I’ve been surprised during the life of this blog how many readers keep up somewhat with the “inside baseball” of the news industry. I had a question in one husband-wife-signed email about a big flap in Chicago caused by new-ish Tribune Company owner Sam Zell. Zell and his COO, Randy Michaels, recently announced plans to dramatically reduce space in Tribune-owned newspapers.
Michaels went further by suggesting he had measured the productivity of reporters at the various papers the company owns and found significant gaps. He thought this would allow the company to eliminate jobs at some papers but not reduce the number of stories – presumably by requiring remaining reporters to increase story output.
The question sent to me was whether we have similar formulas at The Eagle. We don’t. In fact, people within Michaels’ company seem confused by the formula he cited. There’s no doubt that reporters at very small newspapers write many, many more stories than reporters at very large papers. If you’ve read a small daily newspaper and The New York Times, I would assume you would see that the gap in productivity also allows a gap in quality of the resulting stories.
Within individual newsrooms, from time to time we see gaps in how many stories individual reporters are writing. On occasion that turns into grumbling among co-workers and frustration from editors. It’s the same in just about any business. If you’re reading this and you work in a company where no one believes they work harder than others, congratulations. Don’t ever leave that job!
We take into account how complicated the stories are that a reporter is working on, and have general expectations that reporters work here because we expect them to find stories and write them. But we haven’t developed formulas or quotas, which I think would tend to value only quantity and disregard quality.