news.

Through most of this meeting, I just wanted to shout, “Amen!” and “You go girl!” because Janet understands what’s up. She can see the trend in the industry: Innovate or obliterate. She stressed more than several times that if newspapers don’t change then NEWSPAPERS WILL DIE.

It’s hard, she admitted. Sometimes she feels temptation to get out of this business and join PricewaterhouseCoopers where she can have a decent salary and lifestyle. But then she thinks of the role of a news organization, and she knows she could never do that.

“This is who I am,” Janet said. “If you asked me who I am, I would first respond that I’m a journalist – probably before I even said I’m a mother.”

Janet believes in the news industry. She believes in holding government, media and the public accountable. And she knows there is not another job that makes such a huge difference and weilds such power. News organizations offer society so much, and that is why she cannot take another job – because journalism is her calling, and she knows there is nothing else she could ever imagine herself doing.

“It’s worth fighting for,” Janet said.

Out of all her quoteable moments, those were the words that stuck with me. It was that powerful statement that conveyed the hope, faith and prayers of all journalists worldwide. That maybe this industry can’t be demolished because of its importance and that maybe our love and passion for it could be enough to keep it running.

Well, it’s going to take more than love and passion. That love and passion must move us to find solutions to keep our industry, our jobs and our identities alive and well. Still, it’s going to take passionate people like Janet Coats to figure it out.

People might be angry or frightened by what Janet is saying, but she’s right, and they need to start recognizing that. She is doing this because she cares. That woman is not only carrying the burdens of an entire newsroom on her shoulders, but the burdens of a community entitled to quality news. And I know she’s taking the right steps.

On my way out of the newsroom, I saw Janet hobbling on her crutches (she broke her ankle) on her way to the elevator and talking to someone. I wanted to tell her how much I supported what she did, but I didn’t want to interupt. Plus, I’m just an intern. But if I had the chance, I would have said this:

Janet, you’re my hero, and I think this is worth fighting for too.

247 Responses to “It’s worth fighting for”

  1. Wendell Barnhouse says:

    Apologies for the first post in my recent series. I had forgotten that I had posted about DaSilva’s post about national political coverage earlier in this on-line version of Gone With The Intern. The second post on this topic should be deleted/ignored.
    Gee, an editor would have caught that double post or been able to prevent its publication. Instead, I take full responsibility.

  2. Wendell, I don’t necessarily agree with everything in Jessica’s post, nor do I recommend blogging about the workplace. If you were to visit my journalism blog, you’ll see very little mention of anything about the company that employs me.

    However, I don’t like to see senior staff bullying younger folks — even if the elder staffer is in the right. That’s not the way to make a point.

    Additionally, it has personally pained me to see so many folks losing their jobs. We’ve had it especially hard here in Florida, as I’m sure you know. It’s been extremely upsetting to see so many of my friends kicked out of their jobs. I believe that same anger and sadness is manifesting itself on discussions such as this.

  3. [...] “It’s worth fighting for” This is Jessica DaSilva’s post about a talk by Tribune editor Janet Coats where she cheered some of what Coats wants to do, even while Coats was cutting news jobs. The vitriolic response is amazing…. And discouraging. (tags: blogging business crisis future inspiration leadership media newspaper news+biz conflict controversy strategy stress culture tidbits+fodder problems) [...]

  4. AJ says:

    I guess the editor is totally clueless of course you have competition down there. I used to work for the telegraph in NH. And both this newspaper and the telegraph have like the same business model stupity at the uppermanagement levels. Any newspaper laying people off now has missed the internet boat and should have seen this comming a mile away in 1995. I live in the north shore area of massachusetts and if I want my paper I can get a subscription to it all online for 10 bucks a month. As for this Editor announcing lay off’s the day before it must of ot a uneasy feeling to every one working that day. Look what we have gotten from newspapers lately as consumers first of all they shrunk the papers width. they mostly got rid of the stocks in the paper. look at allot of places and they have gotten rid of the newspaper boy. so they toss your paper in your driveway instead of your front porch in many areas. Newspapers could do many things with their web site for one paper I like the Cape Cod times they have a daily video. a quick blerb about the news which is a big seller to me, also papers are selling their subsciption online so you don’t need the paper just your computer to see your paper. you still get the fullpaper but its digitized. If papers are still shooting film to plate still they are in the 1990′s they should all be going direct to plate to go on the press. todays newspapers are trying to union bust. I saw it over at the Telegraph in Nashua NH where they got rid of tehir composing dept by laying them all off. Also being a computer tech when I was there they brought in people from another paper instead of giving people who deserve to be managers the job. I saw the sales dept at the telegraph almost all quit because of someone they brought in. As for the MIS dept I left because they brought someone else in and they bousght server after server and lousy editorial system programs and ad’s program. Here’s a Hint for all of the young people trying to get into Media. Stay away from Radio staions and newpapers, and TV stations. The Low pay is just not worth it, and the arogrant pompus people running the papers and radio stations and tv stations. Are always closed to new ideas. Do this start your own Internet radio staion, or video site, or even do a news web site do it with vision not with the old ways of Bad newspapers, Radio and TV. If I worked ofr that Newspaper I would have walked out and quit and got a job delivering Pizza’s because you will get much better respect.

  5. [...] cringed with embarrassment this morning while reading the comments on Tampa Tribune intern Jessica DaSilva’s blog post in which she praised a plan put forward by her boss, Trib editor-in-chief Janet Coats. The plan [...]

  6. Marc Hershon says:

    Jessica,

    I liked getting the inside angle on your editor’s layoff warning meeting. I’ve also enjoyed reading the inane and boneheaded comments by old school journalists that keeping wanting to hold bloggers up to the same standards as journalists. They just don’t get it and will soon, if they’re not already, feel themselves pulled down in the tar pit of newsprint and ink that’s going to catch everyone who isn’t making moves to help forge the new news paradigm. Even sniping at misspellings are the earmarks of a more strident age — these are the same misanthropes who bristle at the language of texting.

    In my own blog entries, pretty much all the negative comments aimed at the messenger (and not the message) come from those who boldly post anonymously. These are the same folks who, on public forums, never seem to start topics but delight in tearing into those who do.

    As for your future, by the sheer number of comments on this one entry alone, you can probably find yourself some corporate sponsors and bag the whole journalism thing in favor of having your blog go pro.

  7. Way of wenal says:

    Just checking to see if Jessica has matured enough to allow another critical post from this end.

    It’s entertaining to see the young journos coming in and trying to sound smart by framing the debate as some sort of technology vs. dinosaur argument. And for the people who have learned the word “curmudgeon”: Congratulations on expanding your vocabulary. Now just keep using that word and thinking you’re clever.

    One thing we’re learning from all of this: Many young journos are not ready for professional life. And journalism professors must be dropping the ball even more than they were back in the 1990s. Looks like it’s time for some universities to consider dropping their programs if some of the posters here are indicative of the ignorant, clueless young grads who are emerging into the world.

  8. Wendell Barnhouse says:

    To Marc Hershon: I clicked your web site. Where’s the funny stuff?

  9. Way of wenal says:

    “Where’s the funny stuff?”

    Today’s twentysomethings think everything they write or post is funny, just by definition. (Often it’s not. Exhibit A: Large portions of YouTube.)

  10. [...] By now everyone in the world has heard about the Tampa Tribune shake-up, and their changes proposed by their editor. And the backlash against the intern. [...]

  11. [...] read journalism blogs or follow journalists on Twitter, here’s the short version: Jessica wrote a blog post about her experience being in the room when the editor at the paper where she is interning [...]

  12. [...] Here’s the link to the blog post by the Tampa Trib intern that I mentioned in class today. What’s your reaction? [...]

  13. [...] on 04 July 2008 If you haven’t yet read the comment thread on a recent entry by Tampa Tribune intern Jessica DaSilva, go do it now. There’s no better example of the [...]

  14. Mike Saunders says:

    M.A. Murdoch said:

    –snip–

    The prevailing mindset – always spoken as a fact and foregone conclusion — that nearly everybody in America is constantly on the Internet and gets his or her news from that source is an outright lie.
    A huge study released this week by the well-respected Pew Charitable Trust research foundation found that 27 percent of Americans DO NOT USE THE INTERNET AT ALL. They don’t have a computer. Or, if they do, they don’t subscribe to any Internet service. That’s more than one-fourth of the people in this country. And in a nation of nearly 300 million, 27 percent is – well, my dear intern, you do the math.
    Who serves them? What do they do for their news? I’d be willing to bet they read a newspaper.

    – snip –

    Since I’ve been in the business nearly as long as you have, including the last 17 years reporting and editing at a major metro daily, and the last seven or so involved in “new” media, I know not to let statistics be used wantonly without proper context.

    So, here’s the context, which, as you’ll see, shows that the portion of the population not on the internet is either:

    a) soon to shuffle off this mortal coil, and is not a viable source of continuing revenue. (There’s a reason that parts of Florida can be called “God’s Waiting Room.” )
    or
    b) low-income folks not likely to be attractive to advertisers.

    That’s a cold-hearted, clear-eyed assessment of the situation we all face, especially those who forget that the newspaper business is first and foremost a business. Think: when’s the last time a defunct newspaper broke any news?

    The cost of producing a newspaper is rising, from the newsprint to the ink to the fuel for the trucks that transport the finished product for the brief stop between front porch and landfill. The number of people buying newspapers is shrinking, for lots of reasons that are thesis fodder for those so inclined to live in the past.

    Every newspaper, even the ones still surviving off the fat accumulated in the tech and housing booms, is transforming itself into a leaner, less hierarchical organization. Reporters will take pictures and video. Photographers will shoot video. Writers will capture sound for audio presentations, and so on.

    What will copy editors do, now that there’s less paper to produce? They’re being trained on web layout and content management, so that they can edit wire copy and blog posts, and craft pithy headlines — and produce all to the same standards of accuracy and fairness as the dead tree edition.

    (Disclaimer: I attended UF as a grad student in the late 90s, a costly and eye-opening adventure in academia. I toook one of Mindy McAdams’ classes but Jessica DaSilva was probably still in Little League. I have not had any contact with either party.)

    By embracing the future, DaSilva is just doing her job, and ensuring that other people get to keep theirs for a bit longer. This is a conversation we all should have had in 1994.

    ***Here’s the actual info from the Pew study, available in PDF form at: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/257/report_display.asp

    Roughly one-quarter (27%) of adult Americans are not internet users, and they tend to be
    older (the median age is 61) and have lower-incomes than online users (non-internet
    users are more than twice as likely as users to live in low-income households). Some
    18% of non-internet users have used the internet in the past, but just 10% of non-internet
    users say they would be interested in joining the ranks of online users.

    When asked why they don’t use the internet:
    33% of non-users say they are not interested.
    12% say they don’t have access.
    9% say it is too difficult or frustrating.
    7% say it is too expensive.
    7% say it is a waste of time.

  15. Mike Plugh says:

    @Mike Saunders Nice comment. I have one minor quibble with what you said. With regard to the 27% of people that don’t use the internet you wrote, “Who serves them? What do they do for their news? I’d be willing to bet they read a newspaper.”

    I think you did fine work laying out the research here and citing statistical background for your contention is strong, however you turned to conjecture by betting that they read a newspaper. I bet that some of those 27% read a newspaper, but I’d also bet that more watch TV and at least as many don’t care a lick about news at all.

    Our society is not an informed society. It’s a “gut” society in large measure, and that’s why GWB had some appeal. Faith and gut. People hear things with one ear and don’t stop to gather more information about what the deeper context is for that one-eared input. Part of it is education, part of it is culture, and part of it is plain old apathy. Plus, about 1% of the adult population is illiterate and I’d wager that upwards of 5% are barely literate. I’m turning to conjecture here, but you get the idea.

    Just an observation.

  16. Mike Plugh says:

    Going back and reading some of the comments here, I can’t help but hear them in my head with the voice of Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. Waaah.

  17. [...] should focus on local, and hyperlocal, and stories that their direct communities care about. Some have started to figure it out, while others are still left confused, challenged, and are struggling to maintain their identy. The [...]

  18. [...] Wrote Jessica DaSilva, First, she (Janet Coats, editor of The Tampa Tribune) said people needed to stop thinking of the Times as competition. She said she understood that it’s hard to think that way when the paper is right across the Bay, but that it is the truth. Not every story will be covered and it won’t be covered in the same way the SPT will cover it. The Trib simply doesn’t have the resources for the old business model. “I hope (The St. Petersburg Times) keeps doing more of the same,” she said. “I’d like to see them try and do it with a reduced staff. It will only make us stronger.” [...]

  19. Happy says:

    Hey, what’s with all the negativity? Jessica, I’m also a journalism student on the brink of graduation, and I say: you do your thing. I applaud your dedication to the field and I’d tell these meanies who comment on your blog to go suck a lemon. You rock, girl! Keep it real!

  20. Another Intern says:

    As an intern at another newspaper and a fellow “idealistic” journalism student, I appreciate and agree with a lot of what you say. We have to fight to keep this industry alive, because as a lot of these comments indicate, the current generation isn’t up to the challenge. To those unwilling to change: You are old, out of touch and hopefully next on the chopping block. If you don’t have a solution, or the willingness to find one, you’re part of the problem. I hear they’re hiring in PR, float your family on that.

  21. What I’m sure the “idealistic” young journalist means is that the younger generation can lend its idealism to the older, more experienced generation in a cooperative effort that would only save journalism jobs and give both generations greater understanding of the business.

    Right?

  22. Paige says:

    Great, I can’t wait for you young “Idealistic” journalists to save the business. I’m quite sure you new graduates and grads-to-be are the first ones ever to come up with ideas on how to save it and know how to use a computer and maneuver through the Web. People who have been doing this a lot longer I’m sure will appreciate you taking time away from telling us your every insignificant move in your life on Twitter to save this important business. Good luck!

  23. Better Yeti says:

    Look, this whole idea of the Fourth Estate, and of journalists being important because they have access to printing presses is just.. so… nineteenth century. Journalists stopped being relevant ten years ago… and I say this as somebody who used to make his living as a journalist. It’s kind of like how having access to electric guitars and a recording studio gave you a good shot at a music career… in 1968, that is. There really isn’t anything special that journalist do, except go to J-school and figure out how to navigate the media bureaucracy and get access to the gatekeepers of the News Machine… except that the machine and the bureaucracy are collapsing just like the record industry. Journalists are so in love with the idea that they’re somehow special, that they feel, think, perceive so much more deeply than everybody else — I know, because I was fed on those very myths, the tenets of the Fourth Estate. But it’s just not true, as any number of bloggers have demonstrated at this point. Not only will newspapers die, they *should* die — just like horse-drawn ploughs and steam locomotives and vinyl record presses should have died — their time is done; they’ve been relegated to the compost-heap of history. All this high-falutin’ rhetoric about Worth Fighting For et cetera? Only worth fighting for if you’re drunk on the Kool-Aid of the myth of the Fourth Estate. It’s over, baby. News has been wikified. The hyper-recombinant DNA of the Internet will enforce it, 24/7/365. You’ve gotten the wake-up call. Time to evolve or die.

  24. Janet Edens says:

    Real name. 25 years as a professional journalist. All aspects. Editor. Reporter. Designer. Blogger. Etc.

    I am blown away by what I’ve read here. I feel some pity. It’s hard to swallow when something you dedicated your life to begins to wither and die. Most journalists feel it and a lot of us are angry and scared. But, my God, the condescension and sexism! If the comments above are indication of how rigid and bitter and arrogant we’ve become, of how anxious we are to smash down a young woman who clearly carries a torch for newspapers, then it’s a good thing our structure is being dismantled. A necessary thing.

    So, here’s another “you go, girl,” Jessica. Observe and explore and write and blog. Take what criticism is valid, lose the rest and move on. It’s how you learn to be a journalist.

  25. Bessemer says:

    Oh geez, not the “fire in the belly” argument again. Doing journalism for free–I mean, for the love of it–is called blogging.

  26. [...] intern who ranks a mighty no 88,453. No wonder she got over 150 comments for a recent posting “It’s worth fighting for” that rocked the blogosphere. Watch her get higher still. And, finally, WordPress’ own blog [...]

  27. [...] intern who ranks a mighty no 88,453. No wonder she got over 150 comments for a recent posting “It’s worth fighting for” that rocked the blogosphere. Watch her get higher still. And, finally, WordPress’ own blog [...]

  28. [...] Jessica DaSilva of The Tampa Tribune has an interesting look inside a newsroom discussion about innovation at a newspaper. Some of the questions from the assorted [...]

  29. [...] what happened when one newspaper intern, Jessica DaSilva reported on a company matter at the newspaper she was working at, the Tampa Tribune. Of course, [...]

  30. [...] (Jessica DaSilva, Journalism, Layoffs, Newspapers, Tampa Tribune) In what must have been the blog post heard around the Journalism world, Jessica DaSilva, a metro intern at the Tampa Tribune, wrote [...]

  31. [...] Jessica DaSilva stepped into a hornet’s nest when she wrote about journalism job cuts and then tried to clear up what she [...]

  32. Gordon Ovenshine says:

    The whole thing makes me sick. I don’t live in Florida, but my favorite friend was laid off for no reason.

  33. [...] August 6, 2008, 12:24 pm Filed under: journalism | Tags: journalism, new media I was reading this post written by an intern, which in my opinion is a scary place to [...]

  34. James Blackman says:

    Know what’s going to happen?

    When the whole of the news industry has switched online, leaving no newspapers left – someone, somewhere is going to think…”Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our news in like a…a book form…something that we can carry around with us on trains, after all we don’t want to carry our laptops everywhere…”

    And thus the newspaper will be reborn. Reading news online is hellish, most people think the same, and thus will continue to buy newspapers…

    A newspaper is one of man’s greatest practical inventions.

  35. [...] remember intern DaSilva worked for the The Tampa Tribune, a local Florida newspaper. In a posting It’s worth fighting she bore witness to the announcement by the managing editor that the paper was in such a perilous [...]

  36. [...] Taylor’s article prompted the inevitable split of comments between support and accusations of arrogance – a microcosmic version of the response to Tampa Bay intern Jessica da Silva on her blog. [...]

  37. Chapman says:

    Great post, great insight. An intern? Impressive. I’ve been in the business full time for 32 years, and 10 before that as a stringer. I worked for Janet in Sarasota. She gets it, and her words here are more proof. Those hung up on the old model, or on protecting jobs over journalism, are doing the business and each other a great disservice.

    Keep the faith, and keep fighting for your belief.

  38. [...] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by KraziiProductions on 2008-11-05 “It’s worth fighting for” http://www.jessicadasilva.com/2008/07/02/its-worth-fighting-for/ – bookmarked by 3 members [...]

  39. [...] But why did she sign off on it?  Janet Coats doesn’t even really believe that the Tribune is here to stay.  Chuck Welch is reminding all of us that she was recently quoted saying “The truth is that The Tampa Tribune is an add on to TBO.” [...]

  40. [...] what must have been the blog post heard around the Journalism world, Jessica DaSilva, a metro intern at the Tampa Tribune, wrote [...]

  41. [...] this drought tied in with some intern drama and discussion that happened around this time last year, a lot of it having to do with some “inside [...]

  42. Jose says:

    Janet Weaver/Coats was wrong to lie to the newsroom about the Tribune losing money. Newspaper companies sell properties that lose money.

    I think Coats is dishonest through and through (she has an aristic license when it comes to editing), but I think she might be right to try the hyper-local Hail Mary. Reporters will hate it. Many might not even be able bring themselves to do it. Journalists report with an eye toward national implications. Instead they will now be doing the kind of work seen at once-weekly rural newspapers covering church sewing circles and Honor Band accomplishments–work that in no way even requires journalism training.

    Ces’t la mort.

  43. [...] commented on comments to a post by JESSICA DASILVA, another young firebrand of new journalism Now, I will comment on that.  (No, [...]

  44. [...] DaSilva, University of Florida, 2009. Her post on the recent reorganization of the Tampa Tribune newsroom where she is interning elicited 213 [...]

  45. [...] day when I was a young journalism student interning for The Tampa Tribune (July 2008), I wrote an incendiary blog post that garnered a lot of attention from the media. By that I mean I got about 10,000 hits in a day [...]

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